Danielle rose to her feet and walked to the bedroom of the now-dead couple. She saw a pile of blankets strewn across the bed and floor and reached down to grab a bundle. Peering around the room, blankets piled into her arms, she saw a dark object wedged between the side of the bed and a bedside table. She’d come back to check on it after the immediate work was done.
Back in the living room, she layered two blankets over the remains. Blood began to soak into the fabric creating small spots of blotchy red, but for now, the horrid sight of the remains was gone. For good measure, she tucked the trophy under the blanket as well. She couldn’t handle the chunks of hair and brain matter coating the gold-colored plastic.
She didn’t know why, specifically, she had aimed for the head. Maybe she had heard something during one of those harried evening broadcasts of instructions, over shoutings of studio and radio crew. Maybe it was just that the skull was the source of all thought. All she knew was that so far that it had worked out for her, twice.
Aim for the head.
It was obvious now that she needed something more effective than a trophy if she wanted to get anywhere safely. She needed a gun and she knew exactly where her dad had kept it. But getting there would require something else to defend herself in the meantime. A kitchen knife would work in a pinch, but there had to be something else… She snagged a knife from a drawer in the kitchen. A knife would be light, but not a lasting solution. It had best be something she should get used to holding for a while but still fairly heavy.
She searched around the neighbors’ apartment. There was little of practical use, but she mulled over the possibilities of each and every bludgeon, poker, or blade she stumbled on. So many things that were part of everyday life that she never would have thought of as weapons were now game… each one would be ranked by their effectiveness as she moved from space to space in the cramped two-room apartment.
She returned to the bedroom of Julie and her unknown boyfriend and checked under the bed, seeing nothing but shoeboxes. Pickings had been slim thus far. She sat down and leaned against a cheap cabinet that sat against the wall, staring at her haul of coat hangers, kitchen knives, and sporting goods. Remembering earlier, she turned her gaze to the bedside table and saw something red tucked between the bed and the table. Danielle reached her hand between them and grabbed at something heavy.
The weight was reassuring. The crowbar became the first step in the plan. She needed a gun, but rather than search apartment after apartment for one, she needed a sure thing.
Her family’s storage building was exactly where she would need to go.
She stepped out of the apartment with one heaping backpack weighing her down and digging into her shoulders. It was a hiking backpack she rarely used and had always griped about the cost, much to the annoyance of her friends. It only took the fucking apocalypse to make the backpack worthwhile.
The backpack had a pair of aluminum rods along the spine, connected by a plastic handle where she strapped her sleeping bag. Over her shoulder, she had a messenger bag that used to carry her school books, but now carried whatever food she could scrounge up. Across her other shoulder, she had two gallon bottles of water, strapped together with a belt drawn tight. The belt loop was wrapped with a dish towel for padding, but it did very little to ease the burden of the weight. She also has a small collection of luggage and bags at her feet, ready to be put into the trunk of her car, if it still ran.
She took some sheets and used them to lower her extra supplies to the floor below, as the stairs were demolished. Each deposit of cargo was done as silently as possible to not alert any Ghouls in the area. Supplies staged below, she lowered herself from the demolished stairwell and peered around, wary of any movement. Safe, for a moment, she took a look at her apartment that loomed above her, next to the makeshift tomb of her unlucky neighbors.
It was time to go.
Her car was not blocked in, thankfully, and she had not encountered a single ghoul on her two trips to get her supplies to the car. The back seat of the Focus was jammed with what she had brought and she slid her hiking pack into the passenger seat. She opened the driver’s side door, took a deep breath, and turned the ignition.
The car sputtered but didn’t turn over. She almost began to cry in frustration but she straightened in her seat and tried again. After a couple of tries, the engine rumbled to life.
She laughed, nearly startling herself with how loud she had been. She’d been quiet for what felt like weeks. It felt strange to make a noise above a loud whisper.
Her tank was still relatively full, thankfully. It was more than enough to get her to where she needed to go, only a couple of blocks away. She would drive down, break into the office, grab the gun, and get back into the car and drive the fuck out of town. It was the best plan she had and it seemed effective enough for now.
She took the Focus into reverse, then to drive, through instinct. She rounded the corner of the cross-like lane that divided the apartments, dotted with parking spots, abandoned cars, and a few grim remains. Ahead she saw the gate that opened to Acacia street was a mess; a couple of cars were piled up against an ambulance. It would be too much to move them.
She noticed a pair of figures awkwardly wedge themselves between the detritus and start moving toward her. She kept calm and reversed, noticing a single ghoul in her rear-view mirror. Taking a breath, she reversed back into her lane where she had come from, and instead made a right, rolling past the decomposing creature. The clumsy shambler bounced off the corner of the Focus and fell to the ground in a heap. She made another right to the other exit that led to Howard street and was relieved to see no cars were blocking it. The gate, however, was partially torn down and leaning into the apartment complex. It would be dangerous to drive through. It had to be moved.
The ghouls behind her were still shambling awkwardly in her direction as she rounded the corner. She rolled the Focus forward enough to park. Danielle took in her surroundings again, and not immediately able to identify any of the undead around her, stepped out of the Focus, crowbar in hand.
The young survivor made her way to the gates and hooked onto one end with the crowbar and began to pull at it, trying to pull it out toward the grass outside, like opening a door. The metal creaked and buckled, but the gate was being stubborn. Frustrated, her temper got the better of her and she pulled hard enough to rattle the gate loudly. She stopped, panting, angry, and nervous.
She heard the moans of approaching ghouls from behind.
Thank you for reading the second installment of the Haunted MTL original series, The Dead Life. Please share your thoughts about the story with us.