Dani was the first down the stairs into the main shopfront. As though she already knew the situation her eyes darted toward the front doors. One of the undead had put its weight onto the glass and, almost as if the world had slowed down, Danielle heard each crack as rotten flesh slapped at the door. Dani turned toward the counter and saw Sandy crouching behind it – her screams of terror echoing in the room.
As soon as Bob’s foot hit the ground at the bottom of the stairs, the glass shattered and the ghoul’s decaying body began to stumble into the building. Dani froze for an agonizing moment, her hands empty of anything remotely useful. Within that moment Bob had thrown his full weight toward the walking corpse and pinned it against the door frame. The sound of glass shards ripping through flesh was discernible among the moan of the ghoul, the crunching of glass below Bob’s slippered feet, and the sounds of the old man struggling to muscle the ghoul out the door.
Dani snapped out of her brief daze and scanned the room. As soon as she saw a letter opener on the counter she dove for it and whipped toward the direction of Bob and the dead bastard.
“BOB-MOVE-YOUR-HEAD-” bellowed Danielle in a single breath.
Bob grunted and pinned the ghoul with a stiffened pair of arms against the door, putting space between his head and a jaw full of gnashing, rotten teeth. Dani took one powerful overhead swing and wedged the letter opener deep into an undead eye socket.
The gnashing of teeth stopped and the ghoul hung limp.
“Jesus Christ,” Dani whispered.
Bob took a few awkward steps to the counter, toward a sobbing Sandy, and put his weight on the faux-marble surface.
“Jesus Christ…” Dani repeated.
She turned to Bob. “Are you okay? Did you get hurt?”
Bob smiled. “I’m just outta breath, baby girl,” he glanced over the counter, “You okay, Sandy?”
Sandy rose from behind the counter and nearly stumbled back into a cabinet in the process. Her eyes were wide – so incredibly wide. It was as though she had not seen one of these things up close, Dani thought.
“I’m fine, I… thank you. I just…”
Dani turned back to the corpse and snatched the letter opener from the eye socket. She flicked some thick, blackened blood from the tip of the blade out the shattered door.
“We need to do something about this door, Bob,” she said.
“In a minute,” Bob slid down along the front of the counter, sitting, his legs outstretched, ‘I’m not as strong as I let on.”
Dani stifled a laugh as Bob winked at her.
Sandy seemed to be recovering well enough. “You’re right, Danielle, we need to do something about that door.”
Dani inspected the damage. “Do we have some way of blocking it up?”
Bob coughed. It was the flemmy, deep reverberation of a lifelong smoker. “Not without digging around in the units, and I feel like we need this thing sealed up double-time, kid.”
Dani peered around the room then finally turned her gaze outward. There were no other figures in sight, but there was a moving truck. One of the rentals.
Dani stepped over the corpse in the doorway and stepped into the parking lot, staring at the front facade of the building. There was no awning in the way.
“We can park a truck in front of it, close enough that one of those things can’t wedge its way in…”
Sandy sounded skeptical. “Would that work?”
Dani shrugged. “It’s the best solution I can figure out right now. We could block off the space under the truck with some boxes or a bookshelf.”
“Dani is right. It’s a pretty quick solution to give us a bit of breathing room.”
Bob rose to his feet and stepped out to the parking lot. He looked at the facade and turned to look at the moving truck inside the storage facility.
“This can work. Just gotta gun the genny and park that son of a bitch right along the front here…”
Sandy refused to step any closer to the corpse than a couple of feet away. She peered out into the lot at Bob and Danielle. Dani wondered how Sandy had made it this far.
Dani saw Sandy stumble backward against the counter. “There’s another one!” she shrieked.
Dani and Bob both scanned the area. Bob was the first to see the ghoul, tapping Dani’s arm and pointing to it. The pair made their way back toward the building. Bob grabbed the letter opener out of Dani’s hand and pushed her toward the door.
“Kid, get the truck. I’ll get this one.”
Dani stepped into the shop and saw Sandy ready to bolt upstairs.
“Sandy, where is the key?”
“I need the key to the moving truck.”
Sandy paused for a moment. Danielle could have sworn that she saw her eyes dart back upstairs. Sandy grunted and dashed over behind the counter to a cabinet and swung open the door. Inside the door were dozens of keys on hooks. She scanned the rows with her finger, grunted again, and dashed to the counter to open a drawer.
Danielle focused her attention on Bob, who strode over towards the ghoul. She saw it pick up its pace as the old man approached. He marched right toward it and shoved it to the ground. He placed a foot on its sunken chest and stomped down.
He was a man who had killed before… long before the apocalypse. It was the way he carried himself. It was more than stories from an old man.
Danielle was relieved to see the letter opener plunge down deep into the skull of the monster. Bob fell to the ground, exhausted. Her heart caught up in her throat when she saw that Bob didn’t stand up right away. Danielle could see the fatigue wracking him, his chest heaving from the strain.
“I’ve got them,” Sandy shoved the keys in Dani’s face, “hurry up.”
Dani bit her tongue as she turned her attention back to the parking lot. She caught some slight movement in the distance. Bob was still grounded, puffing away on the concrete next to the corpse. Dani stepped out toward the doorway and squinted her eyes toward the evening sun. Two more figures approached with the lumbering gait she had grown so used to seeing in the new world.
Dani turned to Sandy. The older woman’s face had gone pale. She had seen them as well. Dani moved over and placed her hand across Sandy’s mouth. Sandy’s eyes were wide in confusion.
Dani had a plan.
Thank you for reading the fifth installment of the Haunted MTL original series, The Dead Life. Please share your thoughts about the story with us.