Dani placed a finger to her lips and pulled her hand away from Sandy’s mouth.
“Sandy, I need you to help me here.” She turned to look out the door, in the direction of the rest of the facility. “Can you go to the fence at the end of the units there, and make a lot of noise? We can pull them away.”
Sandy looked shaken. “But what if they climb over?”
“They can’t climb. They’re not smart enough for that, have you seen them walk and stumble around?”
Sandy nodded. Dani pulled a screwdriver from the hip loop of her jeans and handed it to her.
“Take this just in case. A quick jab to the eye socket should work, especially if they are tangled in the fencing.”
Sandy held the screwdriver in her palms, noticing the sticky, dry bloodstain on it. She wiped her hand that touched the metal tip on the edge of the counter.
Dani turned her attention back to Bob who was still on the ground exhausted from his tussle with the ghoul. She began to edge toward the door to grab him but turned her gaze back to Sandy.
“Aim for the eyes.”
She dashed out the door.
Bob was getting far too old for this shit.
He laid there on the warm concrete in the evening sun. It would have been a beautiful sunset, for sure, but he was far too concerned with his heart pounding its way out of his ribcage.
Beside him lay the corpse of what used to be a human. The stench was horrific, but not unfamiliar. He’d found himself in close proximity to the corpses of actual people back in Vietnam. Presumably good people, when he thought back to it in his bitter, painful dreams.
The smell of death was nothing new for Bob Aaron Clark.
He lay there panting, staring up toward the darkening sky, when Danielle Kim jogged up and stood over him.
“Bob, get up, let me help you.”
He grunted as he rose onto his ass, holding out his hand. From there, she was deceptively strong in helping him to his feet.
“What’s wrong, baby girl?” he coughed.
She began to pull him toward the building but glanced back behind her. Her eyes showed fear. Familiar fear. The sound of clanging metal filled the air.
He turned his head as he stumbled towards the door noticing two of the undead bastards only a dozen feet away.
Back inside the door, Dani grabbed the bloody letter opener from Bob’s hand. Before he could protest she said, “Grab your gun.”
He cursed his old age as he jogged up the stairs to the apartment to find his gun. He should have carried it with him in the first place.
He was getting too goddamn old.
Her forties had slowed her down tremendously and Sandy Gunderson was not having it. She jogged just past the fence, seeing the young girl, Danielle, help Bob up from the ground. Behind them were two approaching monsters.
Sandy jammed the tip of the screwdriver between the spokes of the fence and let the metal of the tool collide with each and every metal bar. The sound of clanging was loud and sure enough, it seemed to draw the monsters in her direction.
Her stomach grumbled from the stress. The kid had put her in danger.
Dani stood just out of sight from the shattered glass door and watched as Sandy did her part. Sandy rapidly ran out of fencing and vanished behind one of the first storage units that made up the northern wall. Things were silent for a moment and Dani shifted uncomfortably in her position as the ghouls began to search for signs of the living. They did not immediately turn toward the doorway, which was of a little comfort.
Then Dani heard the banging and rattling from further away down the property. It sounded as though Sandy were kicking at the doors. Soon she was yelling.
Each “here” was punctuated by the rattle of the sliding doors. Dani ducked behind the doorframe again as the ghouls began to turn. One let out a raspy moan. The ghoul’s stiff body shuddered and accelerated toward the source of the sound, the second ghoul stumbling after moments later.
They rounded the outer corner, following the sounds. Dani watched them go out of sight just as Bob wheezed his way down the stairs, his shotgun in hand.
The plan made Bob nervous, especially because Danielle was the one who would need to park the moving truck. He intended to protest but Danielle pointed out that he had the gun. He’d have her back.
He accepted that.
He started the generator just as she turned the ignition on the moving truck. The gate clanked open, making a tremendous amount of noise, and Bob drew his firearm, waiting for the return of the rotten bastards.
The moving truck bounced as it rolled over the gate track. He watched, almost helplessly as Dani drove the truck into the street and made a sloppy three-point turn.
She should have just backed it in.
He watched Danielle back into the lot and caught her grim expression and she gunned the gas just enough to get the truck onto the curb in front of the building. For a moment his breath was caught up in his throat as it looked like the truck might tip over, but it did not. With the truck safely in proximity, Bob turned his attention to the corner where the rotters had disappeared. Sure enough, the sounds of the gate and truck had lured them back. The two stumbled from around the corner as Dani continued to reverse the truck.
“Danielle, hurry the fuck up!”
The stumbling gaits of the ghouls were slow and Bob took steady aim with the shotgun. It was no good from this distance, but he felt relieved to have the weapon.
At least until the gate began to close.
Sandy could not believe that Bob had left the gate wide open and she quickly set about closing it like it should have been. Danielle would have no problem going in through the shattered glass door anyway.
What was needed was to make sure none of these things could get inside.
Bob grabbed at the gate and shook it violently. He looked angry.
“Sandy, what the hell are you doin’?”
“Closing the gate. We can’t let those things inside.”
“What about Danielle?”
“She can go through the door. Squeeze behind the truck.”
Bob stared at her as he opened the gate again. Sandy took a few steps back, nervous about the gate. The plan seemed to be working, but a lack of a barrier was not ideal.
“Don’t open the gate, Bob. They might get in.”
“Fuck off, Sandy,” he muttered.
With the truck finally parked as flush to the building as she could manage, Dani lept out from the passenger side, keys in hand, and slammed the door shut. There were three ghouls now, one had arrived from a cluster toward the main drag of the town. She paused for a moment. They were very close. Their lolling gates seemed so non-threatening – almost absurd to watch.
“Get the hell over here!”
Dani looked at Bob, who had his shotgun at the ready, violently jerking his head back over his shoulder.
Dani got the hell over.
Back inside the shopfront, moments later, the trio stood, staring at the shattered door with a moving truck parked out front. Bob had already blown the heads off the three ghouls once the gate was shut. Dani had offered to get them with the screwdriver, but Bob insisted. Sandy said nothing. For now, the immediate threat was handled.
For the long term, though…
“What if they crawl under the truck?” Sandy asked, her voice a hoarse whisper.
Dani shook her head. She’d been watching the ghouls for a while since the first ones were wandering the town. They weren’t smart. Bob seemed to sniff and cast a pointed glance at Sandy, who shrunk under his brief gaze.
Bob was the first to speak. “They’re too dumb for that. I don’t think we need to worry about that. We need to worry about one wedging itself in from under.”
Dani ran her sweaty palms through her black hair. “Our best bet is to seal up the window and lock up the building for now, just in case,” she added.
Sandy grunted. Dani saw her about to raise a protest, but it seemed that she agreed.
“Well, I am going to pack a few essentials if I am giving up the apartment.”
Sandy vanished up the stairs. Bob was already approaching a small, unused display area where the moving supplies were stored for sale. Dani followed. After about twenty minutes they had managed to tape up the windows and the shattered glass door with cardboard boxes. They had double-layered the cardboard over the door. For good measure, they moved a desk from the office to a position in front of the doorway as well. It wasn’t a great barrier, but if no ghoul needed to poke around, they would be fine.
As far as they had guessed, if no noise came from behind the cardboard-covered door, the ghouls wouldn’t approach.
Seemingly content with the handiwork, Bob whistled and put a reaffirming hand on Dani’s shoulder. Sandy came downstairs with a pair of suitcases.
Bob scratched his chin. “We have a couple of RVs that were being stored here, I can open them up for you two. Sound good?”
Sandy shrugged. Dani nodded. Bob handed Dani the shop keys.
“I think you daddy left his gun in that safe in the office.”
Dani looked puzzled. “I thought he kept it in his unit?”
Sandy shrugged. “I have no idea. I assumed so, but yes, your father did have a safe in the office. I don’t know the combination.”
Sandy and Bob stepped out through the side door into the storage facility. Dani made her way to the office, opened the small closet, and knelt down to access the safe.
The combination was her birthday. Lucky.
She pulled out a small 9mm, unloaded. She tucked it into the waist of her pants. She grabbed the small box of bullets that had been locked in with the gun.
In less trying times that would have been a bad idea. She was thankful that her father had done something so foolish.
The RV seemed comfortable enough. The air was stale and there was a layer of dust, but it was generally clean.
Dani sat on the step, smoking. Bob was kind enough to give her a little something to take the edge off of the day. She wasn’t really much of a smoker but had dabbled here and there. It seemed now was the perfect time to take it up again.
The year 2000 had been an absolute clusterfuck so far. The Y2K thing? Total horseshit. The dead rising – who had even considered that?
She let out a cloud of smoke into the chilly night air. The sun was gone now and her eyes had gotten quite effective at adapting to the dark. The RV was parked near the southern edge of the property, in an open area, accompanied by the other trailers and the boats she saw earlier.
Over the fence, just past the old train tracks, there were some track homes. She stared at them, noticing movement in one of the windows in the dark. It was a tacky tan two-story with fake green slats built around the window.
She stared hard into the window doing her best to make out some sort of detail. After a while, the figure moved close enough to the window for her to see that it was long dead and walking. She took another puff and noticed the ghoul had stopped moving. Soon, thin, greasy hands began to slap the glass. The rattle was audible.
She stamped out her cigarette, took one last look at the window, and shut the RV door.
She threw herself onto a dusty bed and curled up into the fetal position. Soon the tears came and she buried her face into the pillow.
Thank you for reading the sixth installment of the Haunted MTL original series, The Dead Life. Please share your thoughts about the story with us.