Last time, Dani and Jimmy discussed plans regarding the storage yard’s future. They also spoke briefly about Edgar’s recent scouting project. This week in the Haunted MTL Original The Dead Life, we catch up with Edgar and see what he has been up to – and how useful an ax can be.
This is a serialized novel of post-apocalyptic zombie survival. Learn more about the story and setting at the series hub and take advantage of a complete list of installments.
Edgar had been scouting the district office for a couple of days now. The entire premises was locked up, and all gates had been padlocked shut in a hurry except for one rolling gate that had nearly been demolished by a school bus that had burst through. The tires were shredded now, and unmistakable brown trails of dried blood marked the dusty yellow surface and the windows inside. Behind one of the brown streaks, there was motion… one of the undead was still wandering inside, seemingly pacing up and down the aisle, content with its small domain.
Despite his size, he had managed to stay low on foot, crouching and crawling between vantage points around the block and always warily turning his gaze around. When these creatures were not alert and moaning, they ran eerily silent. He had nearly had a close call as he crawled past the front office and not seen a ghoul walk out from between a pair of abandoned sedans. That had been the first day of scouting, and it had rattled him so much that he shouted and alerted a few more in the area. He had fled back to the storage lot for safety, and he and Bob had picked up the trio of stragglers that had followed from within the safety of the metal gate.
Edgar would not make such a mistake again.
Based on Edgar’s observation, the only point in and out that was walkable was the busted rolling gate, but that area also had a pair of wandering ghouls in addition to the ghoul within the bus.
It was manageable, but what concerned him most were the sounds he had heard from inside, echoing out between the building of the district campus. Periodically there was shouting and the clanging of pipes and slamming doors, punctuated by a series of moans from the ghouls.
Edgar was unsure of the disposition of the survivors, but the clamor was great, and he was sure it was more unknown people he was willing to deal with on his own, especially given the incident with the police car.
The good news was that the patterns the ghouls seemed to follow were aimless but also felt almost regular, as though they would reach some boundary, invisible or not, and reverse course. Today would be the day he would test that and work his way into the district grounds to see what he could find.
He came in low, practically on his hands and knees, following along the side of the bus, out of sight of the closest ghoul. When he was close enough, he squeezed himself under the bus. If it hadn’t been due to starving, he would have been unable to do that, he thought. It was a small comfort. He shuffled quietly on his belly under the bus, toward the front, and watched desiccated feet shuffled back and forth; the sticklike legs were in tattered slacks, and one foot was socked but without a shoe.
He watched the ghoul’s motion until it came close enough. He pulled a small camping hatchet from the back of his pants and grabbed at one of the legs, tugging hard. Instead of dragging it under, the leg snapped off, and the ghoul fell to the ground.
“Fuck,” he whispered. He scrambled out from under the bus and grappled at the waist and back of the ghoul as it trashed. With an overhead swing, he brought the ax blade to the back of the skull, cracking it open before the ghoul made a sound. Pausing for a second to see if it was done thrashing, he scrambled to his feet to the other side of the bus, peeking out from the front, wary of any movement.
That hadn’t gone as planned. Edgar glanced down at the tire of the bus, noticing it was shredded and not an easy fix. He wondered what the possibility was of replacing it but realized where he was in relation to the bus. Sure enough, Edgar stood in front of the open door. He couched and held silent for a moment. The ghoul inside must have been in the far end because there was no sign of it.
He took his ax blade and tapped the handle at the first step, crouching against the side of the bus. The wait was long for the ghoul to spill forth, enticed by the sound. When the creature arrived, it tripped down the stairs, crumbling into a dusty, rotten heap. Edgar pinned it down on the ground with his knee on its back and gave it a couple of violent thwacks with the blade.
The facility would take a long time to clear at this rate. With no ghouls in sight, and his exit seemingly opened, he pushed forward, taking a low run toward the first building, which appeared to be the bus depot.
The building was a small outbuilding combined with what appeared to be a large carport meant for bus maintenance. There was no sign of a wandering ghoul, so he ducked into the small office that seemed to operate as a dispatching area. The place was a wreck, but there were no signs of life except for some smears of blood on a table. Peering out from the office, he saw the prize of school buses. There were three parked in a large lot, and there was a lone bus in the bay that was mid-operation. Other busses had been out on the job when the place had gone into lockdown. But the remaining three were just what he was hoping to find if they were still operational.
He turned his attention back to the small room. There were a couple of computers on desks, a couple of phones, a small table and some chairs. Little else, but he checked behind the desks anyway. He was surprised to catch sight of a minifridge but then realized what was in there had probably become little more than sludge.
Curiosity won out, however, and he crouched down, opening the door. The scent of rot punched him in the face, nearly knocking him onto his ass, but the sight of a sealed can of cola won out. He snatched the can up and slammed the refrigerator shut, gagging all the while.
After a few moments where he could collect himself, he studied his can of cola. It had picked up a little odor from the fridge’s contents, and he ineffectually attempted to wipe away any grime on his pant leg.
He turned the can over and saw it was a diet soda. He grimaced at the idea of a diet soda but also realized there wasn’t much of the stuff left in the world.
He checked the label, and sure enough, it was good. He cracked the tab and took a sip of the sickeningly sweet cola. Content, he took it down in a series of huge gulps.
He finished the last sips and set the cat beside him. There was no sound coming from anywhere outside of the office. He rose to his feet, glanced out the door, and made his way to the closest building, which seemed to be some sort of administrative spot. He kept his creeping, crouched movements and went to a glass doorway. He noticed that things had been piled up against it on the other side, serving as a barricade. There was just enough room near the top of the door for someone to look out from. Edgar kept out of sight and approached the door, placing his ear to it.
Sure enough, there were voices.
Edgar scrambled away from the door, falling over a couple of times, dashing his way back toward the garage area.
Sure enough, dreadful moans seemed to echo all around, and the sound of muffled gunfire from inside continued to pick up. He ducked around the corner into one of the bays and watched as shattering glass scattered over the walkway where he had just been, and office furniture and boxes tumbled out with a pair of people.
Edgar watched as they ran for their lives, a man and a woman. Both were thin. A third man spilled out of the same doorway and fruitlessly pulled a revolver trigger over and over. Out of ammo, he picked up his pace like a crazed beast and overtook the woman grabbing her by the hair and throwing her to the ground.
Edgar saw him climb on top of her and club her with the revolver; the other man, who had been running from the gunman, whipped around to come to her aid.
Edgar threw himself out from behind the wall of the garage and ran toward the scene as the two men struggled over the woman, but four ghouls had begun approaching them from behind some parked cars.
Edgar waved and cried at them, but the two men played out their drama, ignorant of him. It was too late; the ghouls converged and fell upon the struggling men, tearing them apart.
Edgar watched in horror as greasy fingertips slashed at the gunman’s neck, and hot blood burst. In a second, another pair of hands grabbed at his scalp and began pulling out clumps of bloody hair. The other man hadn’t been as fortunate with two ghouls falling upon him and sinking rotten yellow teeth deep into the neck and shoulder. Edgar was shocked at how strong and quickly the monsters moved at the prospect of fresh flesh.
Each man was stripped of skin and tissue by teeth and fingertips. Edgar had never seen the things feed. He felt like he was about to vomit, but Edgar swallowed down the acidic bile that rose in his throat and cautiously approached the group to see if he could at least help the woman.
The ghouls were distracted by their eating frenzy, and the sounds of the men’s screams masked Edgar’s heavy steps. As he was within a few feet of the gruesome scene, he noticed the woman moving. Her face, however, told a different story and amounted to little more than a bloody bowl. The revolver had smashed her nose and teeth, and she was drowning in her blood. Her gargles terrified Edgar. He had nearly drowned once himself, but that was at the beach.
He closed the gap between them and, tears in his eyes, brought the ax’s blade down on her face, smashing what was left of her head into three wet chunks. He cried as he put her out of her misery and, when finished, whirled around and smashed at the skull of the closest ghoul.
He flew into a rage, striking any head he saw in a pile, and after a few moments and a couple of near bites, had brained every single one of the ghouls and the men for good measure. He instinctively grabbed the revolver and absentmindedly pulled the trigger, hoping at least a single shot was left.
He tucked the gun into his pants and noticed the commotion had begun to pull in a few stragglers. He sighed and ran for the administrative building, hoping he could find a way to wait out the storm.
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