Now that we had found the children, our concentration turned to locating any remaining survivors before the crawlers got to them. We had to find a safe place to stash all of the children and to set up a headquarters of sorts until we could clear the settlement completely. We decided on one of the many empty warehouses close to a well-stocked communal kitchen. The warehouse is big and open in concept and luckily in an area that we could clear of crawlers very easily.
Having located a safe place to stay and access to a food source, some of the survivors found by Lt. Lafferty’s team decided they would be better served helping with the children and making meals. The population of the warehouse grew and the children were relieved to see that more of the adults had survived. A number of them had no idea if other members of their families had survived; it was apparent though that having more people around them helped them to relax and gave them a sense of hope. There is nothing worse that staring at the faces of despondent children when they should be filled with joy. It was hard to keep joy in their faces given the fact that the world was in such a state of chaos but for the most part, you saw it as long as they felt safe.
A great number of the living adults went back out in the settlement to help clean up the streets. They were also looking for any survivors that we had yet to discover. It was a gruelling task; the crawlers had moved far and wide through the settlement. They weren’t terribly hard to kill again. One hard hit to the head was usually enough and they were easy enough to track; their slimy trails leading the way.
The only time it got difficult was if you happened along a fairly sizable group. You had to be careful in those instances because you wanted to ensure that each one was dead before you moved onto the next. Otherwise, you’d end up like Juan.
Juan was among the survivors that Lt. Lafferty had encountered and one of the first volunteers to go back out into the streets. He was a large man, both tall and wide, with a very soft demeanour. It was obvious that the events that brought about the end of our world weighed heavily on him; you could see it each and every time you looked into his face. What you also saw was the determination to reclaim what once belonged to humanity.
One might think that we would all be as careful as possible. Especially with the warnings given to us by others. From the story that was relayed to me, Juan was working through the throng of crawlers on one of the streets, taking one side while his partner Cillian handled the other. He was making great headway and had gotten a little bit in front of Cillian and into an area where the crawlers were a little closer together. To Cillian it appeared as if one of the crawlers managed to survive the blow that Juan dealt it. Once he moved on, the crawler followed slowly but methodically after him.
When Juan stopped for a moment to catch his breath, its bony hand reached out to take hold of his leg. The fear of the moment released a scream from Juan and caused him to stumble in his haste to extricate himself. He went down and into the fray of a number of crawlers who were on him before he could get back up again. They started to devour him and as Cillian responded to Juan’s screams, they stopped as suddenly as they started. As Cillian watched in horror, Juan got back up; only it wasn’t Juan that started in his direction.
Cillian will be the first to admit that it had been a very long time since he had seen one of the walking Undead but the sight chilled him to the bone. Juan was a big guy and he had no idea how he was ever going to be able to drop the giant coming toward him with a single baseball bat. As Undead Juan bore down on him, Cillian got ready to release the swing of his life. Forgotten was the horde of crawlers around him, his eyes were firmly planted on the walker.
With a strong swing of the bat, Cillian was able to propel Undead Juan backward and off the curb. The change in plane was enough to knock him back to the ground and as he slapped the asphalt of the road, Cillian heard an unnatural snap. Watching Undead Juan try to flip over without the use of his legs, he knew that something had actually gone his way. He was able to approach the corpse and used his bat to pulverize the cranium of what was once his friend.
With that done, Cillian decided that he needed to get back to the warehouse and report what had happened. He also needed a new partner to clear the streets with. We found him in the back of the warehouse, staring at the wall blankly. His story was sad but we all know the inherent dangers of our new world. He’ll get over it in time.
Lt. Lafferty, Julie and I decided that it was time we got back to the Police Station. There were a number of supplies in the station that would be of great use to us if we could readily get to them. We knew that it was going to be hard work clearing the station, especially with the room full of the Undead.
When we got to the doors of the conference room, we found that they were still closed. It was a good sign in a way; it meant that all of the Undead we’d encountered were still behind them. Once we opened the door, ready to start killing, we found the sight a little strange; they were all still in the same pile, it’s writhing like that of a pile of snakes you might see in a pet store.
It took us a while to make sure that all of the crawlers in that pile were truly dead. We had decided to lure them away from the pile and in doing that, not need to worry too much about being overrun. There was just no way that we could have handled them all as a pile; no way at all.
As the pile started to disperse, you could see that there was something at its bottom; up against the wall there was something that looked like a stout wooden cabinet.
It took us a while to kill them all but once we had, we gingerly stepped over the corpses to the blood smeared cabinet against the wall.
Opening it, ready to deal with anything that might happen to come out, we were surprised to see a contorted person on the inside.
It was Marcus and at first glance, he wasn’t looking too well. Dead even.
Julie reached out to touch him.
Just as she was about to make contact with the spot on his wrist where his radial pulse should be, he sputtered into consciousness; the look on his face one of abject terror.
Getting him out of the cabinet was difficult; he’d really wedged himself inside. All of his muscles were agonizingly taut and cramped and in the 25 minutes it took for us to pry him out of the cabinet, he swore like a sailor. Getting his cramped and contorted muscles to straighten was painful I’m sure but it needed to be done. We had to get Marcus back to the warehouse and there was no way we could carry him the distance. After about an hour, Marcus was able to stand, painful as the action was and we started to slowly backtrack our way to the warehouse.
The walk back was long and excruciating. Every step seemed to cause a great deal of pain but looking on the bright side, he was alive at least. A number of the others hadn’t been that lucky.
Back at the warehouse, we discovered that one of the teams had managed to get the power grid back online. It was great news as the dark was starting to unnerve quite a few of the children.
Just as the three of us were about to go out again, we got a call from the team at the hospital. After finding a way in, they had painstakingly scoured each floor of the ten storey building during the daylight hours. What they found was complete pandemonium; overturned beds, some small arms fire but very little blood.
As they cleared each floor, they didn’t find a lot of crawlers. They could see from the state of the place that the Undead rodents had managed to get inside but the amount of blood they saw did not add up to a massacre. As they wound their way downward into the bowels of the hospital, they wondered if the patients and staff had managed to get out the day of the breach, before the building was overrun.
In the basement, they found their answer.
The doors to the morgue had been fortified; barricaded against the menace the Undead rodents represented.
They called out through the doors, seeing no other way of getting through them. In response, there were the sounds of scraping making them unsure of what might be contained on the other side of the double doors.
The doors opened, revealing one hundred and twenty people, all alive and jammed into the expansive room. It was a moment of joy as everyone realized that they were a little less alone in a world full of the Undead.
As of this moment, two hundred and forty three survivors remain. Our hope is that the number only increases.