Missed Part One? Find it here.
Caroline looks to me, her eyes asking “What’s next.” I grab the handle to the door that leads to an interior hall. It doesn’t open. Locked.
“Back upstairs” I say and start taking steps two at a time. Caroline follows. The wails increase with each foot fall.
I check the door on nine. Locked.
Ten, eleven, and twelve. All locked.
“It’s a security thing,” Caroline says. “They lock from the inside. We won’t get in.”
Hard nails skitter down concrete steps. Cries come from below. I push past Caroline and back down.
“Where now?” She asks as I lose sight of her on the steps above me.
“To our stuff,” I shout.
I get to eight and two wailers are already there. Two quick shots hit each of them in the chest because they aren’t more than a couple feet away. They scream and collapse. Their brothers and sisters cry out in response, louder now than ever before.
I look for Caroline. She is coming down the steps three and four at a time, recklessly trying to catch up. Her machete swings wild at her side, a wailer only steps behind her.
I fling my arm up — trying to aim.
Caroline dives to the floor, and I fire. The concrete above her explodes. Shards and dust shower down. The wailer yells behind her and a talon-covered foot lands next to her head. Another shot and the creature falls. Caroline scrambles to her feet, breath racing. I put two more bullets into the creature’s head for good measure.
She pins her back to the wall. Another wailer comes down the stairs, its hollow eyes pinched almost shut by its gaping mouth. Two more are behind it. Before I get the gun up, Caroline swings the machete and draws a gash across the wailer’s chest. Black goo — what used to be blood — cascades down the creature’s front. It takes two more steps then stumbles. Caroline brings the machete down on the back of the wailer’s neck and buries it half deep into the rotting flesh. She struggles to pull the machete from the wailer’s spine, and one of the trailing wailers swipes at her with an open hand. One of the claws catches her arm and slices through her bicep. The machete clatters to the floor.
A quick shot catches the wailer in the neck. It screams out and is matched by what sounds like a hundred similar voices. The wailer tries to lift the arm again but it’s lost function. Another shot catches it square. The thing stumbles backward with two quick steps and falls to the ground, taking down the creature behind it too.
Caroline grabs the two unlit lanterns and throws them onto the stairs across from her. The glass explodes and the smell of oil fills the stairwell. More wailers are coming down the steps when she throws the lit lantern. It breaks into a half dozen pieces and the suddenly loose flame sends the oil ablaze. The two wailers who’d just fallen are also on fire. One is dead. The other quickly dying.
The remaining wailers retreat up the stairs.
I reload my pistol and step to the stair rail. The line of wailers starts just a few floors down, and it’s unending.
Caroline scrambles to her pack and up ends it. The contents scatter across the landing but what she’s looking for somehow rolls to her feet. She grabs the black globes and says a string of words that sound like nonsense. She tosses the globe to me.
“Throw it down the steps. Get it as close to the ground floor as possible.”
She keeps chanting something that I can’t understand. I drop the globe down between the railing and watch as it pinballs its way to the bottom floor, all the wailers distracted briefly from the two people up on eight.
Caroline grabs my jacket sleeve and pulls me to the floor against the wall with her. She doubles over into a ball, and I do the same, interlocking my fingers across my neck like I’ve seen so many kids do in those film strips they showed us in school. There’s a pause then a pair of explosions rock the building.