It's Friday. That means more story. We are getting to the middle of this thing, big moments coming. Hope you all like where it goes. I do. I really feel like this is one of the best things I've written. I like the plot. I like the characters. I like their backstories. I like their journeys. I'm want you all to like them too. If you are, let me know. If things aren't working for you, let me know that too.
Now, onto Part 14.
Need to catch up? Do it here.
Need to catch up? Do it here.
Welcome to the End//Part14--Stampede
We both freeze. It’s habit. Hear the wailer. Try to figure out where it’s coming from. Triangulate. But, now, just as soon as the first wailer calls, dozens of others respond. Caroline and I both shrink a bit farther back into our little cave. She pulls the machete from her pack, and her knuckles go white around its hilt.
After the reponses die off, end their banging around the buildings and rubble of downtown, another wailer calls. Dozens more respond.
Another call. More responses.
These calls and responses are all coming from different locations. This isn’t a pack or clan or whatever wailers run in. We aren’t talking about a dozen or so staying in place and just making a game out of calling to each other through the rain. There are hundreds out there, and they’re moving.
Maybe they are looking for cover too. They were people once. Being stuck in a downpour like this, that’s your first thought: find shelter. Maybe those base instincts aren’t something that disappear so easily. I repeat that thought over and over, but I know it’s wrong. These aren’t wailers looking for cover.
I pull the gun and let it hang loose in my hand. We haven’t seen any wailers yet, but we haven’t seen much of anything with the rain, and that’s what has me anxious. There could be wailers walking the streets just in front of us, and we wouldn’t be able to tell. I don’t think they are there, but it’s possible.
A wailer calls again, this one close. A block away maybe. It doesn’t wait for the responses to finish before it calls again, even closer now. A choir of respondents scream into the storm. Thunder rolls overhead and even more wailers cry out. Hundreds now, and they all sound like they are on top of us.
“Wait here,” I tell Caroline.
“Wait? Where are you going? You aren’t leaving me here.”
“Just poking my head out. I’m not leaving.”
I take a cautious step out of our shelter. A wailer cries right into my ear. I drop to the ground and a jagged claw catches my cheek. My hand instinctively moves to cover the fresh wound. The gun in my other hand raises and fires two quick shots at an enemy I can’t see.
I fall onto my back and roll into the shelter. Caroline drops to look at me.
“You’re fine,” she says. “Or will be.” She stands back up.
The wailer that caught me has set off a series of calls from others. Their piercing shrieks are beginning to drown out the rain.
Wherever these wailers had been, they are in front of us now. It’s a horror show stampede.
Their foot falls are creating a low rumble. I hear and feel them bumping and rubbing against our shelter. It’s a fragile space that’s fine for keeping dry, but it’s not going to stand any kind of rough treatment. Wailers are anything but gentle. We have to move.
I grab Caroline’s arm. I turn and look to her. “Are you ready?”
“For what?” Her eyes narrow. She’s not understanding.
“We have to go.”
“Out there?” She gestures with her head to the space in front of us.
“Yes,” I say. “This place isn’t stable. The wailers will knock it down, and we’ll be trapped.”
“We aren’t trapped now?”
We don’t have time to debate this. I pull her with me. We’re running. She screams the moment that the stinging rain hits her face. I don’t have any specific destination in mind. I’m just moving.