Chasing Winter 9

His first step out of the store was the worst.  There was a body lying down right in his way.  If he opened the door any more, it’d hit the zombie’s legs.  So he had to squeeze out and step over it.  As the door swung closed, he had to stand straddling the corpse so he had enough room to hold the handle and make sure it didn’t give a sound.

Something wet landed on his nose, wet and very cold.  Letting go of the door, he reached up and touched it with his fingers.  The melting crystal of a snowflake crumbled between his thumb and index finger.  He didn’t know what day it was, he wasn’t even sure of the month.  It felt like years since the outbreak, but it’d been early fall, so months at most.  Winter was coming, and sooner than he was used to this far to the north.

As he carefully picked his way out into the street, sticking to the deepest shadows he could find, his whole body itched.  They were everywhere.  No matter how far they ran, the zombies were already ahead of them.  His last hope was the cold.  Even corpses freeze.  They had to.

He almost made it through.  The zombies, the ones with eyes at least, seemed to have vision closer to Rhoda’s than his own.  They responded to light and movement more than anything else.  Even with the moon set, there still must’ve been enough light for it to see a shadow moving across its glassy eyes.  He froze when he saw the head turn toward him.  By the time he heard the moaning growl, he knew it was too late.  The sound roused the rest of the crowd and they started to drag themselves to their feet.

Tossing Rhoda to the ground, he started sprinting.  The dog surged ahead of him, zigzagging through the slow moving dead.  Ripping his knife and pipe free, he lashed out against anything that came too close.  He wasn’t worried about inflicting damage, just slowing them down.

Corpses lumbered all around him.  It was easy to get away from one, but there were dozens coming from every direction.  They surged out of alleys, cutting off escape.  He was forced to follow Rhoda straight down the street.  Human shapes swam out of the darkness.  It wasn’t until they got closer that he could see the corruption devouring their bodies.  He stopped.  They were completely surrounded.  Rhoda ran in circles, each one smaller than the last as the horde closed in.

Throwing the pipe into the face of the closest zombie, he started reaching for door handles.  It was a long shot, but there wasn’t any other choice.  Rotten jaws snapped together and the chorus of moans drowned out his beating heart.  Rhoda came to stand by him.

“You couldn’t find a way out?  Wouldn’t have blamed you.”

One hand clenched his knife as the other went for the last untested handle.  He didn’t hear the click, and it wasn’t until he looked down and saw the door cracked that he realized they still had a chance.  As he pulled the door open, he shouted to Rhoda.  She bounded inside and he rushed in after her.

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