The Zombie Chronicles
Impact – Book 8
The next morning, we headed back to the demolished building. Max’s men rode behind us, as backup. Jackie insisted on coming because she knew the layout of the hospital. As much as we hated bringing her along just after getting her back safely, we knew we needed her, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
The scientists were still desperately looking for a cure, a cure we held in our very hands. It wasn’t without flaw, but Charlie had figured out a way to make it work. That was why we needed his notes so badly. Sure, he was a lunatic, a mad scientist if there ever was one, but he was also brilliant, and his research had paid off. It still had to be sorted out, but we were confident that any other competent scientist could make sense of it. Those precious formulas and equations, all those notes, were the key to getting our world back to normal, and we had to do whatever it took to implement them into a real solution.
Jackie smiled as I squeezed her hand. I couldn’t have been happier if I’d have tried. Having her there with me again made me feel alive. I was alive, and so was she. And, even better than that, there really was a miracle cure to the zombie plague.
After feeling hopeless for so long, it was almost hard to wrap my mind around the fact that our world might just have a chance after all. Maybe in a few years, we’ll all lead normal lives again. Sometimes I wondered if I ever should have left the island in the first place, but if I hadn’t, we never would have found the cure. That was what it took for us to have a chance to save the world; all things considered, I would have done it all over again.
I still couldn’t believe I was sitting next to Jackie. It almost seemed like a dream. She didn’t remember much in her zombie state, and I was glad for that. So far, she didn’t seem to be suffering any horrible side effects. We all waited on her hand and foot, and she cried when we told her how hard we’d all hunted for her. Claire was a hot mess and carried a tissue box with her from room to room, crying happy tears that wouldn’t stop. We were all so happy to see Jackie. I held her all night, and it seemed as if nothing had changed between us, as if we’d never really been apart at all. We just picked up from where we had left off. It was such an emotional reunion, and I knew I would never love any other girl more than I loved my Jackie.
“Are you sure you’re up to this?” I asked her.
“We’ve been through worse, Dean.”
“Can you believe we’ve almost licked this thing?” Lucas said.
Nick shot him a side glance. “And you said the only cure was a bullet or axe in the brain.”
“At this point, it still is,” Claire retorted. “Who knows how long it will take the scientists to figure it all out?”
Nick parked near the hospital, and we all hopped out. It was a bit eerie, considering our history in that place: our last battle with Z, the hybrids, and me thinking Charlie had injected me with a deadly disease.
Within minutes, everyone was organized and split into teams that walked off in different directions to secure the perimeter. Team Six came with us, just in case we encountered any zombie run-ins. I didn’t know the team members too well, but I knew Rex, Nancy, and Buddy. Buddy stuck out like a sore thumb because he always complained.
Scanning ahead, I pointed my rifle. I didn’t see any signs of zombies or hybrids. The hospital looked like some sort of ancient ruins, as if a bomb had been dropped on it. Only part of it was still standing, and even that section was on the verge of collapse. Rubble and bricks spilled onto the sidewalk and cracked asphalt of the parking lot. I hated the idea of going back in there, but I bravely stepped over the cement blocks, twisted metal, and rocks. We squeezed through two beams and a pile of debris.
“Wait,” Buddy said. “Max said not to go in.”
“Suit yourself,” Nick responded.
“Why? Because Max might not be back for hours, and this building could collapse by then. We need to act now.”
Lucas nodded. “I agree. We’re not twisting anybody’s arm. If you don’t wanna come, then don’t. It’s every man…er, and or every woman…for himself. Our small group is more than willing to go.”
“Of course we should,” Rex said. “We’ve gotta get those notes before this building collapses.”
They muttered among themselves. Some of the men wanted to leave, but others wished to keep going. I ignored them. As far as I was concerned, if they weren’t willing to risk their lives like we were, they could shut up and go back.
Jackie pointed her pistol straight ahead and led the way. We all shined our flashlights inside, illuminating the darkness with our beams. Glass crunched beneath my boots with every step I took. I’d just gotten Jackie back, and we were taking her back to the place where she’d been held hostage for so long. I wasn’t sure how she felt about it, but her courage was inspiring to me.
Max wanted us to scout out the area, then meet up with him later. We were obviously complying with his orders, but I couldn’t believe his team decided to follow us in. I helped Jackie over some cracked slabs and broken cinderblock. The ceiling suddenly shifted, showering all of us with white dust and plaster, and we all erupted in a chorus of coughs.
“This is suicide!” one of the men shouted. “This place ain’t safe!”
“Yeah, whose brilliant idea was this anyway? It’s freakin’ crazy to be walkin’ around in here!” another complained.
“You know we’ve gotta find those notes and that research,” Nick scolded. “Then we can save mankind and put an end to zombies forever.” Nick spoke with such conviction and emotion that nobody dared to argue with him.
Breathing shallowly, I continued to climb over the dusty rock mounds.
“Watch out for that stiff,” Nick said, his voice echoing in the crumbling building.
Pointing my flashlight down, I kicked the dead zombie in front of me, just to make sure it was really dead. When there was no movement or reaction, I exhaled in great relief and slowly stepped over the corpse, taking note of the bullet hole in its rotting forehead.
“I don’t like this, not one bit,” Claire said. “It doesn’t feel very good to be back in Charlie’s evil lair. I killed Z here. Not to mention, those hybrids give me the creeps.”
“Tell me about it,” Val whispered, “but Charlie did have a cure, so we need those notes and samples for other scientists.” She stepped over a precarious pile of bricks. “It’s creepy, but I’m not scared. If one of those things so much as bats a decayed eyelash, I’ll feed it a steady diet of bullets.”
“They’re dead,” Kate said. “Max’s men got any stragglers Z’s men missed.”
Claire shot her a side-glance. “I hope you’re right.”
We stepped through the rubble, our flashlights casting eerie shadows on the walls. I dodged the occasional rat as we made our way through the wide main corridor.
A growl echoed in the air, and Kate shot me a look. She stopped mid-step, eating her own words.
“Was that a…?”
“Great,” she said, turning to Nick. “We need Claire or Val to scope it out with their night vision.”
Claire stepped forward and peered. “Looks like a loner,” she said, her rifle drawn.
“Maybe that’s what it wants you to think,” Lucas said. “Hybrids are sneaky, remember?”
I grabbed Lucas’s bat and headed toward the zombie that was missing half its face. “Batter up!” I said. “It’s time to join your friends on the ground.” I swung so hard that its head was decapitated, knocked right off its shoulders. It flung against a pile of rocks, and the body slumped to the ground in a sickening heap.
When footsteps echoed behind us, I stiffened. I held the bat in a white-knuckled grip and stiffened.
“Calm down, Babe Ruth,” Val said. “It’s just
“I can’t believe you guys are doing this,”
Asia said. “Max is gonna
I sighed. “We really didn’t have any other choice. But how did you know we came in?”
“One of the guys who told me you were in here ran off to go find Max.”
“Good. We can use his help.”
“Let’s keep moving, people,” Nick said.
“This way, guys,” Jackie said.
Shining our flashlights ahead, we started walking.
Claire glanced over her shoulder at Asia. “Why aren’t you with Max?”
“I drove here as fast as I could to tell you that some survivors of Z’s gang are ticked off, bent on revenge,” Asia announced grimly. “Max’s guys took care of most of them, but some escaped. I thought I should warn you that we might have company.”
“Great! We’re already dealing with a crumbling building and zombies,” Buddy said. “Now add pissed-off comrades to the mix.”
Asia looked at him. “Calm down, Buddy.”
Buddy was always complaining, and I hated getting stuck with him.
“You sure revenge is all they’re after?” I asked, staring at Asia hard.
“What else would they want?”
She blinked. “I don’t think they’re that smart. Heck, I doubt they can even read. I’m sure in their Neanderthal minds, they can only comprehend payback, since we offed so many of their friends.”
We turned the bend, and Nick flashed his light beam into the darkness. “We can’t assume anything. Let’s just get what we came for and get the heck outta Dodge.”
We all feared what would happen if the notes fell into the wrong hands. They could be misused, lost, or accidentally destroyed. We were on a quest to save all of humanity, and Nick wasn’t willing to take any chances. We had to make sure the research was put in the hands of the right people, scientists who could help get the cure underway so we could get our world back.
The building started to creak and moan as we continued to walk into the darkness. I didn’t like that one bit. The foundation was barely holding on, and the place was unstable, which meant we could be crushed at any given moment. More creaking, cracking, and popping sounds told me a collapse was imminent. It was going to happen whether we wanted it to or not.
“The building’s talking to us,” Val said. “It’s warning us to leave while we still can.”
I stared straight ahead as dust swirled in the path of my flashlight beam. Her words chilled me to the very bone. I knew we should turn around and leave. That would have been the smart thing to do, but we only had one shot at getting those notes on how to create the formula that had cured Jackie. As risky as it was, we were there for all humanity, and the cause was more important than our own fear.
Kate frantically looked around. “We have to turn back. It’s getting way too dangerous. If this place caves in—”
“We’ll be long gone by then,” Nick said, shaking his head and cutting her off. “We just have to move faster,” he coaxed, more determined than ever to get what we came for.
“Well, I don’t know about you people, but I’m not about to die for some scientist’s stupid scribbling!” one of the men retorted. “There are other scientists in the world, and they can figure it out without me getting my head smashed in.”
“You know where the exit is,” Nick said flatly. “Do whatever you want.” My brother had one mission on his mind, and he wasn’t going to bend for anyone.
“I’m not trying to wuss out. You know that’s not me,” Kate said, “but we have to think of our own safety. It won’t do anyone any good if this hospital becomes our tomb.”
“Just concentrate on what’s important,” Nick said, stepping over concrete and metal.
“I’d put living at the top of that list. How do you think I’ve survived so long?”
“Think of all the people we can help,” I chimed in. “The stuff worked for Jackie. It’s a miracle, a potential cure, Kate, something that may stop the virus in its tracks. Yeah, we’re risking our lives here, but think of how many lives will be changed and saved if we do this.”
The creaking and moaning didn’t subside, and Kate pointed the flashlight upward. “Yeah, if we live to deliver the cure to anybody,” she muttered under her breath so Nick didn’t hear and send her back to safety.
“Nick, if it gets any worse, we stop,” Claire said. “We’ll just hand over what we’ve got, and they can send a team back here in a helicopter, with an excavation team.”
“Can’t put a bulldozer in a helicopter, darlin’. Besides, we can’t let any of the research get buried in here. They need it all so they can start working on the cure ASAP.”
“Dead end!” Lucas announced, much to our dismay. “The entrance collapsed.”
“So find another way,” Nick said, unnervingly calmly.
Horizontal steel beams, metal, and rocks jutted across our path, and a thick dust of shattered concrete floated in the air. I was just as scared as Kate and the others, and I didn’t want to be crushed to death. A loud creaking filled the air, and a twenty-foot crack burst open right in front of us, gushing out debris, rock, and dry wall. Windows cracked, doors broke, and the building groaned. A chill ran down my spine.
Nick swung his flashlight in the opposite direction, pondered for a minute, then tapped Val. “Look, I might be a bit of a…kamikaze, but we don’t need a buncha martyrs for this mission. Get these people outta here,” he said. “Dean, Lucas, and I got this.”
“What are you? The Knights of the Round Table? No freaking way I’m leaving you,” she said. “And are you forgetting you need Jackie to get you there?”
“I gave him directions earlier, just in case something went wrong,” Jackie said.
Nick stepped toward Val. “I got this, so don’t give me any lip. Just get everyone out of this warzone.”
Val glared at him. “Keep ordering me around like that, little brother, and I’ll throw your scrawny butt over my shoulder and drag you out, you arrogant jerk! If you’re going, so am I, but you’ve got no right to force Dean to go with you. You and Lucas have spent the last couple years going on life-risking missions like a couple Rambos, but Dean’s not used to it.”
“He’s a soldier,” Lucas said. “He’s proved that more than once.”
Nick nodded. “Yeah, our baby bro is all grown up. He’s a man now.”
She threw her hands in the air. “He’s a teenager! Quit treating him like some sort of Marine!”
“Age doesn’t matter in this new world,” he said. “It’s all about survival instinct, and Dean has proven time and time again that he’s got plenty of that. I’m proud to call him my brother, and I’m even prouder to fight alongside him.”
In that very moment, I realized just how much my brother respected me. For the first time, I felt like an adult. He actually chose me, his kid brother, over our hotheaded, well-trained big sister. The building was about to cave in, and he wanted me there with him, like a real, trusted comrade. I’d never felt more proud, and for the first time, I realized I wasn’t just some dumb, naïve kid in his eyes. I had finally proven myself to him, and that meant more than anything in the world. I had Nick’s respect, and that wasn’t easy to come by.
“And what does being a man got to do with anything?” Val asked. “I can fight just as well as you two.”
“Of course you can,” Nick said. “Now that you mention it, maybe you’re right. I’d feel better knowing I have you to cover my back anyway.”
“Good. It’s settled. Nobody’s leaving.” The building groaned, and Val sucked in a deep breath. “Let’s not think about the risks here. Focus on the end result.”
“Great attitude,” Lucas said.
“This building’s falling apart more with every single step we take, crumbling under our feet,” Buddy whined. “We all need to get outta here. Max told us to cover you, not to die for you!”
“Do you know what those notes can do for humanity?” Lucas snapped. “There’s a cure out there, man. Jackie is living proof!”
“Look, pal, we all want a cure just as bad as you do. We wouldn’t have come in here at all if we didn’t,” Buddy retorted. “We all wanna see mankind beat this thing, but going on a suicide mission ain’t gonna save nobody. We keep trolling through this rubble, they’ll just have to dig under more bodies to get to the research.”
Nick waved a dismissive hand, then turned and walked in another direction. “I know another way. We passed a corridor a little way back. Anybody who’s coming, get a move-on. The rest of you know the way out.”
Some of the men quickly said their goodbyes and scurried away, but a few stuck with us, including Buddy, who complained more than anyone. I was thankful that they didn’t all desert us, but I secretly wished he’d been one of the ones to run away, because he was getting on everyone’s nerves.
My feet crunched over the debris as we briskly walked, with Jackie in the lead. When we got to the spot, we realized the entrance was blocked by a layer of concrete that had slid down from the floor above.
Jackie glanced around and pointed to another hall just north of us. “Let’s go that way,” she suggested.
Tall beams crisscrossed high above us, with more to the left and right, like the very gates of Hell. It really didn’t faze me much, considering that we’d all been living a hellish existence already, and we were more than ready to fight any demons that came our way. We turned the bend and walked down another long corridor, only to be confronted by yet another dead end, a blockage of metal and debris.
“What now?” Claire asked.
Nick pointed to a breach in the wall. He slipped through the jagged edges and disappeared into the darkness. I followed him and realized we were in the hospital gift shop. Everything was covered in debris, dirt, and pebbles, and there was a horrible teddy bear on the floor, with one of its eyes missing, holding a big heart that said “Get Well.”
Suddenly, a loud noise echoed in the air. I quickly aimed my flashlight in the direction of the noise and saw the double-doors moving back and forth.
I walked over the debris and maneuvered through the store. A pile of concrete on the ground kept the doors from opening all the way, but something desperately wanted in. Suddenly, a long, vertical line of fingers burst through the crack. I gasped as that sickeningly familiar moaning reverberated through the air. Black, dead fingers waved through the gap, from the top of the door to the bottom.
“Oh my gosh!” Claire said. “How can they wiggle their fingers through that high? None of them are that tall.”
“They must be stacked up,” I said. “I don’t even wanna know how many there are.”
“The floor collapsed,” Lucas said. “They fell in! Anybody up for a little zombie Jenga?”
“The men must’ve missed one of the upstairs rooms when they were taking out the stragglers,” Val said. “Charlie was trying to build a whole army, so there were a lot of them.”
Asia looked at us, her eyes wide. “Let’s find a different way!”
“The only way to Charlie’s safe is through those doors,” Jackie said. “The other way is completely blocked off.”
The door began to inch open, slowly and methodically, like a slow-motion scene out of some awful horror movie; only this time, I was actually there instead of sitting in a red velvet seat, safely behind a giant bucket of extra-buttery popcorn. Dread washed over me, but without a second thought, I grabbed Nick’s axe and pried it through the metal handles so they couldn’t get through.
The zombies pounced and heaved their rotting corpses against the door. The door shook violently, the banging and pounding growing worse with every passing second. One of the undead nuisances peeked in through the gap in the door and met my gaze with that familiar cold stare, those unforgettable, nightmarish, evil, milky-white eyes. They only lived to rip the flesh off the living, and I lived to rip their brains out. Even wide awake, our nightmares were all too real.
“Look!” Val shouted.
I gasped as the doors begin to rip off their hinges. I knew if we didn’t run, we’d be fighting a barrage of rotting, starving demons.
Wood splintered, and the moans grew louder.
“Move out!” Nick barked.
“Run!” I shouted.
I glanced over my shoulder as I frantically climbed through the debris. My heart thundered when the doors burst open and zombies scrambled in like football players ripping through a homecoming banner. The only trouble was, they had too many men on the field.
End of sample...
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