MISSION: Rescue one Moira Jones from 6th floor of over run hospital.
OBJECTIVE: Search for and rescue Moira Jones and bring to safety.
STRATEGY: Rendezvous with fellow members of the ZSC and use skill sets to bring Moira Jones to safety.
Norman Reedus – Blue Brigade Commander
Michael Rooker – Head of Special Forces
Tiffany, Rebecca, Apryl, Emma, Jessica, and Eve – A ragtag group of ZSC members from different brigades that are going to come together to ensure Moira is rescued and brought to safety. (@MacabreKiss, @RebeccaMStarr, @FlaneryGrl, @Emmabookworm, @Jessadorkadon, and @Catella_Snape)
Norman and I split off from the group and made our way silently toward the eastern staircase. Aside from the big group we’d encountered when we first entered the building, we weren’t seeing many walkers. We only took down five before we made it to the door that opened into the stairwell.
“This seems a bit too easy.” Norman spoke almost too softly for me to hear and I wasn’t sure if he was talking to me or thinking aloud.
I remained quiet and kept my eyes focused on the door.
“You okay, Eve?” I looked over to see him watching me. I fought the urge to have a fan girl moment and looked away quickly as I felt my cheeks begin to burn.
“Stay focused, Eve-Marie!” I scolded myself internally. “Moira needs you!”
“Yes, I’m fine.” I tossed him a quick glance and added, “I’m worried about Moira. That message from Sean has me a bit freaked out.”
“Yeah, me too.” Norman stepped forward to peek in the window of the stairwell door.
He leapt back immediately as a grotesque face slammed against the glass.
“Damn!” He studied the walker for a moment. We could hear more of them shuffling around behind the door.
“So much for this being easy.” I pulled my hunting knife out of its sheath and held it backwards in my right hand so that the blade ran along my forearm. My left hand gripped my compound bow, to which I nocked an arrow held between my right middle and forefinger, leaving my two other fingers and thumb wrapped tightly around the hilt of my knife. I turned and covered the hallway behind us while he prepped his weapons.
Norman pulled back the string on his crossbow until he heard it lock. He slid a bolt in place and pulled a silenced 9mm Glock out of his waistband. He pulled the slide back and made sure there was one in the chamber before flipping off the safety. He grabbed his walkie and gave the code for all clear and announced that we were entering the stairwell.
“You all set?” He asked.
I turned to face the door and raised my bow. “Yes, sir.”
He made a face at my response and took hold of the door handle.
“Here goes!” He yanked the door open and stepped to the side as I loosed an arrow into the group that had amassed there.
My arrow went through three skulls before lodging into the fourth, not quite penetrating the creature’s brain.
Norman jumped over the three fallen and began working his way through the dozen or so other undead that crowded eagerly toward him.
I took the flat of my palm and shoved the arrow through the skull of the fourth zombie before sending a second arrow flying to take another out just as it lunged for Norman’s back.
As I stepped over the bodies into the bottom of the stairwell, I found the area far too constricted to use my bow practically. I slung it and focused on my knife work.
After dispatching my third zombie, I turned to see if Norman needed help. There were still three left and he stood between me and them. He too had slung his ranged weapon.
I watched him take two quick steps forward, swing his right arm up plunging his knife into one’s throat at an angle effectively piercing its brainstem. He simultaneously brought his left hand up and quickly dropped the other two with expertly aimed shots from his 9mm. I was awed by the fluidity of his movement and the ease with which he disabled the trio.
He straightened and faced me, swiping his knife against his pants to clean the gore from it.
He gestured to the stairs behind me with a nod of his head and used his hands to signal that he wanted me to go first, he would be right behind me. Fortunately this area was still dimly lit by the red tinged emergency lights and we were able to make it up the two flights to the third floor.
Norman studied the map as we stood near the door.
“Right. It should be a straight shot past this nurse’s station then we head left and the next set of stairs should be just down this hallway. There are,” he did a quick count of the small rooms off the hallway, “only 12 rooms, six on each side, between us and the stairs. We’ll assume they were all occupied when it all went down. Of course there are 48 rooms total in this wing so we should be prepared for worst case scenario.”
He reloaded his gun and crossbow as I double checked my guns.
As he pushed the handle down, the emergency lights failed throwing us into a sudden pitch blackness.
“Holy crap!” I whispered. “I can’t see anything!”
“Where are you?” His voice sounded tense.
“I’m directly to your right.” I reached out blindly toward where I had last seen him.
I felt his hand brush against my bosom before it grasped my arm.
It sounded like he was trying not to laugh as he whispered, “Sorry!”
I knew it had been an honest accident but I felt myself blushing as I pulled my go bag around so I could dig my flashlights out.
“Here,” I tapped one of the flashlights against his hand and he took it. I swung my bag back around, the other flashlight in my hand.
I felt breath on the back of my neck; my heart constricted and goosebumps rose all up and down my arms. This breath was cold and it reeked of rotting flesh. I whirled around and smashed my flashlight against its face before tripping on Norman’s shoe. I fell against the railing, my right foot slipped off the edge of the top stair and I tumbled down a few more before coming to a stop on my back a few feet below. My flashlight rolled down to the landing and flickered on spreading an eerie light up the wall.
I couldn’t breathe and my ankle was throbbing.
“Sh*t! How do you turn this thing on?” Norman sounded frantic. “Eve?”
“Sh-,” I tried to instruct him. I pulled myself up a bit and tried again, “Sh-shake it.”
I saw the light above me and heard Norman growl as he stabbed his knife into the thing’s forehead.
I tried to get up and felt sharp pain stab through my ankle. I sucked a breath in through my teeth to keep from crying out. Tears pricked my eyes as I flopped back down.
I heard Norman’s feet on the stairs as he rushed down. He came into view on my left side.
He took hold of my hand.
“Are you okay? Are you hurt?” Concern was etched into his fine features. His stormy blue eyes were locked on to mine.
“It didn’t bite me.” I wanted that to be very clear. “I hurt my ankle when I fell. I don’t think I can walk on it.”
He looked down at my ankle and grimaced. I knew it had to be bad.
“It’s already swollen and dark. It looks awful.” He carefully lifted my leg by putting one hand under my calf and one under my heel.
“I’ll have to help you walk.” He decided after even the tiniest pressure on the joint made me wince.
“Norman, there’s no time for that! You need to get to Moira. I’ll only slow you down and put you in dang…” I didn’t get to finish my thought as he interrupted me.
“I am NOT leaving you behind! I have to make sure you get back to your little girl!” There was a finality to his words and I knew there would be no valid argument.
“I need a way to stabilize it. A splint or something. All I have is an ace bandage and some gauze in my first aid kit. Then maybe I can put some weight on it and I won’t be cumbersome to you.” I tried to pull my toes up which earned me a wave of hot pain that cascaded up my leg from my ankle.
“Hey!” Norman reached into his back pocket and pulled the map back out. “There’s a medical supplies closet just past the nurse’s station. Think there’s something there we could use?”
I shrugged and frowned at him. “I don’t think you should go in there by yourself.”
“Come here.” He helped me to my feet and guided me to the top of the stairs.
He had me sit against the wall, facing the door. He jogged back down the stairs and grabbed my flashlight.
“I’ll be right back, okay?” He pointed to my guns, “Keep those handy.”
I took them both out and rested them on my lap. “Be careful in there.”
He nodded then slipped through the door.
The silence in that darkened stairwell was deafening. As I waited, I kept having to fight back tears. I was worried that he would get hurt. I was worried that we wouldn’t get to Moira in time. I was worried that I would never see Michelle again. And what would I say to Mingus if his dad couldn’t come back to him? The longer I sat there, the greater those worries became.
At one point one of the walkers inadvertently leaned against the door which had failed to latch behind Norman. I took it and the four that followed down quickly. Their bodies kept the door wide open but I couldn’t move them.
So I trained my guns on the room and struggled against the panic that threatened to overtake me.
I saw a zombie fly backwards, an arrow embedded in its skull and breathed a sigh of relief as Norman came into view.
He shoved the mass of bodies out of the way and shut the door behind him. He showed me the stiff ankle brace and walking boot that he’d found in the supply closet as he knelt beside me.
He took the bandage from my kit and carefully wrapped my ankle first. Then he fitted the brace over that and finally the walking boot. He stood and reached down for my hands and helped me to my feet.
I took a tentative step and while there was still a great deal of pain, it was manageable . I nodded at him. “This will work.”
He reached into his pocket and withdrew a pill bottle. “Thought these might help, too.”
Vicodin. I’ve always hated taking narcotic drugs but if it would help me survive and ensure I could watch Norman’s back then I’d have to.
I downed two pills with water from my canteen and prepared to enter the wing.
The cardiac ward. Most of these people had at one point been someone’s grandparents, husbands, wives. Norman had single-handedly taken care of the majority of them. Bodies littered the floor as we made our way to the stair case that would take us to the sixth floor.
We were nearly there when a walker launched itself from behind a curtain and latched on to Norman’s arm. “Son of a…” He fell backwards, as it gnawed frantically at him.
I limped forward as quickly as I could and drove the blade of my hunting knife to the hilt into the base of its skull.
Norman was panting, his eyes wide. I took hold of his arm and pulled back his sleeve. I examined it carefully with my flashlight. There were indentations in his skin where the teeth had tried to penetrate but it remained unbroken.
“Thank God!” I whispered. “I guess you and Daryl don’t share the same luck when it comes to sleeves.”
“Ha!” He smiled and shook his head.
I helped him up and we walked over to the door that would lead to our Moira. He signaled with the walkie talkie that our wing was clear and we were heading up the final 3 flights.
“God, I hope she’s alright.” Norman breathed.
“Me too.” I answered as he opened the door and we began our ascent.
Rebecca, Luna, and I slowly started making our way toward the hallway directly in front of us. Rebecca was a new recruit in the Red Brigade of the Zombie Survival Crew. She was incredibly grateful that her machete had arrived in time for this rescue mission. She had ordered a special-made Billhook Machete and was also brandishing her desert eagle with silencer. I was carrying my cast iron skillet and a sword that I’d had made, and also a gun with a silencer. Luna had her unmatched keen senses of smell, hearing and sight even in the dark, and of course, her fangs and powerful bite! We were making our way down the hall when all of the sudden Luna stopped in her tracks and let out a soft growl.
“Jess, I see something down there in the hall.” Rebecca said, tightening her grip on her machete.
“I got this.” Rebecca said as she moved forward.
“I’d say that would have been a hole in one, right there.” I joked. Surprisingly that was the only walker that we saw in that hallway. We made it to a set of stairs.
“Rebecca and Jess, squirrel, and we are at the stairs.” I paused for a minute.
Something just didn’t feel right about how quickly we had gotten to the stairs, we had one run in with a walker, and that was it? “We are heading up.” I put the walkie talkie back in my pocket and Rebecca, Luna and I started making our way up the stairs. I just had this horrible feeling that we were about to encounter something horrible…I mean how could we have gotten to the stairs so fast? There had to be a reason why there weren’t more walkers scavenging for food around here. We made it to the top of the stairs and started walking down the hallway. We came to a door, and we pushed it open and walked through. We both froze.
“Oh my God”, Rebecca said.
I felt my eyes stinging with tears and I knew that there was no way I was going to be able to keep them from pouring down my face. Rebecca and I embraced one another and were both sobbing quietly. Then we heard a very soft and very tiny snarl.
We pulled away from each other and the tears fell even harder as we moved toward the sound. There it was, in an incubator. It probably wasn’t even a week old when it had been bitten. It was missing its whole left arm and part of its face had been scratched off. It snarled as loudly as it could which was barely louder than a whisper. Rebecca and I looked at each other with tear filled eyes and we knew what we had to do, but it was heart breaking. I lifted up my cast iron skillet over its tiny body and as I was about to bring it down to end its suffering we heard more tiny snarls. My heart shattered and I fell to my knees and wept. Rebecca crouched down and we tried to comfort each other, but it was the most heart wrenching thing we had ever witnessed.
Rebecca pulled me back to my feet and we looked around the room that was now filled with tiny growls and snarls. There were probably 20 infant walkers in incubators. Helplessly they all reached up hoping for something to satisfy their longing. Rebecca and I looked each other in the eyes and said at the same time, “They are not alive.” Almost as if we could read the other’s mind, we looked around the room, and knew what needed to be done. We had to end their suffering. I lifted my cast iron skillet over the first one we had come up to, and with the tears falling down my face, I brought it down. I heard and felt the sound of the skillet crushing the tiny body. Then I moved over the next incubator. Rebecca watched with tears flowing and then she stepped toward a snarling little body. She pulled up her machete and brought it down and ended its suffering. Our crying never ceased as we made our ways around the room, and before we knew it the room was silent. My hands were trembling as I looked around the room at the mangled and cut up bodies.
“We had to do it, Jess” Rebecca said, tears still flowing down her cheeks.
“I know, but…” my voice trailed off, and we heard a noise coming from the hallway.
We wiped the tears from our eyes and moved slowly toward the door that led to the hall. We pressed against the doors to listen and heard the shuffling of feet. Slowly I pulled the door open, and Rebecca, Luna and I slipped through into the hall. We stayed against the wall and moved slowly down the hall. I felt something grab and pull my leg, and I fell to the floor hard.
“Oh, crap!” I said as I felt a sharp pain in my side. I had fallen right onto my sword and it impaled me.
“Luna get it!” I said as I tried to kick at what was holding onto my leg. I heard Luna snarling and growling as she attacked my attacker. She bit into it and I could hear the flesh tearing. Then I heard the sickening crunch as her teeth bit down on its rotting skull, and the grip was released from my leg.
“Jess! Oh my gosh, are you ok?” Rebecca knelt down beside me.
“Yeah, just kinda stabbed myself.” I said feeling like a fool.
Rebecca reached into my backpack and found some first aid items to mend my wound.
“You’re going to have to do it.” I said.
Rebecca’s eyes widened as she looked at me, and she knew what I meant by that. I needed her to pull the sword out of my side. “Bite down on this” she said as she handed me a towel from my bag. I closed my eyes tightly as I felt her grip the handle of the sword. I pictured Moira. I saw her fighting off walkers. I saw her trapped in a room, with little to no provisions. I felt anger build up in me, I felt fear for her safety, and I felt no pain as Rebecca pulled the sword from my side. Rebecca quickly bandaged me up and helped me to my feet. We pressed on and came to some more stairs. I pulled the walkie talkie out of my pocket, “This is Rebecca and Jess, squirrel, and we are about to head up another set of stairs.”
I turned my flashlight on for a second to read the sign that was posted by the stairs.
It said: “Take these stairs to get to the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th floors.” I left my flashlight shining on the words “6th floors”. I looked at Rebecca and she looked back at me.
“You ready for this?” I asked already knowing the answer.
“Hell yeah, I am!” she responded “Are you?”
“Here we come, Moira, here we come!” I said and we started up the long flight of stairs to the 6th floor.
Emma’s POV (With Apryl)
Excitement, apprehension, determination, and adrenaline flowed through each of us as we moved slowly through the darkened hospital. I tried to steady my frayed nerves and ordered myself to get a grip. The ability to think under the most pressing and overwhelming of situations was a specialty of the Purple Brigade, and I would have to be on top of my game for this mission. Even if I had forgotten my go-bag in my haste to get to the hotel. Luckily, Jess had remembered hers and so I had been able to receive a bit more information from the Purple Brigade leader, the Oracle.
No one had been able to give an exact number of how many walkers there were, but, going from what little information had been gathered, there were rumored to be ‘a lot.’ The situation wasn’t looking good. The walkers had easy prey in a hospital, and since there were no reports of anyone making it out alive…the situation was really beginning to become less and less appealing. Not to mention there had been a day or two of delay, waiting for everyone to arrive. The reason being an increase in walker activity, making progress difficult and dangerous. That didn’t matter now, though. We were all together, and what’s more, we had made it into the hospital. Another encouraging factor in our favor was the fact that we had two of the best walker killers out there: Blue Brigade Leader Norman Reedus and the Leader of Special Forces, Michael Rooker. With them leading us, the situation was a lot more encouraging. Still, Norman and Michael had made it clear that we had to move as fast as we could. Each wasted moment brought Moira closer to danger, and there were so many questions that none of us could answer that made the matter all the more pressing. Was she all right? Was she still in ward six? Was she hurt? If she was, how bad? Were there other survivors with her? Was she alone? Or-and we all shuddered at this thought and refused to voice it aloud-was she bitten?
I shook my head, clearing these thoughts from my mind. There was no point in thinking all of this, I told myself. I just had to make sure we got the first level clear before we could really begin looking for Moira. To be honest, I was incredibly nervous about all of this. Out of the whole group I was probably the newest and greenest when it came to this sort of thing. Sure, I had had plenty of tussles with walkers before, but nothing of this magnitude. Michael and Norman alone had dispatched eight walkers apiece almost as soon as we had entered the hospital. Frankly, in terms of how skilled I was in combat, I was probably lower than Luna, Jess’s zombie-killing dog. Still, if need be, I could hold my own. All the same, however, I was glad I was paired with Apryl. The woman was an impressive fighter, and could wield those Desert Eagles like no one’s business. She had made that clear when she had taken out a walker reaching for Norman by firing an impressive shot right over his shoulder and directly into its head.
I tightened my grip on my full Tang 440, twenty-inch blade. At least I was fairly decent with it. It was light, agile, easy to swing, and razor-sharp. I could get a few good hits with it, I was certain.
There was no way we were getting in and out without a fight. Our entrance alone had made that quite clear. As we made our way slowly down the wide, eerily quiet corridor, all of us kept our eyes and ears peeled for any sign of the walkers. Luckily, it looked like our little welcoming committee that we had just taken out were the only ones in this ward. Michael, walking slightly ahead of Tiffany, me, and Apryl suddenly stopped and raised his hand. We all stopped obediently, eyes riveted on him. Michael turned around, lifting his H&K 417 to his shoulder and standing at ease. We had split apart from Norman, Eve, Jess and Luna, and Rebecca after clearing out the first walkers to keep from getting in each other’s way. There wasn’t enough room for large groups to go moving around too quickly, and if we got into a fight, it would be difficult to get a clear shot without injuring a teammate, so Norman’s team would take the east wing, we would take the west wing and clear out as many walkers as possible in our search for a way up to the sixth ward.
“All right people,” he whispered, loud enough for us to hear but quiet enough to keep any nearby walker from hearing us, “you all know what to do. You still have your walkie-talkies, so don’t forget to keep us informed as to where you are. We can’t help you if you get pinned down by walkers and we don’t know where you are, and we’re not going to go running all over the hospital looking for you when we’re trying to find Moira, got it?”
I swallowed and glanced at Apryl, who nodded to Michael. I knew that if Apryl got bitten, I would have to put her down, but I wasn’t sure if I could bring myself to do it.
“Take out any walker you see as quietly as you can, if it’s in your way.” Michael whispered, lowering his weapon again, “And don’t forget, we’re headed for the sixth floor, ward six. If you find her before the rest of us, let us know and we’ll hurry up there.”
We all nodded again.
“Okay, Tiffany,” he motioned to her, “you’re with me. Everyone else, you know who your partners are and you know where to go.”
“And you have Norman, Eve, Jess and Rebecca. Go ahead.” Norman’s voice came in over the phone, quiet and stealthy, and slightly distorted with static, but still audible.
“Rescue team, this is Yellow First Lieutenant Sean Patrick Flanery.”
Each of us looked sharply at each other. A sense of foreboding settled itself into the pit of my stomach but I tried not to give in to it.
“ZSC HQ just received a call from Moira.” Sean responded, and I felt my breath suddenly cut itself off. Moira had called?!? She was alive! She was all right!
“Moira contacted HQ?” Norman asked, sounding as relieved as I felt, “Is she all right?”
“I don’t know.” Sean said, I could hear the tenseness in his voice, which made me worried. He wasn’t one to get worried easily. Something had happened. Something not good.
“What happened?” Rooker asked, “Is she in a secure location?”
“She said she was, but now I’m not so sure. While I was on the line with her something happened, it sounded like glass breaking and I think something grabbed her. I couldn’t make out much more before the line went dead.”
I felt the blood drain from my face and I struggled to not let my hand tremble as I held the phone. No one said a word. Finally Norman spoke, softly, but determinedly.
“We’re going after her, anyway.” He said, “Did she give you a position?”
“She said she was still on the sixth floor, and she said the only way up was the stairs.”
We all looked at each other, and in the darkness I could tell Michael had that set, determined look in his face. He was filled with the same resolve as Norman. A resolve we all shared now.
“Then we’re taking the stairs.” Michael said, “Can you give us any more info?
He hung up and we all slid our phones back into our pockets.
“The plan hasn’t changed, folks,” Rooker said, “it just got made a lot more urgent. You get your tails up to the sixth floor as fast as possible, you got it?”
We all nodded.
“Then get going,” he said, “and good luck.”
Once again, we all split up and hurried off in different directions while I conjured up in my mind the map of the hospital Jess had given us. The nearest stairwell that laid to the west was just beyond the critical care ward, through another hall, then we would bank to the right and there would be one at the end of that hallway. Apryl unsheathed her hunting knife and I readied my blade as we fell into step beside each other, both of us periodically looking over our shoulders just to be sure there were no other unexpected visitors.
Both of us jumped when our walkie-talkies suddenly came to life and Norman’s voice quietly murmured: “Norman and Eve, entering east wing.”
The fact that he didn’t give an all clear sign made me worried and I looked at Apryl, frowning in apprehension. I swallowed. I suppose they were in the same boat as Apryl and I, though. The power had gone out in the building, and because of the thick clouds outside and the fact that dusk had long been settled, very little light illuminated our path. The darkened offices and hospital rooms we passed were nearly pitch-black. We watched them closely as we passed, ready to strike if we saw any movement or heard any moaning. The sickly gray light made everything feel that much more eerie and tense. There were darks smears of blood on the walls and on the floor. I could dimly make out what looked like dismembered limbs, littered across the cold marble floor, and occasionally I spotted a shredded corpse.
Whenever Apryl and I spotted one, we were always careful to make sure it wasn’t one of the turned, but luckily the corpses in the corridor had been feasted upon by the walkers that had attacked us upon our entrance, so there was no chance of them rising again. They were gone. I was a bit taken aback by how this sight didn’t appall me as it had the first time I had witnessed such a horrible sight. Was this the way things were now? This kind of violence was just commonplace? The dead regenerating was the norm?
Undoubtedly. This was what the world was now. And-I couldn’t help but shudder at this thought-what was around us, this eerie quiet, this sense of foreboding, this feeling of apprehension, of being hunted, this was the future. Unless, of course we could stop the outbreaks. That was what the Purple Brigade was working on. If Jess and I could make it out of this alive, we would have a good field report to make back to The Oracle. We might even be able to get started trying to figure out how the outbreak had started.
‘One step at a time.’ I reminded myself. Moira was our top priority now.
We reached the doors to the critical care ward and paused, listening to the hall that lay beyond it. We couldn’t hear anything, so Apryl looked at me and made a motion that asked me if I was ready.
I nodded, tightening my grip on my blade. She held up one finger and raised one of her Desert Eagles (she had fitted them both with suppressors at the hotel), and switched the safety off. Two. I grabbed the door handle and tensed. Three. I jerked the door open and we both rushed into the critical ward, and I could sense that even Apryl was taken aback by what we saw.
We had both been through a lot, and I had fancied that my ability to not be recoiled by putrid, rotting filth had been significantly increased since this whole thing had started. But I felt my stomach churn at the sight before us.
I had never seen such carnage before. Ever. Blood, guts, flesh, it was all caked on the walls and floor, and strips of what I didn’t care to know hung from the ceiling.
Blood was dripping from the ceiling tiles as well. Because the lights were gone, except for a single light-bulb at the end of the hall that flickered and refused to completely die, the emergency exit lighting glowed red, making the whole place seem to be nothing but blood. The stench was unbearable. The smell of rotten flesh, of death, wafted through the air and I wrinkled my noise in disdain, swallowing to keep my stomach under control.
“Oh, man.” Apryl muttered quietly.
Bodies of patients and doctors alike littered the floor, most torn apart, their intestines strewn across the cold floor, their muscles and organs exposed. Through it all waded fourteen walkers.
The one closest to us, missing an arm and an eye, lifted its head and looked at us, a guttural hiss emitting from its disfigured face. The others all turned to look at us too. Their soulless, lifeless eyes bored straight through us, the unnatural glint of an insatiable hunger glinting in their eyes as they spotted new prey.
Apryl nodded. Together, we rushed the walkers. She took down the one missing an arm with a clean shot through the head, while I swung my sword through the neck of what had been a doctor.
His body crumpled, but his head was still clacking its jaws together as it tried to get a bite of my boot. I stomped down, feeling the sickening crunch of bones being snapped, and then turned my attention back to the walkers as Apryl felled two more as they approached. I took down two patients and a nurse as Apryl marched forward, duel wielding her Desert Eagles now, putting a walker down with each shot. She took down four more. I got another two, but as I was sweeping my arm back from a stroke, I lost my footing on the slick, blood-covered floor and stumbled against a walker. It grabbed hold of my arms and growled, preventing me from being able to raise my sword and I quickly tried to jerk free, but it wasn’t letting go of its food so easily. I pulled against it, harder this time, trying to kick myself free at the same time. It wasn’t working.
“Down!” Apryl barked and I obediently lowered my head as the walker spread its mouth wide and came at my face.
Blood and bone fragments splattered all over my face as the walker suddenly dropped, shot through the head. There was no time to wipe my face or thank Apryl. I quickly drove my blade into the face of another nurse and then pulled it free and spun, sword outstretched, and swiped off the head of another’s head. I stood panting as the sliced head fell off of the walker’s body. That had been a close call. Very close. I turned to Apryl, shaken, but alive.
“Thanks.” I said, wiping the blood off. “Are you okay?” She nodded, but looked me over worriedly as she approached.
“Are you?” she asked, and I nodded.
No bites on either of us, but that close call had put me on edge. I had to step up my game if I was going to get through this. There were a lot more walkers to deal with and I couldn’t let such an amateurish mistake put the both of us in jeopardy. Doing that would take away a significant chance of getting Moira to safety. Apryl gave a sigh of relief and pulled me into a hug.
“You had me worried there for a sec,” she said, patting me in a motherly way, “but you did good.”
“You’re not so bad, yourself.” I said with a laugh, squeezing her affectionately, and then pulling back.
I looked down at the walkers we had just put down and then heard Apryl take out her walkie-talkie and speak into it.
“Apryl and Emma,” she said, “in the critical ward. Squirrel.”
We grinned at each other and then turned back down the hall and hurried down it. Some of my confidence was restored, and as we made our way down the corridor, the other teams continued to check in, and not one had given the ‘Oreo’ alert, much to my relief. I kept reassuring myself that we would find Moira, and she would be fine, but at the same time I was still worried about her. That had been a lot of walkers back there, and if there were even more in the main entrance…
‘You’re not going to the main entrance.’ I reminded myself, ‘You’re going to the stairwell, so don’t worry.’
This was the last time I would let my worry get to me, I determined, and stepped up the pace, turning the corner to go down the next hallway. As I rounded the corner, without missing a beat, I swung my sword through the head of a walker that had been making its slow way towards us. There were more walkers in this hallway, but not as many as had been in the previous one, so I let Apryl handle it and instead pictured in my mind the layout of the hospital once again, placing our teams in the wards and corridors they had last radioed in from. We were all still on the first floor, but judging from where Jess, Luna, and Rebecca had last radioed in from, they were fast moving up. Good, that was good, we were making headway.
I sped up as Apryl finished putting down the walkers and we both bolted for the door to the stairwell, trying to run as quietly as possible.
We paused by the door, listening, and we heard slow shuffling, so I nodded to Apryl and she stepped up to the door. She gave a quick, powerful kick and the door slammed back, straight into two walkers that had been shambling around in the dark. While they were dazed, she unsheathed her knife and took them out. They had been patients. Young patients, not much older than me from the looks of them, and I swallowed. The poor things. They hadn’t seen it coming. No one had. It was pitiful, really, how unprepared some people were.
“Apryl and Emma, entering a stairwell. Squirrel so far, we’re going up.” Apryl said into her walkie-talkie.
We looked at each other and I took a deep breath before looking up. It looked like there was some debris blocking most of the doors, so we would be doing a bit of climbing to get over it, but it wasn’t anything we couldn’t handle.
We started up the stairs and I prayed the dim light we had would last a little longer. It was settling rapidly into night, and trying to spot a walker in the dark would make the going that much slower. It wasn’t a good idea, heading out this close to nighttime, in fact it technically was night. Walker activity always picked up at night, but we had already lost so much time that as soon as Michael and Norman had put together a plan we had left.
“Michael and Tiffany,” Michael’s voice came through the walkie-talkie, “squirrel. We’re heading up.”
I conjured up the map of the hospital in my mind. They were in the next ward over, so, depending on how fast we could move, we might meet up at the same time. After a few minutes, Norman and Eve radioed in the same thing, and Jess and Rebecca had already radioed in that they were headed up a little while ago, while Apryl had been dealing with the walkers. The higher we climbed, the darker it became, and soon we were in almost complete darkness. Night had decisively fallen.
“We can work around this.” I murmured to Apryl as I heard her stumble over a piece of debris.
We were having to slow our pace down. “We’re to the third floor I think, so we’re half way there.”
“I’m all right,” she said as I felt her recover and match my pace, “it’s just annoying. We need to move faster. I’m worried sick about Moira.”
“I know,” I answered, trying to see her in the darkness, “I think we could try and go a little-”
I was cut off when something suddenly grabbed my leg and a growl emitted in the darkness. I gave a startled yelp and fell back, banging my head against a stair.
“What?” Apryl called out, “Where is it?”
I was still dazed and could feel the walker tugging on my leg. “Left leg!” I called out, trying to pull free from its grip, and surprisingly, my leg lifted it up, so it was a small walker, at least.
Apryl rushed over and lashed out with her knife, but missed, and slashed my leg. I clenched my teeth to keep from crying out as I felt the skin split apart and instead I reached for my own knife.
“I got it!” I told her, and slammed my leg back down.
The walker growled but let go as I heard its skin smack against the floor and I unsheathed my knife and drove it into its head.
“Are you okay?” Apryl asked, rushing to my side.
“Y-Yeah,” I assured her, wincing at the stinging pain in my leg and covering the wound with my hand, “I’m okay. Could you reach into my bag and get out the bandages? I think you cut me.”
She quickly obeyed and I wrapped it around the wound as best as I could, hoping that the scent wouldn’t alert any walkers or leave a trail for them to follow. I pulled out my flashlight and flipped it on to take a quick look at the walker, to make sure it was dead.
It was a toddler. Or, had been a toddler. Its neck had a gaping hole in it, and part of its leg bore the marks of having been chewed on. It had been a little girl, with pretty, long brunette hair that was now caked with blood. Her little hands were dirty and covered in blood as well and I felt myself starting to choke up so I quickly turned off the flashlight. Neither Apryl nor I spoke for several minutes, and then, mutely, she reached down and helped me back to my feet. We started back up the stairs, now on full alert. She tried to get me to lean on her, which was very sweet, but I assured her I could walk just fine, and so we continued mounting the stairs.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” she asked as we neared the top, and I nodded in the darkness.
“I didn’t get bitten,” I said, “so no worries there. I just hope this doesn’t attract any walkers. I don’t think I’m bleeding out too much though.”
“I’m really sorry about that.” I patted her on the shoulder, smiling.
“I’m just glad you have my back, you reacted really quick, that’s good. You did your job, and that’s all I can ask of you. I’m surprised you came that close to it, it’s so hard to see in here.”
“I need to be more careful.” She said, still sounding disappointed in herself, and I laughed. I couldn’t help it, she was so sweet.
“You did fine.” I assured her, “I’m not in any pain, so don’t feel bad.”
We finally made it up to the sixth floor and approached the door, relieved, but wary. Doubtless there would be a lot more walkers on the other side, so we both unsheathed and slid our weapons out of their holsters in preparation.
Apryl went first, and since I couldn’t see if she was counting down or not, I waited expectantly for her to open the door. There was an odd sound as she yanked on it, and then she gave a sort of chuckle and whispered; “You have to push it open.”
I laughed a little at this as well, and then waited for her to push it open, but something was wrong. I could hear her grunting as she shoved against it as hard as she could, but the door wasn’t opening.
“Give me a hand.” She whispered, and I obediently went over and shoved against it with her. It was no use, the door wouldn’t budge.
“Oh you have go to be kidding me!” she growled, annoyed, and I gave a grunt. I wasn’t much happier about the situation, either.
“I guess they locked it,” I said, “or barricaded it. We’ll have to go back down and try the fifth floor.”
“Such a waste of time.” Apryl said as we started back down. I nodded, not that she could see me, but she had expressed my sentiments exactly. If this door was barricaded, I was worried the fifth floor door would be the same way. Really I was worried we’d end up having to double back and find another stairwell, which would cost us a lot of time. Time we didn’t have.
Both Apryl and I rushed back down to the fifth floor door and tried it. It too, was barricaded, but it gave way a little as Apryl leant against it, so I helped her and together we shoved against it as hard as we could.
After shoving and grunting for several minutes, we managed to push the door open wide enough to squeeze through and we found ourselves in a ward. For a moment, I thought we were alone, and had somehow stumbled across an area that didn’t have any walkers, but just as Apryl started to reach for her walkie-talkie, we heard it. A sickly groan came from one of the rooms and slowly, a walker in a hospital gown emerged, staring at us. Apryl started to go for it, nonplussed, but I caught her arm and stopped her as more walkers started to emerge from the other rooms. Their moans grew steadily louder as more and more began to issue forth. I swallowed and frowned. We had expected something like this, and now that I was finally faced with it, it wasn’t as bad as dreading it, and I found myself more annoyed with them than afraid.
“We’ve got this.” Apryl murmured, raising her two Desert Eagles while I unsheathed my blade.
The thought that one of these things might be trying to get to Moira filled me with disgust and anger.
‘We’re coming,’ I thought, ‘we’re coming, Moira. Just sit tight. We have a slight problem to get through.’
“You take the left side, I’ll get the right, okay?” Apryl said, and I nodded, then we both rushed forward, Walkers falling with every bullet Apryl fired, and with every swing of my blade.
We’re not going to let these things stop us. They’ve taken enough from us already: our families, our homes, and our security. We’re not about to let them take Moira, too.