Today’s snippet, titled “Ladder Match”, is a piece I wrote about an NPC in Paul’s new Zombie Campaign (using GURPS for Session One, but we’re moving to All Flesh Must Be Eaten for future sessions. The intention behind this was to recap events occurring in the world, from the point-of-view of my PC, Helen Poots.
Be forewarned, there are mature themes and naughty language below.
“We’re too late.”
Helen glanced over at Aleksandra in the passenger seat, then Victoria, leaning up over the center console. Both appeared a little green, considering the probable fate of those poor souls who had been left in that house.
When they passed by the other day, there had been zombies thirty thick around the building. The undead seemed to have fixated on it, or the persons inside, and gathered around it like grunge-rock fans in a mosh pit. Do they even still do mosh pits? Bloody Hells, Helen, you’ll show your age, making ancient references like that. I bet Victoria’s never heard of Nirvana or Blind Melon or Eddie-fucking-Vedder. She probably listens to that tiny little guy who looks like a lesbian – or one of those up-and-coming boy bands…
“What’s next?” Victoria bounded out of the Lexus as Bode and Scooter pulled up beside them. “Where’re we going now?”
The answer came in unison, instantly, from the four adults. “Giant.”
Casting one last look over her shoulder, Helen nodded. “The Pharmacy. Its got those steel grates. When I was there with the lads from down the lane, it hadn’t been touched.”
“That was days ago, Helen.”
“I know, Alex. But-”
Bode stretched, pushing his chest out. “Look, we’re going in. We’ll be careful. I bet that locked room wasn’t touched in the initial looting because it was total chaos. Let’s go.” And with that, he slid back into the passenger’s seat and slapped the roof of his vehicle. “C’mon, Scoot.”
Scooter gave a sort of sheepish shrug and hopped back into his seat. With a rev of the big old engine, the jacked up El Camino took off toward the grocery store at the other end of Bridge Street.
“Oh man!” Victoria said, pressing up against the window. “Look at how many there are over there.”
Helen glanced in the direction the Honeywell girl was pointing and shuddered. There was a shambling mass loitering on City Island. It was so big – a gigantic multi-colored swarm. Eventually they would find a way across the river… either over the bridge that went into the city, or maybe across the channel. Do real zombies swim? Can they just walk across the bottom of the river and come up where ever they end up?
The ride up Bridge would have taken hours; they cruised up a bunch of back-streets instead, avoiding the worst of the traffic snarls and driving over some old lawn gnomes and beautiful gardens. It didn’t matter – those petunias and roses would wither to dust in a few weeks anyway.
Helen grunted her agreement. The girl was not wrong; there were but two or three of the undead lurching around the parking lot in front of Giant, with a few more in the lower lots. Of course, there were untold multitudes somewhere. For all they knew, a hundred or a thousand of the damn things inside.
Scooter waited outside, guarding the vehicles from the bed of the El Camino. He was armed and ready to blow away anything – living or dead – that threatened the mission.
The mission, she thought, pulling her maglite and knife from her purse, readying herself for the horrors that awaited. Gods, Helen, you make it sound so dramatic. Like we should have a name. The A-Team, the Zombie Squad, the- Hah! The Maple Lane Avengers.
With a smile on her lips, Helen held her butterfly knife tight. Bode was armed with his bow and an assortment of guns, and Alex had an exquisite rapier – probably a family heirloom, she thought, and made a mental note to ask – with which she was fairly skilled. Victoria refused to stay outside, naturally, and Helen found herself praying that God would deliver them safely from this grocery shop.
No atheists in a foxhole, they say.
The undead were inside, but there weren’t that many of them. At least, not readily visible. Bode was fast on his feet and quick with his arrows; zombies shuffled and groaned and died (again) in the space of a few heartbeats.
There were a few moments that made her blood run cold, when it looked like they may get overrun before they even made it to the pharmacy window. Then Bode turned to Helen and uttered eight most terrifying words anyone had ever said to her.
“Go! Get a ladder from the backroom!”
She hesitated, her blade hovering up by her face and her torch in a similar position. “I-”
There was such urgency in his voice. Helen ran, dodging a little old lady whose head lolled at an unnatural angle on her broken neck. The darkness was so thick back here that she could taste it. Not even a whisper of light touched the tiles here; she could see nothing outside the small beam from her maglite.
Blind, yes, but deaf? No. And she could hear them, scuffling along in the other aisles, groaning and growling and snapping their teeth. Helen felt a trickle and the front of her jeans darkened with urine. She stopped for just a moment at the big, black plastic doors that swung into the stockroom. Her heart was thumping in her chest but it echoed so hard in her ears that they felt as if they might burst.
She plunged through the doors, looking wildly around. Two things caught her attention at once, splitting it painfully. A ladder! She thought, and in the same instant, Oh fuck! They’re here!
But they were slow and the movement she saw was a few yards off into the darkness. She made the decision in a second and dove forward. Biting down on the flashlight, she flipped the knife closed and tucked it into her belt. Lifting the ladder down and wielding the giant device required both hands and even then, she struggled.
Turning toward the door, Helen started to run.
She made it exactly one step. In the next moment a zombie was on top of her – tangled up in the ladder, thankfully, and unable to reach her but directly in front of her nonetheless. Helen grit her teeth to hold back a scream born of fear and rage and twisted the ladder hard, pushing it away. The undead was a clumsy beast and he hit the floor, the ladder trapping him on his back. Yanking the knife from her waistband, she whipped it open and drove it down into his skull.
There was a sickening crack and a wet, slurpy groan and the biter went limp. Her breast heaving, her hands slick with gore, Helen climbed to her feet, scrabbling for her torch. She gripped the top of the ladder and pulled, disengaging it from the corpse and dragging it with all her might toward the front of the store.
Which aisle? Helen did not even have time to think about it, she lurched head-first into the nearest one and careened past empty shelves. She nearly broke her neck, slipping and sliding on the gooey brain matter Bode’s arrows had left behind.
“Got it,” she said, gasping. “Here! Let’s hurry.”
Victoria was up the steps, quick as spit, and pushed up through one of the ceiling panels. It seemed ridiculous; all the security surrounding the pill room – from a single steel-plated triple-locked exit to the heavy-duty curtain – and one thirteen-year-old girl with a ladder could rob them blind.
Helen was willing to bet Victoria wouldn’t have needed the ladder in any other circumstance. The girl was quick and lithe as a monkey. But they did not have the luxury of time, the zombies from around the store were moving and it would not take them long to scent the warm, thumping hearts of the Maple Lane Avengers as they looted every pill and liquid and powder. As it was, Helen wondered how close a call the group had while she was in the back for Alex wore blood and brains upon her jacket and her sword was slick with the same and Victoria hardly said a word.
“That’s enough, we gotta go,” Bode said, his eyes on the front of the store. “They’re gonna trap us in here if we don’t hurry.”
No one argued and in a matter of seconds, the four of them burst back out into the sunshine. Scooter cracked a joke even as he shouldered his weapon. There were fresh corpses all across the parking lot and casings, gleaming like Spanish doubloons on the pavement beneath the El Camino.
“We’re outta here.”
They were half-way back to the block when Helen realized she had smeared filth upon her immaculate steering wheel and spotless upholstery. It set her teeth to grinding all the way home.
Note: Image is “Ladder & Shadow 2” by BrachAnam9 from SXC.hu