Lost in the Apocalypse - Chapter 3
The screams come from Lensi. He stood on top of the car and tried to pull Kristoff through with him. Hands were grabbing them from below and they struggled to make it through the small trap door.
“Kristoff,” I called down to them. Helpless from my position to do anything but watch.
“What in tha hell are you doing out of the apartment,” Kristoff said followed by, “What tha fuck!” As a hand grabbed his ankle and he kicked it away.
“Allison can you open the door any more,” Lensi yelled with panic in his voice to me as he tried to slide the metal grate back into place to block out the figures that reached from below.
I turned to Zakharov who stood there watching. He shook his head then pointed to the maintenance ladder on the other side of the shaft. It was partially extended and broken from the wall in places. “Smarter thing to do would be to go down and open the third-floor doors instead. The ladder is still intact down there.”
I nodded silently and turned back to the two in the elevator shaft.
“We’re going down to open the lower doors! Be ready,” I told Lensi before I grabbed the poker and backtracked to the stairs. Zakharov my silent companion.
With trepidation, I opened the door to the third floor. The first hall looked empty but I could hear the angered and pained moans of several people. They sounded close but I couldn’t pinpoint where exactly. A room maybe? It seemed muffled, so most likely.
“They don’t sound so happy,” Zakharov noted. He seemed to have fixed his shaded gaze on a certain set of doors about halfway down the hall. A possible source for the noises. Also, directly in the path we needed to take.
“Maybe they’re hiding from the riots,” I reasoned. If people outright attacked others and the entire populace of the city had gone crazy then yes, a little bit of crying and screaming was acceptable.
“Is it something you want to risk though? You saw those people trying to attack your pets. You don’t have the safety of an elevator to run to.” His chilled tone, and the ever-reflecting surface of his glasses, made him look rather obstinate. Which I didn’t have time for.
“Then stay here. I’m going to go get my friends out of that elevator shaft.” There was no point in an argument with this man who wasn’t supposed to be here in the first place. True, those screams sounded kind of scary but if the rioters got Kristoff and Lensi then I’d never be able to forgive myself.
I stuck to the wall and crept past that door as silently as I could. I kept that up all the way to the elevator. No one seemed to notice me, for which I was incredibly grateful.
With a great deal of work I wedged the poker into the doors of the elevator and tried to pry them open. I managed a little, but the leverage I had waned the wider I pulled the gap. Without a second set of hands I couldn’t get it open enough.
Lensi and Kristoff both tried to help from their side, but there was little they could do with the doors except hold them open from the angle they’d managed to climb to on the broken ladder. My hope and strength disappeared quickly. There was no way I’d get them free.
I’d almost given up when a hand caught the poker and a shoulder pushed the door back with a power I couldn’t muster.
Zakharov looked irate as he forced the door open and stood wide stanched enough that the other two could climb out. He let the doors slide closed the moment Lensi freed himself and faced the three of us with his expression wiped clean once more.
I didn’t know what to say. I’d expected him to leave, not follow me through an area he’d expressed concern about. Maybe I’d miss judged him a little.
“Thanks,” I mustered in slight shame only to have him hold a hand up to shush me.
“Don’t thank someone unless they earn it,” He grumbled. “I did nothing you didn’t try to do.”
“Then let me thank you,” Kristoff said. “Had you not helped we’d still be in there with those…” He looked back to the elevator and I was shocked to see him shiver. It took a lot to rattle Kristoff.
“Are they part of the mob,” I asked worried they’d broken in in spite of the secured doors.
“No, they were down in the lobby when we got the gates sealed up. Chased us into the elevator and kept beating on the doors. Guess the circuits fried and the emergency release opened and let them in.” There was a hollowness to Kristoff’s normally vibrant brown eyes and he ground out the words like they hurt.
“They were sick looking,” Lensi added. “Screaming nonsense and had blood on their faces. They didn’t even seem to slow down when they were hitting the doors either. Freaking bloodied themselves.”
“They’re residents?” My disbelief was easy to hear. “Should we block the stairs then? Someone closed off the fifth floor already. We couldn’t get up earlier.”
“Probably that crazy neighbor of yours, the one who wouldn’t open the door.” Kristoff bit at his lip as he thought on a plan. “We’ll need to…”
From back down the hall, where we’d come through to get to the elevators, there was a splintering sound followed by a blood curdling shriek. Then another. And another. And another.
“Fuck, there’s some up here too?” Kristoff grabbed his stun-baton and hopped between me and the unearthly sounds. His entire body stiff as a rod.
“Is there an emergency exit near us,” I asked as I hunkered behind Kristoff. “If not then we need to find an empty apartment and use the fire escape.”
“What about the driver? Wasn’t he with you,” Kristoff grunted as he scanned the hallway.
“He was in the apartment when I left.” I’d almost forgotten about him…
As we spoke a woman appeared at the corner just down the hall. She shuffled along slowly with a heavy limp. Her white shirt showed crimson with sticky blood, as did her neck and jaw. The revealed skin along her chest was a strange off yellow but she didn’t appear injured beyond her gait. Steadily, she moved towards us, blood dribbled from her mouth as she did.
Zakharov moved first. His stride swift and with purpose. He grabbed my arm as he went and forced me down the hall away from the sick woman. Kristoff and Lensi both quickly followed.
We met with only dead ends, blocked by more of the sick residents who stood in our path. These were not as docile as the woman. One practically ran at Kristoff who instinctively popped it with his baton before being forced to kick them away when they came for another swipe.
We ended up cornered. Backed into an unlocked apartment, which we decided to barricade. The task made harder by the residents who flailed and scratched at the door, even as we pushed what we could against it.
The rooms we retreated to were abandoned and smaller than my own apartment. The main room opened to an eat in kitchen and the bedrooms were along a nearby hall. The bedrooms themselves bore windows that led to the fire escape along the outer edge of the building. We determined it was likely our only safe way out.
“We need to get to the ground,” Kristoff announced once he had finished testing the rusty metal of the ladder to the fire escape. He didn’t look too pleased with the results but we all knew it was the only way to freedom. “We’re sitting ducks in here.”
“We can’t leave Riley,” I reminded him. “He’s still up in my room, and he’s hurt.” I held up my phone which showed there were no bars available. “I can’t even call him to make sure he’s okay.”
As if he had never considered it, Kristoff looked at his own cell. He cursed when he too had no service. Neither did Lensi or Zakharov.
“Fine,” Kristoff said after a few moments of thought. “We’ll go up and get the driver then make our way down to the street by the fire escape in Allison’s apartment.” He turned to me and I saw him take a breath and then let it out with a huff. “You’re the lightest of us kid. From the looks of the metal it isn’t exactly sturdy enough to handle three grown men. Think you can test it to make sure it can hold you?”
I balked at the idea, but agreed anyway. I wasn’t a fan of heights. Or a fan of creaky old ladders.
It was easier than I’d thought to get out onto the metal grate of the fire escape. The real danger came from the rusted ladder. It was almost welded in place with the gritty red particles.
If we survived this I was most assuredly going to have these things torn down and remade. In no way should they have lasted so long on a building I’d paid so much to live in.
The ladder wouldn’t come all the way down for me, and it wasn’t safe to risk too many people out on the thing at once, so I had to climb up the half-distended metal rungs and hope they’d hold. They did. Mostly. Chunks came off in my hands and I was covered in red dust by the time I’d made it all the way up to the fifth floor. I was not happy.
“What does it look like?” Lensi asked from a floor down. He leaned out of the window below me and had been tasked with catching me if I had fallen.
I looked around. The sight wasn’t what I’d expected. Though I suppose I should have. The fires from before had spread. Large columns of smoke covered the skyline. Cars piled about the road like dozens of people had tried to drive through others and suffered from the inevitable.
The gun fire and emergency lights were gone, but the screams and moans were still very much present. People milled about, wandering in a dazed manner or grouping together in small packs. It was utter chaos.
I fought back a fearful whimper and looked through the window near the ladder. Anything to distract me from the sight that spread below. It led to a living room, at least it appeared to be one. I couldn’t see anything move inside, but that didn’t take away from the horrifying scene. A woman, at least some of her, lay on the blood-soaked carpet. Her eyes wide and empty and her lower body all but gone.
“We need to get out of here,” I managed to say.
Lensi climbed out onto the rickety metal when he heard me and made his way up. The entire structure whined at his added weight, but held well enough for him to make it up to me. He looked in the window I was locked on and groaned. He moved me out of the way with a gentle hand and broke open the glass that blocked our entrance to the fifth floor with his elbow.
I flinched as the smell of copper and bowels fogged out of the destroyed portal. Somehow, I managed to follow Lensi in and, with his help, slipped into the broken window without hurting myself.
I didn’t recognize the woman nor the room. They weren’t mine, or any of my neighbors’.
“Shit,” Kristoff growled as he and Zakharov hopped into the room behind me. “Thought we were closer. Be careful. There could be more of those things in here.” He conveniently ignored the eviscerated woman.
I wasn’t as stoic. I couldn’t stop shaking and, though I forced myself not to look, I could feel her laying there. I tried to distract myself from the temptation of peeking at the corpse and inched forward to check the apartment’s front door. It had been locked.
Kristoff tried next. With a bit of force he managed to break open the door enough to peek outside. He instantly shut it. His face grim.
“Are there more,” I asked.
“Not quite.” He looked to Zakharov who gave a curt nod of understanding and to Lensi who shook his head sadly.
Something worse then.
Taking a shallow breath, I moved to pull the knob myself. The tips of my fingers barely brushed the metal when the shuffling of feet started.
A low moan came from the hall behind us and when we turned, the pale and bloody visage of a man stumbled from one of the doors at the far end. He was dressed in pajamas with a washcloth dried to his bloody brow. A hoarse groan escaped the man’s lips and he began to limp towards us quickly.
“Fuck,” I heard Lensi hiss and he scrambled to grab his baton. He fumbled it and dropped the heavy rod as the man got closer.
I was pulled behind Kristoff, who held his own baton towards the man threateningly.
Nothing fazed the shambling monster. He just kept coming. It lifted an arm towards Lensi as it got closer.
Once he’d got a grip on the handle Lensi swung up and out at the man’s outstretched arms. There was a loud crunch on impact, but it didn’t stop the man. Not even for an instant. With a yelp Lensi swung again, this time at the man’s head. It landed with a glancing blow and sent the man stumbling sideways for a few seconds, only to right himself with a gurgled snarl.
“Oh god.” Lensi took a step back as the man faced him once more.
His baton had snapped the man’s jaw and torn most of the flesh from the right cheek. Something that didn’t seem to bother the creature at all.
“Move,” Zakharov commanded and acted just as Lensi managed to obey.
Zakharov lifted one arm and I barely registered what was about to happen before it did. A loud clap of thunder echoed through the room and the man’s skull caved in from a single bullet to his forehead.
I screamed as the man’s body collapsed. I hadn’t even considered that Zakharov had a gun. Let alone that he’d so callously shoot a man. He was supposed to be a secretary.
“Damn it Allison.” Kristoff clapped a hand over my mouth. “It had to be done.” He looked at Zakharov with a hard-set mouth and a steeled glare. “More of a warning next time would be nice though. You don’t fire a fucking Glock in a tiny room without a heads up.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” was Zakharov’s reply as he placed the pistol back into the holster I now saw he had hidden under his sweater.