The zombies have chased us into a flooded power building. Corralled us like cattle. there are dozens of use, standing in tepid, ankle-length water near the walls of the building. We try to board up the windows, to pile up debris and abandoned machinery in front of the doorways. I can hear the hordes outside – the way their feet shuffle and stumble across debris in the parking lot, the groans and idle sounds slipping from decaying lips, their hands pounding against the doors, so much dead meat.
I peer between cracks in the boards across one window. I can see him. The leader.
He can speak. We have heard him, in our darkest moments, calling to us as he chases us through the ruined city. Now he calls his dogs forward, all the other shambling dead. I have never heard any others talk.
He sees me watching through the window, and points at me.
“Come out.” His voice is low, so low it barely sounds like he is saying words. “Join us.”
I place a board over the opening. I can still hear him as I being to hammer in a nail.
“You will be safe.”
Why would I believe him?
I look about at the other survivors huddling in the shallows of the flooded building. A few intrepid people have pushed a pallet out into the deeper waters, using it as a makeshift raft. The water is deep in the center of the building. A sinkhole, or collapsed floor had swallowed the interior and flooded it.
The window panes began to shake with the force of so many fists. They shatter, and bodies begin to climb through. the doorways to tremble with the force of violence directed at them. People begin to scream.
I turn, and plunge into the filthy water, hoping that the bodies in death will have forgotten the strength of the limbs, and be unable to swim after me. other survivors follow suit, running into the water, throwing themselves in, a few managing to execute a dive, all kicking up waves of foul water in their wake.
“Do not run.” The dead man yells, as he strides forward at the head of the hordes.
I swim out, my strokes so slow, my fatigued body pulling on it’s last reserves to propel me forward.
I grab a wooden pallet, and haul myself up, shaking. The zombies are knocking down the abandoned machinery, sending sparks and electric surges through the water. The bodies of those trapped in this disaster slowly float to the top of the water. Their limbs jerk and twitch, slowly, as they begin to reanimate. Meanwhile, the dead man and his hordes have taken to the water.
They can not swim, but walk along the bottom instead, and leap upwards to catch swimmers. They disappear beneath the murky water. Some float back up, faces bitten up, arms chewed. Reanimating.
Through the chaos, the lead dead man forges his way towards me. Before he disappears under the water lapping at his chest, he points at me, and calls “You!”
I try to paddle the pallet to the other side of the flooded room. As i dip my hand beneath the water, someone grabs it, and pulls me under.
I open my eyes beneath the water, and they begin to sting with all the pollutants in the water. But I can see, and I can see her. A dead woman, half her face bitten off, pale bone revealed. I do not recognize her, can not recognize her. She holds tight to me, pulling my arm until I am closer, and she wraps her other arm around me. I can not kick away, can not flee or make for the surface to take another gulp of air.
She holds me, but does not bite. We sink towards the bottom, and when her feet touch the ground she kicks off again, towards the surface. My lungs are burning.
We reach the surface, and the top of my head is above water, just my eyes. I still desperately need to take another breath. The woman releases one arm, and points. The bodies that are floating, the zombies ignore. It is the movement that draws them.
She releases me. I roll, and float on my back, so still. I wonder if I knew her, if I would recognize her face where it whole.
The dead pass me by, unharmed.