They never make it… Travis thought bitterly as he sat atop the water tower, staring down at the small town he’d grown up in, now besieged by the living dead. The hot Texas sun was doing little to make Travis feel better as it was heating the tank and making him thirsty, but it also seemed to be drying out the wandering corpses below, so at least there was that.
So far he’d counted fourteen people make breaks for it, running to their cars or to a better hiding spot, or just plain running. The undead chased them down like wild dogs, tackling them and tearing into them like they were starving, despite what their distended bellies would otherwise indicate.
He didn’t know how it started. He’d been in the hardware store when George Lewis, the police officer, fired off two shots into a ravenous ghoul. His gun had done little to slow the creature, and it’d tackled him in the middle of Main Street, ripping out his throat. Now Travis could see George, gray-skinned with a floppy head, shuffling around outside the bank with Betty Martinez, her intestines tripping her up with every step.
Travis had taken a shovel and tried beating the growing number of dead back in an effort to get home to his family, but they were coming from all directions when he left the hardware store. There were small fires, and gunshots echoing through the streets; the only thing Travis could think of was to climb the water tower and try and wait it out. So he’d cracked three skulls, nearly getting bitten twice, before reaching the ladder the led up.
That had been two days ago.
Pulling out his cell phone, he held it up and squinted at the lit screen; no bars. How was that even possible? He was sitting at the highest point in town, he should get some kind of signal, right? Flipping it closed angrily, he peered over the slope leading to the ladder and down to the ground. Ever since he’d climbed up five or six zombies had crowded the ladder, milling around in search of something to eat, smelling him up on the tower perhaps. Maybe they just didn’t do anything without any outside stimulus?
“How you holding out Travis?” Stephen called out from the roof of the general store. He’d retreated up to the roof around the same time as Travis, locking the door behind him. Travis could hear the fists pounding on the metal door from his spot on the tower, so he knew Stephen had to be worried.
“Thirsty as hell but hanging in there. How bout you?” Travis called back. A low chorus of moans lilted up from the ground, causing Travis to shake his head. The dead knew he was there, even if they couldn’t see him.
“I brought up a couple jugs of water and plenty of food, so I should be okay for a while.” Stephen called back. “You think anyone is going to notice our town virtually disappearing from the modern world?”
Travis snorted. “I hate to break it to you man, but I don’t think this is just limited to our town. I can’t get any cell service, which means a tower isn’t being manned. Only reason that would be is if…”
“Something was going on, yeah, I got it.” Stephen called, running his hand over his head. “What’re we going to do?”
“I don’t know Stephen, but I imagine I’m going to die of thirst up here long before you have anything to worry about.” Travis called back.
“Don’t talk like that!” Stephen warned.
“What, it’s the truth! What I find ironic is that I’m sitting on the town water supply and can’t get a drop because of the scorching metal burning me every time I adjust from my spot.”
“We’re going to find a way out of this, you watch!” Stephen called back before a shrieking of metal caused him to spin around. The metal door leading down to the general store had just been broken down, and a stream of the living dead came pouring out onto the roof, their slate gray bodies undulating against each other in a tide of angry claws and teeth and rotting flesh. Stephen didn’t even stand a chance as the first three tackled him, sending him toppling over the edge of the roof, crashing onto a parked car below.
Travis just prayed that the fall had killed Stephen and not the cannibals currently tearing him to pieces.
He watched the zombies dismembered Stephen for a while, pulling him apart and gnawing on the bones like hound dogs, blood trickling down the caved in roof of the Mazda they’d crashed into. It took them roughly seven minutes to render Stephen into a bloody skeleton that they were breaking apart just to get to the marrow.
“Damn,” Travis said, looking at his stopwatch function on his cell phone. “If you can say anything, you can say they’re efficient!”
Tucking his cell phone back into his jeans, Travis heaved a sigh and resumed watching Main Street and the parade of former friends and neighbors shamble about. After another hour, Travis began thinking about life, and how he wanted to end it.
Make no mistake, he was going to die within the next day. He’d gone two days without water, and could feel the muscle cramps deep in his arms and legs. His stomach grumbled and growled in hopes of getting something to eat. Travis ignored it.
Now did he want to die up here on the water tower, passing out and leaving a sun-caked corpse for the vultures, or did he want to take his shovel down to the ground and try and take out as many zombies as he could before they overwhelmed him? Make no mistake, they were fast and dangerous so Travis stood very little chance of doing anything to them save for feeding them.
But he had to try. Besides, what if he could make it to a car? He could hot wire it and drive out of town before a biter could do anything to him!
The plan seemed more reasonable with each passing minute, and after another thirty, he decided he was going to try it. Taking his shovel in one hand, he crawled down to the ladder and began climbing down. About half way he must have been spotted by the undead gathered on the ground as they began growling and moaning. Looking over his shoulder he saw their hands raised up, dirty blood stained hands reaching for him in hopes of getting a quick bite to eat.
Travis stopped about two feet out of their reach and, gripping one of the handlebars, swung out with his shovel towards the head of his former Highschool football coach. The man hadn’t aged well, and death hadn’t helped the matter; the shovel collided with his left temple, cracking the skull enough for a pinkish slime to ooze out of the fractured pieces. The zombie stumbled as if dazed before falling to the ground, twitching from the head wound.
Travis repeated the action seven times, sometimes striking a zombie more than once in the skull before killing them. Once the area was cleared, he dropped down to the dusty ground and slowly began to jog over to a truck that sat outside the hardware store. Two zombies, Mary Weather and David Vallejo, took note of him with foggy eyes and rushed him, lips pulled back into vicious snarls.
A batters swing took out David, breaking his skull like an overripe melon. Mary tackled Travis, pushing him to the ground, her teeth blocked by the shaft of the shovel, her yellowed enamel digging grooves in the wood. Travis placed a boot in her chest and pushed, only to find his leg push through her chest, pushing her rib cage and putrefying organs out of her back. She didn’t seem to notice, as her hands were now scratching at Travis’s face, dirty nails seeking purchase to drag him closer to her mouth.
Panicking, Travis reeled back and punched Mary in the head. Several teeth broke from the force of the blow combined with her biting the wood but she continued to worry the shovel like a pit bull. He punched her again, smiling as he saw a split form in her forehead. A third punch rendered her dead, mayonnaise-like gray matter sluicing out through the wound. He had to shake his shovel to get her jaw to pop open and was disgusted to find two teeth embedded in the wood, but didn’t have time to do anything about it.
Getting up, he stepped up to the truck and opened the door, only to get slammed by a tiny missile, a sharp pain radiating out from his shoulder. Looking down, he saw the gray-tinged body of young Ricky Churchill, a five year old that must have hidden in the truck before reanimating. Now he was chewing out mouthfuls of meat from a wound gushing blood onto his blue shirt. Travis swore, grabbing the young boy by the back of his shirt and yanking him free, tossing him to the ground next to Mary.
He landed on all fours like a cat, hissing as he prepared to pounce once more. He never got the chance.
Travis brought the shovel down on Ricky’s head, nearly ripping the head free from the body with the force of the blow. Travis was panting now, the cramps wracking his body as he did his best to remain standing. His vision was doubling, slowly going white. He mentally cursed himself for trying to make a break for it. He’d said it earlier… they never make it.
Travis died where he stood, his body going rigid for a moment before going slack, dropping to one knee. He reanimated before he toppled fully to the ground, his eyes foggy and his wound now clotted over. He turned and shuffled towards where he could hear survivors holed up, his shovel still in hand.