A high pitched squeal, a layered tone of glass shattering white noise and a guttural hoarse growling underneath, rang throughout the store. And he heard footsteps outside, scrabbling over the broken stonework and debris.
Isaac lay still, ears strained and still ringing. And then from the front of the store, he heard a shuffling, and a low growl, and then he heard Chris say, “There you are, you ugly bastard, let’s have you.”
A gunshot rang through the air, accompanied by an inhuman cry of pain, and something ran out of the store into the lengthening shadows.
“Chris,” Isaac shouted, and tried to move, forgetting his leg, and the pain made him swoon.
“Hold tight, cap,” Chris shouted back. “There’s a tonne of them outside, and they know we’re here now. Oh no you don’t.” There was another gunshot and the sound of Chris reloading.
“I’m bleeding pretty bad, cap,” Chris said. “Jake’s blown to pieces. Get yourself out of here, look for a rear exit. I’ll hold them off.”
“Not a fucking hope,” Isaac said, then quickly turned as there was a scrabbling noise from behind him, and standing in the ruined doorway of the room that had held the gas cannisters was a Nightcrawler.
It was looking at him from large bulbous eyes that pulsed in a large orb like head, with no more than a hole for a nose and a jagged slit for a mouth, from which protruded broken teeth. It’s body was a sickly yellow and emaciated, with dead skin pulled taut over jutting ribs. And in it’s hands was the severed arm, and it held eye contact with him as it raised it to its mouth.
Isaac raised his pistol and squeezed off two bullets. The Nightcrawlers head exploded in a cloud of red mist.
“You alright, cap?” Chris shouted.
“They’re coming in the back,” Isaac shouted back. “The explosion must have ripped a hole from the wall.”
“More out front too,” Chris said. More gunshots. Another Nightcrawler darted out of the back room and Isaac took it’s leg off with a shot, and it lay on the ground staring at him with monstrous hate until his second shot found it’s head.
“Not many shots left, Isaac thought to himself. He reached for the rifle out on the ground, straining his shoulder as he extended, his leg screaming in agony and his vision blurring, but he managed to hook the shoulder strap and pull it in close to him, just as two more Nightcrawlers rushed at him from the doorway.
He brought the rifle up and dropped one of them with a shot to the torso but the other fell on him before he could fire again, diving for his neck. He seized it by the arms and tried to hold it off, the air in front of him filled with gnashing teeth and putrid breath, and he felt himself weakening.
Then the Nightcrawlers head exploded, drenching him in a foul smelling blood. He wiped his eyes, and Chris appeared through the red mist and knelt next to him. He set something heavy on the ground.
“Sorry, cap,” he said. Isaac shook his head, unable to speak. Chris was bleeding heavily from his stomach, and Isaac thought he could some of his organs glistening in the crimson mess.
“Fuck, your leg,” Chris said. “Let’s try get this off, OK? Lift with me on three. One, two, three!”
The two men heaved at the shelf, until Isaac felt his shoulder was about to pop, but managed to raise in long enough for him to slide his leg out. He lay there, panting, feeling the blood rush back into the trapped limb, and Chris collapsed beside him. Isaac saw that the item Chris had left down was petrol can, with a large curved nozzle.
“That’s done it,” he said. His voice was grim. A Nightcrawler poked its head around the shelves towards the front of the store, and Isaac sent it scampering away with a pistol shot.
“How many out front?” Isaac asked.
“Too many to count,” Chris said. “They’re hanging back for the moment, letting the braver ones go in one by one, but once they figure out that they can rush us we’ll be fucked. I think a few of the cleverer ones ran around to the back, but there shouldn’t be many.”
Isaac had his pistol trained on the rear doorway as Chris was speaking.
“Let’s go, then,” he said. “We’ll shoot our way out the back, and take cover. We won’t get out of the city, but morning isn’t far off. We can hold out until then.”
Chris shook his head sadly. “It won’t work,” he said. “They’ll know we’re here somewhere, and find us. There’s too many of them. And I’m not going to make it.” He had a hand pressed to his stomach and he loosened it slightly to show Isaac the glistening mess within.
“You go,” Chris said. “Out the back, shoot your way out if you have to. I’ll hold them off here, give you a chance to get to cover. Then I’ll set this bad boy off.” He tapped the petrol can with his gun.
“Shoot through the nozzle and we’ve got ourselves a DIY Molotov cocktail. I should take a few of the fuckers out with me.”
“No chance,” Isaac said. “I’m not leaving you behind.”
Chris seized his upper am, and looked him dead in the eye.
“You are,” he said. “You have to. I’m dying here either way. I’m not making it back in this state. If I hadn’t been fucking around with Jake then we’d be home now. You’d be back with your daughter, I’d be with my son.”
There was a mad cackling from the front of the store and Chris raised his gun, but kept his eyes on Isaac’s.
“Get back to Ella,” he said. “And tell my boy his daddy died protecting him, and everyone else in that bunker.”
Isaac breathed in slowly. He looked at Chris, his blood soaked stomach, and nodded.
“I’ll take care of your boy,” he said. “As if he was my own. You have my word.”
Chris smiled weakly, and Nightcrawler appeared in the aisle. Both men fired simultaneously, and the creature collapsed.
“How many rounds do you have left?” Isaac said. Chris tapped on his rifle.
“Enough in this lady to do me for what needs doing,” he said. He tapped the petrol can. “And I’ll keep one for something else needs doing. I can’t hold them off forever, but I won’t let them finish me off.” Isaac held his eye contact, and nodded slowly, once.
“Now get going,” Chris said. Isaac clapped him on the shoulder and stood. There was nothing more to be said, and both men knew it. Chris loaded his weapon, and the sound of a bullet sliding into the chamber rang through the store, until it was drowned out by the growing gaggle of screeches and cries from out the front. The last Isaac saw of him as he looked back from the doorway at the store rear was Chris with guns raised, mouth set in grim determination. Then he rounded the corner and Chris passed from his sight.
Final Part coming soon.
Message from the Author:
Thanks for reading! I’m always looking to connect with like minded writers and creatives. In today’s world, I think it’s really important to find people who are like minded and doing good creative work, and help raise each other up. If you like what I’m doing here, have some pieces of your own you think I’d enjoy, or just want to connect, reach out to me here or on Twitter at @WriteOfPassage3.