Friday, August 17, 2007

Turning point

The bite occured quickly, without Richard even realizing it. Thus is the nature of an emergency situation that in the thick of great terror a man can sustain a grievous injury and carry on, oblivious. When the shambling undead finally broke his door, richard had retreated, backpedaling out of desperation against his floor to ceiling office window, pinned against the glass. Richard was not a stupid man, not by a long shot. An actuary at a midsize reinsurance company, he had spent most of his adult life cooped up in an office, balancing risk versus premiums. He had, he realized too late, spent precious little time fighting hordes of marauding hungry corpses. His trained actuarial mind kicked in, quickly assessing the options, none of which looked particularly pleasant. He could, he thought, attempt to fight, but years of fine wine and fine meals had not left him the specimen of physical prowess. He had nowhere left to run, no weapons, no barriers. Doing the math between the unbearable agony of being ripped asunder by the cold dead hands and rotting teeth of his former city dwellers versus a long fall with a short stop from his office window, Richard made the only viable choice. Reaching forward toward the approaching horde, he grabbed a heavy lucite paper weight off of his desk. Hefting it, he swung the paperweight in a powerful, if rather ungraceful arc, bringing it crashing into the window. Initially, he thought nothing happened. Then a split second later, the glazing gave way and the entire window shattered, raining thousands of tiny glass safety pebbles upon him.

Richard turned, looking out the window at the expanse of nothing that lay below. He edged his way out to the precipice, the toes of his neatly polished shoes poking out into space. Even as he contemplated the gap before him, the first of the ghouls grabbed his suit coat. The pull shocked him out of his silent contemplation, and with no more hesitation, Richard's exquisitely trained mathematical mind turned immediately to survival. With a shrug, Richard sloughed the six hundred dollar jacket off, grabbed the window frame, and swung himself out, onto the ledge.

Gripping the edge of the window frame Richard edged as far as he was able, terrified to let go. The first thing he noticed out on the ledge was the wind, ferocious and cold, it threatened at every turn to hurl him off the ledge. The second thing he noticed were the hands and heads of the moaning horde poking fearlessly over the edge, grabbing at his hands and arms as he tried to stay anchored to the building, so many floors over the concrete that defined his ruined city. This must have been when he was bitten. Its the only thing that made sense, but Richard didn't feel it. He finally relinquished his grip from the window frame not from the pain of a ghoul's crushing jaw, but because the undead began trying to literally climb his gripping arms. Pulling free of their grasp was difficult, made even more so by his terror at being unmoored, kept on the side of the building by nothing other than his rather untrustworthy sense of balance. When he succeeded finally, in pulling himself free, he edged as quickly as he dared about six feet from the window frame.

Richard was only on the ledge a moment when the first ghoul fell silently from the window. Failing in their desperate unthinking need to recognize the inviolable laws of gravity and distance, they streamed from the window after Richard, each plummeting hundreds of feet to the unyielding pavement below. After only a few moments, the stream of undead stopped, the last one moaning slightly, reaching and clawing up at Richard even as he fell and ruptured on the pavement below. To his continued horror, Richard could see one of the zombies below dragging its ruined body with undoubtedly shattered arms across the pavement, still pursuing some ghastly meal, trailing its own organs behind its halved body. On shaking legs, whimpering, Richard edged slowly back to the windows edge, and crawled gratefully inside.

A few moments later, Richard jerked his head up, realizing dimly that he'd been staring at the wall opposite him, but not remembering why or for how long. He knew he should try to reach his wife, his kids, but even as he thought this, their names seemed to dance out of reach. Vaguely, he understood that he was beginning to drool, but before he could reach up to wipe his chin, his pupils expanded, and the world was painfully bathed in light. Moaning, he reached out, staggering forward. His precise, orderly actuarial mind was slipping, memories growing slowly harder and harder to reach. A moment later, Richard slowly, laboriously, tried to remember his name. Even as he tried to concentrate, his feet shuffled forward. He began to become aware, as if from a distance, that he had stopped shaking. A calm settled over his mind, erasing not only worries, but thoughts, and after the thoughts went, memories. With a blank mind the most studious Buddhist monk would envy, the thing
that used to be Richard became aware he was hungry.

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