Monday, November 19, 2007


I don’t know what kept me staring down the eight floors to the street below. The moment I saw the soldiers my first thought was, “thank god, I’m saved.” But yet I hesitate. Maybe it’s the carnage, the utter bedlam that keeps me watching, like a car accident you don’t want to look at but cannot turn away from. The hordes of undead crash like ships on an unforgiving shore. The soldiers keep firing, on occasion a tank will fire an explosive round blowing up all the ghouls in the area of impact and leaving a crater a few feet deep. The gunshots and shouts thicken the air until the cacophony it nearly too much to bear. My eyes focus on all the action, darting back and forth taking it all in.

I find it odd that something outside of this chaos could divert my attention. But as I watch the fight rage on below I see something flicker in the corner of my eye. Someone is looking down as I am; they lean out the window across the street a floor below me. They light a cigarette and watch the action. They are dressed in jeans and a work shirt, with a Florida Marlins cap on. They watch as intently as I, and as if a sixth sense notifies them, they look up at me staring at them.

We look at each other for a moment. He’s older than I. Possibly in his forties. A graying beard and sideburns cover a tanned face. He takes a long drag off his cigarette and slowly shakes his head at me.

I wonder what he is shaking his head about. It’s almost a disapproving shake, the kind your father would make if he caught you sneaking out of the house. I wonder what he disapproves of. Does he know my plan of going to the street below? How could he? Does my face belie my intentions? I wonder about his reaction for a few seconds. This few moments is the only delay I need to make me abandon my plan.

I turn my head as I hear the cries from below. These are not the occasional shrieks of ghouls, or the orders shouted by a sergeant to his troops. No, these are civilians. The tide of undead has slowed considerably from the west. I guess the building a few blocks away housed a group that had the same plan as I. When the street looks clear they start to run. They pour out onto the street, and there are about twenty of them. Some start to run and leave the rest to fend for themselves. Two men push a wheelchair; its passenger, an elderly woman, clings to it for dear life. A few injured people hobble along as best they can. They move quickly, but zombies ooze out of the buildings and from the streets behind.

The living race against the undead in a sick rendition of the tortoise verses the hare. The humans have to stop to pick up the elderly woman, who has fallen out of the wheelchair; others have fallen on the debris or cannot move quickly and need to be helped down the street. What started out as a decent pace has slowed to nearly a crawl when they come to the first sandbag wall two blocks away. The slow and steady ghouls keep moving as the group helps each other over the obstacle. It must be the smell of fresh meat that brings the undead out into the street in such numbers. The refugees are on the cusp of being engulfed by the rolling wave of creatures that fill the road behind them.

That’s when the soldiers open fire. The entire time this group is running, the shots continue to ring out in other directions, so it isn’t the sound of guns that alerts me to the massacre that is about to happen. Instead, I see one of the men helping lift the wheelchair over the sandbags go down as his leg is shredded by gunfire. He screams and clutches his leg as the person next to him is hit in the foot. The people freeze, their eyes sweeping back and forth looking for what is causing this. They realize far too late and cannot gain cover. The bullets tear through the group. The troops are aiming low, trying to disable the civilians. The wave of undead inches closer.
I stand above frozen in horror. I cannot believe what I am seeing. The troops continue to disable to group. It is obvious what they were planning when the first undead dives into toward a helpless woman to feed. His head leans down to bite, and he is shot in the head. The soldiers used the civilians as bait, and the ghouls will now pause to feed on the closer meal. The soldiers ease the pressure on the front line and easily take out a large group. It makes sense, but I am horrified nonetheless. I look back to my counterpart across the valley of buildings and he is still shaking his head.

My knees start to weaken. I feel the adrenaline drain away and I slump against the wall. I turn away and hobble back to my room. I want to take my tire iron and run down break the heads of the soldiers below, but know that my fate would be like those who tried to come to them for salvation. No. I realize that my path home has two obstacles, and the thought is so overwhelming that I nearly faint with despair. Then I realize it is almost certainly the lack of blood that makes me woozy. I walk into my office and close the door. I dig through my bag for my earplugs to try to drown out the sound of gunfire. But nothing will ever quiet the screams of those people. That will ring in my ears for years to come…

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