Dark Tide Rising (Prologue), Hospital of the damned.

“In my sun-joy their dark I see:
For what they are and had to be
Blame Nature, red in tooth and claw,
Blame laws beyond all human law,
–Blame Destiny.

Behind blind walls I see them go,
Grim spectres of eternal woe,
Drained grey of hope, dead souls of self-slain,–“
~Robert service

In retrospect, the beginning of the end of the world began June 22, 2010. It drew little attention at first, a death here, an attack there. Random and in small numbers, noticeable in very small towns, almost invisible in the larger cities, where it spread faster in the homeless community and the poorer areas, till the morning of the 23rd where it spilled out into main streets and sleepy bedroom communities. From there it was a down hill slide to the bottom.

It was a beautiful day, with wispy white clouds dotting the deep blue sky. St. Stephens hospital was a sprawling complex with multiple staggered rooftops for various sections. Medical centers, parking garages and the patients wing that had originally been only four stories tall till its renovation eight years ago adding a smaller fifth floor atop the patients tower.

Mike sat beside the bed watching his wife. Who lay still and unmoving in what might well be a coma. Wishing she knew he was here, but no matter how much he wanted to believe that he knew she didn’t. In the hallway, he again heard the low hurried conversations of the nurses, who sounded worried about something. he hadn’t paid them much mind, what ever it was it, it had been going on for the last hour or two. But Mike hadn’t left the room all day or watched the news, and frankly he could have cared less, it was his wife he was worried about. .

Like many in the same kind of situation, he was so wrapped up in his personal tragedy, he hadn’t bothered to shave, or do much more than splash water on his face to get the dirt off from the hiking trip that had ended when Carrie had fallen.

He still wore the same hiking boots, jeans, and long sleeved tan shirt he had arrived here in. at least his dark brown hair was cut short enough that it didn’t look to bad. But no one one that knew him would recognize the normally handsome man, in the exhausted face that he wore now.

Mike took his wife’s hand, letting his eyes roam around the room, he had memorized ever object and its placement a day ago, just to keep boredom at bay.

It was a typical hospital room with pale green walls, no pictures. Lots of hoses, tubes, computer monitors, and the ever present privacy curtain even in a one bed room. He rose and paced around the room, feeling like a caged dog, his emotions barely under control when he looked at his wife. Who lay there looking peaceful, her dark hair spread across the pillow.

“ I need to get something to eat Hun, Hang in there Ill be back in a little bit” he said finally knowing that he needed to eat, but hating the thought of actually leaving her alone. Determined to hurry, he stepped out into the hallway, and saw several nurses huddled by the nurses station talking quietly. They looked up at him, and for a moment he saw fear in their eyes, then relief as they realized he wasn’t who ever they had expected.

He walked past them ignoring the fact they fell silent, casting sidelong glances at him like they were sharing some guilty secret. He walked down the long pale blue corridor, hating the smell of disinfectants and sickness that filled the air. Nothing here was personal; nothing gave the place a touch of life outside the walls. Just drab, utilitarian walls, carts filled with equipments, vials, boxes, and a host of other items used constantly on the floor. And the ever-present cheap posters proclaiming the hospitals desire to help and make their patients happy.

Who ever approved the design of hospitals and their appearances, didn’t seem to care that the patients locked with in its rooms would give anything for some plants, bright lights and pictures that transported them outside, instead of cold featureless walls with cheap posters and dry erase boards with messages on them designed by elementary school kids.

Deciding he didn’t want to go all the way down to the basement where the Cafeteria was located, He turned down the corridor that led to the elevators and the small waiting room with snack and soda machines.

Here where patients couldn’t see till their discharge, were prints and paintings with vivid colors that shouted life. Why the hospitals couldn’t put some of those in patients rooms was beyond him. Save a buck, who cares if the patients get depressed staring at the walls. He thought bitterly.

He popped in his change and got a bag of Chips and then a soda, then sat at the small table next to the window that looked out over a small park across the street. He ate his chips and took a few sips of his drink not really paying much attention to the outside world, until a car came screeching around the curve and plowed over two people staggering across the road. Mike leaped to his feet staring in shock as the car kept going.

He fumbled out his cell phone and dialed 911 and got a message stating that all circuits were busy. He snapped his phone closed and picked up his soda and headed back to the nurses station to ask one of them to call hospital security. He rounded the corner and saw the groups of nurses were gone. He walked closer to the nurse’s station deciding to use their phone anyway, when he heard alarms buzzing in a room. So that must be where they are at he thought as he reached the desk and looked around.

Hearing some one walking towards him, he turned and saw a burly male nurse walking quickly, a worried look on his face.

“Hey, I hate to be a pain in the ass, but I saw a car run over some people down by the park from the window by the snack machine” Mike said.

The nurse grimaced. “ if that’s the worst you see today, count yourself lucky” the nurse replied. Mike couldn’t believe how cold the man was. It made him angry, what if he treated mikes wife the same way.

“ look man, I don’t think I can see worse than two people being run down in cold blood.” Mike said hotly. The nurse started to respond when, a scream ripped thru the hallways.

The nurse took off running towards the sound and Mike saw three female nurses bolt from a room further down, blood splattered across the front of their scrubs. “ whats going on” the male nurse shouted.

“ Its here, Mr. Johnson has …. God its….” One of the nurses responded falling silent looking like she was going to puke.. The male nurse stopped at the door to the room and looked in, Mike could see him go pale from here.

“ get security” the male nurse shouted pushing one of the nurses towards the station. Mike stood there gaping as the blood covered nurse ran towards him, and then he found the male nurse had been correct, he would have been lucky if all he had seen was a hit and run.

A man his face covered in blood appeared behind the shouting male nurse, his long blue tinged white arms wrapped around the nurse as that bloody faced dipped down, his mouth stretched open and tore a chunk out of the back of the nurses neck.

Mike shouted in disbelief, as he saw the blood spray into the air, and then a female nurse, who had been inside the Nut jobs room, stumbled out , the front of her scrubs were soaked with blood and she fell on one of the shrieking female nurses, who seemed to be glued in place, and began to feed. The remaining nurse who had stood there frozen in shock, turned and bolted for the elevators.

Mike threw up, he couldn’t help it. the nurse who had ran up and grabbed the phone to call security, stood there staring at the carnage then dropped the phone and ran for the stairwell. The man chewing on the male nurse let the body drop and then started towards mike, but some one in the next room calling out in fear at all the screaming drew the nut job inside, and then more screaming began.

Mike looked around wildly, not wanting to believe what he was seeing, but the blood sprayed walls and the corpses refused to just go away, he grabbed the phone and dialed 911, then had to hang up, dial 9 then 911 and found a message that all circuits were busy, please hold… etc etc . he slammed the phone down. And then saw another patient step from a room on the other side of the nurses station, he looked unharmed, but shaky. Till the head ratcheted around and mike saw the milky eyes. The man lurched towards mike but the counter between them seemed to confuse the patient. . who kept walking into the counter, then would stumble back only to walk forward and hit the counter again.

Mike looked back down the hallway on his side of the nurse’s station, the panic building in him. Even if he wanted to leave, and he didn’t, that would mean leaving Carrie, he would have had to run past all that carnage and he would die just as surely as the others had.

And then reality twitched, and the world would never be the same for him again, The male nurse who had been bitten on the neck and died, sat up suddenly, and then rose shakily to his feet.

The man was dead, he had to be, he was white as a sheet and soaked in his own blood, Mike thought in panicked disbelief. As he stared in shock the nurse began to plod down the hallway, leaning against the wall leaving a long smear of blood on the walls. the other dead nurses rose, moving drunkenly, and joined the male nurse. Their eyes fixed on Mike.

A man and woman Mike had met earlier this morning, stepped from the woman’s uncles room to see what was going on. To their misfortune they stood between Mike and the bloody crazed nurses, who instantly fell on the hapless couple. . Teeth and nails ripping and tearing at the man and woman’s flesh, the screams of pain and the fresh spurts of blood were to much for Mike, who turned and ran back to his wife’s room.

He shut the door, leaning against it and breathing heavily. Think, think he told himself, got it, he decided as a desperate plan formed. He began to shove furniture against the door and wedged it closed or at least that was the idea. He wasn’t sure how well it was going to work but he wasn’t leaving his wife.

The TV played on with its normal broadcasting, counter pointing the screams and shrieks from outside the room. His wife lay there still and pale, the machines still beeping away normally. He looked around for something anything to use as a weapon, but saw nothing he thought would work. Then his eyes fell on an empty IV stand, it would have to do he thought as he picked it up and stood nervously watching the door.

he could hear other alarms buzzing in the hallway, the numbers growing as patients died.
Sooner or later the police would show up, or the army, or someone with guns and in charge. He clung to that hope with the bleeding fingernails of his sanity. And then something struck the door to his wifes room with a thump. Help hadn’t arrived in time after all.

Oh god no, please no he prayed his eyes fixed on the door as something thumped against it a second time. Mike turned to his wife, hoping that some miracle had brought her back so they could escape what ever the hell was going on. His hopes and prayers were dashed as he saw her still laying there unconscious.

He gripped the IV stand tighter with sweat slicked hands and fixed his eyes on the door, where there was more thumping like some one with no real strength was beating slowly on the door panel.

Then to his horror the door moved inwards an inch, and dead white fingers curled around the edge of the door. Mike steeled his nerves and raced across the room leaping over the stuff he had piled to throw his weight against the door. It slammed shut, severing the fingers which fell to the floor. He fell heavily into the pile of furniture and pain flared in his back. He didn’t really notice he was to busy staring at the fingers and throwing up again.

He scrambled out of the pile of furniture then rose to his feet backing away from the door, and the steaming proof of his cowardice. Hating himself for being weak he stood there shaking and feeling nothing but shame, there had been a time when this wouldn’t have bothered him, in the least.

his head jerked up at the sudden explosion of gunfire from somewhere in the hospital. He really didn’t believe it the army or even the cops coming to the rescue, but he wanted too. Oh how he wanted too.

He moved to the bed, breathing a sigh of relief as the thumping at the door stopped.
“ Come on hunny, you have to wake up now. Come on, please. We have to get out of here” he whispered to her. Afraid to speak any louder, for fear that the demented bastards outside might hear and start trying to get into the room again.

She didn’t respond, her mind was still locked away from her body. The gunfire had stopped but the screams hadn’t. Which didn’t bode well in Mikes book, if it had been the police or any one else responding to the slaughter going on here, there would have been a lot more guns, so it must have been a single cop who happened to be in the hospital or a CCW license holder who had ignored the Firearms free zone signs.

He moved over to the window and looked out, and saw the roof of the fourth floor not more than a few feet down from the window.. A quick inspection of the window frame showed him a latch. He slid the window open letting in fresh air and took a few deep breaths, he hadn’t even realized till now just how bad it smelled in here.

He began to pace the small room trying to figure out how to save both of them, and came up blank. He opened the small, cheap pressboard bureau and took out her clothes. Then moved to her bed, where he stood gazing at her, seeing her in his minds eye, alive and vibrant once more.

No way was he going to leave her, not in this hell. He pulled the sheets and blankets down, and then pulled the leads off her. The machine began to shriek a warning, he panicked at the sound and rushed to unplug the machines, the sound died after a moment.

He listened intently and was just staring to feel relief when something struck the door again. Shit he though as he pulled the hospital gown from her limp body and began to dress his wife of over ten years. The thumping at the door grew in intensity. He struggled for a few minutes to get her panties and pants on, after that it took only a moment to get her socks and hiking boots on. Pulling the pillow case free, he shoved the sheets and blankets inside, adding in anything else that seemed worthwhile, which wasn’t much, then tossed the loaded pillow case it out the window where it fell to the fourth floor roof five feet down.

He looked over his shoulder and saw the door had opened two inches. white eyes stared at him thru the crack as more bodies in the hall pushed against the door. With that kind of weight against it the door began to slide slowly open, inch by inch.

“ come on baby we are getting out of here” he said as he lifted Carrie up onto his shoulder and carried her to the window. She was dead weight, making it carrying her awkward but he ignored the problem.

Reaching the window he gave a quick prayer she wouldn’t get hurt any worse than she already was then slipped her feet first thru the window and let her crumble to the roof top below. He looked back at the door that was now open a foot and a bloody nurse with half her face gone was forcing her way into the gap, while more people fought to climb over her to reach Mike. The door continued to slide open.

They were totally silent, he realized, except for the clicking of teeth when they saw him. no groans of pain, no moaning, nothing. How is that even possible. He didn’t waste time thinking about it either.

“ its been fun but gotta go” he muttered as he leaped up onto the window sill then dropped to the roof. He took only long enough to sit his wife up against the wall before he reached up and slid the window closed.

Out here, he could hear sirens, shouts and distant gunfire, The squeal of tires and the occasional explosion from somewhere in town. What ever was going on it wasn’t just at the hospital he thought now more scared and worried than he had been. What the hell was going on.

“ You really need to wake the hell up “ Mike said as he slung his wife over his shoulders in a fireman’s carry and started off across the roof heading towards a small building like structure with a door. Hearing a thump he looked up to see a bloody face pressed against a window he was passing.

Reaching the eight by ten roof structure, he studied the door for a moment then sat his wife down before trying the knob, which turned easily in his hand. Thank god for forgetful maintenance men he thought as he pulled the door open and looked into a room that seemed to hold electrical boxes and a staircase going down. He grabbed his wife and carried her inside and then shut the door.

“ I’m going to check down the stairs, and then come back. I want to make sure no one else is down there. And then we are going to stay here for a little bit and see if a rescue helicopter shows up” he laid her gently on the floor, resting her head on the pillow case and covering her with the blanket he had taken from inside the pillow case.

***************************

Lee Meyers avoided the door to the electrical room he was taking shelter in.. With out being sure what the hell was going on he didn’t want to step outside. But at the same time he couldn’t sit here for days

“Lee, you still there” Lee almost flew out of his skin when Billys voice came from the radio. He turned the volume down hoping it hadn’t been heard beyond the door.

“ yeah Billy, you okay” Lee asked, Billy was one of the older guys on the maintenance team for the hospital.

“ well, I’m alive. I’m in a supply closet in the ER. Some of those people are outside scratching and thumping on the door.” Billy said, Lee realized he could hear the sound and shivered. “ not sure how long Im gonna last man, I think I had a major heart attack when I first locked myself in here.”

“ hang on Billy, the cops will be here soon and one of the doctors will be able to patch you up” Lee said, thankfully that he at least was in a decent sized room.

“ not likely man there were two sheriffs deputies in the ER and a City cop, when it all this shit started. They got ripped apart Lee, Fucking ripped apart. Shot the hell out of those folks and they just kept coming” Billy sounded winded, and panting hard now.

“ calm down Billy, your going to be okay man..” Lee tried to be soothing but it was pretty apparent after a couple of minutes that Bob was not going to calm down anytime soon.

“ Look Lee, Im gonna get off the radio. Save the juice, make it last. No telling how long we are going to be stuck. Ill call you back every two hours” Billy said and was gone.

Lee thought about that for a moment then shut his own radio down. He couldn’t just sit here, he had to go for help but how to do that with out getting attacked.

He looked around for a moment then moved to one of the walls and pulled out a pocket knife. Ten minutes later he was shining a flashlight into the dark narrow space that ran between two walls. He knew from experience it wouldn’t run real far into the building, but it gave him options.

He opened his tool box and took a few tools and shoved them into the tool pouch at his side. Satisfied with his selection he picked up a piece of pipe propped in the corner.
Against one or two of those things he could manage with the pipe.

He took a deep breath and moved into the hollow space, moving slowly. Occasionally he could hear something thump against the wall that faced the main corridor. He stopped and then using a screw driver slowly made a hole in the wall to peer thru and wished like hell he hadn’t. there were at least ten of the, he supposed calling them infected was good enough, in the hallway.

He turned carefully in the narrow space so as not to bump the wall and draw the attention of the infected in the main corridor and then poked a small hole into the opposite wall and peered in. that’s better he thought as he saw the staff break room. The door to the main hall was shut and it couldn’t be opened with out a key card or emergency key.

He pulled the hole saw out of the tool pouch and began to cut a door into the sheet rock, ten minutes later, covered in sheet rock dust and sweat, he had his opening and stepped into the break room brandishing his pipe just in case. Thank god there was no window to look out into the other hallway. Or he would have a crowd at the window, their mouths working as they stared at him thru the glass.

He moved quietly to the door picking up a chair that he wedged under the handle, just in case one of the infected somehow dragged a card across the reader on the wall outside. With that done he began to search the room turning up a fairly large book pack that some orderly used as a gym bag. Inside were a few bottles of water, power bars and a healthy trail mix. Score he thought as he pulled out the clothes and tossed them on the table.

No way in hell they would fit him, Lee was short, five five, and built like a fireplug. The only things he really did in life was work, work out and occasionally play paint ball and go on a date. Dating was rare though, Lee was one of those guys, handsome or cute depending on which woman you asked. Between being too busy with work and life, and not really the greatest when it came to chatting up women, he stayed in the back ground till he was comfortable enough or drunk enough to strike up a conversation that didn’t make him sound like a total idiot.

Lee turned his attention to the Snack machines, It not only contained chips and peanuts, but small vacumn sealed cans of stew, soup and even some wrapped and sealed sandwiches. The problem being was if he broke the glass the infected in the hallway would hear and swarm the door.

Duct tape, I need duct tape he thought, five minutes later he had slipped back to his tool box and returned with a roll of duct that he cut strips off and placed them in a sunburst pattern across the display glass. The idea was to keep the glass from shattering and falling to the floor. Instead the tape would hold the pieces in place and allow him to peel them out of the frame. With that done he picked up the pipe and slammed it into the glass which cracked and broke but his tape idea worked out keeping the sound to a minimum.

A moment later he was removing everything on the racks and stuffing it into the pack, then he repeated the process on the drink machine that held the bottled water. He stripped out every bottle of water, and then added a few Doctor Peppers as a future treat, assuming he lived to get the hell out of here.

Once he was finished he took a sandwich and a bag of chips and a DP and sat down and ate slowly watching the flat screen Tv that was still playing, the sound muted. It was a local channel, and was solid news with no commercials and was currently showing a crowd of people that looked infected moving down a street attacking and eating any one they could catch. The reporter and camera man had to be in vehicle judging by how fast they managed to evade the leading edge of the tidal wave of death each time it got near them. Lee could only stare in shock for a few minutes, then realized that the only thing he could do was escape the Hospital, if Help did end up coming it was going to be days, or even weeks from now. his gut feeling was, no help would ever come.

He thought over his options and finally decided to remove the ceiling tiles and climb up into the space above, there were crawl ways up there for maintenance guys to move along to check wiring trays, hoses, pipes and A/C trunks. He planned on climbing up to the roof thru a return air duct and getting out that way. From there he could access the just about any point in the building by using the various roof top access ways, and there was a enclosed ladder from the roof above the admittance section to the top floor of the parking garage.

He had the keys to unlock the cage over the ladder rungs, and hopefully he could find a vehicle to use to get to his own truck where he had an emergency kit he always carried., including a pistol that he really should have practiced with more often. he rose to his feet determined to get a move on when he heard a woman’s voice and then gunfire.

“ hurry up, move move, move” he heard a man shouting, the gunfire was coming closer. Lee didn’t think he reacted, he ran to the door and yanked the chair away. He was pulling open the door when he thought about what was outside that door.

Sandy stayed behind Brent Lawson as he moved down the hallway, shooting every zombie he could see. That’s what they were, no matter what any one else wanted to admit. Brent stopped next to the bodies of a deputy and a Local PD he had just shot. They both still had their side arms holstered. She decided they must have been here being treated because they had been bitten, and had most of died when all hell started breaking loose here in the hospital.

“ Get their gun belts off, we are going to need the weapons and Ammo” Brent said as he pivoted and shot past her shoulder, three times. “ especially at the rate Im popping off rounds.” He added.

She shuddered but did as he asked, wincing as she unbuckled the belts then and had to roll the dead men’s bodies off the belts so she could pick them up. Buckling the belts together she slung them crisscrossed over her torso. “ oh shit “ Brent said watching as more zombies appeared in doorways before and behind them. He ejected the spent magazine and calmly drew another from the pouch on his belt and slapped it into the pistol.

Just eight hours ago, it had been almost normal, she was a new nurse, working her first nursing job, and learning the ropes. she had even gone to dinner the day before with one of the Doctors that worked downstairs, now his cute naked ass was probably dead and walking, and the only thing that stood between her and being eaten at the moment was a man who was by all accounts unstable. The fact that he had carried a firearm into the hospital when it was against the law spoke volumes. And he was still alive where others, more stable and sane were dead showed the wisdom of his refusal to follow the law.

The emergency stair case was at the end of the hall and to the left of staff elevator, it wasn’t all that far really. It was the sixty or so zombies between them and that hallway that made it look like reaching the moon would be easier.

And they didn’t have to just worry about those sixty or so infect, or undead. No it was the access hallways just before the staff elevator that would allow the zombies in the other wing to hear the gunfire and trap Her and Brent. And of course there were the infected that were no doubt following along behind them as well.

She pulled one of the pistols, a squared off, flat black nasty looking carrier of death, her hands shaking. “ don’t fire till they are close, makes it easier to hit. Brace it like I’m doing and keep your breathing steady, don’t panic.” Brent said as he fired four more times while he moved in a crouch, sandy stayed right behind him, constantly looking back afraid that one of the infected might appear out of a room they had passed.

Brent fired several more times then cursed heavily as the slide locked back. As he was trying to change magazines, the zombies ahead of them came on, closing the distance between themselves and the two living people, and were now at fifteen feet and closing. Sandy raised trembling hands and fired, the noise set her ears to ringing and the pistol almost flew out of her hand. She had at least shot one, even if it was only a in the shoulder.

It lurched but kept on coming, she bit her lip and stared down the sights. Letting the target fill her eye sight, then squeezed the trigger, the zombies head exploded and she threw up all over the floor. Brent was yelling at her to keep firing, even as he started shooting again. She lifted the weapon, trying not to scream as she saw the next zombie had covered the distance between them pretty fast.

Then suddenly a maintenance guy was there beside her, swinging a pipe that crunched into the zombies skull dropping it. “ into the break room, get in the break room” he yelled at her, the grabbed her by the arm and pulled.

He was pretty strong she realized as she almost flew into the room on her toes. And then Brent was in the break room doorway, still shooting, Together Brent and the maintenance guy shoved the door close against a press of zombies.

“ Oh my god “ she moaned as she sank down in a chair. Flinching at the thumping and pawing from the door.

“ its okay, this room is pretty safe” Lee said as he moved a table and climbed on top of it to remove ceiling tiles.

Brent a wiry muscled dark haired man, watched Lee carefully. “ you think we can escape thru there” he asked as Lee pulled a chair up on top of the table then climbed up onto the seat and shone his flashlight into the space in the ceiling “ I mean I hope so, there is no way in hell we are getting back out that door with out being ripped apart.”

“ sure, its three feet from the ceiling tiles to the actual ceiling, theres crawlways up here so we can trace out lines, pipes and what not and repair them. If this was the third floor on the north side, there would even be a maintenance room tucked away in the ceiling space over the lobby, that has a stairwell that access’s the roof. “ Lee said as he climbed back down and watched Sandy for a moment worried she might break down. she sat slumped in the chair wringing her hands trying to cope with the world falling apart around her.

“ lets grab a garbage bag or something and pack away what little food and drinks are still in here, from what I saw no help will be coming anytime soon. Which means the people still alive and trapped all over this hospital are either going to starve to death, get eaten while trying to get out, or some how escape using their wits. I like the last option.”

Lee nodded, turning away from the woman. “ me too, good call on the weapons too” He said, Brent shrugged.

“ theres a benefit to being paranoid I guess.” Brent replied, “ speaking of do you know how to use one”

“Yeah, not like some gunslinger, but I know which end to point at people and I’m not a bad shot, just not great” Lee admitted.

“Which one do you want” Sandy asked suddenly.

“The Glock 9mm, I have better chance of finding ammo for it later on.” Lee said indicating the weapon he wanted, positive she had no idea which weapon was which, if the confused look on her face was an indication.. Sandy pulled the belt over her head and passed it to him. Lee had to do some adjusting to get the belt on, but once he had punched a couple of new holes he buckled it on and felt a bit odd. He wasn’t used to carrying a weapon on his hip not for real at any rate.

“All right then lets round up what food and drink that’s left, let us get a bite to eat and then you can lead on. Since you know the way” Brent said as he opened the fridge and smiled. “Lasagna, at least my luck is holding” He said.

Lee checked his watch, and saw that two hours had gone by, he quickly switched on his radio and tried contacting Billy, he got only silence..

***********************************

Mike stood at the foot of the stairs in a small room, filled with pipes and gauges, most with gas signs mounted on them. Along one grey cement wall, were lines of grey plastic boxes with a digital gauge and keypads on each of box. He had no idea what in the hell, they were and wasn’t about to start pressing buttons and blow up the hospital, at least not with he and his wife in the place.

He stood there eyeing the metal door, the only door in the room, wondering where it led and was it safe to open it. He walked over slowly and placed his ear against the door. After a couple of minutes he heard nothing. He places his hand on the handle and hesitated. Got to find out sooner or later he thought, making up his mind. He opened the door quietly, only a crack and peered out. Then slowly pulled it closed again. Leaning against it and pushing to make sure it was shut.

The hallway outside that door was filled with those things, he was lucky as hell they hadn’t noticed the door open. If he had just thrown it open, like he normally would have they would have swarmed him. And note to self, the really nasty smell is from the infected. He should have noticed it when he first stood at the door.

So here we are trapped with no food and water on a roof of a hospital over run with what looks likes zombies. Can it get any better? He asked himself refusing to jinx himself by thinking it couldn’t get worse.

As he started up the steps he heard the door to the roof opening, fear lent him speed as he leaped up the stairs, only to slide to a stop throwing up his hands. “Don’t shoot, thank god people” he managed to gasp out. Excited and scared at the same time.

“Damn mister I almost shot you” a wiry muscled, man said as he started to holster his pistol then saw mikes wife, the pistol came back up. “Was she bit” he asked harshly. “Was she?” he asked jabbing the pistol for emphasis.

“No, nothing like that. We were out on a day hike and she tripped and fell down a bluff and hit her head on a rock, and hasn’t woken up since.” Mike explained stepping between the wiry man and his wife.

“Mister, the bites change em, but if they die they come back too. I saw it twice now. So if she has been bitten, she is going to come back as one of them.” The man said. Mike shook his head at the weirdness of it, it wasn’t possible was it. But he had seen the male nurse die, knew the man was dead and yet the Nurse had gotten to his feet, and that one female nurse, her stomach turn open, her intestines dragging the waxed floor as she came down the hallway totally silent except for the click of teeth and their footfalls.

“She’s going to be okay.” He said instantly, as he saw the attractive young woman in nurse’s scrubs and a short man that looked like he was nothing but muscle in maintenance coveralls.

“She can’t even walk” the wiry man said dismissively.

“I’ll carry her, she’s my wife” Mike said angrily.

“And Ill help if he can’t” the wall said. “I’m Lee, this is Sandy and that really intense guy is Brent.”

“Look I’m sorry if you folks think I’m an asshole, but our only real and short term advantage is we can move faster than they can, if we get slowed down….” He fell silent but shrugged.

“And if we leave this guy and his wife behind just so we can survive, what does that say about us” Sandy said hotly coming out of her shock of what was happening to the world. “This guy, saved his comatose wife, how many people did we see just run and leave their loved ones to die. They didn’t even try to save them. I …. I watched a sweet old man, die because his son ran and left the fucking door open. I may owe you for saving my life, but I won’t be party to leaving more people to die, not when I might be able to help them”

Brent watched her for a moment, then one corner of his mouth quirked. “All right then, you’ve put me in my place.” He said with tight smile. “You had better be ready to use that pistol”

“I don’t know how” she said, regretfully. She had always been anti handgun. But that had been before today.

“I do “Mike said, Sandy look relieved and torn as she slipped off the belt and passed it to him. she might not know how to use a pistol but wearing it made her feel safer.

Brent shrugged and looked down the stairs. “Is there a way out down there” he asked.

“Only if you like hallways full of those things” Mike said as he adjusted the gun belt. Wondering how much affect the canister of pepper spray and the taser would have on those things.

He felt the weight of the pistol like a red hot cattle brand against his hip. He had vowed ten years ago to never touch another weapon, and now here he was. But he had to, there was no other way to stay alive and protect his wife. He dismissed it from mind, not that he believed for a minute that the nightmares would just up and go away.

“So we are stuck on the roof, unless we shoot our way out” Brent said sighing in frustration.

“Actually no, we aren’t” Lee said suddenly. “There are platforms and stairs connecting most of the different roof levels. So we maintenance guys don’t have to run all over the hospital to get up here on the roofs and work an A/C or something. All we need to do is get to the north side and climb down the ladder there to the parking garage top floor.”

“You didn’t mention that when I asked about coming down here” Brent said glaring for a moment.

“You seemed like you knew what you were doing, man I do maintenance, if it’s broke I can fix it. But leading combat charges outside of paintball, not my thing.” Lee said.

“Great, next we will meet the apocalypse hair dresser and the wonder twins” Brent said with a snort.

“If we are going to do this, we need to do it soon. We don’t have more than three hours before the sun sets.” Mike pointed out.

“Excuse me, not to quibble or anything, but what do we do once we are in the parking garage.” Sandy asked looking at the men. Who looked puzzled for a moment, and then Brent actually smiled.

“She has a point; I’m betting it won’t be empty. And even it if is, theres plenty of those things on the ground around the hospital.” Brent said.

“ there is a stairwell door that stays locked on the NE corner of each level. I have the keys. We can see the top level of the garage from the roof, if its clear we run to the door, then take the stairs down to the street level, theres two cop cars parked there. Or there was earlier I saw them from the window. They had blocked off the road that runs next to the parking garage.” Lee said.

“Police cars, means weapons and ammo, and hopefully keys in the ignition” Brent said excitedly.

“And it means possible police zombies” Sandy pointed out.

“And it puts us two hundred feet from the where any ambulances might be parked, which means medicines and stuff, and plenty of room for all of us.” Brent said thoughtfully.

“Sandy check out his wife, while he and I take a stroll around the roof to check things out. Lee, right, Lee stay here since you have a pistol just in case. If anything gets in, get the women out on the roof and lock the door behind you.” Brent said motioning for Mike to follow him.

Outside the temperature had climbed to the upper eighties, the heat reflecting off the roof had basically kicked it up to about a hundred, the only saving grace was the light wind out of the west. Mike was already sweating as they made their way across the roof, and like Lee had said there was a platform that ran out to large Water cooler units, where a set of stairs dropped down to the roof from the platform around the water coolers. they trotted down the stairs at the far end to the third floor roof.

“it would figure the world would end on my Birthday” Brent said as they walked up to the low wall on the west side. Mike looked down and realized that was where he had seen a car run down two people earlier. They looked down at the clear Rain cover in front of the Emergency room and saw at least eight ambulances , all but one had their doors standing open,

“ Wanna bet some one is trapped in that one “ Brent said pointing to the single ambulance that had ten maybe twelve zombies around it, pawing at the doors and windows.

“ no I think Id lose that bet “ Mike said as he looked over the tree shaded parking lot, where there were few zombies. Maybe six in total.

“ you know if we can take those zombies out around the ambulance with out a lot of noise, Id bet we can get away clean.”

“ as long as Lee can hotwire it, I’m thinking that who ever is inside doesn’t have the key or they would have left.” Brent said looking out past the hospital grounds to streets beyond, where cars were scattered and abandoned in the streets, and zombies wandered slow and sluggish thru the maze of stalled and abandoned vehicles.

“Probably not, but one of the two zombie paramedics pawing at the side of the ambulance might have the keys.” Mike said pointing, thankful that he seemed to have control of his stomach now.

“ there’s only the ER doors there, a few zombies in the parking lot, Maybe two hundred feet from where the cop cars are to the ambulance.” Brent said thoughtfully.

::”so how do we take out twelve zombies with out making a lot of noise, and with out getting bitten or eaten ourselves.” Mike asked. Beyond the parking lot was a tree lined street, across from that was another hospital employee parking lot on the road behind the parking lot there was a row of fast food places, a hotel and a medical supply store.

“ Im working on that” Brent replied. The only way he could see was to shoot them, and that would draw every zombie in the ER and surrounding area. They might have twenty minutes or none at all before a huge crowd appeared.

Brent walked to the other side of the roof and looked down on the parking garage, the ladder down was covered in some sort of plastic shield secured by a padlock at the bottom. It was a twelve foot drop if they couldn’t use the ladder. Which wasn’t all that far and there were no zombies in sight. From here they could see the door that Lee had mentioned.

:” I think I know how we can take out several in one shot, and block the ER Doors.” Brent said.

. ***********************************

Brent dropped to the parking garage floor and drew his pistol sweeping his aim across the down ramp waiting to see if any zombies came to investigate the slight noise he had made. After a few moments he waved Lee down, who instantly went to the ladder and unlocked the cover and lifted it away. figures Brent thought ruefully. Sandy came down first, then Mike lowered his wife down to Lee who held her till mike was safely down.

“Lets go,” Brent said pointing to the stairwell door. Mike nodded and took his wife back from Lee and slung her over his shoulder. Hating himself for it, but he had to keep his weapon hand free.

They moved quickly across the parking ramp, the sound of their footfalls loud in their ears. Reaching the Stairwell door Lee produced his ring of keys and opened the door for Brent who moved into the stairwell looking for threats. Lee went next then Sandy followed by Mike.

They descended in silence, their footfalls loud in the small confines. Reaching the Bottom, Brent had them wait. “ how good a shot are you “ He asked Mike.

“Military trained if that answers your question” Mike replied softly.

“Don’t tell me you were a sniper.” Brent said sarcastically, every wanna be claimed to have been a sniper..

“No I was an MP, nothing fancy.” Mike replied.

“Good enough, would you let Lee hold your wife, Id rather have a good shooter with me when we clear the door, and he admits he isn’t a great shot.” Brent said jerking a thumb at Lee who nodded.

“ I can hit a target, but not sure how well Id do against livi….. moving targets that want to eat me.” Lee said.

Mike passed his wife to Lee, kissing her gently on the forehead then turned to the door. None of them had a clue how many zombies there might be on the other side. They might just have to return to the roof if there were too many. Brent nodded at him then pushed the door open, sunlight splashed into the landing, and the smell of cut grass. But not the stink that they had come to associate with zombies.

The police cars were parked nose to tail blocking the street, the drivers doors stood open, Mike could see a huge puddle of blood near the drivers door of one and bloody footprints tracked around it.. the hood of another was covered in blood.

Across the street, they could see two zombies in the Imaging center parking lot. Brent motioned for the others to wait in the safety of the stair well, and then jogged across the grass divide and onto the street. Reaching the first car he looked inside and pulled out a shotgun then opened the trunk with the interior release button.

Mike looked in and saw a large first aid bag, and a black gear bag. “ lets get all the stuff from the other car loaded into this one” Brent said pointing at the three zombies heading their way. The zombies were slow enough and far enough away Brent and mike could take their time. Mike looked east to towards the Front parking lots and the Ortho center, and saw maybe ten more zombies staggering towards them.

Brent retrieved the shotgun and the gear in the trunk of the other cruise and carried it back to the first car. “ might need all this, might not” he said passing the newest shotgun to Mike who slung it over his back for the moment. They waved lee and the others out to join them.

“ okay heres the plan, Mike and I will take one car and drive it around and run down all the zombies on the right side of the ambulance and then park it in front of the ER Doors blocking the ones inside from coming out. . Then we will leap out and take care of the ones we didn’t get to run down by clubbing them or shooting them, which ever seems best at the moment. Lee you drive the car with all the supplies in it, if we clear the area around the ambulance then load everything onto the ambulance and get the hell out of dodge.

If we cant take the Ambulance. You drive off, head south on the main road towards Nashville, there’s a country store called Margrets a few miles out side of town we will meet up there and figure out our next move.”

Lee nodded his understanding. Glad he wasn’t the one who was going to be running down the infected. Mike took his wife and slipped her into the center of the cruisers front seat, while Sandy got in on the passenger side.

Mike made sure she was strapped in, then joined Brent at the first cruiser. “ heres praying for luck “ Brent said as he twisted the key, then smiled as the motor turned over. They waited long enough for Lee to get the other car started then Brent twisted the wheel and gave the car gas. The patrol car roared forward bouncing up onto the curb and then dropped back down on the road. “ hang on “ Brent said as he turned into the ER parking lot and gunned the motor aiming for the zombies on the right side of the ambulance, many were already heading towards them. They passed the parking garage entrance doing forty and climbing.

“ what the hell” Mike yelled as the car kept accelerating.

“ when your already going to hit a deer, speed up” Brent called out as he steered straight for the zombies.

Mike braced himself just in time, the car plowed into the zombies sending two cart wheeling thru the air, one of them smacked into the parking garage. The other landed amongst some cars.

Then the car was bouncing and jerking as it rolled over two more. Brent yanked the wheel and bounced up onto the curb onto the walkway, already braking, metal squealed as the drivers side of the car brushed up against the entrance. They came to a stop across the doorway, one of the sliding doors was stuck halfway open, wedge by a twisted frame. Zombies were appearing in the doorway and swatting at the drivers side window.

“ out on your side” Brent said pushing at mike. “ hurry up”

Mike nodded and threw open his door, bringing the Mossberg up to the ready. A zombie, dressed in shorts and tshirt appeared around the back of the ambulance and lunged at Brent, Mike pulled the trigger, fighting the urge to throw up, the round punched into its chest and neck sending it tumbling in a spray of blood over the hood of a car.

He didn’t have time to dwell on it, another zombie came at him from the other side of the ambulance, he wheeled, feeling his scrotum tighten with the fear that raged thru him. Then like a switch had been thrown, the fear and loathing was gone, locked away to be dealt with later. He fired the shot gun and the thing fell, half its face ripped away, a shoulder pulped but it still came on. He heard another shotgun boom almost in his ear and felt blood and other things spray onto his left side.

He pumped another round and at point blank range blew the things head clean off its shoulders. Lee came tearing into the parking lot, and then with a squeal of brakes slid to a stop behind the cruiser that Brent and mike had used.

He leaped out pistol in hand. “ stay in the damn car till its clear” Brent shouted, and that moment of distraction was all it took for a zombie to dart around the ambulance and throw itself on him.

Brent struggled, using the shotgun to push up under the things jaw, keeping its snapping teeth away from his throat. Its hands tore at him ripping his shirt and nails scoring long lines on his skin. “ son of a bitch, you stinky, putrescent, mother humping, dead dicked, rotting bag of pus.” He snarled as he stared into those milky eyes.

He heard two more shot gun blasts, and then suddenly the dead paramedic was torn off him and tossed against the side of the ambulance, it hit with a thud and then the double crack of a 9mm and the things head and neck vanished in a spray of blood that painted the side of the ambulance like one of those ink blot tests shrinks were so fond of. It looks like an eagle part of his mind noted.

“ lets go” Lee said grabbing Brent by the collar and lifting him easily off the ground. Lee was a lot stronger than he looked Brent thought as he managed to get his feet under him.

Mike looked completely calm as he rifled the pockets of the two dead, totally dead this time, paramedics finding what he was looking for he held up a set of keys. Mike sorted through them and found the one that looked like a vehicle key and shoved it into the door lock on the passenger side and smiled as the lock popped open.

With his weapon ready he opened the door and yelled inside. “ if your alive back there, say something”

“ don’t fucking shoot, Im unarmed” a man shouted back. “ there are two of us back here”

“ handing this off to you unless you want to stand there for a few more minutes” Mike told Brent pointing to the undead that were heading their way, more were pouring out of the doors of the Imaging center across the street and flowing towards them.

Mike, :Leaving Brent to deal with the people in the Ambulance went and helped Sandy out of the car, she immediately ran around to the trunk and helped Lee get all the gear in the trunk out and piled it by the back doors of the ambulance. While Mike gently unstrapped his wife and pulled her from the car, cradling her to his chest he walked to the rear of the ambulance and kicked on the door. “ open the damn door” he yelled.

A second later the door swung open to reveal a slender, shaven headed twenty four year old EMT, who took one look at Carrie and helped Mike get her inside and onto the Stretcher.

Before the man could ask mike said “ no she wasn’t bit, she struck her head two days ago and hasn’t woke up since.”

He turned to the other man in the back, who sat quietly typing away on his IPAD.
“ That’s Shawn, and I’m Justin” the EMT said looking up as Lee and Sandra appeared at the back of the Ambulance and began to stack bags inside. “ that’s all of it “ Lee said as he helped Sandy into the ambulance.

“ What is he doing “ Mike asked watching Shawn.

“ Downloading every damn how to book I can find” Shawn replied not looking up from his IPAD. “ figure I might need them before this is all over with”

“ Great idea till the power runs out on your IPAD.” Brent called from the Drivers seat. “every body hang on, we are leaving”

as the motor came to life mike felt himself relaxing slightly and all the fear he had locked away rolled over him and set him to shaking. The soft hum of powered lights and machines filled the back of the ambulance. It smelled like sweat and fear back here, but that was so much better than the stink of the undead.

“ Lee” Brent called into the back as the ambulance began to roll. “ thanks for saving my ass back there, that was some fine shooting”

Lee looked at Mike for a moment. “ I only yanked it off, Mike shot it, one handed.” He replied.

“ Thanks to both of you then” Brent replied.

“ Where are we headed” Mike asked as he held his wife’s hand.

“ West into the mountains, less people and more likely to find a decent place to hole up in.” Brent said. “any one have a better Idea.” There was only silence from the back.

******************

“That’s the last of them” a Private said, as he pointed to the five civilians being rushed into a black hawk hovering just a few feet over the roof top. “ if there’s any one left they are inside”

The Tall muscled Sergeant First Class (SFC) in full battle rattle that the Private was reporting too, looked at the roof top door thoughtfully, then shook his head. There had been sixty people on the roof of the hospital when his team had arrive. The terrorified survivors had smashed windows to get out after seeing a group of people run across the roof top earlier today. The SFC had sent soldiers to check in the all the unbroken windows they could reach and where there had been people alive and well, his team had busted in and pulled the survivors out. They had found ten more survivors that way.

Seeing the look on the Privates face at the thought of leaving any one behind the SFC tapped his watch. “ times up, we don’t have the ammo, or the manpower. And the arty strike is ten minutes from now. We gotta go private. All we can do is pray for those who might be left behind.”

“But Sarge.” The private protested in shock and anger.

“Private, you show me proof, one little shred that theres people still alive in there and Ill move heaven and hell to get them out. But I wont risk the lives of any of you to search room to room, in a building that’s over run with those walking dead assholes, with out knowing there’s people inside”

The private nodded he didn’t like it but he understood. Join the club kid, Sergeant First Class Eric Stone thought, I hate it to, and Ill live with the decision and the guilt for the rest of my fucking life.

He reached down and touched the green beret tucked into his pocket, hoping he wasn’t leaving a stain on the honor and memory of his unit.

“Now get your ass on the bird Private, we have orders.” Stone said as he looked around one last time. He could still hear the roar of gunfire from the barricade two miles from his position where the remaining LEO’s, and the few Guard who had shown up, were trying to hold the horde bac, with the assistance of the 82nd.

The sky was blood red as the sun set, a bloody ending to a bloody day and tomorrow promised to be as bad. Long shadows crept across the ground, slowly merging into pools of darkness that covered the undead who were flocking to the hospital, drawn by the sound of the helicopters .

Eric stood there watching the Undead slowly fill up the parking lot, occasionally glancing at his watch, finally he jogged to the waiting Helicopter. The noise of the last chopper had drawn a few thousand of the undead into the parking lot, where the arty would be falling shortly.

As soon as he was aboard and strapped in the Black hawk shot into the air then swung around and raced for Fort Campbell. Behind it a wall of metal rain began to fall. The artillery barrage walked back and forth across pre selected target zones, pounding the buildings into rubble, the rubble into rock, the arty commander not satisfied and like most arty guys loved shooting his toys, pounded the rocks into pebbles then for good measure turned the pebbles into sand. When it was over with, half of Clarksville Tenn looked like the surface of the moon, smoke and flames rose into the night sky.

But in the darkness, something had noticed this pocket of resistance, and was determined to wipe it away. Already the players were on the board, and events were in motion that would decide the fate of Humanity. This time the Dark would win against the light, no matter its champions.

Undead from as far south as Nashville answered its summons, waves of dead flesh moved north, their only goal to overwhelm the living and devour them.

In the shadows of the Bell building in Downtown Nashville, a zombie looked north, and rocked back and forth on its heels. its oddly shaped head cocked to one side, then its eyes turned east, there was another place it was needed. it started walking, hunched slightly forward, its long arms swinging at its side. The milky white eyes almost seeming to glow from with in the shadows cast by the bowler hat it wore.

Chapter 1

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