It felt good to get out of the school, no matter what the outside world had in store for us, anything was preferable to that building. It was the place were it all began for us, and held to many memories, both good and bad. So we left the school, seeking new refuge, somewhere we could come to terms with the events of that day.
Chapter 4 - School's Out. Home Time
The little Mini swerved out of Hill Street into Castle Lane, tires squealing horribly, the cars path marked by skid-marks and the smell of burning rubber. Behind it, the undead swarmed. A limping mass of bloodied bodies with no hope of catching the nippy vehicle, they chased it nonetheless, each of them fixated upon getting hold of the living flesh within. Eventually, once they lost sight, each pursuer would stop, returning to aimless prowling as their death-addled minds forgot the prey.
Inside of the car, it was relatively quiet, the only sounds being the muffled engine and Miss Perry grunting as she wrestled with the car, unaccustomed to driving at high speed and with the weight of four extra people. Gavin finally broke the silence as they flew past the entrance to Rosewood Castle.
"Hey. Where exactly are we going?" he asked, leaning forward.
"Some…urgh… Somewhere safe." Miss Perry replied, swerving around an abandoned bus. Maria squeaked as they passed the large vehicle. Inside it looked like the school, the windows tinted red. Steadfastly ignoring it, the secretary pushed on the accelerator, still heading for an unknown location.
"Safe, we don't even know where is safe." Gavin cried, tearing his eyes away from the bus. "What if nowhere is. Are you just going to drive around randomly until we run out of petrol?"
"Leave me alone, I don't know!" Miss Perry shouted back, tears in her eyes. "I don't know."
She crossed her arms over the steering wheel, burying her face within them. The car rolled to a stop in the middle of the road.
Gavin's face dropped, and he sat there awkwardly, unsure where to look.
"Err… come on guys." Mike said. "We should work together, think of somewhere we can hole up for the night. Alex, can you think of anywhere?"
Alex said nothing. Since getting into the car he had simply sat staring dead ahead with unseeing eyes, as if thinking deeply.
"Alex!" Mike shouted, poking his friend in the back of the head. "Place to stay. Need one."
"What?" Alex muttered, spinning around, slightly dazed. He then realized where he was. "Oh, right yeah."
"You ok dude?" Mike asked.
"Mhmm, I… well. Never mind." Alex said, forcing himself to smile. "Ok, so nowhere with lots of windows."
"Definitely no shopping centres then." Mike said, grinning at the reference. Alex snorted.
"We should probably avoid police stations and hospitals." he said thoughtfully.
"Right, people will panic and head straight there. Where there are lots of people, there are lots of them."
"We need somewhere with an upstairs. As well as food for a couple of days minimum."
"Someone's house then."
"Seems a safe bet, though we should probably go to one we know."
"Yeah, people will be hiding in-doors. If we try to get in, they might attack us."
"One of our houses should do it." Alex said, turning to the others, who had been watching the conversation like a game of tennis. "Who lives closest?"
"I live on the other side of town." Gavin said. "I catch the train to get here every morning."
"I-I live over there." Maria murmured, pointing with a shaky hand. The others spun around; in the direction she pointed was the housing estate.
"Your family must be well off." Mike said appreciatively. The estate on the plateau, near the castle was known for its high class citizens, the houses being the most expensive within the city. Maria made a small smile.
"Can we stay at your house?" Alex asked the girl. She nodded. Alex smiled, turning to the secretary, placing his hand on her shoulder to rouse her. "Great. Miss Perry, come on, Maria has a place for us to stay. Miss Perry?"
The woman finally looked up, her face streaked with tears. Alex's eyes widened, slightly taken aback. She sniffed and pushed back some hair that had escaped from her ponytail, sitting up and taking the steering wheel once more.
"Miss Perry…?" Alex began.
"I'm ok." She murmured. "Which way is Maria's house?"
"Take the next left, then the second right." Maria told her. "Then it's the third house on the right. It has an apple tree in the garden."
"Right." Miss Perry replied with a heavy sigh. She revved the engine once, before driving in the direction of Maria's house.
The area was the quietest they had seen yet, with only a single zombie standing in a garden, staring at a sleeping cat on the rooftop. They saw several houses were open, a window smashed at one. At the end of the first street a police car was parked on the pavement, lights flashing. But there was no-one around, living or dead. The only sounds were the wind in the trees and the hum of the Mini's engine.
Inside the car, Maria, Gavin and Miss Perry's faces visibly relaxed, the quiet making them feel slightly more comfortable. Alex and Mike exchanged glances, hoping this simply wasn't the calm before the storm, as so often happened in the zombie genre.
Still, even they couldn't help but relax a little when they pulled up outside Maria's house, which had yet to be affected at all by any undead.
"Are your parents home?" Miss Perry asked the girl as she pulled the driver's seat forward to let them out.
"No." Maria replied, passing the food-bag out before climbing out herself. "My Dad is in London; he works there and only comes back for weekends. Mom will probably be at work in the city. She works for the council…" Her voice trailed off, face full of worry.
Miss Perry put an arm around her reassuringly.
"No wonder you have such a nice house." Mike said keeping high spirits. He closed the door and leaned on the roof of the Mini. Beside him, Alex nodded, taking in the details of the large modern house.
Built from neatly laid, clean reddish bricks, with dark grey slate for the roofing. The house itself was larger than most. A large bay window dominated half of the front, a wide garage took up most of the rest. The front garden was pristine, smooth green turf bordered by neat flower bushes and a gravel driveway. Maria's family were certainly well off.
"Have you got your keys Maria?" Gavin asked.
"Oh…um. They were in my bag." she replied. "Sorry."
"It's alright Maria, we can find another way in." Alex said. "Is there a door going into the house from garage?"
She nodded, a confused look on her face. Alex interrupted her before she could point out that the garage was locked.
"No problem." he said. "We had to do this at my grandparents once. Give me a hand Mike."
"Right, Gavin keep watch." Mike said, following Alex up the driveway.
Alex walked right up to the garage doorway and leaned on it. The large white panel bowed inwards a little with his weight. Alex stood back and rubbed his chin for a second.
"Should work." he said. "It's a little newer than my grandparent's, but it bends easy enough."
He bent down by the left corner of the garage door, pushing aside some of the gravel and taking hold of the bottom.
"Right, I'm gonna pull. Stick the bat under to hold it open when I say." Alex told Mike, who nodded and stood next to his friend, cricket bat poised to jab forwards into the ground.
"Guys, hurry up." Gavin called from near the Mini. There's one across the street."
Alex grunted and leaned back on heels, pulling the garage door with all his strength. The corner began to curve upwards creaking loudly, a gap appearing steadily between the wall and doorway.
"Now!" Alex growled through gritted teeth, face red with the effort. Mike wasted no time in jamming the cricket bat between the ground and the door, holding it up at an angle to keep the door open. Alex quickly leaned to the side to check the size of the gap.
"Can you hold it?" he asked Mike, whose knuckles were white around the bat's handle.
"Yeah… just about… hurry up."
Alex let go, pausing for a few seconds to make sure it would stay open. Then he squeezed through the tight gap on his side. It took a few seconds, and Alex scraped his back on the door frame, got stuck at his hips and nearly lost his shoe, but he finally managed to get inside.
"Ok!" A muffled voice called from within.
Mike pulled the bat out, the corner of the door snapping back into place with a dull clang. He turned back to the others, catching sight of the girl's incredulous faces.
"What?" he said.
"Uhh, guys, that one over there heard us." Gavin said, walking quickly up the drive backwards and pointing at the now advancing zombie.
"What do we do?" Miss Perry asked. "It could get in."
Behind them, the garage door swung upwards, revealing a grinning Alex.
"Look, I got it…What's up?" he asked, confused.
"One's coming." Mike pointed out. "If we don't get rid of it, it could attract more."
"We could test the sound reaction thing." Alex replied. "Distract it to go somewhere else."
"Nice." Mike grinned, bending down to pick up a handful of gravel. "This should do it."
He threw several of the larger stones across the street. The first few simple clattered across the path, but Mike got his range and smashed a porch light opposite the street.
"Oops, I was aiming for the metal guttering." he muttered. Still it had the desired effect, as the advancing man stopped and turned a little, staring vaguely at the porch with his remaining eye.
"Never mind." Alex whispered. "Everyone get into the house."
Quietly the group began to walk into the garage, but the man, now just half the distance he was before, heard their footsteps in the gravel, turning back towards them. It began moaned once when it saw their movements, and began to limp at them again.
"Damn it." Alex growled.
"We need something constantly making noise to distract it." Mike muttered. Another man crawled out from behind a car from the opposite direction. "That one too…"
"Y-you could try playing music." Maria said quietly. The boys spun around to look at her. "Just a s-suggestion…sorry."
"No, it's a good one." Mike replied with a smile.
Alex looked back across the street.
"There." he said pointing two houses to the left, to where there was an open front door. "We can go put their TV and radio on. You three stay here in the garage, Mike and I will go. Gavin look after the girls."
Grabbing one of Maria's shovels, Alex and Mike ran back down the drive.
"Hey, uglies." Mike called to the nearby undead, waving his arms. They turned their gazes to the running boys, ignoring the three in the garage.
After a short sprint, they reached the house, Alex running inside first.
"Ahhh!" he shouted, coming face to face with a large woman, who instantly reached out with bloody hands. Reflexively, he shoved out with the shovel's handle, knocking the attacker onto a bike. It flopped around, tangling itself up in the bars, pedals and chain, unable to get up.
"Alright dude?" Mike said, patting his friends shoulder.
"Yeah." Alex replied breathlessly. He shook himself. "Let's hurry before more come and trap us."
They ran through the nearest door, finding a living room, luckily stocked up with an expensive-looking home-entertainment system.
"What a waste." Mike said, flicking the switch on a large flat-screen TV, which flared to life playing a cowboy film. He grabbed the remote and pressed the volume button till it was playing on max.
Across the room, Alex had put a CD into a stereo, and started it playing Beethoven loudly. He pressed the repeat button, before turning back to leave. Rubbing his ear and signalling Mike to follow with a wave of the shovel.
They ran back out of the house, dodging the fallen woman's grasping arms on the way past. Outside, the first man had almost reached the doorway, but Mike knocked out the way as they ran past, leaving it rolling in a rosebush.
They stopped in the centre of the road. Looking up and down the street, the boys could now see several more undead, approaching, but their distraction seemed to be working, as none of them were looking anywhere but the house producing the racket of violins and gunshots. Relieved at their success, the boys ran back to Maria's house.
"Mission accomplished." Mike announced as they entered the garage and relief broke over the other's worried faces.
"Though we may be a little deaf now." Alex said wryly, returning the shovel to it's place amongst Maria's father's gardening tools. "C'mon, lets get this garage closed and get inside."
The others nodded in agreement, and once the garage door had been pulled down and locked securely in place, they followed Maria through a side-door into her home.