Sunday, November 18, 2012


Here's an unseen story for if you're a bit bored.

The Wild-Dead Park

By Lee Hughes
Steve knew he was going to hate the job, it was in his wiring to be idle. If he didn't accept the job then his benefits would stop, that didn't mean he had to keep the job. He killed the engine on the bike. A plump middle-aged woman was behind the glass restocking a badge stand, she smiled. "We don't open for another forty-five minutes."
"It's my first day. I'm working in the cafe."
She pressed a button. "Go on through."
Steve pushed his way through the turnstile with its click-clack noise.
"Do you know the way?" She asked.
Steve turned. "Haven't a clue."
"Here." She pulled a map from the display and slipped it through the gap. "It's basically just straight on, I'm Barbara."
"Steve," he said, starting upon the wood-chip path, unfolding the map as he went.
He lingered at the first enclosure where a tired old donkey was standing around looking bored to fuck. Movement caught Steve’s eye. He looked and saw a woman in her late twenties trudging over in Wellington boots and overalls. She smiled and said, "Hello."
"Hi." His return.
"Lazy," said the woman .
"Huh?" He wondered if they'd been tipped off.
She dipped her head towards the geriatric donkey. "His name's lazy."
"Nice," he replied. He watched another animal trundle out of its little wooden hut. It was about the size of a pig, but hairy and had the head of a giant rat. "What the hell's that?"
The woman leaned up against the fence. "That's Milly, one of our Capybaras, gorgeous isn't she?"
"Yeah, something like that." He watched the beast start to do something gross. He thought, ‘Dirt bastard’ and asked, "Is it eating its own shi...?" He kept himself from finishing the cuss word.
The woman flashed him a grin. "Yep. It eats its own faeces."
"Don't you feed it enough?"
She laughed. "We feed it plenty. There are bacteria in its faeces that aids with digestion of the grass."
"Fair enough." Though he wasn’t convinced.
The woman held a carrot out to Lazy. "I take it you're working over at the café?"
"How'd you tell?"
"Just a stab in the dark."
Conversation came to a strict halt as a loud crack tore open the quiet of the morning. A plethora of startled birds took to the skies in mass migration. The woman dropped the bucket of feed and yanked the walkie-talkie from her belt. "John?" She gained no answer. She took off at a run in the direction of the noise. Steve reckoned it sounded like a gunshot and took off after the keeper.

The bang had riled the animals. The caged birds darted from branch to branch in a frenzy. They followed a kink in the path. He could see the café. It was a one storey building what he guessed were his new work colleagues standing outside gaping. Around the side of the café lay a large veranda for patrons of the café that overlooked an enclosed area filled with flamingos. The enclosure was a hive of activity. A male keeper had a rifle levelled at the large birds within; he looked poised to let off another shot.
"John!" The woman shouted.
The keeper didn't lower the rifle, he called out, "Alice, don't distract me."
Alice ran over to join John at his shooting range. Steve thought it best not to follow. He looked over at the café workers and headed over. There were two of them. One was a timid looking lad with a bounty of zits on his face. The other a girl about his own age, she had her hair tied back tight in a council house face-lift.
She noticed him. "You the new starter?"
"Yeah, I'm Steve."
"I'm Claire, that's Colin." She was switching her attention between the action and Steve.
"What happened?" Steve asked.
She shrugged. "Not sure, we were inside when it all kicked off. Came outside and it looked as if one the flamingos, the big'un, was trying to kill the rest. Called John the keeper and he turned up, and then fucked off again to get his gun. Came back, shot one of them with a dart but it didn't do nothing so he shot it for real. Then you showed up." She nearly said it all in just one breath. Steve watched as John and Alice continued their heated discussion. John shrugged Alice away and took aim. Their ears filled with another bang, and pink feathers exploded like a firework. Steve went over to have a skeet at what John had just shot. The flamingo was bigger than the rest. Steve noticed there were about two dozen flamingos in total, and at least half of them were lying dead about the enclosure.
The keepers ignored his presence. They stared at the bird as it began to twitch on the ground. Legs first and then its head began to flop from side to side like a landed fish.
John was shaking his head in disbelief. "It can't still be alive."
"Put it out of its misery." Alice urged, her voice a little shaky.
John took a breath, worked the bolt on the rifle and put the stock tight to his shoulder. "I'm going for its head." Steve thought he should look away but he'd never seen anything get its head blown off before. The rifle made another bang and John's aim was true. Before the noise had finished the flamingo's head was gone. Its neck wavered in the air like a pipe-charmed cobra. They watched in silence until it was still.
John rested the rifle against the fence and went about opening the gate. He looked back over his shoulder at Steve. "You work here, right?"
"Yeah, it's my first day at the café."
"I need you to help me get the dead birds out of the enclosure."
"I'm supposed to just be washing dishes, and stuff."
"This is stuff. We're going to open up in," the keeper looked at his watch, "a little under half an hour and we can't have visitors seeing this….mess."
Steve looked from the bird massacre to the café. Claire and Spotty had disappeared inside. He looked to John, scratched the back of his head. "Okay." He set his crash helmet down. He couldn't believe that he was helping. He was aiming to get the sack.
Steve followed John into the enclosure. The birds, the ones that were still alive were cowering in the corner. John counted the dead. "Eleven dead, Christ, nearly half of them." He shook his head. "What's your name?"
"Well, Steve, grab the legs." John reached down to grab the wings. They managed to get it out of the enclosure and set it down in the flat-bed of the truck.
"Let's get the rest of them."
"Sure." Steve turned and walked back into the enclosure and over to the nearest one. He looked at the other corpses, nine dead. He stopped and quickly counted again.
"You just said there were eleven dead, right? I mean not including the big one you shot."
"That's right." John said, heading towards the gate.
"Think you might have miscounted?"
"Do a quick recount."
John started bobbing his head as he counted each corpse. He counted them all, then counted them again. His face contorted in puzzlement. "I counted eleven, I know I did."
"Well there's only nine…eight now." Steve said, as he pointed over to one of the flamingos that was on its back with its legs in the air. The legs started to move, all twitchy as though in the midst of a spasm.
"This isn't right." Alice said, watching another couple of dead flamingos pull a Lazarus.
Steve said, "I'm not picking up another, just in case."
John rubbed at his brow in disbelief.
Steve watched as the ones that had gotten strangely better went to have a go at the others. They were in a frenzy. Their beaks lashing out to tear at feathers and pulling free flesh. Others that had fallen and had arisen were making a full speed assault towards Steve and John.
Steve made for the gate.
John was rooted to the spot.
Alice shouted: "John!"
John refused to move. "They're flamingos, they don't attack humans!"
"I'm not waiting to find out!" Steve said, as he got to the gate. Once out of the enclosure he watched as John stayed put to prove them all wrong. Steve couldn't look away, the same way he couldn't when John had made the bigger flamingo three inches shorter. The first flamingo got to John and proved him wrong as it took a strip of flesh from his cheek. That broke John's resolve to be rational and he moved for the gate. The flamingos swarmed him and worked with beaks to pinch little bits off him. John made it through the gate, but so did a couple of the flamingos before Steve managed to force it shut. Steve didn't have time to think as he grabbed the rifle by the barrel and swung the stock at the birds beating them off John. The flamingos fled. Their long wings struggled with each flap until they got airborne.
  John fell to his knees, his hands covering the gore of his face. Both Steve and Alice could hear him muttering, repeatedly, "Not natural, it's just not natural!" Steve didn't know shit about animals but he reckoned that John was right. Alice watched the birds fly out to other parts of the park. She looked down at John, then to Steve. "We need to get him back to the centre." She put her arm around John and began guiding him to the truck. Steve stood still until the birds got small in the sky. He cast a glance back towards the café. He could see Clair and Spotty watching from one of the windows. He took John's other side. "Are you still going to open the park?" Steve asked.
Alice looked at him. "I never thought."
Once they had gotten John into the truck, she unclipped her radio. "Barbara?" There was a long moment before a reply came.
"Yes dear?"
"Do not open up the Park. We'll be closed for the morning at the very least."
"Oh, why's that then?"
"There's been an incident. John's injured, I need you to call an ambulance please."
John muttered something along the lines of, "I'm fine." Blood dribbled between his fingers.
Barbara sounded instantly worried, "Okay, will do."
Alice started the engine. Steve got in the far side of the truck without thinking. Alice put the truck into gear and they started down the path.
After a few minutes of silence, Steve couldn't help but ask, "Have you ever seen anything like that before?"
Alice shook her head. "Never, we've had animals turn before, but nothing like that. And the way they seemed dead and then got back up and attacked. I just can't explain it."
Steve remembered what Claire had said outside of the café and asked, "The big one, the one that John ended up shooting. The people at the café said it was attacking the others, do you think it was diseased?"
John managed to chip in. "It had been through quarantine. We only put it in with the mix last night. There's supposed to be a female coming too. We were hoping to breed them. Haitian Great Flamingos are an endangered species, it was going to be great."
"I'm not surprised they're endangered if they go around attacking everything," Steve said.
Alice turned off from the path that they'd earlier sprinted down. She slowed for a moment before putting the truck into reverse. Steve had heard it too. So did John. He lowered his hands from his face for a moment.
Steve cringed. The flamingos had done quite a lot of damage to one side of his face. Strips of skin and flesh from his cheek, a chunk from the corner of his mouth and a little bit of an eyelid had been rent away. Steve thought the man lucky not to have lost an eye. It was the chimps that they could hear. Alice steered the truck to Chimp Island. They got out of the truck; John was pressing a jumper to the injured half of his face.
The chimps were insane. They could see one of the chimps swinging a flamingo as if it was a toy against one of the trees. The flamingo was limp. The chimp finally discarded it. Alice could see blood on the chimps face. She wondered if it was its own or the flamingos. It turned to one of the other chimps and rushed it. Arms held up over its head and ready to come down like dual jack-hammers. Within a couple of minutes it started to look like a brawl. Chimps were smacking each other down and beating each other to a pulp. The fallen ones were rising to fight the remaining chimps, never attacking each other. Most looked ruined, yet they still moved about.
The three of them watched from the wall until the last chimp had been cornered, slain, and picked up to its feet again by an apparent resurrection. The flamingo also had gained back its functions and was trying to take to the air; it was futile as it only had one wing. Steve watched as the chimps, most with body parts hanging at funny angles or missing altogether lined up at the edge of the water and stared at them. Steve could see the fury on their beaten up faces. He noticed something else.
"Do you see their eyes?" He asked.
"Yeah," Alice replied.
John had noticed it too with the one eye that wasn't covered up.
The eyes, were red as though there was haemorrhaging occurring behind them.
The chimps screamed in frustration at being landlocked. The biggest of them, the one that had played with the flamingo like it was a bat was building up its fury. Its rage reached a crescendo and it picked up one of the many large logs and tried to throw it at them. It was a valiant effort and the log went nearly ten feet before landing with a splash in the water but it was still a good thirty feet shy. The chimp started to tantrum, then stopped to watch as the log floated gently towards them. The chimp broke into a dash and hurled itself at the bobbing log. Its weight forced the log to dip beneath the water for a moment before resurfacing. The chimp screamed in panic.
The chimp's act of diving onto the log caused it to move forward. The remaining chimps cottoned on and started grabbing the other logs and tossing them into the water.
Steve's eyes were wide. He thought of the old saying 'Monkey see, monkey do.'
"If they make it to the wall do you think they'll be able to climb it?"
"Chimpanzees are afraid of the water, we've never had this problem before."
John spoke and he was thrifty with the words, "Get the rifle."
"Me?" Steve asked.
John nodded.
Steve ran to the truck and grabbed the rifle. He went to hand it to John who shook his head, still holding the bloodied jumper to the injured side of his face. "You ever used a gun?"
"I've fired an air rifle a few times."
"Ever shot anything?"
"A friend in the arse."
"Same idea, just aim higher."
Steve looked to Alice who shook her head. "I abhor guns, especially when used on animals."
Steve raised the gun. He felt a little dizzy. This was not what he'd been expecting when he'd gotten out of bed this morning. He'd been expected to be bored shitless cleaning tables and washing dishes. Now he was about to smoke a chimpanzee. He wasn't sure whether it was fucked up, or cool. He caught a glimpse of John's face and realised the whole thing was for real. He set the butt of the rifle to his shoulder and took aim. The telescopic sight made the chimp look like it was only a few feet away. He could see the wound caused by the flamingo. The chimp's bloodshot eyes were blank. It was as if there was nothing working behind the scenes apart from an automated need to get at them and tear them to shreds. He took a breath and squeezed the trigger. It gave one hell of a kick. The shot was true. It struck the chimp in the chest with the force of a body shot from a heavyweight. It flew backwards into the water. It flailed for a moment before sinking beneath the surface. Steve lowered the rifle. The chimps that were about to embark on the same journey continued as though not caring about what had just befallen their alpha male.
Steve looked to Alice and saw tears rolling freely down her cheeks.
John broke the silence. "Do you think you can fire a couple of warning shots at the bank? We don't want to hit any more of them, just scare them into staying put."
"I'll give it a try." Steve replied, and worked the bolt the same way that he'd seen John do earlier. He took aim and fired at the dirt bank. The chimps didn't care, they carried on.
Steve looked to John, who shook his head. "There's no way we can shoot them all, there's not enough ammo."
"What are we going to do?" Steve asked.
John looked to Alice. "Who else is on shift today?"
She wiped at her eyes. "Kat's back at the centre sorting out the feed buckets and minding the phones. Alex will be in later. Barbara's on tickets, and the two at the café."
"I want Alex in sooner. We need to work out what's happening with the animals before we lose any more."
Alice sniffed back some snot. "Don't forget there's an ambulance on the way for you."
"Radio Barbara and tell her to wait at the gate until they come. Then tell her to ride with them up to the centre and not to get out for any reason."
Alice leaned back against the compound wall and got on her walkie-talkie. John looked to Steve. "We'll swing back by the café to pick them pair up, Should of brought them with us in the first place, don't know what I was thinking. Then we'll head to the centre where we can hole up until the vet gets here.”
Alice hooked the radio back onto her belt. "Barbara says she'll do what you…" She screamed the last of the sentence. Both Steve and John spun see what the matter was. The chimp that Steve had shot from the log had managed to make it to their side of the moat and climbed up. It dragged her to the ground and started to beat her with both fists. John grabbed the rifle from Steve's hands and used it like a club. It connected with the chimps head but it only faltered in its attack on Alice. John reversed the rifle and worked the bolt. He shot the chimp in the chest, hoping for a heart shot. The chimp flew back against the wall but was soon back on the attack. Alice was laying still, her facial features blurred into mush from the relentless blows. John readied and fired the gun again. This one took some of the chimp's right shoulder off. It continued with its left arm whilst the right hung idle at its side. Steve could hear splashing over the sound of lunacy and gunfire. He knew the other chimps were making their way across.
"John, the others are coming!"
John ignored him and worked the bolt again. "Fuck, out of rounds!" He turned it into a club. The chimp managed to get hold of the gun and ripped it out of his hands. It threw it to one side and bore down on him. He stood no chance and the chimp quickly bested him. Steve didn't know what to do. He could tell that both Alice and John were dead and that the chimp would come at him next. He ran for the truck and jumped into the cabin, slamming the door shut and locking it just in case. He tried to get his breathing under control. It was a hard with his adrenaline pumping like it was.
They'd kept talking about the centre but he had no idea where that was. The only place he could think to head was back to the café. He could hide there and call for some help better than an ambulance. He started the engine. He didn't have a license to drive cars, not that it mattered, not in such circumstances, besides, he didn't have one for the bike anyway.
With a heavy thud the chimp landed on the hood and started to wail on it with its good arm. Steve ground the gearbox into reverse and hoped to spill the beast from the truck. It worked when he spun the wheel hard. He threw it into gear and tore up the path in the direction of the café. He chanced a glance in the rear-view mirror and saw the big chimp in the middle of the path thumping the ground in frustration whilst the other chimps made their way over the wall.
As he opened the truck door, he could hear the riot of noise from the flamingos that they'd managed to contain within the enclosure. They were all mindlessly pressed up against the fencing making as much noise as they could.
"Hey!" Called a voice from behind him. Claire was standing in the doorway with Spotty hovering behind her.
Claire closed the door after him and asked. "What the fuck's happening?"
Steve went to the fridge and helped himself to a coke, broached it and took a long swig before sitting down on the nearest chair. Spotty piped up with, "You can't just help yourself to stock."
The adrenaline had ebbed away and Steve was suddenly feeling worn-out. He looked up. "I just did." The realisation of how serious things were came crashing down upon him.
"Well?" Claire pushed.
"Everything's fucked up," he said.
"No shit. What's happened though? Those birds out there are just freaky."
"Whatever was the matter with those flamingos must be contagious, they passed it on to the chimps. They went about killing each other and then got up and acted like nothing had happened, but they were different, changed somehow. Then they escaped. Alice and John are dead, I didn't know the way to the centre so figured I'd hide out here with you. An ambulance is on its way but I think we need to call something a little more useful. I shot one of the chimps in the chest and it got back up and attacked again. Where's the phone?"
"In the kitchen." Claire replied.
Steve stood and headed for the kitchen.
Claire shouted after him, "You can't get an outside line on it. It goes through a switchboard. Dial nine," she said, as she followed him.
He pushed the button and listened as it started to ring at the other end. He looked over at Claire and saw Spotty rambling on about something in a hushed tone. It took a good minute until someone decided to answer the phone.
"Kat, here." Was the greeting.
"I'm Steve, I work in the café."
"What can I do for you, Steve, kinda busy here."
"There's been some trouble…" He went about telling her the details.
When he was done there was a long pause at the other end, followed by, "This better not be a joke."
"You'll know it's not, there's an ambulance on the way, but we need something bigger, armed police, whatever, okay?"
There was no reply.
He spoke loudly into the handset. "Kat?" He had to yank the handset away from his head as a scream flooded out from the receiver. All went quiet. Steve looked to Claire and Spotty. The way they were standing it was clear they'd heard the scream. Steve hung up and leaned against the wall. He could hear them fidgeting beside the door. He looked over. Spotty was urging her on but she looked reluctant.
"What's up?" Steve asked.
They did a little bit more shuffling. Claire elbowed Spotty. "All right." She hissed. She took a breath. "Colin reckons he knows what's going on."
"Go on," Steve said.
Claire scowled at Spotty and pushed on. "He reckons they've become zombies." She stared at her shoes, looking embarrassed at making such a fanciful statement.
Now that the subject was broached, Spotty seemed keener on getting verbal. "It started with that flamingo, the new one. I read the plaque yesterday, it's a Haitian Great Flamingo." Spotty stopped and looked at Steve, then Claire. They stayed quiet. Spotty ploughed on, though he looked uncomfortable in the spotlight. "Voodoo!"
Steve had seen all the usual films and he wanted to laugh but couldn't. He started thinking about the big flamingo. The way it had kept getting up until John had blown its head off. Steve had something to say, "But how?"
"I don't know, they use chickens in their magic, maybe they use flamingos from the wild. Something went wrong, maybe it got free and some conservationists picked it up, I don't know."
Steve nodded. "It's a better than any explanation I have."
Spotty looked chuffed to fuck they were listening. He chirped up with. "What do we do now?"
Steve shrugged. He wasn't a leader. He was a nineteen-year-old fuck up and this was supposed to be his first job. He scratched at his head. The only thing he could think about was getting the fuck out of the place and leaving it all for someone else to sort out.
"We go to the centre, wait for the ambulance, then we get out of here. How's that sound?"
"If you think that's the best idea," Spotty said.
"I'm not in charge here. That's what I'm doing, come along if you like."
Claire was quick off the mark with, "I'm coming."
"Me too." Added Spotty.
Steve started the engine. "You'll have to give me directions to the centre."
"Just head back the way you came as far the chimp enclosure," Claire said.
Spotty added. "Do you think John and Alice will still be there?"
Steve had been wondering the same but had decided to try not to think about it. He couldn't help but look as they approached the chimp's enclosure. He breathed a sigh of relief. Both bodies were still sprawled where they'd fallen. Steve looked to Spotty. "Any explanation?"
"Mustn't be communicable to humans, animals only," Spotty said.
Steve nodded to show he got the gist. "Do I just follow this path all the way?"
Claire had been quiet since seeing the corpses. That had made it real for her. Spotty was looking pale and a little sick. Claire nodded. "Just until you get to a fork in the path, take the left and keep following it."
They drove in silence. Steve took the left path. The building was like the café in that it was a squat single storey building, but more spread out, like a small complex. There were a couple of vehicles parked outside, but no ambulance. Steve swivelled in the seat, scanning all around, remembering that the woman Kat had screamed. The chimps or something else had attacked her. He'd seen the flamingos and the chimps turn but God knew what else they had come into contact with and tainted. He looked at Spotty. "You seem to know a lot about the park."
"You don't think I want to be working in the café for ever do you?"
"What other animals do they have here?" Steve wanted to know exactly what he might end up coming face to face with.
Spotty took himself a moment to do a stock check in his mind. "Loads of birds, wild cats, chimpanzees, monkeys, deer, raccoons, snakes, spiders…"
Steve cut him off. "I get the idea, any sort of animal I could imagine."
"Apart from elephants, we don't have any of them…or giraffes."
"I get the idea."
Claire came out of her quiet reverie. "Why don't we stay in here until the ambulance arrives and then they can use their radio to call for proper help?"
Steve took a moment to think. "I want to use the phone. I know we're out in the middle of nowhere but even an ambulance would have been here by now. What if something happened between the entrance and here? We could be sitting on our asses forever."
Claire pointed out that. "You don't even have a weapon."
"I had a gun before and that didn't make much difference, I think my feet are my best asset as this point." He grabbed the handle and knew the pair of them weren't planning on joining him. He hopped down and slammed the door. He motioned for Claire to lock it. She did.
Steve was aware of one thing; and that was he just wanted to get out. If it meant ducking into the centre and making a call to the cops and then darting back to the truck he'd do so. He thought about maybe just heading back to the main gate but remembered the fencing and walls.
He skidded to a halt at the door as a thought came to him and it struck him hard, he hadn't asked where the phones where. He swore beneath his breath and tried to open the door as quietly as he could. He dipped his head in first, saw the hallway empty and slipped inside, closing the door silently behind himself. He could see where the phone was. Not the phone itself, rather a set of feet sticking out from one a doorway.
He edged over, bracing himself to come face to face with the rest of the body. He looked around the corner and then fell back. He doubled over and dribbled bile as he rretched. If it wasn't for the tits on the body there would be no way of knowing whether it was male or female. Whatever had slain her had removed her face all the way to the bone, the eyes were gone too. He saw the handset of the phone dangling. He stepped around her and picked it up. He reset it and called the cops.
"I'm up at the wildlife park and things have gone bad."
"Bad in what way, Sir?" Her nonchalant voice was annoying him.
"Bad in the way that three people are dead, the chimpanzees are loose, killer flamingos, fuck I don't know what else, probably fuck-tons lady, just send coppers with guns, now!"
"Is Claire Raymond there?"
"Hair pulled back tight with a bad attitude."
He cottoned on to whom she was referring. "Yeah," he said.
"Tell her that I'll be reporting this to her father." The woman hung up. Steve stared at the handset. Not believing what had just happened. He dropped the handset as he heard the screech of a chimp. It was chased by the smash of glass. The chimp kept making its noise, but it was getting quieter, further away. Steve hoped that meant it was moving off in the opposite direction.
The phone call had narrowed down his options. He stopped and shook his head. The muppet from the government that had been holding the interview for the poke-hole job was called Mr. Raymond. Steve laughed but it was a short laugh. There really was only one thing to do now. That was to get the hell out of there. The thought of ploughing through the big-ass fence was a fleeting one. It would open the way for all the animals to escape. Steve retreated the way he'd come. He checked outside before running for the truck. Claire was sharp enough to spot him and open the door. He settled in and stared at her. "Your pop's a bigwig for the council?"
Claire shrugged. "Yeah."
He looked Spotty and said, "We're gonna have to make a break for it."
"But not through the fencing?" Spotty said.
"No. Already thought about what that'd mean, we're not gonna let any of these things out."
Spotty seemed happy. "Good."
Claire just looked puzzled. "How're we gonna get out then?"
Steve put the truck into gear and said, "I'll think about that on the way." He pumped the pedal all the way and spun the wheel around. He knew the way back to the entrance and he just hoped that inspiration would pitch up before he got there.
It was only three turns in the path before he learned he was driving too fast. He slammed the brakes on and locked the wheel. They missed the overturned ambulance by inches but managed to find the ditch beside the path. Steve head butted the wheel and everything went dark for a couple of seconds. He sat back up, touched his brow, knowing that the tips of his fingers would come back red. He looked over at Claire she was holding a hand to the side of her head and wearing an 'ow' expression.
"You okay?" He asked.
She nodded. "Yeah, I'm fine, just bumped my head on the window is all, bet it leaves a mark."
"What about you?" He called to Spotty in the back.
"I'm fine, had my seatbelt on."
Steve opened the door and climbed out. Just looking at the truck he could tell there would be no way to get it out without a tow. He went to check on the ambulance. Claire and Spotty clambered out and joined him. He wasn't a doctor but could tell they were all dead and all three hadn't died of natural causes. They were all slumped with their faces three times the size they should have been. He felt a little bad that it took a few moments to remember her name, but it was definitely the woman, Barbara from the kiosk.
"What do you think did it?" Claire asked.
Steve shrugged. "Who knows what else has been infected. The driver probably swerved to miss something in the road. Rolled it, the windscreen shattered and then the animals came to play."
Spotty was looking around nervously. "We can't just stand around here."
"Come on." Steve tested the wound on his brow, it felt tacky, that was a good sign, meant that it had stopped bleeding. "We all up for a run? Might as well make a dash for it."
Claire nodded. Steve could see the side of her face was bruising from the crash.
Spotty nodded from where he was standing having a good gawk at the dead people.
Spotty squealed like a little bitch. Steve and Claire turned and saw a black smudge on his face. It was a spider, and a big one at that. More were climbing out of the windscreen. It was a marching army of undead Arachnids, all leaping to join in the poisoning of Spotty's face. Spotty collapsed to the ground. Steve and Claire couldn't help but stand and watch as a good dozen fist-sized spiders repeatedly worked their fangs into Spotty's exposed flesh.
A rustle of the foliage being disturbed yanked Steve's attention back. A three-legged puma, the fourth nothing but a bloodied stump skulked out, eyes red and with strings of slaver idling at the sides of its mouth.
They ran full pelt. He looked over his shoulder and saw the puma ravaging Spotty. They ran past the donkey and the shit-eater, both had red eyes and were trying to batter down the fence. The fence wasn't budging and with each fresh connection from the beasts they lost a little bit of their animal faces. Steve grabbed Claire's hand and yanked her onwards, knowing that the main entrance was only a hundred meters away. He kept glancing back. The puma was struggling with its front, bloodied stump. Its red eyes showed it wasn't in the mood for giving up, no matter what the cost as it limped and raged after them.
Steve yanked on the door to the kiosk as Claire tried to force the grated turnstile. Steve cussed. The woman had locked up when she'd left to get into the ambulance. Claire looked back. The puma was still coming. Steve wheeled and grabbed up a rock from the side of the path. He used it to smash the window. He reached in and worked the catch.
"What are you doing?" Claire asked.
"Shit, how do you set the turnstile?"
"I make beans on toast, how the fuck would I know!"
Steve started pressing buttons. He heard something grind to life and kept his thumb on that button. He looked at the lumbering tripod of a puma and relaxed a little, it was a good ways off. "Try that."
Claire pushed, the 'click-clack' aired, and she was outside of the park. Steve rushed out and pushed at the turnstile. It didn't budge.
Claire's eyes were wide. "Come on!"
"It won't move!" He looked over, the beast was getting too close for comfort. There was no way that he could reach and the button whilst he slipped through. He grinned, remembering when he'd taken the dare of setting off the fire alarm in Safeway's. All the emergency doors had opened and door locks were released.
"Got a lighter?"
Claire looked puzzled.
Steve snapped. "Give me your lighter!"
She dug it out of her pocket and through it over the top. Steve snatched it from the ground and rushed back into the kiosk and began to set fire to the maps. He looked up at the smoke alarm and the wisps of grey that were rising in a twirl.
The red light started to flash and a concealed siren began to wail. Steve hoped it was connected to the Centre and that the fire engines would be automatically called. The police would probably pitch up too, or so he hoped. He looked down and saw lights come to life above the switches, followed by the same noise he'd heard whilst he had thumbed the turnstiles button. He yanked open the door and made to dash through it. The puma was too close. He pulled the door to with a slam. Steve shouted through the gap that Barbara had originally passed him the map through, "Claire! Run, just run, the fire brigade and cops will be here soon. Get away, just in-case."
There were tears of panic in her eyes. She looked past Steve at the head of the puma that was trying to thrust its way through the window that Steve had broken. She backed away as she looked to him but refused to leave.
Steve nodded. He turned and began to pelt the puma with cans of pop, and whatever else felt heavy. He moved on to his fists. He could feel its wetted snout meet his knuckles and it felt cruel, like sucker punching a dog.
He took a step back, looked at his knuckles, back to the puma that wasn't giving up. Fear shook him as he heard the screeching of chimpanzees. Then they were upon the kiosk. Already damaged ape-hands punched through the glass. Blood spurted as the shards clawed at their brutish arms. He looked at their battered faces pressed up against the glass. Sunken, blood red eyes wept crimson. Their strength brought further panic as he watched them destroy the wooden frames. He grabbed the badge stand and started slamming it into the customer window. A half dozen attempts later it was clear it was reinforced glass, yet he could see the onset of a crack birthing. He grinned at Claire, hope rising within him. The grin slipped away as he realised that if he broke through and escaped then the chimps would be able to do the same. He dropped the badge stand.
Claire's eyes widened. "You've nearly broken it!"
"I know." He dug a hand into his pocket and brought out his bike keys. "Can you ride a bike?" He asked.
Claire had had a few goes on a moped; they were nearly the same thing.
She nodded.
Steve pushed the keys through the money slot. "Take my bike and get away from here, just in case. Go." The sound of the final frame giving way under the brutal strength of the chimps sounded behind him.
Steve closed his eyes.
Claire screamed and staggered away towards the car-park, towards the bike, towards safety.
Little Sammy passed the rag-doll a plastic cup filled with sweet but invisible tea. She smiled and served teddy. She looked up to the sky and her smile widened. A pretty pink bird was flying over head.
Sammy waved and shouted out a loud, "Hello" Her smile grew even wider as the bird wheeled in the sky and looked to be heading over to say a 'Hello' right back.
The End

No comments:

Post a Comment