I originally wrote this story for The Infection Anthology, but it didn’t make the deadline. It appeared in Untrue Stories, Volume One in 2012. It’s a very short piece and I hope you dig it. If you do, please share.
by Mitch Lavender
Smart Zombies, I hate them.
Mind you, “smart” is only in reference to common, everyday zombies. Smart Zombies can open doors and figure simple problems out. The average zombie can’t even get out of a car if the door is closed. It will try to chew its way out, though, breaking teeth and bones in the process and it won’t stop; broken fingers and no teeth, it will keep trying.
Smart Zombies will call others; a raspy, horrible screech. They will organize mass assaults on locked doors or barricades, and stand in the back ordering the hordes of others on to attack; zombie generals of the War on Humanity.
The siege has been going on for three days now and we have retreated to floor eight of the Madison Heights apartment building. We lost ground, floor after floor, as they kept coming, defending the stairwells until we couldn’t anymore. Then we would abandon and move up, but the undead were like water flooding a sinking ship and we were fleeing up and up until there was nowhere else to go. With only eight floors in the building, we were making a last stand before retreating to the roof, and if we did that, I’d jump to my death before becoming one of those things. I swear I would.
As we nailed them down the stairwell, the bodies piled on top of each other in the confined space. This gave us a few minutes of relief while the zombies behind cleared them away to try a new assault. They didn’t rest, so neither did we, for forty-two hours straight. My vision is blurry and sometimes I pass out on my feet, to be awoken to the horror we faced and to pull the trigger again and again and again. Only head-shots would put one down. We had ammo, and for that, I was grateful.
A hand on my shoulder pulled me back. “Relief, Corporal!”
Major Jensen took my place at the top of the stairwell and I staggered back, spent. He had been moving the civilians up each floor as we lost ground and had no more sleep than the rest of us. Still, I would take the relief. Just for five minutes. Then I would be back at it. I closed my eyes.
When I awoke, it was daylight, punctuated by staccato gunshots. While asleep, I had heard the same sounds, but I guess I was too tired to notice. It was daylight and we had held them off through the night. Why had I been allowed to sleep so long?
“Back ‘em up!” came the yell from the Sergeant Major and the urgency stirred me to full alertness. This meant we’d lost the floor and only had the roof left. Since I was the one non-civilian not engaged in combat, I hurried the frightened residents up the final flight of stairs. I pushed a boy who couldn’t have been ten-years old, “Hurry!”
He walked a few steps and said, “Why don’t you shoot a car? The alarm would distract them, wouldn’t it?”
Zombies hated loud noises like alarms, and when one went off, they attacked the source with horrible vengeance. It was a good idea, and might distract them from the smart zombie’s orders.
“Move, son!” I shoved him towards the stairs and stepped to a window inside one of the apartments. The streets were filled with undead; packed with stinking, animated corpses that were intent on attacking our building. The zombie general was out of sight but calling them on with his scream. I aimed my M-16 and shot out the windshield of a PT Cruiser; nothing. I focused on an Infiniti G-37 and fired. The alarm blared into life and the zombies around it turned, refocused on this new target that was making so much noise.
I shot out the windshield of a Ford Explorer and its alarm also erupted into life. I did the same with a Mazda RX-7 and a Chevy Tahoe, each one blaring and attracting more attackers. This was working.
Then I saw their general emerge from the building cattycorner to ours. He wore a blood-stained lab coat, but the way he walked with purpose drew my attention, despite the thousands of other zombies shambling around the crowded the street below. He jumped up on a car and screamed again, pointing at our building – a siren to call the others to attack his target. I’ve heard that scream for the last three days and knew it well. He’s the guy.
The boy brought me a gun and said, “Here, stop it here. Stop it now.”
I looked at the gun he held – a sniper rifle, equipped with a scope. Checking that it was loaded, I pulled it up and drew a bead on the general zombie’s forehead, using the windowsill to steady my aim. I fired. His screech silenced and he fell backwards. The hordes turned their focus on the alarms and began attacking the cars.
“They are retreating!” said the Sergeant Major, shocked. Then he fell back and laughed out loud for a moment before passing out from exhaustion.
The waters receded and we took back the top four floors that day. Outside, the streets still swim with the undead, but we live… for now.