Smart Zombies (short story)

Smart Zombies, I hate them.

Mind you, “smart” is only in reference to the rest of them.  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 just try to chew its way out, breaking teeth and bones in the process.  Still it won’t stop; broken fingers and no teeth, it will still 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.  Floor after floor as they kept coming, we lost ground, defending the stairwells until we couldn’t anymore. Then we would abandon and go up another floor. The undead were like water flooding a sinking ship, and we were fleeing up and up, until there was nowhere else to go.  There were 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 I became one of those things.  I swear I would.

As we nailed them down the stairwell, the bodies mounted up as they fell on top of each other in the confined space.  This would give us a few minutes of relief as the zombies behind cleared the bodies away to try a new assault.  They didn’t rest, and we have been doing this for forty-two hours straight.  My vision is blurry, and sometimes I pass out, only 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.  Thank God, we had ammo.

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, exhausted.  Jensen had been moving the civilians up each floor as we lost ground, and he hasn’t had any 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.

“Back ‘em up!” That was the yell from the Sergeant Major, and the urgency stirred me to fully awake.  This meant we were losing the floor and only had the roof left.  Since I was the only non-civilian who wasn’t engaged in combat, I hurried the frightened residents up the final flight of stairs to the roof.   I pushed a boy who couldn’t have been ten years old, “Hurry!”

He walked a few steps and said, “Why don’t you shot a car?  The alarm would distract them, wouldn’t it?”

Zombies hated loud noises like alarms, and when they went off, they attacked the source with a horrible vengeance.  It was a good idea.  It might distract them from the smart zombie’s orders.

 “Move, son!”  I shoved the boy along towards the stairs leading to the roof and maneuvered to a window inside one apartment.  Looking out, the streets were filled with the 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. It didn’t have an alarm.  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 it also erupted to life with an alarm.  I did the same with a Mazda RX-7 and a Chevy Tahoe parked on the street, each blaring and attracting more attackers.

Then I saw the general emerge from the building cattycorner to ours.  He was wearing 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 street below.  He jumped up on a car and started to scream 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 I knew it well.  He’s the guy.

The ten-year old boy said, “Here, stop it here.  Stop it now.”

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com

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 shot.  I fired.  His screech silenced, and he fell backwards.  The hoardes turned their focus to the alarms and began attacking the cars.

“They are retreating!” said the Sergeant Major, shocked.  Then he fell backward and laughed out loud for a moment before he passed out from exhaustion.

The waters receded, and we took back the top four floors that day.  Outside, the streets swim with the undead, but we live… for now.

© 2011, Mitch Lavender

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