Micro Monday: Growls in the Dark

Posted: March 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

As always, the infected had managed to breach the ground level of the latest safehouse Zahara had managed to find. Luckily, it wasn’t a horde. So far, she’d only seen the one in front of her—the one that had not yet seen or heard her but could obviously smell her. But even a breach of one could not be taken lightly.

Zahara remained still and out of the poor soul’s sight. It was agitated, sure, but it hadn’t aggro’d on her just yet. If she was very lucky, she’d be able to retreat to an upper floor or at least a panic room. These old Medieval castles had those, right? She wished she’d had more time to map out the entire interior. She thought she’d have more time.

She took a single step backward, then stopped. She was nearly out of sight now, but she didn’t want to get cocky and accidentally draw attention to herself. The image of her backing into one of those things flitted through her mind, and she turned her head slowly to take in more of her surroundings. The one in the kitchen around the corner was still the only one. It was starting to turn in her direction.

Another step back, and she was out of sight. The staircase was only a few more steps back—a distance she closed more quickly now that she was out of sight.

Then it roared.

She ran.

Maybe it’s just in frustration, she thought. Or maybe it has a lock on me now. Or maybe it’s calling to others.

She cursed quietly under her breath and took the steps three at a time. She didn’t slow when she reached the top of the stairs. Instead she took off down the hallway, darkening in the gloaming. After a moment, the creature roared again, closer. Zahara prayed it was the same one. The second-floor panic room was still a good fifty yards away.

Along the wall, she saw a flowered vase as tall as she was. She veered from her course and pushed it behind her as she passed. She sacrificed some speed and part of her lead doing that, but her hope had been to shatter the old porcelain and slow the creature. A quick glance behind her proved that no, the creature hadn’t slowed. Also, it was not the same creature she’d seen in the kitchen.

“Fuck.”

The panic room was close now, and she slowed to be able to shut the heavy door behind her. Her hand was on the door handle, anchoring her as she pivoted around it. A hand closed around hers before she could bring it inside the room. Stupid! She chastised herself. Don’t ever get distracted with fancy tactics!

She tore her hand away from the handle and pulled the creature into the room with her and let it push her against the door to close it. For good measure, she struggled in the direction of the latch until she heard it click. It’d be easier to deal with one in a locked room than a horde falling on an open door.

The thing pressed in on her, its eyes graying, its teeth black and broken, its mouth open and salivating and growling hungrily at her. A fetid air hung around the gaping, rotting hole in the devil’s neck, and it caught in Zahara’s throat, choking her. It opened and closed its mouth in a chewing motion, clearly anticipating the meal it had in mind.

It wasn’t easy—it never was—but Zahara was able to leverage herself against the door and get the creature off its balance. While it was still disoriented, she directed it against the window and pushed it out. She didn’t have time to look after it as it fell to the ground—it would only be momentarily incapacitated, anyway—before a bang at the door drew her attention.

The monster from the kitchen. And only that one, if she was lucky.

The door itself was six inches thick and sold oak, but the latch was just a tongue of wrought iron in the stone. It would bend and give eventually. Calmly, Zahara slid three wooden beams across the door: one at the top, one in the middle, and one near the bottom. She would be secure enough for the time being.

The panic room was well stocked, but dark. She shuttered the windows, pulled the drapes, and stumbled in the darkness until she found a candle. Maybe she didn’t need to be so careful—she was after all in the middle of nowhere in the marshes. Then again, no need to be a beacon. It was bad enough she had two confirmed villains breaching her safety. Who knew how many more were out there.

A breeze whistled through the shutters and rippled through the drapes. Zahara shivered. It had been many months since the dead stopped staying dead and instead started devouring the living. Still, she figured winter could not be far off. Too late to look for a new safehouse. Maybe she could ride out the worst of the season in this room. Raiding the castle when she needed to. Maybe these two monsters were the only ones around for miles.

Two voices now growled at her door. Either the one she’d pushed out the window had found its way back inside, or there was a third she hadn’t seen out there. How the hell did they get inside the stone walls of the castle?

Zahara suddenly felt tired. How long had it been? She could hardly think of a time when she’d gone to school, prayed at the mosque, gone on dates, worked a stable job, had a bank account. That world seemed so alien now. She sat heavily on the ground and leaned against the cold stone of the wall. She ran her fingers through her hair and thought absently that it was time to cut it again if she didn’t want one of those things to grab her by it.

She’d stacked the room with paintings and some unvarnished furniture. Good for burning. One of the paintings that faced her showed a young family in Victorian clothing as they picnicked on a green lawn with tea and biscuits aplenty. The young mother smiled and rested her perfectly coiffed head on her husband’s should while two laughing young ones, whose sexes seemed indeterminate to Zahara, played some kind of game with a ball. Even the dog, frozen in midjump, seemed to smile in happiness.

That painting was the first to burn that night.

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