by Savannah J. Foley
~-~-~-~-~ guest ~-~-~-~-~
I walk down the main hall, remembering when it was filled with crowds of students in between classes. Thank the gods the lockdown hadn’t happened during the school day. As I approach the hall where we were locked for two days, something catches my attention, a sound too soft to be heard from the doorway of shop class. It’s steady, almost like white noise. So familiar. It’s...Rain. For an instant I smile; at home rain is a blessed event. When we were little mom would make my little brother Kimo and I go out into the tiny backyard she stuffed with vegetable plants and dance around under the sky. Sometimes in O’ahu it rains when there are no clouds. “God is smiling,” mom would say when the warm drops fell in sprays and splashes, gone as mysteriously as they’d arrived.
Rain is different here. It chokes out the dust and squashes the grass, leaving everything in either mud or clumps. I avoid rain here. I don’t want Texas blessing me with its sloppy kiss.
But wait. Why can I even hear rain?
Dread booms in my heart. I grip the metal pipe with the keyhole saw duct taped on the end tighter, even as it slides from the sweat on my palms. I turn the corner.
The doors are open.
From the entrance where I stand, out to the courtyard, the hallway is still splattered with blood, but now I can see the bodies it contains. I have excellent vision, like dad. I can make out body parts in the chaos of scattered desks and chairs at the end of the hall, then a few bodies laying on the carpet as if sleeping, and finally Mr. Hopkins sprawling dead or unconscious at my feet. And in the distance, in the graying evening, there is rain in the courtyard. And infected.
I don’t know if they see me. I drop to a crouch by Mr. Hopkins’ head, grimacing at his pulped face, waiting to see if they come towards me. They don’t.
So this hallway isn’t as safe as I thought. Someone unlocked this door, which means they could be anywhere, unlocking any number of doors. And the infected could be anywhere, too. I drop the bag carrying my water and tools and feel around Mr. Hopkins for the gun, but it’s missing. Maybe the key-holder took it. Probably one of those dumb jocks who didn’t have the sense to shut the doors behind him.
Unless Mr. Hopkins is laying on the gun. I grimace. I don’t want to do this. Don’t, eww, gross, no. But a gun would be better than a saw taped to a pipe. Not like I want anything to do with a gun. My father kept guns, but he was a military man, and he’d never shown Kimo or I how to use them. I never thought about them unless I went in my parent’s room and saw the gun case in the back of their closet.
Maybe you should have taught me, dad. Not like I would have listened. Wish you were here, now.
After glancing towards the courtyard and purposefully not looking at Mr. Hopkins’ beat up face, I lay down the pipe and grab him by the shoulders. He’s hot, as hot as a rock left out in the sun. I yank my hands away, gasping.
Come to think of it, they didn’t beat him that badly. Steeling my stomach, I look him full on in the face, and then I know the reason for the heat.
He’s been bit. His very nose is missing, cheeks mashed up and one eyebrow torn off. God. Both hands rush to my mouth to keep myself from making noise. He’s definitely infected.
But he was infected before, wasn’t he? Wearing that sweatshirt, rubbing his arm. Mr. Hopkins was the last person to join us in the hallway; he’d been busy securing the school and locking us down. Who knows what he’d had to fight off to try and keep us safe?
I’m sorry, I wanted to tell him. But I still hate you. But thank you. He did keep us safe this far. But he also kept me from Kimo; kept all of those kids from their families. It would have been better to just let us run.
I don’t need the gun. I can just walk away, and leave him here. I’ve got the saw blade, and that will get me through. I’m so sick of crying, I think as tears come again. “I don’t want to do this,” I breathe, and furiously wipe my eyes. “Okay. Okay, here we go. One. Two-”
I grab him again and use all my strength to roll him over, this large man who has a foot and a hundred pounds on me. A low groan comes out of him as he slumps onto his stomach, but whether that means he’s alive or if the air is just getting pushed out, I don’t know. There’s no way I’m going to check for breathing, or a pulse.
The gun is underneath him. I touch it gently, feeling the metal hot from Mr. Hopkins’ body. I pick it up, feel the weight, heavier than I thought it would be. I slide my hand into place on the handle, finger slipping through the metal loop that holds the trigger. I have no idea what kind it is, just that holding it means power. Death.
I don’t want to poke at it too hard because I don’t know what all the switches do. The hammer gets pulled back, that I know, but I’m not ready to use it so I leave that part alone. There were at least two bullets fired in the hallway, and who knew how many Mr. Hopkins used while securing the school. Even if he kept it fully loaded, how many bullets could it hold anyway? Six? Eight?
The only safety rule dad gave me about guns was not to touch them, and I was happy to comply. What I wouldn’t give right now to have gone with him to the shooting range one weekend, just once. Be safe, Lani. Like dad’s talking to me, I almost hear his voice. Be smart.
I breathe deep, evenly. We’re not done here. If Mr. Hopkins is carrying a gun, maybe he’s carrying bullets. I slip my hands into his pockets, bile rising at touching the body of this dead man, this infected. Touching my teacher’s butt. How inappropriate. If he’d done this to me he’d go to jail.
Damn, I’m going to have to flip him over again to get at his front pockets. A moan echoes through the hall from somewhere outside, and I freeze. Nothing happens. Heart in my ears, I pull on Mr. Hopkins again but only succeed in sliding him across the floor. There’s another moan, this time way too close.
My heart stops beating before I realize it came from Mr. Hopkins. Another death moan?
My eyes widen and my stomach drops. Mr. Hopkins’ head rolls, and his eyes open through a crust of blood. They’re milky.
He sees me.
I leap to my feet and slam into the lockers behind me. The impact almost knocks the breath out of me again but I barely hear the crash. I’m watching Mr. Hopkins roll to his knees and climb to his feet, too petrified to move.
“M-m-mi,” I stutter, more a whimper than the beginning of his name. “Get back!” I shriek, finding my voice. “Get away!”
I slide along the lockers and stumble to the head of the hall. Mr. Hopkins steps towards me, mouth working like a fish, eyes so milky and dead. He’s whispering, something throaty and awful, something a man consumed with infection would say.
“Get you, get you, get you-”
My arms are shaking again. My tongue is dry. And my hands... My hands are empty. I’ve left everything on the ground. The gun, the spear, and my bag with the map and water.
I think of Kimo. He is my shield. My prayer. I’ve killed one zombie for him; I can do it again. I have to. Stop freaking out, Milani, and move!
I dart past Mr. Hopkins, his arms swinging for me, and dive to where he had lain, gun and spear just waiting for me on the dirty blue carpet. I grab both and twist as he lurches, thrusting the spear forward and closing my eyes as he throws himself at me, the saw blade sinking into his chest only to a point, then snapping with the stress of his weight. Part of the blade still pokes through his sweatshirt, the pointy end embedded in his sternum.
“Shit!” I’ve stopped him for a second, and he looks confused, like the human within has woken through the haze of sickness and is surprised to find himself recently stabbed. Then he advances again. I jab him with the spear though the saw blade is broken, trying to repel him while I figure out the gun.
Please, please, please, dad, please-
I pull the hammer and stick out my arm. I’ve never had much hand-eye coordination. Alia and I always slacked off during gym class, the kind of girls who would step out of the way of the ball instead of trying to hit it. But I’m in such close range now, how could I miss? I’m about to fire a gun. Into the head of my math teacher. Who’s trying to eat me. Who’s slobbering at the mouth now, long strings of clouded saliva dripping from his lips. Who’s moaning in between half-words, swiping at me with powerful arms.
It must be done.
I pull the trigger.
The sound is short, but fills up my whole world. My arm recoils and so does Mr. Hopkins’ head. I feel like I’ve hit a baseball just perfect with a bat; that satisfying pop echoes up into my shoulder. So powerful. So damn loud.
My ears ring, and I watch as Mr. Hopkins crumples to the floor in slow motion, just like in a movie. His knees sink, he leans backwards, he falls to the carpet.
Something barrels into me. I’m knocked to the ground, a new weight on my back, a terrible slobbering at my ear.
And then teeth.
Teeth, sinking into my neck.
Guest post is an excerpt of The Dead-Filled Halls by Savannah J. Foley.
© 2011. All rights reserved.
Savannah is represented by the Bradford Literary Agency. She is also a member of Let The Words Flow, a blog about writing and publishing for new and developing writers. You can visit her website here, where she talks about her projects and the publishing process.
Book Excerpt: first chapter
by Savannah J. Foley
~-~-~-~-~ guest ~-~-~-~-~
READ more of this tale...
by Savannah J. Foley
Release date: not yet announced
What's worse than being trapped in your high school after hours?
Getting trapped there during the zombie apocalypse. While she's serving detention Milani's school is placed on lockdown after a strange infection surges in her town.
After two days locked in a hallway with half the baseball team, all Milani wants to do is escape and find her little brother, Kimo, but there's a few problems with that: an egomaniacal gym teacher, the infected running loose around the school, a team of 'friends' who don't trust each other, and Milani's own terrible secret - she's been bitten.
Can Milani find a way out of her high school before it's too late?
* header image source