As more thunderous shots rained down from above, everybody stopped what they were doing and began gravitating towards the cafeteria windows. We could clearly hear soldiers shouting orders at one another, and I felt an ice cold shiver shoot through my entire body as I realized that something had seriously gone haywire concerning the horde of zombies that had previously been pawing at our gates without being much of a threat, or making much progress. What had changed? What were they up to now?

Sheriff Rainey let go of his unnecessarily brutal grip on Donovan. and looked over his shoulder to see if he could, maybe, make sense of the sudden change in atmosphere outside. As more people approached the window, audible gasps began to fill the room.

Almost as if we were all in some sort of trance, we began to cluster around the sunlit windows to satisfy our curiosity. I was following along too…until I realized that we were leaving Walker behind, cowering under a nearby table, curled up in a tight ball as he slammed his eyes shut as tightly as he could and tried to block out the rest of the world as best as he could.

Shaking myself free from the allure of the chaos outside, I pulled back on Alex’s hand and hurried back to kneel down at the side of the table so I could reach out and get Walker’s attention. I put my hand his shoulder. “Walker? Dude…are you ok? It’s alright. They’re all outside. We’re safe in here.”

But Walker just tightened the knot that he had tied himself into, his eyes now practically squirting tears from the sides as his already fragile sense of emotional stability flew into a state of total pandemonium.

It was then that I actually heard him whisper for the first time…

“Lucky numbers. Lucky. So lucky.” He gasped. “31-30! 31-30! 31-30! Lucky! Double threes…just like Eddie said…” He was rocking back and forth, horrified beyond belief. What did it mean? What was he trying to tell me…if anything at all?

“Oh my god…you’ve got to take a look at this…” Alex mumbled softly. And while i was still concerned about Walker’s sudden anxiety attack, the lure of the gunshots and public attention was too much for me to ignore.

“I’ll be RIGHT back, Walker! Ok? Just…you just stay here! Don’t move, ok?”

I didn’t get an answer, but then again…I didn’t expect one.

Alex and I hurried over to the window, feeling Preston squeezing his way between us so he could see too without having to jump up and down to get quick peeks over somebody else’s shoulders. A sense of dread took me over as I saw three or four zombies actually climbing up the side of the high fence. I remember one or two of them being smart enough to try to scale the barrier before…but never this many. And one of them was climbing particularly fast! Faster than I’ve ever really seen them move before.

Suddenly, a loud gunshot came from the upstairs window, and I watched as the zombie’s head exploded in a shower of blood and meaty chunks of flesh. Split open, right down the middle like a cabbage…and its body went limp, falling back into the horde of flesh eating creatures below it. Soldiers targeted anything that was even getting close to reaching the top of that fence. Their artillery was making quick work of them, and their withering and rapidly decaying bodies were being torn apart with gunfire…but they just kept coming.

Another one pushed its way to the front of the cluster, and began to climb the fence as well. Then another. Then another. While most of the zombies were mindlessly pawing at the chain link fence like they usually do…there were more and more examples of individuals that were learning to adapt to the situation. And I don’t need to explain why that is an absolutely terrifying development in what was already a horrifying situation.

“Spencer?” Came a voice from the right of me. The soldier that came in with the last convoy had entered the cafeteria and rushed to his son’s side, hugging him from behind as he watched the carnage from the windows. However, as the zombies began to swarm around the entrance to the gate…pushing on it until the massive weight of the group began to bend the fence inward…I saw the expression on Spencer’s dad’s face change. Something was off. A strategy had been realized. What was he seeing that the rest of us weren’t?

The gates, held together with chains and padlocks of every shape and size, were still bending to the will of the masses. They weren’t just standing at the entrance anymore. They were pushing against it. Zombies in the back were using the weight and power of the brain dead monsters in front of them to bulldoze their way inside. They began to close in from both sides…all concentrating on the gate entrance. And even as the crackshot snipers from the third floor kept the few deviants from climbing over the fence…others were forced to focus on cutting down the crowd below with automatic rapid fire bursts. They shot right through the fence, blowing the horde into bits and pieces…pools of black blood oozing under the gate. Ten, fifteen, twenty zombies at a time…dispatched easily with random bullets, creating sparks and ricochets off of the metal chains. This is when Spencer’s dad began to tense up.

“No. No no no! They need to stop!” He said. “It’s a set up! It’s a goddamn set up!” He turned Spencer around to face him and looked him in the eye. “No matter what happens…if you see those things coming your way, you get to a safe room and you lock it up TIGHT! You hear me?”

Spencer began to cry, “Dad! I don’t want you to go!”

“I have to! You just remember what I taught you, and you’ll be ok!” As the boy sobbed quietly in front of him, he gave his shoulders a harsh shake and tried to get him to focus. “PROMISE me!”

“I promise…” He whimpered. Then his dad hugged him close for a brief moment, giving him a kiss on the top of his head, before detaching himself and turning away to go outside and help them fight.

He was running at top speed, and actually made it out in front of the windows much faster than any of us could have expected. Soldiers were on the ground now, moving forward in an attempt to press the zombie hysteria back with a heavy shower of ammunition. But that’s exactly what Spencer’s dad was trying to prevent.

“STOP!!! Cease fire!!! Cease fire!!!” He shouted.

It was hard for any of the soldiers to hear him over the symphony of bullets, the growls and groans of the zombie cluster, and the panic of a military that was already locked into combat mode. He tried to talk to them, but the chaos was already in motion. “You have to tell your men to stand down!!!” He yelled.

One of the officers was shocked to even see this ‘civilian’ in the field. “What the fuck are you doing out here? Get BACK into the shelter and await further instructions…”

“You don’t understand! They’re luring you in! This isn’t what you think this is! It’s a TRAP!”

“A WHAT???” The officer scoffed. “Somebody get him OUTTA here! NOW! Continue the assault!”

As soldiers came to grab Spencer’s father by both arms to drag him away, he struggled even harder to get his message heard. “You HAVE to tell your men to stand down! They’re concentrating on the entrance of the gate for a reason! Don’t you get it??? If your men keep shooting at the fences like this, they’re gonna end up…”

He couldn’t finish his sentence in time.

The heavy fire had already done its job.

The bullets that had been ripping through the clammy rotting flesh of our attackers…had also been bouncing off the very locks and chains that had been holding the fence together. The integrity of the gate had been weakened considerably, and as a few more bullets bounced off of the padlocks…they were severely damaged, and came undone.

The gate sprung wide open and the salivating undead army that we once thought we were so protected from…began to march through it.

There was this sudden blanket of silence that fell over the entire compound. A shared sense of utter shock as we all held our collective breaths and found the outside world coming in to claim its prize at last. Then…once people’s brains started to process what was happening…the guns started firing off again with a fury that we had never heard before.

People in the cafeteria began to gasp in horror, some began to scream. And even though the compulsion to run away made us all wobbly in the knees, our curiosity seemed to hold us still. It was like I was paralyzed from the brain down.

The younger soldiers that had accosted Spencer’s dad were attempting to drag him away…but they weren’t expecting him to put up much of a struggle.

They were wrong.

“Sorry about this, fellas…” He said, and in the blink of an eye, I watched that man suddenly grab one of the soldiers by the wrist, and twist his arm at such an angle that he had to be flipped onto his back just to keep it from breaking OFF! The other soldier holding him was still trying to figure out what had just happened when a kick behind his knees forced him down on the ground. Spencer’s dad traded a few, rapid fire, blows back and forth between them before snatching a pistol off of each downed soldier and headed towards the oncoming swarm! There might have been ten…fifteen…maybe even more, already inside the gate…but more were coming. Slowly shuffling toward the weakness in our defenses. Mouths open, covered in dried blood, torn clothes, and sagging flesh. The soldiers from the roof were doing their best to hold them back, but it was like trying to stop an army of ants with a toothpick…stabbing them one at a time. There’s no way they were going to be able to handle them all.

But Spencer’s father seemed determined! We watched him rush into that cluster, take aim, and he began slaughtering them at near point blank range!!! One headshot after another! It was like he couldn’t miss! Both of his arms looked as if they were working independently of one another, moving in different directions, his eyes catching sight of his target just a split second before delivering the deadly blow! Whatever magic spot Spencer’s dad was aiming for, it did the job. Because once he pulled that trigger, it was as if the zombie’s head would simply fall apart in a shower of coagulated blood. They’d stop moving immediately and fall limp to the pavement below. It was, quite possibly, the most amazing thing that I had ever seen. That any of us had ever seen.

One shot, one enemy down. Two more shots…two more enemies down. His pinpoint accuracy was taking them out before they could even take another step forward. Three more fell to the ground, then another, and another, and just as a few creatures got close enough for him to practically press the barrel of the gun to their heads to blow them away…it ‘clicked’. EMPTY!

He used his second pistol to take care of that particular threat, but as they closed in on him, the other weapon exhausted its ammo as well. Shit…he was on his own!

Military radios were buzzing with shouted commands, and we could overhear one of them saying, “Awaiting orders, sir! What’s the call? Do we put him down?”

What??? What were they TALKING about? Put WHO down???

The mass of creatures were closing in around Spencer’s father from all sides, despite his valiant efforts to fight them off with his bare hands…it wouldn’t be long before he was too tired to keep them at bay for much longer!

Spencer slammed both of his open palms against the window, a torrent of tears rolling down his cheeks as he screamed, “DADDY!!!

It was then that Sergeant Brower’s voice popped up on the radio! “Put him down? Fuck no! Give him all the support you can give him! ASAP!!! That’s an order!”

With that said…the soldiers brought the wrath of God down upon the assaulting horde, and while heavy fire did what it could to keep the larger masses at bay, it was the sharpshooters that took on the sole duty of hitting as many zombie assailants next to Spencer’s dad as possible without getting him caught up in the crossfire.

He managed to find a clear path through the mob and took it to run further towards the right. They reached out, lunging at him with jaws wide and soulless eyes, but he knocked them back, two or three at a time. Gaining enough speed to run towards a block of them and slide right under their grasp. He swept their feet from beneath them, moving so fast that it was hard for us to even figure out what he was doing until it was already done. He was even able to maneuver himself into positions where he could dodge one attack and toss the zombies into one another until they were falling all over themselves just trying to get a hold of him.

Heh…I have to admit…it was like watching Preston trying to avoid getting a shot all over again. But…after a cocaine binge!

The soldiers above continued to hold off a majority of the masses, but soon, other military personnel took to the lower level as well, taking positions to fight them back before they gained any ground on us. As Spencer’s dad gained more ground, we saw him heading towards one of the military jeeps at the edge of the parking lot. Already wearing himself out, covered in blood and sweat, he fought for every last step that he could get towards that vehicle, and the second he got there, he grabbed a weapon off the back and began firing it into the chests of the creatures closest to him. The ‘ratatatat’ was loud enough to echo all around us, and any zombie that got close enough to make a grab for him? They got the butt of his gun jammed so hard in their faces that it nearly caved their heads inward from the bridge of the nose.

“Geez Louise…” I heard Preston whisper beside me. “Is that guy, like…a super hero or something? Is he ‘Captain Chicago’?”

The crowd was mesmerized. Rooting for him, but afraid to think that he could get out of this predicament alive. And yet, they remained silent about his chances…

Little Spencer was standing right there, after all. Bawling his eyes out, and wondering if his father was getting ready to make the ultimate sacrifice for his safety…

Right there in front of him.

And there was absolutely nothing that he could do about it.

Published November 19, 2018