I could feel myself cringe and tighten up every time I saw another zombie approaching from Spencer’s dad’s blindside…afraid that it might be the one creature to take him down. It was the most tense that I have been since I’ve been here. If he so much as missed a single step, lost balance, or just came a little slow with one swing or another…it would be over for him. The horde would overwhelm him in seconds, and all the soldier support in the world wouldn’t be able to help him find his way out of it in time.

PLEASE, make it through this alive! I don’t know if I can watch this!

A dodge, a harsh kick, a shoulder tackle…allowing him to knock a few of the zombies back before rolling to his feet again. He was reaching the point where conserving ammunition was a must. Jesus, how is he even keeping his bullet count in his head at this point???

The soldiers on the top floor and the roof did what they could to keep the swarm at bay, but couldn’t take care of anything too close to him for fear of hitting him with a stray bullet by mistake. So, in close quarters, Spencer’s Dad was pretty much on his own. Not that he didn’t seem up to the challenge!

We watched him fight his way through waves of rotting creatures as they tried to force their way through the bottle necked entrance of the partially opened gate. They almost seemed to be crawling over one another, their insatiable hunger driving them into a frenzy. Loud groans of agony filling the air as they pushed and shoved each other for the sake of getting another taste of living flesh.

Underneath the table behind us, Walker was curling himself into an even tighter ball than before. He was starting to freak out over the idea of us being overrun, and I decided to keep an eye on him…just in case. Not that I would have any idea of what to do if he suddenly began flailing around in a fit of hysteria…but I kept him in my sights anyway. Somehow, I don’t think I’d be doing him much good by climbing under the table with him, and he’d seriously lose his shit if I tried to pull him back out here with us.

Spencer’s dad continued to deal out head shots as he got closer to one of the jeeps, and I found myself cringing again when the pistol in his left hand ‘clicked’. Empty! He didn’t hesitate to change his hold on the gun and grab it by the barrel to use the handle as a melee weapon instead. As more zombies closed in on all sides of him, he began smashing them across the bridge of their noses and cracking skulls, all while firing of a few more shots from his other sidearm. He’ll be completely out of ammunition soon. God knows what’ll happen then.

Can’t anybody get out there and help him get out of there???

At one point, he got a full swing in, using the handle of his pistol to shatter a zombie’s teeth. Like…ALL of them! Even for the undead, that looked like it hurt. As some lady grabbed his arm, he turned around to kick her back against the crowd, the zombie on the other side grabbed him from behind, attempting to sink the jagged shards of its leftover teeth into the side of his neck. There was no way he was going to be able to keep this up for much longer.

Just then, almost as if by magic…the zombie’s head exploded right over his shoulder, and the body fell limp to the ground. Spencer’s dad was covered in rancid blood and gore from the shot, but staying clean was the last thing on his mind at that moment. It was then that I caught sight of that soldier guy, Cooper, run out to take a position somewhere in the middle of the parking lot. He was keeping his distance from the advancing horde, but holy SHIT was he a good shot at long range! Unlike the soldiers on the top floor, he was able to deliver killshots with pinpoint accuracy like I’ve never seen before. He was, literally, able to pop zombie heads from as close as a foot or two away from Spencer’s dad! One down! Two down! Three down! He was quickly swiveling from left to right, causing their heads to fall to pieces, giving Spencer’s Dad a chance to finally reach the jeep.

Meanwhile, as a few of the walking dead began to get closer to the school…I noticed Sheriff Rainey and his deputy silently beginning to back out of the crowd near the windows. Both Donovan and I looked over to see him sneak off like the coward he is. Donovan just shook his head, rolling his eyes as if he never expected anything more from our ‘beloved’ law dog.

Preston remained on his tiptoes, still struggling to see over everyone’s shoulders. “Excuse me. Ummm…ex-excuse me. What happened? What’d I miss?”

Alex noticed Spencer standing beside us, his face drenched with tears as he pressed both of his palms against the window. “Daddy….no…” He whimpered. Alex stepped forward, and lightly placed his hands on the boy’s frail shoulders, hoping to offer an ounce of comfort. Or at least a break from the utter helplessness he was feeling at the moment. Luckily, his father was doing much better than before.

His second pistol discharged its last bullet, and he was left to quickly fight his way around to the passenger side of the jeep. He was quick to jump in, but an army of hands and arms were all grabbing at him at once. They grabbed his ankle and tried to pull him back into the swarm as he leaned all the way over the front seat and grab onto the steering wheel. As some of the monsters bent over to begin feasting on his legs, he rolled onto his back and continued to kick wildly at them. The zombie in front got a kick so hard on his chin, that it actually broke his neck! The head now dangling back over its own shoulders. Others tried to claw at him and suck him back into the mass of flesh eating creatures. Cooper was able to handle some of them with a few more expert shots, but the jeep’s position made it difficult for him to catch them all.

Spencer’s dad used the steering wheel to pull himself out of the horde’s clutches and quickly scoot over to the driver’s side. Finding the key in the ignition, he turned the jeep on and put it into drive. The vehicle began to roll forward, crushing the lumbering bodies in it’s path, but it hadn’t really picked up any speed yet. One zombie seemed to be moving a bit faster than the others, and it actually jumped in through the passenger side door!

Spencer’s dad reacted, trying to fight it off…but this one was smarter than the others. It actually began to fight back. I had never seen one of them fight before. The two of them tussled in the front seat while it was still rolling forward, and eventually, the zombie had Spencer’s dad’s back pressed up against the driver’s side door as it climbed in even further and attempted to bite him in the face. He tried to hold the zombie off, one hand on its forehead, the other around his throat, all while the zombie’s teeth were snapping and clicking and his body kept looming closer.

Thinking fast, Spencer’s dad brought his knee up to the creature’s chest to briefly hold it back while he reached for the seatbelt and wrapped it around his right arm. When the zombie angrily lunged forward, Spencer’s dad opened the driver’s side door and leaned all the way back until he was nearly upside down. The zombie lost its balance and rolled right over him until it fell out of the jeep completely and got its legs run over by the back tire.

Holding on to the seatbelt strap, Spencer’s dad was able to use what was left of his strength to pull himself back to an upright position and get back to the steering wheel, closing the door behind him. Then we watched him jerk it into gear and slam his foot on the gas!

He tried to mow down as many zombies as he could with that thing, but he wasn’t just cleaning them out…he was heading for the gate. He kept picking up speed, the tires turning its obstacles into useless sacks of blood, crushed organs, and broken bones. Then, right where they were sneaking in, he headed right for the entrance, and made a sharp turn…tires squealing as the jeep skidded to the side…and slammed right into the middle of the open gate…closing it again and preventing any of the other creatures from getting through.

Jesus Christ! He did it! He sealed the entrance off, and they weren’t strong enough to push the jeep or get the gate back open.

There were still a good number of wandering creatures inside our perimeter, but once the main leak had been plugged up, and Spencer’s father was able to hurriedly limp away from the jeep and out of range, it didn’t take much for Cooper and the other soldiers on the ground and rooftop to make short work of what was left.

Bodies dropped to the concrete. Chunks of rotting debris being blasted in all directions as the automatic gunfire cut them to shreds. It wasn’t long before the last few were being targeted, and the people surrounding us in the cafeteria began to breathe a collective sigh of relief. Some of the folks around us began to cry, some whispered quiet prayers to themselves, and…of course…Sheriff Rainey and his deputy were nowhere to be found.

Alex felt a rough squeeze as Spencer suddenly turned into his chest, hugging him around the middle and crying until his tears nearly soaked the front of his shirt. It reminded me to look back over at Walker, who was still on the floor under a nearby cafeteria table, but as the gunshots began to fizzle out and come to an end, he seemed to relax a bit more. It hadn’t really sunk in that I actually heard him say something at the beginning of this massacre. I think it just took me by surprise at first, and I was too wrapped up in what was happening outside to really let it register…but Walker actually does have the ability to speak, even if he chooses not to.

I squatted down a bit, and I said, “Ummm…Walker? It’s ok. You can come out now.” He had returned to silence, both hands over his ears, shivering with fear. I didn’t want to ‘touch’ him or anything, worried that I might trigger some kind of knee-jerk response that would get me hurt in some way. But once I backed off and stood back up…Walker scampered his way from underneath the table and rushed over to hug me tight as well. Dear God…he was actually trembling. “It’s ok. I think…I think we’re safe. We’re gonna be alright.” Empty words that only made him hug me tighter.

Preston was still staring out of the window, and he quietly mumbled, “Wow…Spencer, your dad is like a killer robot or something. Rad…” Just as his father was headed back towards the school entrance, Spencer let Alex go and hurried out of the room to go meet him at the door. Alex and I made eye contact for a moment, and followed him out of the cafeteria, with Walker still around my waist and Donovan turning to see what was going on for himself. “Hey! Wait up, you guys!” Preston said, running out of the room after us.

A large crowd of people were gathering at the double doors, waiting to catch a glimpse of the hero that put his life on the line to save us from a potentially disastrous breach of security. A duo of soldiers helped Spencer’s dad round the corner. Exhausted, bloody, legs weak…the two soldiers had his arms draped over their shoulders and helped him hobble towards the entrance. But Spencer didn’t waste any time charging towards his father at top speed. Not a single person could stand in his way. And when his father saw him approaching, he dropped to his knees and opened his arms wide.

The powerful embrace that took place between them got me a little misty eyed, to be honest. Their inseparable bond was a light that was bright enough to blind us all.

“Why did you leave me??? You said you would never leave!” Spencer bawled, arms wrapped tightly around his father’s neck.

“I’m here, baby. I promise. I’m not going anywhere. I’m right here.” He replied, and he held the delicate boy in his arms, so happy to know that he was safe.

The other Shelter members in the hallways began to applaud his heroic efforts to save us, and seemed to be shedding a few tears of their own from the display before them. However, it was when a small group of soldiers marched forward with Sergeant Brower leading the way. Their faces stoic. Their determined footsteps leading them to stand right in front of the man that risked his life for us, even if it was initially against his orders.

Seeing the sergeant…Spencer’s dad let his son go, and gave him a light kiss on the forehead, before struggling to rise to his feet and stand at attention…even though he was so weary that it must have pained him greatly to do so.

Brower looked over his shoulder at the grunts surrounding him, and gave an order. “I want a cleaning crew put together. Take fifteen soldiers and put them on body disposal detail. I want this mess cleaned up before 16:00 hours. You copy?” They gave an affirmative ‘Sir, yes, sir’ response and walked off to take care of the carnage left behind from the attack. Then he stepped closer to Spencer’s father to look him in the face, eye to eye. To everyone watching, we half expected there to be some sort of horrible punishment for having him rush out there like that. “That was one hell of a stunt you pulled out there.” He said. “I’d love to know how you figured out what these things were thinking when we were firing on the gate.”

Still standing at attention, he answered, “I’ve seen these things in action, Sir. In the heart of the downtown area. They’re not all the same.”

“You care to tell me what you mean by that?”

“I have reason to believe that some of them can…’think’, Sir. Some can run. Some can climb…” He cleared his throat, “I saw some of the creatures directing the masses to concentrate on that one spot. It’s like…they were using the other zombies as fodder to get the gate open. It’s rare to see them coordinate attacks, Sir…but it happens. It’s something to keep an eye on.”

Brower looked him up and down. “You realize that this is a military operation, correct?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“You realize that Gung-Ho mavericks with a deathwish isn’t going to fly with me when it comes to keeping this place safe. Correct?”

“Yes, Sir.” He answered respectfully.

Brower paused for a moment, and then gave him a slow nod. “That being said…good job.” I think even Spencer’s dad was surprised by the recognition. “You ever serve?”

“Two terms, Sir. Overseas.”

“I can tell. You got a name, soldier?”

“Officer Logan, Sir. Chicago PD.”

Brower nodded again, and patted him on the shoulder. A tiny smirk crossing his lips. The man was so gruff and so mean that even the slightest of grins looked like it was going to cause his face to crack. “Alright, ‘Officer Logan, Chicago PD’…I want you to come see me today. We could use more men like you on our team. That’s for certain.” Then he added, “As a precaution, soldier…I understand that you’ve been through a lot, but we need to get you checked out thoroughly before we can let you fully get back to general population.”

“I understand, Sir. And thank you.”

“Don’t thank me. It took some big stones to do what you did out there.”

It was then that Logan pulled Spencer close to him and gently rubbed the back of his shoulder. “Not really, Sir. All it took was knowing that I had something to fight for.”

As Brower walked away to get things back in working order, we noticed Cooper coming back in with the rest of the soldiers, finally getting a chance to take a breather, himself.

With a lazy smile, he approached Logan and finally got to see him, face to face. “You feeling alright there, hero?” He grinned.

“Indeed, I am.” Logan answered. “Thanks to you. You saved my tail out there. More than once. You’re one hell of a good shot!”

Cooper said, “Yeah, well…with the intense action highlight reel you were making out there, I was starting to worry that you’d show me up. Heh…”

They shared a friendly moment, and Spencer’s dad extended his hand. “Johnny Logan.”

Looking down to return the greeting, “Gordon Cooper. Good to meet you, man.”

“Likewise.”

At that moment, two soldiers came to escort Mr. Logan to the infirmary for a thorough check. I don’t know what they’d be looking for, or what they might do to him if they found any bites, cuts, scrapes, or scratches. But after the amazing feat he pulled off with two handguns and a jeep…I’m pretty sure that he came out of that situation clean.

Mr. Logan got down on one knee to look Spencer in the eye, and he said, “I’m going to get checked out now. They just want to make sure that I’m alright…so everybody stays safe.”

“I wanna go with you…” Spencer sniffled.

“You stay right here and get something to eat. You’ve got to get yourself healthy, don’t you?”

“I don’t want you to go.” He said. “You’re all I’ve got.”

Reaching up to lightly tap his finger on the end of his son’s nose, Mr. Logan replied, “Hopefully…I’m all you need.” And he gave him a kiss before standing back up and preparing to follow the guards out. “Save me some Jell-O for when I get back. Ok?”

We all felt sorry for Spencer at that moment, but relieved at the same time. At least he had his dad back. It was something that Alex and I couldn’t necessarily claim. At least not yet.

“Hey, Spencer?” Preston said quietly. “What your dad did was pretty cool. He’s a real badass.”

It made Spencer smile, even through his tears, and he tried to wipe his eyes on the back of his wrist. Alex offered, “Come hang with us. We’ll make sure you get something to eat.”

“M’kay…” He said, and we added another temporary member to a little crew of misfits. And maybe Walker too…if he ever lets go of my waist that is. If he squeezes me any harder, I’m not going to be able to eat much of anything.

It’s crazy how you meet people sometimes.

Published December 15, 2018