Book: Crucifixion

Previous: Chapter 25
Next: Chapter 27

 

When I hit the ground at the bottom of the pit I landed on my face then rolled and wound up coming to a stop on my back against the legs of one of the infected males, spitting out a mouthful of dirt.  He snarled and leaned down to grab me as the female screamed and charged, the other male stumbling around trying to change direction and come after me.  As the male above me bent down I grabbed one of his arms, ignoring the searing pain in each of my hands, and yanked hard.  Pulling him off balance I raised my knees and deflected him into the female as she dove for me and the two of them went down in a tangle of limbs.  Above me the crowd roared in excitement but I ignored them and scrambled to my feet and to the other side of the pit where the second male greeted me with outstretched arms.

Ducking his embrace I tripped him with a leg sweep and tuned back in time to deflect the female into the wall of the pit.  They were all dangerous, but the female was the higher priority because of her speed.  I took half a second to look around for anything I could use as a weapon but the pit was all smooth dirt.  In the time I had taken to glance around the female had regained her feet and was charging again.  This time when I tried to deflect her I was hampered by the grip of the male on the ground who had snaked a hand out and grasped my ankle.  The female slammed into my chest and started tearing at my bare skin with her splintered nails.  Raising an arm to protect my face I lashed out with an elbow and knocked her aside, broken teeth falling from her mouth when she landed on the ground.  I stomped down with my free foot and heard the infected’s arm snap and the grip loosened enough for me to break free and move away.

The other male was closing in and the female was back on her feet, screaming as she prepared to launch herself through the air at me.  The male with the broken arm had struggled back to his knees and I grabbed him by the upper arms and yanked him to his feet, facing away from me, just as the female sprang forward.  She impacted the male’s chest and the three of us tumbled to the ground with me on the bottom of the pile.  The male squirmed like a beetle on its back as the female tried to reach around him to continue slashing me.  Summoning energy reserves I wasn’t sure were there I pushed off with my right arm and leg and rolled the three of us over so the female was on her back with the infected male and me on top of her.  The other male loomed over me and I slithered sideways and kicked out, shattering his knee and sending him to the ground. 

I reached around the male and fumbled to get a grip on the female’s throat but had to jerk my hand back when I felt the male’s lips on my arm as he tried to bite me.  The female was screaming and fighting to escape but she had over 400 pounds lying on top of her and for the moment at least she wasn’t going anywhere.  The crowd was in full throat and I absently noted the sounds of bets being shouted out and accepted as I raised up and started raining elbows onto the back of the male infected’s neck.  He was a big man, larger than me, and in my weakened condition the impacts weren’t having any effect.  I thought about wrapping up his head in my arms and breaking his neck but dismissed the idea because I didn’t want to put my flesh that close to the female’s snapping jaws.

The male with the broken knee had crawled within an arm’s length of me and my skin crawled when his fingers brushed my naked hip.  Kicking out I caught him in the nose with the heel of my foot, breaking it, but otherwise having no effect on him.  Forced to scramble sideways out of his reach my weight shifted and the male underneath me was able to roll to the side and slip me off his back.  Continuing my roll across the floor of the pit I came up against the wall and looked up at the stakes embedded in the earth at the top of the pit.  Scrambling to my feet I continued the motion and leapt high, well… high for me, and grabbed one of the stakes in the lower row.  The pain in my hands was unbelievable and I nearly let go until the scream of the female sent a new surge of adrenaline into my system and I was able to push the pain down due to sheer panic.  Hanging from the stake I started bouncing and felt it give slightly.  Bouncing harder the stake shifted a little more then pulled free from the dirt wall of the pit.  I now had a weapon, but when the stake came lose and I fell back to the floor of the pit I stumbled and went down.

The female had finally extricated herself from underneath the male and charged directly at me, rushing across the pit on all fours like an animal.  Prepared this time I met her, getting a forearm under her chin and on her throat.  Twisting with her I used her momentum to drive her to the ground and put all my weight into a push on her throat.  Feeling her larynx collapse I spun away from her clawing hands and tripped over the broken knee male.  I automatically stuck a hand out to break my fall and almost passed out from the pain when all of my weight came down on my left.  Rolling away from the male I protectively pulled my throbbing hand to my chest and lurched back to my feet.  The male on the ground changed directions and started crawling towards me while the other male stumbled around the far side of the pit for a second then righted himself and started in my direction.  The female also rose to her feet unable to scream with a broken larynx and barely able to rasp a breath in and out.  I grasped the stake in both hands, leapt over the male on the ground and charged the female who met me half way across the pit.

I held the stake in front of me and as the female and I met adjusted its position and succeeded in driving it deep into her mouth.  Using my legs to drive forward I held the blunt end of the stake against my chest and kept churning forward until she went limp and fell away from me.  The stake had gone into her mouth and pierced the back of her throat, the sharp tip eventually coming out of the back of her neck as the bulk of it embedded in her vertebrae.  She was finally dead.  A huge roar sounded from the crowd when she went down and losing betting slips fluttered down into the pit like a heavy snowfall.  I was backing up to face the still mobile male when the first explosion ripped through the night and silenced the crowd.  A heartbeat later more explosions sounded and the roars of excitement from above turned to screams of terror.

When John disappeared into the pit Rachel told Nora and Dog to stay close and started moving forward.  The kids with the grenades had gotten into position quickly, spacing out in a large semi-circle surrounding the crowd that was pushing in to look down in the pit.  Their roars of excitement made her blood run cold as she imagined what was waiting in the pit for John.  Stopping a few yards behind the back edge of the crowd Rachel looked to her right and spotted one of the kids she had sent off with grenades in hand.  The girl looked at Rachel then looked to her right and watched for a few moments.  The crowd roared again, even louder, and the girl looked back at Rachel and nodded her head that they were ready.  Another roar from the crowd, shouts of happiness and disappointment both obvious, and Rachel looked directly at the girl as she raised her arm high over her head.  The girl’s eyes were fixed on Rachel’s arm and when it dropped she yanked the pin out of the grenade she was holding and tossed it forward, deep into the ranks of the crowd.

A few seconds later the grenade detonated with an ear shattering blast and bodies flew through the air in all directions.  The crowd fell silent as everyone froze for a heartbeat, then there was the start of a stampede away from the point of the explosion.  The people who were trying to get away hadn’t taken more than two steps when more grenades tore through the crowd, the explosions each coming from different points around the circle.  Now the crowd screamed as one and everyone was trying to go in a different direction as no one could tell where the destruction was coming from nor where it would strike next.  Rachel let the panic grow then raised her arm and signaled the girl for the second wave.  A few seconds later five more explosions ripped through the crowd and all semblance of order evaporated.  Frightened people ran in all directions in their desperation to get to safety.  People were knocked down and trampled as panic reigned and in moments a nice wide path opened up in front of Rachel and Nora leading directly to the pit.

Dashing forward Rachel skidded to a halt at the edge, raised her rifle and shot two men that were running towards her from the far side of the circle.  Nora had run with her and had dropped to one knee shooting into a small group of men that were pushing their way towards them through the stampeding crowd.  Rachel heard Dog growl and a moment later he leapt into the pit before she could stop him.  Spinning and looking down she saw Dog impact the chest of an infected male and knock him to the ground, immediately tearing into his throat.  She noted John on the ground fighting with another infected then had to turn her attention back to the battle above ground.

Nora had picked off all the men that she had engaged but two more small groups armed with pistols and hunting rifles had formed up and were getting ready to start attacking.  Rachel started shooting at one group while Nora kept the other group’s heads down.  The first explosion from the parking lot was massive, turning night to day.  The attackers paused to gape at the furiously burning vehicles and the woman and girl took advantage of the moment and dropped most of them.  Three shots later and the disorganized group Rachel had been fighting was done and she was able to turn her attention to the pit.

Three dead infected lay in the dirt.  A female with a wooden stake sticking out of her mouth, a male with an obviously broken neck and another whose throat had been torn out by Dog.  John and Dog sat in the center, John’s arms wrapped around Dog’s thick neck.  Taking stock of the situation Rachel looked around and spotted an aluminum ladder laying in the dirt a few yards away.  Rushing over she grabbed it and drug it back to the pit, letting it fall over the edge as she had to return fire on a man who had popped out from behind a tent.  Another explosion from the parking lot ripped the air, then two more so close together they almost sounded like one.  The man fell and Rachel glanced around, glad to see the grenade kids running towards the bus, Betty bringing up the rear.  That’s what she had forgotten.  There was no one to help her with John.

She started to shout at the group to come back but checked herself when John poked his head over the lip of the pit.  Rushing over she helped him the rest of the way up the ladder then stepped back as Dog came bounding up the steps, blood from the infected he had killed flying off his muzzle as he moved.  Rachel turned her head to call Nora so they could head for the bus, but the words died in her mouth when the young girl flew backwards and landed in the dirt at her feet.  A large, red hole was in the middle of Nora’s forehead and blood poured out of the back of her shattered skull and started soaking into the dirt.  Rachel stared for a moment before John tackled her to the ground, a bullet cracking the air just over her head.

“There, to the left of that pile of wood.”  John yelled at her and pointed out the sniper.  Raising the rifle Rachel fired until the magazine emptied, not caring that she had sent ten rounds into the body after she’d already killed the man.  When she realized the rifle was empty she dropped it in the dirt and leaned over Nora, tears streaming down her face.

“Rachel!  We have to move.  Now!”  John grabbed up the rifle, nearly dropping it from the pain in his hands, and shoved it into her arms.  “Reload and let’s go.”  Rachel mechanically dropped the empty magazine and slapped a new one home, slowly rising to her feet.

John looked at the tears streaming down her face and then down at the dead girl.  Fighting back the pain he scooped her body up in his arms and stuck his face in Rachel’s.

“What’s the plan?”  He shouted over the roar of another explosion from the parking area.  Rachel shook her head and refocused on the moment.

“Bus in the parking area.”  She said, raising the rifle and firing at a man running in their direction.  The bullet caught him in the shoulder and he spun to the ground and quickly started crawling away.  “Follow me.”

They set off, Rachel in the lead with Dog at her heels.  John brought up the rear, moving more slowly with the burden of the body cradled in his arms.  They had to cover 100 yards to the bus, but had only gone 20 when The Reverend stepped into their path.  He was a fearsome sight.  He had obviously taken some shrapnel wounds from one of the grenades and his shirt was in tatters.  His torso was covered in blood and his face a mask of pure rage.  He held a wicked three foot blade in his right hand and stood with his legs wide apart, silhouetted by the vehicle fires.  In his other hand he held John’s Kukri.  Raising both above his head he screamed and charged.

Before John could react, Rachel brought the rifle up to her hip and fired in burst mode, repeatedly pulling the trigger.  The impacts of the bullets on The Reverend were obvious, but it took three bursts of three rounds each before he slowed.  Raising the rifle to aim Rachel put a final three rounds into his face that blew out the back of his skull.  Walking over to the body she bent and retrieved the Kukri then stood up and spit on him.

“Fuck you!” she said in a low, venomous voice, then kicked the body for good measure and started running towards the bus.

Previous: Chapter 25
Next: Chapter 27