The rafter had snapped with no warning. No ominous creaking of wood stressed beyond its limit, no spongy feel beneath my feet, just SNAP! and I was falling. My brain sped up and wasted a blink of time thinking it was either termites or dry rot that had weakened the board, then my feet and legs were thrashing at the infecteds’ eye level. The rafter that had snapped had a couple of exposed nail heads and my rifle’s sling had caught on one of them, arresting my fall as the sling tightened around my chest and left shoulder and pinned the rifle tight to my body.
Hands immediately started grabbing at my feet and legs, pulling hard. I started kicking, swinging from the single point where I was hanging from the nail and I must have looked like a big, delicious piñata to the infected. I grabbed an adjacent rafter and tried to pull myself back into the attic but every time I gained a few inches one of the infected got a good purchase on one of my boots and pulled me back down. Rifle uselessly stuck against my body, I drew my pistol and started firing into the faces looking up at me. I burned through 16 quick rounds and the bodies were piling up, but that just gave a boost to the infected that were flooding into the room and climbing on top of the ones I had killed. Hands were now up to mid-thigh and I could feel hungry mouths biting into my heavy combat boots. The thought of hands reaching higher and finding my balls caused a shiver to start at the base of my spine and go all the way up. Still kicking and trying to swap magazines in my pistol one handed I almost freaked out when hands grabbed me under my arms and started pulling.
I looked up and met Gwen’s eyes as she pulled for all she was worth. Flailing my feet I felt heads bouncing off my kicks, had an idea and stopped kicking. When I felt hands and mouths on my legs and boots again I pulled my legs up and stepped onto the top of several heads and pushed off just as Gwen gave a big tug. I came far enough up into the attic to grab the rafter Gwen was sitting on and frantically pulled myself the rest of the way and quickly moved away from the hole in the ceiling.
“Major, infected on the roof.” Anderson’s voice in my earpiece again.
Shit. So much for a quick and easy extraction. I crouched with my weight spread across two rafters and told Gwen and Stacy what was going on, instructing them to stay behind me. Daylight was fading quickly and the attic was close to pitch black. Foregoing the flashlight I lowered my NVGs just in time to see a female infected drop through the hole I’d blown in the roof. I brought the rifle up and fired in the same motion, the high velocity round nearly decapitating the woman. Two more dropped through the opening and I shot them just as quickly then started duck walking towards the opening yelling for Gwen and Stacy to follow me. I killed two more as they came in through the hole and spun when Gwen fired several shots from her pistol right behind me. The infected were piling up in the bedroom and a female had started to climb through the hole in the ceiling.
Making it to the hole in the roof I looked up as a female infected leaned over and screamed at me, maybe a couple of feet from my face. The rifle was up and at the ready and I blew a hole through her throat, stood up and shoved the body away from me. It was twilight, still too light for the NVGs and I raised them off my eyes and scanned the roof. The house was built on a slope, the upslope edge of the roof not as high off the ground and this was where the infected were coming over the top. The big rotor of the Pave Hawk pounded the air above me and Mayo was still firing the minigun, but he had four walls to keep clear and could only target two without having to have Anderson change the position of the helicopter. They were just re-positioning over the shortest wall as I stepped onto the roof and shot two females that were charging towards me.
“Ready for extraction,” I shouted over the rotor noise, knowing the small throat mic strapped to my neck didn’t need me to raise my voice to be heard.
“Working on it,” Anderson’s voice came through my ear piece a moment later. “Mayo’s trying to figure out how to control the winch and still keep the infected knocked back.”
“Lower the goddamn line,” I ordered. “I’ll take care of the infected.”
I was already running towards the edge of the roof as I spoke and I was gratified to hear the minigun fall silent. Pulling two fragmentation grenades out of my vest I stepped to the edge of the roof as Anderson brought the Pave Hawk into a low hover and nearly blew me over the side with the rotor wash. I looked over, bracing myself against the wind, and was astonished to see the seething mass of infected clawing their way over each other to get to the roof. I kicked a couple of females in the face as they reached the edge of the roof, watching them tumble to the bottom of the pile, then pulled both grenade pins. Letting the spoons fly I dropped both grenades over the edge, aiming for a spot a few feet up from the bottom. Five seconds later both grenades detonated within a fraction of a second of each other. I felt the concussion in my chest and was rewarded with the pile of infected collapsing into the void created by the falling bodies that were destroyed.
I turned and ran back to Gwen and Stacy, grabbing the braided steel cable with a canvas harness on the end as it dropped to roof level from the winch arm that extended out from the side of the hovering helicopter. There wasn’t time for niceties so I grabbed Stacy and slipped the harness over her head and shoulders, positioning the cable centered on the front of her body. Grabbing her hands I wrapped them around the cable and raised my arm in the air and twirled my hand. Mayo was on the ball and her feet immediately left the roof as he winched her up. A quick scan of the roof and I spotted two different locations where hands were grasping the edge and I readied my rifle in time to shoot the first female that climbed up onto the shingles. The body flipped over backwards and disappeared over the edge. More quickly followed and by the time the harness was on its way back down I’d already gone through a magazine and a half of ammunition.
Gwen was pressed against my back and I could feel her shivering in fright as the volume of infected females reaching the roof increased. I was firing as fast as I could acquire targets, and the only good thing about the situation was the range was so short I was making every shot count. Another magazine change and I had to shoot down two females that had reached the roof and covered half the distance to me in the time it took me to make the swap. Damn they were fast. I risked a glance behind and saw the harness dangling a foot off the roof and shouted for Gwen to get into it.
“How?” She yelled back.
“Just like I put it on Stacy. Get it over your shoulders and in your arm pits and hang on to the cable.” I kept up my rate of fire while I yelled the instructions to her and was now having to defend three edges from infected. Fire, turn and acquire, fire, turn and acquire, as fast as I could. I glanced behind me and Gwen and the harness were gone. I didn’t have time to look up to make sure she was OK.
The infected were coming up onto the roof now in numbers that were greater than I could keep knocked down and I had less than a minute before I would be overwhelmed. I was OK with that as the harness should be heading back down any moment and I’d be plucked to safety in plenty of time. That is if my rifle didn’t jam, which it did the same instant the thought went through my head. Fuck me if I didn’t just jinx myself. No time to clear the misfire I let the rifle drop and hang on its sling and whipped out my pistol and pulled the trigger on an empty chamber. Shit! I hadn’t been able to load a new magazine when I was stuck in the attic and had committed the cardinal sin of carrying a weapon that was not ready to go.
I was out of time. Five females were on the roof, climbing and leaping over the bodies of the ones I’d shot as they charged my position and I was down to two edged weapons. I had a Ka-Bar fighting knife with an eight inch blade and a Ka-Bar Kukri machete with a wicked 12 inch curved blade. One weapon in each hand I met the first female as she charged, side stepping and slicing deep enough into her neck with the Kukri to sever her spinal cord. Kicking the body aside I spun and buried the knife into the chest of the next, slicing into her heart and dropping her on the spot. I kept fighting, slicing, stabbing, kicking and even punching. They were fast and strong, but they were still just enraged humans. None of them were large enough to present an individual threat, but if I went down they’d all be on me in a flash and that would be the end of it.
Lost in the fight I had lost track of time and hadn’t thought to look for the harness when suddenly the whole roof and half a dozen females in front of me started disintegrating. I back pedaled and looked up to see Mayo manning the minigun again and Gwen leaning out of the open side door of the helicopter waving at me like a maniac. The line extended down from the winch and the harness lay on the roof ten feet away. Diving for it as Mayo adjusted fire I slipped it over my head and slashed open the throat of an attacking female as the winch took up the slack and started pulling me up. I was only a few feet up in the air when another female sprang onto the roof, saw me dangling there and leapt forward with a great bound, launching herself off the body of the female I had just killed.
Trying to make her miss I pulled my legs up and twisted away, but she slammed into my lower body and wrapped her arms around me with an iron grip. Immediately she started attacking, biting my upper thighs through the heavy fabric of the uniform pants. Fortunately humans don’t have sharp teeth and serious bite pressure like a dog, so she couldn’t actually bite through my clothing, but she was able to get a mouthful of flesh in her jaws and son of a bitch if it didn’t hurt. Bare skin would have torn open, but the heavy fabric protected me to a degree. Grunting in pain I pounded on the top of her head with the hilt of the Kukri, but she was like a Pit Bull and wasn’t letting go other than to bite down on a new chunk of flesh on my inner thigh. Damn that hurt, and it was way too close to a really sensitive area.
We were now winched all the way up to the helicopter and hung suspended in the air just in front of the open side door. Mayo had stopped firing and sat there three feet away staring at me with his mouth hanging open. The bitch bit down again, even higher this time and I roared in pain and pounded even harder on her head. It still did no good, her grip not loosening in the least. Now pain has a way of distracting you, and the pain from the bites had distracted me from what I was holding in my hands. Instead of pounding on her head I should be stabbing or slicing. Reversing the knife in my grip I stabbed into the side of her neck, ramming it in to the hilt and started sawing away from my body, feeling the blade bite into her spine. Her grip instantly loosened and she fell away from my body, Ka-Bar still stuck in her neck.
Mayo snapped back into action and reached out for my now empty hand. I grabbed his wrist and he let out slack on the winch as he pulled me into the helicopter where I collapsed on the vibrating deck. He pulled the harness off over my head, snapped a safety tether to my vest and left me alone as I rolled into a ball with my hands tucked protectively between my legs pressing on the spots that hurt the worst.