A scream. A shout. Gunfire. The slight clicking of a shutting door, followed by heavy breathing. My eyes fluttered open as they fought against the ambient light. The first thing I noticed was that I was not at my house. I was in a plain hospital room.
My body ached as if recovering from a brutal workout. Struggling through the pain, I laid my back against the white plastic headboard. A sudden gasp caught my attention. Braced against the heavy wooden door of the room was a man dressed in blood-spattered green scrubs. His chest pulsed with each rapid breath, blue eyes wide as he watched me stir. Sweat beaded at the base of his matted brown hair.
"What's going on?" I croaked. It hurt to speak.
He relaxed and motioned for me to be still before peeking out of the small rectangular window set in the door. He quickly looked in either direction and then drew close a disposable purple hospital curtain. His shoulders relaxed and then he turned to me with a friendly smile.
"Hey buddy, how you feelin'?" he whispered.
"Good, I guess," I said with a raised brow, "Can you tell me what's going on?"
He walked over to the foot of the bed and looked at my chart. A heavy silence fell between us as he flipped through a couple of pages, his smile fading into a quizzical stare.
"What's the last thing you remember?" he asked.
I strained myself as my memory came in bits and pieces.
Why did my head hurt so bad?
"I remember arguing with my wife. We weren't able to come to an agreement so I left."
"It says here you were in a motorcycle accident and were admitted for a severe concussion last week."
The doctor nodded and gave me a quick assessment.
"Well, I got some good news for you. You've made a full recovery."
In the three decades of my life, I had never received good news that wasn't immediately followed by bad news. I had enough motorcycling buddies to know how devastating a crash could be. My body tensed as I quickly wiggled my fingers and toes, relaxing when I found them all there.
"But…" I said, prompting him to continue.
The doctor placed my chart at the foot of the bed and stared down at me. I felt a chill run up my spine.
"You have managed to wake up in the middle of the zombie apocalypse."
My heart beat fast, pumping adrenaline into my veins. Suddenly, my body wasn't so sore anymore.
"What are you talking about?"
"No one knows who did it, but a few weeks ago, there was an attack. Several missiles exploded high above the city. Many thought they malfunctioned since they didn’t cause any damage but little did we know that they were bioweapons."
The doctor nodded, his eyes stern.
"Shortly after, people started flooding the hospitals with a sudden gut pain. My colleagues and I tried to find the source of the problem, but a few days later, there was a mass die-off. Hours after that, the dead rose to attack the living."
A sudden bump outside the door made us both jump. The doctor tensed, ducking his head into his shoulders. We stayed very still for a moment.
"Can you walk?" He asked
I threw my feet over the side of the bed. My underwear felt stiff beneath my thin hospital gown.
"Uhh, Doc. You got a spare set of scrubs?"
He shook his head.
Just my luck.
I took a few wobbled steps, did a couple of air squats, and recovered my balance.
"I'll be good."
"Great. There's an emergency exit nearby that leads to the parking garage."
I nodded and he extended a hand.
"I'm Mike by the way. Mike Schmidt."
I shook his hand.
"Carl. Carl Crik."
He drew back the curtain and peeked out the window. As he scanned the hallway, I noticed something flicker in the mirror of the room’s unlit bathroom. I narrowed my eyes until I finally made out the faint reflection of my wife. She stood there in her plain work clothes, trembling as she sobbed into her hands, her wavy blond hair covering her face.
Mike turned to me – confused – but before I could point to the mirror, the image was gone.
"My…my wife…I just saw her in the…"
Mike looked to the bathroom and then back to me.
"Your mind is still probably frazzled from the crash."
He tugged at the shoulder of my gown.
"C'mon, you need to focus. You can tell me about her after we get out of here."
He placed a hand on the metal door handle.
"Just follow me and do your best to be quiet."
He opened the door and we carefully made our way into the hall. It was as if I had just left purgatory and stepped through the gates of hell. The blood splattered on the walls and the guts strewn across the tile floor gave the stale air a metallic aftertaste. Loose papers and knocked-over medical equipment littered the hall, casting odd shadows in the dim lighting. The sight of it all made my skin crawl. We tip-toed our way through the hall until we came to a T-intersection. We braced ourselves against the cold wall and Mike did a quick peek around the corner. My nose suddenly curled.
What was that awful smell?
Mike whipped his head back, shaking it rapidly and motioning for me to take a look. We switched positions and poked my head around the corner. Down the hall, five figures knelt over a single mutilated corpse, their features obscured by the pale lighting. My stomach lurched at the sickening sounds of zombies slurping down guts and tearing flesh from bone; Blood pooling at their knees.
We walked back the way we came when I suddenly saw the faint image of a wrecked motorcycle laying in a grassy ditch in one of the outward-facing windows. Red and blue lights reflected off its mangled metal pipes. I narrowed my eyes at a faded decal on the gas tank.
Is that my bike?
"Hey," Mike whispered and motioned for me to keep up.
I pulled myself away from the window and walked over to him. He pointed to a door farther down the hall.
"There's the stairwell. We can follow it up to the rooftop and take the fire escape down to the street."
I nodded and followed him to the door. He opened it slowly. Only the red backup lights were lit, accentuating the shadows of the already dark interior. Slow, shuffling footsteps echoed from several floors down. Mike looked up the center of the stairs.
"It looks like it's clear to the top."
He started up the first few steps when an irritating buzz built at the base of my skull. I paused as a siren sounded from some far-off place. My body tensed while it grew louder and louder, forcing me to press my hands against my ears to ease the growing pressure. It came from everywhere, reverberating within my very bones. I looked at Mike.
His lips moved but I couldn’t hear what he said.
"You're not hearing this?" I shouted.
The cold reality of what I had just done hit me like a sobering wave. The siren's wail gave way to an unholy chorus that called up from the dark depths of the stairwell.
"You fool!" Mike hissed and began sprinting up the stairs.
I chased after him. When we reached the top, Mike dropped his shoulder and burst through the final door like he was running through a brick wall. The door swung open and we both ran out onto the flat rooftop. Smoke billowed from the surrounding buildings, turning the sky a blood red. The early evening air was horribly cold. The door slammed shut behind me.
"Where's the damn fire escape?" he shouted as ran from end to end, hoping over the metal tunnels of the hospital’s HVAC system.
Eventually, he ran back to me, out of breath.
"I knew it was a mistake taking a chance on you. I should have left you to die but no…I had let my morals get the better of me."
"I'm sorry," I said, "There was this siren…"
"That doesn't matter now, Carl. We are trapped and that undead horde will be coming through that door any second now."
As if on cue, we both jumped at the sound of a single hollow thump that pounded at the door. It was quickly followed by many more. I thought of my wife. At that moment, I wished nothing more than to wrap my arms around her and tell her I was sorry - that all the pointless arguments were my fault - so we could laugh and smile like we used to.
I grabbed Mike by the shoulder.
"It's not over yet. We still might be able to hide within the HVAC," I said, "Run!"
We ran but Mike pulled ahead after the left side of my body suddenly went numb. I lost my footing and slammed to the deck just as the door flung open. I rolled onto my side and watched the first wave of undead pour through. Out in the open, the zombies shambled forth. Their yellow, unblinking eyes locked on me; Gnashing their hungry teeth. I curled up into a ball, shut my eyes, and awaited my grisly end.
Not like this!
Suddenly, I felt a hand cup the back of my head.
"C'mon buddy! Stay with me!" Mike shouted.
He rubbed his hands together and I heard a sharp whine.
"Clear!" Mike shouted.
He pressed his hands into my chest and I felt a powerful jolt of electricity surge through me. Darkness blanketed my world. For a moment, I drifted within a dark void. I heard the sharp whine again followed quickly by another jolt.
Then, the world snapped back into view. My eyes opened. I was overcome with the sudden urge to breathe. I opened my mouth and gulped in what felt like my first breath. Not a cloud lingered in the red-orange sky above. The cool evening air tickled my nose as I lay upon a mobile stretcher at the side of a freeway. Three paramedics huddled over me, their faces lit by the red and blue flashing lights.
"He's alive," shouted a paramedic holding A.E.D paddles.
I tried to move, but the left side of my body was covered in a painful road rash.
"Whoa their buddy, take it easy. You were just in a motorcycle accident."
His voice was familiar.
"Mike?" I rasped.
The paramedic looked down at me, surprised.
"We need to get you to a hospital."
He stood up and motioned to the police officers cordoning off the freeway.
"Tell his wife were taking him to Metropolitan Methodist," he shouted.
I looked to where he pointed. My wife stood next to a couple of officers. She was dressed in her plain work uniform, trembling as she sobbed into her hands.
I would give anything to see her smile again.
My bike lay scrapped in a ditch not too far away from them. Mike and the other paramedics raised the stretcher and rolled me toward the open ambulance.
"We gotta hustle," Mike Said, "Our lines are off the hook after those missiles exploded over the city. It distracted a lot of drivers."
"Shoot, man," said another paramedic, "I thought they were duds when they didn’t hit us."
Mike shook his head.
"I think it might get a lot worse."
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Great suspense that ran all the way from beginning to end
Wow! Twist after twist, haha. I love it. You really took the good-news-bad-news prompt to another level, while keeping the doctor trope. That first reveal made me laugh. This was great, it flowed so well.
Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it!
What a rollicking ride! Definitely want to read the sequel -- I'm invested. The only suggestion I would make is to write in present tense? There is so much action and movement -- perhaps present tense would add to the kinetic nature of the text.
That's a good idea, I'll keep that in mind for the sequel :)