Syracuse had succumbed to silence. The once busy and populated area now appeared to be deserted. A house stood on the corner of Melrose Drive and Hoytville Avenue. It loitered in the cold morning fog, a small but sturdy fortress. The building was only one story and about the size of a small barn. As if time itself stopped, it too, lay in a dead quiet. An 8-foot stone wall tightly surrounded the home but for an entrance which was blocked off with a white van. Every window on the house was smothered by 2×4’s and sloppily hammered nails. The silence continued for several minutes until a slow shuffle shattered it. A decaying ghoul wandered aimlessly around its environment, looking only for its next meal. Its lifeless eyes searched the road ahead. Then, almost immediately, its head turned toward the house like a compass pointing north. It’s jaw (what was left) released and the creature let out a low, gargling moan. A moth to flame, it headed for the blocked entrance of the stone wall, arms outstretched. The Z moved closer to its newfound prey until it finally smacked into the side of the van, emitting a loud “clank” noise, followed by yet another moan.
A group of people inside the house jumped at the noise. Four of them were grouped together on a couch in the corner of the house. A mother held her 6-year-old daughter in her lap as she shivered. A younger man stood to the other side of them, trying to regain his composure. Another man, shorter and middle-aged, sat next to the mother, chewing his nails frantically. The four sat, wide-eyed, staring at the fifth member. Daniel stood by one of the blocked windows and held his ear to it. He looked toward the four and brought a finger to his lips. He saw the worried looks painted on their faces and walked over to join them.
“Megan”, he signaled the mother, “take Cassie to the bed; let her take a nap so she doesn’t worry.” Megan nodded silently in agreement and carried her child into the other room. He looked back toward the other two. “We don’t have to worry, it sounds like there’s only one. Maybe it’ll go away if we keep quiet.”
Carl, the tall young man, rolled his eyes in disgust. “Go away? Are you serious?” he whispered. “Once those things find what they want, they won’t leave.”
“Well it doesn’t matter either way, we’ve blocked this place off pretty well. None of those things are getting in.” The nervous man looked back and forth between the two as they conversed. Daniel took notice of him and turned with a smile on his face. “You don’t need to worry Howard, we’ve got enough supplies and food to last a couple months. I’m sure help will arrive by then. Why don’t you go sleep as well. We were all awake through night; it’ll clear your head.” Howard nodded and rose from his seat, still relentlessly chewing his fingers. He walked to a closet near the front door of the house, grabbed a sleeping bag from within and proceeded toward the room in which Megan took her daughter.
Carl emitted an arrogant “snorting” noise and turned completely around to enter the kitchen. “We’re screwed…It’s just a matter of time.” he muttered. Howard heard him and turned a worried look to Daniel before he entered the bedroom. Daniel looked toward the kitchen angrily. He grabbed a shovel from beside the couch and got up to join Carl. He entered to see him shuffling through the different cans of food.
“What is your problem?” Daniel asked, refraining from talking too loud. Carl grabbed a can of peas and turned toward him.
“My problem is that you’re lying to us!” he replied aggressively. “You and I both know that when one of those monsters finds you, it’ll call a whole bunch of others. You’re always trying to act like everything is fine. Your not doing anything but giving us false hope. Not me though. The others might not be smart enough to know but I do. I know what they can do; what they did to my friends!”
“You’re not the only one who lost someone!” Daniel lashed back. Megan’s husband and Cassie’s father was taken from them! Howard lost his entire family to those things! Even I lost…” Daniel closed his eyes and shook his head quickly. “Those ghouls have affected all of us.” he continued after a few seconds. “You may not understand but we have to keep our spirits up, no matter how impossible it may seem.”
“I understand that you’re crazy! What I don’t get is why you decided to hole yourself up in your own house. It’s suicide! We’ve only been here two days and we’ve already got our first one begging at the door! We should get out of here while we still can. I’ve heard rumors of people gathering at the airport. It’s so close! If we just left now we would make it but you still keep everyone here. Face it, you don’t know what you’re doing!”
“It’s too late, those things have infested the entire area and they’re growing in number every day! Not to mention that the airport rumor is just that: a rumor. Even if there were people holed up in there, who knows if they still are now? Maybe some bitten people got loose inside or maybe they’ve moved somewhere else. I won’t risk the lives of the people here for some zombie-free paradise that you aren’t even sure exists! If I recall correctly, didn’t I save your life when I brought you here? You couldn’t even make it to the airport yourself. Now imagine more of them and more of us. What would be suicide, is attempting to go out there now.” Daniel looked at the can in Carl’s hand. He took it from him and replaced it with an apple from the nearby table. “I may not be a expert in this kind of situation but I know more than you think. There’s a reason you and I are still alive.” He grabbed the wrist on Carl’s empty hand and placed the shovel in it. “We agreed that you’re first on patrol today.” Carl took the shovel quickly and glared at Daniel. He went to argue but the silence between them was broken by another moan from outside. Carl spun around and walked into the enclosed yard without another word.
The days grew, as did the mass of undead. One ghoul turned to twenty and the group’s supplies started to dwindle. Within a month, Cassie had fallen ill. The horrid sound of Zack filled the air. The sun had set. What could once be described as a beautiful night had been transformed into an undead abyss. Stress and constant fear had cursed the five survivors. They were losing the ability to handle their siege. Megan read a book to Cassie by candle light. Carl doodled pictures of dead zombies with a pencil and paper. Daniel had decided to accompany Howard on his patrol shift.
Daniel set up a ladder next to the wall as Howard watched him silently. He looked down into the small sea of rotting hands for a moment, then climbed down.
“What-what does it look like?” Howard asked reluctantly.
Daniel sighed and massaged his forehead. “There’s got to be at least a third more than yesterday.”
“How long do you think we can hold up?”
“Honestly? I’m not sure.” A depressing quiet fell between them, as the ghoulish groaning ceased to stop. “Well, I think it’s been long enough Howard.” Daniel finally broke in. “Why don’t you go inside with the others. I’ll take over.” Howard nodded. Daniel patted him on the back to reassure him. Howard gave a false smile and walked into the house.
Carl looked up from his morbid drawings and watched Howard enter. “Hi…” Howard said weakly. He walked into the kitchen for a moment and returned with a bag of sour cream & onion potato chips.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Carl demanded. Megan stopped reading and watched him stare at Howard.
“What do you mean?” asked Howard.
“We all agreed that no food is to be eaten past ten!” He walked over to Howard and violently ripped the bag out of his hand.
“B-but it’s only 9:42.” Howard pointed at the clock hanging on the wall.
“Well, it doesn’t matter. I’m pretty sure you can go without eating for a while.” He pointed at Howards stomach. “God knows you don’t need any more food.”
“Leave him alone!” Megan scolded. “You don’t run things around here. He’s following the rules, so just leave him alone.”
“I don’t believe I was talking to you, lady! Actually, thanks for reminding me: I do have some words for you. Your little brat eats more than anyone else here! Even when she’s sick! Stop giving her MY food if she’s just going to throw it back up anyway!”
“You be quiet about my daughter! You’ve stuffed your face with more than your fair share! You’ve done nothing but act like a complete jerk since we all came here! You’re not in charge, Daniel is! If it wasn’t for him, you’d be dead like all the others! Although, sometimes I think we’d all be better off!”
Carl grabbed the crowbar that Howard brought in with him and raised it threateningly. “You better learn to shut your mouth!”
“What are you going to do? Hit me? Kill me? Is that going to make all your problems disappear, tough-guy?” Howard got up and attempted to take the weapon from him but Carl pushed him right back into his seat. He turned back to Megan and pointed the crowbar at her.
“It would make my life so much easier. I could finally have some peace and quiet without your mouth running!” He paused while the ghoulish symphony radiated through the house from outside. “Except for that damn moaning!” He swung the weapon into a vase on a nearby cupboard, sending it crashing into the wall. He stomped to the front door, ripped it open and stuck his head out. “Shut up! Shut the hell up!” The other two jumped to their feet in alarm. Cassie began to cry. Suddenly, Carl fell backwards to the floor. Daniel walked inside, holding Carl’s crowbar, and shut the door behind him. He threw the weapon onto the couch.
“Are you insane!?” yelled Daniel “You could have easily doubled the number of those things by screaming that loud!” Carl jumped to his feet and took a knife from his pocket. He pointed it an inch from Daniel’s neck in a fit of rage.
“I’m leaving!” He screamed. “I’m sick of your rules and stupid decisions! I’ll have a better chance out there with those freaks than with you!”
“You’re not leaving, you have to stay.” Daniel replied calmly. “You’ve made it this far haven’t you? If you went out there you would die within the hour! You’re not going anywhere.”
“Have it your way.” Carl snarled. He brought back his arm, preparing to strike when the crowbar he had brandished earlier, smashed into the back of his skull. Carl fell forward, cutting Daniel’s cheek with the knife on his way down.
Megan stepped backward and dropped the crowbar to the floor. “I’m sorry Daniel, it’s just that he-”
“It’s fine Megan.” He replied, bending down to check Carl. “He’s okay. Take everything you need from the bedroom and lock him inside. He’s out of control. He’ll threaten everything we have here.” Megan nodded and went off to her assigned task. Daniel looked to Howard who was frozen with fear.
“I-I-I just wanted some chips…” Howard spoke timidly.
“It’s alright. He probably didn’t mean it. We’re all under a lot of mental pressure. How about you stay here and read to Cassie.” He pointed to the forgotten, crying girl. Howard walked over to the small girl with the same look of horror painted on his face. Daniel picked up the crowbar, stepped over Carl’s unconscious body, and proceeded into the bedroom to help Megan.
Another week went by. Carl remained in the bedroom like a prisoner. The undead had grown vastly in number. The mental strain had gotten to everyone. Insanity began to show its hideous face. The day was the same as it always was. The same monotonous moaning and boredom.
Daniel, Howard and Cassie were eating their lunch. Howard walked to the bedroom door and knocked. There was no response. He slipped a plate of food through the wide space under the door and returned to the table. They continued eating in silence. Several minutes passed until the meal was interrupted. Megan burst through the back door.
“He’s gone!” she yelled. The others looked up at her in confusion. “Carl!” she answered in response to their questioning faces. Daniel rose from his seat.
“What? How?” he asked.
“I don’t! I was patrolling the house and I saw his window! It’s not blocked anymore and he’s not inside! Look for yourselves!”
The group went to the bedroom and waited for Daniel to undo the padlock. The door opened and Carl was nowhere to be seen.
“Do you think he went over the wall?” asked Howard.
“I don’t know!” replied Megan. Daniel went to the living room table to grab a hammer for self defense. Just as he was about to turn toward the front door he noticed something out of the corner of his vision. His eyes grew wide in terror at the empty key bowl in front of him. “Stay here Cassie.” Megan ordered her daughter. She walked over to her host. “What? What is it Daniel?” she asked nervously. He remained silent until the sound of an engine, rumbled to life. A sound that confirmed his fears. He ran through the front door, followed by his comrades, and saw Carl sitting in the white van. The white van that served as the only obstacle between the safehouse and the mob of living dead that swarmed around it. Daniel immediately ran forward and pulled the vehicle’s door open. Carl looked over and grabbed a hatchet that rested on his lap.
“Back off!” Carl yelled. “I’m leaving this death trap!” He swiped downward with the hatchet, narrowly missing Daniel’s hand. Daniel grabbed the weapon, pulled it away from his attacker, and threw it to the ground. He then grabbed Carl’s arm and pulled him out of the van. Carl grabbed the hatchet and stood up, preparing to strike Daniel as he retrieved his car keys. Howard quickly ran over and pushed Carl away. Carl’s rage grew. He turned his focus on Howard. He stepped toward Howard, slashing madly at the air, toying with him as a psychotic grin covered his face. Finally, he swung the hatchet forward and planted it into Howard’s skull. Howard fell instantly. Daniel and Megan ran over to his corpse.
“Howard!” they screamed in unison. Carl tactlessly turned away from his victim. He jumped into the already running van, backed up a few feet, then turned to the left to exit the wall. He foolishley attempted to speed away in the vehicle; canned food on the move. The first handful of ghouls fell under the machine. Soon enough, the van slowed. Various body parts clogged the wheels of the machine. Zack swarmed around the new treat, his hundred decayed hands pounding into every inch of the vehicle. It took only seconds for them to smash through the driver’s side window. Carl’s screams were muffled by the undead song. His bloody demise went unseen through the curtain of his rotting assailants.
A large section of ghouls then turned their attention on Megan and Daniel. They shuffled as one toward their new prey. Zack funneled through the newly made entrance. Daniel noticed the crowd and pulled on Megan’s arm.
“We have to go! Now!” screamed Daniel. Megan pulled out of his grasp and continued to sob over Howard’s motionless figure as if she was unaware of the rapidly approaching zombies. They drew steadily nearer. “Megan!” Daniel screamed yet again. The closest ghoul reached out and grabbed the crying woman by her hair. She fought against the decomposing arm, screaming as loud as humanly possible. Daniel looked at Megan’s struggle then toward the hatchet imbedded in Howard’s skull. He quickly reached for the weapon and, with immense effort, pulled it from his head. Daniel gritted his teeth and held back his tears as he felt his friend’s bloody head releasing release from the wedge and smacking against the grass. Daniel looked back at Megan’s predator, still struggling to reach her skin to its mouth. He brought the edge down onto the ghoul’s head and it stumbled a bit. With another, more powerful blow, he managed to put the axe through the undead skull and into its infected brain. He picked up Megan from where she dropped and kicked the still standing corpse into the crowd behind it, causing a few to trip backward. The two took the opportunity to escape inside the house. They ran into the living room and slammed and locking the door behind them. “The kitchen!” Daniel yelled. Megan nodded vigorously as her tears dripped onto the floor. Daniel followed her into the next room, locking the corresponding door also.
A scream emerged from the bedroom. “Mommy!”
“Oh my God! Cassie!” screamed Megan. “I forgot my daughter!” She unlocked the door and ran into the previous room. Daniel stood petrified, unsure of what to do. He closed is eyes and listened to the sounds. Sounds that horrified and sickened him. The sound of the front door crashing open. The sounds of a woman’s screams and of a young girl’s that followed. The moaning, groaning sounds of the plague of walking dead. He looked to the blood-stained crowbar that rested on the counter next to him. Daniel backed against the fridge behind him and stared at the door that Megan had walked through moments earlier. The moans grew closer. The shuffling grew louder. He raised his crowbar and prepared to fight. The first ghoul pushed open the kitchen door. Daniel swung his crowbar into its temple. The first Z died instantly. The first of many.