White Horse - Chapter 22
Willis backed away from the breakroom door, stumbling into Georgie, who was inches behind him. “Move it,” Willis said as he closed the door. “Help me move the cigarette machine in front of it.”
They stood the rickety machine upright and slid it in front of the door, its feet leaving black streaks on the cream-colored linoleum.
“If something is coming through that door, it’ll have to work at it,” Willis said, looking around the L-shaped room for somewhere to hide.
Then two loud gunshots echoed through the building, like firecrackers in a metal garbage can. Willis and Georgie jumped.
Willis walked past the window barricaded with a pop machine and around the corner of the odd shaped room. “Quick, in here,” he said, opening a bifold closet door.
Willis and Georgie went into a small storage room. Old musty coats hung on a wall-mounted rod. Metal hangers rattled as they pushed them aside and closed the slatted wooden door.
“I’m scared,” Georgie said, looking through the slats of the door. All he could see was a wall across from the closet and a cork bulletin board with various papers pinned to it. One sheet said something about a fair minimum wage, and another had a picture of the observatory with dates of public viewing sessions.
They stood quietly in the small coat closet. All they could hear was their breathing and an occasional swish of polyester fabric from them brushing against winter snow jackets.
Then there was a loud bang at the breakroom door, like a body or another heavy object being thrust against it. Willis and Georgie looked at each other in fear as the bang grew into more bangs. The scraping sound of the cigarette machine being pushed an inch at a time across the dirty floor made it clear it was not going to keep the zombies out.
“The zombies are breaking in,” Georgie said, backing into the dank coats.
Willis looked at Georgie. Slivers of light from the slats lay across Georgie’s face. He could see tears filling his little brother’s eyes. “We got to get out of here. If they can get through that door, they can get through this one.”
“There’s no place to go,” Georgie said, watching Willis as he gently pushed open the closet door and slid it to the side, where it folded with a clunk.
“We can go out through the window,” Willis said, walking toward the pop machine blocking their only exit.
Before moving toward the window, they looked around the corner toward the bedlam at the breakroom door. Arms of possessed people reached through the gap, grasping at the air. Their fingers were stiff and bent like claws as the door continuously pounded the back of the antique cigarette machine.
“How did they find us?” Georgie asked.
“I don’t know but let’s get out of here.”
Willis ran toward the window and put his back against the wall, pushing the pop machine with his arms and a leg while Georgie pulled from the front. The vending machine moved enough for them to squeeze through to the closed window. Willis pushed the curtains aside and began tugging on the sill.
“It’s locked,” Georgie said as he unlatched it.
Just as Willis thrust the window open, the cigarette machine moved again, this time allowing the zombies to inch their bloated bodies in through the narrow opening.
“Hurry, open it!” Georgie yelled.
Willis pushed out the screen and helped Georgie through, shoving him forcefully out the opening, causing him to fall forward onto the cold and brittle weeds of an abandoned flower bed. Willis frantically began climbing through, pressing his feet against the back of the pop machine for leverage, as Georgie stood and began pulling on Willis’s upper body.
“They’re right behind you,” Georgie shouted, tugging on Willis so hard he thought he would pull his brother’s arms off.
A man, the size and build of a linebacker, grabbed Willis’s leg and began pulling in the opposite direction.
“Kick it!” Georgie screamed.
Willis kicked with such intensity, he felt the zombie’s fingers bend backward from the force of his shoe sliding down his pant leg. If he were not in such a state of desperation, he would have been sick, like the time he saw quarterback Joe Theismann’s shin break in half, while being sacked by New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor. For a moment, Willis thought he was going to have to lose his jeans to escape, but the zombie’s bent fingers were unable to keep their grip on Willis’s leg.
Just before a second zombie reached Willis, he was able to scurry out the window, falling next to Georgie. He stood, and they both backed away from the opening as the two zombies attempted to climb out. They turned to run around the building toward the side door when crazed people came around the corner. They turned to go the other way when another group of frenzied people was heading for them from that direction as well. They froze.
“We’re surrounded,” Willis said, putting his arm around his trembling younger brother. “We’ll have to run into the woods.”
They were getting ready to run into an almost impenetrable bramble of prickly wild raspberries and sharp thorny wild olive bushes when spider drones descended from the sky. They formed a barrier around Willis and Georgie, causing the zombies to stop, tilt their heads as if in a state of confusion, then retreat.
“Are the spiders going to kill us now?” Georgie asked, closing his eyes.
“I don’t know, but they’re not doing anything yet,” Willis said, releasing his grip on Georgie. “I think the zombies are afraid of them.”
Georgie opened his eyes, rubbed tears away, and watched as the zombies lumbered away from the observatory and into the woods.
Willis pulled a lawn ornament stake from the flowerbed and walked to the corner of the building facing the parking lot. Two tall men dressed in black were getting into a large black car. “Who the hell are they?”
Georgie walked up next to Willis as the black Cadillac drove out of the parking lot and down the driveway. “Visitors deciding it’s not a good day to star gaze?”
Willis laughed. “Strange, whoever they were.” Willis felt the sharp point of the copper hummingbird stake. “Grab something to use as a weapon, we need to go back inside and check on Mom.”
Georgie looked around and picked up a smooth rock with lightning-like patterns, one he recognized as being from Lake Michigan. He had found several of these when they walked along the windy beach of the Casco Township Nature Preserve last summer.
They continued around the observatory to the broken front door.
“The spiders are gone,” Georgie said, looking around.
Willis looked into the now blue sky, only a hint of pink ash remained. “Good.”
Glass fragments crunched under their feet as they entered through the demolished front door. The shattered pieces, spread halfway across the lobby, felt like slippery ice under their feet. Except for the scratching sound of glass against tile, it was quiet as they approached the spiral staircase and began climbing to the upper level.