The woman backed away, her footsteps barely make a sound against the hard ground. I turned, continuing through with the motion of drawing the Glock as insurance. Sure, she backed off. That didn’t mean we were best friends now.
“So that’s a gun under your arm and you’re not just happy to see me.”
I couldn’t hide the scowl on my face. Between bleeding out and being chased by a horde of undead, today was a bad day. This chick was making it even worse.
“Listen, the last thing I need right now is a crazy girl with a knife giving me trouble. Let’s just part ways, okay?”
“Crazy?” The woman leaned in close. “You don’t even know crazy my friend. But, and this is a big but; the real crazy shit is happening right outside these doors. Can we agree on that?”
Down the hall the sound of fists pounding against glass came in a wave. They Zs found us. Before I had a moment to react I heard glass shattering, the sound echoing through the halls of the EMP. Their groans and howls reached a crescendo, excited by the prospect of entering the building where fresh meat walked.
My leg would have to wait. There were bigger problems to contend with. “Yeah, we can agree on that. Truce?”
“Truce? I didn’t know we were at war with each other. I gotta be honest, what’s your name?”
“Cyrus V. Sinclair,” I said. “Yours?”
“Okay, Cyrus. I’m Kate. Anyway, I have a proposition. You watch my back and I’ll watch yours. The minute we’re out of here we go our separate ways. How’s that for a truce?”
I nodded. Using someone to my advantage then tossing them to the side? That was the kind of friendship I wouldn’t mind having.”Fine with me.”
Truce established, I holstered my Glock. I kept a close eye Kate as I shouldered the M4. She seemed on her game; she realized the threat of the undead was bigger than whatever our beef was. That was a step up from other people I’d encountered during the apocalypse. I flicked the safety off and nodded at the door.
“Let’s go,” I said.
We exited the room, her going right and I left as we watched our flanks. Undead streamed in from the group entrance. One of the doors was off its hinges, glass panes shattered. They cut themselves up as they pushed each other to get in.
The staircase I’d planned on going up was blocked.
“Plan?” I asked as I shot a man missing no arms who loped towards us.
“Nice shot,” she said. “Elevator this way. Follow my lead and try not to get stabbed.”
We went right, fending off any undead that got too close. Fast Zs sometimes got caught behind the mass of slows, making their progress difficult. They tried to dodge or squeeze around them, but were constantly blocked.
I did a mental count on ammo. I had four full mags putting me at 120 rounds. I was almost dry on my current one. I had 30 rounds for the Glock. That seemed adequate when I left home, and it was, but now I needed to moderate.
I chose each shot carefully, taking out only the highest threats first. Kate was brutal, keeping close to her targets with a low stance. We quickly fell into rhythm; she took out the closest ones while I handled ranged.
We were finally in front of the elevator. I slammed my fist against the up button. Misused seconds would be the end of us if we weren’t careful. The horde was closing in, getting denser no matter how many we dropped. A stream of them was coming from the right, no doubt having gotten through the pathetic barrier I’d put in place when I arrived.
Kate put down another two in a fury. At one moment they seemed to crowd her, but she was never overrun.
My ears rang. The rifle clicked dry. I dropped the mag and reloaded. Undead were closing in on all sides. My pulse quickened as my eyes scanned for runners. Close combat wasn’t my favorite, nor was I the best at it.
A large woman in a black and red uniform broke from the line of slows. Guts spilled from a gaping hole in her stomach. My first shot clipped her shoulder, but found its way in another Z’s skull behind her. I swore, took aim again, and blew off the top of her head.
Behind me Seattle’s Slowest Fucking Elevator finally dinged. I stepped backwards, popping heads as I went. The thick scent of decay grew stronger as undead gore and clotted blood splattered the ground. Two slows tripped over the large woman’s body, then crawled on their knees towards me.
Kate didn’t hear the door open. She was too busy slicing through the head of an emaciated trucker to notice much of anything.
I could leave her, I thought. She’s helped me this far, but she seems kind of insane.
Just as I was about to hit the button to go up, two things happened. A snarling, bloody Z rushed into the elevator and Kate turned and saw me. In the second it took me to put a round in the zombie’s head, she was already halfway to the elevator. So much for leaving her behind.
She showed no fear when hands grabbed at her, grazing her body as she sprinted away. Then she was in the elevator, a look of disdain on her face that was probably meant for me.
“I know you weren’t thinking about leaving me behind, we’re just starting to have fun. You like to have fun, right?”
Yeah. She had it out for me, big time.
I’d have said something snarky, but the horde was right behind her, closing in on us. The elevator doors let off a series of angry beeps as they tried to shut, but the outstretched arms of a few Zs blocked them. I shot the closest of groaning undead. Their bodies fell backwards, temporarily hindering those behind them.
“Do you have to fire that thing in here? I just lost one of my best weapons, my hearing. Fuck!” She kicked away the remaining parts blocking the door as they tried to close again.
The metal slid shut with a satisfying snick. We were left listening to the sounds of Zs beating their fists and groaning. I could finally hear my own breath despite the ringing in my ears.
I was about to open my mouth but was cut off by the doors suddenly sliding open again. I hadn’t hit the up button—my fault, I admit—but I blame it on the blood loss.
Bodies pressed into the small space. Hands and arms grasped for anything they could. Kate spun, bringing her sword down in an arc, slicing the arms off three undead. I fired into the mass, but they absorbed the bullets without effect. I hoisted my rifle to the side, gripping the butt and barrel, and used it to shove the closest Zs back.
Fiery pain shot up and down my hurt leg as I used every bit of strength I had to push. A few pairs of hands snatched my arms, trying to drag me in. One Z bit down on my arm, but the weight of my jacket stopped teeth from meeting skin. As fast as it took me to do it, I pulled back.
Kate already hit the second floor button and the doors closed before the Zs blocked it. I leaned against the wall and caught my breath. It had been a risky move. They could’ve been drawn in and ripped to pieces. I could’ve been killed.
And she would’ve been bit if she tried to do the same. What would she have done if I hadn’t saved us? She wore stretch pants and a gray tank top. Nothing to stop the bites and scratches let alone the usual wear and tear of fighting. Who the fuck wears that to the zombie apocalypse?
“What is this, the slowest elevator in Seattle?” she said aloud.
“World’s Slowest Fucking Elevator,” I joked, broken from my thought. I couldn’t help but grin. “Tour guides boast about it. Next to Pike Place and the Space Needle, this is the big thing.”
It was obvious I hadn’t helped her earlier, but anyone could chalk it up to the chaos and adrenaline of the moment. And I’d just saved us. Even, right? She must’ve thought so. Or was good at hiding it.
The elevator chimed. I shouldered the M4, ready for whatever was on the other side.
The doors slid open.
Timothy W. Long (Among the Living, Among the Dead) and Eloise J. Knapp (The Undead Situation, The Undead Haze) are both authors based in the Seattle area. After a reading at Crypticon ’13, they were asked which of their characters would win in a fight, which sparked an epic collaboration where their two zombie worlds collide.