The End Came With a Kiss(2)

By: John Michael Hileman

The dark-skinned man jogs to the corner. He is near me now, breathing quickly. Eyes bulging. His head ratchets as he smells the air, torn between his curiosity with me and the screaming sounds of alarm from his fellow loopers. The veins on his muscular neck strain against the skin. Though I am familiar with their behaviors, it makes this moment no less terrifying. There is no telling what he will do. He looks strong. In the time it takes to twitch, he could turn and tear into my flesh. Within a few short seconds of his mindless fury, I would be dead. And who knows what, after that.

My heart feels like it might explode in my chest, my legs struggle to hold my weight. I need to hide. But where? The only thing close enough is the burned-out husk of a four-door sedan crushed against a slab of what used to be the outer wall of the garage. Ten feet from the wall I can see the street below through the gaping holes in the floor. It’s too high to jump, but I might be able to squeeze behind the sedan.

I continue my charade and move toward the rear of the car. By the sound of it, the motorcycle is on its way up the ramp to this floor now. I have only seconds before the beautiful dead start flooding up onto this level, beating everything in their path.

The black man breaks into a sprint toward the ramp. This is my chance! I turn and run toward the back of the car and scramble between the right rear panel and what is left of the concrete garage wall. I'll wait till the motorcycle draws the stampede past. Then I'll be able to get to my car. I look at my watch and curse under my breath. I'll miss my wife if I don't leave immediately!

The wobble in the floor is nauseating. I tuck in further and look out from under the car. A leather-clad rider crests the top of the ramp and goes into a short skid. I can't see the rider's face, but, by the snap of his helmet, it is clear he sees the black man charging. I want to scream, "LOOK OUT!" but can't find my voice.

Smoke blows from the bottom of the rear tire as the rider lunges forward, barely avoiding the tackling man who lands on his belly and slides several feet. The rider twists his wrist again, and the back tire burns against the hard garage floor with another squeal. With a jerk the rider realigns the handlebars and the bike picks up speed.

Dead pour up over the ramp behind him. Men, women and children of all nationalities and ages swarm behind him like bees with legs. He is bringing the swarm straight toward me! As they chase him around the corner, their bodies will smash into the sedan, and I will be crushed! Do I run? No. I have to hold my ground. I get lower and wiggle farther under the sedan. It’s less likely they will crash down on the top of the car. I'm safer underneath.

As I squirm, my eyes are fixed on the approaching rider and the wave of angry dead behind him. Closer and closer he comes, but when he reaches the corner he doesn't turn! He’s heading right toward the gaping hole in the garage. It’s a four story drop! He'll die on impact—assuming he isn't dead already.

The rider jerks his whole body and lays the bike on its side. Sparks fly. Metal screams. I watch in horror as bike and rider slide past the front of the sedan and out the side of the building in a cloud of orange fireflies.

My eyes snap back toward the swarm of dead. They’re not stopping. Their fury is too great. Their compulsion to kill the thing that threatens them is overpowering. Everything is shaking now, and I think I’m going to throw up. I grip my ears and squeeze my eyes shut. Sounds erupt around me. Screeching, thumping, banging. I hear the squelch of the sedan wheels as hundreds of bodies slam against its frame, shoving it, inch by inch toward the hard wall. I see them in my mind's eye, pushing and clawing, surging forward through the hole, streaming mindlessly off the edge, flailing in the air as they sprinkle to the ground with horrible thumps.

The fall won't kill them. Those that can move will continue in their frenzy until they feel safe. That usually lasts a couple of hours. Those that cannot move will wait for their bodies to heal. If bones are broken, they will set them. Their instinct is to be perfect. The serum running through their veins is a powerful healing agent, but bones need to be aligned. This they must do themselves. It’s gruesome to watch.

The shaking comes to a stop, and I venture a peek. There is no movement. Did they all leap? I hear their moaning and wailing in the distance, so I slide forward and peek out further. There’s no one in sight. It's safe. I wiggle more, until my body is out from under the car, and push to my feet.