The stench in the laboratory was thick and cloying. It didn’t help that it was a hot, muggy summer’s day, which made the smell worse; nor did it help that a number of windows were open.
A man and a woman, their school work wear covered in lab coats, stood looking at the old fuse box thoughtfully.
“We could reconnect the thing if I’m right about that loose connection behind the master switch” said the man.
“Yes” said the woman, “but you could just as easily get electrocuted”.
“I’d be wearing thick rubber gloves”
“This would be after you take the screws out?” asked the woman
“Well, I don’t see what else we can do. I wish we’d ended up in the chemistry lab and not the IT lab” said the woman wistfully
“And I wish you weren’t on your period” the man added
“Yeah, me too. The bastards can smell it, it’s driving them crazy. I’ve plugged it up but it still doesn’t help.”
“I’d better get on with this then. Won’t be much longer before they either break down the doors or climb up the bloody drain pipes or something” said the man
“I think the screwdrivers will be locked away in one of these drawers; you know, those little screwdrivers that they use for the computers” the woman said, looking round at a long line of drawer cabinets on one side of the room.
“Hope they aren’t locked” said the man.
The man walked over to the bank of drawers and began examining the labels on each on in turn, the woman checked them from the other end.
“Hey, David, is this it?” asked the woman, pointing at a drawer marked “Tools”.
David walked over and looked at the label on the drawer she was pointing at. “Yep, probably” he replied. He gave a tug on the drawer, which rattled slightly on its brackets, but didn’t budge.
“Dammit. Do you think there might be a key somewhere?” asked David.
“Maybe there’s one in the security office” said the woman.
“We could chance it, I suppose, see if we can get in there and get the key without anybody noticing” he said.
“Or we could try and bust open this drawer right now” she replied.
“What with?” he asked.
The woman looked around the lab. “I see what you mean, there’s nothing we could really use here is there?”
“Why did the bloody fuse box have to be in here anyway? Hey, do you think that cabinet up against the door will be enough to keep them out?”
“I don’t know David, honestly, but they’re not here yet so maybe they didn’t get past the security doors yet. Maybe when the power went off the doors locked where they were.”
“I don’t think so”, said David “I think that they’ll come in here.”
“We just need to keep calm…”
“For fuck’s sake Sheila, I know that. What I want to know is, do I chance it or not?”
Sheila sighed and turned away from him, putting her hand to her forehead and running her fingers through her hair. “I don’t know, but anyway, won’t turning on the power just attract the fuckers anyway? Why don’t we just try to figure a way out of here?”
“Fine, if you can think of a way to burn them to the ground before we leave, or they’ll come after us. There might be even more of them out there. And don’t you think it’s a bit weird, the power going off, this loose bloody connection?”
“What do you mean?” said Sheila, glancing at him, puzzled.
“Why would there be a loose connection at a time like this? It’s a bit bloody unbelievable isn’t it?”
“What, so you think somebody did this on purpose? Why would anybody do that David?”
“I don’t know, but it’s bloody weird that’s all. Anyway, do you have a lighter?”
“No, do you?”
“No. The tables and chairs are made out of metal and plastic, so how are we going to make fire?”
“Can we make a spark with something else?”
“Yes, if we have electricity, we can use sparks from the wiring and set fire to stuff. Either that or we take a chance and go downstairs to the chemistry labs”.
“Fuck that for a game of soldiers” replied the woman dismissively.
“Right then, we’ll need to get this drawer open then. Perhaps if we bend off one of these chair legs and flatten one end of it with something heavy?”
Half an hour later, David and Sheila had overturned one of the chairs and bent it back and forth until it snapped off, then flattened the end by crushing it underneath one of the heavy cabinets in the lab. David inserted the flat end between the top of the drawer and the frame and pried it open, metal protesting and then giving way with a clang.
Inside were an array of screwdrivers and anti-static wrist bands. David took out a flat-headed screwdriver which looked to be about the right size for the job, put on the rubber gloves which he had stuffed in his lab coat before the power had gone, and set to unscrewing the fascia of the fuse box.
After the panel was removed, David unscrewed the panel which held the master switch, and looked at the wiring. He tightened up a couple of screws, held the panel gently between his fingers, and flipped the switch; there was a loud buzz and the lights in the lab flickered on.
The sound of howling, screaming and groaning reached their ears, sending chills down their spines.
“Well, at least the power’s back on for now at least” said David, replacing the master switch panel.
“So now what?” asked Sheila, rummaging around in her pockets.
“Well, I don’t have a signal on my phone in this place, so…”
“But the power’s back on, so we can get the switches and the wireless connection back on and then we can at least get a number and try to Skype people or find out what’s going on with Twitter or something”
“The switches and the router would have started automatically I think, I’ll just go and look…yep, there’re lights on in that cabinet so maybe that’s all ok…”
Sheila found her mobile and pulled it out, pushed a button on it and started tapping away at the screen. “No signal yet…”
David took out his mobile and looked for a wireless signal, but the phone didn’t find any. “Don’t tell me they fucked with the internet as well…”
“Well what if they did?” asked Sheila
“We’re safe in here for now, provided that the security doors didn’t open when we turned the power back on. I hope they stayed locked. Maybe we should think about what we can burn. Zombies burn don’t they?”
Sheila walked towards the windows and looked outside. There were a number of them shambling around listlessly, while others were up against the ground floor windows, crawling over each other to get inside the building. One of them looked up, saw her, and howled at the others.
She backed away from the window quickly and turned back to Dave. “I don’t know, what can we burn in here?”
“Maybe one of those drawers has some flammable aerosols in it, and we have printer paper.”
“So, what, we screw up the paper, spray it with aerosol and light it with a spark from the fuse box?”
“Could do, and we can light the cans and spray those fuckers, or just light the cans and throw them and the paper at them and then close the doors before they get to us…kill them off bit by bit until we kill enough to get away.”
“What if we can’t close the doors, if they rush us and we can’t close them in time?”
“We can burn some of them from up here first…”
“Then they run into the building and burn it down with us inside? No thanks”
“So we’ll just walk out of here, burning zombies as we go. We can beat in their heads with table legs if we bend them off like we did with the chair leg, and then we could get out of here, get to my car and drive…”
“Away from here. Maybe find a shopping centre, or something. Fuck, I don’t know. I’ve seen the movies but this is just fucked…”
“What’s fucked is that to fight my way out of here, I have to either bash my students’ skulls in or burn them” she said.
“I know” said David, “we’ll just bend off two table legs each, one will be for hitting them with, and we’ll tear up our lab coats and wrap the rags round the other. We’ll soak them with aerosol, light them with the fuse box, and then we’ll use them to light the cans to spray at the zombies”.
“Didn’t you hear what I said Dave? We’re going to be bashing in our students heads!” Sheila said.
“They’re dead Sheila, they’re not our students anymore. Not convinced? Take a look outside the window, by the car park”.
Sheila walked over to the window and peered in the direction of the car park. Next to a green Volkswagen Beetle, two zombies were picking over the remains of the corpse of Eleanor, one of their colleagues. One of the zombies had their head buried in her intestines, and was guzzling the meat down with violent, choking movements; the other had smashed her head open, and was scooping out her brains and putting them in its mouth, four fingers at a time.
Feeling shocked and disgusted, Sheila turned away from the grisly sight and hugged her arms around herself. “Ok, fine. Lets get on with this”.
David nodded, and got to work.
An hour later, they were prepared. Before they moved the furniture from the door to make their getaway, they would fire-bomb the cadaverous monstrosities outside, get as many as possible before they made a run for it. They knew that it would only take about ten minutes before the whole building was on fire if the zombies re-entered, but they would get as many of them outside and burning as possible first.
Sheila threw a computer monitor out of the window and started shouting “Come on you fuckers – din dins! Grubs up! Come and get it!”. She made to grab another monitor but David laid a hand on her arm, so she paused and looked up at him.
“I have a better idea. Do you have a spare tampon?”
“What? No, why?”
“Shame. Look, can you hold out until you can get more?”
Sheila didn’t like where this was going, but she knew what David had in mind. “Look the other way for a second” she replied.
David turned away and looked out of the window. There were a few zombies gathered around the broken monitor, but the others were all over the place.
“Mind out” said Sheila over his shoulder. David stepped away from her as she threw the blood-stained ball of sanitary towel out of the window. “Have a sniff of that you bastards!” she screamed.
The zombies looked up at her, then one by one they turned and walked, then trotted over to the sanitary towel. One of them picked it up and sniffed at it; as he put it towards his mouth, the other zombies got excited and jumped on him, tearing him to shreds. This carnage drew lots of attention, and soon there was a big crowd of them fighting and eating each other.
David had pulled out and loosened a couple of wires which had caused the fuse box to fizz and spark. He used the spark to ignite the rags on one of the table legs. They used this to light some of the balls of paper that they had sprayed with an alcoholic cleaning liquid, and they threw the balls of paper as far as they could at the zombies. Some of the zombies were close enough for the balls to land on them, and they went up in flames, screaming and bumping into the other zombies, setting them alight. Soon there was smoke roiling into the air and rising to the window, adding the acrid stench of burning flesh and clothing to the sight of what remained of the corpses’ skin melting from their bones.
“Yes!” Sheila screamed, jumping up and down and clapping her hands with glee.
“Right, lets go!” David exclaimed.
They rushed to the door of the lab and hauled away the filing cabinet that had blocked it. David picked up his other table leg and stuffed one end of it into his deep trouser pockets. Sheila picked up her table leg and he lit the rags which were tied around it. After picking up a couple of bottles of the cleaning product, they both left the lab.
The florescent lights flickered overhead from behind plastic coverings as they made their way down the corridors of the building, pale green walls and polystyrene ceiling tiles flying past them as their feet pounded the black, hard floor, their rubber soled shoes squeaking as they stopped, turned, ran around a corner, half ran half fell down the stairs to the next floor, and the next…
The sickly sweet stink of blood and raw meat, and a rank odour not unlike what David imagined a rotting dog being cooked would smell like ascended to meet them from below, along with a familiar groan.
“Shit!” Sheila said, “lets go back, we can take the other stairs”.
“No, wait, there’s only one of them” urged David, peering round a corner of the staircase cautiously.
“No! Come on David, we have to go, they’re coming!” said Sheila, utterly terrified.
David pulled a can out of his pocket, and crept down the stairs slowly. Sheila pulled at the fabric of his torn lab coat “Come on David, lets go back!”
“Wait woman, just watch this!”
A zombie turned to face him at the foot of the stairwell, its dishevelled clothing draped over pale, rotting flesh through which parts of its bones could be seen, its flesh torn away from its mouth, eyes rolled back into its head.
David leapt back and sprayed alcohol upon it, lighting the vapour to produce a stream of fire which danced upon the cadaver like demented pixies from the furnaces of hell, ripping and searing and eating away as the tormented creature stumbled away down a corridor, screaming.
“Oh shit! Oh shit shit shit did you see that? Did you see that? I fucking burned it! I fucking toasted that fucking thing! Look!” shouted David.
“Holy fuck, holy shit, that was really stupid; you could have been killed you know!” Sheila shouted at him.
“Yeah, well, I got him! Lets try the fire exit here before his friends come.” David said, chastened.
They both ran down the last flight of stairs and turned a corner towards the fire exit. David went to the door and pushed at the metal horizontal bar that would allow them to leave, but the door wouldn’t budge.
“Fuck it! Fucking open!” David shouted at the door, pushing and shoving at it. “It won’t fucking open!”
“Oh shit don’t say that, let me try” Sheila sobbed.
“Get. The fuck. Open!” David shouted, kicking the door with all his might.
There was a sound of groaning coming from outside now, dark shapes began converging from beyond the reinforced glass pane in the upper half of the door.
“Well that’s done it.” Sheila said, tears streaming down her cheeks, her breath ragged now. “We’d better try another door”.
“We’d better go through the big glass windows at the front of the building.” said David, turning round and marching towards the same corridor that their erstwhile opponent had shambled down before.
“Like fuck we should!” shrieked Sheila, almost hysterical by now “with all of those zombies out in front? How the fuck do you think they got in here in the first place David?”.
David snarled with frustration, looking about him this way and that like a wild animal. He saw a fire extinguisher on the wall beside the staircase, pulled it off its bracket, and marched back towards the fire exit.
“What are you doing David? For fucks sake…” Sheila trailed off, turning away and covering her face with her hands.
David thumped the fire extinguisher into the glass of the fire exit; again, again, again; thud, thud, THUD.
The groaning outside grew louder, more voices, the shapes got closer.
The glass of the door cracked, spidery lines became a web which grew bigger, more intense, until – SMASH! The glass exploded outward, revealing the rotting faces of five zombies waiting outside, now very much animated and making their way over to the portal.
Sheila screamed as a pallid, clammy hand clutched her shoulder. She turned and lashed out with her table-leg torch, beating off a blood stained, wild eyed woman whose skeletal arms reached out to rake the skin from Sheila’s face.
David turned round to glance at Sheila, then sprayed the corpses outside with fire until the liquid ran out. As they staggered back and started walking around in disarray, howling and screaming, he tossed his weapons outside, grabbed at the top of the window frame of the door, jumped up and swung himself through and out.
He picked up his weapons and took great lunging swings at the cadavers until he got some space. He glanced back to see Sheila dragging herself head first through the hole he had made in the door. He pulled her through and set her on her feet. He saw an opening in the bodies and ran towards the staff car park, shouting at Sheila to come on, pulling her by her arm as he went.
Sheila staggered after him, holding her hand to her face.
David reached his car and fumbled desperately for the keys; he found them quickly, then dropped them on the ground as he struggled to find the right one. He stooped down to pick up the keys as Sheila leaned against the rear door behind him, and shoved the correct key into the lock on the driver’s door.
“Quick! Get in!” David shouted. He slammed his car door shut, and started up the engine as he heard the rear car door open and then clunk shut behind him. A catchy beat and sultry saxophone blared out from the car’s speakers as the stereo system turned itself on.
David put the car into reverse gear, took off the hand-break and, reaching biting point, turned his head round to look out of the rear window as the car moved backwards out of the parking space. Sheila was slumped forwards, now lurched backwards, now forwards again, like a rag doll.
David put the car into first gear and began driving forwards as he heard Hall and Oates singing “oh oh here she comes, watch out boy, she’ll chew you up…” David was just thinking how strangely fitting that was, when there was a sharp pain in his shoulder, the feeling of teeth biting down into the meat, then a chunk being being ripped out, blood spraying and gushing out into the car’s interior; “…she’s a man-eater!”
The truly ironic thing though, David thought just before he passed out, was not the music, although that was pretty funny. No, that wasn’t it.
Sheila was a fucking vegan.
Based on a prompt from CreativeWritingPrompts.com