Saturday, 19 March 2011


Jack and Victoria ran through the ever deepening forest, terrified of the things they had seen behind them in the deserted town – the shuffling dead, reaching for and dragging down their friends. And now, also the things they were seeing in the dark wood: hideous looming shapes, more frightening in silhouette surely, than they ever could have been in life. There were other things out there watching them and coming slowly after, that were very different from the undead people that they’d seen and far more dangerous.
Victoria started to lag behind. She couldn’t run as quickly as Jack but he was scared to wait too long for her. “Come on! There are lights up ahead! If we can just make it we might be safe!”
There was a tiny cabin nested in a small clearing and it wasn’t far off, but as they drew closer they heard a terrible baying coming from their left and from a gap in the trees fifty yards away, two pale-skinned, bald-headed humanoids with hunched gaits ran to head them off, a massive white-furred hound racing in front of them. They were going to cut them off!

Victoria screamed but Jack grabbed her hand and sprinted for the cabin, calling out for the inhabitants to open the door. The ghouls and their hound were closing but the door opened, split seconds before they were trapped and both of them clattered inside.
A woman and two men – students on vacation by the look of them – fell back, startled as Jack pointed at the door. “Block it off! Now!”
Nobody moved. Jack grabbed a dresser and but his back into it, sliding it across the floor. Nobody helped him; but suddenly the door was being bashed in from outside and they all grabbed the dresser, pushing it into place, just in time to keep the huge hound that had thrown it’s bulk against the door out.
“What the hell’s going on?!?”
“Listen to me,” said Jack. “There are things out there – I don’t know what they are – but we have to stop them getting in here, no matter what. Quick! The window!”
The hound continued to batter itself against the door with one of the ghouls, but the other ghoul ran to the window and started battering on it to smash it in.

One of the guys, Buddy, grabbed a baseball bat they’d brought with them and smashed it down on the ghoul’s hands as the glass broke. It withdrew long enough for them to slide a bookcase into place in front of it but the creature continued to bash against the wood, trying to get in.
Meanwhile, outside, two more ghouls came from the forest, with a second hound, sleeking in toward the racket, searching for prey.
For food.
Jack and the others worked desperately to block off the big front window of the cabin and only just in time as the second hound threw itself at it. The ghouls kept battering, trying to get in and the barricades were weakening. All they could do was to keep trying to reinforce them. Almost useless to them, all Victoria could do was squat in the corner and scream, her hands over her ears.
Jensen, one of the college students, said, “Wait a minute...” He ran to his bag and pulled out a rolled up piece of cloth, unravelling it to reveal a small revolver. “He glanced at Jack’s questioning face and grinned. “In case of bears.”
There was a trap door in the ceiling against the back wall with a ladder going up to it. “Get up onto the roof!” cried Jack. Try and clear them away with that! If we can hold out long enough, maybe they’ll give up and go away! How many bullets have you got?”
Jensen dropped the spares into his jacket pocket. “Enough for one reload. I don’t know why I even brought that many. What did I expect? A herd of bears, tramping through the forest after us?”
“This is a hell of a lot worse than bears,” said Jemima, testing the weight of a chainsaw she found at the back of the cupboard under some junk. She pecked Jensen on the cheek. “Good luck baby.”
The front door started to give and they all rushed to bolster it and the windows as Jensen climbed up onto the roof. He paled when he saw what was coming through the trees: another ghoul, this one almost double the size of the others – a ghoul king – and a third hound ranging ahead of it.
He got to the edge of the roof and fired down, desperately trying to either kill them or at least drive them back, but the ghouls kept pounding the doors and windows, gradually weakening them. He wounded one or two but they kept coming! It wasn’t going to work! He kept firing, concentrating on one of the ghouls and finally took it down but he was almost out of bullets in the gun already. There was no way he could kill all of them!

Inside the cabin, the others frantically struggled to strengthen the barricades. One by one, what they’d put at the windows or door was being splintered and bent and it was getting harder and harder to find materials to keep it closed. Jack had found a hammer and nails and kept fixing broken furniture fragments across the apertures but it was ultimately a losing battle. All they could hope for was to hold them off long enough for them to lose interest.
For a moment, the banging started to subside. “I think we’ve done it,” said Jack. They’re going to give up!”
Then the door smashed in completely and the ghoul king was there at the breach. They were never going to give up now. It was a fight to the death or escape.
There was an instant of indecision; a levelling of possibilities – whether to flee up onto the roof and hope to jump down the back and run for freedom, or whether to stand and try to fight them off. Then Jemima and Buddy ran to the door to block the way and the decision was made.
Jemima used her chainsaw, Buddy, his bat, fighting against the ghoul king and his hound but they hardly had a chance. The front window crashed open and two hounds leapt through, attacking Jack and Victoria. Buddy and Jemima were forced back as the ghoul king shouldered his way inside, wielding a huge rusty spade. From the trapdoor, Jensen reloaded and fired down, killing one of the hounds, but it was blatantly clear that they’d made the wrong decision. There was no escaping from the bloodbath that was going on down there. They should have run when they had the chance and risked being cut down; now all they could do was fight.
Buddy was ripped apart by one of the hounds. Jack and Victoria fought back; Jack with his hammer, Victoria with a kitchen knife; but they couldn’t hold their own. Both of them were brutally knocked down until all they could do was crawl away from their closing predators.
Jemima lost her chainsaw in the melee, bashing her forehead against the wall as she was thrown back and she cried for Jensen, reaching for the ladder and pulling herself up. She looked back down at Buddy’s crushed skull and the other two grievously wounded people she hadn’t even known before tonight. She told herself there was nothing she could do for them but she honestly didn’t know if it was true. Jack was crawling for the now open window. Maybe he could get away, but his injuries looked bad. They looked very bad.
“Come on!” yelled Jensen, pulling her up before the hound below could snap at her ankle. They got to the edge of the roof and looked down into the darkness. It was further down then they would have liked but they had no choice. Jemima and Jensen held one another’s hands and jumped off.
It was their last moment of intimate physical contact.
Jensen landed on his feet and rolled, clambering up but Jemima twisted her ankle as she hit and fell against a stone, losing consciousness!
First one, then two, then three ghouls circled the cabin, searching for them. Jensen fired his pistol, trying to protect his girlfriend, but the ghouls were on him and they were on her. Insensate, Jemima offered no resistance as the female ghoul tore her neck open, then the other two ghouls slashed at Jensen, knocking him off his feet.
He was horribly wounded, crawling now, sure they were going to finish him off. The line of bushes was only a couple of feet away. If he could just reach there... maybe they would leave him alone... maybe he would have a chance. But they were baying now: all of them. And the hounds were baying too.
Surely that meant that all was lost. Surely death was coming for him now and there was no escape.
He just had to keep crawling. Keep crawling and then he could escape. But even as he reached the thick foliage the baying abruptly stopped and he knew in his heart exactly what that meant.

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