Chapter Six: Survival
They sat on their seats, all five of them, waiting for the ferry to take them home. A thousand hands scratched their spaceship, fresh blood splattering every second on the glass windows. Clint’s eyes widened as he saw little objects flying in the skies. Five jets were approaching them. Their savior had finally arrived.
Clint clapped his hands “All set?” His fellow troopers lifted their thumbs up, two of them nodding their heads. He gesticulated something to Jules, and he winked back. Clint could see clear nervousness in Dale’s eyes, but he would make it; that was sure. Their spaceship’s roof opened slowly as the sun’s scorching rays poured in. A little ladder extended to the ground as Dale climbed on it, his body working agile. Before the zombie beings could process what was happening, he had raced to his jet.
Margo went up next, fast, and sure footed as the next jet opened its door for her. A few got hold of her arms, trying to devour it, but the thick fabric that covered her gave no purchase. Jules climbed right behind her, rubbing the sweat on his forehead with a wet handkerchief as a hundred bodies started climbing over the rooftop. Jules gasped, stamping on their fingers with his thick shoes and caught hold of the sliding door.
Climbing in, he pulled the trigger of his laser gun as fifty creatures curled back like a tortoise into its shell. But that lasted no longer than three seconds. When the next jet dropped to pick Brad up, a thousand living corpses had climbed on the rooftop like an army of deadly tarantulas.
Normally when there was a loud sound or huge explosion, mortal souls stayed away from it. But this was just the obverse.
Brad hurried, galloping over their heads when an orange haired man with bloodshot eyes got hold of his backpack and pulled him down.
“Shit!” He muttered under his breath, thrusting his hands on the corpses undead when another woman with long bloody nails choke-slammed him down. These are the soldiers and athletes America wants. Brad’s thoughts surrounded him, only to be woken up by the sound of gunshots that came from underneath. Clint was shooting bullets from inside, clearing the way and getting on top of the spaceship. He hauled Brad back up to his feet, his fingers never restraining to press the button of the skillful laser gun.
The old man stumbled as he walked his way into the jet when a little boy of barely twelve pulled his left foot. His fingers clenched tightly around his white boots and in seconds his teeth had prodded in. Brad’s face went red as he jerked away, reaching for the jet’s door, pulling the boy along, who was getting ready to take his next bite. With the little knife he held in his pocket, Brad cut his foot altogether, right above his ankle as his ragged breath started to sound moribund and waning.
“What the hell, Brad!” Clint shouted, only to be answered by the tight shut of the sliding door. The jet took off, carrying a single-footed Brad Marconi as the final vehicle of hope came to pick up the last one alive. A thousand hungry beasts had gathered all around him, ready to tear him in shreds. Many had started climbing on the jet, banging on to its inky metal surface.
“A perfect checkmate,” Clint mumbled, rotating himself around, shooting with his gun as he moved, only to see a hundred zombies curl back and somersault into thousands. He slid his hand in his pocket, the other hand busy playing the game of life or death when something collided with his fingernails. It was Margo’s micro-Bluetooth speaker she had left back in Starship. She always listened to senseless twiddles where people spat out fifteen words per second and claimed them to be beautiful songs of mumble-rap.
His eyebrows twitched in irritation, and he tossed it towards the real banshees, still shooting with his gun. The switch had somehow flicked on and the voice of some man who had some problems with constipation started blurting out words fast and loud enough to make one go mad and damage one’s eardrums. At that very moment, all those nasty creatures left Clint in the corner and had started towards the speaker like menacing mad monkeys fighting for the last mango. Before their hands could take hold of the speaker and accidentally press the “off” button, Clint had raced into his jet and the door had shut automatically behind him.
He put on his seatbelt, breathing through his mouth gasping for breath. Closing his eyes shut he leaned his head on the glass window which the zombies were scratching with their jagged crooked nails. He could hear the pilot passing a radio message that Captain Raymond was safe and on his way. Glitching images of Carla and the little girl he never knew flew past his mind, breaking to dust and all he could perceive was her laughter calling on to him.
Elysée Palace, France
Flakes of grey ashes lay cold in stacks on the porcelain ashtray. He opened a new flip-flop box and picked out a fresh cigarette, placing it carefully between his dark dry lips. A frail old man dressed in a pristine white coat sewn with perfect golden buttons stood near him, his thumb pressing the lighter. He inhaled deeply as the sparks of fire hit the paper roll, hoping the nicotine would calm his rattling nerves. His dark eyes stared from behind the frameless glasses at the grey smoke that grew taller, twirling into a fine line and drowning the room once again in the nauseating smell of carcinogenic stench.
A nimble young man with long brown hair entered the room, his cleft chin nestled in his thorax, fingers busy fiddling with a bunch of papers and a portfolio. His soles had barely stopped making noise when a gruff voice coughed as if trying to show some signs of its existence.
“Bonjour, Mr. President,” he said, his stare fixed on the silver brooch pinned to his pocket, making sure their eyes never met. He mouthed back the long dead greeting of acknowledgement, taking another deep drag, and channelizing the smoke to escape from his nostrils in two different directions.
“We got to know that the number of casualties in the United States have increased rapidly to almost seven million, leaving only a quarter of their total popul—” André’s words were cut sharp by the president’s gruff voice who interrupted, casually puffing his cigarette.
“Why, are we talking about the United States, Doctor Laurent?” His crooked black eyes stared discreetly into those auburn ones.
“They have it,” his sockets jerked as he tried to stare back. “Fighter jets.”
Those dark eyes quickly widened in genuine surprise as his lips moved to utter words of “how many” and his fingers spread out, making impulsive gestures.
“Hundreds of them,” André said, almost whispering, his face beaming slightly.
Following a violent cough, his voice steadied again. “Why didn’t anybody tell me that our feud with the United States had died?” He wore back his usual expression, placing the half-smoked cigarette in the ashtray and pushed it with his fingers as it rolled to join its kin.
André detested himself for being so under a person’s thumb. He knew very well that someday, he was going to burst out, but he never anticipated it to be that day. “Mr. President, our only foe right now is this virus and its prisoners. This, you know, will mark the end of our race if humankind does not unite. We are never going to win if we gouge out old problems and make new enemies. Mr. President, this is no war of man-against-man. You can’t just sit there with your dead eyes, watching the world die, waiting for death to jab its fangs at you. Do something!”
He exploded, not realizing how loud he was and that he was slamming his fist on the antique glass table, shaking the ashtray and the little golden tumbler near it.
Charles was calm as always, observing his lead scientist closely, admiring his speaking skills. These young men, he thought, they talk like they have brains all over their body and that everyone else is a dumb doornail. The old servant pulled the chair back as he rose from his seat. He turned left, walking slowly, heading for his chamber.
“Any lead on the Russian case?” he asked, not turning back.
“We’re still working on it,” André sighed, adjusting his glasses, followed by a pause, “Mr. President.”
The leather boots stopped moving, making way for Charles’ voice.
“Perhaps you should send a message to the United States,” he said, his hands around the doorknob.
“That we need their help?” André asked, his voice suddenly transforming from anger to rude to excitement.
“That we are ready to help them.”