Roller Girl Zombie Killer
Do you remember who said roller skating on grass was a piece of cake? No? Peril didn’t either, probably because no one in their right mind would say that because it’s a pain in the ass. Especially if it’s been raining and the ground is a little soft. I’ll take garden over cobblestones any day of the week though, thought Peril as she reached the verge and vaulted over a low concrete wall and into the driveway. Pushing hard on her skates, she rolled towards the front door and steadying herself gave the door an almighty kick, breaking the lock and forcing it inwards. Rolling inside, she slammed the door shut behind her and put on the chain to hold it shut while she worked to fix it. The Hoards were close behind her and she needed to deal with that problem before she even got to what might be in the house waiting for her. The undead were everywhere and maddeningly tireless in their quest to murder you and eat your flesh. Reaching for her backpack, she pulled it roughly from her shoulders and ripped it open. Rummaging around inside she found her hammer and a small box containing several, long nails. With practice ease she nailed the door into its frame, securing it against the incoming zombies she could picture headed towards the house. Of course there was always a possibility that they didn’t follow her, but she was taking no chances. She’d learned the hard way that paranoia was a good ally.
The door now safely shut, she looked around her. Of course there were windows, and they were always a risk, but thankfully it seemed that whoever had owned this house had covered them in ply wood, probably when the Hoards first started walking. Listening now she waited for a moment, catching the silence and analysing it second by second. No sounds. That could be a good thing or a bad thing. The house felt empty, but again she’d been caught out before. Glancing down now she was thankful to see polished floor boards. No carpet. That would make it easier for her to roll around. When all you’ve got for feet are roller skates, you learn your strengths and weaknesses pretty quickly.
Peril had lost both her feet to frost bite as a baby, and worn prosthetics since she was old enough to walk. They were long gone now though. In recent weeks Peril had found herself the captive of a messed-up nut-bar who called himself the Archticus Gleaner. Really he was just an obsessive collector of the strange and unusual, and with the arrival of the Hoards had taken it upon himself to ‘preserve’ people of that description by trapping them in some zoo-like underground bunker. He’d removed her prosthetics and replaced them with these skates. White leather, red wheels. Though Peril had upgraded the wheels herself to something more durable and manoeuvrable. She’d also swapped the shoelaces from white to black because she was sick of trying to wash out the blood and splatter that tends to get everywhere when you have to destroy a Hoard brain. It was the only way to take them out, and even then they continued to twitch. It was disturbing to say the least.
When she’d finally escaped, after the Zoo was inevitably overrun by the Hoards, she promised herself that she would get her prosthetics back one day. She had no idea where they were right now, but assumed that Gleaner still had them. Find him, find her feet. In a world that had descended in chaos and whose living population of humans was sitting at about 10% of what it once was, she was sure she could track him down eventually. She just had to follow the fragmented network of survivors and they would eventually point her in the right direction. She was sure that someone like Gleaner would generate a buzz eventually, and so she just had to wait for news of his whereabouts to reach her. Back in the here and now, before she did anything else, she had to make sure this house was safe. Once it was clear she could let her Crowd know where she was. The Crowd is how she referred to the others she had escaped the Zoo with. There was Grey, who only had one biological hand. Dhalia, who had survived a bite from one of the Hoards somehow, and could not only sense when they were nearby but was ignored by them as though she herself was infected. Blake who only had one eye, and whose beard made him look a bit like a pirate. He also travelled with a little dog called Razor, who would sit on his shoulder like a parrot. A very barky parrot. Luckily though Blake had quickly trained him to keep his barking to himself. Finally, Cherrie made up their Crowd. Covered in tattoos from head to toe, her hair a messy black bob that was shaved just above her ears, and then dyed a blazing hot pink. She was definitely the fiercest looking member of their small crew, complimenting her physical attributes with as many guns and knives as her thin frame could carry. She looked like a figure cut straight from comic book.
Taking a deep breath, Peril removed the automatic pistol from the halter on her hip, and turning off the safety she rolled forward slowly. Thankfully this house was single story so that meant less places for the dead to hide. As she moved throughout the house, she was vaguely aware of the remnants of the family that had lived there before. They’d left in an obvious hurry, and Peril had to roll around a few personal items which were left strewn throughout the hallway. Absently Peril hoped they were OK as she moved on into the kitchen. It was a bit of a mess. Open cupboards and the fridge slightly askew, but it still buzzed with life. The house’s solar power back-up meant the fridge was still running, so she hoped there might be something to eat in there. She’d check that out later, for the moment Peril had just seen something that made her heart skip a beat. A bloody handprint marred the wall next to the fridge. Peril’s mind immediately jumped to conclusions, but before she could delve down that rabbit hole a new thought hit her like a slap in the face. The back door. The back yard. She knew nothing about this place. If the back door was open, then well, it could be very bad.
Frowning with determination Peril smoothed down her black jeans and adjusted her Motorhead t-shirt, which had ridden up slightly under her leather jacket. Then she rolled off towards where she assumed the back of the house would be. As she passed closed door after closed door she only felt more uneasy. This was not good. Eventually she reached a laundry room, beyond which she could see two double glass doors leading out into an overgrown backyard. From her vantage point she could see the doors were thankfully closed, but the fact that they were glass and not boarded up made her worry. Perhaps the previous occupants had felt safe because of the large fence around their backyard, but Peril knew the dead would get in anywhere and anyway they could if they thought there was a chance of a fresh and tasty meal just out of reach.
Moving forward carefully, she tried to stay out of the line of sight from the French doors. Straining to see what might be going on in the backyard, she could feel adrenalin surge through her body, but not letting it get the best of her as she tried to channel this energy towards steeling her nerves instead. If there was trouble she would have to react instantly. Even the smallest bite from one of the Hoards, so much as a nibble, would mean instant infection and walking death for herself. Slobbering, slavering murderous cannibal was not the sort of career she had in mind for herself. Of course everything was different now.
Taking a deep breath, Peril decided to risk rolling over to the doors. Her wheels rumbled quietly beneath her as she glided over the wooden floor. Gliding to a gentle stop, she surveyed the back yard like a cat stalking its prey. But there was no one outside, dead or otherwise. Reaching out quickly, she tried the doors. Locked. With a sigh she turned back towards the rest of the house, just in time to see the thing lurching towards her. She refused to refer any of the Hoards in human terms. It made it easier to destroy them. As the zombie lurched towards her, snarling in the back of its throat and drooling blood and saliva down its chin, she noticed that a large part of its face had been bitten off. Before she could dwell on any further details of the walking horror bearing down on her she lifted her gun and shot it clean through the head. The Hoard dropped like a stone and lay inanimate on the wood floor. But it was not the only one. Next came the children, followed by their father. Peril dealt with them one by one, efficiently and without a second thought. And then she shot them all again, just to be sure. Now she understood the mess in the house, they hadn’t been fleeing they’d been infected. Was that everyone though? Peril knew she needed to check the house properly before she would have any hope of relaxing or putting the call out to her Crowd to let them know she was safe.
Pushing her pale blue hair out of her face, Peril moved out, cursing herself for not counting how many closed doors she had rolled past on her way to the back of the house. She would have to check every room and carefully. The Hoards were a crafty bunch, very good at hiding, and attacking from some weird biological stealth mode. One by one she went through the rooms, but they were all seemingly in order and free from infection. She checked the wardrobes, under the beds and behind the curtains. Eventually she got to the last room, but reaching for the door knob she hesitated. This was the last room she needed to check, and according to every horror movie she’d ever seen this is where the murderous villain would be hiding. It was inevitable. With a sigh, Peril turned the door handle and pushed in the door. The light was off, and the curtains drawn. The murky light made it difficult for her to see anything. Peril was just about to step inside, when a disgusting, squelching noise made her stop in her tracks. Something grabbed her arm, and tried to pull it towards a gaping, toothless hole in the once human face that looked up at her ravenously.
Instinctively Peril pulled away, almost over balancing on her wheels. Feeling herself stumble, her muscle memory kicked into action and she rolled back onto her toe stops. Now on a solid footing, she was able to wrench herself free from the decrepit Hoard in front of her. Obviously it was the children’s grandmother, and judging by the state of decay the reason the whole family had been turned. The Hoards preyed on human sympathy and our willingness to help each other even when we knew it put us in danger ourselves. It looked as though this one had had all its teeth removed, perhaps as a precaution to stop it from infecting the household, or perhaps she was already this way before she rose from the dead. Either way it didn’t stop Peril from putting a well-aimed bullet through its decaying skull. Peril watched with interest as the body fell backward and landed with a revolting gurgle, then she shot the Hoard again and slowly closed the door on the horror show in front of her.
‘Now I can breathe,’ she whispered to herself, pivoting on her skates and rolling back to the French doors.
Peril would have to do something about those before more Hoards showed up. The noise of the shots she fired would have them on their way, trying to pinpoint where she was. Peril didn’t know if they came simply hoping that someone would still be there, or if some kind of sixth sense told them they would actually find someone. She hoped it was the first option. The idea that the Hoards could pick up on the presence of the living was not something she wanted to entertain. Wondering what she might use to board up the doors, Peril remembered that she had seen a garage attached to the house, which ended at the top of the driveway she’d rolled in on. Perhaps there was still some of that plywood in there. It was a long shot, but Peril knew that the garage door had at least been closed so there shouldn’t be any more of the Z-folk hiding in there. Skipping lightly on her wheels, she moved towards the side of the house that led to the garage. There should be an internal door leading to it somewhere near-by. She must have missed it earlier as it was open and she had only been checking the closed doors. This also made her confident that no undead nasties were lurking in the dark.
Reaching the garage, the door was open as she expected. Peril jumped lightly down the small concrete step and into the dark recess beyond. The car long gone, the space seemed empty. To her right, Peril was happy to see several sheets of plywood leaning against the wall, next to a work bench covered in tools. Outside Peril could hear the Hoards gathering, but she knew they would move on again if she was quiet enough. Rolling forward Peril was about to reach for the wood when something lunged at her from behind, knocking her off her wheels. Falling forward she landed on her knees with a thud, silently thanking the knee pads she always wore from saving her from a set of bruised joints. Flinging herself back to her skates wildly, she threw her attacker off and wheeling around, she skated backwards out of harm’s way. Her back against the cold metal of the garage door, she looked around frantically for the Hoard who’d snuck up on her. One hand held up her gun, while the other checked herself for bits and cuts. After a few tense seconds Peril realised she was OK but she wasn’t willing to do anything more until the Hoard made its move.
‘Are you bit?’ demanded a voice from the shadows, making Peril jump involuntarily.
‘No,’ she whispered back, ‘are you?’
‘No, but my family …’ the girl in the shadows trailed off.
‘I’ve dealt with them, you’re safe,’ stated Peril calmly, rolling forward tentatively, ‘how long have you been hiding out in here?’
‘You killed them?’ asked the girl, still not prepared to reveal where she was.
‘Yes, sorry, but you know they were all infected.’
‘It was Nanna, she … anyway, I’ve been in here for the past 4 days. I only unlocked the door when I heard you come in, I thought maybe you had come to save me.’
‘Sorry kid, we’re all still on the run from the Hoards, how old are you?’
‘Nearly sixteen,’ answered the girl, finally coming into the faint light and revealing herself. She wasn’t much more than a skinny punk kid, but she obviously had good instincts.
‘You can’t stay here on your own, do you have a Crowd you run with?’
‘Crowd?’ asked the girl.
‘Yeah, that’s what we call the small groups of survivors, but it sounds like you don’t have anyone left so … I guess you can run with me if you like?’ offered Peril.
‘Really? That would be awesome!’ the girl answered loudly, forgetting where they were.
‘Shhh,’ hushed Peril urgently, ‘there’s Hoards everywhere outside, and I need them to leave before my guys can meet us here, how about you help me board up those glass doors out back and then we’ll take stock of what food and supplies you have in this place.’
‘I can do that,’ answered the girl, ‘oh and my name is Lola.’
‘Thanks Lola, I’m Peril,’ Peril said sticking out her hand.
‘Why are you wearing roller skates?’ asked Lola.
‘That’s a long story, but essentially this is all I have for feet right now so can we leave it there and just board up these doors before we come an undead snack?’ Peril cut her off before she could ask more questions.
‘Sure, and sorry I didn’t mean to stick my nose in.’
‘That’s OK,’ said Peril skating over to the plywood and grabbing two sheets, ‘can you grab the other end? It’s pretty heavy so let me know if you can’t manage it.’
‘I’m fine,’ said Lola, defiantly lifting the panels, and starting to walk backwards.
About 5 minutes later they managed to get the wood down the hall and into the back room. As they leaned the sections up against the doors, Peril could see the hands of one of the Hoards reaching for the top of the fence. They would have to move quickly. If the Hoard saw them, it would go into a frenzy. Even if they just covered the glass for now and nailed it into place later that would be enough. Whispering instructions to Lola, they managed to get the panels into place while leaving just enough of a gap for Peril to see what the Hoard were up to. As she stood there, staring out into the back yard she saw its massacred head pop up over the fence, blood and drool dripping down it’s chin, but as soon as it saw the house boarded up it lost interest and dropping down, moved on. It was creepy how quickly it had assessed the situation, and on realising it had no way in, moved on. Originally, the living had assumed that the Hoards were stupid and their senses diminished in their deaths, but over the coming weeks it was soon discovered how wrong this assumption was. The Hoards were finely tuned killing machines, whose only objective was eating the living and their senses had been refined by their infection to give them the most opportunities for this.
‘Is it gone?’ whispered Lola, an anxious look on her face.
‘Yes, for now, and it will take the others with it, but they won’t be far, how about you show me through what supplies you have and then in about half an hour my friends will be here, then we’ll seal this up so we’ll be safe for the night,’ said Peril, before grabbing a small radio set from her backpack, ‘Grey, are you there? We’re at 49 Chestnut Drive, come up the driveway and I’ll let you all in the garage.’
‘Sounds like a plan,’ came the immediate crackly response, as the radio buzzed into life.
‘Do you want me to come with you to let them in? I know how to open the garage without the motor, it’ll be quieter,’ offered Lola.
‘That would be great,’ whispered Peril, as she rolled off back the way they came.
About 15 minutes later, Peril’s crowd were in the house and introductions had been made. A stocktake of the house had also been done and they had enough food, water and other supplies to last them several days. They could stay here for a bit and figure out their next move. Everyone seemed happy to have Lola joining them too. It was important that these decisions were made as a group as they couldn’t afford any arguments or schisms in the Crowd. As everyone settled in for the night, Peril finally boarded up the back doors properly. It was funny, she mused, that the only way they could feel safe these days was to make themselves prisoners.
‘Pass me a beer would you?’ Peril asked nobody in particular as she hammered in the last nail.
Outside the Hoards continued to mill around the street, waiting for some noise or movement that would give them more direction towards their prey.