A surge of acid seared the back of Honey’s throat. Although she sneaked off to a self-defence class on a Thursday, that wasn’t nearly as painful as this unexpected circuit around Beckhill Estate. She had been going between a jog and a sprint for – she checked her phone: 7.35 am. Forty-five minutes? Is that all? She thought, and she took a right down the street before her own. The sun was beginning to rise, and Honey didn’t know what she would find outside her house. She felt weak and (to her great surprise) hungry.
She took another right into an alley between two rows of houses. Locking herself in, she pulled an iron gate behind her and knotted a loose chain around the frame. There were five houses on each side of the narrow alley-path, each with a back yard, bordered by brick walls, and wooden gates to enter. At the bottom of the path, a thorny bush-covered wall completed the box which penned her in.
Honey was panting, but with the chance to catch her breath, she was hesitating. Even in a normal situation, a whiff of meat could make her tummy lurch, but in this enclosed alley space, the stench was overpowering. She was wearing a denim jacket and a pencil skirt that had ridden up to her thigh. Curls of thick black hair were stuck across her face with sweat and – she used her forearm to wipe her head – blood. She bent over, resting her hands on her knees and grimacing as she looked down. Her boyfriend’s throat had spurted a fat stream of shiny red when it was torn open in front of her. In his struggle to throw off his attacker, the sash of blood had painted her from the left side of her face to her right side of her hip, and she could feel it turning crispy.
Her head jerked up as the first body thumped against the iron gate and the chain jangled, then three or four more followed. She cried out. The chain she’d wrapped around the gate rattled loudly with every thrust and the chimes echoed off the alley walls. The arms of stained black and bloody bodies thrashed through the gaps in the gate and their low, gritty groans grew louder as they failed to get any closer. As the chain was being worked loose, she made her way down the alley, frantically pulling down gate handles with one hand, while reaching out for the next, but they were all bolted from the inside. Finally, she pushed on the last gate and it gave way slightly, but it was blocked by something on the other side.
“Are you kidding me?!” She screamed. Before she could charge into it, the chain fell to the floor, and the iron gate slammed against the brick wall. She looked up to see the grey, mottle-skinned bodies charging though. They weren’t as slow as the movies made out, but they were selfishly voracious, and it made them claw at each other as they rushed forward, slowing their advance.
“Not today,” she growled, and she smashed her shoulder into the stiff gate. It gave just enough to squeeze through and she squealed as she slid into the gap.
Honey locked the deadbolt on the inside of gate when she made it through. Thumps and groans came from the other side as her rabid followers caught up to her, but the gate held fast.
Looking down at the dead man beside her, she saw why it had been so hard to open the gate. He had been seated before Honey barged in, but now he was slumped over to the side. His left arm was missing, and its fleshy stump poked upwards. She paused and stared at him for the moment, wondering what wasn’t right about him. Her eyes focused on the stump where his arm had been; it was black and oily like the wounds on the others. Quickly scanning the garden, she saw a shovel leaning against the shed a few paces away. Without hesitating, she darted forwards to grab it and turned back. She raised it over her head with the blade edge-forwards like an axe just as the dead man sat up. His eyes opened, revealing watery milk-white pools. He turned his opening mouth toward Honey, but she was already bringing the shovel down as hard as she could. It wedged into his skull with a satisfying crack and the shock reverberated through her arms.
“Ughhh,” she shook.
She tugged on the shovel; satisfied it was wedged in his brain, she let go of the handle, and the dead man slumped back into the position Honey had found him in. She shuddered again before spinning on her heel and marching toward the house.