No light, no light in your bright blue eyes. I never knew daylight could be so violent.
– Florence + The Machine, “No Light, No Light”
“Ten seconds!” Turner said, shouting over the screams and howls of the Infected as they poured through the broken doors. Chris’s rifle barked endlessly, the trigger barely having time to reset before it was pulled again and again and again. In the back of his mind, he wondered if he had enough bullets.
We might not have ten seconds, he thought. They could shut the door and barricade it but there was no way out of the vault area once they did. Eventually they’d break it down anyway. This was not a good situation.
“Frag out!” Bill said and Chris turned away briefly, pressing a hand over his ear as Bill tossed the grenade into the midst of the oncoming horde. They both dropped lower so the wooden desk of the bank teller stations, coupled with the wall of the vault area, might shield them from any stray fragmentation. A second later there was an explosion that drowned out the screeching of the Infected.
Splinters of wood flew passed the doorway. Chris felt one slice across the back of his hand but nothing more serious. Within half a heartbeat, he was up again, his rifle once more firing into the now-thinned horde. They were still coming, still too many to fight, but the explosion had occurred near the rear and the dead had created something of a pile up near the door. It would take a few minutes for more of them to get through.
“We’re in!” Turner said and Chris heard the loud chunk of the heavy metal vault door opening.
“You have thirty seconds!” Chris said, popping a fresh magazine into his rifle. That was likely all they could give them. The grenade had bought them extra time but not much.
“C’mon, Doctor!” Chris heard Williams say shortly before Allan gave a grunt of a protest. He didn’t have time to look back, nor did he want to. They would get it done, or they would not. His only job at this point was to keep the Infected off them.
Twenty seconds ticked by very slowly with Chris and Bill shooting through another full clip. The horde was thinning to nearly nothing but there were more outside, tearing at their fallen to get at them. They had precious little time left.
One of the Infected crawled around the door on Chris’s left, possibly missed during the firefight. In the midst of reloading, Chris barely spotted him in time. He took a quick step back before raising his knee higher and coming down hard with his heel. The Infected’s head broke apart like an overly ripe melon. The smell nearly made him vomit.
“Turner? Williams? Status!”
Chris wasn’t sure who had replied to him but it didn’t matter. He counted down from six and when he got to zero, he moved out into the main room, checking for their escape route. The door to the stairwell was still clear. The Infected were still inside but most were dragging themselves on shattered legs or slipping on pieces of themselves.
“Package secured!” Turner said.
“We’re moving to the roof! Williams, grab the boy! Bill, cover our rear!”
There was no time to listen for acknowledgment. The Infected were breaking through the glass faster than he’d anticipated. They had to move, now, or they were all dead.
Chris moved first and, moments later, heard boots behind him. Rifle shots went out, followed by the fearful cries of Allan Kirchner. The doctor was really starting to get on his last nerve. Perhaps the man’s fears were justified. He wasn’t trained for combat and that list had been approved… but that was before things went south. They’d need the man if the formula hadn’t made it out of Poveglia.
Wouldn’t they? Or had they accounted for that? There wasn’t time for those thoughts yet and Chris shoved them away to be brought up another time. Now he needed to focus on getting himself and his men out of here alive. Judging from the screams and howls behind him, that wasn’t going to be easy. The doorway to the stairs was just ahead and he barreled into it, kicking the door fully open.
The door stopped halfway as it collided with a big man wearing torn and bloody ACUs. He turned his glazed eyes on Chris before opening his mouth to bellow. In that moment, Chris noticed that the big man’s eyes had once been green and that his nose had been broken several times. He also noticed that the man’s throat was nearly gone, torn out at the front. His head lolled onto his chest and he lacked the scream the other Infected had. It came out as a wet, whistling squeak that was barely audible above the background noise.
When he charged, Chris fired his weapon into the man’s chest, but it didn’t stop him. They crashed together but the Infected was bigger, heavier and Chris slipped on blood and fell. He struck the ground on his back, his backpack absorbing most of the shock and threw his weapon up, jamming it into the man’s wide open mouth. Blackened teeth bit down on the hard metal. They crunched, broke and splintered from the force. The Infected exhaled forcefully, blood spurting from his nostrils and striking Chris in the cheeks and forehead. He immediately shut his eyes and clenched his mouth shut.
One loud bang and the Infected’s head exploded. The shot had come from behind Chris so most of the Infected’s blood and brains scattered backward, into the stairwell. The weight was gone an instant later and Bill helped him to his feet.
“Did you get any in your mouth?”
“No,” Chris said, quickly dragging out a disinfectant wipe from his pocket and wiping his lips and nose. It came up red and he tossed it away. He’d have to be tested before he went anywhere secure. Should have worn a damn mask, he thought. Just because a bite is supposed to be the only way, you never know for sure.
They said nothing more to one another but instead Bill took point and moved into the stairwell. Chris fell back to take his friend’s old post at the rear. Turner and Williams were just about to move into the stairwell when Mark, Allan’s son, suddenly slipped away from Williams and ran out into the center of the room. For a moment, no one said a word. Williams stood still, his hand still outstretched to grab the boy. All eyes turned on the kid as he looked down at a pistol in his hand.
“He took my gun,” Williams said, his voice low and sounding confused.
“Mark! Son, come back, come back now! We’re going to a helicopter!” Allan was shouting, clawing to get past Turner’s strong grip on him.
The boy was maybe fifteen, sixteen at most, Chris thought. He looked gaunt, pale and sick. His eyes were empty. It was a look Chris had seen a hundred times and it shook him to his core. It was a look of hopelessness, of utter despair. A look someone gave when they no longer believed in tomorrow, or even their next breath. Chris wanted to say something, to shout to him, to do anything but found his voice stuck. There was nothing he could say or do. Not anymore.
Mark looked over his shoulder as the Infected broke through more glass. They were beginning to squirm into the room again. The boy hardly seemed worried. He was seemingly at peace.
“Sorry, dad,” he said and then put the pistol to his head and pulled the trigger.
“No!” Allan screamed. “No! No! Mark! Mark why! God, no!”
“Get him out of here!” Chris said and brought his rifle to bear, shooting the first Infected through the new opening. More were pushing the body through, squeezing in like rolls from a meat grinder. They had to go, right now.
Chris backed through the doorway after Turner and Williams, who were both dragging the Doctor between them. The Infected were through now and Chris kicked the door closed, then locked it before running up the stairs himself. Turning to his radio, he clicked the frequency for the chopper.
“We are ascending hot! Repeat, ascending hot! Prepare to take off!”
“Roger, initiating. Fifteen seconds,” said the pilot on the other end. Chris swore and they ran for their lives. Fifteen seconds might be too long.
Behind him, the door gave way.