by Roger Ley
Other stories by Roger Ley
The day started pleasantly enough: we’d met for our weekly game of tennis, the old dependables, Chris, Marilyn, Malcolm and me. Then the man in the dirty suit appeared, and everything changed.
It was summer and the weather was warm, so we’d used the outside court, the one next to the soccer pitch. We’d been playing for about fifteen minutes when I noticed a guy staggering towards us over the field. When he finally arrived, he stood at the chain link fence, staring through at us and smiling vacantly. His skin was pale as if he’d been saved from drowning, but his lips were cherry red. Saliva slowly dribbled down his chin and dripped onto the ground. He gripped the wire with both hands and stood there, making mewling sounds, his clothes torn and soiled, as if he’d been sleeping rough. At first we ignored him, but having him there was unnerving, I couldn’t concentrate on my serve. I thought he was drunk or had learning difficulties and hoped someone would come and take him away. Chris saw himself as the ‘silverback’ and he went over to talk to him. When he didn’t seem to make much progress, the rest of us joined him. Chris asked the guy if he needed help, but he just kept whining and gurgling, I called 911 on my cell but it went to voicemail after a dozen rings.
As we stood there, another visitor shuffled into sight from the direction of town. He had the same pale complexion and red lips, but there was blood on his chin and down the front of his shirt. He looked like the man who ran the hardware store. I took a closer look and realised that he was the guy from the hardware store.
We realised something strange was happening. I told the others I was going to the police headquarters, about five hundred yards away. I walked to my car, and Chris padlocked the gate after me. There was a disturbance from the other side of the court, half a dozen more weirdoes had arrived. They all wore police uniforms, but they were dishevelled, with torn shirts, no hats, ties askew, faces bloody. I nearly crapped myself, as I jumped in the car and locked the doors. Then the kids from the elementary school arrived, hundreds of them, tousled, bloody, moving slowly. They surrounded the court and hung on the wire mesh, whimpering and moaning, and looking sort of hungry.
I drove to the police station and looked around carefully before I got out of the car. The double doors were open, broken furniture and debris littered the foyer. Somewhere in the depths of the building an alarm was ringing. I climbed over the front desk and walked through the empty offices until I found the staircase. I worked my way up through the rooms on the next two stories to the top floor, searching for somebody, anybody. The door from the stairs to the top level was locked. I hammered hard and eventually a face appeared, a frightened face, then another three. They made me turn around to get a good look at me before they opened the door.
‘Do you know what’s happening?’ asked the blonde girl who I found out later was called Sally.
‘Not really, but look at that.’ We could see down into the tennis court from the office window. Marilyn, Chris and Malcolm were standing back to back in the centre of the court, holding their rackets in front of themselves like clubs. The weight of the zombies had flattened the fence, and they were slowly streaming over it. The whole town seemed to be out there. I watched in horrified fascination as the zombies slowly surrounded and overwhelmed my friends. A few minutes later the mob dispersed and there was no sign of them, they’d been absorbed.
All this was eight days ago. There are five of us up here, me and the four clerical workers, Wally, Sally, Brian and Sheila. We’ve secured the entrances at ground level and gathered all the food and water we can find. We spend a lot of the time on the flat roof of the building, vainly waiting for a helicopter to come and rescue us. Water won’t be a problem when the water cooler bottles run out: there are fire tanks up here. It’s the food I’m worried about. We haven’t got much of it, and small quantities keep disappearing. I’m sure it’s that fat bastard, Brian, who’s stealing it.
The hot weather reminds me of my time in South Africa, watching the bushmen cutting strips of meat from their kill, then drying it in the sun. They call it ‘biltong,’ it keeps for months. I look at Brian and think about quietly sliding a biscuit into his pocket and then denouncing him. I have one of the policemen’s pistols, all I need is an excuse to use it.