POV: Third person
Subject: Death, Competition & Lively
Was it still there? Was it still following him? David cast his torch out shakily behind himself as he ran, scanning desperately for his pursuer. The beam was visibly weaker now and fading fast; the light barely touched the walls of the hallway before melting away uselessly into darkness. David swore loudly, his anger a flimsy substitute for the terror that gripped him.
David rounded a corner expecting to see the fire exit but instead was confronted with another identikit intersection in the hallway. He considered his options briefly before going left and leaving it to random chance. We should never have come in here, he thought.
His mind flashed to Paul and Dahlia, to the shared look on their faces when they had all encountered that… thing. He wished they hadn’t got separated on that stairwell. Where were they now? He had no way of telling. All he could hear was the pounding of his heart in his throat, the very flow of his blood as it passed directly by his ears and the constant slap of his feet as he pounded the dusty floors of the deserted building.
His breath running ragged and in short supply David stopped abruptly, leaning against an old wooden door. He clutched hopelessly at his chest in an attempt to calm the heaving motion until finally he regained control. The building seemed to fall suddenly silent. David became acutely aware of his surroundings, the dreadful silence, and he began to long for the chaotic sounds of his own fear once again.
He turned to the door in the wall and tried the handle, an ancient brass handle grown green with the decay of age. The door wouldn’t budge and when David followed the source of the obstruction he realised that it had been nailed to the frame; long rusty nails hammered in with haste and no precision. Some of the door panels were loose and filled with damp, he knocked a couple out with little force and they fell noisily into the room beyond. He placed his face close to the hole, aimed the torch inside and peered into the darkness beyond.
Nothing; the room appeared empty and if nothing else it was as rotten and rank as the rest of the building. Even if he had wanted to hide it would have provided little protection. He didn’t even know how those things detected their prey. It certainly didn’t look like they could see. Perhaps they could smell or maybe hear? They might even have some otherworldly sense that can detect the living. Whatever they were they sure as hell weren’t alive.
Something grabbed David’s leg. He felt dull teeth tear through his jeans and rip jagged lines through his flesh. He howled in pain and was pulled to the floor. The torch fell from his hands and broke apart on the ground, plunging him into darkness. He thrashed his free leg in an uncoordinated attack, catching nothing but air the first few times until… CRACK; he connected with something brittle and felt it shatter.
The creature screamed and the grip on David’s leg retreated although the searing pain remained. David scrambled away from the source of the scream and pushed himself against the wall. He tried to stand but the pain in his leg was too intense and he sunk back to the floor. He located the pieces of the torch and blindly fumbled with them, trying to reassemble the device.
That scream, it had been almost human. Just like any normal human crying out in pain. David felt a pit open in his stomach; could he have just attacked another survivor? No, it couldn’t have been. His kick wasn’t powerful enough to crush an entire skull like that. Besides, not even survivors desperate for help opened negotiations with a bite like that.
The torch casing clicked back into place and David tried the switch, hoping he had miraculously placed the batteries correctly first time. The switch flipped and a weak beam of light fell across the creature that lay twitching some few feet away. He was surprised to see it moving.
It resembled a dog but also not really. It was emaciated, with skin so far to the bone that it may as well have been a walking skeleton. Muscle fibres and stretchy sinew hung limply from its limbs and joints while patches of blackened flesh seemed to shed from it before David’s eyes. But the worst thing was its skull. The muzzle had been crushed by David’s attack and now lay all about the floor as a scattering of bone shards.
The dog twitched on the floor and slowly pushed itself up, with no more trouble than had it been an arthritic pet dog. It scanned the hallway, almost as if its senses were still intact. All that remained of its head was a hollow shell atop a crumbling spine. Then it leapt at David.
The door beside David burst open, the rotten slats splintering outwards in a cloud of decay and dampened dust. Something tumbled out into the hallway and fell upon the dog. It was another human. David trained he torch on the two figures now wrestling each other in the hall. The human figure was no more alive than the dog but it did seem to have more skin intact and even a hint of clothing that had snagged in-between bones. What quarrel could two undead monsters have with each other? Were they fighting over David? The human made short work of the dog, pulling its limbs away with such regimented order that the sight made the bile rise in David’s throat.
When the dog finally lay motionless in the hall the human turned its attention to David and lunged at him, pulling at his limbs in much the same way it had with the dog. Only David wasn’t quite so brittle. He took almost ten minutes to die.