I’m not sure how it happened. All the traps, the pitfalls, the tripwires, the caltrops, all of them failed to keep out this herd of infected. One moment I was talking a walk with Bern, the next moment, I’m stuck inside the station, skewering infected through these holes. There’s eight of us in here, but there aren’t that many holes to stab through—only five. Bern said adding too many would damage the integrity of the building and add to the chilliness at night.

Next to me, Sasha was panting while pushing on a stick. “I don’t think I can kill anymore.”

Bern grunted. “If you don’t kill, you’re going to get killed.”

“That’s not what I meant. This corpse has been in the way for a stupid-long time. Even when I try to push it back, it doesn’t budge.”

“Let me try. Take over for me.” I held out the end of my spear to Sasha and switched places with her. The trick to killing infected through these holes is to wiggle instead of push. Slipping the body to the side is a lot easier than pushing back, but there isn’t that much room to maneuver, so wiggling is required. The worst part about dealing with infected definitely has to be the smell. Like a final fuck you, they can’t just pass in peace; they have to destroy your nostrils while they’re at it.

“What’s that smell?” Bern asked. “Do you smell it?”

“You mean the rotting brains? Because, yeah, I smell it.”

“Not that,” Bern said. “It’s acrid, a bit sour.”

“Like burning hair?” Sasha asked. She was leaning on the pole again, trying to push the corpse that was stuck on her spear away. “I smell it.”

“What the hell?” That was Mark. He’s positioned on the other side of the doors, beside Bern. “I think this infected is on fire.” He pulled his spear back and crouched down, his eyes level with the hole in the wall. He leaned closer. “There’s definitely an orange glow. Shit, why—gah!”

High-pitched shrieking filled the room, and I nearly dropped my spear from the sudden sound. What was that? Mark was stumbling backwards, clutching his eye, blood leaking out from between his fingers, sliding down his arms to his elbows and dripping onto the ground. There was a small movement in the corner of my eye, and I swear I saw an arrow being pulled back out of the wall from the hole where Mark had just been.

“Mark!” Lacy dropped the spear she was holding and ran to Mark’s side. “Oh my God. Oh my God. Mark. No, no, no. This isn’t happening. Mark, please.”

And filling in for Lacy, one of the walkie-talkie operators, who I never bothered to learn the name of, picked up her spear and lined it up with the hole in the door. No one tried to fill Mark’s position.

“Where’s the first-aid kit?” Lacy shouted. “Where’s the first-fucking-aid kit!?”

“Calm down,” Bern said. “It’s in my room, on my bedside table. Take Mark with you.” He didn’t even finish his sentence before Lacy pulled Mark out of the lobby.

“How many more are left?” Sasha asked. It seemed like she managed to move a corpse out of the way. I still hadn’t managed to remove mine. The wiggling’s taking a bit longer than expected. And black smoke is pouring in from the hole.

Wait. “It’s on fire. This infected is on fire! Where’s the extinguisher?”

“It ran out,” Bern said. “Remember when Lacy set fire to the smoker shed?”

“Goddammit, Lacy!” What if the building catches fire? What is even going on? How are the infected on fire? “What do we do?”

Bern sighed. “Calm down. Panicking won’t help the situation. Just keep killing as many as you can. Do you think this ranger station is that easy to set on fire?”

“It’s made of wood,” the walkie-talkie operator beside Bern said. “Isn’t it flammable?”

“Just because something’s made of wood doesn’t mean it’ll catch on fire that easily,” Bern said and shook his head. He wiggled his spear before pulling and plunging again. “You said the infected are on fire, but human skin doesn’t burn that easy. At most, their clothes and hair are burning, and those alone aren’t enough for the walls to catch.”

“Are you sure?” Sasha asked. “There’s smoke coming out of this hole now too.”

“If I wasn’t sure, I’d be panicking,” Bern said. “Do I look like I’m panicking?”

If Bern says the station won’t burn down, then the station won’t burn down. What I’m more concerned about is the infected that stabbed Mark’s eye with an arrow. It’s definitely that infected leader that killed Patrick. I think it was the one we saw in the tree, the one that baited us into the woods with its presence. It was wearing Patrick’s clothes.

“You alright, Spencer?” Sasha asked. “Your face is pale.”

“I’m fine. It’s the smell that’s—”

There was a scream. It didn’t come from any of us in the lobby. That was Lacy. Did the infected get inside? How? Bern was the first to react. “Josh, Goldstein, go check it out,” he said. The two men who couldn’t find a hole to occupy were called out to see what was going on, but they didn’t even get a chance to move before Lacy dashed into the lobby while clutching her bloody arm.

“Mark! He bit me!” Lacy shouted. Moments later, Mark stumbled into the room, his one good eye focused on Lacy. He groaned and reached for her with his arms outstretched. As the person closest to the two, I froze up. But Sasha didn’t. She pulled her spear back and charged at Mark, pushing him into the wall, pinning his shoulder with her spear. A moment later, another spear stabbed into Mark’s head, through his already damaged eye. Lacy was standing next to Sasha with tears streaming down her cheeks, a spear in her hands.

“I, I don’t understand,” Lacy said through sobs, her shoulders dropping. She didn’t let go of her spear. “Am I infected now? Am I going to die?”

“You might not be infected,” Bern said. “The arrow that stabbed Mark must’ve been infected. The injury site was really close to his brain, and that probably explains why he turned so quick. The virus or whatever it is might not have spread throughout the rest of his body, including his saliva and teeth.” Bern frowned. “But we’ll have to tie you up just in case.”

“I disagree,” Josh said, picking up a bat resting against the back wall. “We can’t take any chances. If you haven’t noticed, we’re surrounded with no way out. What if she turns and bites one of us while we’re distracted?”

“What are you doing with that bat? Stay away from me!” Lacy pulled the spear out of Mark’s head and brandished it towards Josh while retreating away from Sasha. I stepped towards the corner of the room in case Lacy decided I was a threat. Bern tried to approach her, but Lacy jabbed her spear in his direction, forcing him back. “I’m warning you. I’m warning all of you! You better stay away from me, you hear me!?”

“Wait, put the spear down, Lacy,” Bern said, his hands raised. “We’ll just tie you up, no one’s going to hurt you.”

“Once you tie me up, Josh over there is going to crack my head open like a watermelon!” Lacy jerked her spear towards Bern, forcing him to take another step back, away from the door. The walkie-talkie operator took a step back as well. “You’re going to kill me! All of you want me dead because I was bit!”

“That’s not true,” Bern said. “That’s not true at all.”

Lacy’s head whirled around, making eye contact with each of us. Her gaze focused on Josh the longest. He was still holding onto his bat. Lacy took in a deep breath, her chest expanding. “If I’m dying, you’re dying too!”

Then she lunged towards the door.


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