It feels strange having a coordinated group of people fighting against a herd of infected. With a phalanx-like formation, it’s not fair for the infected at all. They can’t get past our shields to kill the people behind who are stabbing at them with spears. Of course, it’s a little troublesome to hold back so many infected, but it isn’t that bad since the shield bearers don’t have to hold a spear; we can focus completely on staying steady. I’m holding a shield; Jen’s behind me, stabbing the infected. At the rate we’re dealing with them, it’ll be over soon. Jen and I really were worried for nothing that night when we got up after hearing screams. The garrison’s completely prepared for a herd. Dealing with a group of raiders though, that might be trickier since they’ll actually have weapons to fight back with.

And as I was thinking that, someone screamed. The scream didn’t come from our formation of a hundred or so people; it came from far away at the edge of the camp: the prison. Smoke rose into the air. Was it set on fire? Other than the few hunters that were given permission to leave, everyone else was still stuck in their cages, and no one was around to free them. Everyone had balled up into the formation.

“Chief, the prison is on fire! All the quarantined are still inside!”

We had given them spears in case infected got inside. They could at least stab them through their cages. However, spears didn’t do anything against flames. Who could’ve guessed the prison would go up in flames? Was there a traitor? I thought everyone gathered into the formation, but there’s over a hundred people; I couldn’t possibly be sure.

“Keith! Take your squad and push through the infected. Free the quarantined; you don’t have to worry about putting out the flames.”

“You heard the chief!” Keith shouted. He was on the other side of the formation from me. It made sense for the chief to tell him to break through; the infected had slowly surrounded us, forcing us into a circle, but since Keith was opposite the entrance, he should’ve dealt with the least number of infected.

“Move back, Chris,” Jen said. Keith and his squad left the formation, and the circle shrank. The number of infected we had to deal with per person maybe increased by one. Instead of two infected constantly pushing against my shield, there were now two and an extra arm from a third infected. If the circle shrank, shouldn’t the number of infected we had to deal with at a time decrease? Why did it increase?

“C-Chief! Someone’s setting the kitchen on fire!”

What? I wanted to turn around to look, but I couldn’t. Who would set the kitchen on fire at a time like this? Couldn’t they have done it after we dealt with all the infected?

“It’s the smart infected! The smart infected’s setting our shit on fire!”

The chief was quick to respond. “Toby, Harrison, take your partners and kill it. The four of you should be enough. Cosmo, take your squad and stop the kitchen from burning down. If you can’t, salvage the food we have preserved instead.”

“Move back again,” Jen said. The circle shrank even further as more people left. From our original hundred, there were maybe sixty of us remaining. Even though two squads peeled off, none of the infected chased after them since our group was so much closer. The pressure was getting greater, but I could still hold on. Only a few minutes have passed, but my muscles are burning in protest. It’s surprisingly tough to push with all your strength against two people without taking a break—even if those people are emaciated infected. No, that isn’t quite right. Infected don’t tire out, and though they look emaciated, they’re really damn strong.

“Shit! I don’t know how much longer I can hold on!”

Someone was giving in. The formation was buckling, but I couldn’t do anything about it. Was this the smart infected’s plan? Set everything on fire to force our formation to split up? It can’t be, right? If that really was its plan, then it’s smarter than some people in this garrison.

“Wait, wait, wait! What the hell is that!?” the person next to me shouted. Jen stabbed the infected in front of me, and it fell down, revealing a sight that I really didn’t want to see. There was a large infected, easily towering one or two heads over all the other infected. Its gloved hands were covered in dirt. Behind it, there was a slope leading down into the moat, and dozens of others were walking on it to get out of the moat. It’s a well-known fact that infected can’t climb. Did that large infected dig the wall of the moat down with its bare hands? How many fucking steroids did that infected take while it was still alive?

My stomach dropped, and my mouth turned dry. The large infected was charging towards the formation, and I was the one that happened to be in its direct path. “Chief!” I shouted. “Major problem. Huge fucking problem rushing straight at us!”

“Hold the line!”

“There’s no way I can do that!” Hold the line? Against that? I’m already tired as shit from holding back the herd. This infected could’ve played as an offensive tackle in the NFL! There’s no way my hundred eighty pounds can stop him. “Jen, we’re bailing.”

There’s a little bit of space in the center of the formation. The circle shrank a lot, but there was still room, at least enough for two people. Jen retreated back, and I followed her after giving the infected in front of me one good push.

“What are you two doing!?” the chief shouted. “Tighten the formation! Tighten! No matter what, you have to stop that large infected!”

The people who had been next to me filled in the gap Jen and I had left behind. Not much longer later, there was a terrified shriek. I turned towards the sound. The large infected had someone in its hands. Its visor was pressed against the person as if it was trying to eat him but couldn’t. After a second of that, the infected tossed the poor person down, breaking the spears that were thrusting at it. It bent down and lifted the man again; then it tossed him to the ground. It repeated those actions over and over. It seemed to be … frustrated that it couldn’t eat.


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