Chapter 16 - You have to burn the rope
Current Region: Confounding Cul-De-Sac
So Brent found himself alone, at the top of the staircase with only the pounding and groaning of the undead to keep him company. He wiped some sweat away from his forehead as he watched the hallway.
It would be just his luck, he figured, if a whole horde of zombies showed up right after Harry left. He would shoot, and shoot, until he ran out of ammo. He would try to keep fighting with the baseball bat but there would just be too many of them, and he’d have to run, only find that the doors were all closed, and locked. And that would be it. Game over, man.
Oh right, what if they were actually trying to escape without Brent this whole time? Harry probably went to join them in ditching Brent. He was just standing here to be a scapegoat again, to slow down the zombies.
No, wait, Harry wouldn’t do that, would he? He promised he would be back. It was a ridiculous scenario anyway.
Brent’s ears picked up nearby groaning and footsteps, and his stomach lurched as a zombie appeared beneath the railing. Oh shit, was that his nightmare coming true?
He watched and waited, but no other zombies followed. He sighed and almost let his guard down, then realized that the one zombie was a fast one.
BOOM! He fired as it scampered around to the base of the stairs, but it was moving too fast and the pellets all missed, hitting the floor and walls.
It was hopping up the stairs on all fours full speed straight at Brent, a terrifying sight to see.
Do something, you idiot! Part of his brain screamed as he struggled to process how not a single pellet had hit.
After a delay Brent’s hands started moving again.
Ka-CHACK-BOOM! The zombie was only couple feet away, lunging at him, when he finally managed to get the shot off. A mass of holographic 20s appeared and the corpse fell back down, adding to the pile of bodies at the bottom.
|Zombies Killed: 3
That was way too close for comfort.
Speaking of close, Brent felt another presence behind him, and quickly spun around.
“Whoa! Take it easy, mate, it’s just me!” It was Harry that stood there, holding his hands out. Brent realized he still had his gun pointed out ahead of him, nervous about the incoming horde as he was.
Looks like Harry had kept his promise after all. Brent lowered the barrel. “Oh, sorry. What’s up?”
“It’s all good, actually. They’ve made this sketchy homemade rope out of bed sheets and other odds and ends, and we’re going to climb out the back window. Come on!”
Brent followed Harry into one of the bedrooms where Reisa, Karisma and Ray stood by the windowsill with what was indeed a sketchy homemade rope tied hastily together and secured to a bedpost.
“The whole gang’s here,” Harry announced.
“Right.” Ray unlatched the window and slid it open, peering out below.
“Okay. The ground here’s clear for now, but let’s try not to make too much noise on the way down,” he said. “And be careful, I don’t know how long this rope will hold.”
So Brent’s nightmare scenario would remain in his dreams. They were all escaping together, or at least they would try to.
Ray took up a coil of the pseudo-rope and tossed it down, then stepped back and gestured. “Ladies first.”
“Don’t mind if I do.” Reisa, the most ladylike of them, strode forward. She tugged the knot on the bedpost to test it, then swung one shapely leg after the other over the windowsill.
She gently kicked off and rappelled down the side of the house smoothly and silently.
Ray stared at her waving on the ground. “Huh. Didn’t expect that.”
It didn’t seem too odd to Brent, as she was an elf, a race known for their unearthly grace and beauty.
Ray pulled the rope back up. “Alright, next up.”
“I guess that’s me.” Karisma awkwardly squeezed through the window. She looked down from her perch on the sill, legs dangling out as she gripped the makeshift rope. “Oh crap,” she breathed, in the voice of someone who has no idea what they are doing. Brent could empathize.
“Need a push?” Ray offered.
“No! No, I just- I’m fine.” Karisma slowly turned around and lowered herself onto the outside wall, one hand on the rope and the other still gripped tightly on the windowsill.
“Ohhhh crap,” she moaned, still hanging there for several seconds. “Ohcrapohcrapohcrap.”
Ray rolled his eyes. “We don’t have all day.”
“Come on Ray, don’t be a bully,” Harry whispered. ”You’re doing great, love! Keep going!”
“Right. I just have to, uh, let go. Let it gooo, let it gooo….”
Karisma released the sill and let out a huge yelp as she immediately dropped several feet.
“Shhhh!” Ray hissed.
“Sorry, sorry!” Karisma continued her not-quite-controlled descent, trying her best not to let out any more sounds. She still let out a few sharp breaths and squeaks though as she slipped and skidded the rest of the way to the ground. Fortunately the zombies didn’t seem to have heard any of this.
Two down, three to go.
“Ugh.” Ray shook his head and went up to take his turn.
The rope drew taut as it bore the man’s full weight, and the bed creaked as it was dragged forward a bit across the floor. Brent noticed that the portion of rolled up bed sheet rope pressing down on the windowsill looked pretty overstretched and torn at the edges.
Ray’s climb down was not as graceful as Reisa’s had been, but he nevertheless made it to the ground without too much trouble or making much noise.
Who was next? Brent looked at Harry, who did a small bow and gestured his hands toward the window in the manner that a butler would. “After you.”
Oh boy. Brent gulped and stepped up to the window. They were only one story up but it seemed a lot higher when he looked straight down, where the other three were glancing around nervously for any zombies.
He gingerly took hold of the rope, trying not to tear it further, and clambered through the window. The outside wall was made up of the typical vinyl panels, and when Brent planted his feet on them they didn’t feel very stable.
Okay. No need for any jumping or other activity that would strain the rope too much. He’d take it one step at at time. Brent shifted one foot to the next panel down, then the other, and then his hands followed down the rope. Rinse and repeat.
He wanted to put more of his weight on the wall than on the rope, but the panels just weren’t built to support someone stepping on them from the side.
How much farther? He turned his head and saw that he still had more than half the height to go. Ugh.
Brent probed the next panel down with his left foot, and this time the whole panel sort of wobbled a bit at the touch.
Uh oh. Would it break if pressed too hard?
He lifted his foot back up, but as he did so his other foot slipped, sending him sliding down the rope much faster than he liked.
His eyes squeezed shut, his hands tightened around the rope, and his legs frantically scrambled to regain purchase on the wall. His shoes skidded and squeaked against the vinyl siding until finally some friction took hold and arrested his fall.
Opening his eyes, Brent saw that his butt hung only a few feet above the grass.
He swung his legs out from the wall and planted his feet back onto solid ground, then immediately let go of the rope and started shaking his hands around.
They hurt like hell!
His palms were sweaty- well, not just that, but they were also rubbed quite red and raw from sliding down so fast. It wasn’t just going over the knots, but some of the sections of the rope had felt rough, probably carpet or rug.
Ouch, rope burn. Brent wanted to groan, but held his tongue to keep the silence. There really wasn’t any immediate relief to be found from something like this, since touching nearly anything with his hands would just worsen the pain.
At least he’d made it down in one piece.
That just left Harry.
He poked his bearded head out the window and gave a thumbs up. Brent returned the gesture, so Harry clambered through and started descending.
Wait, maybe he shouldn’t have given the thumbs up. The pseudo-rope was already pretty strained from everyone else using it.
Brent tried to signal Harry, waving his arms around, but the man had his back to them. He wanted to say something, but the sound might alert the zombies. And besides, it was going fine so far, right?
It was not going fine anymore.
The green sheet that made up the top portion of the rope was torn nearly all the way through its width. Harry froze, and all eyes were on him.
Brent was at a loss as to what to do. Should he-
Too late. In just a few more seconds the sheet tore off completely.
“Whoa!” Harry shouted as he plummeted to the ground, landing with a hard thud.
“Ah shit,” Ray breathed.
Only now did everyone rush forward to check on him.
“Ohmygod are you okay?” Karisma asked in a hurried whisper.
She took one of Harry’s arms over her shoulders and Brent took the other.
“Eh… kind of… ack,” Harry grimaced as they hoisted him up with great effort. “Scraped my elbow and my foot feels bloody awful.” He nudged his head towards his left side which had taken the brunt of the fall. “Dunno if I should put weight on it.”
Damn! If they had been a few seconds faster they might have been able to catch him or something, Brent lamented internally.
Wait, the damage Harry took from the fall would most likely be accounted for in the video game interface’s health bar logic just like any other form of damage. In which case all they had to do was heal him back to full and the injuries would disappear.
“Anyone have a medkit or other healing item? I can try using my bandages if not,” Brent offered.
“How long is that gonna take? I think the horde is already on its way.” Ray eyed the nearest corner of the house, looking antsy. “There’s no way they didn’t hear that.”
Reisa had a similar air of nervousness about her, tugging on her braid, looking like she was about to bolt, but she didn’t add anything to the conversation.
Harry shook his head. “Let’s just go, mates. Worry about patching me up later.”
A zombie rounded the corner, its eyes completely white with a vacant expression, yet still focused on approaching the closest living being. Which in this case happened to be Brent.
“Welp, here we go.” Ray aimed his pistol and fired.
Pang! Just like before, the zombie fell over with a hole in its head, once again dead. Unfortunately, three more came around the corner to replace it, with the rest of the horde not far behind judging by all sounds of footsteps and moaning.
“Let’s go!” There was no helping it. They started moving, Harry limping along with Brent and Karisma supporting him in some sort of five legged race.
Ray and Reisa strode ahead of them, one to each side, trying not to leave them too far behind while still putting as much ground as possible between them and the undead.
And it was… working? Brent looked over his shoulder to see the crowd of zombies now pursuing them. It was a frightening sight to be sure, but one that was slowly growing farther away. Even bogged down by Harry’s leg, the three of them were still managing to handily outpace the glacial shamble of the zombies.
The not-fast ones, that is. Out of the crowd sprang two zombies clad in red sneakers, running instead of walking.
Brent’s heart started racing even faster than it already was as they closed in.
“Shit!” He heard Ray curse in front, followed by rapid discharges of his pistol as he sacrificed accuracy for speed.
Pang! Pang! Pang! Pang! Pang!
He missed a few shots, but one of the running zombies staggered as it was struck by one, two, and then three shots through the torso, after which it fell over.
The other continued getting closer and closer, it’s rotting maw opened wide. A primal fear overtook Brent, and he tried to push forward, but there was only so much he could do while attached to two other people.
“Fuck, it’s too close!” Ray shouted, holding his fire.
It reached out with gray fingers, about to grab at Brent’s back.
Something deep within Brent urged him to just let go of Harry and make a run for it. He’d get bitten if he didn’t, and then it would all be over! Sure, it might just get Harry or Karisma instead, but at least it wouldn’t be him.
Fwip. He was saved from this terrible decision when an arrow flew right by his ear and pierced through the zombie’s skull.
Looking back in front of him Brent saw Reisa with her bow out.
“Thanks!” Brent squeezed out, panting with exertion as he helped Harry along.
“Wow, yeah,” Ray said, “Seriously nice. I would not have taken- ah shit-”
Another fast zombie ran at them from the side, diverting his attention.
This time Ray got it right in the head, dropping it in one shot.
“Hah!” he crowed.
They kept running, but the going only got harder as the ground started to slope upward.
Wait, where were they even going? With no destination in mind they had just been running directly away from the house.
Now they were up against a large steep grassy hill about twice Brent’s height, and Harry began to falter.
“Agh- crap, I can’t-”
He slumped, Brent and Karisma feeling the strain as they were almost reduced to lifting him up by the arms.
The slope was just too steep. Brent would have a tough time climbing it himself, let alone pulling Harry up.
Meanwhile Reisa had already made it to the top, and Ray had just managed to scramble up.
He looked down on them as he put his pistol away. “Uh, you guys might want to put him down,” he remarked, surveying the horde closing in.
Put him down? Wait, did he mean-
This was one scene from a movie Brent really didn’t want to re-enact.