Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Chapter 33 - A Shot in the Dark

June 14th, 2008
Hillenbrand Parking Garage

T.Rex knew the layout of Hillenbrand Hall inside and out, having lived or worked there in some capacity for six semesters and two summers over the past four years. The residence hall was composed of two large towers that held the students' rooms - both had eight floors each containing 50 two-person suites and a trio of elevators in the center. The suites were arranged in pairs, so that four students shared a common bathroom. Every floor also had a kitchenette, an ironing room, several utility closets, and a large study room in the center. As an upperclassmen hall, the rooms were larger (and more expensive) than most of the other University housing options.

Viewed from the top, the towers were shaped like a pair of "v"s connected at their vertices by a large green-roofed rectangular complex that held Hillenbrand's dining hall and kitchen, main office, computer lab, laundry facilities, and more study lounges. Deep in the basement was a complex maze of storage cells, utilities, and the campus offices for the University Residences Human Resources department.

Armed with a mental blueprint and an abundance of adrenaline, T.Rex took the parking garage stairs two at a time and paused just at the bottom of the stairwell. He stood on his tiptoes and peeked through the window in the door, scanning for zeds.

With no zombies in sight, T.Rex planned to sprint directly to the closest entrance - the rear dining hall doors, right next to the West tower elevators. He was only carrying his crowbar, by now a trusty companion. The rest of his equipment he'd left with the Fools to lighten his load, but it left him feeling naked and unprepared to handle any emergencies.

He took a few calming breaths and gently eased the stairwell door open, peeking around the corner. A single zed stood to a few yards to his right, staring blankly at the sky and wearing nothing but a tattered pair of shorts and a pair of Crocs. T.Rex crept forward, hoping to sneak past the zed before it could utter any warning to other zombies that might be in the area.

The zed sniffed loudly and jerked its body, turning to face T.Rex. When they made eye contact, the creature's jaw dropped in anticipation just before an arrow pierced its skull from above. The zed froze and flopped onto the ground, motionless.

T.Rex threw a quick salute to the Fools on the second story of the parking garage before dashing to his entry point. The glass panels of the doors were gone, replaced by a few jagged shards sticking to the frame. A carpet of broken glass blanketed the surrounding sidewalk, and Ryan did his best to circumvent the obstacle by traipsing through the nearby flowerbed and gingerly stepping through the doorway.

Do I even want to know what made that hole? T.Rex pondered as he entered the building. At least I don't have to worry about my Purdue ID not working in the electronic swipe locks. With the power out I'm pretty sure the doors default to locked and wouldn't open.

The elevator lobby was completely silent. The only light on the ground floor came leaking in from the broken door, and T.Rex took a moment to try and let his eyes adjust. He was used to the comforting glow of fluorescent lights providing bland but functional illumination.

Fighting back a yawn, T.Rex poked the Up button for the elevator. Nothing happened. Of course, he said to himself. Fucking useless. He noted the irony of increased building security against zeds as modern conveniences began to shut down.

During the school year the towers were split by gender, with the farther East tower being the female side. This typically carried over during the summer, when the buildings were used as housing for various programs- run in part by Operations Assistants like Jenny and himself in years past. Last he knew, she was stationed on the fourth floor, so he would begin his ascent from the first floor after crossing the central portion of Hillenbrand. He could only hope that she was still there- it was an awfully large building to have to search room by room.

Glancing to his right he saw the dining hall entrance, quiet and bathed in near-darkness. The lobby in front was normally packed with a line of hungry students, waiting for their allotted meals. Currently, it was devoid of any presence and what little light spilled in quickly faded, creating numerous shadows. Moving slowly, T.Rex listened intently for any noise that might indicate another person or zed nearby. Now cloaked in almost complete darkness, Ryan wished desperately he'd taken a flashlight. Fortunately, he knew his way around quite well.

He moved to the East elevator lobby without incident, and the outside doors on that side were boarded up. Ryan moved through the short hallway beside the elevators, which led him to the first floor rooms. There was a crack of light dead ahead, where the curtains of the study lounge didn't quite overlap. Using that as a guidepost, T.Rex took the left hallway. Gripping his crowbar in his dominant right hand, he kept close to the side of the hall to let his left hand very gently follow the wall. This way, he could count the number of door handles he passed and steady his path in the darkness.

Clunk. The crowbar in T.Rex's hand found the door at the end of the hall with a loud noise, and he immediately froze, heart pounding in his chest. Way to go, slick! The West half of campus probably heard that one! he chided himself. He waited for what felt like an eternity before moving again, hoping above all else nothing was lurking in the hallway.

Reaching out, T.Rex gently tried the handle. The wooden door was supposed to lead to a small anteroom that connected the outside with the stairwell and the first floor, but the handle would not not turn more than a quarter of the way. Damnit, where's my lock picker? T.Rex muttered under his breath. He was just about to turn around when a thought struck him.

When the crowbar struck the door, it sounded a lot denser than I would've guessed. Plus, the handle itself moves, but not all the way. He decided to risk a bit of noise to try and confirm his theory. He stepped back and knocked on a similar door, one that led to a student room. It made a light rap against his knuckle. Knocking on the first door resulted in a much deeper thud. T.Rex crouched down and attempted to slide the thinnest portion of his crowbar under the door.

Just partway in there was a click, and the crowbar would move no more. Yup, he thought, somebody has barricaded the room ahead, I'm guessing with some of the furniture from the nearby rooms. Not a bad idea, as it would keep zeds out of the building, plus keep the ones inside stuck on the ground floors. Unfortunately, that means keeping me out, as well - there's no way I could break through-

A nearby growl caught him by surprise enough to make him jump into the air. T.Rex spun and faced the darkness, terrified but ready to fight for his life. His eyes darted left and right, trying to discern any shapes in the hallway. After several moments he felt a sharp jab to his abdomen as the noise repeated.

T.Rex looked down at his midsection, and then rolled his eyes. His stomach was growling and a normal inconvenience became a condition that could draw unwanted attention to himself. It was the first time he'd consciously thought about food in several hours, and he wondered for a moment how the other Fools were holding up. If they were beginning to feel slowed by hunger or lack of sleep. If they were safe, or perhaps under attack.

Shaking his head, he quietly retraced his path to the middle of the first floor and went to the right side of the hallway. Halfway down the corridor he heard a noise that was much different from his stomach - a low moan that came from behind. Speeding up, T.Rex fumbled in the darkness and found the handle for the door at the end of the hall.

The handle moved even less than the left side handle did. A quick check of his crowbar under the door confirmed both sides were likely barricaded. Frustrating, he thought, but that means there's a better chance Jenny is alive. It gave him hope that somebody, perhaps the Hillenbrand Staff together, had attempted to secure the building before being overrun. T.Rex grinned, knowing Jenny would enjoy his optimism.

He had one last shot at getting to the higher floors, and it meant heading towards the noises he heard. Gritting his teeth, T.Rex sneaked back towards the East side elevator lobby. The noise increased as he got closer- by the time he reached the study lounge in the center of the hallway, a pair of groans and a steady wheeze had joined in.

Ryan tiptoed to the corner of the hallway just outside the elevators and paused, listening intently. Another trio of distinct "voices" had joined the nearby cacophony. T.Rex peeked around and saw the empty dining hall lobby, and the dim light at the far end from the broken doors. Somewhat confident the coast was clear, he turned the corner and moved in front of one of the elevators.

Very gingerly, as to not make any noise, he slipped his fingers between the elevator doors and pulled, trying to force them apart. When they didn't budge, he slipped his crowbar into place and strained. The inner door mechanisms clicked backward loudly, and the nearby sounds of undead stopped momentarily.

"Shit!" T.Rex hissed. He heaved, and the outer doors groaned open, nearly drowning out the nearby moans. The elevator doors were just inches apart when the first few zeds staggered into the dining hall lobby, looking for food. They appeared as stark silhouettes in the dimly lit hall, jerking and shuffling towards Ryan.

Desperate, T.Rex placed his foot on the frame of the elevator entrance and used his entire body for leverage. The doors protested at first, but as T.Rex extended his legs they relented. More than a dozen zombies came closing in, mouths open in anticipation.

The doors opened wide enough that the crowbar lost purchase and clattered to the ground, spinning, twisting, threatening to fall through the crack on the floor. T.Rex, with his leg on the wall, fell with it, and he quickly snatched the crowbar and rolled into the elevator. The closest zed managed to stagger in as well, the rest not far behind.

Without electricity or a crowbar holding them open, the elevator doors defaulted to internal springs and began to close slowly and inexorably.

Now confined in the elevator with a single zed, Ryan frantically crawled backwards on his hands and feet to the back corner. The lead zed plodded forward, arms outstretched and eyes wide with hunger.

"Come and get me, you undead piece of shit!" T.Rex yelled, gripping his crowbar with the hook cradled upside down in his palm. The zombie took the challenge and lunged, reaching down for T.Rex's skull.

T.Rex would have none of it. He extended his short arms fully and kept a firm grip on the crowbar as he thrust it upward, screaming with fury. The bottom of the weapon pierced the zed's jaw just behind the chin and hammered upward, splitting undead skin and muscle until it burst through the top of the zombie's skull with a wet crack.

The zed immediately went limp. T.Rex shoved the corpse aside just as the elevator doors shut, plunging the area into complete darkness.

Word Count: 47,286


  1. Good job, T.Rex. Now give me the last few chapters.

  2. Way to prove that you're a bamf....again.
    Didn't have time to read and take notes, sorry.
    but seriously, kicked some serrous patoot.

  3. "T.Rex spun and faced the darkness" -- I thought you were going to cast a Magic Missile.

  4. i'm pretty much loving every minute of the wild ride you're taking me on here. i was hoping you would try going to the basement and going up the stairs that way, but climbing up the elevator shaft is way better.

    hopefully, jenny is still alive and not a zed...and hopefully her ole bad ass boss mike has joined forces with with her and his staff to reign wanton destruction against the imposing army of undead...or they're all just held up in a room somewhere. either way it'd be sweet. or better yet...i'm already a zed and i try to take you out. lol. regardless of what happens next this novel is kicking serious ass right now. keep it up man.