Thursday, December 4, 2008

Chapter 35 - Friend or Foe

June 14th, 2008
Hillenbrand Hall - East Wing Elevator Shaft

It was only now, clinging desperately to a few thin bars of metal over a horde of agitated and ravenous zombies, that T.Rex began to question the wisdom of leaving his entire group of friends behind.

He stubbornly refused to look down and tried to ignore the sounds of gnashing teeth below. One shaking hand at a time he climbed the rungs, heading for the fourth floor. I wonder how they're doing out there, T.Rex wondered to himself. Are they under attack? Are they slaughtering zeds by the dozen, their only real problem trying to keep up with Beard? Or maybe they're desperately trying to stem the tide, hoping I will show up soon before they get overwhelmed.

Ryan started climbing faster at the last thought. Hopefully they're hidden out of sight, conserving ammo and energy, wishing they weren't so bored. Then I can rescue Jenny, come back the hero, and tell them all about how I masterminded this rescue.

A minuscule amount of light emanated from the second floor elevator doors as T.Rex climbed past. The zeds below continued to bang on the walls and rattle anything they could reach, including the elevator cables all around.

Why do I always go for the action hero bullshit?
T.Rex argued with himself. First, the red barrel fiasco in the Machine Shop, and then I seriously thought climbing the cable was going to work? Let's pretend that I actually made it all the way to the fourth floor - then what? I'm going to leap from the center of the elevator shaft onto the ledge in front of the doors? A ledge a few inches wide?

T.Rex continued to close the distance, climbing past the third floor doors. He winced every time the crowbar swinging from his belt loop knocked against the wall, preventing any sort of stealth. Too curious, he broke his mental discipline and looked down past his shoes. The shadows concealed the zombies below, but they could still be heard clawing for food. I can still tell the Fools I went all Die Hard on these motherfuckers, he thought with a grin. He knew Cowboy in particular would enjoy if he bent the truth describing how things really happened.

The air was slightly warmer as T.Rex neared the fourth floor. After so much fighting and climbing he was beginning to sweat profusely, so he wiped his brow with his sleeve to try and keep his hands dry. His grip was starting to feel weak, and his legs were tired. T.Rex fought back another yawn, feeling the exhaustion wash over his body.

He'd known tired before. He was an engineering student (or used to be, depending on how bad the zed threat was), and many nights sleep was a lower priority than debugging code or finishing one more set of problems. T.Rex shook his head vigorously and looked for some way move from the elevator shaft and back out into the hall.

A pair of small silver boxes were mounted on the wall nearby, both marked "4" in bold font. T.Rex folded his left arm around a rung for stability and reached out with his free arm to investigate. He expected to have to use his crowbar yet again to break something, and was pleasantly surprised when the first metal case clicked open with little resistance, exposing a series of fuses and wires.

Ryan moved onto the second larger box, closer to the doors. Inside was a series of worn mechanical gears and levers. T.Rex leaned in and squinted in the dim light to read a warning label, trying to discern the purpose of the device. It said: Warning - Do Not Disengage Door Springs While Elevators Are Active.

Success! T.Rex reached in and cycled the lever, and there was a corresponding clanking sound inside the nearby door. Very carefully he climbed the rungs until he was level with the fourth floor doors. Then he unhooked his crowbar and held it out, until the tip of the weapon caught the edge of the closest door. With the springs disengaged, he pulled the crowbar toward him and the door slid open easily.

The rungs were less than two feet from the door, but it seemed like an enormous chasm with the elevator shaft extending below. T.Rex just barely managed to get one foot onto the ledge while still maintaining his position on the rungs. He took a deep breath and shifted his weight, frantically clutching the smooth elevator door rim until he found something to hold on to.

With a series of clumsy and rushed motions Ryan planted both feet on solid ground and held tightly onto the elevator door frame. He panted, nervously excited that he had managed not to plummet to his death.

Just as he found his balance, T.Rex crouched down and crawled under the nearby lobby window. He was afraid that in the daylight any movement, even four stories up, might attract zeds. He wasn't about to draw any more attention to Hillenbrand if he could help it, not when he was this close to his goal.

The orientation of the building kept the parking garage from T.Rex's view, so he crawled from the lobby to the hallway leading to the fourth floor rooms. He would check on the Fools later, when he had Jenny in tow. Convinced he was out of sight from the outside world, T.Rex stood and clutched his crowbar, resting it on his shoulder in a ready position.

Where the first floor was desolate, the fourth floor was chaos. Furniture littered the hallways, forming an obstacle course that blocked line of sight to either end of the floor. Papers, broken glass, even bits of blood were scattered about. The fading light from the elevator lobby made it difficult to even see, much less navigate, and more than once T.Rex had to catch himself from tripping or slipping as he made his way to the room he hoped Jenny was in.

As an Operations Assistant, Jenny was given the Resident Assistant's room for the summer - a room that was larger, nicer, and specifically made for one person. It was located near the center of the v-shaped hallway, just to the right of the center study lounge. T.Rex picked his way over the debris and froze when he felt his hand touch flesh.

His hand recoiled on instinct, and he stopped just short of bludgeoning the errant limb when he recognized the body it was attached to. Despite the gray decaying flesh and missing eye, he could recognize the face of Kevin Schroer - an OA at Hillenbrand and one of his former coworkers. The corpse was sprawled out on the ground, with a large dent in the side of the skull and several bite marks on the right side of the body. A sickly brown fluid pooled on the ground under Kevin's body.

T.Rex grimaced and nodded solemnly, hoping his friend had not suffered much - but knowing that was unlikely. Just to be safe he quickly drove his crowbar though Kevin's eye socket, compacting what brain matter remained with a squick sound. The corpse remained motionless, and so Ryan moved on.

A large desk blocked the way to Jenny's room. T.Rex cleared a space beside it before simply shouldering it aside, unable to think of a way to muffle the noise. He stood awkwardly in front of room 462, unsure of the best way to go about things. He didn't want to make a lot of noise, and he was afraid of how he would handle most of the possible outcomes.

Like a delivery man he knocked on the door, taking special care to try and sound as rhythmic and lively as possible. He waited for several moments before knocking again, still staccato but a different pattern. T.Rex looked around, nervously, and straightened his shirt out of habit.

"Jenny?" he said at a normal volume, running his hand through his hair. "Please answer," he whispered.

Word Count: 49,988


  1. “Why do I always go for the action hero bullshit?” - you are Ryan “T. Rex – The Last Action Hero” G*****d

    great chapter....ANSWER JENNY!

  2. I'm not sure Cowboy would enjoy you bending the truth, so much as you just letting him imagine how it goes down.


  3. Fun fact? I'm on the fourth floor of Hillenbrand... so this is kind of fun to read now that I actually know where you're talking about!

  4. That *was* a fun fact! One of the reasons I was so excited to write a story that takes place in a real place, here, was that people might actually be able to really picture it! Sweet!

    P.S. I can point out to you a lot of the other locations in the story sometime if you're interested, most notably my old apartment. :)