Last time on Hell Breaks Loose - Mitch watched helplessly as his neighbor was ripped apart by a wild pack of the dead. Nearly out of food, his mother demanded he not leave the house in search of more. Mitch, knowing she was sacrificing her health in favor of his, drugged her, and sneaked out of the house anyway.
After getting to the local grocery store, and filling his bag full of food and supplies for him and his mother, he was knocked unconscious by a strange dark figure, awakening later, how long only God knows. A pudgy man, covered in fresh blood entered the room where Mitch was tied to a steel table, prepping him for something...for him to be served on a platter to the dead.
A group of zombies found their way into the IGA, attacking the butcher who was ready to serve Mitch up. Mitch escaped after a brief struggle with the butcher, who met his end at the hands of his own customers. Mitch, crying, ran home to find he'd forgotten to lock the backdoor after he'd left the home, leaving his mother in a drugged sleep up in her room...
Moving his way through the house, he found a familiar zombie, standing over the mutilated corpse of his mother. Mitch, sick with rage, fought the zombie, shoving it out the window, splatting it on the sidewalk below. It didn't take long for the horde to smell the spilt blood...for them to find their way into the house, for them to find their way up to the bedroom...with his mother's corpse crawling to him, Mitch has nowhere to run...and so we continue...
Hell Breaks Loose - EP. 5 - "What Doesn't Kill You..."
A swarm of dead faces appeared from within the upstairs hallway. Their eyes were empty, jaws drooping and spilling bloody saliva. They fumbled over each other like wriggling maggots, trying to fit all at once through the narrow bedroom door.
His mother pulled at Mitch’s pant leg, trying to scale him to get a piece of his neck to chew on.
Through the broken window, birds chirped and down the street, Mitch spotted Mr. Rickerson’s pickup at the end of the block. If he could get to it, he could just drive and think about what’s next, but getting there was only half the battle.
The zombies had the hallway completely packed, more were shuffling up the stairs. Their footsteps bounced through the bedroom door, mewling groans droned. He looked at the window. It wasn’t that much of a drop.
I’m gonna jump, he thought. I can’t believe it, but I’m gonna jump out the window!
An electrical wire connected the house, directly above the window outside, to the power lines lining the street.
I can grab that, but I’ll have to let go before I touch the ground or I’m fried chicken.
His mother was now pulling herself up his shirt.
“I hope you can forgive me someday. I love you more than you’ll ever know,” he said, wrapping his hand around his grandmother’s hand mirror on the dresser beside him.
He thought about the silent promise he’d made in the ash-covered incinerator tube, the one that he’d never leave her again and he realized he couldn’t keep it.
God dammit! I can’t keep it! I can’t help you! I have to help myself! I’m sorry…
Mitch smashed it into the side of his mother’s head, snapping the handle off and jamming pieces of the mirror into her skull. She let go of his shirt and fell face first into the floor.
He booked it to the window, feeling the hot, funky breath from the horde against his neck, tight on his heels.
He fixed his foot onto the window sill and leapt out in one smooth motion.
The wind whipped through his hair as he grabbed the power line, which was squishier than he thought it was going to be. It snapped free from the house under his weight, which he was hoping for, and stole the momentum which would have broken both his legs if he hit the ground dead on.
He let go and free fell four or five feet into a roll before his goose would’ve been cooked in an electrical display of sparks and pops. He finished the roll on his knees and turned his eyes upward.
Up in the bedroom window, a group of zombies hunkered. They started spilling over the edge of the window, landing in bushes and on the sidewalk with blood splatters.
Mitch hoppled to his feet and ran down the block, toward Rickerson’s pickup. The wind scratched and dried his throat as he pushed his legs harder and harder. They burned like battery acid pumped into his calves and ankles.
Behind, zombies continued to flop to the ground from the bedroom window, swishing into hedges, slamming into the yard. The first wave that’d fallen rose to their feet and tore after Mitch, bearing their yellow and bacterial teeth, screaming and howling with hunger.
Mitch hopped the split-rail fence guarding Mr. Rickerson’s backyard and leapt over the turtle shell child pool just beyond, heading for the backdoor which stood atop a stoop of chipped and colorless concrete stairs. When Rickerson came home with the kid’s pool two years ago, all the children in the block were instantly attracted to it, spending their summer days playing in it, though all the parents were wary of Rickerson, scared he might be a perv. Mitch didn’t care about any of that. He just wanted the truck.
He remembered every morning before school, around 7 or 8, Mr. Rickerson would waddle from his front door, thermos in one hand and his keys jingling in the other. Mitch knew there wasn’t a chance the keys would be so conveniently placed in the folds of the driver’s side visor, that luck is only written into film scripts. Mr. Rickerson loved his pickup and Mitch wouldn’t be surprised if his dead hands were still clutching those keys, if he wasn’t running around with the dead.
The cries of the horde drew closer as Mitch stomped his way up the concrete stoop. The screen door groaned while he yanked it open and fumbled with the backdoor knob. It was locked, like his backdoor should have been.
He pounded his shoulder into the door, still gripping the bouncing knob, but it held strong.
Around the corner, in a nook of the outside of the house, he’d seen a window low enough to hoist himself through. Could be the only way I’m getting in, he thought.
Mitch let the screen door slam shut, shoulder throbbing in rhythm with his heartbeat, and scooped a loose chunk of concrete from the stoop. It was nice and cold, and if it wasn’t for the coarseness, he’d be tempted to press it against the lump on the side of his head.
He fought to catch his breath has he dropped off the side of the stoop and rounded the side of the house to the darkened window, reflecting the gathering thunderheads in the sky. That’s when Mitch smelled it, not the rotting or dry roadkill smell, but the fungal and oily aroma of coming rain.
That’s just what I need, thunder and lightning, and to be soaking wet. Maybe it’ll throw off the scent of blood, if that’s even how they hunt.
“Just what I fuckin need,” he whispered to himself.
Mitch turned his head away and punched through the window with the concrete chunk. He slid it around the edges of the window frame, making sure there were no jagged shards left and pulled himself in blindly.
With the rolling clouds above blotting out the sun, there was little more than a creamy glow with which to navigate about.
Mitch bounced off the kitchen sink, face-first, spilling a pile of stacked and dirtied dishes to the floor. They smashed to tiny ceramic pieces around him while first his face then his legs slammed into the linoleum floor. He lay for a moment on the floor, letting his head recover. Then he picked chewed chicken leg bones and decomposed lettuce from his shirt and pants. He stood up and swatted the tiny dish pieces from his hair.
“Well this is just cozy…”
Mr. Rickerson’s kitchen was tiny. Lime green cabinets followed the floral patterned wall as it curved, stopping alongside a doorway that lead to the living room. A card table, which looked like it had been used as a dining table, hugged the opposite wall underneath a Felix the Cat clock, still ticking away, eyes and tail bouncing back and forth. Tick, tock, tick, tock. Other than that, the house was silent, save the savage cries of the dead outside.
The swarm of zombies vaulted over the split-rail fencing in Rickerson’s backyard, bumbling and knocking each other to the ground and into the kiddy pool. The quicker ones cleared it with ease, splitting into two groups. One headed for the backdoor while the others fought to fit through the kitchen window, pulling and prodding, each wanting to be the first one in.
Mitch sifted through empty food cans on the kitchen counter, slapping them away, searching for the pickup’s keys. Bloodied and grubby hands slapped against the inside of the kitchen window, catching Mitch’s attention. Decomposing faces bobbed up and down just outside. Mitch scooped up a butcher knife from its wooden holder and sliced through eyes and noses, splitting lips and foreheads.
The backdoor jumped in its hinges as the zombies rammed it again and again. Mitch paused to hear their nails scraping against it then resumed stabbing hungry mouths. The blade sunk into a pudgy zombie’s cheek, down to the hilt, scraping its cheek bone. When it stumbled backward, it jarred the knife from Mitch’s hand, nearly pulling him up and out with it.
Mitch staggered back, catching himself on the card table, jerking it in place.
The card table!
He lifted the table and shoved the dead faces in the window back, slicing off a set of fingers that were caught between it and the window sill. He propped it up, setting the bottom set of legs in the sink. If the zombies tried pushing it up, the top of the table would hit the top of the outside of the window, if they tried pushing it down, the bottom set of legs would catch in the rim of the sink. It would at least buy him some time, hopefully enough to find the keys.
The smell of dirty laundry slammed Mitch’s nostrils as he raced into the living room. A tube TV sat in the corner, next to a curio cabinet filled with military figurines from each war era. World War I doughboys, World War II S.S. officers, Vietcong. Mitch searched the end table beside a pleather couch, tossing TV guides and Reader’s Digests aside. He found loose double-A batteries, but no keys.
He stood upright, catching his breath and looking around the living room. A carpeted staircase lead up to the second floor, dark and dust filled. He didn’t want to go up there, but by the looks of it he’d have to since the keys were nowhere to be found on the first floor. If the zombies broke through though, he’d be trapped and have to leap out another window, which was something he really didn’t want to do.
The card table in the kitchen window skittered back and forth, knocking against the window and the sink. The other zombie group was still ramming the backdoor.
Mitch ran up the stairs, figuring he was running out of time and burst through the first door he reached.
A body slammed into him, causing his foot to slide out too far and sending him flopping backward into the door frame with a scream. The body, wearing a tailored tux, swung back and forth, recoiling from the impact. Mitch looked up at the body, strumming his hand through his hair and catching his breath.
Aw, Mr. Rickerson…
Mr. Rickerson’s body swayed, hanging by a noose from a ceiling stud. His weathered face was bloated, wrinkles filled with popped blood vessels. The color in his cheeks had just started to turn blue. He hadn’t been dead for long.
Mitch nudged Rickerson’s dangling feet, knowing full-well that he was dead but just making sure he wasn’t coming back. The rope around his neck squeezed, stretching as it waved in tune with Rickerson’s body. But there was another sound, a joyous, wonderful sound. Key’s jingled, bouncing off each other in Rickerson’s pocket.
Cold dead hands indeed, Mitch thought, reaching into the front pocket of Rickerson’s slacks.
He dangled the keys in front of his face for a moment, feeling a bit of relief until Rickerson lurched at him, reaching out but restrained like a dog from a hanging leash.
Mitch tripped backward, through the doorway and into the upstairs hall, slamming his head into the wall, nearly shitting his pants with fright. He nervously fixed his shirt and propped himself up straight.
You got me old man, you really got me a good one!
Rickerson thrashed about, slicing his contorted arthritic hands wildly in the air, noose around his neck scraping through his skin while his body bounced with the rope’s tension.
The card table ricocheted off the sink, smashing into the kitchen floor while Mitch leapt down the stairs, two at a time.
He unlocked the front door and ripped it open. Behind, dozens of footsteps slapped the linoleum of the kitchen floor, shaking the figurines in the curio cabinet. Hungry grunts filled the empty halls of Rickerson’s home.
Mitch locked the front door again and slammed it shut behind him. He took a few steps back, eyeing the door as he backed down Rickerson’s front porch. The door shook under the zombie’s pounding fists.
Just as sturdy as the backdoor.
Content he had enough time now to make it to the pickup, he sprinted across the front lawn to the side of the road where it was parked, underneath a dying willow tree. Mitch wondered if the tree would reach out and try to eat him as he unlocked the driver’s side door and hopped inside.
He had a moment to himself now things had slightly slowed down, and that was more than enough for the sadness to well within his gut, filling it up like a balloon full of grief. He thought of his mother, lying in her bed, fear gripping her eyes, dead, dead because he couldn’t remember to lock a fucking door. Not only that, but he drugged her. He made her helpless, an easy meal.
Mitch rammed his forehead into the steering wheel, gripped it taut and rammed into it again, and again. The pain stretched across his face, wrapping around behind his ears. That wasn’t good enough. He deserved to be dead, beside her. She was willing to give him her food, to starve herself so he could live. He thought about getting out of the truck and walking back into Rickerson’s house like a pig on a platter, apple in his mouth and all, when a childish giggle escaped from the backseat.
"You're really funny," an animated voice laughed.
Tune in Next Sunday for Episode 6 - "Burden of this World"