Outward Facing Treadmills

The town had been silent for two days now. The air was heady with rotten flesh and decaying bones. Every sunrise and sunset felt like the last; the apocalypse. Ellie had taken up residence in her old school building, finding the generators in the basement strangely comforting. This was where they had hidden to avoid unlikeable classes, and the place they had broken into during the summer to escape their parents. Back then it was a ridiculous place to be, of course, but it was the only corner of a much too small town where no one thought to look; somewhere in their adolescent minds it seemed that nowhere would ever be as cool again. It was a feeling much like the ownership of tree houses a few years previously. Even when they weren’t hiding, it was nice to have somewhere. And of course the dingy aspect, the cold steel and dusty corners had, for a while, held an almost romantic allure to the grit-loving teenagers. It was a phase.

The zombie began to eat her with it’s snake-like tongue

Ellie was proud to say that, unlike ‘the plastics’, her group of friends couldn’t map their phases by television programs, but by music. Their occupation of the basement could be dated back to the release of the Arctic Monkeys’ debut album, which also marked her first cigarette and first fluttering of sexual desire. While the dusty stereo that had been retrieved from someone’s attic crackled through hit after hit, the five of them worked their way through a pack of Marlboro lights each day, and Ellie tried to keep her eyes away from Tom, knowing her crush was becoming embarrassingly obvious. At the time the idea of being discovered and, worse, rejected, was the most pain she could imagine. It was the kind of event that could end worlds and ruin her entire life – which, her foresight limited, only reached all the way to the end of high school.

On the plus side, living in a ghost town meant Ellie lived without rules, consequence, or restraint. No one on earth had ever been so free. Of course the converse reality of this was that without other people there was very little Ellie felt like doing that she hadn’t been able to do before. There had been some small, strange inner victory in walking behind the counter of the corner shop and filling her satchel with cigarettes and vodka. But it was just sedation. And the vodka had turned out to be a terrible idea given the alertness this new world demanded of it’s survivors. Half a bottle and an interrupted night of bad dreams had taught her to sleep with her hand around the gun.

Procuring a gun at all had, at first, been near impossible, then essential, and just as she had begun to imagine survival without one, the piece of weaponry she now kept near her body had fallen right into her lap. Torn from the stiff fingers of a dead soldier, she had prised his claw-like hand open to retrieve the heavy machinery. Having spent her life listening to music and playing her guitar, and with no brothers to tell her about these things, Ellie had no idea what kind of gun she now possessed, only that it was large, like a rifle, or a machine gun, and that it’s aim was accurate enough. Like most girls her age she had never imagined she would have to use a gun, and the mere idea of it might have raised numerous moral issues. But in this strange new world, where dead flesh walked, and no one with any lingering humanity came into the firing line, pulling the trigger was easy business. It was the kind of surreality that caused life to resemble so many video games, rather than the other way around.

So it stayed, in her tightly gripped hand, at all times.

Attachment to such an object, she supposed, probably ran deeper than survival instinct; having lost everyone and everything she loved the gun was held closer than it perhaps might have been. But it had only been two days and the full weight of her solitude had yet to hit her. The catastrophe and the sheer volume of experience meant there was plenty to keep her mind occupied and thus avoid the truth of her situation. She had yet to think of her parents, although initial tears had been shed when she reached the basement and remembered her school day friends. But then it had been swept aside. Ellie, ever in possession of her senses, worked hard to keep sadness from the forefront of her mind, despite knowing that if she survived much longer, it would inevitably rise in her consciousness. But not now. Not yet.

Sitting in a dusty corner of the basement, the corner she called home, Ellie flicked the fraying edge of her trainers and wondered how much longer they would last. Not long. Fashionable shoes, she noted, were rarely made to be durable. For the first time in her life she saw the brilliance of skinheads and their heavy duty black boots. A pair of those would last a life time, even in this world.

The rest of her outfit was no more convenient or sensible. A flimsy summer dress had been pulled out of her wardrobe on Sunday a little over-enthusiastically in the still-rainy days of late May. Having stepped outside her better judgement had kicked in and she had swiftly pulled on a pair of tights, but those were now ripped and laddered and the only thing keeping her from removing them was an utter disinterest in her appearance. Her arms had been bare until shop fronts were torn down and she managed to make off with a large duffel coat, the likes of which her gamekeeper Grandfather might have worn, many years before.

But her shoes were the main concern. Even with her survival instinct finely tuned she knew blistered or cut feet would hold her back. She tucked the frayed edge into the slowly disintegrating rubber sole and tightened her laces. Reaching into her rucksack to search for selotape, or anything that might help the shoes hold together, she suddenly heard a noise.

She froze. So far the school buildings had been left alone, being, as they were, a little way out of town. Ellie had waited day and night to hear footsteps above her and, finally, she had been found.

The noise was slight, but terrible. Slow but sure. Heavy feet dragged across the ground and even through the concrete floor she could hear their weight. Dead bodies always seemed heavier. She gripped the gun tightly in her hand. She inwardly kicked herself for choosing such an inescapable hiding place. There was only one way out and it was their way in. But she had chosen it for seclusion and comfort. Every sense heightened, she stood up and waited for the door to open.

Over the past few days she had learnt more about zombies than she had ever cared to know: until they clasped a fresh body, they seemed to have no human senses at all, only a draw to flesh and skin, and an almost ethereal sense of direction. Although they took particular, and almost lustful, delight in the consumption of brains, their desires were not limited to what was held inside her skull. Furthermore they seemed to posses an almost obscene sense of living bodies, hands clamouring for the unthinkable first. And finally, a bite from one of their festering mouths did not result, inevitably, in the victim joining the legions of his or her violators. With almost book-like chemistry, bodies became undead when there was enough remaining body to stand. Otherwise it was all streets strewn with rotting corpses and exposed bone.

The first stumbling body to descend the stairs made Ellie jump. She felt her knuckles turn white as she gripped the weapon. A second stumbled, and then the cacophony was too much to count, and the door was thrown open with lazy but incredible strength and the room was filled with the sounds of their murmuring groans. Ellie fired a shot and it hit the figure at the front, in the shoulder, doing little but unbalancing. She fired again, but it had much the same effect. They were growing stronger. On day one such a shot would have, at least, sent the undead flying back a step or two; now they simply stumbled and swatted bullets away like flies, unworried by new flesh wounds.

They approached and the smell of decaying bodies hit Ellie’s nose. She recoiled and stepped back, firing again and again, unable to think of anything better to do. But the first was inches from her, and it reached a blind hand out towards her.

Everything became fast, even in their slow motion terror, and suddenly Ellie felt fingers clasp her. She pushed and fell backwards, onto the floor, pulling the gun tightly to her chest and feeling her skirt fly up, leaving her legs and groin exposed but for her torn tights and filthy knickers. Hands clamoured for her legs, and then came the first sniffing nose. Her body in their hands, their sense kicked in and they slobbered over her like dogs. Fingers tore her tights wider, exposing flesh which they smelled and licked lustfully, moving up towards the most fragrant part of her female body. The wet gusset of her knickers was pulled aside and she felt a ragged mouth clamp over her cunt, sucking her juices.

Ellie screamed and tried to kick but found she was pinned where she was, six bodies pressing her into the ground and, raising the gun once more, she clicked the trigger and found the barrel empty. Instead she turned it and used it to hit at the back of the heads all moving between her thighs, but her blows did nothing to dissuade her attackers.

She felt a cold, saliva covered tongue delve inside her and she gasped in horror, disgusted beyond revulsion, and utterly helpless. And felt her wetness grow beyond the natural, platonic workings of her body. Her mind raced faster than her arousal and she could not even contemplate the sensations this unforgiving mouth was forcing through her body.

The zombie began to eat her with it’s snake-like tongue and jagged teeth, but still did not penetrate her skin. It sucked on her flesh, and she began to writhe and could no longer tell if it was in fear or from some strange, twisted, inexplicable excitement. And then she felt a bite, not into the pink flesh of her sex, but the skin just below her knee. Too close to bone she felt the pain and screamed.

The smell of her blood fresh on the air, five other mouths clamped onto her body, two moving up to inspect her greasy hair-covered skull. Fingers began to tear, and the mouth between her legs finally bit into her. Everything fragmented as her body was bitten, and her cunt was torn ragged, wet, bloody by the teeth there.

They ate and ate, and she became only aware of the fingers that scratched at her head, pulling her hair until the skin split and they drove into her skull.

In her final moments, before the delicate cells of her brain were dragged from their bone-prison, she allowed herself to fall into euphoria of the most taboo, unthinkable kind. No one had felt such sick pleasure as was now coursing through her last-feeling veins.

Then all was black, and human consciousness left her, and Ellie was gone.

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