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Last Man Standing This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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It was a dreary day in autumn. The weather was cold, damp, and generally disagreeable. Rain spattered from the foreboding gray sky in a slow, spitting drizzle, and what little sunlight managed to penetrate the cloud cover was dim, depressed, and about as warm as a corpse. It was in this horrid weather that I stood, a nicked and bloodstained ax on my shoulder, an equally bloodstained – and sadly out of fuel – chain saw lying discarded in the lawn behind me. I wore a tattered white polo, frayed jeans, steel-toed motorcycle boots, and a black leather vest, topped off with elbow and kneepads.

I brushed a trickle of blood from the thin cut that ran across my forehead – compliments of a thorn bush I had scurried through – and looked through the drizzle for any sign of movement. Thankfully, this particular section of suburban sprawl was, for the moment, devoid of people, living or otherwise. A distant staccato burst of gunfire punched through the silence, followed by an equally distant scream of agony and fear, abruptly cut short. With a sigh, I forced my tired legs into action, walking down the rain-slick road.

Most of the houses I passed were fortified with boards nailed over the doors and windows, no light glowing through the gaps in shutters or beneath their doors. Cars were still in many driveways, some loaded with supplies, one with its driver's door open and a sickening blood stain trailing from the vehicle. Some of the cars had made it onto the road, but most of those were strewn about like discarded toys, mashed together, or wrecked against streetlamps or telephone poles.

To make a long story short, it looked like the end of the world – which, in fact, it was. Two weeks ago, some poor sucker had turned against his family, biting his wife and son before being shot in the chest and head by his visiting step-brother. The whole thing had been put down by the media as a druggie gone wild – at least until the mother and son awoke in the middle of the night and started tearing apart their neighborhood.

Things had quickly gone downhill, with the mysterious virus spreading across the entire East Coast. The military set up a quarantine line in the middle of the country to try to keep the West safe, but I don't know if it worked. The radio broadcasts went dead days ago.

It was left to us, the survivors, to get out of this living hell. No one was coming to save us; the army was either dead or had retreated, and the cops were now shambling about trying to take a bite out of anything that got too close. We were utterly on our own.

I was suddenly snapped from my thoughts by a growling moan behind me. I whipped around, ax off my shoulder and ready, adrenaline coursing through my veins and blotting out the exhaustion that threatened to overwhelm me. It didn't matter that I'd been on my own for six days now, constantly on the run or fighting for my life, with little food and less sleep. It didn't matter that my muscles felt like jelly, or that my brain was starting to get fuzzy from sleep deprivation. If I didn't fight, I was going to die. It was that simple.

Three of them were coming down the road in a staggered line. They moved with an unsteady, lurching gait, leaving trails of bloody footprints. One was a thin man in a tattered business suit, the second, a woman in an evening gown, and the third was a fat man wearing sweats and a grimy tank top. They were liberally spattered with blood, and all had that unique dead look: mouths slack, eyes wide and lolling, emotionless, save for a bottomless hunger that chilled me to the bone.

I grimly shut the doors of my mind, setting my jaw and forcing my thoughts into battle mode. It didn't matter who they used to be; if I didn't kill them I would be their next meal. I had lost too much and come too far to end up in some zombie's stomach.

As the first one reached me, I was ready. I had learned the hard way that fancy fighting tricks are useless against the living dead; they tire you out and more than likely get you killed. So I went for the simple and effective approach. In other words, I buried my ax in the first zombie's skull.

It keeled over, and I planted a booted foot on its chest and tore my ax free, pivoting on the ball of my foot and bringing the ax around in a horizontal arc, directly into the temple of the second zombie. Blood splattered my stained clothes. I tore my weapon free again, but the third zombie was too close already. I felt its clammy hands fasten around my arm, pulling it toward those slavering jaws.

With a grunt, I twisted so I faced my opponent and, dropping my ax, wrapped my fingers around the zombie's throat. Mustering all my might, I brought my leg around in a sweep that took one of its legs out from under it. The two forces together sent it to the ground. I lifted my booted foot and slammed it down hard onto its face, ending its un-life.

I stood for several moments, breathing hard, every muscle in my body complaining. I needed to find a place to rest before my body gave out. There was supposed to be an army evacuation center a few blocks away. I might as well head there.

It really shouldn't have surprised me that the place was overrun. The chain-link fence topped with barbed-wire had been ripped apart by the tireless work of countless hands. Behind the remnants of fencing, the city hospital stood, dark and brooding, a six-story monolith of broken windows and silent menace. On its roof, a searchlight swept the sky, but it provided no comfort, merely adding to the fear. It was like an abandoned car with its headlights on; it just didn't feel right.

Nevertheless, I found myself walking toward it through a field of mutilated corpses. The ground was sticky with blood, and the stench was a mixture of the coppery tang of blood, the putrescent, sickly sweet scent of decay, and the bitter tang of gun smoke. A sandbag wall had been set up behind the fence, over which loomed the eight-barreled maw of a minigun. The barrels were blackened from heat, with some of the tips deformed, telling a grim story. This gun had been fired nonstop for a very long time.

I could guess what had happened here; the army had tried to hold out, maybe succeeding for a while, but then the sheer numbers – all the guns going off would have created one hell of a racket and attracted every zombie for miles – started tearing the fence apart, and the gatling gun became useless, the heat of constant firing melting it. Needless to say, it didn't end well.

Stumbling over the corpses, I made my way toward the hospital, hung with posters that read “U.S. Army Evacuation Post” and “Quarantine Zone.” I pushed open the glass front doors – or what was left of them – and stepped into the foyer. Inside, the carnage was almost as bad. The reception desk had been turned into a makeshift redoubt, with countless bodies piled against it. The darkness and silence felt oppressive, especially with the stench.

Behind the counter was a door labeled “Employees Only.” I stepped through and entered a room lined with shelves of medical supplies. The room was corpse-free, and my legs were about to give out, so I shoved the door closed and leaned against it, sliding to the floor. I was asleep as soon as my eyelids closed, too tired to care about the repercussions of sleeping in unsafe territory.

I awoke to a rhythmic pounding. I could feel each blow through the walls, and instantly I knew what was happening. I struggled to my feet, ax in hand. They were coming. I pulled the door open. I could hear them shambling and moaning all around me. It was time to get moving.

I took the stairs. By the time I reached the top floor, my legs were burning, I was out of breath, and I could hear steps on the stairs below me. Bursting through the door labeled “Roof Access,” I came upon a scene of destruction.

The top of the building had apparently been bombed, with jagged holes blasted into the concrete. Twisted pieces of rebar stuck out, and some craters still smoldered. But what caught my eye more than the craters or the dead bodies was the radio on a table in the midst of it all. Salvation was within my grasp.

I forced my legs to run, and practically hammered on the talk button.

“Hello?” I yelled, my throat raw from thirst. “Is anyone there?”

There was static, then the most beautiful sound I'd ever heard: a real, honest-to-God human voice.

“Oh, thank God,” the man on the other side said. “I thought I was the only one left.”

“Yeah, I know the feeling,” I replied, trying not to think about the horde coming up the stairs. “Listen, I'm on the roof of St. Mark's Hospital, and I could use a pick-up.” There was a great, rending crash as the door to the stairwell was torn off its hinges.

“Sooner would be better than later,” I added.

For a moment, all I could hear was static, then the voice on the other end said, “Sure thing, pal. I'll be there in five minutes.”

I turned around, raising my ax. I had battled my way across the city to get here. My muscles burned, my legs felt like they were about to give out, and I could barely focus. My ax felt like a lead weight, and there were at least 20, maybe 30, zombies closing in, hungry for fresh meat.

Hefting the ax, I looked up into the face of the oncoming horde and felt a smile tugging at one corner of my mouth.

Let them come.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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This article has 6 comments. Post your own!

IcithraThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
today at 5:04 pm:
Have you read max Brooks World War Z? It's really good, and your writing reminds me of his style. Great job!
 
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Madie2kThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Nov. 6, 2013 at 4:16 pm:
Brillant! I loved it, nice job!
 
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Def_Leppard_fan120This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Dec. 27, 2011 at 10:33 pm:
Check out my article called THE BATTLE by Def_Leopard_fan120 and leave a comment on what you thought about it.
 
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PerfectMGymnast This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 21, 2011 at 1:16 am:
This is really good! you did an amzing job with details and describing everyhting!! :)
 
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muzikninja said...
Mar. 13, 2011 at 3:00 pm:

i really liked it!

im a horror person myself too

i can see y my picture got chosen to go with the story lol

 

 
Brute This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Mar. 15, 2011 at 4:29 pm :
Thanks!  I noticed that my article got a picture added to it in the print magazine... I can see why too!
 
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