Chapter 1 (cont.)
He made himself lunch and checked the 'fridge, making a list on a dry erase board of what he'd need to go shopping for. Before his trip, he'd finished off the milk and bread, and he'd also avoided leaving meat and eggs in the 'fridge. Those sorts of things were first on his list, followed by other items that he was running low on. He checked the calendar and saw that the 4th of July would be here in another week, so he wrote out a second list of things like hotdogs, hamburger, soda and snacks to contribute to the neighborhood's annual July 4th Block Cookout.
The cable was out when Kyle turned on the television and the phone was dead when he checked it, wanting to call in to work and check on how things were going. With nothing better to do, he walked outside to the shed and climbed onto his lawn mower. He popped in the earbuds for his iPod and began mowing the lawn while he listened to music. As he drove back and forth across the lawn, he kept an eye on the street and noticed that there was no traffic at all. It probably had something to do with the fires downtown. When he looked north towards Pittsburgh, he could just see a vague greyish haze in the air. Despite being miles from the city, he could still catch a very faint scent of smoke now and then, an acrid smoke like from burning plastic or rubber. There was also a rotting garbage scent that Kyle figured was from the garbage cans along the street. Someone had thrown out meat and it was now stinking up the neighborhood. The smell of freshly cut grass helped to mask the stink, but he was still catching frequent whiffs of it that made him almost gag.
Noticing some movement out of the corner of his eye, Kyle saw two figures walking in the shade beneath his neighbor's trees across the street. They seemed to be facing him, so he lifted his arm and waved at them as he turned the lawnmower to make another swipe at his grass. A sudden strong stink of rotting meat assaulted him, and he felt something tug at his shirt sleeve. He turned slightly to look at his sleeve and saw a smear of brown, then looked over his shoulder to see a man following his lawnmower.
The man wore a set of coveralls with the nametag Jim on the left breast. The coveralls were smeared with grease and filth, and the right sleeve was tattered and ripped to shreds to expose the man's arm. The arm itself was a horror show of stripped and blackened flesh, torn away to reveal both of the bones in the forearm and the hand itself severed. Blackened, rotting blood oozed from the man's mouth as he opened it hungrily, the intact left arm reaching for Kyle on the mower.
Kyle hollared in surprise and fright and lept from the lawnmower, which immedietly shut down when he took his weight off the seat. He ripped the earbuds out as he backed away franticly. Without the music and engine of the mower filling his ears, he could hear the hoarse, gasping moan of the man as he chased Kyle across the yard. Kyle ran towards the corner of the house, only to see the two figures who'd been across the street had approached and now blocked his path. A man and woman, both of them dressed in jogging outfits and bearing old wounds. Their pale and flaking skin told him that they too, were not normal. They outstretched their arms towards him and moaned, walking unsteadily in his direction as he backtracked, squeezing between the house and the creature in the coveralls. "What the hell is this?!" Voice raised in panic, Kyle shouted as he ran through his back yard towards the shed, "Help! Someone help!"
The only answer to his cries for help were the moans of the dead, which persued him as a steady walking pace. He grabbed a shovel from his shed and dashed back into the yard just as the creatures came around the corner, bumping and crowding each other mindlessly in their persuit of living flesh. "Back off!" Yelling at them, Kyle circled to his right and branshed the shovel threateningly, "Back off or I'll beat the shit out of you!" The female jogger lifted her head, her blonde hair matted to her skull with dirt and dried blood, revealing that her entire throat was gone, just a few loose bits hanging from beneath her jaw towards the stained collar of her sweatshirt. "Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit." The male jogger reached for him and Kyle swung the shovel at the creature's hands, cracking one wrist with a solid -thunk- of metal on bone. The jogger continued on as if he didn't feel it, and Kyle followed up with a swing at the creature's face. -Clang!- The shovel's handle shivered in Kyle's hands as the bottom part of it crushed the creature's face. Nose broken and pushed to the side, teeth falling out, the male jogger stumbled and fell down.
Kyle tried the same move with the female jogger, but his aim was knocked off by the woman's upraised arms as she grabbed at him. His shovel bounced off her shoulder with no effect, so he pulled back and jabbed it at her head, the point of the shovel hitting her face, gashing open one side of her face and letting oozing black blood dribble from the wound. Panicing, he kept jabbing at her face, ripping more flesh, knocking out teeth and shearing off a chunk of her nose as she and 'Jim' chased him back to his front yard. Kyle saw the male jogger stagger to his feet behind the female and Jim, and he felt horror overtaking him. These things seemed unkillable. He swung the shovel wildly left and right, swiping the space between himself and the undead. 'Jim' reached out his good arm, and Kyle swiped at it, the edge of the shovel biting into the flesh just beneath the elbow. The limb suddenly dropped towards the ground, half-severed and hanging onto the rest of his arm by some muscle. A second swing chopped through that, and 'Jim' was suddenly armless.
Swinging the shovel at the female jogger, he made solid contact with her upper leg, slicing deep into it and sending her collapsing to the grass. The handle of the shovel snapped with the blow, and the shovel's head with a portion of the shaft attached rebounded off the side of the house and landed in the shrubs below his bedroom window. Suddenly armed with just half of a shovel's handle, Kyle spun around and ran to his front door. He grabbed the handle and realized he'd locked it. He patted his pockets, and then looked at the lawnmower. His keys dangled from the ignition. Sprinting over to the mower, he reached for the keys as 'Jim' thrust his stumps at Kyle, trying to grab him. Kyle vaulted to the other side of the mower and whacked ineffectively at 'Jim' with his broken shovel handle for a moment. The female jogger was crawling towards him and the male jogger wasn't far behind. Things were getting critical.
'Jim' started to circle around the mower, and Kyle grabbed the mower's steering wheel, leaned back and kicked 'Jim' in the stomach. The sudden impact caused the creature's mouth to jolt open and a spew of rotting black .. something sprayed out as 'Jim' fell to the ground. Kyle lept onto the mower and reached for his keys just as the male jogger arrived. Kyle was forced to lean backwards in the seat as the jogger reached for him from the front of the machine, smelly fingers just inches from Kyle's face, grabbing at air. Kyle put the broken end of the handle to the jogger's face and shoved him backwards. About to be overwhelmed, Kyle did the only thing he could in the situation. He started the mower.
"Oh god.." Throwing it into gear, he rumbled forward, pushing the jogger back until the jogger's feet caught on 'Jim', who was struggling to rise. Both creatures fell into a heap as Kyle rolled over them. Kyle clung to the steering wheel of the lawnmower as it went up, down, side to side over the creatures. The blade produced a horrific grinding sound and the engine squealed. He rolled forward several more feet and over the crawling female jogger, the bent and broken blades doing their grisly work. The lawnmower was vibrating crazily as the unbalanced blades spun, and he shut it down, slowly turning to look behind him at the scene. 'Jim' and the male jogger lay together in a heap, just a mass of chopped apart flesh. The female jogger's entire back was shredded, as was the top of her head. A chunky spray of black and rusty red blood had flung itself against the side of his house as if someone had taken a gallon of spaghetti with meatballs, added a couple of quarts of motor oil to it, then thrown it onto the wall.
He slumped to the side in his seat and hurled, puking up his lunch into the grass.