In the days after Bob and Robert Jr. took their swan dives off her building, Erin looked to the overcast sky with a mixture of disappointment and dread. Her rescue wouldn’t come if the clouds wouldn’t allow it. Fighting against the dead without a moment to rest had taken its toll on her. She’d counted at least three days since the father/son due had met their end. It’d only taken the undead until the following morning to make their way up the apartment building and to the rooftop.
The undead came to the rooftop in waves. A solitary undead was simple to dispatch. One pull of the trigger, one permanently dead body. A pair or trio was a different story. In close proximity, the undead seemed to gain a second wind. Their speed and strength increased dramatically as if the scent of blood and flesh being so close excited them. One stumble, one missed step, and the undead would pounce.
Bob’s box of shells and his shotgun made the process easier. She couldn’t have imagined having to throw the walking corpses over the edge of the building. It had been her original plan until help arrived. With the shotgun, Erin aimed, pulled the trigger, and obliterated heads. She left the bodies where they fell for fear of catching whatever disease the they carried. She didn’t want to pass anything to the children. She also couldn’t stand the thought of being taken out by a sickness other than the one which brought the dead back to life. It would have been so…anti-climactic.
With the undead surging onto the rooftop at all hours of night and day, Erin was forced to stand on guard duty for 24 hours a day. She only put the shotgun down to relieve herself at one corner of the roof she designated as the bathroom area. It was during these bathroom breaks, she’d looked over the edge of the building and assess the situation on the ground.
The sound of her gunfire echoed for miles in all directions. Across streets, buildings, and subways, the undead could hear it. Hundreds of thousands of them heard the noise. It sounded like a dinner bell to them. The swarm of undead crowded the street below like a macabre Thanksgiving Day parade. Thousands were crushed under the immense weight and pressure of the crowd grinding them into paste against the brick edifice. Thousands more were trampled underfoot.
Erin’s head throbbed against the burning sensation behind her eyes. If only she could rest her eyes a while, she might not have felt as horrible as she did. She trembled uncontrollably despite the oppressive summer heat. The hours of constant vigilance, the malaise, and the beginnings of starvation sapped her of energy. One moment, she stood with her shotgun aimed at the door fighting to keep her eyes open. The world spun, bringing her to a knee. The floor jumped toward her, fast. As she hit the floor, she realized the thought didn’t make sense. Erin succumbed to the inevitable exhaustion.
Hot, white pain snapped Erin back into the world of the undead. She awoke to find to one of the undead with its teeth sunk into the center of her right calf. She howled in agony as she yanked the corpse’s head away from her leg. It took a chunk of Erin’s calf in its mouth leaving behind several teeth stunk surrounding the bloodied wound.
In an uncontrollable rage, Erin squeezed the corpse’s skull in her hands. The putrid stench of rotting meat filled her nose. It continued snapping its jaws at her. She ground her teeth together and put all her strength into squeezing. Liquefied brain matter leaked from the corpse’s ears. Black liquid poured from its eyes and nose. The skull caved in. Fragments of it punctured the brain rendering the creature motionless. Its body collapsed atop of her like a lover after climax. She pushed it away with a curse and checked the wound.
She spit on the corpse and cursed herself for falling asleep as she removed the teeth lodged in the wound.
It was all over. She’d lost.
Within the hour, she’d succumb to a boiling fever. Then the hallucinations would come. Insanity would overtake her mind. She’d either kill herself or run straight into a horde of undead only to be ripped apart and eaten. It was a fate many of the psychotic infected endured. If she managed to survive her psychotic state, the infection would finish the job. She’d return as one of the mindless undead and go in search for the flesh of the living.
There was no way she was going to let it happen…
Erin grabbed the shotgun and loaded two of the remaining shells into it. She cocked it and shoved the cold, steel barrel into her mouth. She wrapped her finger around the trigger and looked to the sky once more.
The storm clouds were gone. The stars twinkled in the night sky and a tear came to Erin’s eye as the light of the full moon glistened into her face.
I’m saved…, Erin whispered. With the remaining strength in her body, she raised a hand to the full moon and gasped.
The throbbing in her wound ceased. Heat concentrated in the wound. It felt as if her leg was dipped into molten lava. Liquid fire spread through her entire body, circulating through her blood, muscles, and tissue. Erin could feel the infection being incinerated within.
I wasn’t immune…, she thought between the spasms.
The transformation started at her hands and feet. Erin’s fingers and toes tightened to the point of where she couldn’t move them, even if she wanted to. The skin between her fingers and toes formed into a three single fleshy digits. The skin then hardened and peeled revealing three sharp black talons.
A rampant growth of hair covered Erin’s entire body. It tickled her nose making it itch. She didn’t dare scratch for fear of hurting herself. Her spine popped and straightened. The pressure pushing out from her shoulder blades made her scream until her wings broke through the skin. She stretched them out as far as she could and flapped them gingerly.
She floated several feet off the ground making her way to the tent which had functioned as a nest for the summer. With the talons of her right leg, she grabbed the tent. She secured it firmly in her grasp and floated over to Bob’s shotgun which she’d left on the ground after passing out. She grabbed the weapon with her left foot and passed it up into her arms. While she wouldn’t need it in her current form, it would be a fine weapon to use once the transformation wore off and she’d be stuck waiting until the next full moon.
With her weapon and children in tow, Erin took flight high above the abandoned streets of New York City. Flying over Madison Square Garden, she thought of Bob and Robert Jr. again. She hadn’t thought much about them since throwing them over the side of the building. Considering their plan was to take her captive and submit her and her children into slavery, she couldn’t bring herself to feel any pity for them.
She understood their plight. Their loved one was taken from them and she was their only option to get her back. An opportunity presented itself and they couldn’t pass it up. Erin didn’t fault them for making the attempt. However, it didn’t mean she had to feel bad about defending herself and her children from them. She did feel bad for Bob’s wife. The woman would never know the fate which befell her husband and her son.
Erin didn’t want to get involved with The Garden’s tax system or its nefarious dealings with slavery and drugs but she couldn’t help her interest in their markets. Knowing a place where she could trade goods could be beneficial to her and the children. Bob mentioned medical personnel were available too. He mentioned how expensive their services were but Erin knew she could obtain valuable goods much easier than most other people could, given her unique abilities.
By the time she landed at the Statue of Liberty, she’d made up her mind about visiting The Garden. The advantages significantly outweighed the danger. Plus, having a place to house the children once they hatched would give them a chance to live as normal a life as she could possibly give them. If she so happened to run across Bob’s wife, she’d let her know they were gone. She wouldn’t say she’d done it. She’d only tell her they’d met their end at the hands of the undead. Erin considered freeing her as repayment for killing her husband and son but she’d have to meet her before she made a decision. If Bob’s wife couldn’t survive outside the walls of The Garden, perhaps it was better to leave her in her place. Bob had even suggested such an idea to Erin so it wasn’t completely off the table. She decided to play it by ear.
Erin reached her destination and lowered the tent atop Lady Liberty’s torch. No one would be able to reach the children without access to a boat and then having to climb up the stairs. There were no undead on the island either making it the perfect hiding spot.
Erin rested an hour. Even in her current form, she still felt the strain of not having slept in days and needed to recover.
Once Erin felt ready, she took off once again for Manhattan and headed straight for The Garden.