Chapter Eight

Paul got up when the sun began to rise through the tenth floor windows of the office block. His movements weren't through choice, his temporary bed had proved less than comfortable and the pressure on his bladder had become too much to stand. Using a security pass which Donna had taken from a corpse earlier in the week, he dragged himself out onto the landing and climbed the single flight of stairs to the nearest toilet. Stumbling over an inert body in the halflight he crashed noisily through the door into the little room which was as cold, dark and unpleasant as he'd imagined it would be. Another body was slumped on the ground in one of the cubicles and a musty, stagnant smell hung heavily in the air. Still drugged with sleep and hurrying to get away from the bodies and back to the office, Paul tripped again on his way out of the toilet, falling clumsily down the last three steps and kicking a cleaner's bucket against a radiator. The sound of metal on metal echoed up and down the entire length of the staircase, seeming for a few lingering moments to fill the entire building with noise. When he returned to the tenth floor Donna was awake. More than just awake she was up and alert, quickly changing her clothes and tying up her long hair. 'What's the matter?' he asked, immediately concerned. She had no reason to get up so quickly. She had no real reason to get up at all.

'I heard something,' she replied breathlessly as she tucked her shirt into her jeans. 'What?' 'Don't know. It was upstairs.' 'But you told me you've already been upstairs, haven't you? You said there was nothing there.' 'Apart from a couple of bodies that's right.' 'So what did you hear?' She shrugged her shoulders and shook her head. 'I don't know what it was. It sounded like...' 'It was me,' he interrupted nervously. 'It's still dark out there. I tripped over a body on my way up the stairs and I almost went right over on the way back down. I bet it...' He didn't bother to finish his sentence. Donna was still shaking her head. 'I heard the bloody noise you made,' she sighed. 'The sound I heard was before that.' An icy chill ran the length of Paul's spine. He watched with mounting anxiety as Donna put on a jacket and did up the zipper. She walked towards the door out of the office and stopped just a few feet short of the exit. 'Look,' she said, 'it was probably nothing.

I'm just going to go and have a look around. I'll only be a couple of minutes.' 'It must have been me you heard,' Paul continued to babble. 'Like I said, I kicked a bucket into a radiator. It made a hell of a noise.' Tired of listening to him moaning, Donna turned round, reached out for the door handle and then froze. Through the small glass panel in the door she could see a face staring back at her. Even though the light was poor she could tell that it was a cold, emotionless, rotting, dead face. The bloody thing was just stood there, staring at her. 'Christ,' she cursed as she stumbled back in surprise. 'What is it?' Paul hissed.

'There's a body here,' she whispered, rooted to the spot. 'So?' 'So the damn thing's watching me!' 'What the hell are you talking about?' He began to walk towards her, stopping short when he saw the corpse. Completely silent and otherwise unnervingly still, the only visible movement came from its misted eyes which moved from side to side, looking from Donna to Paul and back again. It hadn't been there when he'd returned from the toilet minutes earlier. Could it have followed him? 'Why doesn't it go?' Donna asked. 'It should just wander away like the rest of them. Why's it staying here?' Paul crept forward slightly to get a better view of the cadaver on the landing. 'I don't know,' he mumbled, 'maybe it's...' He stopped speaking immediately when the creature outside slowly lifted up a single diseased hand and smashed it down against the door.

As the two survivors stood and watched in terrified disbelief, it thumped the door again. And again. And again. And again. And then with both hands, raining down a sudden torrent of weak, comparatively clumsy and completely unexpected blows on the door. 'I'm going to let it in,' whispered Donna, her mouth dry and her pulse racing. 'What?' screamed Paul, unable to believe what he was hearing. 'What the hell do you think you're doing? You don't know what that thing will do if you let it in here...' 'You don't know what it's going to do either,' she snapped back. 'For God's sake, this thing is trying to get to us. It wants help, it must do. This one's different to all the others I've seen...' 'But you can't just assume that...' Paul's words were wasted. Donna wasn't listening and, besides, she'd already made her decision. The body in front of her looked pathetic and emaciated. Its movements were slow and laboured. But more to the point, it appeared to have some level of control, and that separated it from the hundreds of other corpses she'd seen. The creature continued to thump against the door. Donna flicked her pass at the sensor to her right and pulled the door open. The body dropped its arms and, for a second, stood still again. 'See,' she said, relieved.

'I told you it...' The creature lunged towards her, knocking her off balance and sending her thudding into the wall. With sudden energy - uncoordinated but unmistakably savage in intent - the remains of a rotting fifty-two year old man threw itself at Donna, its weak limbs flailing in the air around her face. Instinctively she lifted her hands to protect herself. Paul ran towards the obnoxious cadaver and grabbed it from behind, wincing in disgust as he tightened his grip and felt cold, hard, leathery flesh give way under the increasing pressure of his grip. With surprisingly little effort he yanked the body away and threw it down to the ground. Regardless of its unexpected speed and intent, it was still little more than a diseased and wasted shell. 'Bloody thing,' Donna spat. She pushed Paul to one side and stood over the corpse which was already struggling to pick itself up again. It leant over to one side and with claw-like, almost skeletal hands, made another lunge towards her. 'We've got to kill it,' Paul wailed. 'How do we do that?' Emma yelled. 'Fucking thing's been dead since Tuesday.' It was only after she'd spoken that she realised how ridiculous her words sounded. 'I don't know!' he screamed back at her. He looked around.

Mounted on the wall just to the side of the entrance door was a fire extinguisher. He picked it up and raised it above his head. Donna, shaking with fear but fully aware of what Paul was doing, put one of her feet down hard on the creature's bony chest. Half of her body weight was more than enough to keep it pinned down. It didn't have the strength to reply. 'Do it,' she urged frantically. 'For God's sake, do it!'

Paul held the extinguisher high above the corpse. He watched its head thrashing helplessly from side to side with terrified fascination. Ashen, almost translucent skin was drawn tight across the emotionless face and its black, gaping mouth opened and closed continually without making a sound. 'Do it!' Donna screamed again. He couldn't move. Frozen. Terrified. Again the body tried to lunge and the sudden movement forced him into action. With his eyes screwed tightly shut Paul slammed the base of the metal cylinder down onto the head of the corpse on the ground. It hit the side of the face with a dull thud and a faint cracking sound as the cheekbone fractured. Slightly more confident in what he was doing, but with the sickening taste of bile rising in his throat, he lifted the fire extinguisher once again and hammered it down, this time smashing in the back of the skull. Finally the body lay still. 'Let's get it out of here,' he said as he dropped the extinguisher. Donna held the door open as he dragged the creature out by its feet, leaving behind it a thick trail of dark, almost black blood on the pale purple carpet.

Driven by a nauseous combination of shock, fear and adrenaline, he dragged it out through the landing door and left it on the staircase. There were more bodies on the stairs. Jesus Christ, he could see another three of the damn things - one tripping down towards him from the floor above, two more dragging themselves up painfully slowly from the floor below.

Filled with panic and cold fear he turned and sprinted back to the office.

For more than an hour they were too afraid to move or even to make a sound. Hiding behind desks in the training room, Donna and Paul sat close together. Occasionally one of them would pluck up the courage to peer out into the main office again. They could just about see onto the landing through the precious doors which separated them from the rest of the world. Although indistinct and unclear, they could see movement outside. Donna sat upright and looked up and out of the window at the grey sky, trying to make some sense of what was happening. Paul lay on the carpet next to her, curled up in a ball. 'Why did it attack you?' he mumbled, finally able to bring himself to speak about what he'd seen. 'Don't know for sure if it did.' 'What do you mean? Of course it attacked you!' 'Are you really sure? How do you know it wasn't trying to get us to help? How do you know...' 'I don't know,' he whined, covering his head with his hands. 'All I do know is that you should never have opened the bloody door in the first place.' There was a sudden crash outside. It sounded like something falling down the stairs - the cleaner's bucket Paul had kicked earlier perhaps? He decided that one of the bodies must have tripped over it. 'It's like they're coming back to life,' Donna mumbled. 'What?' 'They died last Tuesday. I know that's true because I watched it happen and I checked enough of my friends to know that they were all dead. And then they started to move. It's like they're beginning to function again. They walked on Thursday, now...' 'Now what?' 'How did they know we were here?' 'Don't know.' 'I think you disturbed them when you went to the toilet.' 'But we've both been off the floor before now, haven't we? How come they didn't react to us then? I walked past a hundred of those damn things outside on the streets and not one of them reacted...' 'I know,' she interrupted, growing increasingly annoyed by his mounting hysteria. 'That's exactly what I'm saying. They couldn't move, now they can walk. At first they had very little control and coordination, now that seems to have improved. They couldn't hear us and I don't know if they could see us before, but now it seems that they can.' 'But why did it attack you?' he asked again, repeating his earlier question. 'Did it attack me? If their control is limited, what else could it have done? It couldn't ask for help, could it? Christ, Paul, look what's happening to them. They're full of disease. Their bodies are beginning to rot and decay. Imagine the pain they must be feeling.' 'But can they feel it?' 'I don't know. If they can move, my guess is that they must be able to feel something.' Paul sat up and drew his knees up tight to his chest. 'So what's going to happen next?' Donna shrugged her shoulders. Her head was spinning. She didn't want to think about it until she had to. 'Don't know,' she muttered. 'So what do we do?' 'For now we keep our heads down and we keep out of sight. Don't let them know we're in here.'


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