This one gave me a view of the inside of the factory, but there were large, dusty machines all around, so I couldn’t get a clear view of anything. I could see movement, flashes of fabric between two machines, and a hanging chain that swung back and forth, but I couldn’t really see anybody.
Stella was still crying, a plaintive mewling sound, but I couldn’t determine where it was coming from. I could hear someone else, someone who might have been Bishop, but the noise they were making sounded weird. It wasn’t a death groan or that bizarre retching thing zombies sometimes did.
It reminded me of the Tasmanian Devil from Looney Tunes. It was a strange blathering of sounds that were completely unintelligible.
The windows were divided up into eight smaller panes, each one roughly two feet wide by three feet high. One of the bottom panes on the window had been broken with the top half complete missing.
Carefully, I grabbed the glass and pulled out the pane, trying to be as quiet as possible. Once the glass was free, I dropped it in the snow and hoisted myself up. I had to go on my side, sliding through the panes silently.
I almost tumbled to the floor headfirst, but I caught myself on the ledge. I pulled my legs through, and then dropped quietly onto the floor.
I’d landed behind a large machine with massive rotary blades. I’m not sure what it was for, but I was thankful that there was no electricity to turn it on. I didn’t want to see it in action.
I was still catching glimpse of movement, and the garbled noises were louder and rather panicked. I crouched down and crept around the machine.
I had to stay low, nearly crawling to get underneath a lineshaft roller conveyor belt. The bars above me kept me somewhat hidden, but I could actually see what was going on from that vantage point.
It was Bishop pacing and making all those weird sounds. Her head twitched, like she’d suddenly developed Tourette’s, and her movements were jerky. Her hands and arms moved sporadically beside her, not like they were flailing, but like a malfunctioning robot.
When she made the noises, the garbled cartoon grunt, spittle would fly out from her mouth. Her eyes were wild and crazy, but there was a hint of something in them, a consciousness that a zombie didn’t have. She was aware of what she was doing, but based on how terrified she appeared, I didn’t think she had any control over it.
I realized that I was seeing something I’d never seen before. She was turning into a zombie. I’d seen humans, and I’d seen them as zombies, but never the actual act of turning.
Stranger still, Bishop appeared to be trying to fight it. She couldn’t, of course, not any more than a person could will away AIDS or stop the common cold. It was a virus, and it would win.
As fascinating and painful as it was to watch Bishop transform, she wasn’t my priority. I needed to figure out where Stella was, so I could get her out of here, maybe without Bishop even noticing us escaping.
I moved away, staying underneath the conveyor and followed the sound of Stella’s crying. I’d walked a few yards across the factory when I spotted Stella. If I hadn’t been crouched down, I don’t know if I would’ve been able to see her.
There was another huge machine across from me, sitting only a few inches off the ground. That’s where Stella was, squished underneath. I’m not sure how she even had room to get under there. Even the teddy bear she always carried with her look smashed in the tight space.
I was about to crawl out from under the conveyor belt and let Stella know I was here, when I heard Bishop start making a retching sound. It was the inhuman coughing that I’d only heard zombies and movie monsters make before.
Bishop had had her back to me, but when she slowly turned around, there was no mistaking she was a zombie. Any consciousness or intelligence had been erased from her face. And she fixed her bloodshot eyes directly on me.
I did not want to fight. I wasn’t sure I could win. But when Bishop ran at me, I realized I had no choice.
I ran out the other side of the conveyor belt, so that would be between us. That didn’t really stop her, though. She dove at it, flying over the rolling metal, and landing on the floor. I kept running, looking for something to fight her with.
The factory was full of deadly machinery with sharp edges, but I had no idea how to use that against her. Bishop would be ridiculously strong and fast. It wasn’t like I could just grab her and hold her down against a rotary blade.
Sheets of metal hung down from the ceiling on thick, rusted chains. Farther down the line, the sheets of metal had been pressed into doors and sides of combines and tractors. They moved across the factory on heavy metal hooks.
Bishop was right on my tail, so I jumped up onto the conveyor belt. I stumbled quite a bit on the lineshaft rollers, so I ran on the side. Because it was like walking on a balance beam, I had to go slower than I would’ve liked.
But Bishop had gotten up on the conveyor behind me, and she was doing much worse than I had. She crawled along on her belly, grabbing at me with her outstretched hands, but I always managed to stay a step or so ahead of her.
When I was close enough, I leaped up and grabbed onto one of the hooks. The thrust of my jump propelled it along, sending me flying across the aisle. It stopped short above the top of a machine, and jerked me back, nearly giving me whiplash.
I dropped down on the machine, still hanging onto the chain, and the hook came down to my waist when I stood. I’m not sure what the machine below me was supposed to do, but the conveyor belt ran through it. The top was flat, and it was about ten feet off the ground.