“Drop the knife!” she shouted. Her feet were planted and her weapon ready, but she kept it pointed away from the three. She shone her flashlight directly at the back of Scott’s head.
Scott glanced behind him, blinking in the bright light. He grinned and darted sideways, directly into the stalks of corn. She followed, using her flashlight hand to push the dense stalks out of the way. Rotting leaves slapped her in the face and dirt worked its way into her mouth, leaving grit between her teeth. Her flashlight was useless as she fought to find places for her feet. She could hear Scott a few feet ahead of her, cursing and tripping his way through the corn. He let out a gasp and his footsteps sped up as she heard him break out of the corn and onto a maze path. Ava pushed harder and broke out from the corn a second later. Smoke filled the path and the sky glowed intensely to her right. Flames flickered in the rotting corn. The screams and shouts had dwindled, and she prayed it was because people had found their way out of the maze.
She looked to her right and left, not seeing Scott. She slowly followed the path to the left, assuming he’d move away from the fire. She clutched the flashlight in her left hand and her weapon in her right as she waved the light over the cornstalks beside her. Fire engine sirens sounded over the screams of scared children, and she welcomed them.
She put him firmly out of her thoughts, confident he was in capable hands and that his wounds hadn’t appeared to be life-threatening. The zombie would get a big thank-you from the both of them.
Her boots made no noise as the sirens multiplied. She coughed from the smoke and wished she had an extra hand to hold her shirt collar over her nose and mouth. The smoke grew thicker.
I need to get out. Let Scott go for now.
Every fiber of her body struggled to accept the decision, but she didn’t want to let him go.
I’m so close.
She stopped in the path, straining to hear past the sirens, listening for footsteps or breaking stalks or rustling leaves.
A cloud of smoke engulfed her path and alarm shot through her. Which way is out? She pushed on, her internal compass stating that she was moving toward the edge of the maze and away from the fires. New far-off shouts reached her ears, but they were commands and orders. Firemen.
She bent over, seeking cleaner air, and sucked in deep breaths. A fit of coughing took over as her lungs protested against the amount of crap she’d breathed. She paused and crouched down for a moment where the air was better.
Gun or flashlight? One had to be put away so she could cover her nose. She reluctantly holstered her gun, unwilling to walk blindly in the dark. She pulled the neck of her shirt up over the lower half of her face and moved forward through a break in the smoke. Her eyes burned from the ash.
An arm roughly circled her neck and jerked her backward against a male body, her head smacking against his chest. Her flashlight skittered across the dirt and stopped, shining in her eyes.
A knife flashed in front of her face, an arcing glint of metal in the dark, and she didn’t pause to think. Her training took over and her body reacted.
In one rapid movement, she twisted to the side and shot her elbow into his windpipe and her heel into his kneecap. A muted crack sounded as her elbow connected. His arm loosened and he took several stumbling steps backward, bending over as he fought through his pain in his throat.
She faced him, her gun drawn and pointed at center mass. “Do. Not. Move.” Her heart raced as she stared down the man who’d killed cops and nearly hanged Mason, her dropped flashlight and the smoke casting odd shadows across his face. Hate raged through her, but she kept her trigger finger in control. One of his hands dug at this throat as if he could tear away the pain she’d inflicted.
“Fuck you.” He met her eyes and launched himself at her, his knife hand leading.
She fired. And kept firing.
Surprise lit up his face but the shots didn’t stop him. He plunged forward as she shuffled back, her finger pulling her trigger over and over.
He stopped, swaying in the smoke, and for a split second she believed he was immortal.
How is he still alive?
Ava stood in the smoke, her gun still trained on his immobile body, expecting him to leap up, his face transformed to that of a creature of the undead. She couldn’t move. Her panting echoed off the cornstalks and she wondered if her body would be found next to Scott’s, dead of smoke inhalation. She holstered her weapon, wanting to simply sit in the dirt and wait to be found.
Voices drew closer, shouting orders.
Her legs gave way and she sat.
Shots sounded over the fire engine sirens and Mason’s heart stopped.
Mason pushed away the hands of the EMT. He was capable of holding his own oxygen mask. His voice was gone and his throat felt as if it was swelling by the minute, but his airway was clear. The trauma seemed contained to his voice box and the left side of his mandible. The EMT had cleaned up his bloody face and bandaged the stab wound in his arm, and then ordered Mason to alert him the second he had trouble breathing. Mason had grimaced, imagining the EMT cutting open a new airway through his neck.
The zombie had dragged him out of the woods and back to Scott Heuser’s driveway, where fire trucks and police cars had arrived. He suspected he had a broken a foot in his fall but he didn’t care. Right now he wanted to see Ava come out of the forest. A bleeding woman with two teens had emerged from the woods, saying a crazy guy with a knife in the corn maze had slashed her arm and he’d been followed by a woman with a gun.