I tried to stay upright as I ran through the forest. The frozen ground cracking and crinkling as I ran. I jumped over some fallen branches and had to use my hand to keep me from falling on my face. I managed to stand back up and keep running. I was making a ton of sound but that didn’t matter. I had to get out. I had to get away.
“Seline! Report in!” My radio crackled.
I could barely breathe as I steadied myself against the trunk of a large, oak tree. I could hear a chorus of low-pitched moans coming from behind me.
“Seline! Where are you?” My radio crackled again.
I grabbed for my walkie-talkie and pressed it to my ear. “Frank?”
“Seline! Thank God. Where are you? You didn’t report in.”
“Frank, they’re all dead,” I said tears streaming down my face. Between talking, crying, and breathing, I was almost to the point of hyperventilating.
There was just radio silence.
I hit the talk button again, “Frank, you still there?”
“Yes, Seline. Listen. Do not engage. Make your way to checkpoint echo. You know where that is?”
“Frank. I can’t. I can’t go back.”
“Seline! Listen to me. You’ll get out of here alive but you have to do what I say. Go to checkpoint echo. That’s the best chance. We can’t reach you while you are in the forest.”
“Frank,” I was balling. Making even more noise.
“Seline. Head South and make your way around camp. Then head through the tunnel and you’ll be there. No problem.”
The moans were louder. They were closer. They are pack hunters that could sneak up on you if you weren’t careful. Slow moving and dim-witted, but get enough of them together, and it could spell your doom.
“Seline! Go! Now!”
“Ok.” I said as calm as I could. I wiped the tears from my eyes and tried to pull myself together.
I clipped the walkie-talkie to my belt and straightened the straps of my backpack. I had lost my firearm in the chaos of last night, but I still had a hatchet on my belt. I patted it like I was consoling a friend, and I took off running again.
I tried to keep my eyes peeled for any of the monsters, but the trees were thick enough to hide them from me. And hopefully me from them. I tried to keep my breathing steady but I was worn out and basically running on my nerves and adrenaline. Only the thought of my cot back at basecamp kept me going.
I peeked around one of the deciduous trees to see a pack of three of them. I had to throw my hands in front of my mouth to keep an audible gasp from leaving my throat. I ducked behind the tree and put my back to the tree trunk. I peeked around again and they were still standing there. Almost like statues. Expressions blank, mouths hanging wide open. The shortest one looked to be female and was missing a left arm. The others looked male and mostly intact.
I peeked out once more and then made a mad dash for the next tree and then the next. One of them must have spotted me or picked up my sent because it began stumbling towards me. It let out a soft moan which echoed throughout the forest. Its moan was met with many others which also echoed. I had no idea where they were coming from but I assumed they were behind me.
Now we don’t have enough data on the monsters to conclude whether or not they are actually able to communicate with one another, but I do know that they are attracted to sound as well as light. One moan brings many others.
I rounded one corner and headed north towards the tunnel. I stopped between trees just to give a quick look and then I sprinted. Look. Sprint. Look. Sprint. I tried my best to avoid being seen or heard but my footsteps were not quiet.
The moans and groans grew louder. More of them and they were closing ranks. I doubt they knew military strategy but their natural patterns seemed to mimic stuff we were taught in basic training.
I took a deep breath and peeked around the corner of one tree trunk. There didn’t seem to be anything there so I started my sprint. My foot got caught and I fell to the ground with a hard thump. Pain shot up my body from my ankle all the way up to my head. What I assumed was a root was actually the decaying corpse of one of the creatures. Barley intact it crawled towards me letting out a groan. It was an upper torso, left arm, and skull. Nothing more. It dragged its entrails behind it as it tried to chase me down. I managed to kick it away with my good leg smashing its facial cartilage. Although I thought I killed it (re-killed it?), it still continued to crawl towards me with a muffled groan. I pulled at my belt for my hatchet as the thing grabbed my bad ankle. The pain almost made me pass out, but the adrenaline kept me awake. I swung my hatchet and buried it in its skull. The creature stopped.
More moans echoed around me. They grew louder. The mass was almost upon me. I saw many dark shapes on the horizon among the trees. I tried to stand using the tree as a crutch, but putting pressure on my ankle almost made me black out. I felt like vomiting as well as just giving up. The pain was that bad.
I reached for my walkie-talkie but I couldn’t find it. I must have dropped it in the leaves. I bent down searching for it brushing leaves aside. After searching for a little while, I found it and I brought it to my mouth.
“Frank! I’m hurt. I need your help.”
“Seline — are you?” He was breaking up.
“Frank. Please help.”
“Seline — checkpoint echo —- where—-tunnel“
The radio signal was not strong enough and the moans were almost too much. I had to start moving if I was going to outrun them.
I clipped the radio to my belt and wielded my hatchet as I stumbled towards the entrance to the tunnel. The radio kept spitting words, but as I got closer there was more and more static. I was pretty disoriented at this point, but I was pretty sure I was heading in the right direction. Plus this direction was away from the creatures which was an added bonus.
I chuckled to myself. I must have been losing it.
By some sort of miracle I managed to find the tunnel entrance without wandering into another monster. My plan of sprint, look, and sprint was no longer an option. It was mostly a constant stumble towards help without much thought. I had been doing so well but when I made it to the tunnel entrance, I couldn’t take it anymore. I found some nice bushes by the entrance and threw up. I wasn’t proud of it, but I could only hold it down for so long.
I wiped my mouth with the edge of a dirty sleeve and leaned against the tunnel wall. The tunnel was long enough that I couldn’t see the other end. Visibility was about ten feet before there was just darkness. The good news was that the moans had grown softer, so the creatures in the forest much have been pretty far away or gave up with chasing me completely. The bad news was that this tunnel might be full of more of them. I could maybe fight off a single creature but a hoard was out of the question.
So I came up with a crazy idea. Definitely not my best moment.
“HEY FREAKS! COME GET ME!” I screamed into the tunnel with all my might.
My yell echoed through the tunnel getting repeated over and over again. It was met with a chorus of groans and moans from within the tunnel.
I wasn’t sure how many of them were in there but definitely more than one. I also heard a chorus of moans from the woods. My scream had also attracted the forest creatures.
I readied my hatchet preparing for the worst. This would be the fight of my life. The moans from the tunnel did not seem to grow louder but the ones from the forest definitely did. I kept looking over my shoulder to see if any of them were trying to sneak up on me.
It was a good 60 seconds and nothing approached me from the tunnel but the groans were consistent.
“WHAT YOU SCARED?” I yelled into the void. Only the same moans came back.
I kept readying myself, but nothing came. The adrenaline was starting to wear off and I decided that I had to take action. I slowly hobbled my way into the tunnel. Hatchet still raised high, but that didn’t help me with the whole “not being able to see” thing. I proceeded with caution hearing the moans in front of me and the moans starting to collect behind me.
About halfway down the tunnel, I kicked something that was softer then the rocks around me. I almost had a heart attack as I backed up and fell on my butt. I swore as my ankle pain flared. I steadied myself against the wall. The thing wasn’t a rock but it wasn’t one of them either. It didn’t stir. It didn’t moan.
I stood up and examined it. My eyes starting to adjust to the darkness. I came to a realization and almost threw up again. This was a human. A dead human. But not one of them. I examined the body and found the person’s flashlight.
Ok. On three I’ll turn it on. “1…2…3…” I counted out loud with my eyes squinted and I flicked on the switch. Nothing happened.
“Oh come on!” I yelled shaking it and it lit up illuminating the tunnel and temporarily blinding me.
I shined it down at the body and recognized it as one of the other newcomers to the military base. His legs were torn up and he had bullet hole in his head. Blood splattered behind him. This time I couldn’t keep the vomit down.
I cleaned my mouth again and let out a few coughs. Too many dead people for one day. I picked up some of his stuff and noticed a creature’s corpse a few yards down from the body. This man must have killed the creature and then turned the gun on himself. The bites on his legs meant that he was eventually going to turn. I shook my head trying to clear my thoughts. The moaning behind me had gotten a lot louder and I figured they had started to funnel into the tunnel from the forest. I shined the flashlight back the way I came and I could make out a few pair of eyes down the tunnel. Their eyes still shined when light hit them.
I turned back and kept on going heading towards the other tunnel entrance and I stumbled upon the source of the moans. A giant pile of rocks, rubble, and body parts stood in my way. It looked like the entire tunnel had collapsed killing several people and they turned while being trapped. Many of them groaned and snapped their teeth at me. Others seemed to be completely trapped in the rubble with only arms sticking out of the rock pile. Some I noticed were not moving at all. The collapse must have smashed the brain and kept them from turning.
I shined the light up to the corners and saw that the rock pile seemed to completely block my path forward.
I let out another series of swears. The moans grew louder and louder behind me. I shined the light back the way I came and this time I made out the outline of several monsters walking towards me. Maybe the guy in the tunnel had the right idea. I looked at my hatchet and then swore again. I should have grabbed his gun.
I sighed and tried to collect myself. Only a few seconds and I would be between a wall of rock and a wall of the undead. There had to be a way out that didn’t require a hatchet in the skull.
I shined my light again back and forth across the rocks looking for a whole in the wall. Nothing. Nothing. Just more rocks. Nothing. There!
About 3/4ths up the rock pile on the left side. There was a small hole that was created by a large rock colliding with the tunnel’s wall. Of course I needed to climb a mountain of rocks with moaning arms and skulls sticking out of it. But there was a way to survive.
I looked back and the hoard was almost here. I shined my light and one was almost on top of me. I raised my hatchet and buried it in its skull. It crumpled in a pile in front of me. Many more approached. If I was going to do this, it had to be now.
I ran (stumbled quickly) towards the rock pile and I started my climb. Hatchet on my belt and flashlight in my mouth. My ankle still pained me but I tried to fight through it. I’m sure there were tears streaming down my face. I did my best to climb the rocks as well as avoid any arms trying to attack me. I buried my boot in a few faces and kicked the hands away. The horde had made it to the rock wall and started to shuffle towards it. They weren’t very good climbers.
I managed to make it to the hole in the wall and I shined my flashlight back at the horde. Hundreds of eyes shined back at me and the moans were so loud I could barely hear my own thoughts. But I kept on pushing. I shimmied my way through the hole and made it to the other side without much trouble. The other side was a lot of the same. At the bottom of the pile there were plenty of dead parts sticking out and teeth gnashing at me. I tried to make my way down slowly but the pile shifted.
I fell forwards with a few crumbling rocks bouncing off of boulders and eventually rolled onto the tunnel floor. My mouth coated with dust. I immediately went into a coughing fit which lead to pain in my chest. I was sure I had bruised or broken a few ribs as well as a few vertebrate. Nothing else seemed broken, but I was covered in bruises and cuts and my ankle pain flared up. I rolled away from the pile and out of the reach of the creatures trapped in stone. I was missing my hatchet and the flashlight was MIA. It was dark once again and I heard the group of the undead from the other side of the wall. I wasn’t attacked by any of the ones stuck in the pile which was good, but now I was completely defenseless. I just laid there not moving for what was probably a few seconds but it felt like a few hours. I didn’t have much I could do. My only option was try to escape the tunnel and make my way to checkpoint Echo. I had made it this far and I wasn’t about to give up.