The sound of guttural cawing echoes through the cave, combining with our screams in a blood curdling cacophony.
America and Star simultaneously release their grips on me. America runs at two of the zombies, while Star dives at another. Out of the corner of my eye, Elias fends off the rotting monster on my far side.
A fifth creature lunges in towards me. Its torn spacesuit exposes bites around its arms. Mangled, rotting muscle and congealed, yellow fat hangs from its chest like meat torn from the bone. Worms ooze from the rancid flesh, crawling over the animated corpse of a human.
Without wasting another second, I throw my arms up in front of myself, balling my hands into fists. Screaming, I charge at it. My fists collide with its chest, and I claw my gloved fingers into the squishy flesh. A few maggots leak to the surface like I've squeezed them out of a sponge, but my adrenaline is pumping too hard for me to feel sick. I swing my bad leg up and knee the undead woman in the gut.
The monster doubles over on impact. Its entire weight crashes into me, sending me flying to the ground.
Pain shoots through my spine when I strike the rocky cave floor. I gasp, the wind knocked out of me. The zombie dives in for a bite, but I shove both fists up into the base of its jaw, knocking its head back. Blood and worms spew from its mouth like vomit, spilling over its black, moldy lips and splattering across my helmet.
Before it can regain its bearings, I tuck my arms into my chest and roll. I scamper out from under it on my hands and knees.
Heart racing, I leap to my feet. The zombie cracks its neck to the side, and its wet, scraggly hair swings around its grey skull as it turns to face me. Black, dead eyes stare me down. It releases a croak from the depths of its throat. Then, it bares its sharp, blood-stained teeth at me and roars. Its empty eyes shine like two mirrors in the beam of my head lamp.
My heart races and sweat prickles every inch of my skin. I raise my leg to kick it, but before my foot connects, two arms grab me around the waist, yanking me back. My feet fly out from under me. I slam my heels into the ground, trying to brace myself, but the monster continues pulling. My feet skid across the ground, and pain throbs through my bad ankle.
"Let me go!" I scream.
I shove my elbows back into the body of the zombie that's latched on to me, but it doesn't release. I hear its choking grunts as its bony fingers claw at my hips. It feels like spiders and worms crawling over me.
"Get off her!" Star yells from somewhere behind me. She rushes in, throwing a fist at the zombie's head, and its grip on me loosens.
"Stupid piece of shit." She shoves her shoulder into it and knocks it to the ground.
Its decaying limbs tangle as it tries to regain its footing. Before it gets a chance, I swing my foot into its face, crushing its nose back into its skull with a sickeningly smooth squish.
Panting, I turn to Star. Behind the blood-smeared glass of her helmet, her dark eyes meet mine, ablaze with panic.
I hyperventilate, gasping for air to speak. I can't fill my lungs. Everything around me spins.
"Help!" a voice shouts from across the cave, pulling me out of the freeze. I swing my head around to face the source.
Two zombies swarm America. A large, burley one presses him against the wall of the alcove while a second, gangly one snaps its teeth at him, trying to break skin. He extends one hand towards each of their faces, tearing at their blind eyes, but they are overpowering him. He won't be able to hold them off long.
"America!" Without thinking, I run towards him. On my second step, a hand grabs me by the ankle like a snake. It yanks my foot out from under me, and I'm flung face first to the hard, rocky floor.
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Down UnderScience Fiction
Shawn, a convicted criminal, never thought she'd see the sun again, let alone call another star system her home. When she's offered an out from her prison sentence, she embarks on a dangerous interstellar expedition along with 18 of Earth's most int...