PART TWO: NEW RULES

5.9K 316 78

'What the hell are you doing?' Charlie yelled, his nostrils flaring.

He punched the madman square in the face. When the actor didn't react, I decided that I needed to step in. Something was wrong. Shunting him with my shoulder, I sent the lunatic sprawling, then grabbed Cathy and Theo and pulled them to safety.

'Come on!' I shouted. 'He's obviously had some sort of mental breakdown. We can complain about him at the visitors' desk tomorrow. Let's just forget about him for now. Let one of his colleagues sort him out.'

The others agreed and, before the thrashing zombie had time to self-right, we all ploughed into the shed, up through the escape hatch, and across a rope bridge into darkness. A procession of actors greeted us when we descended in another area of the Necroville site. Firing off a few rounds of ammo, we took out five or six before we hit terra firma. The actors growled, but fell obediently, and we sailed past them.

'Quick! This way!' yelled Theo.

He scouted on ahead while I guarded the rear. Between us, Charlie helped Cathy to walk. Her movements were laboured and I could tell that she was sobbing by the movement of her shoulders. She cradled her arm as though it were in an invisible sling. As we relocated from the shed camp, the green lamps became sparser then petered out altogether. Theo melted into view, returning from his scouting mission.

'Follow me if you want to live,' he stressed. Ridiculously, he was still in character. The words slurred from his mouth in an awkward compromise between an American and an Austrian accent. He didn't manage to master either.

Up ahead, a small village, not much more substantial than a hamlet, hugged a country lane. In all, there were six buildings: an old public house; a barn; four Elizabethan houses. They were all in darkness. No signs of life. Theo arrived in front of the tavern. The sign above the door read, 'The Sanctuary'.

'Are you sure this is owned by Necroville?' I asked. 'It looks like a real village.'

Theo removed his sunglasses for the first time, as if he hadn't noticed that it was the middle of the night.

'The Sanctuary,' he read. 'Sounds like a safe haven to me. What real bar is ever called The Sanctuary?'

'Okay...' I raised my hands defensively.

Theo tried the front door. It swung open and he grinned at me in an I-told-you-so sort of way, reapplying his shades. We entered first, just to ensure that the building wasn't crawling with zombies or tripwires or whatever surprises Amanda might have had Zedd install. There was nothing, so I turned on some dim wall-lamps. Cathy joined us inside and slumped in an armchair next to an extinguished, open fire. I glanced back and noticed Charlie staring into the void.

'What's wrong?' I asked.

'Think I'd better lay off the weed for a while, bro,' he commented. 'Thought I just saw a man fall off a roof then get back up and walk into the forest. I'll have to have a word with my dealer when I get back. You okay, Cath?'

'Just tired, I'll live. Knowing my luck, I'll have to get a tetanus after this!'

She was sitting at an angle, her head lolling. Beads of sweat had bubbled to the surface of her skin. I inspected her wound. The bite had barely broken through, but the tissue around the nicks looked horribly inflamed.

Charlie paced the room. 'I swear, Cathy. If one more person tries to touch you like that, I'm going to break his–'

Brrrriiiiiiiiiiing! Brrrrrriiiiiiiiing!

We all jumped. Hung on the wall next to the bar, a corded phone was ringing. We all stared at each other, stunned. After waiting for it to ring five times, I inched up next to it and grabbed the receiver.

The Dead WoodsRead this story for FREE!