PART FOUR: FINAL TURN

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Plunging into the sea of bodies, I was instantly overwhelmed by their heat and foul stench. Inside it was impossible to see anything beyond the next step. Glancing off a sweaty torso, I dashed onwards. I didn't know that there was a monster in my face until we were already eye to eye. There was barely enough time to react and dodge before wriggling hands shot in my direction. I was horribly aware of the commotion rippling through the crowd. Close by, corpses had noticed me.

My adrenaline spiked as avenues tightened and channels began to dry up around me. A bottleneck was developing. Gaps opened up and I shifted through them, scurrying hastily like a rodent through a room full of mousetraps. I was making progress, but I sensed that breaks were becoming less frequent the farther I travelled.

'Ssssssssss,' hissed a slender woman blocking my path, right before I pulled the trigger on my rifle and her head exploded. That really set the crowed going. A wave of snarls and moans erupted all around.

'Oh, God,' I whispered to myself. Their hot, sweaty masses pressed closer, attracted by the commotion. They were closing in faster than I had anticipated. And in all of the confusion, I suspected that I might have been doubling back on myself. Vital seconds slipped by until I found myself trapped against one of the clearing's high side-walls.

There was no way out. The plywood barrier was totally flat with no handholds to climb. Slalom skidding, I skirted to the left, following the ridge. A ghoul dived for me – so caked in mud that it was genderless – but I stabbed it in the face with my gun and the weapon went off in my hand, raining pieces of flesh and skull onto the mass like nightmarish confetti. Reaching back, I felt another wall. I had hit a corner! A forest of grasping fingers blotted out the moon.

'Argh!' I screamed. My heart raced, anticipating the end. All I could do was close my eyes, cower, and wait for it all to be over.

Then my shoulder knocked against something hard and smooth. I frowned. The second wall wasn't made of wood; it was metal. I hadn't noticed initially because it was so dark. Reaching up, I felt for something – anything – that could help me. My fingers closed around a curved, metallic object. A handle! I pulled it. A door clunked open and I clambered in, slamming it behind me. Immediately, the raucous din of moans became muffled. Slumping in a chair for some time, I hyperventilated in the darkness, soaked in sweat. Hands slapped on a glass window next to my face. I was in some sort of vehicle. A truck, perhaps? Not that it mattered; it was essentially a prison. Even if I miraculously found keys in the ignition, nothing short of an army tank could plough through a field of compressed bodies that deep.

Devoid of emotion, my hand closed around the barrel of my gun. I sat there for over ten minutes before I plucked up the courage to make the next move. Stalling didn't matter. Time was all I had left.

One bullet, I thought, realising that my true escape route was never going to involve the Hummer. At least it'll be quick. Raising the barrel, I opened my mouth and forced the cold metal inside. Immediately, I choked. It tasted disgusting. Rotten flesh was glazed all over the snout. I vomited down the side of the seat, glad that I couldn't see myself, and then rested my head on the dashboard, defeated.

Vruuuuuuummm!

My forehead had pressed a button. Like a spaceship, the entire cab illuminated. Floodlights on the front of the tall vehicle dazzled the whole scene. Surprised, I peered out. The zombies stared back, unblinking. There were several hundred in total. Seeing me all lit up behind the glass screen drove them wild. Dishevelled and frantic, they thrashed against one another. Weirdly, in all of their grime and fury, they resembled a crowd at a heavy metal festival.

In front of the cab, a giant appendage that was attached to the vehicle rose into the sky. It was huge, powerful-looking, and possibly deadly, like a massive robotic mosquito. I realised what I was inside: it was the excavator mulcher – that clunking behemoth I had seen when I arrived. Someone must have left the keys in the ignition. And – despite my earlier pessimism – I felt a surge of hope. If any vehicle could help me, it was this one.

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