~ Chapter Nine ~

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The only sound in the darkness at first, was the rapid panting of the group members.

As they descended the stairs further, they slowed to a cautious pace.

Their whispers echoed in the emptiness ahead of them as they all fumbled about, clinging to each other and groping the walls.

They wouldn't risk a flashlight. Not yet.

Nearing the bottom of the stairs, a splash and a grunt, halted the group.

"It's all right. I'm okay. I just slipped." Holloway whispered. "I forgot this place was flooded."

"Flooded?" Someone questioned.

"It'll be okay. The infected don't nest here due to the water." Holloway assured the group before continuing down into the cool, shin-deep water.

The rest followed. Each clutching the person in front of them.

Holloway proceeded until he found the edge of the platform. He tried to lower himself down as quietly as he could manage.

The stagnant water was now up to his chest.

The others entered the deeper waters one by one and waited. They'd move along once everyone was together.

Perri sucked in a sharp breath as she slid into the higher water. It was freezing cold and rank as a swamp.

"Gavin, you might have to put Skeet on your shoulders." She whispered.

"Yeah, okay." Gavin replied before he entered the deeper water and put his back to the platform. "Come on." He urged the boy to climb onto his shoulders.

The group continued onward, wading through the chilly waters. Each had a hand on the shoulder of the person before them.

Perri tried not to think of how much of the contents of her knapsack were being destroyed by the water. She always kept a few items in zip-lock bags, just in case. But, who knew what being almost fully submerged would be doing to the rest of her stuff.

~~~

After passing two platforms, they were coming up on a third.

It was deafeningly silent in the subway tunnel.

Suddenly, the queue of survivors halted and there was near-inaudible whispering.

The whispers traveled along the line-up toward the back.

The man in front of Perri turned to her to relay the message he'd received from the person in front of him.

"Infected ahead." Was all he said.

Perri paused for a moment, becoming distant.

She snapped out of it when she became aware of the hand still on her shoulder.

She turned to Gavin and Skeet and repeated the warning. And Gavin did the same. There were only six or seven people in line behind him.

The queue moved to the far wall, opposite the side of the platform and went even slower.

After being in the tunnel for so long, their eyes had adjusted to the lack of light and they could make out silhouettes in the darkness.

When the platform was within Perri's view, her heart thundered in her chest and her eyes widened.

She tried not to stare at the eight or so human shaped silhouettes that stood limply in the shallower water.

The infected were dormant. And Perri hoped they'd remain that way.

They were nearly all past the platform when a scream shattered the silence.

At the back of the line there was a woman.

The infected were upon her. They had snuck up behind her, moving smoothly in the water.

Too smooth for mindless creatures, if Perri really had a chance to think about it. But, there wasn't any time for that yet.

They bit at her flesh, tearing into her.

A man who was in front of her was struggling to remove her vise-like grip on his shirt.

The rest of the group frantically hurried away. They couldn't save her or the man and if they stayed, they would be next.

"Wait!" The man pleaded desperately to the group.

With the world the way it was. It was much too easy to leave people behind.

The woman gargled and choked on her own blood as the infected dragged her toward the platform.

Sobbing and cursing, the man had managed to free himself of the woman's grasp. He tried to rush after the others, but his panicked splashes only attracted the infected.

His screams followed the group as they rushed to safety. They had to reach the next platform. That was where they needed to exit.

They could only pray that there weren't any infected when they arrived.

~~~

The platform was clear.

The group scrambled out of the deep water and darted toward the exit. Not even caring about the amount of sound their splashing was creating.

They gathered on the stairs to rest and catch their breath.

Gavin set Skeet down and the boy immediately went to Perri's side.

"Okay, everyone." Carter started. "We can't stay here. I know you're frightened and exhausted. But, we need to push on."

"We're almost at the half-way point." Holloway added.

"I thought you said that the infected didn't rest down here." A man spat at Holloway.

Several others muttered their agreement.

Holloway stammered and stuttered, searching for the words to say.

"That's enough!" Carter shouted, and everyone went silent. "What's done is done." He said more softly.

Holloway cleared his throat. "We'd better get going." He said to no one in particular, before ascending the stairs toward the light of the sun.

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