Day of the Horde by P.T. Corwin

Day of the Horde by P.T. Corwin

Day of the Horde

by P. T. Corwin

Not many people can claim they brought about the end of the human race.

Yeah, that was me. But hold on! Hear me out for a sec. Because it started with the simplest of intentions: I just wanted my little girl back.

 

#

 

We were living in a tower block, my Suzie and I. Gotta tell you, it wasn’t easy raising a little girl as a single dad. But we got by. I got her through school. I helped her pass the driving test. And I found a good hospital after the accident.

Imagine having to visit your kid in the hospital, seeing her with a tube shoved down her throat, hooked up to a machine that breathes for her.

So tell me there would have been a thousand better ways that wouldn’t have screwed up mankind this bad. But maybe – and consider that possibility long and hard, if you can – maybe I was just trying to help my daughter.

#

This guy seemed like a good choice. You gotta understand I usually don’t go for faith healers or magic doctors. I’m not the kinda guy to believe in this heavenly stuff. If I do something, it’s not ‘cause some beardy fella on a cloud throne is watching my every move; I do it ‘cause it’s the right thing to do.

But the real doctors had given Suzie less than a ten percent chance of ever waking up again. Then this guy’s ad was on TV. And he claimed to be able to do what doctors couldn’t. If that ain’t enough, how are you not gonna at least visit a guy who called himself Samson Akuma?

And yeah, it’s not like I went to him with the intention to start off the extinction of man. It’s just something that happened.

#

Akuma’s place wasn’t too bad, actually. Little ground-floor council flat. The inside kinda what you might expect from a faith healer: Colourful throws on the couch. Wooden masks all over the walls, some with feathers attached to the forehead. And a hell of a lot of candles, spread all across the room.

“I don’t let my daughter have even one candle in her room,” I told him. “Bit of a fire hazard, don’t you think?”

He just smiled at me with yellow teeth. “Only if you lose control.”

You know, for a moment I thought he knew about me and the accident, about our argument.

But then he turned away and waved his hand across the room, and all the candles lit up at once.

Yeah, I know, maybe I should’ve left there and then. But who thinks this stuff is real? All wires and mirrors and whatnots. Especially now, with electronics what it is.

Maybe I thought or hoped he’d just give me some mashed-up roots or crushed leaves from some tree in the Holy Land and send me on my way.

So yeah, I took a seat, sipped the tea he offered me like I was visiting an aunt and told him everything. Well, almost everything. He didn’t need to know that the last words I spoke to my daughter were, “I want you out of my house by tomorrow.”

“And you think you can pull this off?” I asked him at the end.

He stared at me, like his eyes wanted to eat my soul. “Awakening not easy,” he said. “Much can go wrong.”

I thought it was just a way to jack up the price. I’ve been to yard sales. I know how this stuff works. If it were really that dangerous, would he have offered it in the first place?

“I don’t mind paying extra for the risk,” I said.

That made him laugh, a low rumbling, like a rock rolling down the hill. “Good answer. But I need more than money.”

Honestly, I thought he was gonna say a kidney or a pint of my blood.

“Come,” he said. “Follow.”

He led me to a black door in the back of the flat. “You will tell no one what you see now, yes?”

And I thought, shit! He’s got a virgin chained up on the wall in there.

“Swear,” he said, thumping me on the chest with a meaty hand. “Swear or go now.”

What would you have done? Your own daughter in the hospital, stuck between life and death. What if she was still conscious? What if she was thinking all this time, “Daddy didn’t mean it. He’s gonna save me.”

So I told Akuma I would never breathe a word of this to anyone.

I guess you don’t count. I know you’re not gonna tell anyone.

Akuma unlocked that black door, and as it creaked open, something inside that room whimpered.

Then a dozen more candles flamed up on the sides, illuminating a little dog in the far corner. A beagle, I think, but I’m not that great with dog breeds. Suzie had asked for a Husky once, ‘cause she liked their eyes, but it came down to a choice between a dog and a car. Should’ve bought her that fucking Husky.

When we entered the dog wagged its tail and tried to run towards us, but a chain held it back.

“Why do you keep it in here?” I asked. I couldn’t see a bowl of food or water anywhere. That poor thing was probably starving.

“Pure soul,” Akuma said, grabbing something from the stone wall. “Good payment.” He handed me a dagger, curved like a scythe. “You pay.”

“You want me to…”

Akuma nodded. “And speak the word Makaté. Awake.” He grinned. “You will do this, if you really love your daughter.”

I did.

The dog wagged its tail and barked as I went up to it. Maybe it thought I’d take it for a walk. I’m not gonna lie, it made the whole thing a lot easier.

I’m not proud of what I did. But I had to. For Suzie.

And that little dog, it never stood a chance anyway. Akuma would have starved it to death. If anything, I probably did it a favour.

Stupid dog. Never even struggled. Never even tried to bite me or anything. Stupid, stupid dog with its tail wagging till the end.

#

Akuma assured me everything was going to be fine, and he’d take care of the rest. Then he sent me on my way.

So, you can imagine – or maybe not – that when he called me about half an hour later, I nearly browned my knickers, if you know what I mean. He was panting as well, like Satan himself was after him, so I thought someone had caught him out in the backyard trying to bury the dog. He’d told them everything, and now he called to warn me that they were coming for me.

No such luck.

“I make mistake,” he said. “Dog pregnant.”

“What?” So I had not only killed a dog, but had aborted its puppies as well.

“Dog pregnant,” Akuma said again. “Dog not pure. Everyone wake up. Be careful.”

Something shattered around Akuma.

“Go inside,” he said. “Go and lock door.”

Something near Akuma groaned. Something heavy fell.

“Akuma? Are you there? Aku–”

Akuma screamed, a terrifying yell that made me drop the phone. Then nothing.

“Akuma? Akuma, can you hear me?”

On the other end, flesh tore as someone or something was having dinner.

#

Believe me, I ran. I’d taken the tube straight from Akuma to the hospital, so when he called I was less than a mile away. Less than a mile from my baby girl.

I saw it all as I ran. A horde of people in filthy clothes shuffling down the street, grabbing at pedestrians, biting, ripping them apart. Pedestrians screaming, running, running into each other, trampling each other. One guy got his head pierced by a lady in high heels who was running away from an old guy with an arm missing. And she got stuck and stumbled, and the old one-armed guy was on top of her in no time, tearing off a chunk of her shoulder like a lion ripping into a gazelle.

A young girl, not much older than Suzie, banged on the door of a convenience store. A smaller pack broke away from the Horde, surrounded her, shuffled closer and closer towards her. She held on to the door handle as they dragged her down. The store owner never opened the door, the selfish bastard. A young girl needed his help and he ignored her.

Not me. No, sir. I was gonna get to the hospital and save my little Suzie.

Noble, innit?

Well, that was before I got to the hospital and found the entrance blocked by another Horde.

#

“I hope you don’t have to get in there,” said a man next to me.

We were both hiding behind a bus that had stopped in the middle of the road. He was looking in the same direction as me, at the hospital, at people jumping out the window to get away and at the Horde in the parking lot picking them off.

“My little girl’s in there,” I told him.

He sneered. “She’s probably dead already. No point risking your life, mate.”

That’s how vile he was. Old prick, probably around fifty judging by the grey in his hair. Probably with millions in the bank, left us mere mortals behind years ago. Looking out for himself at every turn, you know. That kinda guy.

Nobody’d miss him. Some people – like the wife he beats every night – would probably be happier without him. Right?

Also, it was the only way to get to my Suzie.

So yeah, I beat him over the head, threw him to the ground, out in the open where the Horde could see him. He struggled a bit at first – actually tried to choke me, the bastard – but I knocked his head against the asphalt, and that did it.

It’s another thing I’m not exactly proud of. But I did it for Suzie, my little girl, trapped in that hospital. That should count for something. You’d understand, if you had kids yourself. A parent does whatever is necessary for his child. Especially in desperate situations.

Tell you the truth, I was gonna find the guy’s family and explain what I did. Turn myself in, you know. Once I’d saved my girl. ‘Cause the truth is, I did feel bad about it right after I did it. Would have felt worse, though, if it hadn’t worked.

But it did. The Horde in the parking lot had heard him scream during our fight. And I guess the blood from his head attracted them as well. I hid behind the bus as they all came, first just a handful, then more, like pigeons when they realise there’s something to get. When they had reached the guy, I made a run for the hospital doors.

I saw it, looking over my shoulder. How they dropped down around him and started to feed. He never made a sound.

#

Thanks to him I got into the hospital. I’d never seen so much chaos, I tell you.

Beds and wheelchairs thrown over in the corridor. Some with these drip stands beside them, some fluid still going into the arm of a dead guy with a torn-up face.

All the paper from the reception lying on the floor as well, with a couple of women slumped over the reception desk like they passed out or something. Except one had a huge hole in her back, and I could see her bones between the flesh.

I headed further down the corridor, up the stairs, to the third floor. I had to climb over a heap of patients in hospital gowns. Some had broken their necks during a fall. Others had chunks of flesh missing. Sad bastards. I hope they went quick.

#

I’ve never been in a war.

I refuse to shoot people for selfish reasons like oil or money or power. If you kill someone, you better have a bloody good reason.

So yeah, I never saw a field hospital outside of a MASH rerun. But they probably look like the corridor on my Suzie’s floor.

So much blood. And some people still alive, limbs missing, dragging themselves towards an exit. People groaning in pain, holding deep bite marks on their stomachs, arms or necks, blood seeping through their fingers.

I would have felt bad there and then, and maybe I did, but really all I could think about was my Suzie, stuck in her room. Maybe safe, maybe already dead. No parent, no matter what they’ve done before, should have to think these thoughts.

As I got to her room and found the blood dripping from the door, I actually prepared to find her in her bed with half her face gone or one of her arms ripped off. Or worse, a bunch of the indoor Horde still bent over her, tearing, chewing my baby girl’s flesh.

But then I had to push the door hard. Something scraped against the floor as I did.

Someone had barricaded the room. Maybe a nurse or a doctor or Suzie herself. My brave little Suzie.

I pushed the door open, getting blood all over my hands, slipping. But I got it wide enough to squeeze through and climb over the bed. And there she was, still dressed in her hospital gown, barefoot, standing by the window, one leg outside on the stairs of the fire escape.

I must have had the mother of all grins on my face. She was awake. I wanted to hug her so bad.

“Don’t take another step,” she said.

“Baby. Suzie, it’s me, daddy. I’ve come to get you out of here.”

“I said don’t take another step.”

I thought she was in shock or something. Imagine waking up and you’re surrounded by the screams of the dying, while the dead shuffle towards you.

“It’s me,” I said. “It’s daddy. I’m not one of them.”

“No,” she said. “You’re worse.” She climbed outside, glared at me with cold eyes. She wasn’t afraid of me, she was angry. “I saw you. You killed that guy. You fed him to those… those creatures.”

“Only to get to you,” I said. I had moved inch by inch forward and had made it to where the bed had been. Just a few more steps and I would have reached the window. “It was the only way to save you, Suzie.”

“Don’t you dare use me as an excuse.”

“Suzie, please.” I was at the window, reaching out to her. “I’m sorry for what I said in the car. I didn’t mean it. I’m so sorry. But I need you to come with me now, okay?”

“Never.” She pressed herself against the railing behind her. “You’re a monster.”

“Suzie, please come inside. Come inside or I’ll have to–”

“Have to what? Feed me to those things?” She pointed down at the back of the hospital.

I think I thought of crocodiles gathered in a canyon, waiting for the bridge to break. “I would never hurt you, honey. Just come inside. Please. I’ll fix it for you.”

“Screw you!”

She spun around and headed down the stairs. She might have been much faster, if she had worn shoes. I might not have caught her then. But I did and I grabbed her arm.

“Suzie, please, you have to understand.”

She struggled, tried to turn out of my grasp. She probably hadn’t expected it to be so easy, with my hands so slippery from the blood on the door. She spun around, lost her balance and went over the railing.

Everything happened too fast for me to save her. She landed on the asphalt below with a horrible thump.

She wasn’t moving. I hope she was already dead. My little girl. My Suzie.

I knew there was nothing else I could have done to save her. But I could at least protect her body.

I ran down one more floor, low enough to survive the impact. Then I jumped.

#

So, here we all are. I know I could have run, even with the broken leg. But I’m not gonna leave my baby girl.

So, leave her alone and take me instead. Before you do, though, just tell me one thing, if you can: tell me you understand.

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