I looked up to get an idea of what to expect next, and my eyes found the old man zombie approaching. It moved pretty fast - it probably hadn’t moved that fast when it was alive, for several decades. But now, in its crooked, arthritic, sideways shamble-hop, it was fast. And shrewd as well. Looking up at us and staying back a ways, it seemed to study us. Its eyes had not gone completely milky yet, and apparently it could see us. It was kind of creepy in a way, almost as if it was actually sentient.
“Will you look at that,” I said softly. At the sound of my voice, its gaze focused on me, and it cocked its head.
“Whoa!” I said, nearly losing my footing in surprise. The old man zombie seemed to notice this, and then it dropped its eyes down to study the area under our feet.
“I really don’t like the looks of that one,” Risa said. “It’s giving me the creeps.” I nodded. I didn’t like the looks of it either. But my attention was drawn to another wave of zombies trying to get at us. I blew three of them away in quick succession and then leaned back to reload. Risa was getting better with her .33, which was good. That gun was not terribly accurate at greater distances, so you had to wait until you had a clear shot at a zombie no more than ten feet away to have a really good chance of hitting it in the head and stopping it.
I finished reloading and covered Risa as she also reloaded. Sighting down the muzzle of my shotgun, I picked off two more zombies, then stopped to look up. The grandfather zombie had moved back a bit and was now about a dozen feet away from the base of the water tower. As I watched him, he all of a sudden let out a huge roar that made all the zombies stop all of a sudden. Then it grunted and growled and gestured and OH MY GOD IT WAS COMMUNICATING WITH THE OTHER ZOMBIES.
“Oh, this is not good,” I said.
“Oh my God. Oh my ever-loving God, what is happening?” Risa said.
There were maybe six zombies left, including the old man zombie and, believe it or not, they were in an informal huddle, looking like an amateur football team. Those zombies were concentrating their attention on the old man zombie, and he seemed to somehow be GIVING THEM INSTRUCTIONS.
“I don’t believe this,” I said. Looking around us, I saw that we were trapped like treed cats. “Listen, Risa. If this situation starts to go south, I want you to make a break for it, okay?”
“I won’t leave you, Alyssa,” Risa said.
“I’m not planning on becoming a martyr or anything, but I have a bad feeling about this and I ...,” I said.
“Alyssa, don’t even think that way. We will come out of this alive and we will find Luke,” Risa said.
Looking around again, I once again pointed my shotgun at the sky and let off three rounds about five seconds apart. I nodded to Risa and reloaded again. Risa nudged my arm, and when I looked up she gestured to the zombies. They were breaking apart slowly and something was happening.
They seemed to be a bit confused I thought, but then the old man zombie let out another loud roar and then hobble-charged right at us!
The other zombies followed him, and all of a sudden we had a small mob of half a dozen zombies rushing at our water tower. Risa and I could only watch as they came. Our guns pointed down, we wondered what was going on. This was not a good scenario at all. When dealing with zombies, I had always preferred to be on the side making the active decisions and controlling the game. Now they were calling the shots, executing some bizarre strategy from their zombie playbook.
We fired as they ran toward us. POP! POP!! POPPOPPOP!!
Two of the zombies fell to the ground, but four others just kept charging, in fact, they ran right under our ledge.
A split-second later we felt the water tower shudder and lean slightly before righting itself again. The zombies had hit the stilts holding us up. I couldn’t believe it. They had launched a coordinated attack and were trying to knock the water tower over to get at us.
“How on earth…?” I said. I didn’t have time to finish my sentence. They were still directly under us, pushing at the stilts in an effort to finish the job.
We teetered as the zombies below us pushed at the stilts. The water tower swung back and forth several times as we hung on to the wooden planks. Then for a few seconds, it stopped moving to the side and I thought perhaps the zombies had given up. But apparently they had just stepped back to gather their strength for another push, because all of a sudden the movement started again and it was worse than before. We hung on tightly to anything we could grab, but it was no use.
“Oh! OH!!” Risa said, as the water tower leaned alarmingly to the side.
“We’re going to have to jump! Come on!” I said, as the thing began to topple over.