“The power plant is still running,” Zeke said, glancing at a streetlamp that flickered erratically on the corner. “That’s a good thing, I suppose.”
I peeked through an open door creaking softly on its hinges and found a small, quaint living room, a stone fireplace in one corner and a green sofa in front of it. The sofa was the only thing in the room that wasn’t overturned or destroyed.
Shattered plates littered the floor, chairs were knocked over and smashed, and ominous brown streaks covered one part of the wall. I took a quick breath and smelled what I feared: that hint of decay and wrongness, lingering on the air like an oily taint. They were definitely out there, lurking in the darkness. I wondered why we hadn’t run into any of them yet.
We hadn’t gone far into the city when we stumbled across the first rabid corpse.
It lay in the road, the snow falling around it, its white, emaciated body curled up like a huge spider. Its skull had been crushed, either by bullets or something heavy, and the snow beneath it was stained black. I curled a lip, Kanin ignored it, and Jackal gave it a smirk as he stepped over the broken body and continued down the road.
As we went farther into Eden, and the buildings to either side grew taller and more crowded, the number of bodies increased. Rabids lay in the road or on the sidewalk, riddled with holes or blown apart. The military forces had not gone quietly and were probably the reason so many made it out of Eden alive. There were no human corpses in the road, the fallen having been torn apart or eaten by rabids in short order. But the telltale signs of the massacre were still there.
Bones lay scattered amid rabid corpses, the tattered, bloody remains of clothes still clinging to them. A body, more skeleton than flesh, lay half in, half out of a broken store window. I couldn’t tell if it was a man or woman because it was so savaged. The smell of blood, rabids and unrestrained gore was overpowering, and had I been human, it would have made me violently sick.
“Well, someone’s been having fun,” Jackal remarked as we edged around a pile of dead rabids, the street and walls riddled with gunfire. A large camouflaged vehicle lay on its side by the curb, windows smashed, blood streaked across the windshield. “This place is screwed even worse than New Covington. All we need now is a mob of bat-shit-crazy humans tearing their faces off.”
Faint scratching sounds interrupted him. A rabid lay beneath one of the huge tires, its lower half crushed by the vehicle, long arms clawing weakly at the pavement. It spotted us and hissed, baring a mouthful of jagged fangs, right before Jackal drove the heel of his boot into its skull. There was a sickening pop, and the rabid stopped moving. Jackal curled a lip and scraped his foot against the curb.
“You know what? Never mind. I can do without the batshit crazy. This place is screwed enough.”
Kanin ignored him, turning his attention to Zeke. “How much farther to the lab?”
“Not far,” Zeke confirmed. “The docks and the town square are about a mile that way,” he went on, nodding toward the west side of the island. “According to the mayor, that’s where the barge crashed and the rabids came pouring out, so I’m trying to avoid the main strip by taking us around.
The lab is on the outskirts of the city, near the power plant and the old airport.”
“Then lead on.”
The road continued deeper into Eden, cutting through canyons of buildings and apartments, beneath bridges and walkways from the levels above. Streetlamps glowed dimly on corners, and lights shone above us from windows and doorways, casting weird shadows over the empty streets.
“Still no rabids?” Jackal mused, gazing into dark alleys and shadowy buildings. “I thought this hellhole was so infested they couldn’t throw a rock without hitting one. Where’s the crazy keeping them all?”
“I’m sure we’ll find out soon,” Zeke muttered. “I’m surprised we haven’t run into anything else. If Sarren knows we’re coming, I would’ve thought he’d set up at least a few—”
And at that moment, of course, my leg brushed against something: a hair-thin wire stretched across the road near the ground, almost invisible in the blackness. As soon as I felt it, I froze, but it was too late.
A bloodcurdling scream rang overhead, making me jump back with a snarl, unsheathing my blade. Zeke and Jackal drew their weapons, and we pressed back-to-back, gazing around for attackers. There was no body, human or rabid, on the balconies above, no movement in the shadows. But the scream continued, frantic and terrified, echoing through the street and over the rooftops, making me cringe.
“Where is it coming from?” I snapped, wishing I could see whoever was screeching just to shut them up. In the deathly stillness, the screams pierced the night like gunfire and probably echoed for miles. But I still couldn’t see anyone.
Kanin abruptly swooped down, snatched a loose brick from the sidewalk, and hurled it into the darkness. I saw the projectile flash through the air and hit something small on the corner of a roof. There was a crunch and then a garbled buzz.
Pieces of wires and machinery fell into the road, fluttering like dead moths, as the scream sputtered into silence. Though the echoes still lingered, bouncing off the walls and ringing in my ears.
And now there was a new sound, rising over the rooftops, getting steadily closer. A skittering, hissing, scrabbling noise, the sound of many things closing in. Jackal bared his fangs in a silent snarl and hefted his ax.
“Well, ask a stupid question…”
“This way!” Kanin barked, turning down a side alley. “Before they’re all over us!”
A white skeletal figure dropped onto the road from an overhead balcony, eyes blazing, and lunged at me with a wail. I tensed, but Zeke’s machete flashed between us, and the rabid’s head hit my boots as it collapsed. “Allie, go!” he snapped as the roofs, walls and streets began to swarm with pale, spindly bodies. “I’m right behind you!”
We ran, following Kanin down the narrow, winding streets, ducking into alleys and through buildings, a screaming, hissing mob at our heels. Claws snatched at me from a side street, snagging the edge of my coat. I spun and lashed out at the same time, cutting both arms from the rabid’s body before sprinting on.
A rabid leaped atop a car hood, hissing. Jackal snarled and brought his weapon down with a vicious crunch, crushing metal and the rabid’s spine equally. “Starting to feel like a rat in a maze, here,” he said, glaring at the mob closing in around us. “If anyone has an idea beyond ‘run in circles and kill everything that f**ks with us,’ I’d love to hear it.”