We ran across the pavement, the mob of screaming, infected rabids at our heels. Swerving onto a wooden dock, we followed Zeke over the water to the very end of the pier, to where a small, faded white boat sat bobbing on the waves.
Leaping onto the boat, Zeke hurried to the front, jamming the key into the ignition, while the rest of us huddled at the edge of the planks and watched the rabids swarm closer.
“Come on,” Zeke muttered behind us as the boat engine gave a raspy cough and died away. “Come on, turn over.” He wrenched the key again; the engine gurgled, sputtered and faded out again. “Dammit.”
“Get out of the way.” Jackal stepped onto the boat, shoving him aside. “I’m guessing you know as much about boats as you do bike engines.” He crouched down, his face intense.
“Just keep the crazies off my back for a few seconds.”
A scream at the other end of the docks made me jerk up.
The rabids leaped onto the pier, screeching and hissing, tearing at themselves. I drew my katana, roared a challenge, and stepped forward to meet them.
The first rabid leaped at me, swiping at my face with terrible speed. I jerked back and cut the head from its body, knowing that was the only way to make it stop. Another sprang over the first one’s corpse and lunged at my throat, but Kanin was suddenly there, stabbing his thin blade through the creature’s temple, kicking it off the platform.
“Jackal!” I snarled, desperately fending off a rabid reaching for my face. It hissed and scrambled over my blade, heedless of the edge cutting through its chest. “Not to rush you, but if we don’t get out of here soon it won’t matter if Sarren gets away or not, because we’ll be dead. Hurry up!”
A shot rang out from Zeke’s pistol. I heard it strike the barrels on the corner of the docks, clanging off the metal. I glanced back, and saw him standing at the back of the boat, arm raised toward the end of the docks. He fired again, puncturing the drum, and a stream of clear liquid began to stream from the center.
A searing pain erupted from my neck, making me gasp. In that split second of distraction, a rabid had gotten through my defenses and sunk its fangs into my throat. With a desperate hiss, I slid the katana between us and shoved hard, cutting off its head. The monster fell away, releasing my neck, but I stumbled in pain, seeing the rest of the horde closing in. Zeke shouted something, maybe about getting back, but the agony and screaming rabids made it hard to hear what he was saying.
Another monster sprang forward, lashing with its claws, but Kanin spun, knocking it away, and grabbed me around the middle. As he pulled me back toward the boat, I looked up at Zeke, still at the back of the boat, and saw him raise his arm. A strange, bright orange gun was clutched in his hand, and he fired a single shot at the pier.
The shot flared a brilliant orange-red in the darkness, hissing and sparking, trailing a stream of fire as it streaked through the air and struck the barrel he’d shot at earlier. There was a flash, and a massive fireball erupted into the night, sending rabids flying into the water. I felt the blast of heat from where I stood with Kanin, and turned away, shielding my eyes.
When I looked back, the end of the pier blazed with tongues of fire, licking at the posts and snapping hungrily over the wood. My vampire instincts cringed back, urging me to get as far from the flames as I could, that even this distance was too close. Beyond the roar of the inferno, I could hear the rabids screaming.
“There,” Zeke growled as he stepped back, the flare gun dropping from his hands. “That should hold them off long enough to—”
And the rabids came right through the flames.
I jerked, barely getting my katana up in time as the entire swarm, not just one or two, sprang through the fire like it wasn’t there and rushed the docks again. I slashed wildly at the first rabid who lunged at me, its back and arms wreathed in flames, and my vampire instincts shrieked in utter terror.
“Jackal!” I shouted as Kanin kicked a burning rabid into the water, spun, and smoothly beheaded another. From the corner of my eye, I saw Zeke leap from the back of the boat, sail over the water, and slam his machete into a rabid as he landed beside me. “You can get that boat started anytime now!”
“Not if you keep bitching at me!” came the terse reply from the boat helm. The rabids screamed and pressed forward, crowding the pier, claws and teeth raking me from all sides. I caught flashes of Kanin and Zeke beside me, fending off the rabids that surrounded us, but in a few seconds we’d be overwhelmed.
“Got it!” The boat gurgled, roared and died away just as quickly, killing my sudden surge of hope. “Well, damn. False alarm! What the hell do these bloodbags use for fuel, their own piss?”
No reply, but a second later the engine sputtered, coughed and finally roared to life in a plume of white smoke. “All right!” Jackal called as we started edging back from the relentless press of rabids. “The last ship from bat-shit crazytown is sailing, so cut the ropes and let’s get the hell out of Dodge.”
Kanin threw a rabid off the platform, turned and slashed through the rope tying it to the dock. The engine gurgled, and the boat began to pull away, moving down the pier and out into the water. We fought our way to the very end of the dock, Lake Erie at our backs and a murderous swarm of monsters still coming forward, while the boat pulled even farther away. We needed to jump, but the rabids would pull us down as soon as our backs were turned.
“Jackal!” I yelled, cutting a monster’s head from its neck a second before its teeth would’ve found my skin. “If you leave us, I swear to God whatever is left of me will hunt you down and strangle you in your sleep!”
A laugh rang out behind me, and from the corner of my eye Jackal appeared at the side of the boat, which continued to drift over the lake. Something small and orange flashed in his hand as he raised his arm.
“Oh, sister. You really have no faith in me at all, do you?
The flare exploded from Jackal’s hand, streaking past me as I cringed, and tore into the mob of rabids in a flash of heat and light. “Jump!” Kanin ordered over the screams, the rabids flailing back in blind confusion, and I did. Turning, I hurled myself over the water, hitting the boat railing and grabbing it with one hand, clinging desperately to my katana with the other.
Fingers clamped around my wrist, and someone dragged me over the edge and into the boat, setting me upright. Jackal smirked and dropped my arm as Kanin landed gracefully on deck and Zeke pulled himself up the side of the railing.