Excerpt from “One Last Favor,” the novelette in this anthology:
A mob of figures headed for the patient cubicles. In the next instant, the sound of bloodcurdling screams and tearing flesh assaulted her ears. Tara recognized the sound, having assisted with surgeries.
Desatnick pulled out his gun and fired. His bullet flashed through an elderly man’s chest. Despite the bullet size, he did not bleed.
No blood? Tara gasped at the sound, huddled against Chris’s shoulder. Doesn’t he have any?
The man dug his finger into the hole and withdrew the bullet, loosening green pus. “Shit,” he muttered in a gravelly voice.
He leaped at Desatnick. Before Desatnick could fire again, the figure snatched his gun and tossed it aside. Its bony hands wrapped around his throat and squeezed. Tara and Chris hugged each other, screaming. They’re dead, dammit, she kept thinking. What are they doing here?
Maybe they picked up some virus that turned them into zombies. Just like in the Night of the Living Dead documentary she’d watched in her Literature class. They reeked like carrion. They were dead, after all. Dead people weren’t supposed to come back to life. Apparently, someone forgot to tell them that.
The crunching of bones and smacking of lips were punctuated by ear-splitting shrieks. Something wet rolled into Tara’s knees. A glance at the floor gave her the source. Geysers of blood from Desatnick’s wounds sprayed the floor and flowed under the desk.
If Scarlett was here, she’d fight. Tara nudged the doctor’s shoulder. “Chris,” she whispered through panting lips, “if we stay here, we’re good as dead.”
Chris nodded with agreement; his shoulders trembling, green eyes wide and fearful. “You’ve got that right. But we need weapons. There’s a fire extinguisher on the left wall, by the cubicles.”
Tara pressed her face against the desk panel, scanning the wall for a potential weapon. There it was, an extinguisher hanging by the first cubicle. “I see it,” she whispered. “Lucky for us, Desatnick insisted on keeping these things in every room. We’ve got oxygen tanks in the storeroom, too. Think we can grab some protection and run while these zombies are busy with Desatnick and his patients?”
“I think we can if we go out the back, through the kitchen. That’s where I’m heading.”
Tara eased from under the desk, followed by Chris. She snatched the extinguisher while Chris made a beeline for the storeroom. She sprinted to the hall, hugging the extinguisher under her arms, Chris ahead of her.
Minutes later, strong, skeletal hands clutched her by the shoulders. Tara wrenched free, ripping the collar from her uniform. She walloped her assailant on the head. His skull cracked open, spilling fluid resembling Cream of Wheat.
Tara spurted ahead, hoping to catch up with Chris, but he was gone. Clattering footfalls sounded behind her as three of the creatures chased her down the hall. Whirling around, she aimed the nozzle at her assailants. Gray smoke swirled, providing an effective screen between Tara and her attackers.
She ducked inside a soiled utility room. The door had a combination lock, but such devices wouldn’t stop the walking dead. Where could she hide? If there were live humans around, these monsters would smell them.
The laundry chute. No doubt their brains had rotted, and they’d never think to search the laundry room. Tara keyed in the combination and crawled inside the chute. Hands gripping the door rim, she dangled her feet. The drop had to be twenty feet. Pounding at the utility room door. Those creatures smelled her. Any second, they’d break in and see her fingers on the rim of the chute door.
She let go, screaming all the way down. She landed on a mountain of dirty linen.
Landing on that soft pile spared her from broken bones. She scurried away from the chute and nestled between bags of soiled clothes. Surely the dirty linen smell would camouflage her scent. She’d have to remain intact if she wanted to escape.
Later, she would search for Chris Atkins and see if she could team up with him. He had become a good work buddy, someone she could trust with her life. For now, her best chance for survival lay in sitting tight and waiting until the beasts had either satisfied their hunger or given up to hunt somewhere else.
A tall, wasted man dropped from the chute. She’d underestimated them. Hadn’t she told herself that combinations wouldn’t stop the dead? This one landed in the same laundry pile she had. Something had eaten away half of his gray-complexioned face. He slithered toward her, his hands outstretched.
Bad Seed Disowned by her father, Susan drowns herself in work and booze after her fiance dies in a car wreck. On New Year’s Eve, when her loneliness is at its worst, a battered corpse calls her name. Her fright turns to dismay when she recognizes him as a former employee who returns for unfinished business.
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Garden of Souls Skeletal figures climb out of a patch of soil near Diane’s apartment building, terrifying her. She later learns that a family of five died in a hit-and-run accident near her home. Suspecting her ill-tempered boyfriend, she confronts him. But the dead victims have their own agenda.
Night Fighters A terrorist group targets the Philadelphia hospitals. They hire Todd to lure victims. One day, he picks on the wrong person, never realizing that the dead have mobilized their own army against terrorists.