October 8

Night Class (Part 4)


[…continued from October 7 entry…]


The car lurched and bounced. Rutland couldn’t distinguish between weights pressed onto the car or bumps beneath his wheel, palms slapped against his door or bodies bouncing off the front bumper.

The mass of dark clothing began to disperse at the front. “Move,” he shouted in encouragement. He opened his driver-side window a crack, to help them hear. “I’m coming through!”

Forward was the only viable direction. He could see part of the road ahead as shambling figures parted to let him pass.

A bloody hand pounded the window beside his head, then rapped knuckles on the glass. A thin white triangle appeared through the crack above the window: a sheet of paper being forced into the car. Fingertips appeared above the rim of glass, blood crusted beneath the nails. It pulled the window down, and a mouth pressed close to the opening, flecks of red grime between its teeth. “You ruin things,” it said.

Rutland pressed the window toggle, accidently pressing “down” instead of “up.” The hand reached inside.

A series of low groans sounded outside. Either: moans of horror as his car ran over a body, grinding the corpse toward its second death; or, gasps of pleasure at Rutland’s vulnerability, malicious hands grasping toward the partly open window.

He pushed the switch again, attempting to close the gap. A young man’s arm pushed through, slapping at Rutland’s face then reaching for the steering wheel.

The gears of the window mechanism protested as they closed on the arm.

The man’s arm retreated from the car; the window closed on his wrist, then he pulled the hand away. As parting words, he repeated Trevor’s earlier phrase: “We’re dead, you asshole!” —though from the muffled confusion, he might have actually said to Rutland, “You’re dead.”

His car inched further ahead, leaving the scene. As desperately as he wanted to escape, Rutland’s windshield hadn’t cleared enough for him to drive faster than a crawl.

The streetlamps flickered, then stayed on, giving a better view of the road ahead.

And the way behind as well, including the steep hill of the quad.

Bodies everywhere. Moving. But not..shambling. In a brighter, rearview perspective, they seemed less like battlefield victims, or a gathering after the zombie apocalypse.

More like a bunch of disoriented students on Registration Day.

The blood and gore had dried sticky on his neck, blotched and puddled inside the car. Rutland shifted in the seat, felt the uncomfortable squish beneath him.

He took a deep breath.

What did blood smell like? Or charnel house offal? He should smell copper, perhaps. An awful rot of death.

Keeping one hand on the wheel, Rutland reached down and scooped up a wet clump. He brought it near his face and sniffed.

No copper aroma. A hint of maple. A sickly sweet chemical odor, like food additives or disinfectant.

He rolled a moist lump between his fingertips. He pressed his foot on the brake, then flipped on the car’s cabin light to examine the specimen.

It wasn’t human or animal tissue.

Tissue paper, maybe. Soaked through—not with blood, but with some combination of syrup or paint or dyed broth.

Rutland shifted into Park, then reached down to retrieve the sheet of paper that had been shoved into his car. Soaked edges tore as he lifted it, and red fingerprints obscured large sections of writing on one side. Across the top, he could make out the hand-blocked letters: the day’s date, and “DIE-IN” DEMON

Presumably, the word “Demonstration” got cut off from the headline.

Rutland hadn’t been aware of any organized protest. Maybe there’d been leaflets stapled to the hallway noticeboard. He barely registered buzzing comments before and after class: students complained about trivial matters—grading policies, the price of textbooks or snacks in the vending machine.

Then again, they might have planned secretly through social media. A flash mob zombie apocalypse simulation, to protest world-wide poverty, tuition hikes, or the dangers of high fructose corn syrup.

We’re dead.

Yeah, a pretty difficult phrase to utter truthfully.

But why tonight?  Why had they chosen tonight to stage an elaborate “die-in” protest?  A vague uneasiness began to build as he drove down the road — some recollection about his evening class and a special campus-wide event.

An event he was supposed to have dressed up for.  And here he was, covered in fake zombie blood….


[…continued tomorrow…]