Chapter 1:

It was nearly pitch black out as I made my way down the alley towards the pile of bodies ahead of us, the product of our most recent skirmish with the Infected. As we made our way forward, I began to reload my 30-30 lever action rifle, my weapon of choice, but was interrupted by a raspy, "Hold up." Bill, the grizzled namvet and our de-facto leader, was the source of the command, kneeling down and clenching a fist. As we stopped walking and began scanning the area for signs of danger, Bill knelt down beside one of the corpses and dipped his fingers in a green liquid pooling around it, before lifting it up to examine it more closely. "Ain't seen anything like this before..."

To this, Francis, our resident biker and general jackass, said, "Jesus, don't let that stop you from smearing it all over yourself." Bill scowled, and stood up, before wiping the liquid on Francis' beloved vest. "Argh, dammit Bill!" Francis grunted angrily, attempting to remove the viscous fluid, before recoiling, "Ooh it stinks!"

Louis, our group's technical expert and optimist, and I chuckled appreciatively in response, but were interrupted as a low, mournful moan cut through the air. After a moment, I realized it was the sound of a woman crying. We all turned to its source, the closed door five feet away from us. Our group's youngest member, and also one year my junior, Zoey was the first to speak. "Someone's still alive..." She said warily. Bill looked our group over before turning to the doorway and signaling Zoey and I to follow. Bill slowly pushed the door open, revealing the building to be shrouded in darkness. "Over there." Bill said, motioning into the shadows.

Zoey flicked on her pistol's attached flashlight, and the three of us began to creep into the building. As we made our way forward, Zoey's flashlight began to illuminate more of the room; she called out, "Hello... Hello?" Zoey then swept her light forward, revealing the silhouette of a hunched over, sobbing figure. "It's okay," Zoey continued. "We're going to-"

Suddenly a flash of Lightning completely illuminated the room, and exposed the entirety of our 'damsel.' It was in that short moment that I realized she wasn't human. She was pale, deathly pale, with light gray skin and snow-white hair. She was clad in what looked like a torn tank top and panties, also colored gray. Her eyes were glowing red and lacked pupils or irises, giving her a demonic appearance. What really grabbed my attention, though, were her hands. Each finger ended in a long, bloodstained claw, the size of a kitchen knife.

Upon seeing the creature, Bill rushed forward and pushed Zoey's gun down, muttering urgently, "Lights! Off!" With that, we lapsed into silence, studying the infected sitting in front of us, as it continued to sob uncontrollably.

As we continued to watch the crying, hunched infected before us, I took in more of her odd behavior. All other infected I had seen had attacked us immediately upon noticing us, this one, however, seemed content to simply sit there moaning and weeping. I was interrupted from my thoughts as a shotgun blast pierced the silence, followed by a progressively louder cry of "Oh shit. Shit. Shiiit! SHIT!" Zoey, Bill, and I whipped around as Louis appeared in the doorway, screaming "They're COMING!" and waving his flashlight, before coming to rest on the Infected's face. Immediately the crying infected's expression broke into a feral snarl, as her eyes flashed a dangerous crimson and a howl escaped her throat.

As Louis responded to the infected's threat with a shocked "What the!" Zoey immediately took action, turning to him and screaming, "Run like Hell!" before leaping to her feet and rushing out the door, Bill and I following closely behind.

Once we emerged back into the alley, Bill quickly pivoted around and faced the now charging infected woman, pumping two rounds of his assault rifle into her before slamming the door. As Bill, Zoey and I moved to assist Francis with the oncoming horde, Louis quickly rushed forward, bracing himself against the door as the infected woman threw her weight into it, resulting in a large thud and causing Louis to grimace from the pressure. Not a second later a large claw erupted from the door, the infected having torn a hole in it in one swipe. Louis leapt back from the door, spraying through the hole with his Uzi. The Infected seemed to ignore the bullets piercing its flesh, as the arm continued to thrash about, narrowly missing Louis a few times, as the latter began shouting, "Do you like THAT!" while pressing his Uzi's muzzle up against the hole.

Finally, the infected woman released one last mournful wail, as the flailing arm went limp, allowing Louis to quickly move up to assist us in dealing with the large crowd of zombies sprinting toward us. As we continued to mow down the oncoming infected, Francis shouted over the din, "Stick together!" No sooner had he finished that sentence, than Bill was suddenly yanked away from an unseen force. I whipped around to find Bill suspended in the air by some sort of long purple rope. Casting my gaze upward I discovered that Bill wasn't entangled in a rope, it was a creature's tongue! Rushing forward, I quickly brought my sights up on the tongue, and followed it up to its source, a tall, lanky, tumor-covered zombie who was coughing violently, gasping out a cloud of green smoke with each wheezing breath.

Without hesitating I trained my sights on the creature's head and squeezed the trigger. The round flew from my rifle smacked into the creature's forehead, blowing its brains out and causing it to explode in a cloud of acrid green smoke, dropping Bill in the process. Rushing forward, I knelt by Bill and coaxed him to his feet. Once he seemed to be able to get up on his own, I stood up and whipped my rifle in the direction of one approaching zombie, giving it a quick shot to the chest, downing it. Suddenly I heard a loud bang, followed by a screech of pain behind me. Twisting sharply, I saw that one zombie had rushed up from behind me, only for Francis to blow it away with his shotgun. Flashing me a grin, Francis quipped, "Merry Christmas" before returning his attention to the incoming horde, Bill and I following shortly after.

I lined my sights up on an infected's head, squeezing the trigger and sending a round into its skull, before sighting up on the next one. Together, we mowed down dozens of zombies, but they continued to press into the alleyway, screeching and hollering as our bullets tore them apart. As we were about to be overwhelmed, I began to hear a loud beeping noise from behind me. Looking back, I saw Zoey, clutching a lit pipe bomb in one hand, cocked and ready to throw.

"Fire in the hole!" She shouted, before launching the pipe bomb over our heads and into the teeming horde. The beeping lights attached to the top -gutted from a fire alarm courtesy of Louis- caught the infected's attention and sent them into a frenzy. Every one of the zombies threw themselves at the device, clawing at it uselessly as the fuse slowly burned down. I ducked behind a dumpster as the beeping's pace increased, eventually becoming one long note before being punctuated with an enormous explosion, reducing the surrounding infected into a red mist.

Louis, who had been too late to get into cover, stumbled forward, before gazing skyward, a look of dawning hope crossing his face. Following his gaze, I looked up to see a helicopter, the words "CHANNEL 5 NEWS" proudly emblazoned on its side.

Louis immediately took off running, shouting, "Heyyy! Down here! We're not infected! DOWN HEEERE!" I leapt to my feet, chasing after him. That idiot! I thought venomously, He's gonna get himself killed running off like that! I burst out of the alleyway to find Louis standing in the middle of the street, the helicopter continuing past the many buildings in the area. "Dammit!" Louis cursed, staring off at the helicopter's retreating form.

Suddenly, I heard the sound of stones hitting pavement. I instinctively jerked my head in the direction of the noise, in time to see a few loose stones falling to the ground. Casting my gaze upward, I saw that hanging from the edge of the rooftop was a shadowy, hooded figure. Looking back at Louis, I realized what was about to happen.

I don't recall when I started running for Louis, and I don't recall tackling him out of the way. All I can remember is that I'm suddenly pinned under this hooded monstrosity, pain flaring up in my back from the hard contact with the pavement. A smothering weight was on my legs, preventing me from so much as kicking them. My nose was assaulted with a putrid stench, a cross between rotting flesh and animal musk. The only thing I could hear was the blood pounding in my ears. Everything seemed to move in slow motion, as the creature's claws came down, and a burst of agony worse than I've ever experienced ripped through my stomach. The creature retracted its now bloodstained claws, before lunging forward in an attempt to bite my face. I instinctively threw a hand up to defend myself, then grunted in pain as the creature sank it teeth into my wrist. I quickly brought my fist up, smashing it into the creature's face repeatedly; punctuating each blow with a curse, "Get... Off... Me... You stupid... Sonova... BITCH!"

Suddenly, the oppressive weight of the creature was gone, and the sound of my thundering heart was being overtaken by the sound of gunshots cracking the air, the stench replaced by that of gunpowder. I weakly turned my head, to find the creature on its feet, jerking back as bullets thudded into its chest. Suddenly, the forms of Louis and Zoey entered my vision; Zoey emptying both pistols into the creature as Louis pumped single shots from is own sidearm into the creature's shoulders, before scoring a perfect headshot. The creature fell back, dead before it hit the ground -or in this case, before it hit the car- and set off the alarm. The car's blaring horn cut through the silence of the night, only interrupted by the howl of an approaching horde. Bill, who had just now caught up along with Francis, muttered, "Oh, this is gonna get bad."

Zoey came over to me, gently coaxing me to my feet, saying, "Tom, I know you're hurt, but we gotta get you on your feet. We'll patch you up soon, okay? Can you walk?" I nodded weakly, and joined the others in forming a defensive circle, as the horde rushed in from all sides. I slowly began to raise my rifle, then hissed in pain as a burning sensation ran up my arm. I was too injured to aim. Groaning, I slung my rifle over my shoulder and drew my sidearm, a .357 nickel-plated revolver. Cradling my injured arm to my chest, I raised the revolver in my good hand, ready to pick off any approaching infected. Suddenly, a roar unlike any other infected I'd heard cut through the night, and a car was sent sailing past us and into the fence, causing all of us with the exception of Francis to flinch. We all turned to find the source of the noise, only to come face to face with the worst abomination I'd seen since this infection started.

It was built like a Tank, a seven-foot-tall mass of teeming muscle. It's arms were disgustingly large, accounting for almost all of its height, and seemed to support it in a gorilla-type fashion. Its face was deformed, leaving its lower jaw almost nonexistent. Louis began slowly backing away from the beast, muttering, "Run, or shoot." Getting no response, he asked again, urgently, "Run or shoot!"

"Both!" Bill barked, as we leapt into action. We immediately took off down an alleyway, Bill and I clearing the way ahead as Francis, Louis, and Zoey mowed down the infected trailing after us. As we rounded the corner I spotted a fire escape leading to the roof of a nearby building, a sanctuary from the teeming horde. "Get to the roof!" Louis shouted redundantly. As Bill moved up to clear the area ahead of the fire escape, Francis stopped at the ladder, before turning to face the pursuing behemoth. "Come on. Come on!" Francis challenged, before unloading his shotgun into the approaching Tank. Unfortunately, this didn't faze the behemoth, and he brought a massive fist forward, slamming Francis into the brick wall of the alleyway. Hearing Francis' groan of pain, Bill turned, and together we began blasting the Tank, peppering its form with bullets, and drawing its attention from Francis. Bill advanced on the Tank, spraying it with bullets until it made to attack him, swinging its arm in a large arc towards the old man. Seeing this, I adjusted my aim as best I could and fired a single shot, the last in the chamber. It flew into the creature's temple, failing to penetrate its thick skull but succeeding in distracting it long enough to allow Bill to duck under its arm. The Tank, overbalanced from this blow, crashed through the wall of the alley, before rising from the rubble, ripping a boulder from the debris and launching it toward the fire escape. It missed us, thankfully, though Francis had to dodge to avoid it. Bill turned back to the ladder, in time to see an infected's head explode in front of him. As I made my way up the ladder, I heard Zoey shout, "GO! I'll hold them off!"

Francis, Louis, and I made it to the roof, and I turned to help Bill climb up as well, while Zoey continued to fire on the Tank as it scaled the fire escape. Seeing the platform begin to crumple under the Tank's weight I rushed forward. Zoey had lost one pistol from the Tank shaking the ledge she had been on, and was now forgoing shooting the Tank in favor of making for the edge of the roof. Suddenly, the entire fire escape collapsed, the Tank plummeting to its death four stories below, with Zoey about to follow. Instinctively I rushed forward and threw myself to my stomach on the edge of the roof, extending a hand in her direction as she shouted, "TOM!" Too late I realized I had extended my injured arm, as Zoey gripped my hand tightly, jerking my arm as her weight yanked me forward, and nearly off the ledge. This also elicited another reaction from me, one I did not expect: a sharp, inhuman yelp, sounding all the world like a dog being struck. Ignoring this disturbing realization, I reached my good arm forward to support Zoey's grip, as Francis stepped forward and assisted me in slowly pulling her up to the roof.

After finally succeeding in pulling the shell-shocked Zoey up to the roof, I fell back, panting in exhaustion. Louis suddenly spoke up, giddily exclaiming, "We made it. I can't believe we made it!" The celebration was cut short, however, as Bill countered, "Son, we just crossed the street." He paused to flick away his spent cigarette butt before replacing it with a fresh one, "Let's not throw a party until we're out of the city." With that he got to his feet, and made his way to a table loaded with fresh ammo and weapons.

Sighing, I laid back and settled on reaching into my pocket to retrieve my iPod, scrolling through the tracks before finally settling on War by Poets of the Fall. Leaning my head back, I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, allowing the music to take me away from the horror of my surroundings.

Do you remember standing in a broken field,

White crippled wings beating the sky?

The Harbingers of war with a nature revealed,

And our chances flowing by?

The rest of the song was lost to me as my vision was consumed by darkness.