"Fuck!" I shouted as the nearest zombie lunged forward and snapped at my face. I barely had time to let go of the door handle and bring my arm down, putting it between him and me. Even then it was sloppy. The zombie got hold of my forearm and yanked it in his claw-like hands toward its face.
I did the only thing I could and went with the movement. This wasn't because I was some unstoppable badass--even years of combat training before and after The Fall can fail you--but pure instinct. Some people would have pulled away, which would have done little to stop the teeth going after the tender flesh beneath my sleeve. Others would react just the way I did, which was to essentially chase down my wrist and try to bring my body close to it for protection.
The practical effect was to slam the zombie against the tailgate of the truck. The impact didn't do much to stun the dead man, but it did enough. I slipped my free hand into the space between us as the zombie reoriented in that second of confusion, wrapped my fingers around my wrist, and pulled while twisting my hips and throwing my left elbow hard.
It was a messy, ugly throw, but it did the job. The zombie tumbled into the street, letting go of my arm to break its own fall. You'd think that would be the moment for retreat, put a little distance between myself and the enclosed space, but no. That would have been the smart thing to do. Instead, I spotted the handle of a baseball bat sticking out over the lip of the truck's bed and just kind of...went for it.
With silent thanks aimed at whoever had stocked this cache, I grabbed the bat and then moved myself out of the way. It was good timing; the zombie still inside the garage had moved around the truck far enough to be right on top of me. My last leap took me out of its range, and I let loose with a wild swing of the bat as I moved. It did no good; the zombie was it in the wrist but the poor swing didn't connect with the savage thunder of breaking bone.
When I landed, however, things changed. Bony fingers snatched at my boot and pants, clawing up my leg with inhuman determination. Now I did try to pull away, shaking my leg as hard as I could to throw off the dead man I'd dropped to the ground. I'm not too proud to admit that the sudden and some might say inevitable mental image of the thing getting high enough to grab hold of my junk was my biggest motivator.
I swung the bat again, this time at the head of the zombie trying to grip my twig and berries. The angle was shitty, abbreviating the arc and force of the hit down to half of what I could have managed in a fair fight. But like the man said; no fight is ever fair. Not if you're doing it right.
Forty inches of ash, besides sounding like the title of an excellent indie rock album, was enough to shock the dead man for a pair of seconds. People always act surprised that works, or that burning zombies is an effective way of stopping them assuming you put a little distance between yourself and them. The movies always made it look like zombies were unstoppable except for destroying the brain, but come on. They might be dead bodies, but they are bodies. They operate in the physical universe. The processes that keep them able to walk and hunt take place in the same neural space as the brain. They might be less sensitive to blows or fire, but hit them hard enough and the dead will stagger. Burn them and they'll lose the muscles and tendons necessary for movement.
So when the zombie climbing me like Everest paused from the hit, I flipped the bat around and drove its fat end down into its face. The force of both arms working in unison did the trick. The zombie's face crumpled in around the tip of the bat and it let go of me.
Unfortunately, it's now dead weight--ha!--fell against me. Normally, not a huge problem. Just then, it really was. The second zombie spent the span of this interaction closing in on me again. I was unstable and in a bad position to lash out, what with the bat being held in exactly the wrong way to accomplish anything other than hitting an opponent below me.
Fingers with sharp bone tips managed to rake my face, though I pulled away before they could find real purchase. Lines of wet heat formed there, and I could feel rivulets turning into streams. That was super, duper not good. Even at the other end of town, the smell of my blood was chum in the water.
With a mighty shove, I jumped backward once again. This time I didn't stand my ground, choosing to finally do the smart thing and put space between myself and the remaining zombie. I didn't stay there long. I was pissed, in pain, and had a sudden need to get the hell away from here before my delicious man smell drew the dinner crowd. Like a kid trying to hit the top of the high striker at a carnival, I brought the bat back and over my head in a comically large arc, smashing it into the zombie on the downswing. My aim was shitty, as one might expect from a move meant for sheer power over all else. The barrel of the bat skimmed down the side of the zombie's head at a shallow angle.
But it did manage to connect with the junction of neck and shoulder, and much to my surprise it really fucked that zombie's shit all up. Maybe a nerve bundle was crushed, could have been severe shock to the delicate bundles of Chimera fibers running through the spinal cord. Whatever the reason, the zombie folded like a cheap suit.
Just to be safe, I staggered back, head on a swivel as I scanned for danger. I found Jess standing just outside the bank door, a disapproving look on her face.
"What?" I said.
She pointed down the road. In my defense, I had been a little busy. Too busy to notice that whatever tactic Adam was using to keep the swarm away had apparently worn off a minute or two earlier.
We had company.