This abundance of caution means extra time and effort before bed, but it's worth it not to be caught off guard. Every time I did it, I thought about how silly it felt. That was the old part of me, the tattered remnant of the guy I was before The Fall. He was a fan of zombie movies and kind of an idiot if I'm being honest. The type of dude who lived day to day never expecting the worst to happen to him. That the worst had happened, and to the entire world no less, somehow still hadn't managed to totally erase that aspect of my personality. Some people have angels and devils on their shoulder. I have a guy in a lawn chair with the mellow disregard of a deeply stoned Matthew McConaughey.
But the desire to live won out as always, and I helped secure the room. That morning, the exception proved the rule.
Like a prey species instinctively waking to the sound of its predatory, the noise of zombie claws scratching at the bedroom door brought me fully conscious with zero lead time. I leaped out of bed fully clothed, my injured knee throbbing under the sudden abuse.
"Fucking fuckity fuck," I fucking hissed, because it fucking hurt.
Jess was only a second behind me, rolling off the bed and onto her knees, snatching up the rifle as she went. She swept the room with the barrel of the gun, and despite the seriousness of the situation I couldn't help the urge to chuckle. Here she was, eyes still puffy with sleep and barely open, but with the steady hands of a practiced killer. The weapon didn't waver a millimeter as it traveled in its arc. I was pretty sure my wife would fight--and fight well--even when unconscious.
"Whuzzgoin'on," Jess mumbled against the stock of the rifle. Then her ears perked up. She licked her lips and cleared her throat, though her voice was still dry and raspy when she spoke. "Is that a zombie? Inside the house?"
"Sounds like it," I replied. "Door doesn't exactly have a peephole, but I doubt Adam is standing there scratching at it." I cocked my head in thought for a moment. "Though if he is and this is just him messing with us, I'm totally going to punch him in the junk." I said the last part loud enough to be heard in the adjoining bedroom, but got no response.
Jess shambled over to the wall and put her ear to it. Her face screwed up in concentration. "I'll be...he's still asleep. I can hear him snoring." She moved away slightly and raised her fist to the drywall, knocking on it loudly. "Hey, wake up. Do your ghost thing and lead these fucking zombies out of the hallway, please."
We waited for a few seconds. Jess listened again before shaking her head. "He must be out like a light. Still snoring."
I couldn't help a grin. "Just like that time Patrick didn't show up for lunch with us and we banged on his window for like twenty minutes. Some people just kinda hibernate."
Jess shrugged. "Adam might be the only person left on the planet who can get away with that and not have to worry about being eaten while he sleeps."
She walked over to the door and stopped just in front of it, watching the handle shake. It was locked, of course, but the inner doors of houses were notorious weak points. We'd moved one of the two dressers in front of it just to be safe, though offset a little from the knob so it could sit flush with the door frame. "How are we even going to see what's out there? Want to open the door and risk it?"
I shook my head and looked out the window. I had to lean up against the other dresser to do it, and even then I could only see out from a limited angle. "Ugh. There are like twenty of them outside. Where the hell are they coming from? We picked this damn state because it was mostly empty."
"Technically, we picked it because John's bunker was here and Kell needed his research to come up with a cure," Jess corrected. "But yeah, your point stands. At least we know it's a New Breed on the other side of the bedroom door."
I turned, eyebrow raised. "How do we know that?"
"It's smart," Jess said, pointing at the ceaselessly twisting knob. "Normal zombies don't mess with door handles. And I bet it was watching us from the woods. If it saw us break the window and flip the deadbolt, it might have figured out how we got in here and copied us."
A shiver ran down my spine. "Fucking smart zombies, man. So creepy."
"Creepy or not, we need to figure out a way to at least see what we're up against. If the whole house is full, it might just be better to go out a window."
Something lit up inside my brain. I don't know where the inspiration came from, but once the idea was there, I knew it was perfect. "Help me up onto the dresser," I said.
Jess eyed me skeptically. "This can't be going anywhere good."
I smiled, pointing a finger at the ceiling. "I think I have a way out."