Pushing Up Gravestones – Chapter 1

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Denise should not have skipped school. She was almost certain that it had been a waste of a good skip. It was an art after all. Skip too many days and your parent’s find out. Skip on the wrong day and you miss a test or exam and have to explain to your parents why you have a zero. However, knowing what she knew now, she probably would have just gone to school.

Mia, her best friend, was currently at school. Of course, Mia never skipped school. With her scholarship, she couldn’t afford to miss a single day. That was at least some of the reason that she regretted missing today. The second reason was that there was nothing good on the television. She flipped from channel to channel, her bare feet hanging over the side of the brown suede couch.

There was an infomercial for trying a new cream to extend youth, an old zombie movie, and then a politician arguing about gun control. She flipped through each channel, willing herself to hit the power button and free herself from the boobtube. Denise heard a sudden scream and shout outside and she lifted her head. The scream stopped suddenly and she yawned. It must have been one of the neighbors doing something stupid to one of the other neighbors. She wasn’t so lucky that there would be anything worth seeing outside.

Denise finally turned off the TV and lifted her head, listening for more sounds. She heard nothing. Nope, she wouldn’t be that lucky today. With the television now off, she stood up. It was about lunchtime now she supposed. She stretched her body, her midriff being exposed between the cracks of her pink two-piece pajamas. She grabbed the hem of her shirt and pulled it back down to hide her stomach. There couldn’t be anyone watching, but it had become a habit by this point.

As an athlete, she was used to guys occasionally trying to take looks at her as she stretched or ran. She would have been flattered by the attention, but truth be known the same guys would look at anyone, including that prissy brat of a girl Ferrah. That girl wore entirely too much makeup and pranced around with her curly red hair and blue eyes like she owned the school. No, Denise would not think about Ferrah, definitely not on her skip day.

Denise pulled up a brown lock of her own hair and frowned. She wondered what it would like if it was red. Maybe blonde? With highlights. Denise sighed; she didn’t have it in her to maintain dyed hair. She grabbed a nearby scrunchie, blue this time, and tied her hair up in a tight little knot. She still missed a few strands which fell across her face. It was good enough.

She moved into the kitchen, looking in the freezer for a hot pocket she could microwave up. Her parents would not be home for at least another four hours. They both worked long shifts at the hospital, starting at six in the morning. Making sure she picked a day they both had twelve-hour shifts was simply one of the arts of skip day.

Denise put the leftover hot pocket, only slightly freezer burned, in the microwave and turned it on. She sat at the nearby kitchen nook and waited, watching the hot pocket spin in the microwave. It was one of those days, after all. The microwave went off, accompanied by the obnoxiously loud beeping sound it was prone to make. She opened up the microwave pulling the hot pocket onto a plate as quickly as possible.

She burnt herself on a drop of melted cheese and cursed, putting the finger in her mouth. No matter how fast she was, she wasn’t quite fast enough for the power of melted cheese. A light scratching sound suddenly caused her to freeze. She looked around the room, her finger still in her mouth.

She could hear it. Scritch, Scritch, Scritch. What on earth was that? She softly crept, moving towards the light scratching sound. She didn’t quite know why she moved as if she was sneaking, but she felt like if she made too much noise, the scratching sound would disappear and she’d never know what it is. The sound steadily grew louder as she moved closer to it. She realized it was actually coming from her back door.

The door was mostly glass but was otherwise covered with blinds. Either way, the scratching seemed to be against the wood doorframe, not the glass door. She pressed her ear close to the glass, listening for anything. The scratched stopped.

“Hello?” Denise asked, looking through the blinds carefully.

She peeked through the blinds carefully. At the foot of the door was a small cat. She smiled; why would a cat be trying to get into her house? Her parents never let her have a pet. She quickly weighed the risks of bringing a cat into the house. On the one hand, it’d make the day go by faster. On the other hand, it would ignite her father’s allergies if she didn’t clean up well enough afterward.

Denise already knew what she was going to do. She carefully turned the lock on the door, trying to keep it quiet so that she would not scare off the cat. A shadow rushed towards the window through the blinds. Denise stood up and frowned.

The glass suddenly shattered towards Denise as a large mass collided with her. She shouted out as the form fell on top of her. She screamed and panicked, thrashing and kicking until the body rolled off of her. The broken glass around her cut into her arms and she knew she was getting cut. She rose to her feet quickly. Fortunately, she was wearing a pair of doggie flip-flops that kept her feet away from the glass.

Denise looked down the floor and gasped. It was a man in his middle age. He seemed to be bleeding from a severe neck wound. More than that, his legs seemed to be bending at strange angles, as if they both were simultaneously broken. He had to have gotten them in the fall through her door. He glared up at her with confused, terrified eyes as his breath rattled.

It took Denise a few moments to respond. She ran to the kitchen, pulling out a first aid her mother had kept supplied and dropped it next to the man. She knelt down into the glass, cringing at the feel of broken glass pushing up against her knees. However, now that she was over the man, she panicked. She didn’t know what else to do. Her mother had shown her how to mend a cut, a scratch, even a broken bone.

However, this was beyond anything she had ever had to deal with before. She needed help. She needed a professional. She needed her mom. She stood up and grabbed a phone from the kitchen, dialing 9-1-1. It looked like she was going to get caught on her skip day. She really should have gone to school today. She got a busy signal. How would 9-1-1 be busy? With the phone being held up by her head and shoulders, she hastily applied a blanket to the man’s neck.

The phone still beeped busy, but just having it there seemed to comfort her, just a little bit. The man’s breath stuttered to a stop. Denise’s eyes opened wider and she shouted, grabbing the man’s face. His head was extremely hot and she pulled away, stumbling back and landing hard on her butt.

She stared at the lifeless man before her in shock. She had never seen a dead person before. She was sure her mother and father had. That was their jobs as a doctor and a nurse. They healed the sick and sometimes the sick died. Denise understood this. However, she was not prepared for it.

The phone continued to give a busy signal and she dropped it, letting it clatter on the ground. A man had died in front of her. What had he been doing? Why was he here? She put her head down and cried. She didn’t know what else to do. She had to call her mom. After a moment, she picked up the phone she had just dropped and dialed her mother’s direct work line this time.

The signal was busy. She growled in frustration and threw the phone. It slammed into the wall, the battery door opening and the battery falling out onto the floor, into the growing pool of blood on her kitchen floor. Denise shivered; another shout came from outside and her head raised up.

With the glass door now open, she could hear the sounds outside more clearly. There seemed to be shouts and moans, cries and shuffling. What was going on outside?

Denise slowly raised herself to her feet, walking over to the window toward her front yard. She glanced outside it, peaking between the blinds. She couldn’t see anything. A car drove by. It was moving far faster than a car should be driving on this block. Then she saw a woman running in the street. It was her neighbor, Mrs. Fairchild. She was a bit of a nosey busybody, but was otherwise a harmless old lady that lived a few doors down.

A man ran at her, quickly overtaking her. Without hesitation, his teeth sunk into the back of her neck, tearing out a piece of flesh. Denise’s hand clapped over her mouth, stifling a scream. Mrs. Fairchild screamed, kicking frantically as the man shoved her down to the floor and took another bite. A second person, a woman this time, ran over and knelt beside the man.

At first, Denise thought the new lady was coming to the aid of her neighbor, but then the woman began to take a bite out of her arm and the bile in Denise’s throat rose. She looked away as Mrs. Fairchild’s screams turned into gurgles. She finally worked the courage to look back up. There was a third person now in view. He moved differently from the rest. He seemed to limp and shamble slowly towards the others.

Denise’s eyes fell on his face and she almost screamed again. Half of it was torn off; flesh seemed to hang off of his cheek in strips as if it had been partially chewed. His eyes were completely white and milky. The worst part of it all was that she recognized the man. He was another neighbor, Mr. Jones. He made it to the body of Mrs. Fairchild, now no longer moving. Falling to his knees, he leaned over and began to join the feast.

Denise finally turned her body away from the scene. Vomit rose up her throat and she fought the urge to find a trashcan. She didn’t seem to be able to process what was going on. Zombies. She had seen the movies. She had heard the tales. That had to be what they were. How was that possible though? All of this almost caused her to forget about the man who had just died in the kitchen.

The man who had died! Denise looked over her couch into the kitchen. The pool of blood sat where the man had been, but he wasn’t there. She froze, listening very carefully. She could hear the scratching sound again. However, this time the sound was moving closer to her. She traced the streaks of blood as it trailed across the floor. She couldn’t see anything from the trail as it moved behind the very couch in front of her.

The creaking sound moved around the couch and she whimpered, looking over to her side. Fingers reached around the sofa, grabbing onto the corner and pulling, the man emerging from the side of the couch. His body was deathly pale, and his eyes were a ghastly white, much like Mr. Jones outside. As soon as he saw Denise, if his eyes even could see, he growled fiercely, making a lunge for her.

Denise screamed, bouncing back a few steps. The undead man lunged at her again, enthusiastically reaching for her legs. A hand caught her ankle and she tumbled onto the floor. The creature continued to crawl, its second hand grabbing onto her leg. Denise thrashed; her flip-flops fell off as she savagely kicked the face of the creature, its mouth gaping and biting at her. She managed to slip free of the zombie’s grip and struggled to her feet, leaping over the couch and racing to her room at the end of a short hallway.

She looked around the room. Where was she going to go? What was she going to do? The room was a bad place to be. She looked down the hallway, ready to find a new spot. The creature had already made its way to her hallway and was rapidly crawling down it, growling and crying with each dragging movement. She ran to the window, glancing out it. Maybe she could get it open.

She savagely tore at the window, but it wouldn’t open properly. Then she remembered. Her father had nailed the window shut because it had some problems with leaking air. She turned away from it, ready to try something else, but she didn’t have enough time. The creature was already in her room. She leaped on the bed and over it as the zombie made a blind leap for her. She slammed the door behind her.

It didn’t have a lock on this side, but she pulled on the door praying that he wouldn’t open it. There was nothing but silence. She could hear the sounds of her own ragged breath, mixed with tears. The door suddenly slammed as something on the other side hit it. She let out an involuntary squeal, her eyes squeezing shut as tears rolled down her face.

The doorknob didn’t move. She waited for an indefinite period of time, sweat and tears pouring down her face. No more sounds came from the room. It didn’t seem to know how to open the door. Her hand slipped off the doorknob, causing her whole body to fall back, landing on her butt.

She sat, staring at the door in complete shock. What was she going to do? That was just one of them. There were clearly more outside. She wiped her face. She had to think, but it was so hard. She wanted to live. She didn’t want to become like that. Was it exactly like the tales? One bite, then you’re dead? She had to assume it was.

She finally worked up the courage to get to her feet. She had to reach her family. That was it; that was the answer she was looking for. Her mom and dad were smart people. They would know what to do. Unfortunately, her home only had one car. She took the bus to school. She would have to walk. Maybe this outbreak was local. She didn’t see anything on the news about it yet. It couldn’t have been that widespread.

Denise ran over, turning on the television. No signal. Why would the signal be out now? She closed her eyes again, willing herself not to panic. She had to get to the hospital. They would know what to do; her mom would know what to do. She walked into her parent’s bedroom, pulling out some of her mother’s old clothing. There was no chance she was going to enter her own room with that thing in it.

A pair of jeans and an old frilly green shirt felt the most comfortable on her, so she put them on. She put on a pair of old jogging shoes that were left near the door. What else would she need? Nothing. The lighter she traveled, the quicker she could move. She didn’t want a backpack of stuff holding her back. She would just move quickly and get to her parents.

Denise jumped at the sound of a muffled ringing noise. She looked around. What could it be now? She listened for the sound for several moments before she recognized what it was. It was her cell phone. She looked towards the source, inside her room. The landline phones were down, but it looked like her cell phone was still useable.

However, it was in there with that thing. She cautiously moved towards the door, pressing her ear against it. She couldn’t hear anything on the other side of the door. Denise let out a deep breath. She had to get that cell phone. She quietly and softly turned the doorknob, opening the door slightly. When no fingers tried to reach into the cracks, she slowly opened it more.

She could see the cell phone on the far dresser. She could not tell where the zombie was in the relative darkness in the room. If she just ran, grabbed it, and sprinted out, she would be fine. Wouldn’t she?

The cell phone started buzzing again. She took a deep breath, darting into the room. In three leaping steps, she was at the dresser, snatching up the phone. She took a step back her foot hitting something and causing her to fall down to her back. Within a second, the zombie was on her, leaping off the bed and lunging for her face.

Denise cried out as she fended off her body from its claws with one hand, pushing its face away with the other. It was pure luck that she had gotten the time to defend herself. Had she not tripped, it would have hit her from the side and already been biting at her. Steadily, she brought her leg up between herself and the creature, kicking hard. The zombie stumbled to the floor. Denise backed away on all fours, adding distance away from the creature as she backed through the door. It recovered quickly, climbing towards her.

She lunged forward, grabbing the door and slamming it closed. Before it clicked shut, the zombie managed to lodge its fingers into the crack of the door. Denise screamed, desperately trying to close the door as it wiggled its fingers through, getting a better grip. She open and slammed the door, hearing the cracking of fingers as she did so. She repeated it again and again. On the fourth try, the door finally snapped shut and Denise fell back once more.

She had thought she was done with the tears, but she found more flowing. This was too much. She couldn’t handle this. Her mother would know what to do. That was the only thought going through her mind. She dialed the number on the cell phone. The phone beeped a busy signal. She tried to call her mom’s phone again, another busy signal. It was too much to hope for. She slid the phone into her pocket, her mind numb.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, Denise shakily stood back up. She had to leave. With one of them in here and a big hole in the back door, it was only a matter of time. The hospital was the place she had to go. She moved up to the entry doorway, staring at the door like a viper. She had no other choice. This is what had to happen. Denise took one more deep breath and then dived outdoor into the hellish chaos beyond.

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