The man went to the doors facing the quad and opened them a crack. He made the same symbol with his flashlight, cringed, and took a big step out of the door. With apparent relief, he opened his eyes and sprinted out into the night.
Casimir moved towards the door. He felt Amy's hand on his arm.
"You can't go out there," she whispered. "The sniper will see you."
"I'm not going out there. Come on, I want to see which building he goes into. I don't know their names."
They peered through a window, staying low, and watched the man run to the building on the opposite side of the quad. It was a concrete pillar with window slits. It could have been a prison.
"That's Ashbrooke Hall, one of the notoriously smelly dorms. Look!" Amy said. The dorm stood around fifteen stories high. Amy pointed towards two thirds of the way up the side.
Casimir didn't need the notification. He could see it, too. The momentary flash of gunfire that looked as spherical and sharp as a furious sea urchin. It happened rhythmically. Every two seconds, like a fatal metronome.
"He must have a night vision scope," Amy said. "How else could he see?"
Casimir pulled Amy away from the window.
"Come on," he said. Slapping a few more zombies out of the way, he led them to a door marked "NO ENTRANCE AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY." A jiggle of the doorknob confirmed that it was locked.
Casimir peered through the darkness. He didn't want to risk having a flashlight on, but he had no choice.
"Stay here, I saw Emblem do this yesterday," Casimir said. Ripping several flyers off of the bulletin board, he wrapped a makeshift paper cone around the business end of the flashlight, in hopes of making it less noticeable. Then he began to creep up to the zombies, poke them in the back to make them collapse, and check them for keys. Finally, he found a corpse with a keyring the size of a hulahoop and took it.
Five minutes and ninety percent of the keys later, he found the right one. As he opened the door, a wave of heat and humidity gave him a very moist slap in the face. Amy followed him inside and they closed the door.
Casimir removed the cone from his flashlight. He shone it around the room.
They were in a utility room, as Casimir had hoped. To their right was a fat, squat metal cylinder on four legs, describing the rough dimensions of an obese cow. A cow with a multitude of pipes running out of it. Its skin carried many warning labels of assorted vintage, all of them implying that a combination of carelessness and the hot liquid inside would make a dermatologist's dreams of owning a second yacht come true.
Casimir ran the flashlight along the biggest, thickest pipe that ran towards the wall opposite them. It made a sharp bend into a manhole in the floor.
"I didn't think that I was claustrophobic," Amy said.
"It'll be okay. The gym isn't very far away, is it?"
Amy shook her head and the reflected light danced across her scars. Her eyes watched Casimir's eyes dart to them for a moment.
"What're you staring at?"
"Nothing," Casimir said.
"This might sound weird, but what do you see when you look at my face?" she asked.
"Somebody who is keeping their shit together better than I am," Casimir said.
Amy stared at him for a moment, then allowed herself a small smile as they walked towards the manhole. Casimir climbed in, moving slowly with only one hand to stabilize himself. The pipe that ran up the manhole took up most of the space and Casimir had to press himself against the ladder to fit. Sweat pasted tiny crispy pieces of rust from the rungs across his palm as he climbed. The ladder didn't feel like it would break under their weight, but it swayed like a sine wave whenever his and Amy's movements synced up.
The ladder was short and just as he got the hang of climbing a ladder one-handed, Casimir's feet hit raw dirt. Amy dropped next to him. The tunnel was cooler than the room above, but just as humid. The pipe formed a T junction into a much thicker pipe, with one branch going up into the building that they had just left. Other bundles of wires and pipes ran along one side of the tunnel. Casimir checked for signs, but could not find any.
"I guess we just pick a direction," Casimir said.
Amy frowned for a moment, then set off.
"I think it's this way," she said.
"Good enough," Casimir said.
Long, bell-shaped stains stretched out of cracks in the ancient concrete. Casimir could see exposed wire above them that ran from one utility light to the next. Amy stopped in front of a ladder.
"Let's try this one," she said.
They climbed. Both the ladder and the paint on its rungs was more secure, and the space between the ladder and the pipe slightly wider, though still very cramped. Casimir and Amy emerged into another utility room. This one was newer, cleaner and not as hot as the last one. And they didn't have to find the keys, as this side of the door did not have a lock. Casimir grabbed a small trashcan and used it to prop open the door.
"Let's try this one," she said.
They climbed. Both the ladder itself and the paint on its rungs were secure, and the space between the ladder and the pipe slightly wider than the last, though still very cramped. Casimir and Amy emerged into another utility room. This one was newer, cleaner and not as hot as the last one. And they didn't have to find the keys, as this side of the door did not have a lock. Casimir grabbed a small trashcan and used it to prop open the door.
Together they entered a clean, gray hallway, which put Casimir in the mind of being in a long paperboard shoebox. A breeze flowed from one end of the hallway to the other and carried with it the smell of cheap cologne, stale sweat and the tang of chlorine: the unmistakable olfactory markers of a gym.
"This is it!" Amy said. "He must be close!"
Amy went down the hallway. After trying several doors, they worked their way out of the basement. A few zombies wandered around the corridors. Casimir poked one in the back. It collapsed. Amy paused.
"Why'd you do that? We're wasting time," she said.
"I don't know," Casimir said, shrugging. "Organ donors have to sign up. It doesn't seem quite fair that these peoples' bodies are being used, or reanimated or whatever, without their consent."
Amy stared at him for a moment, shrugged, and moved on. Casimir didn't break stride, but he did poke every zombie that
They emerged into a room with semi-opaque glass walls and a pool. A very large pool. Eight lanes marked with coiled, bobbing plastic tentacles ran the length of it. Through the undulating water Casimir could see several zombies floating in the pool, dressed not in swimwear but in normal clothes. Some of them rested on the bottom, some of them floated on top, some of them didn't do either but were in limbo between the surface and the tiles below. The poofiness of their clothes seemed to determine the floating more than their size.
"No decay gases to make them buoyant," Amy said as they walked along between a glass wall and the edge of the pool. "Aunt Ivy told me that the necromantic curse makes all life cease. Bacteria included."
"Shouldn't the necromancers want the help of infectious bacteria?" Casimir asked.
"I'm not sure that necromancers are too familiar with the germ theory of disease," Amy said.
BANG! went the glass next to them.
Casimir and Amy jumped at the sound, almost into the pool. Only their shared animalistic desire to not enter a pool teeming with zombies prevented it. They both flailed their arms around, clawing at each other for purchase and using each others' weight to pull themselves away from the brink.
Pressed against the glass was a face at chest-level.
It was a big, broad face, absolutely covered in red hair, and it was grinning.
"Dom!" Amy yelled, leaping towards the glass and pressing her hands and face against it.
Dom put a hand up to the glass, close enough to make it visible, and pointed down the wall. Casimir's eyes followed the gesture and there was a metal emergency door with the panic bar on Dominic's side. A few zombies ineffectually dragged their fingers against the steel slab, but they seemed like they were just going through the motions.
Casimir poked the zombies, with Amy nearly flinging him from target to target in her haste to see her brother.
The door opened with a grunt, as Casimir and Amy hadn't quite finished pulling the deanimated corpses out of the way, so Dom had to give it a shove.
Casimir saw that his and Amy's efforts were for naught. Dominic could easily have pushed all of the zombies out of the way. His face wasn't the only broad part of him. His arms and neck were thick isthmuses projected from the vast continent of his back, and at the end of all there were enormous peninsulas. The isthmuses weren't the type that explorers wanted to build canals over, however: they were the enormous sort that the explorer attempted to ford but ended up getting punched in the face by a giant mosquito. Muscles rippled over him like tectonic events.
He now used all of those muscles to roll his wheelchair towards his sister in one, massive push and lift her off of her feet in a bear hug.
"Dom!" Amy yelled, her voice trailing off into a squeak as her brother squeezed all of the air out of her lungs.
Casimir stood there as awkwardly as possible, until he saw another person come through the door that made his previous awkwardness as comparable in intensity to the Queen accidentally using the wrong fork at dinner.
It was John.
John with the boring name.
John with the girlfriend-stealing ability like no other.
John with Jane.
Casimir's jaw tightened like a zombie chewing on a particularly gruesome morsel and glowered so hard that he barely paid any attention to Dom putting Amy back down and smiling at John.
"Amy, I'd like you to meet my boyfriend John," Dom said.
John stepped forward and shook Amy's hand.
"Pleased to meet you," he said to her.
"Now hang on a second," Casimir blurted out. Normally he was quiet. Normally he would have pretended that nothing was wrong, shaken John's hand after the introductions had been made, and let things unfold. There was, however, nothing normal about being dumped, bitten by a zombie and then fighting his way halfway across a city now operated by the unruly dead. And he'd seen a picture of Jane and John on the desk in her office the last time that he'd seen her. "I thought that you and Jane where a thing?"
"Are you Casimir?" he asked.
Casimir stood up straight and nodded. "And I was led to believe that you and Jane were an Item and that I should not attempt to contact her further because you and her had engaged each others company for the foreseeable future. Is this true?"
Or rather, that's what he tried to say. What Casimir actually said, and what John heard, was "Answer my question: are you fuckin' Jane?"
John laughed in his face.