Codex Nekromantia: Section 4

Casimir used Emblem and his bed as a battering ram on the zombie in the hallway. It went flying. Emblem almost went flying, too, except that he reached out a hand to grab the rails on the bed.

"Put mumble the fucking mumble rails," Emblem said.

"Sorry!" Casimir said. He slid the metal bars into place and rammed his way down the hallway toward the elevators, his paper gown flapping open in the back. The zombies in front of him got the cart and the zombies behind him got a view of a full moon.

The hospital seemed to be abandoned of anything but zombies. Zombies in lab coats, zombies in scrubs, zombies in paper gowns, and zombies in maintenance jumpsuits all wandered the hallways. Most of the lights were out and Casimir could only see because of the sun streaming in the windows. They reached the elevators and Casimir began slapping the call button.

Emblem grunted, tearing Casimir's attention away from the elevator.

"Won't work on generator power, numbnuts," Emblem said. He stood up, wobbled for a moment, then lurched towards the thick metal doors with the blood-red words "STAIRS" illuminated above them. Casimir thought that Emblem looked like a zombie except all of his organs were on the inside. Most of his blood appeared to be on the inside, too, except for the caked brown goo from what appeared to be a recent nosebleed. Brown crust circled his mouth and ran down the front of his leather jacket. He had a head of thick, curly hair with two visible cigarette butts and one grease-splotched fast food taco wrapper mixed into it. Grime streaked his olive skin. Tattooed symbols that Casimir didn't recognize ran up and down Emblem's bare forearm beneath the tourniquet.

The doors squealed open and Emblem began to march up the steps. His footsteps echoed up and down the silent stairwell.

"That's the wrong way," Casimir said, pointing at a big, black number spraypainted on the concrete wall. "We're on the sixth floor."

"The pharmacy's upstairs," Emblem said, continuing on his way.

"But we'll get trapped up there! Look, I know a guy. I work with him. He's a survivalist, he's prepared, he'll keep us safe. He always told me that if there was a big emergency that I should meet him at the Constantinople Museum of Natural History."

"Definitely," Emblem said, who was already on the next flight, "and it'd be nice to take some antibiotics and painkillers. Who knows when we'll be able to leave the museum again."

"You're right," Casimir said, and began following Emblem up the stairs even though all he wanted to do was to go hide in the basement of the museum. He knew it was dangerous to trust a drug addict, because his parents had told him that. Although it was more dangerous, Casimir wagered, to be alone in a hospital overrun with the walking dead.

They left the stairwell on the ninth floor. The zombies were thinner here and most of them wore slacks or doctor's coats, there wasn't a paper gown in sight. Emblem picked up an IV stand, did something violent to the attached equipment, and ended up with a long, shiny spear.

"Stand a little behind me," Emblem said. After a few practice thrusts, he used the spear to skewer the few zombies that turned to look at them. They reached the secured, steel door to the pharmacy.

"It's locked. We should just head out," Casimir said. A nearby zombie leered at him with an eyeball that had fallen out of its socket.

"Not when the world is our keyring," Emblem said. He sized up the zombies around them.

"Aha," Emblem said.

Emblem bounded past several clawing arms to barrel into a zombie in a stained jumpsuit.

"Sorry, Perry," Emblem said, reading off of the zombie's nametag as he knelt with one knee on each of the zombie's arms, and kept the snarling, gnashing teeth at bay by wrapping his fingers around its neck, as with a snake. He dropped the spear from his free hand and began trying to unhook a large ring of keys from the zombie's toolbelt.

Another zombie in a ragged suit with a small, gooey organ hanging by a string of unidentified gore like a pocketwatch shambled towards Emblem.

"Emblem, look out!" Casimir said.

"Almost got it," Emblem said.

As the zombie clamped its hands around Emblem's shoulders, the keyring wrenched free. With a jingle of keys, he quickly slipped a few into his balled-up fist like spikes and punched his attacker square in the forehead. Grey matter tore free as the zombie collapsed and Emblem clambered off of the zombie on the floor.

The other zombies began to notice the racket. Without any single zombie coming for them, the crowd grew thicker. Emblem fumbled with the brain-slick keys.

"Hurry up!" Casimir said.

"Aha!" Emblem said. The lock clicked and they darted inside, slamming the door shut behind them. As they scanned the dim room for supplies, the zombies began banging against the door.

"Can't be picky," Emblem said. He grabbed a roll of garbage bags from a cleaning cart and swept armfuls of bottles, vials and cans into the bags, handing each to Casimir until he was wearing more bags than clothes.

"We're almost set," Emblem said. Emblem squinted at the shelves for a moment before grabbing a large bottle of pills. He smashed off the plastic lid on the edge of the metal shelf, sending a hail of bright pink pills across the tile. Then he upturned the bottle over his mouth, threw the bottle away with a clatter, selected a large bottle of liquid off of the shelves at random, tore off the cap and used it to wash down the pills.

"Blech, cough syrup. Okay!" Emblem yelled. "Now we can go to the Museum!"

"Oh my god, are you trying to kill yourself?" Casimir asked.

"A pick me up," Emblem said. He threw open the door and used the cleaning cart to bash a path back through the zombies to the stairs. He led them into the ER and into the ambulance parking area. Emblem elbowed a paramedic zombie in the face and took its keys.

"Let's do this in style," Emblem said, then paused. The pause lengthened.

"Emblem?" Casimir asked. Emblem didn't respond. Casimir waved his hand in front of Emblem's eyes, which had gone glassy. Casimir tried to slap him but Emblem had recovered enough to block it and almost returned with a punch to Casimir's face.

"Thanks," Emblem said. "Maybe I took a few too many amphetaphetaphetamines!" Emblem said. He handed the keys to Casimir. "Maybe you should drive," Emblem said. His arms vibrated like a speaker.

Casimir climbed into the driver's seat while Emblem climbed into the passenger's side.

"Lookit this!" Emblem said, turning on the sirens. All of the zombies in front of the ER and on the nearby street turned and shambled towards them.

"They're going to block off the entrance!" Casimir said, starting the engine.

"Then hurry up! First gear is the go gear!" Emblem yelled, slapping the dashboard. "Faster faster faster use the peeedaaaalll!" As he said this, he snaked his boot up and over the console and mashed it on top of Casimir's stockinged feet.

"Ow!" Casimir yelled, the knobbly tread of Emblem's boot rolling over his toe knuckles. "Ohshitohshit!" He whipped the wheel hard to the right with his good hand and used his bandaged one as a lever to get more force as the ambulance careened towards a gate post. Emblem took away his boot and chortled as they hit the street like racecar drivers peeling out of a pit stop.

"Woooo!" he yelled out of the window into the face of a zombie while the ambulance thumped, bumped and squished over its fellow. They rolled into traffic and stopped. Casimir couldn't believe his eyes, and even Emblem was able to focus for a moment.

The city was in chaos. Zombies wandered out of buildings and across the road. They wove in between stopped cars, some of which had been abandoned but of which the majority were filled with zombified occupants, trapped by seatbelts and door locks. There didn't appear to be a live person in sight. The moans came sporadically and sent shivers up Casimir's spine.

"To the sidewalk!" Emblem said. "Zombie cops can't pull you over!"

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