Like a drunk who's lost a bet
WARNING! READ THIS FIRST!
This post is a segment of the Fall 2009 Choose Your Own Blogventure Spooktacular, invented and organized by the fabulous Nancy Pearl Wannabe. To start at the beginning, go here. Good luck, and happy reading!
If you have reached this page via Life in the left lane, scroll down and read on!
As her fingers closed around the charm, Annelise suddenly felt one foot slip free. Yelping and nearly letting go of her prize, she tried to hold herself out of the muck by sheer force of will. "DAD!" she shrieked, her cry changing to a strangled whoop of relief as she felt a hand close around her wildly swinging right ankle. "I've got it!" she yelled. "Get me out of here!"
It seemed to take ages for Jenny and her father to haul her up and out of the reeking tank. As soon as her feet hit solid ground, she wriggled backward and staggered to her feet. "All right," she shouted, thrusting her fist into the air. "Let's kick some zombie --" She trailed off as the scene before her finally registered. Jenny was facing off against a growing crowd of shambling zombies, swinging a hacksaw with each hand.
"You want a piece of me?" Jenny screamed. "Come on, you undead sons of --"
"Jenny, on your right!" Annelise yelled, flinching back as Jenny whirled and lashed out, catching an encroaching lurcher across the throat with one saw. The monster staggered back and went down, luckily providing a distraction to a half-dozen of its fellows, who decided it looked like an easier snack than the war-ready Jenny.
"Dad!" Annelise turned toward the professor, who stood with his back pressed against the septic tank, wringing his hands helplessly. "Dad, snap out of it! You've got to get them under control!" She rubbed the charm hastily on her jeans and pressed it into his limp grasp. "Come on, Dr. Ansel! We're counting on you!"
He seemed to come awake then, pushing his glasses up his nose and staring at the moaning mob. "I don't know if I can hold them much longer, even with the charm."
"You don't have to hold them," Annelise said, seized by a sudden inspiration. "You just have to get them inside. Jenny! Give me one of those saws and get them into the diner! I want them in and you guys out, as fast as possible!"
"What are you going to do?" Jenny hollered, tossing a hacksaw to Annelise.
"Save the day, I hope!" Annelise called back, catching the saw and turning to fish her father's lucky Zippo lighter out of his vest pocket. "Now get moving!"
As Jenny began to wave her arms and shout, attracting the attention of the undead and gathering them for a drive back toward the diner, Annelise offered up a silent prayer that the zombies' night vision was as poor as their fine motor control. Bent nearly double, she scurried around to the back side of the tank, sticking to the shadows. Pausing for a few moments, deafened by her pounding heart, she took a deep breath and then moved toward the pickup truck, relying on the fading daylight to shield her. When she reached the truck, she risked a glance toward the zombies, and had to bite her lip to keep from laughing out loud in victory when she saw that the whole group was limping after Jenny and her father, headed for the front of the diner.
She scrambled up into the pickup bed and dove toward the toolbox, quickly finding the two things she'd counted on being there -- a knotted length of rope and a roll of duct tape. Her treasures secured, she jumped soundlessly to the ground and ran as quietly as she could around to the back of the diner, trying to keep one eye on the zombies while keeping the other on her course. Reaching the back door, she let out an involuntary sob of relief when the doorknob turned easily under her hand. She took a precious few seconds to jam a broom and a mop across the handles of the swinging doors that led from the kitchen to the front of the diner, hoping if the zombies did catch on to her plan, the implements would slow them down just enough to allow her to escape.
That accomplished, she turned her attention to the stove that took up half of the back wall, and the thick pipe connecting it to the propane tank behind the diner. She hoisted herself up onto the stovetop and set to work with her hacksaw, swearing under her breath at the impossibly slow progress. Dimly, she heard dishes breaking and chairs being knocked over out in the front of the diner. "I hope that's the zombies," she muttered, using her forearm to wipe sweat out of her eyes. Sawing with renewed vigor, she finally broke through the outer layer of the pipe and was rewarded with the sweet hiss of pressurized gas.
Annelise reached over and unlocked the window beside the stove and managed to open it an inch, after a few panic-filled moments of it not budging. Trembling, she slid down to the floor, careful not to dislodge any of the burners or drip pans, and scuttled sideways to the back door. Not daring a glance toward the kitchen doors, she edged the door open, then propped it with her foot and spent what felt like hours sawing the inner doorknob off so that the zombies wouldn't be able to pull the door open and follow her out once she'd made her exit. In her haste, she didn't think to catch the doorknob as it fell, and the noise it made against the tile floor sounded like the triumphant blare of a brass band to her adrenaline-enhanced hearing. Biting back a scream, she launched herself out the door and let it swing shut behind her.
She grabbed her duct tape and rope and sprinted for the window, where she fed one end of the rope through the gap in the casement with shaking hands and secured it with duct tape. She imagined she could hear the zombies rattling the kitchen door, breaking the mop and broom, shambling toward her as she stood protected only by a pane of ancient glass. "Come on, girl, hold it together!" she snarled through gritted teeth, slapping strip after strip of duct tape across the opening until she felt that it was well-sealed. Finally, she came to the most crucial part of her plan. She carefully untangled the rope, laying it out in a line leading away from the diner, painfully aware that one too-hard tug would pull the end free and cost her precious time -- and maybe even her life. Later she would realize that resisting the urge to flee screaming into the night was the hardest thing she'd ever done. As she worked, she kept her eyes on the rope, unwilling to risk a glance at the diner for fear of what she might see peering back at her from the kitchen window.
As she reached the end of the rope, a good ten feet from the diner, she heard Jenny's voice, carried to her on the incongruously gentle evening breeze: "Annelise, hurry! We can't hold 'em much longer!" Kneeling, Annelise struck the Zippo and held it to the rope as she held her breath. It had to catch. There was no other option. In seconds, a hungry orange flame was licking its way slowly up the rope, toward the back of the diner. Annelise watched it for a few moments longer, until she could trust that it wouldn't sputter out, and then turned and ran headlong for the front of the building.
She rounded the corner at a dead run, barely registering the sight of her father and Jenny staring at the zombies through the glass diner doors. "We've got to go, NOW!" she bellowed, catching at their sleeves as she bolted past, dragging them along until they got their feet under them and ran with her. "Behind the truck! Go!"
"Annelise," Dr. Ansel gasped, "What are you -- "
"No time to explain, Dad, just move!"
Seconds after they skidded to a halt behind the hulk of the old pickup truck, there was a low, teeth-rattling whump. Annelise popped her head up above the level of the truck bed in time to see the diner transformed into an incandescent ball of yellow flame.
Closing her eyes, she slid to the ground and collapsed onto her back, shaking with laughter. "We did it," she gasped. "I can't believe we did it."
"Oh, my..." the professor murmured, transfixed by the inferno.
"I have no idea what you just did," Jenny said, sinking to the ground beside Annelise, "but I'm damn glad you did it."
"You know that Halloween party I was planning?" Annelise said to no one in particular as the sound of sirens began to drift toward her on the wind. "I think I've changed my mind. There is no way I will ever, ever be able to top this. Ever."