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  • Shrooms...

    Currently a one-off...
    ---

    "They're gaining on us !"

    "They're getting closer !"

    Those calls came from near the back of our group. Though more of a breathless wail, I reckoned the latter was the teen mum towing her toddler and that stray pre-schooler. I daren't spare a call to re-assure her, I'd problems of my own. I was using my long hoe's butt as a staff, it seemed to help. Lanky Joe was clinging to my left shoulder, his strapped sprained ankle getting worse with every step. Pre-teen Jackie was half supporting him, half being towed. Two unrelated adolescents clutched my depleted knapsack's straps and each other, stumbled in my wake.

    Ahead, Old Joe led. He'd a genuine 'Short' Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifle, the sort with a three-bullet clip. He'd two more clips, a few loose rounds and the bayonet fixed. He also had a holstered 'M1911', but only two rounds, the last for himself. On his right, Historian Dr. Smith carried his heirloom 'side-by-side' 12-bore. He'd never aimed at anything but clays before today, was clean out of the buck-shot that could take down Shrooms at a safe distance. His tweed pockets were full of bird-shot cartridges, but those needed 'threads of eyes' range.

    To the left, tall Pete brandished his left-handed putter. Its aerospace titanium and tungsten probably cost more than my old car but, in his big, basket-ball hands, it made a good whupping stick. Our lead diamond was completed by 'Scary Su', an intimidating Afro-American woman with an attitude, a hunting knife and a Nunchaku, which she'd used on lone flankers.

    "I can see the stairs !" Pete's sighting was the best news I'd had today. Yet, I could see a developing problem. Our path sorta circled the mid-campus park's small lake clockwise. One mob of Shrooms was on our trail but, across the water, I could see another mob. Our group catching their attention, they shambled into motion, anticlockwise. I still reckoned those behind us the greater threat, but we were getting strung out...

    Then we were through the screen of bushes, onto the Park Cafe's debris-strewn picnic area. Thankfully, no bodies. At the back, a broad flight of mesh-railed stairs rose to the Café's wide Terrace in two stages. An 'Accessible' path wound across the further slope towards the side of the low building.

    So far, so good.

    Our 'point' team went up those stairs as fast as they dared. I held position at the foot. Joe, Jackie and the kids clung to the railings, panted for air. In twos, threes and fours, the rest of us trailed in. The teen mom and her two young charges had made it. She was too weary to speak, simply slumped across the nearest picnic table, sobbed. Big Charles, an amiable power-lifter, brought up the rear. He was shepherding a terrified group of kids and teens, including some I didn't recognise. A 'Re-Enactor', his weapon of choice was a hefty halberd, a long, lethally spiky-pokey pole-arm. It bore fresh stains.

    "Clear !" Su called from the Terrace. "Come up !"

    Some-how, every-one started onto the stairs. There was no pushing, we'd no energy for that. In fact, it was more of a human chain, folk having one hand for a rail, one hand for a neighbour. Charles and I stopped on the inter-stage landing. A fold in the adjacent slope made it a defensible position.

    As the stairs cleared, I heard banging and clattering from inside the café, but no gunfire, shrieks or screams. Then Su's voice, "Make a hole !"

    She and Pete were dragging a rectangular table. Lain on its side, two legs set against the upper stage's first riser, it made a fair obstacle. On the terrace, more tables were being placed to block both side-paths, including the 'accessible' approach. Some were put ready to block these stairs.

    "They've got the Bistro shutters down ?" I asked.

    "Found the manual winder where you said." Su nodded. "Also the front door's bandit brace."

    "Been a couple of years," I allowed. "Facilities ?"

    "Washrooms maxed out. Kids slurping water, chomping cookies. Jane's found the Cafe's First Aid kit, doing what she can."

    "Uh-huh." Jane, a trainee paramedic, had seen this mayhem from its start. Somehow, she'd got clear on foot while Jock and Jill, her crew mentors, were pulled down by new Shrooms. "Hey, you're good with those 'chucks !"

    Su's eyes tightened. I'd soon realised she'd a chip on her dark shoulders the size of a ghetto-blaster, a scat-poor opinion of us XYs. Still, she'd joined our group, fought like a Momma Leopard. Her eyes went to the stains on my hoe and Charles' halberd before she nodded politely.

    "Incoming, Pat," murmured Pete, then, "Shit !"

    The widening widdershins mob had flushed a couple of students from cover. They needed no bidding to flee our way, but they'd have done better heading for the 'Accessible' ramp. Our 'trailing' mob looked likely to intercept them just short of the stairs. The timing would be tight, very tight. The two got lucky. One lead Shroom stumbled on debris, others found their line-of-sight routes blocked by picnic tables.

    The two students, a pale boy and paler girl, staggered and stumbled up the stairs, stopped short of our levelled weapons. She cried, "You gotta help us !"

    "Open your eyes wide," Su commanded. "Real wide !"

    "What ?"

    "Your eyes !" I hissed. "Let's see your eyes !"

    "What ?"

    "Pre-Shroom, hyphae show in the eyes," Charles rumbled. "Open your eyes WIDE !"

    Bleary, gasping, terrified, they took a few moments to comprehend, comply. Charles peered. I peered. Su peered, nodded. Charles caught the slight girl by her short denim jacket, simply hoisted her over the barricade. The taller boy needed scant bidding to scramble aboard as the first Shroom started up the stairs barely seconds behind.

    "Have you any combat or disaster skills ?" I asked as the two students sobbed with relief.

    The slight girl shook her head, blurted, "I'm a flautist, do Cosplay..."

    "IT..." He sounded older than he looked. "D&D..."

    "You know what's happened ?" I asked, as Charles' swung halberd felled the lead Shroom with a bloody 'Shoop !'

    "Sorta 'Zombie Apocalypse', but--"

    "But they're not dead..." That last came out as a moan.

    Shoop !

    Clunk ! Pete had joined the fray.

    "Okay, go up to the Café, have Jane check you out." I shooed them onwards, looked around, "Su, I'd be much obliged if you could spot for us, watch for leakers."

    It was not an order. It was a request that played to her strengths. She nodded, backed up a few steps for a better view. Pete had the left, of course. Charles was wreaking bloody havoc in the centre, piling bodies on the stairs. I applied my hoe to flankers on the right.

    Su called the shots. "Pete, Charles has a hang-up."

    Pete's immense fore-hand removed that threat.

    "Pat, that flanker's not down."

    A more accurate jab resolved.

    "First wave's done, second incoming."

    They had to clamber over the earlier bodies, which seriously slowed them. But those piled bodies stole a lot of our height advantage. Pete sorta whacked one over his rail. I used my hoe's reach to topple two over mine. The short fall did not kill them. They just rolled to the foot of the slope, stood and rejoined the mob.

    Thud ! Su's 'chucks came down on a tanned arm reaching below Pete's guard. As the perp staggered, Charles managed to catch her ragged clothes with his halberd, toss her backwards into the press. Several went down.

    "Fire in the hole !" Old Joe shouldered between us, flung a liquid-filled baggy. It burst on the Shrooms below. He followed that with a second, then a lit road-flare. The nearest fuel caught alight. It spread rapidly. It spread through the crush on the stairs. It spread to those at the foot.

    Horribly, none of the Shrooms cried out or tried to flee. For several more minutes, we fought off flaming horrors. Then, suddenly, the lower stairs was but a ghastly pyre, its stench over-powering...

    "I think we won..." Pete allowed as we backed away, elbows across our scorched faces. "And thanks for that strike, Su. Owe you one."

    She nodded, adding, "For guys, you didn't do so badly."

    ---

  • #2
    Very good read! Could have used the teens with sharpened sticks or broom handles it would give them 3-5' of reach. Glade no knives a mob is not where a knife will work well. A baseball bat would work well.

    But no guns? Must be new York or l.a. Lol still a great read

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