The scent of hotel shampoo wafted into his nose as he woke up with the sun. The drapes had been left open the night before, as he and Karly watched living people in other rooms. Looking at the clock he realized it was already seven am. His arm had long fallen asleep under Karly’s head, but he didn’t dare wake her and move. Her short brown hair was mussed across his arm and chest. Her breathing was still deep, so he kept the statue routine to not bother her.
Across the room he could see Helen and he started when he saw she was sitting up looking at them. She had a whisp of a smile on her face and it turned into a full smile when she saw Matt looking at her. He could feel his face heat. They had told their new addition that they were not a couple the night before. He imagined the look of them wrapped up together told a different story.
Learning that Karly was virtually alone in the world changed things for Matt. His thoughts had been to drop her with parents or siblings that could protect her. He knew she would be at risk if she was out on her own. Now that he knew there was no-one, he couldn’t just leave her. He had a great uncle living in Montana. Or he did. He couldn’t be sure where he was now. His parents had been gone a few years. His mother died of cancer first and his father of a heart attack six months later. Even in death they couldn’t be apart, Matt had to admire that now.
“Morning,” Helen said.
“Morning,” he answered quietly.
Karly shifted then, looking up at him from where her head laid on his shoulder. She smiled for a moment and then panic spread across her face as she pulled away. She looked over and Helen and her face started to color.
“Sorry,” Karly mumbled to Matt.
“It’s all good,” Matt replied. He stretched his arm, willing the circulation back to his fingers.
Matt pulled a shirt on as he stood up. He went to the window, looking down at the pool. There were still infected people there, milling around waiting for some unsuspecting person to wander into their path. The dark stain on the ground from the attack the day before could still be seen, though the person had joined the infected and was now wandering looking for it’s next meal.
Turning, he found Karly pulling on her sweats and heading to the bathroom. He heard her try to flush the toilet, but after the bowl filled, no one could hear running water. She came out looking at Matt in alarm.
“The water isn’t turning on,” she said.
“That was to be expected I think,” Helen commented.
“Eventually services will stop working completely because the employees for the utilities aren’t going to work,” Matt added.
“How do we stay with no water?” Karly asked.
“We don’t,” Matt replied simply. Both of the women looked at him.
“I’ve been thinking about this. We can’t stay up in this tower. We are trapped right now because the infected could be anywhere. We need to get to the parking garage and get my car. Then we need to get off the strip,” he explained.
“I need to look for my sister,” Helen said quietly.
“Helen, I understand how you feel. But we can’t wander around the casino looking for your sister now. There are probably hundreds of infected down there,” Matt said.
“I can’t just leave her here.”
“There’s no choice. If you choose to go to the casino, you’re going to be on your own. I’m not going to risk everything like that. And I’m not going to let Karly either.”
Karly’s eyes flashed with defiance for a moment. Matt just stared at her. He wanted her to read his mind so she would know that staying together was her best bet. She averted her eyes then and Matt knew she realized that she couldn’t just go running off into the plague filled world.
“I’m sorry, Helen,” Karly finally said.
Helen sniffed from her place on the couch. She reached over to a side table and grabbed a tissue to dab at her eyes. The older woman had clearly been holding onto hope for her sister. Matt knew that her being alive was completely unlikely. While he couldn’t stop Helen from going rouge and searching the casino for her sister, he was going to try and talk her out of the suicidal move if she tried.
The decision being made and clear for the three of them, Matt went to the bathroom himself. With no water in the tank he didn’t flush and advised the women not to either. They would just keep the door shut to deal with any smell. Just another reason getting out of the hotel room was a good decision. He was cleaning up using the water he had stored in the tub when Karly came into the bathroom area.
“I have a favor,” she said.
“Ok. I mean I don’t know what I can do, but ask and we’ll see.”
“I want to go to the hotel where I was staying. See if my friends survived. I have the key to the room. If we are able to get up to the room I can open it without a problem,” Karly said.
“I don’t know, Karly. That sounds dangerous.”
“Don’t you want to go find your friend Jude?” Karly asked.
“Of course. But I knew he was alive yesterday when we talked. I’m not just searching to find out if he’s alive or not,” he replied.
“I know it’s dangerous and probably stupid. I realize I’m completely useless right now. But I can’t just leave the city without knowing if they made it or not. We don’t need to worry about a casino, it’s a small hotel.”
Matt thought about the prospect for a moment. He wanted nothing more than to just get away from Las Vegas completely. They could head North, take Helen home to Reno if that’s what she wanted. He could take Karly back to Montana with him. He wasn’t sure if his great uncle was still alive, but Matt had a small home they could fortify and try to survive in.
“We can try. If there are too many infected around, we just go. Agreed?” Matt finally said.
“Agreed. Thank you Matt,” Karly said, reaching over and squeezing his hand.
In preparation to leave, Matt changed his clothes into jeans and a t-shirt. He wished he had something more with him, thicker clothing or something that would protect better. But he hadn’t prepared for the apocalypse when he packed for Las Vegas. He dumped everything else out that he had onto the bed, clearing out the duffel he had. Karly picked through the rest of his clothes to see if she could make anything else work, but found only the sweats to be sufficient with the tie waist. He promised to get her clothes as soon as they could.
With the empty duffel, he went to the food and drinks they still had. He first added all of the water bottles, sodas and juices on the bottom. Then he added all of the food items on the top. He took everything from the sandwiches left by room service, to the peanuts from the minibar. He knew with three people traveling together every little bit would come in handy. Lastly he added toiletries into the bag. If they did come across any sort of shower or place to clean up they would want to take the chance.
Everything packed, Matt added his car keys to his front jeans pocket. He thew his wallet into the duffel, though he wasn’t sure why. He had to guess emergency services had more to worry about than someone driving without their license. That thought made him wonder about where the emergency services were. After the initial broadcast they had, they never heard anything else from the police or from the hotel. The stark quiet of it seemed off to Matt.
“Helen, did you see security or anyone downstairs? Anyone of authority when you were there?” Matt asked.
Helen seemed to think for a moment. She stopped in her organization of clothes Matt had that were useful to bring.
“No. It was nothing but chaos down there. I didn’t have the chance to notice anyone doing anything to help. Everyone was just running. Why do you ask?”
“I was just thinking, where are the police? Fire trucks? Las Vegas is highly populated, especially on The Strip. Why isn’t there someone helping somewhere?”
“What do you think that means, Matt?” Karly asked.
“I’m not sure. Maybe we aren’t seeing it because we’re up in the hotel tower. They probably have enough to deal with downstairs. Once we get to my car, we might be able to find help.”
Matt tried to hold onto hope for help. But he had a feeling it was unlikely. Something gnawed at his subconscious telling him they were on their own. They would need to move forward with their plans and not bet on someone helping them. Matt didn’t have a clue of how to handle a plague but so far it seemed to just not get attacked and they would be ok.
With everything packed they could use from the room, Matt went to the door and looked out the peephole. The map on the back of the door gave instructions on where they needed to go in case of fire. This was going to be the route they needed to escape the hotel tower without going into the casino. He couldn’t see anything moving outside the door. Matt let out the breath he didn’t realize he was hold in a huff. Karly came up behind him.
“Matt, I don’t have shoes. How am I going to run from here?”
“We just need to get you to the car. Once there we will go somewhere for provisions, including clothing and shoes for you,” he answered.
“We’re ready to go when you are,” Helen said, standing behind Karly with a bag in her hand.
Matt looked out the peephole again and still saw the coast as clear. It didn’t mean the infected weren’t nearby, as he had a limited view from the peephole. Yet, if they were going to move they needed to go before things got any worse on their floor. Decision made he nodded to the women and picked up the heavier duffel bag. He looked around the room again making sure they weren’t missing anything that was useable. Once he was satisfied, he went back to the door.
Not having a weapon, Matt felt unable to defend them. As he passed the hallway closet he noticed the wooden pole that the hangers hung from. He set the duffel down again despite the strange looks from Karly and Helen. Stepping into the closet he lifted the wood pole from it’s notches. He was pleased to see it wasn’t a flimsy pole. However he didn’t want the entire long thing.
Taking the pole to the bed he laid it on the bed, with one end propped on the floor. He was suddenly glad he had brought his boots with him on the trip. Kicking down with a booted foot, he landed a strike on the middle of the pole. It didn’t break at first, but he continued to stomp on it in the same place. After his third kick he was rewarded with a satisfying crack. The fourth kick had the pole buckling. Picking it up he bent it a few times before the one pole became two ragged pieces.
He held out the second piece to the women, offering them the chance to carry it. Karly walked forward and took it without question. She swung it for a moment and thrust it like a knife. Matt approved of her method and he let her know. Her cheeks seemed to gather color under his praise. Matt tested his own piece and decided it would need to be sufficient if they were faced with any infected face to face.
Matt opened the door slowly, extending his field of view little by little. He finally worked his head all the way out of the door and didn’t see any of the infected in their hallway. Their room was about halfway from the center of the tower and the stairs that led to the fire exit. It was going to be a lot of stairs to take. Matt was just glad it was down and not up.
Once he felt safe with the hallway he stepped out and motioned for Karly and Helen to follow. Karly rushed out to crowd close to Matt and Helen followed at a short distance behind you. Without thinking, Helen didn’t grab the door before it slammed shut as all hotel rooms did in Las Vegas. Matt cursed the security feature in his mind now as the slamming noise echoed down the hall. Helen’s eyes went round with fear.
The sound was the first thing Matt noticed. A growling, hissing, inhuman sound came from the center of the tower. He began to walk backward, knowing the hallway as clear to the exit door at least. He watched over Helen’s head as infected bodies appeared. One by one they crowded into the hall the living were in, the door sounding like their names being called for their breakfast reservations.
“We need to move faster. Once the exit door is closed they can’t follow us,” Matt said.
He turned and began to run for the exit door, Karly’s bare feet padding on the carpet next to him. As they passed trays of food, Matt realized there were very few people on their floor. Had they all died in the casino like Helen’s sister? Or were they evacuated before coming back to their rooms. Questions and fears swirled in Matt’s head.
The distraction of his thoughts had him bursting through the exit door without checking the other side first. Thankfully he didn’t run headfirst into a group of infected. He chided himself for making such a stupid mistake. He noted that he needed to not be distracted and get them safely to his car. Matt swung the door open, holding it for Karly and Helen. As the women got into the bare corridor with him, he slammed the exit door behind them. The thuds of the infected were just moments later, proving to be a closer call than he wanted.
“Down we go,” he said.
Floor by floor, they walked. They came to a floor with the exit door propped open. Matt happened to see it before they reached it, so he had Karly and Helen wait while he crept down to see if there were any infected nearby. Looking into the hallway he was surprised to see the lights in the hallway partially broken out. There were doors standing open all over, debris littering the floor. It was if the floor had been robbed.
No infected showed when Matt peered in, so he decided it was the living that had made such a mess. He called for Karly and Helen to come down. They were only two floors away from the bottom and Matt was anxious to be outside. When they rounded the stairs at the bottom floor the smell of rotting flesh wafted to them. That sudden stench caused Matt to slide to a stop. There was only one thing that could smell like that.
Leaning over the railing he looked down to the ground floor. He could see a body moving around, bumping into walls. Matt knew immediately that it was an infected. He quietly set down the duffel he was carrying and motioning to Karly and Helen to stay put and quiet. Matt couldn’t be sure the infected couldn’t climb stairs, but it didn’t seem to know they were coming down.
Descending carefully, Matt carried nothing but his piece of the closet pole. He wasn’t sure how to handle the infected but he decided to apply knowledge he had from movies and books. The brain was the only way to kill a zombie. And that’s what he thought these people were. They were dead. And then they weren’t. That was a zombie.
Coming around the last corner, Matt stepped down behind the infected and used the sharp end of his pole to thrust into the skull of the infected. It didn’t enter easily, Matt wasn’t sure what he had expected. With the tip partially in the infected’s head, Matt ran at the zombie and used the wall to jam the pole home. As in the movies the body seemed to stop motion immediately and Matt felt victory. Learning what they needed to do to survive was important. This was just the first step.
Karly and Helen descended the last sets of stairs and they all stood looking at the final door. Matt knew the door led outside and a large part of him was afraid to see what was out there. If the area was overran with infected, they were trapped inside the hotel tower. He looked at Karly and knew he couldn’t fail the woman who had no one else to turn to for survival.
“Stay here for a moment. I’ll check outside and make sure the coast is clear for us. Don’t let the door close in case I need to get back in fast,” Matt instructed Karly.
“Ok. Oh god, Matt be careful,” Karly replied.
Matt nodded to her and tried to give her a reassuring smile. He was sure he didn’t pull it off. Turning back to the door he took a number of deep breaths before he touched the door handle. Pushing the door open, Matt carefully stepped out into the sunlight of the day. He held his pole at the ready and waited for an attack.