Leaning over the toilet, Matt swallowed down the need to empty his stomach into the water. He breathed through his nose, working to control his emotions. His mind continued to rage against what he had seen through the peephole. It was worse, so much worse than he had imagined. Seeing the first attack at the pool felt more surreal, with the pool being so many floors down. But being faced with the illness, the attacker and the death was more than Matt was prepared to handle.
“Matt?” Karly’s voice floated through the door. She was still whispering.
“Give me a minute,” he croaked back.
Karly. The beautiful woman he had met the night before. He had known she had been drinking but didn’t realize how heavily until they came up to his room for a nightcap. When she passed out, he was nothing but a gentleman, just as his mother had always raised him to be. He wouldn’t lie and say he wasn’t attracted to the woman. He was. But she had been vulnerable and inebriated. He wouldn’t take advantage of that. He had hoped when she woke, they would be able to talk and maybe figure out if they could stay in touch.
Now, all Matt could think was he was stuck with a woman in a red mini dress and there were people eating other people. How did I end up here? Matt thought to himself. If he had just taken Jude’s invitation and stayed with him, he wouldn’t be stuck on the overpopulated strip while some sort of outbreak happened. No, instead he wanted to party. Back home, he never got the chance to let loose and enjoy life. Working in construction paid well and gave him a daily workout. But it was also long hours and backbreaking work that left him exhausted at the end of the most days.
Living in a small town in Montana, he didn’t see much nightlife. Not like Las Vegas. This was the first time he had visited Jude, so he wanted to really do it up. Getting the room at the Venetian had been great when they were partying for the bachelor party. The night before he had two other guys crashed in his room because they were all too drunk to get back to their own houses. Matt didn’t mind, he liked people and was outgoing. These were Jude’s friends and he was ok with opening his door to them. Now he wondered where those men were.
Matt came out of the toilet area and went to the sink to splash water on his face. Looking at himself in the mirror, he saw he was pale and had fear etched into his features. He shook his head a few times, trying to lighten the emotions, so he didn’t scare Karly quite as bad. The situation was scary. They were stuck. And there was no knowing what their next steps would be. He walked back into the main room and found Karly sitting on the couch, her legs pulled up with her arms wrapped around.
“Are you ok?” Karly asked in a whisper.
The consistent bumping was still happening in the hallway, but Matt thought it wasn’t at their door anymore. He didn’t answer Karly, just nodded. He grabbed a sprite from the mini fridge and slowly drank, allowing the carbonation to slowly settle his stomach. The image of the peephole flashed in his brain but he was able to fight down the panic that wanted to surface and send him back to the bathroom.
“Matt, what’s out there?” Karly asked.
“It’s bad Karly,” he answered.
Karly sat up straighter, shifting to fix her ever-rising skirt. She leveled her stare at Matt and he knew she was waiting for him to explain.
“The man, the first one banging on the door, he was on the ground, against the wall. His throat…” he trailed off, taking a deep breath. He turned away from Karly thinking about the scene again. “His throat was torn out. There was blood everywhere around him. Our argument drew the attention of the attacking sick guy. I got a really good look at him.”
“And?” She asked.
“His face. It was partially gone, just hanging flesh. It was horrible. I don’t know how he was moving,” Matt said quietly.
Karly’s gasp brought his attention back to her. She had gone pale and her mouth was hanging open. Matt sat down next to her, leaning back on the couch trying to shut the images off. Instead behind his eyelids, he saw the flashes like a slideshow. The infected man’s black eyes that seemed to look through the peephole, right at Matt. The flap of skin that was hanging from his cheek, where it looked like it was ripped off. The black ooze that seemed to come from the wounds. When he bumped his face into the door, the black ooze stuck to the peephole and that was all Matt needed to see.
Karly shifted next to him, laying against his side. He knew it was in fear. Part of him really needed the reassurance of a living body next to him as well. He wrapped an arm around her. They stayed that way, listening to the rhythmic thumping in the hall. Matt judged that it was getting further away. Somewhere in his mind, he found himself wondering why the infected man stopped feasting on the dead man that he left in the hall. Was he no longer interested now that he was dead? Did the noise of the living draw them away from their recent kills?
“What are we going to do?” Karly asked, her voice slightly muffled from how she was pressed to him.
Matt realized that she was looking to him to figure something out. He was so lost and unsure. His mind tried to categorize what he knew. The infected attacked the living. One thing he knew for sure, sound drew them. So they had to stay quiet. But how long could they stay in the room? The food would run out. If the infected people were in the hallways, he assumed no one was coming to bring more food. They had maybe enough for a day, two if they ate very little.
Water was the next thing that popped into his head. The idea that came next caused Matt to sit up slowly, placing Karly back against the couch. He walked to the large free standing tub in the bathroom. Turning on the cold knob, he was happy to see the water was still running. He plugged the drain and let the bath fill. He turned to the sinks and filled one as well. He left the other empty for cleaning and draining as needed. He hadn’t heard Karly come in and felt his body jolt when she spoke behind him.
“Taking a bath right now? Really?”
“No. Though I think we should shower while we have running water. I have a feeling this isn’t going to just be done in a few days. The water will stop. I’m filling the tub and sink, so we have drinking water in the chance we don’t get more bottles from the hotel,” Matt answered.
Nodding her head, Karly turned toward the shower. She turned it on and waited for the water to warm. Matt turned his back quickly as she took off her dress and undergarments and stepped into the water. He heard her sigh heavily. Matt left the room and went back to the window that overlooked the pool. He could still see the red splashed in the area where the infected had attacked. But he pressed his face closer to the glass, trying to find the body. He didn’t see it on the ground. Matt found himself wondering if the person had lived? That’s impossible, he said to himself. He saw how much blood there was. It had to be fatal.
The ideas that were conjuring in his mind caused Matt to head back to the door. He waited for a moment, breathing deeply before putting his eye to the peephole again. The view was cloudy, with the black ooze covering the outside. But he could clearly see the man’s body sitting in the hall still. The infected was nowhere to be seen, his thumping gone now. Matt stood back for a moment, wondering if he dared to try and open the door.
He believed most of the rooms were empty, with no one running out or getting their food. The room across from them still had a tray. If they could get more food into their room, they would be able to survive for a little longer together. Thinking about the water bottles made Matt feel like it was even more necessary. He went back to the bathroom for a moment, not looking at Karly through the steaming glass.
“Karly, I’m going to go in the hallway for a minute,” Matt called over the water.
“What? Why?” Karly said, the water abruptly turning off.
“There’s food outside the room across the hall. I’m going to grab it. We need more in here if we’re going to stay,” Matt said over his shoulder.
“You can turn around,” she said from behind him. He turned to find her hair in a towel and her body in a fluffy robe.
“The food and water are important. I don’t think anyone is in that room. They would have come out or at least gotten their food by now,” he said.
“What about that thing?”
“I can’t see it. And I don’t hear it anymore. So I think if you stand at the door, keep it open so it doesn’t lock behind me, I can grab the food and get back in within ten seconds. Enough time to avoid anything else if I didn’t see it,” Matt explained.
Karly seemed to mull that over, looking down at her painted toes. Matt looked down too and noticed she seemed to shift on her toes when she was thinking. The movement kept his attention while she bounced around trying to figure it all out in her mind.
“We need the food, Karly,” Matt finally said, not wanting to waste any more time.
“Ok. Let’s do this,” she said, as she hitched her robe belt tighter.
The pair went to the door. Matt checked the peephole again. He looked at the man on the ground and wondered if he looked different somehow. Did he move? He thought to himself. He knew that was impossible and guessed his mind was playing tricks on him. The food was still at the door across from them. He would have to be somewhat near the dead man, but Matt thought he could handle it. Knowing that the food he was able to grab would be helpful to their survival in the hotel room.
“Just stay at the door. Don’t let it close, but don’t leave it wide open. When you see me coming back, open so I don’t drop anything,” Matt said, as he readied himself to go out.
“Got it. Wait. You trust me to not lock you out?” Karly asked suddenly.
“Should I not?” Matt asked, his eyebrow raised in challenge.
It hadn’t even occurred to him that Karly and he wouldn’t work together to survive for now. He realized they were complete strangers minus the short flirtatious moments at the club the night before. They didn’t know each other. He didn’t know where she was from, her last name, what she did for work, or how old she was. They hadn’t talked about real things under the influence of alcohol and sweaty club dancing. Now he looked at her as his ally and partner, for now, at least she could get to her people.
“I mean, of course, you should trust me. I was just surprised you did,” Karly said.
“Ok good. Because I’m going to be looking out for you while I’m looking out for myself. I think we are stuck together for a while at least. We need to work together,” he said.
“Agreed. Let’s get that food.”
Matt opened the door and Karly took a hold of the handle keeping the door open while he went through. Matt checked down the hallway on both sides. He didn’t see a sign of the infected man and he wondered what drew his attention away. Matt felt bad for any unsuspecting guest that may have closed a door to loud or ran out of their room into the arms of the infected waiting for his meal.
He tried to not look at the dead man while he stepped across the hallway to his target. He was about to pick up the tray when he looked at the box sitting next to the door beside him. He walked there and looked inside. As he had assumed it was full of food as well.
“What are you doing? Hurry,” Karly whispered from their door.
“I’m coming,” Matt whispered back.
He carefully lifted the box and brought it to the tray he was after. He slowly put the food into the box being careful to not make much noise. He wasn’t sure how much was needed to draw the infected back down their hall. But he didn’t want to find out. As he worked, he saw movement out of the corner of his eye. When he looked over he didn’t see anything amiss. Assuming that his mind was playing tricks on him, he went back to his work.
While he was in the hallway Matt felt much safer than he should have. He walked a few doors away with Karly watching through the crack in the door. He listened at doors, trying to see if there was anyone around. At one door he heard a TV, the repeating hotel warning was going off. But he couldn’t hear people. He softly knocked on the door, wondering if someone would answer. Thinking to the dead man on the ground, Matt hadn’t been willing to just open the door to him. He felt some guilt around that now. But it was for their safety and he didn’t deny that came first. Finding other survivors right now could be helpful if they needed to get out at some point.
No one answered the door with the loud TV. Matt remembered that housekeeping often left the TV on to the channel that had the hotel advertisements. It was possible the people weren’t in the room, but just housekeeping had left the tv on. He moved on from there. Almost at the end of the hallway, where the halls met in the center, Matt slowed. He badly wanted to look around, see where the infected man had gone. Part of him felt like knowing was safer than not. He also couldn’t believe there was no one else in the rooms on his floor. He wanted to find more survivors.
He slid along the wall in the circular center hall, trying to gain a view of the adjoining hall. He moved slowly, hoping to keep from any attention on himself. When he got to the hallway entrance, he peered slightly around the corner. He then wished he had just left curiosity alone. Down the hall, there were bodies, at least four from what Matt could see. The people clearly didn’t know what was happening, had tried to help each other, but no one killed the infected. He was still there, bent over the corpses. He moved and Matt knew he was tearing into their flesh. He felt his stomach wanting to revolt again, so he slowly slid back toward his hall.
As he moved back to the box he was packing he heard the click of a door. He stopped and looked around and didn’t see anyone. But he knew someone was watching him. He assumed it was one of the doors that had taken empty food trays. He disregarded it, realizing everyone was afraid and not sure what was happening. Back at the box, he started putting the last few items in.
“Oh my god, Matt!” Karly cried, much louder than Matt would have liked.
Spinning to look at her, he found her pointing at the dead man on the ground. The dead man who was missing a throat. Who’s blood sprayed across the walls and floor. The dead man that was now staring at him with black pits of eyes. As soon as Matt looked at him, it was like the man came alive. The sound that came from the ravaged throat was inhuman. The ripped vocal cords seemed to make noise from the hole in his throat, not from his mouth and Matt stared in frozen horror.
“Matt, come back. Oh my god, get inside!” Karly cried.
Her voice drew the eyes of the infected and the sounds seemed to get more urgent. The body fell to the side as he tried to get to his feet. Matt knew what was coming and he shook himself out of his shocked stupor. He grabbed the full box and ran the few steps to the room. Karly slammed the door behind him, pressing her back to it and slid to the floor. Matt turned back and threw the deadbolt and security locks into place. Just as he did that a hard slam shook the door. Karly scrambled away from it before getting to her feet and going to the other side of the room.
“How…he was dead….his throat….,” Karly stammered. She started her pacing again.
“I don’t know. He was dead. But his eyes. His eyes looked just like the other one. Black,” Matt said.
“So, if you get attacked, you die, you wake up again?” Karly said.
“Infected,” he said, finishing her thought.
“But he’s dead? How can he be moving around?”
“I really don’t know. But obviously, he is,” Matt said, gesturing toward the loud noise coming from the hallway.
“This is crazy,” Karly said.
“It’s crazy. But it’s happening. There are walking people, but they aren’t alive. And they are attacking and eating others. If you get attacked, you join the undead army.”