The rehearsal dinner went splendidly. Ally and Jake, the bride- and groom-to-be, looked blissfully happy to everyone in attendance. Their parents seemed absolutely joyful. The steak and shrimp dinners were perfect. Everything seemed perfect in the small mountain town.
That night, most of the guests stayed at the Heritage Hotel, but several of the guests chose the Heritage Lake Bed & Breakfast. Scott Boyle, Elliot and Mary Robinson, and Joe Crawford all settled in for a well-deserved rest before the happy nuptials the next morning. None of them were quite prepared for what would happen next.
The banging started around 2 am and quickly woke all of the occupants. Someone was pounding hard on the front door. All of them arose and dressed, but it was the proprietor of the B&B, Donna Flanagan, who first reached the door. The others could hear her approach the door, open it... and then the air was filled with screams. Scott, the shirt-less fireman, rushed out into the upstairs hallways and caught the first glimpse of the unknown man clawing at Donna, who was backed into a corner and covered her bleeding face with her arms. Scott rushed down the stairs, ignoring the foul stench in the air, and hit the man with a well-placed shoulder slam. The attacker crashed into the wall and fell to the ground. While getting up, his face was finally revealed. A mangled, bloody visage peered at Scott. In some places, bone peeked through the mangled flesh. With blood-covered fingers, the attacker lunged at Scott, but the agile firefighter quickly twisted out of the way.
Elliot, hearing the commotion, searched his room for some kind of defensive weapon. Dismissing the bedside lamp, he searched the closet and found a discarded length of galvanized pipe. While his wife tried to reach the police on her cell phone, the author rushed out into the second floor hallway and witnessed the spectacle below. He quickly went to Donna's aid, tossing the pipe to Scott. Joe Crawford came running down the steps, dressed but unarmed. Snatching the entryway lamp, he lunged at the intruder, but his aim was thrown off when the electrical cord reached its maximum length and pulled out of the wall socket.
Scott and Joe traded attacks with the intruder, who seemed to ignore the hits that landed. Elliot, wanting to help, rushed into the kitchen and grabbed the fire extinguisher hanging beside the wall. He returned to the entry way and tried to spray the intruder's face, but the nozzle slipped in his hand and foam sprayed into the air. Scott snatched the extinguisher and, with the talent of an experienced fireman, delivered a direct spray into the moaning attacker's face. Shrieking, the strange intruder began clawing at his own eyes. Joe brought the base of the lamp on the back of the intruder's head, sending up a spray of noxious black blood. Scott joined in, bringing the extinguisher down upon the stumbling man's skull. With a splintering crunch, the man's skull caved in and a rush of dark ooze spurted from the lamp wound. The intruder stumbled, and attempted to rise again. Another head hit collapsed his cranium completely, sending an eye rolling across the floor.
And still, the thing attempted to rise.
Joe grabbed from the man's leg, trying to drag him outside, but his fingers slipped across the intruder's slimy pants. Scott managed to get a better grip and pulled the gory figure out the open door, down the porch steps, and discarded him on the driveway, noticing immediately how terribly foggy the night had become. Elliot, having searched the kitchen for a more effective weapon, came running out into the front yard armed with a bottle of lamp oil and a box of fireplace matches. He passed the bottle to Joe and the matches to Scott. Joe splashed oil all over the shambling form and Scott tossed a burning match, turning the intruder into a human torch.
And still, it did not fall.
Joe left Scott to check on Donna Flanagan, who hadn't moved since the initial attack. As he checked on her, Elliot's wife Mary came down to inform everyone that she couldn't get any reception on her cell phone. Joe told her to call from the inn's phone, and she did so while Joe went in search of a first aid kit. Scott and Elliot watched the stumbling man-thing shuffle randomly, still burning. As Joe bandaged Donna, he noticed something odd about the black ichor that had spilled from the intruder. It bubbled slightly and gave off a faint glow in the darkened entryway. He called in Elliot to take a look at the odd phenomenon. The author stooped and peered at the bubbling pools of liquid. If the unnatural blood was somehow responsible for the creature's ability to defy death, he reasoned, and if it bled so copiously when injured, it must have a working heart that continued to pump blood through its decaying veins.
He rushed through the house and out the back in search of weapons to use against the walking dead. In the back shed, he located several gardening tools, including a rake, hatchet, and shovel, which he loaded into a wheelbarrow and carted to the front yard. There, the intruder's fire had burned itself out and it was stumbling about randomly. Scott grabbed the shovel and swung it hard at the thing's leg, splintering the shin and sending the intruder sprawling to the ground. Joe, who left Donna in Mary's attention, came out and helped Elliot use the hatchet to put a point on the rake's pole. After Scott hacked off one of the creature's arms with the edge of the shovel, Joe leaped forward and brought the makeshift spear down into the thing's chest. It stiffened... then lay still.
The group stood for a minute in the foggy night air, looking at the smoking, mangled figure. Scott went to his truck to see if he could contact anyone on his CB. He got no response and the police scanner radio was silent. Since Mary's 911 call went unanswered, Elliot looked up and found the phone number for the town doctor. But calls to the doctor's office and house weren't answered either. He searched the house for a gun, but found only a small cannister of pepper spray. Deciding that Donna needed to get to a doctor or hospital, the group quickly loaded into their three vehicles (a Ford Escort, a Lexus sedan, and a Toyota pickup truck) and drove down the fogged-in road, past the smoldering corpse.
They drove slowly, since the heavy fog gave very limited visibility. Joe followed a town map they'd found in the bed and breakfast to get to the doctor's listed home address. After passing the town hall, he noticed a person lying in the street in his headlights. Stopping, Joe and Elliot got out and carefully approached the figure. It was a police officer, his uniform bloody and torn. A quick check revealed a very faint pulse. After the men loaded the downed officer into Scott's pickup, Joe searched the street and found the cop's duty Beretta lying near several pools of black blood. With the five rounds inside and another 15 round magazine from the officer's belt, Joe kept the pistol ready and returned to his car. The convoy continued down the road, passing the police station and hardware store (and promising to return to them once Donna and the officer received the medical attention they required).
After another block-and-a-half, the slow-moving pack of wedding guests came across another obstruction near the town's funeral home. A car had crashed into a light pole and blocked most of the road. Joe drove up on the sidewalk in order to get around it. Without warning, someone came running out of the funeral home and jumped on the hood of his car. Joe stamped down the accelerator, then slammed on the brakes, sending the person spinning off of the hood and onto the asphalt. Not wanting to deal with another attack, Joe decided to drive around the person.
As he paused too look at the person in the street, however, a second figure approached his car from the passenger side and smashed the window with a fist. Joe fired one shot into the attacker's chest and drove on. The creature did not stop, however, and stepped out towards the street. Mary, driving her Lexus with Elliot in the passenger side and Donna in the back, drove forward at her husband's urging. Her car smashed into the man's legs, sending him crashing onto the hood. His head slammed into the windshield, shattering it. A blood-soaked face glared at the occupants of the vehicle and the zombie began pounding on the broken glass. The cracks began to spread.
Shrieking, Mary jerked the wheel and her Lexus careened into another car. Pinned between two cars, the creature continued pounding on the windsheld as Mary, Elliot, and Scott moved Donna from the Lexus to Scott's truck. Nearby, they checked the person who had jumped on Joe's hood and discovered it was a woman, unconscious and bloody. They carried her into the truck as well. Mary sat in the passenger seat while Elliot rode in the back, keeping an eye on the three wounded townspeople. Just as the convoy got started again, Joe spotted two shambling forms approaching in his car's headlights. Stamping on the gas, he drove his car into one of them. The other grabbed at the pickup as it sped past, but it only connected with the truck's passenger side mirror. The group continued on, noting a very bright light coming from near the town's church as they drove. They also spotted a fire in the lobby of the town's hotel, but decided that their wounded passengers could not wait.
Finally, the wedding guests identified the doctor's driveway. Driving down it, they spotted two motionless figures on the ground before the house. Upon checking them, they found rotting carcasses with grievous chest wounds. Joe and Elliot cautiously approached the front door. A man's voice called out for them to identify themselves. After convincing the doctor that they were indeed living, breathing humans, he let them in and immediately began treating the injured, introducing his wife to the group handing his hunting shotgun to Joe. Though Ed O'Connell, the police officer, had died en route, Donna and the woman from the street, Martha Helms, were still alive. As Doctor Brian Ruby treated them, the group discussed leaving the dead cop's body outside, but the conversation soon turned to the collection of weapons for protection. Elliot and Scott went to the back shed to scavenge from the doctor's landscaping tools. Joe handed the doctor's shotgun back to him and kept watch on the front porch through the door's peephole, Beretta at the ready.
Hearing a moan behind him, Joe turned around. Dead Officer O'Connell was rising to his feet. Joe fired one shot into the dead man's chest, but his second shot was sent wild when the thing raked its fingers across Joe's left hand. The third shot, however, sent it sprawling, just as Elliot (carrying a brush axe), Scott (with a wood axe), and Dr. Ruby (shotgun in hand) came running into the room. After dumping the twice-killed cop outside, Joe had his minor wound cleaned and treated. The group collected their equipment, bid goodbye to the doctor, and prepared to raid the general store and police station for weapons to fight the zombie menace.