A sharp voice in Tam’s head reminded her that she was five foot six, lean, and a teacher. The weightlifting bar was heavy, even with nothing on it. But she didn’t have a better plan. She ran back to help, toting the steel bar like an Olympic torch. Zelinski was inside the house, hidden in the doorway. “Wait,” he said quietly. He held up a staying hand. “They’re handling it.”
“Handling it how?” she said.
“They’re both infected. They’re not targets.”
“But they’ve got nothing to kill it with,” said Tam. There were furious noises outside. It sounded like an orgy. Zelinski grappled with words as Caleb grappled with a zombie.
“It’s… easier. We’ll drive it berserk if it sees us. I don’t know…” his frustration was evident. Tam poked her head out. Caleb and Rand each had one of the Wreck’s arms. It was slow but incredibly strong. It was pushing and pulling them around as though struggling with two heavy shopping bags in a high wind. Caleb might be strong, but in his seriously ill state that didn’t count for much.
Tam was fuelled by adrenaline. She ran out the door. Zelinski whispered a protest that she didn’t hear the end of. She hoisted the steel bar over her head. The Wreck looked at her. Its eyes bored into her soul, glazed as they were. There was a rasping sound from its lungs.
She wasn’t completely insane, and stopped her charge before she got too close. She brought the four-foot metal bar down on the Wreck’s head with all her strength, which was nominally more than gravity.
It was a pathetic effort. Even so, the Wreck had taken a steel bar to the head. Its ferocity was blunted for a fraction of a second. She swung the bar all the way round through six o’clock, back up to twelve and down on the Wreck’s head a second time. The skin split and purple resin oozed out. She hit again. It lost its balance. Caleb gave it a shove to help it on its way. It hit the deck.
He shouted, “Keep it down!” and Rand clumsily threw himself on the creature long enough for Caleb to get the weightlifting bar from Tam. He slammed it into the Wreck’s head like he was driving fence posts into the ground. She could do nothing but watch. No circumstances make it more comfortable to see a man’s face caved in, skull splintered and brain splashed onto the ground in pieces.
Even after that, the thing was moving. “We’ll have to burn it,” said Caleb. Tam had the uncanny feeling they were being watched. When she looked up she saw several windows with their curtains pulled back. Dim, cowardly faces scrutinised them.
More alarming was the sight of three Wrecks approaching down one street, two from another. Tam screamed, “Trouble!”
“Oh shit,” said Rand.
“Back inside,” said Caleb. They hustled in and slammed the door. All of them spoke at once. It was the noise that did it. The ring of a steel bar, the grunts of men fighting. The Wrecks heard it and now things were pretty fucked. Rand and Zelinski debated strategy but Caleb cut them off with a very teacherly gesture of silence.
“Stay here,” he said. “Stay very, very quiet and do not let yourselves be seen.” Then he opened the door and ran outside before anyone could object.
He took the steel bar with him. He jogged down the street. He clanged the bar against the tarmac. Tam and Rand looked out the window to see how the Wrecks responded, but Zelinski hissed at them and herded them into the kitchen. There, they sat on the floor, breathing deeply and waiting.
Loud noises. An old trash can being whammed. A bottle breaking. The regular clang of the weightlifting bar. The sounds circled the house and gradually went further away. Then they stopped.
Time passed. Tam was about to speak several times, but when she looked at Zelinski he shook his head and frowned at her condescendingly. Caleb came back, panting, five minutes later. They checked the surroundings for several more minutes. It was clear.
Normal conversational voices were a blessing to hear again. “Okay,” said Caleb. “Put this in the song. A Wreck will only recognise you by movement, and by your human shape. The shape of your body and your face. They can sense other Wrecks, and the Infected. It’s like an aura.”
“A chemical signature,” Zelinski interrupted. Caleb ignored him.
“But nothing else has that aura,” he said. “If you’re quiet and still, you have a better chance of survival. They heard us that time, that’s why they came.”
“Frankenbogart,” said Tam. “I don’t know how he knew it, but that’s what he was doing.” Caleb remembered it well. He’d been impressed by that kid, dressed in a Halloween mask and trench coat.