From our rooftop perch, it appeared as if fire still smoldered in some parts of the city, but the blackish plumes I’d witnessed earlier rising up from neighborhoods to the west and east seemed more subdued now; weakish puffs of whitish smoke revealing, perhaps, that whatever fires had been raging only hours earlier had burned themselves out.
Still, the air remained redolent of whatever still smoldered in those isolated pockets, along with other things: some kind of coppery tang blended with a hint of raw sewage and the overwhelming stench of what could only be rotting flesh.
The roof itself was gravel and mostly barren, its flat features broken only occasionally by a set of pipes sticking up here and there, and pieces of long abandoned machinery that once did who knows what.
Off to the right, I saw Edwin on his knees at the edge of the building peering down at the street. To Paresh, I said, “Keep everyone together. I’ll be right back.” After he nodded, I bent low and scurried over to join Edwin.
Getting down on my knees, I raised my head to peer over, and like a physical blow was struck immediately by the overwhelming stench that had only been hinted at by the stairway. I started to reach toward my breast pocket for my handkerchief before remembering it wasn’t there.
“Fuck,” Edwin said beneath his breath, nervously twisting his long umbrella. “Fuck fuck fuck,” he added for good measure.
I found no flaw in his logic.
There were tens of thousands of them now gathered in front of our building, maybe more. Sneaking a glance up Ninth and then down along 42nd Street, I saw more were arriving by the minute. It appeared that if you were undead, all roads led to the Camelot.
Leaving Edwin alone, I half stood and then scurried to the western end of the building just off 42nd Street, where I dared raise my head and glance directly down at the entrance to the Camelot itself. The stench brought tears to my eyes, but there was no doubt about it. The crush of bodies down there was even more intense, with thousands of them pressing up the famed twenty-nine steps. More were arriving every second to press in from behind.
“Fuck,” Edwin said quietly. I jumped, not having heard him sidle up beside me. But I knew what he meant, and what he meant was that if the mass of bodies hadn’t already broken down the steel doorway in the second floor lobby, perhaps by weakening the ancient plaster the otherwise sturdy door had been built into, or maybe forgoing the door altogether and using the press of flesh to eventually bust through the plaster and Sheetrock and two-by-fours in the wall itself, sooner or later, physics alone meant it was certain they’d be in the building; that is, if they weren’t already.
“What the fuck do they want?” Edwin asked in a strained whisper.
Turning in his direction, I saw he wasn’t looking at me. He was unable to take his eyes off the freakish sideshow going on down below.
“What do they want?” he asked again.
I took the questions as rhetorical, though I admit I was starting to have my own theories. But he did ask it twice.
“Well, you’re the expert,” I said, “but isn’t the answer usually . . . brains?”
It got a smile out of him. Eventually.
"Sincerely Dead." The zombie book . . . for the rest of us. Available now in ebook and paperback from Amazon.Com and everywhere fine New York zombie apocalypse novels are sold.