Copyright @ 2015 By Charlotte A. Hoaks
All Rights Reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopy, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to people or places, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Without struggle we fail to notice when we have found true happiness.
To my family, all my love.
Mayhem reigned on the streets of San Antonio. It was no different on the thoroughfare in front of the small business center. Far from the Riverwalk and the tourist attractions of the city, vehicles blocked the building access and sidewalks in front of the office building. Cars, pickups and even a city bus had been abandoned amid the chaos of multiple crashes. The result was half a dozen roadblocks. Some accidents had only been fender benders while others left bodies barely clinging to life in the wreckage. That is until the undead found them.
The two women in the fourth-floor office watched as the frightened people tried to escape the terror of the bloodied monsters chasing them. One by one the few remaining survivors fell prey to the dead. Their screams of pain penetrated the thin glass of the building’s windows loud and clear.
“Oh, my God!” The dark-haired woman standing at the window gasped. Her face mirrored the horror of what she witnessed. She turned to a bleached blonde sitting at a desk across the aisle from the window.
“That man has half his faces gone, and his intestines are hanging around his knees. It’s like the Internet said, they have to be dead. Norma, we should have left with the others?”
“We have that conference call with corporate in thirty minutes. We’re going to stay right here and take that call. The military can clean up this mess, Lynette?” Norma wiped at her smudged eye makeup. “They caused it and they have to fix it.”
“It wasn’t the military. It was a terrorist attack on the base.”
“Do you believe everything you read on the Internet?” She turned back to her computer and began pecking at the keys with her long acrylic nails. “You’ll need to adjust everyone’s timesheet in your group, and get it done before you leave for the day.”
“We can’t stay,” Lynette argued. “Look what’s going on!”
“If you leave, I’ll dock your timesheet.”
“Well, I’m not staying. You can sit here adjusting timesheets or cowering in the closet, I don’t give a damn!”
“I’ll fire you!” Norma threatened.
Lynette forced a humorless chortle. “Fire me? Really?”
Norma stood up and walked to the window and glanced down at the street. She tapped an acrylic nail on the glass. “Look at those crazy people attacking each other. You can’t leave any more than I can. Besides, I’m your boss and you can’t leave until I say you can leave.”
“My boss?” Lynette shrugged. “That doesn’t mean squat now. I’m leaving.”
She sat down at her desk and slipped her feet out of her heels. Pulling a canvas bag from under her desk, she retrieved a pair of jogging shoes. She placed the well-worn Niki’s on the floor and reached inside again for a pair of socks. She slipped on the socks and then stepped into the running shoes. She pulled the laces tight, tied the strings, and made a final knot with the loops.
“I won’t let you leave me alone.” Norma declared.
Lynette emptied the canvas bag of magazines, hairspray, curling iron and other grooming essentials. She dumped her handbag on the floor and sorted through the contents. She picked up her car keys, her wallet, half dozen wet wipes, a bottle of hand sanitizer, a knife with four-inch-fold-out blade, a handful of tissues, a sewing kit and a small bottle of Tylenol. She ran her hand through the pile of clutter one last time and picked up two safety pins and added them to the bag.
When she was satisfied she had found everything of value, she stood up and glanced over her desk into the cube across the aisle. She spotted what she was hoping to find. A cane with a metal handle the fellow cube dweller had been given for his birthday the previous week. She wondered about the owner since he hadn’t made it into work that morning, but shrugged away thoughts of him and glanced around his office for anything else she could use.
“You can’t take that. It belongs to Carl.” Norma protested.
“Do you see Carl here?” Lynette asked. “He’s not here and won’t be coming back anytime soon, so I’m taking it.”
Lynette walked past Norma and hurried toward the break room. She could hear the heavy set, bottle-blonde woman close on her heels.
“What are you doing now?” Norma demanded.
“Whatever I have to do to get out of this mess.”
Lynette walked past the vending machines to the supply closet, raised the cane and slammed the heavy metal end down on the cheap door knob. The metal knob shattered and fell to the floor in a clatter of pieces. She stepped inside the small supply closet and emptied a box of power bars into the canvas bag hanging across her body. She threw in packages of nuts, and all the dried fruit mix from another box. She added three bottles of water, tested the weight and grabbed another. With the last one settled in the bag, she tore open a power bar and ate it in two bites.
“That’s stealing!” Norma protested. “You have to pay for that. It comes out of petty cash, and I have to balance at the end of the month.”
Lynette settled in a chair at the table and opened a bottle of water. When the bottle was half empty, she set it on the table. “I know you’re having a problem with accepting this situation, but I’m not sitting here and waiting for help that won’t ever come. The infected will either get in or we’d run out of food. You can come with me or stay, up to you.” She got to her feet. “If you want to leave, be ready when I come out of the bathroom.”
Finishing the remaining water, she tossed the bottle in the recycle bin. She turned and left the break room heading for the bathroom. After using the toilet, she stood at the sink and looked into the mirror. Would she leave Norma? The woman was a miserable person most of the time, but could she leave her alone if she refused to come? She’d have no choice, right?
After splashing water on her face, Lynette wiped the droplets away with a handful of rough paper towels. She adjusted the bag on her shoulder, picked up the cane, and pushed the door open.
Norma stood in front of the opening. “You can’t leave me.”
Lynette stepped around her and answered. “I’m not staying.”
“Then you have to take me with you. I rode the bus.”
Lynette looked at Norma’s feet crammed into spike heels with pointed toes. “You won’t make it twenty feet with those shoes.”
Norma sniffled. “I don’t have any other shoes.”
Lynette sighed. “Then find some. Check every cube.”
While Norma went from cube to cube looking for shoes, Lynette walked up to Norma’s desk and grabbed the huge bag she used for a purse. She turned it upside down.
The contents spilled out on the floor in a messy pile and a weighty thud. Lynette brushed away a pile of tissues and saw a handgun. She picked up the .38, checked the load then dropped it into her own bag. After sorting through the rest of the clutter she found a small box of ammunition and dropped it in her bag as well.
By the time Norma reappeared, Lynette had added supplies to the big purse similar to her own in addition to a knife from the break room. It was a large cheap blade that had been left behind after a celebration or office gathering a few months ago.
“What are you doing with a gun, Norma?” Lynette pulled the .38 from her bag.
“Oh, was that in there? Before my husband died, he bought it for me when I started working late.” She shrugged. “I forgot about it. I’ve only fired it twice.”
“Then I’m keeping it,” Lynette announced and looked at a ragged pair of jogging shoes in her hand. “Get the shoes on then we’re leaving. You can carry this knife.” She slammed the stuffed bag into Norma’s chest.
Norma slumped on a chair, kicked off her heels and stepped into the shoes. “I’ll probably get athlete’s foot. These belong to the new kid with red hair. He’s always covered in scabs or something.”
“That was psoriasis. Now shut up and get the shoes on or I’ll leave you.”
“You can’t, I’m your manager.” Norma snorted.
Lynette stopped and turned to face Norma. “There’s no more piss-ant company. You’re nothing to me and if you threaten me again, I’ll leave you here and not look back. Am I making myself clear?” Norma whimpered, but Lynette continued. “And pop off those ridiculous nails before we get outside so you can use that knife to protect yourself.”
Lynette turned away and headed for the office door. Behind her, she could hear the first acrylic nail snap from Norma’s finger. She sniffed and gasped at the pain of removing each of the remaining unnatural claws.
“You don’t have to be so mean.” Norma whimpered.
“Remember the way you treated people around here for the last two years?” Lynette glanced over her shoulder, but Norma’s face was a study of denial.
Lynette opened the heavy wooden door and looked up and down the hallway. When she saw nothing, she stepped out into the hall and headed toward the distance stairwell not bothering to see if Norma was following. When they neared the elevator, Norma reached out and pushed the button and stopped to wait for the elevator.
“No!” Lynette kept walking.
“Why?” Norma followed with a groan. “It’s four flights.”
Lynette opened the door to the stairs just as the elevator doors swished open. She looked back at the sound to see two infected stumbling from the opening. Norma bolted through the door knocking Lynette on her knees.
“Norma!” Lynette got to her feet and turned to see Norma staring at the infected shuffling toward them. She pushed Norma back. “Out of the way!”
Norma stumbled back, and Lynette slammed the door closed. She glanced from side to side looking for a way to jam the door.
“Give me the knife!”
“They can push against the handle and follow us!”
When Norma failed to relinquish the blade, Lynette grabbed her wrist and pressed a thumbnail into the nerve at her wrist causing her to drop the blade.
Lynette picked up the knife and jammed it between the door and frame on the floor. She shoved the cane into Norma’s hand.
“Don’t lose it!” She ordered as she headed for the stairs.
Together the two women hurried down the flight of stairs to the third floor landing. When they got to the landing, Lynette hesitated and pressed her ear against the door. She heard nothing from inside so she turned and headed down the concrete stairs again with Norma following behind. Suddenly the silence was shattered with a body slammed against the door overhead. Norma jumped and bumped into Lynette again. After a pause, the sound echoed from above again.
Lynette righted herself on the stairs and turned back to Norma with a scowl. Norma stopped in her tracks. Taking a deep breath, she headed down the stairs again.
Lynette snarled. “They can’t get through the door. Stay off my back.”
She got to the next landing and pressed her ear to the door again; she heard nothing. She crossed the landing and headed down the steps ignoring the rasping sound of Norma’s labored breathing. When she got to the bottom floor door, she stopped.
Again she listened but could hear little above Norma’s gasping. She shot Norma an annoyed glance then turned back to open the door into the lobby. The exit door to the parking lot was ten feet from the stairwell. They could cross the short distance then run to her car, only three rows back. With so many people having left the office early, there shouldn’t be many cars and hopefully, few infected.
She opened the door to move forward and heard something. A moment later, Lynette recognized the sound. Someone crying.
She whispered over her shoulder. “Someone is out there.”
Norma sniveled. “What are we going to do? They could be infected.”
“They could also be fine and need our help,” Lynette answered. “Stay here and don’t let the door close. You’ll lock me out.”
She reached for the handle and pulled open the door to exit the stairwell getting her first glimpse of the lobby. The building entryway included an alcove with postal boxes on one wall and a hall leading back to the first floor offices.
A briefcase, two grocery bags and a backpack lay on the terrazzo tile, lost or discarded in the confusion. Contents of a purse lay near the security desk. Lynette leaned into the room to locate the sound. It was coming from behind the semi-circle of the security station.
“Don’t go over there!” Norma grabbed Lynette’s arm. “We should just leave.”
Taking a deep breath, Lynette opened the door wider. She shook off Norma’s grasp as she left the safety of the stairwell.
“Hello? Who’s out there?”
The crying stopped, and the person’s breathing turned into wheezing gasps. Lynette pressed her back to the wall and sidestepped deeper into the room. She could see the infected outside the large front windows stalking the streets searching for prey.
“Are you alright? I’m not going to hurt you.”
“I’m here.…” A timid voice called out. “Behind the desk.”
Lynette groaned softly. She glanced toward the door and front window. Someone had jammed a metal chair leg into the door handles. She glanced at the window one last time then left the shadows to duck-walk across the blood-splattered tile floor. After a dozen hurried steps, she got to the edge of the desk, rounded the corner and stop. A pair of legs stuck out from behind the desk. The lower half of the body wore a pair of khaki pants and leather shoes.
“You’re not alone?”
“My daddy.” The little voice whispered. “I tried to stop the bleeding. One of the sick people hurt him.”
Lynette peeked around the corner of the desk and saw a nice looking black man on the floor. She recognized him. He was a lawyer with an office down the hall. Beside him sat a preteen of similar coloring. Her hands were covered with blood. A blood-soaked sweater lay on the floor in a red-brown lump. The girl clutched the man’s hand to her chest.
“My daddy died.” The child’s big brown eyes betrayed her terror and sadness.
“I am so sorry, sweetie.” Lynette held out her hand. “My name is Lynette. We need to go. It’s not safe here.”
“My daddy said we’d be safe from the sick people after he put the chair in the door.” The girl whispered as tears slid down her caramel-colored face.
“Honey, what’s your name?”
“Jacky” She whispered. “Jaqueline Bradford. My daddy’s name is Jackson Bradford.”
“Jacky, your daddy was right. He protected you, but now he would want you to stay safe so you need to come with me.”
“What about my daddy?”
Lynette looked at the man and noticed his eyes were clouding. “We can’t help your daddy now, but he would want you to come with me, okay?”
Jacky nodded and gently laid her father’s hand across his chest. She kissed his face and got to her feet.
Lynette saw a finger twitch on the man’s chest. She held out her hand to the child. “We have to hurry.”
Jacky stepped away from her father and reached for Lynette’s hand. “Where are we going?”
“I’m not sure right now, but away from here.”
They hurried across the lobby to the fire escape. The door was closed. Lynette scowled as she tapped lightly on the door. “Damn it Norma, get out here.”
Norma opened the door and saw the young, black girl. “Who is that?”
“Her name is Jacky, and we’re helping her.”
“Is your car big enough?” Norma asked pointedly.
Lynette shrugged. “You’d better hope so.”
At the first moan from the lobby behind them, Lynette hurried the pair of refugees to the exit door. Norma stopped and pulled at Lynette sleeve.
“We can’t go that way. What if there’re infected people out there?”
“I know there’s one in here!” Lynette pulled free from Norma’s grasp. “If there’s infected out there; hit ‘em in the head with the metal end of the cane. Keep up or not. It’s up to you.”
Lynette opened the door and perused the parking lot. No more than a dozen vehicles remained. Her car was in plain sight, with only three vehicles nearby. They would have to hurry since at least a dozen infected stumbled around two cars locked together by front fenders.
She grabbed Jacky’s hand and pulled her close. “Stay close to me. My car is a red Fiesta, three rows back and to the left. It’s straight out and to the left.” She pulled her keys from her bag. “I’ll unlock the doors as soon as I get outside. Jacky, go to the passenger side, and jump in the back as fast as you can. Norma, move your ass and get in the passenger side. If infected get close use the cane on ‘em.”
Another groan came from behind them, and Lynette flung open the door and bolted through the opening with Jacky and Norma close behind.
The dash to the car was a clear path until two infected appeared from behind a ten-year-old Buick. The grey sedan had blood smeared across the driver’s door and the front quarter panel. The trio made it to the first row of vehicles before the infected drew close enough to be a threat. Lynette reached into the bag and retrieved the .38. She raised the gun and fired.
The infected man with a blood-splattered, white shirt ignored the report that made all three freeze in place. The bullet shattered a windshield six feet away from the target. The second infected, a blood-splattered woman in a brown skirt, and missing a shoe caught up with the man. They both focused on Jacky and Norma immobilized by the walking horrors.
“Move, damn it!” Lynette screamed, and the pair headed for the car.
She fired the .38 again. This time, the left side of the woman’s head exploded. The man continued his steady march toward them without a sideward glance. Lynette turned and ran between cars. Jacky veered off to head for the passenger side of the Fiesta.
Norma rounded a large green panel van and bloodied torn arms reach for her. The clawed fingers grabbed at her fleshy arm, and she spun clear, but fell to her knees losing her grip on the cane. The wood skittered across the asphalt out of reach.
Lynette rushed to Norma’s side, grabbed her arm, and pulled up trying to get the woman to her feet. A skinny infected youth appeared from behind the van.
“Get up!” Lynette yelled as she kicked out at the knee of the infected reaching for Norma.
The teenaged monster fell to the asphalt in a heap while the infected man in the blood stained white shirt continued his pursuit. The kid rolled and tried to pull his shattered knee under his body, but he fell back to the ground each time he tried to stand.
Lynette pulled at Norma’s arm but it was impossible to move her bulk. “Damn it, Norma. Get off your ass and move it!”
“I can’t,” Norma whimpered.
“Jacky! Get in the red car!” Lynette threw a look toward her then turned back to Norma. “You can crawl your sorry ass that far!”
More infected approached while Lynette pulled at Norma’s arm and screamed. “You’ve got to move now!”
The teen monster clamped his clawed fingers around Norma’s ankle and pulled his body toward the bare flesh of her leg.
Lynette felt the panic rising as three more infected stumbled toward them.
“Hurry!” Jacky yelled. “They’re coming!”
Lynette called over her shoulder at Jacky. “Get in the car!”
Norma screamed. It was a sound of agony and terror. Lynette looked down and saw the monster kid leaning over Norma’s leg. Lynette raised the gun and fired twice. The first shot hit the kid in the shoulder while the second smashed into his forehead and ripped through his skull in a spray of blood and grey matter. .
Lynette fired at the business man, and he collapsed in a bloodied heap. With the reprieve, she rolled the body off Norma to see a patch of flesh hanging from his mouth. When she looked at Norma’s leg she saw blood spurt from the mouth-sized wound.
Sobbing, Norma crawled from under the infected kid. She tried to get to her feet, but when she put weight on her injured leg, she fell back to her knees. Blood spilled from the ghastly wound to pool around her as she sat there sniveling. More and more infected stumbled closer.
“We have to go now. Move!”
“I can’t!” Norma wailed.
“You have to!” Lynette screamed as she reached out.
Norma shook her hand off and Lynette stumbled back just as three infected fell on her. Lynette righted herself and backed away from the attackers as they fell on Norma. She looked to Lynette with pleading eyes as a thin man leaned into Norma’s neck with his mouth wide open.
Lynette stepped back, raised the gun, and fired one last time.
About the Author
Charlotte Hoaks spent the last twenty years working as a Technical Writer for some of the largest companies in Houston, Texas. Now retired, she is devoting her time and energy to a new kind of writing.
A life-long love of the written word has provided a solid foundation for her fiction writing. She’s been involved in local writer’s groups for over 30 years and published a number of on-line articles, editorials and special interest newsletter. As a founding member of the Houston Writer’s League, she organized and coordinated their first national writer’s conference.
Thank you for reading “Hard Choice”. If you’ve enjoyed this short story please leave a review. Authors thrive on those reviews and other readers are guided to books you enjoyed by your words.
Book 1 in the Torn Apart Series “Terror in Texas” is now available: [+ https://www.amazon.com/Terror-Texas-Torn-Apart-Book-ebook/dp/B01FBI0JVA+]
Charlotte is now working on the second full length novel in the “Torn Apart” series. If you are an avid reader and like to get in on the front end of a developing novel check out book 2, “Dead Texas Road” online: .
After a biological attack on two military bases in San Antonio, people are left to fend for themselves. The mist drifts over nearby suburbs leaving death and destruction in its wake. Adding to the confusion, the dead reanimate and attack the living . Norma and Lynette are left alone in the office and slowly realize they have to face the undead together.