Leaving that locker room, even with a sack full of deadly firearms, wasn't nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. It wasn't so much about using any level of stealth as it was a matter of blending in with the rest of the chaos. People were injured, people were shouting, countless officers highly exhausted from endless hours of working overtime. The phones were ringing so much that we couldn't even hear it anymore. One phone rang out over another one, and after a while you become numb to the noise of it all.
Needless to say, an officer walking around with enough firepower to go to war with the entire state of Florida in this case doesn't really stand out as being 'odd'. Not today.
Making it out of the office wasn't the problem. It was finding the keys to the squad cars in the lot. Sergeant Clark kept them right behind his desk, and he had at least three people in his office at the moment. I looked around the rest of the precinct as this growing mess started to spill over the edge of their crowded desks to litter the floor below. I tried to not make eye contact with anybody else around me, not that they had much time to notice me anyway. I just needed Clark to empty out that office. Just for a second. I didn't want to make up a lame excuse or go for an obvious distraction, because there's no way that I could get out of here with enough of a head start before he had half the force tracking me down. I had to slip in and slip out without being noticed. Not something that I would call simple.
Looking at the clock on the wall, a panicked flutter went through my heart, throwing the steady beat off rhythm. I thought about Spencer...scared and alone...depending on me to find a way to get to him in time. I might have been able to go out to the lot and find an officer coming back to base in order to try to take their keys off of them instead...but that might be a fight. I don't want to hurt my fellow officers. And again, that only buys me a couple of minutes before I get hunted down and thrown in a cell. I can't have that. My son needs me, and I'm not going to let him down.
Minutes pass as a bead of sweat rolls down my cheek. Come on, come on, come ON! I need to go! I have to find another way out of here!
Then, as I looked at the growing disturbance taking place at the front counter, the writhing crowd of agitated civilians getting more hostile by the moment...I noticed something in the center of it all. A rather large man was standing there, his sleeveless shirt covered in blood and dirt, his bald head shining as it reflected the artificial lighting above. But he wasn't moving with the rest of the mob. He wasn't shouting out any demands. He wasn't shaking his fists. He wasn't trying to physically push his way to the front of the line...although with the solid muscle packed onto his arms alone, he surely would have been capable of doing so.
Instead...he was still. So very still. So silent. His face had no emotion in it. And then, his eyes began to flutter. A twitch or two at first, but then much more violently as his pupils rolled back until only the whites could be seen. He started to shake, but nobody in the crowd was paying any attention. Not even when blood began to run out of the sides of his mouth. Before I even had time to process and react to what was going on...his eyes stopped moving. In fact, they looked...'dead'. I've seen those same eyes on the faces of different people in combat. Expressions of fallen soldiers, friend and enemy alike. They're always the same. You never forget what that empty stare looks like. Never.
But this man was still very much alive,indeed.
Without any warning whatsoever, the large man took hold of the guy in front of him, his massive hands wrapping around his shoulders...and his head lunged forward to take a DEEP, unsympathetic, bite into the nape of his neck! Some people saw it happen, the others didn't realize that anything was wrong until they were sprayed with a warm shower of blood!
The hysteria spread quickly as the man cried out in agonizing pain, the ferocious attack registering in his brain just seconds before he pulled himself away and allowed the soothing sensation of total SHOCK to take hold of him. Screams erupted from the crowd, and this giant behemoth began lashing out at every last person he could get his hands on! Swinging wildly and grabbing hold of people from the center of their bonded 'herd'. Even from a distance, I could hear the loud 'clacking' of his teeth as he craned his neck forward to bite into whatever pieces of flesh he could find.
People did their best to fight him off, but he was much too strong for them to hold him back. Police officers rushed in to contain the threat, but despite their shouted warnings and drawn weapons...this man just kept going! Just...just like the injured officer said...
"They wouldn't stop! They're everywhere! It's already too late!"
People spread out as best they could, but he had already taken a few bites out of them before they could move away in time, some of them hitting the floor as more officers hurried in to keep the peace. This was getting SO bad, SO fast! You always think that you're going to be prepared for something like this. That, with all your training and experience, you'll be able to think clearly and quickly and take care of yourself in a rational, logical, way. But these are arrogant thoughts. It simply doesn't work like that.
The horror...the horror always comes first.
The angry man kept advancing on the officers and someone shouted out, "He's one of THEM!!! SHOOT him!!! TAKE HIM DOWN!!!" The officers held off for a moment, but when he kept stomping his way forward, they lowered their pistols and shot him in both legs! The gunshots echoed off the walls of the precinct and every single head turned as he fell to the floor and kept crawling! His fingernails scraped the dirty tile as those dead eyes focused on the armed officers and he pulled himself forward, thick puddles of blood being dragged behind him from the wounds he sustained. I heard this...unnatural shriek come from him, and his gnashed teeth began to bite angrily at the air as he slid ever closer towards his prey. More shots rang out...but he still didn't stop. He refused.
While watching this madness, I noticed that Sergeant Clark and everyone in his office suddenly ran out to see what the fuck was HAPPENING out here!
I don't think I truly knew the meaning of 'Deus Ex Machina' until I had it actually happen to me in real life!
I didn't have time to think or rationalize over what kind of consequences I might face if I got caught doing this. I just saw an opportunity and I took it before it was gone for good. I left my bag of weapons outside Sergeant Clark's door and I ran into his office, top speed, to snatch the first set of squad car keys that I found on the rack!
There was SUCH a commotion outside! Fighting and wrestling and finally...one of the officers was forced to deliver a 'kill shot'. Right to the back of the man's head. It was the only thing that could stop this...this 'thing', from gaining any momentum and doing more damage.
I should have stayed. I should have helped fix the growing problem that was, clearly, now knocking at our front door. But I didn't. I was too busy doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. I had a choice to make. Help the department do what they do best...or take the distraction to pursue my own selfish reasons and go retrieve my son from the hospital.
I chose the latter. Proudly, I might add. I'll just have to regret it later...
I made a quick dash out of one of the side doors and hurried out into the precinct parking lot, a duffel bag full of weapons slung over my shoulder. Any minute, that place is going to empty out like kicked over roach motel and I'm hoping to be out of range by then. I strapped myself in with a seatbelt and put my phone on the seat next to me in case Spencer had any need to call me again. I also turned on a handheld police radio and put it next to me as well, disabling the radio in the car. I don't want them to track me down too easily. I'm far from being invisible, but the least I could do is make them work a little harder to find me. Besides, I need my ears open to find out what's ahead of me. Because it seems that society is crumbling a lot faster than anyone ever could have expected it to. I can't afford any big surprises along the way.
I started up the car and waited until I was a few blocks out before turning on the siren. The whole time, my heart felt like it was banging on the inside of my chest in an attempt to escape. I could feel the throbbing of it in my throat. I just needed my son to be ok. I had to make sure that he was safe. He's all I have left in this world and I'm not going to lose him. Not today.
It took a lot of self control to keep from flooring that gas pedal and racing through these North side residential areas. But with the current panic going on, I could only go so fast and still look out for some irrational pedestrian to come bolting out into the street in front of me. I'm already AWOL and probably out of a job now...the last thing I need is a vehicular manslaughter rap on top of it.
I was fast, but cautious. Keeping it under 50 and slowing down at every intersection. The siren had the desired effect, and even during these crazy times, many people pulled to the side and let me pass. There were a few nutjobs out there, as there always is with Chicago traffic...but it hadn't become too much of a problem...yet.
As I looked at the faces of the people in the neighborhoods and small shopping districts...I noticed a commonality that seemed to be mimicked by all. A blank stare. A look of bewilderment. Some of the people were dressed in namebrand clothes, with namebrand shoes...but they were covered in dirt. Some covered in blood. Their shirts soaked with sweat as they leaned up against a nearby streetlight, sign, or brick wall...trying to catch their breath. Some people looked as though they were trapped on the rooftops of their own houses. Others...locked themselves up in their cars. There was a time when people would hear a police siren approaching from the distance during situations like this...and they would frantically run out to capture my attention, thanking the stars above that someone had come to rescue them. But not today.
Whatever this outbreak was...it was beyond the police force, and they knew it. My passing by brought them no comfort. They just stared through my windows, watching me ride by...figuring that I was just as helpless as they were. Who knows? Maybe I was. But I'd rather not think about that right now.
As I got closer to Lake Shore Drive, the traffic seemed to have swelled up considerably. Less people obeyed the law of the siren now. More car horns could be heard honking in the distance. The screeching of brakes and worn tires as more cars began swerving around one another with a sense of growing frustration. An intensifying fear. Its not like I didn't expect this to happen eventually...I was just hoping that I would have more time.
Cars were now outside of their lanes, some on the wrong side of the street, others cutting corners by racing through the parking lot of every corner gas station. I passed large grocery and convenience stores, only to see people running out with supplies. Two armfuls. Bottled water, canned food, tools...those with small children and infants had the biggest economy bags of diapers and formula that I've ever seen. The city is going to be emptying out soon. I needed to get ahead of things before I found myself trapped in it.
I increased my speed, but in the minutes to follow, I noticed the hysteria growing around me. I could hear people shouting in the streets. I saw the 'L' train packed to capacity, and yet people were still trying to get on at every stop. Cars had suitcases and boxes strapped to the roof. Ambulances were practically forcing their way through the streets like a herd of charging rhino. So I tried to go faster. Find a hole and get through this, John. The time bomb is ticking...
By the time I had gotten to the congested entrance to the Drive, fights had broken out on both sides of the street. I saw broken windows...and blood in the gutter. The cry of honking horns was almost deafening now. Every driver was on the edge of a major road rage tantrum. Almost every car on the street had some sort of dent in the side, a crumpled up back bumper, and broken headlights galore. People were freely running through red lights now. The 'rules' of traveling through the city were quickly being tossed aside as the merciless survival instinct began to sink its claws deep into the world around us.
I was startled as I suddenly heard the 'pop pop pop' of gunshots being fired in the distance! I heard screaming. Cars were crashing into one another, literally pushing the people ahead of them into the intersection, only causing more trouble. This is it. The beginning of a total, city-wide meltdown. And I'm stuck in the middle of it.
Somehow, I don't think my police siren is going to do me anymore good at this point.
The radio in the seat next to me came to life with a buzz and a the crackling of static. Keeping my eye on the street, I blindly reached over and attempted to turn the knob and zero in to get a signal. “...Zzzkzkkkzzzkzzz...Reports coming in from all OVER! We can't….zzzkzkzzzz...so many of them! Where are they all coming from...zzkkzzzkzzzzzz...” Shit. I'm losing the signal. Come on people, give me the goods. I turned the dial some more. ”Zzzzzzkkkkzz...I just shot Officer Blaine! He...he got chewed up pretty bad...but then he just...zzzkkkzzzz...got back up and he….zzkkkkk...emptied a full clip! What the fuck is going on???...zzkkkkzzzz...” While trying to figure out a way to get a clear channel to work, my mind was taken off of my driving for a split second. That's all it took to suddenly have a taxi cab charge through the intersection and smash into the front end of my car! FUCK! He didn't stop. In fact, he stepped even harder on the gas to further push me out of the way. Luckily, it wasn't enough damage to keep my car from being fully functional, but as I saw him scraping and bullying his way past even more cars to get to Lake Shore up ahead, I knew that I'd have more automotive warheads coming my way soon.
Looks like recess is over. Time to go to work!
I gripped the steering wheel tightly and slammed my foot on the gas, veering off into the lane of oncoming traffic just long enough to get a few more car lengths ahead. More honking horns, more tire screeches...and then...pandemonium.
In the rearview mirror, I could see more and more cars rushing up behind me...most of them being reckless as they all tried to force their way forward. The sounds of metal on metal crashes began to ring out from every street corner, intersections rapidly filling up with wrecks and broken glass. The 'zero to sixty' change was baffling at first, but I soon found out why it was happening...
”...zzkkzzzzz...Being overrun! Too many of them! All over the street!….kkkzzzzzzz...STOP! Don't move! Get me outta here! Get me...ahhhhhhh!!!!” Even with the windows rolled up, I could hear an entire symphony of screams approaching from multiple directions. Masses of people running towards the street like a giant tidal wave, they started running between cars and crawling over the hood, hoping to get away from whatever it was that was chasing them.
One thing that I've learned about panic...it's contagious. More cars began to swerve out of line, haphazardly speeding between cars, hitting pedestrians, ramming into anything that would dare to get in their way! Some cars tried to dash down the closest alley or side street, others tried to muscle everyone out of their path, and some ran up on the sidewalks, hitting mailboxes and fire hydrants while the crowd of fear stricken citizens did their best to jump out of the way.
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