She stood frozen, looking up at the three story row-home on the end of the block. The city was its normal chaotic self on a warm Friday night, but she heard none of the neighborhood noise, cars passing by, or sirens in the distance. Moments ago she was relieved that the last call before the 11:00pm shift change would be an easy one to handle. She should have just cleared the call and went home.“Twenty,” called the dispatcher, in her classic melancholy tone.“Twenty, go ahead dispatch,” responded the Sergeant, irritated at the last minute beckoning. Sergeant Anthony was driving back to the district with the Shift Commander, his close friend, Lieutenant David.“Twenty-one needs you to ten-eleven her on South Street,” instructed the dispatcher.“Ten-four,” Sergeant Anthony acknowledged, as he turned his cruiser around.“And I thought we were getting out of here on time today,” Lieutenant David mumbled, mirroring the frustration of Sergeant Anthony.“Seriously, bro, what could she possible want, it was a noise complaint, wasn’t it? Do we really have police, that can’t handle a noise complaint without having their hand held?” The Sergeant turned on the lights and siren, against protocol, and sped to South Street.“Let’s just hurry up and get it over with, it’s been a long day and I’m exhausted,” commented the Lieutenant, agreeing with the Sergeant’s aggressive driving.After blazing through a few red lights, the supervisors approached South Street and saw the officer standing perfectly still, their brows furrowed in confusion. Officer Greene was never a very good cop. She used her tight fitting uniform, beaming smile, and charisma to short cut proper police work. They had expected to see much of the same, Officer Greene attempting to charm them out of having to make a minor arrest or writing a required report.Officer Greene stood, unflinching, as the two exited their car and approached her.“Greene…, Greene…,” Sergeant Anthony said, escalating his volume at each calling until it became a yell, “Greene…, Greene!”“Huh?” Greene finally snapped out of it, but not until Sergeant Anthony grabbed her arm.“What in the hell are you doing? What do you want?” Sergeant Anthony commanded. The Lieutenant stood back and allowed his Sergeant to handle the situation.“I’m not sure. I mean I don’t know. Something doesn’t feel right.”“Well, it was only a noise complaint right? Have you heard any noise? There were a couple of calls according to dispatch of strange noises coming from the vacant, like a trapped cat or something.”“No, I haven’t heard anything, but I don’t know. I feel like I haven’t heard anything at all.”“What are you going on about, Greene? You need some time off or something?” The Sergeant verbally pushed Greene but hid his genuine concern. Greene was the type to hide her vulnerability, masking it with smiles, not putting it out there so honestly.“Something about this call scares me, we should just go home. It feels like the house is bearing down on me. Like I can’t explain, it’s calling me in and warning me away at the same time.”The Sergeant turned and scanned the uniquely large row-home. It was completely boarded up, appeared to be quite secure and the Sergeant doubted that anything was in there anyway, until a painful moan escaped from the house and echoed throughout the neighborhood. “Alright, so the neighbors aren’t crazy, some junkie got himself trapped in there, let’s get him out and get home,” said the Sergeant using a calming tone, attempting to pacify Greene.“Oh-nine,” Lieutenant David said into his shoulder mic.“Oh-nine, go ahead,” the dispatcher answered.“Yeah, we are going to make entry into South Street. Hold the air while we clear the building.”“Ten-four sir, BEEP BEEP BEEP, all units hold the air until we clear South Street.”“Lieutenant, I’m going to check the rear for a way in, I don’t see anything here,” the Sergeant said, switching to a professional tone with the Lieutenant, being in front of an officer.“Roger,” the Lieutenant said while he walked to the front door to see if it was unlocked. The door was locked tight and even dead bolted, so he checked the plywood over the windows, all of which was solid and screwed in tightly.“Nothing out back, boss. The owner of this place wasn’t playing around. I don’t remember ever seeing a vacant boarded up so well,” the Sergeant reported as he exited the alley, turning off his flashlight.“No kidding, front door it is then and it’s a heavy mother, bolted tight as well.”“Alright, show us what you have, big man,” the Sergeant said with a grin, baiting the Lieutenant to kick the door in. The Lieutenant stood an easy six feet, two inches, and had close to four inches and forty pounds on the Sergeant.The Lieutenant leaned against the wrought iron railing of the small stoop as the Sergeant stood at the bottom of the four concrete steps, about three feet lower. Officer Greene stood in the same spot as earlier, having not moved an inch.BOOMThe sound echoed down the block, but the door did not budge.“Ha, that’s a nice try I suppose. Put some leg in it, LT,” the Sergeant laughed while trying to cajole the Lieutenant, who turned and put his hands on the railing to kick backwards.BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM“Oh, damn, you look like the weakest donkey ever! Let me show you how that’s done.”Lieutenant David could not help but laugh at himself as he moved to the other side of stoop, allowing the Sergeant to give it a try. The Sergeant faced the door and pushed off with all of his strength. He grunted loudly as he kicked, the sharp CRACK, of splintering wood was all that the Sergeant heard as the door rebounded him backwards. He slammed back against the railing as it snapped off its mooring, allowing the Sergeant to stumble down the three feet; his flailing limbs attempted to gain some footing or brace the fall. “Oh my god, why was I not recording that?” The Lieutenant barely got out the words over his genuine laughter that cramped up his stomach muscles. “Oh, oh, it hurts, I can’t breathe, that was one of the funniest things ever. That’s what you get, Karma!”“Argh, what the hell is that door made of?” The Sergeant attempted to make excuse while laughing equally as hard.“Don’t worry Anthony, I’m not laughing at you, I’m laughing BECAUSE of you!” The Lieutenant mocked, using a trademark comment of the Sergeant.“Fudge, let’s try it together, otherwise we’ll have to wait for the fire department,” said the Sergeant as he brushed himself off and looked at Officer Greene, who remained eerily stoic, “Oh, come on, Greene, that was hilarious, if that can’t snap you out of it, nothing will.”They let their professional guard down as they laughed together, revealing a true friendship to any observer, and got into position to kick the door simultaneously. The door had been splintered by the Sergeant’s kick, even though the door clearly won. Another long, painful, moan came from the home.“Alright Sarge, on three, …one, …two, …three.”This time the door busted open and slammed against the wall. The deadbolt ripped through the doorjamb, sending a cloud of dust and wood splinters into the air. An oppressive wave of thick, hot air caused them to turn away.“Let’s go, Greene,” the Sergeant ordered.Officer Greene walked up to the first step and stared into the doorway. Tears filled her eyes and her hands trembled. “I can’t go in there, I’m sorry Sarge.” Officer Greene moved her mouth as if to say something else, but nothing came out. The tears fell down her cheeks, smearing the purple mascara and her pants quickly darkened between her legs.“You can’t be serious, you are police, Greene!” The Sergeant’s condescending tone sent Officer Greene running back to her car.“Oh-nine,” the dispatcher’s voice broke the silence of the Sergeant and Lieutenant looking at each other with both confusion and disgust.“Oh-nine,” the Lieutenant answered.“Is everything okay there?”“Yeah, sorry, we are just getting in now, and send another unit or two this way.”“Ten-four, available sector two units head over to back up Oh-nine and continue to hold the air.”“Is she serious? Come on,” the Sergeant commented as they watched in amazement as Officer Greene sat in her car, hands at ten and two, staring straight ahead. “Let’s just find this nutcase.”They positioned themselves shoulder to shoulder, flashlights breaking through the pitch black. They moved smoothly, with a precision that is second nature when two former combat Marines swing into action. They scanned the first room, one glided to the first blind corner, the other the opposite blind corner, and then rotated to the center as they cleared the room. A penetrating silence was broken only by their soft footsteps and the occasional whisper of “Clear.”They moved through the first floor like choreographed dancers, a grace that stood in stark contrast to the dark heat of the completely barren house. The floors were nothing but dusty particle board and the walls just simple white drywall. “You ready to go, brother?” Sergeant Anthony said while his eyes, Glock, and flashlight remained fixed on the top of the stairwell to the second floor. They had not looked at one another since entering the home. The threat was not themselves; it was the unknown, not a moment was wasted with eye contact.There was no response, another wasteful distraction, just a pinch on the shoulder and a push forward told the Sergeant all he needed to know. The silence of the house ended, which caused both of them to jump slightly, when the moan echoed through the house from above. The sound bounced all around the empty walls.“I have a room to the left,” advised Lieutenant David.“I have two in front of me, stairs on the right, I’ll hold, clear your room,” the Sergeant ordered. There was no place for rank in close quarters operations, there was a right way to do it and whoever was in the best position was in charge.The Lieutenant moved from against the Sergeant, which told Sergeant Anthony that the Lieutenant agreed. “Damn, what the…” was all the Lieutenant could get out after slamming the door open and quickly stepping in to the room. He felt his boot sink, then slide out from under him, as he crashed to the ground.“You good? You good?” Unmoved from his position, but with a tone of obvious concern, the Sergeant asked in a shaky voice that betrayed his consistently confident appearance.“Yeah, yeah, the room’s clear, I just busted my ass. It’s covered in an oil or something. Something freaking nasty,” the Lieutenant said in a higher pitch than normal. He got up and moved behind the Sergeant to clear the remainder of the second floor.“What’s that smell? It’s metallic? Don’t touch me with that shit, dude,” the Sergeant grimaced as he took in the smell.The Lieutenant shined his flashlight on his hand and winced, “Ugh, damn, it is. It’s iron, god damn blood. That whole floor is covered in blood.”“Human blood?”“How in the hell do I know? It’s blood for sure.”“This is some Resident Evil shit. Moving through here with nothing but the light of our flashlights, blood on the floor, and some zombie up there moaning in the dark.”“No kidding. Shut up and clear these rooms.”They cleared the two rooms and moved to the steps.“Alright, he should be up here, let’s get this over with,” the Lieutenant said. They continued to systematically clear the floor.“Clear?” The Sergeant questioned as he turned to look at the Lieutenant and make eye contact, “Clear, how so?”AARRRUUUUUUGHHHHHHHH…AAUUUHHHHThe moan came from above.“Yep, clear, one more floor, I guess,” the Lieutenant shrugged, as he looked up toward the moaning sound.“You notice how each of these floors has the same layout?”“So much for creativity, huh?”“I guess,” Sergeant Anthony turned to look for the stairwell, which was right where the previous stairwell was. “How did I miss that stairwell when we came up?”“Happens to the best of us,” Lieutenant David said as he bumped the Sergeant to go.They reached the top of the stairs and the moans were loud enough to ensure that the subject was on the floor, somewhere in the dark. “I have a door on the left, just like before,” the Lieutenant reported.“Yep, just like before, two doors in front of me and what the hell? Stairwell right, there can’t be another stairwell.”“I don’t know, brother. I don’t know what to tell you. There’s a glow in the room to the left and it sounds like the dude is in there, so clear your rooms first.“Roger,” the Sergeant said.The Lieutenant stayed focused on his room and periodically checked the stairwell. He heard the same moaning coming from the room but it had become more subtle. The Sergeant slammed the doors, said “clear,” and was quickly back at the Lieutenant’s side.“I got the stairwell, peek into that room,” the Sergeant said while focused on the darkness at the top of the stairwell.“I’m the Lieutenant, you peek into that room,” the Lieutenant said half joking but half not.“Nice try,” the Sergeant mumbled without a budge.The Lieutenant moved slowly with his gun focused on the unknown. As the room came into view,…blood smeared on the walls,…smell of flesh burning,…the glow, a flicker, like fire,…a rag lay smoldering, a steady rising of faint smoke, …indecipherable words smeared on the wall,…a pool of blood, leading to its source,…the remnants of a man, kneeling, moaning, unmoving.“It’s really a friggin’ zombie, Mike, what the hell?” The Lieutenant’s voice was calm with surprise.“Stop playing, bro,” the Sergeant said as he moved to join his friend.“Come here.”The Sergeant stood next to the Lieutenant, his gun and flashlight fixed on the thing as he took in the scene. It appeared to be or have been human. It was completely naked. The hair was burnt off, its hands held out to the side with its palms facing them. It did not move other than the moaning from its mouth. Its penis hung, dripping blood, and looked to have exploded with chunks of flesh hanging from it. The smell was sensory punishment.“I’m serious dude, if that thing moves an inch, I’m lighting it up,” the Sergeant said while envisioning the zombie suddenly attacking with lightning speed.“Oh-nine,” the Lieutenant said into his radio, but he received nothing but a beep in response.“Oh-nine.”BEEP“Oh-nine.”BEEP“Damn, lowest bidder, crap,” the Sergeant said, “Let me try.”“Twenty.”BEEP“Twenty.”BEEP“Twenty.”BEEP, BEEP, BEEP The Sergeant kept pressing the talk button but kept receiving BEEP, BEEP, BEEP.“I’ll run outside. You good?” The Lieutenant asked.“Yeah, I guess, but if you hear me shooting, you know that I lit the zombie up.”Lieutenant DavidThe Lieutenant turned and quickly hurried away. He grabbed the railing and swung around to head down the stairs. He heard the singe before he felt the pain. A plume of smoke drifted away from the railing as he smelled his own flesh. He grimaced from the pain and snatched his hand away to look at it, but there wasn’t a mark. Confused, but without time to think about it, he sprinted down the stair well.One flight.Two flights.Three flights.Four flights.Five flights.The heat of the enclosed building and the run had sweat dripping from every pore. The Lieutenant stopped at the stairwell landing and placed his hands on his knees. “Am I going crazy? I know I should be at the front door by now?” He dismissed it as just an illusion from the heat and what felt like very little oxygen in the forsaken vacant. The sweat ran down his face, stinging his eyes. He watched it roll down and hit the floor, absorbing the dust particles like a bubble prison. Then the sweat disappeared into the wood floor, like it was never there. He looked up the stair well and saw that it was in the same pristine condition. Covering his fingertip with dust, he swept his index finger across the first step.He watched the dust smooth back out as if it had never been disturbed and glanced down at his fingertip to find it free of dust. His vision blurred and mind wandered. “I need some water, what the hell?” The Lieutenant said to himself, to no one, or maybe to everyone.He fell back into the corner of the wall and slid to the ground. The flashlight slowly fell from the grasp of his hand that rested atop his bent knees. His eyes closed as the rhythm in the walls coaxed him to sleep. Visions filled his head, his happiest moments turned into horror, one by one. Back in his garage as a kid, he loved working on cars with his father; it brought a peace over him. The dream was so vivid that he could smell the oil, his father’s cologne, and his mother cooking. He sat on his father’s legs as he worked under the car, patiently waiting for his next retrieval assignment. Thirteen millimeter wrench was the task. The young Theodore David jumped up and struggled to reach on the hood for the wrench. Too short he stepped on the exposed rotor and the car crashed onto his dad. He looked down through the engine well to see his father’s face crushed under the weight of the car.The screams of his mother turned into the screams of his wife in the delivery room as she was about to give birth to his only son. He found himself saying, “push, push, baby, push.” Gently, he swept the hair from her face as she pursed her lips and blew out hard in a whistle. “Breath, honey, breath,” he told her while letting her grip his hand to the point of pain. “It’s a boy!” the doctor told them, as his son took his first breaths of air in a cry. “Do you want to hold him, Ted?” the doctor asked, “then, hold him!” the doctor shouted while driving a scalpel through the boy’s face, over and over. Blood and chunks of flesh splattered over the doctor’s face while he stared menacingly into the Lieutenant’s eyes.The scream from his wife blended into her screams of passion as he found himself on the beach where they made love for the first time. The feel of being between her thighs as the sand chaffed his knees was something he would remember until the day he died. He breathed in the smell of her hair, as she gently bit his neck. The moaning of the zombie came from somewhere outside, it pulled him from his dream. He pulled her head back to see her one last time. The back of her skull melted into his hand. Her body was rotted and bloated as if it had been in the sea for days. The moaning sound of the zombie came from between her thighs as he continued to penetrate her.“Ted, help.”The plea from Sergeant Anthony jolted his eyes open as he struggled to shake off the visions. Backlit only by the flickering embers in the room, the Sergeant struggled with the Zombie as his pleas for help continued. The Lieutenant fought to pick up his flashlight as it rolled across the floor. CLICK, CLICK, CLICK, he pressed the switch, but the battery had died and the lens melted from being left on for so long. He threw the flashlight to the ground and staggered to help his friend, as he fought for balance.The zombie pulled the Sergeant into the room and flung him into the far corner as if he weighed nothing. Shooting as he entered the room, he could not gather his balance or clear his vision. He emptied an entire fourteen round magazine, hitting only the floor just in front of him. The zombie moved toward the Sergeant, blood still dripping from his penis.A quick and instinctual reload allowed the Lieutenant to get back into the fight. The zombie knelt face to face with the Sergeant. Its face opened wide, its jaw disconnecting, like a snake. The Lieutenant braced himself on the doorjamb, gained his vision, and sighted in. He pulled the trigger until he couldn’t muster the strength to pull it anymore. He felt as if the floor itself was pulling him down. He stumbled into the room and fell to the ground, the pool of blood soaking the floor and his eyes still wide open.Sergeant AnthonyThe zombie remained motionless, not even making eye contact, just moans of pain over and over again. The Sergeant listened to his friend hurrying down to get more police and a medic to their location. The hard surfaces of the empty walls and floors made every sound echo throughout the house. He heard each footstep shuffle down the stairs then a pause, and shuffle down to the next flight. The Sergeant turned to look in confusion because the shuffle never stopped, over and over. He knew to never turn from his target, it had been drilled into his mind since he was a baby-faced seventeen year old in Parris Island. The error shocked his body like electricity, as if it was fighting what his mind instructed him to do. A subtle breeze, felt on his hand, broke through the thickness of the stagnant air and alerted his mind of the error. Instinctively, he spun away from the danger of the doorway and the zombie slammed through his arm. One shot was all that he managed to get off before the handgun flew over the railing and pin-balled down the stairwell. The errant bullet hit nothing but the wall and failed to distract the zombie in the slightest.For a moment he froze as it turned to face him. Fluids oozed from every orifice which sprayed over his face when it roared a death scream, inches away. The only thing he had in his hand was the flashlight. He braced his foot against the wall and pushed off, letting out a scream of his own. The Sergeant drove the zombie against the wall at the end of the hallway and jammed the still lit flashlight into the zombie’s eye socket.The beam of light bounced around with the zombie’s movement, it created a strobe effect and made it so the Sergeant couldn’t see to react to the zombie reaching out and grabbing his shirt. Sergeant Anthony swung both of his arms upwards, which broke the grasp of the zombie, reached back and slammed the flashlight through the back of the zombie’s skull. The monster fell silent and dropped to the ground, dead or at least deader than he was. The same was true of the flashlight; only the flickering glow from the room provided light, barely.“Ted! Ted! Where are you? I need you brother,” the Sergeant yelled down the stairwell, but received nothing in response.“Ted!”As he listened for any sign of his partner, he began to hear the moaning of the zombie coming from what seemed to be every corner. A shuffle of movement on the stairway leading to the floor above him forced a decision, fight or flight. He dashed down the stairs. He made a last step for a stair that wasn’t there and fell to the floor. Too panicked to yell, cry, or make any noise at all, he searched frantically on his hands and knees for the Glock.The shuffle and moan of the zombie moved closer, he glanced up the stairwell at the face of the zombie, a new one. There was no flashlight hole and its mouth hanged open, revealing animal like teeth that gleamed in the glow from the room. The Sergeant felt the weight of the gun next to his knee and its comfort immediately returned him to fight over flight.Three rapid shots sent the new zombie to its back and it slid down the stairs to the Sergeant’s feet. He put two more shots in its head at point blank range and turned to run down the stairwell. He slid to a halt when he heard the shuffle and moaning in front of him. He fired two shots into the nothingness. The flash of light from the muzzle revealed movement all around him. They were everywhere.The darkness was his enemy and he knew it. He sprinted back to the only light he knew and fired as he moved. Hands grabbed at him every step of the way. The click of an empty gun came just as he blindly fired backward and crossed through the doorway of the room. He dove into the far corner, the only area where nothing could sneak up behind him and quickly reloaded.He scanned the room and nothing remained other than the pile of clothes in the middle, still burning with a small flame and a few hot embers. The light had to be protected. He moved to be able to look down the hallway as much as possible. The two notebooks in his pocket were all he had to burn. He shot twice into the hallway, for that precious moment of light. Seeing nothing, he knelt down and crumbled the pages to fuel the fire.A yell that sounded like it came from the Lieutenant caused him to quickly move to the doorway.“Ted! Where are you!” he yelled and barely caught the staggered movement of the zombies. He shot again into the dark as the flash revealed them to be everywhere. Screaming as he pulled the trigger, he emptied the magazine and hurried back to the far corner to reload.“Fourteen rounds left and I always thought forty-two was too many to carry,” he said as he shook his head.A scream from the Lieutenant sounded very close and very final. Slouched in the corner, he stared at his gun as if it would give him a plan to get out of there, when the movement of one of them coming into the room caught his eye. It staggered from side to side and fell against the doorframe. He figured he would take one more out with him and fired until he could not fire any longer. The strength emptied from his body and he fell to his side, the Glock still tightly gripped as the last bit of fight gave way to the darkness closing in. OutsideThe dispatcher broke the silence of the radio, “Twenty-one and twenty-two, how close are you to South Street? We are now getting calls for discharging at that location.”“Twenty-one. We are about a minute out, Oh-nine just requested the backup thirty seconds ago. We are coming as fast as possible, Twenty-two is right behind me.” The engine accelerating and the siren blasting in the background, made it clear that Twenty-one was going as fast as he could.“Oh-nine…, Twenty,” the dispatcher called out.Silence.BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, “Oh-nine…, Twenty!”Silence.BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, “Signal thirteen, signal thirteen, sixty-six South Street, shots fired,” her voice began to show the panic that she was trained to conceal as she sent out the officer in distress call. Police from all over the city scrambled to South Street. Twenty-one and twenty-two arrived in less than the minute that they estimated, their cars slid to a stop in front of the house.The back-up officers jumped from their vehicles and looked at each other with confusion as they both noticed Officer Green sitting in her car. Their concern quickly switched as gunshots from the house overwhelmed the sound of sirens coming from every direction. They fearlessly sprinted to the house.“What in the hell is she doing?” Twenty-one shouted to Twenty-two, smacking the hood of Officer Greene’s car as he ran past.The door of the house remained wide open. More gunshots came from upstairs. Twenty-one and Twenty-two hastily cleared the first floor rooms as they passed. Twenty-one lead while Twenty-two yelled, “Sarge! LT! Where are you? Sarge! LT!”They paused at the bottom of the stairwell as a flurry of gunshots deafened their ears and lit up the second floor like the Fourth of July. Then silence.“Sarge? Lieutenant?”They cautiously ascended the steps in a fearful silence. A flashlight lay at the top of the stairs; its bright beam shined down the hallway and illuminated another flashlight that was broken apart in a small pile of drywall and wood fragments. Bullet holes riddled the walls in every direction.Twenty-one’s light beam came upon the room on the left and revealed a pair of police boots, just outside of the doorway. He ran to them, “Lieutenant, Lieutenant!”Both of the officers froze as they looked into the room. The Lieutenant laid facedown at the doorway. The Sergeant slouched on his side in the far corner. Both of their bodies oozed from multiple gunshots, the floor covered in blood. The Sergeant and Lieutenant were the only things in an otherwise clean and empty house.