The St. Louis outbreak caught everyone off guard, largely because healthcare authorities had thought the virus to be contained in the southeast. The military managed to establish a safe zone underneath the Gateway Arch, and began the evacuation of persons with VIP status--doctors, community leaders, and other important personnel. The quarantine broke, however, as civilians attempted to escape the city, only to become stuck on the freeways. With all outbound lanes congested, most of the population was overtaken, still in their vehicles. The majority of the infected followed the survivors west, but a good bit still remain within the city itself.
St. Louis is now little more than an inhospitable ghost town, with small bubbles of survivors quickly being overrun by the living dead... but there is one beacon of hope in the darkness. A radio broadcast, transmitting on all frequencies, urges survivors to gather under the Arch, where they will be protected and cared for until the nightmare is over. Though there are not many left in the city to hear the message, it still plays, giving some survivors just enough hope to carry on.
Little do they know what awaits them...
UNDER THE FALLEN ARCH
Sarah Schultz - I-44, directly northwest of Clifton Heights, St. Louis, Missouri
Hotwiring cars had never been Sarah's thing. Her older brother had showed her how to do it once, but that had been the first and only time she'd ever seen it done. That lesson had taken place so long ago... it was hardly going to be any use to her now. She'd heard the broadcast, it was being looped on all of the frequencies. There was a safe zone under the Gateway Arch... easy enough to get to, but there were miles of infested city blocks to go through before she could reach the Arch. It had likely been a few days since the broadcast had first started going out... but it was the National Guard. Surely if anyone could hold off the infected, it was the Guard. At any rate, the broadcast was still going out, so the safe zone had to be intact.
At least she knew that she could handle herself out here, though it was admittedly tough with a compound bow. She'd lost a lot of arrows by trial and error, finally finding that headshots kept them down for good, though it took some skill to hit a target that small. She found it was best to just avoid them. What worried her was that she might succumb to the small weight on her hip. The PPK would certainly be easier to use, but while the loud noise would spook an animal or other people, the infected were drawn to noise like moths to a flame... she only knew that because she'd seen a car alarm clear a street. The ghouls had heard it from a few blocks over, and they'd all run to find the source of the noise.
Right now, though, she was perched on a knoll overlooking the Interstate watching a lone shambler make its way through the cars on the out-bound lane. She'd spotted a pick-up with the keys hanging from the door, and didn't want to let the opportunity pass her by... but if the ghoul detected her, she'd be in deep shit. Their moan was as effective a draw as a car alarm, and she didn't want to be trapped in a boxed-in pick-up truck if and when they came. She had her bow up, an arrow nocked in the string, and it was pulled back and ready to fly. The thing about the compound bow was that it took less strength to use, and strength wasn't exactly something she had to spare. She could pull her own weight, sure, but she wasn't muscular by any stretch of the imagination.
As soon as the shambler stopped, she lined up her shot and let fly. The arrow hit its mark, lodging in the temple. The shambler just stood there, like it hadn't even noticed. Sarah let out a slient curse and drew another arrow. The shambler obliged her and stood still, and she managed to get one through its eye this time. The ghoul fell out of sight behind a car a few spaces away from the pick-up she was eyeing.
The rest of the Interstate seemed clear, both ways, but Sarah wasn't stupid. She left her backpack at the top of the knoll and made her way carefully onto the asphalt, then hopped the divider and immediately looked for crawlers. She wasn't one for horror flicks, but she'd seen the first episode of The Walking Dead, and the crawler was what stood out in her mind when she waded into the halted traffic. Nothing, thank God. There hadn't been any movement in any of the cars, either, nobody seemed to be trapped inside.
She found the shambler she'd dropped, jiggled the arrow in its eye socket to make sure the brains were good and stirred-up. If she'd had the means, she might've doused it in gas and set it on fire, but that would be dangerous here... not only would it attract more attention, but she wasn't exactly enthusiastic to start a fire around so many parked vehicles. She wiped her arrows off on the shambler's clothing and put them back in the quiver, then backtracked to the pick-up truck. It was empty, but the keys were right. Slowly, carefully, she looked around the cab, then climbed into the driver's seat and turned the car on. She didn't start it, just let the electronics come up.
The radio blared static, and she immediately twisted the knob until it was silent. She looked around, her heart hammering fast, hoping that there was nothing to attract. She didn't see anything, anyway. Still feeling the adrenaline in her system, she turned the radio back up aways, and then cycled through the preset until she found a frequency playing the safe zone broadcast. It was still going... thank God. She closed her eyes for a second, let her heart slow back down, then rummaged through the glove compartment and the center console. There was nothing in either, but she did find a pair of sunglasses in an overhead compartment. They were aviators, a bit too big for her, but they were nice, the polarized kind. Could come in handy, but what she really needed was sunscreen. She was already looking a bit red, but she'd managed to stay hydrated. At least it wasn't hot out, just cool enough to be uncomfortable.
She took glasses from the truck, but nothing else, leaving the keys in one of the cupholders. Someone else might come through, and they might need the keys more than she did. She jumped the divider again, but rather than empty Interstate, she met a biker, who shot past her. She jumped backward to avoid being hit and nearly tumbled back over the divider. The rider seemed to snap awake, then lost control of his bike. He toppled over and the bike skidded down the asphalt.
The infected didn't ride bikes, as far as she knew... she approached the man cautiously. The bow was forgotten, at this range she was prepared to draw the pistol on her hip. He started to get up, but it wasn't the way a shambler would have... it was obvious that he felt pain. She remembered the way the shambler stood there after she'd put an arrow in its head, like nothing had happened, and decided that this guy must be another survivor.
"Are you okay?"