Bitter 34

Britta ran as fast as she could, which wasn’t easy with short gnome legs. Mostly, she dodged and skittered and lurched. There was rubble everywhere. She didn’t understand it. The ground had shook and the surroundings had a post-earthquake look to them, but you expect rubble and debris everywhere after an earthquake because the buildings have fallen down. The building in New Town were all perfectly fine, so where had the large rocks and chunks of masonry come from?

When the giant zombie had toppled over, it burst into hundreds of smaller zombies and, apparently, a quarry’s worth of rocks. Was that the secret ingredient in big-ass zombies? Cheap filler?

It was probably easier for the programmers to add in random rocks than have to design more zombies. Or maybe the computers couldn’t handle that many moving parts at once. Large lumps of stone probably tended to require less coding.

That was the thing about a digital world, nothing had to make sense. Logic was not a necessary requirement when the whole of creation was pixels in a computer. One minute there was an empty street, the next, an assault course made of bits of broken architecture.

She could hear the zombies giving chase. She sneaked a look over her shoulder. They were running on all fours. Why? Because it looked cool? It made no sense. They weren’t dogs. They were people, or they had been. It would be impossible for them to move so quickly bent over like that. Of course, impossible didn’t matter here. They did move quickly and loped along like cheetahs. Why not just make them fly and give them laser beams coming out of their eyes?

Luckily, they were no better at negotiating the rubble-strewn street than she was. In fact, being larger made it harder for them. Britta was able to slip in between obstacles and even under some while the zombies crashed into them and scrambled over when going around would have been much quicker.

Running away wouldn’t work, Britta knew that. Once she got to open ground, the three zombies that had targeted her would quickly catch her. She considered stopping and letting the inevitable happen. At least that way she’d get to log out. But she didn’t want to give in. She might end up losing anyway, but not because she just let it happen.

She skidded under an arch that hadn’t been part of anything, and squeezed between two large pillars from an ancient Greek amphitheatre lying next to each other.

Instead of running in a straight line, she had gone in an arc and now she was facing back towards the way she’d come; back towards the others.

They were in a group, fighting off hyper-zombies in a ‘circle the wagons’ formation. There were a number of other zombies that were spread out not doing anything. They stood there staring at nothing, swaying slightly until Britta scooted past. Then they snapped into action and joined the mob chasing her.

Which turned out to be to her advantage. The more there were, the more they got in each other’s way. Collisions sent them cannoning off in all directions, stumbling into their fellows.

By the time she was approaching where the others were making their stand, Britta had quite a large group in her wake. Diana was up ahead. She had switched back to using her large club and was swinging it around, taking off one zombie’s head and then kicking another in the chest. She would be able to handle Britta’s pursuers. She’d probably be pleased Britta had rounded them all up for her to take out in one efficient strike. All she had to do was hand them off, and then she could sneak away while the pro-gamers took care of it.

Only, Diana didn’t seem very pleased to see her. In fact, when she saw the wild rabble Britta was bringing with her, she stopped fighting, turned around, and started running. And the others did the same.

Where were they going? They were supposed to be heroes and heroes didn’t run from a fight. Heroes were supposed to save people in danger. People like her.

Britta was tiring. Her body was lying down in a dark box, not moving at all, but she still felt out of breath. She had been able to keep running for longer than she could in the real world so it wasn’t like she was relying on her true fitness, but there was some kind limit. Which didn’t really make sense. If this was her thinking her actions into existence, why did her lungs feel like they were about to explode?

It reminded her of cross-country running at school, only she never ran this hard around the school fields. And she always had the option to stop for a rest without being eaten alive.

The other players were ahead of her and getting further away. They had no intention of fighting Britta’s battle for her, and there was no way Britta could fight it by herself. She was surprised she hadn’t already been overwhelmed by the dozens of zombies now on her tail. In fact, many of them were running beside her. Some even ahead of her.

Britta slowed down and then stopped. The zombies kept going. They rushed past Britta in a blur. She stood there, untouched, baffled.

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