He yanked his leg up hard against the clamping pressure to no avail; all he got for his effort was screaming pain as his efforts aggravated the injury. He looked down to find a zombie had lunged through an empty window at him from inside the building as he passed, and it awkwardly writhed through the frame as it tried to get at him.
He yelled out and took a good grip on the rusty fire escape, stamping down on the grabbing hand. His terror mounted as it kept its grip; of course he knew the dead felt no pain, so there would be no instinctive release of the grip. He kept slamming his foot down and finally the fingers weakened; he pulled free of its grip just as it pulled itself halfway out the window and onto the metal stairs.
He stumbled backwards and felt more hands grab him by the shoulders. He struggled at first before recognizing Claire. Together they half-climbed, half-stumbled their way to the top. “Gotta … stay away from … fire escapes,” Ben gasped as they pulled themselves onto the roof. They lay still, just breathing.
It took a minute for Ben to realize the creaking, clanking sound of the fire escape hadn’t died down. Claire dragged herself to her feet; he followed, and they peered down.
The zombie that had snagged his ankle hadn’t given up; it’d followed them up and was fruitlessly trying to reach them, unable to climb the short ladder that led to the roof top from the top floor. In the distance they saw more of the dead in the streets; it wouldn’t be long before there was another horde to contend with.
“Great, what do we do now? We can’t leave it there!” Claire’s face was contorted and stressed.
“We …” He broke off and took a deep breath. “Actually, why not? We should leave it there!”
“What? Are you crazy? It’ll be like yesterday all over again! It’ll just keep bringing more!” Her face was white, her voice a little unsteady.
“It’ll keep bringing them here. Let’s not be here. If we’re not here, the more of them it attracts, the better for us!” He looked down at it; it was an old one, dried out and rough, movements stiff and jerky. Every time it moved, the fire escape rattled. He wondered whether it might collapse completely if the thing stayed there agitating it long enough.
“You’re crazy, Ben. But so is this whole situation. Okay, fine, let’s get out of here.” The idea was winning through to her, he could see it in her body language. A tiny touch of the stress drained visibly from her.
They stopped just long enough to eat a few quick bites and drink a half-bottle of water each, and then they were on the move again.
To his great relief the entire block was the same height; no scaling up and down building exteriors this time, not until they had to get back to street level. The straight shot across the buildings allowed them to make good time, and they found themselves scanning the streets for a way across once more.
The distant creaking of the fire escape could still be faintly heard from this distance, and it had done its job and called away whatever dead might have been hanging around this part of the street. He grinned tightly, trying not to grimace. “Nice clean empty street. Now we just gotta get down to it.”