The basement is dark, lights guttering in and out in filament-popping flashes which only serve to deepen the shadows around their feet. Somewhere in the distance, Britta can hear moaning and screaming, but the basement is silent and still around them. It's too still. Troy spins cardboard rolls around his wrist absently, watching the blackness around them closely, and Abed brings up the rear, keeping lookout. She's in point position, creeping with her t-rex arms held out in front of her.
Again, she thinks that the zombie apocalypse was not the best time to wear a dinosaur costume.
"Hold on, you guys," she says, and puts a green-clawed hand up sharply. "Do you hear something?"
"Zombies," answers Abed promptly.
"You talking," adds Troy.
"No... I mean... shh." Abed tilts his head to the side like a radar dish picking up signals from alien planets, and Troy looks down at the ground and black corners around them skeptically. "Don't you hear that?"
"Yeeeaah," says Troy, adjusting the toilet paper rolls around his wrists and looking scornful as only a guy wearing a toilet seat cover around his neck can, "I'm going to have to go with Abed here and say zombies."
She scowls at him and creeps a few more steps forward. "Seriously, don't you hear that? I think it's... a cat?"
A cat launches itself out of the basement sidewall, yowling and screeching, and Britta jumps back and flails her short t-rex arms. She backs up into Troy, who screams and grabs his knees in an awkward and unhelpful form of self-defense, and stacks up against Abed at the back.
"Oh my god," Troy cries, "did you just summon it?"
Even Abed looks rattled. "It's a cat," he says automatically and unnecessarily, in a weirdly tight voice that for Abed is the equivalent of basically losing it.
"We have to rescue it," Britta breathes.
There's an awkward silence, broken up only by some moaning from upstairs, and then Troy laughs sharply. "Uh, have you ever even seen a zombie movie, Britta?"
She whirls on him and jabs a finger at the wall where the cat disappeared. "That's a defenseless animal, Troy. We can't leave it alone down here. It'll be zombie dinner, and then we'll have zombie cats on our hands. Do you want that on your conscience?" She leans in close to him to stare at him with the full force of her righteousness. "Zombie. Kitties."
"No cats," Abed says.
"If all we do is survive, how does that make us better than the zombies? Maybe it's our capacity for kindness that separates us from the zombies."
"Or maybe it's the eating human flesh thing," says Troy, with a sort of sarcastic practicality that Britta thinks is totally unhelpful right now.
Abed walks a few steps past her and the cat zooms out at them again, screeching like it was launched from a slingshot. Troy and Britta jump and scream, grabbing onto each other's arms, and Abed stays frozen with his foot extended, in shock.
Abed slowly puts his foot down.
Britta takes a deep breath. "Okay. Okay. Did either of you see where it went?"
"I think it disappeared into that wall," says Troy shakily. "It's a demon cat." His voice ends in a whisper.
"Troy was right about zombie movies, you know. Going after that cat breaks one of the cardinal rules of zombie survival."
"I have life experience, Abed. I've protested the G-8 summit. I think I can handle zombies."
"There it goes!" she interrupts, and pushes open the gate in the chain link divider separating the basement room. She lunges for a door with a cat flap on the opposite side, and flings the door open. "Mister..." A zombie woman with a bikini top and crooked bunny ears stares at her. "...Whiskers?"
"AAAGGH!" she screams, and hears Troy yell behind her, "You named the cat?" and then Abed snaps, "Run!" She tries to slam the door shut but only catches the zombie playgirl bunny on the elbow, and then turns to run after Troy and Abed.
"Up here," commands Abed, who drops to one knee and puts his hands together in front of a metal storage shelving unit. Abed boosts Troy up, and then she puts her own foot in Abed's cupped hands. Troy is knocking janitorial supplies and plastic-wrapped paper towels off their path, and below them Britta sees zombies reaching up at the shelves with dumb, weakly grasping hands.
"You guys, I don't think they can..." The shelves start to shake back and forth. "Never mind, go!" She shoves Troy forward, and turns around to help pull Abed up over the edge.
They follow the shelves to the end of the row, crawling and ducking their heads under the low ceiling, and Troy points to another chain-linked subsection of the basement a few feet away. "There's a window!" He swings himself down off the top shelf and does a two-handed karate chop on a nearby cowboy-slash-zombie. The zombie stares stupidly at him, swaying slightly.
"Maybe I gotta say it. Karate chop!" he enunciates, bringing the flat of his hand down again on stem of the zombie's neck. The zombie lifts one corner of his mouth and drools a little, and swipes an arm at Troy.
"Abed!" Troy yells, pushing the cowboy zombie back and narrowly escaping being caught in the arms of a giant, dark-eyed hamster zombie behind him. "Britta!"
"I'm coming, Troy!" she says, and jumps down on top of the hamster zombie, knocking him to the floor where he scrambles for purchase in his short-legged costume. "Ha! Take that!"
Troy head butts his original attacker. "In your face, zombie cowboy!"
"We have to move," says Abed, and pushes her forward as more zombies swarm around the edge of the metal shelving unit, dumb hands grasping at her costume.
She runs to the fence and pulls the gate open, and Abed and Troy run through. She shuts it as they push some boxes in front of the gate. The three of them back up against the far wall, staring at the hands reaching through the chain-link fence as the barrier in front of them rattles tinnily. The fence shakes in waves, the flimsy metal mesh flexing alarmingly under the weight.
It occurs to Britta that they could all die in this basement. Like, for real, die. No more Greendale, no more stupid life, no more Jeff, no more study group, no more anything. Dead.
The same thought must have occurred to Troy and Abed, because they turn to her with matching expressions. "Britta," says Troy seriously, and she cuts him off in a sudden panic.
"We're going to make it out of..."
"Britta," Troy continues, "you have to make it to the thermostat."
"We have to make it," she corrects automatically. And it's stupid, because they've been running for the past hour, ever since Rich turned zombie in the study room and Chang had pulled back the sleeve of his ice skating costume to reveal a second bite, but the solemn way that the two of them are looking at her now makes her feel nervous and hollow for the first time all night.
Abed takes her hand. "We'll hold them off."
Troy nods. "Do it for Mister Whiskers."
Abed cuts her off. "It's the only way."
She blinks back sudden, fierce tears and grabs Troy's hand as well. "I'll save you. Both of you. I will."
Troy nods again, and Abed squeezes her hand. "We know you will," Abed says.
"I love you guys," she whispers, unable to find the words to express the dread curling in her stomach as she looks at them, staring at her so seriously and earnestly.
"We know," says Troy gently.
Abed leans down and cups his hands again in front of her. She grabs the pipe above the window and flips herself through the opening.
She doesn't look back.
Annie jumps out from behind a potted plant in front of him, wielding an astronomy textbook like the head of an ax.
"Jeff!" She looks flustered for a moment, and then hisses, "You shouldn't sneak up on people when there are zombies around."
A kid from his old Accounting class in superhero spandex and what looks like a massive amount of eyeliner smudged under his eyes lurches towards the two of them. "Speaking of which..." He grabs her arm and pulls her into a janitor's closet, closing the door on a grasping hand. "What the hell are you playing at?"
The hem of her dress is torn, and she has a strip of the red fabric from her skirt looped around her forehead to keep her hair back. There's a streak of black grease on her left cheek. She glares at him. "Those are our classmates out there, Jeff. Some of them are even our friends. I'm going to save them."
"Do friends do this to a six thousand dollar suit?" He flings open the left side of his jacket and points to the evidence.
"Quiet," she says suddenly, and ducks, which is an odd reaction in a dark closet in which they are very obviously the only occupants. He looks around, skeptically, and she yanks at his lapel to pull his head down.
"I'm pretty sure they're attracted to sound," she whispers.
"I hate to break it to you," he whispers back, "but the zombie already right outside our door doesn't care how quiet we are." He stands up and yells at the doorframe, "Isn't that right, Zachary?"
Annie aims her textbook behind his knees, and he falls back down to her level. "Shh," she says, sternly.
"God damn it, Annie, I'm on your side. Don't kneecap your allies."
She looks at him closely, and something canny shifts in her expression. "If you're on my side, Jeff, help me make it to the thermostat."
"Let's get one thing straight, sweetheart. This guy?" He points to himself, and sweeps a hand down, "Doesn't do rescue missions. Don't be stupid, Annie."
"Come on, Jeff."
"I don't think you understood me."
"Pleeease," she says, widening her eyes and staring at him like some sort of sad, orphaned deer.
"That isn't going to work this time. You know what I'm not interested in becoming? Somebody who thinks macking on other people's flesh is a great idea."
"Fine," she snaps, and brushes the dangling end of her makeshift headband behind her shoulder with the back of her hand.
"Whatever," he says.
"I'm leaving this closet," she announces, standing up and straightening her skirt with a pointedly sharp tug.
"I'd stop you, but have you seen my suit?"
She is glaring down at him, so he straightens back up to regain the tactical advantage. She sniffs, and pulls the door to the hallway open.
Then she closes it again.
"Nothing like a couple zombies to put a crimp in your storming out plans," he says smugly. She makes a show of looking skeptically and disdainfully around the dark closet they've found themselves in.
Then she moves in a little closer to him, and lowers her voice again. "We should call a truce. You can't be serious about spending the rest of the apocalypse in the janitor's closet, and I need to get to the thermostat. We should help each other out."
He narrows his eyes. "...I'm listening."
"There's that stairwell to the second floor at the end of the hallway, down by the study rooms. I don't think it's been gated off or taken over by zombies, and it's on my way too."
She's short and determined and a better zombie target than him, being dressed, literally, as wolf-bait in a red skirt and apron. He thinks his chances are pretty good. "You got it, Red Riding Hood," he says finally. "Until the stairwell."
"Deal," Annie says, and holds her hand out.
"Deal," he agrees, shaking her hand.
He looks around the janitor's closet with a more critical eye, and picks up a mop leaning against the far corner. He takes a few experimental swings while Annie picks up the textbook she was carrying before and grasps the binding firmly in both her hands, setting her mouth in a determined line.
"See you in hell, Edison."
They makes short work of Zachary (stupid Zachary) which brings them to Garrett (easy pickings) and then some dude in a football outfit (Annie yells "touchdown!" as she smacks him on the back of the head, and then stops to verify with him that she got the sports metaphor right). Jeff's feeling pretty good at this point. He's taking out the zombies at the knees, bringing them to Annie's level who then lays them out, and his suit coat isn't even wrinkled. He's starting to think they make a pretty good team.
"You know," he says conversationally, as they scout out the next corner, "we make a pretty good..."
"INCOMING!" she yells, coming back around the corner towards him at a full run, a wall of zombies at her heels. It appears the chess team has joined forces, dressed as playing pieces, eyes dark and mouths slack. Jeff counts three pawns and a knight before Annie reaches him and the wave of zombies breaks over them.
They put their backs to each other and set to dealing with the onslaught. They are surrounded by out-stretched hands, grasping at them. Jeff can feel Annie pressed up against his back, can feel as she throws her weight around, fighting back against the horde around them. Jeff isn't sure he understands how this many people a) attend Greendale in the first place and b) actually showed up, in costume, for a Halloween party at a community college library. He makes an executive decision to ignore the fact that he is, in both the strictest and loosest sense of the definition, one of these people.
Suddenly, Jeff feels Annie being pulled away from where she was pressed against his back, and he hears a sharp, scared scream.
"Annie!" he yells, swinging around in a panic, and one of the hands reaching for him catches underneath his suit coat and strips it off of him as he turns. He spots Annie in the distance, rotating like a sprinkler with her textbook at gut level, frantically fighting for her life. He swipes the mop handle at the feet of a blonde dressed in a cheerleader outfit and hurdles over a pair of chess team pawns stacked on top of each other on the ground, then grabs Annie's hand and pulls her out of the mob and around a nearby corner.
"Thanks," she gasps, trying to catch her breath.
His jacket is gone. He turns around to survey the horde, still swarming where they used to be. A flash of anger hits him as he spots Rich wearing his coat, Chang standing next to him, stroking the collar dumbly and lovingly.
"God damn it, " he finally manages to say. "That's. My. Coat." He sprints back into the mass of zombies, feeling like he's running in slow motion as a trickle of drool at the side of Rich's mouth slowly -- threatens -- his --
He reaches Rich, grabs the coat by the back of the collar, and starts to yank it out. "You're stretching it," he snaps, and Annie, still behind him, grabs his wrist and spins him around.
"Jeff," she starts to say, still out of breath, "don't..."
He feels somebody bite him on his shoulder, feels a moment of odd regret and anger at himself (because he's going to a zombie now, and that's just not where his day was headed), and then Annie's face starts to go out of focus. She's yelling at him and he's getting distracted watching the vein in her neck move and the way her flesh slides over her bones and he bets her brains are pretty fabulous, all things considered, young and firm and fresh. They probably taste like summer and sunshine and brains brains brains guuuuh.
Zombie Jeff groans, pushes Rich away stupidly, and turns back to delicious brain-Annie, but she's already gone.
Shirley stabs her wand at an oncoming zombie, and succeeds only in smearing a trail of glitter down the front of the man's pirate vest.
"Oh no... you... don't!" she grits out, and manages to smack the guy on the head with her wand this time and makes a run for the nearest door. She slams the door shut and locks it, realizes she's in the women's bathroom, and drags the trashcan over in front of the door. When she hears a low moan from behind her after she's done barricading herself in, she doesn't think Oh no so much as Why am I not surprised?
She turns, slowly, and Pierce stumbles out of the far stall, his face pasty and a rip down the side of his Star Trek uniform.
"Pierce," she says in a low voice, because really, even during the end of days and even with Pierce being a zombie, there are some things you just don't do, "this is the lady's room."
Pierce groans at her.
"Oh no you don't." She holds the star wand up like a sword. "Don't make me go all Glenda on your ass."
Pierce shuffles a little closer toward her.
She takes a step backward, and tries to cover it by waving her wand around a bit more.
Zombie Pierce stares blearily at her, and makes a motion with his hand toward her she guesses means something like, "Brains?" Shirley gives up on the wand, crosses her hands over her chest, and glares.
"Pierce Hawthorne," she snaps, "you get back right now, or so help me God I will make you regret every second of your sad little zombie life."
Something flickers dimly in Pierce's eyes, and he starts a slow shuffle to circle back to his original hiding stall, and Shirley lets out a breath she hadn't even known she was holding. "Thank the Lord," she says, under her breath, and double-checks the lock on the door and the waste bin pushed in front of it. She settles down on the seat of the toilet farthest away from Pierce, pulls her bag in front of her like a shield, and settles in to ride out the end of days.
It could be worse, she tells herself, clutching her purse.
She could be stuck in here with Chang.
She's not sure how long she sits there. It could have been hours. It could have been ten minutes. She can hear muffled screams and moans in the distance, and occasionally somebody (something) outside shakes the door to the bathroom. Pierce shuffles back and forth on the far end of the room, muttering and groaning zombie-ish things in a low, slurred voice.
It occurs to Shirley that, if this thing spreads, she is going to have little zombie children at home. She crosses herself at the thought, closing her eyes, and says a quick prayer.
But the longer she sits, the more she thinks about her babies at home, in danger from the zombies and creepy infectious people wandering Greendale. She thinks about the thermostat, and the fact that she's pretty sure she's the only person left. The only two people in the world are her and Pierce, and she's pretty sure Pierce doesn't count at this point (and maybe not before the whole zombie thing either) so that leaves her.
She stands up, dusts off her skirt, tightens her grip on her wand, and takes a deep breath before unlocking the bathroom door.
Britta can see the door to the study room around the corner. The window by the door is smashed out, the blinds hanging limp and disjointed at odd angles, but from what she can see through the gaps the study room appears to be free and clear of zombies. The door is hanging slightly open, but the lock still looks intact and reassuringly solid. The wooden table inside is clean and uncluttered, a beacon of normality inside the dim room.
"All right," she says to herself, and closes her eyes briefly. "All right."
She opens her eyes and runs for it.
From the corner of her eye, she catches a glimpse of motion as she starts to sprint, a suggestion of movement and the color yellow, and then she sees Rich, his banana costume torn with stuffing leaking at the seams and his eyes dark and shadowed (and wearing a sports coat?), coming at her. She tries to run faster, but the dinosaur suit is really made for waddling and not the hundred meter dash. She's starting to wonder who would have the costuming advantage in dinosaur vs. banana (because it might come down to that) and tightens her grip on the leather boot she's carrying when a streak of red comes in from nowhere and smacks Rich on the back of the head with a textbook.
Annie brushes the hair from her face with the back of her hand and stares at her. "Britta? Britta! Oh my god, you're not a zombie!"
She hugs Annie gratefully - Annie's making this high pitched noise and dancing a little, but Britta really doesn't mind because Annie's alive and un-zombiefied and happy to see her too. "Yeeeaah!" she tries out, pitching her voice up a register and fluttering her hands a bit back at Annie. It doesn't really work the way she wants it to, but whatever. She knows Annie gets it.
"Where have you been?" Annie is asking in a rush. "What happened? Where are Troy and Abed?"
She holds up one green mittened hand to count down. "Basement. Zombies. Zombies."
"Oh." Annie's face falls when she says the thing about Troy and Abed, and Britta frowns at banana-zombie-Rich, laid out on the ground at their feet.
"What's with the sports coat?" she asks, just to keep herself from thinking about the basement, and Annie's face falls even further.
"Jeff," she says shortly, biting off the name. Britta glances up at her, suspicious, but there's not much beside sadness on Annie's face right now.
"Oh," she echoes finally, and they go back to staring at their feet and the unconscious Rich.
"Jeff... he saved my life," Annie says, and there's something quiet and reluctant about the way she says it.
"I know. Abed and Troy saved me. I wouldn't have made it out of the basement if they hadn't... Annie." Britta grabs hold of Annie's hands between her two dinosaur paws and stares into her eyes, willing her to understand the vital importance of what she is about to say. "Annie, we have to make it to the thermostat."
Annie laughs, with something of her old sharpness. "Uh, yeah, Britta. I know. What do you think I'm doing?"
She starts to respond, but there's the sudden sound of rattling and of something dully hitting the ground in the study room, and they jump and whirl in unison. Britta brings her boot up to the ready position, the laces tied to her wrist. "There's somebody in there," she whispers, and Annie nods once, raises her textbook, and creeps toward the door.
They both burst through the door at the same time and somehow they're both screaming now and Britta isn't really sure how that happened, except... "...Pierce?" Britta comes up out of her defensive crouch and Pierce just sort of stares at her and sways a little. It's pretty anticlimactic, even for Pierce.
"He's a zombie," Annie whispers.
Britta raises the boot up again.
"Don't hurt him!" Shirley is framed in the opposite study room doorway, wearing a long bubble-gum pink gown with her platinum blonde wig tipped precariously to the left, the unscrewed wooden leg of a table dangling casually from her right hand. And, most importantly, blatantly un-zombiefied.
"Shirley!" Annie leaps over to the opposite door, and Britta stumbles in her rush and trips a little over her dinosaur tail.
"Ooh! Annie! Brit-tah!" Shirley drops the horrifying table leg and pulls them both into a hug. Britta thinks about how she thought she was alone in the world just a few minutes before and hugs Shirley and Annie both a little harder.
"Oh, thank the Lord, I thought I was the only one! Where were you?"
"Basement," says Britta, while Annie says "Janitor's closet," and then gently, laying a hand on her arm, "Shirley, you do know Pierce is a zombie, right?"
"Please. Of course the man's a zombie."
Britta eyes him skeptically. "Should we... you know..." She helpfully mimes a slasher gesture.
"That man may be a mockery of a human being, but as zombies go, he's an angel." Pierce is watching Shirley with a glazed look of what is either abject devotion or hunger, a bit of drool at the corner of his mouth. Shirley sighs and fishes a smashed-up kleenex from the bottom of her bag, dabbing economically at the corner of his mouth, and Pierce takes the opportunity to try to take a bite out of the side of her hand.
"Damn it, Pierce," she snaps, pulling back her hand. “Seriously?” Pierce moans at all of them and trips sideways over an overturned chair in the study room.
They secure the perimeter of the study room, darkening the blinds that Abed missed and flipping the table on its side and pulling it over in front of the broken window pane where Chang was pulled through. The lights are flickering and there are fake cobwebs strung up in the ceiling corners, but it feels like home all the same when Shirley pulls out several wrapped brownies from the depths of her purse.
Annie unwraps the wax paper as "Money, Money, Money" starts up over the loudspeakers. "We're so close to the thermostat now," she says, wistfully.
Shirley nods. "But there's a whole pack of 'em in the hallway up ahead that we'll need to get by. I saw them around the corner and had to backtrack."
Britta take a contemplative bite of her brownie, precariously wedged between her mittens by Shirley. She chews slowly and squints into the distance. "We'll need a distraction," she says finally, and the three of them turn to look at Pierce at the same time, standing facing a corner and swaying by himself.
Annie turns back first, staring down at the still-uneaten brownie in her hand. Some of the certainty drains away from her face, and she looks younger suddenly in a way Britta finds weirdly un-Annie-like. Half of the time Annie's unnatural determination makes her seem younger than she is, but half the time Britta has to remind herself that when she was nineteen she was following Radiohead around and making dubious fashion choices that usually involved plaid.
Annie shakes off her stupor to look up at Shirley.
"Eat your brownie," Shirley says firmly.
"What if..." Annie takes a deep breath and a fortifying bite of her brownie. "I mean, what if we don't make it out? What if this is the end of the world? What if this is really it, the actual end - not just some setup of the Dean's that's going to be over in a day?"
Shirley crosses herself. "I'm doing this for my boys," she says, and while it doesn't really answer the question Britta knows what she means.
"I'm doing this for Troy and Abed," Britta says. After a moment she adds, "And my cats, and Jeff. And you two." Pierce moans sadly from his corner. "And Pierce." She stares at the ceiling, feeling like she's still missing someone. "And Mister Whiskers."
Annie smiles at them, a little lopsided, and takes another bite of her brownie as ABBA swells climatically over the loudspeakers.
Britta tucks her dinosaur tail into their hiding space behind the overturned study table and shifts her grip on the black leather boot, and nods at Shirley. Annie tightens the red Rambo strip of fabric she has going on around her forehead, lips drawn together. Shirley stands over the two of them like a pink avenging angel.
Shirley nods back and turns away from them then, pitches her voice up, and exclaims in her best Miss Piggy, "Oh, Pieeeerce!"
Pierce blearily stirs from his self-appointed corner as Shirley coos, pulling him out of the study room and into the hallway. Streamers of binder clips, various metallic Halloween decorations, and Chang's ice skating medals clank gently behind him, tied to his ankles.
They wait, crouched behind the table and hardly daring to breath, as the seconds count down, painfully slow. There's a crash at the end of the hallway, and Shirley's voice rings out, bright and clear.
"Oh, no," she trills in the distance. "I'm not a zombie! Don't eat me, and my deeee-licious brains!"
There's a loaded silence after this pronouncement.
Then Britta can hear the muffled, irregular sound of footsteps, just on the other side of the flipped table, and the sound of tennis shoes dragged sideways across library carpet as the mob of zombies shuffles its way past them down the hallway, headed toward the voice. She closes her eyes and wonders how weird it would be to pray. Would it count if she prayed to not-Shirley's-God?
Annie grabs hold of Britta's hand and squeezes it.
"Miss me?" Shirley whispers cheerfully from out of nowhere, kneeling down behind them, and Britta feels her knees go a little weak with relief at the sound of Shirley's voice.
Annie drops Britta's hands to wrap Shirley in a fierce hug. "I didn't even hear you." Annie mouths the words.
Shirley looks significantly toward the open door on the opposite side of the study room.
"It's clear," Britta whispers, and nods again toward the hallway in front of them. Uncertainty chases faintly across Annie's face then before determination replaces it, and Shirley slaps the table leg into the palm of her hand.
And then Annie's moving, sprinting for the open door, with Shirley on her heels. Britta brings the boot up, the shoelaces knotted to her wrist and pulled taut like a single nunchuck (is that a thing? it's probably a thing), and rounds the corner just beyond the door to run straight into Annie's back.
"Shirley! Britta! Help!" Annie yells, and tries to pull the hood of her cape back away from the Dean, dead-eyed and fixated on the bright red fabric. Shirley is separated from them a little, fending off zombie Chang, but she appears to be holding her own. Britta rushes in to help Annie and awkwardly paws at the ties of Annie's cloak, cursing her dinosaur fingers as she tries to loosen the bow. She's squinting at the knot and her own hands in equal confusion when Annie gasps, "Behind you! It's Jeff!" and Britta turns, thrilled for one strange, suspended moment that somebody else has managed to survive after all, and Jeff is here to...
Bite her neck. He actually goes for her jugular, as a zombie, which goes to show you that he really hasn't been listening to Abed's lectures on proper monster motivation and stereotypes at all. It's so like him.
And then he bites her neck.
"Oh, god," she panics, flailing, before it starts to occurs to her that Jeff's weird gnawing on her isn't really haven't an effect through the thick padding of her costume. She manages to hit Jeff on the side of the head with the boot and he stumbles back from her, shaking his head like there are cobwebs stuck in the rafters. She feels at her throat, and while it's hard to tell for sure everything seems to be in one piece. She shifts her grip on the boot, feeling suddenly quite a bit more confident.
"Nice try, Winger," she says, and straightens out her dinosaur costume.
"Uh, still fighting off the Dean over here," Annie gasps.
"Right. Sorry," she says, and goes for the kill, bringing the heel of the boot down on Jeff's ear and trying to put aside the fact that the whole dark zombie eyes and tight-fitting torn-up vest thing on Jeff is really kind of doing it for her.
She rushes over to Annie and pulls the Dean back from her. Annie loosens the red cloak with a single tug and lets it drop to the floor, then tightens her grip on the astronomy textbook and eyes the Dean speculatively. Shirley shakes off Chang, hooking his feet out from under him, and comes to stand next to Annie again.
But there's a weird rumbling starting, a low roar overlaid with a high-pitched keening like the whine of a beehive on a hot summer day. Annie pivots around, searching for the source of the noise, the Dean forgotten. Britta backs up so she and Shirley are shoulder to shoulder.
A mass of zombies rounds the far corner, a mass of empty hands and sunken eyes coming right at them. Garrett is leading the pack, sprinting toward them in a way that is both uncoordinated and terrifying, in front of a mob of their dead classmates, and Britta remembers the basement. She remembers the way that Troy and Abed had looked at her, at the end.
The moment stretches out strangely, the zombies in front of them running in what feels like slow motion, and a odd, bright feeling of clarity washes over Britta. "Annie, Shirley" she says in the still moment before the storm hits, "You're my sisters."
"We're going to live," Annie says firmly. "Everybody's going to live."
"The Lord protect us," says Shirley in a low voice.
And then the zombies reach them.
The zombies break over them like a stone in a flood, pulling at their anchor and surrounding them in the blink of a eye, and suddenly the world is normal speed again and Britta can't move fast enough to keep the zombies off of her. Shirley falls silent at her side and Annie is grunting a little behind them when she swings her textbook.
They don't talk for a few minutes. Britta drops a few of her classmates in a sort of human/zombie barricade in front of her, and Shirley only pauses to re-adjust her blonde wig. Annie's mostly silent until she yelps suddenly, the yell cutting off as soon as it starts.
"Annie? Are you... okay?" Britta manages to say between breaths.
"I don't want to scare anybody," says Annie in a tight, strained voice, "but the Dean just bit my arm."
Britta's stomach drops, like a trapdoor has opened up underneath her, and Shirley says softly, "Oh, sweetie."
"I need to get away from you." Annie's voice is regaining strength now. "I'm going to find Pierce. I can buy you time." She turns to them quickly, before Britta can say anything, and kisses her cheek. She gives Shirley a fast, hard hug, then turns away from both of them.
Annie starts to run in the opposite direction, pushing her way through bodies, and she pulls zombies with her as she runs, her red skirt waving like a beacon.
"We need to go," Shirley says, not watching Annie.
Britta nods stiffly and deals Garrett a hard knock to the side of the head. He falls sideways, waving his arms like a clumsy windmill as he goes down.
The zombies thin out a little as Annie runs from them, and the two of them start working their way slowly forward, inch by painful inch, but the press is still too thick. Britta can see the thermostat, just barely, on the far end of the hall. It feels like it's a million miles away.
"This is," she gasps, "not going to..."
Shirley swirls dramatically, her gown twirling outward as she goes to her knees and takes out three woman zombies dressed in a variety of sexy lady career options. "I know," she says shortly.
"Shirley," Britta says slowly as a painful realization dawns on her, "you can make it. You could make it if there were a few less zombies."
"You can do it," she whispers, and starts to move back toward where she left Jeff on the floor, and yells, "Hey, Winger, have I got something for you!" She pushes free of Fat Neil and tears her dinosaur hood away, shaking out her hair.
"Fight the man!" she yells, and throws her shoe at the back of zombie-Chang's head, and every zombie head in the hallway slowly swivels to stare at her. She takes a deep breath.
The last thing she sees is the Dean standing over her, hands on his hips at a sharp angle and a surprisingly judgmental expression on his face, lips pursed.
She doesn't remember anything after that.
Britta wakes up with one hell of a hangover.
"This is not good," she mumbles, and tries to push up her sunglasses more, in the futile hope that they will somehow merge with her eyeballs and block out the whole too-bright and too-painful world.
"My brain hurts," Troy moans, and drops his forehead onto the study room table. Abed pats his arm soothingly.
"Best Halloween party ever?" Pierce tries out, and winces at the sound of his own voice.
Shirley groans and pulls her purse up behind the back of her head, her right cheek pressed down against the table.
Jeff has managed to dig up sunglasses even darker and wider and more stylish than Britta's (damn the man), and is currently nursing a coffee concoction stuffed with more sugar and caffeine than she is sure his body has seen in a long, long time. "Does anybody remember what the hell happened last night?"
Annie rubs at the bandage wrapped around her upper arm fretfully. "I think somebody bit my arm," she says in a low, miserable voice.
A hand sneaks out from underneath the pile of Shirley's massive purse on the table and pats Annie's shoulder gently. "There, there sweetie. Alcohol is the devil's work."
"Thanks for that wisdom, Shirley," says Jeff sourly, and Shirley peeks out a little from under her purse, like a blearily angry turtle, to glare at him.
"Don't backtalk me, Jeffrey."
"UGH," says Troy into the table. "Both of you. Not helping."
"Did somebody say..." The Dean attempts to sweep into the room in a French renaissance dress, but makes a pained face and ends up just leaning against the study room doorframe instead. He droops a little, like a wilted flower, and says in a flat, sad voice, "Nevermind. It's taco day in the cafeteria."
"I don't get the dress," says Jeff.
"It's been a rough day for all of us, Jeffrey," the Dean snaps, and slowly turns to leave.
"I have a message on my phone," says Abed abruptly. "It's from Annie. From last night." Both Troy and Shirley lift up their heads at this news, and even Annie stops staring at her arm with a small, worried frown.
Abed hits the play button, and a sudden gasp of loud breathing fills the air. Annie looks even more confused as Abed sets the phone down on the table.
"I don't..." the disembodied voice says, and it's definitely Annie, a shiver of something odd running through her voice. "I just wanted to say this to somebody, to... to say it out loud, I guess. I believe in you, Britta and Shirley. I believe in you." There's a silence again, before her voice returns, sounding even more far-away and hollow. "I'll see you again soon. All of you. I know I will." The message ends abruptly in a loud, mechanical beep.
Shirley sits up straight, and Troy stares at the phone, wide-eyed and distrustful. Britta rubs at her forehead and glances over at Annie, who looks shell-shocked.
"Best Halloween party ever?" Pierce offers again, faintly.