Today was a more difficult day than the rest.
I thought it was going to be easy. Heading out of the gate, I only had to drop two Zeds with my hatchet, and didn’t even have to run to the ladder.
Climbing a ladder to the top floor of an old grocery store, I wriggled inside through a window. The owner was there. Had to put him down while he was gnawing on his wife. Put a nail in her, too. Just in case.
I found their stockpile, and loaded up. Mickey showed up, and offered to take the goods home… Home. Jesus, haven’t used that word in a couple of years now.
Anyway, I handed the stores off to Mickey, we chat for a bit before he bounced. I found over three grand in an open safe… Funny Money. That’s all it is now.
I climbed out of the window and back on to the roof. Moving the mobile walks we built last week (Jamie measured the longest distance between roof tops, and create planking that would let us walk from roof to roof, carrying the bridge along with us so no Nasties could follow [Yeah, we just found out those fuckers can climb]. She’s one smart kid), I continued down Broad St.
I had decided today that I was going to make an attempt to get to the gas station. Last time we were there, we took a hit, and lost three of ours. I figured that if today was as light as it was, I could probably make it solo, load up the truck that’s parked in the handicap parking (With no disabled parking sign, btw!), and get back to the base in a matter of minutes.
As I pulled the bridge away from the gap, and on to my last roof, I began to get this strange feeling. A buzzing, prickly feeling around my neck. You know, the one you get when you’re watching that horror movie, and something evil is breathing on the back of your neck. I sank low to the shingles, while pulling my M4 off of my shoulder, and laying my hatchet to the side.
I remained motionless for around 20 minutes (What else do I have to do? Go read the paper?), and spent my time scanning the street, alleys, and every window in every building within my view. I knew I was on the side of Broad we hadn’t been on (We’d taken McElroy st. two blocks up last time), so these buildings haven’t been cleared. I was on unfamiliar territory. There could be people still alive in these buildings… There could be people not alive in these buildings.
I had to wicked piss, and upon visually clearing the area, I spotted the corner of an eve that I could piss on, without making too much noise. I made my business, scrounged around in my bag for the jerked chicken that Teddy made last week, and chewed on a hunk. All the while, I kept looking around, sniffing the air occasionally (Yeah, you can smell them coming).
I let a couple of hours pass, drawing in my sketchbook, trying to remember the happy parts of my life before all of this. The sun was high, around 1-ish (No watch, I defer to Einstein time where everything ends in “-ish”). I packed up my bag, slung my M4, and head to the lowest part of the roof.
Sticking my head over the eve, I could see it was clear. No Zed had noticed the water coming down the drain of the rain gutter where I had taken a leak. In fact, I hadn’t seen any Zeds on the street for quite some time. I know I should never, EVER let my guard down, but this was looking to be a cake walk.
I shimmied my butt off of the eve, and tried as gracefully as possible to land on a rain barrel and hop in to the 3 foot tall grass in the side yard. I rolled out to the edge of the grass line, against the sidewalk, stopped moving, and listened…. Nothing. The gas station was waiting. I cut across the street low, hatchet in hand, and in to the gas station lot.
Crouching, I took a look in to the service center… Looks clear. I decided to do one full circle around the building, checking every window for movement, or signs of occupation. So far, so good. I slipped the door open to head inside.
“DING DING DING!!!” Fuck! My world stopped. I stopped. My heart beat so loudly, I could barely hear anything else. This could be a problem. I looked up as the little brass bell above the door slowly swung to a stop. This was bullshit. I swore at myself under my breath, and moved in to the building as quietly as I could. I reached up, and held the bell as I closed the door. Obviously, I would not want to waste such a great alarm system.
I made my way around the walls of the service center, looking for any door, and blocking it with a hand full of old rubber doorstop shims I had found a few months back in the hardware store. These things were a God send! Mickey and I wouldn’t be here if we hadn’t set these on a door in one of the apartment buildings we stupidly decided to enter.
Once all of the doors were jammed, I did a quick spot-check through the windows before standing up. I turned to surveil the shop, and it was heaven, I tell you! Twinkies, candy, bottled water, and an entire aisle of Jerky and assorted nuts! I found a rack that had those cheap little back to school backpacks, grabbed the Hello Kitty knock-off (Hello Twitty), and began to stuff as much water, high-protein and high-carb items as the bag would allow. I set these by the door closest to the truck outside.
It was around this time that I heard something. coming from one of the doors. I froze… nothing. I decided not to take any chances, un-shimmed the door to the outside, spot-checked the corners, grabbed the bags and scuttled quietly to the truck. I gently lay the bag in the back. head back in to swipe radiator fluid, and oil, and added those to the bed.
Good news: Truck doors were unlocked. Bad news: No keys, and I couldn’t hot-wire a damn thing like Mickey could. I scanned the license plate, and head back in. Once again, I wedged the door close, and went to the door to the garage. I raised my hatchet, as I slowly opened the door. Nothing. I could have sworn I heard the noise again, coming from the door next to this. Judging by the placard, it was the bathroom. Don’t need that any time soon.
I slipped in to the garage, found and grabbed the key-box, nabbed a battery charger and made my way back to the truck.
It felt like hours, but I figure by the sun, I had spend about 20 minutes there. Getting too long. Need to go…
One more bag. I’ll be the hero of the camp. I headed back inside, followed the previous security measures, and began loading up one more bag with cheap tools, and more jerky.
What. The. Fuck? I stopped moving, and slowly looked at the bathroom door. What do I do? I looked through the windows, and saw that the roads were still clear. My “Dispatching of the dead” skills were pretty spot on, which is why Mickey and I were the scouts. A long time ago, I almost felt like it was my duty to “help” the Zeds, by ending them. I felt confident if a Zed were in the bathroom for a long amount of time, that I could take it out… Why not? One less to worry about.
I slowly moved over to the door, put my foot against the bottom, and pulled the wedge out. I unfastened the safety belt on my holster, gripped and raised my hatchet, and reached for the knob.
As I pulled the door open, and sidestepped in to the opening, I heard the most shrill scream, and saw this lightning fast movement. I felt it hit me, and bounce back in to the bathroom as I fell back screaming in surprise. My hatchet had fell out of my hand, and skittered across the shop to rest underneath an ATM. I smoothly yanked my Colt 1911 out of my holster, and began to line up my shot on the… the…. uh…. the racoon that was climbing up in to the air vent it must have entered through originally looking for a safe home… Shit.
I climbed to my knees, heart racing, and in a cold sweat. My body was shaking so bad, I could barely drop the hammer down to safety on my gun. I sat there for a minute, and then as I calmed down, I slowly began to chuckle.
“DING DING DING!!”
My first instinct was to turn around, but I was so close to the door at this moment, I knew I had to get some distance. I jumped forward, while twisting my body around, and slid to the wall by the bathroom, pistol up. I lined up my shot, and stopped.
The boy had to be at most 9 years old when he died. He was covered in the tattered remains of Osh Kosh overalls, and a green Transformers shirt. In his near black stained hands was the remains of what looked like a feral cat who got too close. As the milky, shriveled sacks of what used to be fluid-filled eyes settled on me, the meat fell out of his hand. He began to move towards me.
I was thankful that he was a slow one, because when I tried to pull the trigger, I realized I couldn’t. I had never shot such a tiny Zed before, and even though this creature wasn’t a kid anymore, some primal subconscious thought was making it tough for me to kill something I naturally should protect.
He was eight feet away.
His face no longer had the rosy cheeks of a child still losing his baby fat. Instead, the skin was torn, and stretched. Flesh was hanging off of his face and neck. But despite all of the rot and decay, he was still a little boy.
He was six feet away.
“Stop it!” a voice screamed inside of my head. “Pull the God Damned trigger!” I began to run through the motions. Site the boy’s head down the barrel, line up the shot, look behind the target to ensure no innocent casualties…
There had to be close to thirty or forty Zeds lumbering out of buildings, and down the street towards the gas station. They either heard the same noise as the boy, or…. That feeling I had on the roof… Was it him? Did he watch me crawl down the house, cross the street and enter the gas station? Did the others see his corpse walking with a purpose, and decide to investigate? Shit shit shit!
He was three feet away, and I could see his body prepare to lunge at me, his arms raising from his sides.
My mind went in to overdrive, time slowed down. If I shoot this child, they will hear it, and any chance of me escaping will be lost every second as they surround the building. If I don’t shoot this child, I will be walking with them soon enough… What do I do?
I flipped the safety on, and spun the gun around in my hand. The boy lunged for me. I grabbed him by the neck, and slammed the butt of my gun into his face. I pushed him to the ground, and sat on top of him, arm raised… That’s all I remember.
The next thing I know, I had slid over to the wall by the entrance, and had put the stop shim from the bathroom in to the front door. I laid down, keeping my body tight against the wall, and waited. My gun and hand were covered in a green and black, bloody Zed slime, and I almost couldn’t remember why. I was in shock. I had to get a grip.
Shadows…. I watched the shadows as the Zeds lumbered past the garage. Focusing my breathing, I began to clear up. I could feel my heart beating in a more manageable, non cardiac-arresty manner. I watched as a shadow slowed down in front of the door and turn.
I heard the “Bump, bump” of the door against the stop as the Zed tried to get in. I looked up and saw a hand that was mostly bone resting on the glass trying to push it in. I could see the bell beginning to swing with each push. If that bell rung, it would capture the attention of the others, and they would soon be in here dining on me…
“Bump, Bump, Bump…” The bell swung side to side, the clapper moving closer to the sound rim… My fingers gripped around my gun…
The bumping stopped. The bell slowed down and eventually stopped swinging. The shadow moved away. The others who had slowed down began to continue away.
I waited for around 3 hours before popping my head up to scan my environment. Nothing. The sun was not long from fading in to the horizon. It was now or never.
I quickly collected my shims, and head out the door towards the truck. I climbed in, laying down, gently closing the door, and began rummaging through the keybox until I found the most likely candidate. I slid the key in, popped my head up to look around. Clear. I turned the key one click.
Holy crap, the indicator lights came up. Lamps off. I hopped up, slid in to the drivers key, and cranked the engine.
It only took two cranks to get the engine running. With black smoke billowing out the back, I stuffed it in to drive, released the parking brake, and was on my way. Halfway back to the base, a figure running in to the street caught my eye. It was Mickey. I slowed down just enough so he could open the door and hop in. He had a huge smile on his face.
“Holy shit, Batman! I didn’t think you were going to survive that at all!”
I stared at him. I didn’t know what to say. I attempted a smile, and then continued driving. Mickey looked at me for a few seconds before looking out to scan the alleyways as we drove past.
“I saw the kid, man… I’m sorry.”
My knuckles whitened as I gripped the steering wheel, and my eyes welled up, thinking about what I had just done. I knew there was no other way, but it didn’t stop me from crying. Mickey did a good job, and just kept looking down the road as I wept. Who are the lucky ones?
Today was a more difficult day than the rest.