I have been writing for just about as long as I can remember. There are millions of words out there that I’ve laid down, some public and some not. As I come into my late 30s I realized that I have never made a dime off the stuff that is bouncing around inside of my head. My wife has asked me over the last couple of years, jokingly, when I am going to publish a novel so we can retire and live off royalties. On the one hand, I am a bit of a dreamer, but on the other I am a realist. I am aware that the writing market is saturated with people who think that others want to hear what they think, maybe even NEED to hear what they think, and they’re willing to charge a fee for those thoughts
Sal drops the gun to his side and stares down the aisle to the front door. Shakily, I stand up and turn to see a dozen corpses shambling in the front door and coming straight for the three of us. They must have heard the commotion and came to check it out.
Quickly I point to the shelves in the back and the fact that their height will be enough to get us out of their grasp. I know that we stand a chance of being stuck there for awhile but its the only way to go right now. They’ve blocked the front door and if we don’t get moving in the next couple seconds, we won’t get another chance.
Without waiting any longer, I scramble to my feet and bolt for the shelving. Katarina runs so close behind me that I can hear her gasping for breath.
I begin to jump through the air before I’ve even reached the shelving, and the force with which I hit it shakes the very foundation. As soon as I make contact though, I start climbing. I end up making it up two shelves before I pause and turn my head. Katarina is close enough behind me that she ends up smacking her head into my leg during my brief respite.
Sal is standing in the same spot, gun hanging at his side, staring down the dozen walking corpses. Katarina and I both start hollering at him, trying to shake him out of his daze, but it has no effect on him. He continues to stand and stare.
As the crowd reaches him, he finally awakens from his daze, and turns to run at the shelves that Katarina and I are on. He comes racing towards the shelving, and leaps thru the air like I did. His leap comes up short, and he lands awkwardly on his ankle, causing a loud crack. The grimace of pain on his face is obvious, but even as he falls to the ground and the crowd closes in on all three of us, he glares at me with those hate-filled eyes and he makes it virtually impossible to feel any sort of pity for him.
Katarina whimpers and then breaks into a scream. I watch as Sal fires his gun at the first couple attackers, dropping them immediately. He attempts to scramble to his feet awkwardly and leap toward the shelving. He begins to pull himself up, and it looks like he might make it, but then his ankle is grabbed with enough force to knock him back to the ground. I stare in horror as Sal’s Achilles tendon is severed by the teeth of one of the attacking corpses. He raises his gun in the direction of the group, and fires a headshot, hitting the first one who has his flesh in their mouth. The head disintegrates along with the freshly chewed bits of his ankle.
Katarina moves toward the edge of the shelves as if she’s going over to help Sal, but I grab her and tell her that it’s too late for him. She evidently realizes this, looks at me, and then nods slowly as if to confirm my statement. To make matters worse, Sal aims his gun at Katarina and I, squeezing off a shot, narrowly missing us but opening up a hole in the large bag of dog food I’m sitting on. The force with which the bag empties throws me off balance, and I nearly tumble head first onto the grocery floor before grabbing ahold of the shelf columns.
Sal continues to glare at me amidst his tirade of swearing before it turns into hollers of pain, and then eventually screams of agony. Within less than five minutes, the only sound left is the teeth ripping Sal’s meat from his skeleton.
Katarina and I look down at the crowd of bloody, soulless faces and I try to figure out our next move from here.
The trip over to the grocery store isn’t bad really. We see maybe a dozen of “them” and don’t even have to interact with them. Since we scrapped the idea of the store that is further away, this one is close enough to walk to briskly, with no running needed.
Sal is still grumbling about the food that we’ll be getting, but he’s smart enough to realize that Katarina and I were right, speaking practically, to not risk our necks until we absolutely MUST.
The doors of the store are partly broken, and partly wedged open. There’s not really any sort of security for us with the doors in the condition they’re in, so we’ll just have to snatch and run.
Sal is the first one in, and although his status as a loudmouthed douche bag is pretty much cemented in my head, I’ve gotta admit that he’s virtually silent upon entering the store. Katarina follows him and I bring up the lead, keeping an eye out on our tail end. The closest people around are about two to three blocks back and it doesn’t look like anybody’s noticed us, so we seem to be in the clear for now.
The smell of spoiled food and several unfortunate employee’s corpses is faint from this end of the store, but as we get further into the store, and closer to the produce and deli, the smell is almost overpowering. I’m successful at containing my gag reflex, but Katarina doesn’t do so well. She vomits on the floor, not even making it out of the area. She looks at me and apologizes for that and that the last time they came the smell wasn’t as bad, to which I tell her that it’s completely understandable and that I’m on the verge of my own cookies.
Before I even get to finish telling her this, Sal walks up to her and slaps her full handed across the face, telling her to get her shit together. Katarina whimpers softly and Sal flashes one of his smug looks my way, flashing his eyebrows as if to add insult to injury.
That’s it, I’ve had enough of this asshole. I’ve never been one of those guys to fight another person’s battle, but Sal continues to go too far with his deity complex. I tell Sal that if he’s ready to start hitting people, he oughtta try hitting ME across the face. Sal flashes me a dirty look and comes stomping over to me, hand raised in a fist.
The punch comes quickly and I duck, only to come back up and meet his other swinging fist. I’m dazed and lose my grip on the backpack. The sound that the backpack makes as it hits the ground sounds like a sonic boom and, due to the unending silence, echoes for what seems like an eternity. I gather my senses, grab the nearest can from the dropped backpack, and swing it hard at Sal’s head. Luckily, the can connects and Sal is stuck swaying back and forth. I lunge for his midsection and knock him off balance. We both go sliding across the grocery store floor, and Sal takes another swing at me, which I deftly maneuver away from, then deliver my own punch.
Sal yells at me to get off him or he’ll kill me, to which I respond with another well-placed punch to his side. Sal is a tough bastard though, and no matter how many punches I land, he still seems to keep coming back at me. He head butts me with enough force to knock me off my feet once again and then reaches for his gun, cocks it, and points it at my head. “You stupid shithead, I knew it was a bad idea to pick you up. All you’ve been is extra baggage. Katarina and I have a good thing going, and ever since we rescued your sorry ass, the balance of power hasn’t been the same. Well I’m going to set that balance back to where it was before. I’ll be kind enough to shoot you in the head so you’ve got no chance of me meeting up with you again.”
As I sit there with my eyes closed and realize that chivalry might as well be dead in this current situation, Katarina says quietly, “guys look at the door”.
My back is against the shelves and all I can see is the shoplifting mirror on the ceiling, but it’s enough to let me see that we’ve got company walking in the front door.
Early the next morning, in silence we get suited up for a supply run. Katarina refuses to even look at me, and it seems that all Sal wants to do is stare me down. What a prick.
The silence is broken when Katarina says “is the sun up yet?” To which Sal informs her that it is NOT up yet. I guess they’ve learned by trial and error what works and what doesn’t work, when it comes to pillaging area grocery stores and quick stops. If they go too early in the morning, the darkness hides too many hazards. There’s no telling who or what will jump out at them, and its hard to see what supplies are being grabbed in the dark. The power at all the stores has been out for a few days now and the further you get into the store, away from the windows, the darker it gets.
The opposite end of the pillaging spectrum holds no more optimism though. If its too bright outside, the opportunity for stealth is diminished. It seems that even though those things are clinically dead, they retain some functions (well, besides the obvious fact that they are CORPSES walking around), which would include vision capabilities. They’ve gone out in the middle of the day before, but as a general rule, it seems to be riskier.
Sal informs us of our main objective today. When he mentions which store we are going to hit, Katarina gasps along with me. The store he’s talking about is just over one mile away. Sal appears to understand why we’re nervous, but he barks that we’ll just have to make it work, no matter what the distance.
Katarina pleads with him to stick closer to where we are. There’s plenty of cans that we may have just not seen yet, she announces to us. I mention that if Katarina is right, and there IS enough cans left in the store nearest to us, we don’t necessarily need to risk our necks for a different flavor of food. Our options are limited, and it’s better to face that fact right now; we must make do with what we have.
I can tell that Sal is not happy about being challenged by both Katarina AND me. He mutters that he’s tired of the same food and wants some different food. He then takes it a step further and informs Katarina that her food sucks.
I find out why I don’t like Sal very quickly. After a couple days of getting rested up, I have my first real run-in with him.
Katarina had made a pretty interesting, albeit quite tasty, concoction with our latest batch of canned goods and the three of us were munching away at it. I tell Katarina that it’s amazing how well she can make dinner, given the obvious scarcity of supplies. She chuckles nervously and then mumbles a quick ‘thanks’, then glances over at Sal, who nods approvingly.
‘What the fuck was that?’ is the only thing that I can think of. She needs HIS approval before taking a compliment? Oh this shit is going to be VERY interesting. I mean, I know I come across as a real dick sometimes, but I’ve never thought that a woman should be THAT submissive. Yeah I’ve had a few lady friends in my life, but none of them were that meek around me. Of all the people to be left surviving with, I’ve gotta get the chauvinist, and the battered wife.
I continue to eat my stew with a smile on my face, but I don’t think I’m doing a real good job of hiding my disgust with that whole thing. Sal looks at me with a smug grin and chows down on his food too. Katarina? All she does is stare down at her bowl; I think she realizes that I’m pretty pissed.
Dinner finishes up, and I offer to get the dishes. I can tell by the look on Sal’s face that he had no intention of doing them, and probably thinks a little less of me for offering. Oh well, once again a case of I-don’t-give-a-fuck sets in, and I get my hands all soapy and wet. Its really the LEAST I could do. I mean, they saved my ass from the same fate that has befallen ninety percent of mankind, so I’ll wash the damn dishes and have no second thoughts about it. Until we make our next trip out to restock on supplies, I’m just dead weight and a terrific way to deplete the rations quicker than usual.
I finish up the dishes and then slowly make my way to the main area that we all stay at. As I get closer, I hear grunting and heavy breathing. As I get even closer, I recognize the feral nature of those grunts, and I realize that it’s Sal making the noises. I peek around the corner and see Katarina bent over one of the beds and Sal behind her, thrusting himself around so hard that he’s bright red. I want to look away, I really NEED to look away, but I can see a puddle by Katarina’s face, and I realize that she’s not making any sounds because she’s sobbing silently into the bed sheet. Sal, in between breaths, mumbles obscenities to her and all I can really make it is that they are threatening words, and not necessarily dirty talk. What a cock this guy is, I think to myself.
I slowly and quietly backpedal into the kitchen and wait until Sal finishes up. As I’m sitting there, drinking a glass of the bottled water that we are rapidly getting low on, Sal walks in. Naked as the day he was born, he looks at me with that smug motherfucking smile and says “She’s mine, dipshit. Ain’t no way she’s leaving me for you, I saw to that shit” I respond with a restrained “yeah, I guess so” and stand up and walk past him. As I walk past, he makes a point to knock my shoulder and we have a brief moment where we glare at each other.
I get back out to where we sleep at and see that Katarina has made every effort to clean herself up, but her ear is still red, and is starting to swell badly. She doesn’t say a word, just looks at me timidly, and then lies down for the night.
The smell of body odor and cigarette smoke wakens me. I sit up, not sure of where I am, and then IMMEDIATELY lie back down. My head is pounding and everything is out of focus.
“Good to see you’re awake again”, I hear and turn my head, slowly this time, to see a girl with a lit cigarette hanging from her mouth. She’s sitting on the floor to my left. About 2 weeks ago, I’m sure she must have been a knockout but now she’s dirty, unkempt, and looks like she’s just started smoking. It’s obvious that she’s not sure what she’s doing with the cigarette. She inhales quickly, and then sputters it out amidst a massive coughing fit. She catches my eyes looking at her cigarette, and quickly apologizes for smoking. Fuck it, I tell her, doesn’t matter how fast you can run from those bastards, they’ll catch us all in the end. Smoke ’em if ya got ’em, I’ve heard said.
I ask her where I am and she explains that her and another guy met up a few days previous and barricaded themselves in this brick building. During a trip for supplies yesterday, they had watched as the garbage bin I was rolling along in smashed into the SUV and the crowds of “them” slowly made their way to the accident scene. Katarina, as she tells me her name is, says that she and Salvatore spent a few minutes debating whether or not it was worth it, risking their asses to possibly save mine. Katarina goes on to tell me that SHE won the argument and they grabbed me quickly, before the rest of the crowd got to the bin. She assures me that it wasn’t seamless, however; there were several near-misses. She gives me a quick glimpse of her sleeve, and I can see that her arm was scraped. Lucky for her, the bite didn’t break the skin.
I can hear some mumbling from the next room, and Katarina hollers for Salvatore to come and meet me. Damn, I wish she wouldn’t have yelled so loud; my head feels like I’ve had another one of those all night benders that I used to have. I’d really prefer not to think about that I’ll never be able to get shitfaced again.
A gruff looking, surly guy walks in and introduces himself as Salvatore. I’m getting a pretty bad vibe though from him. He hasn’t even opened his mouth and I already think that he’s probably a real dickhead. Sure enough, I’m right on the money. First thing out of his mouth is “hope you’re grateful for us saving your ass”. If I had more energy and my head wasn’t spinning like a top, I would have loved to stand up and punch him in the fucking mouth. As it was, though, I just told him that I most definitely DID appreciate them risking their asses to save mine.
Katarina tells him to lighten up with a “come on Sal, take it easy”, to which he responds by grunting and marching out of the room. She turns back to me and explains that his entire family was attacked, and as he was on his way out the backdoor, he saw them all “turn”. He was understandably a bit freaked when his own family started after him.
As she stood to go, I shrugged it off with a mumbled “whatever” and caught a glimpse of his shadow by the door moving quickly to avoid being caught eavesdropping. She doesn’t appear to have seen it, but I just made a mental note to watch my ass around “Sal”.
As the dumpster picks up speed, I raise my head up and look at my surroundings. I’m amazed that I’m still moving in a straight line, honestly. I didn’t think I could possibly make it this far, but I’m pleasantly surprised. I cringe as a straggler wanders out in front of my speeding metal box and brace myself for impact.
The dumpster hits him with so much force that his decomposed arm flies through the air and lands next to my foot. I reach for it and attempt to toss it back out of the dumpster. As I’m trying to throw it out, this arm keeps wiggling around and refuses to let go. I peel off each individual finger and then quickly relocate my grip to right at the point of where it was separated and throw it as hard and as far as I can.
I’m not quite sure exactly how fast I’m traveling, but the hill has definitely done what I was hoping for. I’m going fast enough that none of those bastards even know what’s going on. I can see all of them turning slowly as I approach them, and then moaning in what sounds like frustration, arms outstretched, as I fly by.
It hits me that I’m not exactly sure how far I hope to travel in this rolling dumpster. At the time, it was a great idea in getting away quickly but now I’m at the whim of the rusted wheels of a large metal object that smells of diapers and spoiled food, and is rushing down a hilly street. Aw shit, maybe I should’ve come up with a better idea? How the hell can I stop this thing? I hate to say it, but I think this road trip is going to end badly. I may end up colliding with something that will completely alter my course, or stop me dead in my tracks.
I feel a twinge of guilt for not helping Steve out but then realize that if I would have stayed and tried to help, I would just be another walking corpse. I can’t think about what has happened to Steve and the kids, I just can’t. I really appreciate what Steve tried to do for me, but it was his good heart that ended up becoming his downfall. I hate to be a cynical prick, but with all that’s happened, I can’t think that any good will come from ANY of this. I mean, seriously, this is it. If this isn’t the end of the world, then I’d hate to see what comes next. The shit I’m seeing, these people who are supposed to be dead, can’t truly be happening. But it is. It IS happening and there’s nobody able to stop it at this point. How many of us are left? How many people are still alive? I mean REALLY alive, not that debauchery of life that’s out there now. I’ve gotta quit thinking of this kind of shit man. I’m going to go apeshit crazy if I keep it up.
I stare down the street and see that I’m about to reach that abrupt halt I feared. Directly in my path is an SUV sitting, door ajar, in the middle of the road. Should I jump? Fuck no, I can’t jump out now. This thing is moving WAY too fast for that. I start rocking back and forth, trying to deter this path I’m on. No luck though; this dumpster is too big to be swayed by my less than two hundred pound frame.
I brace myself for impact, and then I collide with the SUV. Sparks fly both in front of me, and in my head. Then it all goes dark.