The entire city is pitch dark and full of movement. Hungry shadows speckle the streets like packs of wild animals on the prowl, cloaked in a silence known only to the undead. If not for an occasional snarl I might make the fatal mistake of thinking I have the entire city to myself.
With only my bow in hand and a bouquet of arrows sprouting from my backpack, I can’t help but feel rather vulnerable. For whatever reason the zombies don’t seem to notice me half the time, like I’m a ghost. The other half they hate me like I punched a baby. I haven’t quite figured out why I make them so moody, but I’m being extra careful because all it will take is one wrong turn to get boxed in with nowhere to run. Of course, I would feel a lot better with cold steel in my hand and a magazine or two within reach, but I’m about as likely to stumble upon something like that right now as I am a fucking pepperoni pizza.
So, I don’t exactly remember much of anything beyond when I awoke about 24 hours ago. Who I am or when the world went to hell in a handbag are both mysteries to me, and my last memory is of a kiss so spectacular fireworks went off in my head like the time I went to the New Years party at Time Square. I remember the face of the girl who kissed me like that, too, with her rich chestnut hair and big doe eyes, the taste of mint on her breath . . . and then everything went black. 0hen I awoke she was gone and the fireworks were replaced with a migraine unlike any I’ve ever had. Bloody footprints marred the hardwood all around where I lay, but she was nowhere to be seen.
If she is still alive I’ll do whatever it takes to find her, and if she’s dead I’ll gladly dive into the abyss of lost souls to drag her out again, even if it is just for one final kiss. Not that I’m a romantic or anything. I’m just, er, thinking that seeing her again will jog my memory. But first things first. If I’m even going to make it another day in this hellhole, I’m going to have to get some grub.
I’ve honestly spent the last twenty minutes eyeballing a pack of chocolate Hohos and a bottle of Coke Zero through the window of a hole-in-the-wall store on 5th. At first glance the place looks vacant, but that’s because some punk with a green Mohawk is behind the counter devouring the cashier. He looks occupied enough that I could probably sneak in and steal off with the goods, but I’ve noticed that some zombies are faster than others and I’d hate to find out the hard way.
Deciding I’m going to risk it, I glide over to the glass door. Despite my efforts to keep quiet, the bell jingles above my head when I open it. I glance at the pool of blood beneath the cash register to see if I need to run, but the zombie’s still too absorbed in his meal to notice me. I let out a quiet sigh and creep forward. The stillness to the air is so stifling I have to fight the urge to turn back. The sound of his constant chewing has a way of chilling my blood beyond measure.
Snacks are scattered everywhere, making the room look as if it were turned upside down and shaken a couple of times. Every step crunches a pack of Doritos or pops open a Twinkie wrapper, but the masticating never stops.
I have an arrow knocked and ready to loose just in case he comes at me, but it’s sort of a last resort since I’m not much of a marksman. Had the person I was before been a little less into his physique and more into survival, I might have been able to waltz right in and take what I want from this store instead of sneaking around like Bilbo fucking Baggins.
I tear the pack open with shaky hands and practically inhale the chocolatey treat inside. Its so blissful I can’t help but eat more. This goes on until I realize that I’ve already devoured the entire box.
Scratching my head in confusion, I turn to the refrigerators, thinking that a drink might help tame my hunger. After a quick glance behind me to make sure my host is still unaware, I reach for the frosty Pepsi inside.
My hand touches it’s cool surface right at about the same time I see two dead eyes staring at me from within. I fall backward with the bottle in hand, frantically striving to get my arrow knocked before it’s too late. The zombie inside lunges just when I begin to pull back the string, spilling drinks of different shapes and sizes all over the isle. I manage to launch my shaft in mid air, but it glances off the thing’s neck and stabs straight into a plastic bottle.
“Shit!” I exclaim, shoving my drink into its jaw to keep it from biting down on my arm. That buys me just enough time to scramble to my feet and dart down the isle. It looks like I’ll have a clean escape until I realize that the punk is blocking my path, his face and hands awash in blood.
I reach into my pack and pull out another shaft as he progresses. My hands are shaking so badly I can barely manage. Luck must be on my side, however, because I hit him right between the eyes and he goes down squirming. When I try to run something catches my leg and I fall flat on my face, my bow sliding beyond reach. That’s when I feel his teeth sink into my sneakers, ripping off a chunk of fabric before I can kick him in the nose.
Blood splatters down his maw when his nose snaps like a broken carrot, but it doesn’t even seem to phase him. He just keeps biting at me over and over. I feel the sort of panicked you get when a rattlesnake slithers over your feet and starts shaking it’s tail. Only worse because this thing actually wants to eat me! In another moment he’ll reach my calf, and there’s no telling what will happen once his saliva touches my bloodstream.
Frantically I reach out for anything I can get, only to come up with a can of fucking bean dip. In my haste, I don’t even hesitate to whack him across the skull. Luckily it makes him stagger just long enough for me to snatch an arrow out of my pack. He goes for the kill, but this time I skewer him straight through the eyeball. I’m not convinced that’s enough, though, so I roll him over and deliver another dozen or so stabs before finally declaring him dead.
We’re both a bloody mess by the time I cease, but at least I’m still alive. Breathing heavily, yes, but alive nonetheless.
The store is mine, I realize with a hint of satisfaction. Anything and everything I ever wanted by way of junk food is at my fingertips! I’ll be able to survive here for weeks!
I step carefully around the corpses to snatch up one of the soda bottles littering the floor. It fizzes with a twist as if to welcome me to my reward, but before I can indulge in it, the shrill scream of a woman splits the air outside. The hair on my neck stands on end.
“Shit,” I say, screwing the cap back on. “Just when I thought I could relax.”
I shove as much junk food as I can inside my backpack and pick up my bow. So much for festivities, I say on my way back out the door.
The bell chimes behind me when I step out into the street. In the distance I can see shapes moving, but I don’t quite make out what it is until I creep forward a bit. Suddenly I feel very nauseous. Thousands of them are coming, and they look like they see me plain as day.
I begin to run the other direction, but a gunshot down an alley grabs my attention. No matter how dangerous it might be, it’s the first sign of life I’ve heard since I awoke. Before I can rule in favor of good sense, I hear the girl screaming again and go bolting toward her like the idiot I am. To my misfortune, the horde follows.
About halfway down the alley I see the girl kicking and screaming as several men remove her from some kind of a net. She’s frightened as can be, but positively stunning. Her hair is dark as a raven, and her body like that of a goddess. She has a face equally gorgeous, and when they rip her shirt off I see that her breasts are perky and full. My first instinct is to rush in and stick up for her, but I have no way to get up there and I’m outnumbered four to one. I’m in the middle of trying to formulate a plan when I see a familiar face lying unconscious in the net.
I tiptoe forward to confirm my suspicion, hiding in a recess in the wall so not to be seen. My breath is coming a mile a minute now and suddenly I’m remembering things. The outbreak. The ascent to the roof. The fall into the gym where I tweaked my ankle—Chelsea’s kiss!
As quietly as possible, I climb on top of a dumpster, knowing full well that the zombies will be able to reach me in less than a minute. Every ounce of common sense inside of me is screaming to run, but all I can do is stare at that face. Unconscious as the kid may be, I would know him anywhere. After all, we roomed together for nine months.
Kyler, you fucking bastard! Where’s Chelsea? Did you abandon her too? I should leave your sorry ass behind to die like you did to me!
It’s then that it occurs to me. Even if I somehow manage to get away at this point and Kyler dies, all knowledge of Chesea’s whereabouts will go die with him. Like it or not, that leaves only one choice: risk it all for the bastard who left me for dead.