Neil - The Superstore

It was an overcast day. I found myself power-walking with a programmed sense of urgency through a superstore parking lot. There was a pillar of smoke off in the distance signaling a fire. There were people screaming, close by and from afar, but, like most by that time, I had learned to ignore it. The parking lot was full of cars by only a third and only half of those seemed to be recently attended. Some were still running, some were blocked in and some were damaged, mangled or stripped completely. Lifeless bodies inhabited a few vehicles, but even a partially devoured corpse in that landscape had become normality at this point.

There was a small amount of the living moving about the parking lot. To list a few, there was a mother with her children linked together with her hands, frantically stirring around; a man perched on his car with his head in his hands, lost in his own thoughts, perhaps from an event that had recently taken place; and a small girl standing between cars, misplaced and adrift, pungently hardened by this world and past the point of tears. She just stared straight into my eyes with lifeless intensity like she was not even there. People were begging for help from anyone walking by but, by that time, you viewed it much like you would someone flagging you down on a busy freeway for a ride. I had a mission.

As I began to approach the doorway into the store, a spot of sunlight commenced to break through the clouds and flooded the desolate parking lot with a mocking brightness. The doors were broken and jammed open. Shattered glass from the windows decorated the floor. The mega-store appeared to operate almost regularly, however there was no staff, no electricity, and no order. People were coming and going, arguing, acting as though no one else existed and foraging for food and supplies.

I stood in an open section of the store, between aisles and panned around for a moment or two. I was in search for a pair of cargo pants, some heavy boots and a backpack as well as a weapon or two. I would have found my direction by the sign lying on the floor although I was unsure as to which way the arrow meant to face. I resigned myself to believe that the clothing section was toward the left side of the store and the hunting section towards the back right. Naturally one would start with the weapons, yet, since the grocery section of the store was on my immediate right, I would go left and make my way to the back. Survival in this situation would state to stay clear of the masses and the majority of the people in the store were centered around the grocery portion.

One must always lend an open eye and an open ear. Too many fall victim to the fallacies of misconstrued security. It is the moment that one feels safe that I attribute as the contestant to survival. I have yet to hear a tale of one’s focus, standing in affirmation, portraying a contributing factor of a life-ending event, less, of course, the infamous dumb luck. Sometimes, it is just not in the cards. Keep focus, plan for escape at any moment and keep mindful of your goal. Always have a goal.

I was letting my mind run adrift as I made way past the register aisles to the far side of the massive shop. Though my mind was being set on the important topics of safety, I was lacking cautiousness. Thankfully a sound struck me before it was too late. It reminded me of what I would once discount as innocent as a man’s best friend passing time by gnawing on leftovers but this previously harmless sound became a staple of recognizing danger in present life. If you have yet to adapt to this sound as a signal for becoming stealthy, then you probably have be eliminated already.

The sound was emanating from one of the uninhabited register aisles. Teeth on bone, this is when you must take notice. One false move and you are prey. Everyone alive has become accustom to running, though it leaves distaste for even the most undignified. There is, however, always the option of fight. Still, fighting seems to bring hordes. We do not know why. We just know this to be true. Sometimes the hordes take days to amass but, for some reason, they come. If you dispose of one of the creatures, you must move, unless you incinerate it immediately. As always, your best bet is to go unseen, unheard and undetected.

We do believe that they can smell us. Some theorize that it is the unnatural smell that draws them such as soap, perfume, deodorant and detergent, amongst other things. Some consider it is just the life force that the demons seek to end. Radicals seek faith in the idea that they are here to take this essence of life from us due to envy. No matter the cause, steer clear.

I peered around the counter and to my relief it was actually a random canine chewing on a bone, what luck. I called to it quietly. The dog lifted its head and turned to look at me. It showed its teeth, picked up its bone and trotted off. Animals seemed to have changed. They never act the same anymore. It is almost as if they do not trust humans, even though they can sense a clear difference between us and the turned. Some dogs have stayed loyal to their owners, even in some cases after a transformation, but most had a personality change when the world went to shit. It is as if some sort of survival mode kicked in and took over.

I continued and crossed through the pharmacy area remembering to keep an open eye for any medicine that may still be lying about. I was not very optimistic because medicine, any kind, had become almost as much a currency as advanced weaponry. I may easily find a hunting knife, an axe or even a handgun, but I would be lucky to find a rifle or a shotgun in this store.

I finally made my way to the clothing department. There was hardly any organization left in the heap of linen. After some rummaging, I found a pair of cargo pants in my size. I slowly rose to perch atop a shelving unit for a moment to scope out the area around me for I knew that I may be temporarily putting my safety to inconvenience while I changed my clothes. I heard people faintly across the store and there seemed to be a commotion coming from the grocery side of the superstore but I could not see what it was about. However, I was now fueled by a sudden level of concern. I began to remove my shoes and take off my jeans. When I had gotten one leg off I, thankfully for some reason, looked up.

I found myself staring into the glossy eyes of one of the walkers. For a moment, I could not believe it. Out of all the people in this store and even the disturbance that lay across the building with obnoxious screams echoing from afar, I was the one looking at this creature. It stood about twenty paces away. I gulped as I fixated on its chest pumping up and down as if it were a living, breathing person. My heart started to race. I felt my hands trembling. The cargo pants that were primed to be slipped over my right foot slid from my hands and onto the floor. My eyes felt as if they were deceiving me. I was frozen in place. I was even unable to let out a gasp. It stood arched over, its arms dangling in front, feet a little more than shoulder width apart and mouth hanging wide open.

Time seemed to stand still. The monster was dressed in tattered clothing and poised like a lion ready to pounce but not for the moment. It looked like it used to be a middle-aged man. Short hair, light complexion and even looked to of had a pleasant face. It was positioned to gorge itself on my tender flesh. I was not about to let that happen. I tried to remind myself that it was just one, but focus seemingly slipped out of my current situation, I was down to my boxers, socks, an undershirt and with one foot still wrapped with my jeans. I was not in position to fight.

The rogue being started to click its jaw as if to taunt me. That sound, though heard before, sent shivers down my spine. I rather find myself against ten of these things in an open environment then in my current situation. I felt trapped. I had no escape route. This was one of those situations that you hear about; stories told in refuge, lessons taught through others’ mistakes. I was frightened. I would have to run.

After this monster was finished with its frightful pre-feeding ritual it rolled its shoulders back to a stance of attack. As it lifted its leading foot off the ground, I lifted mine and shook the remainder of my jeans off my foot. It darted toward me, I darted right, the direction that I had first entered the area. Unfortunately, any weapon or supplies I had were left laying on the floor behind me along with my jeans. With the pharmacy, again, in front of me, I took a sharp left.

I might as well of been ice skating. My sharp turn left, on a dusty tile floor, swept my feet right out from underneath me. I slid right into metal shelving at the end of the aisle. The corner met with my hipbone and I felt it tear into my skin however the adrenaline masked the pain pretty well but not well enough. In a flashing-sharp sting I hit the ground, on my knees and wincing in pain. My mind running laps about how I needed to get up and keep moving, but I was momentary paralysed.

The demon quickly decreased the gap between us by about half. Without any further hesitation, I leaped back onto my feet and began my slippery acceleration. I was lacking traction and moving very little compared to the amount of effort being supplied. I felt the presence of impending doom nipping at my feet, and I decided to make a daring maneuver. It had seemed to be my only option since this monster was at full acceleration, and I was lacking heavily on grip. I spun around and grabbed the shirt of the creature right about the center of its chest; then, twisting all my weight through the air and pivoting on my right heel, I used its momentum to swing the creature past me. In that moment I was far closer than anyone would ever wish to be. I was in shorter proximity than I had ever been to one of these vile renditions of man without a proper weapon. I was close enough to see the dim light from the skylights above reflecting off its cloudy eyes. I could even peer at the detail of its receding gum line as it decayed in its mouth. Its arms were waving frantically as if were one mere movement away from the salvation of its starvation, and it was, but to my dismay, the stunt worked out pretty well.

It is worth noting that these creatures have horrible motor functions, but, what they lack in balance and logic, most make it up with endurance, speed and strength. They can keep going and going, at full speed and strength. They never tire, never.

The monster tripped over its own feet and tumbled to the floor about ten paces away from me and slid a good five more feet while the whole time not seeming to notice how close it had been to its goal. As it quickly pulled itself off the ground, I took a moment to rip my socks off. I felt a thin stream of liquid run down my side from my hip to my knee, drop to the floor and splash on the side of my bare foot. It was blood, and I had just been reminded of the throbbing laceration on my hip. My senses were at an all-time high as fear had really began to seep past the overwhelming surge of adrenaline. I was engulfed with fantastic hope that the monster would get distracted by another victim, or that I could outrun it long enough to find a weapon or, at least, some sort of advantage. I took off with all force.

I felt my feet pounding the hard floor step after step as I made my way toward where I thought the hunting department to be. I heard stomping footsteps behind me. It drove me harder; I was afraid to look back. I kept going, pushing and striving. I felt my heart thumping in my chest, my breath in and out with every other stride. I sprinted through the toy section, past the kitchen and bedroom areas. As I passed through the hardware portion of the store, I thought about grabbing a hammer, but, one, I did not know how close my pursuer was and, two, you really do not want to get that close to those things. I believe I had already stretched my luck with my previous ploy. One bite is all it takes.

My guess was correct, and I finally reached the hunting department. I saw the glass, semi-circular display counter where they kept firearms. It still seemed so far away, like viewing a mirage from across a desert. I did not have enough time to stop or even to look and see if there was anything left. I decided to make a loop around the closest aisle. Keeping my speed as much as I could through the turn as I passed through the sporting goods section. I took a tight turn and started to make my way back to the display case. As I made my one-hundred and eighty degree turn, I heard a crashing behind me. My attacker probably lost control trying to take the turn at full speed. I imagined an indycar taking a turn too fast and slamming into a wall. Although, this time it would not burst into flames, the driver would just slam the gas pedal and keep going. However, I remember remaining pleased as that should buy me time.

I refocused on my goal. I sprinted to the display case and attempted a lunge over it. I landed on top, and my body weight cracked the glass on impact. I slid off into the area between, slamming violently shoulder first on the floor. My body was in no regard for injury at the moment. Rolling onto my side and then a knee, I punched my fist into the case reaching for first gun I saw. I was not only happy to find one but to grab ahold of it before I heard my predator approaching again. I darted out through the opening between the counter.

Again, I began to make my loop around one of the aisles bordering between the hunting department and sporting goods section. Once more, the monster took the turn too fast, and I gained some distance. Through my current lap I was able to identify that the weapon I was wielding looked to be a 9mm. When I approached the counter again, I only had time to see where the ammunition was kept.

Darting around the aisle for the third time I decided to make another daring feat for I was beginning to tire. I grabbed a baseball bat with my right hand and turned around in such a way to swing straight through the head of my pursuer. I connected with full force and the monster changed direction as it plummeted into the shelving, knocking various soccer balls, volleyballs, and basketballs all over. I fell on my back a slid a bit, watching the spectacle. Due to the fall, I had dropped my gun. Without hesitation, I jumped to my feet and made my way back toward the display case.

This time I was able to grab a box of ammo that seemed fit for my newly acquired handgun. This is when I realized that I helped slow down the monster, and it was able to make the turn faster than it had before, thus allowing it to accelerate out of it faster. I started my fourth lap around the aisle while trying to locate the weapon that I haphazardly dropped. After spotting it, I made a headfirst baseball slide; I grabbed the gun and jumped to my feet. I started running again. Only this time I had ran toward my attacker, evading with a quick side-step around it and darting straight through to the automotive department. The monster had to turn around, and this would buy me some more time to try to load the gun with ammunition. I was dropping most of the bullets on the floor, but I managed to load three or four. I slammed the magazine into the gun, stopped and turned around. At this point the monster was about twenty-five or so paces away from me. I grasped the gun with both hands and raised it to shoulder level in front of me. I gazed down the barrel with definitive accuracy and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. I pulled it again. I pressed the safety and tried again, nothing. The monster was almost at ten paces. I closed my eyes and I pulled the trigger again, again and again. Then I heard a deafening sound. My ears were ringing and the corpse was lying at my feet with a puddle of blood forming around its head. I finally had a moment to breathe. The moment struck me with a feeling of relief. Then I heard a voice behind me simply state, ‘you forgot to pull the slide.’