“This job is killing me. I just want to die right now!”
(This is one of my earlier short stories. And before you ask: yes, I am a fan of Z Nation. . . But not really the Walking Dead. Sorry. ^_^)
I worked at a retail supermarket in the middle of a town, stocking products during the midday shift to earn money for college. Or at least that’s what I told my parents. Though a fast food job would have sucked more, working here was one hell of a price to pay for my own 1992 Dodge Viper. But the torture would all be worth it in the end.
“Zoe! Pick up the pace!”
This job wouldn’t be as annoying if it wasn’t for Mr. Barbs, the man who thought he was my superior officer in the military, more than my middle-aged manager. He and his English accent demanded perfection in every task, nitpicked my customer service skills to the smallest degree, and made every day a soul-sucking experience. It was a curse to be under his watch. At least I wasn’t the only person who had to suffer.
But of course, there was always one person who could get away with any mistakes she made. Mr. Barbs would never degrade sweet, little Lily like he would the rest of us. He fawned over the newly turned eighteen-year-old like gnats over an animal carcass in the desert. And it didn’t seem like she minded the attention from a man nearly three times her age if it meant less work for her.
The thought nearly made me gag as I emptied out the contents of my boxes one by one. I could hear Mr. Barbs and Lily sharing an “intimate” moment on the aisle in front of me. I held back a hurl. It’s only until I get my beautiful Viper. Only until then. Then I can quit. Or at least get a better job. Just a little while longer.
I started breaking the boxes down when I heard Lily scream bloody murder. The shelves shook as something hit them.
“What the hell is it now?” I groaned.
I turned the corner to see Lily crouched on the ground, splattered with blood.
Right above her, Mr. Barbs stood still, blood pouring from his throat as a man bit into it. Hard. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Did my asshole manager just get attacked by a –
Another scream came from the front of the store. Then more. Looking over the sea of apparel, I witnessed customers and employees getting mauled, tackled, and bitten just like Barbs.
Instinct kicked in. I grabbed Lily’s arm, pulled her up, and started running.
“What’s going on?!”
“Just shut up and follow me!”
I let go of her as we raced off towards the Sporting Goods section.
We dodged falling merchandise, stumbling corpses, and shredded up victims.
Blood spewed from bites. Children cried. Adults screamed.
We ran faster.
“Grab some backpacks!”
She ran down one aisle. I grabbed a knife from another. I tore its packaging and attacked the gun display case. Another hit. And another. I turned and stabbed a woman in the head, her milky eyes staring right at me. I didn’t think anything of it and pulled my knife out.
I kicked the lock free and grabbed the first two guns in the case. Lily ran back, two backpacks in hand. One seemingly filled with random crap.
She screamed as a man grabbed onto her arm. I hit him back with one of the guns.
I grabbed the empty pack and filled it with bullets.
We grabbed our stuff and ran.
We hit the backroom doors. A manager screamed as she was torn in two by those biters. We ignored it.
We weaved through boxes and pallets, running into the food storage.
I shoved her towards the end of a shelving unit. As she climbed, I raced towards the middle. A scourge of those things busted through another one of the doors.
Hand over hand, I struggled to get up before the biters got near. They closed in, reaching for my ankles to pull me down. I moved faster.
I met Lily at the top as the biters attacked more of our fellow associates. Lily sobbed. I covered her mouth.
“Hush,” I whispered, “Now let me see you pack.”
She handed it over. I dug through it. Great. The only useful things were an empty flask, a can opener, and a small lantern. The rest was just crap for people with too much money to spare for one overnight camping trip.
As the screams rose, Lily whimpered against the wall. She curled up in a ball and tried to block it all out – the tearing flesh, the cries for help. I distracted myself by standing guard. The biters seemed to have forgotten us all together. They were distracted by the meal in front of them.
Hours seemed to go by as Lily and I waited for the screaming to die down. It didn’t.
I silently moved towards Lily.
“Hey,” I whispered, “If we just stay here for now, then we won’t have to worry. Everything will die down soon . . . no pun intended. After that, we’ll be just fine.”
Lily didn’t move.
I slightly shook her.
“Hey, now. It’s going to be alright.”
She grabbed my arm tightly. Flakes of skin came off. Her veins bulged. She looked at me and smiled. Her teeth were already rotting.
I wrenched my hand from her grasp and flew back.
My hands grabbed for one of the guns.
I beat the side of her head.
She stumbled towards the edge and I beat her again.
Her body landed with a thud, attracting the nearby biters. She moaned, trying to use her arms to move. Her legs were twisted, showing off the small chunk of her calf that was bitten off sometime before. How the hell did I miss that?
I decided to ignore, hiding back on the shelf.
I grabbed the second backpack and shifted through the bullets. I could at least give her a proper goodbye. That’s when I noticed it. These bullets didn’t fit either of the guns – they were the wrong ones.
I groaned. Grabbing a small box filled with chocolate treats from the top of a close pile, I was thankful to at least have some food around me. Especially since I had missed my lunch break.
© E.N. Chaffin 2017. All rights reserved. Any reproduction without author permission is against the copyright laws of the United States of America.
laws under the United States of America.