I couldn’t see anything outside the door when I reached it. A slight movement to one side of the door made my breath catch. Was it a zombie? Did they realize I was inside? There was a crash and the door in front of me shattered. A man ducked below the bar handle and staggered inside. He stopped when he saw me. His body stiffened as he gazed at me with a bewildered look.

W stood staring at each other. The sound of a car horn made me skip into the counter. He blinked once and turned to the isles of the small store. He commenced with pulling handfuls of stuff from the shelf and shoving them into a bag.

“Is there anyone else?” I asked him, starting to follow him around the store. He ignored me, continuing to work. “Are there more survivors?” I asked again, letting my voice get louder in the attempt.  He never responded, his focus solely on the items on the shelves.

He stopped at my table and started to reach for the first aid kit. I slid around him and put my hand on it. “Sorry, but I brought this from home.”

He stared at me, his dark eyes looking almost as dull as the eyes on a zombie. Then he snatched the kit from under my hand. The good and bad news was that I forgot to close the kit properly, so bandages and other items went flying from it. He grunted and dropped the empty tin casing before running back outside.

He tossed the filled bag into the bed of the truck. Two kids scrambled to catch it and put it between them as they settled with their backs against the cab. The man slid into the passenger side. A heavy-set woman sat in the driver’s seat. He must have said something to her because her attention switched from him to me.

“Come. You come.” She shouted, indicating the bed of the truck. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized the family was Hispanic. Maybe the guy hadn’t understood me. But then why didn’t he try to talk to me in Spanish?

I stared at the small group and tried to think quickly. I could stay in Wild Horse and hope that my parents came back, or I could go with a bunch of strangers and get away from the zombie infested town.

“Hold on, I have to get my stuff.” I shouted back.

She shook her head. “No. Now.” She waved her hands out the windows.

Through the mist of falling snow, human shaped figures were shambling toward the store and truck. Seeing them I was reminded of the terror I felt when I tried to climb the tree.

It took a second for me to comprehend that the woman was shouting at me.

“Hold on.” I shouted, this time ignoring her protests. I ran back to my table. I started shoving my stuff back into my bags. I caught sight of the gun cabinet that rested on a counter behind the cash register as I staggered back to the door.

The truck’s wheels started spinning audibly on the snow. I reached the door in time to see the woman steer the truck onto the highway.  The truck began to slide across the surface of the gathered snow. The woman was fighting to control it, but the truck wasn’t responding. The engine stuttered into silence.

The zombies gathered around as she worked to get the truck started again. Two zombies started to climb into the bed when the truck finally caught and revved to life. She directed it forward, but it fishtailed with her panic, flinging the two zombies from the bed in the process. One stood back up and lurched after the truck. The other keened, apparently unable to stand up.

The woman plowed right through several more zombies before the truck vanished behind the edge of the animal supply store across the street. The sound of the truck’s engine ebbed into silence.

“No.” I heard myself whisper. “Please, wait.” I stared at the spot where I last saw the Hispanic family, my heart sinking. Part of me wanted to sit and start crying as a wave of hopelessness dulled my senses, dragging at me. I dropped the bags. I knew that the family wouldn’t be back. They wouldn’t risk themselves for a stranger. It was understandable, but it still hurt.

From that angle, I could see most of the zombies wandering toward the highway. But a handful wandered idly around, not seeming to care about the prey that was getting away. One came from the front of the bar next door and angled itself toward the store.

What could I use to block up the broken windows? The door between the store and the shop didn’t look like it would stand up against zombies. Plus in the store, I could have anything I wanted until I figured out what to do. I needed something to block the gaping hole in the door. A board, maybe? In my mind’s eye, I saw the boards in the shop.

I grabbed two of the boards, mentally crossing my fingers and hoping that I wouldn’t pass out from trying to carry the awkward weight. I staggered back to the front door, dragging the boards with me. It was awkward to move with them since they were about two feet taller than me and around a foot wider. Not to mention the fact that there were two of them. It took longer than I wanted and by the time I reached the door my body trembled with the exertion. I felt like a fish out of water, unable to get enough air, but I had to hurry.

The zombie was closer but didn’t seem to have noticed the gaping door. I struggled to catch my breath. I examined the hole and the boards. It didn’t take long to fit one into place using the other board as a brace. It wouldn’t hold up to the zombies, but maybe they wouldn’t notice it.

I stepped back to examine my work. The board wasn’t big enough to cover the entire broken window. There were only a couple inches on either side of the board, allowing me to have a view of the zombie as it moved closer.

The tavern wasn’t that far away, maybe two hundred feet or so from the edge of the bar to the front door of the store. But the zombie was in no hurry. I waited until it drew level with the faux door.

The moment it stepped up to the door, I realized I was being stupid. The zombie would easily tear down the makeshift door if it wanted. I started to look for something to help brace the board in place, but to my surprise, the zombie didn’t stop. It kept moving along the front of the store, then turned and walked toward the shop.

As soon as it was out of sight, I let out the breath I hadn’t realized I was holding. Pain flared again in my side, making my vision fade. I staggered back to the table and sat down, putting my head between my legs to stop the lightheaded feeling.

While doubled over and struggling through a wave of nausea, I had the feeling I was being watched. I ignored my pain and forced my eyes to focus. The zombie from the bar was back. It stared at me through the dense glass. The sight of the zombie made me freeze, my breathing automatically halting. It pressed its face was pressed against the glass, nose smashed with the pressure. Its mouth hung open. Unlike the female zombie at my house, this one didn’t press its tongue to the glass.

His teeth and chin were stained dark brown with old blood and I could imagine the scent of his foul breath. Even though the idea was in my imagination, my tongue curled and a bitter taste rose in my throat. His eyes were blank, the color of the iris coated in a sheen of white. Were all the zombies blind then?

From the shape of his face, I could tell that he was almost painfully thin. His cheekbones were prominent and the hollows of his cheeks were tinted a dark blue.

He dragged his face along the window. He never seemed to focus on me, instead he reminded me of a small child testing the physical world by taste and touch, but he wasn’t using his hands. It was almost like playing hide-and-seek with a blind person. If you didn’t move, they couldn’t find you. After what seemed like an eternity, she moved off again.

I took a deeper breath and instantly regretted it. My ribs raised their protest at the expansion of my lungs. I hated that I couldn’t seem to get enough air. It was really beginning to bother me.

When I was sure that the zombie was gone, and no others were taking its place, I picked up the contents of my first aid kit and reorganized them into the tin. The store was gradually getting darker, though I could still see by the ambient light. I remembered seeing some candles on one of the shelves, but I wasn’t sure about lighting any, in case it would draw the zombies back.

Pouring out a couple of pain-killer tablets, I started scanning the isles to take stock of what was left. It was pretty apparent after a few minutes that the man hadn’t been paying attention to what he grabbed. Most of the chips were gone, along with a row of candy bars. The jerky was left alone, which I felt was better to have than the chips and candy. I grabbed a stick of jerky to chew on as I perused the rest of the shelves. He grabbed all the flashlights, at least. That left me a propane lantern that might be usable if I kept it on the lowest setting. And found some propane.

It turned out the man managed to grab all but one of the propane tanks. The last one was stored on a shelf below the cash register. It took me a few minutes to cover the table with a tarp I found then I climbed under it and lit the lantern. Turning the lantern on its lowest setting, I crawled back out and resumed my search of the isles.

It wasn’t long before the gun cabinet caught my attention again. It was locked up tight, first by the lock on the door, then again by a bike chain threaded through the triggers and attached to a hook inside. There was a small selection of four rifles, a slightly larger selection of six hand guns, two unthreaded bows, and a stash of ammunition all sitting just out of reach inside the case. I could break the class, I knew, but I didn’t want to risk getting any zombie attention.

Movement near one of the windows attracted my attention for a moment, until I realized it was just a zombie wandering around. Probably the guy from the bar.

I searched around the cash register and the shelves below it, finally finding a box containing a key ring full of keys. Some were labeled as spares, including two that went to the managers’ office in the shop and another that went to the door in the shop that led to the parking lot out back. More than half the keys on the ring had no label.

It took me a few minutes of trial and error to find the key that fit the lock then another search to find the key that fit the padlock. Suddenly the guns were free. I started pulling rifles free of the bike chain and arranging them on the counter. Never having shot a gun, my mom was against it, I stared at the pile trying to decide which guns I would be able to use.

Finally, I decided to keep them all and made several trips carrying the guns and ammo to my table. I searched the store for some bags. There was one on the shelf near the fishing tackle, but it was too small. There was a stack of plastic bags behind the cashier counter. I was grabbing some of those bags when I remembered the keys for the office in the shop. The office didn’t smell any better than the shop. Grit covered everything like dust. Something pierced the soul of my shoed foot. I tried to see what I stepped on, but the floor was covered in oil stains, rust, and grit.

There was a corkboard with four sets of keys dangling from hooks. I laughed as I grabbed the keys. My laughter was short lived. If the cars were at the shop, what would be the chances that I would find one that actually ran? With a sigh, I stuffed the keys into my pockets and started searching the room.

I found another bag, a duffle, filled with car parts and emptied it. A small stack of receipts near an old computer captured my attention. I was sure that if the power hadn’t gone out, I could find out which car outside ran. Most of the receipts were filled out with a handwriting that I could barely read. I piled the papers, the bag, and the keys on the table in the store and set the lantern in the center.

A thump on the glass near the door caused me to jump. The man’s face was pressed up to the glass again. I watched for a few seconds as the zombie moved toward the door. I stood up when fingers appeared in the crack between the door and the board. Just when I thought the zombie would try to pull on the board, the fingers slid back out of sight and the zombie vanished.

I emptied my backpack and filled it with water bottles. I put most of the guns into the duffle bag along with ammo. I left a small handgun out and along with the ammo that matched the sticker on the handle of the gun. Leaving the canned food on the table, I searched the store for food to put in my messenger bag.

When I was done, I stacked the bags in the shop. I settled back at the table and began sifting through the receipts, trying to make sense of what I was reading.

I don’t remember anything after that. I looked out the windows out front. It stopped snowing, but I can’t see any zombies. There are a lot of tracks outside, almost as if an army marched through town.

I am going to try the truck out after I change my bandages. I don’t think the cut on my arm will need another one. Too bad the bathrooms are around the side of the building or I could check the cut on my forehead. But it is so shallow, I doubt it needs anything either.

What I really want right now is a shower. I feel like I have been crawling around on the ground in the shop.

Go Back to Day 4 – or – Go to Day 6


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