The chatter began immediately. Several people stepped into the abandoned store from the rear. Erik put the weapon down and waited to see what was coming up next. His world had dissolved. The other men in front of him were out of sight. He focused on the door beside the old meat counter. The only door from the back room. A loud crash followed by screams of horror. Further commotion rocked the world behind the thin gray door. A man sobbed, the outside door closed and the chatter stopped. The quiet only lasted a moment but it was enough. The old dusty shelves returned. Sean and Andrew stood near him. Weapons were all put away. Jean Claude stood, clutching his shoulder. The Haitian man didn’t need say a thing. He didn’t have too. His face was drenched in anger toward Erik.
Erik looked for only a moment then he returned to the back door. The gray slab of metal and wood swung forward revealing a small girl covered in blood. Following the girl was her young mother and father. The twenty year old father held his wife in his arms. She was hurt blood flowing from a wound in her arm and leg.
“Sara,” Erik whispered as flashes of his daughter floated through his head. The terror in this child’s eyes prodded Erik and he dropped the weapon. Erik ran toward the family grabbing a handful of dusty towels on the way.
“Let’s get you fixed up,” he said as he handed the small girl a towel and did a quick check for wounds.
“Thank God your ok, Sara.”
“My names not Sara,” said the girl.
Erik focused on the mother. “This is not good. She has a major bite wound. You have 24 hours before she passes but we can stop the bleeding for now.”
The father stands silent. His gaze fixed on the gore and dried blood in Erik’s two year old beard.
“Are you going to help me?” Erik asked.
“Sure,” said the father his voice barely audible. “Thank you.”
Erik lead the three to one of the store aisles and instructed him to lay his wife on one of the conveyor belts. Jean Claude, Sean and Andrew joined.
“I can help with this, I was a combat medic in the first War of the States,” Andrew offered.
Erik stepped away and let him work. He watched the man make a make-shift bandage for the leg wound and a compress for the shoulder.
He then found a working flashlight and headed for the back room.
“I will help you,” Jean Claude said from behind him.
“I hope your not looking for an apology,” Erik said as he entered but the tall, dark man had disappeared into the darkness.
Erik searched, the light from his flashlight traced prone figures upon the ground.
“Who’s in here!” Will shouted.
Jean Claude stepped forward with a wounded man in his arms. The wounded man had large bite marks in his shoulder.
“He’s infected,” Erik snapped.
Jean Claude turned and bared his long hollow teeth.
“Oh my god, your a vampire,” Erik began. “I knew you weren’t up here for any good reason. I knew there was something wrong with you!”
“What are you going to do now kill us all?”
A breath of air chilled Erik. Paralyzing him as he stood.
“I’m not killing anyone, even a troubled soul like you. A man so reduced to nothing he can barely stand. I may just save you life one day.”
The .45 went off. The sound stuck to the walls and shook the building. Jean Claude spun, fell and disappeared.
“You have gone to far,” Sean shouted and attempted to advance.
“What? Are you going to shoot me too?”
“I don’t know, did you hit me. Did you do this!” Erik pointed at his head wound with the weapon.
Erik stepped from the counter and toward the two remaining men. The .45 pointed in their direction.
“You’re going to listen to me. Pack your crap and leave.”
“Ok, fine!” Andrew and Sean said in unison.
“Move!” Erik shouted when both men stood motionless.
Both men began to collect what they could, taking time to pick up as many items as they could.
Andrew stood first pointing a pistol then Sean.
“What now!” Sean shouted.
“I can still fire,” Erik replied then stepped forward.
“Back away you suicidal bastard,” Andrew countered and stepped foward.
“Do you know how many we’ve killed? I can put you down easily.”
“And why am I still walking!” Erik took another step.
“I don’t want to kill your dumb ass. Stop moving.”
“Shoot me! Do it!” Erik shouted then repeated it.
Erik positioned the weapon forward. He growled as he began to measure the likelyhood of hitting one of the men.
“The other would likely kill me moments later,” he thought. “I can make this happen.”
He stepped forward and tuned out the shouting. He dropped any hope of life after this encounter. He placed his finger on the trigger when the door in the back of the store exploded open.
Erik sat in a lawn chair he found in the tiny camping section. He could not help but stare at the pale remains of partially severed hands and arms tacked to the plywood windows.
“Imagine, if they were human arms and not the infected. It would be cruel and unusual punishment,” he said.
“They are not human,” Jean Claude replied as he sat beside him in a simular looking chair.
“It was supposed to be a cure for Cancer. It was a mutating cell inhibitor. It was not supposed to create new cells. A new nervous system. It moved so fast. It was spectacular until it took my wife…”
A painful thump and Erik’s world went dark.
Minutes later he woke bloody and leaning against the remains of a shelf full of dusty baseball cards.
Jean Claude and the Baker brothers argued near the end of the checkout lane. Erik stood. Took a breath and then walked left toward a dirty counter that used to be the Service Center. Blood fell from the wound on the right side of Erik’s face.
Erik stepped behind the counter. He searched for the .45 he knew was behind the counter. The dusty handgun sat near a stack of boxes. Erik reached for the weapon as his head throbbed.
“This thing is huge,” he thought as he slid the weapon from the shelf.
“Where did Erik, the Horrible go?”
“I’m not Erik, the Horrible or Erik, the Terrible… I am not an animal,” Erik stood and squeezed the trigger.
Erik shook himself awake after the shove and slowly sat up. He looked around and quickly noticed the large glass window at the front of the store had been boarded up.
“What did you do?” Erik spat. “You are taking away all the light.”
“Old man,” Sean began. “I don’t know how you made it this long. This building has a huge glass window and the back door was wide open. The zombies could of walked right in.”
Erik ignored him and stared at the three new survivors. The Baker brothers were dark skinned and muscular. They stood a foot shorter then Erik at 6’2. The third man was 7 foot tall. His skin was black as coal with a yellow, toothy smile.
“Haitian? Why are you so far North?” Erik asked.
“I was an American, born in Cleveland.” Jean Claude responded. “Before the country broke apart.”
“Yeah, that was crazy…” Erik said then quickly added. “So how many did they add this time?”
“Fifty prisoners this time. It wasn’t a pleasant trip here so we would appreciate you drop the crazy loner act and help finish securing this building. There may be more survivors,” Andrew added.
Erik swallowed hard. He didn’t respond.
“I have a bottle of warm Vodka and a couple other bottles behind the service counter, if you want a drink,” Erik offered.
After several drinks and a couple hours the four men were happy with the security of the small grocery store. They settled in to sleep for the night when the banging started.
The aluminum sheet sliced into the soft tissue just above the zombie’s rotten shoulder. It fell forward forcing the sheet of aluminum through its rotten arteries, severing any life the zombie had in it. The creature fell forward into Erik. Its black putrid blood drenched Erik’s twice washed shirt. Erik screams.
“God, please don’t let me touch the blood… dont… no… please God.”
The zombie grabs Erik’s shirt. Erik twists and turns to free himself. The creature bleeds a thick putrid liquid. Erik shoved the creature forward. It lost its footing and fell. The sheet of aluminum slips from the wound and thunders to the ground.
Erik stumbles backward. He removes his shirt and pants. He skirts back and hides within the darkness. He stares at the motionless creature till his eyes become heavy and he falls asleep.
The sound of hammers, multiple hammers wakes Erik from his sleep. Voices echo.
“This is a stupid place to hide. Have you seen the large picture windows. Dude, find some large sheets of wood or something.”
“Shut up yo.. This is the only thing close we could find. Don’t criticize.”
“Get out!” Erik shouted from the darkness.
“What the hell was that,” said one of the voices.
“There is someone in here, you idiot.” Replied the other.
“Settle it down,” commanded another. The voice is foreign with a heavy French accent.
“It’s likely a survivor.”
“Get out!” Erik repeated forcefully.
“We are not here to harm you, brother. We are here for shelter. We were captured and tossed into the walls of the city. This is the closest safe shelter, replied the French man.
“You’ll see how safe it is when you fall into my traps,” Erik replied.
“What traps,” replied one of others. “Those stupid-ass wires we cut with the weights?”
Erik shoved a sheet of plywood forward. It slipped under the metal shelves, then slid into his ankles. He swore and found himself trapped against the back wall.
“She’s not stopping,” Jean said as both men watched Rebecca weave through the stationary traffic.
“I can’t go after her. She stabbed me.” Erik pleaded with the tall man.
“You want me to run after her?”
“Um.. yes.” Erik replied.
“Who do you think I am, an Olympic athlete?”
Erik was cooking up a response when he noticed Rebecca had stopped abruptly. She was nearly one hundred feet away and standing in front of two dark-skinned men.
“Sean and Andrew,” Erik began to limp toward them.
Both men talked to Rebecca as Erik and Jean approached.
“Where the hell you been?” Erik shouted as they stood facing the men.
“What? Are you my father?” Sean replied.
“Why are you letting this young lady take off like that?” He asked.
Erik told the men about the overnight stay and the fate of Rebecca’s grandfather and mother. Rebecca sobbed, no longer ran, and said very little.
“We need to get some food. I’m starve’n.”
“There’s an old fast food restaurant up the street. Not sure what would be eatable but we could try there.”
“This bat is a dream,” Erik says as he clobbers another infected. The thin, pale man falls to the ground.
“It’s not dead,” Jean Claude responds as they walk past.
“They don’t need to be dead,” Erik replied, “Just out of the way.”
“So Rebecca,” Erik looked down at the young lady walking beside him. “What happened? It looked to me like your mother was infected before you all walked into this place. The incubation period of usually a couple days.”
“That’s not to say your experience wasn’t terrifying. I can understand that you are no longer talking to anyone. I just need to know.”
Rebecca continued walking. Stepping a little faster as she stared forward. Erik watched as she stepped away from the group then stopped behind a Volkswagen with grass growing from the partially opened doors.
“We should give her a moment,” Jean Claude said while stopping Erik with his large hand.
“You look familiar to me,” he said.
“I have that kind of face.”
“No..no..,” Jean Claude continued. “You are familiar.”
“Why, do you want to send a post card to your family back home,” Erik shot. His eyes fierce.
“I mean you now harm, brother. Just trying to place your face.” Jean Claude tried to assure Erik as he stepped away from him.
“You can stop trying to place anything. I’m sure I am who you think I am. Erik, the Terrible. The man they blasted on the news for starting the infection. Which, by the way, was not what I did. I did not start it. I did not stop it.. or I couldn’t. It had gone way to far before I was able to activate any of the protocols.”
Erik walked away from Jean Claude and stepped up to Rebecca. Rebecca turned, fire in her eyes, and thrust a small metal barb into his thigh.
Erik stepped back. Rebecca swung and missed with her small fist. Erik walked backward and sat upon the hood of a car. He held his hands against the metal barb, waiting for the pain to subside before he pulled it out. Rebecca stepped toward him. Attempted to swing but Jean Claude stopped her.
“Hey, hay.. stop now. We have a long way to go. This man, as much as you hate him, is helping us. Can we stop this.”
“Can we?” Rebecca shot back. “My father is dead, my mother is dead and so is my grandfather. He did this!”
“I did not,” Erik replied as he pulled the barb from his thigh.
Rebecca thrust herself at Erik. Erik held her at bay with longer arms till Jean Claude lifted her from the ground. “No… no love. Please stop.”
Rebecca fought back. Landed an elbow just below the tall, Haitian man’s rib cage.
Jean coughed and let her go. Erik pulled the barb from his leg and held the wound.
“Rebecca, don’t go,” Erik pleaded as he watched her leave. “I lost my wife and daughter. Please don’t. I do not want another child on my mind everyday.”
An explosion rung through the early morning air. Blood from the infected clung to Erik’s face. The infected lay on the broken concrete and the hood of the old, red Mustang. The hood is bowed downward and covered in gore. The windshield is broken and bloody.
“God, that’s going to bring down my resale value,” he said with a smile. Outside the car, to the right he noticed a group of infected fighting their way through the tall grass toward Michigan avenue. Behind Erik was a simular group struggling to fit through a small space between cars. Erik remembered the duffle bag and grabbed it along with the bat. He tossed it over his shoulder and stepped forward toward the others.
The red Prius was fifty feet ahead of him when he heard the scream. He leapt forward and around another car. He walked up to the Prius slowly as another scream erupted from the car. The windows of the Prius were grime-filled like everything else. He could make out the figure of the young lady in the back seat. She was swinging her arms and struggling with something. Sitting near the passenger-side rear door Erik walked around the Prius. The doors on the passenger-side were closed and locked. He could see Rebecca fighting with an infected woman. The woman had turned around but was still restrained by the seatbelt. Erik banged on the passenger-side window but this only frightened Rebecca and sent her scrambling to the driver’s side. He banged again and flattened his face against the glass.
“Rebecca, it’s me. Unlock the doors. I need to get in.”
Rebecca looked toward Erik. He wasn’t even sure she recognized him. She pushed herself against the rear driver’s door. Erik shouted again.
Rebecca blinked, paused then attempted to crawl toward the rear passenger door but the infected creature grabbed her hair and pulled. Rebecca freed herself and crawled back to the driver’s side of the small car. Erik pointed to door behind her and attempted to walk toward her but a tall, infected man stood in front of him.
Erik dropped the duffle and stepped back. He squatted and pulled the wooden bat from the bag. Three more infected were very near this one and would be on him in less then a minute. Erik knelt and swung at the tall creatures legs, connecting and blowing it’s knee sideways. The creature fell to the left and leaned against another car. Erik ran around the front of the to the driver’s side rear door. He pulled the door handle and it opened. Rebecca fell backward, into his arms. Erik helped her to her feet and stepped away from the Prius.
She stood silent, staring up at him. Erik searched for meaning, for a reason she was not moving. After a long minute he grabbed her by the waist, lifted her and placed her over his shoulder. He then walked away from the scene. Rebecca struggled but Erik held on to the young lady till they were far enough. Jean Claude, stood watching as Erik stepped past him.
“Thanks for you help,” Erik snapped.
“Looked like you had it,” Jean replied.
“Damn it, I forgot the shotgun.”