They were everywhere. In every street, every alley. Every two paces another of the infected would make a grab at Ryan and, when they did, she’d jab and slash at them with a kitchen knife until all that remained was a few shreds of flesh. An AK-47 was strapped to her back, a hobby turned necessity. It was fully loaded, and she had quite a few bullets to spare, but was trying to conserve her rations. If worst came to worst, she’d be eating ammunition. Or people.
Ryan continued on her way down the street, pushing disturbing images out of her mind. The smell of dead bodies was overwhelming; putrid, rotting meat.
A gunshot suddenly echoed in the deserted streets, loud and clear. Either some nut job wanted to attract all of the diseased in the vicinity to them, or was in serious trouble. Assuming the latter for obvious reasons, Ryan made her way to the sound quickly, avoiding ‘zombies’ as she did.
As expected, a clump of the undead had gathered, shuffling forwards even as they were shot repeatedly. Ryan could catch a few glimpses of someone in between them, a mop of wild black hair and furious blue eyes. Very much alive and kicking.
Shifting so that she was downwind of the crowd, Ryan pulled her gun from its place, and set to work eliminating the freaks. The first few down made the others turn, some losing interest in the man and moving towards her. She allowed herself to shoot a couple others and, once their numbers were sufficiently thinned, continued her methodical knife-slicing.
A stray zombie made a grab at her, missing her entirely, but at the cost of the knife being knocked from her hands. The thing neared and, once it was close enough, Ryan grabbed the hair on its head and slugged it in the face, making its lower jaw fly off and skitter across the pavement. The moment it took for the beast to regain its coordination was long enough for her to grab her knife and stab it again and again, stepping over the body as it fell.
Ryan stepped out of the alley and into the street, panting. The man was still there, running a hand through his hair and shaking his head as if in disbelief. Wiping the blood spatters from her face, Ryan cleaned the knife off on her pants and slipped it back into a sleeve.
“Don’t look so shocked,” she said, tying her bootlaces and looking up at him, “We got off easy. If you were downtown, well...that gunshot would have been the death of you.”
The man didn’t react to her attempt at sarcasm, or even acknowledge it. Sighing, Ryan stood and glanced at her grimy watch. Almost 8:00 p.m. The sun was setting.
“It’s getting late. You may want to hole up somewhere for the night. I’m going to that Walmart down the street myself.”
The man nodded, and started walking to the store as well. Ryan jogged in the same direction, trying to keep up with the hard pace he’d set.
“I’m Ryan, by the way.” She called, trying to maintain a friendly smile despite how intimidating her companion looked.
“Owen.” he said seriously, gaze fixated on the supermarket.
The rest of the short walk was in silence, Ryan taking the opportunity to pick up speed and reach the door first. The doors were boarded up, tightly locked. The outside was battered and covered in questionable stains, but seemed intact.
Ryan pulled the gun from her back, taking aim at the lock, but was quickly pushed aside. Owen slid a small length of stiff wire into the mechanism and, fiddling with it until it clicked, pulled the door open and walked inside. So much for ‘ladies first’.
She slipped into the building behind him, locking the door as she did. The infected weren’t very good with doorknobs, but on certain occasions they demonstrated oddly-human qualities. The massive store looked eerily normal, stock depleted from panicked hoarders but still sufficient. The lights were all off, but, eyes quickly adjusting to the dark, Ryan could see quite well.
Owen quickly disappeared into one of the aisles and, not wanting to seem a bother, Ryan chose the opposite direction. Finding a few blankets and a carton of unspoiled chocolate milk, Ryan settled down on the tiled floor, intent on sleep.
“We’re so proud of you, sweetie.”
Ryan looked up from her steak, smiling.
“Thanks mom. This...means a lot.”
The three people at the table shared a peaceful moment, before a window suddenly shattered.
A mutilated thing of a person walked in, lunged at Martha, and ripped her throat out with its teeth. Ryan screamed, rushing to her mother’s side, only to turn and see the same creature ripping her father apart.
“Stop!” she yelled, sure that the thing wasn’t going to listen to her.
It did, though, and turned to her, teeth bloodied. It was Josh. Her brother.
Ryan jerked from sleep, feeling cold relief and adrenaline rush over her, before curling up in the blankets and sobbing quietly. The memory had been haunting her for weeks. No amount of shooting or slashing could make it disappear, or rid her of the painful recollection of what she’d done to survive.
Realizing that sleep was beyond reach, Ryan gathered the blankets about her and cleaned the residue from her gun, standing and grabbing a stray cart. Time for some shopping.