I sat around in the back room of the pharmacy while Ryan gave the new guy - Mitchell Mcroe - the intro and tour of the place. I honestly didn't have much productive to do, so I grabbed a piece of cheese and started eating, slicing it with my knife and popping slices into my mouth. I'd picked up the habit from my father. Cheese and pepperoni were a common thing for me to snack on.
Soon after I sat down with the cheese, Ryan walked in. She looked ready to talk business. I didn't care for the serious look to her face, though. You'd think she'd be a little happier when I'd just offered her a chance at safety, a chance to have a real life even in this world ruled over by the dead. Oh well, she clearly had something on her mind. May as well find out what.
"What's going on?" I asked to begin the conversation.
"Nothing." Her response was curt. "We need to talk."
"Yeah, we do." I snorted at the way she said that, though I was immediately unsure why it struck me as so amusing. "You never answered me before, about staying here. About fixining the place up."
"I know. I just needed to think about it." She still seemed to be on guard about something - not quite nervous, just strained. "Honestly, it didn't seem like a good idea to settle down here at first. I...had a rough time the last time I went that route." She shifted her weight slightly, and her resolve seemed to harden. "But if you're saying you can offer me a place to sleep at night, a place to live in, and that you'll stay out of my way in every other regard than that..." She looked at me sternly for a moment, and the silence began to feel tense.
I had to speak. "Yeah, that's...I mean, that was kind of the idea behind the offer. So, what do you say?"
Ryan continued to stare at me for a half-second before cracking a smile and extending her hand. "Sure, let's fix the place up."
I smiled back and took her hand gladly, then offered her a slice of cheese. Seemed rude not to, I suppose.
"No, thanks," she said. I took the slice and ate it myself.
We exited the pharmacy and went our separate ways within the store for a while, wandering the aisles. A couple of times I bumped into the McRoe kid, we exchanged looks or nods of acknowledgement and kept on walking.
Just when I was passing through the sports section for the fourth time, I broke into a more determined stride than before. I was headed directly to the hunting section. That knife was mine. I found the key to the glass display case holding the beautifully-crafted knife in a desk drawer behind the counter, and attached the sheathed blade to my belt.
Having exhausted myself walking around with my new tool, I returned to the pharmacy and took a seat behind the counter. I set to cleaning my Colt pistol, drowning out all the memories that were constantly replaying themselves in my head. All I could think of was the woman, the one from my dreams, and how I had failed her so very miserably. Soon, I was hearing her screaming in my head, the sound distorted by ambient screams and beastly sounds...
"Owen...Owen! Owen, help me! OWEN! Owen..." Soon, there was just silence and some snarling sounds in the background. My breath, already ragged and uneven from running, caught and then I gasped in horrible realization. I failed. I wasn't fast enough.
"I wasn't fast enough..." I stared down at my hands, muttering before snapping back to awareness of my surroundings. I took up a bottle of pills and hurled it across the small room, where it shattered against the wall.
"Never again." Never agin would I be that slow, that weak. Never. Only problem with that was that it still wouldn't bring her back. The virus already had that covered.
But for these people here, I would be better. I would be fast enough, strong enough, to keep them safe. And I would never, ever fail someone who counted on me like that again. That was why I needed this.