Joe stood in the middle of the room feeling extremely awkward and out of place. Right now, three pairs of eyes were trained on him with caution, anger and confusion. Joe didn’t blame them really. During a crisis like this, a catastrophe like this more like, it wasn’t just the zombies you had to fear. You could trust no one but yourself when society collapsed in on itself.
One of the guys had his gun poised straight at Joe, although the end was shaking ever so slightly. A bead of sweat appeared at his temple and Joe suddenly knew that this guy had never killed a zombie, let alone an actual human being. He was safe, for now.
‘Who are you?’
‘My name’s Joe.’ Silence. ‘One of your people spotted me. He said his name was Cancer.’
‘He’s not ours,’ the guy holding the gun spat. ‘He just barged in here. Much like what you’re doing now. How do we know your intentions are decent?’
‘Intentions? I’m just trying to survive.’ Joe held his hands up as the guy stepped forward, seeming to build more self-assurance and irritation at the mention of Cancer.
‘Well go survive somewhere else.’ The guy was seething. Joe bristled slightly, not liking the situation one bit. If he stood up to him, maybe he’d show a bit of respect. Then again, it could also result in Joe getting kicked out onto the streets anyway.
‘Hold on a minute Scott,’ a girl stepped forward, placing a hand delicately on the gun-toting-maniac’s shoulder. Her eyes kept darting between Scott and Joe warily. ‘We can’t just kick him out. It isn’t safe out there you know it.’
‘What do you suggest we do then?’
The girl took a deep breath. ‘He could always do a supply run?’
Joe’s stomach plummeted. He knew what the supply runs meant. He’d seen all the films. It meant certain death.
‘Good idea,’ the other guy spoke up. ‘We need more supplies anyway.’
Scott seemed to think about this for several minutes. He had lowered the gun now at least, but he was still staring angrily at Joe. After what felt like forever, he agreed.
‘Alright. But he’s not going to manage all of it.’
‘I’ll go with him,’ the girl smiled.
* * *
They were stood at the entrance to the makeshift shelter, loaded with bags. Joe’s legs were shaking and his hands were clammy. This was a suicide run; he was never going to make it. The girl, who had introduced herself as AJ, seemed slightly more confident. She was stood with a fixed stare at the door, waiting for the others to open it. Her eyes flickered up to his and she tried to smile. Joe just felt sick.
‘Are you ready?’ Scott asked, hand on the doorknob.
AJ nodded. ‘Ready as I’ll ever be.’
They each wore a big rucksack and a shoulder bag slung across their bodies. Joe’s grip tightened on the crowbar that he had kept from earlier that day and AJ had a small pistol tucked into the waistband of her trousers. All too soon, the doors were opening and they were out into the night. The smell of death still lingered in the air, thick and heavy and Joe inadvertently gagged. He must have looked so weak right now but AJ was kind enough to pretend she didn’t notice.
They kept to narrow side streets and back alleyways, slinking into the shadows and further into the darkness.
They were supposed to head to the shopping centre a few blocks over, but Joe was certain he wasn’t going to make it. AJ seemed to have more of an idea of what to do; she motioned him with hand signals and hid herself away if a stray creature passed them. Each time one of them did, Joe was sure it meant his demise. He copied AJ and hid, waiting for it to notice them. They never did though and his relief lasted longer each time.
He was beginning to think that maybe they would make it.
Until they rounded the corner.
They both froze with nowhere to hide. Dozens and dozens of creatures that seemed to be milling about aimlessly all suddenly turned in their direction, in an eerily simultaneous move, like a pack. Frozen like a rabbit caught in headlights, Joe could only gape. They were moving now, advancing in on them. AJ grabbed his wrist and pulled him sharply. He stumbled back the way they had come, the moans of the dead travelling through the night air, beckoning them.
Panting like a wild animal, Joe struggled to keep up with AJ who seemed to be darting and ducking past cars and under barbed wire fences. She obviously knew the place well. The groans were growing more distant and AJ began to slow down.
They stopped suddenly at the sight in front of them. A large group of zombies were bent over something lying in the road, rotting hands all reaching desperately. They came away bloodied and holding red lumps, varying in size. Joe’s stomach rolled and he grabbed the wall for support.
‘Oh shit,’ AJ whispered when the creatures started to notice them. ‘Where are they all coming from?’
Something grabbed the back of Joe’s head, pulling him away from AJ. He didn’t even have time to cry out before he hit the floor. One of the creatures had snuck up on them, completely unnoticed. Joe’s legs kicked out as the thing advanced on him with the hunger of a starved beast. His hands connected with the zombie’s chest and he pushed, struggling to get it off him. The creatures head suddenly snapped forward as something crashed into it from behind. Its grip loosened and Joe squirmed free. AJ was holding a loose brick and was repeatedly bashing it into the things head, blood squirting in every direction and lumps of brain decorated AJ’s hands like artwork.
She was too busy killing one creature to notice hundreds more had gathered. Joe’s eyes darted for an escape as the figures slowly began converging in on the pair. A black shadow, something attached to the wall snagged his attention. A fire escape!
‘AJ!’ he shouted, charging towards it. His hand reached out and the cold metal felt like a blessing. He wasted no time in pulling himself upwards, focussing on each rung his feet touched. He almost flew upwards with the momentum he was putting into it and when he saw the first metal platform, he leaped up onto it, missing out a few steps.
‘We made it!’ he sagged.
The most horrible feeling washed over Joe, like a tsunami. Dread, sickness and despair overtook him as he looked over the railing.
AJ hadn’t followed him.
Instead, she was desperately trying to shoot them off. There were too many of them though. She disappeared beneath a sea of bodies, her screams piercing the night air.
Joe’s hands clamped around his ears and his eyes squeezed shut.
He would hear those screams forever.