Zombie Mart [DRAFT]

~ 5,550 words / 28 minutes

Released a chapter at a time, this is a serialized book.

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Part 1: It Rises

The creature that used to be Dusty Sinclair lay there, half dead. Sunlight burned like lasers through the gaps in the window blinds, scorching his face. Dark circles ringed his glazed eyes.

He groaned loudly as he reached upward, clawing his way upright. His hair was wild, his clothes were wrinkled and foul smelling.

As he rose, a single thought dominated his mind. Coalescing into one word. He had to have it. Nothing else would sate him. He could never be alive without it… Dusty stumbled forward, shuffling toward his greatest desire. His only desire…

“Coooffffeee…” He mumbled. “COFFEE!”

Just then his coffee maker clicked on, the morning timer ensuring he starts his day in dark bitter glory.

After his second cup, he started to feel human again.

He glanced over his flat before he got ready for work. It was an efficiency apartment that was dominated by a large flat screen TV. Several game consoles and their various cable hookups spidered across the floor. Games and movies were stacked high along the walls. There was a futon that served double duty as a couch and his bed. In the kitchenette, pizza boxes and Chinese take-out containers littered the floor and countertops.

The only art he owned was an original theatrical poster of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. It was hanging proudly above the futon.

After his shower, he threw on an old pair of jeans and a black t-shirt. The shirt had printed on it in scratchy letters: BRAINS, THE PALEO-RIFFIC DIET.

As he got into his banged up 1997 Geo Metro, Dusty flipped on the radio and got an earful of static. He could only make out a few words between the bursts of audio chaos. “Disruptions,” static. “Vagrants,” more static. “GPS failures,” static on top of static.

He clicked it off in disgust. I should get a satellite radio, he thought. His car lurched as he put it into gear. And a new transmission. He sighed. Or why not a whole new car, since I’m dreaming.

He went over in his mind what he needed to do at work. Oh yeah, that’s right. It was the same stuff as yesterday. And the day before. And all the other days.

Just another boring day at the Zippie Mart, he thought.

But Dusty couldn’t have been more wrong.

Part 2: Flashpoint

“Thank you for being a dear and helping me with my cart.” An older woman said to Dusty as he pushed her shopping cart out into the parking lot.

“Sure, we don’t normally do this anymore, but I try to help out when I can,” Dusty said. He squinted a bit as the sun reflected off of the giant cell tower across the street.

Dusty worked at the Zippie Mart. It was a local store that was trying — and mostly failing — to compete with the national warehouse-style megastores. It was his first job, he got it while still in high school. After graduation he never left, he just started working more hours. Initially, he told himself he was saving up for college. And yet, somehow, his savings account never accumulated anything but cobwebs. Plus, until recently, his best friend, Gun, had worked there too. But work really hadn’t been as much fun since he left.

“You’re such a sweetie. I’m parked right over there.” She motioned to a large sedan on their left. Steering the cart towards her Ford Crown Victoria, Dusty wondered why older people all seemed to drive cars like that.

The parking lot had quite a few people shambling around. More than usual. Gonna be a busy day, he thought. Although he wasn’t sure why it would be so busy. It was the middle of the week. Was it a holiday? Should he be getting time-and-a-half?

The woman triggered the trunk release with her key fob and prattled on about how much she loved supporting local businesses.

“Oh, uh. Yeah, thanks. We appreciate that ma’am.” He said when he realized she had stopped talking.

He glanced over the trunk lid at the woman, who was maneuvering her store-provided wheelchair so she could shift her sizable mass into the car. Out of the corner of his eye, Dusty noticed a man limping their direction. He probably wanted the motorized wheelchair.

He turned back to the cart and started loading the bags of groceries. The shovel was gonna be tricky, he’d probably need to lower one of the back seats to get it to fit.

“Ma’am, I don’t think that this shovel will–” Dusty stopped short, his jaw left agape when he got a better look at the approaching man. He was right behind the woman, who was trying to get her crutches arranged so she could take the last steps to her car door. The man’s eyes were milky — worst cataracts ever — and his hair was… Molting? Dusty wasn’t sure. He looked horrible. His skin was grayish and scabbed.

With a start, Dusty realized exactly what he was looking at. Years of watching movies and playing video games had prepared him to recognize precisely what this creature was. Without a doubt, it was a…

“Zombie! Lady, look out behind you!” But it was too late, she had pivoted onto her crutches and was basically a ready-to-eat meat popsicle. It lunged at her with surprising speed. Like an alligator that seemed slow and lumbering, until it struck ferociously at its prey. It tore into her neck, spraying blood everywhere.

Dusty stood there, shocked. Blood raining down, warm and sticky. As he took in the horror in front of him, his mind drifted back to some of the debates he’d had with Gun. One of their favorite topics was: Where is the best place to survive the (inevitable) zombie apocalypse? They had covered so many potential scenarios, he always settled on holing up here at work… So many supplies.

The zombie continued to munch, all Dusty could hear were the moist sounds of the woman’s skull fracturing under the creature’s stiff fingers. That and the slurping as he sucked her head dry. Dusty watched, transfixed. He probably should be doing something. Right?

When the zombie finished, its head snapped up, and it snarled at Dusty. Apparently, one brain hadn’t been a big enough meal. He absently wondered if smarter people’s brains were more filling?

Life had always been confusing for Dusty. He never knew exactly what to do, or what to say. He never felt qualified for, well… Anything. He suspected that’s why he’s still here, in this town, at this job. But at that moment, staring at that scabby monster, something galvanized within him. Everything clicked. Finally, he knew exactly what to do.

Dusty kept his eyes on the zombie, reached out, picked up the shovel from the cart, and smiled.

Part 3: Dick for Brains

Gun Ho Kim walked up to the Zippie Mart with a spring in his step. He had worked here until a few months ago and hadn’t been able to find another job since. But to be fair, he hadn’t really looked for one either. They had canned him for no good reason. “Resource streamlining,” they’d said. Whatever. It was a bummer, but he wasn’t the kind of guy to hold a grudge. Besides, he really liked living above his parent’s garage: No rent and free food. What more could you want?

He was there to meet Dusty for lunch. Dusty was paying, and Gun never missed a free meal.

As he got to the door, the greeter spotted him. Oh great. It’s that dick, Dick.

Dick Rosenfeld was one of the few people that didn’t like Gun. The feeling was mutual.

“It seems like you hang around more now than when you actually worked here,” Dick said, looking down his nose. Literally. He was very tall. Gun, not so much.

“That’s right, Dick. I can’t get enough of looking at your booger collection.”

Behind them, a few figures staggered into the store.

“Welcome to Zippie Mart,” Dick said to them out of the corner of his mouth.

“You call that a greeting?” Gun asked. “How’d you keep your job? Oh, wait, of course. I see. Sleeping with the boss, huh?”

Dick’s nostrils flared. “Now listen here you–” He was interrupted when a small zombie ran up, jumped on his back and started climbing.

“Ack, what the hell?!” He shook it off. But the little thing was quick and bit into the back of his leg. As he grabbed his hamstring and fell to the ground screaming, the wee zombie jumped on him, scratching and biting.

Chomp! It bit into his throat and yanked out a hunk of flesh. Blood spurted into the air, a small stream spraying up and back down in a graceful arc.

“Whoa,” Gun said, nonplussed.

The zombie’s eyes locked on to Gun, Dick convulsing as he bled out. It stood up slowly and snarled at him.

“Oh crap. No! I’m too l33t to die!” Gun screamed.

SPLOODGE! Dusty came zooming in on a motorized wheelchair and with a grand-slam swing of his shovel splattered the zombie’s brains all over the store entrance.

“Dude, you’re my hero!” Gun smiled.

“Did you just say you’re ‘l33t?’” Dusty chuckled.

“I don’t know man, I panicked!” Gun glanced at the blood smeared storefront. Chunks of brain were sliding down the glass. “Speaking of which, I think I need a new pair of pants.”

Part 4: Rescuers Not Required

A scream rang out, echoing slightly in the warehouse-style store. It came from the electronics aisle. Dusty and Gun ran there as fast as they could.

As they turned into the aisle the only person there was a woman with dark crinkly hair, looking at a box containing an external hard drive enclosure.

“Dear lord, this is outrageous!” She said.

“Was that you screaming?” Gun asked, breathing heavily. That was the longest distance he’d run since school. Man, had he hated PE.

“Sorry, yes. Haven’t been in the States long. I thought this price was in pounds for a moment. Terrifying!”

“Ah, yes, well. I guess it would be?” Dusty muttered.

“Oh, man. We thought you were being attacked,” Gun said.

“Only my sensibilities.” As she said this, a shambling zombie rounded the other side of the aisle.

“Behind you–” Before Gun could finish his sentence, she whipped her head around and spotted the creature. It snarled, blood dripping from its lips. Apparently, it had already had lunch, and thought she was going to be its dessert.

In a single motion she jumped up and thrust her leg out in a powerful kick. Dusty could hear the zombie’s jaw break from where he stood, halfway down the aisle. After the creature’s head snapped around and it fell over — seemingly as surprised as the boys were — the leggy limey raised the box she was holding over her head and… Splut! She spilled its brains all over the floor.

“Disgusting bugger isn’t it?!” She said, staring at its oozing remains. Turning around to look at them, “That was a zombie, wasn’t it?”

“I’ll tell you what that was… It was awesome, lady!” Gun said, a wide grin spread across his face.

“Octavia.” She said.


“Octavia Spencer, that’s my name.”

“Oh, hi.” Gun’s grin grew to a smile.

“I’m Dusty, that’s Gun, and this is completely crazy… But if I’ve learned anything from the movies, it’s that we need to make sure there aren’t any more of these things in the store. And quickly!”

“Right, makes sense,” Octavia said, nodding.

“So, uh…” Gun glanced at the pool of zombie brains on the floor. “We definitely shouldn’t split up. Right?”

Part 5: Hoe Down

Jacques stood hunched over, breathing hard, a pickaxe in his hands. A grotesque figure lay collapsed between him and his girlfriend. Its rotted brain oozing onto the polished cement floor.

“What did you do, Jacques?”

“You saw it. It attacked us, Jillian. I was… I was just defending myself,” he trailed off, sounding like he was trying to convince himself as much as her.

“By smashing his head in? You killed him. Him, not it.” Jillian hugged herself, still recovering from the violence she just witnessed.

“Personally, I’d say it was an it,” Dusty said as he walked into the gardening section. Gun and Octavia followed behind him.

“Yeah, me too. These things definitely aren’t human anymore,” Gun said. “You should’ve seen the little runt that attacked me.” He glanced at Octavia. “Er, giant, massive, mutant zombie. It was terrifying.” He cleared his throat. “Really, really big.”

“Uh-huh,” Octavia smirked. “Alright, I see you two have been introduced to our Abercrombie and Dead friends. So grab some kit, and let’s get to clearing out this shop.”

Jillian blinked. “What?”

Octavia sighed. “Okay, looks like we’ll have to take this a little slower.” She introduced herself, Dusty, and Gun. Almost patiently, she explained that they were being attacked by monsters and needed to use gardening tools as weapons to defend themselves.

“You see, Jillian? I was right. It wasn’t a person, I just put down a monster.”

“Doesn’t look like a monster. It, he, looks human,” Jillian looked at the twitching creature at her feet. “Mostly. What if they can be reasoned with, or cured?”

“Well, you’re welcome to try to debate, or diagnose, the next one,” Jacques shook the gore off of his pickaxe, “but I’m not.”

Jillian frowned and held herself tighter.

Octavia tossed aside her make-do cudgel—the hard drive enclosure box—and picked up a shovel with a long narrow spade. Then she nabbed a pair of long rose cutting gloves, they looked like they might be bite-proof.

Dusty walked over to a tall rack with gardening supplies. “Okay, we need to stick together and work our way to the front of the store. Once there, we’ll lower the security cage, then do a thorough sweep to the back of the store.” Happy with his well-used shovel, he grabbed some plant ties off the shelf and put them in his pocket.

“Wait!” Gun picked up a double-edge loop hoe, then reached down and snagged a machete. He looked at it for a moment. Then he put it in his belt and grabbed another one. “Now I’m ready.”

Octavia cocked an eyebrow.

Gun smiled. “You can never have too many machetes.”

Part 6: Twerk It, Boys

Dusty rushed into the foyer. Gun, Octavia, and Jacques followed. Several check-out registers sat between Dusty and the entrance. As he walked past them, the sweet smell of candy bars was overwhelmed with pungent decay wafting through the entryway. He glanced at the doors on his way by, the glass was completely shattered.

He wasn’t too worried because the storefront had an old roll-down security gate. It dated back to the eighties when this had been a rough neighborhood. It had fallen into disrepair after the gentrification of the nineties. Motion sensors or security cameras were more useful these days. The cage just kept the honest people honest, the owner liked to say.

“Okay, I’ll lower the gate, you guys make sure no zombies get in,” Dusty said.

“No prob, dude. Ain’t no z-boys getting past me!” Jacques said as he pushed forward. He stopped in prime skull-smashing position between both doors and widened his stance. He could see at least a dozen figures shuffling around the parking lot. They all looked pretty undead to him.

Gun and Octavia took up flanking positions behind Jacques.

“Please, never call them z-boys again.” Gun scowled. “Ugh, now I’m picturing them breakdancing in unison. Which is, actually…” He grinned. “Hilarious. I take it back. Keep calling them that.”

Jillian trailed the group. She glanced around, unsure whether it was better to stay with them or find some hidey-hole. She didn’t have a weapon, so she couldn’t fight, wouldn’t fight. These were people, after all. Maybe sick, or really-really sick. But still people. Right? She wound up in a corner with a wall at her back and a clear view of the entire foyer. Jacques glanced at her and nodded; Good choice.

Dusty grabbed the security cage’s hanging control box. “Get ready, this thing is loud.”

Gun shook his shoulders and stretched his neck. Octavia gripped her shovel with both hands.

“I’ll teach these freaks to Fear the Frog.” Jacques thumped his purple and white t-shirt.

Dusty blinked. “Sure,” he said and activated the control box.

They all flinched when the cage screeched into motion. It slid down the wall on its ancient track, like a janky garage door, slowly covering the entryway. Apparently, no one ever greased it. Gun was sure a twenty gun salute would have been more subtle than this racket. About halfway down, it squealed to a stop.

“Uh, don’t worry, it always does that,” Dusty said. He rolled it up and then back down again. It complained even louder this time. No dice. Still stuck.

“Dude, hurry up. We’re drawing a crowd.” Jacques said, gesturing with his ax to the crowd outside.

Dusty noticed the previously shuffling figures were now heading toward the entrance. The noise seemed to give them focus; They moved with purpose. One was almost jogging, in an uneven kind of way.

Gun spat a profanity. “This is almost as scary as Black Friday.”

Then the lights flickered off. Even though it was bright outside, the store only had a few scattered skylights. So it got dark. Real dark.

Somehow the grunts and moans of the creatures approaching sounded louder now, and not just because they were getting closer.

The power flickered, intermittently lighting the foyer like a strobe.

“Now is not the time for a rave,” Gun muttered.

“Would you lay off the jokes?” Jacques said.

“What, freaking out, and crying would be better?”

Jacques didn’t reply.

Each time the lights came on, the sad little electric motor that powered the security fence whirred and moved the cage slightly. The smell of burnt wiring filled the entryway.

“Just keep it going down!” Jacques said. He dropped his ax and ran forward.

“No!” Jillian screamed, but Jacques was already at the cage. He arrived at the same time as the fastest zombies.

Jacques jumped up and grabbed the fencing, hanging in-place like a rock climber. Or Spider-Man, Gun thought.

The running zombie slammed into the fence at full speed, either not seeing it, or not caring. The creature bounced off and landed on the ground with a squelch. It stopped moving.

The impact shook the cage, but Jacques held on. He shifted his center of gravity as high as he could and then dropped it. Slowly, his weight was wrenching the fence along the tracks.

“Here.” Dusty held out the control box. Octavia ran over and grabbed it. “Just keep this button pressed.”

“Got it.” She said and jammed the button.

Dusty jumped on the fence too, although not as high as Jacques did. Together they jarred the cage a few inches down the track, but it was still wasn’t enough. They both started the up and down motion, wriggling the fence down, little by little.

“It looks kinda like they’re twerking,” Gun said. The lights were still strobing. “It’s like the worst music video ever.”

“Twerk it, boys. Twerk like our lives depend on it.” Octavia shouted. She looked at Gun. “Well? Shake what your mama gave you.”

“What? Oh, right.” Gun ran to the fence and started pulling on it.

“Jump on it!”

“I can’t! I got no vertical, that’s why I gave up basketball.” Gun reached as high as he could and yanked down on the cage. “Well, 'cause of that and all the running.”

Finally, with all three of them pulling on the fence, it let out a tremendous metallic whine and slammed to the floor, bucking Jacques and Dusty off.

Jacques landed smoothly on his feet, slightly disheveling his ginger curls.

Dusty fell in a pile on the ground. He got up quickly and pulled the garden ties out of his pocket. He used several of them to secure the cage to the track. “The lock doesn’t always work, so hopefully this’ll hold.”

Octavia realized she was still pressing the button and released it. The cage stayed in place.

The horde pressed against the security cage, moaning incomprehensibly. It flexed from the weight, but it held.

One zombie looked like something out of a cheap video game. It walked into the fence, staggered back, and walked into it again. Over and over.

“I think we’re safe,” Gun said.

“Let’s not jump to conclusions…” Jillian said in a small voice.

They turned around to see dozens of zombies leering at them, hunger glinting in their putrid eyes. And they weren’t interested in the candy bars.

Part 7: Shamble, Shamble, Revolution

An eerie calm settled in the foyer. The ghoulish zombies stood in a loose line, hungrily eyeing their next meal. Gun, Dusty, Octavia, Jillian, and Jacques stood opposite them. A scant row of check-out registers was all that separated Gun from the zombie line up. He wouldn’t be surprised if a giant tumbleweed bounded across the floor between them.

The creatures outside moaned and pressed on the cage. Like some kind of horrible mosh pit—even worse than a normal one—each vied for the best view of the impending carnage.

His eyes scanned down the row of monsters. He half expected one to growl, Red rover, red rover, let Gun come over.

Gun grinned as he imagined running through a line of zombies holding hands. One of the imaginary zombie’s arms flies off when he breaks through. It staggers back and looks at where its arm used to be attached. It lets out a high-pitched grunt of confusion.


Gun’s chuckle wasn’t loud.

But, apparently, it was loud enough.

The zombies lurched forward, air stirring in their wake. The fetid smell of decay overwhelmed the foyer, making Jillian audibly gag.

Dusty screamed an impressive battle cry and launched himself at the horde. Holding his shovel overhead, he jumped on a check-out conveyor, leaped into the air, and swung hard. Gun thought Dusty looked like Super Mario with his hammer. Only instead of mashing a mushroom, he splattered a zombie’s skull everywhere, collapsing the creature all the way to the floor.

“Not bad.” Gun flashed an impressed frown. “My turn.”

Gun ran toward the nearest shuffling corpse and swung at it, golf style, with his double-edged loop hoe. It sounded out a satisfying whistle as it swept through the air. The result, however, was much less satisfactory. With a loud squelch, it wound up embedded in the creature’s crotch.

“Oh, dude. That’s not right.” Gun tried to pull the hoe out, but it was lodged in the creature’s pelvis. He yanked on the hoe’s handle, and the zombie’s hips flailed in a way that would even make Elvis blush.

“Oh, never mind.” He dropped the handle and pulled a machete from his belt. He hacked at the monster’s neck like it was a particularly bad-smelling jungle vine. On the third whack, the creature’s head separated from its body and dropped to the floor. “Wow, that’s harder than it looks.”

The zombies continued their trudging death march. None of these creatures was all that fast, which was good. Gun was still getting the hang of this game of death.

And there was no cheat code for real life.

Olivia watched Gun struggle, eyebrows raised.

“Boys.” Octavia shook her head and walked between two check-out stalls. Attached to one side of the aisle was a chain with a clasp and a small plastic sign that read: Closed. She pulled it across the lane and latched it. She took a couple of steps back and watched as zombies queued up. They shuffled up to the chain and pushed against it. Wasting no time, she took a broad swing of her narrow spade and lopped the lead zombie’s head off.

“Nice one!” Gun said from across the foyer.

Octavia smiled as she worked, merrily chopping them down like weeds in her garden.

Jacques collected his ax and rushed to Jillian. She had recoiled to the far corner, her back against the wall. She cowered, making herself as small as possible, and muttered incoherently.

“It’s okay.” Jacques leaned over and put a hand on her shoulder. “I’m here.”

“Look out!” Jillian’s eyes were wide, pupils dilated so much they looked black.

Jacques spun around and saw a particularly spry member of the undead leap at him. It was too fast and too close for him to get his ax into position as a weapon, so he held it across his chest like a shield and pushed the zombie back.

A Judogi draped limply over the creature’s gaunt frame, rotten skin stretched thinly over a grinning skull. Jacques blinked with surprise as it pushed him onto on his heals. It only took him a second to gather his wits and widen his stance. They were evenly matched in their pushing contest—each exerting their full strength on the ax handle.

The zombie showed an unexpected judo flourish by quickly changing from pushing to pulling. It leveraged Jacques’ momentum into a shoulder throw. Halfway through the motion, it snapped its jaws and bit into him.

Blood exploded into the air and followed him in his arc to the floor. He hit with such force that he slid several yards across the cement. His path drawn in crimson, his body eased to a stop.

He still clutched the ax in his right hand.

Part 8: Foyer Fracas

Dusty danced to his left as a zombie lurched at him.

The creature stumbled, and Dusty brought his shovel down hard. The zombie’s skull caved in with a satisfying squelch. That seemed to happen on the older, crustier ones. The more recently dead were a lot harder to kill… kill again… re-kill?

A scream pierced the air, drawing everyone’s attention.

Dusty watched as all the zombies started moving toward the sound; they couldn’t resist the siren call of terror. Dusty was on the opposite side of the foyer from whoever screamed. Jillian, maybe? All the zombies were ahead of him now. He did a quick headcount.

“Three zombies left,” he muttered.

Gun and Octavia were better positioned to help Jillian, and Jacques should have been somewhere near her, shouldn’t he?

Dusty took this opportunity to thin the herd even more. He crept as quietly as he could, also trying not to fall on his ass from the slippery pools of blood that coated the floor.

The lights flickered again. Why hadn’t the generator kicked in? Dusty would have to look into that.

The trailing zombie didn’t even notice Dusty stalking up. He could tell it had been dead for a long time. Its clothes were deteriorating, hair was falling out in patches, and its forearm had a big chunk of flesh bitten out of it. White bones within the dry wound gleamed in the darkened room. Had a confused zombie tried to eat one of its own?

Dusty’s shoulders were burning. The effort of swinging the shovel was starting to overcome the numbing effect of adrenaline. He changed his grip and held the tool properly—like he was about to start digging.

Stepping directly behind the zombie, he rammed the shovel into the creature’s spine, just above its pelvis.

The zombie gasped and collapsed to the ground with a crunch. It tried to push itself up, but its body hinged where Dusty hit it. Its legs trailed, unmoving. It snarled, a dry hissy sound, and started pulling itself toward him.

Dusty kept his shovel at waist height and took a swing. Thwock! The monster’s head twisted at a sharp angle, and its body fell like a sack of potatoes.

The zombie’s eyes moved back and forth, settling on Dusty. It moaned a pitiful little rasp and started snapping its jaws, daring him to put a finger in its mouth.

Yeah, not gonna happen.

Instead, Dusty raised his foot and stomped down on the creature’s noggin. Like an egg, the monster’s skull burst and sent decaying brain matter everywhere.

Dusty lifted his foot from the pool of gore. “Ew.”

Gun saw the whole thing and still couldn’t believe it. Ryu-zombie flipped Jacques over his shoulder and bit him in mid-throw. It was terrifying how fast it happened.

After Jacques hit the ground and slid away, the creature went after him. But it was much slower now, like it spent all of its energy on the toss.

Gun grabbed his second machete. He grinned maniacally as he held both blades out and ran at the zombie. It wasn’t paying attention to him, its focus was on Jacques, bleeding on the floor.

He closed the gap in six steps, running up to the creature from behind. He raised both of his arms and brought them down as hard as he could, bending at the hips and curling his torso for added torque.

This time he scored a perfect hit. The machetes hit on either side of the zombie’s head, cleaving both arms off. They clunked to the floor, twitching. The zombie pulled up short. It turned around and looked at Gun, eyes wide. Then it looked down and grunted, a high pitched, confused sound.

Gun barked a laugh.

The zombie looked up, murder in its rheumy eyes. But it was too late, Gun was already mid-swing. The machete struck between two vertebrae and took the creature’s head off in one swipe.

“Finally!” Gun watched the head drop off the zombie’s now narrower shoulders, hit the ground, and roll to a stop right in front of Jillian. She flinched away, kicking at it like it was a giant spider or something, you know, gross.

“Sorry about that,” Gun murmured.

Dusty finished off the remaining zombies quickly, they were all old and dry. Fodder.

Octavia clobbered the last from her group and came to meet Dusty. Together they finished a sweep of the foyer, making sure everything was properly dead.

They arrived at the spot where Jacques lay crumpled on the floor. It had only been a few minutes since Jillian’s scream. Everything happened so quickly.

Jacques’ head rested on Jillian’s lap. He clutched his wounded shoulder. Everyone else had encircled them, bent over, looking down with concerned frowns.

“How bad is it?” Dusty asked.

Jacques moved his hand away, exposing a half-circle of tooth marks, gushing blood. He quickly put his hand back.

Gun grimaced. “Hurt bad?”

Jacques gave him a level look. “No, it feels great.”

“It doesn’t look too bad,” Gun said. “I mean, the wound itself.”

“It kind of…” Jacques gritted his teeth and groaned. “It kind of reminds me of the time I was mauled by a raccoon as a kid.”

“Oh, uh.” Gun’s eyebrows shot up. “Wow.”

Jillian looked up, her tear-streaked face turned to Dusty. “What’s gonna happen to him?”

Dusty opened his mouth, then closed it. He shrugged a shoulder, nonplussed.

“Is he going to become one of those… Things?” Jillian asked.

Jacques grunted and smiled wanly. “They aren’t people anymore, eh?”

“I don’t know, I guess not?” Jillian’s brows furrowed. “Heaven help me, I don’t care anymore. Whatever they are, they hurt you, and I’m not ok with that.”

Gun tilted his head. “It’s a good question, I guess. What will happen to him?”

“I don’t—I don’t wanna be one of those creeps,” Jacques moaned.

“Don’t worry, we won’t let that happen,” Gun said. “I’ll make sure of it.”

Jacques looked at Gun, then to Dusty. “Promise me, whatever happens… He’s not the one to do it.”

Dusty nodded, a thin smile on his lips.

“Jeez, what is it with men?” Octavia stepped back. “Nobody’s going to take care of anything. Certainly not what you blokes are on about.” She glanced at the aisles beyond the foyer. “Does this store have a chemist? Er, a pharmacy?”

Dusty and Gun both shook their heads.

“Well, you must have something we can treat the bite with… Maybe some hydrogen peroxide?”

“Actually, yeah. I think so,” Gun said. “There’s a small first-aid aisle.”

“Do you think that will help?” Jillian asked in a small voice.

“We don’t know what’s causing this… this… Whatever it is. But I have to imagine that being bitten by something dead may lead to infection, if untreated,” Octavia said. “The, ehm, normal kind of infection, that is.”

The store’s flickering fluorescents finally gave up and went dark. What little light they had filtered in through the front doors and a few dirty skylights.

“I think that was the main power. I need to check on the generators, they should have automatically kicked on,” Dusty said. He then suggested that Jillian and Octavia stay with Jacques. Gun should go get some peroxide and a first aid kit, and he would get the generators running. “Be fast about it. We’ll meet back here.”

Gun shook his head.


“I mean, how many horror movies have we seen?”

“Hundreds, maybe.”

“What’s the first stupid thing all those characters do?”

Dusty sighed. “We can’t help it. Just be fast. And don’t do anything stupid.”

“Anything else stupid, you mean.”

“All right.” Dusty frowned. “Well, the mechanical room and the first aid supplies are in the same direction. Let’s go.”

Gun nodded, and they both headed into the cavernous darkness of the Zippie Mart.