Marley was running at full speed when I looked up from my scavenging and got the bad news. I glanced behind her as she cut a swath through the middle of the clothing section of the supermarket we now stood in. Silhouettes moved behind her, hammering legs and pumping arms for speed - runners. "Oh, shit." I said to no one in particular as I dropped the t-shirts to the floor, turned, and fell in behind Marley.
With her running in front of me, we ran as fast as we could in a zigzag pattern through the store. I could hear the inhuman howls of hunger and fury as the runners behind us began closing the gap. I took a hard left down a cereal isle, and stopped to dislodge the shotgun that hung in a makeshift holster across my back. About the same time that I was able to complete my 180 degree turn and ready my weapon, the first of the zeds rounded my corner. It stopped abruptly and locked its undead gaze upon me. Sharp, labored breaths that sounded almost painful inflated and collapsed its barrel chest, and bloodshot eyes that should have belonged to a monster out of a nightmare bore holes into me as the dead man tried to figure out his next move.
Long lines of drool and gore hung from his mouth as he parted rotten lips to growl at me. I didn't afford any more time to the ghoul. A sonic blast erupted from my gun as I split his wig with buckshot and a prayer. With the momentum of the shot, the dead body that was now truly dead hit the floor six feet behind where it had stood and slid to a stop at the feet of another runner. Looking from his fallen comrade back up to me, those horrible eyes that they all seemed to have said five words to me: "You'd better run. I'm hungry." I let loose another round and dropped the second one. Two shells left. Fuck! I turned and ran away from the carnage I had created, and rounded the opposite corner of the isle to try and find my friends, my...family.
Long-dead bodies and rotten produce blurred past me as I tried to flee the horrors around me. I stole glances to my right as I ran past the other isles and toward the back of the store. I caught a couple glimpses of more runners slipping between merchandise with a speed that seemed unnatural, even to them. I guess hunger can do those kinds of things for you. Rounding the last row of shelves to my right, the sight before me might as well have been a brick wall. Lying on the floor spread out between five runners was Marley. I wondered why she hadn't screamed in the millisecond it took my eyes to focus on the tendon that stretched itself from her neck to one of the runner's teeth. Oh, that's why.
I continued looking on, transfixed with some kind of morbid fascination. Only when the little girl whose bloody mouth was attached to Marley's right leg took notice of me did I snap back to the present and begin to appreciate the gravity of my situation. With her companions focused on my companion, the smallest of the ghouls began to rise to her feet. Her hair was an ashy blond; matted to her head on one side with the blood of other not-so-luckies. She had a painfully pale complexion, and a gore-spattered blue dress that had been a little too nice for casual wear at one time. She moved agonizingly slow, and a fetid smell seemed to radiate out from her. She was a Deemer, or dead man walking. She had been reanimated by the plague, robbed of her peace and placed into this hellish existence. I must have missed her catching up with the others at Marley's corpse.
Marley. Oh, God! Marley's dead! The information seemed to smack me in the head in a distinctively delayed reaction kind of way. How am I going to tell Kevin? Is Kevin even fucking still alive? Ten feet away. How am I going to throw her stuff away? Oh, shit. Marley's dead! My head was swooning. Five feet away. Hot tears fell from my swollen eyes in a race to my chin. I can't fucking take any more of this shit. I can't. I can't...What's that smell? I re focused my eyes only to stare my death in the face of a little girl that had her mouth open and was looking at my arm weird. BAM!
A shotgun blast from my left sent blood and bits of blond-haired brains flying out the side of her head. BAM, BAM BAM BAM! Several more blasts dispatched the others that had been making a meal out of my friend. "We've got to move, motherfucker! And I don't fuckin' mean maybe!" The voice behind the words that my foggy mind was trying to listen to seemed familiar.
"Who, who are..." I attempted.
"Let's just get you back to your truck. I swung around the side of the sporting good wall where Kevin was, but..." The man let his words drop off. He put an arm under mine, and we started back toward the doors. The trip from the back of the supermarket to my truck seemed like a dream. My savior had told me that my other comrade was dead as well, and I tried to make my mind conceive this truth, as much out of politeness and an obligation to oratory manners as my mental well-being. We worked our way back through clothes and checkout lanes, and finally back out the front doors.
I sat in the back seat of my truck, out of sight of the bastards that still lurked out here; another of my new friend's ideas. I waited for him and tried to piece out his identity, but the shellshock that I was still feeling stopped anything from being absorbed too much. It was an automatic response from my body to try and hold on to some form of my sanity, I was sure of it. It worked for the most part, I guess.
Movement to my left caught my eye, and I looked to see my new friend carrying several grocery bags full of items. He came around and opened up the back doors, setting the bags inside. Some of the bags seemed to land with a metallic crunch, others with the undeniable rattle of pills in bottles. "Ah, I'm gonna need those tonight..." I thought dismally. My friend opened the driver's door, and got in behind the wheel. As he turned the key and put us into gear, I got my first half-ass good look at him.
He was a big man, probably standing 6'2'. His girth would have 275 pounds on a scale easy, and he had black hair that was graying at the temples. A large, Roman nose dominated a face beset with large cheekbones, a high forehead, and smoky gray eyes. His voice was what brought on the most unease, and sense of nostalgia. "Hey, back there. We're gonna have to get you home and let you shake this one off for a bit, okay? After we get something to eat, some rest, and brush our teeth with these brand new Oral B's, we'll feel like new men. Sound good?"
"Yeah, yeah. That sounds pretty good." My head was still far from where I wanted it to be. It was also far from where I needed it to be. "I need to get some res..." My voice fell away from words that never got out of my mouth, and the swirling abyss of unconsciousness took me. The man driving looked back at me through the rear-view mirror, and smiled.