I don't remember much from that night we spent in the dollar store. The adrenaline must've hazed out a lot of the night. I do remember the moaning though, and the scratching; and thinking that it was going to drive me mad. I've spent so many nights now in various safe houses around the countryside. Nothing will ever compare to the utter terror I felt lying on the makeshift bed of blankets and pillows on the cold tile floors of that store. I thought the daylight would never come. The daylight, I would later find, could hold more horrors than any night could ever bring.
The maddening moans and scratches coming from outside the store hadn't hindered Jackson's ability to sleep. He lay there, dead to the world, snoring like nobody's business; oblivious to the end of days on our doorstep. The sun was above the horizon and I knew I would be getting no sleep. I just sat there staring at Jackson sleeping like a rock while the rest of the world huddled in fear of the oncoming bus that was death. I thought Jackson was either an extremely gifted person or extremely stupid. I eventually settled on the latter. He came across as a brutish man on the outside with his 30 year old body and his redneck demeanor but, I knew on the inside he was a scared little kid unable to comprehend what was going on. He was a coward in a fight, and an all around pussy when work needed to be done. It was just my luck that I was the one stuck babysitting him. I figured at least, if it came down to it, in a chase, I could trip him for a quick escape. Nobody would miss him.
I figured as long as Jackson was dead to the world I should at least try to find out what was going on. I made a quick search of the store for a T.V. but there was none to be found. The store didn't have much; just cheap-ass clothes and food. I did find a radio in the back room of the store that would work. I carried the radio to the front of the store where I had made my makeshift bed and plugged it into the wall. I remember thinking before I started listening to any grotesque reports I was going to need to get some caffeine in my bloodstream.
There was a soda machine in the front of the store. I was just lucky enough that I had a dollar on me. I put my dollar in the machine and pressed the button for a soda. Nothing. I pressed the button a few more times with the same effect. I was a little annoyed at the fact the machine took my only dollar. Hit coin return; nothing. Shook the machine; Still nothing. Finally, reaching the height of my anger, I unleashed a kick to the machine's front. The kick rattled the machine and the door creaked ajar. The aroma of death filled the air. Filled with sudden fright I quickly searched around for a weapon. There was an umbrella stand by the registers. I thought its better than nothing. I ran to the stand, grabbed an umbrella and crept back to the machine. Grabbing the door I took a deep breath and jerked it open, the sight was nauseating.
Inside the machine was the mangled, twisted body of what I could only guess was a woman. Her head was smashed down the center of her skull, turning it into a freakish canoe. Each limb was twisted and broken, some of them woven into the machine parts around them. I held back the bile rising in my esophagus. I could see an employee nametag with the name Martha on it. I quickly reached past Martha, half expecting her to spring to life, and grabbed my soda; closing the door behind me. I shook off the image and opened the soda, took a long swig as if I hadn't had a drink in days. I glanced through the glass doors to the creatures outside. Still there, waiting for us. The lower piece of glass that I had cracked coming into the store caught my attention. The constant bumping against it, from those things outside, had caused the fracture to spider out more. We wouldn't be able to stay there much longer.
I returned to finding out what was going on. I flipped the radio on and began to tune looking for any sign of life. I stopped at what I guessed was a military broadcast that was in the process of trying to explain things. Apparently, these malicious creatures were called "Zombies". The broadcast continued on to say that it was a infection of some sort that allowed the infected to turn ordinary people into creatures like them; though it was unsure if it was blood-borne, airborne, or chemical in origin. They also reported that the best way to kill them would be to pump as many bullets into them as possible or beat them until they no longer move. The radio also said there had been rumors that destroying the brain worked well. The report went on for a bit longer explaining the best places to take refuge and evacuation point locations.
When the radio broadcast had ended, I noticed Jackson was sitting up in his improvised cot. He was looking around the store as if he had forgotten where he was. He yawned and looked at me like he was going to say something, but just yawned again. I stared at him like I was watching a creature on the national geographic channel. He was such an idiot.
"Hey man, what's going on?" Jackson finally said to me through another yawn.
"Uh, nothing." It was all I could produce. Plenty of other answers like "the apocalypse" and "just waiting to die" came to mind but I let them go so as not to ruin whatever relationship we had at this point. I mean, for all I knew he and I were the only people still alive. The radio broadcast could have been a recording and no one would be answering the telephones.
"What's your name, by the way? I don't think I ever asked." he asked me apathetically.
"Grady." I replied, followed by, "Hey listen, man, I think we need to pack up some stuff around here and move somewhere safer, maybe even look for other people."
"You mind if I sleep another hour or so before we do that? I didn't get much sleep."
I knew from being awake the entire night that that was a blatant lie. Jackson had managed to sleep for what was going on 9 hours now and he still wanted more sleep, and I thought I was a lazy bastard!
"No man, the glass on the front door is cracked and if we stay here too long the zombies outside will get in." I said using the new lingo I had learned on the radio.
"Zombies?" Jackson questioned me
"Yeah, it's what the news is calling them."
"The news was here?"
Really? I thought, He is really that retarded. It took a few seconds to process that genius statement before I could answer.
"Nah, man, I heard it on the radio. Now get up and start getting ready; we should pack some bags up and head out. I think I saw a roof access sign in the back room."
He looked puzzled for a second like I had just given a math problem to him and asked him to answer it.
"Alright," he said to me, "but I'm going to need a drink before I can do anything."
I pointed to the front of the store and told Jackson there was a soda machine there deliberately neglecting to tell him about the dead body. He slowly rose to his feet and slid his pants back on, which I personally felt was a sight I really could have done without. He headed to the front of the store as I began mentally listing the things we should grab before we headed out. The next thing I heard told me the day was going to be a good one. It was the sound of Jackson screaming like a little girl, followed by the sound of him gagging up what little food was in his stomach.
I grinned pleasantly to myself and yelled, "Say hi to Martha for me!"