Zombies - A Love StorybyAsylumSeeker©
Zack was feeling edgy as he carefully peered around the corner of a room and down a long corridor. There they were -- more zombies! Quickly withdrawing, he made sure his shotgun and pistols were fully loaded before he took in a deep breath and stepped into the open, shotgun blazing away as they shells tore through the mutated bodies.
The flickering of the lights forewarned of an impending power failure. It was only a matter of time before electricity was lost. He was rather surprised it had lasted this long, and so he'd been making the most of it as he played his favorite game again and again.
Realizing he was getting hungry Zack turned off the game console, rose off the side of his bed, and stretched his stiff limbs. Glancing over at his bedroom door he ensured that the two-by-four length of wood was still securely in place. He didn't want to be surprised by any zombies and find himself becoming one of them. All it took would be a single bite.
He was fortunate to have a small bathroom attached to his room, because this made life much simpler. It meant he didn't have to leave the safety of his room every time he had to piss, or the other. Of course he could've opened the second-floor window to do either of these things, there wasn't anybody left to complain, but this seemed so wrong. And, with a bathroom so close at hand, he didn't have to consider this less-than-desirable option.
Walking to the foot of the bed he opened a cooler and retrieved a plastic water bottle. He made a mental note to scrounge for some more, and locate another couple bags of ice. The closest stores he'd already picked clean, so today he'd have to venture further outside of his comfort zone. All of the food was gone now, as well.
It all started, what -- one month, two months ago? Time no longer had any meaning for him and so he easily lost track. He didn't even know what day of the week it was. He'd been relying on his cell phone to keep track of such mundane details, but when that stopped working he'd given up entirely.
Survival was the only important thing now, and he was determined to take as many zombies down with him as he could. At first he'd armed himself with his dad's twelve-gauge pump shotgun. Then, as he scavenged abandoned homes and local stores, he'd added two semi-automatic pistols to his armory. Zack never left the safety of his bedroom without them.
Stepping into the bathroom to take a mid-morning leak, he thought back on the frequent arguments he'd had with his parents. When his dad wasn't complaining about him taking his college studies more seriously, his mom was on him about keeping his room clean, picking up after himself, and spending too much time playing games.
Zack recalled with irony about how he'd wished, more than once, that they'd just leave him alone. Well, that wish had come true, but not in the way he'd ever intended. Who could've known that a brain-eating virus was beginning to spread, quickly turning into a pandemic that spread across the world with a ninety-eight percent death rate? That was the kind of thing seen in movies and video games, not in reality. But things changed.
His dad had gotten sick first -- brought it back when he returned from business travel, or so it was assumed. His mom was next. It started like the flu, but two days later rapidly spread to their brains. It caused immense pain, driving them to insanity. In the final hours they started attacking those trying to help them before dying.
Days later people were sick and dying by the thousands. Even medical staffers, police, firemen -- the very people needed to help end the suffering and preserve order -- became victims as well. It was a nightmarish time. That was when Zack loaded up food and drinks in his room and barricaded the door for fear of what was to come next -- the zombies.
How Zack had managed to avoid contamination was a mystery. He wasn't the only one. At the very end he monitored TV and radio news reports as medical doctors and scientists tried to isolate and identify the virus in hopes of creating a cure. Two percent of the population had a natural immunity to whatever it was, the last he'd heard. Were there others out there like him?
And then one day he woke up to silence. No more television, no radio, everything had stopped. The end of the world, at least as he knew it, had arrived. Anticipating the rotting bodies would return to life and come after him, he kept to his room for as much of the time as he could.
Outside excursions were only risked when need outweighed the potential threat. And this was another one of those times.
Ten minutes later he stood in front of the bathroom mirror decked out in military-style boots he'd taken from an army surplus store, faded blue denim jeans, and a brown t-shirt. He combed his dark hair and stared at his reflection for a brief time.
A shoulder holster held one semi-automatic pistol under his left shoulder, and another was attached to his belt on the right side of his waist. His right hand gripped his dad's twelve-gauge shotgun. A green bag hung from his left shoulder -- inside was a couple of water bottles, a box of twenty shotgun shells, and four loaded magazines for the pistols.
"Okay you badass zombies, Zack's ready for you!" he shouted in an effort to alleviate his fear and build his waning self-confidence.
After taking a deep breath to ease his sudden nervousness, Zack lifted the board off the hastily assembled holders he'd hammered onto the frame and opened the door. The second-floor hallway looked just as he'd last seen it three days ago. Bringing the shotgun to the ready he ventured toward the stairs, ready to fire at a moment's notice.
He slowly drove down the main drag of the relatively small town he'd called home for as long as he could remember in a bright yellow Hummer he'd helped himself to on one of his earlier forays.
Oddly, the roads were not clogged with abandoned vehicles as they were in the zombie game he'd been playing or in the many zombie movies he'd seen. And there were no mindless zombies to be seen lurking on the streets or in the adjacent buildings, at least not as far as he could tell.
Maybe they only came out at night, he quickly decided. Perhaps he'd be safe as long as he only left the house during the day. But if they did, he'd still have to be very careful when he went indoors not to stumble upon them. Feeling a mix of relief and apprehension, Zack wasn't sure if this new discovery was a good thing or a bad one.
Pulling into the parking lot of a convenience store, he walked up to an ice freezer and pulled the door open. There were about a dozen bags of ice remaining, and so he helped himself to two, stowing them in a cooler he'd placed in the back seat.
Walking up to the main entrance, which consisted of two steel-framed glass doors, he pulled on them -- they were locked. Some places were, some weren't, he'd discovered. Holding his hand up to block the light from his eyes, he peered through the window and could see a stocked refrigerator with all kinds of water, soda, and beer.
To the left and right of the glass doors were large glass panes. Stepping up to the one on the left, Zack used the butt of his shotgun to smash one. Suddenly, just as the glass pane shattered, he was assaulted by the ear-splitting ringing of a burglar alarm.
"Oh fuck!" he immediately shouted.
Alarms were a bad thing -- a very, very bad thing. In the game they drew hordes of zombies, and as his heart pounded in his throat, Zack braced for the worst as his gaze moved in all directions. It always took a few seconds before the first wave arrived, and as it did, it was always preceded by a thunderous noise that still made the hair on the back of his neck stand up.
The sound of an alarm caught Caria's attention. An alarm meant only one thing -- a survivor. There were two types, she'd discovered during her travels since the pandemic of 2010. The kind, and the unkind. Which type would this turn out to be?
Retrieving a revolver from a holster on the right side of her belt, she cautiously advanced in the direction of the irritating noise.
She only had to walk two blocks before she saw a bright yellow Hummer parked outside of a convenience store. The driver, presumably, was inside, so she walked forward and placed the vehicle between herself and the store, just to be safe. A few moments later the unseen person must have found the alarm, because it turned off.
Caria could hear noises emanating from inside. Cooler doors being slid open or shut, items being placed into plastic bags, all of the typical sounds one would expect when in the proximity of a store being looted. She patiently waited until, a few minutes later, a young man stepped over a two-foot high brick wall just below a shattered window.
He was cute, she decided, with a slender body and dark hair. And he appeared to be armed to the teeth. With his hands busy holding bags, Caria knew this would be the safest time to approach. Raising the revolver but pointing the barrel off to one side, she let her presence be known as she leaned over the hood of the SUV.
"Police, freeze!" she called out in a stern, forceful tone.
When the guy looked up and saw her, she thought he might crap his pants. His shock was complete as his eyes fixed on her weapon. Caria almost expected to see an expanding dark stain in the crotch of his jeans, but he managed to maintain control of himself. She would've laughed but instead felt a twinge of guilt for surprising him as she did.
"Who - who - who are you?" he finally managed to stammer.
Her glare turned into a warm smile as she sensed this survivor was the kind type. Lowering the revolver but keeping it in hand, she warily stepped around the vehicle and closed the distance.
Zack remained frozen as he watched her approach. She looked to be his about his age, maybe a couple of years younger, with long dark hair, piercing blue eyes, and a very cute face. The girl was dressed pretty much like him in blue denim jeans and a simple white, short-sleeved shirt. He couldn't help but notice her slender, shapely form, or the slight jiggling of unrestrained breasts under the shirt.
"Don't worry, I'm not the police," she offered with a grin. "I'm Caria."
"I'm Zack," he responded, still not sure what to make of this girl who had confronted him so unexpectedly. "What's going on?"
She opened the back door for him and he stowed the loot. "That's what I've been trying to figure out since the infection started."
"Have you run into any zombies?" he questioned, wondering what her experiences might have been.
The serious nature of his inquiry caused Caria to start laughing quite hard. Soon her eyes were filling with tears and rolling down her reddened cheeks as she nearly doubled over from the laughter.
"Sorry," she whispered as she recovered. Fanning her face with her left hand, Caria told him, "You watch too many movies, Zack. There aren't any zombies. You can trust me on this."
The shocked expression returned, mixed with disbelief. "No zombies?"
It suddenly dawned on her why he was so heavily armed. He actually believed the infected, who had all died, would come back to life and roam the streets as the undead. He almost seemed disappointed to find out this hadn't happened at all.
Zack remained unconvinced and challenged her with, "Then why are you armed?"
"Because there are packs of rabid wild dogs, and male survivors who see me and think of doing very bad things," she quickly explained. "I said there aren't any zombies. I never said it's safe."
Zack had to admit that it made sense. He hadn't seen a single one, the alarm going off hadn't attracted the anticipated waves of mutants, and this girl who just showed up confirmed what he didn't want to believe.
"Can I buy you a late lunch?" he asked.
Caria smiled. "That's the best offer I've heard in a long time. I'd love to."
"Nice place," Caria called out from a booth that rested against one wall of a twenty-four hour diner next to a truck stop.
"I used to work here," Zack shared. "Back when I was in senior high school. Would you like a hamburger, steak, or chicken? The freezer is still pretty full so there's a good selection."
"A steak sounds good," she answered. "Is there anything to go along with it?"
"How about I grill up some potato wedges?"
"That sounds delicious after all the cold canned food I've been eating. Are you sure you don't want me to help? I really wouldn't mind," she repeated her earlier offer of assistance.
Zack responded with, "You can cut up some potatoes."
Caria walked to the far counter and around it to join him in the back. "I like it better being here with you," she admitted. "Sitting in the front, shouting back and forth, that was awkward."
He looked up from the grill and into her alluring blue eyes. "You should've said something earlier."
She smiled as her eyes brightened. "It was cute that you wanted to do this for me, and I didn't want to ruin it for you. That's why I didn't say anything."
After a few anxious moments he told her, "I like it better that you're back here with me too."
Zack was already developing a strong attraction to this lovely young woman who had unexpectedly crossed his path, and it certainly didn't hurt that she was nearly his age and quite beautiful. When she caught him staring he nervously glanced away.
"It's okay to look at me," she said with a giggle. "Are you relieved to hear that there aren't any zombies out there?"
He shrugged his shoulders. "I was ready for them if there had been any."
"And if there was, I would have come to the right place to be protected," she casually shared with a friendly grin. "I'm glad I met you, Zack."
He turned to glance at her again. "You don't know how glad I am to meet you. I have so many more questions to ask."
"You can ask me anything."
He wasn't sure where to get started, so he began with the first thing that popped into his head. "Why are you here?"
"I heard the alarm," she answered simply.
When he looked over at her with a stunned you-must-be-kidding-me expression on his face, she giggled. He loved hearing her laughter. Maybe it was on account of the loneliness he'd been experiencing, or maybe because she was so beautiful and he was just feeling giddy from being in her presence like this.
"That wasn't what I meant," he finally said.
Her smile faded. "Yeah, I know. It's an awfully long story."
He made a point of glancing around. "It's not as if we're short on time or anything."
Caria heavily sighed before giving him the short version of the explanation he was searching for. Zack placed several potatoes and a knife on the counter in front of her, suspecting that having something to do while they talked might ease the tension his question seemed to have created.
"Skins on or peeled?"
"Skins on, unless you prefer to peel them," he suggested.
"Skins on works for me," Caria decided, and as she cut the potatoes into wedges her sweet voice began to briefly recount the days since the last of the dying took place.
"I'm not sure how it was handled here, but once the hospitals got overwhelmed with the sick and dying, the police told everyone to remain in their homes. I nursed my parents the best I could until they passed on, and with the help of some volunteers we got them loaded onto the bed of a truck and watched as they were bulldozed into a mass grave on the edge of town. It was all very surrealistic, and I'm still wondering if this is all some crazy dream I'll eventually wake up from.
"There were some other survivors around, a dozen or so that I saw. All of them were as dazed and confused as I was. Some of them banded together to try and return their shattered lives to some sense of normalcy, but I couldn't do that. I didn't know what to do, and so I left my life behind and began searching for something new, something that might make sense of the chaos."
She paused and shoveled a handful of wedges onto the grill to her right. Zack used a spatula to spread them out, acknowledging her afterwards with a shared smile.
"Looking back on my decision, I was probably naïve thinking I could walk off and travel cross-country in search of a new identity," Caria admitted. "I always trusted people until they gave me a reason not to, and how I managed to escape three older men who were hell-bent on making me their sex slave I'll never know. But it was a lesson I learned from and has made me think differently of people."
"You mentioned rabid wild dogs too," he reminded her.
"Yeah, that happened in a town when I was scavenging for food," she revealed. "Luckily it was after the men, because once I had escaped from them the first thing I did was to find myself a gun. And I used it to kill two of the three dogs that had me cornered in a grocery store. The third ran away."
"What are the roads like?" he asked, keeping the conversation going as she painted a much different picture of the one his imagination had created.
"Pretty clear, actually. Better than I had thought. But there are barricades. Here, for example. They set up concrete barriers across the roads leading into town and so I had to leave the car and set off on foot. Good thing I had, too, or maybe we never would've met. So what's your story?"
His face reddened with mild embarrassment as he acknowledged how silly he had been acting since finding himself to be a lone survivor ready to do battle with an army of zombies that were not to be.
"My parents got sick pretty quick and they died in the hospital," he began his much shorter and far less adventurous explanation. "That was when I loaded up on food and water and holed up in my room, playing my game to perfection and listening to the news. Then one day everything went silent. No more news, just me and my game.
"I ventured out only when necessary with my dad's shotgun. The first time I could I grabbed these other guns and extra ammo."
"To kill the zombies," she teased him.
His face grew hot as his humiliation deepened. "To keep myself safe."
Caria knew she was touching on a nerve and it wasn't like her to back away from it. As her smile widened she clarified, "To keep yourself safe from the zombies. I bet you nearly dropped a load in your pants when that alarm went off. You hadn't expected that, had you?"
When he turned to face her she could tell he was getting mad. "Sure, kid me all you want. But what if I had been right, huh? Who'd be the one laughing now?"
"Not me, because I'd probably be one of them," Caria admitted. "Seriously, what happened when that alarm went off?"
His stern expression changed as it was replaced by a sheepish grin. "I nearly dropped a load in my pants."
They both broke out into a hearty round of laughter. When the last of it ended they were standing beside each other gazing deeply into each other's eyes. And this was when Zack knew he was "in the moment" -- he'd never been there before, but his instincts told him.
Knowing this moment might not ever make itself known again, feeling his stomach tightening into a nervous knot, he leaned forward as his left arm moved around her slender waist. He gave her an opportunity to shy away, and he wouldn't have blamed her if she did, but surprisingly Caria leaned in for the kiss as well, tilting her head slightly as her eyes closed.
He'd only kissed two girls up to now, and never had they been what could be described as passionate. Polite would have been a more accurate description, for they consisted of a brief touching of lips following awkward dates that were never repeated. Zack was a nice guy, a good friend, but would mean anything more to them.
But this was so different. This kiss involved all of his senses. It wasn't a simple touching of lips, it was so much more. He could smell the faint scent of perfume, could taste the lingering sweetness upon her silky mouth, could feel the tips of her breasts brushing against his chest, and for the first time he could see what it was like to be with a girl that saw him as a real guy -- not a nice guy, or a good friend.