Infection / Destruction / Hope

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Steeven

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My name is Norman Oklahoma. I collect comic books and kill zombies.  I used to be a Private Investigator.  I specialized in the unexplained, the supernatural, and the just plain weird. That was then. This is now. Now I’m just who I am. A man trying to make it by in the world that was given to me.

 

About fifteen months ago the world went to Hell. People got sick. Then they got real sick. Then they started to die. This disease, or virus, or whatever it was, killed over fifty percent of the world’s population. That’s the best guess, anyway. Most of our scientists and doctors and such died right away, being the curious types and all. They were all trying to figure out just exactly what the world was dealing with and most needed to get up close and personal with it. Reporters and other media types went out pretty much the same way. It didn’t take too damn long before most of us didn’t know anything other than what we could witness firsthand.

 

The sickness and the dying was just the start of it all. Those who died didn’t stay dead long. They rose up and started to feed on the survivors.  So yeah, zombies. It’s cliché, sure, but you try telling that to one of the undead while it’s nibbling on your feet. Chances are the thing won’t really care one way or the other, and it’s a might difficult to get a walking corpse to debate with you. So you just go ahead and hang on to your conviction that zombies have been overused in today’s Pop Culture Media World, but you’re gonna get eaten all the same.

 

How did I make it through the last fifteen months?

 

I was prepared, that’s how. I wasn’t prepared specifically for the zombie apocalypse, but I knew the world wasn’t right, and it weren’t getting no righter, if you know what I’m saying. So I had used the last few years to stock up on anything I might need if’n I needed it. Most folks who knew me back then called me paranoid, but those folks’re dead now, so their opinion has pretty much fallen to the wayside as far as I’m concerned. I survived, it’s what I do.

 

Six months ago things started to slow down. Those of us that managed to stay alive found places of safety away from the undead. We made homes. I tried to anyway. I tried to settle in. I tried to acclimate myself back into civilized society. But that’s a hard thing to do when you’ve spent the last few months creeping about the country side. Sleeping with one eye open. Watching your back every waking moment. Living with the knowledge that at any time a big ole mess of the undead could come walking around the corner and eat you. So yeah, I got bored. Real bored.

 

So I started to collect comics.

 

Re-collect, actually.  I got into comics in the 1980s. Eventually I had to stop collecting on account of all the stores closing down due to zombie infestation. While I was in the game however, there were many ‘High End’ books I was never able to get, either due to lack of availability or lack of funds. But now . . . well heck . . . now, it ain’t such a hard time finding these books seeing as the owner’s are dead and all.

 

Do I feel guilty about that? Sure.

 

Does it stop me? Not in the least.

 

I’ve spent the last three months going from town to town and state to state. Just me, my guns, and a Winnebago; adding to my collection one book at a time.

 

Rumors have brought me back home. Back to where I started.  Rumors of the holiest of holies. The be all, end all. The One. I’m talking about the first issue of Amazing Comics. The book was published by MC Comics back in December of 1938 and features the first appearance of Captain Might. It is the single most expensive and sought after comic ever. There are a few copies still out there somewhere, and one just happened to be in Lawrence, Kansas. I had been living just a thirty minute car ride from the damn thing for the past twenty years and never knew it.

 

That’s how I find myself crouched alongside a rusted-out four-door Oldsmobile Delta 88 in the parking lot of the Louisiana Purchase, a strip mall at the corner of 23rd and Louisiana Street, in Lawrence, Kansas. Home to the Kansas University Jayhawks. Rock Chalk Jayhawk, go KU and all that nonsense. I never was all that into sports. The stores that made up this particular strip mall started at the Southeast corner of the lot and ended at the Northwest, meeting in the Southwest corner to make an ‘L’ shape. The place looked like one of those war-torn cities you used to see on the news. Like Baghdad after Desert Storm. The few cars that were in the lot, the Oldsmobile included, were missing tires. They had their windows busted out, and bits of glass were strewn about around them. Great gouges marred the surface of the lot as if a giant robot ran it’s great, metal fingers through the asphalt. A few crows were perched here and there atop the lot’s lamp posts, those that still stood. The shops themselves were in your typical modern, strip mall style. A glass store front with two doors in the middle, also made of glass, in metal frames.  Big, plastic signs, that were at one time colorful and bright, were mounted above the doors at each store front. Signs big enough to see from the road so that the average passersby knew what the shops contained. The signs were all either busted open or missing altogether. Most of the places had been broken into by looters during the first days, and then later by survivors looking for anything that they may need. Food, water, clothing, guns, ammunition. Pretty much anything.  I myself had rooted through a couple of those shops the last time I was in town.

 

The state of the remaining signs made them impossible to read. But that didn’t really matter. I’d spent enough of my time here before the troubles that I didn’t need a sign to tell me which shop was the shop I was looking for. It was the third one down from the middle on the West side. The Comic Market. Amazingly it was the only store in the entire complex that kept its doors and windows unbroken. All I had to do was walk across the parking lot, get myself through those doors, collect what I came for, and be on my way.  Should be pretty easy.

 

I had just stood up and was about to make my way around the car when three figures came walking out of the shop to the left of the Comic Market. I quickly slipped back behind the car and peered over the hood.  My shop was only two rows of parking spaces from me. But standing between me and my goal were three, shambling, decaying, brain dead, pain in the ass zombies. They had just walked out through the open doors of a thoroughly looted hardware store and were now just milling about on the sidewalk.  I had parked the Winnebago a few blocks down and hoofed it over on foot so I could take my time checking out the immediate area, and so far these three were the first sign of the undead I had seen since arriving in town.  So while it was a problem, it was a small problem.


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I lit a cigarette. I find that smoking calms me and puts me in the zone, the place I need to be when I’m about to go up against a passel of zombies. Plus, being immortal and all, smoking doesn’t really do me any harm.

 

Had I not  mentioned before that I‘m an immortal?

 

Well . . . yeah, I’m an immortal.

 

At least I think I am. I mean, I can’t prove it or nothing, but I can give you some rather startling facts.

 

I’m a fast healer. I’ve recovered fairly quickly from the wounds I’ve taken, though to be fair, none have been much in the way of fatal.  I mean, I’ve never lost a limb and grew it back or nothing, but I do heal mighty quick. I ain’t never been sick a day in my life, which by itself ain’t much in the way of proof, but when you get to considering that all them days in that life, all them days I ain’t I’ve never been sick, well, you put all them days together and you’ll find that I’m well over a hundred years old . . . and that’s pretty damned convincing if you ask me.

 

So yeah, I’ve never put this whole ‘immortality’ thing to the ultimate test, but if you look at the facts, they are hard to discount.

 

I puffed away at my cigarette as I peered over the hood of the car and studied my prey. Two of the three zombies stood together a few dozen feet away, looking into the shop they had just vacated. I decided to call them Jake and the Fatman due to the fact that one of them was immense and the other wasn’t. Jake and the Fatman was a television show from the late 80s. I wasn’t a big fan, but the title stuck in my brain for some reason. The third zombie, whom I mentally thought of as ‘Lenny’ (no real reason why) stood about ten feet from me and was looking toward his buddies.  I guessed that all three shufflers were one time employees of the Comic Market based on their clothes. Jake wore a tattered blue t-shirt with the Superman ‘S’ shield across the chest. The Fatman had what looked to be a t-shirt with Captain Kirk’s face on it. And Lenny was close enough that I could make out the Green Lantern Ring on his right ring finger.

 

Of course, all that doesn’t necessarily mean that these three fanboy shufflers actually worked at the Comic Market, they may have just been customers, but one thing was for certain, they lived the life when they were alive, and that made them brothers. Or at least they were brothers. Now they were nothing more than rotting flesh standing between me and my prize.

 

The three zombies just stood there doing nothing, which isn’t odd behavior for the undead. They usually just hang out, wander about a bit, stare at things, and groan a little until some poor sap has the unfortunate luck to walk into their line of sight. Once they catch sight or sound of a living, breathing human being, they start to move. And they usually won’t stop until they can no longer see or hear what they were after. Sometimes any noise will get the ugly beasts moving under some baser instinct that noise means food. However, your average zombie will just tend to wander about a relatively small amount of territory, such as this strip mall, doing nothing more than existing while it waits to feed again. In between feedings, which nowadays could be weeks or more, zombies are typically just . . . there. They aren’t hunters or scavengers. They don’t seek out food. They don’t seem to need any, to tell you the truth. But while the undead may not need food in the same way that we do, the evil little bastards do have an unnaturally strong desire to eat, and those things will travel if’n it means food. And of course by ‘food’, I do mean the entire living human population.

 

Human’s are all the zombies are interested in, and live humans at that. They don’t care for cattle, or deer, or fish. Just us. You, me, Donald Sutherland, whoever. They sense a human, they are off like a shot.

 

Well, not a shot, really. That’s not a very good metaphor. It’s more like they are off like molasses being poured from a jar. Zombies aren’t the swiftest of creatures, that’s for sure and for certain. Most people can put a fair amount of distance between themselves and a shuffler just by walking fast. Of course, zombies don’t tire easily, or at all really, so your best bet is to kill them outright or put enough of anything between you and it so that it gives up . . . which rarely actually happens. Zombies are pretty damned brainless, but once they put what little faculties they have toward the idea of eating you up, there ain’t much short of the ultimate sleep that will take them off their path. They have real tunnel vision, you see. Hell, I once saw a zombie chase a solitary man past a whole crowd of people without even batting an eye. It was the one fella it wanted, so it was just the one fella it was gonna get, which the thing never did seeing as how I shot it. So killing it is really your best option if’n the undead come after you.

 

Killing a zombie ain’t easy though. Of course, it ain’t exactly hard now, neither. What you have to do is simply take out their brain, and by that I mean you gotta destroy the damn thing. You can smack it about the head with a baseball bat, but it’s gonna to take you a few whacks to get through the skull and really do the brain any damage. You can go at it with an axe, but again, it might take a swing or two. Heck, you can just lop it’s damn head off with a chain saw if’n you got you one of those. Of course, the problem with that line of attack is that the head itself will still be somewhat . . . animated until you destroy the brain. The body itself will fall to the ground and stop moving, but the head’s still gonna be alive, well . . . undead. Meaning that they can still bite you if you’re dumb enough to get yourself anywhere near its mouth. I used to travel with a fella named Dave who carried one of them ninja swords. A sword as sharp as a dang razor. Sharp enough that Dave took a swing at a zombie with it one time and sliced it’s head off with one chop, clean as can be. Of course, Dave was kind of an idiot, and being the idiot that he was, he picked the head up of the ground and tucked it under his arm. I think he wanted to take it back to camp as some kind of damned trophy or something. Anyway, he tucked the head under his arm and the damned thing bit him. Right in his side. Well, it weren’t long after that I had to shoot ole Dave. Broke my heart some, but the dang fool went and got himself bit.

 

You don’t want a zombie to bite you, that’s for sure. Once you’re bit you got yourself about three to four hours left on this planet as a regular human being. There ain’t many that can tell you exactly what happens to you, biologically speaking, if’n you get bit, and I ain’t one of them. All I know is that about three to four hours after someone gets bit, they die. About five minutes after they die, they rise back up and start trying to eat you. That’s why you need to take them out good and quick, and also quite permanently. Frankly I’ve found that a bullet to the head will drop them more often than not.


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I took a long drag off of my cigarette. I inhaled, letting the smoke fill my lungs. I held it there for a moment the exhaled slowly, the smoke oozing from my nostrils like the steam from an open freezer. I studied the cigarette a bit. I had about half left. I guessed it was time to get about my business so I could be off again. I stood, the cigarette held firmly between the middle finger and thumb of my right hand. I started to walk toward the zombies. They weren’t looking my way, so I stepped lightly, every ounce of my being full of calm self assurance. The crows watched silently as I stepped around broken glass and torn up chunks of pavement.

 

I’m sure if you were to ask anyone who has had the pleasure of my acquaintance, they’d tell you that I’m not one of the great tacticians of the world. And frankly, I’d be the first to admit that they’d be right. The fact is, I couldn’t plan my way out of, well, something that should be pretty easy to get out of. The way I see things, it’s always best to just start shooting and then figure the rest out once the smoke clears.  And when it comes to shooting. I’m your man.

 

As I mentioned before, I like to be prepared, and when faced with the threat of a city full of zombies, you can never carry too many guns. Myself, I carry five. I have a pair of Colt Peacemakers that are almost as old as me. I bought them back in 1879 in the small town of Mud Creek, Nebraska. Mud Creek don’t exist no more so there ain’t no reason for you to be looking it up on no map. You ain’t gonna find it. By an amazing coincidence, considering what’s happened to the world, Mud Creek was wiped off the map by a zombie outbreak in the same year I got my Peacemakers. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.

 

Along with the pair of Colts, I carry a pair of Smith & Wesson Model 625 revolvers. Though I’m rather partial to the Peacemakers, the Model 625 is the same revolver that Jerry Miculek used in 1999 to fire six shots, reload, and then fire six more shots in 2.99 seconds, setting the record. I myself can do it a might bit faster, but I’ve never gone on record for it. Of course, to fire, reload, and then fire again that quickly requires the use of a speed loader so that you can dump all six empty cartridges at one time, and then in turn load six more at once. This is a big help when faced with a room of shufflers.  Of course, some would argue that an automatic weapon would be much faster, and I’m sure it would be. But I ain’t got no love for automatic weapons, they tend to jam at the most inopportune moments.

 

My fifth gun is a rifle. The Winchester Model 1866 Lever-Action Repeating Rifle. It’s older that the Peacemakers and I rather like it. Nothing feels safer than a good Winchester in your hands.

 

Now, it ain’t easy to carry five guns and the ammunition to go with it, so I managed to procure myself a black flak jacket and black military-style pants from an abandoned police station storage room a few months back. I’ve since modified the jacket so that I can carry the rifle on my back and the two Smith & Wesson revolvers under my arms. The Peacemakers ride low on my hips, just like in the old days. The belt that holds my Peacemakers has loops along it to carry the pistol’s bullets. The rest I keep in the many pockets of the flak jacket and pants. Heck, I’ve even got myself two grenades. So yeah, I’m pretty much ready to kick some zombie ass whenever and wherever it’s necessary.

 

I got myself close enough to the nearest zombie, Lenny,  that if’n I wanted to, I could flick my cigarette at it and hit it square in the back of the head. I didn’t do that. Instead I just stood there for just a moment, long enough to pull a good bit of smoke from the cigarette into my lungs and exhale it back out. I  was trying to quickly come up with a plan of action, something I realized I should have thought of first before stepping out from behind the car, but as I said, I’m not one for strategy.  At this point my options were limited, so I decided not to fight my own nature and flicked my lit cigarette at the back of Lenny’s head. 

 

The world slowed. While the cigarette was in mid-flight, my hands blurred to my sides and back up again. They went down empty, but came up holding Peacemakers. I pointed the right pistol at Lenny, and the left at the Fatman. The three undead where still just sort of standing around like three men in a department store waiting as their wives tried on clothes. The cigarette then struck the back of Lenny’s head and the beast grunted. Lenny turned and our eyes locked for a split second. I gave Lenny a wink and smile, then squeezed the trigger. The zombie’s head popped back and Lenny fell with a dull thud to the ground as the gunshot echoed around us.

 

The other two zombies, further away but still within gunshot range, turned to me. I popped off two more quick shots, one from the left for the Fatman, and one from the right for Jake, turning the undead into the very dead.

 

From the time my cigarette connected with Lenny, to the time that Jake and the Fatman hit the ground, a total of about 3.2 seconds had passed. The sound of the gunshots bounced off of the storefronts, echoing and blending with the startled squawks coming from the crows who were now winging their way to anywhere but here.

 

I reloaded quickly, replacing the spent shells with fresh rounds. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my years slinging guns, it’s that you always reload at the very first opportunity.

 

I stepped over the bodies and walked to the Comic Market. From the outside it looked as if no one had been inside since before this whole zombie apocalypse thing. Of course, you couldn’t see in too well, what with all the posters covering the windows from the inside. I grasped the door handle of each door and gave them a pull. Nothing. I gave them a push. Again, nothing.

 

“Crap,” I said aloud. I expected the place to be locked, but I always try to hope for the best.


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In the movies, when the hero is faced with a locked door, he simply shoots out the lock and kicks the door in. I’ve found that this rarely works in real life, but that didn’t stop me from trying.

 

I pulled the Winchester off my back, levered a bullet into the chamber, and fired a shot at the lock on the door. I reloaded, slid the rifle back into its holder, lifted my right leg, and slammed my foot into the door. The door didn’t budge. It just rattled around it its frame. I kicked it a few more times to no avail.

 

“Crap,” I said out loud again, scratching my chin. Pondering my situation. I was trying my best not to let my frustration build, but it was quickly becoming a losing fight. What I needed was just beyond that sheet of glass. I just had to get through it first.

 

I looked around for a moment and found a nice heavy cinder block a few feet to my right. I had to use both hands to get it up off the ground. I spun, using the weight of the thing to whip me around a few times before chucking it at the window of the shop. I heard the thing connect with the glass. I didn’t see it happen. The dang cinder block was so dern heavy that I kept spinning after I let it go. But I didn’t need to see to know that I had failed. There is quite the distinct difference between the sound of a cinder block going through glass and a cinder block bouncing off glass.

 

As soon as I stopped twirling and my eyes cleared up, I ran my hand over the window at the impact site. It was nothing more than a series of small cracks that looked like a spider web the size of my hand. I pressed against it and met only resistance. The window glass was much thicker than I thought. I could throw the cinder block at the window again, but it looked like it would take a lot of throws before I could get through, and I didn’t think my arms or back were up to the task. I thought for just a moment of going back to get the Winnebago and driving right through the doors, but decided to just use what I had with me. It was going to be noisy, which may very well attract more shufflers, but my first four gunshots would have done that already.

 

So I decided to go for it.

 

I pulled the Peacemakers and emptied them into the window to the right of the door. Left, right. Left, right. Left, right. One shot at a time. Making a large “X” in the window with the bullet holes. Twelve shots later and the windows were still intact. I reloaded the Pistols, picked up the cider block again, and hurled at the window. This time, as I was spinning, my ears were greeted with the wonderful sound of the cinder block going through the window, and the glass hitting the sidewalk.

 

I stopped spinning and saw a hole in the window that was large enough for me to step through. So I did.

 

The scent of stale comic books reaches out and shakes my hand before enveloping me in a warm embrace like a father greeting a long lost son. I smile. I take a moment to let the smell really fill my nostrils and make my olfactory senses tickle my brain with memories of better days. Then I get to work.

 

I didn’t have much time. Every zombie within the sound of those gunshots were gonna come a-running. Well, a-shambling. I take stock of my surroundings. To my left is glass display case with a single cash register. The case stretches down half the length of the left wall where it meets a set of shelves filled with what were at the time, new comics. The case is filled with various Fanboy trinkets. Magic cards, a Green Lantern ring, various action figures, and DVDs. On the wall behind the counter hung twenty or so comics in protective plastic sleeves. On the opposite wall, stretching from just a few feet in from the door to far wall at the back, sat tables. On the tables sat row after row of comic book long boxes. Each long box held about two hundred comics, bagged and boarded, and between the boxes sitting on the tables and those below, there were somewhere around twenty-thousand back issues in front of me.

 

While I wanted to spend more time going through the back issue bins to see if I could fill a hole or two in my collection, I ignored them completely and headed to back of the shop to where I found two doors in the center of the back wall. The door on the right led to the restroom, the store room, and the back exit beyond. The door the left led to the office. It was the door to the left that I chose, and it was, thankfully, unlocked. I opened the door and walked into a cramped, windowless office.

 

I pulled a small flashlight from a pocket and scanned the room. There wasn’t much there, because there wasn’t much that could fit. The room had a desk, a chair, a few posters on the wall, a metal three drawer filing cabinet, and most important of all, a safe.

 

Eight days ago I was in Paducah, Kentucky and I ran into a fella I used to know by the name of Stu. I was in town trying to track down an issue of Green Arrow. It turned out that ole Stu had pretty much the same idea as me. He wasn’t looking for the same issue, but he was looking for comics all the same. We thought it might be a good idea to team up and so we did. We broke into a place called Crash Comics on Broadway Street. He got what he needed, and I got what I needed. The problem was that on the way out of the store, Stu got himself bit by a zombie.

 

I shot the zombie and got Stu out of there. As he lay dying, he told me his story.

 

Stu used to work at the Comic Market, but he was attending Comic-Con in San Diego when the troubles started. He’d been making his way slowly, very slowly back home, stopping along the way at every comic shop he could find to build up his collection. I’m not quite sure how he got into Kentucky, but stuff happens. Anyway, just before he died he confided in me. He told me about the safe in the Comic Market. He told me that there was a copy of Amazing Comics Number One in the safe. Best of all, he told me the combination.

 

After that I shot him in the head. I didn’t want to do it, but he begged me. He didn’t want to be no damn zombie, and I didn’t blame him. Besides, I was gonna have to shoot him anyway, once he turned.

 

I crouched before the safe in the Comic Market office, the flashlight clutched between my teeth so that the beam shown on the safe’s dial. I spun the dial, using the combination that Stu had given me. The safe popped open and I looked inside. There, sitting all by itself, in a hermetically sealed plastic display case, was Amazing Comics Number One. I pulled it gently from the safe and cradled it in my arms, not at all surprised to see one of my tears fall upon the plastic.

 

I was giving thought to cracking open the case right then and there when I heard a sound from out in the store. I rose and peeked out from behind the office door. Standing there among the back issues was one of the undead. It would have looked like nothing more than a customer trying to decide which box to start in on first, if it weren’t for the decayed flesh and the flies buzzing about its head. I needed to get out of here. So far I just had the one shuffler to worry about, but I knew that more wouldn’t be too far behind.

 

Just to be sure, I quickly pulled all four pistols, one at a time, and made sure they were okay on ammo. Then I did the same for the rifle. Six rounds per pistol. Fifteen rounds in the rifle. That’s thirty-nine.  Now let’s say for a moment that I have the ability to hit ninety percent of what I shoot at. I’m better than that, but let’s just go with that figure. That means that I have a good chance of getting from here to my Winnebago without being eaten, providing that there are no more than thirty-five point one zombies out there . . . we’ll round down to thirty-five. If they are spread out enough that I get the chance to stop and reload, well that would stretch my odds out a bit more, but for now I’m working on the hopes that I don’t run into anymore than thirty-five. But here’s the problem. Before this whole zombie apocalypse thing, Lawrence had a population of about ninety thousand people. If we stick with the general belief that half of the world’s population succumbed to the virus, died, and then came back to life, then logically we can assume that at the height of everything, there were at least forty-five thousand of the undead walking the streets that were once home to the Kansas Jayhawks.  Since then, we can assume that a few thousand have either wandered off or been put to rest by the living, but I’m willing to bet that there’s at least thirty-five thousand zombies out there someone in this city, and once that thought flashes into my mind I start to think that maybe this comic wasn’t worth it after all.

 

I take another peek around the door and into the store and notice that there are now five shufflers out there among the comics. I had to get out of here. I tucked the plastic-sheathed copy of Amazing Comics number One between the flak jacket and my chest, pulled the left Peacemaker, and silently stepped out of the office and into the store with what was now, seven undead fanboys. My luck was with me once again considering that all seven were looking away from me.

 

I crept towards the door that lead to the back exit. I walked on cat’s feet. The closest shuffler was within arm’s reach. I gently put my right hand on the door knob before me and ever so carefully, quietly, softly, almost tenderly, I twisted. Or at least I tried to. The knob wouldn’t twist. The door was locked.

 

That’s when I said it. The grand daddy of all swear words. The four letter word of death. The F-bomb. And for some reason I’ve never rightly been able to wrap my head around, I said it out loud.


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I just stood there, frozen, unmoving, and unbelieving. My right hand on the door knob, my left hand holding the Peacemaker with its barrel pointing at the ceiling, and the curse of all curses hanging there above me like a fecal encrusted brick. All seven shufflers turned to me as if of one mind. Bones creaked. Skin stretched. The mood in the room shifted from the idle browsing of a window shopper to the animalistic fervor of a Las Vegas All You Can Eat buffet.

 

Oddly enough, it seemed like the dang shufflers seemed almost surprised to see me because they didn’t come at me right away. I stood there looking at them, and they stood there looking at me.  I’m not sure how long the eight of us could have continued in such a fashion, but being one who values the life that God gave me, I broke the tension the only way I knew how.

 

I shot zombie nearest me.

 

It was a woman in what once would have been called a power suit, and she went down lickity-split. Before she hit the floor I cleared leather on the right Peacemaker and popped off another shot, then another. Right, then left, then right, then left. Seven quick shots in under four seconds. Seven shufflers lying still on the grey carpet. I breathed a heavy sign of relief as the sound of my final shot echoed off into the distance.

 

Then I saw the rest.

 

A mob of zombies were out on the sidewalk. Dozens of them, and hundreds more behind them in the parking lot. And I had their complete, and undying attention. And yes, that pun was very much intended.

 

I quickly reloaded and did two things that made me feel very uncomfortable considering the herd of groaning shufflers that were slowly making their way towards me. I put away my weapons, and I turned my back on the hungry mob.

 

I threw myself at the locked back door only to bounce off and land smack on my rear. I looked back towards the entrance to see the shuffling mob bottlenecked at the broken front window where I came in. That would slow  them down for now, but it wasn’t going to last but a few seconds before the sheer weight of them brought the entire front wall down, and then they would come flooding in.

 

I picked myself up and commenced to kicking and beating at the door, but it just wasn’t opening. I took a quick glance at the front of the store and found that four shufflers were in. I turned my back on them again, ignoring the primal moans from behind me. I needed out of here.

 

I was just about to throw myself at the door again when I heard something scratching and thumping from the other side. I put my ear to the wood and heard a number of zombie moans from the room beyond the door. There were shufflers out back too. I was trapped.

 

I pulled both Peacemakers, thumbing back the hammers and pointing them at the ceiling. Then I turned to face the uncountable undead at the front of the store. It was time to put that whole immortality thing to the ultimate test.

 

I inhaled deeply, then exhaled. In through my nose, out through my mouth. In with the good, out with the bad. Three times I breathed, in and then out. I let a feeling of calm wash over me as the four shufflers came within inches of arm reach from me while three more were pulling themselves in through the hole in the front window.

 

I smiled slightly as I began to fire. I became a machine. Aim, fire. Aim, fire. Left, then right. Left then, right. I shot and the monsters fell.

 

I’ve always been good at shooting, there ain’t no doubt about that. It’s like I was born to fire a gun. Most folks will tell you, those who know, that it really ain’t that easy to hit something with a pistol, especially when the overwhelming fear of death is in the air. There have been many an occasion where someone has emptied a handgun at another person just ten feet away without hitting them even once. Heck, how do you think Wyatt Earp managed to get out of that scrape at the O.K. Corral with nary a scratch? Well, it’s because it just ain’t that easy to hit something with a pistol.

 

Unless you happen to be me. I’ve always been able to hit everything I’ve ever aimed for, and today was no different.

 

Twelve shots later I put the Peacemakers away and went instead for the Smith and Wesson revolvers under my arms. I do prefer the Peacemakers, they’ve been with me for a great long time, but what I needed now was speed as well as accuracy. Accuracy I’d have regardless of the pistol I used, but that’s because I’m me. But what the Smith and Wessons had that the Peacemakers didn’t were speed loaders.

 

A speed loader is used to load all the chambers of a revolver in one go instead of loading the gun one bullet at a time. It reduces my load time from around five seconds per gun to just under two. Of course one of the only situations in which you might find yourself in, that such a time difference gives you a distinct advantage would be if you happen to find yourself in close confines with a herd of shufflers, and since I happen to find myself in just such a situation, I’ll take any advantage I can get.

 

I pulled the Smith and Wesson revolvers and opened fire. Squeezing off shot after shoot, finding my target each time and smiling as more shufflers hit the ground. Twelve shots and three seconds later, I reload and start again. Twenty four shots and another reload later and I’d managed to create more of a bottleneck at the front of the store as I brought zombie after zombie down to plug up that hole in the window.

 

I reloaded both revolvers again with the last of the speed loaders and quickly picked off more shufflers, shooting now through the whole in the window, picking off the shufflers who were closer so the store, trying to stack them up both on the outside and the inside. While I was managing to keep the shufflers out, the mound of bodies both in and outside the store would also hinder me when it came time to leave. But yet I still fired, and shufflers fell. I told myself that I was thinning the herd, but I was stalling. I couldn’t keep this up. I needed to get out and the front door seemed to be my only option.

 

I fired the last shot from the Smith and Wessons and put them away.  For the moment I was alone with the comics and the bodies. That wasn’t going to last though. I could see through the windows and doors that hundreds of others crowed the parking lot and we ambling my way. Many had made it to the entrance and were climbing over their fallen zombie brothers and sisters toward the hole in the window. It looked like Black Friday in slow motion.

 

I needed a plan.

 

Of course, as I said, I don’t do to well in the planning stage of things, so I went with instinct and snatched the two grenades from the front of my vest, pulled the pins, chucked them to the front of the store, and then ducked into the office behind me. The store shook with the duel explosions and I was out of the office and sprinting towards the front of the store before any of the debris had landed.

 

As I ran I pulled the Winchester off my back and held it in both hands. I still had the Peacemakers at my hips, loaded and ready, but I figured that in close quarters, I could use the rifle to both shoot and pummel.

 

At the front of the store, where the door used to be, was a large gaping hole that opened out onto the parking lot. Any zombie that was near when the grenades went off were now nothing more than twitching body parts strewn about on the side walk. I kept running.

 

Have you ever been to a public, outdoor function, like maybe a tailgate party in the parking lot of a stadium just before the big game? Soon the hundreds of people in the lot start shuffling towards the stadium. Not quite it one large group, but more like twenty to thirty small groups of people all flowing slowly in the same direction. This is what I was running towards. The only difference is that this shuffling mass wanted to eat me.

 

I hit the lot and met up with the first group. I never stopped running. I just plowed right into them, first shooting and then swinging the rifle. Cracking shufflers in the head with the stock of the Winchester. I was through in seconds. I had just a moment of freedom before I hit the second group. Then the third, fourth, fifth, and so on. That’s how I got through the lot and the crowd of shufflers. Running, shooting, swinging, and just plain barreling my way though, and for some reason, after getting through the second group, I started to chant something I heard from a movie about fish.

 

“Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.”

 

I was saying it out loud. Quietly, at first, but by the time I reached the edge of the parking lot and broke free of the zombies, I was screaming it at the top of my lungs. But I never stopped running. I just kept going right out to Louisiana street, running east. I crossed Louisiana street and cut through the parking lot of a grocery store, running northeast, diagonally though the lot, and came out on 23rd street. I turned right and ran east down 23rd for the next four blocks until I reached the Winnebago I parked on the corner of 23rd and Massachusetts streets.

 

The Winny was something special. It looked like a movie prop from Road Warrior. A few months back I ran into a fella living at a scrap yard out in the middle of Nowhere, Nebraska. As payment for clearing the place of shufflers, he put his metal working skills to use and made some modifications to my ride.  We covered the windows with plate steel, using just slits cut into the metal to see, or shoot, through. This helped keep zombies out. He also made me a cow catcher, like you used to see on the front of old steam trains. I had that welded to the front. It came in mighty useful for plowing through a mod of undead pedestrians.

 

My heart filled with joy at the site of it.

 

I leaned back against the RV and caught my breath before walking around to the passenger side. I tried the door and found it locked. I didn’t curse this time, instead I just reached into my right pants pocket for the keys.

 

I didn’t find the keys in the pocket. Instead I found a hole as big as my fist. I must have lost the keys while barreling through a group of zombies. That’s when I cursed. I cursed long and loud. Then I stopped cursing and went over my options.

 

I was ten miles from the nearest walled community in Littleton. Thanks to my modifications, I wouldn’t be able to simple break a window to get into the RV. But even if I could, I’ve never learned to hotwire a car, so getting in was pointless without the keys.

 

I could just abandon the Winny and walk the ten miles to Littleton, but all my stuff was in the RV. My ammo, my clothes, my food, but most importantly, my comics.

 

I took stock of what little ammo I had left. Zero rounds in the Smith and Wessons and none in my pockets. Twelve rounds in the Peacemakers and thirty more in my pockets. Fifteen rounds in the Winchester and twenty more in my pockets.

 

I turned West, back towards the strip mall at the corner of 23rd and Louisiana. I knew the zombies would be following me. I could see them slowly making a beeline for me just two blocks up. There was no way I was going to make it the ten miles to Littleton on foot. I mean, I could run the ten miles, sure. But I wasn’t too keen on leading such a large group of shufflers to the wall of the town. Then the guard would have to waste ammo just to take them all out. No, I had to go back and find my keys.

 

I sighed and slipped off up Massachusetts street, heading north. I could take Mass up a few blocks, turn west, cut through a few yards and make my way back to Louisiana street. Then head back south to the strip mall.  Hopefully by then I will have lost the shufflers, and the lot of the strip mall would be empty of them and I could take my sweet time finding my keys.

 

At least that’s what I hope.

 

One thought hit me as I loped up Mass street. One thought that made me chuckle a little.

 

It’s not easy being a Fanboy.

 

The End.


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