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The rain hammered on the roof above as the mop water splashed onto bright linoleum floor. The 24-7 Super Mart was quiet at this time of night. It was my zen time. I wrung out the mop in the bucket and walked to the end of the aisle and glanced up the main corridor at the three cashiers standing at their posts. They looked bored, it was 2 in the morning, three cashiers seemed like a little much. But district wanted them there and Gary the store manager was eager to please, so was Jessica, well she was eager to please Gary in the office away from prying eyes, and here she comes Miss Assistant herself.
“Jason make sure you face aisles 12-23 before the morning rush okay?” She said with a cheery smile flinging dyed-blonde hair behind her head with a toss and flashing a bright smile.
“Yea, sure.” I said turning to head back to the mop bucket.
“And make sure you are punched out at 7 a.m. sharp, Gary doesn’t appreciate you hanging around until 8 to punch out.” She called after him.
“Well if Gary actually scheduled me enough time so I could qualify for health-insurance I wouldn’t have to.” I muttered grabbing the mop bucket and pushing it to the end of the aisle.
I had been working there two years, always on the night shift, all through high school barely sleeping a wink. My parents had taken me to doctors and I had been diagnosed with insomnia, but lack of sleep never affected me. My grades in school hadn’t been anything special but I had been in the top 25 percent of my class. My family didn’t have the money or credit for college though and I had been dead-ended here. Not that I minded, I was a workaholic, I left here at 8 and chilled around town all day till I worked again. Maybe 2 or 3 hours of sleep here and there.
“Hey Jason.” The other maintenance worker Gregory walked over his shaggy hair shaking in front of his face. “Jessica on your case again?”
“Yeah, as usual. I’ve been here a year and a half longer than she has, no more than she does and yet here I am taking orders from the bimbo.” I said leaning on the mop, “Hows automotive?”
“Same old same old. Earlier an old dude managed to break open some oil and made a mess of the whole aisle.” Greg shrugged, “But no biggie. You hear about this virus in Africa? They are saying it has made it here.”
“What?” I exclaimed.
“Yeah, Mike just heard it over the CB. Not only the United States but Memorial has got three cases, the cops are quarantining the area. Its crazy.” Greg explained, “The National Guard is being called in and everything.”
“Shit dude that’s crazy. Why aren’t we closed? Doesn’t this qualify as a national emergency?” I said shaking my head.
“Yeah, but we can’t close till Gary gets the called from district.” Greg shrugged, “I am not going to leave I can’t afford to get fired if this place is still standing in a week.”
“Right, well I got to go to Electronics and Toys and make sure the aisles look all pretty for Jessica, hey if anything else happens give me a heads up alright?” I asked.
“Yeah no problem man, catch you later.” Greg low-fived him and headed back to automotive.
I emptied the mop bucket in the utility closest and whistled as I headed toward Electronics and Toys. I was thinking of this virus, we didn’t know much about it, it was pretty hush-hush. I strolled into Electronics and glanced at the movie playing on the TV’s.
“Good selection Margret.” I called to the older woman manning the cashier back here. She smiled and turned the volume up on the TV’s. The Longest Day staring John Wayne rose in volume as I made my way through the DVDs fixing the few moved cases and toppled Kids Movies.
The Longest Day was at the point where John Wayne was telling the soldier to cut a dead man from a tree when the scream cut through the quiet of the store. I jerked from the CD rack dropping Indestructible to the floor. Margret glanced at me then toward the front of the store.
“What was that?” I asked.
She just shrugged at me and wandered to look down the main corridor toward the front of the store. “Oh my god!” She yelled as another scream came from the front and she began to run that way.
I jogged to the main corridor watching her, then looking past her and seeing crimson splashed across white linoleum. “What the..” I started to say as Margret got blindsided by a man, her head cracked against the floor as she yelled out. The man swung his hands at her face smashing her jaw, a tooth hitting my chest leaving a red spot, he than bit down hard on her throat and pulled away, blood spraying across his black shirt.
I gagged and his head whipped right at me, flesh flying from his teeth. He snarled and got off Margret and charged me. I strafed right and ran into the clothing department pushing through shirts and shorts out for the summer season. I could hear the man behind me snarling and hissing. I turned into automotive and slipped on the wet floor where the oil had been cleaned up. This is it, I thought as my back smacked the floor. I looked up and saw the creature coming down towards me in slow motion, my hands raising agonizingly slow to defend my face just as a baseball bat made a wet smacking noise against the mans temple and pushed the body side ways into a shelf. I turned my head as the bat came down on the things head again cracking its skull.
“Jason are you alright?” Mike the automotive technician was standing over me, holding the baseball bat. I panted and nodded my head and he stuck out his empty hand. I grabbed and it and he pulled me up.
Mike was a big man, six five and nearly three hundred pounds of flab and muscle. Greg was standing behind him holding a crowbar. I glanced at the man that had tried to kill me, “What’s going on?”
“Their infected with that virus that’s going around.” Mike said stepping away from the body. I involuntarily took a step back.
“Their? There’s more than one?” I asked turning my head to look at Mike.
“Yeah at least a dozen or more, I saw them from the garage they followed a car in from the parking lot. A couple saw me and I pulled the door down just in time, one of their hands got crushed under it.” He turned and headed towards the back, “Greg and I are going to hole up back here till morning if you want to.”
“Yeah.” I said jogging after, “Can I get a weapon?”
“Help yourself.“ Mike said nodding towards the crowbars. I snatched one off the rack. Mike unlocked his office and the three of us stepped in, he shut the door, locked it and then propped his heavy wooden office chair against the handle. The blinds on the glass window to the garage dropped followed by the ones to the main store.
“Sleep lightly.” He said sitting against the door to the garage and plugging headphones into the radio he had and placing one in his ear.
I didn’t sleep. Greg tossed and turned and Mike kept messing with the radio dial. I didn’t talk to him though, it seemed being quiet was a good idea. I glanced at my watch, it was almost 7 now. I was supposed to punch out, it made me wonder where Jessica was, or if she was dead like the others. What about my family? I wondered if my mother and father were alright. It probably hadn’t reached them yet, we were close to Memorial and I figured that’s where all of these things had come from.
A tremor shook the building and I glanced up, it had been faint but there. Mike narrowed his eyes and took off his headphones moving to his computer. He brought up the store network and went to Surveillance. Twenty screens came up in tiny thumbnail form and he clicked one. The monitor blossomed to the front doors where a truck had smashed through the automatic doors. People where running from it and around it holding guns and other weapons. They grabbed carts and headed for the groceries, I lost count after thirty people.
“Looters.” Mike said and clicked to an in store camera near the groceries.
“Where are those things?” I asked looking over his shoulder Greg was stirring on the floor.
“I don’t.. there they are.. Oh god they’re heading right for them.” From the clothing department charged twenty of those things. A couple people turned to shoot, one man with a shotgun was smashed into by one of the things and as he fell he pulled the trigger and a woman running away had the bottom half of her right leg taken off, the gun shots echoed in the building and the screams were faint.
A boom sounded from the garage and I turned to the window. Greg sat up quick looking at us. I put my finger to the blind and pulled down to sunlight streaming in and a truck with a plow parked behind a car already on the lift. The door to my left smashed open and a man came in shooting. Greg took the first shot the chest, his green vest shredding and mixing with blood and tissue in a spray. The shotgun racked as Mike threw his bat straight at the mans head. The dull thud of metal on skull resonated in the office as the shotgun shot again shattering the window to the store and taking Mike out of his chair. I ran on adrenaline toward the door to the store flinging the chair away and unlocking it. The wood of the door blew away just as I cleared it.
I ran without thinking away from the screams in groceries toward the Electronic and Toy department. I passed a couple bodies with blood around them, before turning into The baby toy’s aisle, making it to the back wall and leaning against the end-cap to catch my breath. I heard running, and I glanced toward the main corridor as a woman and man ran past without guns, followed by a dozen of the things. The gun shots from the other side of the store had stopped.
“Jason.” A whisper made me jump and I swung around to see Jessica crouching behind a large box on the shelf, the box was a put together kid-sized castle.
“Jessica, you’re still alive.” I whispered and moved over to her.
“Of course I am.” She said, “I’ve been here all night what’s going on?”
“That virus is here and these people are infected and trying to kill other people.” I said leaning down to look her in the eyes.
“Oh shit.” She said, her eyes widening.
“We need to get out of here.” I said glancing back toward the main corridor and down each side of the back wall.
“Okay, we can go to my..” A loud jingle started from her vest pocket and she snatched at it trying to get her phone out.
“Turn it off!” I whispered looking around.
“I’m trying!” She exclaimed back getting the phone out of her pocket she opened it and closed it and the silence came back. I glanced around worriedly.
“Come on we have to go now!” I held my hand out, just as a snarl broke the silence.
I turned to see three of the things round the Family Games aisle and charge right at me. I looked at Jessica who was half way out of her hiding spot then turned and ran. I heard her scream after me and winced at what I had to do, her screams of pain and the tear of wet flesh followed me next and I winced again. I turned down the model building aisle and five of the things greeted me at the other end. I swore and shoved boxes down as another two came from where I had. I grabbed the shelf and pulled myself up grabbing the next as I felt a hand smack my foot. I shoved more boxes down and pulled myself onto the top. I looked down and saw them trying to do what I did, the whole shelf was rocking as the five creatures tried to climb it. I turned my head and saw fifty of them streaming from the store in my direction.
I looked towards the entrance, a mile away at this rate. I had no exit, “No, no, no-no…” I almost fell as the shelf shook. Then I saw one of our skylights, five shelves away with pipes running near it. A sense of hope came over me. I stood on the wobbling shelf and jumped toward the next just as a head swung at where my foot had been. I grabbed the top of the next shelf, dangling a moment before swinging myself up away from more hands. The wobbling got worse as I repeated this three more times, all of the creatures from the store surrounding my little slice of protection and shaking it wildly.
The pipes looked too far for a standing jump. I worked my way to the back wall as the shelf shook and tilted twenty degrees, keeping my balance. I took a deep breath and ran toward the opposite end, the shelf made it to thirty degrees and I looking to my left looking at dozens of hungry eyes waiting for me to fall to them. Fear almost seized me up as I leapt for the pipes, my arm wrapped around one and my feet fell toward the creatures below all snarling and growling at me clawing the air, some jumping for my flesh.
I pulled myself up as the pipe shook, trying to support my weight. The skylights had a safety feature for fires, they would blow ease open incase of a fire to let smoke out while the building was evacuated. They were also tempered so not to break in a hail storm. I looked at it, looking for some way to pop the seal and open the window. There was nothing on the inside. The pipe wobbled more, straining under my weight.
“Shit, shit.. What can I do..” I looked down at the mass
below me and thought about jumping for a second, then my eyes landed on a sprinkler five feet away. I fumbled in my pocket for my lighter and pulled it out. I pulled my green vest off as the pipe wobbled more. I held one corner to the lighter and flicked it on, the fabric began to melt but not catch. I swore and tossed it aside and took off my shoe as a bracket popped on the pipe. I yelled almost dropping the lighter and pulled off my sock, lighting it on fire. I held one end as it burned and swung it toward the sprinkler stretching out over open air above the creatures below. They seemed to rise up in one roar just as the soak struck the sprinkler system and water exploded from the nozzle the fire alarm going off and the seal on the skylight popped and I pushed it open grabbed the ledge as the pipe below me gave way water dumping onto the creatures below as I pulled myself in the morning sun. I rolled on the tar roof breathing in deeply.
After a few minutes I stood and hobbled with one shoe to the skylight to look down at the creatures who were shaking off water and backing away. I turned away and headed for the front of the store and looked down at the parking lot and towards town where helicopters were flying and smoke was filling the air along with gun shots and sirens. I panted and stared at the creatures streaming from the neighborhood drawn by the fire alarm.
“What the hell am I going to do now…” I said aloud to no one in particular and sat down against the low ledge panting. For the first time in awhile I felt tired and I closed my eyes, “I’ll figure it out when I wake up..” __________________ Don't ever wake up. -28 Days Later