Saturday, June 22, 2013


They took off as quickly as they could go, shooting up several blocks before Will halted in front of her. Eve and Katrin stopped right behind him, alert, heads cocked as they listened for movement.

“There's a bike shop that way,” Will whispered.

“We have bikes,” Katrin whispered back.

“This place has new bikes. Lighter weight. Better shape. And probably better accessories, better trailers.”

“Ok,” Eve said. “Yeah, we should look for lighter bikes. Something easier to get where we're going. Something we can go faster in.”

“That way,” Will said, pointing to the west.

“No,” Val said sharply, out loud.

“Val!” they all said as one, trying to hush him.

“No,” he said stubbornly. “Zombie that way.”

Will and Eve exchanged a glance.

“It's down on the highway,” Eve said. “How far is the bike shop?”

“Five blocks that way,” Will said. “It's by that coffee shop.”

“All right, let's go fast and quiet,” Eve said. She looked at Katrin, who gave her a worried look, but resolutely nodded her head. “Val, you have to be quiet, unless you see one of the infected. If you see one of the infected, then shout, ok?”

In answer, Val extended his lightsaber.

Beside him, Cassie calmly stared up at Eve. For some reason, this reassured Eve more than she would have thought possible in that moment.

Selby Avenue had cars on the road too, blocking the road itself and at one point up ahead, blocking the sidewalk they were using. Most of the cars here were parked in a fairly orderly fashion, as if the drivers had come to a halt at some point before the degeneration had struck. In a few cars they saw people who had been killed trying to get out of the back doors of the cars.

“Child safety locks,” Eve whispered. “Damn.”

They zipped up the sidewalk, Eve working to keep the bike stable for Katrin, Will in the lead watching carefully up the side roads for any sign of movement. It wasn't until they were approaching the crash that had stopped the traffic so neatly farther back that he saw any notable movement.

The crash had not only blocked the sidewalk but the street itself as well, with no easy way around it. Once the first car had veered, it had been struck by cars coming either way on Selby. There wasn't a lot of evidence of death left, most of the bodies having been picked over during the last week or so by carrion eaters, including the Red Flu infected.

In the same moment they were realizing they'd need to detour around the block, Will caught movement to the north, coming up a cross street. He snapped out “Shit, Mom, we need to go!” at the same time Val shouted “Zombie!” and pointed his lightsaber directly at what they saw.

Dragging a half-eaten arm, a ravaged woman was staring at them, snarling something quietly to herself. Half her upper lip was missing but well-healed, the rest of her covered in scars. Fingers were missing. What remained of a dress covered her only in tatters, her feet were bare and her hair matted and wild.
“Go, go, go!” Eve said desperately, pointing up the cross street to the south. “Go!” Even as she said it the infected woman shrieked and gave chase, dropping the arm she was carrying. As they skidded around a corner, Will spun his bike and trailer so that Val was behind him and dropped his bike to the ground, leaping forward, brandishing the bat he'd strapped over his back the same as Katrin had done with her walking stick.

“She's going too fast,” Will yelled. “We can't outrun her dragging these trailers.”

“God damn it,” Eve shouted. She pulled her bike so the trailer blocked Val's trailer. “Katrin, stay back, protect Val. Unbuckle him.” They both jumped off the tandem bike in different directions.

The woman was bolting at them faster than Eve had ever seen someone run, a flat out feral run. She was still a block away and gaining quickly, Will was right, there was no way they'd have been able to outrun her. If she'd reached them while still on the bikes, they'd have been even more vulnerable.

Eve took out her stun gun. She had a sudden, frozen fear that this small device would not work against the zombie. Not a zombie, a Red Flu victim, she reminded herself.

No, she thought, watching the snarling woman coming at them, definitely a zombie right now.

Wanting to get this creature away from her children, she snarled just as loudly, all fear dropping away, and she sprinted forward toward the enemy hurtling toward them. She dropped her shoulder and slammed into the arm-dragger right below the woman's sternum, lifting her up and back. As she did, she fired the stun gun into the woman's belly.

The infected creature was bowled over backwards and Eve rolled to the side, scrambling to her feet. The woman was trembling and still snarling, but now Eve could hear what she was saying.

“Help. Help. Help,” she growled, her eyes bugged out and blood red, her mouth foaming, her expression enraged. Eve stepped back in shock.

The woman was up on her feet, wobbling, but upright, in a heartbeat. She lunged toward Eve.

Will shouted, “Down, Mom!” and Eve dropped just in time for the baseball bat to swing, whistling, over her head and take the zombie right in the face.

The creature flew backwards again, blood spattering.

“Help,” she roared, gurgling blood.

“DOES. THIS. HELP?!” Will shouted, smashing the bat down repeatedly onto her head, until the only movement the infected woman made was the jiggling twitching as her brain died.

Eve and Will watched in silence, breathing heavily. From a short distance, Katrin and Val watched too, without a word spoken.

Finally Eve said “Does this help...” and started to helplessly chuckle. Will burst out laughing, almost startled by his own laugh, and had to sit down. Katrin and Val hugged each other and giggled in triumph. Eve and Will laughed until tears ran down their faces, and hugged each other.

“I know I scary,” Val said, grinning, when his mother and brother walked back to the bikes. Katrin buckled him back in.

“Yeah, we're kinda badass here,” Will said, and they all laughed again.

Eve was stricken in mid-laugh with the memory of the torn and scarred creature calling out “Help. Help.” and fell silent.

“Damn it,” she said, and started to shake. She stumbled up onto the curb and threw up into someone's yard. Katrin and Will ran to help her up.

“We better get moving,” Will said soberly.

“Mom's bleeding,” Katrin said, and the kids looked at their mother. Blood was dripping from Eve's face and neck where the infected attacker had scratched her while Eve was tackling her. Will got out the first aid kit while Eve wiped her face off with the hem of the flannel shirt she was wearing over her tee.

“If it's not actively bleeding, we can deal with it when we get to the bike shop and are surrounded by walls,” Eve said. Will nodded. Only the two deeper scratches on her face were still oozing blood, so he put a bandaid meant to cover a scraped knee over them.

“We'll clean it up and bandage it better when we're safe,” he said.

Eve smiled gratefully at her son. “Thanks, kid. Let's beat it, huh?”

The three of them, Val safely buckled in again, righted their bikes and headed around the block to avoid the crashed cars blocking Selby. They all felt terribly aware, every sense vigilant for signs of danger. Eve and Will were both worried the noise of the altercation, the sound of the woman shouting “help”, might have drawn the attention of any other infected nearby. They moved as quickly and silently as they could manage.

The front window of the bike store had been smashed open, and there was blood inside. The front doors had been hit by a car that blocked the door pretty effectively, so the family went around back while Will went in with the crowbar he'd brought from the used bike store to see if he'd need to pop the back door open. Val would not be able to easily clamber over the window sill.

Will opened the door into the employee's area of the store, it was unlocked. He figured most doors would be unlocked, a locked door would be a sign of someone who had survived at least the first few days of the Red Flu riots.

The back door to the employee parking lot was also unlocked, and Will opened it just as Eve was unbuckling Val. She and Katrin had pushed Will's bike around back, leaving their bike still out front. While Will helped Val into the bike shop, Katrin untied the cats from the trailer one by one and carried them into the store. Eve went back around to the front and pushed the tandem bike back to the back door.

“If we leave them out here, they might alert zombies,” Will pointed out as came back out to help her unstrap Val's wheelchair and bring it in.

“I am not sure,” Eve said. “Do you think they can understand things well enough to know? Leaving the bikes here might also signal to a survivor that we're here.”

“I think we should worry about finding survivors after we're safe at Snelling,” Will said. “Besides, there's no guarantee another survivor we find here is going to be a good guy and not, say, that jerk who mugged me, right?”

“Good point,” his mother said, and they dragged the bikes, trailers and all, into the shop while Katrin held the door open for them and Val held onto the cats' harnesses.

Happily the doors were undamaged enough to be able to be locked, both the door going out to the parking lot and the door into the main part of the store, and both doors were heavy steel. There were only small windows set high in the cement block walls in the employee area, so that too seemed adequately safe.

Val gave the cats water from his water bottle to drink, and Katrin spread old newspapers for them to pee on.

“Let's just stay here for the night,” Katrin said, and the others quickly agreed. She set up her lanterns on the lunch break table. Will broke open the vending machines with his crow bar, and brought sodas and packaged snacks to the table. Eve gazed longingly at the coffee machine, useless without power, and then started ransacking the employee's lockers for lunches.

“I gotta potty,” Val announced when he'd finished feeding and watering the cats.

“I'll take him,” Will said, and the two peered out into the hallway leading the employee break room, saw it was clear, and headed to the restroom. Katrin locked up behind them and stayed by the door to listen for their return. When they were done, Eve and Katrin took their turn.

While Katrin used the toilet, Eve washed her face and neck with bottled water from the vending machine. The scratch on her neck was superficial, but one of the ones on her face was deep enough and wide enough it would probably leave a scar arcing below her right eye socket, from mid-cheek back to her hairline. Thank goodness the creature had only had two fingers left on that hand.

She thought about the germs and gagged. She applied plenty of antibiotic cream before covering the wounds with bandages.

The toilet didn't flush on its own, but was still a relief after a week of using a bucket. Eve poured a few Diet Pibbs in to force a flush when they were all done.

Darkness seemed to fall early, even for autumn. The lanterns were lit, and the two couches from the break room were dragged into the manager's office, which had another couch in it. Katrin made a pile of sofa back cushions to sleep on, and the others all chose a couch, grateful to be able to stretch out and not be crowded. Will used his couch to block the office door, even though it was also locked. He set the radio on top of a file cabinet.

The cats curled up on the desk, and Katrin set their food and water dishes on the desk near them, spreading more papers out in the farthest corner from the couches so they could go to the bathroom. They covered up with blankets, though the chill that came with nightfall was not as bad in such a small area, and shut the lanterns down to avoid notice from anyone outside.

“In the morning, first thing, we'll get new equipment and head out as early as we can, so we can do most of what we need to while it's quiet.”

“That zombie's eyes were very red,” Will said.

“Yeah. I think the light does hurt their eyes, like Robbie Rocket said.” Soft music played from the radio, but Robbie Rocket himself had not made a voice appearance this evening. Eve hoped he was safe, well, and resting.

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