Zombies North of Normal (03)

Chapter Three: Compassionate Gestures

Screenshot 2018-07-10 at 1.05.12 AMWith all the precautions she had taken, Jackie knew she didn’t need to be out scavenging for supplies. She figured with what she had, she could survive a good two or three years without needing anything more from the world outside her window, which was now her door. However, she also knew that as time wore on the scavenging would be increasingly sparse and she wanted to take advantage of the opportunity while it remained present.

Most of the dead had flocked to the areas of town where the emergency sirens had wailed, drawing most of them away from the shelter. This was an unexpected benefit of her location. So it didn’t require much bravery on her part to venture out that first day. Throwing down the rope ladder she had made, she climbed down the wall to the empty parking lot below.

There were only a few cars left. Likely, all belonged to those who were now corpses roaming the hallways behind her – save for one. When she got to her car, the first thing she went for were the weapons. She also pulled out her tire iron and crow bar – both had been stored there before she began preparing for Armageddon. Wrapping each weapon in a towel, she secured them in or on her pack. Hoisting herself back up the wall, she pulled the ladder up behind her. Scanning the area below, she wanted to be sure she had not been seen. Feeling secure that she hadn’t, she re-entered her room through the window closing the blinds behind her.

Unwrapping and laying out the weapons in front of her on the floor, she realized she had made a critical error. She forgot to acquire any ranged weapons other than firearms. A bow, crossbow, or sling, would become infinitely useful now that the end of the world was upon her. She didn’t even have any silencers for the guns she did have.

“How could I have been so thoughtless,” she admonished herself.

Despite all of the things she did think of in preparation, she berated herself for the one thing she forgot – this was a deeply-instilled character trait that years of therapy had been unable to budge.

And in spite of her perceived setback, or perhaps as punishment for it, Jackie resolved to remedy this or make up for it in some way if she could at the first possible opportunity. It was an opportunity she would not wait for, but rather pursue.

Pulling herself up by the proverbial bootstraps, she emptied her backpack to make room for whatever she may find out there. She put on her leather gloves, leather chaps, her armored jacket, as well as her motorcycle helmet with a built-in retractable face shield. Any metal hardware on her outerwear, she wrapped in masking tape to dampen the sound of jangling metal. Then she turned to select her weapon.

She looked over the guns and firmly decided against it. The zombies had been drawn away from the shelter and she wanted to keep it that way as long as possible. She selected a machete and strapped it to her belt and picked up a pair of screwdrivers, sliding one into each of her coat sleeves.

Geared up and armed as she was, she still didn’t feel ready for what she knew she was likely to encounter. Finally, she selected her smallest hunting knife and hid it inside her right boot. With that, she bid her cats farewell and slipped out through the window.

Climbing down the rope ladder, she felt uneasy knowing she would have to leave it lowered for her return. Halfway down, she took another look around to see if she could spot anyone watching her. Seeing none, she continued her descent.

Stepping onto the concrete she couldn’t help but notice how deafening the silence was. There was no sound of traffic, no sounds from the surrounding buildings, not even a soft buzz through the electrical wires overhead. All was quiet on this eastern front.

Slowly and silently, she made her way around the building towards the main road clogged with cars, trucks, and SUVs. Some of the windows were spattered with blood and a few had dead occupants inside. They hissed and growled at her as she passed.  

Making her way those two city blocks had never felt so far to her before. She had worked at the gas station she selected for her destination and was familiar with the route and the building itself – which is why she chose it. She was in no mood to be venturing into unfamiliar territory. Regardless, the neighborhood she once knew was now altered nearly beyond recognition.

She made her way down the street to the store without incident. When she arrived, she had anticipated the doors might be locked. However, she was pleasantly surprised to find them open and the glass still intact. It didn’t take a discerning eye to see the place had been looted. The store’s shelves were sparse. Quickly, she packed up what she could that remained – a few boxes of gum, some store-brand candies, a few decks of playing cards, and four cartons of cigarettes tucked away in the back cupboard.

Taking a moment to check the registers and safe, she wasn’t shocked to find both ransacked. Just as she was about to leave, she heard a thud coming from the store office. The thought to investigate flashed through her mind, but only for an instant. She could see a trail of dried blood leading to the office door and a pool had formed oozing out from underneath.

It didn’t require a detective’s instincts to surmise what had likely happened. Whomever had been working when the store was sacked likely was injured or bit and retreated to the office seeking shelter. The likely victim was the store manager Christopher. She felt badly for him and had a second thought of putting the zombified man down for good.

But like the first thought, the second also took flight as she placed her own safety ahead of any compassionate gesture. This was no time for compassionate gestures and she had her own business to attend to – primarily, the business of staying alive.

Taking one last look around her former place of employ, she left the gas station for the last time. At that moment, she could see no reason for her to ever return.

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