Noah lies back on the shop’s glass counter. His shoulder blades press against the cold, hard surface and he stares up at the polystyrene ceiling tiles. They are old, turning brown and covered in a thin layer of dirt that has built up over the years. There are some missing — allowing a view up to the corrugated iron that has been used to make the slanted roof. Sweat drops of his brow.
“Damn, it’s hot.” He says as he wipes his forehead with the back of his hand and thinks just one thing. How the hell am I going to get out of this damn convenience store!
The iron security shutters in front of the main entrance rattle and shake, followed by a low pitched groan that gets higher, filled with annoyance, like that of a spoilt brat who isn’t allowed into his favourite candy store, but then all goes silent.
Noah doesn’t even blink an eyelid and keeps staring at the ceiling. Unmoved by the strange thing outside, his mind keeps on the topic of escape.
He has several options for escape, all of which may lead to his death and don’t bring much hope to him.
One: Wait until someone turns up to help — he feels this is the dumbest option. He’s running out of food and this idea is unlikely to result in success and takes all the power out of his hands.
Two: Create a distraction and run away into the nearby fields — possible, but Noah knows he’s not that fit and it’s hot outside so he won’t be able to keep running for long, and in this situation that is a necessity.
Three: Create a distraction that buys a little bit of time, run through the parking lot, pick up the car keys on the ground and start the car. — He feels this is the best option, but it’s dangerous. The vehicle may not start, keys could be dropped, etc…
The option of calling for help disappeared when he lost his mobile, and although there is a backstory to how he lost it, it’s too distracting to go into now. What is not so distracting is the fact he cannot remember any of his friend’s numbers, as they are all stored on his phone, so he couldn’t call them from the shop’s landline. And he has called the police over twenty times but has got no response.
He’s got to act for there is no way he is going to die in this place. The countless hours wished away standing behind the shop counter. Gazing towards the back of the store or flicking through the latest posts or news stories on his mobile and waiting until the workday had finished. But that’s not to say it was all that bad; it was just he had bigger plans for his life.
The keys to the car are outside, just laying on the ground in the car park. He watched as his boss got savaged by twenty of those things. He thinks of them as, things, as they are no longer human and are now just mindless undead that stumble about outside.
He told his boss not to go, but he didn’t listen, and as he watched his boss die, he had no choice but to hit the button, bringing the shutters rolling down. That was the last time they were up, but he can view through a small ventilation shaft that looks out onto the car park and he can see the keys are still out there near to the body of his boss.
Tomorrow will be the day, first thing in the morning, at first light he’s going to go for it. He knows what to do, he has a plan and he is ready.
It is almost exciting, a tingle of nerves and anticipation dances in his stomach. Strange as he thought he would feel a little more fear, but everybody has to die at some point, and if he goes down fighting tomorrow, then so be it.
“I cannot believe this is happening. This is unreal.” He mutters to himself as he walks the isles of the shop for a final time.
Many memories flood back, so many things he should have done and some he shouldn’t have. All mixed up into his own human experience.
Anna, or his friend Mike… Are they alive? He doesn’t know but hopes he can find out, heck maybe he should have left sooner, but fear has held him back in this place. His parents passed long before this all happened, so at least he does not need to worry about them. They are at peace…
The night is restless with little sleep and he wakes up before first light. Tiny specs of blue-tinted dirt, strewn under a refrigerator unit, form in front of his eyes. He lifts his head from the floor and holds his face in his hands, wiping his eyes with the top of his fingers.
A blue night light illuminates the shop and casts weak shadows across the ground. The moment just before he woke up, he was at home, laying in bed, resting peacefully. But on waking up, there was a terrible tinge of nerves in the pit of his stomach as his reality came flooding back and he is living through a human apocalypse, with no idea of what is going on outside the store.
But there is no time to dwell on such thoughts and the trap is set. Soon the sun will be rising and everything that needs to take place this morning for him to escape — he prepared last night.
A large shelving unit stacked with household items waits for his move. Mundane objects, for an exceptional task, that could save his life.
He tiptoes around the shop floor, breathing through his nose and being careful to place each step in silence. He holds his breath as he turns the metal latch on the double doors of the main entrance. Without a sound they turn, now unlocked, and only the shutters left as a secure barrier. Nimbly walking to the back of the store he does the same at the side door.
Two electric extension lead cables, tied together, extend across the shop floor. At one end the line has been tied to the top of the shelves and the other end is held by Noah, who stands by the side entrance.
All is prepared, and for a final touch, a broom with a kitchen knife — duck tapped to the end of it makes an improvised weapon.
Silence… His heart beats faster and faster. There is not a sound outside, but the first glint of sun peaks through the tiny gap under the shutter of the main entrance. He breaths in and hits the red button on the wall. The shutters begin a slow roll up from the ground; grumbling as they go.
A collective groan rises from outside, a gathering crescendo of noise, muttered by a mindless tribe of savages.
“Come on, come on,” Noah whispers under his breath as the shutters amble up. If only there was an emergency button for zombie escapes. That is what is needed right now!
He catches the shuffle of some feet as the shutter on the main entrance reaches about halfway. He waits for a second more and then pulls the cable. The shelf unit leans forward, a few items slide off the shelves and get a head start on the descent to the ground, and then the whole unit comes crashing down and smashes against the floor.
Noah did all he could to make this clang as resounding as possible. Glass bottles, cans and cutlery scatter across the floor.
It should be enough, the things outside don’t appear smart and the sound will attract them to the main entrance or that is what he hopes.
Noah yanks open the side door the second the shutters get to the top and takes the first step outside, but darts in front of a walking, grey and green-skinned semi-conscious dead body of a man!
Its jaw bone missing and its dull blood-soaked eyes sunk back deep in its sockets.
He is ready for action though and with the broom stabs it in the eye, pushing it back and watching as it drops to the ground. There it rolls around in hysteria, kicking and lashing out.
This first contact lasts less than a couple of seconds and Noah sprints forward. He is outside, the air flows past his face and for a moment there is only the sound of the wind rushing past his ears. His focus is that of the car and he won’t let anything in his control stop him from reaching it. Not an over beating heart or breathless lungs.
Dotted all around are people who were once alive, but are now mindless, bloodthirsty creatures.
He dodges another one as he rushes along the side of the store and past the front, where a small horde has gathered, attracted by the noise and trying to clamber into the store. As he sprints past a couple of them turn their heads and stair. They scream, like excited chimpanzees, and turn to walk towards him.
The others see this and follow, but Noah does not have far to run.
He strides forward, amazed at his own speed and powered on by a rush of adrenaline that flows through his veins. He dodges another and another as lone walking things change their direction and head towards him.
Most of them can only stagger about, but some can run, and out of the store sprint two that put on a chase.
His bosses body lays on the ground a few feet away. His throat torn out, his body battered and lying on blood-stained ground.
Noah stoops down, grabs the keys from near the dead hand of his boss, but doesn’t bother to take the mobile phone that lays nearby. He will forgive his boss for taking it in a panic, even though he stole it from Noah.
The car is a few feet with. He hits the button on the key fob in quick succession several times. The car’s lights blink and a rush of relief surges through his mind.
He gets to the door, but with a glance into the window, he sees the reflection of a running freak steaming towards him. A spontaneous lurch moves Noah out of the way and the thing smacks into the door, bouncing off and falling to the ground.
The second, following closely has the broom shoved into its face and the knife slides into its head. Another instinctive action from Noah and an easy kill of a formidable opponent. It falls to the ground with the knife lodged in its head, but Noah has no time to pull it out.
Noah grabs the door handle and opens the door. He scrambles into the driver’s seat and hits the ignition button, the engine roars to life, and with the horde a few feet away, he stomps on the accelerator paddle.
This though, not before the remaining runner that was left on the ground, grabs onto the door frame of the still open car door and is dragged out of the car park as Noah speeds away.
It grasps the frame and pulls itself towards Noah. Who kicks frantically at the creature and stamps on its head. This one is tough though and it clenches onto his ankle, forcing Noah’s foot away.
The struggle is a frantic fight with feet flying and punches raining. Noah shifts his waist out of the way of its snapping jaws and pushes its head down towards the peddle and stamps again with all his might.
But this causes Noah to hit the brakes, turn his body and steer into a street light. The car’s tyres skidding just before impact, but Noah is thrown through the front window of the car. He roles across the bonnet and lands on the gritty tarmac tumbling across the ground.
The bulb from the street lamp crashes down next to Noah, who tries to get up, but it’s too late before the cold teeth of the zombie sink into his neck.
He yells out as icy cold pain shoots through his body and throws his head backwards. But he catapults his hand into the head of the creature and plunges his thumb into its eyeball. A green liquid squirting out of a gap past his thumb.
To Noah’s amazement, it releases its clamp-like bite. Then it flops on to its back, dead. He must have pushed his thumb further into its brain then he thought possible.
Blood streams out of his shoulder from the gaping wound and one glance at the injury causes him to squeeze his eyes shut and flick his head away. He staggers up, takes his shirt off and walking to the car uses it to tie around the bleeding trauma.
The car’s engine is still turning over and although with a big bash and a bent bonnet it should run for a bit at least. He flops into the driver’s seat and reverses the car, before driving away from the scene.
He did it — there is an open road in front of him, although who knows what will happen in the next few days. But right now that doesn’t matter, he made it out and he didn’t die in the store. He’s moving forward, with no idea if he’s infected with whatever turned those people into savages, but if his boss didn’t turn into one of them, then maybe he won’t either!
Copyright Chris J Mitchell
Founder note: I had the opportunity to speak with Chris over the past several weeks leading up to sharing his short story. He’s a great guy with a wealth of content on his website, ranging from other free-to-read short stories, several published novels that vary by genre, and some really creative, full motion art pieces under his ‘The Motion of Pictures’ tab. Visit his website and check him out. We hope to have him back on Worldhoppers again in the future.