The Middle of the End…

More snippet of Island of the Zombie King

Before the island, when the world went to hell, it was a nice spring day. In the Central Valley, clear spring days followed rainy days. The buds on the flowers grew bigger, ready to open. The tree leaves were small and green, dripping left over rain. Small puddles of water on the streets and sidewalks waited for the sun to finish drying them.   No one had time to enjoy that spring day or the days that followed.
Martial law had been declared. Sheer panic made people run from the freshly awakened dead, giving them more flesh and fueling the spread of the virus. . Rumors said virus; it could have been a government mishap, terrorists, even aliens, no one knew for sure.
That spring day, Kiley sat against the tiled wall behind the counter of the burger joint where she worked in the mall. She could hear people screaming, arguing, and crying all around her. She looked over her knees at a little girl with dark pigtails screaming for her mom. Her own sadness paralyzed her in her place.
Silent sobs turned into chest heaving ones. All she could think of was her brother. She hit her head against the wall over and over again. Why hadn’t she kept hold of his hand? She had no one to comfort her, no one to help with the pain and guilt that ate at her.
Shane spotted her and sat down. “You’re going to hurt yourself,” he whispered.  She stopped and quickly wiped her eyes. She looked at him, noticing the hollowness in his own.
She took a deep breath, and let it out, unsteady. “You okay?” she asked as she relaxed her legs in front of her. She made cringed as the pins and needles settled in.
He shook his head. “What the hell just happened?”
She shook her own head. “If only I knew.”
Donner spotted them and came over, sitting down with them. “It’s a mad house in here. Glad to see some people I know.”
“Hey, Don,” Shane said, and Kiley nodded to him.
“You two okay?”
“As okay as we can be,” she said.
He and Shane nodded. Joseph walked by and stopped, looking at the three of them on the ground. “Well, look at this,” he said and sat down with them. “You three are the only people I’ve seen that I know.” Joe was one of Kiley’s managers.
“Hey, Joe,” Shane said. “You think I can get some Coke?”
“Sure, go help yourself. Put a nozzle on,” he said. Shane gave him a blank look.
Kiley got to her feet. “I’ll help you.” She slid over the counter easily.
Shane followed, looking around. “I feel like I’m breaking and entering.”
She dumped the red bucket full of sanitizer and the soda machine nozzles into the soda machine grate. She took a white filter and put in the lemonade/water, and then the main nozzle. She held down the water button, letting the water run for a few seconds. She then took another white filter and held it under the water. When it was clean, she stuck it in the Coke. She cleaned the little black nozzle and tried to put it on, but it just wouldn’t go.  It was too slippery.
“Grab me a napkin,” she said to Shane.
Shane turned and looked around the counter. He found a stack of them by the plastic ketchup container and handed her one. She used it to put the nozzle on. “Okay. It’s all ready.”
“Great,” he said, grabbing a cup and filling it.
“Fill me up a cup too,” Donner said.
“Okay,” Shane said. Joseph scooted over the counter. He opened the small fridge and pulled out a chocolate milk.
“Is it good?” Kiley said as she scooted her butt onto the counter and sat.
“Expires in three days.”
“What would it take to get some food going?” Donner asked. “I’m pretty hungry.”
Joseph checked his pockets. “I don’t have my keys.”
Kiley bent forward. “Check the keyboard.”
He pulled out the computer keyboard and sure enough, the store keys were there. “How did you know?”
She shrugged. “You guys get lazy, and Melanie forgets her keys all the time.”
Joseph looked at the keys then up at the camera in the back. He looked at Kiley as she sat on the counter.
“You’re thinking too much,” she said. She knew he was. She had worked with him for three years.
He shook the keys. “I guess we can get some food cooked.” And that kept them from thinking of the undead and the army fighting outside the mall. They would occasionally stop and look toward the glass doors when an explosion caused the place to vibrate, but they tried their best to keep busy.

****
The screaming went on. Ben pawed through the group of shocked people. They had to have made it, he thought. Ben moved through the auditorium. They just had to have made it. He looked at hundreds of people moving from one side to the other. He looked at the kids.  He wasn’t there.  Where could he be? He had been by their apartment. No one home. He walked to the stage.  As one of the firemen in charge of this area, he looked over the list of names of all the people who had signed in. No, she hadn’t made it there. He went to the emergency phone and called the other base.
After some convincing, Ben finally got the list read to him. They were there. He felt relieved. Now he had to get to his son. He slipped out of the auditorium and broke into a car. He’d had a record when he was younger but had changed his life when he found out he was going to be a dad. Now his son was all he could think of. One of the undead walked out into the street before him, and had just enough time to turn around before he ran it over.
It had taken him more than an hour to get to the other safe house and had seen the smoke before the building even came into sight. Ben hoped it was something else, but it wasn’t. He didn’t even turn the engine off before he got out of the car. Looking around in time to see a few of the undead coming for him, he took out his pistol and shot them each in the head. He couldn’t make it to the door.  There were too many of them, and the screaming from inside seemed to drive them into a frenzy.
He disappeared to the side of the warehouse. All the small windows were at the top, and thick grey smoke rolled out of them. He made it to the backdoor, having to kill six zombies to get there. He tried the doors, but they wouldn’t budge. He heard screaming from inside. The people were jamming the door. They were pushing against it when the door opened their way.
“Get back!” he shouted. “Step back from the door! You have to get away from the door!” He screamed until he was hoarse. No help came to put out the fire. He couldn’t think clearly. He looked around for something to help. The smell of burnt flesh filled the air along with the screams. He tried to get in, tried to make a makeshift ladder to climb to a window, but it didn’t work. He tried the doors again, but it was too late. The fire had reached them. He could see the smoke coming out from under the door and felt the heat. He stayed there as the fire ate the walls and the screams faded.
He fell to his knees, crying. He was a fireman, yet he could do nothing. A zombie came toward him and for a second, he didn’t care. But in the end, he used his pistol to kill it. He watched the flames eat at the top of the building. Maybe they had gotten out earlier. Maybe they were in one of the cars he had passed. Maybe they were transported to another shelter. Maybe . . .
He knew he had to get away. The fire was drawing more of the undead.  Soon the place would be filled with them. He needed shelter. He needed to find a place to think.  Maybe they had gotten away. Maybe . . .

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