They were leaving the store when they heard screams from the area where the soldiers where. “What’s.—” Joseph didn’t finish as gunshots echoed through the mall, and people came running past them.
Kiley grabbed a man’s arm. He looked at her, frightened. “Let go of me,” he said, his voice full of panic.
“We are all fucking dead!” he started shouting. “They’re in.”
She let him go. Her eyes darted around. “Come on, guys,” she said, running over to the burger joint. She jumped the counter, landing hard on her feet. The guys followed her. Tony and Carlos, both the shortest of the group, took longer. They huddled at the back of the restaurant in the dark.
“What’s the plan?” Donner asked.
Kiley had dropped her stuff on the ground and went over to the broiler. She pulled it forward, disappearing behind it. Joseph peeked around at her. “What are you doing?”
“Remember when you had to teach me to close?”
He nodded. “Terrible times,” he said.
She gave him an angry look before she started to take the pieces off. “Good for me, I remembered some things. I also remember, as I took these parts off, how dangerous they could be. I want the long piece.”
“Why?” he asked.
“Because you can never have too many weapons.”
“We have guns.”
“Yes, but I have other plans. Here,” she handed him a big piece. As he left to find a place to put it, she grabbed the long sharp piece of metal off the broiler. She came back around with the metal stick in her hands. She turned at the screams out in the food court.
“If you have a plan, I say we go now,” Shane said.
She watched. The hurt soldiers had become zombies. The undead were too busy with all of the screaming people to notice the dark figures in the store. Tomb, she thought, running back behind the broiler and turning on the gas.
She went over to Shane. “I need your lighter.”
He didn’t ask why but fished around in his pocket and handed it to her. She grabbed the pickle bucket they used for a small trash can by the hand sink and dumped it into the big garbage can. They always forgot to dump it, so it was full of paper towels. She went over and grabbed some of the boxes on the back shelves and dumped the contents on the floor.
Understanding what she was doing, Joseph grabbed a few of the boxes by him, doing the same. He put them next to the garbage can. He grabbed her stuff for her … they were going to have to run once she lit it.
“Tony, the door,” he said.
“What if they are out there?” he asked in a panicky tone.
“They can’t be,” Joseph said. “The fire door was blocked in.” He then smelled the gas. “Kiley, what are you doing?”
“And where else does the door lead?” she asked him as she put a few more boxes on the heap.
He and Carlos looked at her, and then at each other. “The trash compacter,” Carlos said. “And it shouldn’t be blocked in.”
“Tony, the door,” Donner said. “Come on, Kiley. It’s sounding ugly out front.”
She spun the roll on the lighter and watched a flame spring to life then held it against the closest box for a few seconds until it caught. She then lit the paper in the big garbage can. More screams echoed through the store; louder, closer. Her eyes went to the front counter just as a zombie tore a chunk out of some man’s throat. Blood sprayed the yellow counter as it chomped away. It turned slightly, looking for more. The zombie caught sight of the fire and of her still holding the lighter. Its mouth opened, and blood coated its teeth and chin as it let out a moan and walked into the counter.
“Fuck,” she said as her hand started to burn. She dropped the lighter and turned. It was definitely time to leave. They raced out into the hall.
“My lighter,” Shane said sadly.
“I’ll get you a new one,” she said.
They got to the maintenance room which led right into the trash compacter room. “Hey, I’m parked here,” Joseph said.
“Your car can only hold four of us, pushing five. Not six,” Carlos said.
Kiley nodded. “Like the boss says,” she said, “We will make it fit.”
“Guys, we have a problem,” Tony said, looking down at the floor.
They all looked at the trail of blood leading out of the hall and into the room holding the compacter. “The room ain’t that big,” Carlos said.
“We can’t go back,” Donner insisted.
“We have to do it. The place is going to explode any second,” Kiley said. She had her metal stick in one hand and the other on the door. “Back me up, guys.” She turned the knob and pushed open the door.
She looked into the dark room and held her breath, reaching inside with her free hand, feeling for the light switch. Finding it, she flipped it on. The room already stunk of garbage, but there was another smell in there. The smell of death. Her eyes darted around, seeing nothing. She then looked down at the blood trail on the floor. She followed it slowly, one foot at a time. The guys had their guns pointed in different directions around the room.
The trail ended toward the back of the room. What she saw made her almost drop the metal stick, and her stomach heaved. Dark blood and gore ran down the walls, ending in a large puddle on the ground. In the middle of the puddle lay the torn torso of one of the new janitors. His head had been ripped from his body and lay on its side looking up at her, its mouth wide open in a silent scream.
She turned, disappearing behind the metal compartment they and other stores dumped their grease in, and threw up. Donner didn’t follow, but stayed beside the side of the grease pit. “We have to go,” he said, his voice gentle. He didn’t dare look at the mess at the back of the room.
She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. “Okay,” she said. “I’m okay.” She came around to meet him.
Carlos was standing by the door, far away from whatever was back there. He didn’t want to even know what it could be. He only wanted to get the hell out of there. He didn’t notice the blood soaked hands until they grabbed his chubby neck. He released a deafening scream, and it echoed against the metal walls of the room. The corpse had him good. He struggled, but its hold on him didn’t budge. He had no real fighting ground. He screamed again as he felt the human teeth sink into the flesh of his shoulder, and then he felt numbness.
The others were trying to get him away from the zombie. No one dared to shoot because he was too close. Kiley remembered her metal stick. She pushed herself in close, knowing how dangerous it was. She swung the stick hard, hitting the zombie in the head. It turned, looking at her. Shane yelled for her to watch out just as she jammed the stick into the zombie’s eye. She shoved as hard as she could. The zombie fell backward. She stepped on its chest, and using both hands, she moved the stick around as if stirring its brains. The zombie lay unmoving.
She left the stick where it was in the zombie’s head and went over to check on Carlos. “He’s hurt pretty bad,” Joseph said. Just then the gas caught, and the room quaked around them.