Easing the outer doors open enough to squeeze out, I stepped out of the store. I crouched down, baseball bat clenched in both hands at the ready with an eye on the car I thought I had seen movement behind. Staring at the car, I wondered if I could leave without whatever I had, or had not, seen noticing me. Would it be better to make noise and see if anything happened? Should I try to sneak up on the car? My knees began to ache from crouching too long. Another fight with a zombie was not something I wanted. Any action that might lead to a fight was out. That left sneaking away.
First, I had to close the sliding doors to the store. It would be bad if one or more zombies wandered inside. Picking flashlight up off the ground, I clipped it to a belt loop with the attached carbine. Slipping my bat between the duffel and the small of my back, I turned around and pulled the doors shut. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as I looked away from the parking lot. The doors slid closed easily and I scanned the parking lot again. Still empty. I pulled my bat out and began walking keeping an eye on the car.
In the distance, I could see the convenience store I had left Andy at. Again I wished for a pair of binoculars and added it to my mental list right under oil for the deadbolts, which I had realized I had forgotten. Andy’s store was directly west of the superstore, across the highway running north and south. My apartment complex was south of Andy’s store, a couple blocks into a residential area behind the businesses that lined the highway. South of the superstore was village of small strip malls, two or three businesses to a group with about six groups laid out in a loose grid. I decided to slip through the shopping village in case Andy was watching for me. From there I would head back across the highway and approach my apartment from the south, out of sight of Andy’s store.
Again I was struck by the quiet. Gone was the hum of ac units and the sounds of traffic among the shopping village’s streets. The stores looked untouched. People either hadn’t considered looting them or they had closed up sooner than convenience stores had and the panic hadn’t reached the “break through store fronts” stage. Some stores I could understand not looting. Who needed tuxedos or tanning booths or kitschy gift items when the streets where full of zombies? The gun and knife store however seemed a good target though. Good enough even for me.
The door proved to be locked when I tugged on it. Looking through the door, I could see several empty display cases. The owner or employees had not left everything behind when they took off. I debated trying to smash through the glass door but decided it was more noise than I wanted to make right now. I hadn’t seen any more zombies since leaving the superstore but I still didn’t want to take the chance. The last one I had barely taken down thanks to its missing foot hobbling it.
At the south end of the shopping village, I crept around the last building to look north toward Andy’s store. I could barely make out the door from there. Was I far enough away to be safe? If he was looking, he might see me cross the street but he would have to actively looking for me. Hopefully he had gone back to hiding in the store’s back room. To the south I saw a few shapes moving in the distance. Nothing close enough to see clearly. I hoped their vision wasn’t better than mine.
I dashed across the four lanes and the meridian to reach the fast food joint on the other side. I stopped next to the building catching my breath and looking around for anyone or thing attracted by my running. The vague shapes to the south seemed unconcerned with me.
Cutting through a backyard, I began to make my way back north to my apartment. More than a few houses had fenced in backyards so I was forced to move along the street side of them. The street seemed clear but I stayed close to the houses just in case. I looked at the houses as I passed them, wondering if anyone was watching me creep from house to house. Would they come out if they saw me? Or would they hunker down and wait for me to pass? I considered breaking into a few homes rather than returning to the superstore. There would be less variety and smaller amounts of goods to ‘salvage’. Glancing around I thought, “But what would the neighbors think?”
Being confronted by a concerned neighbor sounded more risky than another trip to the superstore. Also, taking stuff from a person’s house seemed more like stealing than taking it from an impersonal store. There was also the problem of me not knowing the first thing about breaking and entering. Not that I needed to worry about police but I wouldn’t want to make a lot of noise. Breaking a window or breaking down a door might make more noise than I was comfortable.
Movement across the street caught my eye, a curtain flapped in a window. Had it just been open? Maybe a cat or dog left behind, I thought. Maybe another survivor? It would be easy to walk up to the house and knock but also dangerous. A dog might start barking attracting anything in hearing distance. A person might be more dangerous, if they thought I was a threat. I decided to leave it be for now but made note of the address. The rest of the way to my apartment was spent watching windows but I didn’t spot any more moving curtains.
One I was back inside my apartment, I reengaged the deadbolts and moved the sofa back in front of the door. I set my bat down and loosened the strap of my duffel, dropping it I walked into the kitchen. From the dish strainer, I grabbed a glass, held it under the tap, and turned the handle. Water flowed out of the faucet into the glass. Relief, also, flowed through me as the glass filled, as it did every time I turned on the water lately. I knew that, soon, I would turn the handle and nothing would come out. The glass filled, I turned off the water and began drinking the lukewarm water.
I considered the two large windows on either side of the front door in the living room. The piles of furniture in front of them looked less impressive than I thought them to be. Having encountered a zombie, seen the looted convenience store, and my encounter with Andy left me feeling more vulnerable than I had earlier in the day. The other windows in the apartment were smaller and high enough to not be easily entered through. Boarding them up would be the best option. The only problem with that plan was I had no wood or nails or a hammer. Ok, there were a lot of problems with that plan but I knew I could find nails and a hammer in the superstore. Wood was not something the store stocked though. The nearest lumberyard I knew of was half way around the city.
Draining the last of the water in my glass, I tabled that train of thought for later. Setting my glass in the dish strainer, I walked back to my duffel bag. After picking it up, I walked into the kitchen and emptied out everything except the water bags onto the counter. The water bags I took into the bathroom.
I filled the bags in the tub through the large opening on top. Near the bottom a spout was stuck through the bag for convenience. As I filled them, I slid them to the back of the tub so any spilled water could dry from the bags. After an hour, four full water bags sat in the tub. My back ached from leaning over and holding the bags as they filled but I felt more secure.
In the kitchen I stacked the cans of sterno on the stove and the food I had brought back in a cabinet.
My makeshift barricades had been made when things had gotten loud and scary outside. They were only supposed to last until the crisis blew over but now it looked like that might be longer than I thought. I recalled my earlier thoughts of boarding up the windows. The problem of where to get boards once again presented itself but so did an answer.
Bookshelves. The kind that came in a box with parts labeled A, B, C, and D. Pre-drilled holes so the only tool you needed was a screwdriver and enough sense to read the directions. I had three of them in my room. The sides and shelves were made of wood. Well, something close to wood, at least. The boards were actually a type of particle board. Not as strong as real wood but hopefully strong enough, I thought.
I had used them to brace the mattresses against the windows but by themselves they probably wouldn’t slow a zombie down much. While the sides and shelves were made of the fake wood, the back was just painted cardboard tacked in place. After removing all the books from one shelf, I pulled it out of the bookcase, and held it against the window. It was just long enough. With all the shelves from the bookcases I could easily cover the living room windows.
I still needed a hammer and nails. Those I could get from the superstore but I felt wary of making another trip so soon. Or should I go now while there seemed to be few to no zombies in the area? Was it safer to make a lot of trips in one day or just one trip a day and limit the time I was exposed? I decided to wait until the next day before risking another trip outside. Every time I left my hidey hole was another chance for something or someone to see me.
After a dinner of cold ravioli, I sat down to read one of the many books I meant to read before. There just hadn’t been enough time to do everything I want to do and read all the books I felt I should. Now, I had time enough at last. And 20/20 vision.