We made it back to Andy’s store without incident. I stopped in front of the store and looked south toward my apartment. Andy stopped along side me.
“So, if you want I could go with you. Just to make sure they aren’t hanging around. It’s up to you,” Andy said.
The three zombies I saw might not have wandered into my apartment complex. They probably just ran off before I made it back around those few blocks. But what if they hadn’t? What if they were hanging out waiting for me to go home? Not like a planned trap but just on accident. Could I take three zombies? Probably not. Going alone was a risk. On the other hand, letting Andy know where I lived was a risk. He didn’t seem like a bad guy but he was still a guy, a cis guy. I trusted him to watch my back out here but I didn’t want him thinking it was more than that. Go alone or take Andy with me. Either decision could bite me in the ass.
“Ok,” I said.
“Ok?” Andy looked unsure like I was trying to bait him into a trap.
“Yeah, I could use your help if those zombies are hanging around.” Better the devil I know than the one I don’t.
“Ok. Let me drop off my stuff.” A couple of minutes later he exited his store with just his machete on his hip.
I led the way moving from house to house like usual. I paused at the entrance to the apartment complex and peeked around the corner. Two zombies were shuffling around near the building next to mine.
“I see two but there might be a third.”
“What’s the plan?” he asked.
What was my plan? We should be able to handle two zombies but I didn’t know how we were going to do it. Drawing them out of the complex by making sound might work but it risked attracting other zombies nearby. So far, I had only seen zombies charge at things running away from them or at people. I could show myself and get them to charge but that seemed risky. I could use Andy as bait but I didn’t like the idea of putting him at risk if I wasn’t taking the same risk.
I peeked out again and watched the zombies. Only one was looking in this direction. Maybe I could draw them out one at a time.
“I’m going to step out into the open and get one to chase me that way,” I pointed back the way we had come, “You stay against the fence. When it runs past, you kill it. Got it?”
“I don’t know. What if it gets you?”
“Your job is to make sure it doesn’t. Then we can deal with the other one. Ok?”
Andy screwed up his face and sighed. “Ok.”
I pulled out my machete and Andy did the same. After peeking one more time to make sure they both weren’t looking this direction, I stepped out to the middle of the complex’s entrance. The zombie’s head moved to focus on me and it began running. Then the second zombie turned toward the sound of the first zombie’s feet pounding on the pavement. It saw me and began running right behind the first zombie.
“Fuck, they’re both coming,” I said. They were already approaching the exit. I turned and started running.
“What do I do?” Andy asked.
“Kill them!” I shouted over my shoulder getting a glimpse of both zombies running behind me. One was slightly in the lead by a couple of meters. Could I kill it before the other got to me? I still had my machete in hand. The zombies would run me down after too much longer, I had to make a move soon. Already my lungs were burning and my heart pounding so hard I could hear it.
Behind me Andy yelled. I looked back to see only one zombie chasing me. Better odds. I planted a foot in front of me to stop and turned around, swinging my machete with my whole body at the zombie. I caught it just under the ear but my swing had enough force to penetrate deep enough to damage what ever part of the brain it was still using. It fell forward from it’s momentum pulling my machete out of my hand. Ahead of me on the street, Andy was jogging toward me from the zombie he had killed.
“Holy shit, are you ok?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I said between panting breaths. I took a few slow deep breaths to try to slow my heart still pounding heart. I reached down and pulled my machete out of the zombie. I looked around to see if our fight had brought out any more zombies. The street looked clear but I walked to the side of a house and leaned against the a wall to finish catching my breath.
“What happened?” Andy asked after a couple of minutes. He had regained his composure faster than I had, either because he was in better shape than me or because he hadn’t run as far. Probably the latter.
“The second zombie heard the first running, turned and saw me. I didn’t think it all the way through. I should have realized the sound they make from running would attract the other.”
“I didn’t know that would happen either.”
“I should have, though. If you hadn’t … ” The scene played out in my head. Both zombies chasing me. I swing and kill the first. It falls with my machete stuck in it’s head. Before I can grab my bat out of my backpack, the second zombie reaches me and … “I’d be dead. I almost died.” The shock hits me and I start shaking. I slide down the wall to sit down before my legs buckle.
Would I have done the same thing if I had been alone? Maybe. Maybe not. I would have had to do something to get back to my apartment.
“You ok?” Andy asked.
“No. I fucked up. I almost died. I almost got you killed too.” Tears began filling up my vision. Fuck, I don’t want Andy to see me cry. I wiped sweat from my face to hide wiping away the tears. I bit my lip and dup my nails into my palms.
“What? No. We got them. Maybe your plan didn’t work exactly but we still got them.”
“We could have died,” I said.
“But we didn’t and we’re not going to either,” Andy said. He sounded determined now, like he was a coach giving a pre-game sports pep talk.
“You can’t know that. We might not be lucky next time.” I don’t know if I can score the goal, coach.
Andy locked eyes with me and asked almost accusingly, “So, what do you want to do? Give up?”
“No,” I said. As much as I might feel like a failure, I wasn’t going to give up.
His voice softened as he spoke, “Good because I need you. You saved my life. The first time I went to the superstore all had was plastic bags and a flashlight. Now I have a machete and a bed and a good backpack and someone to watch my back.” Now, get out there and win that championship!
“You would have been fine without me. You killed a zombie with a shelf by yourself.” But coach it’s only the second game of the season.
“Maybe but you helped a lot. Now what’s our next move?” he deflated a little but his mini-pep talk had help a little.
I pulled myself up off the ground. “We still have to check the complex for the third zombie.”
He grinned pleased that I seemed over my breakdown. “There you go. That’s the girl I know.”
I forced a laugh and said, “Come on.”
We made a slow loop around the backsides of the buildings and checked the alleys between them. I showed Andy the other two zombies I had killed in the complex. The oldest one had been there more than two weeks but didn’t show any signs of decaying. It didn’t even smell. In the end, we didn’t find any more zombies lurking around the complex.
“It most have separated from the other two before they wandered in here.” We were walking down the middle of the lane that cut between the rows of building and led to the parking in the back.
“So which apartment is your’s?” Andy asked. Before I could reply he said, “Wait, let me guess, is it this lovely boarded up apartment on the first floor?” he gestured at only boarded up apartment with his machete.
“Smart ass. Yeah this is home. Maybe I should board up some of the other apartments to make it less obvious.” We stood there looking at the boarded up windows for a moment. I felt like I should offer him a cold soda for helping me take care of the zombies. If I had cold sodas. Like he had helped me move a couch or mattress. Instead I walked to the door opened it and said, “Come on in and sit a spell.”