Annika peeked through the curtain. She opened it a quarter inch, no one could know she was still in the house. Food was running low so a supply run had to be made before she starved to death. Water was a problem, too, but going outside was hazardous.
Nothing moved in the street, but that didn’t mean it was safe. A week ago a pack of dogs gone feral had roamed the neighborhood, barking and snarling at each other. More terrifying was the baying they’d made when they cornered a half-starved squirrel. Annika had run to the bathroom and shut the door, then huddled in the corner, hands over her ears. She didn’t know squirrels screamed. Even now the memory made her stomach churn.
Moving from room to room Annika peeked out of all the windows. It seemed safe enough but still she hesitated, pacing from one window to the next. It would only take one mistake to kill her. Three months ago she’d watched as her neighbor, Ben Morse, had left his house. Until then she hadn’t known that anyone in the neighborhood was still alive. He’d had a shotgun with him but it hadn’t helped. He’d run out of shells and died, right there in the street, four houses down. Now, even the bones were gone. The dogs had seen to that.
The backpack was on the kitchen table and her biggest kitchen knife. Who knew a year ago that she’d want a gun? She’d always thought guns were a scourge on society. Now, the thought of a nice Army machine gun sounded like a good idea. Annika checked the street again. Maybe there were other people in the neighborhood, hiding, like her. It would be nice to have someone to talk to. The leaves were starting to fall. That meant winter was coming, and her food and water nearly gone.
Before the power went out she’d watched scenes of people leaving the cities on television. There were camps, somewhere, but she hadn’t wanted to evacuate. Annika chewed her lower lip. Big mistake. She should have gone then. Now she was alone and winter was coming. She dropped the curtain and strode to the kitchen. She put on the pack and picked up the knife. At the door to the garage she stopped, hand on the door knob. The garage door would have to be opened by hand, the car pulled out, and then she’d have to get out of the car to close the door so nothing would get into the house. Her mouth was dry. It was tempting to stop and get a sip of water, but she opened the door and went into the garage.
The door made a racket as she pulled the rope that opened it. She checked the street again then hurried to the car. It sputtered but on the third try, started. Annika backed out of the garage then leapt from the car, pulled the garage door down and got back in the car. She locked the doors and backed into the street. The grocery store was two miles away. With luck there would still be food, maybe even bottled water.
Annika studied the windows of the houses she passed. It would be good to find other people. She would be able to sleep at night. The car sounded loud. Would it draw the creatures? She didn’t know. At the grocery store she found the plate glass windows smashed, abandoned cars littering the parking lot, some burned out. She pulled up onto the sidewalk as close to the store as she could get, nudging a shopping cart out of the way with her front bumper.
Please have food, please have food. She grabbed her pack and got out of the car, knife in hand. Annika hurried to the dry goods aisle, hoping for bags of rice, beans or pasta. She found all of them but scattered across the floor. They crunched underfoot as she searched the shelves for anything left whole. A couple of boxes of rice dinners hid on the bottom shelf, out of sight. She put them in her pack. Maybe canned goods?
That aisle had only exotic stuff, anchovies and capers and the like. Beggars can’t be choosers, she thought and put them in her pack. She hurried up and down the rest of the aisles picking up random things left behind in whatever fury had happened here. Broken cases of water were in the drinks aisle. Annika grabbed an overturned cart and loaded it with the individual bottles. She opened one and drank it down. She’d been rationing her water and was thirsty all the time now. The water tasted wonderful.
A noise startled her. She pushed the cart at a run to the front of the store. She clicked the unlock button on the car key and leapt through the broken store window. After opening the back door, she began tossing her spoils into the car. Wait, was that another sound? She worked faster. She didn’t want to be caught here in the open. After grabbing the last bottle of water, she slammed the car door shut and ran to the driver’s side.
No! The creatures were coming around the corner of the store. She jumped into the car and tried to start it. The engine cranked and cranked but wouldn’t start. Annika locked the doors. The creatures surrounded the car, banging on the windows inches from her face. She tried the engine again. It still wouldn’t start. Tears flowed down her face as she sobbed with fright.
It took a month for her to die of thirst, still surrounded by the zombies.
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