June 6th, 2008
South Grant Street
"Is this a drill?" Eric asked, calmly.
"Not a drill. Repeat, not a drill. One confirmed attack, several suspected. One confirmed video sighting, as well." Ryan said in a hushed voice.
"Balls! I'm on it. Beard out." There was a click, and the entire conversation ended.
It was over in a matter of seconds, but that was all it took. They'd talked many times before about strategy and tactics, discussed hypothetical scenarios ranging from a simple local outbreak to worldwide catastrophe. It had all been in good fun, a harmless thought exercise, but now their very existence could very well depend on how fast and how accurately they could bring their plan to bear.
Hundreds of variables need to be accounted for, Ryan thought, starting at home. He raced back to his apartment knowing every second counted. To start, he quickly checked every window in the house, making sure they were locked with blinds shut. Not that blinds would do anything to slow down any number of zombies, but making sure that this apartment and anybody inside of it drew no unnecessary attention to itself was paramount. He also noted that the power was still out, and wondered when - if it might be restored.
Ryan knew the next item of business was going to be unpleasant. It was dangerous. It was illegal, but he wasn't about to let a little thing like "the law" keep him from improving his chances of survival against the living dead.
He stealthily exited the apartment, taking extra care to lock behind him. He wasn't planning on being gone long, nor was his destination far, but now more than ever security of his perimeter could mean the difference between life and a fate worse than death.
A quick look around confirmed there were neither creatures nor prying eyes around. He snuck next door and listened at the window for any sounds emanating from inside. There were none, at least that he could hear. He crept to the side door and carefully slid his arm through a broken pane of glass. The glass that hadn't been repaired in over a year after a particularly raucous party. Taking great care to avoid the shards still clinging to the frame, he extended his short arm as far as it would go and very gently unlocked the door.
Just then, there was a rustle in the bushes nearby and it broke Ryan's delicate concentration. Startled, he reflexively withdrew his arm and in doing so dragged the inside of his forearm against the sharp glass, opening a deep laceration and narrowly missing an artery.
"Fuckin' hell!" he hissed, dragging the rest of his arm gingerly away from the glass and clutching it tightly. It was too late to turn back now, so he rushed inside his neighbor's door and closed it behind him, hoping the rustle was benign and his wound wasn't serious. He ripped the curtain from the nearest window and tied it tightly around his arm. The blood quickly began to stain the white fabric. Ryan tried to block the sight from his mind and instead focus on the task at hand.
He crept forward through the house, keeping low to avoid being seen through the windows. First, he stopped in the living room. He grabbed all four pool cues and the bridge and stacked them by the back door. Moving onto the kitchen, he found their booze fridge and brushed aside bottles alcohol until he found the purest, which happened to be a bottle of Everclear. He set that next to the cues and searched around for a container.
Man, I wish I had my bookbag he thought as he opened cabinets at random, until at last he found a pile of garbage bags. He extracted two from the box and shook them open, forming a double layered sack. The cabinets were then ransacked in order, with any non-perishable food being tossed inside the bags. Pop-Tarts, granola bars, canned goods, chips, peanut butter, mini-muffins, cereal and more found their way into his stash until the cupboards were bare. Ryan felt like a more desperate version of The Grinch as he piled the food bag near the door. Just as he was sneaking out of the kitchen to head the second floor, he spied a case of bottled water resting against the refrigerator. He dragged it over to the pile and raced upstairs.
Pausing at the top of the stairs, he listened once more for any sounds, but heard none. He darted in and out of the upstairs bedrooms in turn, desperate for any useful item. In the first bedroom, he found batteries and matches in the desk drawers, but nothing else. He stuffed the small items into his pockets and kept moving. He even checked under the bed and behind the door. The lock on the trunk at the foot of the bed was tempting, but every moment he spent inside the house was another moment he could get caught.
The second bedroom seemed fruitless at first glance. Opening the closet released a cascade of sports equipment, and the noise was deafening as tennis balls, a soccer ball, and several footballs clattered to the floor. Ryan stood amidst the pile tense, ready to be confronted, but nothing came. After a few moments, he grabbed a baseball bat and ran to the final bedroom, making sure to shut the door behind him.
Ryan opened the door and found himself staring directly at a gigantic stereo system. He paused for a moment to admire the quadruple speaker towers, the enormous subwoofer, and the hundreds of buttons on the front panel. So that's how they manage to keep me awake past 1am. What a shame! Such terrible music comes from these gorgeous speakers! I'm not here to vandalize, but boy would I love to relocate this to my apartment and rock out properly. Perhaps some Judas Priest or Scorpions, shaking the walls... okay, so I'm sort of vandalizing he admitted to himself. But I have to! It's for my own survival. Besides, I could never carry it myself, there's no power, and the sound would only attract attention, he said to himself as a sort of justification.
He shook away the thoughts of outright theft and searched the room. The stereo dominated the room, but when he opened the closet and saw what it contained, the baseball bat in his hand clattered to the floor. Hanging directly in front of him was a camouflage hunter's jumpsuit. Above that was a black plastic case that barely cleared the width of the closet.
Ryan excitedly pulled the case out of the closet and set it on the hardwood floor next to the bed. He said a silent "thank you" that there were no locks and clicked open the case. Inside was a gorgeous rifle, with boxes of shining gold tipped ammunition nestled alongside it.
Ryan grinned. Yes, he thought. This will do quite nicely.
Just then there was a muffled pair of voices nearby. From downstairs, there was a noise at the door as the doorknob was tried, and then a jiggle of keys.
Shit! he thought, panicking slightly. Ryan slammed the plastic lid down and clicked the snaps shut. He grabbed the case and headed for the hallway before he heard the front door creak open.
"...can't believe you, man!" came the voice of a clearly annoyed male.
"Whaaat? I ttold you I jussst needed your help, dude." the second voice spoke, slurred.
"I'm on my fucking lunch break. I'm gonna be late because of your stupid ass."
"Sssorry bro. I got kinda schwasted last night and ended up sssleeping with this girl at a paaarrty. Shhhe got really kinky and I woke up with the mother of all hangggovers."
Oh no, Ryan thought. Please tell me he didn't get bitten last night, thinking it was a drunken hookup.
There was a strange mixture of sounds as one pair of footsteps ascended the stairs, the other one clearly being dragged. Ryan was running out of options. He ran back into the third bedroom and rolled under the bed, dragging the case with him.
Wonderful, Ryan. You're in the clear now, what with the multiple escape routes and such, he said to himself sarcastically.
The steps and dragging noises got louder until a pair of legs appeared in Ryan's vision from under the bed.
No! No no no no. Other bedroom. Why? Why does he have to sleep in this bedroom? Ryan thought to himself, trying desperately to lie silently without moving.
Ryan held his breath as the legs being dragged disappeared from sight and the bed above him depressed uncomfortably into his back. He noticed that the blood from his arm wound had begun to pool on the wooden floor, but he feared any movement would betray his position. He closed his eyes, and waited nervously.
"I hope you can sleep this off" said the first voice. "You're lucky I owe you rent money or I would've left you at that house. How many times are you going to do this to me? My boss already thinks I'm a screwup."
"I'm sssorry, dude. Can you take me tt-to the hossspital when you get off work?" said the second voice, sounding very apologetic.
"Maybe. Just let me-" the voice cut off abruptly. Ryan opened his eyes in fright. Had the blood pooled enough to be seen?
"What. The. Hell?" said the first voice.
Current Word Count: 7,770