This drug store was in ruins; all the shelves contents poured onto the floor in one giant pile. As for the shelves; well there were pushed tight against the walls and windows in an attempt to keep the world out. Who could blame him, he created it.
Sam and I sat on two worn armchairs sipping on warm earl gray with honey.”I guess an introduction is needed. I am Dr.Lumes; I am primarily a mycologist but can make a good cup of tea. I must know; what are your names?” He asked. “Well this is Sam and I am Karl. I have to ask Doctor, what answers would we be looking for? To be honest Sam and me here were just looking for somewhere warm to hide.” I said. “Oh warm yes, the fungi is having quite a hard time with the cold you see, it wants something warm and moist like us. I dare say we are quite warm….” He trailed off in a murmur. Sam and I exchanged quick looks. “Fungi sir is that’s what’s happening?” I asked Sam and I were grasping hands at this point; her palms were sweaty but warm. “Oh, yes, yes, yes, fungi! Cordyceps are you familiar with them?” He asked in a hurry, you could see that his blood pressure was rising as his face grew a brighter red each passing second. “I believe so, they use them in vitamins right?” I asked. “Close but not quite, I’ll skip over the business part and just say they began to be worth quite a lot of money. We needed money you see. So we wouldn’t need to work in this damn drug store!” He pauses to pant. “We didn’t know. We didn’t know it would want to take a human host. We should have known. We should have…” Dr. Lumes finished by covering his face with his hands. “She meant everything to me…” He said beneath his hands. I stood and kneeled in front of him. “What happened doctor?” I asked. He looked up in a fit of rage and screamed into my face “I killed my daughter, I killed the world!” He took a quick look at a broken window that was poorly patched then pushes me to the ground. “I did this dammit, I did!” He pulled a .38 from his robe and pointed it at Sam then me. With shaking hands, he then placed the barrel in his mouth, with a muffled sorry he pulls the trigger. The shot reverberated throughout the room cutting quick to Sam and my ear drums. The .38 falls from his hand and I pocket it. I then quickly turned and grabbed Sam from the chair, as the doctor’s body slumps to the floor. I pushed the shelves out of the door way and we exited the building. I pushed Sam into the truck. I struggled with the keys but they found their way into the ignition. I turn it hard, but it doesn’t start. Again I try, no life. The snow covered beast pace slowly towards the truck. I tried once more nothing. Sam leaned over me and flipped the switch for the gas tanks. I try the key, the engine roars. I slapped it in reverse taking out two of them that were barely getting up to stand and set off on the small road, in the direction of my device and away from that.
That new world, there seemed to be a few rules. Rules that will keep you alive, one of those rules were to run as fast as you could when things went bad. This is what Sam and I did. This is not to say there weren’t the occasions in which you must take a stand, variables to an undeniable rule I guess.
I coasted the truck into a driveway of a house that had a chimney. We walked slowly and quietly to the door. Sam carried the shotgun as I carried my bat. I knocked on the door three times with the end of my bat. I timidly put my ear to the door, listening for any movement, I could not hear any. I tried the handle, the door opened. We cleared each room twice, not a soul or soulless. The house looked to belong to an elderly couple, which to our benefit was into jarring food. We secure the bottom story with the furniture. This would be our home for awhile, that was until we could get our facts straight.
We’d go to sleep in this stolen bed, this stolen house, our bellies filled with stolen food. I have always been a person that would ask for permission before I entered someone’s room, so I had the slight discomfort of our squatting there. The comforter wrapped us well with the scent of dark chocolate. Sam tossed and turned, we all had our demons. Just no one expects those demons to walk the streets, with a yearning hunger for you warmth, for your guts.
A month passes, it was probably Christmas, and we weren’t sure. We broke apart the furniture from the guest room to burn. I sat at the foot of the bed warming my feet with the fire while I sharpened a point on a stick that I pulled from a dead house plant. Sam exited the walk-in closets wearing a gorgeous red dress, she spins on her toes as the red dress fluttered around her. She smiled and curtsied, I clapped. “You like?” She asked. Her green eyes had something that I haven’t seen in awhile, life. “Very much so, I have a gift for you, they’re a little stale but being Christmas I thought it would be perfect.” I pulled the bag of marshmallows from under the bed. Her eyes turn bright and she jumps to the floor next to me, I heard the dress rip some at her knees but didn’t say anything. “I figured you were probably getting tired of beans.” I said as she licked her lips in anticipation of eating them. “Oh, oh, I have something for you too!” Sam said as she quickly stood and moved to the nightstand on her side of the bed. “Close your eyes, no peaking!” she said. The floor creaked as she softly walked back to where I was seated. I felt the cold glass on my hands as she placed the bottle into them. “Alright open them!” She said in a childish voice. I opened them and there sat a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue. “I really don’t know what to say, I’m just, uh…” I said tripping over my words. “A thank you would do just fine.” She said with a smile. “Oh, thank you, this is amazing, where did you get this?” I asked. “The writing desk down stairs had it hidden away, why is that good stuff?” She asked. I moved the bottle back and forth in my hands “It’s more than good.” I said. “Alright! Let’s crack that baby open and roast us some marshmallows!” She said in an excited voice as she took a seat next to me. I turned and hugged her. “Merry Christmas Samantha.” I whispered. “Merry Christmas…” Her voice broke a little as she said that. She pulled away and cleared her throat. I open the bag and stick a marshmallow at the end of the stick and handed it to Sam “Ladies first.” We empty the bag of marshmallows and half the bottle. Sam dances around in the ripped red dress as I lay on the bed with the bottle sitting on my chest. I watched the bottle ascend and descend with each breath, its contents aglow from the flames. Sam spins and crashed on the bed next to me, making the bottle slips and falls to my side. She giggled and took the bottle, untwisting the cap slowly, I stared at the cap and her finger tips with a feeling of anticipation. The cap freed itself, rolls off the bed and onto the floor disappearing into oblivion. Taking a large swig Sam spoke, “Well I guess we have to finish it now.” She chuckled to herself and took another drink. “I guess we do.” I said, trying hard not to make it obvious I was studying her face, her rosy cheeks, how they gave her dimples a glow that only dimples like hers deserved. “Not now, not like this.” I thought to myself as she moved her head over mine. A moment was taken and put, as she placed the bottle in my hand. “Your turn.” she said without letting her smile fade. I took my drink.
The snow begins to break; I think it was around New Years as if that really mattered at this point. A cold was in the air but no longer a freeze. The creature walked the streets more rapidly then, we couldn’t wait till Spring there would just be too many. The quickest way to my home was through downtown. I regret my decision now. Not even my enemies should see that… I explained it to her, I explained everything. She took it better than thought. I kind of hoped she would have disagreed with me. Maybe make some argument that we could stay there for a little longer or run to the mountains and waited for this to blow over. She saw the idea: of us driving through hell, to get a device that traveled through time, just to stop all this, as a good one. Even after I told her she would have to become another person, a new identity and move away. She accepted it all without hesitation. “So everyone who died wouldn’t be dead?” she asked when I finished. “If everything works out, yes, everyone who has died would be alive.” I said.
A couple days passed, we packed light. The old Ford started on the first try. A surreal feeling set over me like we were just running out for an errand ‘real quick’. I back out the driveway and head down the small road. The world quickly showed its new colors, like a river running its banks they flooded into the streets. The sound of the Ford pulled them; we built a horde behind us as we drove along. Closer and closer we closed in on hell, the beast in front of us and behind us as we charged in. The road cleared of wrecked cars and bodies, I sped up. I took a right down a cross street, a tipped over bus blocks the way, more of them crawled from the wreck as I backed down the street. I hop the curb and drive through a parking lot, the Ford moves quickly as it makes it over the curb on the other side. I run one over as we made the turn down the street; the crunching sound is audible from the cab of the truck. Sam undid her seat-belt and scoots next to me. She holds my arm; I look at her for a second. For a mistake, it only takes a second. I clipped a police car, sending the old Ford into a tumble. Bending steal yells and broken glass screams. Sam slips away from me, my head hits something and things go dark.
I come to and the world is upside down, the shins of them closed onto the ruined truck. The seat belt cut into my stomach, with a hard push with my thumb the lock gave, I fell onto my head though no pain. There wasn’t any pain. I bled the cuts were deep, though they didn’t hurt. I twisted my body around; Sam lay on what used to be the ceiling of the cab. The moans from outside were getting closer. I checked her pulse, I didn’t feel one. I shook my hand in disagreement and checked again. I found one. Quickly I pull her to the driver side, lift her and carry her away from the truck. Fingers and hands groped at us as I ran pass them. I made my way through a plaza. I try each door but all were locked. They were climbing, crawling, and stumbling out of the woodwork. I came to a small cafe with the door cracked, I pushed the door open with my foot, it stopped half way a table blocked it from opening all the way. Several kicks the opening is wide enough for us to get through. I set Sam’s quiet body on the floor. I turned to the door. I moved the table back in front of the door securing it in place. I should have checked the damn cafe, I should have… Sam woke while the bastard ripped into her neck; it withdrew as her blood dripped from its chin. In a blind rage, I rushed it. I have never been a strong man. My fist connects with its nose, it doesn’t stop. I felt the bone, leathery flesh, and worn brain mush. It drops to the ground I connect again, again, and again. Rage turned to panic, her life spills out onto the floor, through my hands. Her life vanished, regardless how much I wanted it to stay.
I cowered in the corner, staring at her motionless body. I had to do something soon, or it would move again but not with her grace. I shook my head over and over, if I shook it enough, maybe I would wake-up. This nightmare would be over. Sam’s voiced pierces my cloudy thoughts like a bright light “Everyone who died wouldn’t be dead…” It cleared my thoughts, I stand slowly. I remove Dr. Lumes .38 from my pocket. Kneeling next to Sam I clear the hair from her forehead and kiss it. “I promised.” I whisper as I sit up. Placing the barrel to her temple, her eyes twitched. I squeezed the trigger till the gun popped.
I made my exit through the back of the cafe. There were a few of them, but nothing I couldn’t avoid. I walked several uneventful blocks till I came to my street. I passed the ruined car of the mother and daughter, the door was still ajar. My street looked exactly like every other street, molested by the apocalypse. Every door and window were smashed in my home. I step on broken furniture and glass as I get to my room. I changed out of my dirty clothes and find my cigarettes. I sat on my bed smoking while rubbing my device with my thumb. The plan settles and I hit my device. I stand above my sleeping self, moving slowly I removed the pistol from under his head. He stirs then wakes. “What the fuck!” he yelled while reaching for the gun. “I’m not him, don’t worry. We have a problem we need to sort out.” I explain everything it probably took about an hour or so. He grabs some clothes and headed to the bathroom. I use the computer to pull up the address for Dr. Lumes’s drug store and set it to print. He returns to the room as it finished printing. “This is it?” He asked. “Yep, that is it.” I said. He nodded, pulls out his device then vanishes. I laid myself on the bed; it was still warm from his heat. It took some effort to get standing again. I go to my shed and grab a bottle of kerosene. Dressed in a hoodie and jeans I drive my car to the drug store. Using a cheap throw-away phone I called the store over and over while I walked to the window that was poorly patched before. On the 5th ring, he answered. “This store is going to burn get out now.” He tries to argue but I hang-up the phone. I hear the front door bell ding as they hurry through it. I break the window with a rock and pour the fuel in, with a simple match it ignites. I sneak around to the front while the building quickly burned. Dr. Lumes and his daughter stand there staring at the store. I walked to my car and drove home.
I slept through the next day. When I wake I fetch the morning paper. Buried to page 5 there’s an article about the fire. They ask Dr. Lumes what he was going to do, he simply answered. “Send my daughter to college.” I close the paper and drink the rest of my coffee. It had been a long time since I had coffee that good.