Tex looked up and down the street, then spit. “The coast is clear.” he called over his shoulder.
A small group of people emerged from the alley behind him. There was Daphne, a college girl of twenty-one; Mike, a grizzled-looking older man; Maria, the nurse, and Dex, the new guy. Dex had just awakened from a coma, and had been discovered by the group just fifteen minutes before, wandering outside a hospital.
“S-so, no zombies?” Dex was worried, as was appropriate for the New Guy.
Tex’s exes wrinkled as he smiled and adjusted his ten-gallon hat. “No zombies.”
Maria laughed and patted her shotgun. “If there were, we’re all ready!” The others nodded in agreement, all brandishing their weapons.
Dex looked up and down the street. It seemed oddly busy, with, small, armed groups walking to and fro, entering shops, carrying supplies, and in one case, feeding bread to some ducks in a small park.
“Who are all these people?”
Tex spat again. “Survivors. Day’s the best time to stock up. The rotters are harder to see at night.”
“There’s a policeman directing traffic.”
“There’s a lot of survivors.”
“I’ll say. There’s a bus full of them.”
“Yeah, the buses usually go to the Walmart on the south side. Easier to find parking. C’mon, now, we’re wasting daylight.” Tex waved the group forward, and they started walking down the sidewalk in tense silence. Tex took point, and Daphne and Maria watched the sides, with Mike bringing up the rear.
They reached their destination without incident. Dex looked up to see the storefront was labeled “Roy’s Market.” A cowbell on the door jangled as the group walked in. A cashier waved at them from a checkout lane as Tex gathered the group around.
“Alright, everybody, you have your lists. Grab a buggy and fill up, and we’ll meet at the checkout lane in fifteen minutes. Dex, you’re with- Dex?”
Dex looked around from where he was staring at a display of shotguns and crossbows. “Are- are these real?”
“Of course they’re real!” Tex spat. “Gotta be ready for the rotters! Now, Dex, you stick with Daphne. I’m going to go see if the cantaloupes are fresh.”
“I, er, right, sure.” Dex walked briskly to catch up to Daphne, who was headed for frozen foods.
“Here, Dex, you push the cart. I need my hands free.” She pulled out two pistols and began systematically clearing the aisles.
“Shouldn’t I get a gun?” Dex watched Daphne with mld concern. This was not how he imagined a zombie apocalypse happening.
“No. Look for pizza rolls.”
Dex sighed. “You seem awfully well-prepared for the, ah, current situation.”
Daphne brightened immediately. “I know, right? Zombie apocalypse planning was sort of my hobby. I even bought the official zombie bullets! I kept my dorm room full of canned goods and toilet paper. Drove my roomie nuts.” Her tone grew more somber. “I miss her.”
“Did she turn?”
“No, she transferred when she found the shotgun I hid under her bed.”
“I see.” Dex paused in front of a cooler. “Here are the pizza rolls.”
“Good. We need six bags.”
Soon, fifteen minutes had passed and they were all gathered at checkout lane eight. Tex started putting cantaloupes on the belt. The group made small talk as the items were scanned and bagged.
Tex opened his wallet. “Y’all take platinum cards, right?”
“Oh, I have a shopper’s card, too.” The cashier scanned it with a soft beep.
“Everyone take a few bags, it’s a long walk back to my Escalade!” Tex slung his rifle over his shoulder and picked up some bags. Everyone else followed suit, and the group marched back the way they came. As they passed the hospital where they found Dex, he heard a familiar musical chime. He turned to see mike fumble with the bags and pull out a cellphone.
“Hello? Oh, hi hon. Yeah, I’ll be home for dinner. See you soon, bye.” Mike shoved the phone back into his pocket.
“So cellphones work.”
“Yep.” Tex didn’t turn around.
“And government services.”
“Right.” Dex rubbed his forehead. “Anyway, can I use someone’s phone to call my family? I am sure they’d like to know I’m awake.”
“Wait until we get back to the compound, it’s safer there.”
“Okay, fine whatever.”
It was a short drive out into the suburbs, where Dex noticed most houses had boarded up windows. They finally stopped at a large house, and Tex pushed a button on his steering wheel to open its garage door. No one opened a door until the garage door was shut behind them. Then they all started carrying groceries into a nice, well-appointed kitchen. Dex noticed three kids in the living room playing a first-person shooter game on a large-screen TV.
So, I can’t help but notice this zombie apocalypse doesn’t have much to offer in the way of zombies.”
Tex sighed. “Well, as you know, everyone has a zombie apocalypse survival plan. So most people were well-prepared.”
“Prepared to hold back hordes of flesh-hungry undead?”
“Well, about that, see, turns out there’s a narrow window of time after one dies where a body can become a zombie. Then the body deteriorates too much.”
“So how many zombies have you actually seen?”
The group exchanged nervous glances.
“Er, one.” Daphne said.
“That’s it? One zombie?”
“I shot it!” Daphne beamed.
“Well, so did everyone else.” Mike grinned. “The gunfire went on for like five minutes.”
“There must have been two hundred survivors in that mall!” added Maria.
Dex rubbed his forehead again. “So why bother? Just go about your lives!”
“We are not letting this opportunity slip away!” Tex bellowed. “ We’ve all waited far too long for it! Everyone in this country has longed for a zombie apocalypse, and now it’s here! I’m not going to let a simple zombie shortage ruin things for me!” The others nodded in agreement.
Dex looked between the boarded-up windows at the fading sunlight. “In hindsight, I am surprised the hospital I was in was so empty.”
Maria smiled. “well, there’s a simple explanation for that. No one gets sick anymore. When we get hurt, we wait for nightfall, then eat some raw meat.”
“What?” Dex was distracted by an odd sound coming from outside. “Jesus, it sounds like every dog for miles around is howling.”
A hairy paw was gently placed on Dex’s shoulder. “Not dogs,” Tex said. “Not dogs at all.”