Chapter 5

Walking up to Wal-Mart, an uneasy feeling settled in the pit of my stomach. I knew doing this was crazy, zombies could be crawling all over the place in there. Looking around, no undead were about, but that didn't prove anything.

Once we were all in front of the doors, we stood there for a few seconds, like we expected the automatic doors to actually open. They didn't, of course.

"Stand back, kids," Eli said quietly. We took a few steps back, and he aimed his shotgun at one of the doors and pulled the trigger. The glass shattered immediately, and Eli loaded his gun with another shell. "There you go."

We were about to step through the broken door when fast, irregular footsteps and moaning were heard. At least four zombies emerged from the shadows, running at full speed toward us. I realized the loud shot would have attracted them.

"Everyone back! Shoot them!" I heard Gabe yell to my left.

I stumbled backwards, throwing up my gun and aiming at one of the zombies who were now just about twenty feet from the door. Two went down from a shotgun, Gabe or Eli, I didn't know. I could hear Julie shooting, and missing. My heart pounded in my ears and I seemed to have tunnel vision, focusing only on the zombie I was trying to shoot. I pulled the trigger, and half of the zombie's head was blown off. The last zombie still ran, but I guessed he didn't have the common sense to step up over the metal in the door, because he tripped and hit the ground. A man, blood and saliva spewing from his mouth, crawled as fast as he could towards us, staring at us with empty eyes. Gabe took the shot that killed him, almost point blank. Blood spattered on my shoes and the bottom of my jeans, and I had to step back before the blood pouring from his head reached me.

It all went by so fast, it took me a minute to recover. I tried to stop my hands from shaking and failed.

"That was a close one," Julie commented.

I nodded. "I believe I am forever traumatized." I wasn't even joking.

Gabe put his arm around me and started walking towards the building, "Come on, shopping will make ya feel better."

I laughed, "I never really liked shopping all that much."

We entered Wal-Mart carefully, watching out for more zombies. I kept my gun raised the entire time. I noticed the electricity in the store was off, and I wondered if it was off everywhere else. The only source of light was the battery-powered emergency lights. "Should we split up, or stay together?" I asked.

"We could split into pairs. Meet up back here in like forty-five minutes," Julie said happily. I looked at her and saw an idea forming in her eyes. "Me and Eli will go look around, and you and Gabe can pair up."

"But it would make more sense if-"

Julie grabbed Eli's arm and started walking away, cutting me off with, "Have fun!" She turned around for a moment to wink at me. I really hoped Gabe didn't see that.

When I turned to him, he was grinning hugely. Oh yeah, he saw it. I looked away so he wouldn't see me blush.

"Shall we?" He asked.

I laughed nervously and took the arm he offered to me. "We shall," I replied.

The two of us headed the opposite direction of Julie and Eli, towards the clothes. Our guns were at the ready as I browsed the women's section for a new shirt and pair of jeans. It felt weird to walk around Wal-Mart with guns like it was a normal activity.

Eventually, I chose a t-shirt with a cool graphic design and the most stylish pair of jeans you can get at Wal-Mart. Though I didn't think style really mattered when the world was ending.

Gabe found some clothes of his own, jeans and a casual button up shirt, and we made our way to the dressing rooms to change. We took turns guarding each other, so we wouldn't have any surprise attacks.

"So," Gabe said as it was my turn to change after him. He stood right outside the door. "Who were you?"

The question surprised me. It wasn't 'Who are you?', because it was true I was no longer that person. "A high school senior. Just about to graduate." I sighed. It felt so weird to think I was in high just a few days ago, I felt so much older now.

"Interesting," was his reply. "Were you getting any scholarships?"

"Yeah," I said. I took off the bloodied jeans and threw them in a corner. "Pretty damn good academic scholarship. No use now, though."

"So you're smart."

I shrugged as I pulled the new jeans on, even though he couldn't see it. "I'm okay."

I heard the wood groan as he leaned against it. "I didn't try in high school. Went to college for a year and dropped out." I listened intently. We hadn't really gotten into conversations about our lives before the zombies, and I've been wanting to know about him. About who he was and what he did. "I'm twenty and I was living alone, working a crappy job at an auto shop. My life was pretty much going nowhere." A sigh reached my ears.

"I bet you could've gotten pretty far," I told him, slipping off my shirt and putting on the other one. "And I'm not just saying that."

He was quiet for a second. "Thanks."

I looked at myself in the mirror before I walked out. I didn't look any different than two days ago, but I sure felt different.

"Somehow, I don't think the bloody sneakers go with my outfit," I told Gabe as I opened the door.

He didn't say anything as he looked at me for a moment. "Well, we'll have to fix that, won't we?" He smiled at me and took my hand, leading me towards the shoes. My hand in his felt right, and it created butterflies in my stomach.

I knew I had feelings for Gabe, but I also knew that developing a relationship at this time could end very badly.

Once I had some nice, new sneakers, we ended up wandering around, looking for any necessities. I pointed at toilet paper, "We probably need that. Stopping at gas stations every time we need to go is a waste of gas. Which we only have three cans left of, since the gas pumps don't work anymore." They had stopped working sometime yesterday, making me grateful we had filled those gas cans before. Gabe grabbed a pack of six rolls and we kept walking down aisles in the food section.

I grabbed things like beans, soup, canned peaches and pears. Stuff we could eat that wasn't junk. I put it all in a cart I found in one of the aisles. Since we needed something else besides carbonated beverages, I also got juice boxes and bottled water. Lots of bottled water.

"Oh hey," I turned to Gabe. "Can you run back and get some vegetables? Like carrots or something? Stuff we can eat out of the can."

Gabe looked reluctant. "I don't wanna leave you alone..."

"Just go, I have a gun. I'll be fine." I smiled reassuringly as he hesitantly started jogging back and out of sight. His genuine concern for me made the butterflies in my stomach do some flips.

I continued on to the next aisle, and almost kept going when I realized it was all just junk food, but then I saw someone. A silhouette in the dim light. I regretted my next move.

"Gabe?" I called. A few seconds later, I found out it was in fact not Gabe.

A zombie emerged from the shadows. It was a boy, no older than twelve. I knew he was a zombie because blood poured from his mouth and his dead eyes watched me hungrily, but as he walked towards me, he didn't stumble or drag his feet and no moaning escaped his lips. He seemed like a normal person, besides the blood-covered outstretched arms. This confused me and froze me, and I unconsciously thanked God the zombie didn't run, or I would be dead.

As he got closer, maybe fifteen feet away now, I heard a breathy sound coming from his mouth. Ten feet away, I heard something that shocked me and made my heart feel like it was being squeezed. Through the roaring sound of blood rushing to my head, I heard the zombie speak.

"Hu... H- Hung... Hungry... So... Hungry... Hungry..." It sounded like a normal kid, besides the fact it was practically feral. My whole body shook. This zombie was different than all the others. It was more human. This fact kept my hands frozen, unable to shoot.

Only when the boy zombie was almost close enough to touch me did I have the sense to back up quickly. Forgetting the cart behind me, I backed into it, unable to go farther. I shut my eyes tight, knowing I was about to be eaten.

Then a gun shot sounded, and I felt blood splatter on my new clothes and heard a body drop to the floor. Opening my eyes, I saw Gabe. He looked angry.

"What were you thinking, Ashly?" He shouted at me after lowering the shotgun. "You almost got killed! Why didn't you shoot him? Your gun is in your hand!" I flinched and looked down. He caught me by surprise and hugged me. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to yell at you, but... Jesus. If I had been just two seconds later..."

I buried my face in his chest. "He spoke..." I said quietly.

Gabe took my shoulder and pushed me back so he could see my face. "What?"

"The zombie," I said and pointed at the body of the boy. "He... spoke. He said 'hungry'."

Gabe looked doubtful. "But... they're brainless. There's no way."

"I promise he did," I told him. I wanted him to pull me back into his arms, but he kept me at arms length as we spoke.

He looked away and then back at me, and then down at my clothes. "We can talk about it later. Let's go get you changed. Again."

The talking zombie haunted me as I walked back to change once more out of bloody clothes. The little boy had spoken actual words. 'So hungry'. It wasn't mindless groaning like the zombies I'd experienced the past two days. The longest two days of my life it seems. Those zombies, the ones that were slow at first and now are able to sprint like Olympic runners (Well, very clumsy Olympic runners) were brainless, like Gabe said. They didn't speak, they were animals. They made animal sounds and ate people like animals. This boy though, didn't seem as much like an animal to me, but a human, ridden with a terrible disease.

We met back up with Julie and Eli after I changed. They had gotten clothes for themselves and stuff like blankets and pillows for sleeping and bathroom toiletries, besides toilet paper. "I got some tampons," Julie whispered to me and I laughed.

She pulled my arm and we dropped back behind Eli and Gabe as we walked towards the entrance with our cart. "So. How'd things with Gabe go?" Julie grinned at me.

I rolled my eyes at her, but couldn't help smiling. "Nothing happened, Miss Matchmaker."

She looked throughly disappointed. "Aw, come on, Ashly. He's hot! You should do him."

"Oh my gosh!" I laughed and shook my head. "You know there's more to relationships than sex."

"There is?" She asked jokingly, and winked.

Suddenly, Gabe and Eli were turned around and running back. Eli ran past us and Gabe grabbed our arms, dragging us backwards. "Go!"

"What?" I asked, pulling my gun out of the back of my jeans.

"It's them zombies! There's a whole lot of 'em out there. I dunno if they seen us," Eli informed us.

The four of us ducked behind an aisle and crouched down. "I think they might've heard the gunshots and came running. Or maybe smelled us. Who knows." Gabe loaded his shotgun and pumped it.

"How many?" Julie asked, sounding panicked.

"At least fifteen."

I gasped involuntarily and dropped my head into my hands. "What are we gonna do?"

"There's no way we can take that many zombies," Julie said, her voice shaking.

"We're good as dead," Eli agreed.

Gabe spun around to face us. "No. We can get through this."

Julie continued to freak out and Eli sat quietly. I did my best to believe what Gabe said. That we would get through this. We would stay alive. After two whole days of surviving the apocalypse, I was not giving up. This was the first time, though, that death seemed not too far away. We handled other encounters well, but this was the four of us up against fifteen raging, fast, hungry zombies.

"Are any inside?" I inquired, trying not to seem too scared.

Gabe shook his head. "I don't think they realize one of the doors is open." He shrugged. "Hopefully, it'll stay that way."

"What if it doesn't?"

He didn't answer for almost a whole minute. I only heard our quiet breathing, and a faint moaning in the distance.

"We'll fight through them all and get to the car with our stuff... or die trying."