What the Old Man Did 5

April 8, 2012

I knew it was a dream, but I couldn’t seem to help going with it. We were lying under the stars, embracing, our kisses deep and passionate.

I woke from this rehearsal of the past reluctantly, holding K in my arms—but the image faded from my mind. I could almost smell her still.

After I had left the store, I stopped across the street to watch. I had realized something. The doors opened inward. When the things got to the doors they couldn’t figure out how to get out. Apparently pulling never came to mind. That was why there were so many. I almost laughed, but I didn’t. I thought about the bones. It was gruesome. But I now had an idea. I needed to find a gun shop. Walking toward the city center I noted the deep blue of the sky. The sun seemed excessively bright. A slight breeze blew and I tempted to find grass somewhere and just lie there with my eyes closed, savoring the peace of the moment. But this would only invite trouble in this upside down world.

I found a string of pawn shops. They were filled with merchandise. I found a large handgun and a shotgun with a folding stock and a shoulder strap. I knew about guns from my father. I was already shooting at the range when I was nine. I’d never thought of shooting a person I guess. But I figured that now, having seen so many together, I needed protection. I don’t know how whatever it was happened to people. But when I remembered K’s arm, I wondered if it must be something to do with being bit.

I found a backpack and filled it with ammunition. It was probably old, so I tried a few rounds. They went off fine as far as I could tell.

The sun was nearly down now and I was looking for food and a place to hole up for the night. Night always seemed most dangerous to me. I don’t know what they do at night. But I had to sleep. I found some cans of chili that looked ok. I had picked up a very small gas stove at the pawn shop. I looked for a rooftop to sleep on.

Just then I heard a scream. I ran toward the sound for a minute but then thought better of it. I hadn’t seen a human for a long time. Walking around a corner I nearly ran into one them. It was bloody. It lunged for me. Unprepared, I struck blindly with the knife, hitting the arm with dull side of the blade. Stupid! I thought to myself. I swung the gun around while backing up and fired, missing in nervous haste. Squeezing off a better amined shot, it fell to the ground. I was shaken. Then I heard another scream. Much closer now. Cautiously rounding the corner this time, I saw a garbage truck. A woman was standing on top. Down below at least fifty of the things were milling around it. Her desperate eyes caught sight of me.

She shouted something. I paid her no attention. I took the shotgun from my shoulder and started firing into the crowd. The noise seemed to galvanize them, they began walking or crawling to me, some were faster and I picked them off first. I saw that there was no way I could possibly get every one of them. But they had all left the truck. Waving at the woman to get down, I turned the corner and ran to put some distance between me and them. Some of them seemed almost capable of a slow jog. That was troubling. Stopping, I poured more rounds into the first group. I dropped four of them. The others were just coming around when I felt something grasp my shoulder. Twisting away, I saw three more behind me. This was not good. I had to reload. Running for a side street I saw more coming toward me at the end of the block. Dropping to one knee, I grabbed a box of shells from the backpack and began to reload the shotgun. It took forever, or so it seemed.

I made up my mind not to shoot if I could help it because I had learned that unless distracted, they just kept coming, no matter what you did.

Running for the end of the street I dispatched the leading thing with my knife. The slower ones I was able to elude. Looking back I saw the rest of the crowd at the truck following behind. These were slower and it gave me an idea. As I moved past the pelmel cars and trucks, I used the knife to cut fuel lines. Most were empty, but some dropped considerable gas or diesel. Then I waited.

The leading group crossed over the fuel but a I still waited. Finally the last of them crossed. I fired the pistol at the fuel. Nothing. Maybe it was too old. I tried twice more and the last shot began a huge fire ball, engulfing the horrible things. They seemed to feel nothing! They kept walking until they roasted. One or two of the blackened shapes emerged but dropped to the ground almost immediately.

As I watched, I thought again of the woman on top of the truck. Should I go back? I counted the pros and cons. She might have valuable skills. Or she may have been bitten. In the end I decided to go back, though it was nearly dusk.

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