882 words / 5 minutes Zombie Mart

Part 2: Flashpoint

“Thank you for being a dear and helping me with my cart.” An older woman said to Dusty as he pushed her shopping cart out into the parking lot.

“Sure, we don’t normally do this anymore, but I try to help out when I can,” Dusty said. He squinted a bit as the sun reflected off of the giant cell tower across the street.

Dusty worked at the Zippie Mart. It was a local store that was trying — and mostly failing — to compete with the national warehouse-style megastores. It was his first job, he got it while still in high school. After graduation he never left, he just started working more hours. Initially, he told himself he was saving up for college. And yet, somehow, his savings account never accumulated anything but cobwebs. Plus, until recently, his best friend, Gun, had worked there too. But work really hadn’t been as much fun since he left.

“You’re such a sweetie. I’m parked right over there.” She motioned to a large sedan on their left. Steering the cart towards her Ford Crown Victoria, Dusty wondered why older people all seemed to drive cars like that.

The parking lot had quite a few people shambling around. More than usual. Gonna be a busy day, he thought. Although he wasn’t sure why it would be so busy. It was the middle of the week. Was it a holiday? Should he be getting time-and-a-half?

The woman triggered the trunk release with her key fob and prattled on about how much she loved supporting local businesses.

“Oh, uh. Yeah, thanks. We appreciate that ma’am.” He said when he realized she had stopped talking.

He glanced over the trunk lid at the woman, who was maneuvering her store-provided wheelchair so she could shift her sizable mass into the car. Out of the corner of his eye, Dusty noticed a man limping their direction. He probably wanted the motorized wheelchair.

He turned back to the cart and started loading the bags of groceries. The shovel was gonna be tricky, he’d probably need to lower one of the back seats to get it to fit.

“Ma’am, I don’t think that this shovel will–” Dusty stopped short, his jaw left agape when he got a better look at the approaching man. He was right behind the woman, who was trying to get her crutches arranged so she could take the last steps to her car door. The man’s eyes were milky — worst cataracts ever — and his hair was… Molting? Dusty wasn’t sure. He looked horrible. His skin was grayish and scabbed.

With a start, Dusty realized exactly what he was looking at. Years of watching movies and playing video games had prepared him to recognize precisely what this creature was. Without a doubt, it was a…

“Zombie! Lady, look out behind you!” But it was too late, she had pivoted onto her crutches and was basically a ready-to-eat meat popsicle. It lunged at her with surprising speed. Like an alligator that seemed slow and lumbering, until it struck ferociously at its prey. It tore into her neck, spraying blood everywhere.

Dusty stood there, shocked. Blood raining down, warm and sticky. As he took in the horror in front of him, his mind drifted back to some of the debates he’d had with Gun. One of their favorite topics was: Where is the best place to survive the (inevitable) zombie apocalypse? They had covered so many potential scenarios, he always settled on holing up here at work… So many supplies.

The zombie continued to munch, all Dusty could hear were the moist sounds of the woman’s skull fracturing under the creature’s stiff fingers. That and the slurping as he sucked her head dry. Dusty watched, transfixed. He probably should be doing something. Right?

When the zombie finished, its head snapped up, and it snarled at Dusty. Apparently, one brain hadn’t been a big enough meal. He absently wondered if smarter people’s brains were more filling?

Life had always been confusing for Dusty. He never knew exactly what to do, or what to say. He never felt qualified for, well… Anything. He suspected that’s why he’s still here, in this town, at this job. But at that moment, staring at that scabby monster, something galvanized within him. Everything clicked. Finally, he knew exactly what to do.

Dusty kept his eyes on the zombie, reached out, picked up the shovel from the cart, and smiled.

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