At The Zombie Five-and-Dime
Kenneth James Crist
Looking out from the open door of the
hayloft, I watch over the town. Moonlight silvers every shiny surface, the
water in the fountain in the town square shimmers, a pallid reflection of that
lucent orb, making my eyes heavier with every measured beat of my heart.
I can feel my pulse in my wrists and in
my neck, behind my eyes and, when I think about Robyn, in other places, too. It
is so damned hot out, even hours after sundown, and I long for air conditioning
and a cold, long-necked Bud.
Not that I was ever much of a beer
drinker, but lately the thought of a cold, brown bottle, its sides dripping
with moisture, is one of the things that almost drives me mad… thinking about
Robyn is the other.
Now I sit, every night without fail,
sweat running from under my arms and down the crack of my ass, watching and
listening to the stillness. I know they’re out there, and I know they’re
coming. It’s not a matter of if they come, it’s a matter of when they come.
And, even though I don’t feel I really
have all that much to live for now, I won’t go easily when they finally show up
again. They’ve been here before, some familiar and some not, but it doesn’t
really matter if you recognize a relative or an old friend here and there. You
still do what must be done…or you die. And if it were only dying, that wouldn’t
be so bad. But there’s that other thing…
Robyn and me, we really had it made. We
had food, we had shelter and we had weapons and all the ammo we needed. We
coulda held out just about forever. And she could really shoot, too. When we
ran into some of those things out there, she got just as many head shots as I
‘Course we tried never to meet up with
‘em, if we could help it. ‘Cause it was really some bad shit to have to shoot
your uncle Jim or Aunt Emma, ‘cause they were no longer with it. No longer
human, really, is what I mean to say.
It was kinda funny how I met up with
Robyn. Each of us, at the same time, thinkin’ he was the only normal person
left. And when we did happen to run across each other one day in the town’s
only variety store, we damn near shot each other before we realized we were
both okay. Simpson’s Five-and-Dime, that was. But then, when ya think about it,
if we’d been undead, we wouldn’t have been lookin’ for candy and cigarettes…
Anyway, we hooked up that day and we been
together ever since. But now…now I don’t know what I’m gonna do.
It was a long time after the shit started
before we began hearing what actually caused it. We heard stuff about nuclear
fallout, but I wasn’t buyin’ that, ‘cause if it was nuclear shit, nobody would
be immune. And Robyn and me, we never showed any signs of bein’ sick at all.
And besides, if it had been bombs, wouldn’t we have heard explosions, or seen
Then we heard it was some germ warfare
stuff the towelheads used and that sounded more likely. All they’d have to do
was get it into the air or the water supply somehow. Not too tough to do, when
ya think about it. ‘Specially since there were so many of ‘em already over
But I bet when they were makin’ that
shit, whoever really did mutate the virus or mix the chemicals or whatever,
they never figured out that a certain percentage of people who died from it
would come back.
We heard most of this stuff on an old ham
radio receiver Robyn’s dad had played with before things went to hell. So we
knew there were still a few normal folks out there. But we didn’t have no
transmitter, so we couldn’t find out where they were. Robyn said on the
two-meter band, the radio could skip all the way around the world. That was how
we knew it wasn’t just Alabama that was fucked…
There were so many corpses when it got
really bad, that there was no way they could all get buried. There simply
weren’t enough survivors left to put them all in the ground and not enough
hours in the day. Most of those unburied simply rotted away and eventually the
incredible stench started going away, or at least lessening, until it was just
a lingering, sour smell underlying everything else. You got bougainvillea and
sour body stench, or chocolate brownies and rotten meat. Sometimes your own
armpits reminded you of that other smell and at the same time, that you were
Within about a week after the end, when
it seemed that 99.9% of the world’s humans and cats (did I mention the cats?)
had died, some of the dead began to walk around again. A curious thing, there,
or as Robyn called it, a phenomenon. At first, that was all they did.
Just walked around and looked somehow stupid and at the same time pathetic.
Creatures to be pitied, not really alive so much as reanimated by the very
disease or chemical cocktail that originally killed them. But within a couple
of days, just as I was getting used to seeing them shuffling around at all
hours of the day and night, they began to get hungry. And that was when they
They seem to have a bloodlust, or maybe
it’s a life-lust, that’s just an incredible thing to see. If they can get a
live person trapped inside a building, they’ll sometimes wait for days or even
weeks for that person to give up and come out, or to die and join them. If they
catch you out in the open, unarmed and unable to outrun them, you’re history.
They never use weapons of any sort, other than their own teeth and hands. They
seem to have lost the capacity to use weapons or even tools, for that matter.
I have seen what happens once they catch
a person and set upon him. I have seen several of them devour a freshly killed
human, then become sated and drop into a stupor, sometimes for many hours. One
thing about that soporific state of theirs: it makes them easy to re-kill.
That’s what it really is, a repeat process that finally ends their reanimation.
The only thing I’ve found that works is a head-shot with a fairly
powerful firearm, something with enough wallop to literally scatter their
brains over as much area as possible.
There! Something moved, right over there,
between the hardware and Simpson’s Five-and-Dime! I know I saw it…but now it’s
gone again. Could be they’re trying to encircle me again. They’ve tried it
before. I burnt down one barn to escape after they thought they had me trapped.
They seem to hate fire and…damn! There it was again.
I’m not believin’ this! Now there’s a
whole bunch of ‘em, just stepping out and into the light, like they have
nothing to fear at all. Well, I guess when you’re already dead…and now they’re
goin’ into Simpson’s…now what the hell do ya suppose they want in there? Okay,
as soon as they’re all inside, I’m gonna go down and take a look…I certainly
owe these bastards for Robyn…
They got Robyn one
night not too long ago, not because she got careless, but because I did. I was
supposed to be up and on watch. See, that was the only way we could get any
sleep, one of us watching and the other asleep, trusting in each other for our
She and I had made
love, something we’d been doing almost from the very first. Again, it was a way
of reaffirming that we were still alive and normal. So we did it a lot. And
when you do something a lot, whether it’s fucking or playing the violin, you
will get good at it. Robyn and I had learned each other so well… We could bring
each other right to the edge of climax and then, by careful, slow manipulation
and teasing, keep each other there for sometimes thirty or forty minutes, until
neither of us could stand it anymore and with just a nod or a single word,
often a gasp or shudder, we’d both know it was time and we’d go through it
together, finding briefly that special place that only the best lovers ever
know. It’s a place where, if you could just remain there, you’d gladly die just
to have it continue and never let up.
But, of course, you
can’t ever remain there. And there is
the afterglow and the holding and the closeness of love that, to some extent
makes up for it.
I fell asleep. Simple
as that. I was responsible, I was on watch and she was sleeping deeply. I
didn’t wake up until they were already on her and ripping out her throat. Her
shrieks and gargling screams, her final gasp, which sounded almost like my
name, these haunt me and make me a more substantial killer.
I got them all. There
was nothing calm and methodical about it. Not like now. I was crazed by the
loss of my woman and, for a time, I was insane. There were a total of nine of
them and I’m almost ashamed to say I used up almost two hundred rounds of
ammunition on them. Now I seldom use more than one round per kill.
Later the next morning,
I buried Robyn down at the bottom of the hill. I put her pretty deep, because I
didn’t want anything digging her up. I had a tattered old Bible that had been
my mother’s and I read some meaningless scripture and I prayed for her soul.
I move slowly, taking my time. I keep to
the shadows, not too difficult now, as most of the streetlights have burned out
in the past months. I’m surprised every evening that some of them still come
The crew of undead are wrecking
Simpson’s. I don’t know why they do these things, unless they actually are able
to feel anger and they have to take it out on something. I stand in a dark
spot, watching them trash the store, knocking over shelves, strewing
merchandise everywhere, tearing down and stomping everything they can reach.
Eventually one of them throws a blender from the soda fountain through the
front plate glass window, and I am overjoyed. That makes it just so much easier
to get good, accurate head shots. Nothing
in the way to deflect a bullet, you see. I work the action on my M-16 and get
I have equipped
the weapon with a high-powered laser sight. It not only makes my shots more
accurate and saves ammo, but for some reason I can’t fathom, the laser light
stuns them and makes them freeze, at least momentarily. I try to sweep the
laser across their eyes, then take my shot.
As soon as I
turn on the laser, they begin screeching. Whether it’s that painful to them, or
if they just know what’s coming, I’m not sure. I pop the first one that turns
in my direction—a good shot, square between the eyes. Mushy, half-rotted brains
spray some of the others as the round plows through his head and the screeching
turns up a notch.
I already have
a headache from the heat and this is not helping. I get the next two before
they can even turn toward me. Headshots are the only thing that work and I nail
them both cold, one in the temple and the other at an angle, the round hitting
just above the mastoid bone. The walls are dripping with nastiness now, and I’m
right up close to the window.
Time to take
the last three and get out of here. I get one, then, my weapon jams. I haven’t
been able to keep it as clean as I’d like and I’m paying for that now. I toss
it aside and draw my secondary weapon. The Glock 9mm is not equipped with a
laser, but it still does the job. I get another female as she’s trying to make
it out the door and the last guy as he gets to the broken out window, close
enough I can smell his breath. Unfortunately, I have enough imagination, I can
picture vividly what he’s been eating.
Then it’s all over. I feel a certain
pride that I have taken out another six of the hell-creatures and only used
I still don’t know why
I didn’t just walk away. Maybe I just felt like I needed to double-check my
kills, or maybe survey the damage. When I got inside, I looked them over
carefully, even though I’ve never met a zombie that was savvy enough to play
dead or try to fake me out in any way.
As I was turning to
leave, something moved in the back of the store. There was just enough light
coming in through the wrecked storefront to see that this one was female. I
brought up my weapon and sighted on her head, keeping my focus on my front
sight, and started to squeeze off the shot when something familiar stayed my
Even under the layer of
grave dirt, with little white worms crawling in her hair and in the gaping wound
on her neck, I recognized her. My heart leapt and at the same time my breathing
stopped. On Robyn’s face was a half-smile, almost as if she recognized me, too.
She raised one arm and started toward me, one foot dragging in a slow shuffle.
I turned and ran.
I keep thinking that soon I’m going to
have to kill Robyn. I’ll have to put her to her final rest. I cannot understand
why or how she came back, unless she was infected and we just weren’t aware of
I keep her locked up in the barn most of
the time and I have been finding things to feed her that seem to keep her
somewhat satisfied. Sometimes I’ll shoot an animal and bring her the fresh
corpse for her to tear at and devour. Once she is sated and groggy, then we can
sometimes still make love. It’s not as good as it once was, but, since I got
her bathed and cleaned up, since I got the vermin out of her hair and sutured
up her neck wound, it’s not too bad. Better than being alone and hurting.
But I never know when she’s apt to turn
vicious and try to bite or claw me, so it’s a risky business, this living with
Crist is a tired, broken-down old motorcycle cop from
Wichita Kansas. He began writing a novel in 1994 as keyboard practice and
has since written four more novels, several novellas and a butt-load of short
stories. His publications have been seen in Bewildering Stories, Tales of the
Talisman, A Twist of Noir, A Shot of Ink, Eaten Alive, The New
Flesh, The Sink, The Edge, Skin and Bones, Twisted Sister and Kudzu Monthly,
a few. Recently, he had three stories accepted by John
Thompson at Hardboiled, for two anthologies that
were published in April of 2014, The
Undead War and Hardboiled, both
available from Dead Guns Press.
He also has
four books up in Kindle format, for sale on Amazon.com:
Dreaming of Mirages, The Gazing
Ball, Joshua, and Groaning for
Burial, his latest zombie fiction. One of his novellas, Surviving Montezuma, is being serialized
by Anne Stickel at Black Petals.
Having turned 72
last June, he still rides his big Harley every day that weather permits
and is now completely retired. He volunteers as a
blood services driver for the American Red Cross and he is also a member
of the American Legion Riders and the Kansas Patriot Guard.