Chapter 33 .

Mackenzie

We were all quiet as we rode down the off ramp.  The only noise was the quiet sound of the tires along the asphalt and the sounds of the pedals.  Dark clouds hung low over us and the weather was cold enough we could see our breath. It might snow again.

I sat behind my sister as she pedaled the bike.  My eyes scanned the area on either side of us and occasionally I would look over my shoulder behind us just to make sure we weren’t surprised by zombies or those men.  We weren’t last. Richard and Maria were last. Richard pedaled while Maria kept a sharp eye out. Hunter and Victory rode in the front.

As we got closer to the super store, moans greeted us.  It was hard to tell how many there were, but I didn’t think it sounded like too many.  Then I could see them shambling through the parked cars in the parking lot. We had been quiet before, but now we grew even quieter.  I was almost afraid to breathe. I did breathe, but I became conscious of how quietly I was breathing.

Hunter stopped and the rest of us followed his example.  He and Victory slowly got off the bike and retrieved their bows.  We all got off our bikes and readied our knives. Lily readied her ax. 

Hunter and Victory notched an arrow and pulled back on the string.  Victory let loose first and the arrow soared across the distance and hit the nearest zombie in the head.  He fell to the hard asphalt of the parking lot. Zombie heads turned in the direction of their fallen companion.  Hunter let loose his arrow and it embedded in the head of a little boy zombie. It also fell to the ground. Zombie heads turned frantically now.  A woman zombie finally spotted us. A loud groan filled the chill air a moment before she rushed our group. Victory already had another arrow ready.  It flew across the distance and hit the zombie in the head. She staggered forward, but fell to the asphalt unmoving.

The other zombies in the parking lot saw us now.  They groaned in one loud chorus of conflicting tones.  And then several more zombies were rushing us. Hunter let loose another arrow and another zombie fell.  Arthur and Juan put away their knives and took out the bows they had been practicing with that morning. Arthur notched an arrow and aimed.  His breath was audible as he slowly let it out and then let the arrow fly. It crossed the distance and landed in a charging zombie’s shoulder.

Juan didn’t take the time to steady himself as Arthur had.  His arrow skidded to a stop harmlessly at a running zombie’s feet.  They both readied more arrows just as Hunter released another arrow.  It embedded itself in the skull of the zombie Juan had tried to kill.

Darren stepped forward and readied his own bow and arrow.  His landed in the cheek of a zombie, but it didn’t kill it.  Victory shot that same zombie through the eye. Hunter put down his bow and took out his knife.  Arthur and Juan released another arrow each. Arthur’s arrow landed in the chest of a child zombie.  Juan’s hit the child zombie’s knee and the child zombie lurched forward stumbling. It was only a moment though before it was charging us again.  Monica stepped forward with Darren’s mom. Each had a knife in their hands. Hunter motioned for the others to put away their bows and arrows and then he stepped forward to meet the nearest zombie. 

She tried to bite his arm, but he twisted to the side so she rushed by him, grabbed her neck from behind and stabbed her through the temple.  When he let go, she crumpled to his feet.

Monica stepped forward, kicked the knee of the oncoming zombie and then stabbed him in the eye when he stumbled forward.

Darren’s mom stopped the charging child zombie by grabbing the arrow in his chest.  He slowly slid forward along the arrow as he continued to try and attack her. Darren’s mom stabbed him through the temple as a tear spilled onto her cheek.  The child zombie dropped to her feet.

“It’s okay, mom,” Darren comforted her.  He put a hand on the back of her shoulder.  “He wasn’t a child anymore.”

Darren’s mom nodded, sniffed and wiped away the tears with her gloved hand.  I didn’t see or hear anymore zombies.

“Let’s go,” Hunter said.  He got back on his bike. Victory climbed on behind him.  The rest of us got on our bikes again. I got behind Lily.  We rode through the oversized parking lot right up to the sliding doors.  When we got to the doors we got off our bikes. The doors didn’t automatically open as the power was out.  Someone had pried the doors open enough to put a rock in between them so they didn’t shut completely. Hunter looked at Lily and Darren first.  I supposed he trusted them more than the rest of us since the three of them had already gone into town together once before.

“Maybe someone is inside,” Maria offered.

“If the zombies had seen someone go in, they would have been at the door trying to get in,” my sister said.  She was so wise. I hadn’t thought about that. I took her hand in mine. She looked down at me and gave my hand a gentle squeeze.

“There were some dead zombies in the parking lot already,” Richard said.  “Maybe whoever was here came and left already and killed those zombies on their way.”

“That would make sense,” Darren said.  “And then maybe more zombies heard the fighting and showed up or maybe they didn’t kill all the zombies when they left.”

“We’ll go in and check out the store first to make sure there aren’t any zombies or people.  Then we can get the supplies we want.”

“Stick close, Marcos,” Darren’s mom said and pulled him close to her side.  Hunter and Richard pried the doors open. We walked the bikes in with us. Hunter and Richard pushed the doors closed once we were inside, but left the rock between them so they didn’t close all the way.

We followed Lily and Darren through the store.  Hunter and Richard took up the rear. We went down every aisle, checked the bathrooms and the back areas, but we didn’t see or hear any people or zombies.  It did look like other people had been through here. Some of the clothes were off the racks and piled on the floor. Food items were missing from some of the aisles.  All of the spaces where the ramen noodles were supposed to be were empty. Some food items were on the floor. The refrigerated and frozen food sections smelled awful so we stayed away from those areas.  Lily and Darren led us to the bike section. Now we each had a bike of our own. Even Marcos insisted on his own bike so Richard picked one out for him that had training wheels.

“He’s not going to be able to keep up with us on that,” Grant’s dad said.

Marcos scowled at him.

“If we need to, we can pick him up and he can ride with one of us,” Darren’s mom said.  “It’s no different than it is right now. And he should be learning how to survive in this world now.  He needs to learn faster and be better than he was before.”

Grant’s dad frowned, but didn’t say anymore.  We all went to the camping section and got more bags.  We already had tents, but we hadn’t used them because it obstructed our view and we couldn’t see if zombies were coming.  So instead of getting even more tents, we got tarps. Tarps that we could put above us and below us. We got more rope; more camping dishes and utensils; more cookware; water jugs; canteens; water purifiers; camping food rations; first aid kits; emergency blankets for everyone; more sleeping bags; pepper spray – it wouldn’t do anything against zombies, but it would if those men came back;  binoculars – Juan and Marcos each wanted one themselves so we gave them each one. Arthur acted like he didn’t want one, but his eyes strayed to the one in Juan’s hands more than once. We got compasses. Grant’s dad insisted we also get fishing poles and hooks. It wasn’t a bad idea, but I didn’t remember seeing any streams or lakes nearby. I didn’t know the area very well so maybe he knew something we didn’t.  We got more food items, things like dried soup packets and instant mashed potatoes rather than the canned food as it would be lighter to carry. We took packets of tuna and spam. We grabbed more bottled water. Everything went into the new bags that were now strapped to our bikes.

It was then that Darren’s mom suggested we split up so the men could comfortably get whatever they needed and the women could get whatever we needed.  So we broke up with the men and boys going one way and we went another way. We weren’t that far away from the boys, but we weren’t on the same aisle at the same time.

Maria and Monica headed straight to the aisle with tampons and pads.  We followed them. My sister reached passed me and grabbed the same box of tampons Maria had just taken.  She turned it to the back so she could read whatever was written there. Victory came up behind me and lightly played with my hair.  Lily noted Victory’s movements, but then went back to reading the back of the box.

“You don’t want pads?” I asked Lily.

“I think these will take up less space in my bag and I think they’ll be more comfortable to run in if we need to run from zombies.”  She paused a moment. “I think so anyway,” she said. She stuffed it into her bag and moved on with the others to look at deoderant. Victory surprised me though when she reached passed me and grabbed the same kind of tampons that my sister just took.

“Yours hasn’t started yet has it?” I asked her because as far as I knew she and I were in the same boat.

“No,” she said.  “But it’s going to start soon.  I can tell.”

“How can you tell?”  Lily’s didn’t start until she was fourteen so I figured it would happen to me around the same age.  Maybe not though. I had no way to judge.

“My hair,” Victory said and reached up to curl her finger around one of the white strands of hair.

“How can you tell by your hair?” I asked.  I’d never heard that before. Especially since she seemed to be referring to the hair on her head.

“Oh.”  She said and her hand dropped back to her side.  Her eyes were wide as if I just caught her stealing the last of my cookies at lunch.  Which had happened before. “You can’t,” she said. “I’m just being silly.”

“Do we need to get more bleach for your hair?  Do you want to keep it white like that? And we could get more red hair dye for Hunter’s hair.”

“Oh…um…we just did it so I think we’ll be okay for a few months.  Thanks for thinking about it.”

“Sure,” I said.  We walked to where my sister and the others were and grabbed deodorant for ourselves.  When we were finished getting supplies in that area – soap, toothpaste, etc. – I insisted Lily also get face paint so we could paint our faces sometimes for fun.  Darren’s mom took us to the school supply aisle and we got crayons, pencils and paper. We also picked up a few children’s books and my sister and her friends picked a few young adult books.  Darren’s mom took a few romance novels, but she also picked out some survival books and gardening and farming books.

When we met back up with the boys at the front of the store, Marcos held a teddy bear close to his chest.  Juan and Arthur kicked a hacky sack back and forth between them. Darren and Richard also had a hacky sack they kicked back and forth.

“We ready?” Hunter asked when we were all back at the front of the store with our bags full and strapped to our bikes.

“Yes,” Darren’s mom said.  “Let’s go.”

“If we can make good time today,” Lily said, “we might make it to the diner by tomorrow night.”

I couldn’t wait to see Tanner again and hold him and know he at least was all right even though our parents weren’t.  I also really hoped Grace was all right. I didn’t want to see Victory sad.

When Hunter and Richard pried the doors open again, light snowflakes drifted slowly to the ground where they quickly melted.

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