By R.L. Brock ©2000
Edited by Tom Redding

It wasn't Bill who showed up. It was goat-bearded Roy.

Good enough.

 "Get over here, you stupid bitch!" Roy motioned with his gun, hands trembling as he stared wide-eyed at the group of zombies amassing at the other end of the aisle. A few of them had ventured closer, sliding ungracefully on the oil and collapsing into messy heaps. There were maybe twenty of them now.

"I can't, Roy!" Jolene sobbed, flattening herself against the shelves as she covered her face and pretended to cry. "I'm too scared!"

"Jesus Christ . . ." he muttered. "Bill is gonna beat your ass, you know."

Jolene kept faking her tears. She knew that Roy was much weaker-willed than Bill, that he wouldn't be able to just leave her there. She also knew that he was afraid of coming after her because the zombies on the other end of the aisle were just too damn close.

She peeked through her fingers and saw him looking nervously over his shoulder for Bill, unsure of what to do. If he didn't do something quick, it wouldn't matter anyway. The zombies were slowly picking their way down the aisle, sliding on the oil, but holding onto the shelves for balance. Bastards learned quick.

"Roy!" she screamed. "Please!"

"Aw, godamn it!" Roy shook his head, stamped his foot, and made his decision.

About five strides into his run, he hit the oil.

And kept right on going.

As he whizzed past her, Jolene imagined that she could see an almost comical look of confusion on his face as he slipped and slid down the aisle. The confusion cleared up real quick when he saw the wall of dead folk waiting for him at the end of the aisle. That's when he started screaming.

He plowed into them like a bowling ball. And they were on him in a heartbeat. Jolene stuck around long enough to see one of the zombies wrench away a chunk of Roy's throat in its teeth, and then she tiptoed down to the other end of the aisle, careful not to slip or make a sound. Roy's garbled screams faded into bubbly gurgles, and then to thick silence. After that, there was nothing but the wet sounds of feeding.

Jolene barely noticed. One more. That's all. One more and that was the only one that counted now.

She ran full throttle for the front doors, keeping her head low and shoulders hunched, just in case Bill was tracking her with his rifle's scope. She wanted to finish things near the front door, so she could make a quick get-away and-

Something slammed into her stomach, taking her breath away as she collapsed. Jolene rolled away, scrambling for footing, half-expecting to feel teeth sinking into her flesh at any moment.

Instead, she saw Bill standing over her, a smirk on his face and his rifle in his hands. He'd used it as a club. Apparently he'd learned the same lesson that she'd learned: don't waste ammo.

And from the look on his face, Jolene had the feeling that he wanted to keep her alive a little longer.

"Bitch . . ." Bill kicked at her, catching her in mid-thigh. Jolene clenched her jaw and jerked away, tightening her grip on the baseball bat. Bill noticed. "Naw . . . don't even think about it . . ."

He lifted one foot and slowly lowered it onto her hand, grinding. Jolene released the bat.

"Now . . . get your ass on up."

Jolene slowly rose, cradling her hand to her chest. So far most of the zombies were occupied with the Roy buffet over in the baking aisle, but she knew that distraction wouldn't last for long. Roy wasn't that big of a guy.

Bill grinned at her, and Jolene could see that whatever he'd called sanity was now totally gone.

"I hate an uppity bitch," he said with a smile, grabbing a handful of her hair before she could even react. He yanked her close to him, her face right up to his. "You messed up bigtime, girlie."

Jolene gritted her teeth and forced herself to keep her eyes on Bill's. The zombies were beginning to take notice of them now, pulling away from Roy's cooling body in search of a warmer meal. She could hear them moving around in the darkness, scuttling like roaches.

"I'm gonna do you slow," Bill whispered, pulling Jolene so close that his lips brushed her cheek. She flinched away but he held her tightly. "I'm gonna leave you out here for these fuckers, and then I'm gonna watch them tear your ass apart."

Jolene's hand slid to her stomach, beneath her blouse. The handle of the hunting knife felt warm beneath her palm.

"And then you're gonna come back," Bill said, his voice rising slightly, growing almost hysteric. "And I'm gonna let you."

It would be so easy to slide the knife into Bill's fat gut. One quick movement, one quick jerk upward, and his guts would be on the floor and he'd be dead. Easy. But it'd be too easy. There were other ways.

Jolene slowly smiled.

And then she slashed.

The first swing of the hunting knife caught Bill's left thigh, high near the groin, slicing deeply into the artery. His eyes bugged almost comically with shock as the first gout of blood splashed out, steaming hot and stinking of copper. He released Jolene's hair and looked down at himself, taking a staggering step backwards, sending a fresh spray across the floor.

Jolene followed him and slashed again, the knife tearing across his belly, putting enough force behind the blow to cut deeply into his gut. Bill stared at his stomach, straightening up slightly as the first ropy curls of intestine began to slip out of his body. The stench of blood and bile seemed to thicken the air.

It drew the zombies like moths to a flame.

Bi ll collapsed to his knees, one hand feebly trying to hold his belly together, the other reaching out to Jolene, as if he actually expected her to do something. His eyes shone with horrible understanding. He knew what was happening. What was going to happen.

"Please . . ." he whispered. Fat tears rolled down his cheeks. His lower lip actually trembled. "Please, Jolene . . . don't leave me . . ."

The zombies were closer now, coming in from all sides. In less than a minute, there'd be too many to get through, even with the shotgun.

Bill wailed like a newborn.

Jolene moved swiftly behind Bill, grabbing him beneath his arms. She pulled at him, dragging him towards the front doors, trying not to notice that the gash in his belly widened and spurted out more gore with every step. A few of the zombies fell to the floor, lapping at the puddle of blood and bile Bill had left behind. The rest of them followed, shuffling along with renewed speed.

"I knew you wouldn't leave me . . ." Bill's voice rose, words slurring and running together as he rolled his head back to look up at Jolene. "I knew you w asn't gonna do it . . . don't have it in you . . . fuckin stupid bitch . . ."

Jolene said nothing, keeping her eyes on the advancing crowd, trying to keep an eye on the area behind her. The van's doors were open, just a few feet away. If she let go of Bill, she could make it . . . but then that would ruin everything.

She found a reserve of strength and manhandled him the last few feet to the van, dropping him heavily to the floor. She rooted through one of the backpacks, digging out the coil of rope, then threw the packs into the back of the van. Bill looked expectantly up at her, raising his arms like a child waiting to be lifted.

Jolene slammed the van doors.

Then she reached down to Bill's jeans, snagging the van keys off the cheap plastic keychain that hung from his beltstrap.

"You're riding on the outside, Billy-boy," she said and grinned, wrapping the rope beneath Bill's arms, looping it around his chest, and hitching him with a tight knot. Too weak to argue, too stupid to understand, he just stared at her with glassy eyes, until she tied the other end of the rope to the rear fender. Then he got wise real quick.

"Oh, no . . ." he murmured. "Please . . ."

Jolene ignored him. She'd watched him and the other yahoos pull this trick a dozen times, sometimes using live people as their toys instead of the zombies. Jimmy Ray and the others had always gotten a big kick out of seeing what being dragged over asphalt and gravel could do to a human body.

"Don't worry about it, Bill," she said as she tightened the knots and glanced back into the store. The zombies were closer, their whines and moans drawing the attention of the dead folk in the parking lot. "By the time they get to you, you'll probably already be dead."

Jolene crouched down beside him, taking a precious extra moment to look into his eyes. "And when you come back-and Bill, you will come back-I'm gonna let you."

There was no remorse, no grief in Bill's eyes. Just that same dumb hatred. That was all Jolene needed to see.

She jogged around to the driver's side of the van and clambered in, stowing her shotgun securely beside her as she started the engine. She revved it a few times, nice and loud, a dinner bell for all those hungry dead folk out there. In the seldom-used tape deck, she found an old Lynard Skynard cassette. She cranked it up as loud as she could stand, smiling as the twangy opening notes of "Freebird" filled the silence.

"Come and get it, fellas," she said, grinning as she slowly pulled away from the doors of Sav-Mart. Bill's screams cut through the music; she couldn't tell if they were caused by the zombies or by the movement of the van. Either way, she didn't give a particular shit.

Jolene glanced into the rearview mirror and smiled, seeing nothing but dead folk stumbling along behind her as she rolled slowly along. Looked like she had just enough gasoline left for one last visit to the trailer park.

She hoped Jimmy Ray wouldn't mind a few unexpected guests.



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