A few more strokes of the comb, and Chuck's hair was perfect once more. The tuft at the front was rounded off nicely, while the rest lay as flat as he could muster. Going into this mess, Chuck always had a pristine pompadour, and he wasn't going to let anything like the end of the world stop him from his one real ritual. The only real problem was his recently depleted supply of pomade.
“We makin' a supply run soon?” he asked the room full of survivors.
“Why,” said Johnny, a bored looking man, still wearing his construction worker's gear. “We have enough food for at least two weeks.”
“Yeah, but I'm sure we could use other things. There was nothing in this cabin when we found it. We could use some books, or board games, or something.”
“The greaser's got a point,” piped up Jessica, a proper looking teen girl, complete with ankle length skirt. “Just waiting here to die is no way to live. We need something to take our minds off of the invasion going on outside.”
A tall, intimidating man, dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt, stood up. “Would you really risk your life over a deck of cards? Let's wait till we're low on food to risk being enslaved or, eaten, or enslaved then eaten.”
“David,” Jessica said in a raised voice. "We are all going stir crazy from being locked up in this fortress. “Just look at Chuck, he's been doing nothing but combing his hair for six straight days. You've been having a staring contest with that fire, and even sheriff Peterson will not stop fidgeting with his revolver. We need something to do.”
“That is a good point, doll face,” Chuck said smugly. “Sheriff, what do you think we should do?”
The sheriff slowly stood up from his chair, walked over to the group, then sighed. “The kids are right. We could all use something to take our minds off of what's going on out there.”
“Even by going out there?” asked Johnny.
“Yeah, exactly. I think we all need a few things to remind us why we're still alive. Now get some guns, and head on out. The Demsworth department store should do just fine.”
The five made their way to a small closet. Each of them grabbed a weapon then headed out the back door and into a small fenced-off area with a canopy. Sheriff Peterson peered through a hole, then opened the two sliding doors. In the distance, he could make out the lights of a flying saucer patrolling a stretch of coastline. It was too far out, and too small to be a real threat. So he gave the signal to move out.
David, Jessica, and Johnny entered a Ford pickup, while the other two got into a vehicle they named "The Tank." The Tank was originally an older model of Studebaker, but the years of Chuck's tinkering had allowed this hot rod to be reinforced with all manner of armor and defenses. Within seconds of the sheriff closing the passenger door, the tank roared to life, then they took off. The only thing louder then the engine was the radio, still playing the same warning it had started broadcasting three months earlier.
“So Sheriff, what's the game plan?”
“Well,” Sheriff Peterson started off calmly. “I'd say we stick together to minimize any risks. We only need to visit a few departments to get what we need so there's no real point splitting up. We can hit the bookstore, as well as the sporting goods department, on the first floor. After we load the wheelbarrow with what we can find, we can leave it there, and head upstairs. I'd like to get a guitar from the music center, then head over to the toy store for some board games, and puzzles.”
“Sounds like a plan, but can we stop off at the pharmacy before heading upstairs? It's right by the escalator.”
Sheriff Peterson's face twisted into a look of profound questioning. “What do you need from there?”
“Well you know buddy, being a man and all,” Chuck started out with a slight stutter. “I'm just saying, Jessica and I are the only two of our age here, and... well, you know. Kinda want to be safe about anything that might happen.”
“Trust me kid,” he said with a chuckle, “Jessica ain't that kind of a girl, though I have to applaud your enthusiasm. Alright then, we can stop in. A few benzo inhalers might come in handy.”
Chuck's grin quickly faded as a low howl came from the woods next to the road. Within seconds, a small pack of mostly changed werewolves came sprinting from the tree line. There were four total, most likely a young family. The smaller two started jumping at the pickup, while the larger ones ran up to the tank.
“Ah hell,” Peterson growled as he moved to the center of the car. “Just keep it straight, and at an even speed.” With that, he opened the roof hatch to sling his rifle out of the top. Johnny was in the bed of the truck, already taking aim at one of the pups running alongside them. Both barrels went off as the rounds made contact with the young wolf's rib cage, dropping him to the asphalt. The lead pellets were not going to be enough to end the creature's life, but should end its pursuit.
The tank shook from the impact as a wolf lunged at the side of the vehicle. Peterson could see its paws were still in an in-between state, with human-like fingers stretched out trying to get a grip on the roof. With a quick jolt, the sheriff brought the butt of his rifle down onto the monster's hand. The beast rolled several times before another shot from Johnny's gun connected somewhere around its chest.
Watching the way its child and mate where being treated, the next wolf pounced with even more ferocity than the last. Peterson watched as the beast continued transforming into the most efficient form for killing that it could muster. The arms converted back to almost human, leaving the claws, and a thick fur. He noted all of this as he leveled his gun to its head.
With only a fraction of a second before impact, he let a round loose, stopping the werewolf in mid-air. A small splash of blood sprayed him, while the currently lifeless body smashed against the tank. The creature bounced off of the road, then into the final werewolf. Johnny fired a round off at the pile of fur, for good measure.
“Things getting a bit hairy out there?” Chuck said with a grin, as sheriff Peterson climbed back into the cab.
“You know what kid? I'm already starting to regret this little trip.”
“What? That was a win. We taught those wolves not to mess with us.”
“No,” Peterson signed. “We taught them to work on a more effective ambush. We'll be seeing them again, and next time they'll have a few tricks to show us.”
Chuck mulled over what he was told as the convoy made their way down the road. The outskirts of Clearspring were only a few miles away, and the rest of the journey turned out to be uneventful. Before long, a few small houses came into view. Just one or two at first, but within a few minutes they were in the main residential area.
“Well,” Dave said as he looked around at the small number of zombies. “At least they cleared out enough. Maybe ten bodies left per block.”
“Good,” Jessica sighed. “I was hoping that this would be a rather painless excursion. Do you think that they will be denser on the main street?”
"Don't rightly know. The different groups do tend to merge with one another. Maybe that's where all of these bodies are going.”
David's words were proven wrong, as they entered main street. Only a few bodies shambled along the streets. Most of them hung around Aunt May's diner, clustered in the doorway, as if none of them knew if they were coming or going. Small raids to the town must have helped keep the threat level down.
Chuck gunned it for a small crowd of zombies, mowing down everyone in his path. The tank parked in front of the department store, while the truck pulled up behind, making a slight blockade of the door. The five people filed out of their vehicles, weapons at the ready, waiting for the word.
“Alright then,” said the sheriff in a firm tone. "There's not many of them, and they're nicely spread out. Let's let them come to us. We can use the machetes, and save some bullets. Jessica, I want you on the truck with a rifle. If they start to group up, then I want you to thin their numbers. Any questions?”
None of the four had anything to ask. They all knew that sheriff Peterson was more than able to keep them alive. Each of them waited with steel resolve, until the first body came within striking distance.
Johnny got the first kill, one clean cut downwards, and through the monster's neck. A few seconds later, it was Chuck's turn. His first strike came down onto the body's head, with a quick second connecting with the initial cut, and finished the job. Another body lunged at him as he pulled the blade out of the head. Feeling the cold hands grab his shoulder, Chuck knew he was too slow, but that didn't matter. As soon as the beast pawed at him, Peterson slashed across, removing its head.
The main bulk moved on the survivors. Johnny was holding his own, taking them out as soon as they came up to him. Chuck and David were both struggling, backing up after every hit, only taking them down after two or three strikes. Sheriff Peterson gave himself a special task. Every time one of the three seemed to be in over their heads, he was there. Jessica was the real star of the battle. With only seconds between shots, and with amazing accuracy, it was clear that she was becoming a damn fine sniper. The fight lasted for only five minutes, but by the time chuck finished hacking the last zombie, the ground was covered with corpses.
“Hey Bill,” David said to sheriff Peterson. “Thanks for the assistance. Think you saved my ass a few times.”
“Don't mention it Dave. Back in Germany, I learned to never let a good soldier down. Besides, I think Jessica deserves most of our thanks. She's been proving herself to be deadly with that rifle.”
Jessica blushed as she slung the weapon over her shoulder. “I know my job started as a way to keep me out of danger, but I decided I should still do my best at it.”
“And we're all better for it,” Chuck said with a smile. “Now let's unload this handcart, and get to looting.”
Chuck and Johnny climbed onto the bed of the truck, while Peterson and David opened the doors to the department store, both men holding pistols and revolvers at the ready. Jessica surveyed the town for any remaining zombies. She noted a few in the distance, but nothing signaling a mob. After the two men finished with the handcart, she followed them through the front doors.
“Let's make sure we chain this door up. I've noticed a few bodies in the distance.”
“Already on it, doll face,” said Chuck, as he removed the chain from the cart.
“Can you please stop referring to me with that deeming slang?”
“Oh come on now, all I mean is that you got a nice face.”
“I'm not looking for your approval, and would appreciate it if you would stop it.”
The other three men looking at each other, each trying hard to hide the looks of amusement from the exchange—Peterson was the first to brake the silence.
“Well kid, I still need some stuff from the pharmacy.”
The group made their way through the store uninterrupted. The store was dark, yet peaceful. The silence that hung in the air only being interrupted by the sets of five footsteps held a needed comfort for the group. After the wolf attack, and zombie horde, a calm supply run was a welcome change.
The book department was a small alcove of shelves, each overflowing with various novels and magazines. No one wasted any time while finding what interested them. Within minutes, the cart had a small library of pulp detective novels, inspirational poems, and comic books. After filling what room they dedicated to books, they set out for sporting goods. The walk, as well as their attitudes, were just as pleasant on the way there, as they were to the bookstore.
“Let's try and find a dart board,” Johnny said, when they got to the sporting goods department. “I've always been pretty good at that game.”
“Sounds like a good time,” David added. “I could use a little friendly competition.”
The group finished pilfering the department then went on their way. The cart was filing up, though being at the end of their run, it was not too concerning. When they reached the pharmacy section, Chuck stopped and looked around.
“This place is as quiet as a monastery. How about I just take this one? We can each hit our own places, then be out of here in no time.
Peterson gave him a look of half pity, then said “You got a point kid. The longer we're here, the more likely a horde will form outside.”
Chuck entered the pharmacy, while the others headed up the escalator. The first stop was the hair care aisle. Twelve cans of Chuck's brand of pomade made their way into his backpack, followed by another nine cans of a backup product. With his supply replenished, he was on to the second objective. The small shelf designated for the prophylactics confused Chuck, since he never had to buy them before. Chuck picked up a box and started reading the description when he heard a voice from nearby.
“What will you need that for?” asked a woman standing near the shelf. She was older then he was, somewhere in her mid-thirties. Her blonde hair was put up and stiffened with hairspray. The most striking part of her appearance was that she was dressed. A thin nightgown, high heels, and a pearl necklace, were the only things she had on.
“I think that's pretty obvious,” Chuck said with a cracking voice. “What are you doing here, and why are you dressed like that?”
“I thought this would be a nice place to lay low for a bit,” the woman said, while sauntering her way near the nervous young man. “Which it is, but a bit lonely without anyone around. I'm able to walk around in the most comfortable clothes I could find, but it does end up getting to you.” She finished her walk inches away from Chuck, then put her hand on his shoulder.
“No one around to talk to, or to touch,” she whispered into his ear, before kissing his neck. “Or to kiss, or eat!” He felt the pain of her teeth sinking deeply into his flesh. It was a cold, sharp pain, one that he never experienced before.
Chuck was frozen with fear, as the vampire fed off of him. He knew he was doomed, unable to defend himself. The only thing that could save him was a miracle. He needed Johnny and his double barrel. One expertly placed slug landed in the vampire's ribs, knocking her away from her victim. The second round made contact with her head. Johnny ran up to the fallen seductress, then removed her head with his machete. Johnny studied his prey, then looked back at Chuck.
“Yeah I get it. Now let's go. Everyone's moving to the doors.”
Outside the store, they could see a small horde shambling down the street. The three were watching the chaos while waiting for their chance to run. When Chuck and Johnny came within view, Peterson waved them over, and said in a low growl:
“That mad robot army just showed up. We should have just enough time to get outta here if we leave now. You two get the cart in the bed. The rest of us will give you some cover.”
The clean up went as smoothly as it could. Only a few bodies broke off and tried to attack the survivors. A few laser blasts came close to the group, but thanks to whatever bug broke the machines, landed vastly off target. When the cart was strapped in, both vehicles drove off, leaving the two small armies to their battle.