Markus felt his heart racing in his chest, but he forced himself to walk and not run.
He reminded himself of the plan. They’re slow and stupid. Save your energy for the fight.
They were coming. He didn’t turn, didn’t look, but he could hear their moans and smell their rotting dead stench.
He passed a shopping cart turned on its side, its wheels still slowly spinning. Next to it, a streak of blood on the white tile floor leading down one of the aisles. He felt something catch in his throat, but he swallowed it, pushed on.
He was close now, passing the toy department, keeping an eye out for any of the things that might be lurking down the aisles. He saw one by the bike rack thrashing about with its leg caught in the frame of a tricycle some careless customer had left sitting out on the floor.
He passed the exercise equipment and rounded the corner into the camping section of Sporting Goods. Down to the middle aisle a Coleman camp ax hung from a peg, its head encased in plastic. Markus plucked the ax off the peg and fumbled with the packaging, but his fingers scrabbled uselessly against the thick plastic.
He was reaching for the box cutter in the holster on his belt but before he could get it out he heard an undead moan coming from somewhere over his shoulder.
He turned and swung the ax, plastic and all, bringing it up hard against the zombie’s head. The blow landed with a satisfying crack, and brains and blood oozed up around the sharp edges of the clamshell packaging. For a moment Markus felt lost in the thrill and the horror of the what he had just done. But then he heard another moan. He emerged from his reverie just in time to give the second zombie a thorough braining.
The zombie fell and lay still, but it was becoming clear to him that the ax was too short, required him to let the things get far too close to him. All his years of planning for something like this, and he had overlooked such a simple detail. So…another plan then.
He headed back to the baseball bats. On the way past the gun cabinet he saw some poor soul devoured by two little girls. Clearly the guy hadn’t thought out how long it would take to remove the trigger lock. Markus had scratched the gun cabinet off the list years ago.
He made it to the bat rack and picked out an old-fashioned wooden slugger that felt like it had some real weight to it. He looked down the aisle and saw the zombies were coming in greater force this time.
He looked around for the best place to fight them off from. He needed a bottleneck, but the newly widened aisles were like a conduit bringing in more and more zombies from every side.
Markus swung his bat at the nearest zombie and the thing went down in a spray of red. He hit another and another and each time the bat smashed into their brittle skulls Markus felt himself smile a little wider. All this time planning and now it was finally here.
But then there were more of the undead, and Markus thought only of swinging and surviving. The bodies were starting to stack up in the aisle, and he knew he couldn’t hold out much longer. He could hear the moans of hundreds more of the things, maybe thousands. The bat wouldn’t be enough to stop them all.
Markus looked for a way out and saw the skylight far above. He wondered if he could climb up there, somehow get up into the crossbeams that held up the roof where the zombies couldn’t follow. He happened to glance over toward Hardware and saw the ladders. The tallest of them just might reach.
But just as he was about to head in that direction her head a sound, a sound that didn’t quite fit coming from behind him. He turned with his bat at the ready, only to find a lady with a shopping cart eying him oddly.
“Excuse me,” she said again. “Do you work here?”
The sound of the zombie hoards faded away, and the blood and bodies vanished like smoke.
Markus put on his best “May I help you?” smile and said, “Yes ma’am I do. Can I help you find something?”
But while the woman related her deep abiding need for an oyster knife Markus only half listened.
In the back of his mind he was revising his zombie plan.