Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Fourth Entry: Shop 'Til You Drop

June 29

I went on my first scavenging run this morning. We left at sunrise in a three vehicle convoy, a white pick-up, a black SUV, and a Black van. I was in the SUV at the front of the convoy. Wally was driving, and Maria Perez was riding in back, Maria kept giving me dirty looks, and neither of them would let me handle the radio (the walkie talkie radio, not the car radio, that just gets static). I guess they thought I was going to start yelling for Sharon, or something.

It was weird being outside of Mallville for the first time since before the end of the world (as we know it, and I feel fine. Lol). I don’t really know what I expected… some sort of post-apocalyptic landscape or something, but it’s not like that at all. It looked like everyone just left in a hurry. The streets are pretty clear of cars, there’s the odd abandoned wreck here and there, but the streets are not clogged by any means.

The city is pretty unnerving to be in really. It’s just a ghost town. There are some bodies around, but whether those are where people battled zombies, or where they battled each other, I do not know. Some shops have been looted, and I would suspect that was our crews, but I have been told that we try not to attract attention, and it seems like smashing out a storefront window would sort of be an attention-getter.

As we drove through the city, I must have looked like some sort of freaking tourist, staring out the window at everything. Wally didn’t say anything, but Maria snapped at me a couple of times to keep an eye out for zeds, not for sales.

The thing that probably surprised me the most was the smell. Now I acknowledge that it stinks around Mallville too, that smell like the entire world is decomposing, but in the city it is so much worse, I guess because at the mall we regularly dispose of the dead undead, but out here they just sit and bake in the sun. The smell is just nauseating. You know how you get used to a constant smell, and it sort of goes away as you adjust to it? Yeah, that did not happen.

Our target was the same Tyranno Mart that Sharon was going to. We pulled into the parking lot, and found everything to be quiet. There were a half-dozen cars in the parking lot, but there were no signs of life (or unlife) around the store. We could see through the front window that the store was dark, and the security gate was lowered so no one could break in through the front doors. It didn’t look like anyone had tried either, all the windows and doors were un-broken.

We circled the whole store, and did not see any signs that anyone had been there before us. We parked in back by the loading docks so that we would be out of sight if anyone, say a pack of bikers, went past on the street.

We gathered around the loading dock. There were 8 of us including me. We were all wearing gun belts with handguns, and Maria, me, Terry Kietzmann, and Josh Sterling were also carrying Mossberg rifles.

“What do we do if people are in there?” I asked.

“We leave. We’re not here to take anything by force”, Wally replied.

“But what if they don’t know that? What if they shoot at us? Tyranno Mart sells guns, you know?”

“Shut up, Noob”, replied Maria in a South American sounding accent.

“I don’t think there’s anybody here anyway, so don’t worry about it”, said Grant Carr.

“Why do you say that?” I asked.

“No guards. We have people guarding the doors and the roof. If there were people here, they would likely do the same. Plus there’s no trash out here. I doubt they would have kept three months worth of trash inside with them.”

“It could be on the roof.” I said.

“True. We’ll see in a minute,” said Grant, motioning to a white metal door set into the back wall of the building next to the large roll-up door where trucks used to be unloaded. Set into the door was a peephole, and on the door was a large sign which read:


Below the sign was the smiling green face of Rex, the Tyranno Mart dinosaur mascot.

Gerry McElroy, a pudgy guy with a voice that belongs in a cartoon, climbed somewhat clumsily up onto the loading dock, and walked to the door, “Should I ring it?”

“We’re not exactly delivering anything,” said Maria, being much friendlier to Gerry than she was to me.

“True, but we must keep some semblance of manners, you know?”

Gerry pressed the small white button next to the door. Nothing happened. He then tried to look through the peephole.

“Anything?” asked Wally.

“Well, I’m really on the wrong side to see much, but it is rather dark..”

“Power’s out. Everybody light up,” said Wally.

Maria distributed headband flashlight from a box in the back of the SUV to everyone. Once we were all fitted with them, we sort of resembled the dwarves from Snow White. I’m sure if asked, Maria would label me “Dopey”.

“Are you going to open the door, or are we just going to wait for some shambler to come find us?” asked Mitch Malloy.

“Alright, alright. Won’t be but a minute,” commented Gerry with a dismissive wave. From a pouch on his gun belt he pulled a black case. He opened it up revealing it to be a lock pick set, and began working on the door’s lock, humming softly as he did.

In a couple of minutes Gerry had urged the door open, revealing a pitch black stock area. We all switched on our lights, and did a quick sweep of the room, finding nothing but stacks of boxes, full pallets, and a pile of flattened boxes.

We should have realized at this point that something was not right. It smelled just as bad in the store as out, and with the place having been sealed up for who knows how long, the smell of decomp should have at least been less strong, don’t you think?

We split up to make a sweep of the store to make sure it was safe before we started our shopping. I got paired up with Maria, but I’m not sure if this was meant to be some sort of punishment for me or for her, as she seemed just as unhappy with it as I was. We were to check out the back area while the rest of them checked out the storefront.

Maria and I headed down a darkened hallway, our lights sweeping back and forth across the walls and floor. The right side of the hallway was lined with doors and windows. The first window had blinds covering it, but I could see through the second window that these were offices. At the end of the hall was an open doorway with a sign over it reading “Team Lounge”

“I’m gonna go check out the break room. You check the offices.” Said Maria, and she walked down the hall, leaving me alone.

So there I was in front of the door to that first office, the one with the closed blinds. If there’s anything that freaks me out, it’s closed doors; weird I know. I just hate not knowing what is on the other side. The sign to the left of the door said

Tom Wingates
Assistant Store Manager

Presumably what would be inside was Tom’s desk, chair, maybe a picture of his wife… or boyfriend, whatever. Nothing I couldn’t handle, right?

I tried the knob, and found the door to be unlocked. Gripping my rifle tightly, I slowly pushed open the door with the gun barrel. I was immediately assaulted by the smell of rotting flesh so strongly, that I staggered back a step.

My options were to cover my nose and mouth, or keep both hands on my gun. I kept my gun pointed in front of me, and made a mental note to hit the hardware aisle for a face mask. The office looked small, I could deal with the smell for the few seconds it would take to find out what was causing the smell.

I entered the office, and found it a mess. The contents of Tom’s desk, a framed picture, a name plate, a computer monitor, a keyboard, some sticky notes, and pens, were scattered over the floor along with an overturned chair, presumably for guests in his office to sit in.

As my light shown on the floor, I could see what looked like dried blood. Moving closer revealed the source of both the dried blood and the smell. A headless body (Tom, I would assume) lay face down… er, belly down on the floor. His once white long sleeved shirt was almost brown from the dried blood.

As I thought about confirming that it was in fact Tom, and not about the fact that he didn’t remove his own head, I heard a gunshot. It came from somewhere in the store. I turned to seek the source of it, and was greeted by a sight I will never forget.

A man probably in his early thirties was standing there in the doorway. He had dark hair, and was wearing a short sleeved button down shirt with a name badge on it. The badge featured the face of Rex trying to look his most helpful, and read:

Need Help?
Ask me, I Care!
Bob Valentine
Electronics Supervisor

I could see that between the words “me” and “care” he had written in, almost too small to see, the word “if”. His shirt was stained with that same almost brown color of dried blood as the floor, his skin was a sickly grey color, and his eyes had gone all milky.

If I’m going to have a sense of humor about it all, then I would say that Bob looked extremely happy to see me. He lunged forward as if to hug me. I very courageously flinched back, and fell over Tom’s desk onto his rotting corpse, causing extremely foul smelling liquid to erupt from it.

Bob staggered into the desk, causing it to scrape on the linoleum floor as it slid a couple of inches. He leaned over me, as if he was planning to just topple over the desk on top of me, and he probably would have too, if I hadn’t gotten my rifle pointed in the right general direction, and fired it.

The shot caught him in the upper chest/lower throat area. It was not enough to drop him, but he did stagger back away from the desk. I rolled/slid off of Tom, got up on my knees, and fired again.

This shot caught Bob right in the face, and painted the ceiling in the style of Jackson Pollock, if Pollock had ever painted with rotten zombie brains, which I kind of doubt. Bob staggered back through the door, across the wall, and into the wall opposite Tom’s door. He bounced off the wall, and fell forward onto the floor with a sickening splat.

Maria ran up just as I was getting to my feet. She approached Bob cautiously, making sure he was really dead this time, “Did you do that?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I replied.

She looked at me differently then, not in any sort of adoring way, but also not like she I was a piece of crap that she had stepped in anyway. I don’t know if that meant I’m not a noob anymore or not, but clearly I have gained some level of acceptance from her.

Before we could say anything else, there were two more gunshots from somewhere in the storefront. We looked at each other, and bolted down the hall.

We found the source of the shooting in the toy section where Gerry and Mitchell standing over a dead body that was lying face down on a dump bin of stuffed animals. The back of his blue a green vest with the words ”Always Great Values” was stained with gore.

“That’s two up here” Gerry said.

“We found one in back, our new boy took care of him though,” said Maria.

We finished checking the store for the undead, and found only one more in house wares. I would speculate that the original intent of these people was that they were hiding out here like we are in Mallville, but seeing as they were still wearing name tags and vests, they must have gotten infected early, and just been trapped in the store the whole time. Who knows how they got infected after they sealed the store up.

We filled up the truck, SUV, and van up with supplies, food and ammo mostly. We also found the keys to the store in Tom’s office, and were able to lock the store back up when we left so the place looks, from the outside anyway, totally undisturbed.

One last thing before I go to bed. It was decided that I had to ride in the back of the truck on the way back. Not for being a newbie or anything, but because a good portion of Tom juice had soaked into my clothes, and I stank… and frankly even after two showers I still stink. I hope this stuff wears off.

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