The smell of burnt coffee fills the room, slathering faces and windows with fog. The woman behind the counter is no longer paying attention to the bread in the toaster, or the boiling water on the stove. She’s staring at the television mounted in the corner.
“Fifteen minutes, scientists say,” The man behind the newsdesk whispers, tears spilling over his cheeks. “Fifteen minutes was all it took for the virus to escape, to infect, to kill, to resurrect.”
I choke on my tea and feel it dribble down my chin. I too am gaping at the TV. Resurrection? Are they serious? The screen fills with the image of a man screaming. The video is a top down view, someone filming from a balcony, of a parking lot. A car is twisted awkwardly in the middle of the two lanes, doors open, woman hanging out of the passenger side, red pouring onto the pavement below her. The man is on the roof of the car, swinging an ice scraper as two people screech and moan, clawing at his feet.
The woman at the counter turns away from the television, hand clasping mouth, as one of the monsters turns away from the man to the dead or dying woman on the ground. I close my eyes as the man atop the car yells frantically for him to leave her be.
The video ends and the anchor is back, his own eyes clenched in horror.
“Law enforcement is calling for everyone to stay where they are. Nobody is to leave, anybody on the street should get indoors quickly.” I glance at the window and people are screaming and rushing forward. A girl is pushing through, bag clutched close to her chest. A man slams into her side and sends her crashing to the ground. She covers the back of her neck and screams. I watch as she is stepped on and kicked. I push myself away from the table and stride towards the door.
I jog through the crowd, elbows flying, chin tucked to chest. I crouch down and grab the girl’s arms. I haul her upright and keep my grip on her bicep. I yank her through the crowd into the coffee shop. The woman at the counter locks the doors behind us and begins lowering the steel bars on the windows.
I let the girl collapse onto the couch against the wall, and help the store owner barricade the windows and doors.
“Is there a way to kill them?” She asks. “Do we know?” I shrug.
“They’ll say something on the news. They can’t get it, not right now. Is there any other way in?” The woman pushes the last table against the window and nods.
“The service entrance, and the trash lift.”
“Okay, I’ll barricade the service entrance, go padlock the trash lift and put anything heavy over the door.”
The service door isn’t difficult to barricade, the kitchen appliances lock in place. And soon I’m back in the main part of the shop. I swallow the rest of my lukewarm tea and sit on the stool closest to the couch.
“Are you okay?” I ask quietly. She shrugs and sits up, placing her bag on the seat next to her. I glance at the TV and the news anchor now has a mask on over his mouth.
“So far three law enforcement deaths have been counted and the official citizen death toll is twenty four.”
“Jesus” The shopkeeper whispers as she enters the room, clutching her cross. She hands each of us a knife and we all turn our attention to the TV.
“The infected seem to go down with a solid blow to the head destroying brain matter.”
We turn away from the screen and I sigh.
“Looks like we are gonna be here for a while.” The women nod. “I’m Joan.”
The shop keeper moves behind the counter and pours another cup of the tea I ordered and herself a cup of coffee. “What’s your name?” The woman says nodding at the girl.
“It’s nice to meet you Olivia, I’m Maria, would you like some coffee.”
She nods and runs her fingers through her hair. I smile gently at her and she finally turns to face me fully. My heart stops; her green eyes bore into my soul and imprint on my soul. She smiles shakily and accepts the cup of coffee.
We all jump as a trash can crashes in the street.
“Well” Maria says, voice quivering. “Would either of you ladies like some food?”
Maria goes back into the kitchen, leaving Olivia and I to our own devices. I move around the back of the counter and grab a first aid kit.
“Were you hurt earlier?” Olivia shrugs.
“I don’t know.” I kneel on the floor in front of her, my fingers shake as I open the kit.
I hope she thinks I’m afraid of the zombies rather than the truth. She makes me nervous.
“You should take off your coat. You were roughed up pretty good out there, you might be really hurt.”
She nods and takes the coat off. Olivia winces as she stretches; I reach out and lift her shirt gingerly. The side of her torso is magenta, I wince as well.
“I think you broke a rib.” She takes her shirt from my hands and sits up. I take a roll of gauze and start wrapping her ribs.
I tear the gauze away as Maria comes in with some sandwiches. We eat in silence, noise from outside filling the room. Olivia picks slowly at the bread and I offer her a quizzical look. She shrugs.
“I feel a bit nauseous.”
A loud metal clang causes us to jump. I grip the knife by my side. Olivia carefully places the plate on the couch next to her and Maria remains frozen on her stool. There’s another noise, louder this time and I stand carefully, approaching the door that separates us from the kitchen. I press myself to the wall where the door will swing open. Maria clutches her cross and silently prays. Olivia stands and moves Maria behind her. I hear barely there grunts and noises behind the door.
My heart is pounding in my chest as the sounds grow closer. Soon the door slowly swings open. I jam my elbow into the door and it flies back into the body. The person screams and falls to the floor. Olivia rushes over and we brace our weight against the door. I swallow a scream as the body throws itself against the door. Nail rake against the wood.
I let my scream ring in the air when, Olivia’s converse clad shoes slide across the floor. A hand crosses through the thin opening and I stab it. The monster screeches and Olivia pushes back again. Maria moves behind the counter and rummages through the shelves. The monster slams again, growling Olivia glances at me.
“Why did you come outside and get me?” I lean more of my weight against the door.
“What?” I ask, eyes wide, shoulder aching.
“Why did you pick me up off the ground?”
“Is this really a good time to ask?” The door shifts open.
“It’s kind of now or never.” I roll my eyes slightly, and wince.
“I don’t know; you were in danger and nobody was helping, somebody had to.” Olivia purses her lips and I sigh.
“And you are cute and I couldn’t resist being the knight in shining armor.” Maria steps behind us, brandishing a 9mm pistol.
“Ladies, step out of the way.”
I raise my eyebrow and glance at Olivia.
“Well, that would have been a nice thing to list in our assets.” Olivia and I dive to the side. The door flies open and Maria fires three rounds off. A man collapses into the room, brains splattered on the floor. There’s another thump and then a second man collapses on the other.
Olivia gags, and covers her mouth with the back of her hand.
“Well for the record,” She starts after recovering. “I think you’re cute too.”
Wow, this one took a while. Fifth prompt should be tonight. Response tomorrow.