Even though there wasn’t any way the rotting body should be able to hold together, let alone support its own weight, it stood there. Before the dead started to rise, he’d prided himself on being rational. Maybe he even took it to a fault. But how can you be rational when the dead outlive the living? He’d seen the zombie movies, played the video games. Nothing prepared you for this though. For months he’d tried to think about it, whether it was a virus or some other freak of nature. It spread too fast though. Maybe it was airborne, but he wasn’t sick. And no virus could make a half eaten corpse walk around.
So he tried not to think about it now. Blinding terror took over if he did. The only explanation was that this was the end. Inevitable, like death, but an insane and impossible one. He couldn’t accept it, but there it was. He probably would’ve gone crazy if Rhoda hadn’t been there for him.
Reaching into his belt, he pulled out the metal pipe. He liked the weight of it. The zombie didn’t see him coming. The pipe slammed into its skull, knocking it to the ground. He finished it off with the knife. He’d learned to make sure. Rhoda still wouldn’t come around the corner, even after it was safe.
“Don’t blame you. It’s not natural.”
They checked the rest of the aisles, making sure there weren’t any more surprises. Now that he knew they were alone, he secured the doors. He was as quiet as he could manage. Looking out the window, he saw bodies dotting the street. They hadn’t been there before. Must’ve been stragglers from the group that’d passed by earlier.
“It’s a minefield out there. Guess that gutter was even louder than I thought. We’ll have to wait.”
They made a dinner of the green beans and yams. He scoured the store with the little daylight he had left. He got a couple new water filters and bottles of actual purification tablets. He’d been improvising with the iodine and he was pretty sure it’d been making him sick. The bands of light marking the walls shifted and then faded to black. There was a moon out tonight, waning gibbous, but barely any of it made it inside. The last thing he found was a warmer coat, which he put on immediately as the temperature dropped.
He and Rhoda sat in the dark near the door they’d first come through. Even though he knew he’d searched the whole place twice, he couldn’t relax. Too many pools of shadow looming all around him. Rhoda managed to sleep a little, curled up next to his legs. When the moon was starting to set, he rocked her awake.
“Sorry, but we need to get moving.”
Rhoda shook herself to finish waking up and then paced in front of the door. He moved the camping chairs he had wedged against the frame. As the door creaked open, he peaked out high and she peaked out low. The alley was cloaked in darkness, but in the last light of the setting moon he could still make out the outline of bodies dotting the cracked pavement. Rhoda quivered against his leg. Reaching down, he picked her up and whispered in her ear so quietly he couldn’t even hear, but she would.
“Don’t worry, I’ve got you.”