Lindy figured once she got out of the godforsaken mountain town and back to the city that she was going to quit her job and find a nice guy, settle down, raise miniature poodles or something. No more traveling at the drop of a hat to see if her bosses could pillage and plunder some hellhole while she headed back on the road to the next acquisition pending. Near as she figured, she'd landed in hell as a not so gentle reminder and warning to change her ways. Dean's idea that the odd creatures who'd pretty much looked, acted and smelled like zombies were just sick with some rare disease wasn't working for her. She'd yet to see them bite anyone or eat body parts, but the pizzas Dean made weren't exactly topped with veggies.
Dean had a vested interest in the folks wandering around in the night just having some obscure illness, curable he hoped, because of Shelly. But then Shelly had been his girlfriend when he'd come to town, and he said she was bitten. He'd been fuzzy on how that happened. He had escaped and was tricked into running the Zombie Pizza Parlor. Even with the name of the restaurant, he was still in denial about the clients as they dove into the meat-covered pies.
Lindy had met the creepy hotelier Gus with his Bible held up like a shield when she'd first stumbled in town. Gus was the only other human that Dean said was left in the town besides him and her. The scattered remains Dean had recently found weren't twitching and moving, so he figured the zombie folks were beginning to die off. Leastways that's what he'd told Lindy. Lindy was skeptical about the whole mess, but not voicing her opinion at this point. Dean was still hoping Shelly was out in the dark waiting for him to find a cure, while Lindy was thinking more along the lines that Shelly wanted to take like a chomp or two out of them.
Dean's method of survival wasn't half bad, but they needed something a bit more proactive in Lindy's opinion than drugging and dragging zombies nightly to the bus station for possible discovery.
"Okay, Dean, you said that you have two more nights of sleeping pills left?" She tried to stop from wincing every time she stepped on her right ankle, without much luck. Her foot was numb in spots and she wondered if she'd actually broken something inside. That would be just her luck lately. The whole night was shaping up to be less than a positive experience.
"Yeah, about that. I'm not always sure how many folks will show up each night. About a half dozen seems to be the average every night for the past few weeks." Dean pulled on the cart and one of the Blues Brothers fell halfway off again. They stopped and rearranged the stack of unconscious zombies. Lindy needed to find the drug store and get an ace bandage before her foot was damaged worse. The pain was throbbing and tears brimmed on her lower lids threatening to spill over and down her cheeks. She sucked it in and thought of how she'd get back at her stupid boss for sending her to this backwoods hell.
She could see a building in the distance. It was flat and dismal and instinctively she knew it was the bus station. Dean confirmed her thought with, "Almost there. Then we can find a place to crash. First I want to check out those other homes I told you about earlier. Maybe they have more sleeping pills or some other survivors." Dean was pretty damn chipper about the whole thing.
To top off the evening, the rain came back again with a vengeance. The ice water pelted them and made Lindy even more uncomfortable and miserable. Dean was still chattering about something, but she'd pretty much tuned out the dude. She was hearing, "Blah, blah, isn't that cool? Blah, blah."
They reached the doorway and to Lindy's horror, she saw there were more than their cartful of zombies. Another half dozen bodies were sprawled around the room. They weren't jumping up to greet anyone ever again. Seeing the shock etched on her face Dean said, "Oh, those folks didn't come back."
A nasty thought ran through Lindy's mind. What if Dean had killed them with something other than his Ambien-crusted pizza? Maybe he mixed in a few Oxycontin or something else, something toxic to zombies. She kept those dark thoughts quiet. If she kept hurting, she'd be begging pills from the medicine cabinets of the locals. Dean calmly unloaded the tattered humans from the restaurant, and gently placed them into the plastic bucket seats common to mass transit buildings.
Once the cart was empty they went back and repeated the exercise. It didn't take long, but each footfall was agony for Lindy. After they were done clearing out the pizza parlor, Dean had started cleaning, while giving Lindy a chance to rest and elevate her foot in private. He hadn't commented on her limp nor asked her what was wrong. It came to Lindy that he probably thought her foot was some odd deformity she was born with, or another kind of tragedy he wasn't ready to hear about right now. And with all the zombie bodies stacking up around the town like wood cords next to a house getting ready for winter, it wasn't like Dean was going to jump into the fray and ask Lindy questions. Add in that she didn't know him, she decided to let him think that. Injuries in a zombie-filled town couldn't be a good thing. She wasn't even sure he wasn't killing them off for fun.
"So Dean, do you mind if we head to a drugstore? I need some feminine products." If nothing else in life she'd learned men never wanted more information once those terms were used.
He visibly gulped and said, "Sure thing, it's nothing special, but they should have what you need. The zombies are out cold for now, as long as we don't try to leave town. You aren't going to try to make a run for it, are you?" Dean caught her gaze and arched an eyebrow.
"No, you told me that it wasn't safe. I believe you. Besides, I'm getting pretty tired. We need to check out some of those houses you mentioned and find a place to sleep, right?" Lindy knew to throw it back to the 'he-man.'
He smiled and said, "Okay! Let's go." She kept from screaming as they headed back out the door. Along the way Dean detoured in an alley and opened a door with a flourish. "What's left of the drugstore!" He pronounced while letting her edge inside.
The only light was from the moon as the clouds chased across the sky. Lindy missed Dean's pizza joint with the generator. Once they cleared the storage area, the front windows provided some more rays, but not much. The shadows were thick and the aisles had been littered with boxes ripped open and scattered on the floor. Then clouds covered the moon's beams and she was standing in total darkness. Her eyes tried to adjust but weren't catching up. Dean was close on her heels and she resisted stopping cold. If nothing else, she hadn't seen anyone in the store and shuffled slowly forward. Dean had stopped talking. Once the moon broke free and light filtered back into the store Dean excused himself saying, "I'm going to try to see if I can finally get into the pharmacy."
Lindy figured it had to be during the night when the town had shut down because the pharmacy counter was enclosed in the customary heavy-duty roll down grating. The place was zombie free, thankfully, but still it was pretty freaky. There were obvious claw marks from a tire iron along the edges and the doorway was heavily scraped. Lindy assumed that Dean had been working to get inside for weeks. If they got into the pharmacy there would be more than enough drugs to keep the zombies zonked for months.
Lindy watched Dean go to work on the rolled down windows with a crowbar. He'd be distracted for a while at least as she went shopping. So as not to be a liar, she did pick up some feminine products and toss them into a handy shopping basket. Then she found the school backpacks and quickly stuffed the girl stuff inside while she went to find the ace bandages and aspirin. Her shopping spree quickly got out of hand and she had to stash some things behind the checkout counter for future visits if she stayed in town. Not like it was on her list of things to do, but she didn't want to be stupid. Curses filled the air, as Dean wasn't able to get into the pharmacy area of the store.
Out of sight, she wrapped her swollen ankle, slapping a generic cold heat patch underneath the bindings, hoping for the best. Not stupid, she had included an air cast in the backpack in case the ankle didn't respond to the quick treatment. Lindy wasn't feeling much pain after dry swallowing some aspirin and firmly lying to herself about the state of her injury. Mind over matter -- she was an expert by now at such delusions.
"Hey, Dean, didn't you want to hit a new house tonight?" Lindy called out once her foot was patched and wrapped. She snagged a bottled water from one of the destroyed shelves and downed it quickly. Dean hadn't noticed her fix-up and he nodded.
"Sure, we'll get this open later." He hid his frustration well. Not fooled, she nodded and headed to the exit.
With her ankle fortified, she limped with less pain after him into the alley they'd initially entered the store from, and back into the dark. The brightly colored backpack made Lindy feel more in control. She'd tossed in some power bars and water on the last pass through and noticed that Dean hadn't even glanced at the loot.
She'd yet to see him eat. Granted, it had only been a few hours since she'd met him, but still, she wasn't going to let food go to waste. Surviving the town would be more than just luck, she knew that, but his thin frame wasn't overly lean so he had to be eating something.
Dean led her down a few more streets and through some alleys. Lindy wasn't thrilled at the shadow play, but it wasn't her call. The town was little more than a blur she'd driven through earlier in the evening. Never in her wildest imagination had she even considered she'd be spending more than a minute in the place. The main road was blocks from where Dean had twisted her through, and she was happy she'd bound her ankle. The throbbing was still a dull ache, but not as sharp as before, so she was content to follow. For now.
The moon cut out and she heard rustling in the distance. Lindy closed the gap between them and felt Dean slow down. She matched his movements. Her ankle pulsed and she gasped.
"Don't do that!" Dean hissed.
"What?" Lindy wasn't sure what he meant.
"Make pain sounds. That calls them," Dean replied.
"Sure thing." Lindy didn't know how to stop hurting, but consciously sucked in her feelings when she hit another uneven patch of dirt.
Two more turns and they were on a street so quiet that no ambient sounds distracted them from their own hearts racing. There was a large house set back off the street. Trees draped the driveway and slowly they headed for the house. Not a single window was lit. But then, since earlier there hadn't been any signs of electricity, Lindy guessed the rich folks who owned the house didn't have a generator. Looking closely Lindy didn't even see a flicker of candlelight to break the shadows.
"You ready?" Dean whispered.
"Ready as I'll ever be." Lindy hoped this house would have a key to the zombies. They walked into the night hopeful and scared.
The trees lining the driveway were creepy and very leafy. Abruptly, the wind was moving and caressing each tree and the sounds became unsettling. Lindy wasn't comfortable with the trees' long limbs stretching nearly to the ground, their leaves rustling and murmuring unrest. The night seemed filled with sounds and tremors of something coming. Lindy knew it wasn't good. This town wasn't alive, but something horrific and menacing was watching from the edges.
She figured the sooner they found more drugs to keep lobotomizing the visitors of the pizza parlor and some place safe to sleep, she'd be good. Well, as good as the weird zombie town would allow. Her boss was under the illusion that currently she was driving to the next county over and looking at some real estate for a purchase. The company was savoring the downswing in the economy and the dropping prices. Like any good predator, her company knew that weakness was always exploited.
Limping, she followed Dean up the garden path to the side door. The pathway to the house was brick, artfully inlaid and lined with small dying shrubs. She didn't think folks were watering much, given what Dean called zombies, although he wanted the chaos to be simply dismissed as some virus or disease curable by a shot or pill. Lindy simply wanted to shoot someone all right, but not with a needle. She was jittery as she followed Dean towards the door. It wasn't the main door but more like the 'servant' door. In winter the household would have used such a door to avoid tracking snow and mud into their home. When they entered there would probably be a 'service' porch.
An eerie howling was joining the leaf movement in the distance. Lindy shivered, as the vocalization didn't exactly sound like an animal. There was something primal thumping inside her heart.
Dean didn't seem to hear anything and continued up the brick walkway to the shadowy side door. Something tickled at the back of her neck. She spun to see somebody moving closer to them. The lumbering motion wasn't normal, but oddly familiar. Her brain froze as it dawned on her that the creature approaching was moving like a Hollywood zombie. With her ankle injury, she herself wasn't exactly moving normally, but this was more pronounced and horrific.
A mumbling sound greeted her ears. She swatted at Dean's back and hissed, "You wanna give this dude a slice of pizza?"
Dean spun and squinted.
"Garth, is that you?" Lindy knew firsthand that Dean gave names to zombies that might not be correct. He'd called her Carol Sue. Once he realized she wasn't undead or whatever, he allowed her name wasn't Carol Sue. Good ole Garth wasn't slowing down, so she figured that wasn't his real name when 'human,' but something Dean had assigned in a pizza night.
Looking around she saw a thick tree branch on the ground. Without thinking she yanked it from the cold dirt and spun towards the lurching figure. Dean was still trying to appease the angry man with murmured words and gestures. The blue-gray man's clothes were spattered with gore, and Lindy noticed he didn't have any shoes or socks on his dead white feet.
The mumbles and groans weren't good. Lindy shook and dashed for the door. Naturally it was locked. She took the tree branch and slammed through the pane of glass decoratively encased in half the door. She was viciously pleased at the tinkling of shards falling inside the house. She quickly reached inside and undid the lock. Dean was still trying to chat up the shuffling figure a mere dozen feet away.
"Come on, Garth, it's me! You know me." His voice was cracking, as Garth was only a few feet from Dean. Like a bad movie Garth had his hands outstretched and his mouth was gaped open. It was then Lindy saw the red lips and connected the color with blood. Garth had already snacked on something other than pizza. Choking, she jumped inside to the unknown room. A mop was propped in the corner of the mudroom awaiting usage. She quickly found a use as Dean gave up his attempts at conversation with the dead man walking.
With a quick turn or three of her wrist, she unscrewed the mop head and had a long stout stick. Running past Dean, she swung the stick like a pro baseball player whose contract had expired six months ago. Knocking the 'ball' out of the park was all she had on her mind. Then the thud was sticky and wet and Garth's head went squish and something twisted in her brain. She was stunned by her actions, but nevertheless unconsciously her mind flittered to the notion that hitting Garth was like an overripe melon being slammed to the back wall of the ballpark. Garth slumped to his knees, and she pushed him backwards onto the red bricks.
"Wow, Lindy, that was mean." Dean was an idiot.
"You going to donate your brain to Garth here? Then stay while I run around and see if there's anything worth our time. And unless you tie him up or something, we won't be staying the night." Lindy ran into the house, hissing out her feelings. Dean stood looking at the splayed figure on the walk. She didn't bother waiting but headed for the dark interior.
The darkness was nearly claustrophobic. Somehow she'd figured some light from the moon or something would break up the deep dark corners. She was totally wrong. Dean was still hemming and hawing at the side door while she was bruising her hips and ankles blustering through the house. She found a wall and tried to use the surface to get further into the home. That resulted in her finding a large breakfront. She didn't chip her teeth, but wasn't so sure that her left big toe wasn't broken. She stopped and sucked in air.
That was a mistake. Death scented the room. Then a ray of moonlight decided to illuminate where she was standing. The shadows danced over her and continued washing quietly over the now silent occupants of the room. The two owners were slain and decorated the loveseat. Okay, so what parts that were left of them were arrayed on the cream colored couch. She gulped and choked back some caustic bile trying to exit her mouth.
The mister and missus weren't going to jump up and join Garth in chit chatting with Dean anytime soon. Lindy swayed as she contemplated the dead homeowners. They weren't in any position to object to her raiding the medicine cabinets much less anything else not tied down. She ran for the staircase still lit up by the moon. Seeing the top, she painfully yanked her body up the dozen or so steps and tried to keep from screaming. She hadn't wrapped her foot tight enough, and the aspirin, coupled with her mind-over-matter delusions hadn't done much more than remind her body she was hurting now that she was working her ankle and. The thought of pricey drugs in the master bathroom allowed her to drag herself to the top. Her first impulsive leap up the hardwood staircase suffered with her injury.
A squawk and swoop made her duck. Feathers brushed her face and disappeared as she found the upstairs landing. Dean was still fumbling below. Holding the railing, she hobbled to the end of the wood. A doorway and an arch, and she was pleased to feel tile underneath her feet. That bode well for it being a bathroom. A step and a stumble, and she found a porcelain surface. With a quick and decisive motion she found a slick surface right in front of her face. The bathroom had no windows, so she simply grabbed any and all circular containers and tossed them into her backpack. She zipped up the backpack and headed back to the staircase.
A cry and thump led her to believe that something had resolved itself below. Hopefully, Dean hadn't gotten beat up by the zombie.
The bird was still chattering and squawking as she winced her way down stairs. "Filthy bird!" The bird squealed and added, "I am pretty!"
Feathers dipped past her face again but she didn't smack the bird, knowing it was just doing what birds did, and she limped further down the stairs. Her foot was throbbing and she hoped that one of the dozen or so pill bottles had something in the controlled substance variety for pain. If not, she was screwed.
The moonlight lit up the main room again with the grotesque tableau of bodies posed in bits and pieces in front of the fireplace. Dean was leaning against the doorway, and Garth wasn't in view. She didn't bother asking.
"I got what they had in the main bathroom. Let's head out, okay?" She didn't wait for a reply, but headed back towards the side door where they'd entered into the home. This wasn't going to be the place where they'd sleep the day away.
They walked together towards the door. It was then Lindy spotted figures lurching in the moonlight.
"Don't think this is the way out." She spun on her heels and nearly screamed as something gave way inside her foot. Keeping from screaming out by sheer chance, she headed for the interior of the house. She hoped the master of the house was paranoid, because she needed to find something other than recreational drugs, and possibly something with some kick. Her mind was hoping the dead homeowner was a militiaman with an unlocked gun cabinet. Dean floundered behind her, still stunned at the growing crowd out in the yard.
Glancing at the formidable stairs, she elected to stumble further into the home. Maybe guns belonged in the downstairs, not safely locked upstairs. If it had been her home, the guns would be under lock and key upstairs by the master bedroom. But now she was praying they weren't like her in the least.
She was rewarded for her fevered prayers as she hit a double set of doors a few yards from the living room with bodies. The walls in the room were lit from a large bay window looking towards the slowly moving stream in the back of the house. The mounted fish and furry-something dead let her know that the room was the man's den. Dean was still in the hallway when she found her dream. The gun cabinet was up against a wall facing the river view. Finally something in that screwed-up town was going her way. She yanked on the handles and found them locked. Without hesitation, she swung her heavily-loaded backpack to the glass with a forceful swing, and was rewarded with a resounding crash.
Now she was ready. She grinned and yanked out one of the guns. Dean slammed the door behind her saying, "You know what to do with that?"
"You better hope so, since your pizzas don't seem to be keeping them all satisfied," Lindy flashed a grin and loaded the rifle with some heavy-duty shells she found in a box in the corner of the cabinet. The night was looking up. A crack of thunder in the distance seemed to mock her thoughts. Shivering, she tossed the loaded gun to Dean and readied the next rifle. It looked like a war was brewing.
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