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May 20, 2024

All-Nighter 09

By Lydia Manx

Episode Nine


Back then ...

I heard Dean coughing and shuffling around so I slowly opened the door and acted like nothing was weird. There was more than a bit that was weird but I was good at faking it -- come on, I work in real estate!!

"Morning," I mumbled and made my way back to the window. The hotel/motel -- what have you -- didn't have the mini-coffee maker much less a mini-fridge, but it did have the menus to a few local restaurants and diners in walking distance. That didn't stop my tummy from rumbling, but Dean and I had brought with us some nibbles including a manual hand held can opener but sadly we'd left them in the stolen car and I wasn't up to the trip downstairs just yet.

"What's so good about it, Lindy?" Dean mumbled.

I thought for a second and answered, "I didn't say 'good morning' I just said morning."

He glared at me, then I could see that he was playing back the last minute in his mind and he coughed out, "Yeah, sorry. So what happened while I slept?"

I noticed immediately that he didn't ask why I hadn't waked him up to take a shift. Lovely. I didn't bother to mention it, since he would be clueless about why I was less than happy with his dereliction of duty. He truly wasn't ready to deal with any sort of reality, but I had to wake his ass up before he got my ass killed.

"You slept, so did this dead end town. But at least I didn't see any zombies," watching him wince I changed it to, "Sorry, I mean sick people," no I didn't. I meant fucking zombies. Not sleeping for a long time was really starting to wear on me, "I also didn't see anybody. Not the paperboy, milk man or even a damned deliver truck for the grocery store. Completely quiet." That alone still gave me the heebie-jeebies.

Nodding, he headed for the bathroom and I glanced outside just in case something had changed. The 'No Vacancy' sign was still flashing, and I didn't see any more or any less cars in the parking lot. I guessed there wasn't a complimentary hot breakfast waiting for us downstairs, much less a desk clerk.

It was then that I saw the kid from the night before edge back into the parking lot. He casually glanced around, then went to a different car than he had robbed the night before -- again, not ours, thankfully. He rapidly broke into the dusty vehicle, which was parked in a space near the road, far away from the hotel; he was able to liberate a rolling piece of luggage full of whatever he thought was worthy. The kid had loaded the stolen luggage on the side of the car that was away from the window so I had no clue what he thought was valuable. I noticed that he was good about closing the doors and rubbing his fingerprints off the handles. Not so stupid, just larcenous. Small towns must have a different value system than the big city, or his prints were on file somewhere. Nobody came running out after him from the lobby, and there wasn't another car or person in sight. Now it was only about six o'dark, but still I found it odd. I wasn't used to small towns, but I knew in my neighborhood if I went out to get the paper in the early morning hours, I'd better be dressed somewhat or risk giving the local joggers, dog walkers and general busybodies an eyeful.

He made it out of sight without me seeing anyone else hanging about, and from his casual strolling, I determined that he also hadn't seen another soul around either. There was a feeling of dead air that surrounded the very town. Even with the air conditioning running in the room, I still couldn't shake that feeling of eminent danger that we should have left behind when we'd left the zombie pizza town. I couldn't even recall its name, and to be quite honest I didn't want to. Having seen those mercenaries torch the bodies without any apparent remorse or worry about being jailed meant to me that somehow they were allowed to destroy all evidence. Which was the real reason Dean and I had flown out of the area as soon as we could. Part of my mind couldn't stop freaking out about the whole fact that zombies actually existed, but the logical side knew that I better keep that crap out of my mind and figure out a way to get home and find a nice company-funded retirement plan. For my future, I didn't want to go running around the county looking for cheap real estate and stumble into more zombies or something worse. Ever since I came to terms with the fact that zombies were real, that opened up the possibilities that I'd been blindly wandering through life not even seeing what was before me. Everything that had gone bump in the night when I was a child took on a whole new meaning. We weren't alone.

For some reason, when Dean came back from the bathroom looking less rumpled I found myself keeping the sighting of the kid to myself. I didn't trust Dean to follow any of my ideas and he seemed more than a little desperate. Nothing good could come of his learning of the kid at this point that I could see. I worried about the lack of TV signal, and more, the lack of anybody else in the area. That kid might be a lead, but I wasn't sure what to do. I mean, he looked thin and fast and I couldn't see myself running after him in my Cole Haan shoes -- even if they were last year's. I hadn't packed for outdoor activities other than getting a soy latte when talking over the property my company wanted to gobble up for pennies on the dollars. The lowest heel on my shoes were a slight wedge peek-a-boo in black leather. I had raided a few shoes from the dead rich lady, but they were in the car and a slightly larger size than I usually wore. Already I could feel the blisters I'd wear before I found socks thick enough to make up the difference.

That said, it didn't mean I wasn't planning on keeping my eyes open for the only living creature I'd seen since last night.

"We staying here?" Dean looked around the sad little room with hope. For some reason this place made him feel safe. I hadn't felt safe since my company car had gone to shit up the mountain and the world had shifted off its known course.

Without caring, I said, "Sure why not?" I mean really. I had packed my backpack with what I thought were necessities and wasn't overly worried about the rest of my belongings. The SUV we had liberated and loaded was more than up to the job of keeping me clothed, and I'd stopped using a purse after the first few days of disarray.

"We need to go out and find out what's happening." It wasn't a question, it was a statement but Dean took it as an option and said, "Nah, I'll stay here."

Looking at him, I weighed the odds if I headed out on my own, and found that they weren't so good. Despite my misgivings I said, "No, you will join me and make sure I'm not killed."

Yeah, brutal, but hey, I wasn't going to lose any sleep over it -- if I ever got any again. I was starting to feel a bit zombie-like, but I wasn't craving human brains or body parts. but a nice bowl of hot oatmeal would please me. The more I thought about it, the more I was getting hungrier and the idea of warm food was haunting my tummy and I could hear the rumbles. I went into the bathroom and turned on the tap. The water coming from the faucet wasn't clear. Not even remotely. It had a tinge of dirt -- hopefully -- and a scent of sulfur and bleach. I turned it off, skipping the idea of having a glass of tap water to settle my hunger pains.

Dean had resumed his hang-dog expression, stretched out on the bed, looking like he was contemplating staying despite my wishes, and I tried to keep firm on my plan. Step one: get the hell out of the hotel and get some food! Guilt ate at him and he shifted up to a sitting position while whining, "But why do we have to leave now? Can't we wait until the sun at least finishes rising?"

I was thinking that Shelly had put up with a lot from her beau, and I didn't think that saying anything about it would help get Dean's ass off the bed and backing me while I went out to case the town and hopefully find another human or twenty.

"Sure why not? I mean let's wait until folks start waking up, walking, or shuffling if they are 'sick' instead of getting some food and some weapons from the car. Sure." Okay, my tone was snarky and bitchy all at the same time. From the wince Dean got my tone quite easily and was starting to cave into my request.

"Okay, okay, sheesh, can't a guy just catch a breath?" Again the whine was tainting his words.

"You can mourn your love later. Personally, I want some food and some degree of control while I figure a way out of this hell I find myself in right now." I wasn't coddling the man anymore, I was starting to get that itchy feeling that something was changing. When I was sent out to secure properties for my boss, I trusted my gut more than what folks said. I had a firmly centered sense of what direction to go most of my life, up until the nasty last few days not to mention those creepy nights.

"Fine, whatever." I was getting the surly teenager side of Dean but at least he'd got off the bed and was grabbing up his wallet and the key to the room. He didn't have a backpack yet, but if he was going to survive it was pretty much a necessity. I just wanted to find a pair of walking shoes soon, because my heels weren't going to help me fit the local scenery. I wasn't planning on trying to make that real estate meeting my boss had sent me out for, because I was pretty sure the gentleman I'd been scheduled to meet wasn't showing up either, if he was even alive. I had a gut feeling that zombies weren't left behind, but also lurking here. Maybe there was a -- like a gestation period before they got up and started looking for dinner.

Silently, we went down the stairs. Dean had started for the elevator; when I shook my head and simply headed towards the staircase, he shrugged and followed. I wasn't getting in anything mechanical any time soon. I wasn't up to getting trapped in a small space with Dean and assorted zombies trying to chow on us.

From the minute we left the room, I felt a pinging in my soul. Everything was off.

Sure enough, we hit the lobby -- slowly for me, burdened by the backpack and my heels -- and there wasn't anyone behind the desk, and no scent of coffee to torture me. It was very quiet. It took me a moment to figure out what was missing. There wasn't any background music. There had been a soft piped-in music in the lobby when we'd checked in the night before, while now there wasn't a single note. I found myself missing the wordless songs filling the silence of our footsteps on the slightly dusty flooring. I'd missed that last night, but then the lights had been on low and I had been exhausted from the tense drive. The counter top hadn't been dusty then, but now it was slightly dirty as the low running air-conditioning had moved the dirt around during the night. If there had been spider webs in the corners of the room I would have thought we'd been in the room for more than overnight.

Dean whispered, "What the hell is going on?"

I felt the same way and whispered back, "I don't know. Let's get to the car, okay?"

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2016-04-04
Image(s) © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
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