The fast food stop shops around me, shrouded in shadow and darkness, hid the screeching runner. It saw me, but I couldn’t see it. A unique situation, I might add, because I didn’t know where it would come from. The mall’s design laid the food stop in such a way that the food court itself was in the center and the “restaurants” surrounded it.
As the scream faded back into silence, I came down to the height of the tables. Crept steadily to the food court. Here I had more tables to move around. More sun blocks overhead illuminating the place both helped and hurt me. I’d have a better chance of spotting the infectee before he attacked, but it would have an easier time tracking me, as well. Assuming it was alone I could try to sneak around it and stab it in the head before it knew what hit it.
Nothing happened. The scream completely died off into nothingness and nothing else happened. Without interruptions I was making my way between the tables. I pushed chairs out of the way and moved tables as needed to make my way through, making some noise but attracting nothing. A hum from the infected collective moans somewhere in the mall and the wind squeezing through small gaps here and there, whistling as it came through served as ambient music.
I came across a candy store. A chocolate paradise, once upon a time. This was my first destination.
Having not been pursued by anything, I stood up proud and high above the tables and began my stride to the store.
Note to Self: Never tell yourself you are safe, anywhere, ever.
A fraction of a second later, after I stood up, I heard screams from everywhere.
From my left, screams.
From my right, screams.
From up ahead, screams.
For I scream… No I really screamed.
From somewhere behind, screams.
They’d inadvertently ambushed me. From behind the counter and the backrooms of every store shot out runners, all ready, all hungry, all too strong, all too fast and all untiring.
“I’m going to die,” I mumbled while I stared at a wall of infected building up and rushing my direction. I failed to remember that I was in the middle of a food court.
All the runners began to slam into tables and chairs, toppling over as they tried to climb over but quickly scrambling back to their feet and continuing the pursuit. Like a hundred mouse traps triggered and snapping one after another, like a wave, they closed in on me, but much slower than I had anticipated.
There wasn’t an obvious opening in site, but if I learned anything from runners, it’s how to use their lack of motor skills and irrational decision making to my advantage.
I ran back in the direction I came from, towards the fast food hall, they all adjusted their trajectory accordingly, spreading out the runners further from me and concentrating the nearest.
The food court shook as if an earthquake took place. Everything that wasn’t being directly interacted with vibrated in response to the magnificent force of the infected flipping and crashing through everything. The mousetrap ripple effect came closer, closest from behind. I waited for the furthest of them to spread out and create a visible opening.
To my right, a large enough gap would open between several of the infected. It would be big enough for me to squeeze through and not get grabbed, but only if I timed it properly. As it opened I sprung into a dash straight there. The closer I came the narrower the gap became.
The circle the runners formed around me was shrinking quickly and soon enough they’d be on me and I’d be dead. It was going to be a close call if I made it through. The gap had almost fully closed and the runners were nearly touching each other but there was no other choice, I waited too long and if I stopped running they were going to, for sure, catch me and devour every last inch. (Which is what she said.)
As I arrived at the gap, the two runners to either side reached out for me. I managed to avoid coming in any contact with the one to the right but the one to the left grabbed a hold of my sleek biker jacket and spun me around to the floor between a couple of tables, outside of the zombie mousetrap circle of death. I backed up on the floor as they scrambled my way. I kicked and pushed with the grip of my sneakers and the gloves around my hands to boost myself back, sliding across the floor away from the runners.
They infinitely came closer, starved and desperate to catch me.
My panic level was at an all-time high.
I flipped myself over, jumped off my toes forward like a track runner, right through the tables. The food court dining area narrowed along its exit. The chocolate store was to the left and I ran right by it. I’d have to come back with more caution later. Maybe even a plan. Maybe even two plans. Maybe I wouldn’t come back later.
TO BE CONTINUED…
By Jack Thomas