I came out an alley that faced one of the malls entrances. Large white bricks stacked a tall building. Giant once upon a time windows. Now no more than shattered glass scattered over paper and other tattered trash.
Things cracked and crumbled as I crushed them on my way in. Square glass blocks on the ceiling of the second floor level allowed for light to beam in and gently brush the bright yellow morning sunlight over the canvas of crap humanity left behind in the shopping center. Inside every store a black void waited to swallow whoever had the misfortune of finding themselves inside. Bodies of motionless infectees littered the mall floor, keeping the trash warm company for the year that crept by and the many that were to come. There were undeniably living ones still somewhere in the mall. They were accustom to dark places where the light couldn’t disturb their unstimulated daze into nothingness. Fewer and fewer chunks of the floor were visible with proportion to how deep in I went. Before too long there wasn’t a shred left. Only mountains of junk stacked on hills of crap which covered a sea of trash remained.
The scent of rotted flesh and blood tainted the air, but this wasn’t location specific. This was simply the scent of unmoved air. The safest environments left in the world existed outside of time, where no one had strolled through for days, weeks, sometime even months. The infected weren’t known to move for no reason. They needed to be stimulated and interested in said stimulation to pursue it, otherwise they stood in one spot silently gasping the air through their holed lungs and rotted throat. I heard none of this and took it as a sign of good fortune. An easy trip to the first target on the list.
I stepped over this, around that, tried not to make noise while moving over the doohickey to reach the thingy-ma-bopper sooner. The scenery was reminiscent of a film’s version of a teenager’s room, incredibly messy and dirty, bodies not included.
Two floors worth of stores to explore.
A piercing screech prison shanked my ear drums. I was spotted. I panicked, ran and got tangled in a mangled dress which dangled by the doorway of a comic book store moments before it strangled me. I fought with the dress for a second then gave up and took it with me into the shadows. A single runner popped around the corner and stopped at the entrance. It searched around oblivious to my existence just a couple of feet away. It twitched once. Twice. It twitched a third time and turned my way. It began walking towards the mostly empty comic book rack I leaned against. It paced forward sporadically, lungs desperately gasping for air, brain remaining on the hunt for the next meal. It was no more than a hollow vessel a soul once called its home. Its already disfigured face melted into the dark as it came in closer from my right. I pressed up against the rack tighter than before. I held my breath. It continued right by me to the back where it walked right into the wall and fell over. It stumbled back to its feet and its aimless stride was once more. As the last bits of its shadowy frame vanished behind large dark shelves, I walked right out the front of the store.
I advanced with caution. Once you’ve spotted one of the infected, you’ll certainly come across more, no exceptions to the rule. They’re herd type creatures. Look and behold, mere moments later I came across five walkers. These were easier to sidestep whether noticed or not. They lacked the vocal determination of the runners. They would moan unless they had a recent meal in which case they gargled blood and skin trapped in their throat. These specific ones had not eaten in quite some time and moaned hungrily while I strolled right by, further into the stomach of the mall, the food court.
The deeper in I traveled, the greater and louder the collective rumbled of their moans became.
Like a faint car engine.
Like a loud hum.
Like a neighbor snoring too loud.
Every dropped pin made me more cautious. Every ruffle of trash was one of these freaks who’d become aware of me.
An occasional gust of wind would flow through the mall, bouncing from wall to wall all the way down the hall. Papers, wrappers and trash would rise high above my head.
I’d become numb to the strength of winter over the last couple of weeks dealing with below zero colds. The temperature had gone up the last three days, well into the thirties, so fast that my body could not identify the difference between the slight increase in heat and actual hot days. Simply walking through the mall had me almost sweating. I was way too bundled up.
I found the consistent increase and decrease in temperature unsettling. I was always paranoid that this would somehow result in a tornado. I once heard they were caused by rapid change in temperature, but I didn’t know this to be a fact, still I lived in horror that any given moment I’d be walking down the street and a massive tornado would land on my head and fling me half way across the country to land somewhere on the other side.
A significantly more painful experience if it landed on me through the roof of a mall.
A significantly more painful experience as debris from the ceiling rained on me.
A significantly more painful experience as it ping ponged me off the walls and through the roof.
I stared up at the glass blocks in the ceiling through which the light came in. A weak point against tornados. That’s how it would so easily tear through the ceiling, that spot would be the death of me.
Another piercing scream shot out from somewhere ahead, inside the food court…
To Be Continued…