In the movies — back when there were movies — when our hero is faced with a locked door, he simply shoots out the lock and kicks the door in. While I have managed to make this work for me on occasion, it’s typically a waste of a bullet. Still, I had to try.

I fired a shot then, lifting my right leg, I slammed my foot into the door.

The door didn’t budge. It just rattled around it its frame. I kicked it a few more times to no avail.

“Crap,” I said again, scratching my chin and pondering the situation. I tried not to let my frustration build, but it quickly became a losing fight. What I needed was just beyond that sheet of glass. I just had to get through it first.

I looked around for a moment and found a nice heavy chunk of cement a few feet to my right. It was a piece from a parking space block, you know those blocks of concrete at the end of a parking space . . . anyway, it still had about six inches of rebar coming out of it, so I figured it would do the trick. I took hold of the rebar with both hands and lifted the concrete from the ground. It was like lifting four bowling balls. I spun, using the weight of the thing to whip me around a few times before chucking it at the window of the shop. I heard the thing connect with the glass. I didn’t see it happen, the chunk was so heavy that I kept spinning after I let it go, but I didn’t need to see to know that I had failed. There is a distinct difference between the sound concrete makes as it shatters glass, and the sound concrete makes as it bounces off of glass.

As soon as I stopped twirling and my eyes cleared up, I ran my hand over the window at the impact site. Instead of a gaping hole, there were a series of small cracks like a spider’s web the size of my hand. I gave the glass web a push and met only resistance. The window glass was much thicker than I thought. I could throw the chunk of cement at the window again, but it looked like it would take more than a few throws before I could get through, and I didn’t think my arms, not to mention my back, were up to the task. I toyed with the idea of going back to get the Winny and driving through the doors, but let that one go. I had something else in mind.

It would be loud, which may attract more shufflers, but my first four gunshots would have done that already. So I decided to go for it.

I pulled the Glock and fired three rounds into wall of glass to the right of the door. I’d expected the glass to shatter, but instead I found a hole where the three bullets had passed through. Safety glass. I could have pushed a golf ball into the shop, but the hole would need a bit more work to get myself in.

I pushed at the glass around the hole and felt some give.

I pulled the sword from my back, scabbard and all, and jabbed at the glass with the covered blade, expanding the hole as I chipped away at it. Eventually the opening was large enough that I could squeeze through.

So I did.

The scent of stale comic books took me into its warm embrace like a father greeting a long lost son. I smiled. I took a moment to let the smell really fill my nostrils and make my olfactory senses tickle my brain with memories of better days.

Then I got to work. I didn’t have much time. Every zombie within the sound of those gunshots was gonna come a-running. Well, a-shambling.

I took stock of my surroundings. To my left was a glass display case with a single cash register. The case stretched down half the length of the left wall where it met a set of shelves filled with what were at the time, new comics. The case was filled with various fanboy trinkets: Magic cards, a Green Lantern ring, various action figures, and DVDs. On the wall behind the counter hung twenty or so comics in protective plastic sleeves. On the opposite wall, stretching to the back of the store, were tables, each with a shelf below. On the tables sat row after row of comic book long boxes. Each long box held about two hundred comics, bagged and boarded. Between the boxes sitting on the tables and those on the shelves below, there must been have somewhere around twenty-thousand back issues in front of me. This was the area known to comic geeks worldwide and the back issue bins.

I wanted to spend more time going through the back issues, I had some holes to fill in my collection. But I pulled myself away and moved to the back of the store.

In the back wall were two doors. One in the center, the other to the left. The door in the center of the wall stood open and I could see that it led to a short, dark hallway. I stepped into the hallway and shined my flashlight around. I found three more doors. One just inside the hall and to the right, the second at the other end of the hall on the left, and the third on the very back wall opposite of where I stood.

The first door opened into a storeroom with more comic related merchandise, but no safe. The second was the restroom. The door on the back wall opened out to the alley behind the store and — to my surprise — five more shufflers. All five were grouped together a few feet away, staring off to the south, their backs to me. I eased the door shut and twisted the lock before they could have the chance to take note of me.

I left the hallway and stepped back into the store, closing the door behind me. I tried the other door. It was, thankfully, unlocked, and opened into a small office.


I scanned the room with the flashlight. The office was small and cramped. There was a desk, a chair, a few posters on the wall, a metal three-drawer filing cabinet, and most important of all, a small safe like the kind you’d see in a motel room closet.

I crouched before the safe, the flashlight clutched between my teeth so that the beam shown on the dial. Fourteen, thirty-eight, fourteen. I gave the dial a spin. This was it. Time to find out if Tom hadn’t just been talking nonsense.

I turned the handle and the door swung open. I smiled, not an easy feat with a flashlight in your mouth, and took a look inside. There, sitting by itself, in a hermetically sealed plastic display case, was the first issue of Action Comics. I almost couldn’t believe it. I rubbed at my eyes with my fists and looked again. It was still there.

I let out a loud whoop and the flashlight fell to the floor.

I pulled the comic from the safe with all the care of taking hold of a newborn. The metaphor doesn’t end there as I cradled the book in my arms, not at all surprised to see one of my tears fall upon the plastic.

I had been about to crack open the case right then and there when I heard a sound from out in the store. I rose and peeked out from behind the office door. Standing there among the back issues was one of the undead. It would have looked like nothing more than a customer trying to decide which box to start in on first, if it weren’t for the decayed flesh and the flies buzzing about its head.

If it was just the one I would have let it be, ducked back into the office, and popped open the seal on my prize. But this was zombie number nine. The three out front earlier, the five out back, and now this one. That makes nine shufflers I’ve come across so far this morning. More than I’ve seen in one day since the migration. Something didn’t feel right.

I ducked back into the office. Pulling the Glock at my hip I ejected the magazine. I replaced the seven rounds I’d already spent and slammed the magazine back in place.

Tucking the comic under my vest, I took another peek around the door and into the store. There were now five zombies among the back issue bins. I stepped out, holding the Glock with both hands.

Five shufflers in the store, five in the alley out back. The aisle in the store was wide enough for four people to walk through side by side. The alley could take two and half vehicles. My odds looked better behind the store.

I crept toward the door that lead to the back exit, walking on cat’s feet. The closest shuffler was within arm’s reach. Leaving the Glock in my right hand I reached behind me with the left and grasped the door knob. Then quietly, softly, almost tenderly, I twisted.

The knob wouldn’t turn.

The door was locked. I looked at the knob and almost groaned. I’d need a key to get through, a key I didn’t have. It must have been locked the entire time and when I let it close behind me I shut away my best means of escape.

That’s when I said it. The granddaddy of all swear words. The four letter word of death. The one and only f-bomb. And for some reason I’ve never rightly been able to wrap my head around, I said it out loud.

To tell the truth, I shouted it.

My impulse control needs a little work.

To be continued . . .

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