The three zombies had shuffled out through the open doors of a Godfather’s Pizza and were now just milling about on the sidewalk. I had parked the Winnebago a few blocks down and had hoofed it over on foot so that I could take the time to check out the immediate area, and so far these three were the first sign of the undead I had seen since arriving in town. So while it was a problem, it was a small problem.

It could have been ten shufflers and it still wouldn’t have been a big problem.

It was rather concerning, however. Three of them in one place were the most I’d seen at one time since the migration a few months back. But I tried not to let it bother me. Three would be easy to handle. I had to keep my eye on the prize.

Action Comics #1. The holiest of the holies. The be all end all of geek treasure, and it was about to be mine.

I lit a cigarette and watched the three shufflers over the hood of the car. I never used to smoke, but until someone starts farming tobacco there won’t be anything left to smoke anymore, so might as well give it a go while I can.

I’d noticed right away a similarity among the three undead. Nerd culture. Two of them stood a few dozen feet away and shuffled about in small circles. One of the two looked to have been in his sixties before being turned. He wore a tattered blue t-shirt with the Superman ‘S’ shield across the chest. The other had been a teenage girl in her previous life and she had the bat signal on her shirt, though a number of blood crusted bullet holes marred the yellow and black surface.

The third zombie was in such a state that I couldn’t even tell what gender it had once been much less what may or may not have been present on the tattered clothing it wore. But the creature was only a few feet from where I crouched and I could easily make out the Green Lantern Ring on its right ring finger.

Three shufflers in nerd gear standing around outside of a comic book shop seems too coincidental. These three could have been attending the Grand Opening of the Comic Market and had been turned and them some inner geek instinct has kept them close by.

In the end, it didn’t really matter, but it did have me worrying a bit that there might be one or two more hanging about.

I waited a bit more, watching the three to see what they might do.

What they did was nothing, which isn’t odd behavior for a zombie. The undead typically just hang out, wander about a bit, stare at things, and groan a little until some poor sap has the unfortunate luck to walk into their line of sight. Once they catch sight or sound of a living, breathing human being, they start to move. And they usually won’t stop until they can no longer see or hear what they were after, and even then they’ll keep going until they ‘forget’ what it was they were chasing in the first place. Sometimes any little noise will get the ugly beasts moving under some baser instinct that noise means food. However, your average zombie will just tend to wander about a relatively small amount of territory, such as this strip mall, doing nothing more than existing while it waits to feed again if nothing catches their attention and drives them away

In between feedings zombies are typically just . . . there. They aren’t hunters or scavengers. They don’t seek out food. They don’t seem to need any, to tell you the truth. But while the undead may not need food in the same way that we do, the evil little bastards do have an unnaturally strong desire to eat, and those things will travel if it means food. Unfortunately for us, we are their food of choice.

Humans are all the zombies are interested in, and live humans at that. They don’t care for cattle, or deer, or fish. Just us. You, me, Donald Sutherland, whoever. They sense a human, they’re off like a shot.

Well, not a shot, really. That’s not a good metaphor. It’s more like they’re off like cold molasses from a jar. Zombies aren’t the swiftest of creatures, that’s for sure. Most people can put a fair amount of distance between themselves and a shuffler just by affecting a brisk walk. Of course, zombies don’t tire easily, or at all really, so your best bet is to kill the one chasing you or put enough of anything between you and it so that it gives up . . . which rarely actually happens. Zombies may be brainless, meaning not given to moments of independent thought, but once they put what little faculties they have toward the idea of eating you up, there’s not much short of the ultimate sleep that will take them off their path. They have real tunnel vision, you see. Heck, I once saw a zombie chase a single man past a whole crowd of other people without even batting an eye. It was the one guy it wanted, so it was just the one guy it was gonna get, which the thing never did seeing as how I shot it. So killing it is really your best option if the undead come after you.

Killing a zombie isn’t an easy trick though. Of course, it’s not exactly hard now, either. What you have to do is take out their brain, and by that I mean you gotta stick something in it or smash it. You can smack it about the head with a baseball bat, but it’s gonna to take you a few whacks to get through the skull and really do the brain any damage. You can go at it with an axe, but again, it might take a swing or two. Heck, you can just lop its stupid head off with a chainsaw if you happen to have one of those lying around. Of course, the problem with that line of attack is that the head itself will still be somewhat animated until you destroy the brain. The body itself will fall to the ground and stop moving, but the head’s still gonna be alive, well . . . undead. Meaning that they can still bite you if you’re dumb enough to get yourself anywhere near its mouth.

We used to have this guy named Dave in one of our Scavenger groups and he carried with him a katana, you know, one of them ninja swords. That thing was razor sharp too. Sharp enough that Dave took a swing at a zombie with it one time and sliced its head off with one chop, clean as can be. Of course, Dave was kind of an idiot, and being the idiot that he was, he picked the head up off the ground and tucked it under his arm. I think he wanted to take it back to camp as a trophy. Anyway, he tucked the head under his arm and the thing bit him. Right in his side. Well, it wasn’t long after that I had to shoot Dave. Broke my heart some, but he got bit and that’s the way it was. At least I got to keep the sword.

I took a long drag off the cigarette and let the smoke fill my lungs. I held it there for a moment, feeling the burn, then exhaled slowly, the smoke rolling from my nostrils like the steam from an open freezer. I studied the cigarette a bit. I had about half left. I guessed it was time to get about my business so I could be off again. I stood, the cigarette held firmly between the middle finger and thumb of my right hand. I stepped out from behind the car and crept toward the zombies. They weren’t looking my way, so I stepped lightly, the crows watching silently as I avoided the broken glass and chunks of loose pavement.

Now, despite once being a cop, I’m not one of the greatest tacticians of the world. I’m not stupid, I wouldn’t have been put in charge of a group of Scavengers if I was, but I just don’t have a lot of patience for elaborately thought out plans and schemes. Besides, the undead isn’t really an enemy that needs to be out-thought. They are a fairly predictable lot.

The way things stand today, it’s usually best to start shooting and then figure the rest out once the smoke clears. And when it comes to shooting. I’m your man.

Some of the Scavengers on my team don’t carry guns. Some prefer swords, hammers, bats with nails in them, stuff like that. That’s understandable, guns make noise and noise attracts shufflers, but while I do carry Dave’s sword on my back and a Ka-Bar with a seven inch blade on my left hip, I’ve always felt safer with a good gun at my side.

I still carry my service pistol from back when I was on the force. A Glock 22. I’ve always been able to depend on it. The Glock 22 fires a .40 caliber bullet, fifteen in the clip and one in the chamber.

I wear it on my right hip.

I have a spare Glock that I’d taken from the station the day it all went to hell. I keep that in the small of my back next to the canteen. The tactical vest I wear has more pockets than I know what to do with, so those are mainly used to hold spare magazines, a box of bullets, a pack of water proof matches, compass, flashlight, spare batteries, and a granola bar or two. I even have two grenades clipped to the front of the vest. Picked those up in Topeka, took them off the body of a National Guardsman.

I only wished I had a rifle or shot gun. But a man can only carry so much.

I continued through the debris in the lot and crept up on the nearest shuffler. Not too close, but enough so that if I wanted to, I could flick my cigarette into the back of its head. I thought about it for just a moment, but fought the urge and held on to the cigarette. I stood there for just a moment, long enough to pull a good bit of smoke from the cigarette into my lungs. I tried to come up with a plan of action, something I realized I should have thought of first before stepping out from behind the car, but as I said, I’m not one for strategy. At this point my options were limited, so I decided not to fight it and flicked the cigarette at the back of the zombie’s head.

The world slowed and everything came into sharp focus. Before the cigarette reached the half-way point between me and the zombie, I had my Glock in my hand.

The cigarette struck the back of shuffler’s head and the beast grunted. It turned and our eyes locked for a split second. I gave it a wink and a smile and squeezed the trigger. The gun crashed, the shuffler’s head rocked back, then the thing dropped to the pavement with a wet thud as the gunshot echoed around us.

The other two zombies, further away but still well within gunshot range, turned to me. I popped off two more quick shots, turning the undead into the very dead.

The sound of the three shots bounced off of the storefronts, echoing and blending with the startled squawks of the crows who were now winging their way to anywhere but here. All in all the whole affair took a little under four seconds.

Holstering the pistol, I stepped over the bodies and walked to the Comic Market. It took a few moments to find an area of glass that wasn’t covered by a poster from the inside, but once I did I peered through and found the shop to be empty. I grasped the door handle and gave it a pull.


I gave them a push.

Again, nothing.

“Crap,” I said aloud. I had expected the place to be locked. After all, Tom had said he’d been able to lock the place up, but I do always try and hope for the best.

To be continued . . .

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