I pulled the two grenades from the front of the vest, pulled the pins with my teeth, chucked them to the front of the store, and then ducked into the office behind me. The store shook with the duel explosions and I was out of the office and sprinting toward the front entrance before the debris had a chance to fall back to earth.

As I ran I took hold of the Ka-Bar with my left hand, the Glock still in my right. I reversed the knife, running with the blade cool against the back of my forearm.

At the front of the store, where the wall of glass had been just moments before, now sat open space between the store and the parking lot. Any zombie dumb enough to be near the front entrance when the grenades had gone off were now nothing more than twitching body parts strewn about on the sidewalk.

I kept running.

The shufflers that remained, what was at least a couple hundred of them, were gathered in small groups all around the lot. Fill the empty parking spaces with trucks and sport utility vehicles, ice chests full of beer, and a few small barbecue grills and they’d look like a crowd of tailgaters spread out around the lot.

The only sport going on today however was Catch the Human and Eat Him, and they were all willing to play.

My plan was simple. I would run through the shufflers. That’s it. Not the most elegant plan, sure, and there was the one obvious flaw inherent in such a scheme, but with them spread out the way they were I figured it was really the only way to go. If I tried to duck and dodge to avoid any of the small groups, if I tried to weave my way around them, I was only giving the others time to close in on me. Then I’d have a wall of walking death to get through.

Once off the sidewalk I met up with the first group. I bit back my fear, stayed with the plan, and plowed right into them, blowing through them like a linebacker. I was through in seconds.

I hit the second group four steps later and suddenly I was down, shufflers falling in on top of me, biting and clawing and tearing. I screamed. Wouldn’t you?

I’d managed to keep a hold of both gun and knife. Using the pistol to beat at the creatures I screamed and pummeled and kicked and cut and pushed. I became like the Tasmanian devil from the Loony Tunes cartoons. I was like a whirlwind of fists and feet and knife. To this day I’m not sure how I did it, but I managed to fight my way free. I pulled myself to my feet and ran with all that God gave me.

I reached the third group of shufflers and tore through them like they were made of wet paper towels. I slammed into them, firing and slashing. They fell before me, and I kept running.

Soon I found myself chanting as I tore through group after group of biters. A mantra I’d once heard from a movie about a fish.

“Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. ”

I said it out loud. Quietly, at first, but by the time I’d reached the edge of the parking lot and broke free of the zombies, I was screaming it at the top of my lungs. But I never stopped running. I just kept going right out toward Louisiana Street, running east. I crossed Louisiana and cut through the parking lot of the Checker’s grocery store and came out on 23rd Street. I kept running east down 23rd for the next four blocks until I reached the Winnebago that I’d left parked on the corner of 23rd and Massachusetts Streets.

I stopped outside the door to the RV and bent forward, resting my hands on my knees as I caught my breath and checked myself over for bites. Other than a few tears in my clothing here and there, I’d escaped bite free.

I laughed in disbelief. I’d actually made it through.

It wasn’t long before I could hear the sound of feet scraping across pavement as the zombies I’d left behind shuffled my way. It was time to make my escape with my treasure once and for all. I tried the door and found that it too, like most every other door I’d encountered on what should have been a relatively easy creep, locked.

But I was cool as I reached into my pants pocket for the keys. No cursing necessary on this one.

I didn’t find the keys in the pocket, however. Instead I found a hole as big as my fist.

That was when I really let the expletives fly.

I cursed long and loud. I spit and I kicked and I swore like my mom used to do when my dad would come home late smelling of booze. I took a break from cursing long to gape in silent disbelief for about twenty seconds then cursed a little more. I beat on the door to the Winny as tears of frustration fell down my face.

All in all my tantrum took less than two minutes, but as I finished I dropped to the ground, sitting with my back to the Winny, listening to the unique sound of zombie doom as it slowly descended upon me. I tried to ignore the scraping death as I went over my options.

I was about ten miles from the nearest walled community in Eudora. I could easily break a window to get into the RV, but I didn’t have a spare key inside, and I don’t know how to hot-wire a car. Not a smart option.

I could just abandon the Winny and walk the ten miles to Eudora, but all my man stuff was in the RV. My collectibles, my DVDs, my books, and most importantly, my comics. I did have a spare key in my room back in town, but I’d just be walking through the same horde on the way back. Another stupid option.

There was only one clear option that made any sense.

I sighed, stood, made sure the zombies coming down 23rd could see me, and then slipped off up Massachusetts Street, heading north. I figured I’d let the shufflers follow me up Mass to 19th Street, then I’d turn west and start running. I’d shoot west up 19th and the cut south as soon as I could without being seen. If I timed it right I could duck behind a building or something and then just hide and wait as the shuffling mob continued west on 19th.

Then I could head back south to the mall and search the lot for my keys undisturbed.

At least that was the plan.

One thought hit me as I loped up Mass Street. One thought that made me chuckle little to myself.

It ain’t easy being a fanboy.


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