Friday, January 6, 2012

Graveyard Shift: Day 1

This story copyright 2012 M. Stewart, All Rights Reserved

     Picture the scene, a typical 7-11 convenience store late at night. The ceiling lights illuminated a shuffling figure staggering out of the back room with a harsh, disturbing glow. Dragging his feet, the hunched figure nearly fell as it grazed the edge of the coffee station, but kept on its single-minded course…towards food. Closer and closer the shambling form came, until it found the sustenance he so craved. With a moan, he lunged toward his desire and sank his teeth deeply into the flesh, savoring the feast.

     “Bzzzzz!” The electric buzzer at the doorway was loud in the nearly empty store, causing the clerk to stop munching his microwaved hot pocket. He looked around the counter, hunting guiltily for a napkin while desperately trying to swallow his greedy bite down his throat. The store clerk was young, in his early 20s with hazel eyes and brownish-blonde hair. Short for his age, he was about five foot eight but squarely built. His face was unremarkable, but carried a friendly look and easy smile, which tended to put people at ease. Which certainly helped him at his current job, though the graveyard shift didn’t often get many customers; especially at a store with no gas pumps and located on an off street from the Tyson City loop.

     Finally finding a paper towel, he quickly made himself presentable and prepared to give the proper, corporate-approved greeting to the quartet entering the store. Which was ‘Hello, welcome to Seven-Eleven! Can I help you’ Though thanks to the excessively large bite he’d taken from his 2am meal it came out more like “Who, Welyum to Sehvn-Leven, Cahn I hlpe youh?”

     Still, Michael did his best to give the correct greeting and keep a smile. A district manager had fired one of his co-workers after a spot-inspection where he came in as a customer and didn’t get the “right” treatment. ‘The last thing I need right now is to be unemployed.’ Michael reflected with depressing thoughts of a late rent check on his mind.

     But to his shock they didn’t ask where the beer was, or the cigarettes, or even a Slurpee. Instead, of the two men and women that rushed into the store the older man glared with hostility toward Michael “Is that your car out there?” he nearly shouted before any further pleasantries from the 7-11 employee manual could be voiced.

     “Er…. um, yeah.” The clerk replied, clearly at a loss. Of course it was his car, there weren’t any others in the parking lot. Did he think I walked to work or something? His train of thought was derailed by the next demand. “Give me your keys, NOW!” he shrieked at Michael, knocking the cigarette display case off the counter with a fist.

     “What?” Michael blinked. This was nuts! He looked at the other 3 people, two women and one guy. The last was holding a towel over his arm, and the obvious red flow of blood was soaking the cloth. Michael turned back to the shouting man, trying his best to sound calm and reasonable.

     “Look, guy… I can see that your friend is hurt. It’s obviously an emergency, but why don’t you call St. Mary’s Hospital for an ambulance? It’s just down the road, and the phone is right here.” He gestured with one arm at the telephone on the counter. With his other hand, the clerk was quietly reaching below the counter for anything he could use as a weapon. His hand fell upon a bottle of Strawberry Hill some teenagers were trying to buy earlier in the evening. ‘Not great,’ he thought, ‘… but it’s better than nothing.'

     As Michael expected, the angry guy didn’t want to hear reason and with a snarl he lunged across the counter shouting, “My bud’s hurt and we’re getting away from those sickos…NOW!” He snatched up a handful of the clerk’s shirt, but this simply gave Michael the opportunity to swing around with the wine bottle and crash it over the side of his attacker’s head.

     At this point, three things happened. First, Michael noticed that the bottle didn’t shatter like in the movies, but instead simply broke a section away and covered both of them in cheap booze. The second thing was that the target of said bottle didn’t fall unconscious (again as in the movies) but instead screamed in pain and released Michael to concentrate on holding his own head; where blood oozed between his fingers. Third, the end result of the action left the 7-11 employee holding two-thirds of a broken bottle, which bore a nasty point and edge along with a spattering of blood on the rough blade. All this combined to cause the two girls to scream and proceed to drag their wounded boyfriends out the door and into the night.

     “Wow…” Michael said out loud in a voice quiet with bemusement. “You don’t see that happening every day do you?” His pride at being able to so easily deter a carjacking faded quickly as he realized the register and the front counter (and floor) was now covered with $4.75 wine and a bit of human blood. Not to mention his own work shirt, which was soaked and rather fragrant. With a sigh, he started to move to the back room to get the cleaning supplies. There might even be a spare work shirt in there since that anal manager fired Billy, come to think of it. After a couple of steps, he stopped and instead turned around and moved to the phone. He’d better call this attack in to the police. Not a 911 call, but if he didn’t report it at all, and his manager found out…he’d be dead for sure!

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     With a grunt the lone occupant of the store lifted the mop bucket to the steel utility sink and began emptying the water. He glanced back through the doorway to the now sparkling register area. ‘Well, at least Miller should be pleased things are looking so clean…though with my luck those weirdoes will show back up and try again.’ Michael had dutifully called in the incident to the police and dictated a report over the phone, but the dispatcher seemed distracted and inattentive. That sort of spaced-out ‘you-think-I’m-writing-this-down-and-I-should-be-but-I’m-not’ tone to her voice, which was frankly irritating. If she doesn’t care enough to write it down, why make him go through all the details in the first place? ‘This must be why most beer runs and gas runs aren’t reported to the cops, regardless of store policy’ he grumbled to himself.

     As if reading his mind, the flashing red lights of a police car entered his field of vision and illuminated the parking area. The lights created red bands of color through the front glass panes of the display window; a rather disturbing effect. “Well, well...” Michael said to himself. “Looks like maybe that bimbo took down my details after all.” But no, why would they be coming in with lights flashing? The incident was now over an hour old, and he hadn’t seen the carjackers since. Not only that, the car parked at an angle, with the cruiser’s nose pointing toward the main intersection of Loop 232 and Biloxi Road; pointing nearly the opposite direction of the storefront. ‘What the hell…?’ the confused clerk thought as he abandoned the mop and bucket to wander toward the front doors. It looked like something far more interesting than losers trying to steal a car and getting cheap wine in the head was afoot.

     By the time he made it to the doors, Michael could see that both the police officers were out of their vehicle, one facing the intersection and the other leaning against the hood of the car…with his pistol drawn? Beyond them, he could see what looked like two figures staggering slowly across the intersection, the street lights defining their outlines but little else. Michael could hear the policeman nearer to the figures shouting something to them but the words were muffled through the glass doors. It was obvious however that he too had his pistol out and was in a traditional Weaver firing stance. “This is just getting weirder and weirder!” the clerk said to himself with some bemusement.

     Then things went horribly wrong. The two forms in the intersection seemed to speed up to a lumbering jog as they came at the cops. Both began to fire on them but the advancing attackers seemed to ignore the shots. With a snarl he could hear even in the store, Michael was shocked to see them tackle the first police officer behind the cruiser. He couldn’t see what was going on, but the other cop began to run around the front of the car to assist his partner. Before the officer could reach his comrade, Michael saw out of the corner of his eye another lumbering form come out of the next-door Dairy King parking lot and fall upon the distracted officer. While the first cop and his two attackers were still out of sight of the 7-11’s front door, Michael could see all too clearly that the policeman’s attacker was clawing and biting the trooper, and blood was spurting on the asphalt!

     That broke Michael from his paralysis. With a shout of outrage, he ran back to the register to find the small baseball bat they normally kept for robberies and beer runs. He’d come across it earlier in the back while getting the mop and bucket and decided to put it back under the register. The Manager tried to discourage the clerks from keeping it around, worried more about potential lawsuits to 7-11 instead of little things like his employees being stabbed or shot, but this night was too weird for Michael to worry about that crap. He leaned over and quickly snatched up the bat, turned and ran through the doors onto the front walk.

     And stopped in his tracks. To his horror, he could now see clearly that the attacker from the DK was tearing the policeman apart. Blood was everywhere and intestines were spilled onto the gray asphalt, they’re red and pink a nauseating contrast of color to the parkway. Michael clamped his teeth together and tried to slow his breathing. ‘I won’t be helping anyone if I hurl right now.’ He thought to himself while slowly gaining control of his gorge. So intent was he on this that only now he saw several people running across the loop towards the police car. As they entered the streetlights they were revealed as frantic people from the nearby bar across the way, one of who looked injured and the others were waving and apparently trying to get someone’s attention. Michael figured they saw the flashing lights of the police cruiser and probably thought help was at hand. Only when they crossed the road did they realize that the police were in no shape to help them and they turned and scattered; with most running towards the EDCO grocery store down the street. Their reactions would be funny to Michael if this evening wasn’t so terrifying.

     That paralyzing feeling of terror only grew in Michael as he saw that the blood-covered maniac on this side of the cruiser seemed to tire of the dead cop lying in pieces below him. Still chewing on a strip of tendon, the figure started to get to its feet, looking at Michael with the blank look of a drug addict, a crazy person,….a zombie?

     “Screw this!” Michael said and made a managerial decision. 7-11 insisted that since the clerks were on shift alone that each one must be willing to make decisions to protect the store and the company. So Michael made a decision, but not one that Southland Corporation would probably approve of. He leaped into his own car (fortunately parked next to the front door) and revved the engine. The zombie-like murderer started staggering forward, trying to grab hold of the car’s rear bumper. The now-frantic man slammed the car into reverse, hit the accelerator, and drove over the creature behind the vehicle. With the screech of tires, the sedan barreled out of the parking lot and onto the road. He raced away from the killers down Biloxi Avenue, heading south towards his apartment. He needed to get back home, wake up his girlfriend Lisa, and they could both head out of town to her folks’ place in the ’burbs. ‘Yeah, that’s the ticket,’ his thoughts raced with the accelerating car. When wiped the fear-sweat distractedly from his forehead. ‘Get out of town, get safe… Find a secure place until all this blows over…’

The End…for now?

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Those interested in reading the All Things Zombie battle report for the above story can find it at:

Zombie Chow