- Publisher: Aarluuk Press
- Available in: eBook
ZOMBEA (Ready to Assemble)
© Christoffer Petersen, 2021
This story is a work of fiction.
When they came, shambling down the street, the neighbours barricaded themselves in the nearest tank station. Smart, I thought. They had an ample supply of fuel for the Molotovs. Fuel for the generator. Fuel, basically. My cousin took his family to the hardware store – weapons galore, camping equipment, gas cylinders, sleeping bags and an entire section of freeze-dried food. Charlie drove to IKEA.
“They’ve got beds,” he said. “Kitchens and bathrooms…”
“No plumbing,” I said. “The toilets are sealed with Perspex.”
Charlie didn’t listen, just waxed on about soft bedding and an assortment of mattresses. He waved at an elderly couple chewing on the hind leg of a cat, gripped between arthritic fingers.
“Hey look, it’s the Parsons.”
Sure, it was the Parsons, and the Parson’s cat.
“So nice to see them out. This undead epidemic thing has given them a new lease on life. Don’t you think, Babe?”
My husband’s an idiot.
The Parson’s new lease on life is death, in all its horrible and putrid incarnations. They said it was the universal flu shot that did it; some random strand of RNA in the sequence that sent the elderly into overdrive – sex first, followed by an insatiable hunger. But Charlie, the consummate occupational therapist, failed to see that his clients’ newfound energy was geared towards consumption of the younger generation – us included. I thought about explaining it on the way to IKEA, but then we arrived.
“Look, Babe, there are specials.” Charlie checked his pockets. “Do you have your Family Card? I don’t have my Family Card. We should go back.” He shifted into reverse.
“Charlie,” I said, as I pulled the key fob from the dash, killing the engine. “Focus.” I pointed at the store. “The lights are off. No one’s home.”
“I did wonder…”
“Yes.” I said it slowly, waiting for the proverbial penny to drop. He was still thinking when a clump of twitching seniors started to shamble in our direction. “Grab the bags,” I said. “I’ll take the tyre iron.”
I half expected Charlie to complain about the uneven weight in the holdalls, how it created an unnecessary imbalance, easily rectified. But the octogenarians in parking row D finally caught his attention.
“Oh, hell,” he said, dumping the bags on the ground. “Just listen to them. That’s a stroke victim if I ever I heard one.”
I’m not proud of this, but… I slapped Charlie on the back of the head.
“Inside.” I grabbed one of the holdalls and stuffed it against Charlie’s chest. “Now.”
Charlie froze as the first senior started to run. I heard the wheels of his walker grinding across the asphalt, then the sludge of his brains as I collapsed the tyre iron into the side of his skull.
Charlie got the message, grabbed both holdalls, and ran for the entrance. He fiddled with the door for a few seconds before leaping out of the way as I drove a trolley through the window.
On reflection, it wasn’t smart. But we had to get in.
Charlie ran for the elevators, dropping the bags as he stabbed the buttons for the first floor.
“No time,” I said. “No power. Use the escalators.”
“But they’re not moving…”
Another slap on the head.
“Ow. Stop that.”
I glanced over my shoulder to see someone’s granddad and the decrepit remainder of the bingo club negotiate the glass shards and the abandoned trolley. Charlie grabbed a catalogue. Meanwhile, I had visions of Brad Pitt taping magazines to his arm in that zombie flick that used to be a favourite – before it became reality. I felt a rush of heat in my neck – not unusual when I think of Brad Pitt – as I imagined Charlie finally getting with the programme, understanding the situation.
“It’s the new edition,” he said. “The Fall Collection.”
Fall collection? Civilisation was crumbling, and Charlie was checking out the seasonal colour schemes.
“For the practice,” he said. “Never underestimate the healing power of colour.”
I hefted the tyre iron in my hand, noted the grey goo collecting in the socket head, then flicked my gaze to the light green pallor of the pensioners, before swinging for the closest head.
“Run,” I said, shoving Charlie towards the escalator as I dispatched what used to be an old woman, now reduced to a rotting corpse held together by disease and exceptionally good dentistry.
The automatic turnstiles at the entrance to the restaurant stumped Charlie.
“No power, remember?” I said, as I vaulted over the turnstile.
I took the holdalls from Charlie, dumping them on the floor as I grabbed him by the shirt, heaving him into the restaurant as the first of the rotten seniors arrived. I pushed Charlie towards the tables, kicking the holdalls after him, as I raised the tyre iron, curling my fingers around the shaft like I was batting for the Major League.
Fingers locked, knees slightly bent, and eyes focused. I frowned as the first pustulant pensioner bumped into the turnstile and stopped. He backed up and bumped again, but the turnstile didn’t budge. I lowered the tyre iron, holding it by my side as the turnstile confounded the last three undead elders. They twitched as if expecting the start of the fall sale, excited at the prospect of being the first to take home the latest flat-pack from the Swedish furniture giant.
“Hungry?” Charlie said, pressing a cellophane-wrapped double chunk cookie into my hand.
He had that undefeatable grin that I loved – the same one he wore when fixing the blockage in the sink or burning leaves from the yard without smoking out the house.
“There’s plenty more,” he said, hiking his thumb over his shoulder at the canteen. “Bottled water, fruit, you name it.”
“Charlie,” I said, turning away from the line of undead shoppers. “You actually thought this through?”
“Of course,” he said.
He did that little heel bounce that always made me wary, and I fell for it, just like I always did.
“And?” I said.
“Well, when you’ve finished your cookie, there’s a lovely little dresser I thought we could have a look at.” Charlie tapped his finger in the air at the first section of the IKEA display crawl. “Just over there.”
We left the dead at the turnstile and jumped the queue – first to see the fall collection.
© Christoffer Petersen, 2021