Like every over convenience store caught in the zombie apocalypse, the place was ransacked "as if a goddamn twister had ripped through here", according to Nick. The two survivors weren't terribly surprised when they saw that most of the store had been cleaned out by raiders who had come before them. Almost all of the food was missing, as well as items such as camping equipment, potential weapons, and other vital provisions needed to rough it out in the world of surging infected.
The aisles, instead of riddled with trash and leftover objects, were almost obstacle-free much to the conman's delight and dismay. On the one hand, it left a good amount of room for him to walk around in, yet it only proved how desperate everyone was for them to have taken the last can or box of this and that product, regardless of whether it had been lying on the floor for weeks. The only food Nick saw on the grimy white tile was a single potato chip. The rest was either stolen, or, and he shuddered at the thought
While on the floor.
"No thanks. Already had my fill of junk food back at the bowling alley," the gambler muttered as he passed the lone chip by.
Georgia squirmed in his arms, wrenching her head around to see what the view was like behind her carrier. Nick cocked an eyebrow at the infant and shifted her to face forward again.
"Hey. Focus, kid. I don't want you acting up around me, even if we are alone in this godforsaken minimart. Jesus
that hick just had to pick the sketchiest shopping center in town," the conman groaned. But, he knew they couldn't be too choosey, and this place seemed to have a few useful items left. "Why are you even with me anyway? Shouldn't you be in the diaper aisle with your surrogate dad or something?"
Ellis had said he'd go look for diapers after checking the store for zombies if Nick would take the baby for a bit. He didn't even have time to object before the mechanic handed Georgia off to him and started running towards the meat and seafood section with his frying pan held high. The conman had let out a string of muffled cursing before resigning to his duties and beginning the search for food.
canned food, canned food
ah." Nick spotted a suspended sign with the word "canned" in the list of things that occupied the aisle and headed in that direction.
He didn't have much of an idea of how a grocery store was structured since a lot of the time his "job" kept him eating out and away from whatever temporary living quarters he had made for himself, but every once in a while he'd pick up a little something from the local mart and cook in the kitchen he would normally get along with his rooms. And then, eventually, he would pack up and move on to the next town if he started getting bored of the casinos in the area, or if his luck had run dry.
Or if he was on the run, which was more or less the case 50% of the time. It was his fault that they started really cracking down on casino security. He was barely able to make three cons in one night without being caught by some fancy new camera system, or a slick bastard like himself. Nick briefly thought that he could be losing his edge, but he logged that notion away as soon as it had surfaced and instead opted for blaming it on every other possible thing he could think of.
"Hey Nick! Did'jya find anythin'?"
Nick winced at the loud echoey voice from some aisles over. Sure, they had checked to see that they were the only ones in the store, but it didn't mean he could throw a damn party about it!
Nick called back in a more subdued volume, "Assuming there's anything left to find! I feel like I'm on a goddamn scavenger hunt!"
"Yeah! I know what'cha mean! This reminds me of the time Keith and I came up with our own treasure huntin' idea, but instead of searchin' fer treasure we--"
"Hey hey! How about we wait until we're not fifty rows away from each other to spout off a Keith story, okay sport?"
Nick let out an amused snort and kept scanning the shelves for the canned vegetables and fruit he'd been assigned to gather. Georgia gazed up at the ceiling, wondering where the familiar southern voice of her other caretaker was coming from. This made the conman let out another snort followed by a soft chuckle. These two were more entertaining than a barrel of monkeys.
As expected, canned goods were scarce not only because of raiders, but because of the panicked crowds that had poured in here beforehand to stock up for the oncoming apocalypse. There were roughly eight cans of anything left on the shelves, but it was certainly better than nothing. Nick was able to scrounge up a couple cans of peas, three cans of different types of beans, one can of sliced peaches, and two cans that had no labels on them at all for some bizarre reason. The conman took a whiff of one of the aluminum containers, waited a beat or two, and threw it in the green plastic grocery basket they'd found near the entrance of the store.
"You can never be too careful, kid," he eyed Georgia while exiting the canned goods aisle, although she wasn't paying attention to him. Nick had seen all sorts of things used to carry various substances such as boomer bile or explosives wherever there was a lack of proper resources, and he didn't want to crack open an unknown can of whatever was sloshing around inside without being somewhat sure of the contents. It didn't have the gag-inducing stench of bile, or the rank odor of human excrements (which was not uncommon to find since all the non-functional toilets were usually filled to the brim with shit to the point where not even a zombie would wanna take a dump in one.) Those were the only two things Nick was really wary of, so adding the nameless cans to their stock wouldn't do any harm.
"Alright, princess. Shall we go find Uncle El?" the gambler studied his surroundings once he'd left the aisle and started making his way toward the section that carried most household products and cleaning supplies.
Georgia let out a little chirp at the feel of Nick's deep voice rumbling in the chest she was held against.
On the other side of the minimart, Ellis' bandaged brow worked wrinkles into the space between his eyes. One of his steel-toed boots tapped nervously against the floor like it used to when he was in school, running his brain ragged for the answer he was sure he'd gone over in his text book the night before. This time, however, the subject was over child care, sub-section: diapers.
There were so many different brands that it overwhelmed the poor southerner's one-track mind. Some packages had pictures of happy-go-lucky babies on it, others displayed the cute little patterns on the diapers, and each of them described the benefits of purchasing their specialized product. Why couldn't there just be one simple diaper that everyone bought and be done with it?!
"Man oh man! I don' know how Ma did it," he mumbled to himself, crossing his arms and bringing one hand up to his chin thoughtfully. As he compared one package of Huggies with another name brand, Nick rounded the corner with Georgia in tow and a basket-full of perfectly preserved food.
"I think I'm gonna turn vegan from eating all this greenery," Nick accentuated with a hoist of his basket.
"Oh, hey! Yew find some stuff?" Ellis welcomed the distraction, especially since it involved food.
"Yup. Peas, beans, peaches, and mystery meat," the conman wiggled his eyebrows playfully.
"Mystery meat? How'dya know it ain't spoiled?"
"I don't. We'll just have to see when we open it. Could be just another fuckin' can of peas for all I know."
"Hm." Ellis' mouth quirked to the side, not too fond of the prospect.
"I see you've found the diapers." Nick stared at the impressive wall of packages, bewildered by the sheer number of them that were still left. "I guess these are kind of low on the priority list for a zombie apocalypse."
"Yeah, and fer the life of me I cannot figure out which one to get. They all look exactly the same to me!" Ellis threw out his hands at the shelves in a huff, the gesture making his pants slip down slightly. He tightened the coveralls around his waist as best he could considering that one of the arms was currently tied around his partner's leg.
"Your talking to the wrong person for that sort of thing, dude," Nick shook his head. "Can't you just get the ones she already has?"
"They don't have it here. I checked," the boy said irritatedly while pointing to the exposed diaper package in their open baby bag.
"Fine, then just get this one." With Georgia still wrapped in one arm, he set down the basket and used his one free appendage to pick out a Huggies package that said something about "DOUBLE LEAK PROTECTION", shoving it into Ellis' hands.
"Huh? Why this one?"
"Does it matter? All I know is that "leak protection" sounds like a good thing, and anything that's "doubled" is also a good thing. Can't argue with that now, can you?" Nick walks off toward the front of the store, baffled by how the kid could take such a simple task and turn it into the world's most complicated word problem.
"R-right. Okay then." Ellis shrugs and stuffs the new diapers into the baby bag, catching up to his companion near the fruit and vegetable area that stretched out towards the registers. On their way, Ellis' eye caught a flicker of black to his left and glanced to see what it was. A bird was perched on top of a lone potato, pecking at it every now and then in the twitchy way that most birds do. The poor spud was still in one piece, although it wouldn't be for long with that sharp black beak penetrating the thin outer skin.
"Go on! 'Git!" Ellis went over and shooed the creature off with a few swipes of his hands. The bird cawed at the intruder and flapped away, irritated by the impromptu interruption.
Nick heard the mechanic squawk from behind him, "Nick!! Check it out!" The conman turned but didn't move from his spot, waiting for Ellis to continue. "It's a potato!" He held up the lumpy brown tuber.
"Uh, yeah. Good for you. Passing the first grade must've been quite an achievement for you."
"HAW. I'm sayin' we can use it with the rest of our food tonight!"
"Ugh, what the fuck is it with potatoes these past few days?!" He grimaces while thinking of all the potato chips and frozen t.v. dinner mashed potatoes he's had up to this point.
"They last a looooong time, Nick. That's what makes'em so valuable. I know because I studied up on'em fer a project I was doin' in sixth grade."
"Wow, you actually got that far?"
Ellis promptly ignores Nick's jeering. "Keith 'n I were makin' a potato launcher fer physics. We got it workin', too!"
Nick wondered why one would need to study up on potatoes when all you were doing was shooting them into people's backyards, but he didn't bother asking. "I'm sure the teacher passed you with flying colors for that one."
"Well, actually, we ended up doin' a different project later on 'cuz the launcher backfired 'n sent a potato right into Keith's face," he guffawed at the memory. "It was purty funny until we found out he'd broken his nose in four places."
"I bet," Nick snorted. "Alright. Throw it in the pile, I guess."
Ellis grinned and tossed the tuber into the basket Nick was still holding. "Wouldn' it be great if we could fry up that baby?"
"Yeah, keep dreamin', kid. Unless we find a working kitchen, that possibility is pretty far off," The gambler sighed while trudging over to the registers.
"I remember my ma's homemade fried 'taters
mmmm-mm~! They were so good!"
Nick chuckled at the southern-slathered accent of the word "taters". "I'm sure they tasted pretty good."
"Oh, more than just good, man. Even a city slicker like yew would love my mama's cookin', Nick."
"Hey, I ain't arguing," he shrugged and approaches one of the cash registers. It popped open with a simple click of a button. The conman cursed when he saw nothing but a few left over pennies and dimes scattered within the compartment.
Ellis scoffed, "Nick, it ain't my business er nothin', but what would yew do if'n there was any cash left in one o' them things? I don't see no point to it, really."
Begrudgingly, Nick closed the spring-loaded drawer and went to check the other registers. "In case you don't know, overalls, money is a pretty good bargaining chip."
"But I thought yew said that weapons are what people're after these days?"
The ring of another cash registers taps their eardrums. "That, too, but say you need a refill on ammo or other shit. Turns out someone else has got'em and they want payment in return, but they have all the weapons they need. So what're you supposed to give them?"
"Oh. I guess that's a good point," Ellis nods to himself.
"I'd give them cards if I had any, but a lot of good those will do us now."
"Cards? You mean, like, playin' cards?"
"Ha! I wish. Credit cards, sport."
"What're you, a broken record? Yes, credit cards! Or do yer kind not use'em 'round these parts?" Nick mocked in a thick hillbilly accent.
"You don't have any?"
"No, I don't."
Ellis scratched at his side but recoiled after remembering how sore it was. "Well, shoot
I always figured yew'd have some considerin'--" The conman spoke up before he could finish his thought, no doubt something about how much he had a fixation for money and the like.
"Think about it, Ellis. A guy like me, traveling from casino to casino, swindling complete maroons out of their wallets, not to mention my
healthy relationship with the boys in blue." He moved effortlessly through the next few registers, Ellis strolling along with him as they talked.
The boy's mouth opened in realization. "Well, yew did mention when I first met'chu that yew weren't allowed to own a firearm."
"Exactly," Nick responded, glad he and the kid were finally coming to an understanding. "Now, can you imagine what would happen if I used a credit card everywhere I went? What do you think would come of that?"
"Ooooo, them coppers would hunt yew down in a split second!" Ellis hollered, shaking his head. "I seen stuff like that in a lot of the movies my buddies and I used to watch."
The gambler gave his companion a small "well done" smirk, refraining from verbally admitting to the ugly rap sheet he'd compiled over the years. However, his snarky smile quickly dissolved into a frown when he saw that the last register he opened gave him the same verdict as all the others: empty. "I used to have cash for everything and anything I ever wanted. My winning streaks would last from dusk 'till dawn, I tell ya. Now," he slams the drawer back into place, the bell inside the register dinging in protest at the forcefulness, "I'm broker than an eight-hundred pound hooker."
Ellis chuckled at the choice of words. "Well, like yew said, a lot of good that'll do us now, right?"
"Yeah, but still
" Nick wrung a hand around the back of his neck, rubbing at the small knot he had there.
"Alright now, quit mopin'. We gotta catch up with Coach and Ro, don't we? Here
" Ellis grabbed two plastic bags near one of the registers where he deposited their finds and placed them into the baby bag. "Okay! Ready?"
"Sure, just give me a minute," Nick said while pulling out his silver flask to take a swig of water. He grunted as his tongue met with only a few solitary drops. "Shit. We're out."
"I'll go check n' see if there's any water bottles 'round here," the boy maneuvered himself around the registers and headed towards the aisle that held an assortment of different drinks. He heard Nick's footsteps join his own and turned to address him. "You can stay here if ya want. I was just gonna take a quick look n' come back..."
"And leave me here all by my lonesome?" Nick joked. "Besides, we didn't really scope out that part of the store yet. Don't want you getting snagged by a Smoker where I can't see it."
"Oh, Okay! Thanks, man." Ellis smiled, touched by his older companion's concern, even if it wasn't the most visible to the naked eye.
"Just lend me your sling," he said while holding out his one free arm. "This brat is heavier than she looks."
"Sure thing." The makeshift baby sash was lifted from his torso and handed to Nick who positioned it how he liked and made sure Georgia was adequately secured. Some of her drool got on the conman's sleeve during the process, and he sneered while rubbing to substance onto his pant leg. But, seriously, what was the point?
They came across all kinds of sugary sweet fruit drinks and a few cases of soda (although the Coca Cola had been completely wiped out because of how popular it was even during the apocalypse), but no water. The shelf that used to hold all of the bottles and gallon-sized jugs were barren with nothing but a light film of dust occupying the metal surface. Nick stared ruefully at the clean imprints of where a case of bottled water used to reside.
"Tch. Of course. I don't know why I even bothered." The conman administered small circling motions with his thumb and index finger into his eyebrows. How ironic would it be if his current headache was a result of dehydration?
"Man, that sucks," Ellis said lowly, sounding less than surprised. "Guess we got here too late."
"No shit, sherlock." The bite of his words made the boy cringe a bit. Nick always seemed to be stuck in a never ending hurricane of his own bad mood, but being cranky and tired was probably the worst combo for the guy.
"We could always check the back. Maybe they still have some in stock?"
"Fine. Why not?" The gambler had all but given up on the endeavor of finding water by now, but what was one more inspection?
They eventually found two swinging doors that had "EMPLOYEES ONLY" stamped on the front and made their way inside. It was pretty dark since they had drifted further and further away from the front of the store where the only source of light was leaking in, so they switched on the flashlights attached to their pistols and tread carefully through the large racks of packaged products. There wasn't as much stock as there should have been, thanks to the raiders no doubt, but at least it made the search easier on them.
Nick took the left side of the room where he came upon a number of boxes, both sealed and unsealed, stacked high up to the top shelves of the metal racks.
"Wonderful. Like finding hay in a needle stack," he muttered. Georgia shifted against his back, confused as to why it was so dark all of a sudden, but she didn't seem phased by the change in atmosphere, unlike her caretakers. "Yeah, if you could keep an eye on my backside, kid, that'd great." Nick's playful jest was not so much for entertaining the baby than to make himself feel better within the pitch black unknown of the Shop 'n' Go! stock room. Neither he nor Ellis had thought to check out this part of the store before they went "shopping", and their obliviousness would have given whatever might be in here the time to get the jump on them. The hairs on Nick's neck prickled at the thought of there being a sleeping Tank lying in wait for the two unsuspecting survivors, assuming those burly beasts ever slept.
Ellis was on the other end of the room checking out a few of the boxes and their labels in short, swift motions, immediately training his light back to the aisle after each one. He was just as anxious about finding something that didn't want to be found, but, if they were quick enough, perhaps they could blow the joint early and get back on the road again.
"On the road again~. Just can't wait to get back on the road again~." The boy sung to himself quietly, probably the softest he'd ever sung in his life.
When fear wormed it's way into his head, Ellis would busy his lips with a tune he could whistle to, or a song he'd often hear his mama sing. It gave him great comfort to bring a bit of home to the surface of his thoughts every once in a while, especially when he was on the verge of a mental breakdown. There were times in his plights with the zombies where he felt he may be meeting his maker sooner than he'd planned, but, then again, who could plan the day they died? For the twenty-three year old, even if he didn't get to choose the exact hour, minute and second he left this world, you could be damn sure that he'd be the one to dictate how. Ellis, like many other young, hot-headed survivors out there, wanted to go out in style, whether it be with a bang or in flames. He envisioned it being like one of the Midnight Rider's concerts -- fire shooting up in white hot columns, splashes of color popping off one after another in the dark night sky
It would be epic.
"Shit!" Ellis cursed as he jerked his body away from the ghostly tendrils that brushed against the side of his face. He directed the flashlight at whatever had startled him and let his body sag with relief when he saw the head of an old-fashioned mop sticking out from the shelf it had been placed on. "C'mon, El. Get a damn grip on yerself." He rolled his shoulders once to shake off the lingering adrenaline that had been injected into his system from the scare, and kept moving down the aisle.
Everything the mechanic had come across so far wouldn't have been very useful in hindsight. There was an abundance of cleaning supplies, bed and bath articles, and some nonperishable food like ramen and more canned products. Ellis only added two more cans to their pile since anymore would've made the baby bag heavier than he'd want it to be. He gave a small smile when he saw the Campbell's logo. It'd been a while since they'd had soup. It'd be cold, but hell if he was complaining.
The next aisle held sporting goods, and Ellis could hardly contain the happy little gasp that escaped him. A lot of the equipment had been torn open and strewn across the floor. It was no question as to why, seeing as most weapons people had all came from this department, specifically melee. The southerner wasted no time in rummaging through the remains of athletic items, finding numerous soccer, basketball, and fishing related objects, but nothing that would hold it's own against the hardened skull of an infected. Wide eyes carefully roamed the shelves for what they were originally looking for, and a sinking feeling started to settle in the pit of Ellis' stomach when he didn't see it right away. A few more steps down the aisle, though, and his vision locked on to the sturdy wooden baseball bat wedged between two unopened boxes.
"Yes!" he hissed, grabbing the club by it's barrel and flipped it around to test his grip against the smooth laminated maple.
It was in perfect condition, new and unused; something the boy could really work with. He held the weapon up and did a few practice swings, already falling in love with it's lightweight yet powerful follow-through. It would put his frying pan to shame against those zombies.
Ellis jogged from aisle to aisle looking for his partner, shining a light down each alley to see if he could catch a glimpse of the man's less than white suit. He was excited to show Nick his new toy, even if it wasn't the water bottles they were looking for. Perhaps the conman had found some instead? He sure hoped so. His mouth was getting pretty dry from all the footwork they'd put in today.
Fortunately, for the three of them, Nick had come across a package of Dasani in a section where a lot of the snack foods were kept, as well as some other useful items they might need later. With a triumphant smile, Nick put two of the bottles in his roomy pant pockets, and two more in the inside pockets of his jacket, leaving two left on the shelves. In the beginning, Nick had taken every possible resource he could get his hands on, but, by the example of his team mates, he would now leave a few supplies for other passing survivors who happened to come through these parts. He figured that if one person stopped doing it, everyone else would too, and then where would they be? No one wanted to arrive at a safe house and end up leaving with nothing.
He twisted the cap off of one of the bottles and took a few quick gulps just to wet his mouth. The water was only room temperature, but Nick didn't give a flying fuck at this point. Water is water is water, even if it was Dasani. At least it was clean.
He looked around the snack aisle one more time to see if he wanted anything else from the contents of the open boxes, but didn't bother being thorough since he'd gotten what they came for. He rounded the corner of the aisle near the back of the storage room to track down his younger comrade, thinking how fun it'd be to sneak up on the kid and give him a bit of a fright.
Ellis was still patrolling the aisles for Nick and Georgia, illuminating each walkway for about half a second, and was about to migrate to the next batch of aisles parallel to these when his flashlight caught a sliver of the white he was searching for kneeling by one of the shelves in a row full of splayed clothing. Sweaters, jeans, t-shirts, winter coats -- all were thrown about in messy piles like some kind of dump heap. Most of the boxes in this area were empty and had been forced to join it's contents on the floor, a clear sign that looters had ransacked the place in hopes of finding clean clothes to take with them. It felt wrong for Ellis to think of them as looters, though, seeing as he and his group were basically doing the same thing to every convenience store they came across. Perhaps they should just stick with the term "survivors" instead?
"Nick! Good thing I found yew. Man, this place is bigger n' I ever gave it credit fer, ha ha! Did'ja find anythin'? All I got was a baseball bat, but it's a damn good one, I tell ya. Fits me like a glove!" he exclaimed while swinging it in a windmill motion. He was rather elated to have finished what he was saying without Nick cutting him off, but soon realized that such a rare opportunity was kind of odd. He took a moment to study the conman, questions forming on the tip of his tongue as to why the guy was hunched over next to a shelf of men's underwear, and why he wasn't responding. The slick dark head seemed to be rocking back and forth with his body, and Ellis' immediate assumption was that the man was hurt.
"Oh hey, man, yew alright? Is it yer leg again? I grabbed some new bandages n' pills n' shit if ya need'em."
He approached Nick from behind and reached into Georgia's baby bag for the appropriate medicine, secretly chiding the conman in his head for not seeking his help, as per usual. It was the moment he laid eyes on the bag when a little jolt shot up the back of his neck, and his voice, filled with dread, cut through the tension that had been building between them once he saw the vacant space on his partner's back.
Nick's head twitched when he heard the younger voice so near him, and a shaky groan rose from his lips, growing into a crescendo. He turned to make eye contact with Ellis, worried creases marring the corners of his mouth and upper brow. The man looked like he was in shock.
"Dude, did somethin' hap--"
A few strands of greasy shoulder-length hair fell from behind Nick's ear and into his face, which finally sent a clue to Ellis that this man was definitely not his team mate.
"Woah! I'm sorry, man! I thought yew were my friend and he has a white suit too and
" Ellis laughed between his words, "Wow, I haven't seen another normal person in a loooong time! I mean, it's been, like, ages, ya know? Sometimes I even feel like my buddies n' I are the only survivors left, but I know it ain't true 'cuz this one time we ran into these other guys who helped us across this bridge, see? And they were immune just like us, so I figure there's gotta be others out there who--"
The man at his feet let out a ghastly wail, leaning forward in order to plant one folded leg in front of him and stand to his full height. Ellis went silent and took two steps back, wary of the man's sanity at this point. He had the right idea, too, especially when the moaning survivor turned to face Ellis in a bone-chilling garb of a mental patient. The dingy white straight jacket had been mistaken for Nick's suit, which was around the same condition otherwise.
" The mechanic gasped. How a guy like this ended up in a Shop 'n' Go! stock room was a mystery beyond Ellis' willingness to find out, and he genuinely didn't know how to approach this situation. Being a psych ward escapee in a world full of blood thirsty zombies and throngs of dead bodies? If the guy was already off his rocker, Ellis couldn't imagine how he was faring now.
Before he could attempt any form of communication, the poor fellow stumbled back, nearly tripping over a pile of clothing, and with a sudden bout of maniacal cackling, shot off like a bat out of hell down the aisle and into another section of the stock room. The change in demeanor was confusing to say the least. One second the guy looked as scared as a half-drowned rat, and the next he was the happiest man on earth.
did I miss somethin'?"
Perhaps now was a good time to continue his search for Nick, who was currently strolling down the second to the last row of supplies where it met the far wall.
The gambler was about to reach the mouth of his aisle when he saw a white blur speed past in a fit of deranged laughter. "What the--?!" The conman's muscles all tightened at once, bringing him to an abrupt halt. The first thought that came to his mind was that a jockey was riding the back of his companion, so he shook off his stupor and sprinted around the shelves to take care of the problem.
Instead, his flashlight illuminated the hunched back of a man with stringy black hair and a white coat of some kind huddled in a corner. The belts around his waist and arms were a tad peculiar, but what the man did with his accessories were his own business, Nick figured. It was hard to tell with so little light whether the guy was infected, or if he was just plain insane. Nick wouldn't blame him, otherwise, but he kept his pistol trained on the man just in case.
"Alright, freakazoid, why don't you turn around so I can decide whether or not I need to put you under." It was a command more than a request, as was his way.
The mental patient did as Nick wanted only to see who the voice belonged to, and the conman's eyes squinted to get a better handle on the guy's features. Besides that nasty scowl on his face, and the obvious need of a shower, everything looked pretty normal.
It wasn't until the flashlight caught the ever so familiar gleam of yellow pupils were his suspicions confirmed. Nick let out an inaudible gasp.
Ellis came running from behind, waving his baseball bat in the air to get his partner's attention. Nick's twisted his head around at the sound of Ellis' voice, gun lowering a fraction or two.
"Don't shoot'im! I don't think he's an infected!"
"What? Are you blind?! This thing is obviously--"
It didn't take long for them to find out the truth, unfortunately, because after two ragged breaths the man opened his mouth and let out a shriek that rattled the survivors' bones to the core. It bounced off the high ceiling and every corner of the storage space like a thousand church bells, except significantly less pleasant. The "mental patient's" body shook from the exertion of screaming his lungs out, blood veins embossing his neck as if they were about to burst. The sound itself was akin to the bastard child of a Hunter and a Charger; somewhat high-pitched, but throaty and loud at the same time.
Even more astonishing was how the boys had never before seen or heard the likes of this particular infected.
No common infected could ever sound like that.
Ellis held his hands over his ears and stopped a few feet away from his companion. He saw the discomfort on Georgia's face through the dimly lit area, and he felt bad that the baby couldn't block out the sound on her own, so he shuffled up behind Nick and sacrificed his hearing for hers by placing his hands on the tiny infant ears. He now knew what people were talking about when they described a noise as "ear-splitting".
Nick gave himself some room between he and their new zombie pal, his firearm unflinchingly poised to take out the creature, but he did not shoot just yet. If this thing was a new infected, he wanted to see what it did - what made it so special. The straight jacket was indeed rather intimidating, as well as the blood-curdling screams, but it hadn't outright attacked since it'd laid eyes on them. If it's arms were immobilized, then what's to say there wasn't some kind of secret weapon in store for the survivors? Did it have an elongated tongue for snatching up prey? Could it spit acid? Sharp fangs? Heat vision? Or was it just gonna yell at them to death? Nick laughed at the thought.
Neither of them really expected the crazed zombie to bolt for it, disappearing behind the towering racks full of laundry detergent and other cleaning supplies.
"What the fuck?!"
Their reactions were about the same. It was surreal, having an infected go in the opposite direction from where you were standing. They were so used to being the center of attention nowadays, it almost hurt their feelings.
Nick snorted in irritation, a bit miffed that all the pointless screaming didn't even lead up to some sort of climax in the end. "Where the hell is it going? Is there a sale somewhere that I didn't hear about?"
"He did that before when I found'im in one of the aisles back there," Ellis shrugged, just as baffled. "I thought he was just some loon I might'a scared off or something. Didn't mean to, really. He looked more human than the others, but it was kinda hard to see and all
" The shrieking continued even after a good amount of distance had been laid out between the zombie and themselves.
Nick held his hands up in mock defense. "Well, far be it from me to crash his pity party any more than you already have. Damn, that screaming is fucking annoyi--"
A chorus of howls and moans could be heard from outside the minimart, sending a cold spike down their vertebrae. The two survivors looked in the direction of where their exit out of the storage room would be, heartbeats picking up the pace their psych ward zombie left behind.
If there was one thing worse than that thing's screeching