Jimmy pulled the trigger, dropping the hammer on the shell in the breach of the shotgun, obliterating the brain of the zombie charging through the door of his apartment. When he racked the slide and dropped the smoking shell to the floor, a fresh shell slammed home. He kicked the door shut and slid the deadbolt with a satisfying *snick*.
In the kitchen, he drew a glass of water from the sink, but his hands wouldn’t stop shaking. He’d killed before, but zombies were different. They didn’t show fear like the gangbangers he’d had to deal with for the Irish mob. At least those people died when you shot them through the chest; not so with zombies. Headshots were the only way to put them down. Fortunately, with a shotgun they may have to be close, but you just have to point it in their general direction to score a headshot.
Jimmy downed the water, making a mess because he couldn’t stop shaking. There was something unholy about the dead walking. It was a throwback to his childhood and all those Romero movies he'd watched as a kid. When there’s no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the earth. The only problem now was that the plague had been brought by the bugs. The bugs came from Hell. Had to. Jimmy crossed himself.
He grabbed the Kevlar vest he'd used on jobs and put it on. He donned a leather jacket over it to help protect against zombie bites. Then he put on his crucifix to help ward off evil. He wished he could go to confession. Jimmy was raised a good Catholic, and when Hell came to earth, that was what he fell back on. He prayed as he filled his pockets with shells. In the three days he’d been hiding in his apartment, he’d been reading his Bible and scratching scripture references on the sides of shotgun shells. He’d tried the same on the sides of his .45 rounds, but there wasn’t enough room.
He tucked the .45 into his waistband and stuffed clips in any pockets not already full of shells. In the fridge, still running for now, he had some of his mama’s potato and meat pie that he'd brought home the day before Hell broke loose in Baltimore. He set it carefully to heat up in the microwave. He turned the radio on. There was a public service announcement: “Attention all residents of the Baltimore area, the national guard is performing extractions at dawn every morning from the following locations; M&T Bank Stadium…” A long list of locations followed, but only the first one concerned him.
He had to get to the stadium tonight. It was that or eat a shell.
The microwave dinged, and he jumped. He shut off the radio with trembling hands. He pulled the food out of the microwave, well aware that it would be the last time he'd eat his mama’s cooking. Tears leaked from his eyes and his voice cracked as he blessed the food and prayed for his poor mama. He'd watched her get eaten outside of her house. He did her a favor by making sure that she stayed dead, but it almost broke him. His nose ran a little as he stuck the first blessed forkful of meat pie in his mouth. It had a distinct flavor that only she ever managed to achieve. Twenty minutes later he was done. Three hours until dark; three hours to rest.
Five hours later Jimmy raised his head from the table. It took him a moment to get his bearings. Drool puddled on the table. He finally remembered and almost panicked, wondering how long he’d been out. He looked at the clock and realized that it was now two hours after sunset. He still had time, but he had to move.
He grabbed his backpack filled with food and water, picked up the shotgun and eased the door open. The zombie he'd blown away earlier was still there. He stepped over dead bodies and bodies of what could have been sleeping zombies to make his way through the hall. When darkness fell, they tended to go indoors and sleep. From the talk on the radio, no one knew why. He did know that they slept light, so if he got too near or made too much noise, a horde would quickly come down on him.
He opened the door to go outside and stopped cold. A zombie stood there with its back to the door. Sleeping zombies scattered in front of the door. Jimmy had heard reports of insomniac zombies but this was the first one he’d ever seen. Slowly he eased the door shut and crept to the exit on the other side of the building. He emerged on East Pratt Street.
He walked west on Pratt until he came to a small bridge littered with burning wreckage. He didn’t have time to go around it. He walked up to some wreckage to look for a route over, and his blood froze. An insomniac stood on the other side, looking off to one side. Jimmy pulled his pocket knife out and opened it up. He looked to the other edge of the bridge. It was potentially the quietest route but it would be really difficult to get around that side of the bridge.
Jimmy slipped over the side with his shotty slung across his back and shimmied across some broken guard rail under a pickup whose back wheels had slid off the bridge. It was hard work because Jimmy was slightly out of shape. He pulled himself up as quietly as possible and readied the knife in his hands. The insomniac still faced the other side as Jimmy approached and raised his knife. He reached quickly around the zombie's head and plunged the knife in the back of its neck to sever its spinal cord. He let the body drop to the ground. It was still “alive” but couldn’t move or cry out now. He checked for more before continuing over the rest of the wreckage.
He eventually made it to Light Street where he paused to take a swig from water out of his pack. Just a little bit down the street were some cars, and out of those cars came a stooped shuffling figure. The street lights were still working, but Jimmy couldn’t tell what it was. Suddenly it stopped and Jimmy could tell it was looking right at him. He barely had time to think, “Oh no, not another insomniac,” before it screamed at him, waking all the zombies in a three block radius.
He cut left on Light but it was too late -- they were coming. Jimmy sprinted down the street, but up ahead it was filling up with zombies in various stages of transformation. He wove between the slower ones and shot the faster ones with the shotty. They kept coming. He reached the entrance of the Hyatt Regency and saw smashed glass. He couldn’t go anywhere else because he was surrounded so he ran in, shooting two as he crossed the threshold.
He bounded up the stairs, going up and up and further still until he reached the roof. He slammed through the door and blew a man off the roof with a gut shot. The man may actually have been alive, but there was no telling now. Jimmy spun around and fired one off as a zombie showed up in the doorway.
He pumped the slide and came up empty. He slammed the door shut and grabbed a piece of wood to secure it. Sunlight peeked over the horizon as he loaded shells back in the shotgun. He could see the stadium from this rooftop and saw the National Guard pulling away from the stadium. Tears welled in his eyes.
He racked the slide. There was no hope now. It was all over. He slumped to his knees, sobbing, with tears streaking his grime-covered face. He'd actually thought he might have a chance to escape. Jimmy cried for himself, his mama, his brother, and, oddly enough, for the zombies. They didn’t ask for this. He faced the sky and whispered a prayer. God, forgive me and help those people who were infected. I’m sorry, God, for the pain I’ve caused. But I won’t be one of them. He put the barrel in his mouth and prepared to squeeze the trigger. As he fell forward still holding the slide, the butt of the gun struck the ground and his hand forced the slide back, ejecting the shell. It landed inscription up.
The scripture was 2 Samuel 22: 4:
I call on the Lord, Who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.
Read the first story in this series, The Last Night