No Zombies in the Real World: A Short Story

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Liquor Barn, Saturday, 9:08pm

The shift went on and on like any other.

Groups of bulked-up tradies in stained wife beaters and plaid jackets with fluoro vests ordered slabs of VB to juice up a hundred; barely-legal teenagers making the switch from a four-pack of Smirnoff Ice to the mid-shelf moscato just to look mature; regulars enthusing about their daughter’s sweet sixteenth and the latest Federal budget cuts with disarming irregularity; regulars who just took their Winnie Gold 25s and left with barely a whisper escaping their tar-stained lips: It all happened, and she took it with that insider’s knowledge. Not that she’d been in the business too long, but she knew what to look out for.

So when the three freckled youths walked into the store to the beeping acknowledgement of the sliding doors, she knew exactly what to do. She walked tentatively around the counter, her eyes fixated on their awkward movements. One of the boys, a stocky blond kid, held up a hand to wave to her. She opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out. She moved her hand towards him, but still, nothing.

“Can you believe what that thot at Skydeck was saying?” the boy next to him said in a deep voice that belied his thin figure and oversized singlet.

“Yeah,” another replied, as they moved towards the cool room. “That nerd—Connor or whatever the geek’s name is—he full-on just started punching her.”

“Kara?” the chubby blond said. “She’s been with everyone. Remember, back at Eureka in year nine?”

“Yeah, but I can’t believe her and Connor had a go at it,” the third boy said.  “Who’d have thought she could beef him?”

“You kidding me?” Oversized Singlet said, as Overweight Blond grabbed a slab of one of the two-for-eighty-dollars.

“Grab another one, bro,” Overweight Blond called to the others as he clutched the slab, a semi-uncomfortable expression on his face.

As he walked back to the counter, he added, “It was like she was on something.”

She watched them, internally questioning why they would come in, and think nothing would happen. Maybe they were just cocky; usually their kind was.

She walked behind the counter, mindlessly organising the pricy bottles there, her eyes on the security camera mounted onto the wall in front of her.

The boys walked—wait, no, swaggered—towards the counter, two of them clutching slabs of beer. The third one, the forgettable one, fumbled around in his pocket, until he grabbed a leather wallet and pulled out two fifties.

She reached the scanner to the first slab and looked at all of them with a deadpan seriousness in her lacklustre eyes.

“Do you guys have ID?” she asked.

The boys looked at each other, and the unforgettable one pulled one out. She checked it; he was eighteen and a half.

“What about you two?” she asked, exasperation bubbling inside her mind.

“But Marko’s paying,” Oversized Singlet said, placing both hands on the counter.

She sighed; “I’m sorry, but I need all your ID’s.”

Oversized Singlet sneered, “Please, won’t you just give it to us? I swear, we’ll give you it next time.”

“I’m sorry,” she repeated. “It’s the law. You’re all going to drink it, I heard y—”

“I swear it I’m twenty-three. Why can’t you just…” Overweight Blond said.

“You idiot,” Oversized Singlet replied. “Mate, I know you can’t even pull off seventeen. That’s stupid, and you know it.”

“Have the money,” Marko said, waving the notes at her face. “Don’t worry about it.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t,” she shrugged it off. “I can’t serve you.”

“Okay then, bitch,” Oversized Singlet interrupted. “We’ll just go down to the Liquo7, if you don’t want us—”

Instead of swearing, or even leaving, he just stared at the door. They slid open, and a beep acknowledged those who entered.

Instead of talking, Oversized Singlet screamed.

 

Main Street, Saturday, 9:15pm

Kara stood outside the Skydeck nightclub on Main Street, watching the security guard shout at Connor. Connor glared back with dark, empty eyes, before swearing under his breath.

She sighed, looking back at the door, hoping Sadie and Rose would be out soon. Doubt it, she thought bitterly. Rosie’s probably hooking up with some up loser.

It was cold out, and Kara tapped her feet, waiting for the security guard to stop ticking off Connor. Sure, he was a complete ass for punching her in the club, but he really was hot. She was thankful her geeky Uncle Phil was a brown belt in karate. Maybe one day she’d be as strong as him, and then she’d be able to screw over everyone else who’d just watched and laughed.

Maybe she’d be on YouTube by the end of the night. She grinned, imagining Connor’s face when he saw the views reach over a million. She’d make it rich out of this, and they’d all know he couldn’t even beat her. Then she wouldn’t have to worry about showing her stupid mother her pathetic English exam mark.

“I’m just going to let you off with a warning,” she tuned in just as the guard turned away from Connor. “Mark my words, though: if this ever happens again, I won’t hesitate to get the cops involved.”

Connor opened his mouth to speak, but the guard hushed him. “I don’t care what you have to say. You’re both banned.”

“No…” Kara moaned.

“If you want to have a goddamn fight, then don’t do it in the goddamn Skydeck, you idiots.”

Connor turned around to Kara. “If you weren’t such a stupid th—”

“Oh, c’mon,” she hissed. “You can’t talk, geek. Why don’t you go back to your little science experiments and do your nerd things?”

“Oh, I can’t speak,” Connor said. “Didn’t you get an E+ in your science exam? Who gets an E+ in a fucking biology exam?”

“Hey, cut it the fuck off, you two,” the security guard shouted, placing his bulky frame between them.

“Why don’t you fuck off?” Connor sneered, holding a hand up.

“That’s it,” the security guard said, grabbing Connor with both arms.

He pushed him towards the brick wall of Skydeck, and smashed him forward; the shattering sound reverberating impossibly louder than the music from inside the club. Connor tried to fight back, but he was pinned, breathing irregularly: He was a dust mote to the security guard’s colossal strength.

“Listen here: Now I am calling the cops,” the guard said.

“You can’t do this,” Connor said, futilely struggling against the guard’s ironclad grip. “I can get you jailed for his. This is abuse.”

“You’re full of it, nerd,” Kara said, moving closer to the pair.

She would’ve moved closer, but she tripped on the guard’s left foot and fell to the ground.

“Hey,” she shouted, holding her forehead with a weak hand. “I can get you in for abuse; that’s the law!”

The guard stared back at her, and let go of Connor. He looked at them nervously. Kara picked herself up, clutching her clutch with her fake-nailed claws.

“She’s right for once,” Connor said, straightening up, shaking slightly. “I studied it in Legal Studies; I think I’m going to know more than a stupid security guard—”

He looked up at the sky. Both Kara and the security guard followed his stunned gaze up into the darkness, where the sky wasn’t so dark anymore.

As Connor screamed, the bright orange, which had originally looked tiny and forgettable, was taking up the night sky. It licked up everything, until it was a giant fireball burning brighter, bigger, until it consumed the sky and everything, and the dark night sky wasn’t that dark anymore. He ran.

Kara and the security guard stood there, unmoving as the orange descended upon them. Without thinking, Kara clutched the security guard, her mouth refusing to let out words. She opened and closed it before giving up.

They both closed their eyes as the fireball descended upon them It was too late for them. It was too late for everyone. Kara had only just found her voice to scream when her throat was ripped from its place and was consumed with the fire of a thousand suns.

Connor was halfway down the street when he saw the second fireball, and he was drenched with the sweat of a thousand others, others who remained stuck in place staring at the bright orange in the sky, not even caring it was descending upon them. He tried to navigate through them but with every empty spot in his path, another stunned figure took it over, and he couldn’t move…no, he couldn’t move; he was stuck. The sweat, both his and of those around him, overtook him, and he remained stuck in place, and the only place he could look was right at the bright flame, villain of his life story. But, before he could fully realise, Connor wasn’t there anymore.

Before he could even scream, he felt pain beyond measure, and suddenly he couldn’t feel—feel anything or anyone—anymore.

Main Street was up in flames.

 

Liquor Barn, Saturday 9:23pm

She couldn’t move. There were so many people around that she was suddenly up against the cigarette cabinet, struggling to breathe, struggling to move. She tried to push up against them, but the man in the wife-beater and plaid was a thousand tonnes stronger; the woman with the sweet sixteen daughter had nails that clawed and clawed into her chest until she was screaming as the blood squeezed out of her.

But nobody could hear her pain. She could no longer hear the beeping of the sliding door; she could barely even hear the smashing of thousands of bottles of liquor, and she sure as hell couldn’t hear her own screaming.

She was dying, and all she could think, apart from all the terror, was how the hell all this had happened.

One moment she’d been refusing service to those underage boys, but now all she could think about was surviving. She closed her eyes, trying to block out the sounds of herself dying, but she couldn’t even do that. She had to get out of here.

Tears dripped down her face without her realising as she struggled to squish through the clawed-nails woman, and she grabbed a lock of the woman’s curly blonde hair. She would’ve gasped, but she couldn’t breathe.

The lights flickered, and the curly-haired woman shrieked and the bearded man beside her punched her in the face, bellowing incoherently.

She used this as her chance to get past the woman, sliding her hand into the drawer under the register and grabbing her mobile phone. The man looked at her, absolute manic rage displayed on his face as he held his hand up to reach her.

She dodged out of his way, and the bearded man collapsed forward onto the side of the counter. Without a second to spare, she grabbed the man and used him to stand up on the counter. Her vision went dizzy as she stood up, but she blinked a few times to try and rid her face of the tears that wouldn’t go away. Someone grabbed at her legs and she fell down onto the other side of the counter, but she clutched at them to remain upright.

She forced herself through the squirming masses, sweat threatening to overwhelm her. She couldn’t even feel the tears fall down her face, although she definitely knew she was crying. Her breathing was slow and laboured now, and hyperventilation was becoming her best friend, but she forced her way through the people, until she saw the golden light—that sliding door.

It was barely that now—a fragment of its former self—as the glass had sprayed around the room barely half an hour earlier, but now she was nearly outside. She just had to make it outside those doors.

But then what? Why else was everyone crammed and suffocating inside the Liquor Barn when it was safer outside? Was it actually safer outside?

She made it out the door and walked full-force into a bulky man with a handlebar moustache. She screamed as he pushed her out of the way, onto the hot concrete. She fell, shouting louder as she held her hands to catch the fall, grazing them. The pain was nothing though, she thought, as she slowly picked herself up off the concrete.

Handlebar Moustache ran into the already crammed Liquor Barn, shouting obscenities. They hurt her ears, which were still recovering from the screaming. Her body hurt, and the sweat stunk. It smelled of death.

She found herself looking up at the sky, and then realised why everyone was running into her work. How had she not seen this before? She couldn’t have been that wrapped up in serving the three boys to have missed this.

Flames licked up the sky in the near distance, from what looked like the central business district of town. They spread across the sky, in an almost zigzag fashion, coming closer to her. She gasped, and let out a ragged moan.

The world was ending, and she thought oddly about how it was strange it wasn’t because of zombies. Thinking about the zombies brought her back to reality, and she gasped again. Without thinking, she ran through the car park, closer to the flames, but she didn’t care. She kept running, through crowds of more people biding their lives at the supermarket.

She looked back briefly, and both the supermarket and the Liquor Barn were full of people. She saw her work, and the faces mashed up against the wall; she saw Curly-Haired woman near the counter, blood pouring from her a deep gash in her forehead. Behind her, she saw what looked like the bearded man, bashing against her. Curly Hair held a hand up against the window.

She looked back, running down the car park. She didn’t look back.

She let out a strangled gasp, and tried to regain her breathing. As she made her way from the supermarket, an awful, deafening smashing sound came from behind her. She didn’t have to look to know everyone behind her was dead.

She was by no means a fit person, but the smell of blazing flesh kept her running long after she couldn’t breathe properly, her ribcage burned, and her life was over—at least not literally, not just yet.

 

Alex’s House, Saturday, 9:40pm

Alex sat at his computer, staring at the blank Word document. It was a nasty, glaring thing; that blasted arrow, stupid mouse, pathetic blinking cursor. He scowled, and opened Facebook on his internet browser.

Hannah Hammond: Out for a night on the town with the girls, can’t wait – with Sarah Sloane and Jordan Raymond.

Stephen Greene: Watching Superhawks marathon. Anyone with me?

Bernice ‘Bay-Bay’ Matheson: Strange…just saw orange in the sky…Maybe Im just going insane lol.

Alex sighed, and minimised the browser. It was a Saturday night, and he was here—doing just what, exactly? What he was supposed to be doing was writing, but he couldn’t. He hadn’t been able to write in, what, three months now, so why was he expecting to have a sudden burst of inspiration now? He glared at the laptop, and considered standing up to grab a packet of chips. Everything was better with an overdose of salt and fat. Maybe it’d help him write. He knew he was just kidding himself, but he had to do something.

A loud bang went off in the distance, and Alex shrugged. It was probably just fireworks or gunfire. His suburb wasn’t The Greatest Place on Earth.

He looked back at the laptop, but stopped suddenly, and found himself standing up. He put the laptop on the coffee table and moved towards the sliding glass back doors. A sudden tinge of nervousness gripped his insides, and he slowly peeked around the blinds.

What greeted him left him closing the blinds very, very suddenly, and nearly collapsing backwards. He grabbed the coffee table to support himself, knocking the laptop down. He was about to let out a gasp of shock, and tried to move towards the laptop to check if it was alright, but booming knocks started up at the front door.

Paranoid thoughts crossed Alex’s mind, and he went down to retrieve his laptop, but the knocks became louder, more urgent. Someone was shouting; a very familiar voice.

Alex repositioned his laptop and, without checking how it was, slowly made his way to the front door.

The shouts became more intelligible, and Alex looked around the hallway nervously, holding his hands to his chest.

“Alex! Alex!” the voice screamed. “Alex! Please open up!”

Alex gasped; he recognised the voice. He got to the front door, and removed the safety latch, and opened the door.

Before he could fully open it, she forced her way through the door.

“Hey, why are—”

“Alex! Alex!” she said as if she were still on the other side of the door. “Shut that door. Shut…please shut it.”

He agreed without saying a word; the look on the girl’s face left him ready to do anything she said. He reattached the safety latch, and turned around to face the terrified girl in the brown and green Liquor Barn uniform.

“What’s wrong?” he tried again.

“It’s the apocalypse, Alex. The world’s ending. It’s actually ending.”

As if to punctuate her words, an explosion roared from outside, and both she and Alex screamed.

“What? Why?” he said as he clutched the girl tightly and walked towards the bedroom with her.

“I…I don’t know why,” she said. “I can’t believe…”

“It’s okay,” Alex soothed. “Everything’s alright now.”

“There’s no zombies in the real world,” she said, giving him an expression only he could comprehend; the ghost of a smile on her lips.

###

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