Those eagle eyed among my readers will notice I had not two but THREE challenges last Friday, the third being provided by Ying_Ko_4. Apologies for not mentioning it earlier, I only noticed it today. Here is my very rushed story in response to that challenge. Thank you, Ying_Ko_4, it was fun to write. Enjoy.
It's the End of the World as we Know It.
Inky sighted through her binoculars at the deserted petrol station forecourt below. Beside her Janna, her German Shepherd Dog, growled. Inky rested a hand on the dog’s head.
‘I know, Babe.’
She looked over her shoulder at the way she had come. Already the street was filling up with the shambling undead. The smell of the rotting corpses had become visible after twenty five days of continual sunshine. A halo of flies surrounded the hoard wherever they went.
Inky scratched her head. If she delayed any longer the zombies would catch her, but she dreaded going out into the sun once more. Its rays, which she once longed for, had become lethal and even a short exposure to them sapped her energy.
‘Come on, Janna.’
Inky scratched the dog behind the ear before leaving the safety of the building and running down the steps to the road. She had no choice but to go on. Without caffeine she wouldn’t survive another twelve hours of the suns leeching, and the petrol station was her last hope.
‘Please God there’ll be some left in this one.’
She jogged out into the street, her dog at her side. The zombies howled, catching sight of fresh meat, drawing more of their kind out of the abandoned shops and businesses that lined the street. Inky clenched her fists and urged her legs to move faster. From the moment she had left the shade of the building she had felt the sun sucking the life from her. Apathy threatened to overwhelm her. If she didn’t reach the shadow of the forecourt she would stop dead on the pavement, easy prey for her pursuers.
Janna nudged her leg and whined, giving Inky enough strength to run the remaining distance to the petrol station. Once underneath the awning, she stopped to catch her breath. The sprint had taken a lot out of her. If she didn’t find caffeine fast, she didn’t know if she would be able to make it to the end of the street.
Janna sniffed around the idling pumps, the high price per unit frozen in memorial to a way of life that was now gone. Outside the shop peat briquettes and bundles of sticks lay equally obsolete, thanks to the twenty four hour heat and sun.
The door to the shop stood open. The dog approached it cautiously. She paused, body tense, as she sniffed the threshold. After a few moments she turned to her master and barked once. The all clear signal.
‘Good dog, Janna.’
Inky slapped her pet on the back as she went into the shop. She wouldn’t have survived so long if it hadn’t been for Janna. Once in the shop she went straight to the dog food aisle and tore open a bag of kibble, spilling it onto the floor for the dog to eat. She took a bottle of water from the refrigerated cabinet. A plastic bowl full of lollipops stood on the shop counter. Inky tossed the sweets and filled the bowl with water. Janna took turns drinking and lapping up the food.
Inky poured the remainder of the water over her face and hands to cool down and then went looking for caffeine. There were no fizzy drinks left in the cabinets, all the chocolate had been cleared off the shelves. Even the coffee had been taken.
Inky pounded her head against the counter, making the cash register ping.
Janna looked up and whined.
‘It’s ok, Baby,’ Inky soothed the dog. ‘There has to be another way.’
She remembered there was caffeine in some pain relief medication. She started reading through the list of ingredients on what was left in the shop.
Behind her, Janna tensed, the mane along her back bristling. She started to growl, teeth bared, and then lunged forward barking.
Inky twirled. She hadn’t noticed the door behind the counter. It opened slowly, revealing the darkness of a room beyond. She grabbed a bottle of motor oil to use as a weapon.
A man appeared in the doorway. Janna whimpered and shrank back, pressing her body against Inky’s legs. The man wasn’t a zombie. He looked vaguely human, wore a smart suit and tie and had a large, smug grin plastered on his face. He looked familiar. Inky knew she had seen him before. She recognised his face from the posters that hung on the lamp posts out on the street.
He was a politician.
‘Join us, Inky,’ the politician said. ‘We have been watching you and we think you are just what our party needs. Come with us. We’ll protect you from the zombies. We have plenty of caffeine. We promise we’ll keep you safe.’
‘Never,’ Inky said. She threw the motor oil can at the politician. It hit him in the face, pushing his smile askew, but he kept coming with arms out stretched.
Inky screamed. She ran out the door and onto the forecourt. The zombies had almost reached the petrol station. She ran out onto the road, but her way was blocked by an army of politicians. She didn’t know their names, but she knew in her bones that they were the ministers for health, finance, justice and education. The junior ministers walked at the front, their arms outstretched, their grabbing hands like claws. At the back of the politicians, driving them forward, was the Taoiseach. Inky couldn’t see him, but she knew he was there and the thought filled her with dread.
She knelt on the hot tarmac, threw her arms around Janna and buried her face in the dog’s fur.
‘I’m sorry,’ she whispered.
The sun drained Inky’s energy. She could no longer stand. She crawled on her hands and knees away from the politicians towards the zombies. Janna limped after her.