They pulled up near another petrol station. Jill didn’t like to let the fuel drop below a third on the gauge, just in case a quick getaway was necessary later on.
She’d lost track of the hours she’d spent driving but pure stubbornness had kept her going. Jack had given up asking her if he could drive a long time ago. He knew that he wasn’t allowed at the wheel just as well as she did.
They jumped out of the vehicle, Jack taking the gun with him.
“You wanna take snack patrol or fuel up?” he asked.
“Snack patrol,” Jill replied. “Yell if there’s trouble.”
He nodded, pumped the gun and threw it at her. Jill caught it and headed into the station. Normally she wouldn’t leave him unsupervised with the car but she really wanted to be alone right now, damn the consequences. He hadn’t deserted her yet.
The automatic doors slid open silently as she crept inside, gun at the ready. The place was quiet, not dissimilar to the prior town, but that didn’t mean it was safe.
Jill shuddered. She hadn’t expected their little visit to affect her so greatly. She was anything but naïve. She thought she’d witnessed enough devastation to permanently harden her stomach but the sheer silence of the town was something new. Jill hadn’t even heard the creatures coming. It was lucky that she and Jack had both been in the car when they were.
Jill rounded the corner of the aisle and lowered the gun in surprise. She had reached the magazine and newspaper section. The headlines screamed at her louder than the grey faces they pictured.
ALZHEIMER’S MUTATION ON THE RISE
Well. That was out of date. Nobody thought of the disease as Alzheimer’s any more.
A shuffling sound made Jill bring her gun up into a rigid salute. The noise sounded far too close for comfort. She spun round to find two bloodshot eyes staring at her from the end of the aisle. The creature tilted its head to one side and started to run straight for her, mouth gaping open to reveal its bloodstained teeth. Jill toted the gun, aimed and pulled the trigger.
The powerful recoil almost threw her off but she just about managed to get her target. The bullet hit the creature’s leg and it began to limp. She smiled grimly. Jack kept telling her not to waste bullets but she wasn’t as good a shot as him and needed the creature to slow down before there was any chance of a bullseye. Bullets didn’t slow them much but this sort of speed was all she needed. Jill pumped the gun and raised it again, bracing herself for the recoil, and fired.
Bullseye. Out splattered its contaminated brains but there was no sense of satisfaction, only weary exhaustion. Jill just wanted to get some snacks, nip to the loo if possible and get out. She pumped the gun again, out of habit more than anything else, and turned around.
There was another creature half way down the aisle, only a few seconds from barreling into her. Jill had just enough time to wonder if zombies wore extra sneaky footwear before it hit her and she was grappling for her life.
She crashed backwards onto the floor, spots dancing before her eyes as the creature’s face leered over her, teeth gnashing and fingers clawing against denim. Jill tugged at the shotgun but it was trapped underneath the creature as was she. She cried out as the monster bit into her arm and, in desperation, she yanked the gun upwards and fired. The metal tore through the creature’s gut and the recoil made her grunt in pain but fortunately, the snout of the gun happened to be pointing in the right direction. The creature stopped moving.
Gasping in a mixture of shock and effort, Jill pushed the body away and scrambled backwards, bringing the dripping gun with her. She pressed herself up against the newspapers and tried to calm her breathing. Her eyes were transfixed on the bite mark. It was bleeding profusely and she could feel a headache coming on.
Jill wondered if she’d be able to take on any more creatures if they came for her. Either way, Jack couldn’t fight her battles for her without the only gun in their possession. She cursed under her breath. They really needed to get another one. Her only chance now was to find the exit.
Jill took a deep breath and stood up. She peered over the shelf. She couldn’t see any other creatures in either direction but she definitely wasn’t willing to risk herself further by staying longer than necessary.
Jill grabbed a couple of tins from the shelf opposite and set off at a sprint. She could hear no footsteps following her but that didn’t mean anything.
She grabbed a litre sized bottle of coke from a shelf by the door as she left the shop. Inevitably, Jack was waiting for her just outside.
“Let’s go!” she panted.
He looked at her bloodstained torso in alarm.
“Are you okay?” he asked. “Were there many?”
“Let’s just get out of here,” Jill replied.
She handed him the bottle of coke. There was a slight dribble of blood on it from her arm. Jack looked at it and then her.
“Can we please go?!” she exclaimed.
“You’re bit,” he noted.
“Yes, congratulations on having eyes!” she snapped.
They didn’t have time for this. Jill started to move towards the car but Jack grabbed her uninjured arm.
“You’re bit,” he repeated, his face suddenly serious.
“Christ Jack!” Jill cried. “It’s not like in the movies! That’s not what turns me into one of them! Now can I have my arm back please?”
Jack looked at her hard for a moment before releasing her.
“How is it passed on?” he asked as they both started to head towards the car, Jill staggering.
“Contaminated water,” she replied, wincing as the pounding in her head grew stronger.
“How do you know?” Jack asked.
“Trust me I know.”
She slumped against the closed door. Jack looked at her, his eyes alarmingly full of concern.
“Are you sure you should be driving?” he asked.
Jill smirked up at him as she slid into a sitting position on the ground.
And then everything went black.