Survival is just the beginning

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The people of Springfield thronged the entrance of the shopping center, jostling for space as they fought their way inside. Angry shouts were overlaid by shrill screams and the cries of frightened children. The blare of car alarms filled the parking lot, and columns of black smoke rose against the skyline. A single ambulance pushed its way through the dense traffic, the first one she’d seen all day despite the bloodshed.

Dylan grabbed a free shopping cart and added her struggles to the rest of the crowd, trying to get inside the supermarket. Coming here was a huge risk, but she needed food and water, or she’d never survive the coming days.

Gritting her teeth, she shoved her way through a gap between two middle-aged women. They screeched at her like banshees, their hostility palpable in the chaotic atmosphere, but she ignored them like the clucking chickens they were.

With her eyes set straight ahead, Dylan continued to forge a path through the mass of bodies blocking her way. She couldn’t afford to care about anyone else or back down from a fight. It was every man for himself now, and people were desperate to survive. Desperate enough to kill, maim, or steal if need be. And I don’t plan on becoming a victim.

She avoided the fridges and headed straight for the water, cramming a case of plastic-wrapped bottles into the bottom of her cart. The canned aisle was next, and she focused her attention on protein and vegetables such as tuna, salmon, corn, peas, soups, and tomatoes. Among the dried goods, she found a few protein bars and packets of dried fruits and nuts.

It was a struggle. Every step of the way was a battle, and Dylan grew increasingly aware of the gun nestled against her hip and the crowbar clenched in her right hand. She hoped she wouldn’t need either weapon, but that was becoming more unlikely with each passing second.

A toddler stared at her as she passed, its face swollen with tears while its young mother fought to get her hands on diapers and formula. Two men wrestled over a television, and she shook her head in wonder. What did any of that matter now? Three more were kicking another that lay prone on the floor, his head covered with his arms. Blood spattered their clothes, and they looked like savages.

Averting her gaze, Dylan ran through the last few aisles, grabbing anything useful she could get her hands on. Coffee, sugar, powdered milk, dried beans, rice, batteries, toilet paper, and vitamins.

Suddenly, a strange woman blocked her way, wielding a steak knife. Her eyes gleamed above nicotine-stained teeth, and her breath smelled of alcohol. “Give me your stuff. Now.”

Dylan bared her teeth and growled. “Fuck off.”

The woman waved the knife in front of her face. “I’m not telling you again, bitch. Give me your stuff.”

“If you want it, take it,” Dylan taunted.

The woman grabbed the cart with one hand and pulled, still waving her knife in the air. Gripping the crowbar with both hands, Dylan swung it at the woman’s wrist. It connected with a loud crack, and the woman screamed as she dropped the knife from nerveless fingers. Letting go of the cart, she scrambled backward while holding her injured limb. “You bitch! You broke my arm!”

“You asked for it. Now scram!” Dylan said with a threatening wave of her weapon. The woman ducked away and disappeared into the press of bodies to look for easier prey, though Dylan doubted she’d be able to do much damage with her broken wrist. With a satisfied grin, she resumed her search for supplies.

As she reached the end of the aisle, the sounds inside the store changed in tone and pitch. Terrified screams rose all around her, a chant taken up by all as it passed around from mouth to mouth. Dylan froze to the spot as she fought to make out the words. When she did, all the blood drained from her face, leaving her cold and numb.

“The dead!”

“They’re coming!”

“Get inside!”

“Block the entrance!”

People stampeded away from the doors. They pushed their way deeper into the store to get away from the horror that approached from the outside. Dylan knew only too well what it was, and fear spurted through her veins at the thought.

Desperation fueled her actions, and she pulled back from the surging mass of bodies before she could be crushed or trampled underfoot. Using her shopping cart as a battering ram, Dylan forged a path to the back of the store where a familiar door awaited.

Staff Only.

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