Chapter 12: Claire
Roseston Park, Washington
After the blue haired man had run out of the door, screaming, he had knocked me over and I fell unconscious. I woke up now, aware of the horrible silence that surrounded me. I got up and walked through the metal doorway, hoping that the girl that had fallen with the man was dead. I walked over to the opening that lead to the broken catwalk and stared down, seeing two mangled, burnt bodies surrounded by a few remaining glowing embers. I sighed with relief and made the decision to get out of the mine. But how?
The catwalk was obviously out and it was too dark to tell if there were any doors in this room that would lead to an exit. My stomach growled, reminding me that I hadn't eaten in a day. I closed my eyes and thought of how good food would taste right now, despite everything that had happened a few hours ago. When I opened them I was standing face to face with a row of cereal boxes at the end of a shelf. I looked up and saw the dark ceiling of Saper's grocery store. I looked down and saw the red and white checkered floor. I took a step to my left and looked down a long row of food. Somehow, I had left the mine and ended up back in the city. But it was almost 11:00 on a Tuesday. Why did the store seem closed?
I took a few steps forward and suddenly found myself smashing into the ground with a weight on top of me. I shook my head a little and saw blood splatter onto the floor. I tried to get up, but someone was on top of me. "What the fuck? Get off me!" I tried twisting around to claw at their face, but they pushed my hands down.
"How the hell'd you get in here?" The person on top of me asked. I could tell by the voice that the person was a girl, probably my age or younger. "Answer me, dammit!"
"Cool it, Crystal," Looking up as much as I could, I managed to see a pair of nice leather shoes, accompanied by a pair of khaki pants walking toward us. They had a very important air about them, as if they thought very highly of themselves. The girl who was on top of me, Crystal, let me stand up, but still held my arms behind my back. Seeing as I was considerably shorter than the two of them, the boy who was wearing the khakis looked at her with what looked like slight exasperation and she let me go. The boy flicked on a flash light and shined it in my face. I squinted and was about to put my hand in front of my eyes before he moved the light to the side.
I got a better look at him and realized that in no world could this boy ever come off as threatening. Not only was he wearing khakis and polished shoes, but he also had a plaid sweater and his blond hair was nicely combed and parted. He really couldn't be more than 17 years old. The only thing slightly unnerving about him was his cold blue eyes. "My name is Preston Winthrop Esquire," he stuck out his hand, implying that I should shake it. I looked down at it disdain and finally reached out my own hand to meet him. As soon as the short handshake was over he pulled his hand back and wiped it on the side of his pants. I rolled my eyes. He continued to look displeased as he continued, "And how did you get in here? We have this whole building tightly secured,"
Tightly secured? By this guy? I almost laughed at the thought. "I don't know," I replied. Preston narrowed his eyes and opened his mouth to say something, but I didn't let him, "And what do you mean 'tightly secured'? You're 15 and this is a grocery store,"
Preston took in a deep breath as his face flushed, "For your information, I'm 18! And this isn't just a grocery store anymore! It's our only source of food!" I noticed that his British accent came out more when he was irritated. "Honestly, how dense are you? How could you not have noticed what was going on? This whole city's in ruins and unless you want to get torn to pieces, I suggest you stay inside! Although rubbish like you might be better off just taking a nap on the pavement,"
I tried to ignore that last sentence as I thought of how I had been stuck in a mountain for the past however many hours, that's how I didn't know what was going on. And what was going on anyway? As I stood there in silence my face must've turned into one of confusion as Preston sighed again and turned around, gesturing that I should follow him.
With Crystal behind me I found the store slowly getting brighter as we neared the front where three people sat on folding chairs looking out large glass windows. One of them was holding a gun. Preston cleared his throat and the three people turned around. They all looked relatively young and I guessed Preston was the oldest. As I thought this, Preston spoke up, "This is-" he turned back to me and whispered, "What's your name?"
"Claire," I replied monotonously.
"Claire," Preston repeated louder, now facing the three others. "Somehow- and I'm not blaming any one of you," his gaze flickered over each one, "Claire got in here. Judging by her…state," He was probably referring to the long scar running down my face, "She is not worthy to share any of this food, nor is she strong enough to help protect it,"
"Excuse me?" Preston turned around to look at me and I kicked him in the nuts. His hands went to his crotch as he inhaled sharply and fell down to his knees. I heard Crystal stifle a laugh behind me and the guy with the gun biting his lip, trying not to smile. The two other people were girls, one of which was giggling, the other one looking at Preston in horror and rushing over to him. As soon as she left her post, Crystal ran over and took her chair.
"Prezzy!" The girl who'd run over to him knelt down and started stroking his hair, "Are you alright, Prezzy-wezzy?" The boy with the gun couldn't help but laugh then and I felt the tension in the air subside. Hearing this, Preston nodded and slowly got up. He brushed himself off and awkwardly patted the girl on her shoulder. Her face automatically turned to one of joy and she skipped over to stand beside Crystal. As I looked at the five teenagers I realized that they all looked different from the average person, especially the girls. The one who'd been caressing Preston had big, poufy, pink hair with bunny ears sticking out. The one who'd been giggling earlier had spikey black hair and what might be fangs and Crystal had skulls dangling from everywhere on her body, her bright orange eyes contrasting against her dark skin. The boy with the gun looked like Preston's twin brother, only dressed the opposite way with his ball cap turned around and faded ripped jeans.
Preston glared at me as the other boy spoke up, "Chill out, Preston. Girl's got guts, maybe she can join us," Preston sighed and began walking toward the back of the store.
"Beebee, let's go," He said without turning around. The girl with the pink hair giggled with joy and ran to catch up with him. The other boy got up and put the gun on his chair. He walked over to me and took of his hat for a second, smoothing his hair.
"I'm Derek, by the way," he said, "And that's Yuki," he nodded toward the black haired girl who was now facing away from us and looking out the window. "You're Claire, right?" I nodded. He seemed friendly enough, but I still didn't like him. I didn't like anyone here.
"Why do you have a gun?" I asked. Derek's face grew serious and he folded his arms across his chest.
"Take a look outside the window," he replied. The two of us walked over to the window and I gasped when I got a look at what was outside. Everything looked like it was destroyed, the windows of the buildings across from us completely shattered, blood drying on some of the walls. Not a car or person in sight. No live people, anyway. "We've been calling it the apocalypse," Derek continued, "What else could it be?"
"Any zombies?" I asked.
"A few," he replied. I looked back to see if he was joking, but he was dead serious. "Most of them are rakes," I looked at him with a quizzical look.
"You'll see," Yuki said happily while continuing to stare out the window.
"We have back up on the roof," Derek continued, "Just in case anyone tried to take the food. I know what you're thinking, we should be sharing it with the survivors. But what if there aren't any survivors? What if it's just us? We can't afford to let anyone or anything in here," Derek's face went from one of seriousness to concern as he looked back at me, "Oh, your nose,"
"What?" Then I remembered. I reached up to feel the place between my nose and mouth and came back with a little blood. My nose had stopped bleeding from when Crystal had smashed it into the ground, but it was still noticeable, "It's nothing, really,"
"Yuki," Yuki looked up as Derek spoke to her, "Go get a box of clorax wipes from the medical section," He smiled down at me and I felt my face get hot. I didn't need their help. A few seconds after Yuki left a car pulled up in front of the store. Derek immediately got his gun and went outside as the people came out of the car. The girl's hair looked just as unusual as Beebee's and the young man had a stereotypical tourist shirt.
I saw their eyes go wide and the man put his hands in the air as Derek yelled something at them and held up the gun. Crystal ran to one of the nearby counters and pulled a hand gun out of the cash register. Seeing that they weren't backing down, she joined Derek outside with her weapon. I didn't know what to do, so I just stood there, watching the scene play out, hoping they wouldn't shoot.
The man in the tourist shirt looked like he suddenly remembered something. He turned to the woman he'd brought with him and raised his eyebrows. I saw her pull her arms back and then thrust out her hands, not sure what that would do. A second later I heard Crystal scream through the glass as all but her head was consumed in ice, including her gun. Someone must've heard the scream, for another car stopped in front of the store. Now, Derek was yelling at the two who had already arrived, and the guy in the tacky shirt was yelling back at him. Through all the commotion, a blond boy in a t-shirt with the British flag printed on it stepped out, all out of breath.
Everyone stopped yelling for a second and I heard him talking through the window, "You guys!" he stopped to take a breath, "I need help! Summer, and Chaz, and Liberty they're all-"
"No one cares!" Derek had lost his temper and, without giving it a second thought, raised his gun and shot the newcomer. The woman who'd shot ice out of her hands screamed as the bullet entered his chest, blood spraying everywhere. He fell back, his mouth and eyes still open, blood still pouring all over the sidewalk. Derek took a few steps forward and shot the dead body two more times. "Agh!" He swung around to face the two others, "Get out of here! Get the fuck out of here!" He shot at them, narrowly missing, as they dove into the car and sped off.
The corpse was still lying there, until Derek picked up the foot and started dragging it back with him. Crystal was still frozen, but she seemed more concerned with Derek's activity than her own condition. He suddenly dropped the body and ran inside, right past me and into the aisles. He seemed to be looking for something.'
Before I could call to him he came running back outside, a roll of duct tape, a few nails, a hammer, thick red sharpies, and a side of a card board box. He picked up one of the arms of the corpse and heavily taped it to the side of the store, then did the same thing to the other three limbs, spreading each of them fair apart, letting the head dangle limply. Derek then got down on his hands and knees, still breathing heavily from his anger, ripped off the cap of the sharpie and wrote something on the cardboard. Even Crystal looked away when he lifted his new sign and pushed it against the body's chest. Leaning his elbow against the sign, he grabbed a nail and the hammer, stood up straight again, and pounded the nail through the sign and into the corpse's flesh.
Derek picked up his gun, shot at Crystal's ice prison (not hitting her, but cracking the ice enough times for her to break free eventually), and walked quickly back into the store. He threw his gun to the ground and almost ran to the back, probably to find Preston. I stared after him for a second, then took a look out the window at the sign. It read: STARVATION IS YOUR ONLY OPTION.
I gulped and suddenly felt a bit guilty for being surrounded by all of this food. The guilt quickly disappeared and was replaced by fear. I had begun to think of Derek as a brave, decent human being. Now I knew I was surrounded by the insane.
Claire had never had an easy life, but she had always managed to somehow get through it. She was about to face challenges that she would never have expected before. These challenges would involve suffering of many kinds.