IT'S JUST NO GOOD ANYMORE
By Ken Gentner
Gina cocked the Beretta's
hammer with a blistered thumb and winced in pain. The powder
burns mixed with the fluid under the freshly broken skin.
"Die you fucker," she rasped at the last approaching dead
thing - a fat teenager wearing a stained rock concert t-shirt.
His greasy scalp flew off his skull and landed on a pile
of stinking carcasses behind him before his own body joined
in the stack of rotting flesh. Her slide locked to the rear
after ejecting the magazine's last casing. She couldn't
have done that better if she were paid.
Gina wiped her forehead with the sling for her broken right
arm. More pain lanced across her brain as she lifted the
arm slightly to get some slack in her left hand. She examined
the glistening sweat on the pea-green fabric. She needed
a shower to rinse the sweat, grime, blood, and sand out
of her skin. It had been days since she pampered herself
with her own personal hygiene; hell, she could smell her
own unclean and not-so-fresh feeling from between her thighs
over the rotting flesh that surrounded her. She stunk of
them. She shuddered at the thought of anybody touching
her again. After dragging all of the bodies outside, she
set them ablaze. Finally, she locked the church's double
doors and made her way through the entire building to give
herself the satisfaction that she was the only prowler in
this house of worship. The last time she relaxed and let
her guard down, she was almost eaten in her sleep. She wasn't
stupid enough nor could she afford to repeat mistakes. Keeping
low to avoid silhouetting her lean frame in the stained
glass windows, she swept through the sanctuary, checked
the pulpit, and rechecked the locks to the doors on both
left and right wing closets. Beyond the right wing closet,
she took a hidden flight of stairs to a dressing room below.
Hidden among the rows of dusty taffeta angel costumes and
choir robes lay the last boxes of her only weapon's ammunition.
Gina scooped the government-issued brown boxes up with her
good arm, placed them in the sling and headed into the kitchen.
She had not yet taken a full inventory of the church's wares
because of constant undead interruptions. She imagined the
refrigerator to be stocked with sugar-free punch and the
cabinets full of generic brand decaf and stale Archway cookies.
She could afford this break now since she chained all of
the entry doors at their crash bars. The church was built
in a split-level configuration; meaning only the front and
rear entry doors are at ground level. The sanctuary was
about fourteen feet above ground, making the windows unreachable
from outdoors. The basement was refurbished in the 1950's
to double as a fallout shelter in the event the U.S.S.R.
launched nukes at the God-fearing heartland of America.
There were no basement windows and the walls were lined
with asphalt and lead to protect against sound and radiation.
For the first time in a month, she felt safe.
She poured the punch into a Styrofoam cup and admired the
greenish hue as it swirled and bubbled on the surface. She
swallowed and realized how thirsty she was. She was coming
down from her latest adrenaline surge and felt the weight
of the gun belt biting into her hips. Her chest was heaving
from exertion. She finished the last of the punch and walked
to the utility room under the basement stairs. She saw a
showerhead sticking out of the wall surrounded by cobwebs.
She found a decaying cardboard and tin can of powdered soap
lying on an old roll top desk near the door. She painfully
The water was rusty and putrid for a brief time when it
first emerged from the parched showerhead. It sputtered
and coughed in protest at the command to come to life. Gina
eagerly stepped beneath the surprisingly warm water. She
tapped a chunk of blue and white soap from the can and pulverized
it in her hand. The water made a paste with the soap as
she rubbed the grainy mix across her waist and breasts.
She allowed her mind to relax and remember a happier time.
She could still smell the flowers.
Lilac and tulip aroma filled the air while they made love
under clear skies. The pond reflected the colors of late
spring. The emerald grass mixed with the blue heaven above.
The red, purple, orange, and yellow flowers framed his face.
The pond - with her spectrum of color - sat like a halo
of pious radiance around his head. His smile reflected hers
on that perfect day.
"I do so much love you."
"Why do you say it that way?"
"Because saying 'I love you' doesn't mean as much when it
is repeated as often as people do," he replied with loving
Gina allowed herself a moment to weep. The water was going
cold. She quickly scrubbed her body, finishing the last
bit of the powdered soap that was starting to irritate her
fresh layer of skin. It dawned on her she washed herself
with scouring powder. She didn't care. Smelling like bleach
was better than smelling like them.
She padded across the cold concrete floor to the dressing
room and dried herself off with an altar towel. She felt
completely invigorated from the shower. 'Quick assessment,'
she thought. 'I have three toilets, five sinks, about a
year's worth of toilet paper, there are two boxes of military
field rations from 1972 in the pantry, and 90 bullets.'
Gina dropped the towel and rushed to her pistol and knapsack.
There was no time to hesitate and be a weak girl now. That
sound was someone or something trying to open
the front doors. The chains were securely fastened with
a padlock. Nothing can get in by conventional means. The
dead aren't smart enough to cut through the door.
She dressed herself in a black choir robe and slid on a
pair of cork sandals. She dashed to the kitchen and snatched
two long kitchen knives and a paring knife. "I need more
bullets," she muttered.
Gina scrambled the steeple stairs in less than a minute.
She took measured care to prevent the steeple floor door
from creaking and giving away her position. She immediately
spotted an old brown Chrysler Cordoba parked neatly in the
lot. From her vantage point, she saw the white vinyl upholstered
interior with a cluttered backseat. The trunk was open,
but she couldn't see inside it. The hatch was in the way.
Gina's blood chilled and thickened in confused shock. There
was a hand holding the trunk open! The pink and white flesh
disqualified it for membership in the undead horde. The
fingertips were too thick to be a woman's. Gina quietly
reloaded her pistol and spare magazines while eyeing the
intruder. She looked above her head to check her clearance.
She would hate to stand up into a bell and be knocked unconscious
and allow this man to get the upper hand. She glanced back
down as the hand slammed the trunk shut, revealing a good-looking
and sturdy middle-aged man wearing blue jeans and a gray
flannel shirt with a black turtleneck. He had a rifle in
his left hand and knelt to pick up a sledgehammer and a
coil of black rope.
Gina ducked her head down to examine her options. Stupid
bitch, get your head back up there, she thought and
started to bring her head up to watch her opponent. She
dropped prone before she realized she had. The man shot
He knows I'm here, she thought immediately. Gina
heard a humming ringing sound from above. She looked up
and saw a wisp of smoke from the edge of the church bell.
The sharp metallic clang had immobilized her briefly, and
she realized she was in for a monster headache tonight.
That fucker shot at me.
"Knock knock," said the man with calculated volume. He craned
his neck and scanned the church windows high above. "Doors
are chained on the inside, and there is a smoldering pile
of dead people out here. That means you are inside the church
and have the upper hand. I won't play games with you. I
know you have an advantage. Please let me inside. I am alone
out here, but I'll work hard to help you in any way I can.
I have ammunition and a strong back. I have a car with a
full tank of gas. I could move on, but I just want to rest
for a while. You know I could just smash a window and climb
in if I wanted to. I respect you this much at least. Isn't
that worth something?"
Gina realized he shot the bell for effect and as a display
of his abilities. She spied a group of approaching zombies
in the trees behind him. Another group of six approached
from the west. She could let him handle it on his own with
the chance he may die, or she could just pop his head herself
and let the dead have their way with him. This would draw
a crowd even after the body was devoured. They could damage
the car, a means of escape if things went sour.
"God damn it," she whispered and stood up to a half crouch.
She estimated twenty yards of safety between him and the
first group of lumbering dead. She started for the trap
door when she saw him turn and look at the approaching ghouls.
He threw his shotgun to the ground and placed his hands
on his head.
"What the FUCK is wrong with this asshole?"
She boiled down the steps and ripped the keys off her belt.
She was thankful she had rehearsed finding the right key
for each lock in the event she needed to make a hasty exit.
Gina yanked the lock and chain off and kicked the doors
The man made no move for the door. He stood there with his
hands on top of his head smiling at Gina. "Thanks a lot.
I knew I could trust you."
"You don't even know the half of it shit-for-brains. Get
down on your stomach, arms spread," Gina fired back.
The zombies were fifteen feet away from his heels. His jaw
"'DOWN', I said!"
The man examined her clothes. "You better be good at what
you do, choirgirl," the man snapped as he dropped to the
Gina left a sandal in the doorjamb and dashed at the man.
She pressed the arch of her bare foot into the nape of his
sweaty neck and took aim with her Berretta. She plugged
three ghouls in the eye and fired two shots in the head
of another. Out of immediate danger, she shoved her pistol
in her armpit and snatched the rifle off the ground before
bolting for the door. "Get up and get over here NOW!"
He stood up and calmly removed his keys from his pocket.
He walked over to the trunk and opened the lid. Again, the
trunk hatch prohibited Gina from seeing what he was doing,
so she trained her pistol at him. She glanced sideways at
the last group of advancing ghouls.
"No witnesses," the man said loudly. A shot came from behind
the car. One of the dead fell just after it crossed into
the parking lot from the grass. "I don't want anyone to
know what we have got going on here." He lowered his pistol
to his side and smiled down at the two blonde women tied-up
in his trunk. The younger one's tears smeared her eye makeup
across her cheek and beaded on the gray duct tape over her
"Sssshh! You are drawing a crowd here. Let me handle
this please." The man produced a sledgehammer and a coil
of black nylon rope from the compartment and closed the
The man tossed the rope to Gina before the first zombie
clumsily clawed at him. He sarcastically dodged his opponent's
attack and returned with a hammer strike to its chest. It
fell into the dead burn pile and caught fire. The man dropped
the hammer into the zombie's skull, smashing the brains
into a flat pile of goop. He made short work of the remaining
Gina admired the man's strength and fury. It looked as if
he enjoyed this new sport more than anyone else on earth.
She hadn't realized she relaxed her grip on both weapons
as he approached her. She quickly brought the pistol to
bear on his chest before he got within ten feet of the door.
"Jesus Christ, what on earth made you such a paranoid woman?
Lower your defenses in the face of trust for once, okay?
We both know you are as tough as you think, but recognize
a friend when you see one."
Gina conceded. "What is your name?"
"Michael Jay Faulkner."
"All three names, huh? Like a serial killer?"
"Aren't we all out on killing sprees? What's yours?"
Gina forgot her arm's condition. She felt the dull throb
in her elbow and tightened her sling. "I'm Gina. Just Gina."
Michael nodded at her broken arm and shrugged his shoulders.
"Whatever, Gina. I can make you a proper arm cast if you
give me the chance. Your arm will heal faster that way."
"Great, I could use another arm these days."
"I hate small talk, Gina. Why don't we drag our remaining
bodies to the burn pile and get inside where it's safe?"
Gina didn't have to be told twice. She holstered her pistol
and dropped the rifle in the church entryway. She met Michael
at the first body and moved the remaining ghouls to the
blaze. Exhausted, they moved inside. Gina chained the doors
shut and walked downstairs with Michael to the kitchen.
"I guess the time for manners is gone, Gina. What do you
have to eat?" Michael was rummaging through the cabinets
and found a bag of flour and some newspapers. He withdrew
a syringe from a small first aid kit he had in a backpack.
Gina eyed the syringe Michael had in his hand and stepped
back. "I haven't looked too much.what the fuck is the needle
for, dickhead?" Michael looked momentarily offended, and
then smiled broadly, "You have a good sense of humor. I
like that. The needle is for the morphine I will need to
give you before I redo that terrible bone set job you did.
The flour and newspapers is all I have for a cast. Trust
me, paper mâché is strong when it dries. We will have to
cut through it with a knife in six weeks. If you keep it
dry, I won't have to redo the whole thing."
Gina felt uneasy about allowing some strange man dope her
up and then work on her broken arm. She feared a misshapen
arm even worse. After thinking it over, she decided this
was for the best.
"You will feel a slight pinch then a little giddy and sluggish."
The sensation was overwhelmingly relaxing. The background
around Michael's head began to swirl into a kaleidoscope
of color, and spiraling into a halo around his head. This
vision seemed so familiar to her and she didn't know where
she saw it before. The morphine was wonderful to her. She
didn't even mind the wet popping sound her broken arm made
as he manipulated it into the proper shape. She realized
she would be in agony if she weren't stoned. She giggled
at her arm. She laughed at the dirt under her fingernails
and she laughed at Michael. It seemed like forever since
she was high.
"You are a really silly girl," Michael said as he shook
his head and mixed the flour/water mixture. "Now, don't
move your arm. I have to get the cast paper ready."
He cut the newspapers in long strips until he had a large
pile that covered the entire table. Gina giggled and grabbed
a handful of paper strips and tossed them in the air like
confetti. She howled and cooed as the papers fell around
her chair. Michael bit his lip to contain his laughter.
He put a large blue plastic bowl full of a pale paste mixture
in the center of the table and dipped the first newspaper
strip in it.
Michael laid the strip around her upper arm, holding the
end with his thumb and pressed it together to make a firm
bond. "What brought you to this church, Gina? Were you part
of a larger group of people and got separated?"
Gina tried to laugh, but stopped short and looked up at
Michael. She didn't want to talk about it, but she felt
it was time to stop hiding her feelings about her life.
She swallowed hard and cleared her throat. "I found this
church two days ago after getting separated from my boyfriend.
I decided to hide out here and wait for someone to come
along. The priest was chewing on a little girl's leg in
the basement when I came in. It took me a while to clear
this place up, but I did it all on my own."
"How did you break your arm?"
"Escaping from the hospital after it was overrun and all
my friends were killed." It must have been the morphine
that made her say it. The drugs were making her reveal things
she would rather ignore. Her shoes told her to shut up.
Michael must have detected her pain. He looked at her swollen
arm and continued to lay the newspaper paste on it. Michael
decided to change the subject. "So, you are pretty handy
with a gun. Where did you learn to shoot like that?"
"My dad taught me how to shoot. I found the gun on one of
The cast was a painstaking and careful process requiring
several layers to make a solid and stiff cast to support
Gina's broken arm. The morphine began to wane around sunset.
Gina knew a rough night lay ahead for her. Her arm was swelling
against the cast. She could feel the tacky paste on her
skin as it meshed with her tiny forearm hairs.
Gina finally passed out waiting for the cast to dry while
Michael made dinner. Michael gently moved Gina to an old
army cot in a back room, careful to protect the cast from
damages. He ate a bowl of beef stew and examined Gina's
pistol. He carefully went through her knapsack. He studied
a collection of photographs she had in a manila envelope.
He touched her face in each. He happily toured photographs
of her skiing trip with her high school buddies, holding
a puppy, posing in a prom dress, and kissing a young man
in a hospital gown.
Michael dropped the spoon in his bowl, cleaned his mess
from the table and took the dishes to the sink. He picked
up the photograph and Gina's pistol and walked down the
hall to the room where Gina slept. Michael wept silently
and leveled the pistol at her head. Gina rolled over and
moaned comfortably. He hesitated, wiped his eyes and turned
on his heels.
He scooped up the keys as he ran past the dining room table
and bolted up the basement stairs to the front door. He
lifted the door chain off the bars and quietly stepped outside.
Michael crushed the photograph in his hand and dropped it
behind him. He turned sharply to face his car's twilight
silhouette. A lone zombie was softly patting at the trunk,
hoping to coerce his prey out of their hiding place. Michael's
face turned to stone, squeezing the last tear from his eye.
He calmly glided across the lot to his car. The zombie stirred
and trudged toward the new target. Michael dropped to a
crouch and delivered a bone-crushing blow to the zombie's
knees. The ghoul's stiff legs shattered, dropping him to
the pavement inches from Michael's ankle. The rotting husk
was given a series of similar crushing blows to the pelvis,
elbows and shoulders. Satisfied he immobilized the creature,
Michael stood up and walked to the rear of the vehicle.
He yanked the keys out of his pocket and jammed one in the
He glared at his captives. The older one was sleeping despite
the scuffle and his intrusion. He reached behind the half-naked
woman and snatched her daughter from her painful perch on
the dirty spare tire.
The girl yelped and whimpered as Michael stood her up. He
quickly slammed the trunk hatch down when the girl's mother
woke and joined her daughter in the puppy-like howl.
Michael placed his hand over the teenager's taped mouth
and stroked her greasy hair. "Shh," he whispered soothingly,
"we mustn't get mother upset."
Michael stepped over the downed ghoul and pulled the girl
towards the church door. He sat her down on a nearby bench,
knelt down and palmed the picture. He took great care to
keep his hand hidden in the shadows.
Michael assumed a proposal-like pose and placed his other
hand on the girl's knee. "Look, we just met, and I know
this is sudden, but will you marry me?"
The girl cried.
"Hey, hey, hey.I know how you girls get about this stuff.
I'm sorry I don't have a ring, but I promise I'll get a
good job and earn your ring. What do you say?"
The girl began to hyperventilate and shudder. Michael stood
up and pulled the tape from her mouth. He imagined the quick
shock of pain that streaked across her smooth skin. He quickly
knelt down to resume his previous pose before she could
"You sick and crazy fucker," the girl spat at Michael. She
gulped and began screaming for help.
Michael punched the girl in the stomach, knocking the wind
out of her lungs. She doubled over in pain. Michael stood
up and began pacing in front of her.
"I'm not sorry I just did that. How could you do this to
The girl looked up at her captor, eyes and mouth wide open.
Large tears welled in her eyes.
Michael smoothed the picture against his thigh. "You fucking
bitch! I swear my love to you and devote my life to yours.
I took care of you when I found you that day. You remember
the broken arm? Who helped you then? ME! I happen to be
cleaning up one day and I find THIS! WHO THE FUCK IS THIS
The girl gasped for air.
"That's right, play the shocked victim role. You wear it
so well, Gina." He nodded at the crippled zombie. "As you
can see, I crush all competition. ANSWER ME!"
She struggled for oxygen and finally summoned the air back
into her lungs. She wet her pants. After much stammering
she uttered the word "Gina?"
Michael stuffed the picture in the girl's mouth and put
the tape back over her lips. "Glad to hear you caught your
breath, Gina. Now shut up. I'm tired of hearing your filthy
Michael opened the trunk. "Gina's mother" glared at him
in horror and fiercely mumbled. Michael squeezed the young
girl's mouth with his hand while he pulled Gina's pistol
from his belt in the small of his back.
"Sorry mom, but Gina didn't accept my marriage proposal.
I guess I can tell your daughter about us, huh?" He tapped
the muzzle of the Beretta against the crotch of the woman's
panties that were seated between her knees.
Michael unfastened the teenager's pants and pointed the
pistol against her kidney. "Hey, you're eighteen now. You
don't need your mommy's consent to get married, or have
sex, Gina. See, I'll show you how easy it is to tell your
mother that you are all grown up."
The woman lay helplessly wide-eyed in the trunk inches away
from her child, and blinked a tear loose when Michael shot
her daughter and had his way while she silently convulsed
and jerked in the throes of death.
Michael tossed the girl back into the trunk to join her
mother. "Sorry, I don't have the strength to go again. I'm
not as young as I used to be. Perhaps we can get together
later? Check your date book." He closed the trunk hatch
and walked back to the church.
Gina awoke to the aroma of oatmeal and bacon. A bouquet
of fresh flowers sat in a blue glass vase on a paper tablecloth
thrown over a box near her bed. She sat up and admired the
wildflower arrangement for a moment. She noticed her cast
was dry and hard; it had solidified in a right angle, just
the way it was designed. Her arm felt supported and comforted.
The pain was quite dull now, and throbbed only slightly.
She estimated she would feel much better by midday. She
reached across her body with her left hand to find the button
to call for her nurse. She was hungry and was ready for
that wonderful breakfast she was detecting down the hall
that was probably being delivered to that bitch, Jessica
She forgot she wasn't in the hospital room anymore. She
was in a church with an older man named Michael who was
in the kitchen making breakfast. Michael, the guy who reset
her arm and carefully built a cast for it.
Gina looked around the room, wondering what time it was.
She was still in the black choir robe from last night. She
felt silly in the large black sheet. She found the sandals
she borrowed neatly tucked beneath the folding army cot
beneath her and walked out of the room and down the hall
to the kitchen.
"Good morning, Gina," Michael said with a smile. He was
leaning against the kitchen sink and drinking a glass of
orange juice. "How did you sleep?"
"Hello and good morning," Gina replied with a forced smile.
She was still a little groggy from the morphine. She didn't
want to seem ungrateful or moody after all he had done.
Michael gestured to a table setting complete with another
glass of orange juice. The bacon sat neatly on the plate,
slightly blackened. "I have your eggs cooking right now.
I'm sorry they aren't done yet, but please, dig in."
Gina quickly sat in the folding chair at the end of the
portable table. Michael moved in behind and helped slide
her forward. He was careful to set the silverware on the
left side of the plate for her. Gina smiled at his attention
to detail and greedily devoured the bacon. Michael laid
a napkin across her lap for her, an antiquated gesture that
took Gina by surprise for a moment. Michael smiled and returned
to the stove.
"Where did you get the bacon and eggs, Michael?"
"I went out last night and did some bartering. I checked
in on you once to make sure you were okay, and then I headed
down to Lakeville. That town is deserted. Only a few dead
still walked the street. I knew of a mom-and-pop grocery
store down there, so I took my chances. The place had been
looted for beer and candy, but still had some frozen foods
and fresh eggs."
Gina considered the prospect of moving to Lakeville and
occupying a farmhouse there. The comforts of a king-size
bed and a huge bathtub sounded inviting, but dismissed the
idea after a moment. There were too many windows they would
need to board up. In addition, there were rumors of scavengers
that travel in gangs. She knew she had a tactical advantage
over the dead if she stayed in the church. A gang of cutthroats
or some psychopath would have to try pretty hard to get
inside it too. She figured with Michael there to help, she
could handle any attack with ease.
"Michael, thank you for all you have done."
"You are quite welcome. I'm just happy I got lost out here
in the middle of nowhere and found this church."
Gina felt the blood rush out of her face. Her feet turned
to lead and her stomach plummeted. She realized Michael
"Everything alright?" Michael asked. He must have been watching
her eat. He scraped a pile of eggs onto her plate.
She ordered herself to make small talk to keep up the charade
of ignorance. "I just realized it has been a very long time
since I have eaten bacon and eggs. I'm just grateful you
Michael humbly smiled and blushed. He walked over to the
sink and began washing the dishes.
Gina continued with her conversation. She needed to find
out what he was up to. She began scanning the room for the
whereabouts of her pistol or any firearm for that matter.
"So, how long have you been on your own, Michael?"
"Since the day it all started. I lost my job at the mill
in Elkhart the day before, so I decided to go on a tour
of America. I was making my way hitchhiking and camping
along I-70. I must have been somewhere near Terre Haute
when I saw the first attacks. I was lucky enough to get
picked-up by a woman and her daughter. That's how I got
"Where are they?" She was almost afraid to ask.
"I left them at a rescue station a few days ago. I knew
the National Guard would be there to uphold martial law,
so I left them in good hands. She gave me permission to
borrow her car. I didn't steal it. They seemed happy to
finally be someplace where they didn't have to run anymore.
They probably wouldn't have lasted as long as they did if
it weren't for me. They had no weapons and no food. Quite
frankly, they were parasites. I'm glad to have them behind
me now when I travel," he made a hitchhiker gesture over
his shoulder, thumb pointing behind him while he spoke.
"That bad, huh?" Gina was terrified. She didn't have the
keys to get outside if she needed to. Did he know she caught
his ruse? Knows Lakeville, yet got lost in the middle
"You have no idea how much of an annoyance they became."
Gina finished her breakfast, careful to eat everything.
She wiped her mouth and collected her utensils. The throbbing
in her arm started to quicken. She started to get up when
Michael turned around. He floated across the kitchen and
helped her up.
"Please leave everything, Gina. I'll tidy up for you. Why
don't you go take a shower and change clothes? We could
use a bit of entertainment around here. Are there any books
or a television?"
"Only bibles and hymnals from what I saw." I think this
is one of those churches that believe radio and television
is of the devil."
"I will probably need to make a road trip for supplies today.
Better to do it when we have plenty than when we are desperate."
"Just you? Don't you need help?"
"You have a broken arm. Someone has to stay here and protect
the place, and somebody has to go out for supplies."
Gina left Michael in the kitchen and went upstairs to the
sanctuary. She took great care to walk upstairs with heavy
and deliberate steps. Once there, she quickly darted up
the middle and took the hidden flight of stairs down to
the dressing room. She crept between the costumes and laid
on the floor. She lifted her head and pulled herself across
the dusty floorboards to the curtain that separated the
room from the dining area attached to the kitchen. The narrow
view through a gap in the velvet folds was just enough to
watch Michael. He was cleaning the stove and cutting board.
He stepped out of sight for a moment. She heard his footsteps
fade. Gina worried he may be looking for her. She pulled
herself up to her knees to break for the stairs.
Michael reappeared with a large garbage bag. He emptied
the short kitchen can into it and sat it up on the counter.
He rubbed his nose with his thumb and continued cleaning.
Gina saw blood smeared across his nose. He had blood on
his hands from something. She considered the possibility
of a cut on his hand, but dismissed it. The blood was dark
red and semi-coagulated. Michael was far too fastidious
to bleed that severely without his first aid kit.
He pulled Gina's pistol out of the garbage bag and placed
it on the countertop. He removed the magazine and cleared
the bullet out of the chamber. He rinsed the pistol off
under the tap and dried it with paper towels. More blood
transferred to the towels. He tossed the rest of the roll
in the trash along with the bloody ones. He wiped the countertop
down one last time and picked up the bag. Gina heard the
scraping of keys against wood and realized he had the keys
ten feet from her while she ate. He left the kitchen and
looked in the utility room. He turned around and dropped
the bag by the door.
"Gina, aren't you going to take a shower?" He shouted upstairs
with his back turned to the stairwell. He waited for an
answer; when he didn't receive one he spun around, glanced
down at the bag, and walked to the landing.
Gina rushed up the concrete steps to the sanctuary, dashed
past the pulpit, and knelt at the altar. She bowed her head
just before Michael walked in.
She heard him sit down in one of the back pews. The wooden
bench creaked under the load of his sturdy frame. He was
waiting for her to finish praying.
'What a gentleman,' she thought. She lifted her head
and opened her eyes. She blinked at Michael.
He raised his hands in surrender-like gesture. "I hope I
didn't disturb you and God," he asked from across the room.
He raised his voice only slightly so she might hear him
from the back. He made no move toward her.
"No, we just finished," she returned with a smile. She was
terrified beyond belief.
"Well, I was wondering if you were going to shower right
now. I want to go out soon so I have the day to search for
She stood up and walked to him. "Well, would you like to
take a shower first? I don't mind waiting." She was hoping
for a break. Get the gun. Shoot him in the back of the
head while he showers.
Michael cocked his head sideways and looked her up and down.
He stared at her choir robe. He shook his head and stood
up. "No, that's okay," he answered. "By the look of things,
you need it worse than I do. That robe is dusty and you
Gina looked down, horrified at her mistake. She dragged
herself across the floor. The entire front of her robe was
covered in years of dust; her hands were smeared with dust
and sweat. A few small wooden splinters were sticking out
of the robe near her knees.
"Where did you go?"
"I tripped in the back closet when I was looking for some
more soap," Gina answered. Lies were easier to conjure now
since she was admitted to the hospital. She walked down
the steps. Better for her to play it off as if it were nothing
than to stand there and allow him to examine her further.
Damn, you're stupid. He is going to see right through
"I found some soap under the counter. It isn't body wash,
but it will clean you up. I put it near the shower. Go ahead
and take one."
Gina passed the garbage bag and spied her pistol and bullets
fifteen feet away. She almost went for it when Michael emerged
from the stairwell. She averted her eyes and stepped over
the garbage bag as if it weren't there. She turned around
and looked at Michael. "A little privacy, please?" She asked
with a playful grin as she waved him away.
Michael's jaw dropped in shock and he blushed again. "Oh,
I'm sorry," he said apologetically. He reached down and
snatched the garbage bag. "I'll just take out the," he stammered.
"Trash?" She offered with a smile? Clumsy bitch.you will
probably miss the first shot. Squeeze off two.
"Yeah," he said in schoolboy-with-a-crush tenor.
She shut the door and dropped to her knees. She saw him
walk away with the garbage through the keyhole and heard
him walk up the steps that were over the room she was in.
She disrobed and wrapped her arm in a plastic bag he thoughtfully
laid out for her. She quickly showered, hardly noticing
the water was now clear from the start.
While she dried off, she heard Michael walk downstairs.
She found a pile of her clothes folded neater than she would
have done on the roll top desk. He had been through her
She dressed herself in the dim light and exited the room.
Michael was seated in the dining area, waiting expectantly
for her. He was holding her pistol in his lap. His rifle
was leaning against his thigh. She almost froze at the sight,
but forced herself to walk towards him. She didn't want
to tip her hand now.
"Well, I checked over your gun and other supplies. You should
be all right until I get back. I don't think you'll need
your pistol, but you never know."
She held out her hand for her pistol. She fought the urge
to shoot him after he gave it to her. Damn! Kill him!
Take it from him and blow his dick off! She calmly inspected
the magazine and chamber. He hadn't chambered a round, and
she didn't want to alarm him by racking the slide. She had
to make him believe she was perfectly comfortable with his
leaving her alone, and could handle herself in a crisis.
Michael and Gina walked upstairs to the front door again.
Gina listened at the door for any undead stalking about.
When she was satisfied, she motioned for Michael to unlock
Michael opened the door and tossed the keys to Gina. He
winked and let a sly grin cross his lips. "Be back tonight,
hopefully with some usable supplies. Be ready for me. Don't
make too much racket to attract the dead."
She returned the grin and locked the door. Too easy,
maybe he knows something is up, she thought.
Gina rushed up the steeple stairs to the bell tower. She
realized there she didn't have a chance against Michael
in a physical contest even if her arm wasn't broken. She
would have to outthink him and kill him quickly. Despite
his hospitality and gentle nature, she detected something
far more sinister lurked beneath his clean-cut image. True,
she lived in a turbulent and bloody age, but something was
wrong with the clean-up scene she spied through the curtains.
Gina saw Michael standing below at the Chrysler. He tossed
his backpack inside on the long sofa-like front seat. He
checked his watch and slid into the car. Gina shot glances
to her left and right to watch the horizon. She marveled
at the lack of undead stalking about. She pretended for
a moment the nightmare was over and dreamt of returning
home. Her mind wandered back to the days of her pink-painted
bedroom walls and shag carpeting. She smiled at the thought
of her kid brother Samuel sitting "crisscross applesauce"
on the floor playing Atari in front of the television in
the furnished family room basement. She imagined running
her hand along the wall in the stairwell where her father
hung the shag carpet remnants in a quilt-like fashion to
help soundproof the basement. Her father had crazy ideas.
Thankfully, Gina's mom ensured her husband kept his home
improvement ideas underground.
Her mind shifted against her will. The imaginary wall morphed
into a smoother, yet equally soft surface. The air became
tinged with the tang of bleach and medicine as it chilled
sharply. She was standing in the padded cell of her hospital
room again, and the dead were chewing their way through
The Chrysler thundered to life below her, shocking Gina
back to consciousness. She was thankful Michael inadvertently
returned her from her daydream-turned-bad. She had considered
shooting him before he got into the car, but couldn't bring
herself to it. She was still having a hard time merging
his unknown dark side with the man who had helped her out
since last night. She realized she had to work harder at
ignoring everything and killing him before he did something
to her. Now you did it, you fucking whore! You are going
to get extra punishment for that one! He is going to get
you when you least expect it!
Michael drove East to Lakeville.
Gina questioned herself and wondered if she could be wrong
about him. She pondered if her own suppressed psychosis
had reasserted itself again and conjured a spell of paranoia
against a man who had the potential to keep her alive should
she lose the ability to do so. The doctors told her parents
her mind was dangerous if idle. Gina converted the doctor's
prognosis to the modern dilemma and figured when she wasn't
under stress or in danger of being eaten her ailment had
the potential to act-up. Perhaps Michael's arrival has been
more detrimental to the mind than he has been beneficial
to her in all other regards?
She shook the possibility away from her mind. She chomped
firmly on her lower lip and cursed herself for faults she
couldn't control. Her opportunity had lapsed. She would
have to wait for Michael's return before she could really
be free. Gina checked the skies for an approximation of
the time and guessed it to be somewhere around ten. Her
belly was full and warm from the breakfast he prepared and
she was comfortably dressed in the clothes Michael laid
out for her like a faithful butler. She had hours to prepare
for his return.
She intended to go downstairs when she spotted another group
of zombies lumbering like drunken hobos down the street
toward the church. The sound of Michael's huge engine must
have acted like a dinner bell to the undead on the fringe
of the rural area. She shot the four zombie silhouettes
without thinking. She weighed her options afterwards. If
she shot the group at a distance before they got too close
it may prevent more from approaching. Perhaps they were
the only local dead?
The other option terrified her to the core: her gunshots
echoed across the land; the sound reaching further than
Michael's ancient car did.stirring-up zounds of the hungry
and rotting-beckoning them to come and embrace her.
Gina was getting a headache.
-- PAGE TWO --
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