Another day, another dollar. Or in my case, another day, another trip to rummage through zombie infested Seattle looking for food for survivors. Not quite as catchy, I’ll grant you, but more accurate given that ever since the existence of zombies in America became public knowledge; and a full scale war broke out between the living and the undead, scavenging for supplies had pretty much become my day job.
Not that I didn’t still spend most of my life at the morgue; Seattle Police Department hard turned out to be a pretty good place to hole up in during a zombie apocalypse. It just turns out there’s not much need for a morgue assistant when anyone that died was cremated immediately. And it was still too much of a risk for me to practise medicine on the living. One slip and I could be adding to Seattle’s undead population.
So instead I spend most of my days walking the streets of Seattle. Today my aim was a grocery store that Major had found last week that was still pretty well stocked. We’d been emptying it out and filling out the stores at the Police Department. Ravi had gotten pretty creative with the morgue stores, oxidising the ethanol so we could used it to preserve fresh food. We had enough to last the whole group several weeks, longer with careful rationing, but as Major and I were the only survivors who could move relatively freely around the city we needed to keep ahead.
I laughed softly to myself; did you really count as a survivor if you died on a boat over a year before most people even knew that zombies really existed? As if to make a point, a hungry zombie shuffled across the road in front of me, my undead brain not even sparking a flicker of interest.
We weren’t entirely welcome amongst the living either. Some of the survivors weren’t really happy about living with Major and me, even if we were their main source of food. A couple of the cops had made it clear that if Major and I so much as looked at someone the wrong way, we’d be eating lead instead of brains for dinner.
I’d cut them some slack, my own food source was letting me experience first hand how terrified people still living in Seattle were. I couldn’t blame them being twitchy around us. Clive had stepped up for us though, convincing that anyone not happy wit Major and I were free to leave and take their chances somewhere else in the city.
Not bad for a guy who’d spent most of the last year convinced that Major was a psychotic serial killer.
I spotted a rucksack abandoned on the corner of the street in front of me and headed for it. I found them every now and again, supplies dropped by their original owner, presumably in favour of outrunning a zombie and staying alive.
As I reached the corner and bent down to grab the bag, I caught a glimpse of something red in the corner of my eye. Tightening my grip on the handles I looked down the alley to meet the cold dead gaze of a teenage boy. His body was covered in blood, his skull smashed open and I knew without looking that his brain was missing. A bolt of fear shot through me as the scene triggered a flashback.
My vision filled with bodies, blood dripping from their cracked open skulls, unseeing eyes staring out into the distance.
I felt my body jerk forward towards them, desperate to find someone, anyone that could still be helped. Before I could reach them there was a moan in the distance. Blind terror gripped me and I fled, abandoning the bodies and running for my life.
A scream caught in my throat as I came back to myself. My normally slow undead heart hammered painfully in my chest and I forced myself to take deep breaths to try and calm the panic leftover from the vision.
“It’s not real. Zombies can’t hurt me, I’m already dead. It’s not real.” I repeated over and over to myself, my new mantra to deal with the side effects of my diet that now consisted solely of brains that had died during a zombie war.
Eventually my heart rate slowed back to normal and I was able to shake off the paralyzing fear that had come from the flashback.
I scooped up the bag and opened it, careful to avoid looking at its previous owner. He was long beyond saving, and another zombie had already emptied out his skull. There was nothing either of us could do for the other now.
The bag was heavy and well stocked with packets of food, a medical kit, and I grinned as my fingers closed around the glass, a bottle of tequila. If there ever was a time to drink to forget life’s problems, this was it.
Hefting the bag over my shoulder, I carried on to the grocery store to fill the pack I’d brought with me. Technically, I’d already collected more than I needed to for one trip, but every day that passed was another was chance that someone else would come across the store and empty it out.
From the front, the grocery store still looked untouched. The front had been boarded up when Major had found it, and we’d smashed the windows to make it look as if it had already been looted. I slipped around the back to what had been the store office where Major and I had stacked as many of the supplies as we could, out of sight of the front windows.
Major was already there, loading tin cans into a bag. He looked up as I entered. “Hey, what kept you?” He paused when he saw my face, eyebrows knitting together in concern. “You alright? You’re really pale.”
“I could say the same about you.” I shot back, trying for levity, and falling flat. It was true though; hair dye and spray tans were luxuries we no longer had, and I was still getting used to seeing Major pale and platinum blonde.
“You know what I mean.” Major said, looking worried.
“It’s fine.” I waved him off. “This brain is just a little jumpy, that’s all.” I didn’t explain further, it wasn’t as if Major didn’t have the same problem.
“I’m sorry.” He offered. “Maybe the next one will be better.”
“Hmm….maybe.” Not likely. It wasn’t that easy getting brains these days, what with the sharp increase in zombie numbers. We were lucky that so far we could still find enough food, it definitely wasn’t the time to start being picky. I wistfully thought of the old days when I ate homicide victims for a living. At least those traumatic visions meant that I could help people by finding their killers. Now I just ate the brains of people who were terrified at the thought of being eaten by a zombie. Great.
“I did find something good though.” Changing the subject to something lighter, I dropped my bag down next to Major’s and pulling out the tequila.
Major smiled. “Not bad, Liv. You got any specific plans for it?”
Well it wasn’t going into the general supply store; that was for sure. “Was thinking of giving it to Peyton. Tis the season and all that.” Not that anyone had mentioned anything about celebrating. Maybe this would help boost a few spirits.
“Don’t pretend, you’re just giving it to Peyton to watch her drink Ravi under the table again.”
“Well if he isn’t going to learn, then that isn’t my problem.” I laughed, thinking fondly of the mornings that Ravi had stumbled from his bedroom vowing never to drink with Peyton again. Only to be promptly roped back into it again, sometimes only a few hours later.
Bags packed full we handed back to Seattle PD. It was quiet outside and apart from the loan, shuffling zombie I’d seen earlier, we didn’t come across anyone the whole trip. I didn’t know if that meant people were managing to escape or the zombies were winning. If there was even anywhere left to escape to. The last we’d heard was before the communications had given out was that Canada and Mexico had closed their borders, shooting anyone who attempted to cross in an attempt to stop the infection spreading.
If that was true, then we were on our own and stuck here for the long haul. Unless we could get the lab up and running for Ravi to find a permanent cure. But first things first, keeping everyone alive for the rest of the year.
I stopped outside the Police Department long enough to grab the bottle of tequila and wrap it up in my coat. We dropped our supplies with Officer Harris who had been left in charge of the stores. He was definitely not a fan of us and made no effort to hide his disdain as we handed over the packs.
Peyton was waiting for us outside the supply stores. I kept the tequila wrapped up, not wanting Harris to catch sight of us and kick up a fuss that I was holding back supplies.
She walked us back to the room we shared with her and Ravi, in what had been the old morgue break room. “How was food hunting today?”
“Not bad, I actually picked up a surprise for you.”
“Sounds great. We’ve got a little surprise for you too.” Peyton pushed the door to the break room open and ushered us in front of her. “Merry Christmas, guys.”
And it was Christmas. The room had been decked out with tinsel and painted candles. There was even a small decorated tree in the corner. Ravi was stood by the table that was laden with the best meal I’d seen since before the war. He was holding two glasses of a pink milky liquid with a huge of grin.
“You guys did all this?” I murmured in shock. They must have started as soon as we’d left that morning.
“You like it?” Peyton asked from behind us. “We thought we could all use a celebration.”
“I love it. But where did you find all this?” We’d been through every inch of the Police Department the last few months and I didn’t remember seeing Christmas decorations.
“In the ME’s office. Dr Jenkins was quite partial to Christmas, and it looks like she kept all of this in her cabinet.” Ravi held out the glasses to Major and me. “Smoothie?”
“Thanks.” I took the glass gratefully and took a sip. It was full of hot sauce, the spices warming as it slid down my throat. There was something else too, and I fought back a happy moan as the drink satiated my hunger. I glanced up at Ravi who was handing the other drink to Major.
“One brain smoothie; guaranteed PTSD free or your money back.” Ravi grinned.
“How did you manage that?” Major asked between gulps of his drink.
Peyton had taken a seat at the table; I crossed over and dropped into the seat next to her, and sipped happily on my drink as Ravi explained. “Do you remember the ethanoic acid I made to preserve the food when we first moved here?”
“You pickled a brain?” I laughed.
“No, I pickled three actually.” Ravi shot back. “Kept them for special occasions. But if you don’t want it then I can have it back.” He made a grab for the glass but I pulled it out of reach.
“Mine.” I growled. “I have something for you guys instead.”
Shucking my coat, I reached in the pocket for the bottle and placed it on the table. Peyton was on it in an instant, inspecting the label with a nod of approval. “Not bad, Moore. We got any glasses? Seems like a good time to crack this open.”
Ravi groaned, but produced four glasses as we gathered around the table to eat. I laughed at his face when Peyton cracked open the bottle and poured us each a shot. She lifted her glass and toasted. “To us; and surviving another day.”
“To us.” We clinked glasses and I knocked back my drink, feeling something other than the whiskey warm my insides.
Outside the world might be going to hell in a hand basket, but this Christmas I had good company, food, and the knowledge that the next few flashbacks wouldn’t leave me shaking in fear. And for today, that was enough.