Mr. Trivilidis turned toward Sky, giving Kris the opportunity to get a good look at his boss. The old man had the same bloodshot eyes and dilated pupils, the familiar goatee, and he wore his favorite musty cardigan, but his skin looked pale and lifeless—more so than usual, anyway. He groaned and stumbled toward Sky, his gaping jaw closing and opening.
“Um, Mr. Trivilidis?” Kris tried. He rounded the counter and held his hands up, putting himself between Sky and his boss. “A-are you feeling alright? Did you smoke some bad ganj or somethin’?”
Trivilidis stopped. He teetered, and for a second, it looked like he might fall, but he regained his balance and said nothing.
“Come on, Mr. Trivilidis,” Kris offered, extending his arm to the man’s shoulder. “Let’s get you some—ah!” Kris recoiled and shook his hand.
“What!” cried Sky, using the word as an exclamation instead of a question. She stood by the counter now, holding her comic-stuffed backpack in front of her chest like some kind of shield. “What happened?”
Kris looked at his hand. Blood oozed from the side of his palm from the bottom of his pinky to his wrist. “H-he-he bit me!” he exclaimed. He looked back at his boss and backed away. Trivilidis followed. “Hey, back off, man!”
Trivilidis didn’t listen. He lumbered forward. Kris backed up some more until he bumped into Sky, who nearly fell into the cramped office behind her.
“Alright, alright!” Kris said, throwing up his hands. “I stole your comics. I’m sorry! Just…d-don’t fire me!”
“He’s not listening!” Sky said. Kris kept his eyes on his boss and felt Sky turn around. Something hard nudged his shoulder: a wooden bat. He grabbed it without thinking.
“W-what’s this?” Kris said.
“Hit him!” Sky shouted. Trivilidis continued bumbling forward. Kris could hear a deep snarl escaping from the back of his throat.
“Kris, you stupid idiot, he’s not listening! Smash his face!”
Kris didn’t like his boss that much, but he didn’t hate him enough to cave his skull in with a bat. He pushed it into Mr. Trivilidis’s chest to keep him at bay. The old man sluggishly swung his arms in Kris’s direction in a pathetic attempt to claw him with unkempt nails.
“Go,” Kris said.
Sky didn’t need to be told twice. She darted toward the entrance but stopped just before reaching the door. Kris heard squealing tires and a deafening crash. Sky gasped and looked out the window. Kris could see it, too: An old Cadillac had smashed into a fire hydrant and a streetlamp. The driver opened the door, slumped from his seat, and began crawling from the wreckage, a brilliant gash in his neck leaking crimson, a torrent of water spraying into the car and sky.
His passenger, a skinny guy in black jeans, had a broken neck. Kris knew this because his head was hanging almost upside-down, the flesh under the chin torn open due to the impossible angle of his skull. This didn’t slow him down any—just like Mr. Trivilidis, the man in black jeans exited the car and limped toward the bleeding guy. Sky turned away, a look of disgust on her face, as the man’s screams turned to gurgling while the passenger ate his fill.
“What the fuck is going on?” she asked.
Kris still held his boss at bay with the length of the wooden bat. Trivilidis snarled and gnashed his teeth, biting off a chunk of his own tongue in the process. It fell to the linoleum floor with a wet splat. Kris looked at it, then at Sky. “I-I-I don’t wanna say.”
“You don’t have to.” Sky threw the glass door open with such force it almost ripped the bell from its hinges. “Let’s go!”
Kris gave his boss one reluctant shove. He tumbled backward into a shelf, knocking it and all the comics Kris had worked so hard to organize to the floor with a terrible crash. Kris jogged out the door, Sky right behind him.
Kris doubled over and tried to catch his breath. He felt like he might be hyperventilating. The adrenaline that had been coursing through him, filling his veins, began to diminish. He felt ill. Looking at the dead guy with the broken neck still feasting on his buddy didn’t help.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” Sky said. She leaned against the wall and slid to the concrete. She buried her face in her hands. “We have to call 911.” She fished her iPhone from her purse and dialed. After a moment, she pulled it from her head. “I don’t believe it,” she said, looking at Kris. “They’re busy. What do we do?”
“I-I don’t know,” Kris managed between deep breaths.
“Oh, shit!” Sky stood and grabbed Kris’s hand. “He really got you!”
Kris winced as she squeezed the flesh around his wound. He refused to look at it. “Is it bad?”
“It’s deep,” she concluded, “but you’ll live.”
Kris knew right then that wasn’t true. If he knew his zombie trivia—and he did—a bite or scratch from a zombie meant his clock was ticking, and when it hit zero, he’d be just like one of them. As a kid, Kris had spent hours preparing for this day. He’d read books, made plans, charted escape routes, everything. Two minutes into the zombie apocalypse and he was already dead. It wasn’t fair.
He couldn’t believe it was happening—that is, if he hadn’t seen a dead guy devour his friend who, by the looks of it, was now beginning to crawl around the pavement despite half his entrails being eaten away. Kris looked back into the Comixy and saw Trivilidis squirming on the floor like a turtle on its back. It was happening, and it wasn’t a dream.
It was a nightmare.
“We gotta move,” Sky said. Kris looked at her, and she shivered. As the adrenaline dispersed, the sound of sirens piercing the air grew in volume.
“W-where?” He straightened and clutched the bat in both hands.
“The city,” Sky said. She nodded as if to reassure herself.
“What? We can’t do that.”
Sky faced the skyline. “Maybe we can’t, but I can. I have people there.” She looked at Kris. “What about you? Where are yours?”
“Shit.” Sky pulled up her iPhone again and dialed. She stood and paced along the sidewalk, her hand to her forehead. The zombie with the broken neck must’ve smelled her and Kris’s unspoiled flesh because he started limping their way. The compound fracture in his leg slowed him quite a bit, and his friend was too chewed up to even stand, but Kris held Trivilidis’s bat at the ready just in case.
“No one’s picking up. I’m sorry. I gotta go.” She grabbed her pack off the ground, threw it on, and stared at Kris. “Come with me.”
“I could use the help, and your family’s half a country away. Let’s go.”
“I-it’s dangerous. The city, it could be infested!”
Sky nodded. “It was nice meeting you, Kris. Good luck, okay?” With that, she turned and hustled to the rusty Cadillac, her skirt billowing in the wind, leaving Kris alone with three dead guys. He watched her get into the car which, by some miracle, was still running. She reversed it back over the hydrant and the remnants of shattered windshield, allowing the water to spray freely, casting rainbows into the afternoon sky. She threw it into drive and floored it.
“Wait!” Kris cried, waving his arms. Sky slammed on the brakes, and the car squealed to a halt. Kris stopped himself before running to the car and held up a finger. “One sec!” He jogged into Comixy, stepped carefully around Trivilidis’s still-struggling form, threw the strap of his messenger bag over his shoulder, and left. He climbed into the passenger seat and felt something wet and cold on his bottom. He realized the entire interior of the Cadillac was drenched.
“Glad you could join me,” Sky said with a sad smile, and she peeled out for Chicago.