Kris never felt so encumbered in his life.
He carried clothes, blankets, medication, and food in his messenger bag. The extra backpack he wore was stuffed water jugs. In his hands he still held the bat, a dark, red stain at its end. He hoped Sky wouldn’t notice, but she probably already had.
Sky wore her backpack. With no small amount of regret, she had to leave the comics she’d bought behind to make room for provisions, clothes, and her personal items. On her hip she had a hunting knife she found that Mariah had left behind. She hunted deer with her dad in the fall, apparently.
“You ready?” Sky asked as she emerged from a bedroom after giving the apartment one last pass.
Kris nodded. Looking down at the streets below, he knew going to the roof was a good idea. They wouldn’t last two minutes on the street. The zombies’ numbers seemed to grow by the minute.
“Let’s roll.” Sky opened the door, letting Kris out first. He saw her give the bathroom one last longing glance before she closed the door forever. “How’s your phone?”
Kris pulled it out of his pocket and stared at the lifeless screen. “Uh, dead.”
“I charged mine last night.” Sky started down the hall, and Kris followed. “Wanna text your parents or something?”
“S-sure.” Sky handed him her iPhone. Kris had never used one before. It took him almost a minute to find the messenger app before Sky pulled it from his hands.
“Let me do it,” she said with a faint smile. Kris gave her his mom’s number, and Sky texted a reassuring message. So long as the iPhone survived, Kris had a tie to his parents.
Sky wasn’t so lucky. She cursed as she dialed numbers again and again. No one was answering her calls.
“Um, where are your parents?” Kris finally asked, afraid to hear the answer.
“Indiana,” Sky mumbled while dialing again. She opened a door at the end of the hallway and stepped into the stairwell.
“Well, that’s not so bad,” Kris reasoned.
“Without a car, they might as well be in Maine.” They ascended the metallic stairs, their voices echoing in the small space. “There’s gotta be a car or van or something we can steal. Right?”
Kris removed his greasy cap and scratched the back of his messy hair. “Steal?” He felt guilty accusing her of such a crime, considering every issue of Captain Star Lazor he’d nabbed from Mr. Trivilidis while working at Comixy.
Sky tisked and rolled her eyes. “You know what I mean.” She reached the top of the stairs and tried to push the roof access door open. It rattled and creaked but didn’t budge. “The hell?”
“I-is it locked?”
“It shouldn’t be.” She peered through the foggy glass window and moved away. “You try.”
Kris stepped up and palmed the push bar. It gave, but the door didn’t move. “Um, can you hold the bar?”
“Sure.” Sky pushed the bar so the door unlatched. Kris took a step back and slammed his shoulder into the door, being careful not to crash into Sky. After a few hits, the door burst open, flooding the corridor with brilliant sunlight.
The morning was warm and humid. Kris fanned his t-shirt. He wondered how Sky could wear that bulky sweatshirt in the middle of summer.
The hum of buzzing bugs and the disgruntled groans of the undead permeated the air. The noise of cars, music, and the living had all vanished overnight. Chicago suddenly felt like he was on some foreign, uncharted planet.
Sky shielded her eyes from the rising sun and turned to point west. “Okay, we’ll go—”
Sky practically jumped into Kris’s arms as a deafening explosion echoed off the surrounding skyscrapers, the pebbles under their feet reverberating from the shock. Kris felt a lump in his throat as Sky gripped the front of his t-shirt, her eyes wide and skittish.
“What the hell was that?” she screamed in a whisper.
“I-I-I don’t know!” Kris didn’t want to admit he was probably more frightened than Sky was.
She pulled away and half-crouched her way toward the roof access structure. She peeked around the corner and stared at Kris. “Sniper!” she hissed.
Kris gulped. “A-are you sure?” he stuttered.
Sky glanced around the corner again. She came back nodding. “Full army gear—hat, jacket, everything. Looks like some old guy. He’s shooting towards the street.”
“Well, he must be shooting zombies then, right?” Kris suggested.
“I hope so,” Sky murmured. She didn’t sound convinced.
“I don’t know.” She bit her lip. “Okay, let’s weigh our options.” She counted on her fingers as she spoke. “Option one: We confront trigger-happy grandpa here and hope his only enemy is the undead. Option two: We go back to my apartment, scavenge every ounce of food we can, and wait for him to leave. Option three: We try every apartment in this building and steal any supplies we can find.”
Kris stared at her.
Sky groaned. “Not steal. Loot.” Another deafening shot made her gasp and jump. She caught her breath and continued. “It’s not like anyone who’s left Chicago is coming back.”
“But, um, if we stay here any longer, the zombies might sniff us out. If they get inside, we’ll be trapped.”
“You’re right, you’re right.” Sky tapped her chin. “Do you think we could sneak past him? I saw a lot of generators and other, I dunno, roof things we could sneak behind.”
Kris didn’t feel very confident in his stealth capabilities, but he nodded anyway. “Y-yeah, sure.”
“Okay. Follow my lead.” Sky peeked around the corner one more time, but she didn’t move. “Hey,” she whispered back at Kris. “He’s gone.”
A raspy voice from behind made Kris’s blood run cold. “Don’t. Move.”