Kris napped, ate more food, drank, relieved himself in the employee bathroom, ate some more, napped again. The sky was orange with the color of dusk when he felt Sky jostle his shoe. His eyes snapped open. He looked up and saw her, arms crossed, her torso lost beneath the folds of that gray, oversized sweatshirt.
“How ya feelin’?” she asked.
Kris blinked and sat up. “Um, I’m okay.”
“Mind if I sit?” Kris nodded, and Sky sat. She looked at his injured hand. Kris followed her gaze. The bandage was red and crusty with dried blood. “We should probably change that.”
“Y-yeah, you’re prob’ly right,” Kris agreed.
Sky reached for his hand. Her fingers barely brushed it, but pain seared through Kris’s fingers. He winced, and Sky backed off, but he nodded again, closed his eyes, and waited. Sky unwrapped the bandage and threw it aside.
“This is gonna sting like hell,” she warned. She didn’t wait for a response before pouring half a bottle of whiskey over the bite. Tears welled in Kris’s eyes. It was all he could do to not cry out in pain.
The pain left as quickly as it had come, and he felt her covering his wound in something soft and clean. When he opened his eyes again, his hand was wrapped in white gauze.
“It’s not as bad as I thought,” Sky said as she screwed the whiskey cap back on and rolled up the rest of her gauze. “I can’t believe you’re immune. You sure you don’t feel sick or anything?”
“No,” Kris said. “I-I feel great.”
Sky smile and blew air out her nose. “I’m glad.” She sighed and allowed herself to relax, leaning against the wall adjacent to the one Kris had propped himself on. She hugged her knees to her chest, pulling her sweatshirt over her legs to become a solid, gray ball. “So,” she whispered, looking toward the back of the store where Arthur sat cleaning his gun, “what happened in here?”
Kris sighed and ran his hands over his face. “I-I couldn’t do it,” he said.
“What do you mean?”
Kris couldn’t even look at Sky as he confessed. “Uh, Arthur needed me to help him…kill the zombies, and I just couldn’t. I froze up.”
Kris squeezed his eyes shut and pushed the thumb and index finger of his uninjured hand into his lids. “I…kept seeing Jared.”
“Oh.” Sky looked away and hugged her legs tighter.
“I-I mean, each of these people have families, ya know? Should we really be killing them? What if we can save them?”
“Don’t you start saying that, or I’m gonna start believing you,” Sky said. “Art’s right: They’re dead. Jared was dead. You can’t blame yourself for defending your own life. I don’t.”
That didn’t make him feel any better. Kris stared out the window at the hordes pressing against the doors. It would be night again soon, and with no power, flashlights, or candles, the grocery store would be plunged into darkness until dawn. He hoped they wouldn’t have to make another quick getaway.
“Hey, I got a text!” Sky said, tapping Kris on the shoulder. “It’s your mom!”
“Lemme see,” Kris said, taking the phone. He squinted to decipher the tiny words against the harsh light and read the message aloud: “Phone’s dying, no power. Stay safe. Love, Mom and Dad.” He sat back, relieved.
“Hurry!” Sky said. “Text back before it dies!”
“W-what?” Kris looked in the corner of the display: one percent battery left. “Oh, crap! Whadda I do?”
“Gimme it!” Sky snatched the phone from his hands and began typing frantically, saying every word aloud. “I. Love. You. T—” She stopped, and the phone’s light flickered out of existence. She sighed, and set the phone down. “Sorry, Kris.”
“It’s okay,” Kris reassured her. “I mean, at least I know my parents are…” His voice trailed off when he realized how insensitive his comment was.
“No, you’re right,” Sky said. “I don’t know if my parents are even still alive. I’m glad you know yours are safe.” She gave Kris a sad smile.
“You wanna go to Indiana, don’t you?”
Sky nodded quickly.
“Indiana?” came a voice from behind, so loud and sudden it made Sky start.
“Yes, Art,” Sky answered. “My parents are there. It isn’t far.”
“It ain’t close,” he said, squatting between her and Kris. “‘Specially without wheels.”
“We’re in the middle of Chicago. Do you really think finding a car is gonna be that difficult?”
Arthur shifted his jaw and scratched his white beard. “No, but driving over a hundred miles of abandoned cars might be.”
“So we’ll go a different way.” Sky looked back and forth between Kris and Arthur. “I never said you guys had to come with,” she whispered.
“Bah.” Arthur stood and walked to the window, leaning close to see around the mass of undead. “Not like I got anywhere else to be,” he mumbled.
“I-I’ll go with you, too,” Kris stammered, looking at his hands.
Sky smiled and wiped her nose with a massive sleeve. “Thanks, guys.”
“Don’t get too excited, sweetheart. We got some work to do first.” Arthur leaned his rifle and himself against the wall, lighting a fresh cigarette in the process, crossing his arms as it burned at his lips. “We can’t just grab some random car. We need an RV, or, at the very least, a big truck with a covered flatbed we can stick a mattress in.”
“That shouldn’t be too hard. I pass this used car lot, like, every day. It’s only a few blocks south.”
“We’ll need all the food we can carry, water, clothes, blankets, lights, batteries, guns and ammo, and ‘melee weapons,’ as pork chop here likes to call ‘em.”
“His name is Kris,” Sky said.
“So I’ve heard. Kris Garboski. What was yours again, Ms. …?”
Sky grit her teeth and closed her eyes. “Butts.”
Arthur leaned closer. “What was that?”
“Butts! My name is Sky Butts! Fuck!” She buried her face in her sweater.
Kris choked and had to bite his finger to keep from laughing. He looked away, his shoulders shaking with silent chuckles. Arthur merely grumbled and walked away.
“You happy now?” came Sky’s muffled voice.
“Yeah,” Kris managed to choke, his eyes welling with tears. “I-I’m…I’m great.”
“Good.” Sky stood. “I’m gonna turn in.”
“Seeya tomorrow.” She left, heading toward an empty corner of the store to sleep. Kris gave the zombies outside the door one last look before getting up and joining Mr. Caldwell near the stockroom. He sat polishing his scope with an old, oily rag.
“I saw a Gander Mountain half a block down when we came here,” he said without looking up from his work. “We’ll go there first.”
Kris nodded and sat.
“You look like you could use something to do. Here.” Arthur pulled his pistol from its holster and held it out, butt first. Kris took it and held it awkwardly. “Make sure the spring is nice and oiled.”
“Um, sir? I-I don’t know how to clean a gun.”
“What the fuck are those schools teaching kids these days?” Arthur mumbled. He grabbed the pistol, dropped the magazine, pulled back the slide, and caught the ejecting round, all in one flowing motion. “Guess it’s time to teach you something.”
By the light of Arthur’s Zippo, the two sat late into the night, Arthur teaching Kris more than he ever thought he could know about pistols, from their history to their parts to their various functions. By the time the gray hues of dawn crept over the horizon, Kris thought himself an expert before ever even firing a shot.
He knew it wouldn’t be long before he’d have to put his new-found knowledge to the test.