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Monique’s blood ran cold.
The food she was aching to put in her belly was instantly forgotten.
She cursed as she realised that her trolley made it obvious that someone had been in here recently.
Hoping it would go unnoticed, she shoved it into the row of abandoned trolleys by the internal door.
She crouched down behind one of the tills as the doors squealed open.
Loud, rough voices filled the entranceway.
‘Place to our goddamned selves,’ one of them said. ‘Still.’
‘Yep,’ another man laughed. ‘Living the fucking dream.’
Monique could just picture the moronic grins on their faces.
It seemed obvious they were bad news.
‘Best get something for the girls,’ one of them hooted. ‘Cos they’re gonna be busy tonight.’
‘Aye are they!’ one of the others laughed.
‘Don’t give ’em nothing,’ a third man said.
‘Na, man. Gotta look after them, or else we won’t have anyone to play with no more.’
‘More’ll turn up somewhere.’
‘Hope you’re right. Getting a bit fucking sick of these ones already.’
‘You nuts? These chicks are hot.’
‘You wanna fucking go, man? I’ll knock you out.’
‘You high, motherfucker? You couldn’t knock out a wank.’
Monique peeked over the edge of the till.
She debated whether it was worth making a run for it.
Decided it was safer to stay.
Her decision turned out to be prudent when they appeared from the end of the alcohol aisle, their trolley laden with champagne, crates of beer and biscuits.
They were dressed scruffily, but with gas masks over their faces distorting their features.
She took heart from the fact that they were probably going to get radiation poisoning.
‘Woo! I fucking love the end of the world,’ one of them said as he passed through the till point.
‘Put it on my AmEx, doll,’ one of the men grinned, winking at the decaying woman sitting behind the checkout.
Monique crouched down further out of sight.
Her hand was tight around the butt of her gun.
They all had machine guns hanging from straps around their shoulders.
They left after petulantly knocking over a few end of aisle displays.
‘Got the goddamned town to ourselves,’ one of them grinned.
These fuckers were not going to make good neighbours.
She debated following them, but knew that Bennett would be out of his mind with worry, as she had been.
It wouldn’t be fair to put him through it, especially if he came outside in the cruel air for her sake.
She checked around carefully and set off back to the book store, making sure no one was following her.
Tyre tracks led in the opposite direction, so she was hopeful they weren’t coming back.
Still, it was a tense creep back through the streets.
The faded lights of the book store were like an oasis in the desert, but she felt a pang of alarm when she realised that if she could see them then so could the retards who had been at the supermarket.
She glanced around, the gun shaking in her hand.
She knew she could hit a target on the wall.
But hitting a moving enemy, with adrenaline-induced hand quaking, was another matter altogether.
It was her fervent hope that she wouldn’t have to shoot.
Best way to learn, though, Mon, she thought.
Throw yourself in the water and see if you can swim.
You can’t learn to swim on dry motherfucking land.
She smiled at the thought.
But it didn’t make the journey any easier.
She reached the book store without incident.
She could hear the revving of an engine and idiotic whooping and hollering – and the occasional shotgun blast – faintly in the distance, but they didn’t come close enough to trouble her.
‘Thank fuck,’ she muttered under her breath.
Panic again gripped her when she thought she’d lost her key, but she found it on the third run through.
Fuck, I’m so not cut out for this shit, she thought, then scolded herself.
She’d adapted pretty quickly to the changing world in which she found herself.
Just gotta get used to it, is all, she thought.
As she reached the wooden sign board she hung her Willy Wonka doll on her hook.
She went back and unlocked the door.
She shoved it open, moving in quick to avoid the swirling wind taking in any more of the radioactive dust than was necessary.
After locking the door, she made a beeline for the quarantine shower they’d set up.
Bennett had put two doors on; ‘One in, one out, set in stone,’ in his exact words.
They didn’t open the other way, thanks to two hastily nailed in pieces of wood, so this prevented her from fucking this up.
She debated then took the shopping trolley in with her, hosing that and the food down too.
She went out through the out door and reached the lift at the back, the door of which was painted to look like the brickwork so as to disguise it.
It worked; she could attest to that after a moment of utter panic when she thought she’d gotten herself lost in the building she was now calling home.
Finally she located it and knocked out the song they’d agreed upon; knock knock knock knock knock-knock-knock-knock knock-knock-knock-knock.
She heard the creaking of floorboards overhead, heard a mechanical scraping noise, then the lift doors squealed open.
She glanced around, paranoid to the bitter end after discovering they weren’t alone in town.
Then she got in.
‘The fuck have you been?’ Bennett drawled, concern etched into his face.
His right trigger finger was tapping the outer edge of his thigh, she noticed.
‘The fuck’s the food wet?’
‘I took it in the shower with me, to sterilise it.’
The look of fury and concern on his face lifted as he roared laughter. ‘You… You… You don’t need to—?’
He trailed off, slapping a hand into his thigh and hooting laughter.
‘You’re not gonna be laughing in a minute,’ she said, face grave.
His eyes blazed into hers.
His finger resumed its tapping on his leg.
‘What?’ he snapped. ‘Spit it the fuck out already.’
‘There’s someone else living in this town.’
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