He woke up ten hours later and reached instinctively for the blade he kept hidden under the pillow, remembering only afterwards that this was not home. After six months it was amazing the habit remained. He grabbed instead the knife he kept hidden in one of his thick leather boots and sat up slowly, scanning the room for the source of the sound that woke him. Nothing. It was hard to take the relative protection of the safe house for granted after months of paranoia. Even here he was not safe, only safer. He leapt out of bed and spun, landing silently on all fours, and peered under the bed. Still nothing. He sheathed the weapon, relaxing only slightly. Satisfied, he left the bedroom and began gathering supplies from the kitchen, everything he could carry. There would be no returning here. They’d catch up soon.

When he left the small town was still bathed in shadow, though he could see the sun between the mountains like a child peeking through their fingers in a game of hide and seek. It rose reluctantly, probably as afraid of what its light would reveal as he. The streets felt strangely empty, though he knew there were other survivors here. But they could be as dangerous as his pursuers, and he had no wish for company.  He set a brisk pace, every sense alert, slipping silently through the shadows after months of practice. He wouldn’t escape the town before they came, but if he found the right spot…there!

The town’s square was a cement box, accessible only at two points between buildings. He set up there, knowing he had only minutes to prepare. He could hear their distant moans, the stumbling shuffle of feet. He could smell the faint odor of decay which was usually the first warning that they were near. He spotted an overturned cart, and found six bales of hay which had miraculously been spared by the local wildlife. Hands shaky-they were getting closer-he spread it as thickly as he could across the square and doused as much as he could with a new bottle of lighter fluid he’d confiscated from the safe house. He set a small radio/CD player—another item pilfered from the safe house—in the center, volume as loud as it would go, and hit play. Brittany Spears’ high-pitch whine blared through the speakers, and he scowled at the previous owners’ bad taste. How was he supposed to kick zombie ass with that in the background? There was nothing for it, anyhow. They’d almost reached the square by the time he finished, and their moans sounded almost excited when they heard the radio. At least they weren’t running the other way. That, at least, was a sure sign these creatures were no longer human. 

He hastily climbed the boxes he’d piled next to a short, squat warehouse and vaulted himself onto the roof. They came slowly, eyes straight ahead, jaws slack, arms reaching forward. Many were unable to walk due to either decomposition or severed limbs; those pulled themselves forward with hands, fingers, even teeth. As soon as they were in range, he started to shoot. Though their fearlessness was a severe disadvantage in most battles, in this situation it worked to his advantage. They never tried to run or hide from the barrage, they never retreated. They would keep coming as long as the brain was intact, unable to comprehend the threat, or maybe uncaring. Either way, he aimed carefully, wasting not a single bullet. He stopped at noon to eat and calm his nerves, as much as possible. Zombies could not climb, so he would be safe for the time being. And the break would give the slowest ghouls time to catch up. He would eliminate as many as possible.

The radio had long since been destroyed, but they knew he was there.  He emptied thousands of rounds into the chaos below, and they kept coming, climbing over the bodies of the fallen. By the time he ran out of ammo the sun was retreating, and he sighed in relief. There were still a couple hundred ghouls in the square, but no reinforcements arrived. He fired his last shot into the hay on the far side of the square, where the bodies were thinner, and the square exploded in eager red flame. The fire seemed as excited to eat the undead flesh as the zombies were to eat him. It seemed fitting.

He watched the flames for awhile. It was an eerie sight; the zombies seemed not to notice the fire even as it destroyed them. He tried not to think of who they were before; those people were long gone, their consciousness replaced by mindless hunger for anything living. Hopefully.

Darkness came like a thief, pilfering the sun’s rays one by one. As night plucked the last ray from the horizon, he leapt silently from rooftop to rooftop, making his way out of town to wait. He would travel through the night, arriving at his destination by morning. He smiled. One more day.