Reign of Lead
James grinned at me from behind the concession stand. Jessica
caught sight of our secret elation, and expressed her distaste
with a brief scowl in my direction. But, I didn't care. I finally
felt--safe. I didn't feel the loom of certain death as I had the
We finally had an actual--for a lack of better words--home. Sure
we'll have to change hideouts sooner or later, but for now, this
place is ours.
"Hey! Look at this shit!" Arthur yelled with excitement, running
He stopped in the middle of the hallway and waved us over. Then
with the same amount of excitement, he ran back down the hall.
The three of us--James, Jessica, and me--stared at each other
confusedly. Then strangely enough, a wide grin crept across my
frozen face. Somehow, Arthur's otherworldly enthusiasm excited
me. I clenched my fists together and eagerly trotted towards the
end of the hall.
I stopped in the doorway, gawking inside at Arthur and Bootsie.
"Guns?" I inquired aloud.
"Guns!" James shouted fervently, standing behind me in the
"Yea!" Bootsie yelled. "Now we can go on that food hunt in the
"Let's go," Jessica said, finally catching up to us.
I shrank out of the doorway and leaned against a wall in the
hallway. I didn't want to go… Sure, I felt better than before,
but I wasn't ready for another encounter.
First, Arthur burst out of the room with a rather large machine
"Best damn AK I've ever laid my eyes on," he boasted, making a
beeline for the exit.
"Damn idiot," Bootsie said, coming out behind him.
She sat on the floor with three clips in her lap, loading two
guns- one that looked terribly identical to Arthur's and another
with a scope and a long snout.
Jessica came out with a small hand-gun, and James came out
with--presumably--an AK as well. I was the only one who was empty
handed. And if I could, I was gonna keep it that way.
"You're not gonna stock up, hun?" Bootsie asked as only she
"I'm not really a--gun-person," I responded coolly.
"Arthur's not either," Bootsie said, getting on her feet. "Can't
I looked outside and watched Arthur aim and pretend to shoot at
random specks of nothing wafting down through the air.
"Because he's eager to waste his first rounds on absolutely
nothing?" I said after a moment of thought.
"I didn't think about that one!" Bootsie snickered. "And it's
very likely that he will, but I could tell by his stance."
She pointed down at his feet and then traced an invisible line
back up to his arms and neck.
"If he were to shoot into a horde standing like that, he would
stagger back and lose his balance." She took my arms and placed
the funny looking gun with the scope and long snout into my
hands. "You look like a rifle person to me," she said with a
"But, I never even--"
"But-nothing. You will use this because you hafta' protect
yourself. Besides, it's the perfect gun for you."
"Ahem! Now," she said, holding my arms level, "you have to keep
your body and the gun's weight vertical and directly over your
feet--which should be further apart," she said, tugging on each
leg. "And, your hips should be…"
Bootsie's voice sort of trailed off as she repositioned my body
into--what she called--"the perfect shooting stance." When she
was done, she stepped off to the side and examined me.
"I don't think I can do this-"
"Well, you're gonna have to, kiddo. And if it's any consolation,
you do look ready to me. And, you look a damn-sight more capable
than that excited id'git out there."
I smiled weakly and slowly lowered the nose of the gun. Bootsie
grabbed a hold of my forearm and pushed the door open, dragging
me outside behind her.
"Who's driving?" James asked, quietly walking behind us.
"Hell, I'll do it!" Arthur answered eagerly.
"-like hell you will," Bootsie retorted. "We need someone with
actual common sense-someone who knows when to wait and when to
pull off. And, you just don't fit that description."
"I will," Jessica volunteered. "I don't have much to carry; plus,
I've got about seven years of driving skills under my belt."
"Well, I'm sold!" Bootsie said, hopping in the backseat.
Arthur, the poor defeated soul, followed directly behind her
grumbling the entire way.
"I guess I'll be sitting with them," I said, turning to face
He shook his head and pointed up front. "You'll be sitting with
"But… we don't even get along," I argued. "Why does it make any
difference where I sit anyway?"
"It makes a difference because the three of us in the back will
be getting out and going inside of buildings. The two of you will
fall behind us and wait somewhere near the car."
"Why do I have a gun if I'm just gonna be by the car anyway?" I
responded, noticeably frustrated. "I'm not even getting close
enough to hit anything!"
"That's not a close range firing gun," he responded, a slight
smile creeping across his pallid face. "Why would Bootsie teach
you all that shit about standing and aiming if you were gonna be
standing close to one of those things? You wouldn't have time to
do any of that if they swarmed you-"
"Plus, you tend to freak out a lot more than the rest of us. And
weren't you just telling Bootsie that you didn't even want to go
with us-let alone use a gun?"
I bit my bottom lip. I felt like a fool. James was making a lot
of sense, and I was arguing with him for no good reason at all.
"You're right," I said, gripping the rifle and readying to walk
around to the passenger's side.
James, bat in one hand and a gun in the other, got into the
backseat and closed the door.
* * *
We pulled up near a stop sign at an intersection. Directly to the
right of us was a Super Mart; ahead of us and behind us were
dilapidated, retail-chain stores.
I, surprisingly more curious than I thought I actually was,
opened my car door and stepped out.
I was almost sure that it was Bootsie calling me… or maybe it was
James. But, I was compelled to walk towards that Super Mart which
was now directly in front of me. I needed to see--
"What do you think you're doing?" James yelled, taking me by the
"I was just… looking at the windows."
"You don't have to walk towards the building to do that," he
retorted whilst pulling me back towards the little, green
"You can do it from the car."
Seeing so much destruction up close hurled me into a state of
disarray. Yes, the town that I had known was destroyed… but just
how far had this plague stretched? Were we actually the only
survivors of this blight?
"Look," James began, taking me by the shoulders and sitting me
down, "snap out of it or you're gonna get yourself killed."
I shook my head substantially, as if to rouse from my stupor.
"I'm sorry, I just--dunno what came over me."
"It's alright, just straighten up and fly right," he responded.
Arthur got out and Bootsie circled around to where he and James
"Is she gonna be able to keep her shit together?" Arthur snapped.
"Don't ask him about me when I'm sitting right in front of you.
You should ask me. I'm right here for shit's sake--" I retorted.
"And, yes. I'm gonna be fine."
"Well, you heard that," Bootsie snickered. "Now, let's get this
This was the plan: James, Bootsie, and Arthur would go left of
the Super Mart, then they'd double around to the other side of
the intersection and hit the Super Mart on their way back.
When they got their tactics down, the three of them went off into
the same direction, soon disappearing behind the twisted, spiny,
outstretched arms of a naked oak tree.
* * *
"Shouldn't they have come back by now?" Jessica asked, squatting
over the road, dragging the barrel of her gun about surface of
the chilled asphalt.
I sat in the sun on the cool hood of the car hoping to keep warm
whilst staring out into the distance at the Super Mart's
glowering, blank windows.
"Well?" Jessica began again. "Think we should go looking for
"Don't be stupid…"
"So, you're seriously not worried about James--or any of them?"
"As far as I'm concerned, they're smart and strong enough to take
care of themselves out there alone. And if either of them get
separated from the other, they can survive and find their way
"What makes you think so?"
"Oh, maybe because we're sitting here and they're not? Take a
look around, legs… We're the weakest link. We're the ones who
were left behind."
Jessica pursed her lips together.
"That was a bit harsh."
"Like hell," she retorted, rising from the ground squeezing the
handle of her gun. "You're the weak, whiney bitch in this
"You heard me… I called you a weak, whiney bitch," Jessica
replied. "You freak out about the littlest things--like words.
Oops… I mean one, measly, got-damn word."
"You don't understand--"
"And, you hang around James, hoping he'll keep you safe whenever
things get a little hectic."
"That's not true--"
"If either of has to be the weakest link around here, it's
Jessica, noticeably pissed off, inched towards me, and I raised
the nose of my rifle in her direction.
"What… you're gonna shoot me now for speaking my mind?"
"To be honest, Jessica," I said, lowering my head to look through
the scope, "I didn't think you had one ."
She held her arms out beside her head. The gun she carried
dangled precariously from her index finger.
"Al-Alright, I take back everything I said--I didn't mean it--"
"That's a shame--" I responded, sliding down off of the hood. "I
actually liked you better when you put what you thought of me out
in the open."
"Can you put the gun down now?" she said, hesitating to move.
"Get the hell out of my way," I mumbled, pushing her aside with
the nose of my gun.
They were coming… the infected. I spotted two coming creeping
towards us from the left wing of the Super Mart. They must've
heard Jessica's shouting…
I tried to remember what Bootsie had taught me. I closed my eyes
and balanced my weight with the gun; and once I felt that my
stance was right, I squinted through the scope and fired.
"Hot damn, I hit one…"
Jessica was a bit rattled. I don't know whether it was because
she had previously thought I was going to shoot her or because we
were in such close proximity to the infected.
"Let me give it a shot," Jessica said, stepping out in front of
me and spreading her feet apart to balance.
"Have you ever shot a gun?"
"What in the hell does that matter," she retorted. "If you can
fire that thing and hit your target, I'm sure it'll be a breeze
She clasped her hands around the handle of the gun and put both
fingers on the trigger. Then, she slowly stretched her arms far
out in front of her and fired. She missed.
"It's okay. I'll shoot it--"
"Back off," she hissed. "I've got it."
She readied herself to shoot again and that's when I noticed
another one of those things emerge from the left wing of the
"Jess… maybe we should--"
"Shhh! Not while I'm aiming!"
I raised my gun and aimed at the figure slowly creeping towards
us. She fired for the second time, and she hit her target, square
in the forehead.
"I hit it!"
"Alright! Good--" I said, still locked on my target. "I think we
should go now--"
"We can take these bastards!" she exclaimed. "Don't chicken out
on me now!"
I prepared to shoot the figure in the distance; and just as I
fired, another one of those things emerged from the brush
downside the massive oak tree that James, Bootsie, and Arthur
disappeared behind nearly an hour ago.
"This is becoming a hot-zone, Jessica," I yelled, turning to aim
at yet another hazy figure coming around the left wing of the
Super Mart. "If the others stuck to the plan, then they're
probably at the far right wing of the intersection by now and
moving towards the Super Mart."
"Yea, so?" Jessica called back, firing at the thing in the brush.
"So, that means we should get the hell outta here and go get
them," I rebutted, noticeably aggravated.
"Come on," she whined. "We've got this!"
I shrugged and walked towards the middle of the intersection,
aiming steadily at the left flank of the Super Mart.
Another gunshot rang out; and the thud of another lifeless body
resounded against the asphalt. There were more coming… And I
began to think that maybe--just maybe, they were attracted to the
sound of our gunfire.
A fairly dense cluster of figures emerged from the left flank of
the store; the horde moved slowly but intently towards the two
of us--and just when I readied myself to fire again, something
unexpected happened… One of them started to run.
It burst through the slow-moving horde with intense
determination; and although it was moving fairly slow itself, it
was fast enough to pose a threat. That was it; I wasn't gonna
play Jessica's game anymore.
"I'm getting in the car!"
I turned around to run and saw that Jessica had already made it
to the car--I hurried to the door and pulled on the handle, but
it was locked. I banged on the window and stared desperately in
her direction; she shook her head solemnly; then after muttering
something unintelligible, she started the car and began to pull
"Jessica, stop playing around!" I yelled, banging on the side of
the car. "Wait!"