“Where ye headed stranger?” I heard someone call from behind. The voice of another human being was like melody to my ears. And yet, I had no other choice but to be cautious. In the post-apocalyptic zombie ridden world of today, no one’s to be trusted. My hand touched the handle of the pistol wedged down my jeans.
“None of your business,” I said and kept walking towards the abandoned Gas N’ Sip. This particular gas station looked like in relatively good shape. The quick mart by its side looked like it had yet to see its worse days. I’d run out of supplies for my survival bunker. I needed gas, I needed food and if I am being really honest, I needed some new porn magazines. There’s only so many times you can jerk off at the same model in the same pose. After a while, she kind of starts looking like a distant family member.
“Seeing as how we both reached this gas station here at the same time, I’d say you being here is my business,” the stranger behind me said. I heard the click of a gun’s safety latch.
I lifted my hands up to show that I was not armed. Of course, my unsuspecting rival did not know of the bayonet hidden up my sleeve. Back in the day when cellphones hadn’t caused everyone’s brains to go haywire, I used to be in the circus. A real live circus complete with bearded ladies and dancing lions. My flair in the circus was, you guessed it, throwing knives. They used to call me Charles the Couteau. Couteau is French for knife thrower. French is the language that turns dirt into romance. Stephen King said that. Of course Couteau sounds way better than ‘knife thrower’.
“The hell you want?” I grunted. His footsteps came closer until he was standing right behind me. I could hear his breath and smell the cheap tobacco off of it.
“Same as you. Supplies. Ran short of them just this morning. Figure I might get them while sun’s still out. Don’t want to face any of those zombies,” the man said. His voice was gruff, like sandpaper on an oboe. He patted me on the shoulder. “What the hell, I figure this town’s still big enough for the both of us. Just don’t put your mitts on them Chesterfield cigarettes and we won’t have a problem.”
“I don’t smoke,” I said and turned to look at the man. He was putting his gun back in his holster. “Name’s Charles.” I held out my hand. The man’s face, lined with age, looked tired and haunted. He had a mustache the size of Sam Elliot’s and to that effect, he had a cowboy hat on his head too.
“Bob,” he took my hand and shook it firmly. “Bob Smith.”
We headed towards the quick mart in silence. Even though he was the first human being-alive, that is-that I encountered in a month, I was at a loss for words. What do you discuss with another man after the world has come crashing down? The last time we had a good lay? What’s our favorite deal at Burger King’s? You got me. I didn’t have shit to say and for that matter, neither did Bob.
“Hold up,” I said as he was about to go in the store. “You never go in without making sure there’s no zombie in there,” I poured some of my post-apocalyptic wisdom on him.
“Son, I haven’t had a cigarette in fifteen minutes and I’m getting cranky. Those undead son-of-bitches can kiss my ass for all I care,” he said and went in, clinking the bell that hung above the door.
Reckless old fool, he’s gonna get us both killed, I thought as I went in after him. The store was empty. Much of it was ransacked, but there were enough provisions that’d get both of us by. He went behind the counter and picked out of pack of Chesterfields. I had never been much of a smoking man, but I’d always figured if I was ever gonna smoke cigarettes, it’d be Winchesters. Because, as the commercial that used to air on the TV back in early seventies said, Winchester tastes good, like a cigarette should.
I looked at the old man taking out a cigarette from the pack and lighting it with a match he’d procured from his jacket. He took a deep drag, closed his eyes in utter ecstasy and let the smoke out. I smiled. It was the little things like these, these moments of innocent joy, that stopped me from popping a bullet in my head late in the nights.
But that moment was tampered abruptly when a zombie-judging from his appearance he looked like the storekeeper-came thrashing and yelling out from the backroom towards Bob.
“Fucking shit!” the old man said as the zombie rushed at him with leopardlike agility. I’d only a brief second to make my move, and fuck me if I wasn’t doubtful because I was standing on the other side of the store. My .38 was not going to do the job. It was accurate for up to fifteen yards and I knew that the zombie was further than fifteen for sure.
Hoping my muscle memory wouldn’t betray me, I flung the bayonet from my sleeve towards the rushing zombie, picturing in his place a woman with an apple on her head. I did not have any sentimentality for Bob, but I sure as fuck did not want him to die. There were very few of us humans left as it was. My dagger went flying across the store and just as the zombie was about to close its claws around Bob’s neck, the dagger hit him square in the head. It went inside on one side from his left ear and came out on the other side. My muscle memory, it turns out, was more than well brushed because the dagger didn’t stop once it had hit the zombie in the head. The force of acceleration made it go even further, taking the zombie’s head with it, and pinned it to the wall.
Bob looked at me with wide eyes. His face dripped with terror and some hints of gratitude. But of course, never does a man admit his appreciativeness to another man, so Bob said, “I had him.”
I smiled and said, “Of course you did buddy.”
After that day, I never saw Bob again. On days when the sun’s shining and a steady north wind’s blowing the humidity away, I like to picture him sitting with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in another on a beach, cherishing the grandeur of earth’s untampered beauty. But that’s just me.