It took me long enough, but I finally found a drugstore. Fortunately for me, it must have been open for business when the blast occurred, so I was able to waltz right in, grab what I needed, and head straight to the men’s room where I could repair my sullied cheek flesh. I did everything I could to remain quiet. The last thing I needed was to attract more of whatever it was that attacked me. I pulled the shop door closed behind me and carefully made my way to the employee washroom.
Unfortunately, the light in the building was less than ideal, and I managed to knock over a display of drinks. So much for being quiet. I picked up my pace and made it the back of the building where the employee washroom stood sentinel. It wasn’t until I saw my face that I realized how badly I needed a doctor, and probably a psychiatrist. The chunk of cheek hanging from my face was black and numb. Now I’m no surgeon, but I didn’t believe it had been long enough since the bite for the flesh to go necrotic. But there it was, in living black and white rot.
At least I could take some solace in the fact that it wasn’t that same sour-milk white color covering the moaner that bit me.
I made the mistake of touching the charred chunk; at which point, it dropped to the floor. Gravity hardly had to pull; it just gave up like it was done being a part of me. Not even so much as a goodbye. The sound the blackened flesh made wasn’t the wet, sloppy sound you would associate with a meaty chunk of a man’s cheek hitting the floor. Oh, no. This sound was a dull thunk, as if a piece of terracotta clay had hit the tile. I half-expected the chunk to shatter into dust. It didn’t. Instead it just lay there, with not even respect enough to look up and mock me. That little piece of me was gone, lost in battle with what looked like the walking dead.
A cold, evil chill slowly waltzed up my spine. I didn’t want to revisit the thought that had traversed my brain and made its way to conscious thought. I refused to give it credence. The dead do not walk. There is no such thing as zombies. Fiction is not made real, not like this.
The world was not coming to an end.
The world was really not coming to an end.
Before I could finish the newly-coined mantra, a sudden, sharp pounding began on the other side of the restroom door. The pounding was too violent to be human—at least no human I had ever known. My heart was pounding in my ears, loud enough that whoever, or whatever, was on the other side of the door would most likely hear. And then, between the ear-splitting pounding, I heard a familiar moan. Someone, had decided to come back for another round of abuse. Either that or he was next in line to use the facilities. I didn’t care which. I only cared that I was trapped inside a dirty washroom with a maniac beating on the door hoping to break open my brain-pan and have a meal.
The moaner was pounding hard enough to shatter the bones in his hands and moaning loud enough to shame a porn star nearing a money shot. And here I was stuck fuck-all in the middle of the shit storm. I wanted out of this scene, and I wanted out now.
I checked the room for something to use as a weapon. I found nothing. I could break the mirror and wield a piece of the broken glass like a knife, but hand-to-hand combat with one of those monsters was not one of the entries in my bucket list.
I turned around and quietly locked the door while trying not to let the beast know I was occupying the room. From the sounds of the beat-down he was giving the door, I was fairly certainly he had no intention of relenting or apologizing for the earlier incident.
I slid down the door until my ass hit tile. The floor was disgusting. I was most likely sitting in some stranger’s piss or puke. The pounding was reverberating in my head and numbing all other senses. All there was in that moment was sound, nothing but sound, pounding, echoing sound. Just a moment ago, I was begging to be released from the silence, and now I would give my other cheek for just a moment of that quiet bliss.
I could have screamed at the top of my lungs. Of course, that would only have brought about more relentless pounding.
Persistence, I have always felt, was one of mankind’s greatest attributes. Persistence has driven man to great heights, helped him to discover and invent new and better technology. Persistence was the spark that drove mothers to raise children into good and kind adults. Persistence took man to the moon and to the center of the earth. But at this very moment, persistence was about to undo the sanity of one man—me.
I was about to stand up, swing the bathroom door open, and choke the life out of whoever was on the other side, when the hammering stopped as suddenly as it had begun. The sound echoed on for a while, although I was pretty sure that echoing was in my head. But finally, sweet, sweet silence blanketed the room. A brief peace overcame my chest. I breathed it in, savored it.
The short-lived peace was lifted when I heard Flaky stomping away. Was he looking for something to help him smash down the door?
My heart finally slowed to a just-above-average-tempo, and I was able to piece together the question that had been swimming in my head when Flaky attacked me.
“What in the hell did he want?”
I waited a moment longer until I was fairly sure there was nothing on the other side of the door that wanted to rip me apart. Once I felt safe, I stood and immediately went to work. Before I put my fingers anywhere near my cheek, I had to disinfect my hands. Who knew what kind of hellish germs were infesting the floor? A few scrubs with some anti-bacterial soap and I felt it was safe to begin playing doctor on my face.
Patching up my desecrated cheek proved to be more difficult than I had thought. In order to keep the bandage in place, I actually had to stuff the crater with a bit of gauze after dumping in half of a tube of antibiotic salve. Once the bite was covered, my face returned to its average-looking self.
With the surgery complete, I rummaged through the store until I located a means to carry supplies. A backpack would fit the bill perfectly, even if said backpack was designed for a young teenager. I wasn’t sure what it said, but the prepubescent grins of five young boys offered enough for a fairly good guess.
Even though I had no idea what had happened, I needed to at least be as prepared as a drugstore would allow.
Trail mix and other junk food items – check.
Bottled water – check.
Flashlight – check.
Extra batteries – check.
Matches – check.
Radio – check.
First aid supplies – check.
Paper and pens – check.
That was about all I could stuff into my boy-band backpack. It wouldn’t get me through Armageddon, but—Wow! I hadn’t thought that one through. Armageddon. The word itself was too Hollywood, too biblical, to be real. I had always assumed Armageddon would simply be the end. Blackout. Boom! You’re dead! The idea that the end would actually be sufferable made no logical sense. This was more like a bad joke or, worse, a Roger Corman movie that had no ending.