Before they crossed the bridge over eighty-one they could see plumes of smoke rising from all over the city. Shanna sucked in a gasp, from the back seat of Topher's bronco. The street was eerily still for ten o'clock on a Sunday. The lights flashed a steady yellow all the way down Coffeen Street. A small compact car had been t-boned by a truck in front of the college blocking traffic. The passenger door hung open with no one inside, but a figure lay slumped over the steering wheel of the truck, the windshield a bloody spiderweb of cracks.
“Jesus.” Topher muttered, turning into the Ontario Village Parking lot.
“Upstairs or downstairs?” Piper asks, pulling attention back to the task at hand.
“Upstairs...” Topher trailed off, ahead of them several people milling around. There were probably ten of them. Some were in hospital gowns, others night clothes, and one naked. Topher rolled to a stop eyes darting around. Heads jerked toward the sound of the engine, faces contorting into sneers of rage, milky eyes flashing as they stumbled forward.
“Back up!” Piper slapped his arm pulling him out of his stupor. “Topher, back up!”
Shaking his head, Topher tossed the Bronco into gear and backed out of the drive. “How do we get to April?”
“I'm thinking.” Her eyes drifted to the upper story of the apartments then past them to the Home Depot behind the buildings. “Head over to Home Depot park and kill the engine.”
Peeling out Topher sped down the road and made the sharp turn into the road leading to the store. Killing the motor he turned to Piper. “Ok what now?”
“They were attracted to the noise it seems. So if we sneak in the back, just a quick in and out.”
“But she's on the second floor, we'll need rope or something.”
Piper rolled her eyes and jerked her thumb at the store.
Shanna leaned over the seat. “You're going to loot Home Depot?”
“No.” Piper shot her friend a hurt look, then eyeballed the store. There were a few cars and trucks in the parking lot but the store looked empty. Someone had left the door propped open, which was very odd for a freezing March day. “Well maybe, but only if they refuse cash.”
Flopping back in the seat, Shanna moaned. “I can't believe I'm your friend.”
Twisting in her seat Piper blew her a kiss. “You love me and you know it.” Not waiting for a reply Piper undid her seat belt and hopped out. Topher and Shanna followed more slowly. It was unnerving how the click- clack of Piper's stiletto boots was the only noise. Part of her wished she'd borrowed a pair of Shanna's sneakers, but the boots were her favorite; brown with red laces they looked like hiking boots except for the three inch heel. Granted they didn't do wonders for her aching knee.
As the three of them came closer to the door, Piper shifted her weight to the balls of her feet to reduce the noise. Peering inside the carnage surprised her, it reminded her of the zombie shooter games she and Topher had played.
A man in jeans and an orange vest lay on the floor, his throat ripped out blood down his chest. A man in pajamas shuffled up and down the electric section. He was covered in blood and had a vacant stare on his face. Near the door sat a crate of crowbars, quietly Piper grabbed one handed it to Topher then picked up two more giving one to Shanna.
“What do you expect me to do with this?” Shanna hissed, taking the bar.
“Hit things.” Piper hissed back before stepping into the building. She heard a whimper and turned to find two women huddling behind the customer service desk. One frantically waved her hands and pointed to the door. Piper waved back, striding into the building, her clicking heels and the sudden sound of her ringing cell catching the pajama man's attention. He spun around and charge her, pale face, milky eyes, blood stained mouth and half his face missing. Choking up on the crowbar like a baseball bat, Piper planted her feet and swung catching the man in the chin. He flew backward, and landed with a wet crack on the cement floor.
“What the fuck, Piper?” Topher choked out, as the checkout girls cheered her on.
She turned a manic grin plastered on her lips. “It's just like Chop 'Til You Drop, T.” Piper looked at the checkout girls. “Any more in here?”
“Probably, we had a bunch of customers and other workers. Those nut jobs wandered in and started biting everybody.”
“Why are you even here, didn't you see the news?” Shanna asked, still hovering in the doorway.
“Yeah, but our boss said that at times like this people try to reinforce their houses so it would be more profitable for us to come in. He offered us hazard pay, twice our usual.”
Piper shook her head, amazed at what people would do for money. “You might want to get home or somewhere safe.”
The girls nodded then scurried out of the building. Shanna watched them leave and asked, “What about us, shouldn't we go home or somewhere safe?”
“First we have to get Stalker Girl, then I think we should go to my house.” Piper replied, clenching her crowbar and heading into the store.
Behind her Topher made a strangled noise and she turned the see the dude on the floor with no throat struggling to his feet. Stalking over she kicked it back down and stabbed the heel of her boot through it's skull. “I've always wanted to do that.” She used her crowbar to pry the head off her heel.
“Piper you're really starting to freak me out.” Shanna told her, panic creeping into her voice her hazel eyes wide.
“Fine I'll tone it down.” She rolled her eyes and turned back toward the store, mumbling under her breath. “Spoiled sports.”
Ducking down an aisle they found the rope without any other run in's, much to Piper's disappointment. Grabbing a large roll, they headed back out. Piper tossed a twenty on the counter, and looked to Shanna. “See no looting, I paid.”
Shanna just glared at her and jogged toward the parking lot, behind Topher. Sighing Piper followed, catching up back at the Bronco. “Call Stalker Chick and ask her where her apartment is. Tell her to throw a towel or something over the railing so we know which one she's in.”
“Stop calling her Stalker Chick, she has a name it's April.” Topher muttered, pulling out his cell and dialing.
Piper ignored him pulling off her boots, she sat in the back seat with the door open playing with the rope. Shanna nervously looked around the empty parking lot, then toward the apartments.
“Shanna get in, you’ll be safer in the vehicle.” Piper said, watching Topher talk to April on the cell phone. After a moment hesitation she walked around and climbed in the other side.
A moment later Topher clicked the phone off. “She’s hanging a towel off the balcony. Her building is over there, we can drive up behind it no problem.”
Piper closed her eyes for a moment, processing. “Here’s what we’re going to do, I’m going to hop on top and ride over to the apartment. Topher you need to drive, and take it easy. When we get there Shanna hands the rope up, I’ll climb up and help Stalker Chick down into the bronc. Quick and easy.”
Topher seemed to debate for a moment then nodded. Handing the rope to Shanna, Piper climbed out and shut the door, before scaling the side of the Bronco and flattening herself on the roof. In high school she had done this a couple times, flying down the backroads. Back then it had been exhilarating, it probably would be today as well if not for the crazy cannibals waiting it eat her if she fell off.
The driver side door slammed, the bronco came to life under her, and Topher called up. “Hang on, P, it’s gonna be a little bumpy.”
Piper scrambled for purchase as they began rolling across the parking lot. Her fingers dug into the side over the windows as her bare toes pushed against freezing metal. Thankfully the ride was short, Topher pulled to a stop under a balcony with a pink fluffy towel hanging over the banister. The back passenger side window rolled down and Shanna held up the rope. Peeling herself from the metal she grabbed the rope and stood stretching to her full five foot six inches she tied the rope to the bottom of the banister and clambered up. Heaving herself over the railing, she landed on her feet and her knee gave a dull ache of protest. Her phone buzzed against her butt. Ignoring the pain and the phone she, walked to the sliding doors and knocked gently. Inside she heard a light shriek, then the door slid open. A short, skinny, brunette glare up at her.
“Who are you?” She spat, crossing arms that looked like toothpicks.
“I’m Piper, Topher’s friend.” Piper jerked a thumb over her shoulder. “He’s waiting for you.”
Her eyes lit up and she peered past Piper. “Really he came?” April asked, seeming suddenly shy.
Piper eyed her uncertainly. “Yeah, you need to pack anything…”
There was a banging on the front door and it cracked. April screamed again, pushed passed Piper on to the balcony. Calmly Piper slid the door shut and led April over to where she had tied the rope. “Can you climb down and slip in through the window?”
“I’ll try.” Piper helped the other women over the railing, just as a bloody face smashed against the glass door. It’s teeth gnashed, as the person banged it’s ruined head against the door. Piper didn’t wait she hopped over the railing and dropped to the roof of the Bronco. She landed on her feet, managing to dented the roof as she did, shifting she slid into the passenger window.
Before her butt wasn't even in the seat she cried, “Go!”
Topher sped away, spinning out and then fish tailing at the light. Piper closed her eyes, leaning back in her seat, they drove over the overpass and out of the city. Remembering her phone, Piper dug it out of her jeans pocket. The caller id said Mica and Piper hit the button to get the text. All it read was, “Dad was right.” There was also a missed call and voice mail, pressing a button she called up the message. After listening to her sister’s tearful rendition of how Mica had brained her foster dad, Piper looked at Topher. “Fuck. T, we need to make another stop.” Piper said, her fingers flying as she texted a reply to her sister.
Topher sent her a questioning look. “What?”
“I need to get Mica.”
“Your sister? But she should be safe with her foster family.” Shanna said from the backseat.
“She had to bash in her foster dad’s head to keep him from eating her and some other guy. Mica’s freaking, I have to go get her.” Piper twisted looking at her friend. ‘I already fail to keep her safe from that asshole, I’m not abandoning her during the fucking apocalypse.”
Shanna bit her lip and nodded, shrinking back in her seat.
“What’s the address?” Topher asked, his hands clenched on the wheel.
Author's Note: Unedited Version