“I really appreciate you coming with me,” Adam said, looking up and over his shoulder at his neighbour Lucy. She was pushing his wheelchair around the store while they shopped for supplies.
“Not a problem!” Lucy beamed. “Benefits the both of us.”
Lucy wasn’t wrong. The only reason she had been allowed into the shop during the pandemic was that she was acting as Adam’s carer. However, Adam has approached her with the idea as a way for both of them to get what they need and for him to be able to get more than had he gone alone. It did benefit them both, but Adam was confident Lucy would have helped even if she didn’t get anything. People were kind and, despite a few individuals ruining it for everyone, would ultimately come together to beat the pandemic.
Lucy continued loading their trolly, filling it with enough dried pasta and tinned goods for both of them. They both needed toilet paper, but people had chosen that as the item to hoard for some reason and very little remained on the shelves. It would be okay though – they both had some to last in their respective homes for a little while.
They nodded at healthcare staff and other essential workers who had been granted some time to shop alongside those who were vulnerable, being sure to keep a safe distance from everyone. They didn’t know how easily the infection spread, but keeping a few metres between them seemed like a safe bet. Even the staff operating the tills had gloves and masks on in an attempt to keep themselves safe. Jessica, the young girl who served them, could be seen scowling even under her medical mask.
“What’s wrong dear?” Lucy asked, trying her best to cheer them up.
“Only wanted a bloody summer job and now the government says I’m an essential worker. Taking the piss,” Jessica huffed, scanning the items with a little more aggression than she had before.
“It’ll all sort itself out soon, you’ll see,” Lucy beamed, taking their shared shopping and leaving with Adam.
“Now wasn’t that smooth,” Adam said under his breath as they left the store and went into the car park. Lucy had been worried about being called a fraud previously but she was amazed at how easy it was.
“Easy peasy,” she said with a laugh, opening the boot of her car to put the shopping in. she looked at Adam slightly embarrassed and asked, “Do you need a hand getting in? I can pack the chair in once you’re done.”
“Don’t be silly,” Adam said. “The least I can do is help you load the car – couldn’t have even got half of this on my own. I’ll pass you the bags and you pack them in, that work?”
“Oh Adam, you’re so kind,” Lucy said with a huge smile as she accepted the first of the bags from Adam.
There was only a pallet of water left when the screams started. Adam and Lucy both stared back at the store, certain that was where the noise had come from. The crowd queuing outside the store was surging towards them, charging through the car park and disappearing into their own vehicles. Members of staff were locking the store as quickly as possible, trapping shoppers inside. Except … the shoppers didn’t look trapped. They looked fearful, yet thankful for added security.
Adam turned back to try and establish a plan. Except, she wasn’t behind him anymore. She was getting into her vehicle and shutting the door. Adam called after her but she didn’t even look back. Adam started hitting the bodywork of the car in an attempt to get her attention, but that didn’t help either. All that happened was the reversing lights came on shortly before her vehicle slammed into him, throwing him from his chair.
Adam’s head spun, confused about Lucy leaving him and dazed from the partial concussion of his head meeting the concrete.
“Help!” he shouted, voice more of a slur as he desperately tried to get the attention of someone. Anyone. He looked between his wheelchair and the rapidly disappearing back of Lucy’s car. And then he saw the thing that caused everything to go insane – the infected.
It was one thing seeing the infected of television – their shambling and uncoordinated steps as they chased anyone who wasn’t infected. It was another seeing them in person – the muted red of injuries on television took on a dark and bloody appearance when viewed up close. The grey pallor, when captured by a camera lenses, did nothing to show how much they lacked life. No amount of 4K footage broadcast to the masses could capture the rotten stench of their flesh and exposed sinew. These individuals weren’t infected with anything – they were dead.
“Help!” Adam tried again, his hair stood on end as a primal fear ripped through his body. A fear so raw and deep that he had to question how his body knew to respond to something so inhuman. Almost every culture on Earth had stories about the dead coming back to life and that they had to be feared – where had that come from?
People ran past, getting into their cars and driving away. On the ground he was unseen. Behind the screams he was unheard.
“Help!” he screamed again, voice cracking and vocal cords feeling like they’d torn. His shoulders sagged when no one responded. Not at first anyway. A stranger stopped getting into his truck, half in already before he got out and began moving towards Adam. An actual living person was coming! Tears came to Adam's eyes as relief flooded his system. The man shoved the zombie that was closing in away. It fell back, head bouncing off the concrete when it landed. When the man was certain the area was temporarily safe, he crouched next to Adam.
“Thank you! Thank you so much!” Adam exploded, reaching for the man. The man reached towards Adam and then carried on past him, grabbing the pallet of water bottles next to him. He lifted them up in one swift motion, never looking at the man on the floor, before disappearing back to his truck and driving away.
Adam just stared, mouth agape. He couldn’t bring himself to shout obscenities at the man who left him or cursing Lucy who abandoned him. What was the point? No one would help him. There was no one watching the injustice. The only person who could help was himself.
He put all his energy into moving towards his wheelchair, pulling himself forward hand over hand. He ignored the gravel and glass cutting into him and the zombie crawling after him did the same.