The alley looked clear, but then the boardroom on the 8th floor had seemed clear, too. They were high enough up to have a good view outside now, through the western-facing windows.
Sam scratched at her legs, which had gotten a little…unkempt in the past few days. Antonio’s jawline was in a similar state, and the less said about their general odor the better. Somehow, Abigail looked as perfect as ever, even with the sleeves ripped off her dress. Her hair was a bit messy, but that combined with the fireman’s axe on her shoulder just made her more badass.
“I don’t know,” said Antonio. He put a hand against the glass. “We’ve cleared so much of this building. It’s pretty safe here.”
Sam snorted. “Safe after 48 hours of killing dead people you mean, and losing most of our office staff in the process. And we still haven’t cleared the top three floors.”
Abigail shook her head. “There are only so many vending machines for us to raid. Eventually we have to leave.” She pointed to the parking garage at the end of the alley. “My car is right there. We can go get supplies, find out what the hell is going on. If we find somewhere safer than here all the better.”
“We can’t all fit in your car,” Antonio said. “Or have you forgotten the 20-some-odd other people we still have who hunger for something other than brains?”
“That’s why we need to go,” Abigail told him. “We need supplies if we’re all going to live through this.”
They descended from the newly cleared 8th floor to the lobby, where the rest of the building’s living occupants were encamped. They were a motley bunch, having survived untold horrors for the better part of a week, with no contact with the outside world and little to eat but snacks culled from vending machines and the non-perishable items from the cafe. They were still wearing whatever office-casual clothes they were wearing when they came to work on Monday, albeit a bit more shabby and blood spattered than they were that morning.
Abigail made her pitch to the group, and they eventually agreed. Abigail and Sam would make a break for it, while Antonio and the others continued to clear the building and scavenge from the upper floors. When Abigail and Sam found supplies or safe haven, they would return to get the others.
Sam gathered together a few supplies for the trip, stuffing them into a messenger bag pulled off a body on 6. Antonio handed her a can of beans.
“You could come with us,” Sam said. “We could use a good hand with that baseball bat.”
He shook his head. “I go out there and find somewhere safer? I probably wouldn’t come back for the rest of them.”
“You trust that we will?”
He took her hand in his. “I trust the ladies that led the charge on the fifth floor stairwell even when the lights went out and everyone else fled. I trust the woman who pulled me out of that meat grinder of a bathroom in the basement. I trust you more than I trust myself.”
The barricade on the western exit was quietly dismantled, just enough for them to slip out. The alley was still clear, the sun bright, the air crisp. It was a lovely day, actually. The only sign of the apocalypse was the dreadful silence of the highway two blocks to the north. Sam had always hated working so close to the freeway, with its constant rush of engines and screech of tires. Now she wished for it all back.
At the door, Abigail was shaking Antonio’s hand in farewell. “We’ll be back. We’ll knock three times, and won’t be moaning in eternal agony.”
The western alley was the rear of the building, opposite the street and sandwiched between their office and another office building. Sam wondered if there were survivors in there, too; through the windows they could see the dead wandering through cubicles and offices, but no signs of life otherwise, but their view was limited. It was too risky to find out.
They eased their way through a maze of electrical boxes and trash bins and the mysterious tubes that sprouted from the walls of the buildings. There was a body, a maintenance worker neither of them recognized, but it was mostly eaten away. Even if it reanimated, there wasn’t enough left to pose a threat.
They approached the parking garage. A short wall separated them from the inside, but beyond the reach of the sunlight was near-total darkness. They carefully crept over the wall and crouched behind the nearest car.
“Okay. Where’s your car?” Sam whispered.
“I…I think it’s the third row in?” She bit her lip at Sam’s glare. “It’s been a few days, okay? You try to remember where you parked after all this shit!”
“Okay, okay, calm down. Lead the way.”
They slowly made their way forward, slipping between cars, straining to see in the dark. They heard moaning and shuffling but couldn’t tell how many of the dead might be wandering through the garage, or how far away they were.
“On our right,” Abigail muttered.
They dropped down. The nearest of the moans intensified, and Sam heard the scrape of a broken heel across concrete. It was getting closer. She risked a look up through a window and saw a lady with half her face missing shambling directly for their position. It was just one, they could-
The dead lady bumped into a BMW a couple of spaces down, and suddenly the air was split with the piercing wail of a car alarm.
“Oh damn it!” Abigail cried. “That’s going to bring every one of them on top of us! Run for it!”
She launched herself forward into the darkness, and Sam raced to keep up. She took a second to slam her crowbar against the skull of the lady staring at the BMW, then chased after Abigail.
More of the dead appeared, pale faces moaning in the darkness as they grew closer. Abigail reached her car, a Volvo just a few years old, and rolled across the hood to the driver’s side. One of the dead lunged at her from the darkness, but she loped off its head with her axe. Sam reached the passenger side. “Come on!” she cried.
Abigail dug into her pockets. Then her other pockets. Her face took on a panicked expression. “Oh shit. Oh shit.” She tore at her backpack shaking hands trying to find the zippers. “Oh shit I forgot my keys I think-“