Part 6 Volume 2 of the Liberty Schoenhauer series
By: Walter G. Esselman
In the abandoned drug store, Liberty and Uncle Danny looked for trouble. But all the zoms were indeed dead, or at least deader.
Still, Uncle Danny hit all the fallen zoms in the skull with his machete, just for good measure.
Satisfied, the two headed back up to the front. However, the abandoned drugstore was so eerily silent, Liberty would have even appreciated an elevator music butchering of "The Girl from Ipanema" right now.
The Navy engineer, Smalls, stepped through the inner doors and into the store.
"Is it safe?"
"We're good," assured Liberty. "Still, I'm going to lead us to the back, and " She nodded at Uncle Danny. " he'll cover our derrière."
Liberty stepped to the other side of the store and took them down the aisle that was free of dispatched zombies.
They quickly reached the door to the pharmacy.
"Roe sham boe?" suggested Uncle Danny as he readied to do rock, paper or scissors.
"It's okay," smiled Liberty. "You can check it out."
Uncle Danny grinned as he shouldered his shotgun.
Shortly, he called out 'all clear' in a gruff voice.
Liberty walked into the pharmacy and stopped by the dispensing window. There were several zoms outside looking confused.
"All clean?" she asked.
"Boring," he grumbled.
"I like boring," said Liberty.
"You're boring," grumbled Uncle Danny with mock annoyance.
Liberty grinned. "Hey! Just because I'm a librarian "
Suddenly, her head whipped towards the window. She shouldered her rifle.
Immediately, Uncle Danny was at her side raising his shotgun. His eyes roamed the scene. There was still a group of zoms by the window, with a brick wall farther back behind them.
"What've you got?" asked Uncle Danny.
"Not sure," said Liberty.
"Animal, vegetable or alien?" asked Uncle Danny.
"Animal? Grayish. Feathers?" said Liberty. "Something moving close to the ground."
"Bigger than a dog?" asked Uncle Danny.
"Much," said Liberty.
"Maybe it escaped from the zoo?" suggested Uncle Danny.
"Maybe," said Liberty.
"Should we be worried?" asked Uncle Danny.
Liberty lowered her rifle, and he mirrored her movement.
"Maybe nothing," muttered Liberty.
Uncle Danny shook his head. "Could. But still, let's be careful when we leave. Just in case."
"Just in case," agreed Liberty. Companionly, she bumped her shoulder against his arm and then turned back to the other men.
"E everything all right?" asked Smalls.
Liberty gave a smile. "Depends on your definition." Then her face grew serious. "Now, as to what we're doing here. We've got to get every piece of medication off these shelves and back to the boat."
Smalls looked uncertainly. "I'm not sure we can carry that much."
Liberty looked from the men to the shelves.
"It is a lot," she admitted. "Why doesn't everyone look around for something to carry the medicine in?"
"We should've thought of that before we left the Fleet," said the marine, Bordeaux, tartly.
"On shore, we think on our feet," said Liberty without heat. "Besides, I didn't see anything back at the Fleet that would help us cart this stuff around."
"Cart ," said Uncle Danny thoughtfully.
Liberty looked at him curiously.
"When you said 'carting'," murmured the big Mexican. "I thought that that's exactly what we need."
"Shopping carts?" asked Liberty, and her face lit up.
Uncle Danny. "We could get a lot of medicine in four shopping carts. Then, it's just pushing'em back to the boat."
"Carts on a sandy beach?" asked Smalls skeptically.
"Let's see if we can get the shopping carts first," suggested Liberty gently.
"Well, we didn't see a market on the way in, so why don't we look West first," said Uncle Danny.
"And if that doesn't work, we go North," finished Liberty. She turned to Smalls. "Can you stay here while the rest of us get some carts?"
"And not go back out there?" asked Smalls. "Absolutely!"
"Okay. But I don't think we're going to be back right away," said Liberty.
"True, we're on foot," said Uncle Danny. "Unless we find a vehicle with the keys still in it."
Smalls looked around the pharmacy. "That's okay. That'll give me time to get into the safe for all the controlled drugs."
Satisfied that Smalls would be okay, Liberty gestured the rest towards the front door.
Slipping out onto the street, they pushed a few zoms out of the way and then moved West.
"It feels weird running around these well, whatever they are," said Bordeaux.
"Luckily, they lurch pretty slow," said Uncle Danny
"But don't get cocky," warned Liberty. "All it takes is one bite, and that's it."
Bordeaux looked at Uncle Danny.
"But he has it, doesn't he?" asked Bordeaux.
"Probably not the best example," said Liberty.
"I'm special," grinned Uncle Danny.
"Actually he is, kinda," said Liberty. "Dr. Tagg isn't sure why he's doesn't want to well "
"Eat brains?" suggested Uncle Danny.
Liberty shrugged. "I wouldn't put it so crudely "
"That's because you're not a jerk," said Uncle Danny proudly.
Tonguetied from the compliment, Liberty turned to Bordeaux. "I don't know about youbut I'm not going to chance it."
"Hey!" said Uncle Danny as he pointed down the street. "Tell me that doesn't look like a grocery store."
They moved faster, which caught the eye of something nearby.
However, since there was so much movement from the zoms around them, none of them noted the additional movement.
Kramden's Grocery Store had a few cars in the parking lot as they entered it.
"I don't see any carts in the lot," observed Uncle Danny.
"The cart boy was on the ball that day," said Liberty unhappily. "We probably have to break in."
Their path led them by some cars, but not so close that something could reach out from under and grab them.
Liberty examined the front of the store. It was a wall of glass with double automatic doors in the center, which were doubtlessly dead.
"Wait here," she said. While the guys waited, she went up to a window and peered in. "There're carts in there."
"Zoms?" asked Uncle Danny.
"At least a few," said Liberty. She tried the automatic door, but it was locked.
A shriek came from behind them.
Bordeaux glanced back, and his brain stuck.
It could've been a light grey bird, but it's head reached almost to his shoulder. It was running towards him, unfurling its wings, which then shook wildly. The underside was a bright kaleidoscope of feathers. Bordeaux took it all in in a moment.
With powerful legs, the bird slammed down on Bordeaux's leg, breaking it instantly. As the marine went down, the creature's curved beak slashed at Bordeaux's face and neck cutting him up badly.
Uncle Danny turned and fired, but his deer slug went wide.
"Klas du ren!" cried the birdthing.
It jumped towards Uncle Danny, but missed. It footwith its curved talonspunched through the side of a car. However, when it tried to pull out, the talons stuck.
Its attention was caught by Liberty pulling Bordeaux away. So, when the first deer slug hit it square in the chest, the birdthing looked at Uncle Danny in surprise. He fired again.
The birdthing gave a piercing cry. "Tasssss!"
Slowly, it slumped to the ground.
Liberty had pulled Bordeaux a little ways away, but he was trailing a lot of blood. She stopped and took a deep breath, but then she started to pull on him again.
But he was dead weight.
Uncle Danny walked over and put a hand gently on her shoulder.
"No," she growled.
"He's gone mija," whispered Uncle Danny. "We need to "
"Ranns!" called out a nearby voice.
"Was that?" asked Liberty.
"He had friends," said Uncle Danny urgently.
Liberty snarled. However, she let Bordeaux down gently.
Uncle Danny looked at the grocery store. "Tell me that the front door is open."
Pivoting around, Liberty pulled her handgun and fired two rounds through the glass by the door. The shattered window left a generous hole for them.
"That works too," he commented dryly.
The librarian led Uncle Danny through the broken window, and they entered near the front registers. A bag boy was turning towards them.
Uncle Danny hit it in the head with his machete, but he looked miserable doing so.
"Just a kid," he moaned.
They went across the front of the store when Uncle Danny called out in a harsh whisper.
"Window!" he said.
Liberty looked out and saw more of the birdthings moving into the parking lot.
From behind them, a zom lurched out from between two registers. It grabbed Liberty around the shoulders and snapped at her, but it only got hair. Overbalanced, Liberty fell to the ground, but managed to roll. The zom lost its grip and dropped not far from her legs.
Before Liberty could pull her knee away, the zom bit down hard.
An involuntary cry came from the librarian as she pulled away.
Once she was clear, Uncle Danny came in swinging. As if he were at the putting green, he swung the machete with a low stroke, which hit the zom with a final crack.
Another zom came in close, so Uncle Danny cracked it in the head as well.
"No, no, no, no," hissed Liberty as she patted at her jeans covered knee.
But there was no blood.
Glancing down, Uncle Danny looked over her leg. "You're good."
However, Liberty pulled at her jeans to inspect them.
Squatting down, Uncle Danny put a hand on her shoulder.
"You're okay mija. No blood."
Liberty slowed, and she took a deep breath.
Uncle Danny stood up and whacked another zom, but his eyes looked out into the parking lot. The birdthings were fanning out to search.
"We gotta go," he said.
Liberty nodded and collected her handgun as she stood. She gestured towards the back of the store. "We better go back."
"Right," he agreed. "Get us some breathing room. You ready?"
Liberty squared her shoulders and brought up her silenced handgun with a smirk. "What're we standing around for?"
Uncle Danny returned the grin.
They moved to the side of the store, so that they had a wall to put their backs against.
"Gah, I hate the smell of rotting food," whispered Liberty.
Moving down the formally frozen aisle, the two scooted around two zoms, which were milling about.
Speeding up, they reached the door to the back stockroom.
However, a voice came from the front of the store.
"Guk fowe," called out a birdthing.
Liberty and Danny pushed through the swing doors, which shut behind them. There was only one zom there in an apron.
"Got it," said Uncle Danny. And he walked over to club the zom, lest it creep up on them.
In the swinging door was a grimy little window, allowing Liberty to peer down the frozen aisle. The two zoms, still in the aisle, were slowing down.
A voice right by Liberty's ear asked. "What've we got?"
She jumped a little.
"Sorry," winced Uncle Danny.
"Not your fault," said Liberty quickly.
"Zoms already bored?" asked Uncle Danny.
"Never really took time to watch them before," said Liberty. "But they need eye contact."
"Or what's left of their brain can't keep up the hunt?" suggested Uncle Danny.
"Plausible," nodded Liberty. "Uh oh."
One of the birdthings stepped out into the aisle and looked down. The zoms were lurching, but the birdthing just shook its feathers in annoyance, and turned away.
"Did you see that?" asked Liberty in a whisper.
"What?" asked Uncle Danny.
"There was something sticking out of the back of its head," said Liberty.
"Like what? A horn or something?"
"Looked like some type of mechanical device," said Liberty.
"Weird," muttered Uncle Danny.
"The aliens I saw were covered in tentacles, but there's bound to be more than one type," said Liberty.
"So you think our alien ship was dropping them off," he said.
"Maybe," replied Liberty slowly. She stepped back from the door and looked down at the knee that had been bitten. She moved the jeans in the light to reassure herself that the zom's bite had not gone through.
"You're going to be okay," said Uncle Danny gently.
"I know," said Liberty. "It just scared me. I saw someone get bit like that, and the teeth only went in a little bit, but that was it."
"Well, take a moment," said Uncle Danny. He looked around the stockroom and settled on a door out. "I say we do what we normally do. Sneak out the back door, and live to fight another day."
"Agreed. I don't want to take those things on, until we know more," said Liberty.
"At least we know they bleed," said Uncle Danny.
"That's a start," nodded Liberty. "But we have to come back for Bordeaux, and the carts later."
"Six birdthings just left the store," reported Liberty as she looked at the grocery store's front through her scope.
Having ducked out the back door, they had moved to a nearby building. Now, they were on top of its roof hoping to make sense of what had just happened.
"I wish I had binoculars," mumbled Uncle Danny offhandedly.
Liberty lifted her rifle. "You want to use this?"
Uncle Danny took the rifle, and handled it with unfamiliar hands. He squinted through the scope and it took him a moment to get the hang of it. Once he did though, he took a moment to watch each of the birdthings.
"Why aren't they attacking the zoms?" asked Uncle Danny.
Liberty opened her mouth to comment, but then she stopped herself. Her brow furrowed. She had not realized it until now, that that was bothering her too. Taking her rifle back, she watched the birdthings some more.
"They're just moving right past the zoms, but they attacked us," said Liberty thoughtfully. "But why? What were we doing differently?"
"We were just walking to the grocery store," said Uncle Danny. "Nothing special."
"Was it the direction we were heading?" asked Liberty rhetorically. "Or our heat signature?"
Uncle Danny scratched his fuzzy chin. "I might have a thought."
Liberty was concerned. She still set on the edge of her building.
But nowhidden by the lip of the roofUncle Danny was perched on another building closer to the grocery store.
She did not like this plan. That they did not have any better options did not help at all. Not one bit.
Shouldering her rifle, she watched Uncle Danny. He hefted a wooden box and looked at her. He gave a thumbs up, and then a fingerscrossed.
Uncle Danny threw the box up and over the grocery store parking lot. It smashed into a car's windshield.
Two of the birdthings immediately ran over to investigate. They made angry noises.
Taking a second box, which he had found behind the buildings, he threw that.
Liberty saw the birdthings immediately spot the box on its arc. But they did not wait for it to hit.
The birdthings spread their large wings and took flight. Flapping up into the air, they dropped onto the roof, just a little ways from Uncle Danny. He froze and waited for them to attack.
Liberty aimed her rifle at the nearest birdthing as it turned to look around.
But it did not jump on Uncle Danny.
In fact, it puffed out its feathers in what looked like an annoyed expression. Both birdthings moved across the roof away from Uncle Danny, until they jumped off and disappeared.
Without realizing it, Liberty started breathing again. A small, relieved chuckle escaped her lips.
Uncle Danny raised one hand and gave the thumbs up. With the roof clear, he moved to the edge and peeked over. There were still several birds there.
"Come back," whispered Liberty, even though he could not hear her. "Enough testing for one day. Let's go back to the pharmacy."
Almost as if he had heard her, Uncle Danny lifted up one finger to ask for a moment more.
"Oh no," said Liberty. "What're you doing?"
She lifted her rifle as Uncle Danny chambered a round into his shotgun.
"Oh no no no," chanted Liberty.
Slowly, Uncle Danny stood up fully. He stepped forward at a snail's pace and went to the edge of the roof. The birdthings looked around and one glanced right at Uncle Danny walking.
But its eyes kept on roaming.
"What the ," she muttered.
Stepping up onto the lip of the roof, Uncle Danny began to stroll back and forth, but the birdthings appeared to ignore him. Finally, Uncle Danny slowly stepped back from the edge.
Turning to Liberty, he gave a huge grin and a thumbs up. She responded with the one finger salute.
Carefully going to back of his building, Uncle Danny climbed down, but he did not return to her.
"Oh, this keeps getting worse and worse," muttered Liberty.
After climbing down to the ground, the big man moved to the edge of the building and appeared to take a deep breath.
Liberty squeezed her eyes shut. "I can't look."
But she quickly opened her eyes to cover him.
Uncle Danny stepped back into the parking lot. He moved at a zombie's pace. Leaning over the edge of her roof, Liberty watched him through her scope, and then looked at the nearby birdthings.
With careful, deliberate steps, Uncle Danny moved between the abandoned cars and headed towards Bordeaux.
"Rux too?" called out one of the birdthings near Uncle Danny, and he froze.
"Het," replied another birdthing.
The nearest to Uncle Danny hopped up onto the car by him.
Liberty zeroed in on its body mass ready to take the shot.
Uncle Danny froze. He tried to keep his breathing steady and hoped to God that those things couldn't smell sweat.
Walking across the car, the birdthing was almost on top of Uncle Danny.
Liberty put her finger on the trigger, ready to squeeze.
Continued in January's issue of World of Myth!
Special thanks to Diana Rivera for helping with Uncle Danny's use of 'mija'.