Heinrich stood at the edge of the rubble, gazing over the makeshift wall towards the former pharmacy. A few zombies shambled to and fro in front of it, all in varying states of decay, but none seemed intent on their movements. That meant there wasn’t anyone around to control them.
Ever since the fall of that asteroid, the world of technology had faded away to nothingness, leaving humanity alone in the new darkness to fend for itself. While most of civilization did its best to pick up the pieces and move on, a good deal had rekindled ancient covenants with dark powers, allowing them a measure of dominion over the chaos that the Great Impact had caused.
Looking back at his band of warriors, Heinrich could only smile grimly at them. While he still had Michael, they were now burdened with three young bloods, boys who had recently become men in the eyes of their village. This meant they were allowed to go on missions into the cities to help loot. This also meant that those experienced in the dangers the cities harbored had to work twice as hard to ensure they didn’t do anything too stupid.
All three of them hefted heavy weaponry, double handed maces made of iron and spears of copper and steel. They sought to imitate Michael, who used a well fashioned claymore. Unlike Michael, who used the two handed blade with elegance and efficiency, the boys used their weapons as hammers, striking hard and fast and with little regard to aim or their own safety. Heinrich’s twin sickles had saved each of their lives at least twice during this three day excursion into the bowels of the former city of Pittsburgh, and would likely do so again.
“Alright,” Heinrich whispered, drawing the attention of the men under his command, “The pharmacy looks mostly clear. Remember, we’re looking for antibiotics and aspirin; leave the rest of what’s in the store behind, it’ll only be dead weight.”
Michael nodded, having heard this speech countless times before, while the three boys all looked annoyed at the thought of their looting being limited to the bare necessities.
“I signed on for this because I promised Sara a bottle of wine upon my return,” David groused, fiddling with the dull tip of his spear, “Are you saying I’m going to return empty handed to her?”
“You shouldn’t make promises you can’t keep.” Heinrich replied, giving the young blonde an icy stare. The other two, Samuel and Steven, refused to meet Heinrich’s stare. Good, he thought. Maybe they’ll make it through this after all.
“Alright, Michael I want you to stay by the doors and kill anything that tries to come inside. Samuel, I want you to make it to the back entrance and take a look, see if the alleyway is too crowded for us to make our escape. The rest of you are with me, looting the pharmacy.”
“Right,” The group agreed in low whispers.
The dash to the front of the store was quick and easy, the few straggling zombies falling quickly to their combined arms. Without pausing from his downward stroke, Michael moved and wedged his blade into the slit between the sliding doors, jimmying them open with a grunt of exertion.
It was enough for Samuel and Steven to force their gloved fingers through and make a grip, pulling the doors wide enough for everyone to slip in unnoticed.
The store was dark, with thin pillars of light filtering in from the windows providing a dusky illumination that Heinrich wasn’t overly pleased with. The rancid stench of moldering dairy products filled the store, a stale odor that was pervasive, and as Heinrich knew from experience, difficult to wash away.
Heinrich silently motioned for Michael to stay at the doors, now slowly sliding back to their closed state, before motioning forward for the rest of them. Two fingers pointed towards the flickering “Exit” sign, still on after all these years, sent Samuel skulking down an aisle of rotting snack foods. Heinrich led David and Steven across the front of the store, past the registers, towards the far wall where the make-up was stored, turning a sharp left as he made his way down the feminine hygiene aisle and towards the pharmacy.
A low moan caught Heinrich’s attention, causing him to drop into a crouch, one fist held up to stop his younger cohorts in their tracks. Stumbling down the aisle was an older zombie, a woman in a sleeveless black dress that shambled on a broken ankle. A large bite wound on her left arm, green with infection and rot, told the tale of how she died.
Deciding to trust David with a kill, he motioned the young man forward. With a cocky grin, he hoisted his heavy mace shoulder high and began tip-toeing closer and closer to the walking corpse, which was still oblivious to his existence. Swinging the heavy-ended cudgel high overhead, he brought it down in a wide arc, slamming the back of her head with the heavy copper ball at the end of his weapon, a sickening crunch echoing throughout the store as the long-since dead woman’s skull crumpled like a soggy ball of paper.
Heinrich moved up and patted David on the shoulder, proud that the boy had actually learned the concept of stealth. “Go and fetch that bottle of wine you promised your girl, but keep that mace on your shoulder so we can see you over the aisles. Remember, no noise.”
David’s eyes lit up in thanks and he quickly began sneaking over to the alcohol section, past the faded magazines and expired candy.
Heinrich crouched to examine the headless corpse for a few moments, checking her over for any wristwatches or pieces of jewelry that might be useful back in the village. Smiling, he pulled a lovely golden band off her skeletal finger, pocketing it in his side satchel with the other loose jewelry he’d found on this excursion. Steven placed a hand on Heinrich’s shoulder, gathering his attention and pointing to the pharmacy desk at the end of the aisle.
A series of candles had been placed around the register, now all extinguished.
Someone else was in the store with them.