As promised, here is the second installment of my short story “Keeping Watch”. It is looking to be longer than the 3 parts I originally thought, so please have patience as I doubt it will be finished next time. It is shaping up well, I think, though you all are better judges for that. Again, let me know about any errors you see or suggestions you have. You are all wonderful and I look forward to hearing from you. Enjoy!
Part one – Here
Carolyn’s neck hurt as she snapped awake. Looking at the watch she had taken from a jewelry store, she saw that she had only catnapped for a couple of hours. She looked around and things were quiet for the moment. She sighed.
She went into auto-mode, checking her inventory and it’s condition. She emptied the two front pockets in her pants and the four in her jacket as well as the one in her blouse. Carolyn stared in the dim moonlight at her life’s property all sitting in a little line. She had her berretta, cleaned and accompanied by six bullets in the gun and two clips of six each. The long straight hunting blade with the notches on top that could cut wire rounded out her arsenal. Food was another thing altogether. She had eaten about half of her bread and only had the small jar of olives to go with that. The flask held about 2/3 of a cup of water now, almost half empty. A pair of cotton work gloves, a lighter more than half full of fluid, a two ounce bottle of rubbing alcohol, her lock picks, 3 band aides, the small LED light, and 1 wrapped Hershey’s kiss (dark chocolate she was saving). “It was not very much,” she thought,” but it would have to do for now.” With that she moved closer to the kitchen room door and out of direct sight. Then she tilted her head a bit for some much needed rest.
When Carolyn opened her eyes, she was a little alarmed and amazed. It was daylight, meaning she had slept nearly twelve hours. She was a little groggy from the sleep, but felt wonderfully refreshed, though hungry. The bread was beginning to get fairly stale, so she ate it, opened the olives and ate about a third of them, finishing the flask of water afterwards. There was enough pressure in the sink for about half the flask and she got the rest of the water by emptying both coffee makers. She did find a pack of cinnamon gum and two rice cakes in a zip lock baggie all stashed in the back office desk. There was some cheese, but she did not like the texture or the color, so she left it lying. Her watch read seven forty-eight when she headed out into the dangerous silence of the town.
Her steps took her to the far end of town by noon. She had seen no one and the night crawlers, her own term for the brain dead monstrosities that took over everything at sundown, would not be seen outdoors for hours. She looked up as a shaft of reflected light struck her eyes. The reflection came from a second story window in a suburban clinic. She had never been to this one before. Her mind told her to stay awake, but all she could think of was that, perhaps, there was some food, water, and antibiotics in the place. It may have been picked clean, but she was willing to risk it being full of night crawlers to find out.
Her heart beat fast as she pushed on the door. She sighed, getting ready for yet another lock picking session, when she realized the sign on the door read “pull”. When she did, it opened into a reasonably lush front lounge. She did not stop to open anything so as not to give herself away just yet. The hall to the rooms was fairly dark, but many of those rooms had curtained small windows, allowing the rooms some luminescence.
The search of the first three rooms yielded nothing of value. She entered the fourth and began quietly opening drawers. At first, she had been a bit surprised that there were no night crawlers in the doctor’s area. Then she remembered what the radio had mentioned about people leaving the hospitals and offices before becoming paralyzed, then coming back as night crawlers. There were more out in the streets and alleys and even inside the stopped cars than inside medical places. The other places hard hit were buildings where people had come in to work and succumbed there. That was what bothered her, she realized, there were no doctors or nurses in here with her. She was relieved, but cautious.
The drawers had some gauze, tape, and a small bottle of liquid soap. She put all three items in her pockets, and then found a pair of scissors used for cutting tape. She added that to her inventory as well, then left the room to go farther into the back where the storage rooms would be located.
The back door was locked, as she suspected a storage room would be. It had not been broken down as had many of the ones she had looked at before. About twelve minutes of tedious work and some quiet swearing found the lock popped and she turned the handle on the door. It did not give way easily and she pushed harder, then with all she had. The door came open and she realized the reason for the resistance as three night crawlers dressed in nursing uniforms came toward her. Rather than back up, Carolyn pulled the door half closed and drew the hunting knife. She did not want to use the bullets up or make the noise shooting the gun would entail. She stuck the knife forward through the arms and into the eye socket of one creature. There was a sickly pop as the eyeball exploded, then the body dropped as the knife dug into the brain tissue.
Carolyn knew that she did not have to get the brain in order to kill these things as you did with the zombies on the horror channels. They still had to breathe and all. She sliced the second one in the throat, getting the jugular in the process. Carolyn backed up to avoid the blood spray, letting go of the door. The third night crawler came clumsily out the opening and headed toward Carolyn.
She backed up and fell backwards, her foot getting tangled in a cord on the carpet. The creature was slow, but Carolyn knew she could never get back up and collect the knife in time. She pulled the berretta out of its holster, took aim, and fired. The noise was loud in the enclosed hallway. The projectile covered the few feet quickly and entered the head just above the left eye. The bullets were hollow points. The slug exploded once inside the skull taking out half of the brain matter and leftover hair. The night crawler tilted backwards and dropped to the carpet.
Carolyn knew two things. First, the bullet noise might well bring any other night crawlers in the building her way. The second was that she was not leaving without looking in that room. She had fought too hard to let it go. She stood up and hurried back down the hall.
Using her light, she took a peek, opening the drawers and shelves quickly and somewhat quietly. She estimated two minutes was all she had if anything else alive was in the building, and she was pretty certain there were. There were too many rooms and such for it to be all empty.
After the two minutes had passed, she decided to leave with what she had found: a doctor’s bag to carry her things in, two scalpels, some small splints, two bandage wrappings, a thermometer, two small clamps, several bottles of different types of capsules and tablets, three bottles of water, two small cans of tuna, several mustard packs, a manual can opener, another LED flashlight, and a bottle of hydrogen peroxide.
She put all the items in the doctor’s bag and headed toward the front door. As she turned the corner, she saw several night crawlers trying to get in the back door at the end of the hall which, fortunately, had been locked for security reasons before the outbreak. She ran to the front, looked out the door, then headed into the afternoon light toward the outskirts of town and somewhere to sleep for the night. The situation was pretty habitual by now, but, with the doctor’s bag and its contents, her hopes were higher than they had been in weeks.