Waiting For Dawn

By Panny

CJ leaned back in his chair, peeling sunflower seeds while watching the security cameras. His shift was nearly over and, as usual, nothing of interest had happened. Crossroads Mall was situated in an under developed area that was known for it's crime. One of those typical cases of the city putting money into a large mall to attract other business and home builders, but it never happened. Despite the location though, they didn't have much trouble maintaining security. Rumors had spread that they were tight with the owner of a nearby gun shop, and shoplifters who made it out were picked off from across the lot. It was a ridiculous story, but it kept the local punks in line.

"Hey CJ!" Another guard, who'd been working there for longer than CJ could remember, stepped inside.

"Everything clear Ron?"

"Yeah. It's quiet tonight. Not a lot of people around since this afternoon really."

"Fine by me. I'm out of here in an hour anyway."

"I hear you. Hey, why don't you flip on the TV?"

CJ leaned forward to turn on the one blank monitor. He flipped through a few channels, finding nothing but news on. With nothing better to do he sat back to watch a moderately attractive woman make a public service announcement.

"...Wisconsin residents are urged to stay indoors and remain calm. Local law enforcement agents are aware of these problems and have been deployed in full. Again, the cause of this unrest is unknown, but reports have been made that those causing these incidents appear to be ill."

"Fuckin shit." CJ muttered as footage of an explosion taking out a gas station came on the screen. Ron nodded in agreement.

"You can say that again. Look, I'm gonna head out now and get home before this shit makes it's way here."

"Whatever. I'm not goin out in that mess. And if some bastards come sneakin around I'll be ready for 'em." He pat the gun that was resting on the desk in front of him. "Besides, after I stick my neck out to protect this place, I'll have pretty good leverage towards a big fat raise."

Ron laughed heartily and stood up, running his fingers through his graying hair. "You're young, so you can do that. I've got a family to get back to. Is anyone else on?"

"Greg and Phillip left early. Just us left."

"All right. Well, the night shift will be here soon and the stores are all closed down, so I'm going."

"See ya."

CJ watched the man leave and sighed. He really wasn't looking forward to spending the night at work, but from what he saw on the news, he was better off there. "Civil unrest" always led to two things; violence and looting. He could care less about who was beating up who on the streets, but if anyone was gonna try breaking in to the mall, they'd have to deal with him.

"Is Ron leaving early or am I late?"

CJ jumped at the sudden sound and turned.

"Shit Terry. What the fuck are you doing here? It's only 9:30. You're not on for another half-hour. But what the hell am I saying? You're always early."

Terry smiled nervously. "Well, It's better than being late, right?"

CJ shook his head. "Whatever."

"Are you going home soon?"

"Nope. Pulling a double shift tonight."

"Oh. Why?" Terry asked, his curiosity beginning to grate on CJ's nerves.

"Just because. There's a lot of shit going down and there's no way you punk ass kids can handle it alone."

Both guards waited in silence, leaving Terry feeling awkward about being alone with a superior, while CJ prayed the kid wouldn't start up another conversation. Half an hour later Ben arrived, followed shortly after by Bart. After giving them a few minutes to settle in, CJ gave them a rundown of what was happening.

"Okay boys. Don't know if you've been paying any attention but people are fuckin' rioting in the streets out there, and they ain't gettin in here, so no slacking off tonight, got it? We make rounds every hour and keep our eyes on the cameras."

The younger three nodded and split into groups to look over the mall. When they got back they stood around the office, watching and listening for any disturbances. It wasn't until several hours later that they began to ease up and they all sat near the the TV which they'd left airing a local news channel.

"This is unbelievable." Terry whispered. Next to him Ben lurched as if he was about to vomit, but stopped himself.

"Just look at 'em."

They watched footage of a woman being taken down by several others. The news had been airing it all night while warning people to stay indoors and giving out shelter locations.

"Maybe we should go to one of the shelters?" Ben suggested.

"No." CJ shot back quickly. "We stay here. We stay here and we do our job." With a sigh he looked over at the clock. "It's three o 'clock. Time to make rounds."

All of them stood and grabbed flashlights, getting ready to patrol the area again. Having done it five times already, it was starting to get old.

"All right. Bart and me will take downstairs. Ben, you take Terry and look around up here."

"Sure thing boss."

CJ and Bart walked down the halls silently, carefully checking around each corner they approached as they made their way to the elevators. Once they were downstairs, the two split up to go through each store for any signs of intruders and unwelcome company.

CJ was about done when he heard a banging noise coming from a nearby entrance. Outside he could make out two people trying to get in. Shining his light on them he could see one of them was injured and bleeding. The other yelled for him to let them inside.

"Yeah. Hang on a minute." He muttered, pulling out his keys to let them in. They rushed in the moment the door had opened and CJ had to grab one of them to calm them down long enough for him to relock the doors.

"What the hell happened to you?" He asked, gesturing to the wounded mans arm.

"These... Things attacked me. They were like people... Only not. Thank God Carl saw what was happening and backed up the truck. Ran right over them, and then we took off."

CJ nodded and turned to the other man. "You Carl?"

"Yeah, and this is Mike. We were out doing pickup when all of a sudden those things came at us. They tried to follow us but gave out part way. Tried to get to a hospital but the place was swarming with those guys. We didn't know where to go but we saw lights in here and thought it was better than nothing.

CJ looked at his flashlight and laughed. "Yeah. Hold on a minute. Bart!" He waited for the other guard to arrive, before giving his next order. "Go upstairs and get Ben and Terry. Tell them to get some gauze and shit from the office and bring it down here."

Turning his attention back to the new arrivals, CJ moved to give Mike a hand while they walked towards Hallowed Grounds. "Here," he said. "Sit on the stool and put your arm on the counter." He didn't know much about medicine, just what he learned in basic training, but he'd do what he could.

"What the hell did they get you with?"

"Their teeth."

"Their teeth?"

"Yeah. Sons of bitches bit me!"

"Damn." CJ and Carl looked at the massive wound, wondering how so much damage could be done by human teeth.

After they arrived, Ben and Terry took turns holding down fresh pads of gauze until the bleeding finally stopped and they managed to put on a makeshift bandage.

The six of them sat around, listening and waiting for something to happen. Hours passed by and the sun was just coming up when Mike suddenly slumped forward.

"Hey buddy, you okay?" Carl asked, shaking him.

"He didn't look so hot." Bart commented, standing back and remaining as detached from the situation as possible.

"Oh my God, I don't think he's breathing." Carl said with worry while everyone crowded around their fallen companion. Ben leaned forward to listen, feeling for a pulse but finding none.

"What the hell?" Terry exclaimed, his voice cracking. "He wasn't bleeding anymore. What happened?"

"Damned if I-" CJ jumped back, stopping mid sentence."He just moved!"

Ben laughed and sat down where he was kneeling. "Funny CJ. Real funny."

The others watched in horror as Mikes eyes opened and focused on Ben. Without warning he lunged at the young guard, biting into the back of his neck.

Ben screamed and scrambled to his feet. Everyone backed away, thoroughly confused with no clue what to do. What had once been Mike ran at them and CJ quickly drew his gun, shooting it square in the chest. Mike slowed for a moment, then came at them again.

Terry and Bart both ran for the elevators, disappearing with the chime of it's metal doors closing.

"Fucking bastards." Ben yelled after them. Together he, CJ and Carl ran down the hall, ducking into Reflex Sports in the hopes of either dodging him or finding a weapon that might work.

They stood, trying to fight the urge to breathe heavily while Mike stalked around. As he walked towards a closet in back, CJ snuck around behind him. Picking up a mop left behind by one of the janitors, he swung it, knocking the... thing inside. He quickly slammed the door shut and ran, the others following behind him.

"We go upstairs and stay up there, you got me?"

"But what about Mike? We can't leave him there." Carl cried. "Something's wrong with him."

"Damn right something's wrong with him."

They piled into the elevator, Ben pressing the second floor button frantically. "I don't know what the hell happened." He said between breaths, "but fuck your friend. He's trying to kill us."

Carl stood solemnly silent. That was his friend locking in that closet, but at the same time it wasn't. Truly there wasn't anything he could really do now but wait and see what happened.

"You guys are so dead!" Ben yelled when they reached the second floor security office. Terry's face was a mixture of guilt and fear while Bart tried to brush off what had happened.

"Hey man. You want to deal with shit like that, fine. But when dead people start getting up and shit I'm out of there. Way I see it, Terry and me are the only smart ones."

CJ let out a sharp huff of air and fought the urge to hit his friend, then slammed down in his seat. Lock the doors. Sun's coming up and things should calm down now. No on comes in, no one goes out until we know what's going on."

Everyone nodded in agreement and sat down wherever they could. CJ was half asleep when he heard Bart's voice. A quick glance at the clock told him it was shortly after 8:00, nearly two hours since they'd locked themselves in.

"Hey, check it out."

Getting up, he moved to join Bart by the monitor.

"There's someone in Metropolis."

They watched a small group of people move through the store, headed by what looked to be a cop. They weren't armed well, one shot gun and one hand gun.

"We should get them." Terry suggested. Carl nodded in agreement from his seat in the corner.

"Fuck that." CJ muttered. "You want to end up like Ben?" The two looked over at their companion. His face was pale and his breath shallow. He truly looked like he was on deaths door.

"I'll go then." He told them with some effort. "Can't get much worse than I am."

"No way." CJ ordered. "Do not go back down there. Just leave 'em alone and they'll leave."

"What if they let Mike out?" Carl asked.

"Then he'll take care of them for us." Bart joked.

"That's it. I'm going." Ben stood and headed towards the office door, surprised to find Carl behind him.

"I want to check on Mike." He explained.

Ben shrugged and walked out, ignoring the protest of his colleagues.

The two made their way downstairs without much effort. Ben walked with Carl to Reflex first, knowing the new arrivals wouldn't make it in to the actual mall for a bit longer.

They approached the closet wearily, it's occupant seemingly silent.

"I'll go first." Carl whispered. "He knows me."

The man opened the door timidly, stepping inside and finding his friend writhing on the floor. "Are you okay man?" He knelt down and felt his head, which was surprisingly cool, then pulled back in shock as Mike bit into his hand.

Prompted by a sharp yelp, Ben pushed the closet door shut. It was wrong, he knew, to lock him in there, but he couldn't risk letting it out. He could barely stand up straight and his vision was beginning to blur. If he was attacked again he was certain he wouldn't make it.

Out in the hall he could hear the sound of shattering glass, but there was no time for that now. CJ was right. He shouldn't have come down. He drew in a shaky breath and felt fear take hold of him as his legs gave out. Something was wrong, but he didn't know what. All he could think to do was to make it back to his friends.

Back to the elevators, he stumbled. He was crying, or at least it felt like he should be, but much of his body was beginning to numb. He moved to sit by the fountain but instead felt himself falling backward. He stared at the ceiling briefly before blanking out.

"Man, those guys are so in trouble." Bart laughed, looking at the monitors. They couldn't see Ben or Carl from the second floor station, so they continued to watch the group of survivors break in.

"I can't believe he threw a fucking toilet." CJ muttered. He watched them step over the broken glass of Metropolis' display window, a woman in pajamas being carried over. "Who the hell runs around barefoot?"

"Maybe she didn't have time to find shoes." Terry offered.

CJ stood and pulled out his gun. "Either way, they're not coming in here."

Bart smirked at the chance for action while Terry's face faulted. CJ gave him a look that told him not to question orders.

"We let someone in before and you saw what happened. I am not letting anyone else in, even if Mike comes back up. Now come on, we'll meet them by the elevators."

He walked out with Bart, Terry following reluctantly. There wasn't much point to his going. As a trainee he wasn't allowed to carry a gun, and he didn't agree with CJ either. There were people down there that they could help, but they were just going to abandon them. No matter what the reason, that couldn't be right.