Author's Note: I am a machine. I watched Dawn of the Dead about two days ago and that's really kickstarted the ideas process for me. I finished this chapter in two days, which must be a record for me. Comment, review, applaud, complain, etc :)
The early morning sun shone through the wide windows despite the stacks of food and various displays. Leah scrunched her eyelids tighter in protest. Five more minutes, she thought. Her body was exhausted from yesterday's marathon of running, and even the cold concrete floor seemed like a soft bed after what she'd been through. Pure adrenalin had kept her going, and it was only when she rested she realized how tired and sore she truly was.
The smell of eggs and bacon wafted into the room, and as her stomach rumbled noisily she realized she still hadn't eaten anything. She eventually got up, stretching her arms and legs to get out the kinks from a night on hard ground. She'd almost forgotten they were out there. Almost. For the most part the zombies were quiet, shuffling aimlessly, and an occasional moan of hunger pierced the glass. She grimaced. How she'd managed to get any sleep with them out there was beyond her.
Aaron poked his head through the doorway behind the service desk. "Breakfast is almost ready."
Leah stifled a yawn. "Smells good."
He motioned her forward. "Well, come on, lazy bones."
She wrapped the jacket around her and followed him into the back room. Annabelle was putting the bacon on separate plates, next to the fried eggs. "That looks great."
"Bacon and eggs is the best way to wake up, even in a zombie apocalypse." Annabelle handed her a plate and cutlery. "See, Aaron? I told you a hot plate would be useful, didn't I?"
"I vaguely recall you mentioning it at least a million times." He rolled his eyes. He mimicked her voice. "'It's a good idea, Aaron, and at least you'll eat something besides pizza all the time'. I get it, you always know better."
"Damn right." She gave him his plate. "Remember that while you eat your gourmet breakfast."
Leah smiled at their antics, sitting down with them at a small table to begin eating. The bacon practically melted in her mouth, and she savored its taste. She shoved the rest in and quickly moved onto the eggs.
"So, you haven't eaten for a while?" Aaron asked, amused.
She looked up from the food. They were both staring at her; Aaron was fighting a grin, and Annabelle raised an eyebrow. "It's been about two days," she replied, covering her mouth as she talked around the food. She swallowed. "Sorry."
"It's okay. We're probably eating better than most people, anyway." Aaron ate a forkful of food, then stood up. "By the way, Annabelle and I hunted around earlier. We've got you clothes and some shoes. What's your shoe size?"
"Eight," Leah answered.
Aaron pulled a pair of black trainers with blue laces and highlights from one of the lockers. "Eight and a half. Close enough." He handed them to her.
"Wow. Thank you." She held them like they were a fragile gift. Her feet were black from the bitumen, and more than a little scraped. Shoes were a godsend.
"The socks aren't so hot, but they're all we could find," Annabelle added as Aaron gave her the socks with an apologetic half-smile. Leah suspected the socks had once been white; they were now an unappealing grey colour. Luckily they didn't smell, even though they looked rather disgusting.
"Oh. Okay. They're better than nothing," Leah reassured them.
Annabelle rummaged through another locker and pulled out a pair of dark blue jeans. "I always keep a spare pair at work. The amount of times I've spilled shit all over myself is ridiculous." She pointed to a stain just above her knee. "This one is coffee from yesterday, when I almost hit one of the fuckers trying to get here." She left the jeans on a nearby countertop. "They should fit I think, and they've gotta be a damn sight better than your pyjamas."
"Tell me about it," Leah agreed, finishing off her breakfast.
"And last but not least, your new shirt." Aaron whipped it out with a flourish. It was a medium-sized black T-shirt with a white Ramones logo printed in a circular design. "I don't know if you're a Ramones fan at all, but now you are."
"Is there anywhere I can put these on?" she asked.
Annabelle pointed to a door. "The bathroom's in there."
"I really appreciate this," Leah told them.
Annabelle nodded. "No problem."
"It's what we do," Aaron said in a mock serious voice.
Leah slipped into the bathroom and closed the door behind her. For the first time in what seemed like years, she stared at her reflection in the mirror. Her dark red hair was matted with sweat, and maybe blood, but she couldn't tell. Dark circles around her green eyes told her she still had a lot of rest to catch up on. There was only a toilet, a hand dryer and a wash basin in the cramped bathroom, but it would do. She stripped off her camisole and pyjamas, dumping them in a corner. Slipping out of her underwear, she washed them in the basin and held them under the dryer for a while before resting them on the edge of the basin.
With soap and water, she scrubbed herself down, getting rid of the dried blood stains on her arms and around her neck. She ducked her head under the stream to wash her hair as best she could, and used the dryer to get rid of the excess water. Within minutes she felt fresh and clean again.
A soft knock at the door. Leah, still naked, ducked behind it. "I'm not finished yet," she called out.
It opened slightly and Annabelle's hand poked through. "I thought you might need one of these." She was holding a black padded bra. "It seems like I keep spares of everything, so you're in luck."
Leah took the bra. "Thanks," she said with gratitude. "Thanks a lot."
The door closed again, and she began to get dressed. The jeans were snug but otherwise a good fit, and the shirt hung well after she tied it in a knot at the back so it sat nicely on her hips. The bra was slightly big for her, but she adjusted the straps and eventually fixed the problem. The socks and shoes went on, and she studied at her reflection again. Much better, she thought, running fingers through her damp hair.
She exited the bathroom, old clothes in hand, and placed them in a nearby trash can. Now that she was out of her pyjamas, she didn't feel as vulnerable anymore. The next step was to get back to Seth in one piece. She hoped he'd figured out a plan. Aaron and Annabelle were at the service counter, flicking through TV channels. Most were playing the same information on a continuous loop, except for one.
"Some of our bases have been compromised," an army officer was saying. "But Fort Alexander has not fallen. It's safe here. I repeat, Fort Alexander is safe." The officer looked right down the lens. "If you can find a way to reach us, do it fast. The military forces at the fort can and will protect you."
Leah exchanged glances with the others. "That's upstate, isn't it?"
"Probably about two or three hours from here," Aaron estimated. "Maybe more depending on the zombie traffic."
"It's better than staying here." Annabelle sighed. "We should leave before it gets worse."
"Is it just me, or are there more outside now?" Leah thought the zombie crowd looked bigger than it did last night.
"Way more. And they'll keep coming." Aaron took a road map down from the tourist information display and unfolded it on the counter. "We're here." He stabbed the tiny dot that read 'Finbar'. "The fort is..." his finger traced up a major highway. "... there. If the highway's bad, there's a couple of alternative ways. I think we can do it."
Leah's phone vibrated in her pocket; she'd switched it to silent since the ringtone made the zombies go nuts. She glanced at the caller ID. It was Seth. "Hey."
"Hey. So... how do you feel about Fort Alexander?"