Helen makes her way the bathtubs and shifts one of the boxes just enough to disappear into the shelving. The shelving is nearly five feet deep and twenty feet high. The boxes are only half the width of the shelf providing a place to hide. The lights go out. Darkness encapsulates her. Now is when she finally hears the screaming. She hears the sounds of product falling off of shelves and people shuffling past. She recognizes her co-workers voices. One of them is Marianne, supervisor of the Paint Department. She's trying to calmly guide the others through the dark. Whispering.
"Keep together. We're near Plumbing. Almost there."
Then she hears a more frantic sound of footsteps accompanied by a gurgling fast-paced breathing and the sound of splatters. Then she knows. She knows that Rage has finally found it's way in. Past the security of the outer ring. There had to have been thousands of Infected all at once to get past the bunkers. Here in their "Safe Zone" civilization continued. But now it's all over.
The Infected frantically stumbling around in the dark trying to locate victims in hiding. She hears Marianne. Calmly, firmly.
And then it's chaos. A howl rifles from the Infected. Helen hears screaming and the Infected, now even more frantic, stumbles past her hiding spot and then she hears the sound of a skull smacking a metal post and the body flopping around on the floor. Helen's fear is compounded by the fact she can't see anything. So she decides to make herself harder to attack and starts climbing up through the racking. But it's too late. She's been discovered. An Infected starts to claw it's way through the barrier of boxes. Helen is feeling for the space between the two racks. These racks are warehouse style shelving racks. Home Store is a home improvement store, so the racking is arranged into rows to make aisles. These racks are back-to-back with a gap in between. This is her only chance at escaping. The Infected is stuck between some boxes the fell over on top of it. Helen can hear it struggling. She finds a hand hold and pulls herself up to the next shelf. She feels for the next and climbs to the next shelf and the next. Finally she reaches the top. The racking is nearly sixteen feet high, so a fall would severely injure or kill her. She stays on her hands and knees. She hears the Infected below her banging around searching in it's Rage.
Rage. The disease that causes zombification without physical death first. The destroyer of the victim's humanity. The victims. Helen often wonders, as most do, what must be going on in their head? It's impossible to know. No one can claim to be a survivor. No one has been cured and told the horrific tale. It truly is a best-guess scenario.
Rage. First England, then France. Two years and like a storm it spread across Europe, the Middle East, China, Japan and Russia. It then came to North America from Russia. A few dozen refugees had been about to make the escape to Alaska with the Rage victims quite literally biting at their ankles. The last person made a jump for the boat, cast off, but the Raging were too fast.
The vessel's course was plotted and the engines were at full throttle. Rage spread through the yacht within mere minutes. The course took them right to Juneau. The Rage made its way down the coast in just a month's time. Half a year later, everywhere west of the Rockies was nothing but a Rage wasteland.
This is the world she now lives in. Running and hiding. There are pockets of "Safe Zones." But they had been set up by the rich and are mostly off limits. Former military protect them from all outsiders. Now she knows that the protection has failed.
Helen has to get out of here. She has to get home to her daughter, Jessica. She wastes no time and crawls over to the adjacent rack. She has to crawl between pallets but finds the edge of the other rack. She lowers her legs and feels for the next shelf. One-by-one she climbs down to the bottom. She thinks for a moment. Does she want to risk the faster route on the ground? Or does she want to stick to climbing moving from an elevated position? She knows if she's caught it's game over. Then she'll never get to Jessica. She chooses the slower but safer route. She finds the middle aisle that separates the store in half. She dashes across with her arms out in front of her. She finds the racking and begins to climb. All this time it has grown more quiet as each of her co-workers have either found a hiding spot or succumbed to the Infected. "Who made it? Who's dead? Who's Infected?" This thought repeats through her mind. Helen crawls through the pallets and finally to the front edge of the rack at the front of the store. It's brighter up here as the sun shines through the front vestibule where she see's one of the large windows is shattered. She can see a few bodies on the floor. She looks to the left and it appears to be clear. She can still hear something running around in the distant parts of the store. She begins the descent to the ground. She doesn't even hesitate and makes a dash for the broken window.
Helen and Jessica currently reside in Oklahoma. They are making their way west to California. Helen has decided that in order to survive they need stable weather. Winters can be just as dangerous as Rage. It is now August and they need to make it to the desert by November. The desert is more survivable in the winter.
Helen, 56 years old, was once fair complected. She had fiery red hair that most women complemented. She, however, was not fond of her stocky body type. She thanked her mom for that, as her dad was taller and thinner. Her fair complexion has fallen victim to sun exposure, stress and lack of bathing opportunities. Her daughter, Jessica, is 17 years old and a carbon copy of her mother.
"Mom. Get up it's morning."
They had made camp on a third floor balcony over looking an overgrown park. They had made use of an old mattress and comforter. They also rigged the inside of the apartment with warning traps in case Rage found them. They always try to sleep on balconies with an escape ladder they fabricated to the roof. Through experience they discovered this escape technique. They have found the roof of a building offers them time to plan their escape if they are being chased.
Helen rolls over on to her back and opens her eyes.
"Did you make breakfast?"
"Oh. Well make breakfast and then wake me back up." Helen rolls back over on to her left side and covers her head with the comforter.
Jessica grunts, but smiles. She unpacks some jerky and some sort of birds eggs. They are small, but better than nothing. She cooks it over a small fire. The balcony is concrete so it won't burn the building down. And even if the building did catch fire, who would care?
"We haven't seen any other survivors for days."
"Well, we've been skirting Oklahoma City to the south. I saw a newspaper that said everyone fled north in hopes winter would prolong their survival."
"So, you think we're alone? I mean we've met people everywhere else here in the south."
"I don't know Jessica. It's just a possibility." Helen wasn't sharp with her words just passive.
"I hope the next group of people aren't as crazy as the last."
"Me too. That woman with her dolls. Did you see the way she kept petting their hair? She called them her 'precious daughters'."
"The dude wasn't any more normal either. He couldn't stop rubbing his cheek and clicking his jaw. I'm glad we just kept going."
"I've said it before, but, I'm surprised that more people haven't turned out that way."
They finish their breakfast and pack up their supplies. Each carries a bow and arrows in addition to their supply packs. Slowly, carefully and quietly they make their way down to ground level. It is time to keep moving.