One Eye Open

A girl finds herself in the midst of a broken world when the "Rage Virus" spreads. WARNING: Some material may be inappropriate for Children under 13 CRUDE HUMOR, SOME LANGUAGE, AND VIOLENCE.

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14. Indoors at Last

"Alright." I replied automatically.  He seemed like the leader type, since he took charge a whole lot.  I could tell that Luke and Seth were probably already used to this since they didn't say anything else.  Chris opened the door leading down to a flight of stairs.  It would have been nice if they actually put up some Christmas lights or something like that to keep everything illuminated.  We glided down the stairs following him. I found it quite difficult trying to keep up with all of the weapons and a starving stomach. The stairs seemed to go in a sort of spiraling pattern―seven steps, turn to the right, seven steps, turn to the right.  On the third turn, there was an orange splotch of paint on the wall.  I didn't used to noticed things like this.  Are these the first signs of insanity?  Before I could think any further, we were approaching a silver door.  Chris turned the knob and we walked in after him.  First thing I noticed was the silence, but that's not what made me go a little crazy.  I smelled churros―my favorite childhood snack back before everything went wrong.  The sadness over everything that ever happened hit me and it felt like my clothes got heavier, my stomach felt hollow, and it felt like I wasn't there anymore.  I followed Chris and June, but my fingers and legs didn't feel like they were mine.  I took a couple of deep breathes, clearing my head.  Eventually, I felt 'me' enough to understand what he was saying and come back to terms with reality.  All of the lights were turned on, so it seemed just like any normal mall except for the emptiness. 

"There aren't many of us here―only a couple of friends from the high school we went to."

"What high school did you guys go to?" I asked, wondering. 

"Alexandria.  There weren't a lot of people that went there so everyone knew each other."

We were passing a store called 'Teavana', one that I was very familiar with.  The aroma of sweet, calming tea slowed my racing heartbeat and I let Chris and June go ahead while I stopped to get some of the free tea.  It was cold, but it was the first thing I had drank in nearly two days.  The small plastic cup full of cold tea was not enough.  I'll drink more once I know it's okay to just drink whatever.

I ran to catch up to Chris and June and heard bits of their conversation as I approached.

"-so you have to claim what you want as soon as you get here?"

"Yup.  There are plenty of available stores, but you only get one to stay in.  But if you want to share with someone, you can."

I decided that this was the best time to start asking questions.  "Claiming stores?"  

"It sounds crazy, I know, but some people started fighting over what they wanted so the best way to claim something is to be there first.  But sometimes people share if the store is really big.  I'll introduce you guys to the others later, but I think now is the best time to claim your spots.  If you guys need me, you can find me in Hollister."

He started to walk away before stopping to turn around and yell something at us. 

"ALSO, IF YOU SEE A SIGN OR SOMETHING ON THE DOORS OF A STORE, IT MEANS THAT IT'S CLAIMED!"

I cupped my hands around my mouth and yelled back in response, "DOES THAT MEAN IF THERE ISN'T A MARK, THEN IT'S FREE?"

He nodded, exaggerating his movements. 

Good to know.  I turned to June who had this weird look on her face.  

"What?" I inquired.

"Nothing." She replied too quickly.  Too loud.  Hm..

"Let's go see which stores aren't taken." June said and started walking in no specific direction.  We passed American Eagle but there was a black horizontal line painted on the glass doors, which meant it was claimed.  Man, this place seriously needed some music-it was too quiet.  It was a good break from all of the screaming zombie explosions though. 

"Ooh! I want to see if Gilly and Hicks is still free!!" June sped to one of the random benches in the mall where there was a map.  She brought it over to me and we both studied it.  

"There it is!" she exclaimed and pointed.  

I appreciated her newfound hope.  Something caught my eye and I looked across where the store was.  Hot Topic.  It had to be still available!  It had to.  I practically skipped to that side of the mall with June regardless whether or not my legs appreciated it.  When we arrived at Gilly and Hicks, I was delighted to see that there was no mark on the door.  Then an idea popped into my head.

"June, I have an idea!" I exclaimed in a singsong voice.

"What is it?!" she said it just as enthusiastically as me, like we were about to go trick-or-treating.

"Why don't we make Gilly and Hicks like our sort of HQ?" 

"Alex."

"Yes?"

"You are a genius." 

That says it all.  We've officially gone insane. 

"Okay, you stay here while I go run down to Hollister to ask where the paint is." I nodded and watched her jog away, looking down at the map every couple of seconds.  I turned back to Gilly and Hicks and walked up the steps to sit in front of the entrance.  After I was seated, I looked up at Hot Topic.  No paint.  I began to fidget in my spot.  It was right there and at any point someone could claim it.  It was relieving though, to know that there weren't a lot of people around to fight over everything.  My eyes began to wander and I caught sight of a ragged looking girl.  She was sitting on some stairs and her hair was tangled and covered in what looked like a fine layer of dust and mud.  I looked down at her face and gasped.  Her eyes looked hollow and dark like she hadn't slept in ages, a fine cut on her cheek.  What scared me the most was that she was staring right at me.  No, she was staring right through me.  It took me a while to register that the girl was in fact, me. 

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