Overnight the world the world changed. There is no electricity and no explanation as to why. Except for one city in the outskirts of Seattle. These are their stories.
“Toby, come on!” Keith yelled from outside the truck. “I don’t want to be here all day. It is still a long ride back and I don’t like leaving Shannon there by herself.” Keith may be the younger brother but he always felt like the weight of the world was on his shoulders. They were the only link to the outside world. The only ones who dared to leave the protection of their little town and the only hope their little city had for fuel. Everyone else that dared leave never came back. Whether by choice or destiny, no one knew for sure. But the stories that came with the walkers that entered the city, Keith was sure he didn’t want to find out. Keith dropped his head, his wavy brown hair falling over his face as he sighed. “Toby…”
The sound of the old Chevy door creaked as it moved on its hinges. “Keith…I think we should come back later. Something doesn’t feel right.” Toby never looked at his brother, his eyes never leaving the little shop door of the gas station.
“Oh, come on. You have got to be kidding me. There are no monsters in the closet, baby brother,” Keith teased. “Besides, we both know there is not enough gas to get us home. Let alone bring us back here. It is all gone. Even the emergency stores are gone. Shannon will skin us both alive if she finds out.”
“Baby Brother? Really!” Toby puffed out his chest standing as tall as his 6’ 2” would allow. “Just because you are taller than I, doesn’t make you older, little one.” Toby smiled. The brothers had played this dance ever since Keith had surpassed him in high school, both in height and on the basketball court.
To call Keith a giant would be an accurate description. His 6’8” made everyone think twice about causing any trouble at the shop. That and the fact that they were both well-known on the street and the local boxing gym. The gym was the one indulgence they still allowed themselves. It was the only thing that kept the tension of the last few months from driving them over the edge.
“Well…I am not the one cowering in the truck, shorty,” Keith laughed. Walking over to his brother and tapping the top of his head, “or bald for that matter. What ever happened to your hair?”
Toby pushed his brother’s hand away and gave in. “Alright…alright. You are right of course. Let’s just hurry and get this done. I do not want to stay here any longer than needed.” Toby looked back over his shoulder to the station and the little grocer that was inside. “Why don’t you work on filling the drums and I will see what we can salvage from the grocer.”
“And I thought you were going to make me enter the haunted house by myself,” Keith teased. “Alrighty then. Let’s get this done.”
“You are truly an ass! You know that, right?” Toby laughed.
“Touché,” Keith bowed to his brother, Mischief still twinkling in his eyes.
Toby didn’t bother to respond as he turned and headed to the little grocer inside the station. They could do this all afternoon and never get anything done. Maybe Keith was right. Maybe he was just seeing monsters in the closet, but he couldn’t shake the foreboding that etched its way through the pit of his stomach. Pausing briefly at the door, he looked inside to see if all was still. He could hear his brother behind him snicker as he reached for the handle and pulled the door open.
The grocer was dark save the sunlight shining through its windows. Toby didn’t need to look around long to know that nothing had changed since they were here a couple of days ago. It gave him a little peace of mind and allowed him to relax…just a little. They had made a plan as to what they were bringing back to maximize the space they had available. He ignored the darkened refrigerators. Anything in them would be rotten by now anyway. Save for maybe the beer.
Looking up to the newspaper clipping behind the counter, he saw an elderly man with a scar running up the length of his arm. He looked military with his razor cut hair and the tattoo with his troop number and the phrase ‘Never forget’ high upon his shoulder. He must have been near the end of his tours at 9/11 and Toby wondered how many tours he went through during the war. The fire chief beside him was shaking his hand and passing him a metal that hung silently next to the photograph. A purple star.
Toby grabbed an empty box and began shoveling everything off the shelf into it. That one full, he closed it up and continued to repeat the process through the non-perishables and automotive section of the little grocer. Their little town was low on everything since the delivery trucks had stopped coming. This would barely give them a day to feed everyone, but with any luck they would be able to make it last until they could locate something better. They kept looking for a warehouse or something, but they would need to travel to Puyallup to find enough food and then only if the warehouses hadn’t already been picked clean. It was dangerous to travel there and even more dangerous to enter the warehouse unarmed. Experience had already taught them that.
Toby shook his head. He knew it was just a matter of time that they wouldn’t have a choice if they were to survive. He stacked the boxes on top of each other, picking them up he headed back to the truck.
“Ahhhh…. No monsters?” Keith chuckled as he continued to siphon the gasoline from the tanks.
“Ha ha, very funny…” Toby sighed as he forced a grin to his lips. “You know…this isn’t going to put a dent into the problems back home.”
Keith watched the gas, not wanting to think of the situation back home in Carnation. “I know. We will have to go south soon. It is inevitable. If my memory serves, isn’t there a new Campbell’s Soup production up in Everett? We might be able to find something there.”
“We will have to talk to Freddy when we get back. He is an asshole, but he may have some connections we might not be able to ignore much longer,” Toby thought out loud.
Keith sighed, “Are you sure you want to go there?”
“What other choice do we have?” Toby walked back into the grocer to gather more supplies. Everywhere they had gone over the last couple of weeks had been like ghost towns. Where were all the people? Where was this veteran of the Afghani war? He obviously took great care of the place before he disappeared. Where did he go? The unanswered questions surrounding their change of life vexed him. It just was.
Picking up another stack of boxes to take to the car, he pushed the questions from his mind. There was no one to answer them. No one to ask and it would drive him crazy if he did not stop his train of thought.
“Hey…I am almost done here with the gas. I will come help you with the remaining supplies here in just a minute,” Keith shouted out as he saw Toby come back out of the building.
“Yeah…thanks,” he replied distracted.
Keith frowned. He knew this look and it would get them both killed if Toby didn’t get his head back in the game. “We should be ready to go in the next 5 minutes or so.”
Toby didn’t reply as he headed back to the station.
Keith raised the siphon to stop the flow. There was still a lot of gasoline left in the tanks, but he had reached the capacity of the tank he had available. We will need to come back to the rest later, he thought to himself as he tightened the cap to the tank in the back of the truck. Heading to the grocer, he took out his flashlight so he could see better inside the building. There was still light enough through the windows but for all the shit he gave his brother, it gave him peace of mind to have the flashlight in hand.
“No…It is impossible!”
Keith heard the scream as he reached for the door. Quickly, he opened the door to check on his brother. Toby just stood there frozen. He didn’t move. Never even registered his brother speaking to him.
“Toby…TOBY?! What is it?” Keith asked as he watched his brother. Whatever held Toby’s attention was out of Keith’s view. Keith moved forward with apprehension. The rumors, stories of the walkers that came into the city were just that…Stories. No one knew. No one comprehended what had turned the lights out or why. They were just stories to fill the void of the unknown.
Keith moved a little closer and placed his hand on his brother’s shoulder. Toby was staring down an aisle still out of Keith’s view.
“It’s…it’s him,” Toby stuttered, never blinking.
Keith knew something was wrong. He felt it the second he walked in the door that he should have listened to his brother and never entered this place. “Who, Toby? Who is it?” Keith questioned, afraid to look for himself.
“The soldier, the veteran in the picture behind the counter, the owner of this place,” Toby whispered.
Keith came a little closer so he could see what his brother was looking at. His eyes went wide with disbelief. Before him crouched a man, white as ash with eyes red as fire that bore straight through him. A gash up his arm, long since healed, was as black as night. His right shoulder bore a tattoo, ‘Never forget'.
“Toby…we have to move…NOW!” Keith whispered in his ear. Keith moved slowly backward toward the door, afraid of what would happen if he broke the gaze of the monster before him. As soon as he was out of eyesight, he yelled, “Run…TOBY…RUN!! RUN NOW!”
Keith bolted for the door, only looking back as he reached the handle and heard Toby scream.
“KEITH!” Toby lay on the floor trying to crawl out from under the ash white husk of a man. No, not a man. His talons ripped into Toby’s leg, laying it open as this thing took a bite of his flesh.
Keith was frozen. He couldn’t move forward to help his brother. Raising the flashlight toward the demon-like creature, he shined the light into the man’s eyes.
It screeched a blood-curdling scream that sent chills down Keith’s back. It was a thing of nightmares. The monster backed away into the darkness of the aisle, leaving its prey. Keith ran forward moving the light around even to the smallest sound as he reached his brother. Helping Toby up off the ground, he carried the weight of him to the truck before putting him on the ground. The blood was coming too fast; Toby would never make it back to Carnation. Taking a tie-down from the back of the truck, he used it as a tourniquet to stop the flow of blood.
“Shit! SHIT!” Keith swore as he helped his brother into the truck. “Hold on, baby brother! I am taking you home!” Toby never made a sound.
Keith jumped into the driver’s seat and started the engine, never taking his eyes off his brother. As the engine roared to life, he put it in gear and raced down the narrow road toward home.