It was an hour and a half before trick-or-treat was scheduled to begin when Rick Davis realized he hadn’t bought any candy. He had intended to do it for weeks now, while Walmart and other stores were fully stocked up, but time had gotten away from him and so he simply…hadn’t. Checking his watch he decided he had just enough time to run to the nearest drug store, about ten blocks away, and snag whatever might be left over. Promising his dog that he’d be back soon he took off, deciding to walk because parking in his neighborhood was a nightmare and no way was he risking moving his car on such a busy night.

There were a few people out on the street, but Rick paid them no mind as he focused on the task at hand. He just kept a brisk pace and tried to make good time, knowing that some of the little snots in his neighborhood would likely egg his house or soap his windows if he didn’t have anything to offer them. He had lived in River Side for over twenty years now, so he knew how this went. Hell, he’d been one of those snotty kids not so long ago. Better safe than sorry, that was the way.

When he arrived at 2nd Street Pharmacy he headed straight on inside, making haste for the seasonal aisle. There wasn’t much left, he had known there wouldn’t be, but he snagged what they had. A couple of mixes of fruity candies, one small bag of peanut butter cups, and begrudgingly the last remaining box of full sized candy bars. He hated shelling out the cash for those, but there wasn’t much else to work with and so he snagged them anyway.

After getting up front to pay, it finally dawned on Rick that the store was strangely empty. He hadn’t noticed when he’d come in, but he sure noticed now. Even Kathy, the older woman who ran the register most days, wasn’t present. Glancing at the prices, he scribbled a note down on a sticky pad he found on the counter, and slid it beneath the ancient cash register along with some cash. He let them know it was him, just in case he somehow hadn’t left enough, and then he took off again.

The streets were a little bit busier now as he started back home, dodging between a couple in mediocre zombie costumes. “Better try harder if you intend to win a prize,” he mumbled as he cut across the street at the corner and crossed over to the next block. “Either do it right or not at all.”

Two blocks down he made his way past the First Baptist Church, where the AA meetings were being held in the basement. He saw a few familiar faces, but they also appeared to be dressed as lackluster zombies. Rosie Keller was still in her diner uniform even, dragging one leg behind her and drooling out of the corner of her mouth. Her eyes were the only interesting part of the outfit, they were sort of glazed over with a white film, but Rick didn’t have time to stop and chat. He just waved as he hurried on.

“What is with all the crappy zombies tonight?” He asked himself as he turned into his neighborhood. “I thought the Walking Dead craze was over.”

Rick passed a few more costumed wannabe Romero extras as he neared his house, evading them expertly. He commuted every day into a larger city, and he knew his way around people. He hopped the front steps, crossed his porch, and let himself back into the house. His dog, a mutt named Tasha, hadn’t even moved off her dog bed. Clearly her concern for his whereabouts had been paramount.

“Sick of my face, huh? Well, luckily for you, I go back to work tomorrow,” Rick snorted, dumping his candy into the big bowl by the door. He had been off work for a week for a little staycation, just hanging around the house at his leisure. He hadn’t even gotten out of bed today until well past noon, enjoying his last day of freedom from the corporate world. There had been a late lunch, reading on the back porch, and playing fetch with Tasha to fill in the rest of his day, and now Halloween would take up the brunt of his night.

Not a bad way to end October, and his freedom, all things considered.

There was still plenty of time left before the kids started to show up, so Rick threw a frozen pizza into the oven, set the timer, and then sat down to watch some television. He turned the tube on and settled in, frowning when he saw a breaking news alert on channel three, then four, then five. Finally he figured he should probably see what was going on, pausing on channel seven to actually pay attention.

“…reports from around the country. They say the infection is spread through saliva, and that people need to use extreme caution. Do not leave your homes, and do not let anyone in. It is not yet clear how long it takes the infection to spread through the blood stream, but sources suggest mere hours. Stay near your television or have a radio at the ready, so that you can receive more updates as they come in. This is unprecedented, folks. We have never seen anything like this before.”

The headline scrolled across the screen then, and Rick actually dropped the remote in shock as he read it out loud. “Undead take to streets, spreading mysterious infection in their wake.” He paused, mouth going dry. “Son of a bitch.”

Jumping up he ran back to the front of the house, peering out the window. He saw Mr. Peterson, his neighbor adjacent, just standing in the middle of the street. He had blood smeared across his face and mouth, and staining the front of his white t-shirt. Behind him on the ground several others were finishing off what was left of the homeless guy who liked to beg for change outside the Texaco. Everyone wasn’t wearing the same costume, it turned out, oh no.

Rick Davis, in his quest for Halloween glory, had run right through the incoming zombie apocalypse and he hadn’t even known it.

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