Even though Georgia's humidity could convince a bloodhound to lay down and give up the hunt, even though the wind had fled as Corin knew he should have long ago, Kudzu leaves shivered to echo the life--or un-life--hiding behind them. Standing on the flat-roof of Bubba's gun shop, the proprietor sprayed shots from his semi-automatic into the vegetation. Leaves twitched like Mexican jumping beans, but what lay behind the invasive vines wouldn't die so easily.
"Give it up," yelled Corin over the gun retorts. He had half a mind to push Bubba over the gun shop's fake façade. Sure, he might survive the fall, but not those things hidden in the dappled shadows. Bubba had earned death, not just because he was wasting ammunition.
Bubba's trigger finger relaxed. "I got some."
"You think?" It made no sense Alice had chosen Bubba over himself. The guy was an imbecile. He remembered Bubba trying to sell him one of the semi-automatics BV--before virus. Bubba had claimed the gun could kill six hundred intruders per minute. More like it could shatter the worm-beasts into six hundred man-eating, brain-devouring, un-living nightmares. Only a heartshot could take one out.
"Hey, girlie-man. Don't poke fun. This is my shop, my ammunition."
Corin ignored Bubba's taunt, an old barb finally losing its sting. When thousands of those gibbering things hunted you, and those you loved, you learned to concentrate on what mattered. "Where's Alice?"
Bubba ignored the question. He pointed towards the creek running behind the shop. "There's another one."
Corin pushed the gun's muzzle downwards, the metal hot beneath his hands, so the bullets pulsed into the hot asphalt, leaving dimples. Bubba shoved with the gun knocking Corin off-balance to fall onto the roof. He pointed the semi-automatic at Corin.
"You one of them blood-suckers? You going bad?"
Evading questions and trying to turn the conversation into accusations reminded Corin of his Pa. Not the memories he treasured, but the other ones, the ones tainted by drink. He wondered if fear could blind a man in the same way alcohol could. You talked slow to a drunk. "Sorry, Bubba. I'm trying to help. You can't kill them with anything but a heartshot. No use shooting unless you got a clear shot."
"But they's hiding --"
"Till dark," interrupted Corin. "They're lethargic in the daylight. You've got a generator, don't you?"
"Make sure it's running. String some lights as if you're preparing for some party." Corin climbed onto the ladder that descended through the broken skylight into the shop.
"Where you going?"
Corin grabbed a hiking staff. It wouldn't kill one of the creatures, but at least it would keep it away from him, and in their lethargic state they wouldn't be able to chase him fast enough. "Doing what you should have. Where'd you leave Alice?"
Bubba's eyes were flat as if to say that as the town fell, every man fought for himself. Alice deserved better. Corin kicked the emergency release on the door and waited for it to slam shut. His only chance to survive the night would require the ammunition in Bubba's shop. Too bad that.
Too bad Bubba hadn't stocked nunchucks in his store, too bad Corin had no idea how to use nunchucks, because worm-beasts swarmed towards the scent of brains, their faces flat like mis-shaped Silly Putty. They didn't call them worm-beasts because of the way they slithered on the ground, but because the way weapons cut them in half. Each half remained living unless one scored a heartshot. Sure they were smaller, conservation of mass and everything, but two worm-beasts weren't necessarily better.
Corin swept the staff into the beasts, the bludgeoning weapon pushing them out of the way, but at least not creating more of the things. He ran down the street, getting a feeling of how squirrels felt when he'd hunted them, hearing the rustle of worm-beasts in trees, jigging and jagging so they couldn't tell where he headed. He hurdled an abandoned car, burnt shell all that remained of what had hopefully taken out several dozen worm-beasts. Of course, that had been pointless, plenty more where they came from. Rusted metal caught his foot. Corin rolled on the ground.
Worm-beasts fell from the trees. Several of the gibbering monsters were larger than himself. The weight was heavy and pinned him to the ground. Jaws quivered behind the beast's lips, thousands of pin-like teeth. Corin groaned. The staff lay out of reach.
Living in the south, cursed with an unusual name, sometimes a girl's name, taught one how to wrestle dirty. Corin spat in what he hoped was the thing's eye. As it reeled, he head-butted the beast, budging the weight just enough for him to roll away, snatch his staff, and flee towards Bubba and Alice's house.
The house was a pretty two-story craftsman. Flat-screen TVs and dresser drawers were scattered about the house below the second story windows. Corin prayed he wasn't too late. The door wouldn't budge. He climbed the gutters, fear for her giving him strength.
Alice appeared in the window, a steam iron cocked in her hand.
"No, wait. It's me, Corin."
"Where's Bubba." Her free hand toyed with the locket Bubba had given her when they'd been married.
She'd married the wrong man, but Corin knew now wasn't the proper time to tell her. "He's protecting the gunshop. It's the only chance we've got to survive the night. He sent me to escort you to him." The words were like swallowing the spiky nuts of a sweetgum tree.
Scene prompt from Matthew Diffie's New Yorker comic where a gun salesman holds a
semiautomatic rifle and says, "Okay, but let's say you have up to six
hundred intruders per minute."