Damien was cursing at himself, hammering the steering wheel with a balled up first as he his truck thundered down the highway. Why hadn’t he just taken her to the mall? If something were to happen to his sister in all this case because he wasn’t there he’d never be able to forgive himself.
At the end of their day at college Rebecca had asked for a ride to the mall, but he’d declined because he was staying on campus to work on a project he was behind on. Instead she’d gotten a ride with a friend called Jack. An hour or two had passed until word of the chaos breaking lose reached the campus and at first Damien along with all the other students had thought it was some cheesy and elaborate hoax - zombie chaos downtown.
Turning on CNN and seeing breaking news reports had made smiles stiffen a little - okay so maybe CNN were the origin of the joke. But as news coverage never ceased of this supposed zombie outbreak and other channels started reporting on it as well amused smiles were replaced by worried glances and people fishing cellphones out of their pockets to call family and friends - only to find that the cellphone network was overloaded with calls and no one could get through to anyone.
Damien was one of the first people to leave the large lobby where people had gathered to watch the news. Sprinting full-pelt across the parking lot his heart was hammering in his chest from creeping fear more than the exertion of the run. Flooring the pedal he barreled out of the parking lot, driving up and over a grassy lane divider in his hurry.
Along the highway other cars were thundering in both directions, most with only the most token regard for traffic laws. Damien had turned on the radio, and upon hearing the radio stations had also interrupted their broadcasts to report on the outbreak and on a coming news conference by the governor, an gaping hole formed in his stomach as he imagined the worst. The mall was a lot closer to downtown than the campus was, so that meant he was driving into the mayhem, not away from it.
And worse still, his sister was already in there.
-- -- --
Jack had been sitting awkwardly in a women’s apparel store, waiting for Rebecca to try on the things she wanted. The benches were designed for the purpose, but that didn’t make him feel any less awkward. It was early afternoon and still fairly quiet in the mall. But he was, as far as he could tell from a quick glance around, the only guy in the store and he felt sorely out of place, but she’d told him he had to come along and hold onto her bag while she was trying on the items. He’d been wishing hard that no one would recognize him and come over and ask what he was doing there.
Then an alarm had sounded in the store. At first he’d just glanced towards the exit, expecting to see some shoplifter get caught by the staff, but no one had been near the entrance. Instead he’d stood up to look over a rack of clothing towards the sales counter. There the two saleswomen had been talking to each other in hushed voices, confused expressions on their faces. Eventually one of them had picked up the microphone to the store speaker system and said in a shaky voice that that was probably a fire alarm and that she would have to ask everyone to clear the premise.
Knocking on the door to her dressing room he’d received a reply of “Yeah yeah, I heard it, I’ll be right out..” Dropping the things she’d intended to buy the two had left the store along with the other customers; everyone was calm, if it was a fire it must be in the other end of the mall, because no one could see anything amiss.