Randy Jackson didn’t know the make and model of the pistol aimed at his forehead and, right now, he didn’t care. His arms were growing tired from keeping them over his head. His shitty day was getting worse and worse.
“Where’d the woman go?” the dirty man holding the gun finally asked through rotting teeth. He was flanked by two men also threatening Randy with weapons. “The redhead. We saw her drive away in a car.”
“My car,” Randy said. “She stole it. She left me stranded.”
“Lover’s spat?” one of the men asked and all three laughed, but kept their guns aimed at Randy’s head.
“I didn’t really get to chat with her much. She jumped me and took my car. That’s about it,” Randy said.
“Bullshit. You’ve been with her for awhile and she fucked you out of your wheels. Isn’t that right?”
Randy sighed and put his arms down. If they were going to kill him, they’d do it regardless of where his hands were. “Not even close.”
“I’m listening,” the leader said.
“I drove into town and when I stopped the woman carjacked me. I barely saw her but I’m guessing there aren’t too many redheads running around. That’s it. I’ve been wandering around for a couple of days trying to keep warm and find another way out.”
“Where did you come from?”
“Baltimore area,” Randy said.
“Why’d you leave Baltimore?”
“Because it’s worse there than here, if you can believe it. I was… out of my head for a bit. I lost someone very near and dear to me.”
“We all did,” one of the other guys said. “The fucking redhead killed a lot of people before she left. We’re going after her.”
The leader shook his head and stopped aiming at Randy’s head. “No, we ain’t. We have no way to follow her and it is too damn cold. We have no real idea where she’s heading, either.”
“South,” the guy offered. “Jimbo and I were on the roof when we saw her driving south.”
“Well, that really helps clear it up. Easy as pie now. We just go south. It ain’t like it’s a thousand miles to fucking Key West. And that’s if the bitch drives straight down and follows I-95. God forbid she turns at any point,” the leader said. “You’re an idiot. You know that?”
Randy sighed. “Look, I’m no harm. I’m just a guy having a shitty week. I want to find somewhere to sleep that’s warm tonight. The zombies are everywhere and we’re standing in the middle of the road.”
“You ain’t going anywhere, buddy. So shut the fuck up and put your hands back on your head,” the leader said. “We’ll decide what to do with you once we get back to the warehouse.”
“Does the warehouse have heat?” Randy asked. His fingers were on the verge of being frost-bitten. The days were getting nicer but at night it was still really cold.
“We live on the roof,” one of the men said.
“Shut up,” the leader said. “There’s no room for you at the warehouse.”
Randy was confused. “Huh? You just said you’d figure out what to do with me once we got back to the warehouse. I heard you. How about you guys?”
“You did say it,” one of the men admitted.
“I changed my fucking mind,” the leader yelled. “He’s another mouth to feed and we’re almost out of food. This town is dried up. Ain’t nothing left but zombies. But no one will listen to me. I’m not watching him.” He held up his pistol and took a step back. “I’m going to kill him and be done with it.”
“I think there’s an easier way,” Randy said, having no clue what it would be but trying to stall. He had his arms up again, waving his hands. “We can work this out. Every move doesn’t have to end in violence, buddy… I’m Randy. Randy Jackson.”
“Like the guy from American Idol?” one of them asked. “You, uh, don’t look like him.”
Randy had heard it a million times. Right now he didn’t want to get into a long-winded explanation about where his name came from. Although… “Have you ever heard of a rock band from Long Island called Zebra?”
All three men shook their heads. At least no one had shot him yet.
“I was named after the lead singer from what my mom tells me. I don’t know if it’s true or a coincidence. But I never had a problem until the show came on. I’ve even had people ask if we’re related,” Randy said. When the men laughed, he felt relief. Maybe he could get them to joke around. He’d do a dance if it meant staying alive.
“That’s a great story. So long, Randy Jackson,” the leader said.
Randy closed his eyes. End of the line, he thought. What a horrible life and a horrible way to die.
The shot went off but it sounded distant. Before Randy had time to properly process it, there was another and then another.
He opened his eyes to see all three men dead.
Holy fucking shit, Randy thought and looked around. He was alone. He looked at the buildings around him, especially the rooftops, and down the street. But someone had shot these three thieves while he had his eyes closed. He looked to the sky, at the overcast grayness and stray snowflakes falling. Was it Divine Intervention?
“Get off the street, you idiot,” he heard a female voice yell from somewhere in the building before him. Randy decided to run like hell down the street before whoever it was decided to put a bullet in him, too.
Randy got about a block before the cold and having no warm clothes started to get to him again. He knew he wouldn’t last too much longer if he didn’t find heat.
The building behind the one he thought the female had shouted from had an open window but the door was still intact. Randy hadn’t seen a zombie in at least an hour, which was a good thing. He didn’t know if he had the strength to fight.
“Hello?” he yelled inside the dark building. He’d rather have a horde of zombies try to attack from the other side of the wall than slide into the room and have them rip him apart.
And if there were living, breathing people maybe he’d get help. It was impossible everyone left alive was an asshole, right? Randy crossed his fingers and yelled again.
He counted to fourteen. He had no idea why he’d picked the number. Despite the chill, he wasn’t too keen on going inside and seeing what new terror awaited him.
It had been a bad day, a bad week and a bad month.
Movement caught his eye. The dead had found Randy, three zombies shuffling down the street silently. He stared at them for awhile as they bumped into one another, dead eyes fixed on his location.
Randy sighed and crawled into the window, expecting an attack at any moment. He scurried across the debris on the floor and put his back against a wall, trying to let his eyes adjust and sniffing the cold air. If he smelled anything rotting, he’d jump back out the window. At least in the open, he had a fighting chance of running away.
But there was nothing out of the ordinary. The scant light showed Randy the only thing rotting was a couch and a pile of blankets heaped in front of a ruined television.
Randy pushed the couch out a couple of feet, grabbed all the moldy blankets and crawled behind the couch. If he was going to die, he’d die sleeping, he decided.
He pulled the couch as close to his body as he could, bundled in the blankets and ignored the smell. If someone came into the room without a light source, they might not see him right away, hiding behind the couch.
Randy listened to the faint sounds of the undead shambling by outside the window before sleep mercifully took him away.