Throwing my clothes into the washer, I slam the door with all the irritation I feel building up and insert the coins. The whirring lulls me into a false sense of safety and routine. Today of all days, our building lost water. I could be sitting in my nice cozy living room sipping on my morning coffee like I always do and reading one of my many biker romance novels. Shaking my head and rolling my eyes at the absurdity of my internal thoughts, I walk back to my seat and pick up my phone. Not like I can do much about it anyway.
It’s the same crazy bullshit that has been popping up all over the place; Los Angeles is seeing a rise in violent outbursts or my favorite Salem, Oregon has been confirmed as ground zero. Just my luck to be in the exact place they are trying to claim as ground zero, I do have to admit there has been a very big uptick in violence lately. Between shootings almost every night and the weird noises I have been hearing from my neighboring apartments I find myself staying in often, which is easy since I work from home, running my own online editing service. I have always considered myself an introvert, but this just cements my decision. Until now that is. I try to find something else that will at least take my mind off the crazy for a bit, but it’s everywhere.
A man bursts through the door of the laundromat and begins putting whatever he can in front of it and proceeds to walk backwards slowly almost as if he is being followed and he is afraid of whatever it is getting in. I stand quickly, my heart pounding like a jack hammer in my chest.
“What are you doing?” I ask, finally finding my voice and getting myself together.
“Shit!” the stranger shouts, quickly pivoting in my direction.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you. I thought you had seen me.”
The man shakes his head, his features pale with beads of sweat rolling down his forehead and dripping off his chin.
“Have you been out there?” he asks, voice shaking slightly.
“I was out there not that long ago. Did something happen?”
He stands there, mouth agape with his chest rising and falling quickly. “Where the hell have you been lady?”
“Look dude, I don’t know what your problem is, but I don’t need your shit.”
An incredulous look crosses his face. “No seriously, where the hell have you been? Have you not been around town lately or watched the news for that matter?”
“I’ve seen news about the violent outbursts and heard about stuff around town, but I haven’t seen it with my own eyes.”
He shakes his head slightly. “They’re out there right now, I think I lost them a couple blocks back though.” he says, his eyes taking on an almost haunted look.
I glance past him to the road, taking note that there is no morning traffic and what sounds like gun fire in the distance.
“Are those gun shots?”
“Most likely, shit has gone to hell in a handbasket fast and I don’t think their guns are going to help.”
“Why do you say that?”
“The noise attracts them like bees to honey.”
The man walks closer, stretching out his hand in my direction. “The names Jeff, what’s yours?”
I take his hand and give it a couple small pumps. “Maria.”
“Nice to meet you Maria.”
“I would say it’s nice to meet you too, but I’m a little freaked out right now Jeff.”
“I would question your sanity if you weren’t.” he says, walking off in the direction of the vending machine.
“Do you want anything?” Jeff asks.
“No, I’m good, thank you though.”
With a quick nod in my direction, Jeff looks the vending machine over then moving to the side of it. Before I can utter a single protest, the machine is on its side and glass spread out all over the place. The ringing in my ears can attest to how loud the crash was once the machine hit the floor.
“I thought you said noise attracts them?”
“It does, but we should be fine in here.”
I cast a furtive glance his way and look towards the front windows.
“Hey, uh, Jeff?”
“Yeah, what is it?” he asks, while digging around in the pile of food.
“Who or what exactly were you trying to get away from?”
At the tone and quiver in my voice, Jeff stands and glances in the direction of the windows. A string of expletives leaves his mouth before coming to stand by my side.
Banging erupts from the crowd gathered, they don’t look too good, I think to myself. Most of the group has blood on the side of their faces, some have missing limbs. One has what looks like half her torso missing.
“How the hell are they still moving around?”
“Zombies.” Jeff hisses.
“There’s no fucking way zombies are real.”
“What they hell would you call them then?” he asks, while pointing towards the crowd which has doubled in size.
“They’re going to get in.” I whisper, for fear of drawing them closer.
Glancing around, there really is nowhere for us to go except on the top of the extra-large washing machines, which stand over seven feet tall with the help of the pedestals they sit atop. Tapping Jeff on the shoulder, I point towards the washers.
“Let’s get up there, just to be safe.”
Jeff nods. “Alright, let me just grab a bag of chips really quick.”
The pounding gets louder, webbing pockmarks the glass which is likely to give way soon. I race to the washers and scramble up the side just as the glass breaks. Jeff is right behind me, trying to gain traction to get up. At the top I turn and hold out my hand to him, pulling him up, we get as close to the wall as possible.
“Thanks, that was close.”
I inhale about to lay into him, but instead begin to gag on the putrid stench that has taken over the entire building.
“I guess I should have warned you about the smell too.” Jeff says, while pulling his shirt over his nose.
“Yeah, that would have been helpful.”
Moans fill the air, their arms are outstretched like they want to give us a hug, but I know better, they want a taste and not in a good way. Grimacing to myself I look towards the window while Jeff rips open his bag of Cheetos he snagged from the vending machine.
“How can you even eat right now?”
“Need to keep our energy.” He says, between bites.
An emergency alarm starts blaring, sending the crowd into a bigger frenzy. I open my phone, my breath sawing in and out as I begin to cry hysterically.
“What the fuck, can they actually do that?” Jeff begins to shake, fear entering his eyes which I’m sure resemble my own.
A loud boom shatters the rest of the windows followed by a blinding bright light, my retinas burn, but that pain is quickly replaced by an all-consuming heat that sears me from the outside in.
Melissa is a full-time mother, student and employee. She is currently enrolled in Full Sail University to obtain her Associates of Creative writing in Applied Sciences.