“3. 2. 1” She tapped her foot on the edge of the roof and her crossbow against her thigh. The wind whistled up from the streets, barely ruffling her closely cropped hair. It brought the smell of rotting corpses and eggs. Her throat itched. Footsteps pounded up the stairs. How long did it take to run up five flights of steps? “3. 2,” she coughed then spat, “1?” The sun was blocked by smog, but she could still feel it burning into her skin. One day she would get her cough checked out.
A door slammed open somewhere, but not behind her, maybe across the street? She surveyed the skyline. The opposite building still looked empty. Now she was biting her lip and staring down the street below. The town had mostly been cleared of crypt walkers, but a few were still trapped in the park at the end of the block. Local gang kept them there for target practice. “3…2…1…” She loaded her bow with a bolt.
The stairwell door slammed open behind her. “There she is!” snarled the first grunt to reach the threshold.
“3. 2. 1,” she counted through clenched teeth. Then the stairwell exploded.
A chunk of concrete flew by her elbow. She wiped the dust off her overly patched denim jacket and smiled. “Hell yes!”
Her hand slipped into the top pocket of her mud stained cargo pants until her fingers found the crinkled edges of a photograph. She considered pulling it out when a bullet whistled by her ear.
“Myra!” a man yelled.
Myra looked up to see a plastic fireman’s cap poking up from behind the wall on the opposite roof. She could hear the click of a revolver cycling to another chamber.
“What do you want, Flint?”
He lifted his head a little more until his ski slope nose rested on the wall. “You killed my men.” A hand appeared with the middle finger pointing to the stairwell behind Myra.
She turned to look at her handiwork. The stairwell door had blasted off its hinges and the entrance was completely filled in with rubble. A foot poked out from the bottom of the pile. After a few moments she noticed a few blood splatters. Myra scratched her leg with the butt of the crossbow. “Hmm,” she twirled around to face Flint again. “Were those your people?”
His next shot grazed the wall next to her boot.
“You didn’t care about them anyway.”
Flint stood up, chuckling. “Alright, maybe I didn’t.” He stepped onto the wall and peered at the sack sitting on the ledge by Myra’s feet. “But you did steal my food.”
Myra nudged the bag with the big toe sticking out of the hole in her boot. “You don’t really need it anymore, do you?”
“A body’s got to eat. And ain’t one of those things,” he waved his hand in the direction of the park. “Haven’t resorted to people food yet.”
“I just took care of most of the mouths you have to stuff. Surely you don’t need all this food?”
Flint scowled, “That chicken wasn’t meant to feed the grunts.”
“It was good…” Myra closed her eyes at the memory.
Another shot hit the bag. Red seeped through the cloth. Probably a tomato. Myra brought up her crossbow and aimed for his eye.
He stared down the barrel at her. “Look, neither of us can win. You shoot. I shoot. Both of us dead. But, I do have need for new assist- ” Myra’s bolt bore through Flint’s eye. His body dropped behind the wall.
After holstering her crossbow, Myra hoisted the bag over her shoulder. She took a couple steps back. “3,” she took a deep breath, “2,” she started to run, “3!” she launched herself from the roof.
Her boots hit the gravel next to Flint’s corpse. “Nice pistol,” she laughed as she pried it from his fingers and stuck it in her bottom left pocket, safety on. The spare bullets went with it. Aside from his gold teeth, he didn’t have anything else worthwhile on him. She yanked her bolt from his skull and the eye came with it. After taking it she considered digging the teeth out with the pointy end of the bolt, but decided against it.
Myra froze, halfway done with tugging off Flint’s boots. Her eyes slowly roved around the roof until she saw a shock of curly black hair and green eyes peering around the doorframe of the roof access.
“You killed him.”
“And his goons,” Myra said with a shrug as she tugged off Flint’s boot. She checked the sole. A couple sizes too big. “Mierda,” she spat and tossed the boot over the side.
“All of them?” hair crept closer and she saw that it belonged to a small boy in ratty overalls.
“Yeah, why?” She stood up and wiped her sweaty hands across her once white tank top.
He scuffed his tennis shoes in the gravel. “I wanna go home…
She dug through her sack until she found a loaf of bread. Slowly she walked up to him with the bread held out in front of her. He took a step back. When she didn’t move any closer, he leaned forward to snatch it from her hand. As he started to rip the food apart, she said, “I’m Myra, what’s your name kid?”
“Pete,” he said through the last chunk of bread.
“Where’s home, Pete?”
Pete wiped his nose on his scratched and bruised arm. “New York, came here to see grandma. Then the boom happened.” He looked from the bag of food to her face. “I need getting there.”
Myra ran her hand through hair. “I’m trying to go home too.”
“Where you from?”
She dug into one of her pockets until she found her rusty compass. After looking at it for a moment, she pointed to past the building she had partly blown up. “If I go that way long enough, I’ll be home. Mexico.”
His eyes grew wide. “You gonna make it? I heard that the South got it the worst.”
Myra shrugged. “Started in Vermont and I’m still here.”
Pete whistled. “Can I come with you?”
She stepped onto the wall and looked down the street. The crypt walkers weren’t by the fence anymore. “Don’t you want to go home?”
“Folks might be dead. You’re alive.”
Myra patted her jacket pocket and felt the edges of the photo. “No, you should go to New York. It’s safer than where I’m going.”
“But, I want to go with you!”
She fished the pistol and bullets out of her pocket and tossed them to him. “Take care of yourself.”
“Wait!” he yelled and started to scramble towards her.
“321!” She sprinted along the wall and the leapt down to another rooftop.
When she landed she looked back to see Pete peering down towards her. The words, “Come back!” were swept with the wind towards her. She shook her head and ran to the next roof.
Later, as the sky grew dark she heard three gunshots and then a child’s scream. She bit her lip and fished the photograph out of her pocket. A younger version of herself with waves of black hair and warm chocolate eyes smiled back at her while holding her son. The little boy with curly brown hair and tattered overalls was reaching towards the camera. Myra kissed the boy’s picture and whispered, “I’ll be home soon, mi cielo.”