Rey ‘Bugbear’ Kerr was a mall cop in Deblois, a little town just northeast of Tunbridge. After his surgery, a quiet life evicting vagrants and bong-smoking teens suited him fine. That was, until the Cataclysm.
Coming out of a bathroom stall just after a big lunch at Mama’s Guacamole, Rey noticed something strange. The people in the hall around him were sick, not just sick but foaming with rage. He hadn’t seen anybody this upset since the Bakers lost the superbowl.
These people were so sick, they looked like they had practically puked their insides out. Rey kept his distance. Sick people at the mall were common, but nothing like this.
As he fumbled for his radio, he heard a woman’s scream from a service hall nearby.
He said to one sick lady approaching him, “Just a second, ma’m. I need to check this out.”
Avoiding the mallgoers and rushing to the woman in peril, he came across dead bodies lying in the doorway. They laid on the wreckage of a door.
His heart dropped to his knees, and he fumbled for his radio.
His voice rushed, “Come in, central. Come in central.”
The radio usually made a beep sound that meant it was sending and receiving. Either his radio was broken, or something was seriously wrong.
Rey snapped his extendable baton open, which he’d loved to do for fun when getting dressed in the morning, but never had to do for real, and stepped over the mangled bodies. Their blood was pooled across the hall. It had been a long time since he’d seen anything so gruesome.
He flashed his light down the hallway, revealing a dead dog and an open door. Maybe the woman’s scream had come from there.
Rey reached down to check the pulse of the bodies at the doorway. He struggled to find a pulse, when suddenly, the sick woman from before arrived again.
“Just a second, ma’m. My radio’s not working, and these people–”
But she was on him. He dodged away, avoiding her grasp.
“Ma’m, I’ll need you to stand back and wait just a moment.”
She kept coming, grasping for his outstretched hand. He continued to avoid her and de-escalate the situation.
“Ma’m, stop right now or I will have to restrain you.”
Rey continued to fend off the woman for a few moments. She looked so sick, he was worried that he might cause her permanent injury if he wasn’t careful with how he moved her. He wouldn’t use his taser, nor his baton, and she was almost impossible to hold still…
She was so close to him, Rey got a good look at her. Milky-white, soulless eyes. Gnashing teeth, with bits of cloth and gore caught between. The scent that let him know, in a deep primitive way, that this creature, no longer a lady, had just eaten a human like him.
“Jesus fuck!” Rey swung his baton across the side of her head, twice, but she didn’t fall.
A second demon arrived from around the corner, and Rey decided to run away.
He rushed through the open door down the hall, his flashlight illuminating the pitch darkness of the service hall. It looked like the whole mall’s power was down.
Coming around the corner, he saw the woman who was the originator of the scream. She was practically suited up for camping, or even a long hunting trip.
“Ma’m, are you alright?”
“Oh thank god! You’re security. You must know what’s going on.”
“Well – I mean, I was just coming out of the can, and–”
Outside the arcade, two of the demons rubbed against the laminated glass, unaware of the mysteries of transparent material. They didn’t seem to be capable of getting through it.
The woman was wearing a dust mask, safety goggles, alongside clothing that made her look like some mix of a scientist and a hunter. In normal times she would’ve looked crazy, but what with the demons killing everyone, she looked smartly dressed.
“It’s all fucked up then. I bet we’re the only two left alive here. Maybe the only two in Dublois.”
“It’s way too soon to tell. We don’t have enough information. We need to connect to someone up above.”
She frantically swung her arms around, “There’s nothing left there. There’s nobody left up above!”
In the light of Rey’s flashlight, the shadowy arcade looked utterly dead. The machines were out of power, as was the entire mall by the looks of it.
“For all we know this is a local disturbance. A power outage and some kind of biological attack.”
Rey started to look through the arcade, checking for ways the demons could get in. He dragged a shelf in front of the door he had entered from. But almost immediately, the woman smashed it down and went into the hallway.
“You idiot! Don’t block the exits. Follow me.” She barged into the hallway and began to slay the demons that were out there, starting with the first one who had approached Rey.
He had no better option, he followed the woman and helped her kill the demons. Smashing the corpses until they stopped twitching, he noticed that she had just went back into the arcade without him. He rushed to follow.
There was one of the creatures that had come out of the darkness of the arcade to follow them. They put it down, and then went to the front lobby of the arcade.
“Christ, this is it, huh? We fight them until we die.”
Rey grabbed a bottle of orange juice from the fridge, and drank it slowly while the two talked. It was hard to be calm when the demons were making so much noise against the front glass.
“I’ve been a cop here for a year. If we can get upstairs, we’ll be a lot safer. There’s a pharmacy up there, and a camping store. We’ll be able to see what’s going on outside from the roof, too.”
“I would, but, I’m waiting for someone. We made plans to meet up here, at the arcade."
“That’s alright. It’s not safe here, though. You should really try and get upstairs when you can.”
What can I call you?”
The two went to the service hall, and killed the demons at the doorway as they came in. Charlott had a large rough knife, which she used to cleave chunks out of them.
It looked like more demons were flooding in from outside, and the two retreated back to the arcade.
“Shit, get back!”
The demons broke through the door, and chased the Rey and Charlott back to the arcade lobby.
The two survivors waited until the demons each climbed clumsily on top of the counters before beating and chopping them. Doing this made the demons slow and easy to attack. Quickly the demons were killed.
Rey’s bruises stung him, as he worked to fill the new gaps in the arcade’s defenses. They needed a safe haven, some place they would be protected. As eager as Charlott seemed, it was impossible for them to push far outside of the arcade before being forced to retreat by the onslaught.
Even though he knew he himself could run up to the second floor, he didn’t want to leave Charlott until they had enough of a bond of trust that she would follow him.
Rey set himself to the task of fortifying the arcade. Every few minutes, some demon would appear and need to be killed. But Charlott seemed capable enough to fight one, even two at once.
He decided to explore the mall. Charlott would likely be fine here on her own.
Rey crept through a movie theater, on the second floor of the mall. He scanned his flashlight over the empty seats, noticing a few things abandoned, likely as the moviegoers fled the erupting Cataclysm.
In one seat he found an empty military-style backpack, and shrugged it over his shoulders.
He was on a quick, short-range scouting mission. Charlott wanted to stay at the arcade, so he ventured out himself.
The top floor of the mall was much quieter than downstairs. He passed from the theater through a hallway to a clothing store, and from there reached a large chamber that was the upper balcony overlooking the large chambers of the mall.
He wandered into his favorite diner. It was empty, abandoned in the chaos while food was still on plates. He picked some untouched sloppy joes from a plate, and ate the remaining half of a tuna sandwich.
After looting some cooking tools, he left.
Next he entered a personal hygiene shop. He grabbed some scissors and a tailor’s kit, before coming across a cache of items left behind by some other survivor at the camping goods store.
The place seemed perfect. There was a brazier to set a fire, as well as some chairs. He figured he could dis-assemble the tables for wood to burn.
It was safe up here on the second floor of the mall. Better still, the camping store connected to the pharmacy by way of a rear service hall.
He checked all the exits of that hall, making sure the hallway and its connecting rooms were secure as possible. He closed some of the shop doors, protecting them behind strong laminate glass which the demons could not break.
He fought a demon in a billiards lounge, waiting for it to climb over the table before ambushing it using his extended baton.
Before long he was back at the arcade, where he had last seen Charlott. She was still there, standing in the theater hall, grimly inspecting the immobile corpses the two had killed an hour earlier.
Rey passed her a handheld game console he’d found.
“It’s safe upstairs. We can go through the service halls into a camping supply store. There’s some stuff already there, we just need to grab enough food and we’ll be good to go.”
“Alright. It’s just… I’m waiting for somebody here. Give me some more time, if they don’t show, I’ll come with you.”
“You seem capable of defending yourself. I’ll come back and check up on you in a little while. Until then, I’m going to start fortifying the camping store.”
Rey detailed the route to get up to the camping store, in case she needed to run there in a hurry. He then went to the arcade’s fridges, and took all the energy drinks, juice, and soda into his rucksack.
Then he went back to the camping store. Passing through the service corridors, he went to the pharmacy and found some aspirin. He ate them alongside some glazed tenderloins he’d picked up in a to-go box.
He picked up a messenger bag from a teen clothing store, and slung it around his shoulder. He also found some ballistic glasses, and put them on.
Rey fashioned a makeshift crowbar out of a pipe, and continued to search the mall’s stores. He was searching both for items, and for survivors he could help.
While passing a liquor store, he noticed that it had large wooden barrels that he might use to help distill water. Each was marked for 100L, which could be days or even weeks total.
For now, he’d live off of soda water and juice. He carried the barrel back to the camping store, and sorted his things.
He had a rich bounty of junk food. Sixteen bottles and cans of drinks, and a small amount of various snacks. He needed more substantive food if he was going to survive the week.
Rey peeked downstairs, to see how much busier it was in comparison. There were zombies roaming freely down here – plenty had fallen off the open balcony from the second floor above. Luckily, where he was stood strong laminated glass doors.
There were lots of them down here. They thronged the hall before the sturdy doors. Even though it was safe, Rey left spooked and went back upstairs.
It was almost empty upstairs, compared to the hell below.
Rey smashed a vending machine to take out twelve bottles of water. There was a huge amount of other sodas also available. The mall had a seemingly endless supply of deluxe foods, clothing, and everything a person could need. If he could properly fortify the second floor, it could become his kingdom.
Soon, he found his way up to the roof. There were a few store rooms up here, and Rey had to put some of the demons down. But he avoided getting hurt, leading them towards him as he backed away and struck them before they could retaliate.
He found some canned food, as well as a box with all needed parts for an RC car, and a hotplate.
In order to fortify the mall, he needed hardware. He couldn’t recall whether there was even a hardware store in this mall. He’d known for sure that he had worked at this mall for a year, but some strange haze clouded his mind…
Rey retrieved a hiking backpack, and a large tactical backpack from a store.
At last, he found some tools in a back area of the warehouses. There were things here that could help him work on vehicles, or do some heavy duty work to the mall. He loaded an acetylene torch, as well as a repair kit into his rucksack.
He found a dust mask, and put it on. Charlott back at the arcade was wearing one, and she was keen. He didn’t know if he needed it, but he wore it anyway.
In a clothing store, a group of zombies pressed against the doors. He knew that they could not harm him, since they couldn’t get through the door, but Rey didn’t like that they were on the second floor. He decided to lure them out, and get them to fall off the railing.
They were pushing through the mannequins when Rey opened the door, leading them out into the hall. He brought them back towards one of the gaps in the balcony, initially installed to help bring light into the lower layer of the mall for easygoing shoppers.
Now, the holes served another purpose. Rey was thankful, the holes now helped provide a huge amount of safety up here.
Reyes followed the mall’s chambers as he inspected it for dangerous stairwells to below. He found a place where the demons could get up, without being held back by a set of laminated glass doors. This was a problem. As he peeked through, the zombies below noticed him and began to climb back up after him.
If he didn’t close these gaps, over time the zombies from below would just come back up and find him. Maybe they’d find him while he was sleeping, or while he was injured or sick. He needed the top floor to be a safe haven, a place where he could live free of worry.
Rey led the ones that followed him right over to a hole, and made them fall back down below.
He still needed a hammer. With one, he could start to patch up the weak spots.
Rey continued to scavenge through the mall for useful things, and see whether there were any demons upstairs. It was looking more and more empty the further he went along.
He came across a survival goods store, with MRE’s and some martial arts manuals. He put on a kevlar vest and some tactical gloves.
Back at the camping store, Rey organized the things. Using some materials, he made a makeshift hammer that would be sturdy enough to take apart furniture and build fortifications.
Through nightfall, Rey worked on plugging a gap in the stairwell, using the power from his flashlight to rush the job. This would help prevent at least one of the entrances from being accessible completely.
Hearing thumping sounds from below, he finished the first wall before they could get up and in.
The noise was drawing attention from below, so Rey decided to retreat to the camping store for the night. He dragged a couch across the hall from a nearby teen fashion store.
At last, he dragged the shelves around in the camping store to make a sleeping area for himself. He’d checked on his fellow survivor Charlott, who’d decided to stay in the arcade for the night. Rey reminded her how to get up to the camping store before falling to sleep.
Rey lay awake for most of the night. It was dark, too dark to do anything else without wasting batteries. He just wanted to pass the time until day.
He couldn’t help thinking about what had happened to him today. Some terrible disaster had struck the town of Deblois, but he wasn’t sure of the extent. He couldn’t contact the security company he worked for, and the mall where he worked was overrun by the victims of a biological attack.
Yesterday he had found another survivor, Charlott, who was waiting for someone at the mall’s arcade. Rey had made the top floor of the mall safe, and planned to keep trying to convince her to leave the dangerous first floor arcade and retreat to the camping store above. He was fortifying it, and stockpiling food and supplies there.
He checked his watch – it was 2:30 AM. He’d been trying to sleep for almost four hours. It was hard to sleep after a day like this. He decided to get up, and dip into his alcohol to calm his nerves. After two beers, he was out like a baby.
Rey woke up at 8:51 AM, a while after dawn. He pushed the bookshelves aside and entered the light of the mall’s chambers.
Today he intended to keep on fortifying the second floor. But first he wanted to see if Charlott had made it through the night OK.
Charlott was sitting in the arcade, still watching over the darkened screens.
“The camping store is well stocked. If you need something to eat, you should go on up there.”
Charlott lifted up a bag of chocolate peanut treats. “Thanks. I’m alright for now. I want to stay down here, just in case.”
He didn’t want to interfere. Eventually, when she felt like it, she would come along. But for now she wanted to stay in the arcade, dangerous as it was.
He looked over her for wounds, and noticed a gash on her left arm. “Damn, you should take care of that.”
“I would if I knew how. Have you found any bandages?”
“Yeah, but they’re at the camping store. I’ll be right back.”
Rey rushed over to get the bandages. The cut on Charlott’s arm looked bad, even infected.
As he ran through the mall’s second floor, he noticed a lot of banging around coming from the central north side. This was worryingly close to the theater, where Charlott was stubbornly staying.
He returned to Charlott and disinfected the gouge on her left arm, before wrapping it in a bandage.
“Look, on my way here I heard a lot of noise. I’m worried you might be in danger here. I’m not going to force you to move, but please come up to the second floor as soon as you can.”
“I know. Just – a little longer.”
Rey returned to the camping store and filled up on food. Breakfast was two slices of meat pizza, orange juice, and root beer.
He took apart some of the benches in the second floor main hall for nails and wood. Quickly, he had barricaded off two of the most dangerous openings.
Through the window, he could even spot some vehicles on the first floor.
Rey had been a part-time mechanic, saving some money throughout his life by doing his own auto maintenance. He figured that, between all the cars around the mall, he could probably even get at least one working.
More than that, if he could get a vehicle up to the second floor of the mall, he could do some serious heavy lifting. If he even got his hands on a wheel, he could probably attach it to a makeshift cart.
He remembered there were some forklifts up at the top floor.
Rey found a forklift, but still needed some tool that could remove its wheel…
In the stairwell that went up to the roof, he ran into a zombie that had come up from the first floor. This stairwell was now safe, and locked behind a laminated glass door.
This stairwell went all the way from ground level to the very roof of the mall.
The bottom floor was much more full of zombies than the second floor. The zombies that fell down inhabited this place, and there was a lot of them. Rey considered opening a door to the outside, and leading them all out one day.
For now, he was intent on fortifying the second floor. He started to scrawl up some plans…
There would be two tiers of safe zone. The first tier bordered the stairwells and barricades that separated his protected area of the mall. The second tier bordered the first tier, but was otherwise deeply protected. Tier two would be safe to sleep in, and could likely remain undisturbed for weeks.
He could accomplish this with building perhaps under 20 meters of wall. It would still take days, but at the end of it he would have a large area of highly secure mall cordoned off from the demons.
He boarded up three doors with some planks taken from benches around the atrium.
Rey walled off what he thought were the most effective places. Here, just a few meters of wall could prevent movement to a large part of the mall.
The did as much as he could before the sun went down. Rey didn’t have a means of recharging his flashlight batteries, so he tried to use them as little as possible.
Before going to sleep, he decided to visit Charlott and see how she was doing down below. She was OK, but not yet ready to leave the arcade behind.
Ch. 4, "Semi"
Rey woke up, his breath tasting like the moonshine he’d drunk last night.
His old flashlight was dead, and he swapped it out for a fully charged one from his stockpile. Rey had amassed a small pile of simple tools from what he’d found on his search through the mall’s second floor the last two days.
It had been two days since Rey had come out of the toilet to meet his new world.
Breakfast was meat pizza, glazed tenderloins, fruit juice, and water. He visited with Charlott, who was still down at the arcade. He tried again to convince her to come up, but to no success.
He continued to build the perimeter wall that separated the safe cordon from the mall beyond. Each wall he put up made him feel safer, and he knew Charlott would be ready to move in given time.
Downstairs in the center of the mall, the zombies were causing a lot of noise. They were breaking things. He wasn’t sure what exactly, and he didn’t like working so close to the noise. He was worried the ground would even collapse underneath him, swallowing him in a well of grasping hands and teeth.
When the sun went down, he took a few sips of his moonshine and had some bites of cake he’d found at a diner. He went to ask Charlott whether she wanted to join him upstairs.
But something seemed off… Charlott was there, but she was in a different mood entirely.
“Charlott, how’s it going down here?”
“It’s not going anywhere. Nothing is going anywhere.”
“Now calm down, it’ll be alright. They’ll come. You can write a note, and–”
She swung her rough dagger across at Rey’s direction. “I’m staying here. They’ll come.”
He didn’t want her to die down here in the less secure arcade, but he also wasn’t going to force her to move. “Easy, now. I’m just going upstairs. I’ll check on you again tomorrow.”
Rey returned to his refuge in the camping store. He thought about how Charlott had actually swung her dagger at Rey, trying to hurt him. He wasn’t so sure that telling her how to get up here had been a good idea. What if she came up here, and killed him while he was sleeping? No, she wouldn’t, that would be too far. She had just been reacting to stress, and didn’t truly mean him any harm. Besides, if he turned on Charlott, the only person alive he knew of, he would be truly lost.
He woke up before the sun rose, and decided to check outside of the mall. He knew he could run back up using the stairwells easily, without risking any of the demons breaching the upstairs. He wanted to know if there were any working vehicles in the parking lot outside.
Rey snuck through the arcade, where Charlott was still angry, and went out to the parking lot.
There was a semi truck here, which Rey climbed into to try and turn on. It was live. He flipped the switch to turn the headlights on.
The light revealed dozens of zombies outside the baseball field bordering the mall. Aimless and ignorant of the light source, they wandered around the lawn.
He pressed down on the gas, and the semi jolted to life. The diesel gauge was near empty, but the battery was fully charged. It would be good for at least a few minutes, even an hour of driving.
Rey wanted to scout the outside of the mall, to see what vehicles were available. If he could find a working vehicle, he would be a lot safer. A working vehicle meant that if he ran out of food, he could travel for more.
He studied a motorcycle in the lot that had a rear box, which could a lot of space. The wheels looked to be in good condition too, and the engine was fine. If he’d ever needed to get out in a hurry, this would be the right vehicle. It could take him a long ways, on just a little bit of fuel. If he escaped the mall with a full trail backpack, he could dump all of it in the back and ride easy.
The thought of escaping the hellscape that was Dublois, and escaping to the highways was intriguing. But with Charlott inside, he felt his duty was to the mall.
Driving the semi, he went around the mall’s perimeter parking lot in a counter-clockwise direction, mapping the surroundings as he went. Wherever he saw a zombie in the middle of the lot, he accelerated, swerved and smashed it with the rig’s massive hood.
There would be plenty of cars to pick from in the parking lot, but also a lot of zombies roaming around. He thought he could run over many of them over if he went around a few more times, and then return to smash the twitching bodies when it was night.
He thought up a plan to work on the vehicles, too. He’d drive some of the working cars away from the mall to work on them in a safe, ground-level location. There was a large field just beside the mall that might do fine. He’d just need to stay aware, and if any zombies got too close he could just hop back into one of the working vehicles and crush it.
For now, he wanted to clear the parking lots. The more that were cleared, the easier it would be to remove the cars later. It was 4:30 AM and the sun would soon rise. He wanted to be inside the mall and upstairs before it had risen.
He was wading right through a mob of zombies, when the truck’s engine suddenly sputtered out. The battery was dead, smashed by a zombie as he’d tried to run it over. The damn thing was half way into the truck’s hood.
Rey snuck his way back through the parking lot, destroying the corpses that he saw twitching on the pavement. On his way he came across a cube van, which seemed like an excellent mobile base for traveling the countryside. It had a bad battery, but was otherwise promising. He’d just need to swap the battery out with another, which would be a snap, so long as he could find some kind of bolt turner.
He continued in the dark of morning, finishing off the many zombies outside as he made his way back to the entrance. He dodged between them, sometimes drawing their aggression as he traced his path backwards to the mall’s rear northeast entrance. This wasn’t too hard.
He came up to a wall of zombies, and tried to rush through. But one of them grabbed him, and deeply bit into his left leg. Rey tore free, and rushed out the other side.
“Ah, FUCK!” Rey attempted to keep running. It was difficult, with the wound. He hobbled as the zombies nearly kept up with him.
There were way more than he’d expected here north of the mall. They must have heard the sound of the semi, and been drawn in from the nearby baseball diamond. Rey had to push on, and get back into the mall.
There were a number of zombie dogs outside, vacantly standing in the parking lot. He circled as far as possible from them while making his path back.
He had to run, now. Ducking and weaving between, he was grabbed by another zombie just outside of the mall’s door, but Rey spun himself free and kept going.
At last he was safely inside the mall. He climbed up to the second floor, avoiding Charlott. He didn’t want her to see. He turned on his flashlight, and looked over his leg wound. It was grisly. The demon’s teeth had torn through the flesh, not terribly badly, but in a way that was very visual. He uncapped his antiseptic and washed it over the wound. It fizzed as he seethed in his teeth.
He’d have to be more careful. But in the least, he’d managed to kill at least two dozen more of the undead outside.