When the end of the world came to the vast majority of humankind the better half of a decade ago, most people were taken by surprise and simply stopped what they were doing and everything remained exactly as it was the moment the world fell apart around them. Others took the time to follow their routines and made sure to switch off the oven, put the cat outside for the night, and lock all the doors.
Unfortunately for me, the pharmacist happened to be in the latter category, and the shop was locked up tighter than a bank vault. I couldn’t risk more smashing glass only to bring them back to me, and no amount of wedging the machete in the door crack and levering was going to do anything more than bend the tip of my favourite weapon of messy destruction. An alleyway ran down the side of the building and I ducked down there. The shadows were deep and black, and I was on edge not knowing where that lingering lurker had come at me from earlier.
Around the back, there was a dirt car park with a single Toyota parked in it with grass growing up around it to the height of the wheel arches. A single, wooden door was in the back of the brick building. Alarms weren’t going to be an issue, there has been no power for the past six and a half years now. The biggest issue I had was the noise that was going to be made when I kicked the door in. With any luck, if the mob heard it, they would be too thick to work out how to get down the alleyway around to the back door.
I stepped up to the door, lifted my right knee up as high as possible and then planted the flat of my foot against the door as close to the deadlock as I could, putting everything into it with a thrust of my hips for good measure. I only wanted to have to make this noise once and not have several goes at it.
The bang was loud. Very loud. What made it worse was the door flying open, slamming into the wall behind it, bouncing off and slamming against the splintered door frame again. Three loud bangs in quick succession! I contemplated picking up some stones to throw down the road again, but I was behind a block of two storey buildings now, there was no way I could lob rocks over that. From inside the pitch dark doorway there came another crack, bang and a few sheets of paper lazily wafted out the door and landed near my feet.
I stepped in and the notice board that had fallen crunched under my feet. I gently pushed the door as closed as it would go and waited for my eyes to adjust to the blackness of the inside of the chemist.
The smell of dust with a faint hint of soap hit my nose. Nothing moved inside and I felt relief that I was alone.
I reached into the pocket of my jeans and brought out the solar torch I found long ago in some electronics store as a kid’s toy. These days it proved invaluable with batteries passing their use-by dates and becoming swollen and leaking, or growing white crystals on them. During the day time I took special care to keep the torch sitting where the black side panel got as much sunlight as it could. I hooded the light with my hand and switched it on. The red glow through my fingers illuminated the dusty shelves. The place had remained untouched all these years!
I couldn’t believe my luck. That was, until the first fist bang on one of the windows at the front of the store.
The torch was immediately turned off. The noise of my entrance had been traced by the mob, and they were making their way to the front of the shop. In my naivety, I was focused on them coming around the back and through the door. I didn’t even think they would just need to come up to the front window, and with enough of them, which there definitely was in that mob, they just needed to apply pressure to that front window and it would burst inwards in no time.
My clock had just run out and I hadn’t even started shopping yet. Do I start looking for drugs, or abandon the mission and run for the hills? There was a little girl’s life at stake here, but there was also a big, cowardly guy’s life at stake in here too.