The bell rang once, then twice as the woman opened and then slammed the door shut. She looked around behind her wildly, all while maintaining a death grip on the handle. Her hair, pulled back into a ponytail, was frazzled; she wore athletic clothes, and a trickle of blood leaked down from the hem of her shorts.
The people in the coffee shop stared at her. They were a motley crew: a high school student studying for exams, a businessman waiting for his order, an aspiring screenwriter with a laptop, a couple of teenage girls, a few employees, a grubbily dressed man who was probably homeless.
She shouted between heavy breaths, “Help me - lock the doors - they’re coming!”
“Who’s coming?” The first person to speak was the writer, sitting with a laptop at the table. His voice was steady, but his nervous habit of playing with his long hair gave him away.
The wild-eyed woman opened her mouth to answer, but before she could speak her pursuer answered for her, slamming into the outside of the door, which was advertising some sort of new cold brew coffee. The humanoid figure was covered in bloody rags. Its skin was pallid and bloated, covered with oozing wounds, some of which sank down to the bone. The smell of rotting flesh slipped through the door, overpowering the scent of coffee.
“Zombies!” The woman’s shout broke the ice. The silence shattered, and people started running in all directions.
The student dashed for the side exit, but another zombie figure appeared scratching at the glass, and she struggled to hold it closed as one of the baristas joined her. Another barista fled to the back, clearly beelining for an employee exit. The homeless man jumped up and shoved his chair under the front door handle, which the jogger was still clutching, and the writer added a table. Two teenage girls darted behind the bar.
More zombies were approaching outside. It was impossible to see where they had originated. People in the street fled and fell to the swarm, turning into more zombies. Horrified, the woman held the door closed as living people begged to be let in, only to be bitten and transformed right in front of her eyes.
An employee from behind the counter snaked her hand through the table and chair of the front door barricade and turned a key in the lock. The exhausted jogger slid to the floor, and thankfully the door held.
The woman with the keys ran over to the side doors and locked them as well. She had cropped silver hair and her nametag read “Diane.” She surveyed the small crowd that had gravitated toward the center of the coffee shop. Counting herself, there were three employees and seven customers.
“Remain calm, everyone,” said Diane. “We’re safe for now.” Indeed, the zombies had already given up on the front door and were trying for the side.
“What are we going to do?” said one of the two teenage girls, who was still clutching a frappuccino.
“The internet’s not working,” said the other. “And I don’t think any of my texts are going through. I can’t find my family!”
“We’ll get you back with your family, don’t worry.”
Diane dug around in the back until she found an ancient boombox that had a radio in it. They turned it on and listened to the emergency broadcasts being played on every station.
“- swarms of zombies continue to rise from cemeteries and funeral homes. Citizens are cautioned to stay in their homes. Already an estimated 50% of the population has already succumbed to the zombie affliction. Any survivor communities are advised to thoroughly screen all newcomers for bites, as symptoms can take up to 24 hours to develop. Anyone outside, please head to the Costco on 2nd and Grand. This is where a large group of armed militia have stationed themselves…”
“You heard them,” Diane said. “We have got to get to that Costco.”
“There’s zombies everywhere outside,” said the student.
“Does anyone have weapons?” Diane asked. With the zombies still scrabbling with their fists and nails against the entrances, the customers and employees gravitated toward the middle of the room.
A man pulled out a Swiss army knife, and one of the girls had a keychain with pepper spray on it. A barista grabbed a bread knife meant for cutting bagels.
“Let’s get creative, people,” said Diane. She came up with some cleaning supplies, a broom, mop and dustpan that could be sharpened into spears.
“I suppose we could try hitting them with these giant kegs of hot liquid,” said one of the baristas.
“How about the chairs?” said the other barista.
“Did anyone drive here?” the student asked. There were a couple of nods. “Who has the biggest car?”
The businessman piped up. “I bet we could cram all of us in my SUV.”
“All we have to do is make it to the parking lot,” someone else said dubiously.
Diane stepped up to lead again. “I’m not going to force anyone to do anything. But our best chance of survival is to fight our way to the car.”
“Is there some way we could lure the zombies away from that exit?” suggested the long-haired writer.
“We could send someone to open the front door,” said the homeless man. “Then when they rush in we’ll leave through the side.”
“Who’s going to volunteer to do that?” one of the teenage girls. The other one raised her hand, but Diane shook her head.
“It’s got to be one of the adults,” she said. “When we walk to the car, I want adults on the outside to protect the children in the middle.”
The student and the two teenagers looked at each other, but didn’t say anything. None of the other customers said anything either, though some of them looked like they might want to join the middle.
“I’ll do it,” said the jogger. “Whoever it is has got to be fast. I’ll lead them behind the bar away from the side door…”
“And I’ll be there to dump coffee on them,” said the barista whose suggestion it was. “The rest of you can run to the car, and we’ll catch up with you.”
“Or you’ll run over the zombies on your way to us,” said the jogger.
“Sounds like a plan,” said Diane.
The group minus the two volunteers huddled up; the five adults, armed with knives and poles, gathered around the teenagers.
“When I say go, open the lock,” said Diane to the jogger. The zombies had by this time completely surrounded the building, meaning they weren’t clustered at the exits. However, the ones near the exits remained curious of what the two women were doing with the keys in the locks.
“GO!” cried Diane. The jogger opened the lock and then dodged an arm that already slipped in. She threw her weight against the door, and the arm was severed by the closing door with a crunching sound. More zombies piled against the entrance, moving from their stations around the building to try to get in. The bell dinged and dinged with the opening and slamming of the door.
As this was happening, Diane turned the key in the lock and rammed the side door open, knocking the zombie that had been standing there back. She gestured for the rest to follow, and they squeezed out the exit, sort of losing their formation.
As soon as they were outside, it was chaos. Attacks from all sides, swings and bites that the Starbucks squad fought off with kicks and punches, knives and spears. Diane skewered one with her broom, and just as another was about to attack from behind, the student jumped on it, arms around its neck, and wrestled it to the ground, where Diane finished it off.
The businessman, breaking formation, sprinted to the SUV, fighting off zombies with slashes of his Swiss army knife, and hopped in the driver’s seat.
The engine roared to life, and as the car moved forward it crunched over the corpses and still alive zombies in its path. He steered it as close to the group as he could without risking hitting them, then opened the door.
Immediately zombies clambered in, and in the small contained space of the car it was difficult to fight them off.
Diane was the first one in the car, and she helped the businessman to push the intruding zombies out of the car so the humans could enter. One by one, they clambored into the seats, kicking the zombies that tried to follow.
The car was soon full - at least all seven seats were occupied.
“We’re missing some,” said Diane. The jogger and the barista had yet to show, and the writer was also missing.
“He’s gone,” said the homeless man, pointing to one of the zombies that was surrounding the car. It had familiar long hair and a bloated, pale face.
The writer zombie lunged at the homeless man, attempting to bite his leg, but he smacked it back with the dustpan and spun the weapon to stab the zombie through the heart with the pointy end. It blubbered, blood bubbling from its grotesque mouth, and then it collapsed.
“Close the door,” said Diane. “We’ll look for them.”
The businessman pulled the car around to the front entrance. From the safety of the vehicle, the group surveyed the landscape of bodies.
“They got him!” said one of the baristas, pointing at his coworker. The figure from far away appeared pale and bloodied, with deep eyes. He ran up to the car, but no one opened the door. The people closest to him could see he was covered in bite marks.
“He’s just another zombie now,” said Diane.
“There!” cried one of the teenage girls. She pointed to a figure that was valiantly battling three zombies. From through the bloodstained clothes of the zombies, she could see a flash of bright athletic clothing.
The businessman maneuvered the car as close as he could to the fight, and then slid the side door open. The two people sitting by the door jumped out and attacked the zombies with spears and the bread knife. The zombie dropped to the ground. One final zombie remained, grabbing onto her like a vise. No one saw it, but she felt it, as she wrestled skin on skin - the teeth of a zombie puncturing her side.
Three on one, the fight was over before more zombies could step in. The barista and the homeless man smashed the zombie’s head in, and the jogger rolled off of it gratefully. The three of them hopped back in the car, still fending off zombies with their sticks and feet. It seemed to take forever for the car door rolled closed, cutting off one of the zombie’s hands.
“This is everyone,” said Diane. “Everyone left. Let’s get out of here.”
The car peeled off in the direction of the Costco settlement, running over zombies in the way.
“I’m glad we’re finally safe,” said one of the teenage girls.
The bite on the jogger’s side began to throb.