|Photo by Paul Budd [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons|
Beating the cold was just a matter of mind over matter. He had a whole thermos of his mom's hot chocolate. At 16, River didn't need his mom to make him hot chocolate. But, tonight, he was really glad that she did. His mom and stepdad, Phil, were being really cool about Black Friday. He just snugged down as far as possible in his cold weather sleeping bag and pulled the zipper all the way up. Then he gingerly extended his arms out so he could rest his arms on the pillow. He was in his fighting position. Tablet on. Game on. Bluetooth synched. He unwrapped a chocolate energy bar and placed it within easy reach. Then River carefully placed his noise cancelling headphones on. Every ear was encapsulated and warm. He rotated the microphone down into position and dove into the game. His whole squad was online and ready to rock.
The battle was intense. He heard screams throughout the night. The explosions were so real and so vivid that River thought he could feel the concussion of each grenade detonation. The hours rolled by and the kills accumulated. River and his crew were kicking ass. They were unstoppable. Then, he caught the flashing of his smart watch in the periphery of his vision. It was 4:50 a.m. It was almost go time. He quickly said his "goodbyes," shut down the game, and stowed his tablet.
According to plan, his mom would be there to secure his tent shortly after the store opened. He would be through the door, dash back to video games, get his PlayBox, and then he would pick up some accessories on the way out. His gift cards were charged and he was ready to go. As he pulled off his headphones, he could hear movement outside. The crowd was rattling the steel grate that protected the BBE front door.
"That's bullcrap," River muttered under his breath. "I'm number three! That PlayBox is mine."
He slithered out of his thick sleeping back and maneuvered to get his jeans. He tugged on them and met resistance. Someone outside was standing on the tent and his pants. River was angry. Dad had paid a lot for this tent.
"Hey jerkwad," he yelled. "Get off of my tent!"
He snatched his pants and pulled them on. He heard the tent fabric ripping. He was mad as hell now. But, he stifled the emotion. His mom and dad had told him that he didn't know anything about the people he was camping with. Some of them were poor and desperate they had said. Don't piss them off and don't show them any of your gear they had reminded him over and over.
"Hey Bro. It's cool. We're chill," he said as he unzipped the tent.
He hopped out to see that the whole front of the store was mobbed. His mom and dad had been right. There were a lot of poor people. Many of them had torn parkas and coats. Of course, there wasn't a police officer or security guard in sight. Still, he was number three and he was going to get his PlayBox. He had a certificate. His spot in line was guaranteed.
River heard a menacing snarl behind him. He shouldered his pack full of gear and whirled. It was the jerk who stomped on his tent.
"Hey man," River said. "It was pretty uncool to . . ."
River stopped talking as the man on the tent looked up at him. The man's eyes were black as coal. The black-eyed man charged at River and pinned him up against the hard brick wall of the store. The man's hands grabbed solidly onto his jacket. There was no life in the man's eyes and he snarled savagely as he leaned in for a bite.
"No," River yelled. "Get off of me you freak!"
River blocked upward with both arms to knock his assailants hands off of his neck momentarily and ducked under his assailant. The man grabbed River's hood and pulled him backward. The teen responded by smacking his assailant across the face with the bag of electronics. His assailant paused, but was unphased. He had no reaction at all to pain. River kicked the man in the nuts and it didn't even phase him. It didn't phase him at all. River grabbed his assailant's arms, swung him around, and threw him to the ground.
The crowd turned and looked at River for a moment. River realized that none of them were concerned with the discounts that they would receive on big screen televisions. They all shared the same dead black eyes of his assailant. They also all started to move in his direction. River turned and ran as fast as he could away from the store. As he neared the edge of the parking lot, he saw his mom and stepfather driving towards him.
He had never been happier to see their metallic blue Chrysler Town & Country Mini Van in his life.
|Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays Zombie Fans!|
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