“Shhhhhhhh!” Norris sputtered, spraying semi-liquefied Snickers bar over a pile of jeans. “We don’t need their attention.”
“Whaddya figger they are? Zom—”
“Nuts to the Z-word.”
Petty pried open the cash drawer, pocketed the twenties. “Oh, corpses’re wandering the streets, but nuts to the Z-word.”
A pile of tin cans toppled, followed by a cat’s yowl.
The handful of quarters Petty had fished out of the tray scattered on black-and-white tile floor. Norris coughed up the gob of candy he’d involuntarily swallowed.
“Damn that cat. Why’d you let him in?”
“Din’t. Come in on its own. So why’s the Z-word out?”
“Things don’t eat brains. Al Prescott’s dead grandpa grabbed ahold of Nan Akers. Snapped her neck like a Slim Jim. Dragged her off toward the water plant.”
Petty reconsidered the meatstick halfway to his mouth. “What are they, then?”
“Some sort of hive-mind walking-dead conglomerate.”
“Oh, that’s good. Look out, here come members...associates, maybe...of the hive-mind walking-dead conglomerate. You’d be dead before you got out the word hive. Zombies is efficienter.”
“It’s wrong though. Zom—” A withered hand grabbed Norris’ neck, squeezed, sent chocolate streaming down his chin as his vertebrae snapped.
Another hand snapped Petty’s neck, sending the word—bees off to no one in particular.
The cat picked up the discarded meatstick, followed the corpses—two ambulatory, two not—out the back door of the shop.