Larry woke to the sounds of yelling and screaming coming from somewhere outside. His head was throbbing and his arm was on fire. He looked down to find a bad gash on his forearm. As he did, Larry noticed a dead body at his feet. The woman seemed familiar but he could not place her face.
The last thing he remembered was opening his store and the emergency response system blaring on the radio. Larry took note of his surrounds and appeared to be trapped inside his electronics store that was on the corner of a strip mall near a busy exit off Interstate 65.
Larry stood motionless as he gazed down at the woman on the floor. As movement towards the front of the store caught his attention, he glanced up to see a group of men milling around in his parking lot.
Larry’s head ached as he stumbled to the front of the store to phone the police. When he was halfway to his cash register he noticed that his front door had been broken off its hinges. For reasons unknown, someone had apparently tried to barricade the opening with some nearby shelving. The floor was littered with network adapters and wireless routers. He assumed the morning’s commotion was caused by the dead person on the ground and he cursed her under his breath as he continued towards the phone.
Larry turned to the lifeless body. As a pacifist, Larry wished he could calmly explain to the dead woman that he depended on this store to send money to his daughter at college. He wished he could explain to her that what she did was wrong. He was so upset that he would probably even get in the woman’s face and yell at her. And then maybe even push the woman down or jump on top of her as he bit her carotid artery and watch the life fade from her eyes.
Larry shook the fog and anger from his head. He did not understand from where this unnatural rage was coming. He quickly turned his attention back to the matter at hand as he continued to look for the phone.
Larry found the store phone had been knocked to the ground. He fumbled for the receiver that was off the hook. There was no dial tone. Not even the annoying pulsing alarm that came across when a phone is left off the hook for too long. He clicked the receiver a few times and waited. As he did, he turned his attention towards the group of men stumbling around outside.
Larry felt an unexplainable compassion for these men. He had always been willing to help a stranger in need. He did not know what had brought these men here, but obviously they had had a rough morning. They looked pretty beat up. Maybe they were homeless.
Larry vaguely remembered news reports from yesterday that were talking about random acts of violence towards people on the streets. Maybe these men fell victim to one of those mobs. He never paid any attention to the news, though, and he was so upset when they interrupted Wheel of Fortune last night for a breaking news report that he had muted the television while he cleaned his plate off in the kitchen sink. The winner for the night was about to guess her finals letters before Vanna revealed them on the board. The subject was history and Larry thought he had a good shot at guessing the puzzle correctly since he had a minor in the subject.
The group of men were still walking around outside apparently begging for change. Or help. Or something.
Every time someone came close to them they would hold their arms out and pray for help but everyone avoided them. As he continued to watch, a few of the pedestrians even started to harass the group. One of them even knocked a man to the ground. Larry’s heart ached for the men who were obviously in need of assistance.
Larry wanted to join the men or find help for them. It was obvious the men were hurt and confused. These people were rushing right past them as they pleaded for help. It made Larry’s blood boil. He did not remember ever being this upset. Why did these people not stop to listen to these men requests? They clearly just wanted to tell them how much they needed help. Or was it the other way around?
Larry studied the men for a minute.
Yes, that was it.
As Larry continued to study the group, he realized they were not the ones in need of help. They were the ones trying to help to people. The group of men were obviously trying to stop the people that needed help from running away from them. Once he realized this, Larry was even more upset.
The people rushing around the group were panicking and yelling and screaming. The men were simply trying to spread their calm attitude to everyone else. Another wave of compassion for these men overwhelmed Larry and he felt a need to help them spread their message of peace. He wanted to go out there and explain to everyone that these men were just trying to help. That they wanted people to be at peace. That once people realized that we are just attempting to calm everyone down everything would be okay. Surely these people would see the light if we could just explain it to them.
Larry would make sure they understood their message of peace. Even if he had to make them listen. He would not leave the people alone until they listened. He could see himself chasing after one if these morons and yelling in their ear. Screaming in their face as he slammed their head into the ground to help them understand. And if they could not understand, Larry would press his thumbs into their eye sockets to help them see the light. It would be for their own good after all.
Larry shook the fog around his mind off once again, but this time he shook a little less hard. He did not seem to mind becoming enraged this time because he knew there would be people that did not understand His message.
Some people would and some would not understand. Those that chose to believe His message would join us and help us spread His message. The fools that did not want to join us would have to stay out of the way. There was no need for confusion. His was the only truth and through Larry they would come to learn His truth.
Suddenly, to Larry’s surprise, the group of men had turned their attention towards his store. They were all standing there just looking at him. It made Larry uneasy for a moment until he suddenly realized he was hungry.
Larry was still holding the phone receiver to his ear when he noticed the sun had begun to set and the commotion outside had died down. He did not know how long he had been standing in one spot, but he knew he was hungry. He should be on his way home by now to eat a Hungry Man TV dinner as he settled into watch King of Queens. There was a meatloaf and mashed potatoes dinner left – the XXL kind. He did not used to eat that kind of food because his wife used to cook for him. He could not remember why she left him, but she made good food that he ate.
Larry was so hungry it was making his head hurt even more. The gash on his arm at stopped bleeding and turned a nice dark red, but he was still hungry. He knew there was no food in his store he wanted to eat, but he knew that this dead bitch on the ground had ruined his morning. It was because of this woman, he was hungry. And his store was a mess and he would not be able to get out of here without help. His head hurt too much and he was entirely too hungry to think about food.
Larry looked through the drawers below his cash register and found a protein bar. He hastily tore into the packaging and bit into the bar that was supposed to taste like chocolate and coconut.
However, Larry knew from experience they tasted more like chocolate and coconut flavored cardboard. Nonetheless, he slowly chewed the morsel and savored the feeling of food in his mouth. Something was wrong, though. It did not taste right. It tasted spoiled. It tasted… unsatisfying.
Larry threw the protein bar to the ground and searched in vain through the rest of the drawers. He found a framed picture of himself and a young woman.
Larry stopped to study her face. He could not place name, but he knew her somehow. And he knew that he was hungry.
Larry set the picture on the counter. He could figure out who she was later, but his head was too clouded with hunger to think. But he had to think, then it hit him.
If he could get out of his store, there was a butcher’s shop across the street. He could go get a steak and the men in the street could join him and they could eat with him and then they could spread His message of peace together with a full stomach.
They could if they were still there.
Larry did not see them outside in the parking lot. He just saw the fading daylight and noticed that the sirens and noise from earlier had moved to the distance.
Larry shuffled around the counter and towards the front of the store to start the arduous task of clearing out the mess. As he passed the dead woman on the ground, Larry saw the blood pooled around her arm had started to dry and all the sudden Larry became very thirsty.
Larry began to think he might be delusional and redoubled his efforts to free himself and find some food.
By the time he reached the front of the store, Larry noticed that most of the debris was gone and the group of men had come to his rescue. There were even a few more tagging along. The group from earlier must have finally knocked some sense into a few of the passersby.
Larry tried to express his gratitude, but the words would not come to his mouth. The group still seemed to know how grateful he was and he sensed that they knew how hungry he was.
Once the men cleared the mess they were united at last. Larry thought that they would embrace him and welcome him to the group, but they quickly rushed past him to the woman on the floor.
Larry was a little upset. Obviously, the woman was dead. There was nothing that could be done for her. She could not listen to His message now.
And then to Larry’s disgust, the men started to tear the woman’s flesh from her body.
Teeth and fingernails began to rip at organs and bone. Chunks of muscle and sinew were being swallowed whole. Coagulated blood covered teeth and clothing.
Repulsed, Larry turned his head. He began to heave, but to no avail. His stomach was empty and besides he was too hungry to think about wasting food in such a manner.
Suddenly, to his surprise, Larry felt a tug from behind. When he wheeled around to face the horror, he realized no one was there. The group of men were still hovering over the dead body, but instead of feasting they were staring at Larry.
Waiting on Larry.
Almost beckoning Larry to join them.
Larry felt a soft push from behind. Obviously, the man that had pulled him a moment ago had eluded him and was now behind him again.
When Larry turned back towards the front of the store, he was again surprised to find that no one was there. He was too hungry for these games. He had to eat.
Larry turned to explain to these men that cannibalism was wrong. He wanted to get them to come to the butcher shop and eat with him.
Suddenly a thought came to Larry.
*No food. Food here*
Larry recognized it as a thought, but he somehow knew what it his thought.
*Eat. Need your strength*
Larry dropped to his knees and as he did he tried to fight the impulse that was overcoming him. There was actual food across the street. Why did these men want to cannibalize this woman? Sure, Larry was mad at her, but that was no reason to eat her.
*Eat. Need your strength*
Larry tried to pull his hand away from the gore in front of him. He tried to force himself spit out the flesh when it went past his lips, but he was too hungry. And he needed his strength.
*We… We need your strength*
Larry had continued to eat as his new friends swapped places here and there. All the while, leaving Larry the best morsels.
Night fell as Larry and his new friends devoured the remaining bits of flesh from the dead body in silence.
When the last bit of flesh had been stripped from the bones, Larry realized he was the only one still enjoying the meal. He stood and turned around. Blood and flesh and pieces of organ covered Larry’s face and stained his white button-up shirt.
There was now a large group of men, women, and children patiently waiting behind Larry.
If Larry had taken the time to count, he would have noticed there were about nineteen people waiting for him. However, Larry was too hungry to count.
*And we need to let everyone know about His message of peace*
Nineteen men parted to let Larry walk out of his store. They fell in line behind him – one woman and one man were a little closer than the remaining seventeen. Larry’s left and right hand. They would help Larry keep the others in line.
Larry had things to worry about other than keeping his horde under control. He had to lead these believers on a crusade of peace.
Larry began to slowly walk towards Lexington, Kentucky. He knew there were several people there that would need their help. And if not, they would kill them. They would be hungry, after all.
As the last of the men stumbled past the counter and out of the door, he brushed a picture frame with his elbow and it shattered as it fell to the floor. The last remaining memory of Larry’s former life left behind – a picture of him and his daughter. His daughter who was home from college for the weekend to help her dad with his electronics store. His daughter who had barricaded her and her father inside his store this morning in order to protect them from the Diseased walking around outside his store. His daughter who now lay a desecrated corpse on the floor of Larry’s Electronics.