Chapter Twenty-Two

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The pair parked up and brushed themselves off before heading towards the front doors of the shopping centre. The blood and guts had now dried, moulding itself onto their clothes. Their hands and faces were dyed a dark, deep red, and thick, dry blood was trapped behind their fingernails. They were in desperate need of a wash and a change of clothing. The electric door wasn't in operation as they stood helplessly in front of it.

Max jammed the sharp end of his machete between the metal plates and wrenched it open a crack, before clawing his fingers in between and pulling it open the rest of the way. Lizzie scampered through, with Max bounding in behind her as the doors slid shut once more. Lizzie's eyes lit up, taking in what lay before her: clothes shops, cafes, ice cream booths and vending machines. This return to normality seemed to flick a switch in her brain, sending her back to a time before all this mayhem.

She sprinted over to the ice cream booth without saying a word, leaping over the counter in one jump and disappearing the other side.

"You okay, kid?" Max called out after she didn't reappear.

As he called out the last word, her little head popped up from behind the booth, holding two cones with more ice cream stacked on top than Max had ever seen. She carefully climbed back over the counter and handed one to Max.

"Never turn down free ice cream, Max," she grinned, walking into the nearest shop as she did so.

The two looked around the shops for a while, browsing for something that took their fancy. It was a strange habit, checking the labels and price tags, choosing wisely. In reality they could take whatever they wanted, and as much of it as they wanted. After using the toilets of one shop to wash the worst of the blood from their skin, they filtered through the racks of clothes.

Lizzie picked out some slim fitting, dark blue denim jeans, a small black leather jacket with silver metal studded buttons, and a bright yellow t-shirt with a cartoon bee plastered across the front.

Max strained to read it, "buzz off...really?" he questioned whilst cringing.

"Hey! It's cute!" Lizzie defended, snatching the top from his gaze.

Her attention turned to the garments in his hands, as she sifted through them, clearly ready to offer opinion and critique. She held up a pair of light blue denim jeans, slightly torn at the knees and with a thick brown leather belt.

"About 20 years too young for you, but nice," Lizzie said nonchalantly before tossing them back at Max's feet.

Next a plain white, long sleeve t-shirt, with a slight V-neck dropping down from the top. Lizzie looked up at him and faked a yawn before throwing it down on the pile. Finally she held up a blue denim jacket, with gold buttons all the way up to an open collar.

"Okay, I'm not fucking walking around with you if you're wearing double denim," she shot at him judgingly.

Lizzie walked out the shop and threw the jacket over the railing. It fell to the floor below them. Max merely sighed and laughed as she then skipped off to find him something she deemed more appropriate. She returned minutes later holding a new jacket.

It was thick brown leather, made to look old fashioned and scuffed, a dark brown zip running up the front with a black material collar at the top. He took it from her and tried it on, seething with annoyance at the fact that it was actually really nice. He liked it.

"You're welcome," Lizzie said with a chipper tone and a cocky grin before heading off towards the changing rooms.

Max picked up a pair of brown lace up boots before following her.

The two got changed into their clean new clothes, and resurfaced from behind the changing room curtains. Both wore their jackets open at the front, with Lizzie's cartoon bee on show for all to see.

"Looking good old man," Lizzie chuckled, checking out her own outfit in the mirrors too.

"Right, let's pick up a few supplies and hit the road kid," Max replied, wary of sticking around in one place for too long.

You never knew when the clickers could attack.

On the way out of the store, Max snatched up a pair of kid's wellies; bright pink with pictures of ponies covering them completely.

"Hey kid, are you sure you don't want these to go with your shirt?" he laughed, thrusting them forwards into her face.

She threw him a stern look back, before grabbing them from him and tossing them over the railings after the jacket.

The two glared at each other before breaking down into laughter as the shoes smacked the ground a floor below them.

"Hey! Who threw those?" a voice shouted angrily from downstairs.

"Otto we have ourselves some intruders!" the voice cried out again, louder still.

"Shit," Max mumbled under his breath; these guys didn't sound like the types to make friends. "Kid! Stay close!" he whispered harshly and urgently, pointing to his left before running as fast as he could whilst keeping low.

Lizzie stuck to his tail the entire way, as they both scrambled past shop after shop, desperately trying to find another exit. Max spotted a signpost for the carpark, taking a sharp right hand turn as fast as he could.

"Over there!" Lizzie called out from behind, pointing out a fire exit door a little way in front of them.

Max didn't break stride, determined to get out of here before it turned nasty. Max flicked his head backwards to ensure that Lizzie was still close behind, but when he turned back two men had appeared from the top of a broken escalator, blocking their path to the exit.

"They're over here boss!" one of them screamed back down the motionless stairs.

Max immediately stopped, his feet screeching on the floor as he desperately tried to change direction. He turned round full circle, grabbing Lizzie as he did so and ushering her back the way they came. He took the next right before slamming through a set of double doors in front of him, which were thankfully unlocked. Lizzie followed suit and the doors slowly creaked shut behind them.

"It's okay, Otto!" one of their chasers called out.

"They've run into the infected zone."

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