The sound of fingers wiped across damp glass woke caused Jake’s head to snap up from the glass counter. He had fallen asleep staring at the glass panels in the door again. The skin on his left cheek had taken on the imprints of the buttons of his black long sleeved shirt. He rubbed a hand over a chin that once had been stylishly stubbly but now was lengthening to a level normally reserved for Louisiana fishermen.
He could hear them shuffling outside. The slow and steady amble of the undead punctuated by one of them shaking handle of the door periodically. Every rattle echoing through the room and causing the tendons in Jake’s neck to tense as tight as piano wires. His entire body ached from having slept sitting on a stool in the same clothes he hadn’t changed out of in days.
There really was no reason to go home. The shuffling horde was everywhere it seemed. Great roving bands of them on every street cover and alley way. Their hands reaching out like supplicants. He could hear their whispered moans and the hems of their clothing sliding over the frosted glass store front no matter how deep he tried to bury himself in the recessed alcoves.
A chill had wormed into Jake’s bones and he made his way around the assortment of display cases and tables to the electrical panel. He tried to avoid looking at the shadows passing back and forth over the white filmed panes as the thought of the assemblage out there caused shudders that had nothing to do with the damp morning air. His lank hair felt plastered to his skull and he ran a hand through it to push it away from his forehead. He snapped the first switches to turn the lights on before cranking the heat to level just below volcanic. All around him thrumming hums began to drone out as heaters and machines began to warm up from the fresh feeding of electrical life blood.
The lights and noise from inside the store caused a fresh and loud series of groans from outside as the masses pressed even harder against the glass. Their grey hand prints now a mosaic of want on the glass. It was really only a matter of time before the sheer weight of them shattered the windows and allowed them entry.
Jakes shoulders slumped and a sigh escaped him like a whispered prayer. He hadn’t left the store in days, hadn’t slept properly in weeks. The roving bands outside never seemed to disperse. The mornings were the worst when they knew he was moving around inside the small space and their need overcame them. He had fought the urge for so long to let them rush inside and overwhelm him that it now seemed like it was the only escape left to him.
The smells from the machines blazing behind him wafted forward and drifted under the doors causing the pressed hands to begin to pound on the door with murderous intent. The sound of them becomes roaring din. The early morning sunlight frosting their silhouettes on every surface it touched. It really was inevitable that they would pry their way in.
Jake walked slowly forward at a pace reserved for the long last walk to the electric chair and placed his hand on the lock of the door. He had resigned himself to the fact he would die in here. Cool beads of sweat pooled at the back of his neck and slid with glacier slowness down his spine. If this was to be his fate then he would meet it on his own terms. With a simple twist of his wrist, Jake unlocked the door.
As soon as the click was heard, hands reached forward from outside and yanked the door open bathing Jake in the glow of amber sunlight. His eyes met the gaze of the gathering and knew he would never leave this place. His sweat stiffened clothes almost creaked as he stepped back as they hurriedly filtered forward. The great bulk of them were pushing the first few forward to pop into the room like a hastily opened champagne bottle. They surrounded him with expectant glares and gritted teeth, like wolves running down an injured deer.
Jake had prepared himself for this moment and faced it with a calm resolve. He smiled as he looked out over them. Their palpable need was almost pathetic. Turning his back on them he walked back to the counter and stepped behind it. His fate sealed, he spun on his heel and addressed them en mass.
“Welcome to Starbucks, what can I get for you today?”