Mitch’s is in poor repair, but passable. The red and yellow sign is faded and crooked, but it was probably like that before the cataclysm. The front windows were broken, and from the looks of it, the store was already searched. Nothing moved inside.
“So, why are we here again?” asks Templeton, looking over his shoulder into the empty street. “This place doesn’t seem very inviting.”
“Thorazine. I’ll start to lose even more of my grasp on reality if I don’t get it soon,” replies Austin.
“Remind me again why you want to maintain a grasp on this reality.”
“I don’t have an answer for that. But I also need food and water.” With that, Austin pushes open the door.
The store is a mom-and-pop joint, not very big, and the pharmacy sign, though not illuminated, still proudly hangs on the back wall. Products from the shelves are mostly missing or thrown throughout the aisles. To Austin’s right, the store’s two cash registers hang open, and most of the tobacco is long stolen. Near the cash registers are some old, likely-irradiated candies, and, best of all, half a cooler of soda and a couple bottles of water.
“You know, rat,” says Austin, “I think we’re going to be alright.” He steps forward.
“Wait!” says Templeton. Austin’s foot catches a wire, and a heavy steel pipe section swings from above and crashes into Austin’s chest. The weight sends Austin off his feet, and his head catches the sales counter on the way down. The string holding the pipe breaks at the top of its swing, and after a single bounce the pipe crashes through the cooler.
“Holy shit,” Austin spits as sits up, dazed, blood running from his head. It takes a minute to get himself together, and his ears are ringing. “Am I dead?”
“Not yet,” Templeton says, and scurries up the toiletries aisle.
“Where are you going?” Austin says.
“To look for more human traps,” calls Templeton. “Sit for a minute. Are you okay?”
Austin makes his way onto his feet to take inventory of his condition. The injuries are pretty bad. A concussion is almost certain, and he can’t tell if – or how many – ribs are broken. He can still breathe, so at least there’s that, but a pleasant jog isn’t in the forecast.
“Yeah,” calls Austin. “I’m alright. At least we’re in a pharmacy.” He leans on the counter as questions rush to mind. Who trapped this place? Why? Are they still here? Is the thorazine even worth it? Templeton’s voice interrupts him.
“So, the pharmacy gate is down, but they have an old mechanical lock on the side door. Shouldn’t be tough to break through.” Austin limps his way back to the pharmacy, following Templeton’s trail down the toiletries aisle. Templeton is sitting on the medicine counter, which supports a grate blocking passage into the medicine supply.
“One problem,” continues Templeton, with a sniff. “The door smells like nitrates. Maybe fertilizer?”
“Why is that a problem?” Austin is still foggy, and passing out isn’t totally out of the realm of possibility, so he steadies himself on the aisle’s endcap and shuts his eyes for a moment.
“Nitrates are a main component of explosives. I think this door is trapped.” Templeton appears oblivious to the danger of sitting on top of a trapped door knob. Austin takes a deep breath and puts his hands on his temples.
“Well, this is the only pharmacy in Bella, so we have to figure something out. I can’t do a lot more traveling, and I don’t know what will happen without those pills.”
“So far, everything that’s threatening to kill you has had nothing to do with those pills. Hunger, thirst, that swinging pipe trap, and now this probably-bomb-on-a-doorknob. How are far are you willing to go to get these things?”
“I kind of agree with you, but without them, I don’t know what’ll happen.”
“You don’t know what will happen either way,” Templeton states, and leaps from the doorknob. Austin holds his breath for a second, expecting the door to blow up in their faces. “Anyway, there is an easy answer, as usual.”
“What is that?”
“If you are that determined, disarm the trap. Shoot the doorknob with that revolver you found and it’ll go off, clearing the way to your precious chemical restraints.” Templeton walks back the aisle. “You may want to come back here first.”
Austin steps back from the door and joins Templeton in the toiletries aisle.
Austin pulls the revolver from his pocket, braces his arm on one of the emptied shelves, and draws a deep breath. Experienced with handguns he is not, but he takes some comfort in the little practice he does have. The revolver discharges with an ear-splitting crack, and the doorknob shutters. Austin lowers the gun and looks at the dented door knob.
“Well,” says Templeton, “I guess I was wrong. Now what?”
An explosion rocks from behind the door, blowing it open and knocking the handle out of place. The door swings forward, revealing a large black dent in the middle of its back side. Austin and Templeton stare for a second and look at each other.
“Safe to say that would have killed you,” states Templeton. He scurries into the medicine storage, with Austin close behind.
The medicines are arranged on shelves by letter. Most of the fun stuff is missing, but there are two large bottles of thorazine – 500 pills each. Together, they constitute a 3 year supply. Austin puts them in his backpack, as well as the remaining pain killers and antibiotics he can recognize.
“Are you happy?” asks Templeton.
“I honestly don’t really know,” says Austin, pensively.
They hear the front door creak open, followed by a loud voice.
“Alright, it’s too early for this shit. Come on out so we don’t have to waste our time finding you.”
Austin peeks over the pharmacy counter. At the main door stand three men, wearing leather studded with pieces of sheet metal. The man in the middle rests a sawn-off shotgun on his shoulder and holds a half bottle of whiskey in his other hand. His beard is patchy, and even looks dirty even from across the store. The two outside men have handguns leveled, their faces concealed by metal Guy Fawkes masks.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” says Austin under his breath, and ducks behind the counter.
“I told you we didn’t need the medicine,” says Templeton, frantically. For the first time, Austin sees fear in his friend’s eyes.