A few dozen infected Twitchers were waiting outside of Peoples Coffee in Newtown. I don’t think they were lining up for lattes.
Curious to know what had them so enraptured, I risked a few steps closer. Stopped in my tracks when I spied a blue sneaker.
On the foot of a severed, brown leg on the ground. Shit. A fresh kill.
I slowly backed away to avoid detection and the blood spilling from the sidewalk. I was about to turn right on Riddiford Street when I heard it – the sound of pursuit. Judging from the increasing volume of feet on pavement, it was headed towards my direction.
From my position at the end of Constable Street, I sighted a big black umbrella running towards me. Limping.
Sprained ankle, I thought.
Swinging wildly, dainty hands wielded the rain gear like a deranged Mary Poppins from hell. Female, late 20s or early 30s. Hard to tell. Dark-haired and tan-skinned. Face screamed Supermodel, but stature suggested Hobbit Extra.
Clothing implied Lady Gaga Fan.
Hey, the text on her shirt was a gold and bold Bad Romance. Or maybe it was the metallic silver pants that gave it away.
She dropped her purse and waved to get my attention. Which was totally unnecessary, because with an outfit that was bouncing off sun rays like laser beams, I’d spot her within a 10-kilometer radius. Scratch that. If I were standing on a space shuttle outside of the earth’s atmosphere, I’d still see her from that distance.
Directly after her were two Twitchers, a few seconds away from ripping her to shreds.
I gripped the fire poker tightly with my right hand, then ran to help. I swung over in a wide arc and clobbered the closest one on the skull, dropped to a crouch and broke the knees of the one behind it. When it fell, I skewered its head until brain juice came out. Gross.
I moved to pick up the discarded purse and its fallen contents. iPod Nano, lipstick, and an ID which displayed a mug shot above a name: Dita Gallardo R.N.
“Choice weapon.” I nodded to the nurse as I handed over her bag. Her umbrella was an Indestructible. Trendiest thing to hit the self-defense market a few years back. Hand crafted steel and high-strength aluminum. Excellent against attacks from the whiplash-inducing Wellington wind, and potential rapists.
“I know, right!” she said. “Shame it only came in black, I wanted one in silver so it would match most of my shoes.”
Okaaay, that’s not freaky. Who the hell accessorizes rain gear with foot wear? That’s Hannibal Lecter shit right there.
Oh fuck, did I say that out loud? Must have since she narrowed her eyes at me. “Seriously, you are giving me fashion advice? Well, your opinion doesn’t count. You have no taste. No offense, but you’re dressed like a Black Sabbath bogan. Grim Reaper haute couture much?”
What a bitch. I like her already.
I grinned, quickly introduced myself, and asked if she was hungry. Without waiting for a reply, I unzipped my backpack and shoved a sandwich wrapped in wax paper towards her.
Between bites and exclamations of OH MY GOD BACON! and I think I love you!, Dita explained that she was a volunteer at the quarantine center stationed at Westpac Stadium over in Thorndon. When it was overrun, she escaped with her friend Araceli. They got separated last night while being chased by a crowd of Z-heads. She came out of hiding today to search for her missing friend. Araceli Sanchez, 5 feet tall and curly-haired, last seen wearing a white v-neck, jeans, and blue sneakers.
Oh crap, the coffee shop. I looked behind me, and Dita’s gaze followed mine. The bloody, blue sneaker was still visible, even from a block away. Araceli did not make it.
Dita had nowhere to go, so I offered my house as a sanctuary while she recuperates from her injury. Up to her to stay or not after. The trek home was a solemn affair. Dita was quiet, mourning the loss of her friend, and I was too winded from carrying her on my back all the way from Newtown to Kilbirnie. In Kilbirnie, I found a shopping trolley on a street near Pak N Save, and dumped Dita in it. Gotta tell you, shopping trolleys were not meant to be pushed up steep hills.
Before we reached home, Dita broke the silence. She squeezed my hand and said, “Thanks. For helping me. And the sandwich.”
“No worries.” I assisted her out of the cart. When she asked if I had any house rules, I could only think of one.
“Sure, just one. I don’t mind Gaga, but I draw the line at Taylor Swift.”
- 4 HAMBURGER BUNS
- OLIVE or CANOLA OIL SPRAY
- 4 large PORTABELLA MUSHROOMS, gills removed and stems snapped off
- 8 thick slices HALLOUMI CHEESE
- 4 slices BACON FILLETS or 8 strips STREAKY BACON
- 55 grams (1/4 cup) AIOLI, store-bought or home-made
- A couple handfuls of BABY SPINACH & ROCKET
Set the oven to grill, and pre-heat to 180 degrees celsius.
Place the mushrooms, halloumi cheese, and bacon fillets or strips on a baking tray. Make sure they are evenly spaced. Spray the mushrooms and cheese with olive oil or canola oil.
Cook in the oven for around 10 or 12 minutes. If you want the bacon crispier, leave in the rack for an additional 5 minutes.
Slice the buns in half, and spread some aioli on the bottom half.
Start building your layers - grab a bunch of greens and place on top of the aioli, followed by the bacon fillet or strips. Next to go would be the mushrooms, topped with the halloumi cheese.
Cover with the top half of the bun.
Plate it, eat it.
Makes: 4 Sandwich Buns
* Bacon is optional. BUT WHY? Should be mandatory, dammit.
* It's not an exact replica, as I do not have a smoker at home to use, but this is as close as I could get to re-creating my favorite sandwich from the Sunday Market.