Vicky pulled out ahead of Lila, clinging to the banked turn as she increased speed and merged onto a highway that headed west, under the north/south highway she’d come from and across an expanse of fields towards her hometown. Noah grabbed tight onto her waist and screamed at her to slow down but she barely heard him under the gush of wind past her ears. She pulled to a stop and looked ahead--the town was practically destroyed, the scent of fire and ash was on the wind.
Lila pulled up beside Vicky and lifted the visor of her helmet. “You okay?”
“Yeah!” Vicky said, nodding her head forward. “Noah’s house isn’t far from here, we’ll stop there first.”
Vicky took off again and she could feel Noah protesting against her speed with his body. His grip tightened, and he was slapping her body and yelling in her ear. As soon as she pulled up to the curb, he threw himself to the ground, ripped off his helmet and vomited.
“What a wasted dinner,” Vicky said. She pulled the sharpened shovel from her back and approached a zombie that lingered by the driveway. It turned slowly to look at her, reaching its arms out limply into the air. It moaned and she slammed the blade of the shovel into its neck, severing its head from its body as it stumbled forward.
“Oh no,” Noah said as he looked down at the head that rolled over to him. Its teeth were still gnashing, though the sound of moaning was replaced with the wet choking sound of half a larynx. “That’s Mr. Mombourquette,” he said, “our grade ten biology teacher.”
“Who?” Vicky said, she came closer to the severed head and smashed it with her shovel, then once more for good measure.
“Oh right, I forgot, you never went to that class.”
"That class? I didn’t go to any classes.”
“Maybe if you went to more classes you wouldn’t have ended up preg--” Noah hesitated and Vicky nodded at him, indicating it was a good idea to stop speaking. “Never mind.”
“Let’s go in and see who’s home,” Lila said, clearly not amused by the on-going drama between the two of them.
“Good idea,” Vicky said, glaring at Noah. She approached the front door, which easily swung open. “Oh no.” She turned back to look at Noah, who rushed over. Vicky tried to stop him but he pushed past her.
“Oh...” he said, backing away. Lying on the floor in the foyer of Noah’s house was a large, disembowelled woman. She had a bullet wound in her head and her eyes were transfixed, irises whitened in her death, directly at the door. Noah suddenly pulled away and sat down on the concrete path to the driveway.
“His mom.” Vicky bit back a tear as she explained to Lila who the woman was. She knelt down beside the dead woman and put a hand on her cold cheek. She remembered sneaking into Noah’s room at night as a kid when she had nowhere else to go. Noah’s mom always welcomed her with open arms. She would offer Vicky warm, home cooked food and laugh at all of her stories.
Lila took out her hunting knives as she entered the house, she looked back at Vicky with a stern gaze and she stood up, holding her shovel with two hands in front of her. She nodded at Lila and cleared her mind as she headed toward the bedrooms.
“Clear!” Lila called out as she scanned the dark living room.
“Clear!” Vicky said, entering the first bedroom.
“All clear!” Lila finally called out.
“There’s nobody else here,” Noah said. “My sister, my nephew, did they get out safe?”
“I can’t say,” Vicky said, moving to the garage. “How does this open?” Noah joined her and bent down to grab hold of a metal handle, lifting the door open manually.
“The van’s gone.”
“The bedrooms looked like they were ransacked,” Vicky said. “So maybe they packed up in a hurry and got out of here?”
“Or maybe they’re dead and scavengers took all their stuff.” Noah said in a lifeless tone.
“Don’t think like that!”
“Oh here’s a change, you’re the positive one!” Noah rolled his eyes and headed back to the bikes. “Let’s just go to your house.”
Vicky and Lila sighed at each other and shrugged, following close behind him. They climbed on their bikes, Noah got on behind Vicky and they took off toward her house. Vicky couldn’t help but notice that the smell of fire was growing stronger. As the sun started to rise she could see a cloud of dark smoke coming up from the direction of her neighbourhood. She gulped and picked up the pace, weaving between stopped cars and pulling up onto the sidewalk to move faster. She felt sweat break out over her skin as she pulled into her mother’s subdivision. She fought back her emotions, coming closer and closer to the house she hoped to find her daughter in. Turning onto the right street she stopped her bike and stared in disbelief. Her mother’s house was a smoldering skeleton of what it once was. Glowing embers still smoked and crackled in the ruined heap. Vicky abandoned the bike, leaving Noah to catch it before it fell over on top of him. He struggled with the bike’s kickstand and chased after her. Vicky was screaming and crying, she punched the air between herself and her mother’s lost house. She kicked at the gravel in the driveway and turned to punch Noah, but he dodged it easily.
“Whoa there,” he said, holding his hands up in a sign that indicated he meant her no harm.
“This is your fault!” she said, clenching her fists and throwing another punch at him.
“I was perfectly content to stay at the tower and pretend that everything was okay!” She threw a third punch and it connected with Noah’s jaw. He buckled over and spit out blood.
“You made me come here! If I never did... if I never saw this--” Vicky didn’t even know how to finish her train of thought. She fell to her knees and sobbed, wishing her daughter was in her arms. She cursed the universe for taking the only person she’d ever loved from her. She screamed at the heavens as the sun was rising and it mingled with the angry, metallic scream of Felicia in the distance.
“What...?” Noah looked wide-eyed at Vicky for a moment as if he thought the sound had come from her.
“It wasn’t me.” Vicky quickly sobered and drew her largest gun.
“She’s here,” Lila said.
Another screech came from the distance. Then, from all around them zombies started pouring into the streets. They ran clumsily at first, stumbling over one another. They started moaning, then grunting and spitting as Felicia’s calls fuelled their advance into a clumsy sprint.