“This is messed up.” Vicky was standing over Heather’s bloody corpse. She nudged one of the woman’s limp arms with her toe and shuddered. “I wanna go home, Noah.”
“I don’t blame you.” Noah stood beside her, arms across his chest.
Before either of them could say anything else, Jasper’s voice came from down the hall and it was a terrible sound to Vicky. “Hello, people!” He called, “We’re in the middle of a daring escape here, remember?”
Whenever Jasper took on that bossy tone it always made Vicky’s spine tingle and her ears ring, but tonight the sound had taken on some new horrendous heights. There was a demented sense of authority that had been added to it, as if the sudden appearance of zombies had made him the boss. “I hate that guy.”
“I know.” Noah nodded in response. “But he’s right, we should get going.”
“Are you so sure he’s right? Say the lady on the news was telling the truth, say those people down there really are zombies and this is the end of the world, do you really trust G.I.Jasper to lead you to safety?”
“Let’s not jump to apocalypse scenarios just yet.”
The two of them reluctantly left Heather’s body and followed Jasper upstairs to a long, low ceilinged attic. They all gathered together around the window that over looked the street and Vicky felt her jaw drop open.
“There are so many of them.” Zombies were gathering outside Donovan’s home in the dozens. They filled the street with their wordless groans. “Why are they all coming this way?”
“The sound of the crash and the collapse must have caught their attention,” Jasper said and Vicky noticed that he had positioned himself in front of Donovan, as if to cut him off from his friends. “I say we wait it out, it’s only a matter of time before they get distracted by something else and move on.”
“What?” Vicky’s hands flashed to her hips like lightning. “You were the one who went commando and planned this daring escape, now you want to wait? What about Noah? And Donovan? They need to see a doctor.”
“I could get on board with waiting.” Noah was staring down at the street with terrified eyes. “I fixed myself up okay enough for a little while.”
Jasper’s protective positioning became a little more rigid as he said, “And I’ll take care of Donovan.”
“I want to go home!” Vicky paused between each word as she felt her frustration growing.
“And you will.” It was surprising to Vicky that smoke wasn’t erupting from Jasper’s angry red ears. “As soon as those flesh eating mad men clear outta here!”
Vicky huffed and stared at Noah, who was still watching the street with a look of devastated fear painted over her face. “Fine!” She said, “I’m calling my mom, if they are in any sort of trouble there I swear I’ll hop out this window and run all the way home on my own if I have to!”
She turned away from the others and found a dusty corner to sit by herself. She had put her phone on silent before getting to Donovan’s, and when she withdrew it from her pocket she wasn’t surprised to see she had missed nearly thirty calls, all from home. She dialed her mother’s number and it only rang once.
“Vicky! You’re okay! Your father, he got bitten by this man on his way home from work! He was a weirdo, drunk or something, but now they’re everywhere!”
“I know, I know, it’s happening in the city too. Is Jessica okay?”
“She’s fine, she’s fine. Here, I’ll put her on for you.”
“No, mom, listen, I want you guys to just lock the doors and wait for me, okay? I’m coming home as soon as I can and we’ll... we’ll...”
“We’ll what? What is even happening?”
“We’ll just, go to the woods or something. Just till everything calms down.”
“Oh, Vicky, I’m so happy you’re okay. I... I was starting to think you wouldn’t call me back.” Something in her mother’s tone didn’t sit properly with Vicky. She repeated the words over in her head before choosing her own carefully.
“Because you thought maybe I was hurt?”
The silence that followed was all Vicky needed to know the truth of her mother’s statement. Then she finally said, “Right, because I thought you were hurt.”
Vicky laughed and felt a strange mixture of anger and guilt beginning to take hold of her. “You didn’t think I was just gonna not come back did you?”
“No, don’t be silly.”
“Because I love my daughter, I’d do anything to make sure she’s safe right now.”
“Of course.” Still her mother’s tone was flat and disbelieving.
“I’m coming home, mom! I’m coming for Jessica.”
“I know, sweet heart, but now’s not the time for petty arguments.”
Vicky heard gunfire from the street and it snapped through her bad temper.
“Was that a gun? Vicky, how bad is it there?”
She sat and studied Noah, sitting by himself now by the window and staring out at the growing horde that was weaving closer down the car-clogged road. “It’s fine. Just lock the doors, okay? I’m turning my phone off to save the battery, I’ll call you again as soon as I can.”
“I love you.”
“I love you guys, too.”
“Mommy? Is that mommy?” Vicky heard her daughter’s voice and it almost had the same effect on her as the gunshot. “I wanna talk to her!”
“Tell Jessica I’ll be home soon!” Vicky quickly sputtered before hanging up the phone. She sat quietly staring at it until the screen went black and then a tear splashed down onto it. She wiped her face with the back of her hand and moved back to Noah’s side. “Come on, let’s get away from the window for now, huh?”
“I... I can’t. How could this be happening? I mean, a disease, it’s gotta be a disease, but how could it spread so quickly?”
“More importantly, is there a way to stop it?”
Noah turned to look at Vicky. His eyes were dark, his skin was pale. “Will there even be any of us left to stop it?”
They both turned back to look at the chaos outside. Vicky then grabbed hold of Noah’s hand and led him away from the window. She had seen enough and she was sure Noah had as well. She wanted to sleep, but it was impossible with the sounds coming in from the outside. Distant screams, more and more gunfire. Even an explosion which shook the house, despite the fact that it had happened blocks away. Vicky could see the black smoke rising into the sky and obscuring the sun. She was lost in the dance of the inky cloud when she heard Noah finally break the silence within the attic.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to look at him?” He said and Vicky turned to see he was talking about Donovan. Their friend looked pale and sweaty.
Jasper didn’t say anything in return, he just squatted beside Donovan’s prone, sick looking body and stared across the room at Noah. Donovan just coughed and groaned.