Vicky carefully skirted the broken edge of the roof and looked down at the street. Dozens of undead people were gathered around the gaping hole that was once Donovan’s front door.
“Hey,” Noah said and Vicky joined him as he stared at the neighbour’s house. It was only a few feet away, an easy jump.
“We should head that way.” He pointed toward a street corner a block away. “See how there’s fewer zombies coming from that direction? If we go across the roofs it’ll probably be safer to climb down to the street over there.”
“Yeah okay,” Vicky said, glad to hear any suggestion at all. She hopped over to the neighbour’s roof and stumbled, almost losing her balance.
“Careful,” Noah said.
“Clearly I know to be careful,” she snapped, feeling the roof groan under her weight. “Donovan’s isn’t the only house around here that would fail a safety inspection.” Grumbling under her breath, she crossed the roof as Noah sprang across the gap. She thought briefly about how she had left things with Donovan and felt a twinge of guilt. What if he was bitten and he did die? She’d never see him again and that would be their last interaction. She tried not to think about it as she leapt to the next roof, and then the next, moving too fast for Noah to keep up. Vicky was always a little more nimble than her peers, and athletic things came naturally to her.
As she reached the roof of the house on the corner she turned back to Noah for the first time to see his annoyed look. “What the hell?” he said when he finally reached her. “We need to stick together!”
“I can take care of myself!” She pushed his shoulders and he stumbled backwards.
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure you’ve made that perfectly clear.” Noah began to say something else but he stopped himself. Vicky watched as he gathered his courage, clearly debating his next move. “Ya know, he left you. You always like to say it happened the other way around, but he left you and you had to move back to town with your mom! Then... you came to me the other night and I thought we’d finally be together but clearly I was just being a dumbass.”
Vicky rolled her eyes. “Clearly.”
Noah looked away from her, but not quick enough hide the the pain in his eyes. “I know I meant something to you once. I was more than just a booty call when you were coming to me behind his back,” he said. “What was that about?”
Vicky felt anger cut through her like a searing hot knife. She pulled her hand back and slapped him. “You need to keep your damn mouth shut! Just leave it alone. There’s nothing between us and there never will be.” She turned to the dormer window that protruded from the roof of the house, hoping Noah didn’t see the solitary tear in her eye.
Vicky led the way into the attic. She was at the stairs that led down into the rest of the house and she knew he’d be stewing about how far ahead she’d gone. Although she knew it was impossible to make it home on her own, part of her wanted to be rid of him entirely. A quick glance over her shoulder told her that he probably wasn’t thinking the same thing. No matter how he treated her he just kept crawling back. He would never want to be on his own out there, without her.
Shaking her head, she descended the creaky steps, ignoring Noah’s protests and warnings to be careful. The stairs opened into what looked like an empty hallway and she listened carefully for any sound in the house.
It was quiet.
“The coast is clear,” Vicky said in a half whisper and Noah joined her.
“Maybe we should look for some supplies before we head out,” he said as he ducked into a bathroom, emerging moments later with a first aid kit.
Vicky couldn’t help but laugh at the predictability of Noah being the one to head straight for the medical supplies. She, on the other hand went directly to the pantry searching for canned and dried food that would last on the road. She found some beans, peas, a bag of trail mix and some oatmeal. All together she estimated it would be enough for the both of them for about three days, which would suffice. She was sure she’d be home before dark.
They picked through the house in silence, never in the same room or even looking at each other. Vicky considered apologizing but decided against it. There was nothing to apologize for anyway. All she’d done was tell the truth.
When Noah stopped and surveyed the total sum of their supplies he said, “This is probably enough. Let’s make a plan before we head out.”
“We need to find some weapons,” Vicky said, pulling a large knife from a kitchen drawer as she spoke. She examined it and shook her head. It wouldn’t be very effective against an enemy who couldn’t bleed or feel pain. She put it down on the counter and turned to continue her search. As she picked through a utility closet she discovered a shovel. She tested its weight in her hands and smirked as she imagined crushing some undead heads.
Noah came back from his own search for weapons with two hammers tucked into his belt like the guns of a sheriff in some old western.
“We’ll need to find a car,” she said, “Maybe the highway? Chances are the roads are clogged in the city so they’ll be useless. We can find something on the highway and head home.”
“Okay,” Noah said, “to the highway, then. That means we’re heading right out the front door, and we watch each other’s backs.” He lowered his gaze towards Vicky but she averted her eyes again. Instead, she focused on the world outside the abandoned house and sighed at the sight of the urban war-zone. Smoke was rising from several places now and the sun was nearly blotted out. She took a deep breath before leading the way to the street and ducking behind a car. There didn’t seem to be many zombies lingering at this end of the street, but she could still hear them moaning from the direction in which she’d left Donovan. Only a block and a half away she could see the horde outside his house.
She motioned with one hand for Noah to join her and they turned up the street, away from the massive crowd of undead and away from their friend. They moved slowly, keeping their eyes out for zombies. Progress was tedious as they kept low and stopped often to avoid being noticed.
Noah had to bite off a frantic scream as one came out from behind a tall van and grabbed hold of his arm. Its face was torn off with patches of skull visible under layers of grizzly muscle and oozing black blood. Vicky hastily turned and smashed it in the head with her shovel, causing it to stumble backwards. She hit it in the head again and it crumpled to the ground.
“Stop it!” Noah held Vicky’s arm as she swung the shovel high into the air, ready to smash the thing’s head once again. “Don’t kill him!”
“Don’t kill him? Don’t kill him?” Vicky repeated his words and laughed. “Noah, they’re dead already!”
The zombie struggled on its back for a moment before rolling over to its stomach, trying hard to get to its feet to attack again. Noah hesitated and let go of Vicky’s arm. She swung the shovel down through the air and heard a liquid crunch as the zombie’s skull broke open. The monster crashed its face to the pavement, twitching but no longer struggling to stand.
They continued walking and tried not to make eye contact with the undead man-eaters watching them from inside their cars. One had successfully chewed through its seatbelt and had thrown itself against the window with clanking, gnashing teeth.
As Vicky stared up into the sky, she noticed a flashing red light and couldn’t help but wonder where it drew its electricity from. She was so distracted, she didn’t notice a dead body sprawled in her path and she tripped into the nearest car, setting off a deafening alarm. As the sound echoed in the otherwise silent street, a zombie lifted itself up from the sidewalk and turned towards the raucous sound. Another, which had been aimlessly pacing, shifted its path towards the alarm as well.
“Vicky, what the hell?”
“Damn it! Do you think I did it on purpose?” Vicky readied her shovel for a fight as she noticed a third zombie stumbling from the dark corner of a nearby alley. They were all moaning, a sound Vicky guessed she’d soon become sick of.
“Look at them all. We need to get the hell out of here!” Noah sounded like he was straining to be heard over the wailing alarm.
Vicky slipped on a slick section of road and looked down to notice the upper half of a zombie grasping at her. A trail of intestines spread like an exploded piñata behind the torn torso. The thing’s fingers were ragged and bloody from the effort of dragging itself forward. She screamed and almost lost her hold on the shovel as she leapt from the zombie’s grip.
“Noah, behind you!” she yelled as another zombie grabbed for him.
Noah readied his hammer and hesitated for just a moment. Then, he started smashing at the zombie’s head--once, twice, three times--spraying congealed blood and pieces of scalp with messy hair still attached. The hammer made contact with the zombie’s eye socket, releasing a sickening thump as the metal sunk into soft tissue. The zombie faltered backwards, hesitated a moment and then collapsed with the hammer lodged in its skull.
“They’re everywhere!” Noah said, spinning around to see small groups of zombies approaching from every direction. His remaining hammer shook in his hand and his stomach felt ready to heave.
Vicky brought the blade of her shovel down hard on the neck of the half zombie, leaving a starburst spatter of dark blood across the pavement. The monster fell limp and she readied her shovel against the newcomers.
“Don’t just stand there! Make yourself useful!” she said, suddenly welcoming the exhilaration of the fight.
Noah bent over to wrench his hammer from the fallen zombie’s eye socket and then stood with both hammers ready. “We’ll never get out of this,” he said, “There’s too many!”
“Shut up and grow some balls,” Vicky said, passing slowly around a minivan and keeping her eyes on the zombie closest to her. The thing’s stomach had been ripped open, releasing the stench of putrid tissue and rotting organs. She leapt back as it swiped at her and she swung the shovel down on top of its head. It fell to its knees and she brought the shovel down again. The sound of metal on bone had a surprisingly exhilarating effect on her.
Noah turned the hammer in his right hand around and swung the claw toward the temple of a zombie that approached him from around a flashy sports car. The tool impacted with a grisly thud and the zombie fell over sideways. He was covered in gore and he had to breathe through his mouth to avoid the disgusting reek that lingered around them. “There’s another one over there!” he yelled over the car alarm, but half way through what he was saying the car beeped twice and the alarm halted.
“Well that’s convenient,” Vicky said, glancing at the now mysteriously silent car. A dead hand reached across the roof of another vehicle towards her and she pulled back. The zombie struggled to reach her while it moved slowly around the vehicle. She moved sideways and another hand reached out to grab hold of her hair.
“I’m coming!” Noah said as Vicky let out a scream. He slid over the hood of a sedan and brought his hammer down hard on the arm of the zombie, the bone shattered and Vicky slipped free, pushing the second zombie back with the blade of her shovel. The moaning of the hungry zombies was suddenly broken by a strange, new sound. The muted pitch of a silenced handgun shot. The zombie fell to the ground, a hole blown clear through his skull.
“Let’s go, let’s go!” A person dressed in black tactical armor grabbed hold of Vicky’s arm and pulled her away from Noah. The person was wearing a heavy mask with tinted plastic that not only muffled their voice but also very effectively hid their face.
“Get these people outta here!”
Noah was ushered in the same direction as Vicky by two other strange people, dressed just like the first. “What’s going on?” he demanded but the newcomers just kept herding them from the street as more silenced gun shots covered their escape.