Victory ran from the window and out of Hunter’s room towards Grace’s room. Mackenzie tried to follow her, but I grabbed her wrist. “You are not going to leave my side,” I told her.
“Keep running to me,” Hunter yelled out. “Trust me!”
Arthur didn’t waver as he ran straight into the Sang’s side yard. He ran away from the crowd of zombies behind him and towards the handful in front of him.
Now that he was closer I could see the tears that streamed from his brown eyes and onto his dark cheeks. There was red splattered across his Black Panther costume, but it didn’t appear to be his blood. The Black Panther mask had fallen off and bounced along his back as the string hung onto his neck.
“Drop to the ground!” Hunter yelled just as the zombies running from the front of Arthur reached him. Arthur dropped to his knees and curled his body into himself with his hands holding the back of his head. Three zombies tripped over him.
“Run!” Hunter yelled.
Arthur was instantly on his feet and running again towards the tree.
Victory reappeared with Grace’s bow and an arrow cocked and ready. She leaned out the window sill looking for her first target.
“Don’t kill them!” Mackenzie cried out. “We might still be able to help them.”
“We can’t,” Victory said calmly. “They are zombies.”
I wondered if it should disturb me that zombies didn’t seem to faze Victory.
“Veer to the left!” Hunter called out. Arthur didn’t hesitate as he shifted to his left. A zombie ran passed him and was stopped by the wooden fence between the Sang yard and their neighbors.
Arthur resumed his course. He was almost to the tree, but so were several zombies. One moved and blocked his path to the tree as the zombie rushed towards Arthur. Arthur’s steps hesitated for the first time.
“Don’t miss, Vicky,” Hunter said.
“I won’t,” Victory said.
Hunter called out to Arthur again. “Keep coming!”
Great tears ran down Arthur’s cheeks, but he didn’t hesitate as he ran forward again – straight towards the zombie.
Victory let loose the arrow. The zombie reached out for Arthur – almost had him – but the arrow split through the back of his head and he fell forward into the grass. Victory readied another arrow. Arthur continued to run towards the tree. There were zombies close behind him – reaching out with their fingers.
“Jump!” Hunter commanded.
Arthur used his momentum to put his bottom foot on the trunk and jump up. He reached up with both hands. Hunter leaned over the branches and caught him. For a brief terrifying moment, I thought Arthur would slip out of Hunter’s grasp, but Hunter was strong and he hauled him up in the tree.
Zombies surrounded the base of the tree and scratched and reached up towards Hunter and Arthur. It hurt to see the small children still in their costumes among the zombies.
Hunter guided Arthur back up the tree branches. I reached out when they got close. Arthur took my hand and I helped him inside. He threw his arms around my waist. I held him close and stroked his hair as he sobbed and cried into my shirt.
Hunter easily climbed in after him. He closed the window and took up his position by the window again. He looked out at all the zombies in the yard. Victory withdrew the arrow and let the bow rest by her side.
“Lily?” a quiet voice said. I looked around for the source. It clearly wasn’t Hunter or Victory. Mackenzie was in front of me with a comforting hand on Arthur’s shoulder. It hadn’t been her either.
“Lily!” the quiet voice was more desperate this time. Hunter reached down and picked up his phone from off the floor. That was when I remembered Maria. I turned Arthur around so he could hug Mackenzie instead. I quickly picked up my phone and brought it to my ear.
“Maria?” I asked.
“Oh, Lily,” she sobbed. “I thought they got you. I thought they got you like they got everyone else.”
“Where are you, Maria?” I asked.
“I’m locked in a bathroom in Jason’s house.” That was where the party was. “Lily, Anna went crazy. She bit Jason over and over again. And she wasn’t the only one. And then Jason got up and started biting people. I ran into the bathroom on the ground floor, but they are pounding on the door. They are trying to get in. What do I do? I tried to call my parents, but the call wouldn’t go through.”
I looked at Hunter who now had his phone up to his ear. He shook his head at me which I took meant he couldn’t get through to his parents.
“The zombies are at Jason’s house too,” I said to him. “Maria is locked in a bathroom. She says they are pounding at her door.”
Hunter bit his lower lip and looked out the window.
“Zombies?” Maria said. “What do you mean zombies?”
“Maria,” I said to her, “I think you need to be as quiet as possible. Maybe they will stop pounding on the door if you are quiet. Is there a window you can climb out?”
“There is a window,” Maria said so quietly I could barely hear her. “But I think it’s too small for me to climb out of. Hold on.” I heard shuffling on her end before she said, “I don’t think there is a way to open it. It’s one of those windows they put in bathrooms so you can’t really see through them clearly.”
Hunter stuffed his phone in his pocket and moved to his bed. He grabbed his backpack and emptied its contents on the floor.
“Tell her we’ll go get her,” Hunter said. Mackenzie and Arthur looked at him as if he were crazy. Victory rushed out of his bedroom towards her own.
“It’s on the way to the Brighton’s,” he went on. That was where our parents were. “We’ll go get her and then our parents.”
I nodded. “Maria,” I said into the phone. “Be as quiet as you can. We will come get you. Look in the bathroom and see if there is something you can use as a weapon.”
“Okay,” Maria said quietly. Some of the panic left her voice. “Who is we?”
“Me and Hunter and our sisters.” I looked at Arthur. She wouldn’t know who he was so instead of mentioning him specifically, I said, “and anyone else we can pick up on the way.”
“Okay,” Maria said. “Please hurry.”
I ended the call.
“My call wouldn’t go through to either my mom or my dad,” Hunter said. “Why don’t you try your parents while I try Grace?”
I nodded. I called my mom first and got the message, “All lines are busy.”
Hunter opened his closet with his phone held to his ear. He took out a leather jacket. He handed it to Mackenzie. Mackenzie quietly put it on.
I was about to hit the command to call my dad, but stopped when Hunter said, “Grace?” He stopped moving as he spoke into the phone. All his focus was on his older sister in that moment. “Are you okay? …Yes we are both okay…I haven’t been able to get through to them. Is that Tanner?”
My brother? They did attend the same college, but I didn’t think they had reconnected. Hunter’s eyes found mine.
“You are both okay?” Hunter said into the phone as he stared at me. Mackenzie took a step closer to him.
“Lily and Mackenzie are here with us. They are both okay.” He paused and then held the phone out to me.
I rushed to his side in one great step and took the phone from him. “Hello?” I said into it.
“Lily,” my brother said to me. I dropped to the floor suddenly filled with emotion. I hadn’t realized I was scared, or upset, or worried about everyone until I heard my brother’s voice and I burst out crying.
“Lily,” he said again more gently and I knew he had heard my crying. “Are you all right? And Kenzie?”
I nodded because I couldn’t find my voice.
“Lily?” he said again this time with concern.
That for some odd reason gave me strength. I wiped the tears off my cheeks. “I’m okay,” I said to him. “We are both okay. Is it happening there too?”
“Yes,” he said. “I think it’s happening everywhere. We were watching the national news when it happened. One of the news anchors dropped to the floor and the next moment was attacking the other news anchor.”
“You were watching the news with Grace?”
“Not just the two of us. There were a bunch of us. Some of them started attacking people too. We’re safe though. We’re both safe. You don’t need to worry about us. What about mom and dad?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “They were at a party with Hunter’s parents. He tried calling, but couldn’t get through. I tried calling too, but I couldn’t get through either. I was about to try again.”
“Everyone is trying to call their loved ones right now,” Tanner said. “It will be hard to get through. Keep trying though.”
“We are going to go get them.”
Tanner paused for a very long time. “Take weapons, Lily. Don’t hesitate to use them. I don’t know what’s happening, but those aren’t people anymore. You and Kenzie need to survive no matter what. Are you at our house or the Sang house?”
“The Sang house.”
“Try to get back to our house. Dad has a gun locked up in his closet.”
“I know where it is,” I said just to confirm.
“Get my baseball bats too, the kitchen knives, anything and everything you can use as a weapon. Cover up too. Don’t let them bite you.”
“Okay,” I said.
“You know that diner we stopped at when you guys drove me up to college?” Tanner asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Dad said it was the halfway point. Meet us there. Tell Hunter to meet us there. Grace and I will be there.”
“Okay,” I said. “Be careful, Tanner.”
“You too, Lily.”
“I love you.” And for a brief, horrible moment I thought that might be the last time I spoke to my brother.
“I love you too,” Tanner said. “I’m handing the phone back to Grace now.”
I stood and handed the phone back to Hunter. He took it from me and walked out of the room.
“Is he okay?” Mackenzie asked me.
“Yes,” I said. “He is fine.” I wrapped her in a hug. “We are all going to be fine.”
Arthur had stopped crying. His Black Panther mask was now in his hands.
“Are you okay, Arthur? Where are you parents? And your little brother?”
He looked out the window and swallowed hard. “My dad fell to the ground when there was the green light in the sky.” He looked back at me. “He bit my little brother’s leg. I didn’t know what was happening. I couldn’t stop it.”
“I know you couldn’t,” I said and pulled him into my hug with Mackenzie. She welcomed him into it. “What about your mom?”
He pulled back from the hug so he could look up at me. His bottom lip quivered. “I don’t know,” he cried. “She stayed home to pass out the candy.”
“We’ll go look for her too,” Hunter said as he came back into the room with more jackets and gloves.
“What if she’s like them?” Arthur asked.
Hunter didn’t reply. He looked down at all the stuff he had just dumped on his bed.
“Then we move on,” I said to Arthur. His lips turned down into a sad frown, but he nodded his head in understanding.