Screams came from inside the van. They were in a similar position that my sister had been in, only whereas the zombie’s fingers only fit through the door before, this time, the zombie’s head fit in and the door was slowly opening as more zombies gathered. Then the zombie’s shoulders fit in. More zombie hands reached passed the first zombie as they tried to get inside.
Mrs. Bahena got out of the front door, slammed it closed behind her and began pulling the zombies away from the back seat. Raindrops began to dot the car windshield.
She wouldn’t survive like that.
Even as I wondered what to do, Victory rolled down her window and began yelling out her window, “Hey, zombies, over here. Come and get us.” She waved her arms out the window. I rolled down my window and began to do the same even as I made sure the car was in drive. My foot was ready to come off the brake and hit the gas at any moment.
Some of the zombies turned and started towards us, but the few that were right in the thick of it ignored us. One of the zombies Mrs. Bahena pulled away from the side door turned around and bit her in the neck. She ignored it and tried to pull the next zombie away from the door, but more zombies came up behind her and bit her from behind. Soon she was pulled to the ground and I could only see her legs lying still on the grass as the zombies continued to swarm her.
The last zombie at the door pulled out the eldest child of the Bahena’s – their only daughter. She screamed and struggled to get away, but the zombie bit her in the arm. Molly sprang from the car, bit onto the zombie’s arm and began to shake it vigorously. Even then the zombies ignored the dog.
Victory and I continued to yell even as I watched helplessly. The rain began to come down harder and harder in just a matter of moments. A lightning strike hit the group of zombies that were over the still form of Mrs. Bahena. It startled me and the car lurched forward as my foot slipped from the brake to the gas. I immediately hit the brakes again.
The girl tore away from the zombie that bit her. A chunk of her sleeve and flesh was still in its mouth. She got back inside the van. Molly followed her and the van door slid shut just as Hunter backed up out of the driveway with a screech. He hit a zombie on his way. The van paused just long enough for him to shift gears and then he burst forward on the road. I quickly stepped on the gas and followed him. Victory and I rolled up our windows leaving behind the zombies that had almost reached our car.
The rain lightened to a drizzle. We were half a block away from Arthur’s house when the van stopped in front of us.
I stopped, put the car in park and reached down for the ax. The zombies hadn’t followed our vehicles and there weren’t any zombies close to the street in this area – most had ran to the Bahena’s when they heard the screaming. The girl had been bit. Had she turned? She wasn’t that much younger than Mackenzie. The van was quiet.
Hunter got out from the driver’s side. He had the bow and an arrow. He shut his door quietly, went around the back to the passenger side and opened the side door. He reached in and pulled the girl out. He said something to those inside the van, but I couldn’t make out what. Then he closed that door quietly and dragged the girl to the back of the van.
Blood ran down her arm and darkened the sleeve of her shirt. She tried to pull his fingers away from her arm, but she couldn’t.
“What is he doing?” Mackenzie asked. She and Victory were peeking around the front seats to get a good look. I immediately turned off my headlights.
“Don’t look,” I instructed them. I looked in the rearview mirror to see Victory hugging my sister. Mackenzie’s helmeted head was turned away from the windshield.
I had turned out my lights, but Hunter and the girl were still illuminated in the back lights from the van. His dark brown eyes looked through my windshield as if he sought my own, but I knew he wouldn’t be able to see me. He closed his eyes and let go of the girl. She dropped to her knees on the wet road and clung to his legs. Her cries were muffled, but I could still hear them.
“Please,” I heard the quiet voice. “Please don’t kill me. I’ll be okay. I won’t turn into one of them.” Hunter patted the top of her head, but held her back when she stood and tried to go back inside the van.
“I’m sorry.” I couldn’t hear him, but I clearly saw his mouth form the words.
She dropped to her knees and bent over. Her body quivered as the sobs took over.
“Stay in the van!” Hunter demanded. I didn’t notice until then that the side passenger door had started to open. It quickly closed.
The girl’s shivering became something different. She flipped to her back as violent spasms came over. Hunter pinched his eyes closed. The muscles in his jaws tightened. A tear trickled onto his cheek from his closed eyes. Then his eyes opened and he readied the bow and arrow pointed directly at the girl’s head. She stilled. I held my breath. Hunter held his.
The girl’s eyes flashed open. She sprang to her feet and rushed at Hunter with her fingers extended claw-like. Hunter didn’t hesitate. He let loose the arrow and it embedded itself into her head. He swallowed hard and walked back to the driver’s side of the van.
“He should have taken the arrow with him,” Victory said.
I swiveled my head in her direction. She still held my sister so my sister couldn’t see, but Victory had no qualms looking out the windshield.
“I told you not to look,” I said.
She shrugged and held onto my sister tighter.
I missed the moment when Hunter got into the van, but the van drove forward along the road. I went around the dead girl and followed. The van stopped a few moments later in the middle of the road. I stopped behind it and waited. Nothing happened. All was quiet. The rain picked up again. It came down fast and hard.
Victory reached a hand around so it was directly beside me. “I need to call my brother,” she said.
“But the light from his phone might draw the attention of the zombies,” I said.
“He’s in pain.” It was the first time I ever heard Victory close to tears. She had been acting so tough this entire time, even scolding her brother for leaving the arrow, that I thought she was hardened or somehow immune to all this. But I knew in this moment I had been wrong. She was barely holding it together. I handed her my phone.
She called him and put the phone up to her ear. I looked out the windows for any signs of zombies. There were a few off in the distance, but none nearby.
“Hunter?” Victory said. “Hunter, pull it together. Hunter?” Victory handed me the phone. “He’s not listening to me. Maybe he’ll listen to you.”
I took the phone and put it up to my ear. My stomach fell when I heard Hunter sobbing and the crying of children in the background.
“Hunter,” I said gently, “it’s not your fault.” He seemed to choke on a sob, but it didn’t get better. Tears sprang to my eyes, but I blinked them away as I looked up at the ceiling of the car.
I was about to speak again, but Hunter’s struggled voice broke through the crying on the other end. “How is not my fault? I killed her. I killed a little girl.”
The cries from the little boys in the background intensified.
“Arthur!” I practically yelled into the phone. “Can you hear me!”
“Yes,” I barely heard Arthur’s voice.
“Do not let the Bahena brothers think that Hunter killed their sister, understand? He killed a zombie not their sister. Make sure they know that.”
“Okay!” Arthur called out to me and then I heard shuffling in the background and Arthur’s calm voice as he tried to soothe the crying brothers.
“Hunter,” I said quieter, “she had turned. I saw that. She wasn’t a little girl anymore. It was better that you pulled her from the van instead of letting her turn inside to attack her brothers. She wouldn’t have wanted that.”
I waited for a response, but all I heard were his sobs that seemed strangely in time with the rain that fell from the sky.
“Hunter,” I said gently, “you can’t lose it now. We still need to see to Arthur’s mother, Maria and our parents. Not to mention Grace and Tanner. Remember? We promised we would meet them at the diner. They are counting on us, Hunter.”
He took a deep breath. His sobbing quieted. “Okay,” he said. “You’re right. We still need to get the others. Lily.”
“How did the night turn into this?” The rain began to lighten again. “It wasn’t that long ago that I watched you put makeup on my little sister for Halloween night and now we are running for our lives, trying to save our families. Will we ever see our homes again?”
I didn’t have an answer for that. The question drifted in the silence between us.
“We’re almost to Arthur’s,” I finally said. “What’s the plan when we get there? We shouldn’t bring everyone in with us.”
“I’ll go in alone,” he said.
“No, you won’t,” I said. “None of us should ever go somewhere alone again.”
“I’ll go in with him,” Victory volunteered.
“No, she won’t,” Hunter said.
I looked in the rearview mirror to see Victory pouting.
“Fine,” Hunter said. “Here is what we will do. I’ll pull into their driveway, you pull alongside me on their lawn. Victory and Mackenzie can transfer to the van so the kids are all in one place. Then you and I can go inside to check things out. You have your dad’s gun?”
“I’ll bring it,” I said, “and an ax.” The ax was now lying on the passenger seat beside me. “But what if something happens to the both of us inside? How will the kids get away?”
“I’ll leave Arthur my phone so we can be in communication if we need to be. Victory knows how to drive. She can get them out of there if she needs to.”
“She’s twelve and she knows how to drive?” I asked incredulously.
“I’m almost thirteen,” Victory said.
“Vicky is one of those people who knows everything and can do anything,” Hunter said. “It’s really quite annoying.”
“Okay,” I said. “Then that’s the plan.”
I followed him the rest of the way to Arthur’s house. He pulled into the driveway and I pulled up alongside him on the grass. There weren’t any zombies around, but I got a sick feeling when I noticed the front door was ajar and candy was littered all along the porch with an empty bowl nearby.