Chapter 15 .

Darren

Monica and I followed the van in the cars.  A large group of zombies followed us. More zombies came from neighboring yards as we drove around the block and the group behind us grew even more.  When we were two blocks away from Grant’s house, Hunter’s little sister sped up. We matched her speed and we soon left the zombies behind us. In the rearview mirror I could see they were beginning to disperse now that they were trailing behind us and we were no longer shouting.

Victory led us back to Grant’s street.  I almost stopped in shock when I saw the front lawn covered with zombies again.  There weren’t as many as before, but more than there should have been. The front door was closed where it had been opened before.  I hoped that meant the others were safe. Especially Lily. She was brave, beautiful, smart, strong and just perfect. I didn’t understand how she didn’t have a boyfriend.  If I hadn’t been so short and nerdy looking and a year younger, I would have asked her out.

The first time I ever saw her was my first day of high school.  She was a sophomore. I saw a group of older kids picking on one particular freshman, and Lily went up, put her arm around his shoulder and led him away from his tormentors.  She was a lot taller than him. She was a lot taller than me, but I had a crush on her ever since. I told my friends about my crush once and most of them teased me about the height difference.  Richard was one of the few in our group of friends who didn’t. Now they were all dead or zombies except Richard.

I didn’t have any sense of fashion, didn’t really care about fashion.  I had a bad habit of tugging on my hair so it always looked messy. I washed and brushed it every morning, but by the time evening came it looked like a bird’s nest.  I had to wear glasses because contacts irritated my eyes too much. I had planned to get lasik surgery when I was older, but that probably wouldn’t happen now as we were in the middle of the world dying.  I really needed to be careful not to break my glasses because I was terribly nearsighted. I wouldn’t be able to tell if it was a zombie running at me or a human.

The kids starting yelling from the windows of the van drawing the attention of the zombies.  Monica and I followed suit. I cracked my window only a little. No use giving the zombies an opportunity to bite me.  We followed Victory as she led us down a different street than the previous one before circling back to Grant’s house once we lost the zombies.  We parked in front of the house and waited.

We didn’t have to wait long before Hunter and Lily ran out of the house followed by the others and a group of adults.

Hunter, Lily, Maria and a woman who looked like Maria with a bloody cloth wrapped around her hand came running towards the hatchback while Richard, Grant and a man ran to Grant’s car.  The other group of adults ran to other cars.

Lily sat in the front passenger side while the other three got in the back.  I almost put the car in gear to leave, but noticed an unmistakable figure.

I rolled down my window and yelled out, “Mom!”

My mom stopped, looked around and when her eyes fell on me she immediately began to cry.  She tossed her car keys to one of the other ladies she had been running with.

“Take my car and go find your families,” she said to the ladies.  “I’ve found mine.”

She ran to the driver’s side of the hatchback, cupped my cheeks in her hands and kissed me all over the face.  Her wet tears fell on both of us.

“I’m okay, mom,” I said.

“Get in, Mrs. Smith,” Hunter said.  My mom opened the back door and scrambled in.  Now there were four people crammed in the back seat.  I paused to look at Hunter. Most people assumed my last name – Harris – was the same as my mom’s.  Only my friends knew that my parents were divorced and my mom had remarried. Hunter knew though. I had no idea he knew that much about me.  I had never spoken to him before tonight. I obviously knew who he was. Everyone in school knew who he was. The handsome, mysterious recluse that exuded this aura that made him stand out.

“Jack?” I asked my mom about my stepdad.  She shook her head and more tears spilled from her eyes.  I knew that he was either dead or a zombie.

I fought back my own tears then.  Jack had married my mom when I was 14 so he had only been in our lives a few years, but he had treated us better than my real dad ever had.

“Darren,” Hunter said.  “Pull up alongside the van.  I need to speak to my sister.”

I nodded and complied.  The cars with the other parents were leaving.

Lily and Hunter rolled down the passenger side windows as we came up to the driver’s side of the van.

“Where are they going?” Victory asked indicating the other cars.

“They are going their own way to try and find their families,” Hunter said.

“What about mom and dad?” Lily’s little sister asked across Victory.

Lily shook her head slowly as tears spilled down her cheeks.  Her little sister started to cry which only made Lily cry harder so little sounds of sorrow accompanied her tears.  I patted her shoulder awkwardly. I wished I was her boyfriend and could just hug her, but I wasn’t. Hunter noted my hand on Lily’s shoulder, but he didn’t say anything.  He turned his attention back to Victory.

“Mom and dad?” Victory asked Hunter.

“They didn’t make it,” Hunter’s voice almost sounded strong until the last moment when it hitched.

“But mom . . .” Victory’s voice trailed off.

“She didn’t turn into a zombie,” Hunter said.  “I think when she saw dad turn, she just let the zombies . . .” He couldn’t continue.  Tears were now freely falling down his cheeks. Large tears fell from Victory’s eyes.

“We’ve got to get out of town now and find Grace and Tanner,” Hunter finally said.

Victory nodded and wiped away the tears on her cheeks.

“Do you want to keep driving or do you want me to?” Hunter asked her.

Victory’s eyes darted behind the cars – Monica was waiting behind me for us to move.

“Zombies,” she said.

We all turned and looked at a large group of zombies running towards us down the street.  They looked like the last group we had led away. I guessed we hadn’t led them far enough away.

“I’ll keep driving,” Victory said.

“Follow us,” Hunter told her.  “Don’t try to take the lead.”

She looked disappointed, but nodded her accord.

Hunter reached passed Maria and her mother and tapped the back of my seat.  “Head to the freeway,” he said.

That was when Maria’s mother started to convulse.  Her eyes rolled into the back of her head so only the whites showed.

“No, mom,” Maria pleaded.  Tears spilled from her eyes as she grabbed onto her mom’s shoulders and shook her.  Hunter didn’t hesitate as he opened the passenger side door as the zombies got closer.  He pulled the convulsing woman over the crying Maria. Maria tried to pull her mom back from Hunter’s grasp, but Lily grabbed her arm.  Tears streamed from her eyes too. Maria let go and Hunter was able to drag her mother from the car.

“It’s too late, Maria,” Lily cried.  “It’s too late.”

Just as she said that Maria’s mom stopped convulsing, but her eyes flashed open with green in her pupils and a snarl on her lips.  Hunter stabbed her through the temple. He hopped back into the car just as the first of the zombies began to circle Monica’s car.

I sped away.  Victory followed us and Monica followed her.  Maria silently cried while my mom hugged her. I kept looking in my rear and side mirrors to make sure we didn’t lose the others.  We soon lost the crowd of zombies as we drove through the streets that would take us to the freeway.

We passed the high school on the way to the freeway entrance.  My foot lifted off the gas pedal. Written on the school – almost glowing – were the words RU in?  The glow was mesmerizing, enticing. The words seemed to pop away from the building and dance in front of my eyes.

The words pulled to me.  I had to know what it meant.  I wanted to scream, ‘Yes, I’m in.’

“Keep driving,” Hunter’s voice broke through my trance.

“But,” I started, but didn’t know exactly what to say.  I just knew I had to check it out. I had to.

“Keep driving,” Lily’s voice pleaded, but it sounded far away and didn’t really register with me.  My foot moved to the brake and I slowed down as I watched the glowing, dominating letters.

“Darren!”

My head spun in Hunter’s direction.  He was leaning over the others, standing hunched over in the car staring directly into my eyes.

“Keep driving,” he commanded.

I nodded and moved my foot from the brake back to the gas and kept driving.  We passed the high school without any further delay and I got on the freeway.

Wait.  When Hunter had commanded me, were his eyes gray?  I glanced at him quickly. He looked back. His eyes were the dark brown they had always been.  It must have been my imagination. Eye color didn’t just change like that.

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