Chapter 16 .

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I had an uneasy sense of dread as we waited behind the multitude of cars on the freeway.  All lanes, medians and emergency lanes were filled with stopped cars trying to abandon the cities.  I wasn’t sure where everyone was going. All cities would be the same. I knew where we were going – to the diner near the freeway to find my sisters and Grace’s siblings.

I called Lily again and held the phone to my ear.  I waited, but I didn’t even get the all circuits were busy message.  It was only silence. I tried to call Hunter with the number Grace had given me, but the results were the same.

“I can’t get through,” I said to Grace.

“Try my phone,” she said.

“I can’t get through to anyone either,” Connor said.

“Me neither,” Camila and Todd said at the same time.

“I’ll try Grace’s phone,” I said.  I took her phone from her purse and tried to call Hunter first.  I encountered the same issue. It didn’t sound like it was even trying to ring.  I tried my parents and Lily’s number with the same results.

It was dark outside except for the car lights.  There were cars in front of us, behind us and beside us.  Dr. Higgins truck was directly in front of us. Dr. Smith and Dr. Patel still rode with him.  The students that had been with him were now in their own car stopped beside the truck. It had been a half hour and traffic hadn’t moved at all.

“It would be faster if we got out and walked,” Camila grumbled.

“What if traffic starts moving as soon as we get out?” Connor asked.

We waited in silence for a few minutes before Grace said, “Maybe we can convince those behind us to backup and we can take side streets or something.”

She didn’t sound too thrilled with that idea and I wasn’t exactly thrilled with it either.  Side streets meant going through towns where we were more likely to encounter zombies. But as it was, we were at a complete standstill.

None of us said anything to her suggestion.

There was a scream from somewhere to the front of us.  We all stiffened. I gave Grace her bow and arrows and grabbed my baseball bat.  The people in the back tightened their hold on their weapons. We waited. There was a moment of silence and then more screams from up ahead.  A few people got out of their cars and passed us as they ran back in the direction we had come from. Terror was on all of their faces. Some carried children, some had weapons or backpacks, but they all ran away.

Grace and I exchanged a glance.  I grabbed her purse, she grabbed her 24 hour kit and we both got out of the car.  Camila, Todd and Connor followed our lead. I couldn’t see what was happening up ahead, but I could guess from the throngs of people getting out of their cars and running our way.

Dr. Harris, Dr. Patel and Dr. Smith scrambled from the truck.

“Run!” Dr. Harris yelled to us and the students in the car next to them.  Dr. Patel crouched and Dr. Smith scrambled onto his back. Dr. Harris carried their weapons as they ran to the concrete barrier to the side of the freeway instead of running along the freeway like everyone else was.  Connor started to run with everyone else, but I grabbed his shoulder and moved him so he faced the barriers.

“That way,” I said.  The students that came with us and our group of friends were the only ones who followed the doctors to the side and over the concrete barriers.  We ran across the grass field as more screams came from the freeway behind us. Dr. Harris had a hand on Dr. Smith’s back to support her as she bounced on Dr. Smith’s back.

“Holy shit,” Connor mumbled breathless.  I turned to him. He had stopped to stare back at the freeway.  I grabbed his arm to pull him along with us, but I froze when I saw the freeway.  There were hundreds of them. Zombies. Chasing the fleeing motorists. They would catch them, bite them and move on to catch more while the ones they just bit spasmed, changed and chased after the retreating humans.

The few humans that had chosen to remain in their vehicles soon regretted it as the zombies pounded on the windshields until the glass broke.  They obviously didn’t feel pain like we did as they used their arms and fists and didn’t care what broken bones or bruises or cuts they received in the process.  The humans didn’t have anywhere to go as the zombies climbed in and bit them.

“Run!” Grace screamed at me just as a group of the zombies on the freeway saw us or heard us and stumbled over the concrete barriers to come after us.  I tugged on the sleeve of Connor’s shirt. I ran after the others with Connor beside me. There was a treeline ahead of us.

“We can hide from them in there,” Dr. Harris yelled back to us as he and the other Dr.’s rushed to the trees.  I wasn’t sure that would work, but right now we didn’t have a choice.

The groans of the zombies echoed in the night behind us.  They didn’t get closer, but we weren’t out running them either.  The Dr.’s hit the treeline first. They stuck together as they veered to the left and forward after they passed the first few trees.  The other students ran through the trees and veered to the right. I wasn’t sure splitting up was a good idea, but I had never been in this position before so maybe it was a great idea.  Maybe it would divide and confuse the zombies trailing after us. Todd and Camila came to the trees first and they veered to the left after the professors. Grace, Connor and I followed them.  

We could see the professors up ahead, but it was getting more difficult to see them as the trees got thicker and blocked out the stars and moon making it even darker.  I wondered if the zombies could see in the dark. I wasn’t willing to take the chance that they couldn’t. We needed to find cover.

Camila faltered.  Todd grabbed her arm to help steady her.  We caught up to them and we ran together. I could no longer see the professors or hear the other students.  There were groans and footsteps somewhere behind us, but it didn’t sound like they were directly behind us.

There was a bird calling out somewhere.  We all ignored it except Grace who paused.  I reached out and took her hand. I tried to pull her along with us, but she wouldn’t move.  The others noticed and stopped as they motioned desperately for her to follow. She put one finger up to her lips motioning for us to be quiet.

The bird called again.  Only then did I realize we hadn’t heard any type of animal or insect until that moment and birds didn’t usually sing at night.

She clasped my hand tighter, but pulled me slightly to the right where the bird sound was coming from.  The others followed us. I could still hear other footsteps and groans, but I couldn’t tell which direction they were coming from and it didn’t sound like they were getting any closer.

We came upon a small clearing with a cabin.  A small road led up to it, but there was no car parked in front of it.  It was dark through the windows. All the windows were closed except one.  The bird call rang out again. It came from the open window. Then Dr. Harris’s head poked out and he looked all around.  He saw us and waved us over. The professors made it. At least so far. I hoped the other students had figured out the bird call like Grace had.

We didn’t need anymore encouragement.  We ran the short distance to the cabin window.  Grace clambered in first followed by Camila, Todd, Connor and myself.  Dr. Patel and Dr. Smith stood nearby in the dark cabin.

“Where are the other students,” Dr. Patel whispered to us.

“They went the other way,” Grace whispered back.

Dr. Harris leaned his head out the window and made the bird sound again.  He immediately pulled back inside and slid the window closed. “Zombies,” he whispered and as if to confirm it, a groan came from somewhere outside.

Dr. Harris motioned us away from the windows.  We all tiptoed so our backs were against the walls.  We waited in silence as the groan got closer and there was shuffling footsteps at the window Dr. Harris had just been at.

“How many?” Grace silently mouthed to Dr. Harris.  He held up one finger in reply.

Grace nodded and slipped passed me towards the window.  My first inclination was to pull her back, but I didn’t.  I trusted her. The zombie’s footsteps shuffled passed the window.  Grace slid the window open just slightly. The zombie moaned and shuffled back to the window.

Grace’s arm shot out fast and pulled the zombie head in that small space of the open window.  The zombie tried to bite her arm, but she was already moving. The screwdriver she had in her other hand came down hard into the zombie’s temple.  Blood splattered on the windowsill, her arm and hand and the screwdriver. She withdrew the screwdriver and pushed the zombie head back outside. The body crumbled below the window.  I moved beside Grace as she stared out at the dead body.

A scream pierced the night, but it didn’t sound close.  It was followed by more screams and then silence. I didn’t realize Grace and I both held our breaths until we collectively let out a sigh.  

It was at that moment that the sky flashed green for the second time that night.  I didn’t see it the first time, but Connor had told me about it. I saw it this time.  Goosebumps formed on my arms and the hair at the back of my neck stood up.

“That’s foreboding,” Dr. Smith whispered.

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