Chapter 17 .

Lily

We had only been driving on the freeway five minutes when the sky flashed green again.  Goosebumps formed on my arms. I suddenly felt nauseous. The first time that happened the zombie apocalypse started.  What would this second green flash mean?

The car’s engine sputtered and then completely shut off.  The car crawled to a stop.

“What’s happening?” Darren’s mother asked.

Maria hadn’t stopped crying since her mother turned.  She sat between Hunter and Mrs. Smith.

I looked in the side mirror.  The van and car that Victory and Monica drove stopped behind us.  Darren tried to restart the car, but it wouldn’t start.

“Lily,” Hunter said behind me, “is your phone working?”

I pulled it out of my pocket.  The screen was dark. I tried various things to pull up anything on my phone – to just get it off that dark screen, but nothing worked including the power button.  “The battery must have died,” I said except I knew the last time I looked at it there was plenty of battery life.

“Mine’s dead too,” Mrs. Smith said.  

“Was it something like an EMP?” I asked.

“EMP’s don’t look like a green flash,” Mrs. Smith said.

“And they don’t cause zombie apocalypses either, but that’s what happened tonight,” Hunter snapped.

“What is happening?” Maria wailed.  She held her forehead in her hands.

“Maybe the car will start up in a few minutes,” Darren offered.

“Maybe if this was a normal EMP,” Hunter said, “but it’s not.”  He got out of the car and started walking to the van. I quickly followed him.

Victory got out of the van and ran to Hunter throwing her arms around his waist.  Mackenzie did the same when she saw me.

“It’s going to be okay,” I said quietly in her hair even though I wasn’t sure I believed it.

“The van stopped,” she said.  

“I know,” I said.  “The car did too.”

The other three kids and the labrador retriever clambered out of the back of the van.  Arthur hugged me and Mackenzie while the other two boys hugged Hunter and Victory. Molly ran around us in circles.  She didn’t bark or make any noise other than her paws on the asphalt.

“What’s going on?” Grant asked as he and the others got out of their car.  Darren, his mother and Maria were now standing behind us. Maria had wiped her tears away and was no longer crying.  I didn’t know Monica well – tonight was the most I’d ever talked with her – but I decided I liked her when she came and wrapped a comforting arm around Maria’s shoulders.  Richard went to stand next to Darren and his mom. Mrs. Smith gave Grant’s dad a dangerous look. He didn’t get too close.

“Your car shut down too I’m guessing,” Hunter said as he hugged Victory and the boys.

“Yes,” Grant said.  “What was that green flash?”

“It happened before,” I said.  “That’s when the zombies first started.”

“Then what did it do this time?”

“Obviously shut down the electronics,” Hunter said, but he added quietly, “idiot.”  Me and the kids were the only ones who heard him.

Molly whined and put her forepaws on my back.  It was more of a push than just jumping on me.

“We can’t stay on the freeway,” Hunter said.  “We’ll be obvious targets.”

“But all the stuff we packed,” Victory said.

“We’ll have to carry it as best we can,” Hunter said.  He went to the van with Victory and the littlest boys. I opened the back of the hatchback.  Carrying the canned foods and the water was not going to be easy, but we needed both. Darren, Richard, Maria and Mrs. Smith stood behind me and Mackenzie as we began to pull out items.  The camping items were easier to carry as they were already packed. We divided the food and the water so we all carried a little bit of each. I liked this because not only did it divide the weight between us, if something happened to one of us, the rest of us wouldn’t be without food and water.

We took off our jackets and made them into packs.  Even Arthur and the little boys carried something. Grant and his dad looked like they wanted to complain, but couldn’t as even the children were willing to help out.

“What are your names?”  I crouched low in front of the two little boys.

“Juan,” the older of the boys said.

“Marcos,” the littlest one said.  I didn’t think he was older than 3.

“How old are you?” Maria asked as she crouched down next to me.

“Seven,” the older one said.

The younger one held up 3 fingers.

“Don’t worry,” I stood up straight and took the littlest one’s hands.  “We are going to take care of you now. We are all family.”

“Let’s get off the freeway,” Hunter said.  He led the way off the freeway into the woods.

We walked silently among the trees for about a half hour before Grant’s dad said, “Maybe we should rest.  It’s been a long day.”

I was extremely tired and the way Marcos’s feet shuffled and stumbled on the forest floor I knew he was too.  But I didn’t want to sleep and wake up to zombies killing all of us.

We all looked at Hunter expectantly.

“I’m hungry,” little Marcos said.

“Do you think the zombies will be attracted to fire?” Monica asked as she stood next to Grant and his dad.  “Or do they just have to see or hear humans?”

Hunter shrugged.  “I don’t know. We’ll keep the fire low and take turns with the watch.”

He put down the pack he was carrying.

“We can’t camp here,” Grant’s dad said.  “We need an open space to set up the tents.”

Hunter arched a dark eyebrow at him.  “We’ll have more cover here. It will be harder for zombies to spot us.  And we will be free to run if they do happen to find us. I don’t want to be trapped in a tent.”

“Where are we going to sleep then?  Just in the open? On the ground?” Grant’s dad challenged.

“It’s not like you were going to be on a luxurious bed in a tent,” Mrs. Smith said as if he was a complete idiot – which it seemed like he was.  She put down her own makeshift pack and cleared a space for her to settle down. She pulled the two youngest boys with her and Darren and Richard settled down around them.  They got up when they saw me and Mackenzie gathering firewood. Maria and Monica dug through the food and brought out cans of soup.

Victory took out a pan while Hunter started a fire.  We arranged our sleeping spots while the soup cooked..  When the soup was done we ate – we passed around the pan and we each had our own spoon to save on washing dishes – we discussed who would take watch.

Hunter and Grant would take the first shift – mainly because we trusted Hunter to be able to do it by himself and we didn’t trust Grant.  Victory insisted she take a shift too and then Mackenzie wanted to do it with her, but Grant and his dad didn’t trust two young girls to have a watch alone so Richard volunteered to do the second watch with them.

Mrs. Smith and Grant’s dad would take the next watch.  Monica and Maria would follow and Darren and I would take the last watch.

Darren washed the dishes when we were through and all of us except for Hunter and Grant settled down to sleep.  I thought I was going to have a hard time sleeping on the cold ground, but I slept well. My body jerked awake when Maria gently nudged me.  My body ached all over and it wasn’t just because I had slept on the ground. I had fought off a lot of zombies. My muscles had worked more than they were used to.  If this was the new world we lived in, my muscles had to get used to it.

It was still dark out.  I got up ignoring my stiff muscles.  Maria settled down in her original spot next to where I had just been.  Mackenzie was there too and Arthur and Molly. The dog settled protectively around Arthur and had her head on his stomach.  Her eyes opened when she heard me moving, but she didn’t move. Her eyes quickly shut.

Darren sat up with a start when Monica shook his shoulder.  He blinked up at her a few moments before he got up. I went to one end of the camp and he went to the other.

I looked out into the darkness of the trees and listened.  An owl hooted from somewhere in the distance. Crickets chirped.  A sat on the ground with my back against the tree. I looked over the camp to make sure everyone was where they were supposed to be.  Darren watched me. Our eyes met. He blushed and looked away quickly.

My eyes drifted back to the sleeping Hunter.  Streams of moonlight glistened down from between the leaves of the trees and settled on his face giving him a mystical silver aura.  It wasn’t fair that he was this handsome. It wasn’t fair that I found him this attractive and he couldn’t see me as more than a sister.

I tore my eyes away from Hunter and saw Darren looking at me once again.  He turned away but this time didn’t blush. I turned my attention back to the dark woods beyond the camp.  I listened carefully, but didn’t hear any indication of movement out there in the dark.

There was a sudden desire to tell my mom that Hunter was my friend again, but that he couldn’t return my crush. Pain ripped through me when I remembered she was dead.  That my dad was dead. Stinging tears came to my eyes before I could stop them. There was a painful lump swelling in the back of my throat making it difficult to swallow.  How could this be life now? Only hours earlier we had been preparing for our Halloween night, me helping Mackenzie, dad and mom making sure their cowboy/cowgirl costumes matched perfectly.  Dad had taken mom’s hands and they had danced in the living room with laughs on their tongues and joy in their eyes. They must have felt such terror when the zombies first started unless…what if my mom had been one of the first ones to collapse.  What if my dad had gone to help her and hold her only to see her awaken and attack him. Or what if he had seen the zombies bite my mom. What if he had tried to stop them and in turn got bit. Or what if it was the opposite and my dad had got attacked first and my mom had tried to help him.  

I suppressed a sob and wiped the tears roughly away.  I had to be strong for Mackenzie and the others. I couldn’t allow myself a moment of distraction in this zombie filled world.

A shadowed human form was suddenly there just beyond our camp.  Just enough for me to see the shape, but not enough for me to discern features.  I jumped to my feet and readied my ax.

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