Chapter 25 .

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There were smears of blood along the asphalt and along the vehicles as we made our way back to the nearest town.  I pretended I didn’t notice the severed fingers near the tires of a car. I wasn’t sure if the others saw them and just pretended not to or if the others really didn’t see them.  Tension was in the air as we watched our surroundings for any sign of the zombies. We were silent except for our footsteps. We paused when we came upon the off ramp.  

There had been an accident here.  Several cars were smashed together.  Some of them still had bodies inside.  We didn’t get too close, but since the bodies were still and there were no zombie groans, I figured they were truly dead and not undead.  Until there was tapping on one of the car windows. In one of the backseats of a heavily damaged car were two girls. They looked similar in age to Mackenzie and it tore at my heart.  The older one – she seemed slightly older than Mackenzie, but younger than Lily – had dried blood on her forehead. The younger one who I guessed was Mackenzie’s age, had a large, bloody scrape on her chin.  There were unmoving bodies in the passenger’s and driver’s seat in the front. The girls were both crying as they tapped on the window. The driver’s side of the car was completely smashed against another car.  The girls couldn’t get out that way. And the back door on the passenger side was bent inwards as if another car had hit it. There was a rolled over SUV not too far away. Maybe it had hit their car and rolled away, or maybe it had hit their door in the process of rolling away.

I didn’t realize I moved towards them until Connor grabbed my forearm.  “Where are you going?”

“Shh,” several of those around us shushed him.

There was a zombie groan somewhere in the distance.  It was greeted by several others. They were all at a distance, but it was only a matter of time until they would arrive here to investigate the talking.

I pointed to the girls in the car.  We had to hurry and get them out. Connor released my arm and whispered, “Hurry.”

I sprinted to the car and tried the door handle.  It wouldn’t open. I tried the front passenger door.  I figured it was better for them to crawl over their dead mother than remain in that backseat.  However, the front door wouldn’t open either. Their brown eyes stared up at me by the glass, hopeful, imploring me to help them.  I motioned for them to scoot back and held up my bat. They scooted to the other side. I readied the bat and swung as hard as I could.  The glass shattered and broke inwards. A hole formed in the glass, but not big enough for the girls to fit through and the shards still sticking up would be dangerous for them.  I hit the glass again and got rid of the shards sticking out. There were zombie groans all around us now and getting closer.

“Hurry,” Camila urged.

Grace and Todd were directly behind me now ready to help.

“Come on,” I said and waved to the girl that looked to be Mackenzie’s age.  She reached for me and I carefully helped her out of the car window with Todd and Grace’s help.

Grace took her hand when she was out and on her feet.  Together they went to stand next to Camila, but the little girl watched anxiously from that distance as I pulled her older sister out of the car.  The older sister’s dark skin had an ashen sheen to it.

Her leg hit the car frame and she screamed.  Several zombies groaned loudly in reply. It was only then that I noticed her leg was twisted.  Broken. I waved Connor over because honestly, he hadn’t been much help against the zombies yet.  I trusted anyone else to defend us against the zombies over him. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to help, he had just frozen every time.

“Carry her on your back,” I said.  “Her leg is broken.”  

Connor turned his back and crouched slightly.  I helped her get on his back just as a zombie came into view from further up the freeway.  He groaned loudly as if to alert other zombies. And other zombies answered him. He rushed us.  Grace swung her bow off her back, cocked an arrow and let it fly. It embedded directly into the zombie’s forehead.

I had completely forgotten she had the bow and arrow which was strange because that was her thing.  I was a terrible boyfriend.

“Let’s go,”she urged and waved me forward.  Connor sprinted back to the group with the girl on her back.  She let out little whimpers as she bounced up and down with Connor’s movement.  I ran beside Connor and placed a hand on the girl’s back to help steady her. That seemed to help a little.

Two zombies ran toward us coming from further down the offramp we were on.  Dr. Higgins used his bow and arrow on the first one, but he missed the head and it landed in the shoulder.  Dr. Patel had been running beside Dr. Higgins with Dr. Smith on his back, but as the two zombies got closer, he slowed down slightly to be behind Dr. Higgins.  Todd stepped forward and tried to use his bow and arrow, but he also missed. It skidded along the asphalt behind the zombie. Both men drew their knives as we all continued to run down the offramp.  More zombies came from the freeway behind us and charged down the off ramp. Grace shot another one in the head with an arrow.

The first zombie in front stretched his claw like fingers towards Todd.  Todd sidestepped at the last moment and kicked his leg out in front of the zombie.  The zombie fell on its face. The zombie didn’t bother to break it’s fall so his cheek and chin were scraped badly.  He didn’t notice the wounds as he started to rise. Todd jumped on his back, pinning his shoulders to the ground with his knees and brought the knife down into the back of the skull using both of his hands.  It buried down to the hilt.

The second zombie in front of us ran into Dr. Higgins.  Dr. Higgins stuffed his knife directly upwards into the zombie’s open mouth.  He retracted his knife just as Todd pulled his out of the skull. The rest of us ran around them.  They quickly followed and Dr. Higgins sped passed us to be in the front once again.

Grace shot another arrow behind us.  Another zombie fell to the road as the arrow went straight in her head.

Two more zombies came at us from the front.  Zombie groans surrounded us. It sent the hairs on the back of my neck straight up.  Dr. Higgins didn’t hesitate as he sidestepped the first zombie and buried the bloody knife in the temple.  It was Camila this time who killed the next zombie by rushing up to the charging zombie, kicked hard at her knee so she stumbled and then grabbed the zombie’s hair to tilt the head up and bury her knife in the zombie’s eye.

The girl Mackenzie’s age ran alongside Connor.  She kept looking up at her sister with a clear expression of worry.  She stumbled a few times, but since I was behind Connor to help steady the girl on his back, I could also help the younger girl when she stumbled to keep her on her feet.

We came to the end of the off ramp and onto the first street.  There was a car accident here too, but more concerning were the several zombies in the streets.  They were already groaning, but as soon as we came into their view, their guttural groans got louder.  The crowd of them rushed us. Dr. Higgins veered off the street and onto the grass. We as a group followed him.  Grace let loose several more arrows in the zombies chasing us, but it was starting to slow her down and she was already at the back.  I removed my hand momentarily from the girl on Connor’s back to tug at Grace to follow along quicker.

Grace frowned, but she lowered her bow and focused on running.  I couldn’t afford to lose her. Things weren’t looking too good for any of us right now.  The girl’s arms around Connor’s neck loosened and fell to her sides. She started to fall backwards as her eyes closed, but I held her upright with my hand.  She must have fainted from the pain of her broken leg being bounced around.  

The younger sister noticed her sister’s limp form and she started sobbing.  The audible sounds mingled with the zombie groans.

Camila took the girl’s hand.  “It’s going to be okay,” she whispered as she pulled the little girl with her.  “It’s going to be okay,” but now it sounded like she was trying to convince herself more than the girl.

Dr. Patel with Dr. Smith fell back next to me.  Dr. Smith placed her hand next to mine on the limp girl’s back.  “Go help the others fend off the zombies,” Dr. Smith said. “I’ll steady the girl.”

I nodded and released my hand from the girl’s back.  I gripped my bat with both hands. As if knowing what we had just discussed, a zombie came out from the right and lunged towards Dr. Patel and Dr. Smith.  I swung my bat hard at it’s head. My hands vibrated with the impact and I heard the skull break. The zombie fell to the ground tripping the next one. It allowed our group a small distance between us and the zombies, but that small gap was quickly being filled as more zombies saw us from side streets and chased after us.

We ran and ran along the streets, in front of buildings, across new streets.  Dr. Patel and Connor were quickly tiring.

I glanced at Grace.  She shot of another arrow, but at least this time she was aware of her own speed and made sure not to slow down.  Her brown eyes met mine and I knew she was contemplating the same thing I was. I didn’t want to abandon our friends, the professors, or the girls, but we had made an agreement that we and our families came first above everything else.  Maybe it was time to veer away from the main group. I was confident we could survive if it was just me and Grace.

I looked back at Connor, my roommate since the beginning of the year.  He could be annoying at times and never picked up his clothes. He froze when the zombies attacked us, but he was now courageously carrying a girl on his back that he could easily drop to get away faster.  He didn’t. Even as his panting was heavy and desperate, even as the sweat dripped down his face, he wouldn’t let her go.

Todd sometimes had a difficult time communicating as English was a second language and he was more often shy at times than not, but he stayed with us, fought off the zombies even though he could probably make it alone.

And Camila, she had greeted with Grace with a warm hug the moment they had met.  I knew Grace was safe in the dorms because I knew she had Camila to watch out for her.  They watched out for each other. In high school, Grace didn’t have friends and I didn’t think she ever had a best friend as close as Camila had become.  Camila had come down those stairs to protect me from the zombies when I needed help. And even now, she guided the little girl along with her. She would occasionally kill one of the zombies if it got too close to her and the girl.

I didn’t know the professors well, but they had driven around the dorms to save the students.  Even now they didn’t abandon us. Even now Dr. Patel and Dr. Higgins did everything they could to save us.  Dr. Smith even held the girl up on Connor’s back.

But my sisters.  Lily and Mackenzie.  Mom and Dad. And Grace’s siblings, Hunter and Victory, and her parents.  We had to get to them. We had to.

I switched my bat so it was in one hand and took Grace’s free hand in mine.  We were almost to the next street. If we were going to do it, that would be the time.  

Dr. Higgins suddenly veered to the right, ran up the steps to a house and in through the open door.  Everyone followed. I noticed the blood that marked the floor, but we didn’t have time to worry about it.

Grace and I were the last ones inside and Dr. Higgins slammed the door shut as soon as we were inside.  Dr. Patel put Dr. Smith back on her feet and Todd helped Connor put the girl on a couch.

The zombies pounded on the closed door and groaned.  Groans answered from inside the house.

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