My parents were dead. When I went off to college, I never thought that would be the last time I saw them. I had spoken to my mom earlier on Halloween day and I had spoken with my dad just a few days prior to that. And now I would never hear them or see them again.
I sat between my sisters on the bed. The three of us had been crying together for a long time. I wasn’t even sure how long. We couldn’t even go back to give our parents a proper burial.
Lily sighed heavily and wiped the tears away from her cheeks. She and Mackenzie had been sobbing not that long ago. Honestly, I had been too. It was tiring to cry. It was tiring to be in so much pain. Our sobbing had finally stopped to a slow trail of tears that continued to trickle from our eyes to our cheeks.
“You did a good job getting everyone here,” I said to Lily.
“You too,” she said.
I gave her a look.
“What?” she asked. “You’re only a year older than me, don’t act like it was easier for you than for me.”
“Okay,” I said. I wiped the remaining tears away from my cheeks. “Are we ready to go back out and see everyone?”
“You’re really dating Grace?” Mackenzie asked.
“Yeah,” I said.
“That’s good,” Mackenzie said. “I like her.”
“I’m glad you approve,” I said. Her words and thoughts of Grace warmed a small spot in my grieving heart. I still couldn’t believe the world had come to this and had taken my parents from me.
“Yeah,” Lily said, “Let’s go out and see how everyone else is doing.”
The hallway was empty when we went out. There was talking and giggling coming from the living room. We made our way there. Almost everyone was there. Richard, Monica and Darren chased the three boys around the room. The boys laughed as they ran. Molly jumped and ran between them excited and playful. Hunter stood by the wall watching them. Grace sat next to Victory. Mrs. Anderson sat next to Mrs. Smith. Jin sat next to Maria and spoke quietly to each her. I hadn’t directly asked Lily, but I was assuming their other best friend – Anna – didn’t make it or she would have been with them. Unless, she had gone somewhere with her family. I didn’t think that was the case though. The rest of my group were absent.
“Were are the others?” I asked as I went and sat next to Grace. Her eyes were bloodshot and swollen as mine probably were. I entwined my fingers with hers as I took her hand.
“I’m not sure,” she said and squeezed my hand.
I wanted to discuss what we planned to do next. Connor and Camila wanted to go after their families. I wanted to help them, but I also didn’t want to take my sisters out among the zombies again and I wasn’t about to leave them behind. And I wasn’t sure what Grace wanted to do. Did we stay here and wait out the winter or travel with Connor and Camila or venture out and find our own place to hold out the winter? I’d prefer not to discuss it in the presence of vampires, but this was their place and chances were they’d be able to hear everything we discussed anyway regardless if they were in the room or not. Gunnor smirked at me from across the room as if he could read my mind. I didn’t like it.
The rest of my group came into the doorframe. I wasn’t the only one who noticed. All eyes turned to them. Even the boys stopped playing to watch them.
“Are you hungry?” Mrs. Anderson asked. She and Mrs. Smith stood up.
“No,” Camila said and waved them to sit back down.
“We’ve been discussing what we are going to do,” Connor said.
“The three of us are going to head out,” Camila said and indicated herself, Connor and Todd.
“The three of you? Why?” asked Mrs. Anderson.
“Well, they need to find their families and I want to help them since I can’t get to my family,” Todd said.
“Why can’t you get to your family?” Arthur asked. Molly sat by his feet and panted as she looked up at him.
“My family is in Taiwan,” he said.
“We were talking,” Camila said, “and our towns are close to each other so we are going to go together.”
I wasn’t sure I liked the idea of them being out of my sight, but I couldn’t keep them here if that was their decision. I stood up. “Thanks for helping me come all this way to find my family even though you didn’t have to,” I said.
“Do you want us to go with you?” Grace asked.
I didn’t say anything because I would take my family and follow her anywhere, but I didn’t think that was wise.
“No,” Connor said. “You just found your families and you need to concentrate on keeping them safe. Thanks for the offer though.”
“You’re not going to go with them?” I asked Dr. Higgins and Dr. Patel.
“We discussed it,” Dr. Patel said, “but you have children with you and we thought the more people you have to protect them the better, so we decided to stay.”
That was true. It wasn’t just my family. Lily and Hunter had brought in these children and protected them all this way. Their families were dead now too. They wouldn’t have anyone without us.
“When are you leaving?” Grace asked. She stepped forward and took Camila’s hands in hers.
“Right now,” Camila said. “While it’s still daylight.”
That I was not expecting.
“But,” Grace started, but Camila cut her off.
“We can’t do anything more to help you now. And we are anxious to find out about our families.”
“The zombies are still out there,” Hunter said. “They aren’t getting closer, but if they see you leave, they might follow and then try to attack when they are away from the vampires.”
“I can lead them out,” Gunnor offered. “Then it shouldn’t be a problem.”
“We should give them as many supplies as they can carry then,” Mrs. Anderson said. She and Mrs. Smith got up and went into the kitchen. Lily and Monica followed them.
“I thought I’d have more time to prepare myself,” Grace said. She pulled Camila into a hug. “We’ve only known each other a few months, but you’ve been a great friend to me. I’m going to miss you.”
“I’m going to miss you too,” Camila said.
A thick silence filled the room. The two of them had their heads buried in the other one’s shoulder and I knew they were crying.
“Be safe,” Grace whispered as she stroked Camila’s hair.
“I will. You stay safe too and keep your family safe.”
“I will,” Grace said.
Connor and I looked awkwardly at each other. We had been roommates and I would consider him a friend, but we obviously weren’t as close as Camila and Grace. And Todd had been more of an acquaintance borderline friend before the zombies happened, but we had been through a lot together since then. I was worried about all of them. And the worst part was that I wouldn’t know if they were safe or not. There wasn’t a way to communicate with them. They would just leave and disappear and that would be it.
Finally I pulled them both Connor and Todd into a hug and said, “Stay safe and keep each other safe.”
“We will,” they said at the same time.
We pulled away from the hug while Grace and Camila still embraced each other. Finally, they pulled away.
We had left our bikes and packs outside up against the house. I followed them out. Grace, Dr. Patel and Dr. Higgins came out too. Mackenzie, Hunter and Victory followed us out. The rest stayed inside.
They took three bikes and we divided up the supplies. We gave them all that we thought they would need. While we were doing that, Mrs. Anderson, Mrs. Smith, Lily, Monica and Gunnor came out with more supplies, food and ropes. They had a supply of guns they gave out to the three of them. They still had the bows and arrows and knives for closer combat.
“Be careful,” Lily told them. “There is a large group of men out there.”
“Oh, right,” Monica said. “They are really creepy. I think they just want to take the women of groups they come across and kill the men. We killed one of them, but Lily said she Hunter and Darren found more of them in the woods.”
“I guess you should avoid humans and zombies,” I said.
“And now we know other supernatural creatures like vampires exist,” Camila said.
“Best just to avoid everyone and stick to yourselves,” Mrs. Smith said.
The three of them nodded their heads.
“Come,” Gunnor said when they were all packed. “I will lead you out and tell you how to recognize certain beings you should stay away from. And under no circumstance should you go to one of those RU in? cafes. Understand?”
“Yes,” they said.
Camila took Grace’s hand one last time.
“Go find your families,” Grace said.
I placed an arm around Grace’s shoulders as we waved goodbye to them.
“I hope they will be okay,” Grace said quietly.
“They have to be,” I said because that was what I needed to believe. With no way to know if something was wrong with them or not, I decided to believe they were always going to be alright.