The zombies moaned, teeth bared, fingers clawed out towards us. They never got too close though. Not as long as Gunnor was with us. He led the way through the woods while the rest of us pushed bikes through the few inches of snow.
“You really should have obtained sleds instead of bikes for the snow,” Gunnor chastised us.
“Bikes will come in handy when we ride on a snowless road,” Hunter said.
“But we’re just starting winter,” Gunnor pointed out. “There might not be snowless roads for several months.”
“Sleds are hard to maneuver through the trees and someone would have to pull them. Bikes are difficult, but still more practical.”
Gunnor sighed. “We should go to the store, get sleds and I can pull all of you. I understand that you all are too weak, but I’m not.”
“We’d still have to maneuver through the trees,” Hunter said.
“We could just travel on the roads,” Gunnor said. “I understand you wanting to stay hidden from zombies before, but they won’t get close with me here. They shouldn’t have gotten close to you either,” he said to Hunter and Grace. “Your dragon blood should keep them at bay. They seem only interested in humans.”
“We are mostly human,” Grace said.
“The zombies come after us too,” Hunter said, “unless, we show our dragon eyes. That is the only time they haven’t come for me. And even then, when there were a lot of them and they were already chasing our group, our dragon eyes didn’t really stop them from chasing our group. If it had just been me and Victory though, I’m sure that would have stopped them.”
“When your eyes turn gray, they don’t attack you?” I asked because that was the first time I heard about that.
“Yeah,” he said. “I wasn’t sure at first, but when we first went to Monica’s party to save our friends, the sliding glass door to the backyard was open.”
“I remember,” I said.
“I went ahead of the rest of you to close it. A zombie passed by right at that moment and looked at me. I changed my eyes to the dragon eyes and it passed on by as if it didn’t see me.”
“Even if the zombies won’t get close to us because of Gunnor,” I said, “that still leaves those men in the forest. Wait, were they human or were they some type of strange being too?” I hadn’t known other beings had existed when I first saw them and it hadn’t occurred to me to wonder about them since. “Can you tell who is human and not?” I asked Hunter.
Zombie moans came from all around us as we got closer to the road. They heard us talking and that drew them to us, but they wouldn’t get too close. A wide circle of groaning zombies surrounded us. It caused the hairs on my arms and back of my neck to stand on end. I gripped the handle of my ax in my gloved hand. I noticed my brother held onto tightly to his baseball bat. More zombies joined the crowd of zombies attracted by the other zombies’ groans.
“It depends on what they are,” Hunter said. “The vampires have an aura about them that lets other supernatural creatures know of their presence without seeing them. It surrounded their mansion. That was why I tried to warn everyone not to go there.”
“It’s an aura that usually attracts humans, by the way,” Gunnor said, “unless we expressly don’t want to attract humans. We can use that aura to repulse humans if we so desire.”
“Werewolves have a certain smell to them,” Grace said. “It’s easy to know it’s them if you know what to look for…or smell for.”
“But seeing them from a distance without the smell, you wouldn’t know if they were human or not,” Hunter added. “The people in the RU in? cafes were a mix of humans and venefici. The humans were lured there like Darren was.”
Darren frowned at this and shuffled his feet. Richard put a comforting hand on his shoulder. Monica noted Richard’s movement and smiled slightly. Dr. Higgins’ eyes scanned the circle of zombies.
“I could tell right away who the venefici were mainly because their magic was so concentrated in those places. They are usually indiscernible from humans because they are usually solitary.”
“And they usually use their magic to blend in with humans,” Grace said. “In the past they have appeared just as humans with magic. Humans can use magic and have used it in the capacity of wiccans, shamans and a wide variety of other names whether they were aware they were using it or not. Venefici’s magic usually mimics human’s magic enough that people just think they are normal wiccans, shamans, etc. But they aren’t.”
“So you wouldn’t be able to tell if those men in the woods are venefici or not?” Monica asked as we continued forward and the groaning zombies followed or stayed ahead. They would not come any closer to the vampire.
“I think with that many in one concentrated place, I would be able to tell if they were mostly venefici,” Hunter said, “but I wouldn’t be able to tell if just one or two were venefici.”
“If we find what is causing the zombies and stop it somehow,” Monica asked, “whether it’s the venefici or some other supernatural creature or some government experiment gone wrong…,”
“That last one isn’t likely,” Grace muttered.
“…will the zombies turn back into humans?” Monica continued.
Grace and Hunter exchanged a knowing glance, but it was Gunnor that answered. “No,” he said. “The zombies aren’t humans who are just sick or simply turned into zombies. They died and then their empty husks turned into zombies. There are no souls inside them. They are walking corpses. Nothing to save.”
She nodded sadly. “I see,” she said without looking at anyone. Richard placed a hand on her shoulder much as he just had with Darren.
A flash of green light crossed the sky. We all stopped to stare as the green light faded. Chills ran down my spine and my stomach flipped. That was never good. I readied my ax and looked at the zombies half expecting them to attack with the green light. They didn’t. They maintained their distance.
“What do you suppose that did?” Dr. Higgins asked with a voice that dripped with dread.
“Nothing good,” Grace whispered as if she were afraid to bring attention to us.
A dog barked in the distance. A dog that sounded like Molly. But that was impossible because Molly was back at the mansion and we were far enough away now that we wouldn’t be able to hear her. We all froze except for Gunnor. He turned around and looked in the direction we had just come from as if he could see past the crowds of zombies.
“Help!” Arthur’s voice echoed across snow covered woods. “Hunter! Lily!”
Gunnor sped past us in a blur. Zombies flew into the air and an opening appeared.
Richard led the charge through the zombies. Monica fired her gun at the zombies. Richard pushed zombies back into other zombies rather than try to kill them with his knife. Dr. Higgins stabbed the zombies that tried to walk over the fallen zombies to get at Richard. Darren ran after Dr. Higgins. He helped stab more zombies while at the same time moving through the path that Gunnor made and Richard expanded.
Now that Gunnor was no longer in view, the circle of zombies quickly closed in around us, snarling, groaning, hands tugging on our coats until I swung my ax into their skulls and Tanner knocked them back with his bat.
“Ran faster!” Grace called out behind us as she and Hunter took up the rear.
As soon as Tanner and I passed the zombies, we turned to make sure Hunter and Grace made it too. Their eyes were gray like storm clouds, so according to Hunter’s past experiences, the zombies shouldn’t be going after them, but us instead. But this was not the case. Many zombie fingers clung onto Grace’s and Hunter’s thick coats. They saw the gray inhuman eyes and completely ignored what that was supposed to imply. Hunter’s knife buried deep into a zombie’s eye just as Grace buried her newly acquired knife into a zombie’s temple. They were in too close of proximity to the zombies to pull out their bows and arrows.
Tanner and I wordlessly ran back to help them even as more zombies ran past them to intercept us.
“Run!” Grace yelled to Tanner. “We’ll use lightning.”
Tanner grabbed my arm and pulled me back. We ran towards our retreating friends while we kept looking back over our shoulders to Grace and Hunter. Lightning streaked down from a cloudless sky directly upon Grace and Hunter. Tanner completely stopped moving and turned back to Grace with a pale face and trembling hands. The lightning sparked over Grace and Hunter, but neither acted like it bothered them in any way. The zombies that had been around them were scorched and blackened and unmoving. Grace and Hunter ran and caught up to us.
“Keep moving,” Hunter said as his gloved hand grabbed mine and pulled me forward. Grace did the same with Tanner. Zombie moans came from behind us. Multiple footsteps chased us in the snow. We had left our bikes and packs again, but we could come back to them once we had Gunnor with us again.
Through the woods, as the sunlight streaked between the boughs of the trees and sparkled across the snow, I saw my friends running and beyond them I saw Arthur on his back in the snow. Molly had a zombie child by the leg and was dragging her away from Arthur. A male zombie was on top of Arthur. It’s mouth was open to bite him inching forward for Arthur’s cheek. Arthur’s knife was in the zombie’s mouth, slicing the lips open, the cheeks. Coagulated blood oozed out and dripped in globs onto Arthur’s cheek.
Dozens of zombies were trying to get at Arthur, but the male zombie’s body was big enough and Arthur’s small enough underneath him, that the others couldn’t get to Arthur.
When she had dragged the girl zombie far enough away from Arthur, Molly let her go and ran back to Arthur. She bit into the ankle of another zombie that was almost to Arthur and started to drag him away using all of her muscle and will to do so.
That was when I realized there were several dead zombies around Arthur. Severed heads, bashed in skulls and then I saw the streak that was Gunnor and another zombie head rolled with the others.
Monica fired into one of the zombies around Arthur. Her aim was true and it fell dead. Hunter let go of my hand and notched an arrow to his bow. Grace did the same. Arrows were loosed and embedded into zombie heads. Molly went and grabbed another zombie to drag away from Arthur, but now the first two were moving back in. Arthur’s knife slid further into the zombie as it continued to try to bite Arthur. It’s lower jaw was now dislocated and almost completely severed, but it still tried to bite.
Gunnor’s blur continued to rip zombie heads from their bodies. I took out my gun and fired into the zombies that were approaching behind us. Tanner did the same. We were surrounded by zombies once again and this time they weren’t stopping even though Gunnor was with us and Hunter’s and Grace’s eyes were still gray.
Arthur’s knife went all the way through and cut the spine. The zombie dropped dead on top of him. It was only then that the ten year old broke down and started to cry. He left the dead zombie on top of him for protection.
Gunnor finished dispatching the zombies around Arthur and his blur moved onto the zombies behind us. I continued to fire because I assumed he wouldn’t let me hit him. Monica turned her gun to the zombies behind us as well and Hunter and Grace used their bows and arrows. Dr. Higgins took out his bow and arrow and used it now as well. He wasn’t as good as Grace and Hunter, but he was good enough.
Molly ran to Arthur and kissed the tears on his cheeks. She pulled away momentarily when she got a little bit of the zombie blood. She shook her head as if she had just tasted something truly disgusting before she went back to Arthur and nudged the clean spot on his cheek. Richard was there a moment later and pulled the dead zombie off Arthur. He grabbed Arthur’s arms and pulled him into a hug. He said something to him, but I couldn’t hear what it was over the gunfire.
Soon the zombie numbers dwindled greatly and we stopped firing. Gunnor ripped the head off of the last zombie as he finally stilled enough for me to actually see him as anything other than a blur.
Hunter, Grace and Dr. Higgins moved through the zombies to retrieve what arrows they could. We couldn’t really do the same with our bullets. I worried we had spent too many.
“What are you doing here?” Monica asked Arthur gently. His head was buried in Richard’s shoulder as Richard hugged him. Molly placed her canine head on Arthur’s shoulder to comfort him.
Arthur pulled away from Richard and wiped the remaining tears away from his cheek as well as the zombie blood. “I knew you wouldn’t let me come with you,” he said, “but I really thought you needed me and Molly. So we followed you. But then you had a ring of zombies around you and we couldn’t really catch up. And then more zombies started following you and there was another green flash in the sky and then some of the trailing zombies noticed me.”
“Should we take him back?” Dr. Higgins asked.
“No,” Arthur pleaded. “Please. You need us. I’ve been practicing with the bow and arrow.” He stood up and took his bow and notched an arrow. He aimed it at the zombie head furthest away and fired. It buried itself into the temple.
“Hitting a stationary object is a lot different than moving zombies,” Grace said gently.
“If you take me back, I’ll just try to follow you again,” Arthur said.
“Arthur,” Richard said gently, “you were almost killed just now.”
“That was because I was on my own and not with you guys. We’re stronger as a group.”
“Let him come,” Gunnor said. He moved next to Arthur and put a hand on his shoulder. “He can stay close to me. And I can teach him a little bit of magic like I do with Darren. Actually, Richard, Monica and Mike should be part of it too.”
“Who is Mike?” Monica asked.
Dr. Higgins raised his hand. “But I don’t know how you know. I didn’t tell you.”
“Maybe I can read minds,” he said with a mysterious look Hunter’s way. Then he smiled wide and said, “Naw, I just overheard you and Rey talking to each other in private,” he said to Dr. Higgins.
“Who is Rey?” Arthur asked.
“Dr. Patel,” Dr. Higgins answered. “I guess everyone might as well call me Mike then,” he said. “Titles don’t really mean anything out here.”
“I’ll relay to Jin that Arthur is with us so the others don’t worry,” Gunnor said.
“Why didn’t you get that zombie off me first?” Arthur asked him. His bottom lip trembled slightly, but then he sniffed and there were no signs that he was going to cry or that he was shaken up about it.
“Because, as weird as it sounds, his body was covering you so that other zombies couldn’t get to you,” Gunnor said. “I had to kill the others first so they wouldn’t get to you if his body was removed. Besides, you had that one handled,” he said confidently.
Arthur’s shoulders straightened a little at the words.
“So,” I said, “did that green flash of light mean the zombies attack everything now? Even Gunnor? Because the zombies attacked Grace and Hunter even though their eyes were the gray dragon eyes.”
“The zombies didn’t attack me,” Gunnor said. “But they didn’t give me space when I got close like they normally do either. I don’t think you can count on my presence alone to stop them.”
“So maybe it made them attack beings even if they have just a little bit of human in them,” Hunter said, “and that is why they attacked me and Grace.”
“If that’s the case,” Gunnor said, “then the werewolves are going to have a rude awakening because they are part human.”
“I tried to warn them the zombies would affect them whether they realized it or not,” Hunter said. “I just didn’t expect it to be like this.”