Chapter 18 .

Mackenzie

“Has anyone seen Arthur?” I asked those who were in the living room.  I had just asked Juan and Marcos who had been playing in their room but Arthur wasn’t with them.  When I asked them about him, Juan said he hadn’t seen Arthur or Molly for a few hours.

I had wanted him to come practice magic with us.  Jin was supposed to give us all a lesson on how to ward off charms.  It had been a few hours since my brother and sister and the others had left.  I missed them already.

Everyone with the exception of the boys were waiting in the large sitting room.  Maria had an orb of light in her hand as Jin watched her.

“Haven’t seen him,” Mrs. Smith said.  She sat next to Mrs. Anderson. I already missed my siblings, but they probably missed their sons too.  Mrs. Anderson had just been reunited with Richard and already they were separated again.

“Maybe he took Molly outside to go to the bathroom,” Mrs. Anderson.

“He really shouldn’t be going out there alone,” Dr. Patel said.

“I’ll go check,” I said.

“I’ll go with  you,” Victory said.  We put on our coats and boots and stepped out into the cold.  The snow crunched underneath our feet. There were a lot less zombies than there had been earlier.  They must have followed Lily’s group. The ones that remained picked up their groaning when they saw us.  That probably meant Arthur wasn’t out here if they weren’t groaning before. He might have been upstairs then.  We circled the house anyway.

“What if something happened to him?” I asked.

“I’m sure he’s fine,” Victory said.  “He’s probably just inside somewhere.  The house is huge.” 

There were a lot of tracks outside and I had no idea what were fresh and what were old.  The sky flashed green again. The green flash had always meant something bad was going to happen.  And Lily and Tanner were out there somewhere without me.

“What did that mean?” I asked Victory.  “What’s going to happen now?”

“I don’t know,” Victory said.

“Lily and the others are going to be alright, right?” I asked.

She took my gloved hand in hers and gave it a little squeeze.  “I’m sure they will be,” she said. “Gunnor is with them and so are Hunter and Grace.”

The zombie groans got louder.  Some of them stepped closer to the house.  I hadn’t seen them do that before. Their teeth snapped as they bit the air as if wishing it were our flesh.  Goosebumps formed on my arms. “I want to go inside,” I said quietly.

Victory nodded.  “Let’s go.” She was quiet too as her eyes darted among the zombies. 

We walked as quietly as we could back towards the door.  I cringed every time my boot crunched in the snow. The zombies’ groans grew even louder, more desperate.  And then the first one ran at us. That movement burst whatever was holding them back. All the zombies charged us.  

“Run!” Victory shouted.  I ran along the house willing my legs to go faster.  We needed to reach the door. The sky above was darkening as sudden storm clouds formed.  I looked back over my shoulder at Victory. She ran behind me, but she was also keeping a careful eye on the zombies.  She hadn’t even brought her bow out with her. Crackling lightning zigged around both of her hands. When the first zombie got close to her, the lightning shot out at the zombie’s head.  The lightning arced around the zombie’s head and she fell to the ground. There were zombies running at us from the front too, but I still thought we could outrace them to the door.

A blur shot from the door to the charging zombies.  The door was left open. A moment later Maria stood in the doorway with a bow and arrow in her hand.

I assumed the blur moving among the zombies was Jin.  There was a pause among the zombies and then they started to burn as a fire erupted from within them.

“Cool,” Maria said from the doorway.

“Don’t stop,” Victory said behind me.  I hadn’t realized I had stopped until then.  “Keep running to the door.”

I forced my legs forward, but I paused again as Jin came into view a moment just to rip off a zombie’s head and then moved on.  The blur had moved to the zombies behind us now. Another fire started among them and more heads were torn off.

I reached the doorway and ran inside.  The others were there behind Maria trying to see what was happening beyond the door.  I stopped and peeked too. The zombies that were on fire staggered forward but were unable to run.  The fire must have been intense because it didn’t take long for them to fall forward dead. I could only assume the fire fried their brains.  And I assumed it was Jin’s magic that made the fire which would explain how it came out of nowhere and how intense it was. The blur that was Jin had gone to the other side of the house.

Victory came to the door, but instead of coming inside, she stood outside and sent the lightning that was still crackling around her hands into a group of zombies coming from the other side of the house.  They spasmed and dropped. We waited for several moments. Groaning came from the back side of the house, but they stopped moments later. Jin walked casually around the house. His red eyes seemed even more intense.  Red, coagulated blood stained his fingers. His canines were elongated more than usual and so were his fingernails.

“We should go inside and talk,” he said.  We gave him a lot of space as he walked past us and into the house.  He went into the bathroom.

“Arthur wasn’t out there?” Mrs. Smith asked.  Her hands twisted together with her worry.

“No,” I said.  “I didn’t see him.  Maybe he’s upstairs.”

“I’ll go look,” Dr. Patel offered.  He went upstairs.

The rest of us went into the sitting room and waited for Jin and Dr. Patel to return.  Jin returned first. His hands were now blood free. His red eyes were not as intense and his canines were still long, but back to their normal length.  His fingernails were back to normal too.

“What happened?” he asked me and Victory.

“There was another green flash in the sky,” Victory said.  “And then the zombies weren’t afraid to come closer anymore.”

Jin sighed heavily.  “I’ll go out and patrol nightly to make sure zombies don’t get too close.  You should all be vigilant too. Be prepared to shoot your bows and arrows from windows to keep them at bay if necessary.”

“Arthur wasn’t upstairs,” Dr. Patel said as he came back in.  “And I don’t see any signs of Molly either. What if something happened to them.”

“Hold on,” Jin said as his eyes glazed over.

My insides were a torrent of anxiety as we waited.  What about Arthur? How could none of us see what happened to him?

“Gunnor says Arthur is with them,” Jin said. 

“How?” Maria asked.  “He didn’t leave with them.”

“He followed them.  He is alright and so are the others.  They are speculating that the new flash of green causes the zombies to go after beings if they have any bit of human in them.  Which means, Victory, that even if you use your dragon eyes you and your siblings aren’t safe. Gunnor also confirmed it now also means the presence of vampires won’t deter the zombies as we just experienced ourselves.”

“Are they bringing Arthur back?” Mrs. Smith asked.

“No,” Jin said.  “Gunnor will look after him personally.  He will be okay. They want to know that everyone here is alright.  Lily is especially anxious about you, Mackenzie.”

That calmed the anxiety inside me.  Lily was safe. Tanner was safe. Everyone was safe for now.

“I told him we were all alright,” Jin said.

“Are you okay?” Juan whispered to me.  His little brother stood beside him. He looked at me with worry in his large brown eyes.

“I’m okay,” I told them both.  They both sighed with relief.

“There is something else we should discuss,” Jin said.  “I was going to wait a few days, but maybe it is best now.  I can keep up the communication with Gunnor for a little while, but it won’t last too long unless he and I drink on a regular basis.”

“You can drink from me again,” Maria said.  “I’m always ready.”

Jin smiled.  “Thank you, but just as donating blood everyday wouldn’t be good for your health, neither would me drinking from you.”

“The children are off limits,” Mrs. Smith said.

“Of course,” Jin said.  “The four of you adults will need to alternate.  If you are willing.”

Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Anderson and Dr. Patel nodded that they were willing.

“That’s good,” Jin said.  “But ideally there should be more of you to insure your health.”

“You can drink from me too,” Victory said.

“Me too,” I said, but I didn’t want it.  It sounded scary.

“I know you don’t consider yourselves as children,” Jin said to us, “but, as intelligent and brave as you are, your bodies are still growing.  I won’t drink from you until you are a little older. It will work with just the four of you,” he said turning his attention back to the others.  “It’s just not ideal.”

“Maybe we should look for others who can join us,” Mrs. Anderson.

“Except, what if they turn out to be like those men in the woods,” Maria said.  She shuddered.

“Maybe,” Jin said, “when I go scout at night to make sure that zombies aren’t getting too close, I can look for other people.  I can bring them back if they seem trustworthy.”

The three adults looked at each other and nodded.

“Or,” Maria offered, “you could find those men in the woods and just pick off one a night to feed from.”

That thought horrified me and it horrified me that Maria would even think about that.  This zombie apocalypse had certainly changed her. The adults exchanged glances, but didn’t say anything.  Juan and Marcos just sat and watched us all. I doubted Marcos understood what was happening. He was already growing bored.

“I don’t usually feed from those who are unwilling,” Jin said.

“Just charm them and then they’ll be willing,” Maria easily said.

Jin watched her carefully.  “Perhaps,” he said after a while.  “I think I will stick with trying to find trustworthy people to bring in first.”

The three adults nodded to that.  “Do what you must,” Maria said.

“I shall,” Jin said as if it was never a question.

“Any other trouble?”

“Nothing that hasn’t been predicted.  A group of kitsune are banding together in Japan.  Our local chapter is looking into itt to make sure they aren’t a threat.

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