Chapter 27 .

Mackenzie

“Good,” Victory said to Juan.  “Now pull back on the string.”  The three of us stood at an open window on the second floor while Marcos tugged on my shirt behind us trying to get a look.  I let him slip in front of me so he could see the zombie in the yard down below.  The zombie wasn’t charging or attacking.  It didn’t know we were inside the house yet.

Juan pulled back on the bow string.  The arrow was notched and ready.  Victory guided his arms, helped him aim and told him when to release.  The arrow whizzed past the zombie head and landed harmlessly in the ground beyond the zombie.  The zombie groaned and spun towards the sound.  When he realized there wasn’t anything there, he quieted again.

“I wanna try,” Marcos said and tried to pull on the bow.  I grabbed his wrist before he could.

“We’ll let you try,” Victory calmly said to the small child, “but after Juan.”

Marcos’s lips puffed out in a little pout and he crossed his arms over his chest.  “He always gets to go first,” he muttered.

“Try again, Juan,” Victory encouraged.

Juan took a deep breath, notched another arrow and drew the string back.  He took careful aim and fired.  The arrow flew into the zombie’s shoulder.  The zombie staggered backwards a step.  He spun all around again searching for any humans.  He was too stupid to look up.

“My turn,” Marcos piped in and tried to grab the bow again.

“Marcos,” Victory said.  “It’s dangerous to grab the bow out of someone’s hand.  You have to wait until they are ready to hand it over.  Understand.”

“Yes,” Marcos said.

“Alright,” Victory said.  “You can have one turn.”  Juan handed the bow to Marcos and stepped aside as Victory helped his little brother notch an arrow and pull back the string.  Marcos wasn’t strong enough so when he let loose the arrow it just dropped to the ground below the window.  “Good try,” Victory said.  “Now let Juan have another turn.”

Marcos happily handed the bow back to Juan and came back to my side.  “Did you see me?” he asked me.  “I did it.”

“I saw,” I said.  “Good job.”

This time when Juan let the arrow loose, it embedded into the zombie’s cheek.  It didn’t go as deep as when Victory or anyone else did it, but the zombie still fell backwards and didn’t move.

“Great,” Victory said.  Juan was beaming as he handed the bow back to Victory.  “Now Mackenzie and I will go retrieve the arrows.”

The smile on my face immediately faded away.  I didn’t want to go out there.  I hated going out there.  Especially now that the zombies went after Victory as well as the rest of us.  Victory acted like it wasn’t a big deal and I was worried that was going to get her killed some day.

“Let’s go,” Victory said.  She held the bow in one hand.  Her other hand grabbed my wrist and pulled me after her.  Juan grabbed the quiver of arrows and followed us.  Marcos trailed after him.  Maria and Dr. Patel sat in the upstairs sitting room.  As we passed, Maria called out, “Did he get him?”

“Yes,” Juan said proudly.  “I got him.”

“What are you guys doing?” Marcos asked them.

“Practicing magic,” Maria said.  “Wanna join us.”

“Yes,” Marcos said, “but I’ve got to help them retrieve the arrows.”

Victory cringed, but she hid it as she turned back to the three year old.  “It’s okay, Marcos.  We’ve got it this time.  You can go practice with Maria and Dr. Patel.”

“Okay,” Marcos said.  He bounced into the room where a smiling Maria and Dr. Patel waited for him.

The rest of us went downstairs.  When we passed the living room, Mrs. Smith sat on a chair reading a book.  Mrs. Anderson and Jin sat on the couch.  Jin had Mrs. Anderson’s wrist up to his lips.  He was drinking from her.  She seemed to be enjoying it.  His eyes darted to us as we passed.  He licked the holes on her wrist.  Victory ushered the rest of us on. 

“Where are you going?” Jin asked us from the living room archway as we reached the front door.

“To retrieve the arrows,” Juan said.  “I killed a zombie.”

“Be careful,” Jin said.  “The last one you shot wasn’t quite dead yet.”

“I have my knife on me,” Victory said.  She pulled out her knife for emphasis.

“Me too,” Juan said and pulled out his knife.  I had a knife too, but I didn’t say anything.  The vampire still frightened me a little bit.

“Very well,” Jin said.

The air was cold when we went outside.  The sun was starting to set.  We walked slowly and carefully to the zombie.  I looked among the trees and as far as I could.  I strained my ears to listen, but there wasn’t any other sign that zombies were about.

The zombie didn’t move as we approached and didn’t make a sound.  Victory had her knife ready just in case.  Juan and I stayed behind Victory.  “It’s dead,” she announced.  She pulled the arrow out of it’s cheek.  She wiped it off on the zombie’s tattered clothes.  “Go retrieve the other arrows,” she said as she pulled out the other arrow.

I went for the one that Juan had first fired.  Juan ran closer to the side of the house to retrieve the arrow that Marcos had fired.  The three of us went back inside without further incident.

Jin had routinely been checking the perimeter to make sure we were free of zombies and if any ventured in after he had checked, the rest of us took them out by firing arrows at them through the windows.  It was great target practice.  There hadn’t been any zombies in great numbers.  Jin had insisted that even though we were now living there, we had to leave our bags packed and ready to go by the bikes in the kitchen.  He insisted it was just in case, but I didn’t know what that ‘in case’ might entail.  Jin had also been teaching us all magic.  He had said we were now all good at warding off charms.  Even Marcos.  He had started to teach us offensive spells like fire.  I still struggled with that one.  Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Anderson had to follow Marcos around all day when Jin first taught us because Marcos had caught on pretty quickly how to create fire.  He had gone all around the house trying to set things on fire.  He had stopped after Dr. Patel had calmly explained to him that if he burned down the house we wouldn’t have a place to live.

“Are you hungry?” Mrs. Smith asked as we came back in.  “I was just going to start dinner.”

“We’ll help,” Victory offered.

“Go wash your hands first,” Mrs. Smith said.

The three of us piled into the bathroom and washed our hands at the sink.  The water was lukewarm but at least it worked.  We helped with dinner.  When it was time to eat, we all gathered around the dinner table.  Even Jin even though he didn’t eat with us.  It was at times like these that I missed my family and the others the most.  

We had finished and were just cleaning up when Jin suddenly went rigid.

“Shit,” he said.

“Language,” little Marcos scolded.

“Hurry,” Jin said.  “Grab your weapons.”  He grabbed all of our bags in one quick movement and rushed to the living room.  We always kept our weapons either on us or close to us so our bows and arrows were all in the kitchen.  We grabbed them and ran after Jin.  He threw back the rug revealing a secret door in the wooden floor.  He opened it and threw our bags down into the dark tunnel it revealed.

“Quick,” he said,  “Go down.”  Mrs. Smith was already heading down and pulling Marcos with her.  Mrs. Anderson and Juan followed.

“What’s going on?” Victory asked.

“Alvina is near,” he said.  “Take every left you come across.  Trust me.  You won’t go in circles.  Run.  Go as fast as you can.  You’ll come to a cave.  Stay there.  If I don’t live through this, Gunnor will find you there.  If I do live through this and can escape, I’ll find you.”  Maria went into the tunnel.

“But,” Dr. Patel started.  

“No time for questions or arguing.  Go.”  

Dr. Patel hurried down into the tunnel.  I started to follow him, but paused when Jin grabbed Victory’s shoulders.  “If they get past me, if they get in the tunnel,” he said, “don’t hesitate.  Use all of your power and electrocute them.  Use it all even if you think it’s going to kill you.  Fill up the tunnel behind you with it.  Don’t let them get close or it will be too late.  Mackenzie, make sure no one in your group gets behind Victory.  She has to be the last person in the group.”

I nodded.  He pushed Victory towards the tunnel.  “Run,” he said.

I quickly went inside and retrieved my bag.  The others were already running through the tunnel.  Mrs. Smith was carrying Marcos and Mrs. Anderson held Juan’s hand.  Maria trailed after them.  Dr. Patel had gone a little ahead, but was waiting for us.

“Go,” I said as I started to run after them.  Dr. Patel turned and ran.  I could hear Victory’s footsteps behind me.  The door closed leaving us in a dim darkness.  Maria conjured a glowing ball of light as she ran in the middle of us.

The tunnel branched off in different directions several times, but we always took the left.  It wasn’t long before we heard taunting laughter in the tunnel behind us.  The hairs on my arms and back stood on end.  It was laughing, but it was the most terrifying thing I had ever heard.  Female and male laughter, but with an inhuman quality to it.  Tears sprang to my eyes as the terror threatened to make my limbs stop moving.  “Keep running,” Maria’s voice said.  I didn’t know who she was talking to, but I pumped my legs even harder even as my bottom lip trembled.

The laughter sounded closer.  Victory stopped running.  I stopped with her like we were one unit.  Or more like, I didn’t know how to function without her.

Victory turned to face the tunnel behind us.  Her hands flashed out in front of her.  Lightning crackled back down the tunnel lighting demonic red glowing eyes, elongated canines and fingernails that had become talons.  There was a vampire woman directly in front of Victory.  I didn’t know they had gotten so close.  The laughter had sounded further back.  There was a vampire man further back in the tunnel and even more vampires behind them.  

The lightning crackled and attached to them like hungry leeches.  The vampires screamed.  It pounded and echoed in my ears.  My hands flew up to cover my ears.  That dulled the screams, but only barely.  And then a more human scream joined them as Victory screamed.  Her hair had been black with white streaks, but as she screamed, the black strands turned white and crackled.  I stepped back as her entire body became a conduit for the electricity spewing out of her arms, through her hands and out her fingertips.  The tiny white scales I sometimes saw around her eyes had spread and now covered her entire face.  Her mouth began to protrude slightly into the shape of an Asian dragon.  I assumed Korean since her family were Korean-Americans.  I couldn’t see her eyes, but they had to have been the storm gray with all the dragon magic she was emitting.

The vampire screams stopped.  Fried vampire bodies turned into ash and still Victory screamed and let out her lightning.  There were more screams from the tunnels we had already gone through and beyond.  Victory dropped to her knees, but the lightning continued to spill out of her until the screams down the other tunnels had stopped completely.  Until Victory collapsed.  Her eyes were closed as I rushed to her side.  Dr. Patel and Maria were right behind me.  The white scales were beginning to retreat and her face reverted back to its normal shape, but her white hair remained.

“I’ll carry her,” Dr. Patel said.  I grabbed her pack and bow and arrows.  Maria helped Dr. Patel sling her over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry and we continued to run after the others down the tunnel.  We didn’t hear any more creepy laughter.  

We collapsed when we got to the cave.  Victory still didn’t wake, but her breathing seemed normal.

“I’m cold,” Marcos said.  Mrs. Smith pulled out a sleeping bag and Marcos crawled inside.  The rest of us cuddled together and did the same.  I held Victory close to me.  After what seemed like an eternity, Victory finally opened her eyes.

“You’re awake,” I said.

She smiled at me.  “We got away,” she said.

“Thanks to you,” Dr. Patel said.

“You really were amazing, Vicky,” Maria said.  

There was movement at the mouth of the cave.  We all stood except for Juan and Marcos who slept.  Victory found her bow and arrows, but before she could notch an arrow Jin said, “It’s me.”

Maria conjured another glowing orb in her hand.

“You got away,” Mrs. Smith said.  The relief was evident in her voice.

“Yes,” Jin said.  He stepped into the light.  “But not without some cost,” he said.

His face and neck were bloody.  It looked like he had been both clawed and bitten.  Blood pooled all around his stomach and there were great gashes in his clothes.  His right hand was missing the ring finger and pinky finger.  He tried to retain the cool calm he always had, but he collapsed to his knees.  His eyes rolled into the back of his head as he passed out and dropped to the cold ground.

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