As we walked along the empty streets, I couldn’t help but notice the group of women that stayed mostly near Gunnor and Alex. We still didn’t know much about werewolf/vampire hybrids but so far Alex still ate regular food and hadn’t drank blood for a few nights so I wasn’t sure how often he would need to drink blood.
The women didn’t say anymore about leaving their children behind, but I was pretty certain I heard a few of them crying last. I had pretended I hadn’t heard and I didn’t ask anyone else if they heard them.
Even though we moved as silently as we could without talking, a group as big as ours couldn’t stay quiet. Our booted feet shuffled along the asphalt. Our coats rustled as we moved. At least us humans did. The vampires and werewolves were silent. But there weren’t any zombie groans or any signs of zombies.
At one point as we walked through a residential area and drawing ever closer to the highschool, I was sure I saw a curtain shift in one of the houses. I stopped and stared at it wondering if it was just my imagination or not. Maybe there was a zombie inside that had happened to walk past the window. Or perhaps there were survivors inside. Or maybe even venefici. But I didn’t see any more movement.
“What’s wrong?” Mackenzie whispered.
“Nothing,” I replied equally quietly, “I just thought I saw movement in that house.” Now more people stopped around us. Mackenzie stood on one side of me and Tanner on the other. We all stared at the house, but I didn’t see any more movement. “Guess I was wrong,” I said.
I started moving on and those around me moved with me. When we had stopped, the bigger group had gone on. We now trailed at the back. We had passed a few houses before we heard someone behind us call out, “Wait!”
The entire group stopped to look. A family stood behind us. A mother, father, a teenage girl who I had seen at school but she was a few grades younger than me, and two younger boys about ages ten and eight. They were bundled for winter and each had a backpack with them. The mother and father also carried camping gear. They must have been in the house. I had been right. There had been movement and they had seen us.
“Wait,” the father called out again. “Can we come with you?”
“Have you been here the entire time?” Mrs. Smith asked. “How did you survive?”
“We mostly stayed in our basement only coming up occasionally to peek outside,” the father said. “We had food stored down there and all of our camping gear so we have been alright.”
“It has been frightening,” the mother said, “not knowing if there were other people out there. Only hearing the groans of zombies and the occasional screams. None of our electronics work so we haven’t been able to get info from the radio, television or internet.”
“What happened to all the zombies?” Jin asked. “Where are they?”
“They started gathering in large groups a few days ago,” the father said, “not just wandering about randomly.”
“And we saw some people out with them,” the mother said. “Humans. It almost seemed like they were controlling the zombies, but that’s impossible, right? Except they were walking out front and the zombies were following them, but not attacking them and not making that awful groaning noise.”
I exchanged a glance with Darren and Hunter and noticed others of our group doing the same.
The younger son tugged on his mom’s coat. When she looked down at him, he whispered loud enough for us to hear, “Why are some of their eyes red?”
Now the mom and dad looked more closely at us. Their eyes found Gunnor’s and Jin’s and the parents grabbed their children closer to them. Their expressions changed and their heads turned back to the house they had just left.
“Not all of us are human,” Hunter said. “There are other beings in this world besides humans and zombies. Like the venefici you saw that were controlling the zombies.”
“So we’re just going to tell everyone we meet the entire truth now?” Grace asked.
“I don’t see why not,” Hunter said. “Zombies now exist in the world. Why shouldn’t they be warned about the other dangers?”
“Venefici?” the father asked.
“Then what are they?” the mom asked and tilted her chin towards Jin and Gunnor.
“Vampires,” Mason said. “And some of us are werewolves. But don’t worry, I can’t speak for the vampires, but at least us werewolves won’t hurt you.”
“As long as you don’t stray uninvited onto our territory,” Elsie added.
“Venefici created the zombies in the first place,” Hunter said.
“Where are you guys going?” the teenage girl asked.
“Why do you only have one kid with you?” the mother asked.
“So many questions,” Alvina said. I didn’t know when she had come up next to us. A little squeak escaped Mackenzie and she shuffled closer to Tanner.
The family must have felt how dangerous she was because none of them said anything and they all took a collective step backwards.
“Come with us or not,” Alvina said, “but we are moving on.” And then she was back in her spot in the middle and her vampires were ushering the human men forward. We stepped in behind them. Grace and Tanner both waved for the family to follow. They quickly rushed to catch up to us.
“The kids that were traveling with us are all safe with the rest of the werewolves,” Elsie said. “It’s the safest place for them.”
“And we are going to the high school to kill the venefici there,” Mason said. “If you stay close to us, you should be fine.”
“What made you approach us anyway?” I asked. “If you’ve been safe in your house all this time, why would you leave?”
“We’re almost out of food,” the mom said. “And the zombies all gathered and went away with those people who were controlling them, but we didn’t know where they went. They could have been waiting at the store for all we know. You haven’t seen any zombies when going through the city?”
“We haven’t seen any for a while,” Hunter said. “It’s honestly making me nervous.”
“Me too,” I said. And I especially didn’t like the fact that the venefici had been gathering them. What if we got to the high school and it was surrounded with zombies? If it had just been our original small group, we wouldn’t stand a chance. But we had vampires and werewolves with us now. I didn’t think zombies and venefici could stand up to them no matter how many zombies they had.
“What if the venefici have humans locked up in the high school,” Darren asked. “Like how they once had me?”
I didn’t have an answer to that and no one else answered either. Could we just let any humans inside get caught in the crossfire? We had attacked one of their cafe’s before and had gotten lucky to not kill the humans inside. They had been frightened of us, but at least there hadn’t been any casualties among them.
Finally Grace said, “We will do what we can to save them, but our priority is getting rid of the venefici. If we don’t, they’ll just be able to create more zombies and hurt and kill more humans.”
“And still more human souls for their magic,” Darren said quietly.
We continued along the empty streets. We didn’t run into any more humans or zombies. When the high school came into view, the blaring letters of ‘RU in?’ I didn’t feel as wary of the letters as I had before. I glanced at the new company we were with, but none of them seemed affected by the letters like Darren had been originally.
“There isn’t power anymore in those letters,” Darren said as if he could read my mind.
Unlike my fears, the outside of the building was completely bare and silent. There wasn’t a zombie or venefici in sight. I thought I would prefer that, but it made it scarier.