(And again, remember that this has NOT been seen by an editor yet!)
Copyright Emily Goodwin 2013
Someone screamed again, getting a few of the zombies’ attention. I wanted to shout back a ‘shut the fuck up’ but bit my tongue. Following the sound of the yelling, two zombies broke away from their buddies to walk up the steps and bump into the closed front door. They took a step back and tried again, unable to figure out how to open it.
“It’s a good thing the virus makes people into idiots,” I huffed. “Well, after it makes it homicidal and crazy.”
Hayden nodded. “The mind of a zombie isn’t hard to understand. Well,” he added. “Their thought processes at least. Scientifically, that shit is confusing.” He shook his head and looked at the church, his hazel eyes wide as he tried to come up with a plan of attack.
Another S2—a petite blonde boy who looked to be only about seven—wandered away from the parking lot and crossed the street. Limping, his foot caught on a bag of garbage and sent the contents scattering. Several pop cans rolled to a stop by the curb. The noise was enough to bring a four more zombies out from behind the church. My eyes darted to the herd and then to the boy again. There was no way we could get past the herd and into the church. We knew there had to be over two dozen zombies out front, possibly just as many out back and God-only-knows how many were inside.
“We need to create a diversion,” Hayden whispered. “Even if we did have the ammo, I don’t know if we could get to them before they got to us.”
“Yeah,” I agreed, not taking my eyes off the child zombie. He entered the parking lot of a tiny strip mall, housing a Chinese take-out restaurant, a tanning and nail salon, a dog groomer, and a mattress store. Along with wishing I could order a bowl of chicken fried rice, I had an idea.
“Look.” I pointed behind the strip mall to a park. “There’s an ambulance.”
“What do you want to do with it?”
“Use it to distract the zombies. The siren and flashing lights might be enough to make most of them leave.”
Hayden tipped his head. “If you can get it started. If not…make another alarm go off.”
“It worked before,” I blurted and felt a twist of pain when I thought of Rider and my narrow escape in the zombie filled parking lot. Inadvertently, my face went blank and my eyes drifted to my feet. Hayden put his hand on my cheek and tipped my head up.
“I’m sorry, Riss,” he spoke gently, knowing what memory was causing me pain. “I wish I could tell you it gets better, but it doesn’t—obviously, since I still have nightmares about Ben’s death.”
“You suck at inspirational speeches, you know?”
Hayden laughed. “Yeah, I guess I do.”
I inhaled and mentally shook myself. “Ok…it’s ok. We should go back a little, cross the street, and sneak behind those buildings, down that hill, through the trees and into the park.”
Hayden gave me a nod of approval and we took off, moving as quietly as possible. There was a pile of dead bodies behind the tanning salon. Gagging, I covered my nose and hurried around them.
“Nothing like the smell of death warmed over,” Hayden grimaced. I no longer wanted fried rice. He raised his hand and motioned to a dumpster. “Get him?”
When I nodded, Hayden whistled, drawing the zombie out. As soon as he fell, Hayden jogged over to retrieve the arrow. He flicked off the blood and handed it to me. A few gummies shuffled in the back ally; none were enough of a threat to waste our time killing. We ran down the hill, hopped a fence, and entered the park.
Gravel crunched under my feet as we ran down the track that surrounded an overgrown lawn. Park benches were hidden behind tall weeds. Birds squawked and chirped like normal, oblivious to the never-ending human death.
A make shift shelter had been set up—and taken down by bad weather—in a covered picnic area. The remains of cots, chairs, and coolers full of food were stained from rain and wind and covered with animal droppings. Behind that was the ambulance.
“Wait,” Hayden called when I opened the door to the cab. He pointed to a police car several yards away. The door was ajar and the cop’s corpse was sticking halfway out of the driver’s seat. His hands, arms, and face had been reduced to nothing but bone. He looked around for zombies and snuck to the car. Using his arm to shield his nose, he reached into the car and pulled the officer’s body out.
Blinking hard, he looked away. I never before knew that the smell of rotting could be so strong it burned your eyes. He took the gun from the cop’s belt and then flipped the body over, removing his flashlight and hand cuffs. I nervously looked around as Hayden leaned inside the car, stripping it of anything useful.
“This could come in handy,” he said with a grin when he returned with two bullet proof vests, a shot gun, plus the small items he took off the body. Since it was too much to carry, we put on the vests and shoved the hand cuffs, pistol, and flashlight inside my bag.
“My turn to raid,” I told Hayden. “You still need medical crap.”
He looked at the bloody bandage on his shoulder, which had slipped down and was only covering half the wound. “Nah. I’m fine.”
“It’s not going to heal itself,” I snapped.
“Uh, Riss. It actually will. That’s kinda how wound healing works,” he teased.
“Shut up. You know what I mean.” I took a breath and felt constricted in the vest. “I don’t like this,” I complained and held the bow out for Hayden to take.
“You’ll get used to it,” he informed me. “I didn’t like them at first either. Until it saved my life more than once.” I met Hayden’s eyes. He rarely brought up anything that had to do with his time overseas. He waved his hand. “Get your shit.”
I opened the back door and leaned back in surprise. “Hayden,” I whispered. “You gotta come see this.”