“Shoot and run,” I said.
I went through my bag, pulling out the two clips I’d taken from the dead soldier at the quarantine. I didn’t know how many bullets were left in the gun, but I had a feeling that I’d be out by the end of the day. Assuming I was even still alive at the end of the day.
“Run? Where?” Lia’s eyes widened.
“That way,” I nodded towards the house in front of us. “Don’t go inside. Just run past it, and keep running.” I shoved the clips in my back pocket for easier access, and I turned to Blue. “When I start shooting, they run. You go with and cover them.”
“You’re coming with us, right?” Lazlo knelt on the ground right next to me, and his dark eyes met mine.
“I’ll be right behind you.” I didn’t know if that was true or not, so I looked away from him. I had to get them running, and I’d hold off the assholes as long as I could.
“When should we run?” Vega asked. She looked at me evenly, her voice and posture cool and calm. My heart raced so hard, I thought it might explode, but she looked the same as she always did.
Somebody fired, and a bullet burst through the back of the couch, right between Lazlo and my head. Stuffing exploded out around us, and I decided that now was as good a time as any.
“Now!” I commanded and jumped up.
I kept most of my body hidden behind the couch, although I’m not sure how well it worked as a shield, and rested my gun on the back of it.
When I aimed my gun, I heard everyone behind me start running, with Harlow screaming again. A few feet in front of me, one of the men in ratty camouflage walked towards the couch, pointing a gun right at my head.
Without even thinking, I fired off three rounds into his chest, emptying my chamber. Blood darkened his shirt. He collapsed back on the road, and I ducked back behind the couch.
My hands trembled when I switched out the clips, so it took longer than it should have. I had just killed a man, and I had never done that before. Not a real person, just zombies.
But they were still shooting at me, so I swallowed it back.
Blue and the others had already disappeared around the house. I just had to keep these bastards back, and then I could catch up to them. I took a deep breath and took my post back over the couch.
A glimmer of light from the roof three houses down alerted me to the sniper. I shot twice at him, and then he slipped, falling off the roof and onto the ground. I couldn’t see any of the other men, and everything fell silent again.
Nobody else made a move, and I wasn’t even certain there was anybody else to make a move. I waited a beat to see if anybody came out, and I had to take my chance and run. I got up and took off around the house.
I didn’t really know where they went so I had to think like Lia and Lazlo, since they were probably leading the way. Knowing them, they would take the easiest, quickest way, thinking the faster and farther they could get away would be best. That was probably true, so I took the paths of least resistance.
After traversing a few dilapidated yards and junk filled alleys, my side screamed in pain and my lungs burned for oxygen. I kept trying to push my legs, but I couldn’t anymore. I stopped, gasping for breath, when I made it to a deserted street.
Based on the older brick buildings lining the street, I guessed this was the Main Street. Quaint, with lampposts and destroyed flowerpots lining the streets.
At one time, there had been banners, proclaiming this “The Best Little Town in the West,” but they were torn and stained with thick, greenish blood. Windows were broken out, all the stores had been looted, and the occasional limb or body part lay discarded about. A crow cawed, flapping its wings as it settled more comfortably on the back of a wooden bench.
I walked slowly, a hand pressed to the stitch in my side as I tried to catch my breath.
“Remy!” Harlow shouted, her small voice echoing off the buildings downtown.
She clamored out of a broken store window down the street, waving her arms to get my attention. The sign above the door had once advertised a barbecue place with a folksy name, but someone had written “kill all the piggies” in goopy red letters. The same writing Blue and I had seen in the house outside of town.
“Remy!” Harlow hurried towards me. “Are you okay?”
“Harlow, go back inside,” I said.
Just because nobody had tried to kill us yet didn’t mean they weren’t around, and I would feel better with her safely waiting inside a building. I should have sped up to chase in her inside, but my legs felt like rubber.
“Harlow, stay here!” Lia leaned her head out the window.
They were all yelling when they should be quiet. When Harlow kept coming towards me, refusing to listen to either of us, Lia climbed out of the window to get her. Maybe she sensed that there was still something dangerous in the air.
The crow flapped its wings again, and I looked over at it. I heard a clicking, sounding oddly loud thanks to the buildings, and some part of me knew what it was but couldn’t place it.
Suddenly, the crow exploded in a burst of black feathers. I never heard the gun go off, but the sniper had thought to use a silencer.
From the corner of my eye, I saw the light glinting off the top of the building on the corner. Harlow jumped back, startled by the bird, but she didn’t move. Then I heard the clicking sound again.
“Run!” I shouted and sprang into action.
I ran towards Harlow as fast as I could, the adrenaline reviving my legs. She stared at me in blank terror, too confused by the exploding crow to understand what happened.
I threw an arm around her waist, dragging her around the corner. I dove around the side of the building, slamming her down onto the sidewalk, with me on top of her to shield her.
We were out of the range of fire, hidden beside the building. I sat up and looked behind me to where Lia stood in the intersection.
“Something happened…” Lia was saying, her voice barely audible, and she turned to look at me. She had her hand on her stomach, but I could already see the blood seeping around it.
“Lia!” Harlow yelled.
I kept my arms around Harlow to stop her from rushing out into the street. Lia stood in the middle of it, completely exposed to another shot, but they weren’t shooting her again.
I had a feeling that was their plan. When I ran, Lia stayed frozen, so they took the easy shot. They left her wounded, like bait to lure us back out into the open.
Lia held out her hand, staring at the blood in total confusion. It was as if she couldn’t understand what it was or how it got there. Then she looked up at me, her eyes swimming with frightened tears.