“Lia, come here.” I held my hand out to her, but I couldn’t walk out to her. I had to stay where I was, holding Harlow back.
“I’m sorry.” Lia just stared at me.
She tried to step forward, but her knees buckled, and she fell back on the road. Her open eyes stared blankly up at the sky above her. Harlow sobbed, bucking at my arms, but I refused to let go.
“Remy!” Lazlo shouted. “Harlow!”
He peered around the corner of the building behind us. It was behind the barbecue restaurant that Harlow and Lia had come from, so I suspected that he’d snuck out the backdoor into the alley.
Harlow stopped fighting and cried limply against me. I put my hands on her shoulders, holding her away from me so I could look her in the eye.
“Go. Hurry,” I said, and thankfully, she nodded once and ran back to Lazlo.
Lia lay dead only a few feet in front of me, but I couldn’t get her. I didn’t want to leave her there like that, just a discarded body amongst so many other bodies, but I didn’t want to risk my life to move her.
I stood alone in the middle of the empty street, and I couldn’t move. I just couldn’t think of a single reason to keep going.
All I ever did was think about surviving. Getting from one moment to the next without letting myself dwell on anything that came before it. But suddenly, I couldn’t see the point in surviving.
This is what it was like to survive. To kill people, to kill infected humans, to watch innocent people die for no reason. This is the world I was fighting to stay in.
“Remy!” Lazlo hissed and grabbed my arm roughly.
I didn’t want to move. I didn’t want to leave Lia alone, and I didn’t see any reason to go. But he was pulling me, literally dragging me away, and somewhere along the way, my feet started moving again too.
When we rounded the corner, Harlow stood there crying, and Blue had his arm around her. Vega looked completely unruffled, standing next to another guy. He wore a dirty flannel shirt, his hair was cropped close, and he was armed to the teeth. He wasn’t wearing camouflage, so I assumed we considered him an ally.
“Where’s Lia?” Vega asked. Apparently, they hadn’t seen what happened.
“She’s not coming with,” Lazlo replied, brushing past it. He had to have seen her body when he grabbed me, and we didn’t have time for more meltdowns. Everyone was quiet for a moment, letting it sink in.
“What’s going on?” I asked. My mouth felt dry and stiff, and I had to force it to speak. I felt completely disconnected from my body, as if my movements were something I did from remote.
“I’m Sam, and I can help you,” the new guy informed me tersely. His eyes darted around, and he looked scruffy and dirty in a way that Lazlo somehow managed to avoid. “We have a compound nearby.”
“A compound?” I tensed up and took a step back. Compound made it sound like something military, like those gunmen in their faux uniforms.
“No. We’re not with them,” Sam motioned to where Lia had been shot. “We’re fighting them. Come with me.”
It wasn’t a question, and he turned without waiting for a response.
Sam jogged down the alley, and Vega and Blue followed right behind, although Blue had the courtesy to look back to see if we were coming. Harlow moved slowly, but Lazlo took her hand and pulled her along, and that got her going.
As we darted around the trashcans and garbage that filled the alley, I kept running and jumping and dodging. If I just kept moving, I could keep the numbness back. The faster I ran, the more the adrenaline surged through my body, and that somehow kept me here.
Sam ran at a dizzying pace, and we almost lost him a few times as we maneuvered around the obstacles. I’m sure this was done on purpose, so we would elude anyone who might be watching us, and I wouldn’t have minded so much if I’d been up to my usual standards.
Since I was behind them, I could see the zombie jump out from behind a garage, but I couldn’t do anything except yell at Vega to watch out. She turned her head just as the zombie rushed at her, knocking her to the ground.
Sam went to pull his gun out, but it caught on his ammunition clip. I bolted forward and slammed into the zombie on top of Vega, tackling it before it bit into her. It tried to roll over to face me, clawing desperately at the gravel in the alley.
I grabbed an old car battery that happened to be sitting by us and lifted it over my head, preparing to use it crush the zombie’s head. Before I did, a gun went off, and the zombie’s head exploded on me.
“That’s better,” Sam said, his gun still pointed at the zombie. “Sorry it took me so long to get it out.”
“Thanks, but I could’ve gotten that myself.” I set the battery down and got up off the zombie corpse. “You didn’t need to waste a bullet.”
“We have plenty of bullets.” Sam turned, already walking away. “We should hurry. The zombies travel in packs now.”
“Are you okay?” I asked Vega as I wiped zombie brains off my shirt.
“Yeah, I’m great,” Vega replied in a clipped tone.
“It didn’t bite you?” I asked.
“No, it just knocked the wind out of me,” Vega shook her head.
“We don’t have time for this.” Sam glanced around, looking for hidden marauders. “We’ll check for bites at the compound.”
Since Sam wouldn’t slow down, I sped up and followed her, keeping my pace to match Lazlo and Harlow in case another zombie jumped out at us.
We rounded a large white building with pillars in front. It reminded me of the White House, but on a much smaller scale. Sam ran around the back, pushing away some carefully placed shrubbery, to reveal a set of heavy wooden cellar doors. He flipped them open, then gestured down the darkened hole with his gun.
“You want us to go down there?” Harlow asked peered down at the pitch black cement stairs.
“Yes. Hurry,” Sam said shortly.
Vega plummeted into the dark without batting an eye. Blue took a breath and followed her. I didn’t see that we had much of a choice, so I went too. When I started walking down, I felt Harlow’s hand squeeze mine, her slender fingers latching onto me.
When we finally reached the bottom, I realized it wasn’t completely dark. A dim yellow light glowed ahead of us, and then Sam slammed the cellar doors shut when he came down, submerging us
“This way.” Sam pushed past us.
He led us down a narrow hall, lit by a single kerosene lantern. At the end was a massive steel door, and he pounded on it. I tried to pull my hand from Harlow’s, but she refused to let go.