Once all of the zombies had disappeared up the stairs, I walked the opposite way down the hall. I didn’t want to hear everyone upstairs dying. And everyone up there was dead. They didn’t have any guns or any real protection. Eventually, the zombies would break down the doors. They always did.
I felt sick but I kept walking, stepping carefully over the bodies. I’d never seen a massacre this bad.
When the virus popped up almost a year ago, it spread like wild fire, but I had never seen so many zombies together. Even the ones that had gotten my mom and dad had only been in a group of three. This had to be hundreds. Something different was happening.
We had to round another corner before we made it to the gym. I heard one gun shot, and then silence. I raised my gun and slowly turned the corner, afraid to find another pack of the infected.
Instead, I saw a single soldier. He stood in the middle of the hall, his gun pointed down at the zombie corpses. He watched to see if they were still alive, and then he killed them if they were.
I lowered my weapon and stepped out.
“Hey!” I announced myself before he shot us.
He turned to me, automatically pointing the rifle at me, and my heart surged. Even at that distance with a gun in front of his face, I’d recognize him anywhere.
“Remy?” Beck asked, sounding just as relieved and surprised as I felt, and he lowered the gun. “What are you doing?”
“I heard the zombies knocking, so I thought I’d come down and let them in,” I said with a wry smirk. I walked down the hall, fighting the urge to run to him, and checked behind to make sure Harlow and Sommer were following me quickly.
“Your brother’s fine,” Beck said, knowing exactly what had drawn me out. “They already evacuated him.”
“What do you mean they evacuated Max?” I asked, not sure if I should feel relieved or anxious. This wasn’t the safest place anymore, but the open road wasn’t that great either.
“As soon as the quarantine was compromised, they got all the medical out,” Beck said and looked uneasily at Harlow and Sommer. “You shouldn’t be out here. You should’ve stayed in your rooms.”
“The second floor has been compromised too.” I lowered my eyes. “We just saw the zombies rush up there.”
Beck stared down the hall towards the stairwell, debating whether or not he should go help them, or if he should stay to help us. If I’d been a more selfless person, I would’ve sent him up there. But I needed his help, and I didn’t want him on a suicide mission.
“You’ve got to get out of here,” Beck said. He nodded in the other direction and put his hand on my back to usher us away.
“Where are they taking Max? I need to go with him.” I looked up at Beck, but he didn’t answer. He was too focused on getting us out of the school alive.
Three zombies stood by the exit. They hung out there, as if they were waiting to stop people from escaping. Since there was only three of them, Beck shot them down quickly.
“What are they doing?” Harlow asked, referring to the zombies’ unusual behavior.
“I don’t know,” Beck said, his voice cracking.
I looked up at him, sensing something more than the trauma going on around us. In the months I had known him, I’d never seen anything rattle him.
The glass doors had been broken in, blood staining the remaining shards poking out from the frame. Beck leaned out first, but I heard the death groans. I looked past his shoulder, and I could see them, massed around the outside of the school, moving like a very slow mosh pit.
“What the hell is going on?” I asked.
“It’s like they were drawn here or something.” Beck straightened up and looked at me. “They’ve trampled the fence for the most part. If I distract them, you can make a run for it.”
“You can’t stay here,” I said. “Zombies have overtaken the place.”
“It’s my job,” Beck brushed me off. “I’m not entirely sure where they took your brother. There is another quarantine near Wyoming, so maybe there. If you keep going north from here, you’ll find something.”
“I don’t even really know where north is.” I was only half-lying. I wasn’t great at directions, but I didn’t want to leave Beck behind to die here.
“When I open these doors, I’m going to run towards the zombies, shooting,” Beck said, ignoring me. “The three of you need to run for an opening in the fence and keep running. You can’t stop, no matter what happens.”
“No, you can’t do that,” I shook my head.
“I have to stay here.” Beck eyed the zombies outside.
I could hear soldiers, somewhere on the lawn outside of my vision, and a lot of the zombies were busy trying to take them out. The rest kind of wandered around, occasionally fighting amongst each other.
“They might not even notice if we’re real quiet,” I said.
“No, I can’t go with you.” He looked down at me gravely.
I still didn’t understand, so he pulled up the sleeve of his shirt, revealing the crescent shape of teeth marks in his arm. My heart clenched but I tried to keep my face blank.
I stared at him, trying to reconcile this. He’d been invincible since I met him. Without him, Max and I never would’ve survived. He made sure we were both safe and helped us as long as we’d been here. And through everything he’d seen and done, he always had an easy smile.
“They’re getting restless.” Harlow pulled me from my thoughts. The gaggle of zombies seemed to be making their way towards the door.
“You’ve got to go,” Beck said emphatically.
“You’re not infected yet,” I said. I did not want to leave him, and I wasn’t even sure that I could.
“Go.” His eyes were moist. “You don’t have any more time if you want to make it out alive, and Max needs you.”
I nodded, unable to think of something to say. I knew this would be the last time I’d ever speak to him, but I had nothing. I just turned and pushed open the shattered doors.
His gun started blasting, and I couldn’t look back. I ran as fast as my legs would move.
Mangled fencing and barbwire bent all over the ground at the edge of the lawn. I stumbled on it, but I caught myself before I fell. Tears threatened my eyes, but I refused to let them fall. Zombies growled behind me, and I didn’t have any time to waste on emotions.
The school lay on the edge of town, and nothing but desert stretched out before us. My feet pounded on the dirt, and my legs burned from running. A pain shot down my side, and I felt like throwing up.