“Vega?” I asked, stepping closer to her. “How are you holding up-”
I froze when I realized she wasn’t shaking because she was crying. She was eating her pillow, tearing into it like a rabid dog.
“Shit,” I whispered, taking a step back. “Lazlo, run.”
“What?” Lazlo asked. He’d been standing behind me, and he didn’t move, even though I told him to. “What’s wrong with Vega?”
At the sound of her name, Vega turned towards us. Her eyes had already yellowed, and drool and stuffing were stuck to her mouth. She was a zombie, and brand new, so she was strong as hell.
“Run!” I shouted, and Vega jumped up.
We were in a bedroom without weapons, and I had to think fast. I pushed her bunk forward, knocking it down on her, but she could get it off her if she really tried. Her bones and muscles were too strong, and I couldn’t fight her with my bare hands.
Thankfully, Lazlo ran away, but I stayed where I was, watching Vega.
“I have something!” Lazlo shouted, running up behind me.
“What?” I glanced back at him, afraid to take my eyes off Vega.
“A weapon.” Lazlo held up a silver meat cleaver. “I took it when we were at Korech’s and hid it under my bed in case he tried to kill me.”
Just as Vega started pushing the bunk off, I ran and jumped on it, holding it down. The top bunk pressed against her chest, pinning her down, and her feet were tangled up with the bed and blankets from the bottom bunk.
“Lazlo, use the cleaver!” I shouted. Vega bucked against the bed, and I wasn’t sure how long I could hold her down.
“On what?” Lazlo asked, staring down at Vega and me with confused dismay.
“Take off her head!” I commanded.
Vega snarled and spit, making that familiar death groan. Lazlo stood by her head, and she freed one arm so she could reach out for his legs. He looked uncertain for a second, but when her fingers latched onto his ankle, he swung in surprise.
The cleaver sliced into her neck, making blood splatter out. He didn’t go through her spine though, and Vega was still alive, snarling and convulsing. Lazlo raised the cleaver again, and this time, he brought it down with enough force to take off her head.
“Good job,” I said.
“Thanks.” Lazlo was still catching his breath, staring down at Vega’s corpse. “I told you that you needed me.”
“Yeah, I guess I do.” I turned back to the room.
Harlow was wide awake, hiding behind a bunk, and Blue stood in front of her bed, shielding her.
“What happened?” Harlow asked.
“The zombie must’ve gotten her today when it attacked her.” I wiped blood off my brow with the back of my arm.
“That was really fast,” Lazlo commented, coming up behind me.
“Sometimes it happens that way.” I shrugged. “You never can tell.”
London and Sam came in a few moments later to make sure we were okay. They’d heard the commotion down the hall. Sam took Vega’s body out, and London explained that they burned all the infected bodies they found.
Hope came in a little after they left to wipe everything down with bleach and clean up the mess we’d made. She sent Lazlo and me down to the tub room to clean up. They had no showers, but they had a claw foot tub they filled with water from a hose. It was too cold to climb in, so Lazlo and I stood next to it, washing ourselves with rags.
When we went back to the room, Hope had already gone, and the room had been set right. Harlow lay in her bed with her covers pulled up to her chin, but she was wide awake. I got in my own bed without saying anything and tried to get comfortable.
“Do you think Vega’s in heaven?” Harlow asked me.
“I don’t know,” I said and rolled over, so my back was to her.
I slept horribly all night, even though I was exhausted. I tossed and turned, and I had horrible nightmares about Vega, Lia, and Beck. I had been trying not to think about Beck at all, since that was my policy when people died, but Lazlo had brought up all sorts of feelings about him.
When I woke, Harlow was still asleep. I went out to get some breakfast, figuring that stale toast with squirrel meat sounded better than nothing.
Still munching on the horrible dry toast, I made my way back to the room, almost getting lost in the process. Harlow was awake and ready for the day. She changed into a clean skirt with a sweater, and her hair was up.
I would’ve taken this all as a good sign if she weren’t hurriedly packing her bag. Lazlo sat on my bed across from her, looking sheepish.
“What’s going on?” I asked as I gulped down the rest of my toast.
“I’m going with you,” Harlow said without looking up.
“Sorry,” Lazlo smiled meekly at me.
“Why did you tell her?” I snapped, and he shrunk back a little.
“She heard me talking to Blue.”
“It doesn’t matter how you know,” I decided. “Harlow, you can’t come with.”
“It’s not open for discussion,” she said.
“Um… yeah. Exactly.” I was thrown off by her reaction. “You’re not coming with. End of story.”
“No, I am coming with. End of story.” She finally looked up at me.
Her blue eyes were almost too big for her face, but not in a bad way. It just made her look younger and more innocent, although, right now, her resolution made her look older.
“There’s no way I’m letting you come with.” I brushed past her to get to my bed. With my back to her, I packed up my own stuff.
“This isn’t a jail. They won’t keep me prisoner here. If you leave, there’s nothing to stop me from leaving right after you. And I will,” she threatened. “Whether you take me with you or not, I am not staying here. If I have to go out on my own, so be it.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. That’s suicide.” I shoved my clothes into my bag.
“Maybe,” she replied simply.
“Really?” I turned back to her. “You’d get yourself killed just to spite me?”
“Not to spite you.” She crossed her arms over her chest. “I’m not getting left behind. If anyone can survive the end of the world, it’s you, so I’m safer with you than anywhere else.”
“That’s not even true,” I shook my head. “Everyone around me dies! Sommer, and then Lia yesterday. And my brother…” I swallowed and busied myself with my bag so she couldn’t see my reaction. “No. It’s dangerous and stupid. Here is the safest place.”