I changed quickly and pulled my hair up. Blue waited a beat, making sure the coast was clear, and we went into the hall as casually and as fast we could. We took another left, going towards where the other people were talking. They complained about how loud the soldiers were on the floor below them, and Blue and I politely smiled when we walked by and rounded the corner.
The stairs to the third floor were at the end of the next hall, and we almost jogged towards them. Blue punched in the key code, opened the door, and we raced up the steps.
“Third floor is gonna be trickier,” Blue said as we reached the next door. “We can’t be seen. If we are, people will ask why we’re there, and we don’t have clearance. Obviously. The only good thing is that very few people have clearance, so there won’t be many people up here to see us.”
When the door opened, I was surprised by how much dimmer it was. Half the lights must’ve been off. Everything felt narrower and darker, but I’m not sure if that was true.
The hall was completely empty, no metal carts, no people, nothing. We crept down the corridor, literally tiptoeing like they did in cartoons when they were being sneaky.
The sound of a door opening echoed down the hall. Blue grabbed me and pushed me around a corner. We stood with our backs pressed up against the wall, neither of us breathing, and waited. Footsteps came closer. Then another door opened, and they disappeared.
After Blue let out a shaky breath, we went back out into the main hall and walked down a few doors. We stopped in front of a plain white door, but this one had a slot for a keycard, like they had in hotels.
“I think this is where your brother’s at.” Blue nodded and pulled a plastic keycard out of his pocket.
“Wait.” I stopped him before he slid it in. “You go. I can do this. I don’t want you to get in trouble over me.”
“Are you sure?” Blue asked.
“Yeah. You’ve helped me enough.”
Almost reluctantly, he handed me the card. I waited until he had taken a few steps down the hall, then I slid the card in. The light flashed green on the slot, and I pushed down the handle to the door. My stomach twisted with nerves, and slowly, I opened the door.
– 20 –
In a small white room, under almost blinding light, dozens of vials lined the counters surrounding the walls. Some of were filled with red liquid, some green, some clear. Syringes and all sorts of medical equipment were stacked about. A computer monitor sat on a stand next to an IV in the middle of the room. Next to it, was a white dentist chair.
In that chair sat a very small boy, even smaller than I remember him being. He looked thin and pale, making the few scattered freckles on his cheeks stand out more. His dark brown hair stuck to the damp skin of his forehead, and he didn’t even open his eyes when I came in.
The IV ran out of one of his bony arms, sticking in amongst a million other bruised needle marks. His dark blue scrubs were much too big for him. The bottom of his pants had been rolled up over his feet.
I stood there for a moment, terrified he was dead. He looked so frail and sickly. Max might be immune to the zombie virus, but he certainly was not immortal. His chest rose and fell with a breath, and relieved tears welled in my eyes.
“Max,” I said softly, not wanting to startle him.
“Remy?” Max opened his eyes, and there he was. Buried underneath this sickly haze, was my little brother. His entire face lit up when he saw me, and he sat up straighter. “Remy!”
I ran over and threw my arms around him. I hugged him as gently as I could, afraid I would break him. He felt so delicate and brittle. He hugged me as tightly as he could, and I barely felt it.
“I’m so happy to see you.” I leaned back so I could get a better look at him, and I pushed the hair off his clammy forehead. “I’ve missed you so much.”
“Remy, I can’t believe it’s you!” Max started crying, too, which only made it harder for me to contain my own tears. “I thought… I thought you were dead!”
“Are you kidding?” I smiled at him. “You know a few zombies can’t stop me. I promised I would take care of you.”
“I know, but things were so bad back there.” His face clouded over. “Beck saved me. He went and made sure they got me out.”
“Beck saved you?” A painful lump swelled in my throat.
“Yeah. Is he with you?” Max sat up, looking behind me as if I had snuck someone in my shadow.
“No, Max, he’s not.” I ran my hand through his thick hair, and a sad understanding came over his face. “But you wouldn’t believe everything I went through to find you!”
“I bet you got a lot of zombies,” Max said, proudly.
I had sheltered him far too much, and he never developed an appropriate fear of zombies. He didn’t enjoy being around them, but he mistakenly believed that I could take on anything, so he always got a kick out of watching me fight with them.
“Yep, I did,” I laughed, wiping at my cheeks to keep the tears from falling. “And I even found a lion.”
“A lion?” His eyes widened.
“Yeah, she’s here, and you’d love her,” I said. “Maybe you can come out and meet her.”
“Oh, I can’t do that.” His face fell, and he looked down. “I can’t leave.
“Of course you can leave.”
“The doctors told me not to. They said I needed to stay here,” Max said.
“What is going on here?” I asked, forcing a smile. I tried to keep my tone light and curious, so he wouldn’t get upset. “What are these tubes?”
“I’m helping save the world,” Max smiled. I took a deep breath to keep from sobbing, and he misunderstood. “But I’ll be okay, Remy! They’re doing all this stuff, but I’ll be just fine! You don’t have to worry about me!”
“I know I don’t have to worry.” I squeezed his small hand. “You’ve always been so tough and brave.”
“They’re taking care of me, Remy. Honest,” Max tried to reassure me.
“Yes, I can see that.” I swallowed hard.
The door behind me opened. Adrenaline surged through me, and I instantly stopped crying. A tall man with dark slicked back hair and blue scrubs stood in the doorway. He narrowed his eyes at me, and I stood up, preparing to fight to get Max out of here.
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
“Dr. Daniels, this is my sister, Remy!” Max announced as cheerily as he could manage in his weakened condition. “Remy, this is the doctor who’s taking care of me.”