“I don’t want that either,” Boden said. “But it’s getting colder. How much longer do you think Stella can handle walking around in this without getting sick? She’s malnourished and exhausted as it is. Do you want to add pneumonia on top of that?”
“No, of course not, but I think that a zombie attack is more imminent than an illness.”
“This is a safe enough distance,” Boden insisted. “But it will cut half a day’s walk off our trip.”
I opened my mouth to argue more, but there was a commotion inside the house. Banging, grunting, and Stella screaming. Then Max began calling my name.
“Max!” I shouted and was instantly on my feet.
I raced toward the house, my feet slipping in the slush. The few steps up to the front porch were horribly slick, and I almost fell on my face before regaining my footing. The handle to the front door turned, but the door itself wouldn’t budge. It was stuck.
Max had stopped yelling for me, which only made me panic more. I slammed my shoulder into the door as hard as I could, but it still wouldn’t move. Then Boden was at my side, hitting it with me, and the door finally flew in.
“Max!” I yelled and dashed through the house, racing through the empty front rooms.
“Remy,” Max said, and I saw him standing in the kitchen doorway at the back of the house.
I ran over and picked him up. It wasn’t until then, when I had him safe in my arms that I really looked around. Serg was lying on the kitchen floor, bleeding. Daniels was bent over him, pressing an old towel to the wound on Serg’s stomach, but the blood was seeping around it.
“She took her, Remy,” Max was telling me, his voice thick with fear.
The house’s back door was off on the kitchen, and the door was wide open, letting snow blow into the room. Boden went over to it, peering outside, but he must not have seen anything, because he turned back to face us.
“I tried to stop her,” Serg said, wincing as Daniels put pressure. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s not your fault,” Daniels said, trying to comfort him. “You did the best you could.”
Somewhat reluctantly, I put Max down. He was getting heavy, and he didn’t really need me holding him.
“What happened?” I asked.
“Bishop came and took Stella,” Serg explained. “She tried to get Max, too, but Daniels held her off. Then Bishop got my hunting knife from me, and she stabbed me with it.”
“She wasn’t a zombie yet?” Boden asked.
Daniels shook his head. “Not yet. But she grabbed Stella and took off out the back door. I don’t know what she plans to do with her.”
“And she has your knife now,” Boden said.
“No, she dropped it over there.” Daniels pointed to a bloody knife on the floor.
Serg grimaced. “Sorry. I didn’t – ”
“It’s fine.” Boden waved at him, but his eyes were on me. “What do we do?”
“She couldn’t have gone far,” I said. “Not yet.”
“I didn’t see her out there.” Boden motioned to the open door behind him. “Bishop was always fast. She’s probably even faster and stronger if the virus has started taking effect. Not to mention she’s infectious.”
“You have to go get Stella!” Max sounded appalled that we were even talking about this, and his brown eyes were wide. “You can’t leave her out there!”
“Max, can you go find me some thread?” Daniels asked, cutting his protests short. “I need to stitch up Serg. I have a needle, but I need some thread.”
Max hesitated, looking between Boden and me, but when Daniels said his name again, Max moved. He ran through the house, and I heard him throwing things about as he searched for it.
“How is he?” Boden asked, turning his attention to Daniels and Serg.
“He’ll be fine,” Daniels said. “I think she missed all the major organs. A few stitches, and he’ll be right as rain.”
“She didn’t bite him, then?” Boden asked quietly.
“No.” Daniels shook his head. “Serg’ll be fine.”
I stepped over Serg and brushed past Boden, walking out the back door. Boden followed me.
“Remy,” Boden said, so I stopped and turned around to face him.
“I’m going to find her,” I said firmly. “Even if it’s too late, I have to try. You’re the one that said you don’t leave anyone behind.”
“I did say that,” Boden agreed. “But when I said ‘left behind’ I didn’t mean ‘hauled off by zombies.’”
“Bishop’s not a zombie yet. She’s just insane.”
“Like that makes it any better,” he muttered. “I should go with you.”
“You can’t.” I shook my head. “They need you here.”
Serg was injured, Daniels was no good in a fight, and Max was just a kid. Without Boden, they were easy targets for any crazy person or flesh-eating monster that came along.
He nodded grimly, realizing the same things I had. “How long do you want me to wait for you?”
“It’s not that long until it’s dark.” I looked up at the cloud-covered sky. We had maybe a few more hours until nightfall. “And Serg could use the rest. Wait until morning, but no longer than that. If I’m not back, go on without me.”
“Okay.” He looked at me a moment longer, like he wanted to say something more.
But he didn’t, so I started to walk away from him.
“Remy,” Boden called after me, and I turned back to see him walking backwards toward the house. “Don’t do anything stupid. Stay safe. And… come back in one piece.”
If the snow had been real snow instead of the mushy gunk it was, it would’ve been easier to follow Bishop. She would’ve left tracks for me to find. Every now and then I would catch one – a smashed imprint in the grass and snow. But I was mostly following my gut.
The area around the farm was tree lined enough that she was hidden from sight. If it had been all flat land, I would’ve had a clear view of her running with a child. But I didn’t.
I started off running at first, but then I became paranoid I’d miss a footprint or lose her track if I hurried too fast. Slowing down might have eased my paranoia, but it was only widening the distance between myself and Bishop. That gave me a whole different kind of panic.