“That’s called Antarctica, Boden. And we couldn’t survive there.”
“They weren’t around during the snowstorm,” Boden said. “That at least slowed them down. Maybe the cold won’t kill them or stop them completely, but they thrive where it’s warm. We’ll be safer the farther we go.”
“I hope so,” I sighed. “But I don’t know if we’ll ever be safe again.”
“Maybe we won’t,” he admitted. “But we’ll survive anyway.”
We walked another full day, stopping only when we had to. We decided to end the day at a roadside motel that was eerily reminiscent of the Bates Motel. Some of the rooms were in horrible shape, trashed and torn up. There was even a rotting body in a first-floor room.
But the second floor rooms weren’t quite as bed. Boden and Serg moved box springs out from two of the rooms to block the stairways to the upstairs, just in case zombies stumbled upon us. It had been a little while since we’d heard the death groans, and we were on a pretty deserted stretch of road.
As a rather exciting added bonus, Daniels found three working flashlights in the office. He’d gone exploring, looking for provisions, and it was like he’d struck gold.
We picked the three cleanest, nicest rooms for ourselves to share. Stella, Max, and I would share the one room with the king-sized bed. The rest had two double beds.
Boden and Daniels were sharing the room next door, leaving Clark and Serg with the room on the other side. Even though we were sleeping separately, we planned on all eating supper together in Boden’s room.
He was getting supper ready while I cleaned up the kids. I took a bucketful of snow into a bathroom and filled the bathroom sink with it. Then I held a match over it until it melted into clean, fresh water.
I had a flashlight in our bathroom, and Max made shadow puppets with it while I washed up Stella. I didn’t give her a full bath, but I used a wet washcloth to wipe off her face and body. I’d taken the brush from the last house, and I wetted down her hair and ran the brush through it.
Once I’d finished with her, I cleaned up Max. Well, he took the washcloth and did it himself, but I watched to make sure he did a good job.
Boden pounded on the wall separating our room and yelled, “Supper!”
For being a crappy motel, the walls were surprisingly thick. Even when Boden yelled, his words were muffled.
“All done,” Max said, throwing the wash cloth in the sink as soon as Boden had called for supper.
“Go ahead,” I said, waving him and Stella along. “I’ll be over in a minute.”
As soon as Max and Stella disappeared, I lifted up my shirt to check out my incision. Daniels said I had to be sure to clean it a lot. It seemed to look much better than it had last time. I splashed cold water over it, cleaning it as best I could.
I still had my shirt lifted up when I noticed Clark in the mirror, standing in the bathroom doorway behind me, so I immediately pulled it down.
“Um, I heard supper was ready,” I said. “I’ll be right over. I was just finishing cleaning up.”
“Don’t rush on my account.” Clark smiled and leaned on the doorframe.
“I’m not.” I smiled thinly at him and leaned over the sink, washing my hands and arms in the cold water. “I’m just about done.”
“It’s a shame we had to leave that last house,” Clark said, still smiling at me in a way that looked disturbingly hungry. “I so enjoyed playing house.”
“It was a nice place,” I agreed hurriedly.
I’d actually wanted to clean my cut better, per Daniels’ instructions, but it didn’t look like Clark planned on going away anytime soon. And there was no way I was pulling my shirt up in front of him.
“It’s so nice to play with pretty girls like you,” Clark commented, and that was it. I couldn’t stand to be in the same room with him another second.
I turned around, preparing to leave, but the flashlight’s beam glinted off something in his hand. He was holding it at his side by his hip, and I hadn’t been able to see it in the reflection of the mirror. But now I saw it clearly. Clark had Serg’s hunting knife, and he was twisting it in his hand.
“Can I get by?” I asked. I tried to pretend like I hadn’t seen it, like I wasn’t suddenly terrified. I just smiled at him as sweetly as I could and rubbed the back of my neck.
“No.” He shook his head, still smiling, and stepped toward me. “No. You can’t.”
“What are you doing?” I asked, taking a step back from him. But my butt hit the bathroom counter behind me. I couldn’t go back any farther.
“Whatever I want.” He closed the bathroom door.
I lunged forward at him, meaning to kick him in the junk, but he caught me by the throat before I could. His hand squeezed tightly around my windpipe, and I couldn’t breathe. I clawed at it futilely, and he held the knife above me, pointing it at my face so I could see how sharp it was.
“Make one sound, I’ll gut those two little kids as soon as I’m finished with you,” Clark promised me with a sweet smile.
I thrashed my legs, and I connected with him once, kicking him in the shin. His hand tightened around my throat, and he ran the blade along my cheek.
“I’d rather filet you after,” Clark said. “But I can do it first, if you prefer. It’s your choice. Which do you pick?”
His grip loosened on my throat, enough where I could gasp for breath. And that’s all I did at first, try to catch my breath.
“You don’t have to do this,” I begged. “Please.”
“You didn’t answer my question,” he said, and his hand started tightening.
“After!” I said, but I didn’t even know what that meant. I just knew that prolonging being fileted was probably a good idea. “But Clark, listen, if you do anything stupid, Boden and Daniels will come after you.”
I would come after him, too, but I felt like me personally threatening him wouldn’t work as well as threatening him with Boden and Daniels. Clark already thought he could overpower me and take what he wanted, so nothing I said would sound like a threat, anyway.
“No, you listen to me, bitch,” Clark growled. His face was right above mine, and spittle landed on my face when he spoke. “If you don’t do exactly what I say, when I say, I will kill those two fucking brats the second I’m done with you. Do you understand me?”