Tavia leaned in closer. “The man on the news said that people who were bitten would get sick. They would run a high fever, vomit, and have headaches within the first hour. At first, they thought it was some kind of flu, so the doctors or whoever began looking at medical records. They were confused because those with the flu vaccination got worse and died quicker than those who hadn’t gotten one.”
April snorted. “You’d think when they came back and tried to eat people, the doctors would have figured out it wasn’t the flu.”
Tavia pressed her lips together. “That was early. It was right after they talked about the scientist. He did this. He created zombies, and now, we’re all screwed.”
April picked at her nails, nervous. “Do you think it’s something in the vaccination?”
Dad shook his head. “No. I think, for whatever reason, the virus reacts with the vaccination. It’s enzymatic, not the cause.”
“Whatever that means,” April said.
Dad grinned. “The flu shot isn’t turning people into zombies. It just turns up the speed on the virus once you’ve been bitten.”
“Oh,” April said. “So, what caused it?”
Dad clenched his teeth. “The psycho scientist. He was probably obsessed with zombie movies and was just trying to see if he could make it a reality.”
“We’ll never know,” Tavia said. “The only thing that matters is that he did it, and now it’s a reality for us all.”
Tavia was right. The cause didn’t matter, only that it was here, right outside the windows, and we were hiding from it, whispering to keep it from hearing us.
I used to do that when I was younger, when Mom and Dad were fighting. Dad was usually mad at me, and Mom would pick a fight with him just to keep him downstairs and out of my face. Since the divorce, he’d had a better handle on his anger, but I wondered how long he would last before he blew. We were all tired and exhausted and scared. None of those things made for a good combination for someone with so much rage boiling beneath the surface. Back then, I would hide from him in my closet. Now, we were hiding together—from something much worse.
I stood next to Connor, noting the wrinkles he made when he scrunched one eye while he looked out through a hole with the other.
“See anything?” I said quietly.
“Yes,” he whispered. “I can see the cemetery from here.”
I sighed and leaned against the thin plywood, looking up. “We’re going to need something stronger to put on these windows.”
The kids were at the table, coloring quietly. It seemed so easy for them to forget about the nightmare happening outside while they chose the perfect shade of blue and dragged it back and forth on the paper. I wished it were that simple, that I could just busy myself with something and pretend everything was normal.
I smirked and looked at Connor. “Are we running for our lives or running a daycare?”
He leaned away from the hole in the plywood and watched me for a moment, frowning. “If you saw inside the school, you wouldn’t be complaining. Out of this entire town, only three of us are left. Another boy was in the church. His name was Evan. He was older than me, but he didn’t make it out. So, now, it’s just us and April. Your bunch brings the kid population to a grand total of eight. Eight—that’s not even a daycare. That’s just sad.”
“I…I’m sorry. I was just trying to make conversation. I didn’t mean—”
“I know,” he said, looking back through the hole. “I didn’t mean it either. I’m just mad.”
I wondered what Connor was like before this had happened because he didn’t act his age.
“I bet you are.”
“If I were older, I could have saved more people. If I were older—”
“There are a lot of adults around. None of them have stopped this. Don’t carry that around with you.”
“I’m not carrying anything. The only things I have are my clothes.”
“Where do you live? Maybe we could go get some of your things?”
He shook his head. “What does any of that stuff matter now?”
I shrugged. His way of thinking made me miss Chloe. I wondered where she was, if her mom had picked her up in time. I would hope. That was all I had left. “I wish I could have brought something from my old room. Makes it feel more like home.” When Connor didn’t respond, I continued, “It’s not as loud as I thought it would be. Not a lot of screaming or hysterics. People get quiet when they’re afraid.”
“It’s only been two days,” Connor said without emotion. “Give them time.”
“Halle used to talk all the time. She’s barely said a word. She hasn’t even really cried.”
“Good. Loud kids get eaten.”
“You’re creepy,” I said, crossing my arms.
He leaned back and looked at me, the corners of his mouth turned up ever so slightly. “You’re weird.”
“Yeah? Well, I’m not the one staring at a cemetery when dead people are walking around.”
“I’m not staring at the cemetery. I’m watching Skeeter.”
“Who’s Skeeter?” I asked.
“The guy who saved me.”
“I thought you said your teacher saved you?”
“He saved me from my teacher.”
My eyebrows shot up. “Oh.”
“He’s burying his wife.”
I furrowed my brows. “Oh.”
“She was pretty. April said she said she was pregnant. I’m pretty sure he had to shoot her. It was…sad, I guess—if that’s the right word.”
“Sad is the right word.”
“It doesn’t seem like enough.”
“May I?” I asked, pointing to the hole.
Connor wasn’t imagining things. A man was standing in the cemetery with a shovel, and a body covered in plastic was lying on the ground next to him. “I see him,” I said.
The man was filthy, covered in sweat, and once in a while, he would pause to aim and fire his gun.
So, that’s where the gunshots were coming from.
He was fearless, his shaggy sandy-blond hair sticking out of his ball cap. He was too far from me, so I couldn’t make out his face, but his body would shake periodically, and I knew that he was crying.