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Boden had his gun, and he fired one shot, hitting a zombie right in the head. He’d killed it, but when he pulled the trigger again, nothing happened. He was out of ammunition.

Bishop had inherited Nolita’s gun, and she managed to get off three shots before running out. She killed one, but only maimed another that was charging at her.

Teddy had the other gun, so Serg and I were the only ones without weapons. Or at least we were at the start of the fight, since Boden and Bishop ran out so quickly. But at least Boden was using the gun to beat the zombies with.

I don’t know how Serg was fighting, and I didn’t really have time to think about it. I had my own zombie to deal with. I could maybe outrun it, but I didn’t want to accidentally lead it to Max or Stella, and I definitely didn’t want to try running back up the hill.

A fight seemed my best option, even though I’d just seen how well that worked out for Nolita.

When the zombie charged at me, I grabbed its arm and swung it around, slamming it into the trunk of a pine tree next to me. It felt a bit Wile E. Coyote to me, but the zombie was stunned for a moment.

I grabbed the back of its head – which was still surprisingly full of thick curls, so I got a good grip – then bashed the zombie’s face into the tree over and over until it stopped moving.

Serg was struggling with his own zombie. He had out a large hunting knife, which he was using to try to slash at the zombie in front of him. It kept the zombie back a bit, but it wouldn’t for long.

In fact, if Ripley hadn’t come out from behind a tree and pounced on the zombie, Serg probably would’ve been dead meat. Thankfully, there was nothing that cat loved more than killing zombies.

Boden was bashing a zombie with his gun, and it was still twitching, but I doubted it could hurt anybody. Bishop was fighting off another zombie, but Serg joined in to help her fight it off. The only zombie left unaccounted for was the one chasing the kids.

I figured between Bishop, Boden, Serg, and the lion, they could handle the last zombie, and I took off in the direction I’d seen the zombie go. I wasn’t sure where they went, other than north, but it wasn’t long before I heard Stella crying.

I ran toward the sound of her cries, and when I was closer, I heard another noise mixed in with it. A zombie tearing and eating flesh. It was a very specific sound, but one I knew all too well.

I slowed down when I approached, trying to get an idea of what the situation was before I ran headlong into it.

All I could see was the back of a zombie, bent over as he gnawed on something. He was shirtless and clearly male, but his skin had a greenish hue to it, and his spine protruded almost like spikes from his skin. He was starving.

Stella was still crying, but I didn’t see her at first. Then I looked up. She was sitting in the lower branches of a pine tree, clinging to it, and staring down as the zombie ate what I presumed to be Teddy.

I grabbed a thick stick from the ground and snapped it over my leg, creating a pointed edge. The zombie looked back when he heard it, but I hid behind a tree. I waited for a few seconds, then I heard the zombie start chewing away at Teddy again.

I crept out from the tree and walked up behind the zombie. It was too engrossed in eating to notice me. It was in the middle of biting into one of Teddy’s organs when I drove a stick through its back, jabbing it right through the heart.

The zombie slumped forward, in what ended up being a bit of a blessing. It fell over the hole it had ripped in Teddy’s back, sparing Stella from looking at it anymore. Though I suppose she’d already seen enough.

And what I could see of Teddy’s body wasn’t pretty. His legs and pants were shredded, clawed up by the zombie’s hands. His mouth was open wide, frozen in an expression of horror, and his entire back was stained with blood.

“Stella, sweetie,” I said, turning my attention to the little girl hiding in the tree. “It’s okay. The zombie’s gone now.”

“No!” She shook her head, tears streaming down her chubby cheeks. “The zombies are never gone!”

“Well, they are for now,” I said. I moved closer to the tree, which meant stepping over Teddy’s body, and I held my hands out to her. “The zombies are gone, and everything’s okay. You can come down now.”

“No!” She clung onto the branch and kicked at me, like she was trying to shoo me away. “I’m never coming down again!”

“Stella.” I sighed and put my hands on my hips. “This is like the loft all over again. You came down from that, and that turned out fine.”

“It did not!” Stella pointed to Teddy. “He got eaten! And something happened to that lady back in the cabin! It’s not fine!”

“Well, yes, those things did happen but …” I trailed off.

But what? She had a point. She just couldn’t live in that tree forever.

“Is everything okay?” Bishop asked as she jogged up behind me. Boden and Daniels were following behind her, but at a much slower rate.

“Well, Stella’s in the tree,” I started to explain, but Bishop’s eyes had been locked on her. She’d probably been summoned by Stella’s cries, the same way I had.

Bishop looked down when she got close and slowed to a startled walk. She put her hand to her mouth, and her eyes widened as she approached Teddy.

“Oh my god.” Her voice trembled, and tears filled her eyes. She lowered her hand and circled closer to Teddy. She reached out like she meant to touch him, but she didn’t. “Oh, Teddy. Oh no.”