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Serg raised an eyebrow approvingly. “Sounds good.”

“I think I’m going to do laundry today, so I’m going to go out and get some lake water,” I said. “If Max gets up and needs help with his breakfast, I’ll be out back.”

“Thanks, but I think I manage,” Serg smiled.

We’d found several large plastic buckets in the garage, and I took two of them out with me to the lake. Doing laundry was tedious. I had to fill up several buckets and use the strainer to get out any dirt. Then I filled up the bathtub with the water, and I got on my hands and knees and scrubbed the clothes with a bar of soap. It was an all-day thing, so I wanted to get a jump on it early.

I was bent over the lake, reaching out as far as I could so I wouldn’t get so much mud mixed in with the water, when I heard a familiar sound.

I turned around to see a zombie a few feet behind me, making a retching noise.


I grabbed the empty bucket and swung at it. The zombie narrowly ducked out of the way, which I didn’t appreciate at all. I wasn’t used to zombies dodging attacks, so right off the bat that was a bad sign.

The zombie was grayish and clearly a man. He’d been turned long enough that he looked as though his eyes were going to fall out, and his lip was torn off, revealing his broken and crooked teeth. But he was young enough where he still held human form, and he was fast.

He ran at me, and I swung the bucket again. This time it connected with his face, but it only stunned him for a second. He didn’t even lose his balance.

“Great,” I muttered. “The first zombie I see here, and he has to be a super zombie.”

Boden had left an ax outside for chopping wood for the fireplace. It was sticking out from a tree stump right behind the garage, so I ran for it. The zombie gave chase, naturally, and I’d just wrapped my fingers around the handle of the ax when the zombie caught my sweater, yanking me back.

Fortunately, the ax came with me. The zombie had knocked me off balance, though, and I fell to the ground. It jumped at me, preparing to devour my face, and I swung the ax at it. The blade hit the middle of the zombie’s face, slicing through his skull just below his eyeball. I drove it all the way through the other side of his nose before deciding that was enough.

It collapsed on me, dripping it’s horrible thick blood all over my favorite sweater of Boden’s.

“Dammit.” I pushed the dead zombie off me and got up, wiping the blood off on the already ruined shirt.

I pulled off the sweater, stripping down to a tank top, and tossed Boden’s shirt on the grass. I’d have to throw it away later, but for now, I just wanted to get back in the house and put on something warm.

Ripley came around the side of the garage, swishing her tail.

“Now you come,” I told her. “I’ve already killed it and don’t need your help.”

She licked her lips when she saw the zombie and sniffed the air. It’d been awhile since she’d eaten, since there weren’t many zombies up here. I think I saw her eating a squirrel once, but I couldn’t say for sure.

“Go ahead. Eat up.” I waved her on, and then I turned to go back in the house.

Max was up, and he’d already gotten the fishing poles out. He and Serg were excitedly talking about their plans to catch impossibly large fish.

“If you’re going fishing, be on the watch for zombies,” I said as I walked by them. “I just saw one in the backyard.”

“Really?” Serg and Max asked in unison.

“Yeah, really.” I gave Serg a meaningful look. “You be careful if you take my brother outside.”

“Wait. What?” Boden asked.

He’d gotten out of bed in the time I’d been outside collecting water and wrestling with the zombie. He sat on the couch with Stella curled up underneath one of his arms. From where I stood, I couldn’t see, but I imagined that he had a copy of Oh, the Places You’ll Go open on his lap. That’d been Stella’s favorite book since she’d found it here, and she had us read it to her ten times a day.

“There was a zombie outside.” I walked around the couch and flopped down next to him. “I got it, but I ruined your shirt.”

“It’s okay. You liked the shirt more than I did anyway.” He closed the book on his lap and turned away from Stella a bit to check me out. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.” I settled down next to him and sighed. “I guess I should be grateful that it took the zombies this long to find us out here. It’s been warming up, and we knew they’d start coming.”

“We did,” Boden agreed. “So what do you want to do? Should we go?”

“No.” I shook my head fiercely. “This is our home now.”

“You sure?” Boden asked.

“Yes,” I nodded. “There can’t be that many zombies around here anyway. And summer only lasts a few months before it gets cold again. We can hold off zombies for that long.”

“Okay.” He grinned, then leaned over and kissed my temple.

He opened the book back up, and I rested my head on his shoulder and listened to him reading to Stella. For the first time in so long, I felt like I finally had a home, a family. And I wasn’t going anywhere.