Hollowland / Page 17

Page 17


Blue kept his expression neutral, smiling at the appropriate times, but I couldn’t imagine that this scene sat well with him either. Lazlo’s lips were pressed into a thin line, and his face glistened with nervous sweat. He stayed incredibly close to me, to the point where I bumped into him every time I moved.

“And all the emergency food is in there,” Nevaeh gestured to a closet off the bedroom. “We can just close that door leading upstairs, and this a bomb shelter. We can survive anything.”

“This all looks really nice and fairly new,” Blue commented, looking around. “Was this all built after the… infection spread?” He chose his words carefully, afraid that saying the wrong thing would offend them.

“Oh no, this was built several years ago,” Nevaeh smiled. “We all lived here before End Times descended upon us. That’s how we’ve been able to survive it all so well.”

“So you’ve lived here for years?” Lazlo’s voice had a tight shakiness he couldn’t completely hide.

“God called upon me to build a safe place, and I did.” Korech gestured widely to the room, and all of the girls looked on him with reverence. “He allowed me to keep all these people safe, and now He is allowing me to help you.”

This was met with the girls saying things like “Amen” and “Praise be to God.”

“We truly appreciate it,” Blue said, and his smile had begun to waver.

“I’m sure you’re all exhausted. The sinful world out there is wearying,” Korech said.

I almost pointed out that the sin quite as exhausting as the zombies, but technically I supposed, zombies were sinful.

“Um, well…” I tried to form an excuse to leave, but I couldn’t come up with one.

“I’d like to shower,” Harlow said. Even as strange and somewhat creepy as this was becoming, she was completely unfazed

“Yes, of course,” Korech smiled wider. “You can shower and make yourselves at home in the beds down here. The girls will be happy to help you.” He turned his attention to Blue and Lazlo, and Lazlo moved closer to me, so his arm pressed up against mine. “You two are more than welcome to shower as well. You can use the showers upstairs, and sleep in the boys’ room next to mine.”

“There’s a boys’ room?” Lazlo asked.

“Yes, of course,” Korech laughed. “We like to keep unmarried men and women separate. It’s written in the scripture.”

“Oh, right,” Lazlo smiled, relieved.

He probably thought Korech might lead him off to kill him or something, but what Korech said actually made sense. Maybe we were all just overreacting.

Korech bid us good night, then led Blue and Lazlo up the stairs. Lazlo shot a worried a look back down at me, and I tried to give him a reassuring smile.

“Oh, all our clothes are in the car,” I realized.

“We have things down here.” Nevaeh put a hand on my arm to prevent me from going further up the stairs. “All our clothes are new and untainted. I’m sure they would be more comfortable than the clothes you currently have.”

“Well…” I wanted to go up and get my things so I could get a gun, check on Ripley, and make sure the boys were really going to another room.

“You can get your things in the morning, if you still want them.” Nevaeh moved her hand to the small of my back and ushered me further in the room. “But I’m sure you’ll find our things to be much more comfortable.”

“I would like some new clothes,” Harlow said, and I would’ve glared at her if everyone wasn’t watching us. She had just stolen tons of new clothes from that house, and they looked much better than the silly bag dresses they made here.

“Lia, will you get them some things?” Nevaeh asked a girl with long, red hair.

“Yes, of course.” Lia jumped off her bed and went to the back of the room, where all the matching outfits were kept neatly folded on several shelves.

“I’m going to go upstairs to make sure everything is alright,” Nevaeh said, looking very seriously at both of us. “If you need anything, Lia will get it for you.”

“Thank you,” Harlow smiled at her.

“You are a very lovely girl.” Nevaeh touched her cheek gently. “You will fit in perfectly here.”

With that, she smiled and headed up the stairs. I pretended that I didn’t notice how she hadn’t said anything about me fitting in.

Lia brought clothes over to us, smiling like we were fancy new toys. I didn’t feel entirely comfortable showering with Harlow, since I still possessed some modesty, but I preferred it to waiting in the room with the other girls.

They all smiled too widely at us, except for Vega, a girl with black hair in the back. I thought I saw something else in her expression. I actually would’ve liked to talk to her, but she was in the far corner. Besides that, even if she had anything to say, she wouldn’t be able to say it around everyone else.

The water never really got warm and the pressure was almost non-existent, but it had to be the greatest shower I ever had. After spending a few minutes simply relishing the fact that we were getting clean, Harlow prattled on about how amazing this place was.

Electricity, showers, and clean clothes managed to block out the fact that Korech and company were obviously a cult, but I couldn’t point it out because the bathroom didn’t have a door. Everyone got to listen and watch us shower.

I left my hair down for the first time in months, the dark waves resting on my back. The nightgowns may have looked like bags, but they were soft cotton and comfortable. As much as this place freaked me out, I felt a little tempted to hang out here for a day or two.

Then I saw Lia smiling at me like one of the kids from Village of the Damned, and I thought of my little brother, scared and alone somewhere far away. I knew I could not stay here for long.

Lia had made up two empty beds for us right by hers. She sat on her bed with two other girls, waiting for us while we showered. Shiloh, a girl with freckles, couldn’t be much older than Harlow. The other girl had long, long black hair, a wicked smile, and I think her name was Ruth.

“Are you two sisters?” Lia asked before we even had a chance to sit down.

“No, I was an only child.” Harlow sat on the bed closer to them, which I was grateful for. She ran her fingers threw her hair, untangling it. “Now I’m an orphan.”

“But you’re not alone,” I reminded her and climbed into my bed. It wasn’t as comfortable as a real bed, but it was better than a cot or the ground.

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