Hollowland / Page 36

Page 36

My hands couldn’t take it anymore, and I fell to the ground. The tree had only gone through her stomach, so she wasn’t dead. She couldn’t figure out how to push herself off the tree, but she might eventually, so we had to hurry.

“That was awesome!” Lazlo said, sounding way too impressed as he scrambled to his feet.

“That was stupid.” I shook my head, walking quickly. “I almost got my foot bit off. I didn’t have a chance to time that right, and I’m in the woods without a weapon. I’m practically suicidal.”

“No way, you’re-”

Lazlo’s undue praise was cut off by a pretty horrific sight. The fat zombie that I had eviscerated earlier lurched around a tree towards us. I could actually see a gravel driveway, presumably leading up to the carriage house, but this half-dead zombie stood in our way. His engorged, green intestines hung out, dragging on the ground around him.

“What’s your plan?” Lazlo asked as the zombie stumbled towards us.

“I don’t really have one.” My only recourses were running away or hand to hand combat, and I did not want to hit him. My fist would pop his skin like a water balloon.

“Go.” Lazlo took a step forward, so he was standing next to me instead of behind. “Go to the car. I’ll hold him off.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“No. You saved my life.” Lazlo looked at me earnestly, as the behemoth lumbered on. A long string of his intestines caught on a branch on the ground, momentarily slowing him. “I’m not gonna let you die.”

“Dying to save me defeats the purpose of me saving you.”

Before I could think of something, I heard a roar behind us. I turned around, expecting some horrifically fast zombie, but what I saw made my heart soar.

Ripley came tearing through the trees, her mouth pulled back in a fierce snarl, revealing her long, bloody teeth. I took a step back so she could go flying by us, and she pounced onto the zombie. He exploded in a terrific mess as her claws pierced his flesh, but she didn’t seem to mind.

The trees were suddenly bathed in yellow from the headlights, and a beaten up station wagon rolled down the driveway. It came to a stop when they saw Ripley gnawing on a corpse. Harlow sat shotgun, and she rolled down the window.

“Come on, you guys!” Harlow waved us on.

Without further prompting, Lazlo and I jogged over to the car. Lazlo slid in the backseat, but I ran around the back and opened the hatch. I called Ripley, and she looked uncertainly at me.

Echoing through the trees, we could still hear the death groans of more zombies. She flicked her tail sharply, then decided against zombie hunting, and hurried over and dove in the back. I ran around and jumped in the backseat next to Lazlo.

I got in just in time to see three more zombies emerging from the shadows, including the one I had impaled on a tree. One of the zombies slammed its hand onto the back of the car, leaving a bloody handprint and making Ripley growl, but then we were moving too fast for any of them to catch us.

“Now I’m really glad I came with,” Harlow said, watching out the window as we drove away. She had rolled it up as soon as she saw us coming, but she stared out emptily at the world hidden under a blanket of fog.

“What are you talking about?” I leaned back in the seat, catching my breath.

“They’re overrun with zombies.” She didn’t sound relieved or even upset by the thought. She said it in the same way she might mention that it looks like rain today.

“Good thing we had Remy,” Lazlo smiled at me, trying to lighten the mood. He brushed his black hair from his eyes, and I didn’t appreciate the gleam in them. “She was so badass back there. Did you see her? She took down like five zombies by hand.”

“Yeah, and two of them got back up,” I muttered.

Lazlo continued talking, but I could still hear Ripley in the back, slurping loudly as she licked herself clean. It reminded me of my own wounds in need of cleaning, and I looked down at the scratch on my arm.

It wasn’t a bad cut, and it’d already scabbed over. If I wasn’t afraid of catching the zombie virus, I wouldn’t have thought anything of it. Next to the thin red line down my arm, I had speckles of greenish blood, splatter from the zombies.

“Did you get hurt?” Lazlo noticed me inspecting my arm.

“On the bushes,” I said, barely above a whisper.

My heart clenched in my chest, and I had to swallow hard. After everything I had gone through, a damn bush was the thing that would get me.

“What?” Lazlo moved across the seat closer to me. The cut was on my right arm, the one on the opposite side of him, and he leaned over me to see it.

“What’s going on? What are you talking about?” Harlow already sounded panicked, and she sat on her knees on the seat so she could turn around and face me. “What happened?”

“I got a scratch when we came out of the building.” I kept my voice as even as possible. I didn’t want to frighten or upset them anymore than I had to. “And I have zombie blood on my arm. I might be infected.”

“Let me see.” Lazlo grabbed my arm, as if looking at it changed what happened.

“You guys should leave me here,” I told them.

“No!” Harlow shouted instantly, her eyes wide and appalled. “No way!”

“We’re not gonna leave you,” Lazlo reiterated, his words soft and low.

He stopped looking at my arm and turned his attention to me, so I pulled my arm back from his hands. I tried to move farther away, but I was already against the door.

I rubbed my temple and stared out the window. Tears wanted to form, but I refused to let them. I knew I should make them leave me on the road. It’s what I had done, several times before.

But I was too selfish and afraid, and too hopeful. I hadn’t been bitten, and I couldn’t see zombie blood or saliva directly in contact with my own wound. So there was still a chance.

“The incubation time is a maximum  two to three days before it’s all-out zombie,” I said thickly. I chewed my lip and looked back at them. “As soon as it starts happening, the high fevers, headaches, chills, vomiting… I need you to shoot me. I don’t want to turn. I need you to kill me first.”

“I’m not gonna kill you,” Lazlo shook his head, unable to even process the idea.

I wanted to argue that he’d be saving me from turning into a monster, and that if he didn’t, I’d end up killing him. But I didn’t want to think about it, and saying it aloud would make it worse somehow.

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