Alice in zombieland, p.12

Alice in Zombieland, page 12

 part  #1 of  White Rabbit Chronicles Series

 

Alice in Zombieland



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Page 12

 

  A few times, but they’ve never caught me.

  Well, if they’ve never caught you, how do you know they wanted to devour you?

  I could feel the evil of their intentions pulsing from their bodies.

  Dad, you can’t—

  You can, but more than that, a few years ago I found a book that tells all about them.

  And you believe everything this book says? Undoubtedly a work of fiction.

  He’d thought for a moment. Well, no. It says guns can’t hurt the monsters, but guns can hurt anything. And I’ve talked to others like me—

  In chat rooms, I’d said drily. Where forty-year-old men liked to pretend to be seventeen-year-old girls. Awesome.

  Yes, and they all say the same thing. The monsters want to eat us.

  I forced the memory to the back of my mind, where guilt and sorrow and a million other things churned, and quietly stalked down the stairs. Out the back door I went, stepping onto the porch and stopping to give my eyes time to adjust to the dark. Warmth bathed the night, a cloying blanket I couldn’t shake. Crickets chirped, and locusts sang. Leaves rubbed together as the wind whistled.

  In and out I breathed—and caught the most disgusting scent ever. My nose wrinkled, and I grimaced. Honestly, if you stuck your head inside a dead horse’s rectum, you wouldn’t smell anything close to this. (I haven’t, by the way. I was only guessing there. ) It was like rotten eggs mixed with dog farts and doused with skunk spray.

  My hand tightened on the bat as I scanned the yard. Grasshoppers jumped in different directions. Flaxen moonlight and writhing shadows tangoed as the trees swayed, but nothing jumped out at me.

  Okay. All right, then. I could do this. One step, two, I approached the back of the stockade fence. I trembled violently, my limbs threatening to lock up, but I convinced myself to keep going.

  Finally, I stood at the gate that led to the forest. Little beads of sweat slid down my spine, and all I wanted to do was race back into my room. Again I listened, breathing in more of that rancid decay. It was stronger now, thickening the air and actually burning the back of my throat. I gagged.

  With a shaky hand, I reached out and unhooked the latch. As the gate creaked open, I lifted the bat and assumed the I will beat you to death—really, I mean it! position. A minute ticked by, surely an eternity, but nothing happened. No one attempted to accost me.

  Come on, Bell. You can do this, remember? Inch by inch, I moved past the fence, past the line of bushes and into the core of the forest. My gaze scanned left and right. I’d seen that hint of wedding dress over…get ready…there.

  Swing—

  Nothing. I’d hit nothing.

  I stilled, my arms quaking. The moon’s rays were hindered by the thick canopy of leaves that stretched above me, darkening the entire area, so I couldn’t see if there were prints on the ground or not. My heart began to thunder, then lightning followed, little electrical impulses razing the center of my chest.

  Behind me, a twig snapped.

  I whipped around, swung—and once again hit nothing. I gulped, swallowing the knot trying to lodge in my throat.

  I’d never understood the stupid girl in every horror movie ever made, the one who heard a scary noise and went to investigate all by her lonesome…only to be knifed or tortured. I’d thought, if only she would have called the police, waited for help, something, anything, such a horrible fate would have been avoided.

  Now, I so understood. Who could I tell about this? Everyone would think I was certifiable, like my dad. I could be locked away, medicated…forgotten.

  I sucked it up, just like the stupid horror movie girls, and ventured deeper into the woods. Deeper still…

  Another twig snapped behind me. Again I jerked around, my bat already swinging. Again nothing stood in my way—but this time, I saw something.

  Reeling, I managed to gasp, “Emma?”

  She hovered a few feet from me, her dark hair anchored in pigtails, a pink tutu fluffing around her waist. Her cheek, the one that had been injured in the accident, was unmarred. No scab, no scar. Just healthy, sun-kissed skin.

  A frown pulled at her rosebud mouth. “You need to go inside,” she said, fear coating her voice. She tossed a glance over her shoulder. “Now, Alice. ”

  The realness of her amazed me. I even caught the little-girl scent of her, so sweet it somehow overshadowed the odor of rot. Tripping over my own feet, I closed the distance between us, reached out.

  “Alice,” she said, impatient with me.

  My hand ghosted through her.

  I wanted to scream in frustration. She was only a hallucination. Does that really matter? She was here and she was with me, and I’d missed her so much. So, yeah, if my mind wanted to toss out images of her, I wouldn’t fight it. She. Was. Here. “How are you, sis?”

  “You have to go inside, Alice. It’s almost too late. ”

  “Too late for what?” I would have given anything to pull her into my arms, to hug her tight and never let go.

  Amber eyes met mine, and they glimmered with tears. “Please!”

  Whatever she wanted, I would give her—except parting from her. “Will you come with me?”

  “Alice! Please, you have to…” Her image shimmered, fading in time with her voice…fading… “Please. ”

  “No!” I shouted. Catching a glimpse of my beloved sister only to lose her a split second later…was there anything crueler? “Don’t go. ” I need you. Real or not. But she’d already disappeared, the sweetness in the air vanishing, too. Frantic, I spun in a circle, looking for any sign of her.

  Crushing disappointment was followed by life-saving hope. Maybe she wasn’t gone for good. Maybe she had wanted me to go to my room for a reason. Like, maybe we could talk there.

  I shot into motion, shutting the gate and rushing back inside the house. Up the stairs I pounded, uncaring whether or not my grandparents heard me. An eternity seemed to pass before I reached my bedroom and burst inside.

  “Emma?”

  Silence. I searched every corner, every nook and cranny, but…she wasn’t there.

  I waited, five minutes, ten, but she never appeared.

  She wasn’t going to, was she?

  Hope died, the disappointment returning. “Emma,” I said, my chin trembling. My ceiling fan whirled overhead, creating a slight rustle, but there was no other discernible sound.

  I’d left my curtains open, I realized distantly, and stalked over to close them.

  The moment my fingers touched the fabric, I froze.

  Bridezilla—and what could only be her groom—stood just behind the fence, a ray of moonlight spotlighting both of them. They were staring at me, their lips peeled back from their teeth—their very sharp teeth.

  Her dress was ripped, dirty, her eyes sunken. Her skin was pitted, with patches of something black oozing from her pores. There wasn’t a veil on her head, but there was hardly any hair, either, just long stringy strands with leaves tangled throughout.

  The man beside her wore an equally ripped and dirty tux. He possessed the same sunken eyes, pitted skin and thinning hair. That odd black ooze covered both his chin and dripped…dripped…

  Bridezilla swiped out an arm, as if she was reaching for me.

  I scrambled backward, tripped, landed on my butt. The impact rattled my brain and maybe even knocked some sense loose. Monsters would have attacked me while they’d had the chance, so this had to be a joke. The two were probably human and wearing costumes. Had probably applied grotesque makeup. But…who would play a joke like this? Who would go to such extremes, for such a long period of time? Who would know this was the perfect way to torment me?

  No one, that’s who.

  Guess my theory needed work. Drawing on every bit of my courage, I forced myself to stand and approach the window. Another peek outside revealed…the pair was gone. Gone.

 
I nearly shrieked with frustration.

  What the heck was happening? What had I seen? And how had I spoken to my baby sister?

  I sank to my knees and buried my head in my hands. I was worse than my dad. There was no denying it now. No hoping otherwise.

  Oh, Daddy. I should have been nicer to him. I should have spent more time with him. Should have been more understanding of his psychosis, more sympathetic. I should have comforted him rather than complained about him.

  Should—a word of anguish rather than consolation.

  5

  The Deadly Rabbit Returns

  The next morning, my eyes burned with fatigue as I wandered the halls of Asher High. (Go Tigers. ) There were more posters on the walls, and they were now joined by streamers. I’d spent the entire night propped up by the window, desperate for another glimpse of Emma, frightened by the thought of those imaginary monsters.

  Seriously, how pathetic was I?

  I couldn’t function without sleep much longer, and I knew it. My mind had turned to mush—obviously—and my body felt heavy, weighted down, my steps dragging. The latter was proved when I stumbled into someone. A girl I didn’t recognize. I muttered an apology, and she scurried off without comment.

  Think about Em, the freaks and your idiocy later. Just get through the day. Good advice. Fingers crossed, I would listen and obey. Actually, there was a way to guarantee my obedience. Kat. She was the perfect distraction. Except, as I lugged through the crowd, I found myself searching for Cole Holland instead.

  My palms sweated as I neared the hallway where I’d seen him yesterday. Distantly I heard the opening and closing of lockers, chatter and laughter, the pound and click of shoes. Closer…was he there again today? I squared my shoulders as I rounded the corner, trying to prepare myself for impact, just in case.

  Good thing. He was there.

  Play it cool, Bell. He leaned against a locker, his hands stuffed into his jean pockets. He wore another hat, this one blue. Shadows cascaded over his face, hiding those magnificent violet eyes, but I could see a fresh bruise on his chin and a lesion on his lower lip.

  He’d gotten into a fight.

  He wore a black T-shirt that stretched indecently over hard-won muscle. A chain wrapped around his waist, and I would have sworn there were flecks of dried blood on the end. His boots were freshly polished yet severely scuffed.

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