Alice in zombieland, p.51

Alice in Zombieland, page 51

 part  #1 of  White Rabbit Chronicles Series

 

Alice in Zombieland
 



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Page 51

 

  “Go,” Cole snapped to his remaining friends.

  All but Bronx darted away. They were still in spirit form, and therefore susceptible to further injury from the suits. Normally that wouldn’t be a concern, I was sure, Cole and company’s skills far superior. Now, we were all vulnerable.

  One of the suits walked over to me and bent down. There was a clear panel in front of his face and as I squinted up at him, Justin’s features began to crystallize.

  “You picked the wrong team,” he said.

  A warm breeze washed over me, and I thought maybe the breeze had somehow sprung from the force of his words, as if there was power in them even I could feel in this natural realm.

  “I’m on the right team,” I gritted out. His will would not supersede mine.

  His sister came up beside him, grinning smugly through her mask. The whiteness of her teeth gave her a feral appearance. She never said a word, but then, no words were necessary. She laughed.

  I watched, helpless, as the suits collared what was left of the still-writhing zombies and dragged them away.

  Two seconds after they were gone, blood-covered arms slid under my back and knees and lifted me. I was cradled against Cole’s chest, his heart hammering away at his ribs. “I’ve got you,” he said.

  “I’m not in as much pain as usual. I can walk. ” He didn’t appear to be straining, but I knew he was feeling the effects of our battle, too.

  “It’s either hold on to you or chase after the hazmats. I picked you. ”

  “Good choice, I guess. ” As he carried me through the trees, my gaze locked on my sister, who had materialized a few feet away from Cole, her slight form already flickering in and out. There was such a sad expression on her face.

  “It’s too late now,” she whispered. “I’m sorry, Alice, so very sorry. He’ll be coming for you. ”

  15

  The King and Queen of Shredded Hearts

  My sister’s words haunted me the entire drive to Cole’s house. He’ll be coming for you. Who would? Why?

  The moment we arrived, however, my focus changed. Inside the barn, I saw all the kids on hospital gurneys. Most were hooked to an IV bag while Mr. Ankh walked around checking vitals. Some were sleeping, some in too much pain to nod off. But Brent…he was utterly still, his body a mess of black boils.

  Of all the kids, he needed medical attention the most and yet Mr. Ankh never even approached his bed. Dr. Wright, who cleaned and bandaged those with minor injuries, never even glanced at his bed. That could only mean…

  Cole unleashed a dark, dark curse that dripped with all kinds of venom and sorrow. He eased me onto a bed, and said to Mr. Ankh, “Trina and Haun are still out there, looking for…” His voice broke. He pressed his lips together.

  But Trina and Haun were lying on gurneys and—oh. No. They weren’t. Their bodies might be here, but in actuality they were in the forest still in spirit form.

  “I’ve already sent your dad out to get them,” Mr. Ankh said.

  Though her expression was as stern as always, Dr. Wright placed a gloved hand over her heart. “I’m sorry, Cole. He was a wonderful boy. ”

  Cole bowed his head.

  “He’s not…he can’t be…” I said.

  “He is. He can. ” I’d never heard such a raw tone from him. “We’ll find out in a few days whether or not his spirit moved on or became zombie. ”

  There was no way to tell here and now? And was that really a possibility? No matter what, I did not want to wake up one day as an undead spirit corpse.

  “We’ll have to sneak his body into his home, into his own bed, and his girlfriend will be the one to report his condition in the morning. Word will spread that he died of the same disease as Boots and Ducky. ” A bitter laugh left him. “Maybe it won’t be classified as ‘rare’ anymore, eh?”

  “I’m so sorry,” I whispered. I knew the devastation of loss, the sick feeling of realizing someone you loved had suffered greatly.

  “To a bed, Cole,” Mr. Ankh said before he could reply. “Let’s get you medicated. ”

  Within minutes, both Cole and I were hooked to an IV. He had lapsed into silence, but I could feel the pain radiating off him in huge, twisting waves. I hadn’t known Brent well, but even I mourned his loss.

  “He wouldn’t have wanted to go any other way,” Collins said.

  Cole banged his head against his pillow.

  Dr. Wright walked by and patted his hand.

  My chin trembled.

  “You will not cry,” she said to me, and though the words seemed cruel, they were actually a kindness, strengthening me. “That’s not what’s needed right now. ”

  “I know. ” But…how many friends had Cole lost like this? How many more would he lose? And what about me? I’d get to know these guys better, probably come to love them, and then lose them, too.

  When Trina and Haun glided into the barn, both were fighting tears. I watched, the desire to cry rising all over again as they stepped up to their bodies and slipped inside, as if they were covering themselves with a shimmery blanket.

  “I can’t believe he’s dead,” Trina croaked. Red and black stained her bared biceps. Her hair, now flecked with dried blood, stuck out in spikes. There was a split in her upper lip, a bruise on her cheek, and a large knot on her jaw.

  A warm tear escaped and trickled down my cheek.

  I watched as Mr. Ankh gathered Trina in his arms and hugged her tight.

  Bronx, who’d arrived with Cole and me, had claimed the cot next to her. Silent, he rested his arm over his swollen, already blackened eyes. He, too, was covered in red and black, his blue hair a disheveled mess.

  Mr. Holland was the next to stalk into the barn. He made a beeline for his son. “I’m sorry. He was a good kid. We’ll honor him, like we’ve honored all the others. ”

  Cole nodded stiffly, and another tear trickled down my cheek. “Take care of Ali,” he said, the hollowness of his voice enough to break my heart the rest of the way. “She took a lot of heat. ”

  A pause, then Mr. Holland patted his son’s shoulder. “All right. ” He turned to me and cleaned and bandaged me as gently as possible. “I hear you also took care of some business tonight. ”

  “We all did. ”

  “Modest? Really? I wouldn’t have guessed it of you. ” He tossed the bloody bandages into a trash bin beside my bed. “So Mackenzie hacked her way free on her own? Frosty, too?”

  “I did what I had to do, what any one of the guys would have done for me. ”

  “Yeah, but you did it without much training. ”

  I sighed. “Is this the part where you accuse me of working with the bad guys?”

  The corners of his lips twitched with amusement, the same way Cole’s sometimes did. “No. You didn’t know where you were being taken for the ambush, so there’s no way you could have told them where to go. The suits followed the zombies like the zombies followed you. ”

  Speaking of… “What are they planning to do with those zombies?”

  “Besides trying to stuff them into human bodies? I wish I knew. ”

  After that, he walked away from me. The entire group fell into a prickly silence, everyone lost in their own thoughts. If only there was something I could say to comfort them, but I remembered my disdain for the doctors, nurses, friends and family who had offered me ridiculous platitudes after the accident.

  You’ll be okay. They would carry on, yes, but they would never forget their own sense of mortality.

  Time will heal you. Losing a loved one was like losing a limb. You were always aware of what you were missing, of what you used to have.

  I’m sorry. I was, but those words wouldn’t really mean anything to any of them. Their friend was gone, and they wouldn’t see him again until they died. That thought wouldn’t comfort them tonight.

  “The zombies have become more resilient,” Fr
osty said, shattering the quiet with a harshness he usually reserved for me. “The halogens used to send them running away. They didn’t run tonight. ”

  “I don’t think they’re more resilient,” Cole said, his tone now as dark as it was hard. “I think they were that determined to reach Ali. ”

  “But why?” I asked, baffled.

  No one had an answer for me.

  * * *

  The next few months passed in a daze. Brent hadn’t gone to Asher. He’d already graduated and had been living on his own, away from his family, so no one at school knew he was gone. No one understood why Cole and friends were all on edge, ready to snap at any moment.

  Cole held a small, private memorial service for Brent, and seeing him and the others, each more stoic than the last, break down over their friend’s death had affected me deeply. I’d sobbed like a baby.

  Sometimes all I could do was worry about who would be next to fall. Cole? We hadn’t had another vision, and still weren’t sure what that meant for us. What about Frosty? Just how would Kat handle his loss? Not well, that was for sure.

  But as I’d already learned, no matter what happened around us, life would always go on. Every day after school I worked out and trained with Cole. In the ring, I was never as good as I’d been in the field. I couldn’t fake the spring of adrenaline or the rush of fight or flight no matter what we were practicing.

  I was definitely the weak link.

  Cole tossed me on my butt countless times, nicked me with swords and daggers, but he hadn’t kissed me again. Not that I’d thought about that or anything. Really.

  I stayed up almost every night. If I wasn’t patrolling the forest around my house with Cole, I was setting traps for zombies. If I wasn’t setting traps, I was hunting for nests. If I wasn’t hunting nests, I was watching for monsters from my window or trying to decipher the rest of the journal.

  Two more passages had opened up for me, one about the first of the zombies, which Dr. Wright had already explained to me, and one about the first of the slayers, which she hadn’t. Those first slayers had not been able to leave their bodies and had had to learn to fight the zombies while in their natural form. But then, the death of one of their own had saved them. The zombies had eaten his spirit straight out of his body, and somehow an infection had spread, nearly wiping out the undead. Nearly. That’s all I’d been able to make out, but maybe that was for the best. Everything I learned confused me more.
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