Alice in zombieland, p.54

Alice in Zombieland, page 54

 part  #1 of  White Rabbit Chronicles Series

 

Alice in Zombieland
 



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Page 54

 

  Dinner was meat loaf and mashed potatoes, with as much sweet tea as I could hold. All my working out had caused me to develop a major appetite, and despite the tension in the air, I sucked in the food as if I was a Hoover set on High.

  As soon as I finished and said, “That was delicious, thank you,” the explosion happened.

  “Are you doing drugs?” Nana demanded, her half-eaten meal forgotten.

  Shock had me slinking down in my chair. “No! Of course not. ”

  Pops donned his sternest expression. “We want to believe you, we do, but I checked and you’re exhibiting all the classic signs. ”

  “What signs?” I asked, but I could guess.

  “Another teacher called. ” Nana rested her elbows on the tabletop. Normally so proper, I knew her lack of manners now meant she was beyond disconcerted. “You have a D in her class. You slept through her lecture. She also told us that you are hanging around the wrong crowd. ”

  Aha! This was about Cole. “Have you talked to the principal, Dr. Wright?” On one of my visits to her office, she’d told me she would do what she could to buffer me from trouble.

  “Yes,” Nana admitted stiffly.

  “And what did she say?”

  “That we shouldn’t be worried, that you’re a good kid and so are the kids you’re hanging out with. ”

  “Well, there you go. ”

  “But we don’t believe her!” Nana said, beating her fist against the table. “All evidence claims otherwise. ”

  “Have me tested. I’ll prove I’m not doing drugs of any kind. ” Mental note: ask Cole if the zombie antidote registered as a drug.

  That mollified them somewhat, and they blustered about my grades for a minute or two more.

  “Is someone bullying you at school?” Nana asked gently. “Is that the problem?”

  “No. I’m easily distracted, that’s all. I’m still learning to cope. ”

  “Try again. ” Pops motioned to my discolored jaw with a tilt of his chin. “We’ve noticed the bodily injuries, Ali. ”

  Crap. I had done my best to hide them with clothes, makeup and accessories. “Okay, you want the truth, I’ll give you the truth. I’m learning how to box,” I admitted. Better to give them some of the truth rather than a pack full of lies. “I knew you’d worry when there was no reason to worry, so I decided not to tell you. ”

  “Boxing?” Nana blinked rapidly in a clear attempt to jump-start her ability to understand. “Whatever for?”

  “Self-defense. I want to be able to protect myself from potential attackers. ”

  They shared a look, and then Pops said, “Who’s teaching you and why is this the first we’ve heard about it?”

  “Trina, the girl who dropped me off. ” I had boxed with her a few times. “Sometimes Cole,” I added quietly.

  Nana’s eyes widened, and her hand fluttered to her throat. “Oh, my. I hate to admit this, but I thought the person who dropped you off was a boy. I was going to demand you stop seeing him. Her. I still am,” she added with a nod. “Obviously this boxing thing is a detriment to your schoolwork, and as much as I respected Cole, he’s out, too. ”

  “Don’t say that. It isn’t a detriment, I promise you, and neither is he. ”

  “No. From now on, we want you home after school. ”

  Panic beat through me. “No. ” I shook my head for emphasis. I loved them, but I couldn’t allow them to take this away from me. Training was just as important to my survival as it was to my ultimate goal. A total zombie wipeout.

  “Yes. ” Pops stared me down with eyes so full of determination I knew he’d met with this kind of resistance before, probably from my mom, and he had learned how to fight dirty. “We’ve tried giving you space to help you adjust. Now we’ll try another way. This way. ”

  For a moment, all I could hear was the ringing in my ears, then the harsh rasp of my breath joined in, creating a symphony of discordance. Cole had warned me. One day I would have to move out, he’d said. We’d both thought the reason would be my grandparents’ safety, not their own stubbornness.

  I was only sixteen years old. Legally I couldn’t move out. Could I? If so, how would I support myself? A few nights ago, I’d heard Nana and Pops talking about money. They’d said Dad had taken out really big life insurance policies on both him and my mom, and they’d been debating how much to give me now, how much to put in a college fund for me and how much to keep for themselves to help pay for my food and clothing. If there was a way I could access my portion now, I’d be okay.

  “You can still go shopping with Kat tomorrow,” Nana said. “We don’t want to stop you from living, we just want to create boundaries for you. ”

  Oh, yeah. Kat and I had planned a big day, just the two of us. I was still excited about it, but now that excitement was tinged with desperation. I needed to talk to Cole, to figure out what to do about this newest development.

  Nana reached over and patted my hand. “We don’t want you to feel trapped here, but you have to make some changes, honey. If your mom were here, she would flip her top over your grades. ”

  “Flip her lid,” I muttered, trying not to rage and hurt their feelings. They meant well, I knew that, but this was too important. I pushed back my chair and stood. “Listen. I’m going to continue my boxing lessons, and you’re going to get on board. ” There was power to my words, even in this natural realm. I couldn’t violate their free will, but I could try to change their will. “It’s good for me. I’m alive for the first time in my life. ”

  “Ali—”

  “No. Don’t say anything else. ” I didn’t want their confession to undo mine. “I’m going to my room. Just…think about this, okay? I need it more than you know. ”

  I didn’t wait for their replies. I stomped up the stairs and shut myself in my bedroom. Needing a distraction, I opened the journal to find out if any new passages had morphed into English. To my surprise, one had.

  If you’re reading this, you are very much like me. Set apart, different. And if you’re willing to sacrifice, you can make a difference in the war of good and evil. Just ask yourself one question. How would your time be better spent? If your answer is learning how to defeat an enemy capable of destroying all that you hold dear, you’re on the right track. If your answer is enjoying yourself and waiting for the end—that end will come quicker than you realize.

  Whoever the author was, he always told me what I needed to hear, when I needed to hear it.

  Now ask yourself a second question. Are you willing to give up your own life to save others? If you answered yes, you’re ready for the third. Have you realized that dying is the only way to truly live?

  Annnd back to code.

  I thought about those parting words for hours. I’d told my grandparents I was alive for the first time. Was that because a part of me had died in that wreck with my family, only to be revived in this new world? Or was the journal’s meaning more literal? The author had once mentioned his diseased spirit—well, diseased for the zombies—and the fact that he’d had to die so that others could live. Had he allowed the monsters to feed from him?

  I thought about how the zombies always fell away from me after biting me. During that last fight, I’d assumed they were afraid of what I’d do to them, how I’d retaliate. Now I wondered if they’d tasted the same disease in my spirit. Wondered, too, if they reacted the same to the other slayers.

  By the time midnight hit, I was no closer to answers—and I had a new question take center stage. Where was Cole? He’d said he was coming over.

  As if on cue, my phone beeped.

  I read, Can’t make it, sorry. B & F found nest. Injured. Traps out, guard stationed, so stay inside. U’ll B fine. C U 2morrow.

  My heart thundered, a jackhammer against my ribs. I wanted details so badly I could taste them, but I knew better than to text him back. A distraction could get him killed. B
ronx and Frosty would have to be patched up, and I’m sure the rest of the gang would be returning to the nest to destroy anything the boys had left behind. But I hated that I wasn’t with them.

  I tossed and turned that night, my mind buzzing with too much energy. Me and beauty z’s were not meant to be, I guess. At eight, I showered and dressed in a T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops, hiding my bruised wrists with colorful cloth “bracelets. ” Though I was starved, I opted not to go down for breakfast. I had no idea what to say to my grandparents or how to handle this situation.

  At last I allowed myself to text Cole. I asked how Frosty and Bronx were doing. Five minutes later, there was still no reply. He was probably sleeping. Weekends were the only times we got to rest. Well, some of us.

  Kat parked at the curb at ten, as planned, and I grabbed a purse—aka my secret survival kit, complete with a flashlight, small crowbar (for beating), nail file (for stabbing), the antidote and my cell phone—and raced out of the house at full speed. I needn’t have bothered. Nana and Pops were out back, gardening.

  I slid into the passenger seat of Kat’s Mustang, goose bumps breaking out over my skin. Every day was cooler than the last. I drank in her familiar scent—a soft, floral perfume—and her always-wicked smile.

  “Okay, wow,” she said. “There’s missing me, and then there’s missing me. That porch-to-car sprint has got to be a record. ”

  There was a rosy flush to her cheeks today, the shadows gone from her eyes. “Well, then, I deserve a reward. ”

  “I like where your head’s at. Let’s grab a coffee before we head to the mall. My treat. ”

  As she drove to the nearest Starbucks, I checked the sky for the cloud of doom. Good news: no rabbit. Bad: the sky was gray, the clouds heavy as a storm brewed. If the sun remained hidden, it couldn’t prevent the sensitive zombies from emerging. Right?

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