Alice in zombieland, p.59

Alice in Zombieland, page 59

 part  #1 of  White Rabbit Chronicles Series

 

Alice in Zombieland
 



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Page 59

 

  “Now!” I shrieked. “And don’t come back in here. Pops isn’t himself. He’ll harm you. ”

  “Ali, I—”

  “Go!”

  At last she took off, disappearing around the corner. Without her presence, the full force of Pops’s rage switched to me. No longer was he content to punch me. Instead, he clawed and bit at me. Forget grappling. There was no longer any need to hold him, and I sprang away from him.

  “Calm down, Pops. Okay? You don’t want to do this. ”

  He jumped up—only to go lax, his body collapsing to the floor. His eyes rolled to the back of his head. He stilled.

  I watched in horror as his spirit rose from his body.

  Horror—because I knew. A zombie had bitten him. Had infected him. Had killed him.

  He was dead.

  But he would live on.

  He looked just as sickly as he had while inside his body, yet there was now a deeper cast of gray to his skin. His gaze swept through the room, never quite landing on me. He sniffed, licked his lips and moved toward the only door.

  “Pops,” I said, and stepped out of my own body.

  Instantly his attention locked on me and he forgot about tracking Nana. He stalked me throughout the room. When he lunged for me, I hopped out of the way. There were no Blood Lines in the house, so we both ghosted through the table, the food.

  A pattern formed. We would circle each other. He would propel toward me. I would dive out of the way. The process would begin all over again. I had a dagger in my boot, but I couldn’t bring myself to stab him. I just couldn’t bring myself to disable him. Then I’d have to try to ash him, and I didn’t have the heart.

  A scowling Cole finally strode into the room, Mackenzie, Bronx and Mr. Holland behind him. Mr. Holland demanded to know where my grandmother was, and after I told him, he took off. Bronx kicked the doors shut. I purposely avoided Cole’s eyes. This was the first time I’d seen him today, and I couldn’t afford a vision right now.

  “Don’t kill him,” I said. “Please. There has to be another way. ”

  “Quiet,” Cole said. “Watch your confessions. ”

  Pops sniffed the air and licked his lips. “Taste. ”

  My friends stepped out of their bodies and surrounded him, quickly subduing him by pinning him to his stomach, his hands locked behind his back, his ankles tied with a glowing length of rope.

  “Maybe we can…” I began, only to press my lips together and look down when Cole’s violet eyes swung to me. Our gazes locked—

  —Cole was standing in front of me, his hands on my shoulders. “I’m sorry. It had to be that way. The man you loved would not have hit you like that. I don’t know when he was bitten, only that he was. What you saw today was a shell. Only a shell. ”

  “Then how was he able to come inside the house,” I asked as tears streamed down my cheeks, “with the Blood Line around the property?”

  “Permission overrides the Blood Line. His house. His rules. ”

  My heart broke inside my chest. I should have checked for bite marks. I’d smelled the scent of rot the night of the break-in. “If I’d had more time, I could have figured out a way…”

  “There was no other way,” Cole insisted, his tone ragged. “He had to die. To my knowledge, no one’s ever come back from this. ”

  He would know, wouldn’t he. He’d watched his own mother die this way—

  “—Taaasssste. ”

  My grandfather’s voice broke through the vision. The world returned to normal. Cole was across the room, holding Pops down.

  “Give me permission, Ali,” he gritted out.

  I realized the power of my words had stopped him from acting before now—just as the power of his words nearly unhinged my jaw to get the right words out. I resisted.

  “What’s wrong with him?” Nana cried from outside the closed doors. “Why did he do that to Ali? That’s not like him. He’s a good man. ”

  “I told you things are dangerous down here, Mrs. Bradley,” I heard Mr. Holland say.

  Mackenzie stepped back into her body. “We just need a few minutes more,” she called.

  “Ali,” Cole prompted.

  I couldn’t dump this burden on him. “I’ll…I—I will do it. ”

  He studied me before nodding stiffly. “Can you?”

  I looked down. Obstacle one: my hands were perfectly normal. Beyond a doubt, I could light up. The question was, could I do it on command?

  “I don’t want to hurt him,” I said, my chin trembling. Obstacle two: my love for the man.

  No, not a man. Not any longer.

  “He won’t feel a thing, I promise you. ”

  Pops struggled for freedom, and I began to cry. He wanted to destroy Nana, and I couldn’t let him. So, really, there were no obstacles. I closed my eyes, dug deep inside myself and found a reservoir of determination.

  “Yes,” I said, and I believed it with all my heart. “I can. ”

  Something inside me shattered, and heat exploded through my hands, up my arms, pooling in my shoulders. My eyelids popped open. Both of my arms were totally and completely lit up, from the tips of my fingers all the way to my collarbone.

  Cole, Mackenzie and Bronx were staring at me with shock and awe.

  I stumbled to my grandfather before I lost my nerve, crouched beside him, and waited until Cole had flipped him over. Pops nipped his teeth in my direction. Shaking, avoiding his gaze, I flattened my palm over his chest.

  Within a single heartbeat of time, he was gone and ash was floating through the air. I gazed at my arms in bafflement. Cole had said it would take some time.

  “Ali,” my grandmother called. “Ali, are you okay? Talk to me!”

  Cole jumped back into his body. “Ali. Don’t touch anything else. ”

  “Ali!” Panic now laced Nana’s voice. “I am your grandmother and I demand you talk to me. ”

  But I had to touch my body. I had to return, had to respond to my grandmother.

  “No,” he shouted as I reached out.

  Spirit fingers brushed natural fingers. I gasped as the two halves of myself connected. The glow vanished, but I could feel remnants of the heat, little buzzes of lightning snapping and sizzling.

  “Are you okay?” he demanded.

  “Yes. ” I called, “I’m fine, Nana. ” But Pops isn’t. A fresh spring of tears cascaded down my cheeks. “How did I do that?” I asked Cole.

  “I don’t know. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I was afraid you’d burn your body when you touched it. Next time, listen to me. I can’t take another scare like that. ”

  “Ali?” Nana said shakily. “I need to see you for myself. ”

  I peered at Cole pleadingly, silently begging for permission to tell her what had just happened. She deserved to know.

  He nodded.

  “The truth?”

  Mackenzie protested, but Cole said, “Yes. ”

  I opened the dining room doors and Nana rushed inside, Mr. Holland close to her heels. Both of them scanned the room.

  “Carl!” Nana gasped, throwing herself on top of Pops’s motionless body, as if to act as his shield from further damage. “Wake up. You have to wake up. ”

  I had to choke back my sobs. “He can’t, Nana. He’s…he’s gone. ”

  “No. He’ll wake up. He will. ”

  Eventually, though, she realized the truth and cried all the harder.

  Cole helped her to her feet and led her to one of the chairs he’d righted. “There’s something Ali wants to tell you before the authorities arrive. ”

  I sat next to her. I was shaking, breathing so shallowly I knew I’d hyperventilate if I failed to calm down.

  Though I feared she would decide I was crazy, that we were all crazy, I told her about the zombies. About Dad’s ability, and now mine. I told her that people trying to control the zombies had
broken into the house, that somehow a zombie had bitten and infected Pops.

  Zombies had changed Pops. Killed his body—and I’d had to destroy his spirit.

  With every sentence I spoke, she released a pained moan, and each of those moans choked me up. By the end I could barely understand myself.

  “This is…this is…” She couldn’t quite make herself say the words that would condemn me, but I knew she was thinking them. She had to be.

  “Unbelievable, I know,” Mr. Holland said, picking up the slack. “But she’s telling you the truth. This is why she’s been gone so much. This is why she’s been bruised. This is why she snuck out that night. ”

  Cole crouched between us, his solemn gaze on Nana. “It’s time to call 911. You can’t wait any longer, or there will be questions. Tell them he collapsed. ”

  I knew why he wanted that. The authorities would do an autopsy and decide Pops had died of that “rare” disease.

  Her chin trembled, tears continuing to track down her cheeks and leave red marks. She looked at me, taking in my battered face. “He was so ashamed. He told me only this morning that the people who broke in dragged him outside. He was so scared, thought they were going to kill him. But they took him past the fence, held him down, told him about the horrible things they were going to do to him. He said the more terrified he became, the more he felt little pricks of heat in his chest. He thought he was having a heart attack. Then he heard the sirens. They let him go, and he rushed back inside. ”

  Rage bloomed inside me, white-hot, consuming. So. The people Justin worked with were responsible. They had forced my Pops past the Blood Line, had filled him with fear, an aphrodisiac to the zombies, and then watched as he was devoured.

  Maybe Justin and Jaclyn hadn’t known. Maybe they had. Either way, their leaders had expected Pops to infect me—to turn me into a zombie. What I wasn’t sure about was whether they wanted to experiment on me or end me.

  “I’m sorry, Ali,” Cole whispered, and I knew he’d arrived at the same conclusion I had.
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