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Authors: C.M. Stunich

DeadBorn (7 page)

BOOK: DeadBorn
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What now?” Dawson asks as he stands up and wrinkles his nose at the dried vomit on his shirt. He takes it off and tosses it into a garbage can, ignoring the stares of the people around us. They hardly matter. The longer I sit there, the more they fade into the background, become as significant as the trees around us. They'll know what's happening soon enough and then they'll join us in this mad dash until either somebody figures out how to kill these things or we're all dead. I think the latter is much more likely than the former, but I keep that information to myself, certain that Dawson is about to lose it completely, go off the deep end and kill us all
he kills himself.

Don't know,” I say as I wipe the rest of the blood from my face and toss the shirt into the same can that Dawson used. “I'm waiting for Holly to tell me.” Dawson scoffs and flips off a couple of older women that are staring at us with nervous eyes. Maybe it's the smelly car or the blood on our clothes or the ooze and gunk on the hood, I don't know, but I think that any of those are reason enough to stare, so I pull his hand down and try to smile an apology.

So you just do whatever Holly wants, huh?” I stare at Dawson staring at me and wonder what he thinks about my relationship with his ex. They barely dated, according to Holly, so I can't imagine that he's jealous, but he seems judgmental. It kind of pisses me off.

Do you have a better idea?” I ask him as he gives me a careful once over. We're so different, Dawson and I. He's short and pale with dark hair and oval eyes. I'm tall and blonde with round, blue eyes like Holly's and a cautious smile. Dawson looks like he could kick my ass any day, but then, that's why I've got Holly at my back.

Good question, Dawson,” Holly says as she steps between us and wedges her butt on the edge of the curb. “I know a country back road that will get us to the refuge. There's food and water there, a generator, and even some guns at the main office. What's your plan?”

And do you have a key?” Dawson snarls, like a grizzly bear. He's gruff and unpredictable right now, not someone that I want around in a crisis. Holly shakes her head, but she doesn't look worried, so I don't get worried either.

There's a trailer nearby where one of the interns lives. We'll get it from him.”

And if he doesn't want to give it to us?” Dawson asks.

Holly looks up, stares him straight in the face and says, without shame, “We shoot him.” I don't know how to respond to that, but we're all shaken and disturbed and frankly, the world is essentially coming to an end, so I leave her comment alone, convinced that she could never shoot an innocent person. I think she's just trying to shut Dawson up.

Where's Martin?” I ask as I stand up and stretch my arms over my head. I wonder if maybe he's ashamed about pissing himself and decide to go into the bathroom after him. “I'll be right back,” I say as Holly pulls the little bit of money we have out of her pocket. We raided it from my mom's purse which was sitting on the coffee table completely undisturbed. I don't think about why it was there or where she could've gone without it, and make myself more concerned with the amount of gas in the tank and the horde of DeadBorn at our backs.

I walk into the bathroom and wrinkle my nose at the smell. It starts to bleed again as if the sewage stench in here is as bad as the flaming corpse flesh. It isn't, but I search around for paper towels anyway and am frustrated to find that they only have those stupid hand dryers.

Martin,” I say as I move across mustard yellow floor tiles stained with mud and into one of the stalls. The toilet has overflowed onto the floor and I have to stop short and balance against the sides of the stall to keep from falling over and stepping into the brown water that sits in the dirty grout lines. The toilet paper roll in this one is empty anyway, so I back up and keep going. “Are you in here?” Nobody answers, but I keep going in search of something to mop up the blood that's trailing across my lips and down my bare chest. The next stall is much cleaner and has plenty of toilet paper, so I grab a wad and press it to my face as I continue my search. I find toilets filled with pee and vulgar slashes of graffiti, but no Martin. When I reach the end of the room, I raise myself up on my toes and try to peek out the dusty, cobweb filled window. The glass is frosty and impossibly to see through and I'm forced to give up and go back outside to find Holly waiting impatiently for me.

Dawson is standing beside her in one of my T-shirts, the yellow one with the upside down smiley face that says,
Perspective is everything.
Holly got it for me when my dad died, and I wore it for a week straight. I loved it that much. Either she doesn't remember or doesn't care about things like that anymore. I keep my mouth shut, very aware that Dawson's parents are dead and that materialism will be on its way out, too, if the zombies have their way with things. Holly throws me another shirt, a black one with a tiger face that I barely recognize, and demands that I put it on.

Where's Martin?” she asks and I shrug. “He's not in there?”

Nope,” I say, voice muffled by the fabric sliding over my head. I try my best not to get blood everywhere since there's already so much of it crusted on my pants and my skin, but it happens anyway and even drags bits of the toilet paper off and sticks them to the inside of my shirt.

He probably took off,” Dawson says as he stares at the trees that tower over us like giants. They feel secure, like a wall against pain, but I know that's a lie. Some lopers could come galloping through that break right there and tear off my face. I'm aware that it could happen, but it isn't easy to swallow. I go back to pretending that the forest is keeping us safe.

I don't think so,” I say, thinking of Martin's
Walking Dead
shirt and his supposed zombie knowledge. “He said group cooperation is tantamount to survival.”

Fuck you,” Dawson says and then he turns around and marches back to the car, leaning his hands against the passenger side window. There's questionable goop smeared there, but he doesn't give a shit about anything anymore. That's becoming pretty obvious.

Maybe we should check the girls' bathroom?” Holly thinks aloud as she reaches down and grabs my hand. “I didn't see him, but I wasn't really looking either. Come on.” I follow Holly's dirty blonde head into the other bathroom and see that the tiles in here aren't mustard yellow but instead are a gray-blue that hides the dirt better, but are just as unflattering and depressing to look at. There's a pair of women at the sinks who glare at me but say nothing, so I follow Holly down the row of stalls as she bends down and checks beneath each one. “Martin!” she shouts, much louder than me. Her voice echoes around the room and makes some of the ladies grumble.

The stall at the end, the big one that everyone always wants to use, opens and Martin steps out, face pace and kind of blotchy.

I can't stop throwing up,” he tells us as he watches us walk towards him and doesn't move. “I just can't stop.” I have no idea what to say or do, but Holly does. She steps forward and wraps her arms around Martin. I lick my lips unconsciously and taste blood then force myself to stop swallowing until I spit it out in the nearest toilet. I know that Holly says these creatures aren't diseased, that they're magic, but I don't know how that magic works or how to keep from turning into one. I'm not talking any chances.

Holly and Martin are still hugging, but I don't get jealous since I know she isn't attracted to him. Besides, in a situation like this, there isn't time for new feelings to pop up like that. If things keep going like this, Holly and I will be together forever. I want to imagine that we'd have been anyway, but I really have no idea.

Come on,” she says to him as she takes each of our hands in hers and starts us back towards the parking lot. “We should get out of here before the DeadBorn come.”

Truer words were never spoken.



Nine Hours After …

It doesn't take long to get to the wildlife refuge which sort of bothers me because I feel like we're not far enough away. When I tell this to Holly, she shakes her head and grumbles. I don't press because I know this is her way of telling me to shut the fuck up. Obviously, she's aware of all the same things I am and then some.

The turn off is this little gravel half circle that looks like a parking lot only there are no cars there. Signs litter the area near the trees with plastic bins half filled with brochures about geese and invasive plants. It's situated at the bottom of a rise and Holly overshoots it, cursing and snarling as she struggles to find a place to make a u-turn on the narrow country road.

This is great,” Martin gushes as he presses his hands to the window and beams like a kid in a candy store. “I mean, it's far enough away from the city that if they, like, decide to napalm it or something we'll be okay. They might nuke it, but then again, that's way harder to cover up and besides, I don't think we could get far enough away in time anyhow.”

Do you ever stop?” Dawson asks as he slams his forehead against the glass in a way that looks excruciatingly painful. I don't comment and turn back to the road in front of us. It's bumpy and covered in little bits of gravel that ping off the sides of the car like rain. Trees surround us on both sides and above, their branches tangle and block the majority of the summer sun from hitting the ground in front of us. We haven't seen a single other car since we left the highway, but I can't say if that's because of the zombies or because we're in the middle of nowhere. I don't ask Holly because I'm afraid of the answer.

One thing at a time,” Holly says randomly and I smile. I love when she does that. Usually she just likes to give me random bits of trivia. I wonder if she'll keep doing that now that her dad (and probably her mom, too) are dead. I decide that if this changes her that I'll love her anyway and sit up in my seat, determined to make the best of things. I haven't been much use since I got up this morning, and it's time for me to prove myself. If I can keep Holly distracted, time should help heal her wounds. I know it did mine.

Are those bird-watchers?” Martin asks as we approach the end to the trees and come up on several open fields and a small lake. There are women lined up along the side of the road near the water. At first, I think they're wearing summer dresses, but then we get closer and I see that they're all drenched, dripping in gowns that trail from their bodies like filaments of spider web, holey and broken and ethereal. When we get close enough that they turn to look at us, I see that their faces are pale and ashen. Their skin is wrinkled and wan and their mouths are all open wide, in perfect ovals that stretch their chins in a way that seems like it could be normal but that you can tell definitely isn't. When the breeze ruffles the golden grasses across from them, whispers over the hood of the car and hits their mouths, they moan like a chorus of broken flutes.

No Martin,” Holly says as she guns the engine and the women fold over like chimps, knuckles to the dusty ground. “I don't think they are.” When they start to run, their hair billows out behind them like seaweed, shimmering slimy in the bright sun. They move faster than should be reasonably possible given their awkward, four-legged status. I close my eyes as Holly turns the vehicle towards the refuge building. I can't keep them closed for long though as my nerves are getting the better of me and I know that it's better to see danger in advance rather than let it sneak up on you. I turn around and gaze past Martin and Dawson's gawping faces out the back window. As we move up the hill, the water zombies or whatever it is that they are, start to drop away and are replaced by others along the lake's edge. When we hit the pavement of the parking lot, they stop completely and stand howling at a spot where the grass fades into damp dirt and slopes into the lake.

We all think that Holly is going to turn around and drive us back the way we came when she pulls into a parking space and turns off the engine.

Are you freaking insane?” Dawson shouts at the top of his lungs. “Those water hags are going to fucking kill us!”

No they're not,” Holly replies calmly as Dawson unwittingly names the wrinkled women. I decide that in the first spare moment I get that I'm going to start a DeadBorn Dictionary. Knowing the enemy is half the battle. Or at least that's what my guild used to say when I had time for online games. Then I started making videos and I couldn't find time to get out from behind the camera or away from Holly. I don't miss them, though I wished I'd paid more attention. As strange as it sounds, I think some of the rules of those games would apply nicely to our current situation. Or maybe I'm just as crazy as Martin. “They can't leave the water.”

And how the hell do you know that?” Dawson shouts as Holly gets out of the car and stares. The women (and they're all women which is actually pretty strange) are clawing at the air like there's a force field separating them from us. Some of them are pacing back and forth with their knuckles pressed to the gravel while others are standing silently and staring. I climb out of the car, too, and come around the back where I grab Holly's hand and try not to catch the milky eyed gazes leveled on my face like I'm the answer to all that ails them. More than any of the others, these DeadBorn seem angry, like they've been wronged somehow and we're all to blame for it.

Suddenly Holly is stumbling forward and Dawson is behind her pushing and waving the baseball bat around threateningly.

BOOK: DeadBorn
6.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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