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The road ahead just lay there, long and lifeless. The wind shoots through our hair like a bullet closing in on an innocent lion resting on its rock as we speed down the highway in my uncles red convertible. The music is upbeat, colourful; perfectly matching the gorgeous sunset leaving its orange haze across the horizon. In our group of rag-tags there are five: Jordan, Connor, Sam (short for Samantha, but if you want to get your arm broken you can call her that) Jade and then me, Zack. We all spent the summer in Los Angeles, just us, the beach and the never ending reminder that we have to snap back to reality eventually. For us reality is a small, backwater town in rural Texas; the home of the dull and forever-stuck.
The last three hours seemed to have sunk into an abyss when I finally awaken and get my bearings. The piercing cold of the now dark countryside sends shards of glass down my back, I shiver.
"Hey, Jade" A haze in my eyes and grog in my throat remain present as I lift my head from the window I have been resting against; I turn my head toward her finally meeting her eyes already looking into mine.
"Hey.” She whispers, fitting the current quiet atmosphere. "Sleep well?” She asks.
"Well enough.” I shudder as I pull my body back into an upright position. “I just don’t want this summer to end.” I sigh at the realisation that it already has.
"Yeah...” She scoffs. “But we had a good one at least.” She paints a smile on her face, I can almost feel her kindheartedness rubbing off of her and irradiating the air around me.
"We should get some sleep." My eyes, still heavy find it a challenge to stay open any longer.
"Yeah. I'm just going to lie here.” I feel something warm embrace my chest before feeling something grasp me around the waist. “Do you mind?” She asks looking up at me, head on my chest.
“Not at all.” I close my eyes and feel myself drift into darkness.
Once more my eyes dart open the sudden stillness of the car. I jolt forward, sending Jade’s head crashing into the back of Jordan’s seat.
“Home sweet home...” He mutters as Sam and Connor open their doors.
“It’s been a good time guys, see you Monday.” As she mumbles, Sam also rubs her eyes trying to stay awake long enough to get to her front door.
“Yeah, night guys.” Connor, more chirpy than our blonde firebomb-shell. He walks toward the door next to Sam’s and disappears beyond it.
"So, am I still crashing at yours?" Jordan asks.
"Yeah sure, if you want to.” I pause as the car once again starts up.
About ten minutes go past and Jade has already gone her own way. We continue down the road until we reach my house. Jordan stops the car in the decrepit driveway; our garage has gone to shit, the roof is partially caved in like an old mine. We approach my door, trying to be as quiet as possible as to not to wake my mom and sister. The door whistles as I close it behind me. It ricocheted through the old wooden house, dancing up the walls and around the floorboards. Suddenly I see I figure appear before the staircase.
"You're back early" My mom stands there with her curlers in her coarse, brown hair. She's wearing her long pink dressing gown stopping just above her feet but her bare feet reveal her poorly pedicured toes. Her breath is a smack in the face, especially when the smell of cigarettes reside there, as evidence by the one she’s holding.
"We're going in my room." I say, avoiding any conversation.
"Are you fuckin’ serious? Not even a ‘How are you doing?’" She coughs into her hand... blood."
“You’re drunk.” I sigh in the realisation that I already knew she would be.
“Oh look at you, so high and mighty, boy.” She splats the blood onto my face and walks off into her 'pit' as I call it.
"Bitch." I say under my breath. “I can’t wait for the day I can get Luce out of here...”
My mothers not exactly 'mom of the year'; but that's a story for another day.
Finally in my room, we both park ourselves on the bed, staring at the ground.
"So..." Jordan tries to break the awkwardness of the encounter. “You wanna talk? Or just s-“
“Sleep sounds great” I cut him off. Jordan takes off his shirt and lies down on the small two seater sofa in the corner of my dark room.
I lay down on my bed and close my eyes.
The sweet silence of darkness is my safe haven. When I sleep, I feel only relaxation, tranquil. I forget about everything sour in my life. I float through a collection of colours and memories, looking through the archive of my personal history; most of it is bleak, some of it sings to me in the most harmonious melodies imaginable. This is my Eden. Amidst my dream sequence I hear something that sends the sharpest of shivers through my spine, almost like electricity. A scream, one that turned my blood cold.
"Lucy!" Without giving myself time to wake up I jump from my bed.
"Zack! Did you hear that?" Jordan wakes, just as fast as me.
"Lucy..." At this point I feel nothing but pure fear coursing through my entire body. I want to stay in the safety of my room, but Lucy appears in my mind, all I heard was a scream, maybe she had a nightmare?
Another blood-curdling scream rips it’s way through the house. I leap for the door with Jordan in close pursuit. I run across the hall past my moms open door and turn left where I sprint down the never ending stairs. I get to the kitchen to see Lucy sitting, curled up into a ball in the corner.
"Lucy? What's wrong?" I walk closer to her but Jordan stays at the kitchen door, following my hand gesture for him to stay. Suddenly, Lucy jumps up and attaches her body to mine, gripping so tightly I feel light headed.
"Its mom!" She's crying at this point. "She tried to bite me! But not like a regular 'bite' this was weird... mom’s never acted this way before!" I pull her from my torso and she tried to stand, wobbly legs noted.
“Luce, she’s drunk. Go over to Jordan, call the police. I sick of her shit.” I walk through the pitch black kitchen, only illuminated by the dim light from the refrigerator; I stride past the open fridge, all of the meat has been taken, ravaged by some kind of beast? “What the hell?” Is what floats around my mind. Meat chunks leave a trail into the living room. I grab the broom from the crack between the fridge and the door, and continue to walk into the living room.
Suddenly standing before me is a beast, It has coarse brown hair with what it seems to be curlers just like my moms, only with half of them ripped out. It wears a long pink, blood coated gown much like my moms, but without the blood. Its skin is a shade of green, peeling from its body to have blood streaming from the wounds. “What the fuck” on repeat in my head as I try to wake myself up. Only I can’t wake up.
I back away slowly while she stares at me in a disfigured, grotesque form.
"Lucy. Jordan." I whisper. "Run."
Jordan looks at me with concerned eyes. "What?" he whispers back "I'm not leaving you."
"Just wait outside." My mom starts walking slowly but ominously towards me. "Go Now!!" Suddenly the beast sprints at me, with unbelievable speed. Jordan and Lucy run for the front door. I jump over the sofa. It comes at me from the left, I swing for her face with the broom, it hits it, but does nothing. I run back into the kitchen and open the drawer below the oven to retrieve a knife. It sprints into the room and into me. It grabs my shoulders and pulls me closer; during the struggle we both fall onto the hard tile. I clutch the knife in my hand and return to my feet, almost mirrored by it. “Mom back the fuck up!” I scream as it sprints once more. I slash the knife with heavy hesitation and I slice it’s arm, blood now painting the floor. It still continues toward me. I can’t think. So many thoughts.
I suddenly realise a black haze has been lifted from my vision. Was it all just an apparition of my dreams? I look down to see it, coated in blood. The knife sticks out from its forehead like Arthur’s sword or something, only this seemed a lot less symbolic. A small silence hangs for a moment before I even speak, but eventually, I do. "Guys, I think she's dead..." My voice is croaky, shaky and almost silent, I just killed my own mother... but was it really her? I push the thought of her blood being all over me to the back of my mind while I go to check on the guys.
"Zack... You should come see this!" Jordan's voice has a sense of alarm in it. One I've never heard from him before.
I walk toward the front door, smoke floods the hallway from the outside. I straight through the door into the crumbling reality. Chaos is spreading across the neighborhood, fires crawl through the once neatly manicured front lawns of my neighbours.
"Oh my god. What the fuck is happening?" I say.
"Zack!" Lucy grabs my arm and holds me tight; I'm the only thing she has left now. I get down on one knee and wipe the tears from her cheek and brush a loose piece of hair behind her ear.
"I know, Luce, but you're going to have to be brave okay? Can you do that for me?" She gives me a slight nod, which gives me at least a slight sense of relief.
People are running everywhere looting nearby stores to stock up on supplies. I then remember something, our friends.
"Jordan! We need to find the guys!" I shout.
"I'll call Jade." He quickly whips out his phone and flicks through his list of infinite contacts until finally, 'Jade G' appears; He calls the number. After a few seconds, the phone answers.
"Hello?!" A terrified voice speaks through the phone.
"Jade, are you okay?! Where are you?" I scream in what would be the opposite of enthusiasm.
"I'm at my house, I woke up because smoke was coming in my room and I looked outside and there where fires every where and people just going crazy!" We could tell by her voice that she was crying.
"We're coming for you Jade! Stay there!" Jordan says.
"Please, hurry!" She ends the phone call.
The sky was black with smoke with an ominous orange glow from the fires. All I could smell was burning flesh. It’s funny, even if you never smelt burning flesh before, you immediately know what it is.
"Get in the car!" I shout. I realise I forgot the keys. I run inside to retrieve them, making sure I don't step on my late mother. I exit the house and leap into the convertible. The engine starts and we start rolling down the road.
About three minutes later we arrive at Jade's. Her house is almost perfectly intact, with the exception of a few broken windows and a busted door. I run in whilst Jordan stays in the car with Lucy.
"Jade! Jade where are you?!" I call. I hear a muffled scream coming from the second door on my left. I barge in to see Jade there with one of the beasts clinging onto her shoulders. I grab one of the fireplace tools and call to Jade. "Jade, Duck!" She ducks and I swing the tool into the beast's temple, it falls to the ground in a pool of its own blood.
"Zack!" She clings onto me as tears start to stream down her face. "Thanks!" She reaches a full sob now. “Thank you so much...”
"Its alright, we're here now." Still holding her in my arms, I slowly escort her outside to show her the true problem were in. "Quick, get in." She gets in the back next to Jordan, she clings to his shirt and cries into him.
"Guys, what the fuck is going on?" I ask. Followed by a loud silence. "We have to get Connor and Sam." I say
"It's too dangerous to be driving around the town at six thirty in the morning!" Jordan argues. “Whatever’s going on isn’t going to get any better anything soon.”
"We can't just leave them here!" I shout
"They'll understand!" His stubbornness starts to irritate me. “We have your thirteen year old sister here, isn’t she a priority.
"You all are.” I do a U-turn in the car and head back into the burning town.
"You're going to kill us!" Shouts Jordan. I ignore his voice.
We drive down the maze of roads until we reach Sam's house. We see Sam on her lawn, smashing a Zombie's body with a steel baseball bat. Three hits to the stomach, then one blow to the top of the head, then nothing.
"Sam!" I shout. She limps over to the car.
"Guys!" She falls to the ground in tears. I get out and help her into the back seat.
"We just need to get Connor then we can leave!" Sam looks directly into my eyes through the mirror.
"Connor's... Connor's dead!" she sobs. "That thing I was beating back there, that was him... He was trying to..." I could tell she was hurting, badly; Connor was her best friend.
About two hours pass and we're on the freeway. Jordan is driving and Sam is asleep. Me and Jade sit up, thinking, planning.
"I'm sorry, but, why are we not infected? I mean, most people were, you saw! Even Connor was." Jade screams.
"I don’t know, Jade.” I reply bluntly.
"So what about Connor?" Jordan asks, whilst keeping his eyes on the road.
"Chances are, he was probably bitten, we'll ask Sam when she wakes up if she saw any bite marks." I say. "Jade, you should get some sleep."
She looks at me with heavy eyes. "Just for an hour." She says. Slowly she puts her head down on my knee and drifts into a sleep.
It Eleven Thirty Five the day after and the car is still going after a single pit stop. The hot sun sizzles the matte black tarmac which lays in front of us in a never-ending line. The smell of burning flesh lingers in our hair, the monsters, hang around in our minds.
"Where are they?" I ask
"I don't know. Maybe it was just Texas infected." Jordan says.
We past the sign:
*New York City - 1 Mile*
"I highly doubt it." I say without making any eye contact.
The once thriving city of New York was now a ghost town. Every thing was on fire, everything was dead. Infected limp around the streets of the desolate city, waiting for their prey. The red car - now coated in blood from hitting a couple infected on the freeway a couple miles back - was cruising through the wreckage, trying not to hit anything. I wake the girls up.
"Sam, Jade, get up, you have to see this!" I say.
"Is this?" Sam questions.
"New York." I interrupt.
Jordan starts to joke around to lighten the mood. "It looks more like New Jersey now." We all laugh, even knowing death is around the corner for us. I feel a little dark for it, but we needed that.
We come to a halt in Times Square the, ironically, only empty place it seems in the city. Jordan stops the car and we slowly retreat, sensing a hunt from the perspective of prey.
"Look over there! Its a news broadcast." Jade says. We walk slowly over to the abandoned T.V store - where one T.V in the window is still broadcasting.
"Of what we can only describe as 'Armageddon'. Crazy? Yes. But please heed this warning from the military: Stay inside, Don't go near any infected, and wait for official instructions. The origin of the infection is still unknown but the outbreak has only occurred in certain areas: Ohio, Arizona, Texas, New York, Wisconsin and Savannah, it's spreading across the country. Please avoid these areas at all costs and head for the west coast, mainly, Los Angeles; the west coast has not been hit! Don't st-" The broadcast cuts out as quickly as it started.
"So... we have to go back to LA?" Says Jade.
"Well" I say. "It looks like it."