Whitney turned so we stood back-to-back on the stairs. I faced Jason, and she faced Amy. I should have been feeling something, like maybe searing pain my forearm from Amy’s teeth, but I think I was in shock.
“She’s coming,” Whitney said. She pushed against me as if to force me up the stairs.
“He’s coming to,” I said. Jason was a lot bigger than Amy, and he had the high ground. I had no idea how to stop him. My eyes drifted to his knees. I adjusted my hold on my pack again and as he descended a step I swung my bag as hard as I could at his legs.
Too late I realized I should have swung the other way. Instead of falling against the railing and going into the pit, he slammed against the wall. The thunk could probably have been heard from the back of the auditorium if people hadn’t been yelling. Jason, however, didn’t seem to notice it. He shook his head once and continued toward me.
Echo had taken up position in front of me. His back had remained arched like a Halloween cat decoration.
Whitney let out a yell and I felt her step away from me.
At the same time someone grabbed Jason from behind and threw him over the railing into the pit. The clatter of metal chairs and music stands was deafening.
My heart galloped as my eyes returned to the person on the stairs. Would it be another monster? Relief flooded through me as I saw Wyatt’s familiar face.
A single scratch ran down the side of his cheek and dripped blood onto his shirt. I expected Echo to hiss at him, as he had done Jason and Amy, but instead Echo relaxed.
A yell of pain sounded behind me. I jerked around and found Amy stumbling back gripping her eye. Like before, Whitney held her flute like some sort of spear.
“Did you just stab someone in the face with your flute?” Wyatt asked.
Whitney turned fast and pulled her arm back as if to strike. I held up my hands. “It’s just me!”
Wide-eyed and breathing hard, Whitney blinked. It seemed to take her a moment to recognize us, but when she did she lowered her flute which dripped blood and other things out the end of it. Her eyes darted to where Jason sprawled in the pit. I was shocked to see he was trying to get up despite an obvious broken arm.
“Come on guys, we have to get out of here.” Wyatt jogged down the stairs and grabbed my hand. He held up my wounded arm. “You let one of them bite you?”
He was holding my hand.
We were about to be eaten by friends.
Little tingles ran from Wyatt’s fingers up my arm.
My brain shorted out, and instead of a snappy comeback, I muttered something about not having much of a choice.
Wyatt looked down at Echo. “That’s a failure on your part buddy.” Echo gave him a snort, then started up the stairs.
“Echo’s got the right idea, we need to go.” Whitney said.
Wyatt and Echo led us up the stairs and into the auditorium. I’d expected to find people staring at us, but instead the place was mostly empty. Yells came from half a dozen clumps of people who seemed to be holding someone down. Everyone else was either running for the exits or already gone.
A voice came over the speakers. “Please calmly make your way to the nearest exit and leave the parking lot in an orderly manner.”
“It’s a little late for that,” Wyatt said. He dragged me up the far aisle toward the door that led to the band room. No one took note of us. I heard one woman screaming, “He bit me in the neck.” Another man kept yelling that he was bleeding. Sounds similar to those Matthew had been making came from the two nearest clumps of people.
“Hold his arms.”
“Do we have anything to tie him up yet?”
“They’re working on it don’t let him bite you.”
It wasn’t just Jason? And Mathew? And Amy? My already addled brain tried to process the implications. If I had to categorize it this looked like the beginning of the zombie apocalypse. I glanced down at my arm and wondered if my fate had been sealed the moment Amy had bitten me. Or maybe the man in the parking lot.
The side doors of the auditorium clanged open as we joined a few stragglers running toward the exit.
For some reason I didn’t think we’d ever get to the outside doors. They weren’t that far away, but each step made me feel as if we were going the wrong direction. Wyatt pulled on my arm and Echo strained at his leash.
“Come on Everly,” Wyatt said. “We have to get to the van. Can you do that with me?”
We’d stopped walking. When had we stopped walking? I jumped as Whitney grabbed me by the shoulders and propelled me forward. “Keep moving Everly.”
I did as she said. I didn’t know what else to do. I could feel blood trickling down my hand and dripping into Wyatt’s grasp.
The hallway by the band room had been relatively quiet. That ended as soon as we emerged from the building.
Instead of the confined space of the auditorium, the outside brought the honking of horns, the blast of the sunset right in our faces, and more loud voices.
I threw my hand in front of my eyes and blinked.
“Keep going,” Whitney said. My feet did not want to cooperate, but I forced them to move. We got down the stairs to the curb. Wyatt held out his arm to stop us from crossing. A red sports car zoomed by, but had to screech to a stop as a truck pulled in front of them.
“Okay, go.” Wyatt’s hand tightened around mine and he pulled me forward.
Lines of cars pressed at the exits, practically crawling over one another to get out. People honked in an attempt to persuade others to move out of their way.
“Where did you park?” Whitney asked.
“Way down at the end.” Wyatt wound us through the cars toward the far corner of the lot. Despite the open sky above, it felt as if everything was pressing in on me. I couldn’t pull enough air into my lungs to keep my body going.
We finally broke free from the crush of vehicles, and started running down an open row. None of us noticed the truck before it started moving.
Time slowed again. Or maybe it had never sped back up. Wyatt’s eyes went wide as the truck lurched forward at him. The blue surface gleamed in the light of the setting sun. Wyatt tried to stop it with one hand while he held onto me with the other. Whitney grabbed us both and pulled us back. Echo scampered out of the way just in time to avoid being flattened by a tire.
The owner of the truck glared at us and honked. He was probably swearing up a storm, but Whitney maneuvered us around him and pushed us all toward the van.
I could feel Wyatt shaking. I didn’t even know he could be afraid. He licked his lips and kept his gaze firm wandering back and forth, looking for more threats. I tried to do the same, but when I turned my head a wave of dizziness threatened to pull me to the ground.
Ten cars away.
The crash of two cars colliding came from near the school.
Five cars away.
Our shoes slapped on the asphalt and my own breathing filled my ears.
Three cars. I felt my knees begin to wobble.
Then we were standing at the back of the van. Wyatt dragged me around to the passenger side, but Echo darted in front of him and hissed.
Wyatt stopped in his tracks. My heart dropped into my stomach. Was Echo hissing at Wyatt?
“Don’t let him hurt me!” A shrill voice shrieked.
Wyatt let go of my hand and patted the air to indicate I should stay where I was. It was a good thing Whitney still had a hold of my shoulders or else I may have collapsed. I leaned against the van and tried to catch my breath.
“Anne?” Wyatt asked.
“Please. Please don’t let the cat hurt me. Please don’t let me hurt anyone else. Please, please, please.”
Wyatt inched forward with his hands in front of him and disappeared around the side of the van. “Anne, what are you doing here?”
“I…I wanted to hurt people.” I heard a sob, then another. Anne spoke again but I could barely understand her through the tears. “I don’t want to hurt anyone. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I think I might’ve killed someone.”
Whitney and I exchanged a glance and then followed Wyatt. I wasn’t going to let her do anything to him.
Wyatt stood a few free feet from Anne with his hands still out in front of him. Anne sat by the tire, with her arms wrapped around her legs and her forehead pressed to her knees.
“Anne, what happened?” Wyatt asked.
“I was so hungry. I couldn’t help myself. I really wanted something to eat. Nobody had any food, so I think I tried to eat someone.”
Wyatt glanced over his shoulder waved us back, but we stepped forward.
Echo had stayed beside me. His ears lay flat on his head and his gaze never wavered from Anne.
“How do you feel right now?” Wyatt asked.
Anne raised her head. Just like Jason and Amy, blood ran from her mouth and dribbled down her chin. Tears streamed from her blood-shot eyes. When she opened her mouth to speak I had to look away.
“I don’t want to eat anyone right now.” She reached out for Wyatt who jumped back. Her tears grew thicker. “Please don’t let me hurt anyone else.”
“You want us to kill you?” Whitney asked.
Wyatt shot his sister a glare. “Were not killing anyone.”
I wasn’t sure I agreed with him, he hadn’t just been bitten, but Wyatt was probably thinking more clearly than I was.
Wyatt pulled the van keys from his pocket and hit the button that opened the back. “I have some rope in there. Grab it work in a tie her up.”
Whitney didn’t move. “Why? Just leave her.”
I hadn’t expected Whitney to be so hard core during the apocalypse.
Wyatt turned and looked hard at both of us. “She still thinking rationally. We need to get her to the hospital.”
I nodded. Some part of my brain was still working. Unfortunately it was the part that had watched way too many apocalypse movies. If this was a plague, the medical guys would need infected people to figure out what was going on. That could be Anne. If it wasn’t a plague, then maybe they could cure her.
Wyatt looked me in the eye. “Grab the rope, Everly.”
I nodded. I willed my legs to take me to the back of the van where I did as he asked.
Whitney stepped up next to me and muttered in my ear. “If she attacks any of us we throw her out.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
I tossed the rope to Wyatt who had Anne put her hands behind her back.
A howl sounded from our right. Then another one from our left.
Wyatt handed Whitney the keys. “Get the van started. I’ll get her inside.”
Whitney waved me into the passenger seat. Echo jumped up on my lap. We gazed at one another, and something clicked in my brain.
He’d growled at everyone who attacked us. Some of them well before they attacked us.
I narrowed my eyes at him. “You sly dog, you can tell who has this thing.”
He gave me a blink.
I patted him on the head. “Good boy.”
Wyatt shoved a sobbing Anne in to the back seat and slammed the door behind him. “Go!” he said.
“I only have my permit!” Whitney said.
Something hit the side of the van. I turned and saw Jason clawing at the door handle.
I hit the button to lock the doors.
“Drive!” Wyatt bellowed.
The van lurched backward, throwing me against my seatbelt as Whitney slammed on the gas. Another crazed teenager appeared. Then an adult.
Whitney slammed on the brakes just in time to merely tap the car parked behind us. “I hate this. I hate this. I hate this.” She put the van into drive.
Jason stood in front of us, his broken arm dangling at a strange angle.
“Sorry.” Whitney closed one eye, screwed up her face, and launched us forward.
If you missed the beginning of the story, click HERE to go to Chapter 1
Catch the thrilling finale of the story HERE!