“I feel so exposed,” Anna whispered.

“Only a couple of blocks to go. Can you run?” he asked. He didn’t need to ask her twice.

They ran like the wind.

* * *

“Where did they all come from?” Anna asked, out of breath.

“I don’t know,” Jared answered. He was having trouble holding Anna’s hand, running, and keeping her father’s pistol tightly in his other hand.

They had dodged two more of them, and then three more by the time they arrived at the Greek Theatre. The place was shut down and dark. They positioned themselves in the center of the front of the building, in order to see and hear anything moving from left, right or in front of them. They had the wall to their backs.

Jared was panting louder than Anna. Too loudly. She shushed him. They couldn’t see very far. Anna thought that if Carla was waiting for them, she would have her patrol car running. But nothing. It was dark and she couldn’t see anything anyway.

“Should we call for her?” Anna panted softly.

“No. We’ll wait. Quietly,” he reminded her.

They waited. And waited. Jared was thirsty. He tried to ignore it, but after a miserable, timeless twenty minutes he gave into the drinking fountain a few feet away. Anna wouldn’t leave his side. She let him drink and then, even though the fountain hissed loudly, she drank. Running from zombies was thirsty business.

Jared put a hand on her shoulder halfway through her drink. Those slow, uneven footsteps, coming closer. There was more than one of them. Even the sound of the fountain was too much.

They were coming from the right, so Anna and Jared slipped around to the side of the building. Anna almost stumbled on something. She bent down to feel out what it was. A pipe, about three feet long.

“Perfect weapon,” Jared whispered. He could hardly see Anna nod. “I’ll shoot again if I have to. If you have to use that, aim for the head, Anna.”

The footsteps were coming closer. They moved further back, into a small corridor leading to a locked door. Waited.

Closer, closer. Finally, the two teens could see the zombies’ silhouettes from the distant lamppost light. They tried to stay quiet, but this time it was Jared who couldn’t hold his breath any longer. He couldn’t help it; he blew a soft, anguished cry.

Zombies, Anna whispered. They’re here.

There were at least four of them, but it was difficult to tell for sure. Jared knew they had nowhere to go. They were trapped. And outnumbered.

So, Jared did the only thing he could think of: he brought up the gun.

Anna whimpered next to him as he aimed for the head again, and again, his aim was true. Anna brought her pipe down on the second one, but it did no good. She drew the pipe back like a sword now, and, with all her might, plunged it between the Zombie’s eyes. The breaking bone shivered up the pipe to her arms, but she pushed in deeper. Broken skull fragments and blood poured out onto her.

In the back of her mind, she heard Jared fire again, and again. Anna pulled her weapon out of the skull, the body falling to the ground.

She gasped. Another one was just behind the fallen one and stepped right on it to get to her. She transformed her fear into rage and plunged again, this time harder.

By the time they were done, the two teens had six zombies lying dead around them. Six one-time humans. Silence once again prevailed. Except for Jared’s loud breathing. Anna turned away and vomited. She kept vomiting until long after her stomach was empty.

Jared attempted to reload his pistol with hands shaking. He dropped a couple of bullets but kept trying. He had just locked the barrel with fresh rounds when they heard a car racing up the road. They sprinted to the street to see a patrol car fast approaching. Surreal, the car’s headlights cut through the fog.

“It’s Carla!” they both said at the same time.

Carla braked and slid around, pointing the cruiser in the opposite direction, facing back down the road. It was the perfect pitting maneuver of a well-trained cop.

This brief shine of headlights showed Anna and Jared at least a dozen other Zombies in close proximity, their eyes blinking and glowing in the darkness like animals.

Carla got out of her car and fired at three in a row. “Come on!” she yelled at them. “Get in the car!”

Anna and Jared moved toward the patrol car, but already the undead blocked their way. Gun reloaded, Jared took down three and Anna another two. Carla covered them by taking out two more. The teens jumped into the back seat.

“The area is infested with them!” Carla said.

“No kidding,” Jared replied. “And we were on foot!”

Carla took down another before she flew into the driver’s seat and once again did a one-eighty, gunning the gas pedal and heading up the road. She ran down two more undead.

Anna looked back and couldn’t believe what she saw. They had been run over, but they stood up and began slowly, slowly, but steadily, walking again.

“How are they not dead?” she asked, almost to herself.

“I don’t know, honey,” Carla answered, “but I’m not going to stop and figure that out right now. Are you two okay?” Carla glanced in the rear view mirror, studying the two teenagers.

She’s wondering if we’ve been bitten, Jared thought. “We’re okay,” he told her. “We haven’t been...infected if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“No, no,” Carla half-lied.

Anna realized they were heading up the hill, not down to what she considered safety. “Why are we going up here?” she said, sitting forward. “There are only more of them, I can feel it!”

It was hard for her, too—Anna had never killed a living thing in her life. But they’re not living, she reminded herself. At least, she didn’t think they were. Not living in the normal sense. They’re not human anymore. Something else.

“Because your dad’s up here,” Carla answered fiercely. “And he’s waiting for us.”

Chapter Twenty-six

Hindsight, as they say, is twenty-twenty.

So, how could I have ever thought things would work out as planned? I was a stupid, irresponsible father. Nothing would ever be the same.

I knew Carla had planned to pick up Anna and Jared at the Greek. I thought I had enough time. But then again, perhaps the time I took was necessary.

I had driven down to Sunset Boulevard, where I parked and had to walk a couple of precious time-consuming blocks to find a pay phone. There weren’t many these days. I thought about the hookers, junkies and indigents who used these phones and then laughed. What were their germs on the handsets, compared to what I was facing?

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