Chapter Twenty Three: Aria Stephenson
My gut told me there was something wrong seconds before the new noise reached my ears. The zombies were howling with glee. But what at? I was still on my quad bike, and so was…. Oh no. Not Kyle. Suddenly, the space beside me felt empty. Kyle wasn’t there. He’d crashed out.
I wanted to turn around, to turn back to save Kyle, but I couldn’t. The bike was going too fast to stop so quickly in the flowing lakes of blood. I looked back over my shoulder. Kyle was lying down, curled up into a ball. I couldn’t see his face, only his back. A feeling of worry consumed me. I couldn’t leave Kyle. I couldn’t lose him. I didn't have anything left in the world without him. All I would have would be me, and I couldn’t let that happen.
I saw his head rise to look up at the zombie horde as my quad bike took a 180-degree spin, skidding uncontrollably across the lakes of blood. There was no way I’d leave Kyle behind.
I could feel the quad bike wrenching under my grip, the wheels wanting to wander and have a free rein. Fighting to control the quad bike, I watched Kyle and the horde of zombies.
The horde was closing in on him now, moving forward like soldiers in an army, yet more blood-thirsty, more ready for the battle. They moved as one. None of them wanted to wait a second longer for their meal, but some unseen force kept them from flying forward. A part of me just wanted it to be over already. If it was going to happen, it should happen quickly. I didn’t want Kyle’s pain strung out in front of me like a full washing line, dripping with blood.
I heard Kyle moan in pain. I wanted to jump off the quad bike, to run over to him and to save him like he’d saved me, but I couldn’t. Time was moving slowly and my quad bike was still out of control. I was skidding further and further away as more and more time passed, never seeming to slow or run out of momentum.
One zombie moved forward, ahead of the rest. Some of the zombies on the front line seemed to send curious looks to the zombie who had stepped out of line, but none of them made a move forward towards Kyle after that. The zombies were all mesmerised, stuck to the spot by the one that had seemed to have taken the lead. There was something strange in the atmosphere, coming from the zombies. It was no longer confusion that had rippled through them all like a wave in the sea, no. It was anger. What was this one zombie doing out of place, telling them when they could and when they couldn’t feed?
It was then that it hit me. This zombie that had taken the lead, there was something familiar about him. If I’dn’t worked that out already subconsciously, I had it in my mind now.
The zombie who had placed himself in charge, if it was a he as I suspected, shouted in a garbled language. I didn’t understand anything he said, but I sensed that from the reaction, what he was saying, every zombie in the crowd disagreed with him. He was light when he spoke, the jumbled sounds and grunts heavy and light at the same time. They seemed to float through the air, yet wade through it gruffly.
This time, when the zombie spoke again, it was more forceful and overpowering. There was a definite sharpness in this bark that wasn’t there the first time around. It was a command, not a statement. Even I could tell from here listening to a different language.
My quad bike had stopped skidding and it lay motionless by my side as I dismounted. I watched the zombies carefully and closely like a hawk, ready to jump to my certain death if they threatened Kyle again. As long as we went down together, they could have us. As I edged closer to Kyle, it seemed more and more possible that the horde hadn’t seen me. They were all concentrating on Kyle and the zombie who had taken charge rather than the blood-splattered girl who would be the end of them all if they didn’t move quickly.
As I shuffled closer still, the zombies started to talk among themselves. I say talk, I don’t really know what they were saying. They could just have been making noises to annoy me, but I highly doubt it.
One of the zombies in the front line of the horde stepped forward. He was huge, very tall and built like these tricked out warehouses. It seemed as though nothing would knock him down. Hissing, he leaned forward and challenged the scrawny looking zombie who had taken charge. The huge zombie towered over the tiny one like a skyscraper to an ant. Squaring up to the scrawny zombie, the skyscraper zombie sneered at the scraggy zombie, hissing and spitting in his face. The smaller zombie looked back disinterestedly and answered in a flat, defiant tone. At the answer, the larger zombie jumped back and fell back into line, scowling fiercely.
I couldn’t tell what had happened, but I’d a good idea. The smaller zombie was protecting us. He was telling the bigger zombie to back off and telling him why we couldn’t be fodder for the rest of the hoard. In a way I was glad that the zombie had stuck up for us and won the rest of the hoard over to his way of thinking, but I was also worried and slightly disappointed. I was disappointed because I thought I was going to get to smash some zombie heads in, but I was worried because I didn’t know what reason there could be for the whole horde of zombies to leave us alone. If it was that bad that is scared everyone in the horde, should it scare us too? Is there something that we were missing? Something that made us worth something? Something that would stop a blood-lusting group of zombie from attacking and having their next feed? Was there really something that scary, even for zombies? If there was, we were definitely in far too deep.
The zombie pack dispersed, bitterness hanging as a trail in the air in their wake. I ran as carefully as I could over to Kyle, desperately trying not to fall over in the blood and flesh that was now joined by maggots and even more oozing, squirming flesh. It was a good job I wasn’t squeamish then, I laughed dryly to myself. At least I had something to laugh at in this damned world. At least someone did.
I managed to stay upright until I reached Kyle, where I promptly messed up the good run and fell face first into him. He groaned slightly. Pulling myself up, I checked out his wounds. Nothing looked broken, but I wasn’t a doctor. I couldn’t be sure, but I wouldn't tell Kyle that. “You’ll have some bruises. That's about it.”
Kyle rolled over onto his other side to face me and groaned some more. “Really doctor? You think I might just live to see the very end of this hell hole go up in flames?” he said with a dry smile.
“You goon!” I said. “Don’t even joke about that. You had me worried for a minute then.”
“Just a minute?” Kyle asked jokingly. I laughed softly and helped him up, pulling his arms and practically lifting him to his feet.
“Were you out for the count before or were you awake?” I asked, trying to make light of it but only managing to just keep the tremble out of my voice. I couldn’t lose him. Not him of all people. Especially this close to the end. If he’d come all this way with me, he could come to the very end which I was determined would be many, many years ahead yet.