I looked over my shoulder again as the zombies chased us down the road. I couldn’t help myself. I was fastest of the gang, of course, but so what? Whoever said zombies went on slow romps hunting for the living, their arms outstretched, woodenly placing one foot ahead of the other? These guys were FAST. They drove cars and motorcycles. They darn well TALKED to each other.
It had been Michael’s idea to get out of town. I wouldn’t have thought of it. Hanging around at the mall sounded logical to me. Sure, no one was stocking the shelves anymore, but there was canned food that would last for years. Of course, the zombies knew that too. Where there was food, there were brains.
Because that’s what they were after. Not that they’d pass up the rest of you if they decided to call you dinner. But they were never happier than when they could sink their teeth into a tender chunk of grey matter. Michael thought they needed brains to survive. Michael always came up with answers. He was the bright one of the gang. The one with the solutions. The escape routes.
All the more unfortunate, then, that Michael was the first to go. Cars were free for all, these days, their owners either dead or undead. We jumped into one with the keys on the ignition, all four of us, and tore through an approaching horde of zombies. Their bodies were sent flying left and right as we careened through them. One of them somehow managed to open a door as we went. I’d forgotten to lock it. I looked the zombie in the eyes. She was a young woman, pale as snow, her lips dark, the pupils of her eyes gone white. She clung to the door as Michael accelerated. But I kicked her in the stomach, she let go, and we were off.
We ran out of gas thirty miles out of town, up in Venice County. The zombies were still behind us. Some of them never gave up. They jumped off their motorcycles as we ran from the car. Michael never made it. I heard him scream as the rest of us headed uphill as fast as our feet would carry us. I heard the macabre cracking of his skull, the scream cut short and then the ecstatic cry of one of the zombies: “Whoaa, this one’s gooooood!” The smarter you were, the more they liked it. They feasted, but there wasn’t enough to go around. Some of them kept after us. I jumped fallen trees, dove under low-hanging branches, sidestepped ancient oaks. And looked over my shoulder. Just in time to see Elsa fall, her pretty blonde hair whirling like a cloud around her head as she went. The zombies, close on her heels, were all over her in seconds. I froze. Stopped. I liked Elsa. REALLY liked her. I stared.
Becky woke me up. She tore at my shirt as she rushed past me. “I know! But there’s nothing you can do!”
Barely a minute later, there was nothing I could do for her, either. She screamed for help, but she’d been right: What could I do but run?
There was only a handful of zombies left now, and only one victim. They weren’t going to get me. No way. Not now and not ever. I tried not to think about how many millions of people had said that since the zombie pandemic had broken out, and then got eaten.
In the end they cornered me, of course. A rocky, wedge-shaped outcrop came up in front of me and I was too dumb to run around it. I smacked against the rocks, panted, turned around. They were right in front of me. All five of them. I could’ve taken one, maybe two. Three, if I was lucky. But not all of them. They approached. I pressed myself hard against the rock face, trying not to think about the pain, the blood, the horror.
Then one of them said: “Hey!”
And another: “What?”
“Look! Look at his eyes! He’s one of them! You can always tell from the eyes!”
And a third one: “He’s right, man. He’s one of them.”
“Oh, no, come on!”
And they turned away. Each and every one of them. Disappointed snorts and grunts and all, their stomachs empty and my brain intact. I watched them, saved, flabbergasted, and relieved. I was one of THEM. One of the survivors. The zombies left some people alone. Nobody knew why. But I, of all people, was one of them. The zombies descended the hill to see if there were any leftovers. I suddenly, inexplicably, felt happy. Until I heard one of them say: “I hate these no-brainers.”
Karel Smolders has written 6 juvenile fiction novels in his native Dutch and published some fan fiction in the US. Science fiction is his natural habitat.
This story was sponsored by
Camilla d’Errico: A character designer and artist who dances on the tightrope between pop surrealist art and manga inspired graphics. Explore her paintings, characters and comics: Tanpopo, BURN and Helmetgirls.