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Page 20

“More like a skin graft,” Evan said. He was staring at Jill’s arm like it was on fire.

Doris shot a threatening look in his direction. “And a slew of antibiotics, I imagine. We’re going to have to get to Dr. Brown’s.”

“Aunt Jill!” Zoe said, ducking under Jill’s good arm. Jill hugged Zoe to her side and kissed her forehead.

The white-haired man spoke. “You think we’ll get lucky and he’ll come here with supplies?”

“No,” Skeeter said. “I saw him chasing Jim Miller earlier when I brought Barb.”

Skeeter watched Doris fuss over Jill’s wound. A darkness had fallen over his face. He knew as well as I did that he was going to lose his wife today. Maybe tomorrow. If anything anyone had ever said about zombies was true, it wouldn’t take long. By the subdued fear in Jill’s eyes, she knew it, too.

Skeeter blinked. “Where is Barb and Ms. Kay?”

Doris nodded toward the doorway. “In the sanctuary. Prayin’. Gary and Eric are boarding up the windows.”

“Good plan,” Jill said. “They definitely don’t have a problem with windows.”

Skeeter kneeled in front of his wife. “I’m going to talk to the guys, Jillybean. Make sure they allow spaces for me to fit my rifles through. I’ll be right back, and then we’re going to get you fixed up.” Jill nodded as Skeeter kissed her cheek.

“Can you stay here with Aunt Jill?” I said to Zoe. She leaned against Jill, the smallest tinge of sadness in her eyes. I wondered if she knew, but I wouldn’t ask. Maybe she was just missing her mother.

I followed Skeeter into the sanctuary. It smelled like old people and mildew, and I began to wonder why in the hell Skeeter had thought this rickety building was our best option. Two men were working on opposite sides of the room, furiously nailing boards to the stained glass windows. There were three on each wall, and they had only one on each side left to cover. A hand flattened against the glass, making a clumsy attempt to get inside. I jumped, on edge from our desperate run to the church.

“They just started doing that,” Eric said, gesturing to the window. “It’s like they know we’re in here.”

When he started hammering again, shadows of the people outside darkened the glass portraits of Jesus and angels. They wanted to get inside, and I wondered how long it would be until they did.

“The noise is probably drawing them here,” I said, running my fingers through my hair. Aubrey was always making snide comments about my shaggy hair and how bad I needed a haircut. I wondered if the world would ever calm down long enough for me to miss her bitching.

“Don’t really have a choice. They’ll have that glass broke before long.” Skeeter walked over to two frail-looking women sitting next to each other on a wooden pew. “You ladies still doin’ okay?” Skeeter said, putting a hand on the one woman’s shoulder. She reached up and patted his hand, but did not stop her quiet prayer. Their mouths were moving, but I couldn’t hear them.

“You think you could send one up for Jill?” Skeeter asked, his voice threatening to break.

One woman continued to pray as if she didn’t hear, the other looked up. “Is she okay?”

“She’s hurt. She’s in the kitchen . . . all right for now.”

“Jesus will take care of her.”

I rolled my eyes. Jesus wasn’t taking care of much of anything at the moment.

Skeeter started to return to the kitchen, but I motioned for him to join me in the corner of the room, away from listening ears.

“I know what you’re going to say,” he said. His eyebrows pulled together. “But don’t.”

I nodded, and then watched Skeeter return to his wife.

Chapter Eight


I lowered my chin to peek from a slit in the boards Gary had left for Skeeter. The sun was a little lower in the sky. Before too long, it would be dark. That thought scared me. We would need to sleep some time, but they wouldn’t. Those things would be walking around, just on the other side of these walls, waiting to pull our flesh from our bones with their teeth.

Skeeter grabbed my shoulder; the sudden movement made me jump two inches off my chair.

“Whoa! It’s just me, Nate. Calm down.”

I settled back into my seat, trying to play off my fear. Watching a movie about zombies is one thing. Watching zombies outside your window was another. The movies didn’t talk about that. Well . . . maybe they did, but they didn’t drive home how terrifying each moment truly was. I tried not to think about tomorrow, or that we would still be fighting for our lives every day from now on. I glanced back at Zoe, and choked back the sadness welling up in my throat. I didn’t want her to grow up in a world like this.

A combination of fear, anger, and utter depression fully engulfed me.

Skeeter squeezed my shoulder. I sat still, letting his fingers sink into my tense muscle. “It’s going to be okay.”

“Is it?” I asked, looking back out the window. “Is Jill?”

Skeeter sighed. “I don’t know. I’m hoping the movies got it all wrong, and a bite is just a bite.”

“What if it’s not?”

“I don’t know. I don’t really wanna think about it.”

I nodded, catching a glimpse of an elderly man shuffling by the window. His neck was half eaten away, and his dress shirt was saturated in blood. “We can’t stay here. We’re going to have to keep moving. Get into the country.”

“Damn, brother, I thought I was in the country.”

“I mean away from any town.”

Skeeter took a moment to respond. “I know, but I can’t move Jill. And we can’t risk putting her in a car with Zoe until we know if she’s going to get better.”

I closed my eyes tight, trying to squint away the visual. Another one of those things ambled by. She was wearing a nametag and a long skirt. I couldn’t read the nametag even if it was closer. It was covered in blood and what might be torn muscle lying over the top.

“Jesus Christ, that’s Birdie,” Skeeter said, disgusted. “She works at the bank.”

A dog was barking at her, keeping just enough distance that it wasn’t grabbed and eaten. Looking out at what could be seen through the boards, I watched whoever lumbered by, studying them, trying to notice whatever I could.

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