Tags: Coming of Age
, action and adventure
, women science fiction
, post-apocalyptic science fiction
, strong female leads
, post-apocalyptic fiction
, literary horror
, zombie horror
himself. He says it like he’s seen something I can’t yet see. He swerves his bike into the parking lot, ready to take on the twisting course of the barriers.
“What?” I hiss, trying not to yell, but wanting him to stop and tell me what’s up.
He doesn’t stop, just lifts one hand and waves me forward.
“Stupid, stupid!” I say to myself, but I follow nonetheless. This is so stupid.
The barriers are a pain because they weren’t meant to just slow down cars, but stop them. The way they’re placed is meant to make it hard for anything to get through unless it’s a person walking and able to climb over the waist-high blocks. Charlie parks his bike when he can’t get any closer, the brakes letting out a small squeal that makes me flinch.
That gives me a chance to catch up so I grab his arm before he can get over the barrier, and ask, “What are you doing? You don’t know that they can’t come after you. Look how many there are!”
I’ve kept my voice down to a whisper, but it’s an angry one and he can tell. He pats my hand and says, “Oh, I don’t think those guys are going anywhere. I just want to check for myself. Stay here.”
He grins then clambers over the barrier, making his way with easy agility over each set of blocks as he moves toward the shopping center. I balance one foot on the barrier next to me so I don’t have to try to straddle the bike on my tip-toes, and settle my crossbow into shooting position. I’ve got to be ready in case he’s wrong. He’s being quiet, but not slow, and movement can create vibrations that deaders with no other senses remaining to them can pick up.
As he gets closer to the corner of the building, he slows and I see him rise onto his toes for a quieter approach, his crossbow out in front of him. At just twenty feet away from the corner, he stops and it looks like he’s really examining a group of deaders at a shuttered bank of windows. It looks like that’s where the food court was if the signs above the windows are accurate. One of the signs is for a Chinese food place I’ve seen in almost every mall I’ve ever been into. My mouth floods with saliva at the sudden memory of lo mein noodles.
I snap out of it when Charlie starts sort of jogging on his tip-toes toward the next set, then the next. He appears satisfied, because he runs like normal back to where I wait, his feet making slapping noises on the asphalt that make me cringe.
The grin on his face is huge. As soon as he’s close enough, he says, “They don’t have legs. Not one of them. The legs aren’t even there. Someone either carted them off or brought them here without legs already.”
“No legs? God, that’s gross,” I say, but I understand what it means. These deaders are plants, put here on purpose and not meant to be able to wander off. Hence, the no legs business.
“And smart,” Charlie says, grinning.
“Are you sure you want to walk into this? I mean, I’m giving you an out here. If you stay out here somewhere and I don’t come back, at least you can go back and let them know. You can go on from there, maybe find another place to do this thing,” I say. In a way, I actually mean it. Though going by myself is terrifying and I desperately want him to come with me, there’s a part of me that just wants to keep him safe out here, so he can go back and at least let them know what happens to me. For Jon, if nothing else. I’d hate for him to spend his life wondering.
Charlie examines my face, perhaps seeing my conflict there. He gives a little shake of his head and smiles wryly. “No way. I’m with you.”
“Okay,” I breathe out in relief, and his grin grows. Once more, we put our feet to the pedals for one last ride.
The medical and dental clinics are in very similar states to the shopping complex. Even the gas station between those two places is neatly boarded, with big wooden boxes around the pumps. Locking bars that look hand welded are in place over the
Tom Piccirilli, Ed Gorman