Tam couldn’t find any of the cloakish clothing she was looking for in Caleb’s house, or any kind of mask that would turn her into Frankenbogart. It was frustrating, and also time was short. The Cause, whatever its mysterious goals, was now drawing Wrecks to a destination nearby, according to Caleb. Meaning that the population of walking dead was about to explode.
More than one convoy of family vehicles had already passed by, at speeds that suggested something more urgent than a trip to Burger Barn. Then there were the puffs of smoke that rose over the tops of the distant trees. And the mysterious pops that might be gunshots.
Rand argued with Zelinski over what their next move should be. After some time Tam interjected and said, “Guys, I think we know where to start.”
Sure enough, survival was the first priority. So Tam had searched Caleb’s wardrobes for bland, baggy clothes and something like a mask. It didn’t work out. She went to her second plan. She emptied and rinsed out her largest perfume bottle, then filled it with chilli sauce. Home-made Pepper Spray. At the same time Zelinski made Molotov cocktails from a spare can of gas he was carrying in his car, Caleb’s old wine bottles and some ripped-up shirts. He got five out of it.
Rand locked Caleb into his own spare bedroom, which was now the gym. Caleb didn’t complain, just allowed himself to be led like a cow. His skin was changing colour. His eyes were hooded. Tam barely recognised him now. She kept busy so she wouldn’t have to think about it.
Outside, a dog barked. Tam remembered the Labrador that had savaged its own master when he turned into a Wreck. The house was near enough to make her worry. She looked out the window.
“Holy shit.” A young girl in red leggings and a white blouse had run up and thrown her arms around the dog. He was wagging his tail like it could win prizes. It was the same kid who ran out of the house before. She’d ducked around every terrible fate and arrived back home. She looked at the Wreck that had once been her father. It was now a grey mummy surrounded by splashes of unnatural blood. The girl’s shoulders hunched up. She turned away. Then she went into her house.
She looked about ten or eleven. The loyal dog was a weapon in its own right but Tam knew something the kid didn’t. This place was going to get thick with death pretty soon.
“I’m going to look for something over there,” Tam said to Zelinski. He looked up from his firebombs with a curious expression. Tam moved slowly, practicing her ninja skills. She froze when two Wrecks walked past a long way off. Then she stalked ahead. The house was low-roofed and square, with aquamarine slats and the shadows of Eucalyptus trees all over. She knocked on the door. The dog barked recklessly. Tam called out, “Hello? I live across the road.”
Some movement. The latch turned. Something in Tam’s mind said, what if it’s a Wreck? But it wasn’t. It was only a ten-year old with long, auburn hair and brown eyes with a painful corona of red around them. “I know you don’t know me,” Tam said. “But I saw what happened outside. You’re lucky to have that dog. I know some stuff that might help you. Is that okay? My name’s Tamara.”
“I’m Lily,” the girl said. Her lip quivered. She shook her head wryly, like a much older woman. “I don’t know what to do.”
The house was full of the scattered remnants of a family life. There was nobody else here, not even their corpses. Tam said, “Do you have Halloween masks, anything like that?”
The girl frowned and took her to a junk room where cardboard boxes tumbled over each other like ruined castle walls. She opened one box and ripped out some kids’ costumes. Fairy, chorus girl, bumblebee… and a bumblebee’s head, in garish felt.
“Cool,” said Tam. “Why don’t you put that on? Is there one for me?” Lily pulled out more costumes. The last one was an elephant. Tam put on the head. It was for kids, but elephants have big heads so it balanced out. The costume was just a grey onesie. It looked like a biped. Not much good. The bumblebee, on the other hand, had wings and a big globe for a body.
“Go ahead and put it on,” she said.
“Why?” said Lily. This was not Halloween, obviously.
“Those things, the zombies,” said Tam, “can’t see you so good if you look like something other than a person,” she said. Lily put on the bee costume. “Stay very still and they mightn’t see you,” said Tam. “But if you’ve been seen you gotta run fast.”
“Just like werewolves,” Lily said appreciatively. Tam didn’t get the reference. She let it drop.