Tamara refused to go any further without checking Lily’s house. They crept around as if they knew how. They found the gutted remains of a Labrador dog. It had been mutilated, a bit like the dog belonging to that doctor who stitched Caleb’s scalp. That was only yesterday.
Lily had disappeared. Tam assumed the kid was resourceful enough to scramble away while the zombie (probably Caleb) was busy ripping up the family pet like a paper bag. No signs of the perpetrator either. Tam couldn’t call her. Loud noises would signal Wrecks in the vicinity. Rand hissed at her in an agitated tone that was unusual for him.
“We’re safer in the car,” he said.
“Nobody’s safe,” said Tam. “That child should have been safe here, but it didn’t work out that way, did it?”
“Things are building,” Rand said mysteriously. He was looking around like he expected cockroaches to start swarming from the walls. Tam shivered. She gave in and went back to the Lexus. On the way they saw a group of three Wrecks. They reminded her of ninjas for some reason. They saw her and advanced quickly. She and Rand leapt in the car and left them for dust.
“You should have used the blanket,” said Rand. But it was too cumbersome. Wrapping it around herself made Tam feel vulnerable.
They cruised. Slowly. There was no Caleb. Two Wrecks shambled down the street towards them. Rand drove through them, but gently. He merely shoved them aside like an enthusiastic bodyguard pushing back photographers. Activity had definitely increased. The whole of Varsity seemed to have been promoted to a new level of Hell. “See what I mean?” said Rand.
“Hold on a minute,” said Tam. In the shade under a broad-leafed tree was a washing line. She stared jealously at the old poncho strung over it. Rand pointedly said, “Uh…”
He clearly didn’t see the benefit. She needed to upgrade the blanket. The poncho would be ideal for shape-busting in the same way, but easier to wear. She got out of the car and hurried across some stranger’s lawn. “Watch it,” Rand whispered. But it was too late.
She wasn’t careful enough. She saw a Wreck rooting through a bush just as she snapped the poncho from the washing line. It heard the sound. It turned. Its face was bloody, its body was bloated. It reached for her.
She had enough distance to outrun it. The only problem would be getting into the car quickly. Except that wasn’t the only problem. While her back was turned, another Wreck had come round the corner behind her. It was between her and the Lexus. “Christ.” It was a skinny woman in a housewife’s dress. Her teeth were showing. Rand backed up to get a good run at the housewife but he wasn’t going to get it in time. Tam looked round. Yes, she had seriously underestimated the number of Wrecks wandering her home town. There was one way to run, and she used it.
Tam raced down the street. This was her, as a victim. She’d thought of herself as existing outside those parameters. Now she was running from the advancing undead, just like everyone else. There were more in front of her. She cut between two houses.
The Lexus drove by behind her. Rand shouted something she couldn’t hear. He was trying to catch up but she was evading him as well as the Wrecks. No point stopping now. Even with the poncho on, they’d probably sense her breathing. She wished there were more fences around here.
When she found the street again, she looked behind her. Oh fucking God, it was a whole posse. Large and small, fast and slow, blue and grey. A dozen of them. They had energy. They were ready for a feast.
Rand’s Lexus screeched to a stop at a junction a hundred yards away. Maybe he was punishing her. She ran for it. The Wrecks were hot on her heels. Rand got out and opened a back door. He messed around with something he was holding in both hands. Then he looked up, appraising the situation, and threw a Molotov cocktail at her.
It was close. She didn’t mind. The petrol bomb popped and an oily flame bloomed, snapping at Tam’s ass. It engulfed the three fastest Wrecks. They were fireballs, smoking and veering off. Several more ran through the flames. They lost their way instantly. Strangely, the rest seemed either distracted or blinded by the smoke and flames.
As she got to the car she was saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” over and over. Rand said nothing.