Denise was woken up by the glint of sunlight poking in through the chink between the curtains in the storage room. Yawning, she pushed herself up onto one elbow and ran a hand through her tangled hair. Ferrah was meant to have been on watch, but was slumped in the doorway, head resting on her knees. Denise looked around and saw Tina fast asleep in the corner, sucking her thumb.
As Denise got to her feet, so did Ferrah, and the two girls looked at each other. They still remembered the argument, over something so trivial it had seemed pointless at the time and even more so now. At least Tina was all right.
The little girl stirred now, and opened her eyes. She was such a cute little kid, but did carry that aura of toughness with her, even though she was only eight years old. Denise thought it was so sad that she’d had to grow up so quickly; she still sucked her thumb when she slept, for God’s sake!
Denise watched as Ferrah tucked a curling strand of her red hair behind her ears. It was so easy for her to keep it looking good; Denise’s mousy brown locks always became matted after a while without washing it, and she was always too lazy to do anything other than tie it up in a ponytail, which was what she did know. Ferrah was watching her.
“So,” Ferrah began, taking charge as usual, “Where should we head to? We can’t stay here forever, can we?”
Denise sighed. Ferrah could be so annoying sometimes.
“I want to find out if my grandma or grandpa are still alive,” Tina piped up.
Denise couldn’t help her heart going out to the lonely little girl. She had lost so much in such a short period of time.
“Well, I think that finding our relatives would be a good start,” Denise agreed, “But that begs the question, where to look?”
Ferrah scratched her head, face pensive, “Well, my father is off on a business trip; there’s no chance of me finding them any time soon. Denise?”
Denise was slightly surprised to be asked for advice by Ferrah, but as they say, desperate times call for desperate measures.
“Well…I would say that they probably went to the nearest military base for shelter and safety.”
It was an idea she had been harboring for a while, and now seemed just as good a chance as any to throw it out there. Ferrah surprisingly nodded, looking impressed.
“Right then,” Denise sighed as Ferrah took charge again, “Let’s go.”
As typical, Ferrah led the way out of the storage room. Denise waited and held a hand out for Tina to take in her small one. It was surprisingly warm. The three girls stepped warily out into the morning sunshine, making sure to keep within sprinting distance of the door, just in case any zombies decided to attack.
“We need a weapon,” Ferrah announced, “We can’t go around in zombieland unarmed.”
“Zombieland?” Denise snorted.
Ferrah shrugged, “That’s what it is now.”
“Why don’t we look for a gun or something as we head to the base?” Tina asked.
Denise had to stifle a derisive laugh. An eight year old was acting as peace keeper between two girls. They had to work together to avoid being turned into a zombie, but at least she didn’t hate Ferrah anymore. She couldn’t afford to if she wanted to live. She had not seen that one coming.
Denise nodded and tried to think of the bases nearby. There was that one in the kind of northerly direction, but that was at least ten miles. Surely there was one closer.
“Amora Airforce Base,” Ferrah said, “That’s probably where they’ve gone, isn’t it?”
Denise shrugged, “Probably. Where is that?”
The other girl pointed to the north, “Kind of in that direction. I went there with my dad once.”
Denise cringed, it was that base. It would be a long walk ahead of them. The three set off, trudging towards the base. All of them were disheartened by the recent zombie apocalypse, and they really had no motivation to go on. Denise contemplated just sitting down there and waiting to be turned into a raving zombie. At least she’d be mindless.
But that seemed as if it was going to happen sooner rather than later. Tina screamed as she saw a figure running speedily towards them. As the mist cleared, it became obvious that it was a zombie, one of the fast-moving ones. Denise felt frozen in fear, unable to move. Ferrah snarled and shoved her sideways off the road and into a ditch.
Denise and Ferrah both shrieked in unison as they fell straight onto the half-eaten corpse of a dead man. A gun was clutched in his hand, but it didn’t seem to have done him any good, judging by his current state of death. The stench was horrendous. The zombie looked around and leered over the top of the ditch. Tina clung to Denise’s leg in terror, quivering with fear.
Ferrah looked around wildly and squealed as she stepped backwards into the dead man’s face. There was a sickly squelching kind of noise as her heel ground into his cheek and Denise felt her shiver with revulsion. Tina was whimpering.
Time seemed to stop as the zombie reached towards the three girls, arms waving in their faces. Denise stiffened as it caught a chunk of her hair, clutching it triumphantly. Tina and Ferrah both pressed themselves as far into the wall of the ditch as possible. It looked like they were trying to sink in. So much for helping each other.
Denise tried to wriggle free of the zombie’s clutch, but it was too tight. Tentatively, she stepped backwards, her foot catching on something hard and cold. The gun, of course! A little thrill ran down her spine.
“Ferrah,” she whispered as quietly as possible, “Gun. By my right foot,”
Ferrah blinked, looking slightly startled and detached. Denise sighed. Sometime, she thought, Ferrah was possibly the most useless person in the history of being useless; it was obvious what Denise meant and Ferrah still hadn’t got it. The zombie’s grip on her hair tightened.
Tina, however, understood what Denise meant. Very, very slowly and keeping her eyes on the zombie at all times, she reached for the gun. Denise gritted her teeth as the zombie wrenched her hair slightly, a sharp pain flitting across her scalp.
“I need that gun, Tina! Now!” Her voice rose, just as Tina lobbed the smooth black handgun in Denise’s direction.
Denise grabbed it. It was slightly wet, a side-effect of its sentence in the ditch, but she ignored that and held it tightly, knuckles white. As her finger fluttered against the trigger, it seemed as if the moist air around her shimmered. Suddenly, thoughts began to fly through Denise’s brain. What if the gun was empty? After all, there were quite a few bullet shells in that ditch.
“Shoot!” Tina squealed, and pressed back further into the ditch as the zombie advanced.
Denise closed her eyes and pulled the trigger. A loud crack burst from the gun and the zombie flew backwards, arm blown clean off. Denise wondered if the undead had nerve endings, because there was no doubt that that shot would have hurt like hell.
She shivered at the thought, and ran her clammy hands through her hair. She was still holding that damn gun, and clutched to it like a lifeline. Denise pulled herself up to the top of the ditch. Little chunks of mud dropped down onto Ferrah’s head, splattering her red locks with brown splotches. Denise grinned as the other girl scowled.
As the three girls dusted themselves off, there was a groan from the corpse, and its one remaining arm twitched.
“Shoot it again,” Ferrah’s voice was cold. Denise hesitated.
“The noise could bring other zombies.”
Ferrah shook her head, “They’d have come by now. Just shoot.”
Denise took a deep breath and pointed the gun at the zombie’s head. She looked away as she pulled, and heard the sickening sound of the zombie’s skull thwacking against the pavement. Blood seeped into her shoes, and she tried not to squeal.
“There,” Ferrah smiled smugly, “That wasn’t so bad, was it?”
“Ferrah. This is really not the time,” Denise gritted her teeth to stop herself from shouting.
“Now is never the time with you, is it?” Ferrah sighed with maddening superiority, striding onwards.
Tina frowned in unison with Denise, and the two followed. Minutes later, they came across to where a cluster of cars had been trashed, thrown on their sides. Battered belongings littered the ground. Some of the cars had significant damage, their metal frames ripped and torn open in various spots.
“What the hell…” Denise muttered, gazing at the sight.
She heard something skittering along the floor and whirled around, automatically shielding Tina, who had heard it too.
“Ferrah…” the little girl said in a measured, warning tone.
“Zombie?” Denise asked, lifting her new-found weapon and hoping that it still contained bullets.
“Nah,” Ferrah replied, “Zombies don’t hide. Come out, whoever you are!”
For a few seconds there was silence, Denise whipping the gun back and forth, Tina shuffling nervously from foot to foot.
“Don’t shoot!” cried a male voice, “I’m unarmed!”
A boy, similar in age to Denise and Ferrah stepped out from behind an up-turned lorry. His hair was unruly and matted, a chocolate brown color that matched the kaleidoscopic tint to his eyes. He was of medium build, wearing scruffy, stained clothes and clutching a backpack. More silence followed. Denise stepped forward, heart beating so fast she thought it might explode.
“Did you do this?” she asked, jerking her head towards the wreckage.
“Me?” the boy seemed surprised, “How would I do this? I mean…I’m strong, but I’m not that strong.”
He grinned a little, and Denise relaxed ever so slightly, shifting her weight to her back foot.
“If you didn’t, then who did?” Ferrah cut across Denise.
The boy shrugged, “Beats me. I haven’t been around here since the whole world went to shit.”
Denise cocked her head, “Where are you from then?”
“Further down that road. I’ve been holed up there since this whole thing began, but…I’m running out of food.”
“Why are you following us?” Denise asked sharply. The boy took a step back, raising his hands.
“I think you’ve got the wrong idea,” he stammered, “A…a mile or so back I heard that gun go off, and I thought you needed help. Plus…it was the only sign or humanity I’ve seen or heard for ages.”
Now it was Ferrah’s turn to speak; “You didn’t help us that much though, did you?”
“Yeah…but you had it under control, and I didn’t want to ruin things.”
Ferrah narrowed her eyes, but took a few steps backwards, “Well then, what are you doing here?”
“I heard you lot talking about a military base, and I was wondering if I could, you know…maybe tag along?”
Ferrah suppressed a smirk, “Na-ah. Not a chance, sunshine. We’ve our own to look after.”
“I won’t be much hassle, I swear. Just to the base. Then, I’ll be out of your hair.”
Denise lowered the gun, “What’s your name?”
“I’m Donny, Donny Wrock.”
“This. Is. Insane!” Ferrah whirled to face Denise, “You can’t seriously be thinking of letting him come with us!”
Denise sighed, hoping not to start another argument, “It’s just to the base, Ferrah. I’m not going to abandon someone else.”
“But God only knows who he is! He could be infected, or something.”
“If he was infected, he wouldn’t have followed us. Let him come.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Umm…” Donny looked like he wanted to say something, “I can still hear you, you know…”
“If we agree to let you come,” Ferrah addressed Donny, “What’s in it for us?”
Donny chewed his lip, “Protection, I can protect you.”
His gaze swiveled to Tina, “And her. At the very least, I have some practice with a gun.”
“We can use the gun just fine,” Ferrah protested.
“Without any bullets?” Donny asked, pulling a handful out of his pocket, “I saw you guys take the gun and you didn’t check to see if the guy had any ammo on him. Noob mistake.”
Ferrah chewed up nails for a minute, thinking, before coming to a conclusion.
“Fine,” she muttered, “But I swear to God, if you do anything to kill us, I will kill you.”