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“We need to find a safe place to crash, we can’t keep going on like this all night, plus it looks like it’s going to rain,” Ferrah whispered, her body crunched in an awkward position as they hid behind a set of mailboxes.

“Thanks for stating the obvious,” Denise snapped, “Where exactly would safe be?”

Denise nodded to one of the zombies as it limped by. Fortunately, all the zombies in the area seemed to be heading for a noise off in the distance and didn’t notice them. It sounded like sirens that had been left running a few streets over and the noise appeared to attract them.

 “My house is probably safe,” Ferrah replied, “It has a thick heavy fence that should keep the zombies at bay. At least we can stay the night there and get something to eat before we leave.”

“We could do the same at my house,” Denise grimaced, remembering the zombie in her room and the giant hole where the backdoor used to be.

Ferrah shrugged, “Whatever is fine, we can go there.”

Denise shouldn’t have opened her mouth; she should have known it would get her into trouble.

“No…” she admittedly reluctantly, “Your place is probably the best option for us right now.”

Ferrah nodded as if it was an obvious reply, and then took the lead. Denise growled under her breath but otherwise followed Ferrah, trying to remain as silent as possible. The layouts and positions of the zombies seemed to be at random. One street would be completely devoid of anyone, living or dead. Another street would be swamped with hordes of undead.

They carefully made their way, avoiding the populated streets and sticking to the back alleys whenever possible. Ferrah appeared to know her way, although Denise had no clue where Ferrah even lived. It looked to be one of the richer neighbors, as that was the direction Ferrah seemed to be heading.

Every once in a while they would see people running in full sprint. They always hid, not wanting to be involved with the inevitable hordes that followed after them. The zombies appeared to come in two groups. Faster zombies, who showed fewer signs of decay. They were feral and dangerous, and they trod very carefully around them. Then there were the walkers. They were slow lumbering zombies close to what one might expect from the stories. They had a more broken down and dead appearance.

In many cases, when confronted with the walking zombies, they simply ran around them and kept moving. The zombies could be surprisingly swift, even at a lumbering pace, but they couldn’t keep up with two teenage girls, even Ferrah, who was by no means an athlete. As if Ferrah wasn’t tall enough, she was wearing thick heeled sandals. She took those off and ran barefoot when the needs called for it.

Denise covered up a small smile of victory every time Ferrah stubbed her toe or stepped on a rock. It served her right. Although Denise’s smile quickly faded when she realized that she might not have been as well dressed for running from zombies herself if she had gone to school. Ferrah had managed to survive, where Mia had died. Although she survived by hiding, it still angered Denise that she had to be the one to survive. She desperately wished it had been Mia that they could have worked together, protecting each other as they ran for safety.

However, Denise was not there that day, she had decided to skip school, and her friend was killed without Denise to protect her. She forced down the guilt, anger, and frustration that threatened to overtake her. She would mourn Mia’s loss one day, but she couldn’t afford to do it now. She couldn’t afford to even think about it right now.

“This is the block my house is on,” Ferrah announced after they crossed what seemed like the hundredth intersection.

Finally, they would get a chance to eat and sleep. Denise looked over a hedge down Ferrah’s street and winced. The entire street was filled with zombies. She couldn’t count how many, she wasn’t great at counting, but certainly, more than a baseball bat could help. The sun was dwindling now, darkness starting to overtake the street. She didn’t know if it would be worse or better in the dark. She guessed worse. 

Ferrah took a look over the hedge as well, grimacing at the sight, “So what’s the plan now?”

A sharp, loud scream pierced the air nearby. Denise deliberately repositioned her grip on the baseball bat as she turned around looking for the source of the noise. Ferrah continued to look over the hedge at the zombies.

“Someone’s in trouble, we should go help,” Denise declared.

Ferrah turned away, “No, this is our chance, the zombies are leaving to investigate that noise, we can get to my place without any problem now.”

A second scream shouted out. It sounded like a young girl.

“We need to help them,” Denise demanded.

“That’s suicide, all of the zombies are moving in that direction. Whoever is there will have to fend for themselves,” Ferrah rolled her eyes.

Denise contemplated smashing her in the face with the bat but decided against it. It might make too much noise and draw the zombies back on her. Still… she loosened the grip on the bat, a sigh of regret leaving her lips. Ferrah took that as a sign of defeat, nodding and moving towards the street her house was on.

Denise turned away and began moving in the direction of the screams. When Ferrah realized she wasn’t following, she made an exasperated sound of protest.

She quickly moved up beside Denise, “Where are you going? We need to get to safety it is almost dark out.”

“I’ve left too many people behind. I’ve abandoned too many people today. Not this time.”

Ferrah muttered under her breath but continued to follow.

“You can go back, it’s probably clear now,” Denise responded, raising an eyebrow.

“You have the bat,” Ferrah muttered under her breath, keeping her eyes from meeting Denise.

Denise supposed she was probably scared to be alone again, even if she made it to her own home. Denise wasn’t sure if she should be happy that Ferrah was still following her or not.

The screams had stopped, but as the snuck along the side of the street, they came to a point where the zombies seemed to be congregating. It was a large open cul-de-sac at the end of a small street. Where had the screaming come from? Denise surveyed the location from her cover behind a bush. Ferrah seemed to show disinterest in the whole situation, not wanting to be there in the first place. After a few more minutes of looking, she was starting to become frustrated.

“The person is probably already dead,” Ferrah sighed, losing her patience.

“Oh my god,” Denise breathed.

She wouldn’t have noticed it, except that a large grouping to the zombies seemed to have been concentrating on a large birch tree, scratching at it as if trying to climb. Up in the branches, covered by a large cropping of the trees, was a small girl. She looked to have her head in her lap, crying as she sat in a small branch nook. Ferrah finally showed some interest, looking through the bushes at what Denise saw.

“She is so young,” Ferrah whispered, her face taking on a concerned look that Denise had never seen before, “There is no way she can get out of that.”

Denise shook her head, there was no way she was going to abandon a young girl. Denise had heard a scream and came to help. Now she needed to do exactly that. How could she accomplish this goal though? There were just too many zombies all around. Ferrah suddenly grabbed the bat that Denise had laid down on the ground.

Before Denise could react, Ferrah abandoned the cover running off down the street. She stifled her mouth before she could call out a protest to Ferrah. The girl was just going to take her only protection and run? That was exactly the kind of girl Ferrah was; she was selfish to the core.

Ferrah stopped suddenly, right next to a dumpster that was left in front of one of the houses going through some kind of construction. She took the bat and slammed it into the side of the dumpster. The sound was equivalent to a loud gong. She hit the dumpster two more times, creating two more loud gong noises. The zombies lifted their heads, losing interest in the silent girl in the tree and eying Ferrah.

“Get her!” Ferrah shouted, “Meet me back on my street, I won’t be long.”

Ferrah kicked off her sandals and took off running. Denise stared at her in shock, silent within the cover of the bush. The zombies surged forward, the faster ones running out ahead while the more dilapidated ones stumbled behind them. Within a minute, Ferrah was out of sight around a corner, and the group of zombies had completely cleared out.

Denise had never expected something so self-sacrificing from the likes of Ferrah. She didn’t know what to say about it. She shook herself; she still had a job to do. She cautiously moved out into the cul-de-sac where the tree sat. She moved up under the tree, now free of the previous zombie presence.

“Hello?” Denise called out.

The girls head rose, glancing down from the tree in shock. She pushed her little tight braids aside and wiped her eyes to see better.

“Who- who are you?” the girl said in a small, exhausted voice.

“I’m a friend,” Denise reassured her, “We got rid of the zombies, do you want to get out of the tree and go somewhere safe?”

The girl looked around the cul-de-sac before leaning down and whispering, “Are you sure they’re all gone?”

Denise made a quick pass of her surroundings with her eyes, she could never be too careful, “Yes, you’ll be safe.”

The young girl jumped down. Denise almost cried out as she leaped six feet from the branch, hitting the grass in a roll before ending in a crouch.

“That was reckless,” Denise chided her, “You could have hurt yourself.”

The straightened her back with a silly grin, “I climb trees all the time, that was nothing.”

Denise eyed her up and down cautiously. The little girl looked to be seven or eight. She was scrawny and much shorter than Denise. Denise guiltily felt it was nice to have someone around who was shorter than she was.

“What’s your name, little girl?” Denise asked her.

“Tina and I’m not little, I’m almost nine,” the girl declared.

“Almost nine means your eight, right?”

The girl puffed out her chest, raising her chin as if in defiance.

“It was a brave thing you did, managing to escape those zombies. You must be special eight you’re old to be able to get away from them.”

The girls face turned into a grin and a blush. She twirled a braid in her finger nervously, twisting the toe of her shoe into the grass. A suddenly cry from a block or so over caused her to suddenly jump, the remainder of her tough façade breaking away.

“Come on Tina, we should probably keep moving until we find somewhere safe.”

Tina nodded, running up to Denise. Tina grabbed her hand tightly and moved her body close to Denise. Denise was an only child. Her parents had just always been too busy to afford to have more than one kid. However, for the second, it almost felt like she had a sister. It actually felt nice.

She led Tina by the hand back to the side of the street. They quickly worked their way back to the hedge where Denise had heard her scream in the first place. It was only a few blocks away. She glanced over the hedge to see the block still empty of zombies. They moved into the street, staying away from the streetlights.

As she had predicted, this was one of the nicest neighborhoods in the town. Each house was practically a mansion, five to six rooms, two-story, brick homes that typically were owned by successful doctors, lawyers, and businessman. Her parents could have afforded one of these homes, but they always felt they were a bit excessive for just the three of them, and instead invested their money for Denise to go to college. It almost seemed like a waste in light of things now.

As she glanced at the homes, she began to notice a trend. It appeared that in the light of the zombie apocalypse, many people had opted to vandalize and destroy. Every home had some signs of break-in. Graffiti of gang signs and obscenities were sprayed everywhere. Who would waste their time, during an event where the human race was being exterminated, spray painting walls?

The property damage was immense, and no house on this block was left untarnished. Some houses had vans still parked in the driveways, where looters were trying to steal TV’s and jewelry only to be overrun by the growing hordes of zombies. She supposed it made sense that the criminals would flock to the richest places to do their destruction.

“Psst,” a sound came from one of the bushes.

Tina tightened her grip on Denise’s hand, hiding behind her as the bushes began to rustle. Denise relaxed when Ferrah emerged from the bush. She had a few more scratches on her face than she had before. She also seemed to manage to hold on to the bat. It looked like it had a few fresh smatterings of blood.

“I’m glad you guys made it,” Ferrah sighed, sounding sincere for a change.

“Tina, this is Ferrah, she… she helped me save you,” Denise told the young girl.

She almost said Ferrah was a friend, but that would have been an outright lie. Ferrah nodded to the little girl but didn’t seem to display any warmth on her face.

“My house is just a few doors down,” Ferrah nodded down the street, pointing with the bat still clutched in her hand.

“And the zombies?”

“I managed to ditch them. Just ran a few blocks and then backtracked.”

“You’re sure they didn’t follow you?” Denise frowned.

“Do you see any?” Ferrah shrugged flippantly.

Denise nodded, deciding to change the conversation, “Did you see the condition everything is in?”

Ferrah nodded numbly.

“Your home might be…”

“I know!” Ferrah snapped, glaring at her, “It’s still getting very dark and we have nowhere else.”

Without another word, Ferrah began walking toward her home, and it was Denise’s turn to have to follow her. Ferrah’s house would have to do for tonight.

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