There was so much commotion; Barbara was still confused. She tried to sort out what had just happened, turning it over and over in her mind, but it was all such a jumble that she could not make heads or tails of it. One minute they were doing routine testing on a medicated experiment, and the next she was dodging security on the way out.
They wanted her to stay there and receive their medical attention. Barbara knew all too well what their idea of medical was, and she wanted none of it. She was scratched, and scratched pretty badly. There was only one cure for that… death and incineration.
I have a family to worry about. I can’t let them kill me.
Barbara sped down the road in her car. She was sweating like a fat man in summer, though it was a cool fifty degrees in Seattle at the moment. Her red hair was sticking to her face.
Just stress. Too soon for symptoms. Not even an hour yet.
Further along she sped. Barbara pulled her red Camry into the driveway. Inside, the lights were on, but that meant nothing for her family. She was always telling her kids that she should buy stock in the electric company; no one seemed to know how to turn off a light in their house.
As she burst through the door, Barbara screamed, “Josh! Alice! Where are you guys?!”
“Yeah?” Josh called from down the hall.
Barbara ran to her son’s room to find the eight-year-old playing Wii.
“You need to get dressed. We have to go.”
“Why? Where are we going?” There was the slightest hint of a whine in the boy’s voice. He had finally defeated the second-to-last level boss in his game, but he hadn’t saved his progress yet.
“Just get ready. Where’s your sister?’
“I’m right here. What are we getting ready for?”
Alice walked into her brother’s room, startling her mother when she spoke. Barbara reeled around on her daughter. “Don’t ask questions. Pack light. Now.”
“What’s wrong with your leg? Why’s it bleeding like that?”
Barbara looked down at her leg. When that experiment scratched her, it had gotten her left thigh. She had wrapped it as best she could while driving for her life, but that had become useless as blood gushed from the wound.
Blood is still flowing. That’s a good sign at least.
“Accident at work.” Barbara forced a thin smile, trying to set the kids a little less on edge.
“Is that why we’re running?”
Alice was only sixteen, but could have passed as a twin of her mother. They were so alike, right down to the look both would get when they meant business. Barbara saw that look on her daughter’s face, and decided to level with her.
“Something went wrong at work. Roslun deals with some very important, but also very dangerous, science.”
“I’ve seen a tabloid, Mom. I know what people say they do in that office of yours.”
“I haven’t. What goes on at your work, Mommy?”
Barbara and Alice had both forgotten about Josh, who had been going around his room, packing the essentials for their impromptu trip: his Pikachu pillow pal, the autographed Mariners ball cap he got last summer, and the three packages of fruit snacks he had been squirreling in his room in case he ever needed a midnight snack.
“Nothing, Josh. We just test things to make the world better.” She peered into Josh’s Spiderman backpack. “Be sure to pack some t-shirts and underwear. Alice, let’s go to your room and get you ready.”
Barbara staggers from the room and moves slowly down the hall. Alice had to start helping her mother walk before they even reached her room. By the time they reached Alice’s room, Barbara was barely able to stand on her own feet. She collapsed onto Alice’s bed as soon as she reached it.
Sweat was pouring off of her. Alice could feel a fever without even touching her mother. She quickly helped Barbara undress, hoping to help the fever cool a little.
“Honey, that isn’t going to help. Just listen to me.” Barbara sounded as if she was losing her voice. Alice had to lean close in order to make out what her mother was trying to say. “I got scratched. It’s bad. You and Josh need to go.”
“Scratched? By what? What are you talking about?”
“An experiment.” Barbara grimaced hard as pain ripped through her body. “I’m shutting down. I will be dead soon.”
“Dead?!” Alice was in shock. This was her mother, the woman that had raised her since birth, and now she was telling Alice that she would soon be dead. “This makes no sense. What experiments were you working on?”
“I’m just an assistant, you know that. I don’t know exactly what was going on tonight, but the woman we were dealing with was no ordinary woman.”
“So why are you dying?!”
Barbara struggled with telling her sixteen-year-old daughter the truth. She should be going out with her friends, not having to deal with life and death. The unfortunate truth was that there was not much time left for Barbara, and Roslun would not let accidents just run home to infect their families.
“We have brought the dead back to life.”
“Bullshit! You mean like zombies or somethin’?!”
“That is exactly what I mean, Alice.” Barbara’s green eyes were more serious than Alice had ever seen them. This scared Alice much more than the blood that still flowed from her mother’s thigh. “One of them scratched me really bad. There is nothing that can be done to help me. You have to listen to me now.”
Alice didn’t want to listen; she wanted to be held. She wanted her mother to just get up, wrap her leg, and hug her tightly. That was only the wishful thinking of a scared little girl, something that could never come true anymore, and Alice realized that fact.
“OK. I’m listening.”
“Good. You have to get Josh and get out of here.”
“Where do we go?”
“Doesn’t matter. Roslun will be looking for me.”
“Shouldn’t you let them help you?”
“They will not help us! You are to run far away from them, Alice! Do you hear me?! Don’t trust them!”
Her mother’s sudden yelling caused all of Alice’s pent up tension to burst forth and she started to cry. She couldn’t help it. It wasn’t even the screaming that bothered her most; that was just the final straw. She was most bothered by the way her mother looked.
Barbara was very pale. The sheets were soaked through from the fever sweat. Her red hair, normally shiny and beautiful, was matted to her head in clumps. Alice could see death all over her. Even at sixteen, Alice knew this for what it was.
“Okay, Mom. I understand.”
“I love you, Alice.”
“I love you, too, Mom.”
Barbara never got to hear her daughter tell her she loved her for the last time. Death had taken her, relaxing her pain and fever-twisted features into a more peaceful mask of stillness. Alice’s tears spilled even faster. She couldn’t stop crying, even when Josh walked into the room.
“Mom, I’m ready.” He saw his mother lying on the bed, her eyes open, so he hopped up on the bed with her. Alice couldn’t stop him before he landed on his mother’s dead body.
Unresponsive and cooling rapidly, Barbara’s body just lay there, even when Josh started shaking her to wake her up. Alice grabbed her brother and yanked him off the bed.
“What’s wrong with Mom?”
Alice looked at her younger brother. “Josh, Mom’s dead.”
So blunt. She wanted to ease him into the idea, but a sense of urgency hung in the air. There was no time to waste. Her mom said to run, so they had to run.
Alice tore through her room, hurriedly stuffing a few things in a backpack as Josh sits at the foot of the bed and cries for his mommy.
“I know you’re sad, Little Man, but you need to be brave now, okay? Mom told me you have to be brave and take care of me now, okay? Josh, look at me. We need to get going.”
Josh nodded his understanding through his tears. Alice helped him up and hurried into the kitchen with him in tow right behind her. She searched for a flashlight until she spied one in a cabinet. She had to pull a chair over to reach it since it was the cabinet over the fridge, naturally.
Alice wheeled around, almost falling off the chair. In the doorway to the kitchen stood Barbara, but something about her was off. There was no love in her eyes anymore. Those green eyes used to be so full of life, but that was gone; in its place was a milky white void – nothingness.
It was too late. Josh had already reached his mother, hugging her legs triumphantly.
“I knew you would be okay.”
Barbara slowly looked down at Josh. For the first time he noticed the drool hanging from her mouth. Josh tried to run but Barbara grabbed his arm, snarling as she pulled him to her mouth. He screamed as his mother took a large bite out of his left arm.
Alice was on top of them in a flash and shoved her mother hard. Barbara stumbled, dropping Josh as she banked off the wall. He popped up as only little kids can and ran to Alice.
His arm was bad; Alice could see muscle and what she thought might be bone through all the blood. Alice grabbed a towel from the counter and attempted to wrap it up. Josh was going to need more medical help, but for now she had to get them out of there. She grabbed the backpack and guided Josh through the patio doors into their backyard. They were halfway across the yard when Alice remembered the flashlight was still in the kitchen. She had dropped it in the scuffle and had to go back for it.
“You wait right here. I’ll be right back.”
Alice gave Josh the backpack and ran back into the kitchen. She stopped short when she saw her mother walking toward her. Josh’s blood dripped from her mouth, which was stuck in an evil snarl. Instead of emptiness, Alice now sensed hunger.
Alice knew the flashlight was a lost cause. She turned back into the backyard, and slammed the glass patio door behind her. Barbara walked into the glass door and stumbled backwards. She walked into the door again and again, her hands constantly reaching for Alice and Josh.
Alice pulled her cell phone from her back pocket and keys a few buttons.
“Hello? Something’s wrong… We need you… Please…”
Alice’s cries into her cell phone were cut short. Barbara’s relentless pursuit through the glass had finally paid off. The glass patio doors shattered into thousands of glinting shards that went flying every which way. Barbara’s face and body were badly cut, but she continued her course without ever missing a beat.
Alice turned and ran toward the garage. She reached the door before she realized Josh was not with her. She looked back to see him standing there, frozen with fear.
She was too late. Before Alice could ever hope to reach him, Barbara had her young son in her arms once again. Another bite, this time from his jugular. Blood poured from his throat in a crimson river.
“NO!! JOSH!! NO!!!”
Read the other Zombie A.C.R.E.S. stories at ZombieACRES.com
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