Hollowmen, p.15
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       Hollowmen, p.15

         Part #2 of The Hollows series by Amanda Hocking
 
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“I’d love to see you dress up. ” Clark smiled at me, ignoring Daniels.

  “Wow, sir. ” Boden scratched behind his ear and looked at Clark. “How much have you had to drink? I think that’s probably enough. ”

  “Oh, Boden, are you jealous?” Clark asked. “Your hair’s long enough. I’m sure Remy can put braids in your hair just like she did the little girl. ”

  “Very funny, sir,” Boden muttered.

  “Stop being such a girl!” Clark playfully punched Boden in the shoulder, and I could see Boden clench his jaw. “Have a little fun, Boden! It’s the end of the goddamn civilized world! We can do whatever we want!”

  “Max, I think it’s time for you to go to bed,” I said, because I didn’t know what else to say, and I didn’t want him around this anymore. Clark was getting drunk and rowdy, and Max didn’t need to be exposed to that.

  “But Remy – ” he started to protest.

  “Max!” I snapped.

  “I was winning,” Max grumbled, but he set down his cards and pushed out his chair.

  “Take Stella up to bed with you,” I told him.

  “Come on, Stella. ” He took her hand, and the two of them trudged up the stairs.

  “You sent the kids to bed, so the real party can start,” Clark said, taking a drink of his scotch.

  Serg laid down his cards and stood up. “I think I’m out, too. ”

  “You’re no fun. ” Clark glowered at him, then turned his attention back to Boden. He leaned forward, almost rubbing Boden’s shoulder. “You like to have fun, don’t you, kid?”

  “I’m tired, sir. ” He pulled away from Clark and stood up.

  “Oh, come on!” Clark groaned. “Doesn’t anybody know how to have a good time?”

  Boden paused as he brushed past me on his way upstairs and spoke into my ear. “We’re leaving first thing tomorrow morning, whether he comes with or not. Preferably not. ”

  28.

  Ripley had been hiding out in the garage, and she definitely didn’t like the cold. It had warmed up significantly from the other day, and the snow was turning the ground to mud and puddles.

  The warmer temperatures explained why I’d woken up in the morning to the sound of death groans. It was still dark, but I could hear them in the distance. I got up quietly, creeping around the house as I woke everybody up and told them to pack.

  We tried to sneak off without Clark, but he’d heard us and got ready. The sun was just starting to rise over the horizon when we started out.

  Ripley followed us, but I wondered how much longer she would. I knew she liked me, feeling some kind of pack loyalty to me, but eventually, her urge to be warm and survive would outweigh her fondness for me.

  Stella was still sleeping when we left, and Daniels carried her draped over his arm. Max was tired, but he walked just fine. I was glad I’d sent them to bed early last night. It worked out for the best, since we left so early.

  Clark seemed hungover and lagged behind us, so we all sped up, purposely trying to leave him behind.

  None of us said much as we walked. We travelled all day, and when the kids were too tired, we carried them. Boden even offered to carry me after Daniels suggested I rest, but honestly, I was feeling better than I had in a while, so I pushed on.

  Even though we were heading farther north, it was getting warmer the longer we walked. The snowstorm must’ve been a random cold snap, and we were moving into the nicer temperatures of spring.

  The zombies were still following us. Or they just happened to be all around us. We could hear them, but we never saw them. They stayed far enough back. They were like vultures, circling and waiting for us to die.

  We camped out in a tree in somebody’s back yard. Boden surmised that zombies wouldn’t be smart enough to figure out the ladder, which was a few boards spread apart and nailed to the trunk.

  They didn’t, but in the morning we had three of them waiting for us at the bottom of the tree. It would’ve been more, but Ripley had already taken care of a couple of them. She was munching on a leg when we woke up.

  Our plan to kill them was simple: We dropped our bags on them, starting with the heaviest ones filled with food, like Boden’s duffel bag. That knocked the zombies down, and then Serg and Boden jumped down to finish them off.

  Using his hunting knife, Serg cut the head off an older zombie. The bag had knocked the zombie face down, so Serg jumped on its back, then sawed through its neck. It went surprisingly fast, but that was because older zombies had such weak bones.

  Boden fought them the old-fashioned way. He stomped one’s head in, then crushed it into the semi-frozen ground. By then, the other one had gotten up and started lumbering toward him. He punched it, then grabbed its head and snapped its neck.

  The zombie was still alive, even after that, stumbling confused in a circle. Ripley had just been lying in the lawn, watching them fight, but she got up and pounced on the zombie, finishing off the job Boden had started.

  After that, the rest of us climbed down, and we started the day’s walk. Boden was carrying Stella, but she was sound asleep, her cheek pressed against his shoulder.

  “Are we ever gonna get far enough north?” I asked him quietly as we walked.

  “What do you mean?” he asked.

  “Do you think the cold will really stop them?” I asked. “I mean, it’s spring now, but it’s been winter. It’s been cold and snowy around here until recently. But there’s still zombies. ”

  “I’ve thought of that, too,” Boden said. “But maybe it’s just not cold enough. There has to be a point where it’s too cold, where they freeze just trying to walk. ”

  Page 43

  “That’s called Antarctica, Boden. And we couldn’t survive there. ”

  “They weren’t around during the snowstorm,” Boden said. “That at least slowed them down. Maybe the cold won’t kill them or stop them completely, but they thrive where it’s warm. We’ll be safer the farther we go. ”

  “I hope so,” I sighed. “But I don’t know if we’ll ever be safe again. ”

  “Maybe we won’t,” he admitted. “But we’ll survive anyway. ”

  We walked another full day, stopping only when we had to. We decided to end the day at a roadside motel that was eerily reminiscent of the Bates Motel. Some of the rooms were in horrible shape, trashed and torn up. There was even a rotting body in a first-floor room.

  But the second floor rooms weren’t quite as bed. Boden and Serg moved box springs out from two of the rooms to block the stairways to the upstairs, just in case zombies stumbled upon us. It had been a little while since we’d heard the death groans, and we were on a pretty deserted stretch of road.

  As a rather exciting added bonus, Daniels found three working flashlights in the office. He’d gone exploring, looking for provisions, and it was like he’d struck gold.

  We picked the three cleanest, nicest rooms for ourselves to share. Stella, Max, and I would share the one room with the king-sized bed. The rest had two double beds.

  Boden and Daniels were sharing the room next door, leaving Clark and Serg with the room on the other side. Even though we were sleeping separately, we planned on all eating supper together in Boden’s room.

  He was getting supper ready while I cleaned up the kids. I took a bucketful of snow into a bathroom and filled the bathroom sink with it. Then I held a match over it until it melted into clean, fresh water.

  I had a flashlight in our bathroom, and Max made shadow puppets with it while I washed up Stella. I didn’t give her a full bath, but I used a wet washcloth to wipe off her face and body. I’d taken the brush from the last house, and I wetted down her hair and ran the brush through it.

  Once I’d finished with her, I cleaned up Max. Well, he took the washcloth and did it himself, but I watched to make sure he did a good job.

  Boden pounded on the wall separating our room and yelled, “Supper!”

>   For being a crappy motel, the walls were surprisingly thick. Even when Boden yelled, his words were muffled.

  “All done,” Max said, throwing the wash cloth in the sink as soon as Boden had called for supper.

  “Go ahead,” I said, waving him and Stella along. “I’ll be over in a minute. ”

  As soon as Max and Stella disappeared, I lifted up my shirt to check out my incision. Daniels said I had to be sure to clean it a lot. It seemed to look much better than it had last time. I splashed cold water over it, cleaning it as best I could.

  I still had my shirt lifted up when I noticed Clark in the mirror, standing in the bathroom doorway behind me, so I immediately pulled it down.

  “Um, I heard supper was ready,” I said. “I’ll be right over. I was just finishing cleaning up. ”

  “Don’t rush on my account. ” Clark smiled and leaned on the doorframe.

  “I’m not. ” I smiled thinly at him and leaned over the sink, washing my hands and arms in the cold water. “I’m just about done. ”

  “It’s a shame we had to leave that last house,” Clark said, still smiling at me in a way that looked disturbingly hungry. “I so enjoyed playing house. ”

  “It was a nice place,” I agreed hurriedly.

  I’d actually wanted to clean my cut better, per Daniels’ instructions, but it didn’t look like Clark planned on going away anytime soon. And there was no way I was pulling my shirt up in front of him.

  “It’s so nice to play with pretty girls like you,” Clark commented, and that was it. I couldn’t stand to be in the same room with him another second.

  I turned around, preparing to leave, but the flashlight’s beam glinted off something in his hand. He was holding it at his side by his hip, and I hadn’t been able to see it in the reflection of the mirror. But now I saw it clearly. Clark had Serg’s hunting knife, and he was twisting it in his hand.

  29.

  “Can I get by?” I asked. I tried to pretend like I hadn’t seen it, like I wasn’t suddenly terrified. I just smiled at him as sweetly as I could and rubbed the back of my neck.

  “No. ” He shook his head, still smiling, and stepped toward me. “No. You can’t. ”

  “What are you doing?” I asked, taking a step back from him. But my butt hit the bathroom counter behind me. I couldn’t go back any farther.

  “Whatever I want. ” He closed the bathroom door.

  I lunged forward at him, meaning to kick him in the junk, but he caught me by the throat before I could. His hand squeezed tightly around my windpipe, and I couldn’t breathe. I clawed at it futilely, and he held the knife above me, pointing it at my face so I could see how sharp it was.

  “Make one sound, I’ll gut those two little kids as soon as I’m finished with you,” Clark promised me with a sweet smile.

  I thrashed my legs, and I connected with him once, kicking him in the shin. His hand tightened around my throat, and he ran the blade along my cheek.

  “I’d rather filet you after,” Clark said. “But I can do it first, if you prefer. It’s your choice. Which do you pick?”

  His grip loosened on my throat, enough where I could gasp for breath. And that’s all I did at first, try to catch my breath.

  “You don’t have to do this,” I begged. “Please. ”

  “You didn’t answer my question,” he said, and his hand started tightening.

  “After!” I said, but I didn’t even know what that meant. I just knew that prolonging being fileted was probably a good idea. “But Clark, listen, if you do anything stupid, Boden and Daniels will come after you. ”

  I would come after him, too, but I felt like me personally threatening him wouldn’t work as well as threatening him with Boden and Daniels. Clark already thought he could overpower me and take what he wanted, so nothing I said would sound like a threat, anyway.

  “No, you listen to me, bitch,” Clark growled. His face was right above mine, and spittle landed on my face when he spoke. “If you don’t do exactly what I say, when I say, I will kill those two fucking brats the second I’m done with you. Do you understand me?”

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  I closed my eyes. “Yes. I understand. ”

  I didn’t think he would be able to hurt Max and Stella, not with Boden, Daniels, and Serg around. But then again, I never would’ve thought he’d be able to get me like this either. I’d once again underestimated man’s capacity for evil.

  “Good. ” He smiled wider.

  Roughly, he flipped me around, slamming my face against the counter. Then he grabbed my ponytail and yanked my head back. As soon as he had my head up, the knife was pressed against my throat, the blade nearly piercing my skin.

  “One wrong move, and I’ll slit your throat,” he whispered into my ear, his words soft and warm like we were lovers.

  I could see him in the mirror, the look of sick satisfaction he had on his face. He let go of my pony tail so he could use that hand to pull down my pants and underwear. He jerked me back every time he tugged on my jeans, digging the blade deeper into my neck.

  When he finally got my pants down, he licked his lips. I closed my eyes then, squeezing them shut, and I felt his hand roughly grabbing my bare skin.

  “Remy?” Daniels called from the main room.

  My eyes shot open, and I saw Clark frozen in the mirror. I didn’t say anything, and neither did Clark. I didn’t want Daniels to be dragged into this mess, but at the same time, I also really didn’t want to be raped.

  “Remy?” Daniels repeated. “Are you okay?” He knocked on the bathroom door. “Are you in there?”

  “Yeah,” I said, and Clark pinched my ass in punishment. “I’ll be out in a minute. ”

  “Are you okay?” Daniels asked. “Is everything okay with your incision?”

  And then, since he’d seen me naked before and was afraid I wouldn’t tell him if something was wrong, he opened the door.

  Clark jerked back, sliding the knife across my throat. It was enough to break the skin, but not enough to puncture my jugular or windpipe. So it hurt, but I’d live.

  “What the fuck?” Daniels yelled, immediately appraising the situation.

  He rushed at Clark, slamming him into the wall. I yanked up my pants in time to see Daniels get in one good punch, hitting Clark in the face. But that was all he got before Clark stabbed him in the stomach.

  “Not so fucking tough now, are you?” Clark asked as he twisted the knife inside him.

  “No!” I shouted.

  He pulled the knife out of Daniels, who fell back on the floor, holding his stomach. I wanted to kill Clark and rip his head off, but I couldn’t just rush at him while he had a knife, not unless I wanted to end up like Daniels.

  By then, Boden had come into my room, responding to the commotion.

  “Clark has a knife, and he stabbed Daniels!” I yelled at him.

  “You stupid bitch. ” Clark shook his head, and then he turned and ran out of the bathroom. He thrust the knife at Boden, attempting to cut him, but he only succeeded in knocking Boden down. Afraid of a man to man fight, Clark raced out of the room, but Boden got up and chased after him.

  “Daniels!” I fell to my knees next to him, and I put my hands over his stomach, trying to keep the blood in, but it pumped hot and fast through my fingers. “Oh my god, Daniels, what should I do?”

  “You’re doing it,” he said, his voice tight “Just put pressure on it, and stay with me. ”

  “But how do I fix this?” I asked. “How do I stop this?”

  “You don’t. ” He winced, then he put his hand over mine, holding it. “Listen, Remy, I’m sorry about what I did to you and what happened to your brother. ”

  “You don’t need to be sorry. ” I shook my head. “You didn’t do anything wrong. I understand why you did it. You did the best you could. ”

  “I didn’t,” he insisted. “I shouldn’t have let them cut
you up like that. You’re a person, a strong, brave person, and they had no right to treat you like that. ”

  “It doesn’t matter, Daniels. It’s over, and I’m okay. I just need to know what to do to take care of you. ”

  “You can’t. ” He had tears in his eyes, and he smiled. “I’m losing so much blood. But it’s okay. ”

  “How is this okay?” I asked.

  “I don’t know. ” He laughed and swallowed back tears. “I’m fucking dying, and it’s not okay. But shit happens, you get over it, and you move on. ”

  “Daniels, please. ” By now, tears were streaming down my cheeks. “I don’t want you to die. ”

  “I’m sorry,” he said.

  “Why’d you have go and be a hero?” I asked. “You didn’t need to do that. You didn’t need to protect me. ”

  “I did,” Daniels said gravely. “You’ve saved my life, and I owe you so much. I couldn’t let another person hurt you. Not anymore. ”

  “Daniels. ” I let out a sob. “What do you want me to do?”

  “Just stay with me,” he said. “It shouldn’t be much longer. ”

  And it wasn’t. He squeezed my hand and held onto me for as long as he could. Then he closed his eyes, and his grip loosened on mine.

  “Daniels,” I said. “Daniels?” But he didn’t move. “Daniels!”

  And then I lost it. I fell back, leaning against the wall behind me, and I held my hands out in front of me. They were covered in his blood, still warm on my skin, and they trembled.

  I screamed. I don’t know why exactly, but there was nothing else I could do. Crying wasn’t enough. There was so much anger and frustration and hurt and I just couldn’t get it out, and I couldn’t live with it inside me.

  I didn’t know if I could even live with what had happened to Daniels. That shouldn’t have happened. Not like that. Not after everything he’d done and tried to do for me. He shouldn’t have been killed by a person, by someone I let join us. And he never should’ve died protecting me.

  “Fuck!” I shouted and hit myself in the thigh. “Dammit!”

  “Remy?” Boden was back, and he came into the bathroom, kneeling down beside me. “What’s wrong?”

  “He’s dead!” I yelled. “He’s dead, and it’s my fault!”

  “No, Remy, it’s not. ” Boden put his arm around me and started pulling me out of the bathroom, away from Daniels’ body.

  “It is. Everything’s my fault. ” I was sobbing, and I couldn’t stop.

  Page 45

  I could barely even walk. Boden practically had to carry me over to the bed. I sat down at the edge, and he crouched in front of me, looking up at me. I cried so hard my whole body was shaking, and it hurt everything inside me.

  Serg came to check on us, but Boden sent him back to stay with Max and Stella.

  When I finally calmed down enough that I could speak, I was still trembling horribly, and I wanted to throw up. Boden went into the bathroom and soaked a towel in water, then came out and washed the blood off my hands and arms.

  “Did you get Clark?” I asked, sniffling.

  “Sorta,” Boden said. “A zombie got him. Tore him up good. Then Ripley got the zombie. So Clark’s dead, and we’re safe. ”

 
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