Hollowmen, p.7Part #2 of The Hollows series by Amanda Hocking
Daniels had been crouched by the door, gagging, and he fell back onto his ass. He pushed himself back on his butt, but the zombie was on him, gripping Daniels’ leg with its bony fingers.
Then Nolita shot it, its head exploding in a mass of rotten brain and bone fragments, and it fell onto Daniels’ lap. Daniels kicked it off and scooted back from it.
“That thing nearly got me,” Daniels said, his voice shaky. He stood up and tried wiping the blood and slime from his pants.
“What the hell?” I asked and walked over to where the zombie corpse lay. I touched at it with my foot, and it was all bones. “How the fuck was this thing alive? How is this even possible? Why didn’t it starve to death?”
“They can’t starve to death. ” Daniels seemed to calm a bit, but he kept wiping at his pants.
I turned around to face him straight on. “What do you mean they can’t starve to death?”
“That’s what I mean,” Daniels said. “At first, we thought they would, and that’s how the virus would kill itself out. But we were comparing it too much to rabies, and this is unlike anything else. ”
“How do you stop them?” Boden asked, and I glanced up to see him standing on the back of the trailer, staring down at us.
“I don’t know. ” Daniels shook his head. “Nobody does. I mean, other than the obvious ways. Destroying their brain or their heart seems to do the trick. ”
“But everything starves,” I said, grasping to understand this. “It’s not possible. Everything has to eat. ”
“They can’t die,” Daniels tried to explain. “It doesn’t seem possible, and it shouldn’t be. They can rot, but their heart will just keep beating. The virus does something to their brains and their hearts. It won’t let them simply give up and die, the way ours would. ”
“So basically what you’re saying is that the only way to stop the zombies is for us to individually kill each and every one?” Boden asked.
Daniels nodded reluctantly. “Right now, yes, that seems to be the only way. ”
It suddenly hit me, and I could barely breathe. I felt dizzy and nauseated, and I rubbed the back of my neck. I stared down at the zombie skeleton in front of me and realized that this would never end. There would be no way we could ever kill them all.
“This is never going to be over,” I whispered. “The zombies are never going to be gone. ”
“What?” Daniels asked, leaning in to hear me better.
“This will never end!” I shouted, and since I had nothing better to do with my newfound rage, I stomped on the zombie, crushing its gelatinized bones beneath my foot. “They will never fucking die!”
“Remy!” Daniels reached out to me, trying to pull me off the zombie, but I slapped his hands away.
“Shut up,” Bishop hissed and walked around to the back of the trailer. “You’re scaring the children. ”
“They should be scared!” I yelled, but immediately regretted it.
I stepped away from the zombie and ran my hands through my hair. I took a deep breath and stared up at the sky. Heavy gray clouds were coming in, blotting out the sun. It would rain soon, and for so long, I’d been certain that I’d never see or feel the rain again.
I exhaled deeply and tried to remind myself that I had things to live for, things to be grateful for. I just couldn’t let myself get overwhelmed by this.
“Sorry,” I apologized to no one in particular.
I went over to shut the door on the back of the trailer, just in case there were more zombies back there. And even if there weren’t, I wanted to contain the smell. I couldn’t get it myself, so Daniels came over and helped me jam the lock back in place.
The crackle of static suddenly came from the cab of the truck. This was followed by a voice saying, “Can anyone here this? Over. ”
Boden raced down the trailer to the cab, to the CB radio where the voice was coming from. Something sounded familiar about the voice, but I couldn’t place it until I heard it come again a moment later.
“Is there anyone out there? Over. ”
I’d know that voice anywhere. It was Lazlo Durante.
“This is Sergeant Boden, over,” Boden was saying into the radio.
I climbed up onto the cab and hung down through the open door. Inside the cab was a bloody mess. The zombies had apparently climbed in to eat the driver, and parts of his body were lying all around.
Boden had one foot on the dashboard and one on the passenger seat, pinning himself up, with the mic in his hand.
“Give that to me,” I said, reaching out for it.
“What are you doing?” He pulled it out of my reach.
“Just give it me. ” I almost fell into the truck, nearly knocking him down in the process.
“Remy!” Boden growled.
When I still persisted, he finally handed it over to me. Probably just because he didn’t want to fall down into the blood and rotting flesh at the bottom of the truck.
While we’d been fighting over the mic, I could hear the voice crackling through, introducing himself as Lazlo and asking where we were.
“Lazlo?” I asked, sounding out of breath from running to get the mic and wrestling with Boden. “Lazlo?”
There was nothing. Not even static. And my heart dropped.
“Lazlo?” I asked again, sounding panicked.
“You have to let go of the button when you’re done talking so you can hear him,” Boden said dryly.
“Oh. Right. ” I let go, and instantly, I heard Lazlo’s response.
“Remy?” Lazlo asked. “Is that you? Over. ”
“Yes!” Relieved tears wanted to fill my eyes but I swallowed them back. “Are you okay?” I let go of the button, then clicked it again and said, “Over. ”
“Yeah, I’m okay,” Lazlo said. “How did you get out? Are you okay? Over. ”
“Yeah, I’m good. It’s too long of a story, but I’m fine,” I said. “Where are you? Over. ”
“I don’t know,” Lazlo said. “We’re going to Canada, but I don’t know where we are now. Over. ”
“Who’s with you?” I asked. “Is everyone in your party okay? Over. ”
“There’s about eight of us, and we’re all okay,” Lazlo said. “We found an abandoned militia base and got a couple guns and this CB radio, so that’s good. Over. ”
“How’s Harlow?” I asked. “Over. ” There was a long silence, so I asked again. “Laz? How’s Harlow? Over. ”
“She didn’t make it,” Lazlo responded finally. “Over. ”
I let my arm hang down for a second and swore under my breath.
“Remy? Did you hear me?” Lazlo asked.
“Yeah, I heard you,” I said. “Where can we meet you? Over. ”
Boden put his hand over the mic and shook his head. “We shouldn’t meet them, Remy. We split off into smaller groups for a reason. That’d be almost twenty of us. That’s harder to guard and feed, and zombies are more likely to find us. ”
“Well …” I wanted to protest, but Lazlo interrupted me.
“I’m sorry, Remy,” Lazlo said. “We can’t wait for you. I want to, but it’s too dangerous. But maybe we can meet in Canada. Over. ”
In the background, I could hear someone talking over him, saying that Lazlo shouldn’t be wasting the CB battery making a date with his girlfriend.
I swallowed hard, knowing then that we’d probably never meet again. He had to keep moving, and so did I. Canada was an awfully big place, and the odds of us running into each other were pretty slim.
“Sure,” I said, trying not to let him hear the doubt in my voice. “That sounds good, Lazlo. ”
“It’s a plan then,” Lazlo said. “Over. ”
“Is there anything we should know about?” I asked. “Are there any places we should avoid? Over. ”
“Avoid the cities,” Lazlo said. “They’re really bad. And just… avoid zombies, I guess. Be careful. Over. ”
“That militia base you found, did they have any guns?” I asked.
“Not a lot,” Lazlo said. “And we took what they had. Sorry. Over. ”
“No, don’t be. You did what you should’ve done. ” I held the mic away from my face for a minute and shook my head. “Listen, Lazlo, I should get going. ”
“Will you have the CB with you?” Lazlo asked.
“No, I won’t. I won’t be able to radio anymore,” I said. I closed my eyes. This would probably be the last time I ever talked to him. “Take care of yourself, okay, Lazlo?”
“I will,” Lazlo said. “And you do the same. You have a date you have to go to in Canada, remember?”
“I won’t forget it. ” I took a deep breath. “Bye, Lazlo. Over. ”
“Bye, Remy. ” There was a long pause. “Over. ”
I handed the radio back to Boden, in case he could think of somebody he wanted to radio. Then I pulled myself all the way up onto the cab and stood up. I jumped from the cab to the trailer. When I was out in the middle, I sat down, dangling my legs over the edge.
From here, I had a view of everything, and the ground was flat and grassy, with no zombies in sight. Teddy was standing by the cab, and he looked like he’d been listening to me talking to Lazlo. Bishop was below me, setting up lunch. Max was playing with Stella, or at least trying to. She giggled some, but she still seemed freaked out.
Daniels and Nolita were at the end of the trailer, sitting on the tires and talking. Their voices were hushed, and they leaned into each other. I don’t know what they were saying, but Nolita’s hand was on Daniels’ thigh.
Ripley was quite a bit away from us, lying in the grass. She’d been following us, but she kept her distance. Her affection yesterday wasn’t her usual behavior. She usually preferred to have space between her and humans.
I looked at everyone around me and wondered how long it would be before they were dead. I tried so hard to protect Blue and Harlow, and they were both gone. I didn’t know where Lazlo was, or how long it would be until he was gone.
The zombies weren’t dying. It would only be a matter of time until they killed everyone, including me.
Boden’s boots on the trailer interrupted my thoughts, but I didn’t look over at him. Not until he shoved a piece of paper in my face.
“Here,” he said, so I took it from him, and he sat down next to me.
“What is it?” I asked, but I could already tell that it was a map.
“I got it from the glove box,” Boden explained. “It’s a map of North America. I figured we’d need that if you want to meet up with that guy in Canada. ”
“I’m not really gonna meet up with him. ” I set the map down between us. “Even if we make it to Canada, I’ll never find him. And the zombies are probably going to get us first. ”
“It’s colder, and they hate the cold,” Boden said. “We’ll fare better up there than we will staying down here. It’s our best chance of surviving. ”
“But for how long?” I asked him honestly. I turned to look at him, his soft gray eyes meeting mine. “How long can we really hope to survive?”
“As long as we can. ” He smiled simply. “That’s our only option, Remy. Unless you want to give up and die here. That’s it. ”
“No. ” I sighed. “I don’t want to do that either. I just …”
“I know. ” He stared out the storm clouds rumbling in the west. “It’s a hard life, but it’s the only life we have. And sometimes – ” he pointed to a bright flash of lightening, its jagged light stretching from the sky to the ground, “– it’s still beautiful. Sometimes you find something that makes this all worth it.
“And when you do, you hang onto for it as long as you can. ” He turned to me, shrugging one shoulder. “That’s the best you can do. ”
I looked down at Max, who’d gotten Stella to laugh. Boden was right. The zombies might end up winning this war anyway, but I’d fight for Max, and even Stella, for as long as I could. I’d go on until I couldn’t anymore. And that was the best I could do.
“Come on,” Boden said, getting up. “We should go eat before the rain comes. ”
And the rain did come, sweeping across the land in sheets. At least it didn’t start until after we’d finished eating and packed up our things. We were on the move again, looking for shelter.
First the wind came up, turning icy when it had been warm. We were all rushing by then. So he could run faster, Teddy carried Stella on his back, her arms latched around his neck and her legs wrapped around his waist.
It started with a few scattered drops, but it turned into an all-out downpour within seconds. By the time we got out of the rain, we were all completely drenched.
We found sanctuary under a bridge on a country dirt road. A wide stream flowed underneath it, but the embankment was high enough that it didn’t appear we’d have to worry about flooding.
Even though it was only afternoon and we usually pressed on until nightfall, we decided to camp out here. The rain didn’t look like it would let up anytime soon, and it would be better to stay somewhere dry.
And with the storm, the zombies would be less likely to find us. The rain would mask our scent, and the noise would drown us out.
Once we were safe out of the rain, we started setting up camp. Boden got a fire going, which was a nice treat since we usually avoided fires because they could attract zombies.
Bishop had packed a rope in her bag, and she strung it along the embankment from the bridge. From that, she hung up wet clothes to dry out. Stella changed out of her soaking clothes, and Bishop wrapped her in a rather dry sweater that had been shoved deep in one of the bags.
I took off my shirt and wrung it out before putting it back on. There wasn’t much more I could do until my other clothes dried. Boden simply took his shirt off, and he was actually probably warmer that way.
Something about the stream got Max talking about going fishing. Bishop and Teddy made him a makeshift rod using a stick, a bit of string, and a bent safety pin. I’m not sure if he’d be able to catch anything in here, but it didn’t hurt for him to try. It’d give him something to do, and we could use the fresh food if it worked.
Daniels apparently used to fish a lot, so he volunteered to help him. He sat down next to Max on the bank, right close by the stream. I didn’t like him doing anything with Max, but Max seemed to like him.
Even though Daniels had hurt him in the quarantine, doing the kinds of tests he’d done on me, Max had never held it against him. He thought he was a doctor trying to help, and that was good enough for Max.
I was off to the far side of the bridge, using the rain water to try to get dirt and blood out of my clothes, but my eyes were locked on Daniels and Max. I was too far away to hear them, and they had their backs to me, so I couldn’t even read their lips.
Ripley was on the other side of the river, sprawled out on the rocks and licking herself. Lions were social cats, so I think she liked being around us. It was in her DNA to search for a pride. But at the same time, she was still a wild animal, and she liked having some space between us.
Nolita sat by the fire with Stella wrapped up on her lap. I was surprised that Stella was letting Nolita hold her, but Nolita seemed to dote on her, and Stella liked that. Teddy was sitting next to them, also keeping warm.
Boden and Bishop were near me. Bishop was catching the fresh water in bottles, since it was clearer and cleaner than any other water we could find, and Boden was standing watch, the way he always seemed to.
“They’re just talking,” Bishop said.
I glanced back over my shoulder at her, but only for s
“What do you think he’s going to do to him?” Bishop asked.
I shook my head and shrugged. Daniels must’ve said something funny, because Max laughed loudly, the sound echoing from the bridge. Daniels even laughed a little, too. He looked back, smiling, but when his eyes landed on mine, his smile fell away and he quickly turned around.
“I met him a few times back in the quarantine,” Bishop went on. “He didn’t seem that bad. Distracted and devoted to his work, but not bad. ”
“Lay off her, Bishop,” Boden said, his words firm but kind. “If she wants to worry about her kid brother, let her. ”
“I’m not trying to stop her from caring,” Bishop said carefully. “I just think there’s better things to worry about. ” She’d filled up all the bottles we had, so she straightened up and brushed the dirt from her pants. “But if she wants to waste her energy, so be it. ”
She walked away from us, going down to the stream. She crouched down behind Max, watching him as he tried to catch a fish.
Boden had been standing a few feet behind me, but he came down and sat on the ground next to me. He laid his gun across his knees, the barrel pointed out toward the rain.
“Is he the one?” Boden asked, his voice low in case anyone might hear. But with the rain pounding down, I could barely hear him next to me.
“What?” I asked, pulling my eyes away from Max to look back at Boden.
“Is Daniels the doctor that did all that to you?” Boden motioned vaguely over to me, to where he’d seen the marks covering my body. “I mean, was he the one personally?”
“Sometimes,” I admitted and lowered my eyes to focus on my dirty pants. “He dealt with me the most, but for more complicated … procedures, he’d usually pass me off. ”
“What did a more complicated procedure entail?” Boden asked.
I flashed back to it for a second. The only difference between the doctors and butchers was that the cows were dead when they started cutting them up. The cows at least got some reprieve.
I shook my head. “I don’t want to talk about it. ”
“They did the same thing to Max as they did to you?” Boden asked.
“I don’t know for sure,” I said. “I haven’t asked him. ”
The truth was that I didn’t want to know for sure. I didn’t want to talk about what happened, not with my brother, not with anybody.
“Why?” Boden lowered his voice again. “Why you?”
I chewed the inside of my cheek, debating whether to tell him. But for some reason, I thought I could trust Boden. I didn’t see any reason to keep it from him any longer.
“We’re immune,” I said, and looked at him directly. “Max and I can’t get the virus. ”
Boden’s expression never changed. He just met my gaze evenly and said, “Huh. ”
“So that’s why he cut us up,” I said. “He tried to find a cure but couldn’t. ”
“This world’s a fucked up place,” Boden said finally.
“It sure is,” I agreed.
Daniels was still helping Max fish, but Bishop sat down next to him and appeared to be taking over Daniels’ job. He stayed with them for a few minutes longer, but then he stood up, stretching his legs and back.
Hollowmen by Amanda Hocking / Young Adult / History & Fiction have rating 5.3 out of 5 / Based on48 votes