Z – Teens Chapter 8

Brandi Ortiz, Fiction Editor

Kenzie couldn’t stomach the sight of Kevin Tanner, let alone the thought of surviving with him. But she couldn’t ignore the fact that Tom was right about strength in numbers, and it looked as if staying together was their best option.

She then snuffed the uprising compliance away. She wanted nothing to do with Kevin or Nick, not despite their situation but because of it. Neither of them could be trusted. They were bad apples from the start, always picking on the little guy, a.k.a her kid brother.

The satisfaction she felt helped her ignore the pain in her hand. Hitting Tanner eased some of her anger towards him, but not erase it. When she first laid eyes on him in that hallway all she could think about was her little brother trapped in that locker, trapped in the dark.

She glared daggers at Kevin’s back as they made their way through the school. Less than ten minutes into their so-called alliance and he was already giving orders on where to go and what to do. Kevin herded them through hall after hall, until they reached the cafeteria.

Nick followed Kevin, as if he was his second in command or loyal dog. Ashley and Andrew, on the other hand, didn’t seem to know who to stay close to. She caught Ashley more than once staring at her with frightened and curious eyes.

Ashley’s stares reminded Kenzie of the stains on her clothes and reawakened some feelings of insecurity she did not have the time or patience for. But it convinced her to collect new clothes once they were safely away from the school.

Home wasn’t too far from the school and Kenzie was grateful for the closet of clothes awaiting her. However, deep down, Kenzie didn’t know whether or not be happy about getting home. She wanted to go home more than anything, after getting the gang back together, but she didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up. Particularly Mark’s.

Luckily, Mom and Dad were out of town for the week and away from all this. Hopefully.

Even if she had her phone with her, she didn’t know whether or not she had the courage to call her parents and explain everything. She certainly wanted to, to hear their voices, but she knew if she did the little girl inside may burst out in tears. And she no longer had the time or energy for tears.

Once again her train of thought derailed her from the world and caused her to ignore yet another person close to her.

As if reading her thoughts, Mark asked “Do you really think Mom and Dad are OK?”

Keeping her eyes ahead, she replied with “I’m sure they’re both fine.”

Mark didn’t looked so convinced and lowered his head and voice. “We’re gonna see them again right?” he asked, not sounding so sure but certainly scared.

“Don’t even get that in your head,” she snapped, perhaps harsher than she had meant to. “We’ve been over this. We’re gonna go home, get help and – ” Kenzie refrained herself from speaking further, feeling Ashley’s eyes on her and her brother.

Her suspicion was confirmed when she saw Ashley too quickly look away, towards Andrew, at anything that wasn’t them.

Kenzie felt a twitch of annoyance arise and stopped in her tracks, to her little brother’s confusion. “Go on ahead,” she said. Mark obeyed, hastened his speed and came alongside Tom and Lulu, leaving Kenzie behind to deal with the eavesdropper.

She turned to fully face Ashley, who had noticed her close approach and too stopped in her tracks. Her eyes widened and Kenzie saw her make the slightest motion to back away. Andrew stepped infront of her, as if expecting an attack or to prevent her descent.

She stopped about four feet away from them, far enough to allow them a sense of security, but close enough to make her point.

“If you have a problem with me, say it to my face. Don’t stare. It’s creepy and annoying.”

Ashley looked both shocked and ashamed in response to her blunt statement. Her eyes flickered to the floor then back at Kenzie. Andrew kept his eyes on Kenzie, blocking her from full view of Ashley.

“You killed those people…” Ashley said quietly, close to a whisper.

Kenzie’s eyes narrowed, anger and pity taking hold of her. “Haven’t you figured it out yet? They weren’t people anymore,” she made no move toward them, “It’s live or die now. If you wanna live, you have to fight. And if you can’t accept that then you’ll be the next one to die.”

She turned and resumed her pace, leaving Andrew and Ashley in fear, unsure whether or not her words were meant as a threat or advice.

When Kenzie glanced behind her she noticed Ashley no longer stared at her, but instead she seemed to be in thought. Her eyes looked distant and she said nothing during their descent through the school.

Whenever the dead appeared, her eyes changed as if she were analyzing them. Her behavior lead Kenzie to wonder if she was recollecting what she said before. She realized later that her words may have been taken differently, but honestly she didn’t want to watch anyone else die.

She watched Ashley occasionally cringe whenever a weapon penetrated a skull, however she refused to hesitate when herself or Andrew were at risk.

Her thoughts dispersed as she sliced through each attacking corpse. She learned through recent experience that these monsters were most dangerous when in packs.

Separate they were simple enough to kill. Unless, of course, one snuck up on you.

Mark, being the little nerd he is (in a good way), made multiple observations on the dead such as on their strength, movements and behavior. Apparently zombie lore was quite accurate. One bite can turn you (save Lulu) and like dogs they respond to sound.

This particular information came very handy at times.

Lulu was fending off another corpse and still reluctant to kill. But Kenzie could tell she was stronger than before. Fear still influenced her, but the fight awakened within as well.

Tom was Tom, taking this apocalyptic world by storm. Tom was strong in body and heart, but Kenzie also believed him to be too trusting.

He either did not or chose not to notice the sick grins plastered on Kevin and Nick’s faces as they bashed each brain.

Each of them fought the dead, one after another until none remained standing. Their heavy breathing filled the air and some leaned against the surrounding walls, or sat on a lunch table.

Kenzie took another deep breath and brushed away stray strands from her face. “We should be good for awhile. We can find someplace and – ”

She stopped when the scream she came to know emanated through the room.