Sky woke from her position leaning against Jamar’s shoulder with a start. Tony had burst into the room, a lantern in his hands and a fire in his eyes.
“My boy Marko tells me you have a little secret,” Tony said.
Sky and Jamar looked at each other quizzically, their thoughts still clouded with drowsiness. “We don’t know what you’re talkin’ about,” Jamar said.
Tony squatted in front of them both and held the lantern between their faces. “Oh, I think you know exactly what I’m talking about,” he muttered through gritted teeth. “Spit it out!”
Sky recoiled at his shouting. “We don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about, man!” Sky shouted back.
Tony slammed his hand into the wall, startling her further. “The antidote,” he demanded. “What is it?”
“Antidote?” Jamar asked, looking to Sky. She was as confused as him. “Antidote for what?”
“Don’t play dumb with me, boy,” Tony said, jabbing a finger in Jamar’s face. “Marko saw a bite on the fat kid’s hand, and he admitted to having an antidote to stop him from turning. Now you will tell me what it is, or so help me God I’ll kill every last one of you.”
Sky almost smiled. She silently promised to give Kris a big kiss when she saw him next. She glanced at Jamar out of the corner of her eye and knew he understood, too. “Damn it,” she swore.
“That fuckin’ kid,” Jamar said with a rather convincing smile of disbelief. “Remind me to kill him if these guys don’t first.”
Tony ripped his silver pistol from its sheath and pointed it between Sky and Jamar. “Listen here, you pieces of shit. You will tell me the antidote now, or I’ll feed you to the zombies myself.”
Sky started to laugh, and soon Jamar joined in. Tony stared, his mouth hanging open like an idiot. “We already took the antidote, man,” Sky managed between giggles. “We’re immune.”
“They’ll eat you alive,” Tony spat.
“‘Cept the antidote is a camouflage,” Jamar said immediately. “Zombies don’t know us from a hole in the ground.”
Bless his quick thinking.
“You’re going to tell me, or I’m going to kill you all one by one.”
“You think we’re stupid, don’t you?” Sky said. “We already know we’re dead, whether we tell you the antidote or not.” She stared Tony in the eye, unblinking. “So go ahead: Kill us.” It was a ballsy move, but she hoped it’d pay off.
Tony struck the drywall, punching a hole straight through it, and left in a huff. When she was sure he was gone, Sky grabbed her head and tried not to scream. “Oh, my God, what is Kris doing?” she shouted in a whisper.
“He’s savin’ our asses,” Jamar said. “He’s got a bargaining chip now, and thanks to that, we have a chance to get outta here.”
“How do we do that? How do we play this?”
“Easy: We follow Kris’s lead.”
Sky and Kris waited, hoping Tony would reappear. Fifteen minutes later, the guard at the room’s entrance got a message over his radio and motioned for them to follow. They did, meeting Arthur and Kurisu upstairs.
Kurisu fell into Jamar’s arms right there in the middle of the living room. It was darker than Sky had expected; the sun had completely set, and the only light came from the blazing fireplace. A group of armed men stood along the perimeter of the room, daring the group to give them a chance to start shooting.
A bouncing light came into focus down the street, followed by another. A skinny redhead stopped on the porch, followed by a giant brute and…Kris.
“It’s Kris, guys,” Sky whispered to the others. They’d come on foot, which meant the RV was safe—for now.
Tony stepped into the living room. “Bring ‘em out,” he commanded his men. Rough hands seized Sky and the others by their arms and forced them outside. Kris was kneeling in the grass in front of his two escorts and Tony. The others were forced down beside him.
“You okay?” Sky whispered to Kris while Tony chastised the ginger and the brute.
Sky kissed him on the cheek. “That’s just in case I don’t get a chance to give you one later.”
“Wh-what’s it for?” Kris asked, touching the blushing flesh where she had left a spot of moisture.
“For getting us out of this mess.” She looked away and clicked her tongue. “Of course, we might not be getting out of this mess, in which case I retract my kiss.”
“Just for that, I’ll, uh, make sure to save us all,” Kris said, looking away.
“So, Kris,” Tony said, distracting Sky from her temporary escape from the horrible situation she found herself in. “I thought we had an understanding: You get the RV, I let you go.”
“S-so did I, sir, but Marko told me that wasn’t true.”
Tony eyed the redhead. “That true, Marko?”
Marko hesitated and shifted his weight back and forth before nodding. “Yeah, it’s true. We can’t let ‘em go; you know that.”
Tony got his face inches from Marko’s. “That is not your call to make!”
“What about last time?” Marko shouted back. “They almost killed us all! We’re lucky we’re still here! You want that to happen again?” His maniacal ranting was cut short by a powerful backhand to his jaw. Marko held his cheek in shock and spit out blood.
“Don’t talk back to me, boy, or you’ll join the zombies, too.” Tony turned and left Marko to ponder his words. He looked at Kris again, his fury fading away as quickly as it had come. “This idiot tells me you have an antidote for zombie bites. Is that true?”
Kris nodded. “Yes, sir.”
“And what proof do you have of this claim?”
Kris held out his injured hand. He pulled off the gauze, long since dyed burgundy with dried blood, and showed Tony the healing bite.
“And one of the infected did this to you?”
Kris nodded. “Y-yeah. Sky was with me.” He looked to her for support.
“Yeah, I was there. It was his boss who turned and chomped him.”
Tony raised his eyebrows in what Sky assumed was mock surprise and said, “Oh.” He clasped his hands behind his back and began pacing back and in forth in front of the group.
“So, tell me, Sky—interesting name, by the way. Sky.”
“Tell me, Sky, why you didn’t immediately shoot Kris in the head when you saw him get bit.”
“It was the first day of the infection. I was at a shop with Kris, and his boss came in, looking sick. He bit him, and we ran. We didn’t even know until later what had happened, and by then—” She stopped short, realizing that her story—the truth—was blowing Kris’s antidote story.
“Please,” Tony said. “Go on.”
Sky had no choice; she had to wing it. “We, um, realized later he already had the antidote in his system when he was bit, and that’s why he didn’t turn.”
“Ah, but your friend here,” Tony said with a raised finger, gesturing toward Jamar, “told me that the antidote makes you invisible to zombies. If Kris had the antidote in his system, why did his boss bite him?”
“He-he provoked him.” Sky flustered to come up with some excuse. She feared she might have blown it for everyone. “Kris saw his boss was acting weird and getting too close, so Kris hit him, and that’s when his boss bit him.”
“You,” Tony said, covering his mouth with one hand and holding up his elbow with the other, “are a terrible liar.” He smiled.
Sky looked at the guards in exasperation, and then to her friends, who only stared at the ground they kneeled upon.
“Ya wanna know what I think?” Tony said. “I think that bite is from a survivor. Hell, maybe a dog nabbed him before the world went to shit. Who knows? But no zombie bit your friend.” Tony looked at Kris. “I’m right, aren’t I, Kris?”
There was a long silence before Kris finally said, “No.”
Tony laughed, and some of his men actually smiled. “Really? You’re still gonna cling to this bullshit story?” Tony rubbed his mustache and shrugged with a cocky smirk. “Alright. Bring ‘im out, boys!” he shouted over his shoulder.
Sky’s head snapped up. A group of men wrapped around the house, and between them, its arms bound behind its back, shuffled a half-decayed zombie. “No,” she whispered to herself.
“So, Sky, it looks like Kris has suffered enough,” Tony started as the men stopped just feet before the kneeling group. “Would you like to volunteer to be bit this time?”
“No!” Kris shouted. “P-please don’t do that.”
“Why not?” Tony asked innocently. “Sky told me she took the antidote. She said you’re all immune!”
“Well, she’s an idiot!” Kris roared, glaring at Sky in fury. She couldn’t tell if he meant it or not. “The antidote only lasts twenty-four hours,” he explained to her. “It’s left all of your systems!”
“And what about yours, big guy?” Tony leered with a sinister grin.
Kris sighed. “I took some right before we left the RV,” he admitted.
Now Sky wasn’t sure if this whole antidote thing was fact or fiction. She decided to roll with it. “Why? We don’t have much left.”
“B-because I knew something like this would happen.”
“You wanna know what I think?” Tony cut in. “I think this whole ‘antidote’ thing is a crock of bullshit.”
“I-it’s not,” Kris said.
“Fine. I’ll humor ya.” He snapped his fingers. “Bite a good chunk out of his arm.”
“No!” Sky and Kurisu cried.
“You don’t have to do this, man,” Jamar said to Kris.
“I-it’s okay,” Kris reassured them. He looked down the line at their panic-stricken faces. Only Arthur looked calm, an unlit cigarette dangling from behind his fuzzy white beard. He looked Kris in the eye and gave the subtlest of nods.
The two men brought the snarling zombie closer. Its blank eyes, covered in red veins, bulged, and its tongue lolled lazily around its rancid lips. It must’ve been dead at least ten times longer than Kris’s boss was when he took a chomp out of him. Sky was sure another rotting corpse biting him was the last thing Kris wanted, but here he was, about to let it happen.
Sky could hear the smile in Tony’s voice as he squatted and whispered into Kris’s ear, just loud enough for her to hear, “As soon as you turn, I’m finding that RV and feeding all your friends to the zombies myself.”
Kris grit his teeth as the zombie sunk its own into his flesh, and Sky prayed that the first bite wasn’t a fluke.