“Holy shit!” Sky cried. The shot had vibrated through the entire RV, and she’d watched Tony’s body crumple and his men scatter like flies. She couldn’t believe it. Arthur pounded twice on the roof: the signal. She slammed on the gas and drove. “Did that really just happen?” she asked, turning to her companions.
“Just drive, alright?” Jamar said. “We’ll figure it out later.”
“What about my parents?” Sky said. “That’s the whole reason we came here!”
“I don’t know if we’re going to find them, Sky,” Kurisu answered.
Sky slammed on the brakes. “Fuck that!” she cried, turning around in her seat. “I came here for the last two people I care about, and now we’re leaving?”
“What the fuck is going on?” came Art’s voice from above. He peered down the roof hatch before handing his sniper down and climbing through.
“Are you out of your mind, Art?” Sky shouted. She was standing now. “You just killed a man.”
“No I didn’t,” Arthur replied coolly. “I killed another monster, ‘cept he wasn’t one o’ the dead ones yet.”
“He didn’t kill any of us,” Jamar said. “He let us go, man.”
“I think you’re all forgetting what he did to our friend Kris,” Arthur said, motioning to him. Kris sat at the table, staring at its surface instead of the others. “They imprisoned us, threatened us, stole from us, and made us their slaves. If it wasn’t for our little antidote story, we’d still be there, dead or alive. I sent ‘em a message, and now we’re safe.”
“If we start killin’ people, how are we any better than the zombies?” Jamar said, taking a step toward the man. Sky walked past them and rifled through the drawers.
“We’re better than them ‘cause we kill when we need to, not ‘cause we have to,” Arthur pointed out. “There’s a difference.”
Sky found an MP5 with two clips, a pistol, and a vest with enough pockets to carry twice that.
“Now you’re just speakin’ gibberish, ol’ man,” Jamar shot back. “You just murdered someone, man. That was straight homicide.”
Sky threw the vest on over her sweatshirt, shoved the pistol and clips into her pockets, and slung the submachine gun over her shoulder.
“What I did was necessary for this group’s survival, and I ain’t apologizing for it.”
Satisfied, Sky made past the arguing men and went to open the door.
“Where do you think you’re goin’?” Arthur interrupted his own quarrel to ask.
Sky froze and turned on her heels. Four pairs of eyes stared at her, dumbfounded. She sighed. “I came here to find my parents, and I’m not leaving without some sort of closure.”
Arthur gaped. “Sweetheart, we just escaped a group of—”
“I already tried that,” Jamar cut in.
“I don’t need any of you to come with or even wait for me. I already lost someone I cared about; I’m not about to let that happen to the last two people left in this world that I love.”
“Sky,” Art began with a sigh, “anyone decent in that neighborhood has either left already or been turned into zombie chow. Your parents aren’t there.”
Sky shifted her jaw, looked down, and nodded. “I’m going.” She looked at each of them, her eyes landing on Kris, who was staring at her with a mix of shock and sadness. “Thanks for the ride.”
She burst out the door, walking fast. If she wrapped around her parents’ block, she might be able to sneak through her backyard without alerting Tony’s group. Of course, she’d already been ambushed once before.
The sound of jostling derailed her train of thought. She spun around to see Kris bounding toward her, a shotgun in his pudgy hands. He stopped in front of her, already winded, and gave a sheepish smile.
“Um, is it okay if I help you?”
Sky exhaled through her nose and grinned. She punched Kris’s arm playfully, perhaps a bit too hard, and continued in the direction of her home.
“Can you give us a fuckin’ minute?” Arthur called from the RV entrance.
Sky looked back again. “What do you want now?” she called.
“We’re obviously comin’ with!” he nearly screamed at her before muttering more quietly, “Ya stubborn bitch.”
“I heard that, dickhead!”
“Good! Then I won’t have to repeat it!”
Arthur, Jamar, and Kurisu emerged from the vehicle moments later, covered from head to toe in weapons. The five of them had the firepower of a small army. Sky liked it. They stood together on the street, eyeing each other warily.
“Thanks for doing this, guys,” Sky said. “You’re good friends.”
“Are we?” Art asked, lighting up a cigarette. “I thought people were supposed to love their friends.”
“I do love you guys,” Sky said, her tone sounding more defensive than she’d wanted it to.
“I distinctly recall you saying only moments ago how your parents are the last two people you love.” Arthur took a drag and blew smoke into the air.
Sky smiled and fumbled for words. She gave up and shrugged. “You knew what I meant.”
“We should get movin’, before it’s too dark,” Jamar said. “Don’t wanna stumble blindly into a horde or have to rely on flashlights.” They moved toward a narrow alleyway and began the trek back to the Butts’ neighborhood.
“How close is your house to the group, Sky?” Kurisu asked.
“My parents’ place was literally across the street and one house to the left of where Tony kept us.”
“Did you ever see any movement or signs of life while you were workin’ upstairs?” Jamar questioned.
Sky shook her head. “No,” she admitted. “But maybe they’re holed up in the basement or something.”
“Not likely,” Art said, almost to himself. Sky shot him a look. “I mean, I guess it’s possible,” he said with a shrug.
It took longer to get to Sky’s parents’ than she’d expected. The world turned orange in the dimming light of the setting sun as the group wrapped around the other end of the neighborhood toward her home. As they neared, they caught sight of some of the women and children in Tony’s group across the street.
“I don’t see Tony’s goons,” Jamar said. “Shouldn’t they have beaten us back?”
“Not if they’re out lookin’ for blood,” Arthur sighed. “Shit.”
“So you killed Tony for nothin’, huh?” Sky said. “Just great, Art.”
“For fuck’s sake, the guy was a monster. And my God damn name is God damn ‘Arthur.’”
“You got it, God Damn Arthur,” Sky giggled. She stopped, and her smile faded. They were standing in her parents’ backyard, the same yard where she spent summers sunbathing with her mom and winters making snow forts with her dad. To see it empty and desolate was chilling.
“Uh, are you okay, Sky?” came Kris’s voice from the back of the group.
Sky nodded. “Uh, yeah,” she managed to say. “I’m okay.”
“Let’s get inside,” Arthur suggested. “And for God’s sakes, don’t shoot or make any loud noises; the last thing we need is the fuckers across the street comin’ after us.”
Sky approached the back patio door. She cautiously reached for the handle and found it unlocked. She wasn’t sure that was comforting. The house was empty, cold, and dark. She clicked on her flashlight only to have it slapped from her hand. “The fuck?” she hissed back at Art.
“You want them to see us?” he whispered back. “No flashlights unless you’re on the far side of the house or in the basement.”
Sky groaned, but she knew he was right. They continued inside and closed the door behind them.
“Should we split up?” Kurisu asked.
“I don’t want any of you caught alone with my parents if they’ve…turned.” Sky said it so no one else had to.
“Fine. Jamar and Kurisu, you can go downstairs,” Arthur instructed. “Kris, Sky, and I will head topside. We’ll meet here on the first floor.”
The group split up. Sky led the way upstairs, each step creaking underfoot as they had since she was a little girl. A wave of nostalgia passed over her. The last time she was here, she had just turned 18 and was on her way to college in the Windy City. It felt like years ago.
“I’ll go left,” Sky said when she reached the landing.
“And?” Arthur said.
“And you two go right,” Sky said as if it were the most obvious thing.
Art sighed and passed her, heading down the hall to the right. Kris followed, giving Sky a concerned look as he moved by. Sky moved left alone, just like she wanted.
She went straight for her room. The place was nearly empty. Her parents had placed some exercise equipment inside in lieu of her bed and dresser, but her discarded posters and a few knickknacks remained.
Carefully, she lay down on the floor and sprawled out there, staring at the ceiling. She realized then what the others knew days ago: The house was empty, as it had been for a while now. After staring blankly at the pure, smooth surface above, she realized her face was wet with tears at the same instant she noticed Kris in the doorway. She started and wiped the tears away with her palm as she sat up.
“W-what’s wrong?” Kris asked.
“Nothing.” Sky hugged her knees to her chest. “Did you find anything?”
Kris shook his head. “But, uh, maybe Kurisu and Jamar did,” he suggested.
“No,” Sky whispered, “they didn’t.”
“Well, I mean, you don’t know that,” Kris ventured.
“I do,” Sky replied. “I feel like such a bitch.” The tears were back again. “I dragged you guys out to the middle of nowhere to chase ghosts, and we almost get killed in the process. What kind of person does that make me?”
Kris crouched down next to her. “It makes you a good person,” he said softly. “You’re…compassionate and caring and loving.”
Sky sniffed, then laughed. “Since when does a compassionate, caring, loving person put others in danger for her own benefit?”
Kris didn’t answer right away. “You didn’t force any of us to come here. We all wanted to.”
“So we’re all dumb? Not just me?”
Kris actually chuckled, something he never did. “I-I guess so.”
Sky threw her arms around Kris’s neck and held him, breathing in his musky smell, her small body lost against his huge chest. “Kris,” she whispered, “promise you and the others won’t die before me.”
She could feel him gulping. “I-I, um. I promise.”
He was lying, but that was good enough for her.
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