By Sheridan Bird
Martin Rush High had never been Miranda’s safe haven. In fact, it had always been her own personal hell. She always thought she’d rather die than be locked up in that place, but now she didn’t have a choice. That is, if she wanted to survive.
It had been just six weeks since the first wave of zombies invaded Los Angeles. They came in swarms over the hills in the dead of the night. They took their victims quickly and quietly. They lurked in the shadows by day, waiting for the next unfortunate victim to wander into their view.
They attacked the small suburbs first, leaving nothing behind. No bodies were ever found. News of the attacks spread like wildfire. People locked themselves and their children in their homes, in their offices, but nothing slowed the monsters down. Schools were locked down all over the city and supplied with weaponry. Instead of being taught American history, students were being trained for war. It was live or die.
The older kids were given the bigger guns and more responsibilities. It was the seniors who ventured out in small groups to pick up the rations. It was the seniors who would stand guard with the teachers at night.
Miranda had actually taken quite well to her new life. She’d grown up with a gun in the house. Her father had taught her to shoot at a young age. Now, since The Invasion, Alex had built on that knowledge.
She was so glad Alex was with her. They’d been together for nearly a year, and she wasn’t so sure she’d survive this without him watching her back. Certainly no one else at that insufferable school had a reason to watch out for her.
There had been a few incidents in the recent weeks, costing them the lives of most of the staff and a majority of the students. Word was that it was the same way around town. Save for a small pocket or two of survivors, there was nobody left. At the school, there was only maybe 30 kids left.
Tonight, Alex and Miranda were walking through the seemingly abandoned streets of L.A., on the lookout for rations. Cars lined the sides of the streets, left to the elements in the havoc. The shops were closed and vacant. Up ahead, they knew there was an old grocery store. Although it was running low, there were still supplies left.
The night was eerily quiet. Miranda’s dark hair shone in the moonlight. Her light blue eyes swung from side to side, peeled for any sign of trouble. She gripped her gun tightly across her chest, ready to use it at a moment’s notice.
Next to her, Alex eyed her worriedly with his pale grey eyes. He’d been worried about her for weeks, ever since she’d had that dream. She’d woken up one night, screaming and drenched in sweat. When he finally got her to open up, she described in vivid detail a dream in which the zombies had them and were using them in suspicious experiments. They’d tricked them into taking them back to the school by convincing them that they had a cure for the zombies. It’d reoccurred every night since. Needless to say, it had been weeks since Alex had had a good night’s sleep.
Sighing, Alex ran his fingers through his light brown hair and rubbed his eyes. His hand went back to the barrel of his gun, his finger resting lightly on the trigger.
Off to their left, they heard movements down an alley. They turned sharply, their guns pointed at the source of the noise. Alex subconsciously moved forward into a protective stance, ready to protect Miranda at a moment’s notice.
“Get up slowly with your hands in the air,” Alex called out.
A man’s head appeared just behind a dumpster, facing away from them. “Don’t shoot!”
“Stand up and let us see your face and hands,” Alex persisted.
The man moved out from behind the dumpster and faced them, his hands above his head. He stepped out of the alley, and their fingers visibly stiffened on the trigger.
The man was short with light brown hair and black eyes. He was dressed in tan pants and a plaid button-up shirt under what looked like a dirty, old lab coat. The most noticeable thing about the man was his flesh. It was rotting right off his skeleton. Surprisingly, though, they couldn’t smell it.
Alex cocked his gun. “Give me one reason why we shouldn’t blow your head off right now.”
The man sighed. “I understand what you must be thinking, but you have to hear me out. My name is Dr. Carl Burke. Before the attack, I was a scientist at UCLA. I’ve been doing some research, and I think I may have found something.”
“What?”Alex asked, getting agitated.
Miranda froze as a wave of deja vu rolled over her, rocking her in her shoes. The hairs on the back of her neck stood straight up.
“I think I may have found a cure for the zombies.”
Miranda gasped as that horrifying, recurring nightmare hit her like a ton of bricks. “Alex...” she whispered.
“Yeah,” he said lowly. “I see it.” Alex knew every detail of that nightmare by heart. But he needed to prove it first. So he played his role. “Well, what do you want from us?”
Dr. Burke smiled and dropped his arms. Alex tensed; so far, Burke was playing his role perfectly.
“Well, you see I just need one thing. It’s in human blood, and obviously I’m not so human anymore,” he said excitedly, confirming their suspicions.
Alex nodded slowly. “Mmm-hmm. You’re not much of anything anymore,” he said lowly.
Burke wrinkled his eyebrows seconds before the bullet burrowed into his brain.