Chapter Six

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Almost six hours after I fled the field hospital, I came across a country town. I spotted a small shopping centre and made a bee-line for it, hoping one of the three cars left in the parking lot still worked. I was only a few feet away from an old four-wheel drive when I heard the sound of an engine revving. I spun around, but saw nothing. The entire area was sparse and completely void of any signs of life.

But the roaring grew closer, and I realised it was coming from the shopping centre. Peering into the building, I couldn’t believe my eyes. A car was speeding through the inside of the centre, sending tables and chairs flying into the air as it plowed through the food court.
“What the …?” I muttered to myself, watching as the car disappeared from view. I could still hear it, skidding and screeching its way through the mall. A loud bang from inside the building echoed throughout the carpark, startling me.

Seconds later, the car exploded through a store window, catapulting shards of glass and lingerie-clad mannequins into the air. It was coming straight towards me at rapid speed. I jumped out of the way, landing on the ground as it swerved to avoid me, crying out as my injured shoulder slammed against the asphalt.
I scrambled to my feet, watching as the car spun around to face me, the tires screeching so loud I had to cover my ears. The sound of glass crushing behind me got my attention. I turned to see dozens of zombies running out of the building, their dead eyes pinned on me. More than one of them became snagged on the broken glass on their way out, tearing their stomachs open, but even that didn’t slow them down. There were too many of them for me to take on alone.

The car spun around in the carpark, pulling to a stop a few meters away from me.
“Get in!” a woman’s voice called from the driver’s seat.
I ran to the car and jumped into the passenger’s seat before the woman pressed her foot down on the pedal and we sped forwards.
“Where the hell did you come from?” I asked as I looked in the rear view mirror, watching the dozens of zombies shrink into the distance.
“Me? What about you?” the girl answered. “Who stands in the middle of the road like that?”
“It wasn’t a road, it was a carpark. Besides, who drives through a shopping centre?” I said, still watching to make sure the zombies were getting smaller.
She laughed. “Touché.”

I turned to look at her for the first time. She was young, probably in her early twenties like me. Her light brown hair was pushed back into a messy bun and out of her face, which had a sprinkling of freckles on it. But there was something else about her appearance, something that I recognized all too well: she had been crying. Her eyes were red and puffy and her cheeks were stained with tears. I instantly regretted snapping at her when I got in the car.
“Thanks for saving me,” I said, turning to look out the front windshield. “I’m Eva.”
“Lea,” she said, taking a hand off the steering wheel and reaching it out. I shook it, noticing she had a tattoo on the underside of her forearm that read: this too shall pass. I hoped it was right.

“So, what were you doing driving through the shopping centre?” I asked, curious.
“I took a wrong turn,” she said. “Actually, I kinda had to. I was driving down the road on the other side of the block and drove into a giant mess of those assholes, so it was either take a short-cut through the centre or get swarmed. What I didn’t anticipate was that the centre would be full of ‘em, too. They’re just everywhere.”
She adjusted the rear view mirror and glanced at it suspiciously, making sure we weren’t being chased.

“What about you?” she asked. “What were you doing out there? How’d you survive in this town alone?”
“I’m not from here,” I said. “I’m from Melbourne, but I was in Cairns. Now I’m headed to Sydney.”
Her eyes widened. “Sydney? You’re willingly going to ground zero? Are you nuts?”
I sighed. “Probably, but …” I paused, wondering if I should tell her about the rescue after all those people at the field hospital didn’t believe me.

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