Chapter Sixteen

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I walked into the dining area, freshly showered and cleaned up after my impromptu dip in the ocean. The tray clanged against the bar as I slid it across the buffet line, dumping piles of mashed potatoes and rice onto my plate.

“Eva,” a voice called from behind me, and I turned to see Lea and Skye sitting at a table by the window. I carried my tray over and joined them, relieved to be sitting down after a tumultuous day.

“You okay?” Lea asked, her mouth full of potato.
“Yeah,” I shrugged. “Tired from the rescue operation.”
“You volunteered?” Skye asked.
I nodded as I hungrily shoved a spoonful of rice in my mouth.
They glanced at each other. “That means you don’t know.”
“Know what?”

Lea swallowed and placed her fork on her tray. “Perth’s gone.”
“Huh?” I asked, confused.
“The US Army sent a plane to drop flyers over the city, but when they arrived …” Skye trailed off, staring at her plate.
Lea put an arm around her. “The entire city and surrounding areas are either in flames or in ashes.”
“What happened?” I asked, astounded at the news.
“No-one knows,” Lea said. “Could have been bush fires, explosions, people using fire to kill the zombies. But apparently it looks like it’s been burning for at least a week. Something huge must have gone down there.”
“Whatever happened,” Skye said. “The Perth rescue has been cancelled. It’s too dangerous to go near it. Besides, from what we’ve heard, it doesn’t sound like anyone could survive there.”

After hearing that, my appetite disappeared, but I hadn’t eaten all day and needed to take care of myself, so I forced another spoonful of rice in my mouth. I felt a hand on my shoulder, and I looked up to see Wyatt smiling down at me.

“Hey,” he said as he leaned in and kissed me on the forehead. I loved how he could make me smile even amongst the hardships we were all going through. The familiarity of him and my friends helped me regain a shred of normalcy that I valued immensely. He pulled a chair out and sat next to me, resting his arm on my shoulder. Ben joined us, a smile on his face as he started eating his dinner. They looked happy, which made it harder for me to tell them what happened to Jo.

“Is she okay?” Ben asked with wide eyes after I told them everything.
“She’s fine, but I want to go see her after dinner.”
“I’ll come with you,” Ben said.
“Me too,” added Wyatt.

We found a volunteer to drive us over to the M1 hospital carrier and arrived just as the sun had faded on the horizon. A nurse escorted us to the ward, and I ran up and hugged Jo the moment I saw her.

“How are you feeling?”
“Much better,” she said. “They’re just keeping me overnight for observation.”
Ben sat on the end of her hospital bed. “I’m glad you’re okay. It must have been scary, getting pushed into the water like that.”
“I don’t really remember it,” she said. “And I’m not sure I want to.”

I glanced around the room. It was a large ward, with room for at least one hundred patients, but only twenty beds were filled. As I looked around, I was pleasantly surprised to see a familiar face nearby.
“Ash!” I said as I approached her bed. I hadn’t seen her since the Sydney rescue. “I was wondering what happened to you. I thought they must have taken you to one of the other ships.”

“Hey!” she smiled. “Nope, still here.” Her right arm and shoulder were in a sling, and an IV was attached to her left arm. “I broke my arm and dislocated my shoulder on our rooftop run. And apparently I’m severely dehydrated.”
“Woah,” I said. “How long do you have to stay here for?”
“Only another day or so.”

A high pitched scream rattled through the hallway, making everyone jump. Not a single person in the ward moved, frozen in fear as we listened carefully.

Another scream rang out, sparking us into motion.

Wyatt moved to the door while I made a bee-line for the window overlooking the hall. I inched the curtain open, peering out to see a group of soldiers running by, their guns pointed forward.

Ben joined me at the window to see what was going on. Seconds later, the sound of dozens of gunshots echoed through the ward.

It was happening again.

“Get Jo,” I said to Ben. “It’s time to go.”
Ben helped Jo out of bed while I ran over to Ash and told her we had to leave. Wyatt started rounding up the other patients, all of whom could walk but some needed to bring their IVs with them.

“Where are we going?” Ash asked as we all gathered at the door.
“We need to get off this ship,” I said.

A shadow moved across the window, and I looked out to see a zombie walking past. I moved back and gestured for Wyatt to lock the door. We stood frozen as more shadows fell across the curtains, too many to keep count.

More gunshots fired, and we watched as the shadows fell out of sight one by one. A bullet shattered the window, spraying glass everywhere. We backed away and dropped to the floor to avoid being hit, covering our ears as the battle went on.

I looked up to see a zombie trying to climb through the window, impaling itself on a shard of glass as it reached for us. It was naked, with long stitched up cuts down its chest – a research corpse used for live autopsy.

Another zombie appeared, spotting us hiding in the ward and leaning through the broken window to get to us. This one was fresh, a doctor who I recognized as one of the researchers who had tested my blood two nights before.

It became clear then that the worst had happened: the secured floor had been breached and the virus had broken out on the carrier.

I clenched my fists and fought the urge to scream in anger. They had ignored my warnings, and now we would all pay the price.

We were in a floating death trap.

Bullets struck the two zombies in the head, and they hung lifeless over the windowsill. A soldier came into view, blasts of light flashing as he finished off the last few straggling zombies.

“Is everyone alright in there?” he called through the window.
A few of us managed to stutter the word “Yes”, and he waved us out.
“C’mon,” he said. “I’m Joel, I’ll get you out.”

Ben stood up and unlocked the door, and we followed Joel down the hall, stepping over dozens of corpses along the way.

Ash screamed behind me, and we all turned to see a zombie had taken hold of her ankle.

“Move,” Joel said as he pushed passed us, aiming his gun at the zombie’s head and firing a shot right between its eyes.

We started moving again, when an explosion rocked through the ship, knocking us all to the ground.

“Shit!” Joel said as he jumped back up. He looked up and down the hall as loud creaks rattled all around us. “That sounded like a grenade. We gotta move.”

I stood up and helped Ash to her feet.

“Oh God,” she whispered. “We’re in trouble.”

“We’ll be okay,” I said, more to comfort myself than anyone else. “We’ll be okay.”



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