Chapter 3 (Unedited)

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If you think you’ve seen people run fastest when chased by a rabid dog or policeman, you’ve never seen someone run from a Crazy.  The adrenaline in your body skyrockets, higher than is healthy, and you begin sprinting at speeds you didn’t think possible, thinking through novels in seconds, you can suddenly take in every detail of your surroundings in a blink, and split-second decisions have never been easier.

            But that’s partially because, when it comes to Crazies, every decisions’ backup plan is: Run.

            We didn’t waste time trying an organized retreat, we just scrambled frantically for our lives.  Half of us leaped through the broken window, several cutting various appendages in the process, and the other half burst through the broken door.  Once we’d done so, the Crazies sounded much closer… being inside the pharmacy must have hidden us from full force of the sounds.

            “Into the cars!” Grant shouted, sprinting towards the Escalade, “You all know the way back!  Get there as fast as you can!”

            I’d crossed the street as well, and as I rounded the front of the car and flung the door open, I looked back to Holden’s truck.  Hope was stepping into the cockpit, and she looked back my way.  We locked eyes for a moment, before both of us locked ourselves into the metal cages.

            Whether they were prisons or sanctuaries, I didn’t know for sure.

            Grant jammed the key into the ignition and twisted it in nearly the same moment.  The engine roared.  He threw the car into drive and slammed on the gas, throwing me back in my seat, where I involuntarily threw my hands out to anything I could grab onto.

            “Crazies…” Grant growled, “They should be dead.  Why are they here?”

            I said nothing.

            Behind us, Steven and Bralin hadn’t lost any ground in their Corolla, but beyond them, the rest had fallen behind about fifty yards.  It wasn’t an accident; they’d rehearsed this.  Steven and Bralin stay with the Escalade, and the rest fall back to protect the truck, where Holden and Hope were trying desperately to speed up.

            I felt a lurch in my stomach as I realized that Hope and I had been separated at a time I needed her most.

            “We’ll rendezvous at the hotel, understand?” Grant said into the mouthpiece.

            “Roger that.” Four voices confirmed simultaneously.

            Grant inhaled in preparation to say something else, but stopped short as he sped through another intersection and glanced to his left.

            A swarm.

            That is the only definition that would describe what we saw.

            A swarm of Crazies, lining the entire street, six or seven deep.  Their hair was long, their clothes, shredded.  They almost looked like zombies, but I knew that wasn’t what they were.  That was one of the first things they’d taught us in school after the Outbreak in New York.

            Blood-curdling screams filled my ears.  Through the closed windows, they sounded even more menacing.  How could there be so many?

            “Crazies, to the left!” Grant shouted into the radio.

            They were crossing the asphalt in leaps and bounds that defied human physicality.  As much as my fifteen-year-old brain could do so, I calculated the trajectory between the Crazies and the cars behind us.  Grant and I were safe, as well as Steven and Bralin, but unless a miracle happened…

            “Take a left!  A left!” Grant screamed, obviously realizing the same thing I had, “At the intersection, take a left!”

            In the rear view mirror, I could see Theo yanking his wheel left, smashing through a stop sign and skidding across sidewalk over a street corner onto another street.  The first line of Crazies entered the view on the mirror, and my stomach both sank and leaped into my throat. Adam and Tegan wouldn’t be so lucky.

            Neither would Holden and Hope.

            “No,” I whispered to myself.

            Adam also screamed across the sidewalk, and as two Crazies leaped at the broadside of his car, I involuntarily gasped.  The Crazies slammed into the driver’s window and the back of the car, both leaving behind an audible thumping noise, but not threatening the two inside in any way.  They fell to the asphalt harmlessly.

            Holden was the last to follow.  His truck was large, with wide hips and a grill, but I wasn’t sure how much it could take.  He threw the wheel as far left as it would go as he neared the intersection, at the same moment the wave of Crazies bowled into the right side of the vehicle.  I bit my tongue as the right wheels visibly lifted some feet off the ground, and several Crazies found themselves beneath the black rubber, before the lurching of the tires hitting hard bodies righted the truck again.  I heard dozens of metallic thuds as the Crazies threw themselves at the hard mass as the truck skidded onto the road on the left, leaving my view completely.

            At least twenty Crazies were lying on the road, over half of them still trying to get to their feet.  The rest followed the convoy, still screaming, still running faster than I’d ever seen any human run.

            I stared until Grant turned a corner, and then sank back into my seat, fighting tears that were burning behind my eyes. Don’t cry in front of Grant, don’t cry in front of Grant, don’t cry in front of Grant.

            I locked my eyes directly in front of the Escalade.  Neither Grant or I spoke until we reached the foot of Big Mountain, and the hotel was in sight. Grant picked up the mouthpiece for the radio.

            “We’ll wait here until the sun goes down.”

            “Got it.” Steven replied.

            Grant passed the hotel and parked horizontally across the trail that led to our village.  Steven parked behind him.  The two exited their cars, and spoke to one another briefly, before Bralin joined and the three sat on the ground, their backs to an overturned log.  I stayed in the car, wiping my wet cheeks and trying desperately to get my breathing under control.

            Without thinking, I crawled into the back seat, fell into the fetal position, and let the tears come.

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