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I move in and out of consciousness. Deep growls are intermittent with high-pitched, terrified screams of a child. I can feel myself being dragged and a familiar voice whispers “Stay with me. We’re almost there.” The fiery pain in my side is the only thing keeping me half awake. I feel the warm blood trickling down my side. I lift my head enough to see Emma trying fight and bite with every step we take. Though blurred, I can recognize enough of my surroundings to see the barren wasteland that I passed on my way earlier.

After what seemed like only seconds, I am lying on a cold floor while three people work hastily above me. I feel a needle pierce my flesh and my skin stretching to pull shut. A scream escapes my tired body, but I hear no noise.

“Give her something!” I hear

“What? What the fuck do you think we have that I can give her, huh?”

“S…stop” I whisper. “Just…let me sleep” And I’m out again.

_________________________________________________________

When my eyes open, the world around me is blurry. When it comes into focus, I notice the sky is a swirling bright blue with wispy clouds. I’m wearing a deep blue, knee-length dress, with a small-flowered print on the bust.

My husband lies next to me on the emerald-green field, staring at the sky. A child plays in the distance. I sit up, and run my fingers through the delicate grass. “Emma!” I call after the girl. I lean back onto my arm and turn my head towards my husband. He smooths some hair out of my face and gives me a gentle kiss. The girl comes running up, but when I look at her, I’m confused. My husband fades out, the world turns gray and desolate, and a fear rises in me. I can feel a painful tingle work its way up from my toes and centralize to a spot on the right side of my abdomen. Emma looms over me, her eyes glowing as she cackles.

I’m thrust back into reality. I’m sweating. A hand on each shoulder and one on my chest push me back onto the bed with force. “Slow down. It’s okay.” I adjust and realize that my husband is standing over me. “You’re okay, we stitched you up. We put the girl in a room by herself until we could get some answers.”

“You want an answer? She tried to fucking kill me.”

“You’re still a little loopy. We’ve been crushing some pain killers up and putting them in the soup we’ve been feeding you. Now that the wound is healing, I thought it best we let you wake up and manage the pain yourself. Give it some time. Maybe a few hours, and let yourself get out of the haze and we’ll see how you manage walking around.” The deep voice was unfamiliar. I turned my head to see a tall man with dark hair and bright green eyes standing in the corner of the room. The symmetry in his face was unbelievable. His athletic build, pale skin, and stone chiseled features gave him an Adonis-like complex, though everything about him screamed “I could kill you if I wanted.” Upon surveying him, I noticed a faded tattoo peeking out through the V he ripped into the collar of his t-shirt, and a gold band on a chain around his neck. His eyes burned into me, waiting for a response. All I could do was stare. “Name’s Anton. Your crew stumbled across me at the pharmacy. I was looking for drugs, they were looking for food. Seemed we could help each other out after he”, Anton nodded at my husband, “came in screaming about you taking a blade to the stomach. Barely missed your kidney. You’re a lucky lady”

I shot my husband a wary look. “As far as we know he checks out.”

“They don’t let me go very far without someone poking a rifle in my back,” Anton glared at him. “Come on. Let’s give her some time to wake up.”

My husband kissed me on the forehead, squeezed my hand, and they both walked out of the room. When the door shut, I gave myself a few minutes to become more aware of my surroundings, and made sure they weren’t coming back in. I spotted my pants on the floor in the corner adjacent to where Anton was standing. I slowly sat up and swung my legs over the side of the bed. Ignoring the throbbing sting in my midsection, I pulled on my pants and checked the side pocket for the small hunting knife I usually carried with me. Gone. I looked around and caught the glimmer of something on the floor. A piece of broken glass from a mirror that used to hang on the wall. I picked it up and headed out towards the door.

I knew they had to be holding her somewhere close. This wasn’t a very big building. As I exit the room, I finally realize that I’m not wearing a shirt. Respectfully, they left my bra on, but the only other thing covering my skin was the bandage below my rib cage. I didn’t much care at this point. I walked silently through the hall in search for a sign of where this girl might be hidden away.

As I pass a room, I heard a scratching noise. I take a couple of steps back and see a small hand reaching under the door. My eyes narrow, my face tenses with animosity, and I reach for the door knob. Her fingers run along my toes, and a jerk my foot back. In one swift motion, I throw the door open, her body is flown against the wall, and I have her pinned to the floor with the shard against her neck. As she struggles, I yell “Don’t you fucking move!” She snaps at me and laughs. I punch her square in the nose, but this just provokes her. “Poor little Emma. Helpless and alone? No one is going to fall for that anymore.”

Three pairs of footsteps come bounding down the hall. My distraction gives Emma the advantage and she thrusts me backwards. My husband, father, and Anton come hurdling towards us. My father grabs Emma, and my husband and Anton pull me away. I see Emma struggling in my father’s grasp. My husband holds me down while Anton leaps over to Emma and stabs a needle into her thigh. She falls limp in my father’s arms. He pushes her off to the side and she moans slightly.

“What the hell is the matter with you?” My husband yells at me. “Jesus! You’re bleeding again.”

I look down to see the bandage that was dry is now dripping with blood. “It would have been worth it if you assholes hadn’t stopped me!” They stare blankly at me. “I could give a shit less. There is something wrong with that girl! She shouldn’t be roaming around here. She’s one of them!”

Anton walks over to me and picks me up off the floor. My husband and father sit there, still panting. I dust my pants off. “Come on, let’s go stitch you back up.” I follow Anton back to the room I was sleeping in, and sit on the bed. “What happened that would make you want to kill a child?” he asked while gathering the needle and thread.

“That’s no child.” I responded. “Did you look at her eyes?” He shook his head. “Amber. Like the rest of them. She fooled me into thinking that she was alone, frightened, and an orphan. She’s the one that stabbed me. She’s one of them. Different somehow, but one of them. We can’t have her here. We need to take care of her. If you three hadn’t barged into that room the way you did, I would have solved that problem. You had to be a hero though didn’t you.” I shake my head.

“Oh. I’m the hero?” He sits next to me on the bed. “Meanwhile, you think you can solve our zombie problem on your own.” He pushes the needle through my skin.

“Fuck, man! I don’t get numbing or anything?”

“Not after the stupid shit you just pulled in there.” I roll my eyes and look away, but he continues, “Listen. I agree with you. She’s nothing but trouble. I didn’t believe a word that came out of that…thing’s mouth. Well, what little did come out of her mouth. She doesn’t speak too well, but damn it, she’s fast. Strong, too. One person in your group is holding this whole process up, otherwise she’d be dead for good, by now.” I grit my teeth and moan with discomfort. “One more stitch and we’re done.”

“Who’s holding up the group?”

“Hm?

“Who’s holding up the group from killing this thing? I can take care of it, I just need to know who.”

“Doesn’t matter. Just sit tight and I’ll go make sure that girl is confined.”

“Just tell me who it is.” Anton is silent. His hand reaches up to his mouth and he rests his elbows on his knees. “Anton. Please. Help me out.” Nothing. “Fine,” I say as I stand up, “I’ll figure it out myself.”

“God damn, you’re stubborn.”

I find a tank top on the floor and pull it on. “Well I figured, a guy like you that only looks out for himself would want to get rid of this thing as much as I do, but maybe you have another motive. Another angle. You see one of my sisters or something, you think you might like her, want to take her with you and repopulate the world. Who knows. I know your type.” I pull my boots on while he sits in silence, clearly contemplating something.

As I reach the door, he finally opens his mouth. “Your husband.”

“Excuse me?” I turn around to face him. “Say that again.”

“Your husband is the one holding us up. Maybe your oldest sister a little too, but not nearly as much as your other half.”

I look away, close my eyes, and take a deep breath. “I’ll handle it.” I say with a hint of fury. I walk out of the room and head down the hallway with a purpose. If anything was certain at this point in time, it was that I know I was going to punch him until he was out cold.