Adam Sifre and Splinker
Charlene remained flat on the ground, her back pressed against the outside wall of the Kansas Children’s Home, hidden by a gigantic holly bush. She did her best to ignore the thorny leaves scratching at the back of her neck and legs. The rule was no moving until the third Easter egg was thrown. She couldn’t see Eddie or the remaining children, but the occasional sound feet scraping on tarmac confirmed they were still on the roof. Wilbur, however, she could see just fine.
‘This whole thing is just… stupid.’
Wilbur stood about sixty feet away, just in front of the rusty swing set. He swayed back gently back and forth with what was left of his face turned up to the sky. Charlene had seen them do this kind of thing before. Eddie called it “tuning out,” but Charlene called it “Z” time. Partly because she thought this was the closest thing zombies did to sleeping; but mostly because she knew it drove Eddie crazy. Eddie always had to be right about everything.
‘He thinks being fourteen makes him king of the Home.’
It was Eddie’s idea to celebrate Easter with the egg hunt and to Charlene’s surprise the other kids didn’t say no. That’s not true They liked the idea.’ Eddie would never have gotten away with it two weeks ago, but things had gone from “Night of the Living Dead” to “Lord of the Flies” since then and Eddie was no longer just a 14-year old jerk. Eddie was trouble.
Charlene sucked in her breath as the third and last “egg” bounced off of Wilbur’s leg and rolled just a few feet away. It was painted bright yellow with little blue circles.
Wilbur remained in Z-time and paid it no mind. He’d been a short, chubby, mean man before. Now chunks of Wilbur were missing and Charlene guessed he weighed a few pounds less. Her eyes fixed on Wilbur’s hands. Fingernails kept growing on the undead and Wilbur was sporting some beauties. They must have been two inches long, all of them. Not a broken nail in the bunch. They looked like weapons.
Three eggs: One at Wilbur’s feet; the bright red egg on the grass by the tether ball pole (no ball of course) at the far end of the playground; the third, out of sight somewhere to the left. They weren’t real eggs. Eggs were a rarity at the orphanage even before the zombies. Now they were more precious than gold. These Easter Eggs were just painted rocks.
Three eggs, one tuned out zombie and a lot of open ground. ‘That’s not so bad. Easy peasy.’ But in the back of her mind, Charlene kept thinking: ‘Stupid.’ Stupid for opening her big mouth and showing Eddie up in front of the others. But not stupid for wanting to leave.
They couldn’t stay here forever. Wilbur might be the only zombie in the playground at the moment, but he wasn’t the only shambling neighbor – not by a long shot. Others came and went, and more seemed to be sticking around lately, some wandering in the visitor’s parking lot (getting more use after the apocalypse than before). At least they hadn’t seen any undead children lately. Charlene shuddered. The children were FAST. They didn’t shamble, they ran. Most of the undead orphans left with the group that had attacked the orphanage, including Emma. Charlene blinked away unshed tears and put Emma out of her mind for the moment.
Charlene wanted to leave, so of course Eddie wanted to.
“We have beds, food and the doors lock. We should stay and wait for help,” he’d insisted. Charlene wanted to smash his face in.
“We don’t have a lot of food. And every day more of those things pop up. If we leave now, we can be in Little Falls in three hours, maybe four. There’s a supermarket there. And police, probably.” She wasn’t sure about that last part, but she wanted to believe it. Had to believe it.
They argued until Eddie tumbled upon the idea of the egg hunt. If she could grab all three eggs and make it back to the dormitory, Eddie and the others would go. If she didn’t make it…
Charlene was horrified to hear herself saying “Deal!” although the shocked disbelief on Eddie’s pimply face almost made it worth it. Almost.
“Let’s go!” Eddie’s voice from somewhere on the roof.
Before she could talk herself into living underneath the Holly tree, Charlene sprinted onto the playground.
More shouting from the roof behind her. Charlene sprinted to the tetherball pole, giving Wilbur a wide berth. She could see the front of him now. His collared shirt unbuttoned and stained with God knew what. Something dark hung over his belt and Charlene almost lost her footing.
She reached the grass at the far end of the playground and something bounced off the asphalt to her left.
“Almost!” Eddie hooted. “First one to hit her gets pudding with dinner tonight!”
Still running, she bent and snatched the red ‘egg’, shoved it into her pocket and started for the egg by Wilbur’s feet. With all the yelling – ‘what a douchebag’—she was terrified Wilbur would wake up. Wake up and start moving. Better to get the one by him now and then take her time looking for the last egg.
Wilbur stood, quiet as a lamb, 30 feet away.
Charlene circled a bit and approached from behind. She stopped a few feet from the egg. If Wilbur took it in what was left of his mind to start shambling, she wanted it to be now, with his backed turned to her, rather than with her bent over with her back turned to him.
More rocks landed around her, but she ignored them. They’d have to get pretty damn lucky to hit her from here.
“Hey. Wilbur. Hey.” Nothing.
She took a deep breath and went for the egg. She grabbed it easily and kept running. Then someone got lucky and Charlene fell to the ground like a sack of dirt.
It was full dark and Charlene wandered aimlessly, from swing set, to dormitory, the yellow rock still clutched in her hand. It was dark and she smelled food in the building. It smelled good. It smelled like Eddie.
She was so hungry.
And she was fast.