Wisteria (Wisteria Series) (5 page)

BOOK: Wisteria (Wisteria Series)
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Two days later, Wisteria was back at work. She, her mother, and Andrew were parked on the Norton’s High Street at noon. A group of ten or so people ran past, causing Wisteria to sit up. The freedom runners. She counted the joggers and recorded their numbers.

The island was holding a mini marathon from the gates of Smythe to Norton high street and back. A group of residents, called the freedom union, had pressed for this event for months. The soldiers finally agreed, to prevent an uprising.

“How many runners, Wisteria?” Andrew asked.

“I counted twelve,” she answered. “This was a dumb idea,” she muttered for the umpteenth time that day. “Why did the leadership council agree to a fun run on the mainland?”

“It’s not too bad.” Andrew chuckled. “They’re only using routes where we’ve not seen any biters in a year. All the trackers are out here watching them. It’s going to be safe.”

“But we saw an infected woman here three weeks ago,” Wisteria informed him.

“Exactly, three weeks ago. The second biter in six months. We haven’t seen anything since then,” Andrew said.

“So?” Wisteria wanted to know. “Why take the risk? We’re sitting here, watching these fun-runners and our lives are in danger too!”

“Wisteria, calm down,” her mother scolded. “This is the job you begged for and deceived Coles into giving to you. You wanted to be a tracker and go out on patrol.This is what we do. So, you’ve got to deal with it. Watch the runners, if we see any biters, we get the runners into our vehicles and get out of here.” Her mother continued. “If the runners are infected, you can cure them.”

Wisteria didn’t like the plan. It made no sense to her. If one of the runners was bitten and hid their bite while returning to the island, then everyone in Smythe could get infected.

Three more runners came past.

“That’s fifteen,” Wisteria stated.

There were supposed to be nineteen. Andrew picked up the radio, as Steven and Hailey came around the corner.

When the couple passed the SUV, Steven waved at Wisteria.

“Focus, please,” her mother reminded her.

“We’re two short.” Wisteria scanned her list.

“Gulf-Bravo-four, this is Juliet-Charlie-three. We’re waiting on a couple of runners,” Andrew spoke into the radio mic. “Who’s missing?”

“Amanda Weiss, number seventeen, and Melissa Abner, twelve,” Wisteria read.

“Seventeen, Weiss,” Andrew told someone over the radio. “Twelve, Abner.”

“Wait,” Rebecca responded, and then paused. “Hang on.”

“Rebecca, what the hell?” Wisteria’s mother pounded the dashboard with her fist while yelling at the woman on the radio. “Just tell me if you’ve seen them.”

“No, I mean, yes. They passed here fifteen minutes ago. She’s not in my area,” Rebecca babbled. “They got lost in your section. Gulf-Bravo-four—out.”

“I hate that woman,” Wisteria’s mother grumbled.

“So what do we do?” Wisteria asked.

“The runners are heading back to the island and Rebecca will trail them home. We’ll drive up the side road and look for Melissa and what’s-her-face,” her mother decided. “I hope they haven’t done something stupid.” She then spoke into the radio to update the tracker station on the plan.

Pulling out of their parking spot, Andrew cruised down the High Street.

After about twenty minutes of circling the shops and finding nothing, Wisteria began imagining the worst.

Cussing, Andrew slammed on the brakes right in front of the Cunningham’s store. “Check it out.” He pointed at the window.

Through the filthy shop window, Wisteria spotted Melissa and Amanda picking out clothes.

“I’m going to shoot them.” Her mother aimed her rifle in the girls’ direction.

“No, Mum.” Wisteria opened the back seat of the SUV. “I’ll grab them.”

“Wait, no Wisteria, don’t!” Her mother reached out to her.

“Relax. This is my job, right?” Wisteria responded with a laugh. “Besides, I know you and Andrew have my back.” She picked up her tranquilizer rifle and strapped her wakizashi sword over her shoulder.

“Make sure you have a clear line of sight to me.” Andrew grabbed her arm. “The moment you can’t see me, forget them and get back here.”

“Sure.” Wisteria kicked the door closed and jogged to the shop. The stench of the undead surrounded her as she pulled the door open.

Melissa was busy sorting through a clothes rack, and didn’t notice Wisteria approaching.

“Come on Melissa, this isn’t a great idea,” Amanda begged. “All the runners have left us behind.”

“Take it easy, Mandy. They wouldn’t let us come out here if this place was dangerous. Norton has been safe for years,” Melissa disagreed.

Wisteria crept up behind them while swinging the rifle back and forth between them, just in case.

“I haven’t been out of the island for years. Can you believe this place? It’s practically untouched and has all the stuff I’ve been dying for. How is that possible?” Melissa blurted.

“Because, biters don’t use Penelope Rose foundation,” Wisteria retorted from behind them.

“Wisteria.” Amanda hurried over while looking relieved. “What are you doing in here?”

“What am I doing? Are you out of your mind? No one was supposed to leave the agreed route,” Wisteria replied. “Seriously, what are you thinking?”

“I just needed some—whoa.” Melissa stopped shopping, shocked to find Wisteria pointing a weapon at her face.

“Both of you, in the car now,” Wisteria ordered.

“Yeah…No,” Melissa sneered. “Wisteria, it’s a freedom run. The operative word is
Norton is fine. My mum gets the status reports. They wouldn’t let us out if it was dangerous, so I’m going to get what I need and we’ll go when I’m done.”

“Melissa, we shot a biter here just days ago,” Wisteria declared.

“First of all, don’t point that gun at me. It was over a month ago and nothing has been seen since.” Melissa laughed and continued selecting makeup. “There’s no one here, stupid. There’s been no one in this forsaken hell hole for years.” She dropped a tube of peach lip-gloss into her shopping basket. “And second—I’m not done. I just need to get a few things. I’m not going to be here forever.”

“Melissa,” Amanda pleaded. “We should go.”

Melissa walked off with her shopping basket in hand.

“Amanda, get back to the car,” Wisteria called out to her while she tailed Melissa for a few feet, but stopped just before Andrew left her line of sight. “Melissa, I’m going. I assume you know the way to the bridge?” Wisteria asked bluntly.

“What? No, you’re not leaving me!” Melissa was busy trying on a shoe. “Let me get the other shoe. Then, we’ll go.”

“You want to go into the dark store room—in the back, and look for the other shoe?” Wisteria’s mouth dropped open.

“What? You’re completely mental!” Amanda exclaimed.

“Oh right, probably not. I’ll grab some perfume, and then we can go,” Melissa said.

“Shh,” Wisteria whispered. “I heard something.”

The sound of scuffling feet came from behind them.

“Ha, you must think I’m thick.” Melissa laughed and put her old shoes on. “I heard Steven really scared you during the drill.”

Glancing back, she saw the SUV was out of sight. Moving back to the storefront, she stopped when she saw two short heads of hair that were weaving from the storefront through the clothing racks, toward the three girls. “Amanda, we need to move, now!”

“We can’t leave Melissa,” Amanda protested.

Two little boys, about seven years old, in gray school uniforms emerged from racks. The boys’ faces were vacant. Their eyes were blood red, their fingertips stained with blood.

“They’re just kids.” Melissa stared at them.

“No, those are the fleshers of children.” Amanda was backing away.

One of them groaned while spewing rotten blood from its lips.

Blood this dark meant they hadn’t fed in months. The hungrier the biter, the more desperate it would be.

“Wisteria!” Melissa wailed as three more flesher children descended on her.

“Run.” Wisteria bolted as Melissa’s screams filled the air.

Intending to circle back to the front door, Wisteria ran around the makeup counters and clothes racks. She checked if she was still being followed. There was no one behind her, no biters, and no Amanda. She desperately looked around for her.

Amanda was heading up the stairs, deeper into the building, with two little biters hot on her heels.

Wisteria’s instinct was to run away, but Amanda was unarmed and no match for the two biters chasing her. Praying, she took a deep breath and ran to the stairs. She aimed her rifle at the one of the biters and fired. The biter dropped.

“Ah,” wailed Amanda. “Wisteria, help me!”

Wisteria sprinted toward the girl’s panicked screams, heading up another flight of stairs. She cured the second biter by the time Amanda reached the fourth floor. Out of breath, Wisteria found Amanda, crouched in the fetal position, sobbing and hidden in the electronics section.

“We need to go.” Wisteria tried to help Amanda to stand up.

“We’re going to die.” Amanda didn’t move.

“Maybe.” Wisteria crouched next to her. “But my mother and Lieutenant Andrew are outside. We’ve got a chance as long as we’re quiet.”

Amanda wiped at her eyes.

Wisteria helped her up and noticed the puddle of urine on the ground where the weeping girl had sat. This was a mad time.

“We’re going to go down stairs and head straight out the front door.” Wisteria reached for her radio, but it was gone. She’d dropped it.

“Okay.” The frightened girl sniffled.

The coast was clear, so they silently crept back to the stairs.

“Argh.” A full-grown man staggered toward them.

“Oh!” Amanda squealed.

Wisteria shot him with a dart rifle and he dropped, but four more children biters appeared.

More howls and snarls came from the floor below.

“No, no, no,” Amanda bawled. “Wisteria, shoot them!”

“I can’t. There are too many.” Wisteria seized Amanda’s hand and started back up the stairs. She stopped at the sight of six biters ambling down toward them.

“Wisteria!” Amanda screeched.

They ran back through the music section. Weaving through the shelves, the girls made it to the fire escape.

Wisteria kicked the door open and they ran in. She closed the door after them, but the door had no lock. It was a fire escape. “Go,” she yelled at Amanda.

The girls raced down the stairs and the biters soon followed.

Almost reaching the ground floor, Amanda tripped, falling on Wisteria. The girls tumbled down the last flight of stairs.

The biters were less than three flights behind them. By the chorus of groans, there were more than two or three.

“Let’s go.” Amanda sprang up and dashed to the door.

Wisteria attempted to get up, but found her right ankle was hurt badly. “My ankle’s sprained.” She hobbled as she tried to walk. “You’ll have to help me. If we barricade them inside, once we get out—”

Without a word, Amanda grabbed Wisteria’s rifle and sword. She turned and ran away.

“Amanda! Are you joking?” She limped out onto a fire exit.

There was no sign of Amanda.

Her mother and Andrew could still be parked out front or circling the High Street, so she staggered through the alley and saw Amanda fleeing down some steps.

The moans of the biters became louder as they got closer. Wisteria moved as fast as she could, but each step on her right foot was agony. Coming to a long flight of stairs, she stopped. This was the way back to the High Street and to where the SUV was, but in her state, the biters would reach her before she was halfway down.

The fire door opened and shut.

Glancing back, she saw six biters advancing. Looking around, she saw her sword lying at the bottom of the steps.

There was only one option. She’d try to jump down. The fall might paralyze her or worse, but it might buy her more time. Closing her eyes, she prayed, counted to three—and leapt.


* * * * *


Bach leafed through the CDs on the shelves in the Terran shop called Cunningham’s. Felip wanted a CD of a Law Abiding Citizens album ‘Bring the Rain’ and Bach travelled almost eighty miles to get it.

Normally, Bach wouldn’t have travelled this far to look for music, but he did this for three reasons. Firstly, Felip was still recovering from his journey home and music helped the Family regenerate. While the Family couldn’t naturally produce music, they loved it.

Secondly, Bach felt guilty over asking Felip to journey in the first place. Thirdly, this region was known for making a certain sweet that Felip liked… salt water taffy. Bach hoped he would still be able to find some which was edible and since he was in town, he decided to check for the CD in one of the local shops.

After searching unsuccessfully for a while, Bach picked up some other CDs he hoped Felip would like, and several games for the Medusa games console. As he prepared to leave, he was shocked to hear women arguing in the shop. He tried to ignore them, but the voices continued. Against his better judgment, he walked over to the stairwell to see what was happening.

BOOK: Wisteria (Wisteria Series)
13.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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