The pounding seemed to never cease and at all hours of the day and night, they hungered. It had only been a few days since they had heard the first reports of rioting that news anchors spewed, but the world was already over by then. Leila sat on the windowsill of the gymnasium staring outside into the sea of dead gray eyes that looked back up at her hungering for her flesh. Their fetid hands reached up to the window and their moans were full of desperation. Leila brushed back the raven colored hair from her face and looked down at the creatures that use to be her neighbors and classmates. Her heart gave in to the pity she felt for them, but she felt it more for herself. One of the dead was a girl of about eighteen, Leila’s age, and she was clad in her pajama bottoms and denim jacket now stained a deep black red. The girl’s face was a clammy gray and part of her nose was missing, but Leila recognized her as one of the popular girls, Kimberly Thatcher, she thought staring into the girl’s mangled visage. A smirk flicked across Leila’s face as she thought of Kimberly, as she knew her in life. Leila thought of Kimberly and her friends laughing at her as she walked down the hall. For four years she had endured embarrassments at the hands of this newly deceased girl and those like her. The death of this girl hadn’t brought her as much gratification as she had fantasized and the ceaseless emptiness she felt remained.
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She was lost in her memories and didn’t hear Nick walk into the gymnasium. The chill of the evening was apparent as she pressed her palm against the glass window. “You okay,” he asked with a deep resonating voice. She looked up at the solid young man with eyes a glimmering deep brown and she couldn’t deny the feelings were still there. “You are joking right?” she answered with a scoff. “I have undead cannibals trying to kick my door in and eat me. How are you doing?” she said sarcastically. “I’m kind of hungry” Nick smiled and Leila couldn’t help, but smile back. The two sat for a moment silently watching the growing horde out the window and Leila grabbed Nick’s hand, but he pulled away. “I’m sorry, I can’t”, Nick said, as he looked away from Leila’s hurt face, knowing he would want to comfort her if he saw. She watched him walk away into the dimly lit hallway to the cafeteria with the other survivors.
She followed after Nick and the sounds of the creaking metal door against the pressure of the infected echoed through the halls. Leila thought it sounded similar to a whale’s song; beautiful yet full of sadness. There were a few dozen people in the cafeteria. A few of her former teachers and what remained of their families sat in different corners sobbing. Upon their arrival the principal, Mr. Rich, was trying to maintain some semblance of order, but a punch to the face by the science teacher turned into a brawl and he hadn’t tried to take control since. Leila searched the room for her parents. She caught a glint of her mother’s engagement ring and walked across the beaten wood floor. Her father looked up at her with eyes red from tears and her mother laid motionless on a makeshift bed made of gym mats. The bandage on her arm had soaked through again and her body was burning up with a fever. “The bite wasn’t that big” her father said with eyes that sought mercy. Leila assured her father that she would be fine and things would be back to normal soon and his face flickered a smile worthy of pity. She hated lying to him, but she wasn’t ready to lose him too, and she knew the infection would take her mother soon.
Nick was standing with his hand around Amanda and they both stood watching the doors pulse from the growing horde outside. The snarling and moaning was enough to drive a person to insanity, though Leila wasn’t sure they were sane anymore. Even in this circumstance, Leila couldn’t bring herself to speak to Amanda. “We need to get out of here” said an older woman from the corner. “Where do you suggest we go, Ms. Fletcher? Better yet, how do we get there, a cab?” Mr. Lincoln had snapped. The two of them sat bickering and one of the children started crying and calling his mother, but she didn’t seem to be in the group. As the arguing continued Leila focused on her father and watched as he held her mother’s hand and when he rested his head she knew it was time. Surprisingly, nobody had taken notice of Joyce’s wound, probably too concerned with their own survival. Leila had tried to prepare herself mentally. She knew her father wouldn’t be able to put down his own wife. Joyce’s hand twitched a bit first and then she saw her mother’s body convulse and shake violently, that’s when the group’s bickering fell to a hush except the crying child. “Please, please, please” Bruce said as his wife shook and gasped and finally she laid still. Leila grabbed an aluminum baseball bat from the P.E. room and walked over to her father, “please, please, please” he continued as Joyce’s eyes opened. Her father’s continued plea and the dead gray of Joyce’s eyes was proof that the woman, who was Leila’s mother and Bruce’s wife, was gone. Amanda screamed as Joyce reached out her hands towards Bruce and pulled him close as if to kiss him. Leila raised the bat and felt the vibration in the handle as it connected with her mother’s skull. “Daddy” she said, “I’m so sorry. I had to do it.” Bruce wouldn’t respond and as Leila approached him, the dead eyes he once had filled with enmity. He threw her to the ground snarling at his daughter. “Not you” Bruce was screaming, “It should’ve been you not her!” The room was quiet as Leila ran out into the hallway with Nick following.
She sat in an empty classroom, watching the aimless corpses wander seeking out their next meals. The silver moon cast her in an ethereal light and her tears sparkled with luminescence as they streaked her cheeks. Nick followed her into the room and just watched her for a moment before he spoke. “It wasn’t your fault” he said “It had to be done.” Leila looked at him irritated at the unoriginal words. “I don’t have anybody left. My parents, Amanda, and you all left me. I deserve this.” Leila said. “You haven’t lost me” he said grabbing her as he spoke. “Why didn’t you come to me?” he said. “I didn’t think I could come to you, because of Amanda.” she said. “Amanda’s got nothing to do with this.” Leila looked at him recounting how she had wanted to say something to somebody about her mother, and how scared she’s been, or about how she felt when she saw Nick and Amanda that afternoon at school. Nick could see her holding something back, but he wanted everything no matter how raw or hurtful. “You don’t trust me Leila and that’s your problem, you’re always holding everything in and then treating your parents like they’re idiots for not understanding or ignoring Amanda, and treating me like crap any chance you could get. You have to be brave enough to trust people.” Leila stood staring at Nick trembling as she realized the mistake she had been making. Nick leaned in to kiss her, but she stopped him. “I’m not rejecting you, but I’ve lost the privilege. Besides you don’t want to violate the trust Amanda has placed in you.” Their reconciliation was short lived as the screams from the gym sent the pair running back. They arrived just in time to see Leila’s grief stricken father unchaining the doors for the dead. The survivors stampeded into the hallway as the dead descended on them like locusts. Leila could still hear the heartbroken cries of her father calling out for Joyce as he was engulfed by horde. Amanda ran to Nick and Leila jammed the doors with a broom. They knew the makeshift barricade wouldn’t hold long. The other panicked survivors ran to any doors hoping for exit, but they merely ran to their deaths allowing more of the zombies to come inside. Nick held Amanda’s hand as they ran and Leila was right behind them with some of the newly reanimated on her heels. “Go up to the 2nd floor” Leila had shouted “we can jump down.” Nick and Amanda nodded breathing heavily as they ran from the surging creatures behind them. “Damn window is stuck” Nick hissed and they could hear the ghouls fast approaching. Amanda and Nick pushed at the door and Leila held the stairwell door closed with all her meager strength. “Nick. Amanda. Break the window and jump!” Leila said, grunting against the mounting will behind the stairs. “Are you crazy?!” Amanda said struggling with the window, “you’ll be torn to ribbons.” “I’m putting my trust in both of you to survive for me” Leila forced a smile and as her strength gave out Nick broke through the window with Amanda and the two fled into the night. Leila had always felt something missing, and that part of her had returned and she had no regrets as she disappeared in to a sea of hands and moaning.