Since Zak was making up the plan on the fly, he decided to stall until he could come up with something.
“Before we get to that”, he said, crouching down and digging into his show bag, “I need to teach you how to bamboozle the zombies.”
“To what the zombies?”
“I call it bamboozling. You can make the zombies confused by juggling.” He stood and handed her three juggling balls, keeping three for himself.
“I need to teach you to juggle because that’s the only thing I’ve found that will slow down the zombies — it will give you a chance to get away.”
She gingerly held the three colorful balls and started to protest, “I can’t learn how to…”
Zak stopped her. “Don’t worry, I’ve taught dozens of people how to juggle in 15 minutes or less.” That wasn’t completely true — he’d watched his Dad teach dozens of people to juggle in 15 minutes or less, but he’d helped and was sure he could do it.
It took closer to an hour, but at the end of that time Amie was able to keep a pattern going for long enough that she’d be able to drop attacking zombies and make a run for it.
While they finished practicing, Amie told Zak more of what she’d seen from the treehouse. “Some people they crunched right away, like my Mom and Dad, but then after that they’d just gather people up and take them along without biting them at all.”
“I’ll bet they’re being taken so they can eat their brains later — kind of like a midnight snack,” Zak said. “That must be why they took my folks!” And with that new bit of information, Zak came up with his plan.
“Now that you’ve learned how to juggle and we have a way to get away from the zombies…” He paused dramatically and waited until Amie made a hurry-up motion with her hands, “…the plan is to get captured by the zombies and they’ll take us right to…”
“Are you crazy?!” Amie interrupted, throwing the balls down, her voice growing in volume. “They don’t care if we’re kids, they’ll munch our heads just like they do with everyone else!”
Zak looked wildly around through the trees while making shushing noises! “Quiet! The zombies don’t seem to like the woods, but I’ll bet they come in if they think there’s food in here!” He looked at Amie, “You said that after they eat they don’t crunch the next people they find, right?”
“Right.” She started, “Oh no, your plan better not be to…”
“…find a group of zombies who have already eaten and then get captured by them!” Zak made little air quotes with his fingers when he said the word captured. “We already know we can get away whenever we want.”
He tossed his juggling balls in the air and did a quick pattern, hearing two thumps as Jeffrey and Pookie fell over. “So all we need to do is make sure we get captured by zombies who have already eaten and we’ll be taken right to where they’re holding my parents and we can rescue them!” With that he tossed the last ball into the air and caught it with a flourish and held the pose.
Amie didn’t applaud, but she looked thoughtful, “It’s not a horrible plan…”
Five minutes late Zak and Amie were sneaking through the bushes at the edge of the woods looking for an abandoned house with a fenced yard where they could leave Jeffrey and Pookie. They’d decided the plan had a better chance of working if they didn’t have to worry about their zombified pets.
They finally saw a house with the back door standing open across the fenced back yard. There was a dog house in the yard, but no sign of animals or people.
Making sure they stayed as quiet and sneaky as possible, Zak and Amie crept through the back gate and up to the door. No sounds or sign of anyone.
“Stay here with Jeffrey — let me take a quick look inside.” Amie whispered, then stepped through the back door holding Pookie in her arms and vanished from sight. Zak held onto Jeffrey while keeping an eye on the adjoining yards.
About a minute later Amie reappeared, carrying a small sack of dog food and a pair of pink sneakers. She quietly closed the back door and said, “The front door was standing open and nobody’s here. Their dog must have taken off when the people did. This bag of food was sitting right by the back door. And these shoes were sitting by the couch and they look big enough for you.”
“Pink shoes? Are you serious?” Zak wrinkled his nose.
“It’s either that or walk around barefoot, but I’ve seen you limping a little on the rocks.” Zak knew she was right. While he would have liked a different color, it was better than stepping on stickers.
Amie dumped out the food by the dog house while Zak tried on the pink sneakers. The fit good enough. The two saw that the water bowl was full, and crept out through the back gate while Jeffrey and Pookie started chomping their way through the food.
“Now what?” Amie asked.
Zak motioned down the alley connecting the houses. “Let’s head for the corner and then try and find some zombies who aren’t hungry.”
Near the corner at the end of the block they found a spot along a front yard where a corner hedge met a small stand of bushy trees. They were able to slip inside and had just enough room to stand. They could see out, and down three different streets, but the leaves were thick enough that if they didn’t move or make much noise, they would stay hidden.
A short time later they saw not one, but two groups of zombies headed their way. The zombies shambled down the road, one or two peeling off at different houses looking for humans. Zak and Amie both stiffened and strained not to make any noise as they saw a family run from a house the zombies had broken into.
“Go! Go!” Zak softly whispered and it looked like the family would make a clean get-away, but the second group of zombies turned the corner and blocked them. Zak and Amie stopped looking as the the zombies surrounded them and crunched down.
“Zak, they’re coming this way!” Amie squeezed his arm and it was all Zak could do to keep from bolting from their hiding place. The screams he’d just heard seemed to still be echoing in his mind.
“Get ready,” he breathed softly to Amie. “I hope this works!”