Two blocks later the zombie pack was far behind and Zak didn’t see any close by, so he and Jeffrey ducked into the trees. Zak hadn’t seen any zombies in the woods — whether because they didn’t like the woods or were just staying where there was more food, he didn’t know, but in among the trees was where he felt the safest.
Jeffrey sat in front of Zak with his tongue hanging out and whined his new whine, “Mmmmnnnnnn.” In his zombiefied mind he and Zak had just been out having a fun run, not fleeing from brain-eating monsters. He had no idea he’d almost been the cause of turning his master into a zombie meal.
Zak knew it wasn’t his dog’s fault and petted his head around the duct tape as he reached down and grabbed the leash, reeling in his pants. Untying the knot in the leash took Zak several minutes and he realized no matter how it looked running from the zombies without pants, there was no way he would have gotten the leash untied quickly enough otherwise.
As he pulled on his pants, Zak took stock of what he knew:
1. Juggling confuses zombies — as long as they’re close enough.
2. Jeffrey’s a zombie poodle so he gets zapped, too.
3. Tying your dog to your belt loop is NOT a smooth move.
4. He was now without shoes (and one sock) so he had to be careful where he stepped.
And worst of all…
5. The trail to his parents was lost.
Zak heaved a sigh, dropped to the ground, and dug a protein bar out of the backpack. He broke off a piece for Jeffrey and they both had some water from the canteen. It wasn’t much of a lunch, but Zak wasn’t really in the mood for anything. He sat and watched the birds flitting in the tops of the trees and wondered if they knew zombies were in town.
Jeffrey was snoozing in a patch of sunlight that filtered through the trees when Zak jumped up and began to pace. Jeffrey didn’t move, just opened his eyes and followed Zak back and forth.
“We can’t go back to the house, zombies are all over the place looking for people to eat.” Zak decided to talk through the problems to see if he could figure out a new plan. “Staying in the woods is probably our best bet — we can hide from the zombies and then sneak out and try to find where Mom and Dad have been taken. And Jeffrey, you can stay here when I sneak out, that way I can use the juggling trick when I need to.”
Jeffrey thumped his tail on the forest floor when he heard his name.
Zak scanned the woods nearby and quickly found what he was looking for — a group of trees standing together with enough room in the middle for a little camp. It was dark enough among them that zombies wouldn’t be able to see in, but open enough that nobody would be able to sneak up, just in case zombies did decide to enter the woods.
Grabbing his pack and Jeffrey’s leash, Zak ducked into the small grove and kicked aside some of the bigger sticks. The spongy ground felt pretty good on his bare foot and he decided his new hideout would work out just right.
The boy and poodle both jerked their heads around when the scream split the air. It sounded like it was coming from one of the houses near the edge of the woods, and it sounded like a young kid screaming.
Zak looped the end of Jeffrey’s leash over a branch on one of the trees. “Stay here, boy, I’ll go see what’s happening!”
Sneaking through the woods, his shoeless feet making him even more quiet than usual, Zak headed toward the sound of the scream, and heard it again, even louder. This time he could hear words being shouted, “Get away! Help me, somebody!”
Breaking through the edge of the woods onto the street, Zak looked both ways for zombies and quickly crossed into an alley. Running up the alley could hear the yelling very clearly now as well as the murmur of many voices saying, “Brains!”
In the middle of the block Zak found the source of the commotion. A tall fence between the yard and alley kept him from seeing what was happening until he climbed up and peeked over the top. He saw a yard full of zombies, all gathered around the base of a tree. Barely above their grasping hands was the bottom of a treehouse.
As Zak clung to the top of the fence he saw movement in the window of the treehouse and a blond-haired girl about his own age appeared and yelled, “Help, somebody help us!” The zombies beneath the tree milled about even faster and the chant of “Brains” grew louder.