Zak snapped out of his shock and took off down the hall in the direction he came from, but upon turning the corner saw dozens of zombies shambling up the ramp. He pivoted quickly and run back past the balcony opening. He glanced out into the room and saw his parents still standing in the center, watching him run past. At the next intersection he looked to the right and found several zombies almost upon him.
“Yow!” Turning left he headed down a long hallway with openings along both sides, but no doors. Nothing to stop the zombies. As he ran past some sawhorses in the hall he thought maybe he could slow them down.
Grabbing each sawhorse as he came upon it he turned it sideways in the hallway. He glanced back as he reached the door at the end of the hall and saw the zombies come to the first sawhorse and pile up against it. They started pushing it ahead of them down the passage, not having enough brains left to push it to the side. They were still coming, but at least it was slowing them down.
Zak pushed through the door and found himself outside on a walkway around the top of the riverboat, with construction materials piled here and there. He spotted a short section of thick wire and used it to wire the doorknob to an exposed pipe, locking it shut.
With the zombies behind him now out of play, he looked around. He saw a staircase leading down to a lower walkway, and below that the deck of the ship, with zombies wandering around looking behind crates and piles of building supplies. All of them looking for him.
“Think, think, think!” Zak said to himself as he looked around for an escape route. Since he threw the gangplank into the river Zak knew he’d have to find another way off the ship. His first thought was to dive into the water, but he was too high for that. He could swim, but wasn’t that good at diving.
Staying out of sight behind the stacked construction materials, Zak came across a spool of cable and imagined shooting an arrow tied to the cable into a tree on the shore and then zip-lining down to safety. He thought it would probably work, but he didn’t have a bow. Seeing the cable, though, gave him an idea.
He made his way to the front of the ship and looked down at the lines tying the ship to the shore. They were fastened to the ship at the front and back of the boat and while they weren’t steep enough to slide down, they were just the right size for his plan. “Yes!” He pumped his fist and felt a a sense of hope flow over him. “I can do this,” he thought. But first, he had to get the attention of as many zombies as he could.
As Zak sneaked back to the rear of the ship, he gathered some supplies along the way:
- 2 Blue Tarps
- 2 White Construction Hard Hats
- 3 Bungie Cords
- 1 Four-foot Long 1×12 Board
When he reached the rear of the boat he ducked behind a crate on the upper walkway and started to work. He knew the zombies would soon start checking the upper levels of the riverboat so he had to be quick.
Several minutes later he was ready. He put on a white hardhat, wrapped a blue tarp around him like a cape, and then jumped up onto the crate, where he could see all the zombies looking for him. And now they could see him.
“Hey you stupid zombies!” Zak yelled. “You can’t even catch a 12-year old! I’m almost 13, but you still can’t catch me!” He jumped up and down and waved his arms, flapping the tarp to make sure he got the attention of every zombie. “C’mon, you dumb zombies, come and get me!”
When Zak started yelling the zombies stared up at him in surprise. But by the time Zak started flapping his arms, they all moved as one, headed for the stairs and the ramps to climb up and capture the boy.
Zak looked at the zombies headed his way, ducked back behind the crate, and then leaped out over the railing into space, screaming all the way down to the water!
The zombies stopped, and then all surged down to the deck to look over the railing at Zak, who was wrapped in the tarp, floating dead still in the water.
Back up on the top walkway, hidden behind the crate, Zak pulled off the matching hardhat and tarp and started sneaking back to the front of the ship. The wrapped up piece of wood he’d thrown overboard should keep them busy long enough to escape.
His plan worked – the front of the riverboat was empty and he was able to get down to the deck without being spotted. He hurried to where the line held the ship to the shore and carefully stepped up onto the thick rope.
He’d prtacticed walking a rope between two trees with his Dad in the park and almost never fell. This rope was much thicker, but it was also at least 10 feet above the water, which was much higher than Zak had ever walked. He tried not to think of that as he took his second step into the rope.
“Don’t look down, just concentrate on the other end of the rope.” That’s what his Dad used to tell him. Remembering that made Zak think of what was happening with his Mom and Dad right now and he started to wobble on the rope, his arms moving up and down trying to keep has balance.
“Hold it,“ he told himself. “Worry about Mom and Dad later.” He steadied on the rope and continued, step-by-step. He was now only about 15 feet from the end of the rope when from behind him he heard a voice.
“Zaaaak, waaiiit. Mmnnnnn…”
Zak shook so hard he almost fell. It was a zombie voice, but he could still tell it was his Mom.
“Come baaaack, Zaaaak.” He not only heard his Dad’s voice now, but felt the rope start to vibrate. They were either shaking it or his Dad was coming out onto the rope, too.
Only about ten more feet to go but he heard his parents make loud moaning noises and out of the trees near the shore shuffled several zombies, heading for the end of the rope to cut off his escape. He still had his juggling balls, but had never mastered how to juggle while he walked a rope.
“J-join usss, Zaaaak,“ moaned his zombie Mom’s voice.
He could still feel the rope vibrating as his father continued toward him, and the zombies on the shore now waited for him with outstretched arms. And somewhere nearby he could hear a motor, but he had no clue what that was about.
No way forward, no way back. And his panic was causing him to lose his balance.
“Jump in, Zak!” Amie’s voice cut through the confusion. “Down here!”
Zak glanced down and discovered what the motor sound had been. Amie looked up at him from a small motorboat just six feet below the rope. She yelled, “Now!”
Zak dropped into the boat, collapsing on the bottom as Amie gunned the engine. As they sped away from the riverboat casino, Zak saw that his father had been just seconds away from grabbing him and the railing was filled with zombies moaning and watching them vanish in the distance.