No Way Safe (Scattered)
by Shannon Mayer
(from the world of the Nevermore Trilogy)
Cover image by Exsodos. Cover design by Patricia Schmitt.
You are what you eat.
– Ludwig Feuerbach, German philosopher
“The zombies in my video games don’t run this fast!” Dustin panted as we skidded around a corner and scrambled over a low fence.
I didn’t bother to point out, yet again, that they weren’t zombies. Not exactly, anyway. I glanced over my shoulder to see the three Nevermores still on our trail, their yellow hued skin glistening with sweat; freaky sideways rectangular pupils dilated and easily visible. Mouths hanging open, they snarled as a unit, then sped up, their arms and legs pumping hard. They were gaining on us.
Grabbing Dustin’s empty backpack, I jerked him to the right, yanking him after me as I slammed my shoulder into a door, busting through the light wooden frame.
“Grab something to block it,” I said as I kicked the door closed behind me.
Dustin ran deeper into the house, grabbed a chair and dragged it back. We jammed it under the handle as the Nevermores hit, shaking the frame.
“Annie,” Dustin whispered.
I turned to face him, pressing my back against the faux wooden panels.
“We’ll be okay, buddy.” I gave him a smile and a wink. Normally he would have believed me, but with only a thin barrier between us and the monsters, his face remained drawn. Afraid. He knew as well as I did that we were in a serious pile of shit.
With my body being shoved off the door with each slam of the Nevermores, I wracked my brain for an idea. Something, anything.
It was so hard to believe that only a few short weeks ago, I’d considered taking the miracle drug, Nevermore. It turned out to be a lucky twist of fate that my apartment was robbed; my credit cards stolen. No money, no drug for me.
Our parents hadn’t been so lucky. Mom had breast cancer, and as the drug touted a cure along with so many other fantastic claims, she was one of the first to take it. Dad took the shot because it also was reported to prevent cancer, Parkinson’s and a host of other diseases. The rest of the world, well, one of the side effects of the drug was that you lost weight without changing anything. It seemed too good to be true; we should have known better. Mom and dad had gone on vacation right before the outbreak; we hadn’t heard from them since. I didn’t expect, now, that we would.
My body was thrown off the door and I hit the green shag carpet, my hands and knees taking the brunt of the fall. Dustin helped me to my feet. We sprinted through the house and out the back into a small yard. There was no time to think, we just ran.
We burst out onto the road, doubling back on our own trail, slowing down for breath as we watched the three Nevermores who’d been chasing us break into the house. They would search it before getting back on our scent trail. This wasn’t the first time we’d been chased and I doubted it would be the last.
“Annie, we have to get food still,” Dustin said, keeping his voice low, adjusting the yet-to-be-filled bag on his back. He hadn’t let go of my hand yet. He was fourteen, but with the shift in the world’s food chain, he was no longer embarrassed to be seen with his older sister. Not that there was anyone to see us.
“Right. Let’s go down to the Safeway. We can see what’s left and then . . .”
“We can’t go home, can we?” he asked, his blue eyes wide, his lower lip trembling.
I shook my head, a mixed strand of purple and blond hair falling in front of my eyes. “No. We can’t.”
“I wish I never got that radio working,” he muttered, his fingers tightening over mine and then letting go.
I motioned for him to follow me and we ducked in and out of the shadows of buildings, finally making our way to the front of the Safeway store.
“Do you really think there might be food?” Dustin whispered as we crouched between two rows of shopping carts.