The Non-Believers, Pt II #free #bookboost #iartg @AtriaBooks

Read Pt I of “The Non-Believers” here.

They made it to Cindy’s house with no further sightings of the creatures that had pursued them. Had it not been for copious amounts of blood and viscera coating them all (and Gregory’s badly wounded legs) they might have fooled themselves into thinking what they’d been through had been some sort of horrid joke perpetrated by the friends who weren’t there. Cindy had to admit the makeup was doable and it wasn’t as if she’d been examining the wounds as that thing had dug into Martin’s abdomen or how Gregory’s sister had fallen and been dragged into bushes screaming the whole way. It was perfectly natural to assume someone was being bitten when a disheveled stranger growled and put his mouth on you. Even her beau had often found it funny to pull some completely mindless prank at her expense and laughed even harder the angrier she got. It would be just like him to come up with such an idea and then pop out at a later time and say, “Oh man, C, you should just see the look on your face!”

“Could this be a… joke?” Cindy turned and asked the other three as they stood on the deck. Matt and Delilah just looked at her, stupefied. Gregory looked on the verge of being sick and passing out.

“Are you kidding?” Delilah asked. “You saw what happened back there. Those things ate Martin!” Her voice increased in pitch with each word until she was practically screaming by sentence’s end. “And look at Greg’s legs. How is that a joke?”

Cindy nodded and turned back to the door. She pounded on it and took a step back, casting a long glance over her shoulder to the field where they had just been. A moment later her father came to the door, pipe firmly clenched between his teeth.

“Hey kids!” he said cheerily. Cindy winced from his all too jovial tone, the emotional equivalent of turning on a flashlight in someone’s face. She pushed past her father and the others followed before she nudged him aside and slammed the door shut.

“Is Popeye outside?” she asked him.

“Why, yes,” he said, quickly looking her up and down. “Cindy, what’s going on? Are you okay?”

“No, Dad,” she began. “There’s… been…” she struggled for the words as they choked in her throat. “Mario’s dead!”

She resisted the urge to throw her arms around her father and bawl, the tears already streaming down her face. She would have been able to take comfort from her father, to hear him tell her how everything would be all right, except he had that damn pipe clenched between his teeth. It made him look ridiculous and when he put his hands on her arms and squeezed she shook him off.

“Aw, honey, I’m sure it’s not as bad as it seems,” he said, clearly missing the exactitude of her words. She began busying herself, helping Gregory into a chair and prodding around his bite wounds. “Did you guys have a fight?”

“No!” she said, fixing him with a hostile stare. “He’s dead, Daddy. Zombies ate him.”

“Ohhhh,” he began and completely failed at heading off a laugh. “I-I-I see. And-and where were these zombies.”

“Mr. Nostrand, Cindy’s telling the truth, Delilah said. Matt nodded in agreement. “We were out at the clearing and–”

“Out at the clearing,” Cindy’s father jumped in, suddenly enraged. “Maggie!” he called over his shoulder. The hurricane of words Cindy was set to throw at her father; that he never listened to her, never believed in her, always took her for granted–years worth of pent up frustration was suddenly dammed up with those five words.

They weren’t supposed to be there. Cindy had been expressly forbidden by her parents and she had known exactly why and had gone anyway.

“Daaad,” she said weakly, but he sliced through the air with one hand, silencing her.

They all remained in silence until Mrs. Nostrand joined them a few moments later. Cindy felt like she was being prodded with a thousand tiny shards of ice down her spine and over the backs of her arms.

“Guess who just decided to take her friends to the clearing?” Cindy’s father said. Her mother’s eyes widened and widened even further as she stared at her daughter.

“How… how could you?” Mrs. Nostrand said, her eyes instantly glistening. She clutched at her husband’s side. “How could you hurt us like this when you know what happened?” They were the ultimate one-two punch, good cop, bad cop, thunder and lightning. It was always this way with the two of them, no matter what was going on in Cindy’s life. They were playing the trump card, but Cindy had to try something to swing the conversation back her way.

“I know I screwed up, but–”

“No!” her mother howled. “No, no, no, noooooooooo!”

“Mommy…”

“Go to your room! Nowwwwww!”

Cindy looked at her friends, hoping for some kind of defense, but they were all stunned to silence. Even Gregory was quiet. Cindy slunk past her parents, heading for the stairs.

“Are we… are we supposed to go with her?” Matt asked.

 

Make sure to check back for the next installment this week! In the meantime, Anything but Zombies is out now! Go download a copy.

 

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