She ran downstairs, thinking she was pursuing her father, but he was nowhere in sight. Cindy slid to a halt in front of her mother, arms folded with that constant look of disappointment written all over her face.
“I have to go in to work,” she said, keys in hand, tapping a perfectly manicured fingernail on her elbow. “You are to stay in the house until I get home.” Cindy hadn’t heard her mother go upstairs, but she was dressed in one of her tailored pants suits, looking every bit the runway model she could have been had she wanted and reminding Cindy just how inadequate she was. Morgan looked so effortless, like she wasn’t even trying–everything Cindy had always had to work so hard to achieve her mother had in excess.
God, she hated her.
Not in a literal sense, but in a way that was more of a reflection of how inadequate she was whenever she felt on the verge of competing with her mother. But she was so steeped in this emotion when her mother snatched her keys off the coffee table and strode to the door it didn’t exactly cross her mind to stop her.
“Wait,” she finally said once her mother was walking across the walkway toward her silver BMW X1. “Wait!” Cindy waved frantically to get her mother’s attention.
The words wouldn’t come out of her mouth, though. Cindy knew Morgan wouldn’t believe her, that short of knocking her much stronger and athletically inclined mother to the ground and dragging her back up the stairs and into the house there was nothing she could do to prevent what was about to happen.
Morgan shook her head and began walking toward her car, mumbling under her breath. The first one clipped her as she was opening the passenger door to put her purse in. Cindy’s father had warned her against doing that. The odds were if someone were going to attack you, they’d wait until you were opening the car door, when you’d be the least attentive and the most vulnerable. Morgan doubled her risk by opening her passenger door for her purse and then going around to the driver’s door for herself. She’d acknowledged that it was dumb, but did it anyway because it was habit.
“Mommy, no!” Cindy shouted, but was unable to move. The same irresistible instinct that had compelled her to continue running when Mario had fallen paralyzed her now, preventing her again from putting herself at risk. But she also couldn’t stop watching as a second fish-headed boy wobbled from around the rear of the car and sprang at her mother.
The first one, a smallish thing, was folding a strip of flesh into its mouth a few feet away. Morgan had been spun around and slammed against the vehicle, but had remained on her feet. She pushed off in time to meet the second, chopping it in the throat just before its razor teeth could take a chunk out of her face. Its already large fishy eyes bulged even more in their sockets and she speared the soulless orbs with her thumbnails. The creature screeched and reared back, clawing at the air with some sort of floppy fish arm. Morgan shot her palms into its midsection, sending it stumbling backward until it tripped over its feet and rolled around on the ground.
The little one had finished eating and turned back to Cindy’s mother. It jumped on her back and began clawing at her head with its baby T. Rex arms. She spun left and right, trying to throw it off, not seeing two more come around the car. One of them looked an awful lot like Sarah, it had on that top Cindy had tried to borrow from her a few times. They seemed a lot more sedate and by the time Morgan got the little one off her and had stomped on its head–bright orange goo pouring out of a crack in its skull and out of one eye–one of them had grabbed and began gnawing on an arm.
Morgan howled and began punching it in the face, but it had a hold of her like a pitbull. The other stepped around and tried coming at her from the other side, but Morgan at least had the wherewithal to kick it in the midsection, sending it stumbling back several paces. But it came back. Slowly, but it was coming again and the Sarah-looking one must have bitten down even harder because Morgan fought at it even harder.
Finally, Cindy broke free of her paralysis and stepped tentatively out on the porch. She picked up the potted plant by the steps and hefted it at the blinded one that was stumbling its way toward her mother. The thing went down, but immediately began crawling to its feet.
“I told you to stay in the house!” Morgan yelled over her shoulder.
“No buts, young lady. Get… in… the… house!” She punctuated her last four words with lethal blows to the head of the creature that had all but chewed off her arm. It hung at a wrong angle and her mother just looked down at it, swore, and whipped off her belt, quickly tying a tourniquet above the wound.
Cindy retreated to the door.
“Your arm, Mommy. Those things!”
“My arm is fine. These are just… dogs. I’ve fought dogs before.”
“Mommy, those aren’t dogs!”
“And this is not my foot about to disappear in your–owwww!”
The one she had blinded had found her legs and was savaging it. Morgan brought her purse down on its head. Something heavy had been in there because when she stood upright, thick orange goo was stuck to the bottom and the creature lay still.
Cindy’s mother stood upright and saw it was all over. They had her surrounded. At least a dozen of them.
Make sure to check back for the next installment this week! In the meantime, Anything but Zombies is out now! Go download a copy.