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Megan stood over me, her bright red hair even more brilliant than before she got sick. The colors were vibrant, varied, as if every shade from burgundy to yellow was represented in her long, luscious, wavy locks. Megan’s skin was white, smooth, touched with bright pink at her lips and cheeks. She looked like a doll made from the finest porcelain. Too beautiful to be real.
“Did any blood get in your mouth?” she asked.
I just stared up at her. She crouched down, her hair floating around her for a moment because she moved so fast that it took gravity time to catch up.
“Did it get in your mouth?” she asked again, her voice low and earnest. I reached a hand out to touch her face but she wrapped her own fingers around mine before I could reach her cheek. Megan’s skin felt cold, deathly cold. A shiver traveled down to my wrist, along my arm, over my shoulder, and straight to my heart, which thundered in response.
Megan leaned closer to me, her eyes scanning my lips, then she smiled. “No, you bit it,” she said.
“We have to go,” a man said. Megan turned to him, but I just stared at her, looking at the elegant length of her neck, the veins almost violet under her pale skin.
“I know,” Megan answered before returning to me. “Come on,” she said. “Can you stand?”
The man came around Megan and crouched down next to me. Megan put her hand on his shoulder. “She does not like to be touched,” she said.
“It won’t be a problem,” he assured her, reaching toward me. His eyes were the pale blue of very thick ice. High elegant cheekbones and plump red lips combined with his slender waist gave him an air of androgyny.
“She will walk,” Megan insisted. He frowned but relented, standing up. He was wearing a tailored suit, charcoal gray with burgundy and black thread running through it. He straightened his tie (narrow and matte black) before crossing behind Megan over to where Basil was pinned against my apartment building wall by a zombie. Megan’s companion grabbed the creature around its neck. I saw his fingers tighten, pressing through the flesh. The head popped off, flying sideways and bouncing on the ground. The rest of the body crumpled at his feet. He shook his hand and bits of flesh flew off it.
Basil straightened his jacket and nodded at Megan’s companion before hurrying to Issa’s side. “We can’t leave them,” I said, pointing at Issa’s unconscious body. Megan took the keys from my hand and unlocked the front door.
“4G,” she told Basil. He didn’t waste time. Grabbing Issa by the arm, he slung the taller man over his shoulder, then took the offered keys and walked through the door. Megan closed it behind them and gestured toward a navy SUV idling at the curb. “We need to go.”
“My violin,” I said, looking over to where the case lay on the ground. It was scuffed up, smears of blood on its rough black exterior, but still intact. Megan picked it up in a blur of movement. She took my hand and pulled me to my feet.
“He was going to tell me–”
Megan cut me off. “We have to go now.” Sirens were wailing in the distance. Screaming still filled the air. Megan opened the back door and helped me in. A zombie fell against the opposite window; its palms pressed against the glass, viscous drool seeped from its mouth. Megan slammed my door. The creature flew backwards, and Megan was sitting next to me with the door closed by the time it hit the building across the street.
“I need to blindfold you,” she said.
“What?” I asked.
“Just trust me,” she said.
“Trust you,” I parroted.
“Yes,” she nodded.
“Okay,” I said.
She smiled, relieved. The elegant man passed her a black hood from where he sat in the driver’s seat. Megan pulled it over my head, blocking all but the strongest light from passing through to my eyes.
The sirens were closer now. Loud over the sound of our engine as we started forward. The rat tat tat of gunfire in the distance. Megan wrapped her hand into mine. I couldn’t believe that she was really here. And the longer we drove the less I believed it. The sirens faded, our speed increased, and soon I heard nothing except for the engine, my own breath, and the whine of our tires on blacktop.
Without the sight of her and only experiencing Megan’s smooth, cold, hard fingers interlaced with mine, I began to feel as though I was holding hands with a statue rather than a person. It was impossible that Megan could be a person. Not only should her body be weak and riddled with disease but she ought to be dead. Instead, she exhibited speed and strength beyond the bounds of biology.
My world, which had always felt disjointed and confused but anchored by Megan, now seemed totally untethered. People were attacking each other. Ripping out each other’s throats and then rising, their wounds fresh and lurid, to stumble through the streets looking for another victim. I remembered climbing into the kitchen cabinet of a two-room cabin my father built and was discovered by police in a completely different place. Megan was dying, Megan disappeared. Megan was here, with me.
I heard the crunch of gravel under the tires and moments later we rolled to a slow stop. I heard the front door open and close. “Darling,” Megan said. Her voice saying my name sounded so right. “We are here. I will take the hood off once we get you inside.”
I heard and felt my door open. The air was cooler here, fresher. Megan’s voice in front of me now, “Come on,” she said, taking my elbow. A gentle touch held the back of my head down as I climbed out.
“I’ll carry her, it’s better,” I heard the man say. His voice was smooth, the hint of a United Kingdom’s accent. “I promise you she will not mind,” he assured Megan and I believed him.
“No,” Megan said, her voice low and stern. She led me, holding my elbow, over gravel, then grass. I could hear a gentle breeze rustling leaves. The tinkling sound of a stream mixed with the vibration of crickets. “There are stairs coming up,” Megan said. “Here they are, raise your foot.” I did as I was told and we traveled up four steps. They did not creak or wheeze like wood. The smoothness of them made me think I was walking on stone. This sensation continued as we moved indoors.
The air warmed and I could smell the lingering scent of smoke from a wood fire. Our footsteps echoed so that I felt the room was large. “I’m taking off the hood now,” Megan said quietly, her breath moving against the fabric. She lifted it over my head and I blinked for a moment while my eyes focused. That’s when I realized hers had changed.
While one eye was still the emerald green I remembered, the other was frosty blue just like the man she was traveling with. “You’re okay, Darling,” she said. “Everything is okay.”
I felt my lips moving with hers, and my mind agreeing. She smiled and then stepped to my side, her arm sliding through mine. It was an achingly familiar gesture. The sweet intimacy of our sides touching was something I’d relished. But Megan’s body felt harder now, not the soft flesh I’d once known.