Home > Among Monsters (Red Hill #1.5)(15)

Among Monsters (Red Hill #1.5)(15)
Author: Jamie McGuire

Tavia covered her mouth as Dad backed out of the driveway, and then she reached up to grab my hand, squeezing tightly. We both knew that was just one of the first of many awful things I would see, that we would all see. Even when we wanted to look away, we would have to stare ugly things in the face just to stay alive.

Halle turned around, and I closed my eyes. It was only a matter of time before she would have that last bit of innocence taken from her, too. I couldn’t cover her eyes forever.

Dad pulled out onto the road, turning west.

West on Highway 11.

On our way to heaven…

Right after we get through hell.

The gas station was in the next town, but no one was manning the store inside. Dad used his credit card, whispering prayers I couldn’t quite make out. Then, he punched the air, the vein in his forehead bulging. He crossed his arms on the back corner of the Tahoe and rested his head.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I think something has to be tripped in there. I hope,” he said, narrowing his eyes at the store.

It was smaller than small. Dad reached inside, his feet coming off the ground, as he leaned over his seat toward the passenger side and grabbed his rifle.

“What are you doing?”

He cocked the gun. “I’m going to see if I can get the juice flowing. Can you try to run the card out here? Just do this.” He showed me how to insert the card into the slit and then pull it out. “Choose the grade by pressing the eighty-seven button,” he instructed, pressing it. “Then, take the pump off the holder and pull up the lever. The nozzle fits into the gas tank, like this, and squeeze the trigger,” he said as I watched him act it all out. “You got it?”

“I can do it.”

Tavia leaned out of her open window. “You didn’t have to go through all that. I can do it.”

“She needs to learn. She needs to learn everything,” Dad said, keeping his eyes on the store. He held the rifle in front of him with both hands and took his first step.

“Be careful,” I said. “They can sneak up on you.”

Dad didn’t turn around. When he reached the double doors, he banged on the glass with the stock of his gun. After nothing happened, he went inside.

I dipped the card into the slot, chose the grade, and then lifted the nozzle before placing it into the mouth of the SUV’s tank. The gas pump beeped again, but again, nothing happened, and the digital display returned to scrolling words.

Dad popped his head out of the door. “Try it one more time. I think I figured it out.”

I ran the card, but this time it was denied. “What? No,” I said, trying it again. The word Denied came up again.

Dad pushed through the doors and held up his hands, frustrated and confused.

“It says the card is denied!” I yelled.

He jogged over to me.

“She’s right,” Tavia said. “I was watching.”

“Damn it. Damn it!” Dad yelled to the sky. He palms against the driver’s side door, his fingertips turning white, his jaw muscles working beneath the skin. “We have to go back to Anderson.”

“What? No. We’ll go as far as we can, and then we’ll walk the rest of the way,” I said.

Dad glared at me. “With a toddler and a seven-year-old? Jenna, that’s not realistic.”

“We have a tent. We have everything we need. We’ll keep watch. We can find an empty house. We can make it.”

“It’s too dangerous. Those things are everywhere! We’re going back.”

“Mom isn’t in Anderson.”

“Jenna, something bad could happen. Are you willing to risk your sister’s life? Your mom wouldn’t want that.”

“She didn’t stay in Anderson because she knew we couldn’t survive there. We’ve talked about it. We—”

“I said no,” Dad said, his tone final.

“You weren’t there! You don’t get to make this decision! This is something Halle and I promised to Mom!”

“If she were that worried about riding this out with you, she wouldn’t have left. She was right there, Jenna, and she left!”

“Andrew!” Tavia scolded.

Tears filled my eyes and spilled down my cheeks.

Dad’s shoulders fell. “Damn it. Jenna, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it. I’m just frustrated.”

“She didn’t leave us. She is meeting us at Red Hill. That’s the plan. It’s always been the plan,” I said, sniffing.

“You’re right,” Dad said, his cheeks flushed.

“She didn’t leave us,” I said again, mostly to myself. “I know her. I know exactly what she is thinking. I would have done the same thing! She wasn’t sure if we would come back to your house. She knew where we would go, though, because we promised each other, and we keep our promises.”

Dad bobbed his head. “Load up. Let’s go.”

I climbed into the back, next to Tobin, crossing my arms, and Dad sat in the driver’s seat. He turned the ignition. The engine started, then sputtered, and died.

“No…c’mon…” He turned it again.

The engine made a whirring sound, but it didn’t catch this time. Dad slapped the steering wheel with both hands.

“Andrew,” Tavia said, her voice low and soothing, “we can walk. We can make it. It’ll just take us longer than originally planned.”

Dad nodded and ruffled Halle’s matted hair. “Okay, Pop Can, get your backpack. Take as much as you can carry.”

Halle obeyed, pulling her backpack over her shoulders.

Chapter Nine


Dad half-hoped a car would pass us and pull over, but he also worried that someone would try to take our stuff. I didn’t tell him that it was unlikely since it was only day two, and most people were either worried about getting home to their loved ones or concentrating on fortifying where they were.

“You don’t know that, Jenna. Everything you know is based on television shows,” Dad scolded.

“Which are based on common sense and historical facts,” I said.

“There has never been a zombie outbreak before.”

“But there’ve been disasters before. The behavior is the same.”

Dad sighed and shook his head. Then, he stopped and turned around. “Want me to carry him?”

Tobin had fallen asleep half an hour before, and Tavia had fallen further behind the longer we walked. She shook her head, too tired to talk.

Dad double-backed toward her, his arms out in front of him. “Give him to me. You’re no use if you’re exhausted. We still have fourteen miles to make before dark.”

Tavia’s chest heaved, handing her son over. “I’m really regretting my excuses not to walk with my friend Teresa.”

Dad chuckled, but his smile vanished when Halle pointed.

“Daddy!” she said, alarmed.

One of those things, a man, was stumbling toward us.

“It’s alone,” Dad said. “Probably from the next town. We’ll make a wide run around him and then run for a while to stay ahead of him.”

“I can’t run,” Tavia said, breathless.

The thing was coming closer.

Dad looked around. “We could find a place to hide, but he’ll probably just follow. Either way, we’ll have to pick up the pace.”

“If we kill it, we don’t have to,” I said.

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