Adventure Friendship Teens & Young Adult

“Hey, Celeste, you won’t believe what I found in the bathroom! This farmhouse is a jackpot! I mean, Jake and Andrew might not agree with me, but I know you will. There’s perfume here!” Nia, the youngest and most energetic member of our group, comes running toward me holding a small purple bottle.

“Careful!” I shout back to her. “This house is old, and you never know when you might—” I’m cut off as her foot breaks through one of the rotting floorboards and she falls backward. I rush over to her and kneel down. “Are you okay? Did you hurt anything?”

“Just my pride. And my butt might be a little bruised.”

“Well, it’s a good thing you didn’t twist your ankle. You never know when you’ll have to run from zombies. C’mon, let’s get you up.” I grab her arm and haul her back to her feet. “All right, there wasn’t any food so let’s find the boys and get out of here.”

As we start to walk out we hear a gunshot behind the house. Nia and I immediately start running toward the noise and I pull my gun out of my jeans’ waistband. When we round the corner of the house we nearly collide with Jake, who has his gun out and looks prepared to fire. Before he mistakes us for zombies and accidentally shoots us, I say, “It’s just us!”

“Was there anything useful in the house?”

Knowing he wouldn’t count perfume as being useful, I tell him, “Nope. Somebody must have hit this house a while ago.”

“Dang. I was hoping to go a couple of days without eating canned beans.”

Before I can agree there’s a loud crash and Andrew appears, bloody ax in his hand and a crazy look in his eyes. “RUUUUNNNNNNNN!” Like idiots, we just stare at his back as he runs away.

“Ummm, guys? I think we have a little problem.” Nia says.

I follow her gaze. “Horde.” With that, the three of us take off after Andrew. We can handle a few zombies, but a horde? The best thing we could hope for was to outrun the flesh-eaters. Even Andrew isn’t crazy enough to take one on.

We catch up to Andrew and I look around for a place to hide, but we’re on a farm and surrounded by large fields. I fire a few shots and a couple of zombies fall but it doesn’t make a difference. Destroying hordes is impossible unless you have something to blow them up.

“Over here! There’s some kind of ladder that goes into the ground!”

I follow the sound of Jake’s voice and find him in a small shed with various pieces of big equipment. He’s standing over a thick metal trapdoor with a ladder. As I’m studying it, Andrew throws a newly-wet ax down the hole and climbs in after it. Nia is only a few seconds behind him and slams the shed door shut.

“I really hope you guys have a plan because that door won’t hold them off for long. Oh, there’s a hole! Can you hold the perfume for me while I climb down?”

I roll my eyes but smile and take the glass bottle from her. Once her head disappears I turn to Jake. “You go down first. I’ll be right behind you.”

He looks as if he’s about to argue, but the small structure we’re standing in starts to shake and he nods. “Come down as soon as I’m out of the way.”

I roll my eyes for the second time in a minute as he, too, disappears down the hole. Taking one last look at the shed, I spot a shotgun hanging on the wall. It looks like it’s in good condition, so I try to pull it off the wall but it gets caught behind a piece of machinery. Cursing under my breath, I tug hard and finally pull the weapon free. The walls give an ominous tremble and I rush over to the trapdoor. My hand is on the first rung when a zombie breaks through the thin wall and staggers over to me. Dropping the shotgun down the hole, I shoot it with my other gun and slam the trapdoor shut. I immediately hear pounding coming from the other side, but they don’t seem to be able to break through the door.

“Okay, I think we’re good,” I call down to the others. Of course, as soon as I say that my foot slips on the next rung and I fall the rest of the way down. There’s a shattering noise and the scent of lavender engulfs me until the world goes black.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

My feet pound on the pavement and my breath comes in short gasps as I sprint through the abandoned mall parking lot. A glance over my shoulder tells me the four zombies are only a few yards behind me. Finally, I reach the entrance and dash through the doors. I run into the first store I see and duck out of sight. I can hear the zombies grunting and moaning as they approach my hiding spot and I prepare to run, but they stumble past me and I let out a quiet sigh of relief. I’m safe—for now.

Standing up, I get a good look at my surroundings. It’s a large store, filled with clothes and toys and everything in between. Most of the racks are tipped over and their items are strewn about on the floor. Picking my way through the mess, I see a display in the back that looks mostly untouched.

There are dozens and dozens of spray bottles in all different colors lined up on shelves. Taking one, I squeeze it and cough as a flowery scent fills the air. Perfume. I used to have a friend that loved perfume, but when she was out shopping one day she got bitten by a zombie. I never understood why she took such a risk, but now I do. This is the only way to get the scent of rotting flesh off you and out of your nose. Grinning, I squeeze the next bottle and sniff the air. I inhale a light minty scent this time.

I continue down the shelves until I have smelled every bottle, although I’m not sure I actually smelled the last few. At this point, I wouldn’t smell the rotting flesh of a zombie if it was standing in front of me. There’s a large case filled with purple perfume bottles in front of me, but before I can open it I sneeze. Then I sneeze again. And again. And again. 

“Hey!” I hear a startled voice between sneezes. “Who are you?”

I hold a finger up toward the voice and when my sneezes begin to subside, straighten up and meet the boy’s gaze. I notice he looks about my age—seventeen—before my eyes are drawn to the gun in his hand. The gun that’s currently pointed at me. 

“I said, who are you? Are you here to steal our food? Are you alone? Where are your friends?”

I blink a couple of times to take in the barrage of questions. “Ummm, I’m not sure I remember all your questions, Mr. Detective, but I’ll do my best. I’m Celeste, I don’t want to steal your food, I’m alone except for the few zombies that chased me here, and I’m pretty sure everybody I used to be friends with would try to eat me if they were given the chance.” I smile at him. “Can you put the gun down now?”

“Why should I believe you? For all I know, you’re just distracting me while your friends steal my food.” He lowers the gun but keeps it in his hand.

“Seriously? First, I can find food on my own. I don’t need to steal from anyone. Second, isn’t the human population being reduced enough from the zombies? Do you want to add to that? And, third, if I were trying to distract you why would I be in the back of a huge store smelling perfume?!” By the end of my little rant, I’m practically shouting at him, and the noise echoes around us.

Still refusing to listen to common sense, the boy gestures to the front of the store with his gun. “Walk. Try anything and I’ll shoot you.”

Believing that, I let him guide me out of the store and through the long hallways until we reach the food court. There are a girl and another boy on the far end of the massive room, and we make our way over to them. The girl is short, probably about five feet, and has light brown hair cut to her shoulders. The other boy standing next to her is giant. He’s at least 6’4 and has broad shoulders that make the girl look like a little doll. He also has a wicked-looking ax slung over his shoulder that he isn’t being nearly careful enough with.

“This is Celeste. I found her in the back of the big store out front.”

“Why does she smell so weird?” The scary boy asks. I hope he doesn’t decide to use that ax on me because I used perfume.

Before the detective boy can answer, the girl asks, “Did she attack you?” She makes a face that implies she doesn’t believe I would do anything like that.


“So why are you pointing a gun at her? Did she do something else?” I’m starting to like this girl. Unlike her friend with the gun, she has some common sense.

“You can never be too careful in this world.”

At that statement, I can’t stop the snort from escaping me. “I’m not plotting some scheme to attack you and steal everything you own. I was just looking around in the back of a store. By myself. I didn’t do anything wrong.”

“See, Jake, she’s not going to hurt us.” The girl steps up to me and gives me a quick hug. “Hi, I’m Nia and the big guy with the ax is Andrew. You’ve already met my brother, Jake. I promise he isn’t always this paranoid. Well, some of the time he’s not.” Nia must see me eying Andrew nervously because she lowers her voice to a whisper and tells me, “He looks like a mean grizzly bear, but on the inside, he’s a sweet little teddy bear. Unless you’re a zombie. Then all bets are off.”

Despite Nia’s reassurances, I’m still a little—no, a lot—nervous when Andrew the teddy bear comes to stand in front of me. He smiles at me, though, and holds out his hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Celeste. I know you said you weren’t here to steal our food, but we have extra if you want it.” 

I shake his hand in disbelief. I was expecting him to be worse than Jake but I am glad I turned out to be wrong. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Jake tuck his gun into the inside pocket of his jacket. He doesn’t look very happy with this turn of events. “No offense, but why do you smell like flowers?” Nia says.

“I was checking out the perfume section in a store and got a little carried away.”

Nia’s eyes widen and she turns to Jake. “There were unbroken perfume bottles and you didn’t tell me! Celeste, show me where the display is.” Obeying her orders, I lead her back through the hallways and into the big store. 

“Nia, wait! You don’t have your gun!” Jake calls out from behind us. We slow down enough to let the boys catch up, but keep moving toward our destination. Finally, we reach the perfume display. Some of the bottles are on the wrong shelves from when I was here, but it is otherwise the same as I left it. Nia rushes over to the shelves and sprays and sniffs the air. Each time Jake or Andrew gets a whiff of it, they make a face.

“Did you smell one of the bottles inside this case? They’re all lavender.”

“Nope. I was just about to when I was rudely interrupted.” Jake refuses to look away when I glare at him.

“Raauuughhh. Raaa uuuhhhh.”

“Was that a . . .” Andrew starts.

“Zombie.” I finish for him. “It must be one of the ones that chased me here. I thought they left, but they must have stuck around. There were four of them.”

Andrew lifts his ax over his head and brings it down hard on the zombie. It falls to the ground and doesn’t move again. I definitely don’t want to be on his bad side. Jake fires his gun in the same direction a few times and I see two more zombies drop. Three down, one to go. 

That’s when we hear it. A low rumbling noise, like a large crowd is moving toward us from the front of the store. Then a large crowd does come into view all around. Except, these aren’t people. These are flesh-eating zombies. Andrew lifts his ax a little higher and Jake pulls out a second gun. To my surprise, he hands it to me. I guess you can’t be picky about who helps you when you’re about to die.

“Guys, over here! There’s a back door,” says Nia from behind the lavender case. There is indeed a door with a faded Employees Only sign on it. Nia and I step through, but Jake and Andrew are attacked. Andrew takes out a couple of zombies while Jake pushes on the glass display case. It falls over on the unsuspecting zombies and they pause for a second, allowing both boys to get through the door before we close it.

“I thought you said there were four of them! I’m not a genius, but even I know that was enough to be a horde,” says Jake.

“There were only four that chased me through the parking lot. They must have been separated from the group.”

“Guys, we should probably get out of here before the zombies realize they can’t get to us through here and surround us,” Andrew says. His calm demeanor is at odds with his bloody ax as he leads us down the hallway. When we come to a door, he holds a finger to his lips and opens it slowly. It must be clear because he beckons for us to follow him. We walk as quietly as we can through the mall, wincing at every small noise. We’re near the exit when Nia trips on a cooking display and sends a bunch of pots and pans clattering to the floor.


Forgetting about being quiet, we tear down the hallway toward the door but skid to a halt when we smell it. Instead of smelling like rotting flesh and death, the horde has a strong scent of lavender. We skid to a halt and watch as a lavender horde comes around the corner. Whoever once thought zombies were slow was wrong. When they see human flesh, they turn into lightning-fast killing machines.

“Do we. Have. A plan,” I gasp out. You’d think with how many zombies there are I’d have better endurance, but no. My body refuses to be good at cardio.

“We have a van in the parking lot. We can outrun them in it.” Jake, of course, is barely breathing hard as he tells me.

We reach the end of the building with the lavender-smelling horde right behind us. I’m pretty sure we’re all about to get bitten, but the door frames slow the zombies down. Some of them run right into the wall. Facing forward again, I follow Nia across the parking lot to their van. It’s all white except for the words NO ZOMBIES ALLOWED painted on the side.

We all pile in as quickly as we can—Andrew at the wheel, Jake in the passenger seat, and me and Nia in the back. The doors slam shut not a second too late and the scent of lavender fills the vehicle. For a heart-stopping moment, the engine makes a strange noise before it starts and we pull away. The zombies try to chase us but it isn’t long before we lose them.

We all look at each other and then Nia lets out a small laugh. Then we’re all laughing hysterically and clutching our stomachs. Even Jake grins at me. “We made. The horde. Smell like. Lavender,” Nia gasps out. This only makes us laugh harder and we continue like this for a while.

Eventually, Jake turns around to look at me. “I know I didn’t give you the best welcome ever, but I think you should stick around. That is if you want to.”

I catch Andrew’s eye in the rearview mirror and he gives me a small smile. When I look at Nia she says, “If you try to leave I’m gonna tie you up and keep you in the van.”

Laughing, I say, “I would love to stay with you guys.”

“So, where to?” Andrew asks.

“Anywhere as long as it’s not a mall,” Jake responds, and we all settle back and prepare for our next adventure.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

“Celeste. Celeste. CELESTE!”

“Shut up,” I mutter to the voice. Blinking my eyes open, I see that it’s Jake. “What happened?”

“You fell down the ladder and hit your head. There’s a bump there, but I think you’re going to be fine. Nia and Andrew left a few minutes ago to check out the tunnel.”

“Well then, what are we waiting for? Let’s go on an adventure.” With that, Jake helps me up and we join Nia and Andrew. “Sorry about the perfume,” I say to Nia.

With a glint in her eyes, she tells me, “It’s ok. I’m sure we’ll find more somewhere else.”

October 02, 2020 17:50

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