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Bruce was undaunted, though. He grabbed the stool and ripped it from Serg’s hands.

“Boden!” Serg yelled, backing up as far as he could go. “Fucking shoot him in the head!”

Bruce had grabbed onto Serg, one massive hand on each of his arms, and he’d begun squeezing him, crushing Serg with his bare hands.

Boden stood behind Bruce and aimed the crossbow up at the back of his head. It was nearly pointblank from that range, and when Boden pulled the trigger, the quill shot right into his head. It didn’t go all the way through, so the point was imbedded somewhere deep in Bruce’s brain.

It worked, though. Bruce let go of Serg, stumbled back, and then fell to floor so hard, the whole house shook.

“Please.” Hayley cradled her arm and scooted back away from me with tears in her eyes. “Please, don’t kill me.”

“Fine.” I lowered the poker. It didn’t seem right to attack her when she was defenseless like that.  “Get your shit and get out of here.”

“Thank you,” she said and struggled to get to her feet. “Thank you.”

She went over to gather her bag, as well as Louis’s, but since she only had one arm, that was a bit of a problem. As she fumbled around with the straps, I turned back to see how Serg was doing.

He sat on the counter, rubbing his arms. “Don’t ever grab the crossbow again,” Serg told Boden. “Use it for hunting, sure, but if we’re fighting zombies or something, no crossbow.”

“Sorry,” Boden said. “I didn’t think I’d actually have to shoot anybody with it, though. I thought that just bringing it out would be enough to scare them off.”

“We all survived,” I said. “And that’s what counts.”

“Yeah.” Boden had been looking at Serg, but then he turned toward me and his eyes widened with fear. “Remy!”

Then it was slow motion. I was turning around to see what was behind me, and the gun was going off, a loud shot that echoed through the room.

I lifted my arm, thinking I needed to shield myself from something, but I saw Hayley with a hole blown in her chest, falling back to the floor. When she landed, a knife clattered out of her hand.

She’d gotten a knife from her bag and was running up behind me to kill me.

I didn’t understand the gunshot until I looked at the top of the stairs. Max was lying on the floor, his feet hanging over the top step, with a shotgun lying next to him.

“Max!” I yelled and ran up the steps to him.

“Did I get her?” Max asked and sat up.

“Yeah, you got her.” I sat down next to him and brushed the hair back from his eyes. “What were you doing?”

“I heard you fighting, so I got the gun out from your room,” Max explained. I kept a loaded shotgun under the bed, in case zombies broke in during the night. “Then I saw her coming at you, so I shot her.”

“Oh.” I dropped my hand and didn’t know what to say to that. He’d saved my life, but he had just killed somebody. And he was only eight. The recoil had been so strong, it’d knocked him down.

“Did I do something wrong?” Max asked.

“No.” I shook my head and put my arm around him, pulling him to me. “No, you didn’t. I just wish that you hadn’t had to do that.”

“I know.” He pulled away from me, so he could look up at me. “I know you wish things were different, but they aren’t. This is the way things are, Remy. And they’re not going back to the way they used to be, no matter how much you want them to.”

33.

Boden, Serg, and I took the bodies out back and burned them. We didn’t want to leave them in the yard to rot and attract zombies and animals. That proved to be a lot of work when it came to Bruce, and just getting him out the back door and into the grass was exhausting.

The smell of burning flesh was horrendous, even from inside the house with all the windows closed. I went around the house lighting every scented candle they had, which ended up being quite a lot.

Serg went to bed fairly early. He was sore from the fight and tired from moving bodies. Max had been acting weird the rest of the night, and he went to our room shortly after Serg went up. I asked if he wanted to talk, but Max said he just needed to rest.

The fire was still burning, and I wouldn’t sleep until it was out, out of fear it would catch the house on fire while we slept. I sat in the living room, watching it out the back window. Stella had curled up next to me, watching it for a while, but she’d fallen asleep.

Boden had taken her up to her room and put her to bed. I’d strained lake water, and then boiled it over the fire in the fireplace to make myself a cup of tea. I sat on the couch with my knees to my chest, slowly dipping the blackberry tea bag in and out of a coffee mug.

“So you’re just gonna stay up all night?” Boden asked as he came back down the stairs after getting Stella tucked in.

“If the fire goes all night,” I said.

“I think it might.” He sat down on the couch next to me. “It’s kind of beautiful, isn’t it?”

The yellow and orange flames danced in the night sky, making the entire living room glow.

“It would be,” I admitted, “if it weren’t a bonfire of human flesh.”

He sighed and leaned his head back on the couch. “You need stop that, Remy.”

“Stop what?” I turned back to look at him, his face glowing orange from the fire.

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