An abby screamed on the other side of the door.
Something slammed into the bathroom door.
The wood started to split down the middle.
Ethan racked a shell and shot a slug through the center of the door, heard something thunk into the wall on the other side.
There was now a slug-size hole in the door, and a puddle of blood leaking underneath it, beginning to spread across the checkered tile.
Ethan climbed up onto the rim of the bathtub.
He dropped the shotgun on the roof and squeezed through the window as another abby smashed into the door behind him.
Kneeling under the window frame, Ethan fed eight shells into the tube and then draped the strap over his shoulder.
The abby was still trying to beat down the bathroom door.
Ethan closed the window and sidestepped carefully down to the edge of the roof.
It dropped twelve feet to the backyard.
He got down on his hands and knees and lowered himself over the edge, clutching the gutter until he’d managed to extend himself fully and reduce the drop to five feet.
He hit the ground hard and let his legs buckle to absorb the impact, rolled, and quickly regained his feet.
Through the panes of glass in the back door, he could see things running inside the house.
Ethan jogged around the brick patio, his muscles, his bones, every square inch of real estate on his body caught in a trajectory of increasing agony.
The fence was built of weathered one-by-sixes, five feet high, with a gate that led out into the side yard.
He peered over the top—no abbies that he could see.
Threw the latch and tugged the gate open just enough to slide through.
Up on the second floor, he heard glass explode.
He jogged alongside the house and slowed as he reached the front yard.
For the moment—empty.
He stared at the two cars parked along the curb in front of Maggie’s house.
An old CJ-5 Jeep with a soft top.
A white Buick station wagon that looked prehistoric.
He dug the keys out of his pocket.
Three on the ring.
Somewhere above him, he heard a scrape that might have been talons dragging across the tin roof.
He sprinted out into the yard.
Halfway to the curb, he looked back just in time to see an abby leap down off the roof over the porch.
It hit the ground and charged.
Ethan stopped at the sidewalk, spun, raised the shotgun, and fired a slug through its sternum.
Inside the house, screams rose up.
The station wagon was the closest.
Fifty-fifty chance of being Maggie’s car.
Ethan pulled open the passenger-side door, dove in, and shut it behind him.
Climbing in behind the steering wheel, he jammed the first key into the ignition.
Key number two.
It slid in nicely.
But it wouldn’t turn.
An abby exploded out the front door of Maggie’s house.
Four abbies appeared behind the first—as two of them rushed out onto the grass to their dying friend, the last of the three keys failed to even enter the keyhole.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
Ethan ducked down in the seat and crammed himself against the floorboard.
He couldn’t see a thing, but he could hear the abbies in the yard.
They’re going to look in and see you and then what? Go right now.
Reaching up, he grasped the door handle and quietly tugged.
The door creaked open.
He slithered out onto the pavement, staying low against the car, hidden from the view of the house.
No abbies in the street.
He rose up until he could just see through the windows.
Counted six of them in the front yard, and through the open door he could see two more eating what was left of Hecter.
The Jeep was parked a few feet up from the station wagon’s bumper.
He grabbed the shotgun out of the front seat and crawled across the pavement.
Risking visibility for several seconds, he passed between the Buick and the Jeep, but they didn’t see him.
Ethan stood, stared through the plastic windows of the soft-top.
Some of the abbies had gone back inside.
One was still crouched over the carcass of the abby Ethan had just shot, whimpering.
The driver-side door was unlocked.
Ethan climbed in, set the shotgun between the seats.
He got the first key in as an abby screamed.
They’d seen him.
They were moving his way.
He turned the key.
Started fumbling for the second key and then realized there wasn’t time. He grabbed the shotgun and jumped down out of the Jeep, ran into the middle of the road.
Five were already running at him.
No misses or you die.
He shot the one out in front, and then the two to the left, backpedaling in the street as the last pair closed in.
It took three rounds to bring down the fourth.
Only one to drop the fifth as it drew within ten feet.
Three more abbies ran out of the house. In his peripheral vision, he noted movement in the streets all around him—swarms of abbies coming from every direction.
A growl behind him turned his head.
Two abbies darting straight at him on all fours like a pair of missiles—a large female and a smaller abby that couldn’t have weighed more than seventy-five pounds.
He aimed at the smaller one.
It went rolling across the pavement.
Its creamy-eyed mother skidded to a stop and crouched over her fallen young.
Let out a long, tragic howl.
Ethan ejected the spent shell.
The mother looked at him and there was no mistaking the intelligent, burning hate that narrowed her eyes.
She came up on her hind legs, ran at him.
He dropped the shotgun and drew his pistol as he backed toward the Jeep, brought the mother down with two .50 cal rounds through her throat.
They were everywhere.
He made his move toward the Jeep.
A seven-foot-tall abby leapt onto the hood.
Ethan accidently put another two rounds—double tap muscle memory—through its upper torso.
He reached the driver-side door as an abby appeared around the back of the Jeep.
Ethan dropped it with a head shot at point-blank range, a half second before the abby got a talon through his windpipe.
He climbed in.
Couldn’t remember which key he’d tried last time and just shoved in the first one he could get between his fingers.
An abby appeared behind the plastic window on the passenger side.
A talon sliced through and a long, muscled arm reached inside.
Ethan lifted the Desert Eagle from his lap and shot it in the face as it tried to climb into the Jeep.