Anna fought against Nick, fists flying but barely finding purchase as sobs wracked her body.
For once in his life, Nick had no idea what to do. There were zombies closing in on them, and there was no way John was still alive. Watching one of your classmates get ripped to shreds by zombies was something that you couldn't just walk away from seeing- but John had been Anna's best friend. In that moment, Nick knew that if he hadn't insisted they take the shortcut through the Christmas Tree Emporium that John might've still been alive. John was dead, because of him.
Holding his hands up weakly, he closed his eyes as he let Anna keep hitting him- until she stopped; Nick looking up as Steph intervened.
"Hey!" Anna was still crying, but Steph had her by the arm; eyes focused, jaw set.
"Hey! Your dad is waiting for you."
Anna took a breath, slowly bringing her eyes to meet Steph's.
Steph tightened her grip on Anna's arm, seeing a glimmer of something cross her eyes. She hated Anna. God, did she hate Anna sometimes. But there was no way she was going to let her just give up and possibly let them all get killed by the ravenous horde of zombies that had just killed John.
Steph nodded, holding Anna's gaze until Anna gave a small nod in return. Steph gave Anna's arm a reassuring squeeze before letting go- stepping back as Anna swung her plastic candy cane up over her shoulder.
Chris held fast to his phone, camera long since turned off. If there was one thing that he felt should never be immortalized through video, it was the kind of sacrifice John made for them. Solemnly, he looked around at the other members of the group- seeing Anna rub tears from her eyes roughly before taking a swing at a rogue zombie. Chris flinched, phone clutched tightly as Anna took out zombie after zombie- blood splattering as the four of them fought their way out of the Christmas Tree Emporium.
He flinched, keeping his eyes focused on the back of Anna's head as she bashed a zombified Santa Clause in the face- sending a few teeth flying as she took all her anger out on the bloodthirsty animated corpses that lumbered towards her.
John was dead.
Anna's fingers tightened around the oversized plastic candy cane as she pummeled another zombie into the ground- feeling as if something broke deep inside her. John, her best friend since primary school, was gone. There was no way she was going to see him again; unless he lumbered up to her in a fully-zombified state and then she'd be forced to kill him again before he bit her. She knew she was supposed to be sad- when someone dies, you're supposed to be sad. But when Anna's mum had died, Anna hadn't felt anything. She was supposed to be sad, be angry, be terrified of facing the world without her mother there to guide her. But all Anna could remember feeling was an emptiness that took over her entire body- making her feel as if her entire life and everything that had happened to her was fuzzy around the edges; not quite real, and not at all upsetting. After all, if you don't feel anything then you can't be upset.
The emptiness bloomed in Anna's chest, and she felt her eyes begin to dry as she blinked away the remaining tears that had been clouding her vision. Her mum was dead. John was dead. She wasn't dead- but she very well felt like she was. She kept walking, not wanting to look back and have to deal with the concerned expressions that were likely plastered across the faces of her companions. Sighing, Anna clocked a final zombie coming towards them- and she choked up on her plastic candy cane before taking the spike on the bottom of it and ramming it in between the eyes of the final zombie in the Christmas Tree Emporium.
Steph exclaimed, jumping slightly as Anna swung her candy cane back, nearly hitting Steph in the process. Anna didn't seem to notice, stepping forward and pushing the exit door open and stepping out onto the street. She knew that there very well could have been zombies on the other side of the door, but at the moment Anna couldn't care less. Steph, Chris, and Nick filed out of the door- and the four of them stood there, staring blankly at the eerily empty street ahead of them. There were less than two kilometers between them and the safety of their school, but none of them seemed to be able to muster up the strength to move.
The four of them looked horrendous- Chris's trousers were ripped at the knee; the exposed skin raw and bloody from when he'd dived to retrieve his phone from the floor of the shop. Anna and Steph were covered in blood splatter from the zombies they'd killed; Steph's white-blonde hair was miraculously the only part of her that wasn't completely blood-stained, and Anna's gaze was heavy- as if she were deep in thought (or desperately trying to keep herself from breaking down in the middle of the street). Nick had his baseball bat resting on his shoulder- his fingers turning white from how tightly he was holding it. He surveyed the street, eyes darting back and forth- waiting for the next eventual influx of zombies.
It was an unintentional moment of silence- the four of them standing together, looking out across the street as they all processed the fact that John was no longer a member of their party. Silently, it was as if they all had agreed that John deserved at least something; some moment of recognition or gesture of remembrance that showed that he had mattered to all of them- but in the wake of all that had just happened, all they could manage was a quiet moment of reflection before they headed on again.
Surprisingly, Chris was the one to break the silence- fishing a tiny bottle of hand sanitizer out of his pocket and offering it to Anna.
"Ah…Y'know, normally they pour one out for someone when they… um… y'know… and we don't have anything but I just figured, maybe-"
Anna took the hand sanitizer, closing her fingers around it as she continued to stare out across the street.
"I just… It doesn't feel real. Like, there's a part of me that wants him to still be alive."
"He didn't deserve to die like that" Steph stared at the ground as she spoke, voice low.
Chris nodded, looking to Anna as if she had the ability to miraculously say something that would fix everything that had just happened.
Anna met his gaze, holding the hand sanitizer back out to him.
"It was your idea. I don't know what to do with it."
Chris nodded, taking the hand sanitizer and looking around at the group before clearing his throat.
"…Well…we won't really get to say a proper goodbye to John, erm… mostly because he's probably a zombie now, but… I think…I think he'd want to know that we were all thinking of him, and that we want him to be happy wherever he is now…so, yeah…Here's to John."
Chris took the hand sanitizer, raised it in a toasting motion before taking it and squeezing out the contents onto the sidewalk in front of him.
They all stared at the puddle of hand sanitizer, and after a moment Steph cracked a smile.
"That, uh… that would've worked better if we had a beer or something"
"Yeah, well, we don't have that, do we? I did the best I could." Chris defended, as Steph added
"It looks a little funny."
As they stared at the sidewalk, the weight that had settled over them began to lift slightly. Steph chuckled softly- which caused Anna to crack a smile, and soon all four of them were reduced to tears as they stood around a half-evaporated puddle of hand sanitizer on the ground outside the Christmas Tree Emporium, laughing because they had nothing else left to do; because sometimes, when the entire world has crumbled around you, all there's left to do is laugh.