His parents were fighting again. Or at least he thought they were fighting until Cody realized his father wasn't angry. He was - upset, almost frantic. He was yelling for Cody's mother, Barbara, and hung up just as Cody edged around the corner, eying his father with caution. But his father wasn't paying attention to him. He was punching a number into his cell as he hurried into his room. Cody stepped aside just in time to avoid getting plowed.
"What happened?" Cody followed him. Something was wrong. Something big. All at once he forgot about his late homework and focused on the health of his baby sister, of no relation to his father but still precious to them both. "Is it Becca?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know? Dad, what did she say. What-" Cody's jaw snapped shut as he recognized the case his father had just pulled down from the closet. His gun collection. He wasn't messin' around either; he went straight for the .44 Eagle. The moisture in Cody's mouth vacated.
"If I'm not back, call the police." His father shouldered by. They were broad, strong shoulders, a product of life in the service, and then the proud dedication after that service, when he had given up that military career and returned to Tampa to raise his son after his ex-wife had failed to do the same.
Cody scrambled after him, wondering if his mother had finally forced his father over the edge. "Wait! Dad. Call the police now. You have the gun in your glove box. You don't need-"
"They were busy." Outside now. The F-150 in the driveway gave a short, anxious chirp.
"Busy?" What? "Wait. You called nine-one-one and it was busy?" Cody beat him to the door and barred the way. "Dad! Talk to me!"
The look Cody got was level and bone cold. It made him swallow, and think of black eyes and broken ribs, but he didn't budge. His father said, in perfect quiet storm, "There's an intruder."
Cody turned around and opened the door. As he climbed over to the passenger seat, he heard his father tell him to go back inside. The argument afterward was snappy and swift. Father peeled out of the driveway, son in tow, and the black truck raced down the streets like a monster, right up until it hit that cute little red GT in its rear and squinched it up like an accordion. Luckily, the driver wasn't killed - because it was already dead, having been munched and all. Another car hit the truck from behind and his father swore and Cody stared out the window in horror.
The street was mayhem. The signal was out. Cars were scattered in the intersection. Traffic was either backed up, sandwiched, or fragmented into broken bits and shattered glass. At first, Cody thought they had run into a carnival of carnivores and would be safe if they locked themselves in the truck and pretended not to be there. But then he noticed the way the carnivores lurched when they moved, and the frenzied, blank look on their dead faces. They weren't simple carnivores. They were things.
"Dad..." Cody's voice found a dark corner and hid.
"Don't move, Cody." His father did, though. Real slow. He reached across to the glove box and pulled out the 9mm that was always within it. He clicked off the safety and put it in his son's hand. "You've been shown how to shoot," he said.
"When I get out, you get out as quickly and as quietly as you can. We'll head backwards. We're gonna find a car, or someone with a car, and we're gonna get out of here. Okay?"
Cody liked that idea. He nodded. The gun felt like shapeless coal in his hand. His father checked his own safety, referred to his mirrors, and put a steady hand on the handle. The door was cockeyed from impact. They both inhaled at the creak, but nothing came at them. With care, his father slid out of the vehicle. He watched the road, and then held a hand out for his son. Cody unlatched his belt and took it. Moments took eons, but eventually they were both on the ground, crouched between automobiles - safe, for the time.
His father stopped using words and began to communicate by motions. Stay down. Be quiet. Don't forget they both had a weapon. They slunk together through the row of stopped cars, pausing at the tail of each one, listening for horrors above traffic that was still screeching to a halt. On Cody's right, the row of cars shuddered under impact and tossed him off balance. He righted himself, located his father's gun that had slid from his hands, and prepared to march on. His father held up a staying hand.
All around them, people were pouring into the street, cursing, calling other people names - screaming. Many of them had ducked down like they were, reaching for cells, flocking into scared little groups. The screaming in the distance got closer. Then closer. Cody was pushed the other direction.
"We can't go that way," said his father. "We won't make it. Get up." Cody watched him rise, heard the hair raising noise that was half a growl, half screech, before it was cut off abruptly by his father's quick shots. He yanked Cody to his feet. "Run." he did not let go of his arm.
Cody saw them falling. People, as they were grabbed. In flight one moment, the next someone's meal. And the things weren't finishing none of them. They were taking them down, chewing enough flesh for the kill, and then going back to the hunt. Cody could feel their hunger and hatred baking off of the street. He ran. His father fired. Once, Cody's shoulder was pulled hard and then he fired. The thing that had appeared on a hood much too close to his side just kept coming. His father plugged it twice, enough to give them some room. He grabbed Cody's firing arm aggressively. "Down the sight," he barked. "Quit aiming down the barrel. You're wasting ammo."
He backed up, half shoving, half pushing his son toward the sidewalk. Gaither high was in the near distance. They ran for it. At the parking lot, his father stopped, once more raising his gun. "Get in the school," he said. "I'll follow you."
Cody wanted to argue. His father wouldn't have it. Ordered and shoved, Cody spurred into motion, childhood obedience and fear trumping all else. He ran, chancing one look over his shoulder. The street was littered with chaos. Cars, bodies, and panic. Men armed with crowbars, women removing their heels. In the distance, Cody thought he could hear the welcoming sound of sirens. The women and children were scattering. A few of the men were bonding together to help them escape. Most of them fled.
"In the school, Cody." He couldn't afford to glance back.
For a second more, Cody stood unmoving. Then he saw a woman trying to lob toward him, holding her bowels in her hand. Cody pivoted on the blue and white mosaic under his feet, and fled.