The girl staggered to the side, shoulders hunched forward as she lifted her head. Thick, black veins appeared under her skin.
“Good God,” I whispered, taking a step back, but I bumped into Grayson as he came forward. He crowded me into the room. This was not the same as Coop. He did not have black veins.
A ragged, wet-sounding cough shook the girl’s entire body. “I … I don’t feel well.”
“Understatement of the year,” Kent murmured as Dawson edged around the wall.
Luc ignored him. “I know. That’s why you should be back in bed, so you can get better.”
I didn’t think she was going to get better.
“Should I get her something?” I asked, wanting to help. “Maybe water?”
“Does she look like water will help her?” Grayson retorted, shooting me a look that showed just how dumb he thought I was. “I don’t think a bucketload of penicillin will help her.”
I hated to admit it, but Grayson sort of had a point. “You really didn’t need to say that out loud.”
“What?” he replied. “I’m just being honest.”
“How about you try being tactful?”
Grayson opened his mouth, but Luc looked over his shoulder at him. The Luxen quieted. Finally. I focused on Luc. It was hard not to recognize the way he stood with his shoulders squared and his legs spread widely as if he were blocking Sarah from me, like he’d done with Dawson earlier.
Was he worried she was going to sneeze on me?
I peered around Luc.
The girl’s thin arms were folded across her stomach. “Where is Richie?”
“You know he’s not here anymore, but I’m here. So are Kent and Dawson. We’re friends. Even Grayson. Remember?” Luc asked, and I guessed Richie must have been the poor girl’s boyfriend. “I’m taking care of you, Sarah, and I think it’s best if—”
Sarah doubled over and heaved violently. Bluish-black bile spewed, splattering the floor, and it looked like it almost … shimmered.
I clasped my hand over my mouth, because that did look familiar.
Grayson pulled a Blow Pop—Sour Apple—out of his pocket and slowly began to unwrap it. “That’s disgusting.”
Sarah vomited again, and the stuff that came out of her did not look normal. It was like she’d swallowed a gallon of oil and blue paint, and it was coming back up.
Braver than I ever would be when someone was throwing up something that looked like that, Luc started toward her, but halted when Sarah threw her head back. Whatever substance was coming out of her trailed down her chin and covered the front of her wrinkled shirt.
“They … did sssomething to me,” the girl gasped, heaving. “They did sssomething to me—”
Her back bowed at a deep, unnatural angle. Something cracked, reminding me of a dry twig being snapped. I gasped as Sarah fell forward, dropping onto her knees and palms. Her arms popped from their sockets. Her hips spread. More oily, thick liquid hit the floor.
Her bones kept snapping, just like Coop’s had.
Dawson had stopped moving. “What the hell is—?”
Sarah’s head wrenched back as her mouth stretched into a silent scream that seemed like it would tear her cheeks apart. Those inky veins rose from her skin—from her face, throat, and arms.
Luc was suddenly in front of me as he threw out his arm, thrusting me back. Horror swamped me as her body contorted in a series of snaps that reminded me of milk being added to Rice Krispies.
I would never eat cereal again.
Sarah collapsed, sank into herself, her upper body meeting her bent legs. She didn’t move. Didn’t seem like she even breathed. The veins retracted, disappearing under the skin.
Sarah’s shoulders lifted as she dragged in a deep breath and then kept lifting with several more breaths. She was alive. How was she alive?
“I think she might be a zombie,” Kent whispered. “Get ready. Head shot, guys. Head. Shot.”
Luc’s exhale was audible. “Seriously?”
Kent nodded. “I’ve seen this in movies. I’m telling you, if she gets up after that, this is some kind of zombie thing, and she’s going to be fast and she’s going to want to eat my face, because I’m the cutest, and the cutest always get their faces eaten off first.”
“You know, he might have a point,” Dawson said, one eyebrow raised. “I like to consider myself a zombie expert.”
Luc turned to him. “A zombie expert?”
He nodded. “Yeah, and I’m sure I’ve seen this in—”
Like, lifted straight up off the floor without standing as if a hidden puppeteer pulled her strings. Within a second, she was on her feet, and then she was off the floor.
Holy crap, she hovered off the floor, and yeah, Coop hadn’t done that.
My mouth dropped open, and I blinked once and then twice, thinking I was seeing things, but nope, the chick was suspended in air.
“That is not a zombie,” Grayson said, the pupils of his eyes turning white. “I don’t know what in the hell that is, but that is also not a human.”