Jessica and Maria walked out front. Amina and Mindy followed behind like a couple of shadows. Jessica complained. “I hurt.”
Maria knew what to say. “Did I mention you look great?”
Jessica frowned and then grinned, “I know,” She showed herself a little before she frowned again. “That Schultz is a slave driver.”
“I’m enjoying it,” Mindy said. Of them all, Mindy was the shortest and smallest, like the runt of the litter, but she had the energy one might expect from looking at her fire red hair. Maria was almost five foot four, and Amina was closer to Emily’s height of five-six. Mindy shaded her eyes as she looked up at Jessica. “If I can, you can.” She put on her determined face. “Anyway, I especially like the archery.” They had convinced Professor Schultz to let them have that much of a weapon, and the padded staffs.
“That’s because you are good at it.” Jessica looked down at the girl and was determined to be grumpy.
“But you’re better,” Mindy said. “You are better at everything as far as I can tell. No weak spots.”
Jessica shook her head. “I don’t think I am best at anything. That is probably why Professor Schultz rides me so much.”
“So, what are you suggesting?” Maria poked at Jessica with her elbow. “Do you want a real weapon like Emily’s sword?”
“It wouldn’t hurt,” Jessica responded. “At least to learn how to use a knife, what with the zombies around again.”
Maria stopped, so they all stopped. “But nothing has turned up since the restaurant,” Maria pointed out.
“Five-seven and a half,” Jessica said. “I used to model in high school. Back then I was almost five-ten.” Jessica grinned again.
“I think you need something more like a spear,” Mindy suggested. “That would suit your height and long arms.”
“And you know?”
Mindy’s determination turned quickly to a pout. “I read. I know some things. I’ve studied these things, though I must say there is nothing like first-hand experience.”
“Maybe Jessica needs a ten foot pole,” Maria suggested
“Not funny.” Jessica reached for Maria, but Maria slapped her hand away and took a short step back. If it was not for the book bags, the two looked like they might go for a friendly tussle right there. “It’s not right.” Jessica let out her full-fledged, parental approved whiney voice. “You are really kicking with the karate, Mindy hits the bull’s-eye almost always and even Amina has the staff down pat. I bet if they didn’t have those pillows on each end, she could really do some damage. I repeat, I am not best at anything.” The others did not know how to respond because as far as they could tell, Jessica was best at everything, not counting Emily, of course.
“But there is nothing Professor Schultz has shown us so far that you are bad at.” Amina spoke for the first time and tried to be encouraging, but Mindy spoke overtop.
“And something else,” Amina stopped. As soon as she stopped, Mindy and the others stopped and turned to listen to what Amina had to say.
“You are very good at everything. We all have weaknesses.”
“That is true,” Maria confirmed, and Mindy nodded. Jessica also knew that was true, but it was not enough. She wanted to be best at something and have no doubts in her mind. She started to walk again so the others started with her. “More important,” Maria was not finished with her thought. “There are side benefits here. I never felt so strong and capable in my life. For the first time I feel like I could actually do something if I had to.”
“Like help somebody in need,” Mindy offered.
“Yes, and maybe not end up a victim in a bad situation.”
Jessica nodded but added another note. “More important, there is so much going on around here that most people don’t know about, like dead bodies of old people showing up everywhere. Emily is probably the only one who can do something about that, but she can’t do it alone. She needs us to back her up. I get that.” They all understood.
“Did I mention I heard from Julie Tam?” Maria changed the subject. They stopped walking again and looked at her, except Amina who appeared content to look at the ground. “She says given the anatomical slices taken with surgical precision from the old bodies, it looks to her like someone may be doing some genetic testing.”
“That was English?” Jessica made it a joke, but no one laughed. Mindy took a look at Amina and spoke her concern.
“Are you alright?” She reached out and touched Amina gently on her arm to get her attention.
Amina looked up and needed a few seconds to bring her eyes into focus. “I see trouble ahead. I see death beyond the great white light. I do not know what that means.”
“Emily?” Maria asked.
“No,” Amina assured her. “It has something to do with us, but I can’t get a clear picture. All I can see is trouble up ahead. I have to work on it.”
“I see trouble ahead.” Jessica pointed to the dorm door. Connie, her friend Lilly, and a half-dozen other women were standing there, waiting.
“Emily’s not here,” Maria said, as they got close.
“I know,” Connie said. “We just came to pick up Mindy and Amina for the meeting.”
“What meeting?’ Maria asked. She closed ranks with Jessica. Mindy and Amina were still behind them.
“I quit your club,” Mindy said.
“I never joined,” Amina added.
“Sorry,” Jessica smiled, but put down her book bag. She did not like the tension in the air.
Maria did the same, but paused. There was someone in the corner, watching. Mindy saw her, too. The woman was twenty-something, so not likely an undergraduate. She stood about five foot, eight, had long light brown hair and deep-set green eyes. She was also intensely beautiful, but the thing that attracted their eyes was the woman’s dress. She was wearing what Mindy called a peplos, a style of Greek dress that was ancient.
Connie returned Jessica’s smile. “Look, you are giving us a bad reputation. I don’t want to see anyone get hurt.”
The woman smiled at Maria and Mindy.
“I do,” Lilly said and she took a swing at Jessica, the big one. It was a right hook, but a very sloppy punch. Jessica simply tilted her head back a little and the fist completely missed her face. She pushed the arm to continue Lilly’s movement in that direction. She put a foot on Lilly’s butt and shoved. Lilly sprawled into the other women and took two to the ground with her.
“See?” Maria’s attention was taken by the action, and she spoke to Jessica. “You did that very well.” She finished putting down her book-bag, just in case.
“You bitches!” Rage and frustration poured out of Connie. She shoved Maria out of the way and went straight for her roommate, Mindy. Mindy was the least practiced of them all, being new to the workouts and training offered by Professor Schultz, but she was already convinced that pulling hair and scratching at the face was not a good technique. She also knew that women did not have the upper body strength of a man, but could use their legs to great advantage. She practiced her scissor kick, first on Connie’s knee and then on her hip.
Connie felt it, but her rage moved her forward, her hands still outstretched to grab Mindy’s hair. Mindy, the little one merely ducked, moved forward under the arm and threw whatever upper body strength she had into one punch. It landed in Connie’s side, in the ribs below the arm. Connie fell to her knees, then shouted and fell to the side as she reached for her hurt knee. Mindy simply picked up her backpack and stepped up beside Maria and Jessica who were keeping the other women away with their stares.
“Book bags,” Maria said, and they picked up their bags and entered the dorm talking like they had never been interrupted, but Mindy took a glance to the side. The woman was gone.
“So, I guess that was the trouble you saw?” Maria turned to Amina.
“No, something else.” Amina shook her head and seemed oblivious to what just happened. “I have to think about it. I need a bath.” She ran up the stairs to her room.
Jessica’s phone rang shortly after sundown. Emily was still not back to the room and she thought it might be her, but it was Amina.
“Get out,” Amina yelled. “The zombies are coming here.”
“To the dorm? Is that it?”
“That is what I was feeling.”
Jessica hung up and raced to bang on Maria’s door. Maria opened it and hushed her. Mindy was taking a nap.
“Amina,” Jessica held up her phone. “Zombies, coming here.”
“Huh?” Mindy poked her head up from the bed. Jessica and Maria went to drag her from the bed, but there was a noise in the hall and they knew Mindy would never wake in time. They flew to the door even as a zombie appeared in the opening. Maria stuck her foot out and flat-footed the zombie in the chest. She got scratched, but the zombie was knocked to its back and Jessica got the door closed and locked.
“What’s happening?” Mindy asked as she came awake and saw Jessica and Maria with their backs to the door. There was a loud Bang! The door jiggled along with Jessica and Maria, but it held.
“Zombies,” Jessica said as Maria grabbed her chair and shoved it under the door handle. Mindy went straight for the window. They were in the new dorm where the windows were long and skinny and generally not made for escape.
“If we can get the window off here, I think I can get out and get help,” Mindy suggested. She was the only one who might have been small enough.
“The advantages of being little,” Jessica said as she and the door jiggled again to another Bang!
“ I got 9-1-1,” Maria said. She had one hand leaning heavily on the door above the chair, but her phone was in her other hand. Jessica still had her phone in hand, but she had not thought of using it.
“Amina is out there. She will get help,” Jessica said as Mindy screamed. A zombie came up to the window. There was a sudden brilliant flash of light, and a heartbeat later, there came a series of explosions. The door crashed into the room and landed on Jessica. Maria flew back and hit her head on the cement-block wall. Mindy covered her face, but caught plenty of glass from the shattered window. No one said the light and explosions should have come at the same time.
Less than a minute later, Amina showed up with Bernie the campus cop. Another minute later, Emily arrived. She was on her way home when she heard the explosions.
Maria was out cold. Jessica had a broken arm. Mindy was kneeling, shivering and crying from the pain of a thousand cuts.