Discover more from Authorstrator
ZOMBIE SHARK HIGHWAY
Another Friday, another chapter of Zombie Shark Highway!
It was still raining the following afternoon.
Justin sat at his desk, frowning at his computer screen. He just couldn't read the posts anymore. Trish Michaud and Kat Anders had set up a memorial page for Mike and Sarah. Justin had no idea how they found out so fast. Maddie probably. Just because she wasn't speaking didn't mean she wasn't texting.
He glanced at his phone, blinking with four texts from Maddie. He couldn't bring himself to look at them.
Justin's eyes flicked back to the messages flooding the memorial page wall. He snarled. Everyone saying the same thing, using different words. We miss you, we'll always remember you. It was all so stupid. So empty of any real feeling. Because they couldn't feel it. Because they didn't see it.
If they had, they wouldn't be talking shit about angels and heaven. They'd know, people don't get torn up like that -- not like that -- and become anything other than shark meat.
Sarah and Mike were dead.
He slammed the lid to his laptop closed.
In the belly of a shark.
Justin watched the rain sliding down his window. The world outside was grey, the drops fat and heavy, streams of run-off carrying leaves and grocery bags flying down the side of the road. The clouds knew what happened to Sarah and Mike, he decided.
Justin swallowed the lump rising in his throat, shoving back the memory of Highway 3. He focused on the tip tap of the rain hitting the window and pounding the roof. Shut down. And listen. Zero in on the sound. And stay with it. Don't think. Just listen.
The house was silent. He was glad for that. His dad had gone to work and his mother left to drop off a lasagna at Mike's house. He shuddered, imagining the forced thank you Mike's mom would offer in return. The fact was, Justin came home. And Mike didn't. So Justin's mom got to make lasagna. Mike's mom didn't.
The lasagna was like the memorial wall. Everyone was so busy saying sorry, but they weren't sorry. Not really. They all just wanted to jump on the tragedy bandwagon, all just grandstanding to make themselves a part of something they didn't know anything about.
They were stupid.
All of them.
Justin grabbed his hair and pulled, hoping the sting would distract him from thinking of her.
But it didn't.
I won't talk to anyone, her voice echoed in his head, not even to you.
Even though he hadn't really talked to Kayla Girard since they were kids, the idea that she wouldn't talk to him ever again filled him with dread. She'd been there with him, on Highway 3. It connected them, somehow. He felt it, a sort of trauma-tether buried deep in his gut, the other end fixed permanently to Kayla. Not talking to her, pretending it didn't happen -- he couldn't do that.
But he didn't tell Officer Howe the truth. Kayla's father died in a terrible awful way and Justin didn't even have the decency to confirm what Kayla told the police had happened. He betrayed her. Justin slunk off his chair and lay down on the bed, burying his face in his pillow. He'd really messed up. He hadn't meant to at the time. He just didn't want Officer Howe to think he was insane. And why not? Sarah and Mike were dead, Sherriff Girard too. What did it matter if people thought he was crazy? What did any of it matter?
His phone buzzed on the desk. With a groan, he snatched it up and rolled onto his back. Maddie. Five missed messages.
I'm such a mess, Justin. How r u?
How was he? He felt the ache tugging at his chest again. How did she think? He scrolled through the next two messages.
I'm so scared. Can we talk?
I haven't slept. I can't face ppl.
Can I come over?
He stared at the words. He understood, he really did. Scared, not sleeping. He couldn't face people either. But Maddie wasn't who he wanted to see, who he wanted to talk to. And besides, Maddie never wanted to have a conversation. She talked, he listened. That was what happened whenever Maddie said can we talk. That and...other things.
Hello!? Please answer me. I just don't want to be alone.
Tell it to DeStefano, seethed some dark part of his mind. But that wasn't fair. He knew Maddie was scared, they all were. But in that moment, Justin did want to be alone. Before he could type out a text to tell her so, there was a tapping at his window.
Justin nearly fell off his bed at the sight of someone on the other side of the glass.
Maddie -- rain drenched and shivering.
"Jesus Christ, Maddie!" he hissed, opening the window.
With practiced ease, she maneuvered herself from the sturdy branch of the Heard's front yard maple and into Justin's room.
He slammed the window shut. "Are you insane? It's pouring!"
"I'm sorry, " she said through chattering teeth. "You wouldn't answer your phone. "
"Yeah, I know that, " he snapped. "What do you want?"
She looked up at him with hurt eyes, hugging herself and dripping onto the carpet.
He cleared his throat. He didn't mean to sounds so harsh.
"I just... " she said, "I just wanted to see you. "
Justin plunked down on the bed, stifling a growl. Jesus, Maddie. He shouldn't have been surprised. This was how Maddie did everything. Forcefully. When Maddie wanted something, she got it. Justin thought of the first time Maddie tapped on his bedroom window. Can I come over? her text asked. Justin told her no, that his parents were home, that DeStefano wouldn't like it. She showed up anyway. Back then, Justin was pretty thrilled to see her slink into his room, her long legs climbing through the window, the smell of coconut in her hair.
But this time was different.
Maddie sat herself down beside him, her rain-soaked thigh pressed against his. "I don't know how to talk to anyone, " she said. "They're all...looking at me...like I'm a bomb about to go off or something. I couldn't... "
Justin watched her look down at her knees, her lips pressed together as she tried to find the words. He knew the kind of looks she meant. They were the same ones his parents had been giving him since they picked him up from the station.
Maddie pulled her hair back off her face and her eyes met his. "I just figured if anybody would get it, you would. "
"What about DeStefano?"
She rolled her eyes and looked away. "I can't tell Joey anything. "
That was a lie. Maddie could have told DeStefano she used to be a lobster and he wouldn't have batted an eye. Not at her. As far as DeStefano was concerned, Maddie was perfection and he would have given anything to be the one she talked to.
Justin's teeth began to grind. She was doing it again. Even after everything that happened, she was still playing whatever this game was. Justin versus Joey, with Maddie in the middle.
"I know why Joey thinks we shouldn't talk about it, " she went on. "But... "
Justin heard Maddie sniff somewhere behind the wet tendrils of hair that had fallen back in front of her face. A cold wave of shame went up his back. Maybe this wasn't about her game after all.
"I saw what I saw. " Her voice was raspy, tired from losing too many tears. Her big glossy eyes met his -- a deep denim blue. "I saw what that... thing did to Sarah. I remember it, over and over in my head and I always have to stop myself because...because I start to wonder if I am crazy. I mean...how could that... "
She paused and shuddered, from her wet clothes or the memory, Justin couldn't tell. He felt his own skin begin to pimple.
"Just tell me, " she said finally, "tell me that you saw them too. Those...sharks. You saw them come out of the water like that, right?"
Maddie nodded too.
"Do you think Sarah--" Maddie started, then squeezed her eyes tight, a tear falling down her right cheek. "Do you think it was quick?"
Not quick enough, they both knew that. When Justin said nothing, Maddie's head dropped into her chest and she began to cry quietly.
Justin felt the tug in his gut, another trauma tether, this one hooked to Maddie. She'd been there on Highway 3 too. She'd seen what he'd seen. What Kayla had seen. And she was hurting. Justin wrapped his arm around her, and Maddie leaned into him, resting her head on his shoulder.
They sat there together, holding on to each other, listening to the rain on the window -- both of them trying not to think about what happened to Sarah and Mike.
Until Maddie started to shiver. Her clothes were still soaked.
Justin jumped up and headed to the closet. "Let me get you a sweater. " He grabbed a blue zip up hoodie and held it out for her. "This okay?"
Maddie stood up, wiping tears from her cheeks and wringing out her smiley face tee shirt onto the carpet. She stood there, her shoulders pulled up to her ears as she trembled, and looked awkwardly at the hoodie, then down at the wet shirt on her body. She looked so tiny, so quiet. She didn't look anything like the loud, playful Maddie Justin knew. She looked more like Kayla.
Kayla. He thought of her then, sitting in her grandfather's trailer. Alone. Her father was gone. And Justin was a coward. Who would Kayla talk to?
Maddie's denim blues met his, and without any warning, she peeled off her shirt. Justin's palms began to sweat. He'd seen her in her bra so many times, he should have been used to it, but still, his heartbeat hammered in his ears.
She walked over and turned around, her naked shoulders inviting him to wrap them with his hoodie. He held it open for her and she slipped her arms through. She turned back to face him, and he could smell her minty breath as she zipped it up. She stopped, her breathing shaky and Justin didn't know if he wanted to step away from her or stay there, smelling mint.
And then she reached for him, her soft mouth pressed against his, and his arms automatically wrapped around her waist. They'd shared so many secret kisses, alone in his room, where no one knew they were together. And even after everything that happened yesterday, they still found themselves here, together, in this room. It was just like before. It was so familiar. So safe.
Maddie dug her fingers into his hair and Justin held tightly to her, held tight to the lie that nothing had changed, things could be normal again, they could be normal, if they just tried...
Something banged somewhere downstairs.
They jumped away from each other, Justin's blood racing through his veins. What the hell were they doing? Two words thumped through his brain with each beat of his heart. Coward. And Kayla.
Someone was at the door.
"Who is that?" said Maddie.
Justin didn't know, but whoever it was, he was glad for the interruption. Justin thundered down the stairs, Maddie on his heels and opened the door. Justin immediately regretted it. The man standing on the other side was clearly not from Point Chester. His face was covered in shave-overdue scruff, his hair tied back in a ponytail that was slick and shiny from the downpour. He wore a tweed jacket with elbow patches -- and blue Hawaiian board shorts. He didn't even look up from whatever he was doing on his phone.
"Can I help you?"
"You Justin Heard?" The man's voice was made of diesel.
Justin looked back at Maddie. She frowned. She was already not a fan.
"Uh, yeah, " said Justin.
The man looked up from his phone -- his eyes were wide in a crazy kind of way that made Justin think it was time to slam the door. "This your picture, Justin Heard?"
The man held up his phone, and Justin's stomach dropped. There on the screen was Justin's picture of the sharks, lying dead on Highway 3. And Kayla, standing by the creature's murky white eyes. His Kayla. On this random guy's phone.
Justin frowned. "Who wants to know?"
"Melvin Bruce. " The man pocketed his phone, his crazy eyes darting between Justin and Maddie. "I'm here to help you with your shark problem. "
Thanks for reading! Another chapter of Zombie Shark Highway is coming your way next week.
And as always, if you would rather not wait for each chapter to drop, you can grab an Authorstrator paid subscription and read the whole story by downloading the ebook!