When he did, Mr. Thomas frowned, looking every bit as menacing as he had yesterday morning. "You again? Are you spying on us?"
Ben shook his head and tried to say he'd come to warn them, but he couldn't get the words out. He glanced at Andi. Her face held an expression that was both horrified and embarrassed, and he couldn't blame her. If he was some sort of monster and she found out, he'd feel the same way. But she didn't need to. For reasons he couldn't figure out, he didn't care. He still felt the same about her as when she almost kissed him a few minutes ago. How in the world was he not more freaked out about this? About any of this?
"You know darn well he's not spying on us, Lee," Mrs. Thomas said. "And you know why he's here, too. Even if he doesn't." She flashed a warm smile his way which made him feel a lot better.
"Fine," Mr. Thomas said. He growled something under his breath, and then barked, "Andi, lighter fluid. The damn things are moving closer."
And they were. The body parts had been strewn across the backyard in heaps, but now looked like they'd been carefully placed for future reattachment. Ben guessed burning them was the only way to actually kill them. Had Mr. Thomas torched the ones from yesterday?
Andi came out with the lighter fluid, but wouldn't meet Ben's eyes. Did she think he wouldn't like her after what he saw? Or did she not like him anymore? He wanted to say something, but didn't dare in front of her parents, especially her dad. They were all silent until the zombies were well on their way to becoming ash.
Mr. Thomas spoke first, his voice calmer than Ben had yet heard it. "Zombies burn easily. It's one of the few ways to ultimately stop them." Ben realized it was directed at him, so he nodded to show he understood. In fact, even though he had no business knowing, he could have told them that. And he didn't think that knowledge came from watching zombie movies and playing video games.
"Since you haven't run off," Mrs. Thomas said, "you're obviously who we think you are."
He glanced over to Andi, saw her blush, and then back to Mrs. Thomas. "What do you mean? Who am I?"
"Let's discuss it in the house where it's not as smelly." She wrinkled her nose and looked at the burning bodies to emphasize her point. "I know Andi and Lee will agree with that."
Once inside, everyone sat around the kitchen table. Ben sat next to Andi and across from her mother's chair, while she sat opposite her dad. Mrs. Thomas placed a basket of potato chips in the middle. "What would you like to drink, Ben? I'm afraid all we have is soda, milk, and tap water. I haven't had much of a chance to grocery shop yet."
"Doesn't matter. I'll have what Andi's having." He cringed inside when he said it and wished he'd just made a decision. Mrs. Thomas hid a smile, Andi blushed and again refused to meet his eyes, while Mr. Thomas frowned.
She pulled four cans of soda out of the refrigerator and set them down in front of everyone. They each popped the tops and took sips, no one saying anything for a few beats. Mrs. Thomas broke the silence. "There's no need to hide anything, Ben, but I'm curious as to what you think you saw."
He grabbed a chip to give himself a few extra seconds to think. Should he go with the truth, or would they hold that against him? They were a different sort, that was for sure, and they might cover it up at any cost, including burying him in the backyard. No, he'd seen too many movies and cop procedurals. Whatever Andi was, and he honestly had no clue, she was a good…person or whatever. Her mom, too. He glanced at Mr. Thomas as he swallowed his chip; the jury was still out on him, though he couldn't imagine he'd be evil when Andi and her mom were so nice.
"I, uh, felt the zombies, and when I turned, I saw four at the front of your house, moving to the side gate."
"You felt them?" Mr. Thomas said.
"Yeah, like pins and needles on the back of my neck. Just like yesterday morning."
Mr. Thomas started to say something else, but Mrs. Thomas jumped in. "Lee, let him finish. What next?"
"I figured I should warn you guys, so I followed them into the backyard to see what they were up to. But you were already there, waiting."
"I noticed them right after I got in the house," Andi said. She finally looked at him, and they shared a smile.
Mrs. Thomas prompted him to continue. "And you saw us…"
"I saw you chop two up with a couple of swords, just like yesterday morning, and I saw…"
"Say it, boy," Mr. Thomas said. It sounded like a dare.
"I saw you and Andi turn into…" He almost said monsters, but caught himself. "…something."
Mr. Thomas flashed a wicked grin that proved he knew what Ben almost said.