Adrenaline coursing, fear pulled me in both directions. Torn to which needed my reaction. Was it the feet scuffing along the tarmac, a beat skipped with each chaotic misstep? Was it the shudder of the undergrowth so close and with a speed I knew I couldn’t match?
I had no time to think. Still I didn’t move. What if on the road travelled an injured friend, running lame from a danger I already knew too well? What had Andrew seen for us to dive in this hiding place? We were blind to all around, only our ears to lead us in the right direction. Was it an animal gaining in the bushes, a stray dog not fed for over twenty-four hours? How long would it take for a pet to reverse hundreds of generations of breeding? I’d rather tackle a hungry animal, than something that would kill me and make me live again. What if it were one of our friends? We’d separated and I’d had no chance to question what had happened. Alive or dead, I needed to know.
Zoe’s face came to mind, even Nat’s slid passed in the gallery of faces. Toby was gone, or soon to be. Matt, I didn’t know how he’d faired. Lily, she was past the point of no return for sure. Was it a blessing they’d gone together? How long would it be before they turned into those things? Toby wouldn’t be dead yet, Lily either, unless they’d bled out, but not by now? Unless I was missing time, moments unnoticed whilst I’d lain overwhelmed.
I thought of Cassidy, her blonde striking hair and blue eyes, then Ellie, her shorter mirror image, the fear pointed in my direction. I thought of Leo, Daniel and Max, a sudden hope sparking that they may have made it. They’d left earlier than the rest of us, perhaps there was a chance.
I thought of the old man’s head crashing so hard against the windscreen, the spidered glass something I would have to live with for as long as I survived. Realisation sparked, was he was one of them when he’d died? Is that why he was in the road? But there hadn’t been that smell, the odour of decay. He was alive before, but what was he now? What were any of them now? Was it one or all of them in the road, dead, hunting for their next feed? Were all of them out there, in bushes, on the road, no distinction between the two? A pincer movement and to right way to turn.
Or was it our friends, searching in the dark. Scared like us. Like me. Andrew no help. I couldn’t see passed the leaves at my face, my ears full of the rustle of life, the scrape of soles against the road. Andrew knew why we’d dived into the bush. He’d said there were more, but not how many. The roadblock was not so far away? I had no real idea of how far, how fast I’d driven, racing away from where Chloe was first attacked, that place when this became all too real.
Now I’d wasted too much time, they were on us, so close, somehow they knew, must have known where we were. Finding Andrew’s wrist in the dark, I gripped, tensing twice. He reflexed in response. I tapped left trying to indicate towards the noise in the bushes, but he twisted right, my right, showing the opposite direction, but did that mean it was not the way to go. I indicated left once more, moving his hand with a jerk. His arm was limp. The noise was too much, the scrape of the feet too close, the rattle of the leaves like drums in my ears. I took Andrew’s lead, or what I thought he’d meant and leapt right, the breath of cold air feeling great on my face. The pistol in my hand pushed out.
I’d made the right and wrong choice depending on how you felt about what I stood in front of.
My feet were on the hard surface of the road, my vision clear, the first rays of sun climbing the horizon.
I hoped the gun worked this time.
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