Chapter Twenty Two

The spray of lead glowed against the receding darkness, its path grinding onwards past Matt’s slumped, unmoving remains, kicking up great mounds of tarmac. We stood in a line, faces transfixed as another version of death raced in our direction.

“Run,” I screamed. Everyone seemed to wake, turning on their heels, but I held my ground waiting for their reaction. Andrew speared across my front, his plan to separate, to get away from the group, force a choice to whom they’d kill first. Zoe and Nat at first clung to each other as they moved, but soon released, gaining speed, running parallel along the straight road. Ellie’s short legs weren’t pumping so hard, Cassidy slower as she scooped her around her front.

I wouldn’t let them be the first.

I quickened my pace, catching with no effort, grabbing around Ellie’s stomach, locking eyes with Cassidy as her eyelids widened. She released her grip, Ellie squirming as if I was the Child-Catcher from her nightmares, only calming as I slung her over my shoulder and she saw her sister running beside.

“Get off the road,” I heard Andrew’s scream, his voice already distant. I swerved left, seeing sense in his words, Cassidy followed too. I couldn’t keep my eyes on Zoe and Nat, my concentration fixed forward through the grass at the edge of the road, trying to stop my top heavyweight from toppling on the uneven ground. At out backs the machine gun had stopped screaming, but the engines were so loud, the tone heavyweight, changing as it manoeuvred for the chase. I daren’t look to see who they were going after, the only chance we had was to run and hide.

An explosion rocked me forward, taking all my effort to recover from the stumble. Ellie let out a yelp, but the chaos sounded further than I expected. A pit of emptiness opened in my stomach as I realised they were going after one of my friends.

The sky brightened with each wide step, the grass fell down a valley at my feet, the lightening horizon filling me with hope. In the dawn light was a wood of dense trees a few hundred metres away. Somehow I found more and picked up the pace, ignoring the scream of pain in my legs.

The machine gun lit up the air and I winced as an explosion followed, brightening the sky with a flash, the unmistakable pop of a firework. We were at the tree-line and I let Ellie down, my arms aching with relief, watching as she jumped the few steps to Cassidy, grabbing around her waist as we turned, gawking at the onslaught. The helicopter had followed the course of the road. It was Zoe and Nat they’d chased. I closed my eyes and let my breath settle, said a godless prayer in hope they’d split up to halve the chances. A breath pulled at my lungs as I watched a thin silvered line appear from behind the chopper, the air popping with a blue glittered explosion behind the tail rotor. The helicopter didn’t react, a line of fire bursting from the door at its original target.

I wrapped my arms around myself, it was cold, but not the kind the sun would solve. Cassidy stepped near, leaning next to me, looking up, her face warm, concern radiating in my direction. Her arm was around my shoulder and I leant in. Another firework raced from the ground, its launch closer than before. The chopper rocked to the side as the red explosion gave a direct hit at the rear of the fuselage. The darkness wouldn’t tell if he’d done any damage, but it didn’t seem to have mattered, the line of tracers cut off, the chopper raced forward, turning to re-zero its guns. As it turned another rocket raced, then another at its back, one after the other, five or six salvos bursting from the ground. Andrew was giving all he had. I hoped he was running, had somewhere to hide.

The air popped as each glitter ball exploded harmless in the air, the chopper out of range, out of danger and it was tracking back, guns silent towards the source. I pictured the pilot looking through his visor, one eye closed taking time to centre his aim. A prolonged blast exploded from the muzzle. The chopper hung still for a moment before turning, tracing the route to its last hunting ground. I turned to Cassidy and took her embrace, but not able to hold back the tears, I sunk to my knees.


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Image by Adrian Sotheron

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