Chapter Twenty Nine

“If you can understand me, don’t move a muscle,” he shouted, blood spraying from his mouth, the words exaggerated as if he was in a foreign land. I didn’t move, let my fingers rest on the cold of the pistol, my eyes fixed on his scarlet face, watching his unsteady walk as he swayed forward in slow, careful steps. I caught sight of the camouflage Union Jack on his chest pocket and I couldn’t get my mind around the way he was acting. He spoke with an English accent, from the south, Kent probably, but he was talking like he was part of an invading army. Had he known we were on the same side?

I had only seconds to think. I could go for the gun, could take a chance he wouldn’t react in time, I could leap away, scrabble up the side of the valley. He was in no state to give chase. His aim would be terrible, but you couldn’t discount luck. He was a trained killer. Any hit would be bad news, no chance of a hospital visit before infection set in. Or I could just kneel here, let him take charge, talk myself out of him finishing the job, while I hoped the others came back. Maybe Andrew would have another rocket up his sleeve.

I couldn’t do either. I had to take charge. It’s where they’d put me and I wouldn’t let them down. Anyway they wouldn’t come running if a shot was heard, they’d left me to take care of the suffering on my own, whichever way I chose. Raising my hands in the air, I saw the moment the guy clocked his colleague laying on the ground unmoving. I watched what I thought was a flinch, saw him stand tall, pushing away the emotion.

“I said don’t move,” came the blooded voice, but I was already standing, thankful he hadn’t shot me yet, knowing the more time went on, the more my chances extended. What else could I think? Nat’s words came into my head. He had orders to protect, to stop the infection.

“I’m not infected,” I blurted out, losing the battle to keep calm. The guy didn’t react, other than to slant his head to the side. “What’s your name?” I said moving my right foot an inch forward.

“Stay where you are,” he replied, blood dripping from his chin in an elongated string, over-enunciating. I held myself still, concentrating on his face. He had a gash along the length of his forehead, blood still washing down into his mouth. If I could last long enough, this guy would bleed to death.

Movement caught in my vision from below. I stepped to the side, stepped back. My earlier question answered.



“If you can understand me, don’t move a muscle,” I shouted, exaggerating the words in case some vestigial intelligence remained. I could just about make out the figure crouching over a mound of earth, my lids working overtime to clear the blood from my eyes. Each time I could finally see, a blanket of fresh darkness smeared across.

In the last snapshot he wasn’t moving, but still I stepped forward, couldn’t wait back, needed to shorten the odds. My aim last month was only just good enough to get my licence renewed and that was without the world clouded and swaying side to side.

He was watching me, concentrating on my actions. Each time my view cleared I expected to see him pouncing forward, racing to chew my face. I was dreading the moment I would have to shoot. The moment I would find out if I could live up to my friend’s bravery. Instead he watched, his movements slow. I shouted again and he stopped. He understood language, or maybe it was just my tone and now he looked like he was mouthing words. Was he talking or growling, I couldn’t tell, my hearing still destroyed, just a constant ring.

I edged forward, there was still a lot of distance to cover. If he’d had any sense left he would have run, not stood in my headlights just staring back, moving his mouth around like he was chewing gum.

“Stay where you are,” I said, straightening the gun. And here it was, the inevitable, he’d jumped forward as my vision cleared, but despite it blurring all too soon, my mind told my fingers to pull the trigger, the words repeating over again. They didn’t comply.

With the next snapshot my adrenaline spiked higher, the guy had stepped back, moved to the side and out of shot. My eyes flinched down to the mound. Had it moved? Was it twisting around?



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