Chapter Forty Two

Without command, the dog jumped at the beast, grabbing a patch of exposed skin, biting deep into its haunches. Still whatever this thing was, it didn’t budge as the hound shook its head, its mouth clamped down hard. I pushed the gun square to its temple, but it only went limp as I blew what was left of its brains out the other side in an explosion of colour.

Rolling the body off, a clump of Nat’s loose flesh fell from his mouth, slapping down, wet her on the face. She tried to scream, but had no breath, her arms frantic, blood pumping in spurts from the fist size hole in her face. Dropping to my knees I pulled off my coat, ripped open my shirt, the buttons flying as the cold bit into my skin. I tore the sleeves off, one by one, tying each length around her face, the white cotton going red as quick as I could pad out the wound with the remains.

“Where’s Zoe?” I said, my head darting to each of the trees, the only features on the gentle flow of hills. Twitching to where we’d come, despite knowing there was nowhere to hide but the tree line, the place where we’d all been running from. “Where is she?” I said before looking at my hands thick with Nat’s blood. She’d settled down, her fight slowing as her skin greyed. She wouldn’t answer. Was going the same way as Chloe.

“Ellie,” Cassie screamed arriving at my side. She hadn’t forgotten the last time we’d seen Nat was with Ellie fighting to get free from her arms.

“Andrew,” I added to the call, then shook my head. “We need to move her,” I said not looking back. I picked Nat up in my arms, cradling her like a baby, pushing the makeshift bandages to my chest. Her lack of weight scared me. Cassie continued to call at the top of her voice, the kid still in her arms. The boy said something as he picked up my coat and offered it out, high in his hands. I bent, wincing with pain, but I couldn’t complain. I wasn’t near death. The kid put my coat over Nat while he still talked, but his voice so quiet. All I could manage was to walk, stumbling every few steps as I tried to go faster. We were heading down into a short valley, my eyes fixed on the brow, hoping for what we would see the other side.

“Ellie,” Cassie screamed, her call ripping through the air as she ran past, the dog staying by my side. The little girl was crying, her face bunching. The boy was talking, but I still hadn’t heard what he’d said. “A house,” came Cassie’s cry as she stood on the brow of the hill, not turning our way before disappearing over the edge. I was soon behind her and saw the little cottage. The boy had stopped talking. I’d seen his face light up at Cassie’s words, but it fell as he’d caught site of the squat building on its own nestled on the side of the road. At its front was a sparse rocky garden, with a long fence at the back surrounding a wide stretch of grass. Inside was a large wooden shed, maybe it was even a barn. The road was sparsely lined with trees and as I followed it into the distance, I thought I saw more buildings. Cassie continued to running down the hill still calling for her sister.

“Andrew,” I shouted. The boy said something again and I stopped, turning toward him. He was taking in the view, squinting off into the distance. “What is it?”

“I think we should try to be quiet,” he said. I watched him turn.

“We need find our friends,” I said, shaking my head.

“But we don’t want to find them,” he replied, his hand outstretched pointing back to the woods. I turned and saw only trees, but as my eyes settled I spotted movement. The more I stared the more movement I could see. It wasn’t the trees moving, but those things. I carried on staring, hoping to see if they were running, chasing after or ambling along as if out for a stroll. I couldn’t believe the world had gone so far that I was glad when could tell they were the undead, but only the slow ones. The boy was right, they were heading in our direction and I turned, picking up the pace towards the cottage.

Cassie stood in the road as we arrived, facing out, but she’d stopped calling to the surroundings, instead she was gently shaking, rocking the girl from side to side. She must have seen them too. The dog ran ahead, it seemed to know the plan, his nose twitching as he moved around the building. My arms ached as I let Nat down gently to the short strip of grass in front of the house. She didn’t respond and I knew there was nothing I could do till I got her inside. Even then I doubted I could help. My hands were tacky as I let go, my chest running with sticky blood.

The dog was back at my side, looking up at me as if giving the all clear. I ran to the door and tried the handle. It was locked. I shoved my shoulder hard against it, but it held firm. The boy spoke again in a quiet voice. This time I listened.

“We need that,” he said. Again he was right. Looking back, Cassie was still staring out the same and blood had pooled in the grass around Nat’s head. I headed around the building, the dog and the boy following, picking up a discarded stone from the rock garden.

The bigger windows needed to stay too, but I found a small high pane around the side I could reach with my hand outstretched. It wasn’t much bigger than a large dinner plate, the pain would be unbearable, but with a squeeze I was sure I get inside. Making sure the boy and the dog were out of the way, I threw the hand sized rock and watched as it bounced off the double glass, falling to the floor at my feet. I glanced to the front of the house and saw Cassie sobbing as she rocked the toddler back and forth. The boy handed me the rock and I threw again, this time the first pane gave, then standing on the tips of my toes, the second pane was gone and the remains of the glass followed.

I turned and the boy had gone, but before I could spin back I saw him walking with my gun in his hand. My eyes went wide as he held the pistol with such confidence, the barrel pointed down towards the ground. He must have grabbed it from my jacket pocket.

“Um,” I said. “Hand it over.”

He looked up, his face lit with hurt.

“But what if those things are inside?”

The thought stumbled across my mind. Was he offering to go inside? There was no way I could let that happen.

“I’m going in,” I said, holding out my hand.

“Not with your injuries,” he replied. “You’ll pass out before you reach the other side.”

Again he was right, but I couldn’t ask him to do this. I didn’t have to, he was already up at the wall waiting for me to boost him up.

As his feet disappeared through the window, I heard glass breaking and the dog barked as if he was next to be helped up. I couldn’t stifle a chuckle as I ran around the front, wrapping my sticky arms around myself. I waited with my ear at the door, listening to the silence, broken only by Cassie’s comforting, low pitch calls.

I couldn’t look at Nat, had to turn away from Cassie’s red eyes, instead I concentrated on the dog’s long face, the pink of its mouth as it panted, watching it sat at my heals, its tail stopping wagging only when from behind the door came a muffled, high pitched scream.

 

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Reading out of sequence? Why? Here’s Chapter One

GJ Stevens

I am a Writer. I am many other things too, but I love to write. I write in my spare time, I write when my time is not really spare. I write to relax and I write because I enjoy hearing about how people react to my words. Later this year I release my debut novel, In The End, a compelling apocalyptic thriller that will leave you breathless, immersing you in their fight for survival.

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