With each deep, incessant bark, the glass squares in the door rattled against their lead edging. Pushing hard with the back of my shoulders, hands flat against its surface, the hinges complained, creaking against the wall, but not moving either way. Stalemate, although I knew the creatures on the other side could keep it up for longer. My eyes fell to the trainer stuck in the door’s path, its muddy covered fabric wedged to the wall. There was only one way the door was going.
I flinched my view around the small anteroom, to shelves hung along the short walls, then down to where a stout chest freezer sat. Despite the madness of the effort, I couldn’t help but think of the food inside. So much had happened in the last few hours, but in reality it had been barely two days since the start. Since we lost those things impossible to live without. Electricity. The internet. Both would be no use right now as a heave from the other side brought back my focus. I gave a shove in reply, my eye back on the shelves, roving for weapons. The iron might do, but the rest were useless. The electric mixer a great doorstop in this new world.Turning back to the boy, the gun still held by the barrel, he was trying his best to pull the dog back as he growled between each bellow. The dog needed a name. Had collar to give us a clue.
The boy had the dog back, the mutt not pulling away. The boy turned the gun and pointed it at the wedged shoe.
“No,” I shouted. “No. Too dangerous.” I paused, pushing a little harder and realised there may never be a good time for introductions. “Kid, what’s your name?” I said, straining against a renewed effort.
The kid looked up as if I’d told him Santa Claus wasn’t real, his face distant, eyes raising. Maybe he’d forgotten what he was called.
“Jack,” he eventually said in a quiet voice.
“Jack. I like that,” I replied. The kid looked passed me as a another shove added to the pile, another low moan of air rolling out that putrid smell. “My name’s Logan,” I said pausing. “I’d shake your hand if I could,” I said and tried to squeeze out a smile. The kid wasn’t impressed, his face deadpan. “Go see if Cassie,” I paused again. “Go see if the woman in the other room can lend a hand,” I said, giving the door another heave. Before he ran the short distance, he placed the gun carefully in the opening of the kitchen beside me, then was back in just a few speeding heartbeats. He was shaking his head. I understood, picturing Cassie’s arms drenched in Nat’s blood. I wanted to say she might have to come anyway. Instead I decided to try something else, to test how these things would react.
Pulling a deep breath, trying to let my muscles relax, I spoke again.
“Jack. Take the gun and get ready to run to the front room. If I don’t follow, just shut the door. Get the woman to pull the furniture across and stay there. You understand?” I watched as he stared back, looking like he was about to ask a question, about to ask me what I was up to. I didn’t have time. “Pick up the gun,” I said and he did what he was told. “And take the dog too, right?” I said raising my brows. “You’ll need to give him a name.”
The kid looked at the dog, turning his head to the side and the tiniest of smiles appeared.
I took a final deep pull of air, trying to hold back my gag reflex and turned my head down to the floor, planting my foot back a few inches, letting my hold relax.
The door gave as I expected, slapping against my foot. The kid jumped, taking aim to my side as I fought stop the movement and keep my hold. The woman’s dead foot was loose and free to move. It didn’t. My test had failed and I’d lost valuable leverage, the weight so much stronger than before and my foot was moving, the soles of my trainers squealing as they slide against the tiles.
The hallway darkened, my foot slipping, a hand peeling around the edge. It was the woman’s, I could tell from the red of her nails, the fingers dowsed in dried blood. I tried to push back, but I was already giving all I had. Something fluttered to the floor and I followed it down. A finger nail. False. For show. At her her finger the skin pink nail was rough underneath, the edge jagged and bitten down to the skin. My eyes shot back to the front door as the glass rattled with the boom of a fist against the wood.
“Help,” came the call. It was Andrew’s panicked voice, I had no doubt. The toddler wailed high, Jack turning, his aim swapping between his sister and the front door.
“Let him in, Jack. He’s our friend,” I said, a new calmness in my voice. “Our friend,” I said again in a whisper, the words relaxing, a weight lifting. Jack turned his face bunched in a question. I confirmed in a nod and felt the pressure ease at my back. The weight was literally lifting. I felt a sudden relief that everything would be okay, but the feeling was only short lived, the events of the day flashing before my eyes. I looked down my blood soaked chest, remembering Nat lain on the couch, Zoe lost out in the wilderness that only last week, didn’t exit. Jack was halfway to the door and I gave a heave, taking back some distance I’d lost and the realisation came. It was getting lighter because they were going after Andrew.
“Hurry,” I shouted, but Jack couldn’t speed any more, he was there, his hands tangling at the locks, getting twisted like in a dream. It was already bad, a nightmare, but worse still. There was no possibility I would wake up.
The light from the front room dimmed. There were more coming around the edge. No time left.
The door sprung open and there was Andrew, red faced, eyes wide, with terror running through him. But here he was in one piece. A smile bloomed on my face, mirrored by his, but dropped as I saw a hand come around the door, grabbing the hood of Andrew’s coat, yanking him back. He pulled himself free, falling to the floor. He was inside. Euphoria.
“Shut the door,” I screamed. More hands racked at the edges.
The temperature fell and my heart sank with it as I saw in the distance, Connor and Zoe running towards us. One of those beasts racing at their back.
Jack slammed the door closed.
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Reading out of sequence? Why? Here’s Chapter One