Soon we slowed from a fearful pace, letting the white vapour from our mouths settle. Other than the farmer limping from the cottage, we’d seen no more of the creatures as we added to the distance from our haven. Relaxing the screwdriver from my grip, I watched the village grow in the distance, but to continue to call it a village was a big step. I could see four houses, each squat much like where we’d just come from, but otherwise individual. A small post office sat on the corner as the road wound out of view. No corner shop yet, or one of those local supermarkets, but I hoped there would be still plenty of road to see when we got in close.
Cassie was looking to the sky and along the horizon. I followed, looking up, remembering the helicopters, braced to run and hide as soon as we heard the first signs of their call. Cassie’s eyes fixed on a valley, cutting between the shallow hills to the left.
“Might be a river,” she said pointing in its direction. “If all else fails.”
I nodded, chancing another look back, pleased we still put distance between us and the farmer. Soon the first of the cottages were on our right. Outside, lights hung around the edge of the low roof, their lamps drab and unlit, not unusual in the bright daylight. The curtains were drawn, the gate closed. No newspapers stuck half out from the letter box. No candle light came through the thin rounded panes of glass running up and down the door. There were no sounds as I leant in. The round, brass handle was cold and refused to turn.
“We should,” Cassie said in a whisper, stopping as I held my palm high. I’d heard something and she leant in beside me, following the question in my expression. Her face drew in close and I could smell her perfume, not the kind that came from the bottle, but just as nice. Together we listened and I turned, fixing my concentration through the mottled glass, but whatever was the other side was obscured in darkness. I turned again, Cassie looking to the door as our eyes met. Another sound brought my attention back. There was definitely someone moving around in there. I chanced a look at Cassie, our faces so close. She drew back a pace, turning to look along the building.
“Hello,” I said in a whisper. Cassie shook her head.
“We should try the other end of the village first,” she said, her voice even quieter.
“Hello,” I repeated, a little louder this time. Cassie’s hand was on mine.
“We should,” she said, but stopped as we heard a series of what sounded like footfalls. My mouth opened to a smile, eyebrows flashing in her direction. I turned to the door and something hit the wood hard from the other side. A small pane of glass burst open, glancing shards across the side of my face. A gaunt, grey hand launched out in a foul smelling cloud, grabbing my coat, the force pounding against my ribs. I doubled forward, hitting my head and was face to face with sunken eyes squashed against the semicircle of textured glass.
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Reading out of sequence? Why? Here’s Chapter One