A thin, yellowing sleeve covered the arm and Cassie’s iron bar crashed down across it with a great puff of effort, but still the grip held. I looked down and saw the skin tight around the bones. I tried pulling back, pushing away from the door, but no matter how much I tried it wouldn’t let up. My left hand grabbed around the wrist, but let go, the skin so cold, unreal, like a lifesize doll. A two handed swing from over Cassie’s head cracked against the forearm, snapping in down the middle. The grip sprung wide like the release of a bear trap, but the arm stayed out waving from the window, the last half of the arm swinging from side to side.
Cassie pulled me back from the door with such force I nearly fell to the ground before I made any distance. Stumbling, I somehow kept my feet as she pulled me along. I stared back, the drooping hand waving to the constant bang of its head butting hard from the other side.
Regaining my composure, we ran in the centre of the road, keeping an even distance between each of the buildings. Chancing another look back, the farmer was nowhere, then turned to watch the village open out and end. There was no supermarket, corner shop or pub, just the post office looking no bigger than the size of phonebook.
Cassie slowed first and I matched her pace. Her hands reached into her pocket and she pulled out a cloth, beckoning me closer with her other hand. I followed her request and stooped a little. The cloth came away with a light dapple of blood, but I only felt any pain as she gently dabbed the wound.
“We need to be careful,” she said. “You need to be careful,” she soon added. I let a wide smile fill my face and she handed me the cloth.
“Post Office is our best bet, you think?” I said, pushing the cloth to my pocket. There were ten houses, each painted white, but all so different and similar at the same time. A thought came to mind and I turned around on the spot, taking in each of the houses for the second time.
“No cars,” Cassie said before I had a chance to voice my findings.
“Evacuated themselves?” I said. She shrugged. “We should find a map in the post office. We can walk to the next place, maybe find a car or at least somewhere with food.” Nodding her reply we walked, but took our time to peer in each of the houses, stepping no closer, not leaving from the road. Most were wrapped up tight, windows closed, curtains drawn, the occasional low key Christmas decoration. All bar one.
A house, again much like the others, sat in the middle, between two similar properties with the post office next to the row of three. The curtains weren’t closed and upstairs a window was wide open. We shared a glance at the sight, stopping in the road, both unsure of what to do next. The front garden was immaculate and lined with evergreen bushes that tapered in perfect cones, the time and patience required meant someone had time on their hands. Sharing the raise of eyebrows, we took our first slow steps towards the house, staring forward, waiting for the smallest of signs that should turn away. Cassie was right, we needed to be so careful.
It wasn’t any sight from the house which made us stop, or footsteps from the farmer or any of his new friends. It was the sound of a large engine in the background, the noise already building as we waited. It was a truck, or something large. Too noisy for a coach, the engine being thrashed too hard for an official. I turned to Cassie and she turned to me. My head filled with a vision of the helicopter and its devastation. A vision of those big jeeps they had in Afghanistan, but painted green, the machine gun mounted high trained at every angle. The soldier’s eyes twitching for everything that moved. Shooting first, asking questions later.
Her head must have filled with similar thoughts, I didn’t need to do anything but tip mine across the road and she grabbed my hand, sending a shot of electricity up to my chest. We ran, covering the distance in no time at all, between the two houses, jumping a wall. The sound of the engine was almost upon us as we fell to the grass behind a wide chimney stack jutting out high from the side of the house.
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Reading out of sequence? Why? Here’s Chapter One