The machete wielding driver was out first, his eyes fixed with a question on the skin head’s. His attention soon turned to the house the sentry was motioning towards with the baseball bat. Neither had seen us, despite his stare in our direction. At one point I was sure he’d made eye contact, but it was clear their interest was in the house. They were welcome to the surprise on the other side of the door. The noise came again before they’d all come out of the first house, throwing bags and high value goods into the back of the pickup. Each followed in the footsteps of their leader, weapons at the ready, whistles and calls of excitement running through the air.
This time they knocked, a gentle wrap of knuckles at the front door as each walked into the house’s shadow and out of sight, giving us our chance. We had no choice but to take it. Cold air plumed around me once more as I pulled away from Cassie with my hand still on the top of hers. I led her, both of us bending over, running down the side of the garden, trying to keep our footsteps light. The fence was six foot tall at our side and ran a long way out. The search for safety ended too quick, the garden was devoid of anywhere to hide with just grass rolling out to the fence at the back. The only feature was a moss covered wooden bench nestled to the side of the fence line half way along.
Still we ran, Cassie behind me, pulled along with my hand at my back. Not daring to slow or look around at the repeated smack at the front door. I dragged her past me, pointing at the bench and motioning my instruction. Her raised eyebrows confirmed she knew my plan, but matched my fears the bench looked as if it would collapse as we climbed. Still there was no choice and we were upon it. I slowed and she didn’t, leaping into the air, her foot on the arm, the wood complaining, but it was too late, her hands were on the fence, legs carrying over as she disappeared the other side to a soft landing.
Not being able to match her momentum and commitment to the move, my feet slid across the moss as I climbed on the seat, resting a foot on the arm, feeling it sag under my weight. Grabbing my hands onto the top of the fence, I chanced a look back and saw net curtains in the windows twitch. Landing on the other side, I held Cassie back, my eyes wide, chancing a whisper.
“There’s someone alive inside,” I said and as if to confirm, we heard the definitive sound of the front door swinging wide, rattling as it hit the wall behind. Her eyes grew wide, matching my concern, we’d both thought the noise was from someone long dead roaming around where the previous inhabitants of the body had lived. One of those creatures wouldn’t care to lift the curtain to see what was going on in their garden.
We held there for longer than we should, both of us deep in thought, shaking our heads. What if it was a family, or a group of decent people like us? What if it had been us, our friends inside? The racket from before started up again, this time there was shouting, an argument and we ran. There was nothing we could do, but we didn’t run away. Without either of us guiding, we ran back towards the houses, diagonal along the new garden and were soon in front of the neighbouring house. I held Cassie back and peered around, inching forward at a snail’s pace. They’d left no-one out the front. I did a quick scan, seeing only the farmer dead again in the middle of the road, only knowing who, what, it had been from the clothes, the head caved to a pulpy mess.
Grabbing Cassie’s upper arm, I ran across the front garden, leaping the small fence which was no bigger than my knee. We ran across the road, turning only when across the opposite front garden, leaning against the wall, looking back the way our friends were, pulling deep breaths to regain control. Cassie saw it first, nudging my arm with her elbow. I don’t know whether we recognised it from before. It didn’t matter, it had seen us and was veering from the bend in the road, heading in our direction.
The creature was slow and we should just have run away, been careful, but someone needed our help, even through we were in no place to give it. Cassie was first to head into the garden, jogging around the house, slowing as we came around the second corner. She stopped, retreating to the safety of the brick. The two sentries were walking back to their posts, shouts were going on in the background, but aimed elsewhere. I ran back the way we’d come and saw the creature was still heading in the direction it would have last seen us, the direction I’d just shown my face again. I was back around the house to see Cassie looking out. She stepped back and met my eye.
“They’ve seen it. The skin head’s heading its way,” she said, her breath still coming fast. I looked around, only just managing pull back just as the guy was turning in our direction, his round head tilted at an angle. He wasn’t as thick as his looks. He’d realised the direction the creature was taking and had altered his own course around the house to cut it off. Our one chance was if the creature had locked onto the new threat, or promise of food, or whatever the motive of those animals could be.
I motioned for Cassie to follow back the way we’d come, but rounding the corner our shoulders sank, the creature was on us having ignored the thug about to score himself three for the price of one.
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Reading out of sequence? Why? Here’s Chapter One