Teeth snapped forward grazing my nose and her head pulled back, saliva dripping cold to my cheeks as she dived forward for a second try. Despite knowing she was trying to take off my face, every muscle in my body felt tight, but wouldn’t release. My mind couldn’t let me muster the will to take her life, my hand frozen around the handle of the knife. Her perfect white teeth lurched forward again. I knew there was something wrong, something alien, absent, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. I did the only thing possible at that moment. Closing my eyes, I gave up.
Feeling her weight collapse over me, the air forced from my lungs and my eyes shot open. I rolled her to the side, turning away as her blood cool as ice, splattered across my face. Panting for breath I looked up and saw Damien standing over me, a wide yellow toothed grin beaming down, blood dripping from a paring knife in his right hand.
“I saved your life you pussy, now you owe me,” he said and snatched the knife from my hand. “Welcome to the new world baby,” he said and jumped back in the Land Rover, leaving me laying, panting on the floor. With his door slamming closed I stood staring at the body, her brown hair still perfect with just a thin line of blood running slowly from the wound at her temple.
“Get in,” Damien shouted, but I didn’t move, was still transfixed on the dead woman at my feet. He repeated, his tone sharper, this time it wasn’t a request. It was choice time again and I took the cowardly way out, climbing into the passenger seat, knowing I’d failed the test. I couldn’t protect myself and knew I’d have to surround myself with those who could if I was going to survive.
We didn’t speak, the hierarchy established. Instead I watched out of the window, the empty roads, the parked cars all gone too, the streets empty of life, only the farm animals out in the fields. We drove for about ten miles not seeing a soul, only the fires on the horizon growing in number. When eventually we saw people in their cars, they were queuing, I could see some sort of checkpoint way off into the distance, but I couldn’t even muster the courage to tell Damien to stop the car, to let me out as he turned away, following his instinct to keep from anything official.
His only reaction was when we came across a small group of what seemed to be people he knew. I was barely introduced to the four when their intent became clear, they were breaking into a small group of houses, helping themselves to everything of value. Damien was happy to go along and so was I, apparently. I did what I was told, stayed at the back of the two cars while Damien was posted at the front and we watched, waited, me with an iron bar I’d been given, Damien with a baseball bat.
I didn’t know my role until I spotted someone coming up the road, their walk so much like the woman who’d been killed whilst on top of me, as were the five others following behind. My muscles froze, giving the same reaction, tension gripped my chest and my limbs locked up. I could barely muster the words to call Damien, my voice high and feminine when I eventually did. I watched on, managing only to move well back, while Damien called for the others and as they exploded out, bombarding each of the things my head couldn’t give a name. They barely had time to fight back under the unflinching onslaught, whilst all I could do was lose whatever I had left in my stomach on the side of the road as one by one they passed me, looking down their noses, my eyes to the ground.
And so it went on for the next two days. I’d watch as they’d go around the houses smashing down the doors, pulling out everything that once had a value. Most times I would just have to stand there, every so often I would call and have Damien take care of those that happened upon where we were. I tried once more to build myself up, to take control, but my body wouldn’t let me even though it had become obvious those things weren’t recognisable as human. I was barely of use, no more than a lookout and that’s how I was treated.
In the evening before darkness took over, we’d head back to a warehouse on a tiny industrial estate, all the buildings abandoned, like everywhere else. There we’d pile up what we’d found, cash, electronics and food. A fire would be started, burning pallets soaked in petrol for warmth and we’d each be handed out the spoils. I was given the smallest share, barely a portion, but I didn’t complain, knowing there was no one to come along and help if they kicked my ass and left me for dead.
The next morning I woke up determined to change my situation, fixed on getting passed my fear, intent on getting respect. We started the day like the previous, a small group of houses, but we didn’t get any visitors. With each downward look from the others my resolve increased. I wanted to be treated as an equal and the only way I would get it was to ditch whatever was stopping me from killing these creatures.
The second set of houses proved more promising, not long after we’d arrived, I saw one of those creatures heading towards Damien’s end, a farmer it looked from how he’d been dressed. Damien dealt with it. I followed up behind as I saw another, but my chance had gone, he’d despatched him before I got near. I followed him to the garden and spotted the inside of the house, a glitzy, modern style full of loot. My mum would have gone mad, she hated anything, but the traditional. Damien seemed please when I pointed it out and let me break in, allowing me to tag along to gut the place, letting me talk now we were alone.
About to finish and being called back to the road, I opened a cupboard door and there was one of the creatures. It launched an attack, knocking me to the ground, shooting past me and going for Damien. I hadn’t frozen and knew this was my chance, then another launched out, blindsiding me. Shaking off the blow, I saw her on Damien, but she was easy to deal with and I pushed her to the side. It was my turn to save him, to get even. Snatching the crowbar from the nasty wound in Damien’s neck, he fell on top of the creature who’d attacked me. This was the moment I would prove my worth.
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Reading out of sequence? Why? Here’s Chapter One