“There goes the PE-4,” McCole said, stepping around his blood still soaking into the grass. Walking toward the new gap in the hedge, I turned to Cassie as we caught up, my confusion was visible as McCole replied without my need to ask. “Explosives,” he said, taking a hard swallow, the colour from his skin all but drained despite the tan. “We didn’t know what we would come across.” I raised my brow in Cassie’s direction. McCole winced as he shuffled his shoulders trying to re-balance his pack.
“Are you sure you don’t need painkillers?” Cassie said.
“You don’t want me on morphine. I need to stay alert,” he replied, letting his shoulders relax.
“Have you really not see those things before?” I said, knowing from his reaction back when it all kicked off, but a sprig of hope lingered it was just from the shock.
He shook his head, dashing hope for the second time.
“No,” he replied. “What the hell are they?”
“I don’t know,” I said, looking around. “But they’re mean motherfuckers,” I added and a shiver ran along my spine. “Third time now. We always come off worse. They’re so much faster. The others are like sheep, gathering in herds, wandering about, only bothering people when they’re seen. They’re easy to get away from as long as you’re not surprised, but those other things, they were still human once, but react so much differently. They’re like hunters.”
“Top of the food chain,” McCole replied. I nodded.
“Like two different strains,” Cassie added, not taking her eyes from out in front.
McCole turned away shaking his head.
“What have you been told?” I said.
“Me?” he replied looking back, closing his eyes for longer than a blink. “I’m a soldier, not a boffin. We know as much as you’ve guessed already. We should have built the fences so much taller,” he said, shaking his head.
I raised my eyebrows and turned to Cassie, her eyes still scanning the hedge line.
“You must have been told more,” I replied. McCole turned my way.
“Take this,” he said offering out the rifle. I paused, looking him in the eye. We both knew he had more to say, but it was clear he wouldn’t be telling me any time soon. I took the long gun and I laid the pistol on his open palm before he handed it to Cassie. “Aim and pull the trigger all the way. Don’t point at anything you don’t want to be dead,” he said, turning back to check I was listening too. As we walked, he continued with instructions, handing over two new clips for the rifle, watching as I followed his words, releasing the old clip and pushing home thirty new rounds. “Same thing,” he finished by saying. “This isn’t an action movie. Don’t fire from the hip unless it’s your last resort.”
I nodded, feeling the grave weight of the rifle in my hands. Pushing the stock into my shoulder, I leant my right eye against the sight, taking in the magnified view as I let the gun travel across the horizon.
“All clear,” I said.
“Don’t believe it,” he replied.
Soon we were within touching distance of the destroyed hedge, the space between our steps getting less and less as we moved around large shards of misshapen metal and smouldering debris once part of the Land Rover. The space where the Land Rover had been was empty, a crater of steaming tarmac in its place, beside which we saw the underside of what had been our transport, the Defender flipped on its side and pushed deep into the hedge. It wasn’t going anywhere soon.
Our steps were slow, McCole taking the lead, covering left with the pistol outstretched. I followed at his back, almost touching, my eye down the sight, body turned to the right. I could hear Cassie just behind us covering the rear, the ground uneven as we crossed onto what had been the road, the heat rising as debris crushed under my feet.
“Clear left,” were McCole’s words and there was nothing in my scope.
“Clear right,” I said and a great animalistic scream all but obscured the words. Instinct alone lowered the gun and pulled the trigger as I screamed at the blackened, skinless face shrieking towards me.
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Reading out of sequence? Why? Here’s Chapter One