My head throbbed to the beating of the wind, air pounding around me, pushing heavy into my drums. Shifting my body as I lay, I tried to release the numb of my shoulder, to move the dead weight trapping me against the bed. My eyes flew open, shrinking back against the fresh light and I realised it was Cassie’s hair in my face as I reached for her shoulder. Surprised and relieved, I found she was warm, but the joy was short lived when she wouldn’t respond to the shake of her arm. I slid my shoulder from under her, my legs giving way as I put weight to the floor. Scrabbling up along the slippery tiles in my socks, my vision cleared and her body defined. It was her face buried in my shoulder, the bandage on her hand soaked through, mottled black and yellow, a sickly stench of decay wafted up as I shooed away the flies.
Shadow’s head lifted in the corner of my vision and he jumped to the floor, his knees buckling as his claws skated on the tiles. Leaning close, I touched her shoulder before carefully turning her to her back. As she settled, I looked to the ceiling, the pound of air was so close now, like something was landing just above our heads. A helicopter. My eyes twitched, blinking wide. Why had it taken me so long to figure this out? Shadow’s bark rattled the glass and sent my hands to my ears for shelter from the pain. I shook Cassie’s shoulder again. Who could sleep through this deafening racket? Who could lay there in bed as the world churned around us?
I snapped for Shadow to be quiet, but he continued to bark before moving forward and out of my view. Kneeling to the floor, I stared at her face, her cheeks were rosy red, so bright against the blonde hair laying across her face. She was hot, vivid red. I knew it couldn’t be a positive sign.
“Cassie,” I cried. “Cassie,” I said, right up in her face. At least now Shadow’s bark was getting quieter. I pushed my lips against hers, but she didn’t reply, flexed none of her muscles and my heart felt like it stopped dead. I turned, standing, wobbling on my feet and stared out at Shadow through the glass and the door hanging ajar to the side.
This was it. The time I’d been talking about for so long. The moment I’d dreamt about since this sorry mess began. The helicopter was here to pull out the survivors, to take away the saviours now a cure had been found. Left behind when they could wake us, I had to show we were okay, had to show them we were awake. We had to get to that helicopter.
I slapped down to the bed, pushed on my trainers, trying to muster speed. I turned and pulled up Cassie’s warm body, praying my knees would let me lift. She didn’t move, didn’t react as with great care I hefted her over my shoulder, pining my arms around her legs, hoping this was the time where everything would go right.
Shadow led the way as I picked my route through the smashed glass, the instruments dropped to the tiles, the remains shattered all around. They’d destroyed the place to stop it getting in the wrong hands, I told myself over and again. Keeping my eyes wide for any movement, I stepped into the corridor, the boom of wind louder than ever before. I could feel the roof complaining at the weight sat above. In the corridor there was no sign of a struggle, no new battle scars running along the walls, no bodies once or twice dead and so I followed Shadow along its full length to the other end of the building, our path unerring as he found the climbing set of stairs.
Stopping only a moment to resettle her weight, I pushed through the door to a gale pouring down the stairwell. With tears in my eyes I climbed following Shadow, bursting out to squint in the brightness. A camouflage helicopter sat on the roof the other side of the building, its rotors spinning hard and a line of white coats and soldiers climbing in.
“Ellie, Toby and Tish,” I said as I saw into the cabin. “Look Cassie,” I said even though she wouldn’t respond. I ran, slowing only to navigate around the puddles of ice and knee high ventilation towers dotted around. I heard a call and realised there was someone at the back of the group, someone separate from the line, running towards the open door. His hands were waving, frantic in the air, his shouts barely cutting through the downdraft.
“Wait, wait,” I heard him say, the words only forming as I pushed to concentrate. I slowed, my heart beating out of my eyes, I knew before the gun raised out from the soldier packed tight in the helicopter. I knew the bullet would fire out before the bang I heard over the rotors. I knew Connor would fall to the ground before the spray of red flew from the back of his head.
I settled my pace, stopped my run, let my feet stick to the tar roof, let Cassie slowly down to prop her against a ventilation tower. I pushed my hand in the air, fixing a smile, settled my eyes on the kids I could just make out. I waved as the door closed and the engine’s whine grew to a high pitch. I waved a slow motion circle in the air as it lifted, watching as it turned through ninety degrees, growing smaller with every passing moment.
Shadow rubbed against my leg, tugged at my jeans as if he wanted me to pull him up. I looked down and saw Cassie squinting back. My flat face lit up as my heart pounded. Like a giraffe on ice, I supported her as she climbed to her feet and took her in my arms, squeezing harder than I should. My eyes fell on Shadow, following his to the village. Slowly, movement came into focus, settling from one dot size face in the distance to another, again and again. Turning with Cassie in a circle, I watched their slow, steady movement in our direction.
Nothing could dampen my spirits. Nothing could push my elation away. Together we would live to fight another day and I didn’t care how much of a struggle it would be, the children were safe and I had Cassie in my arms and maybe, just maybe we’d helped to find a cure. We’d get out, things would turn out okay, we would just have to survive until tomorrow, or maybe another.
Opening my eyes to the sound of distant noise, we heard a voice high with energy coming from somewhere close. I turned still holding Cassie in my arms and she pulled away, opening our embrace, her eyes following mine as I kept her arm around my shoulder. She saw the advance, but only exclaimed as we both caught sight of a white van in the car park. Bold letters stencilled on the side, cables running from the back to camera on the shoulder of a man looking into the viewfinder, its weight pointed to a woman in a red pant suit, a microphone in her hand as she talked at the camera, oblivious to her impending death.
…that’s it for Season One, but not for our pair of survivors. Watch this space for a few fun posts while I recharge my batteries before I get back to these words I’ve so enjoyed creating. Thank you for reading and staying this long.
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Reading out of sequence? Why? Here’s Chapter One