Season Two – Chapter Nineteen

With my concentration on where she’d stood, I felt my feet slipping, my fingers aching as they pinching into the roof, my long nails already sheared flat. I turned, lunging for the drainpipe, giving my trust it wouldn’t fall away, wouldn’t release from the wall as I gripped around its surface, digging my toes hard as they came to rest on each side of the metal bracket. The round metal pipe moved, but didn’t give out all the way, at least not as my weight settled. The wind had picked up and with every movement as I clung on; the metal rubbed against itself, creaking, shifting, complaining like it could go at any moment. My hands were going numb with effort and I knew I couldn’t last long like this, but I wouldn’t look down, couldn’t let myself head that way. I refused to see what had made the soldier give up and take the easy way out.

I turned back to the space where she’d been not so long before, but still she hadn’t returned. I wanted to help her but I couldn’t, there was no chance I could make it back across, it was all I could do to cling onto the metal rattling with the slightest of my movements.

Somehow I climbed, letting the stack take my weight as I gripped around its girth with each hand, pushing my feet flat against the brick. I could see no other way and it worked, at least at first, letting me get three paces up the wall before I had to scrabble at the roof and find the ledge on the other side as the stack collapsed, my feet falling from under me, testing to see if my grip would hold.

It did, but for how long I wasn’t sure, with the metal still clattering, its echo ringing as it smashed down hard for the final time, I heaved myself up by my arms, scraping my front over the edge before I finally had my feet on the solid ground. I lay face down against the rough surface, drained, empty and savouring what was beneath me, my breath slowing until I thought about Toni.

Scrabbling to the edge, not taking in what was around me, staying low, I pulled myself back to the edge, popping my head into the free air, my breath catching as I reared back taking in the distance to the ground below. It was only three stories, but was enough to send my head into a spin. That was until I saw the ground moving. I knew it wasn’t the ground in motion and my brain corrected itself as the people gained their definition. They were wandering aimless as before, but had multiplied with a low hum radiating toward me, along with the same stench from the corridor.

I pulled my head up, my vision extending across the distance, past the trucks and the Land Rovers, the scattered weapons. The aimlessly wandering crowd had thinned, but I’d yet to see anyone not infected, anyone still human. The horizon ran out before I could see what I wanted, but hope came in the form of gunfire, distant at first, the best sign there was still a resistance. Close gunfire replied, so close, I shook with its force, until hope rose again in my chest as I released it was coming from below, the sound bursting from the window. Then came Toni, her body rearing back as she fired again. Her precious pack slung on one shoulder, swinging under her arm as she climbed out of the window, backwards into the nothingness.

I pushed myself out into the air as far as I dared, about just below my ribs, and I reached down, letting my arms drop.

“Grab on,” I said and she gave a start, sending her balance off, but I grabbed her hand as it flailed, a great smile on my face as we touched, my grip encircling her wrist. Together we scraped and shuffled sideways.

Nearly clear of the window, I felt strong again, ready to help drag her up, confident as she gripped me tight, her feet along the wall as I shuffled back, anchoring myself of the shallow ledge. Feet flat as mine had been, she climbed higher and I knew soon we would be safe and together. I could hold her in my arms and we could take our time to think. We would have all the time in the world to wait, contemplate the right moment to make the next move.

She climbed higher, my eyes on hers, her speed increasing as a scream seared through the air from below. I looked down as a dark flash burst from the window. I expected to see the shape fall to the ground. I didn’t expect Toni’s body to go tight, to pull against me so I hard as I took her full weight, to drag me down towards her. It all made sense when my eyes fell on the snarling beast lined with dark veins, its claw-like grip around Toni’s left ankle as it swayed, its mouth snapping wide, the other hand clawing at the air.


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Reading out of sequence, here’s the rest of Season Two.

Not read Season One? Here it is.

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