Stunned by explosions at my side, I watched, a passenger in my body as the creature lurched forward, its black-veined face smashing against my chest, sending me tumbling backward. I fought to stay upright, but the weight pushed me down. Despite my punches curling to its face, it gave no reaction as my knuckles dug into its loose skin. My volley forced on, weakening as my resolve ebbed, until a warm hand encircled one fist and then the other, holding them back.
The creature slumped to the side, its hideous, bent features replaced by Toni’s pained face peering upside down over the top of my head and she leant down, her lips landing soft on my cheek. There we stayed, both sobbing for too long, until a shot echoed in the distance. Our wake-up call. We lifted, taking in our surroundings as if for the first time, the moans, the snarl of the dead barely heard in the background. As I stood, the creature’s blood ran down my front, dripping to my feet as my arm encircled Toni and handed over the gun, its weight too much as she limped at my side.
Somehow we climbed the fence, Toni first to the top, wincing as she fell not able to make the last few steps. She was on her feet by the time I finished leaving a bloody trail over the metal. We padded into the car park, my eyes turning this way and that, searching for the next battle as we headed to the news van.
The few creatures who’d made it this far, ignored our slow, walk as we kept low, using the cars, trucks and SUVs for cover. With thanks, the van wasn’t locked and I helped Toni up the tall step and into the rear, half expecting Dan still to be hidden, hoping his appearance would push this reality back into a dream. I let my eyes drop and I gave a shallow sign as helped Toni settle to the director’s seat fixed to the carpeted floor, took her hands in mine as I stood in her warmth. With her breath settling I pulled the back door closed, wincing with the click as the lock engaged.
Toni pulled the rucksack from her back in slow motion, the drip of liquid trailing from the canvas and from her hands as she carefully searched by fingertip, drawing out two unbroken vials of the red liquid. We didn’t speak for what seemed like an age, neither of us able to put words to what we’d just gone through. I was the first to move, to pull away, opening the long cupboard to find it empty, time flashing back to Christmas Day when for the cost of pizza, I’d convinced Dan and Mike to come here to die. Holding back the pain, I stared into the empty wardrobe which, had this been an assignment, would have been full of my outfits. Instead it was bare and I would have to remain blanketed in the creature’s drying blood for the duration.
“What next?” I said turning to Toni. She stared out though the doors as if they had windows in the centre. When she didn’t reply, I moved over towards her, but not close enough to touch. Now wasn’t the time for distraction. “If we leave here, we’ll get picked up when we hit the perimeter. They’ll have regiments surrounding us,” I said, looking to her for answers. “This place will be covered. Unless they’re still in shock, overwhelmed, waiting for reinforcements. What do you think?” Still, she gave no movement, no hint of a reply, just continued her stare through the nonexistent window. “If we stay, eventually they’ll round me up, you too and do whatever they were going to do. Right? Do you think?” I let the words hang in the air, trying not to raise my voice as I spoke again. “You know these people better than me.” She gave no reply. “Toni?” I snapped and watched as her head turned away. I twisted, taking a step, kneeling, forcing myself back into her view. “What next?” I said again, raising my hands to cup her chin as I stared into her vacant eyes.
“We have to find her,” she said, her words low.
“Who?” I said, letting my hands down from her face.
“The woman who did this?” she replied. “The woman who did this to you.”
“Who? Why?” I said, brushing the front on my hand against her undamaged cheek.
“There’s not enough,” she said, then stuttered to silence. “There’s not enough,” she said, taking her time to say the words. “There’s not enough to give us time.”
“Time for what?”
“For your immune systems to have its best shot.”
“Of beating this thing?” I said and she nodded. “I feel fine,” I said doing my best to raise a smile and it wasn’t a lie. Apart from the aches and pains from our escape and a hunger anyone would feel after not eating for days. “I feel fine,” I said.
“For now,” she replied.
“What can this woman do?” I said standing. I wanted to rest her head against my stomach. I wanted to comfort her, but it would be no great comfort to rest against the blood flaking to the floor as it dried. For a second time I looked around the contents of the van, trying to find something I could change in to.
“Everything,” she said and turned back from my search. “She can do whatever she wants. She’s the head of the whole program and she holds the key to getting more of this,” she said, opening her palms and showing me the vials resting in the centre.
“Who is she?” I said, remembering a cupboard above the camera boxes.
“You’ve met,” she replied as I pulled out the hi-vis jacket, press written along the back in black letters. Trying to keep my fingertips from the blood as much as I could, I picked open the blouse buttons and slung the shirt to the corner. Looking down my chest, bare apart from the streaks of dried blood, the remains of a river running between my breasts. “You would have met her when you first arrived. She would have wanted to look you in the eye.”
I pulled on the warmth of the jacket, feeling the hug of the material against my skin, I turned back to Toni back staring through the imagined windows as I caught up with the conversation in my head, my fingers stoping the zip half way up as I remember the older woman with grey hair as she sat opposite me, across the table.
“Who is she?” I said, my eyes narrowing. I watched as Toni took a deep swallow.
“My mother,” she replied and her head fell into her hands.
Thanks for reading and if you enjoyed, like my Facebook page and drop me a message. Let me know if you like what you’re reading.
Reading out of sequence, here’s the rest of Season Two.
Not read Season One? Here it is.