“Stray shot. Right?” I said before Toni had chance to speak. Wide eyes were her only reply. “It’s not safe here,” I said turning towards the cab.
“You can drive?” Toni said, her voice slow. I half expected a smile hanging from her face, but as I turned I saw her cold, blank expression. She knew I could drive. I’d driven to meet her so many times. I’d driven halfway across the country full of anticipation, my head bursting with excitement at what lay ahead. Days later I’d driven home, deflated, tears spent, body aching. After a week of heaven, the bubble would always burst and I’d promise myself never to open up again, never to think we could be any other way, never to daydream we could be together, could never build on the good times, ditch all the pain.
“You know I can drive,” I said turning away, climbing between the front seats as I peered through the windscreen. My eyes caught on the sea of movement, the car park dotted with people walking. But they weren’t people, not anymore. Their slow walk told me they weren’t making their own decisions, told me they were driven by their desire to fill the burning hunger.
I found the keys still in the ignition. I was so pleased to see them dangling, my mind didn’t even consider there was a good reason. Looking through the right wing mirror, my eyes caught on the side panel and the flared hole in the centre before falling to the mess of flesh slumped to the tarmac.
“Stray shot,” I said to myself, Toni catching my eye as she settled in the passenger seat, pulling her belt across with the engine roaring to life.
“Where now?” I said as I pulled the van from its space, scouring the surroundings for the exit. I flashed a look in her direction when she didn’t reply, the raise of her hand told me she didn’t want her thoughts disturbed.
Still, I saw no life as I slowly drove through the narrow lanes, the dead following between the cars, to cut across our path. A soldier appeared from around an olive drab truck, I slammed on the brakes, the belt pulling tight against my chest. My first thoughts were for the sniper who’d saved our lives, the second for those who’d come to take us. I stepped on the accelerator before the third thought came to mind, steering the wheel into the figure as I saw the huge welt down the side of its face, the milky white eyes fixed in a stare as its mouth snapped open and closed.
Bile rose from my empty stomach as the crunch of bone carried up through the suspension. I turned to Toni, her eyes closed, head shaking as if trying her best not to spoil her concentration. I couldn’t avoid the next few, took them out one after the other, each time my reaction lessened, my pause shorter, my eyes barely stopping on their shape as I scoured the horizon for a break in the fence. I found it moments later, not a break, but the way out. A thick sliding gate of green steel barring our exit. In front, on the other side, just a short throw, was a white and red barrier across a deserted road.
I headed that way without wait, steering to take down anything that stood in our way, their faces gawking, open wide, knowing their thoughts fixed on how they could get to our taste. I drove to the gate, but wasn’t surprised as it didn’t move, didn’t slide, staying solid, heavy, fixed in place. There was no way we were getting through without a tank and I hadn’t seen one yet.
“Toni,” I snapped in her direction and she opened her eyes, fumbling in her pockets. I turned around to the side of the gate and noticed for the first time a panel with a green LED blinking at its top. “It’s on,” I replied to the sight and I turned to Toni still searching, but my eyes passed her by, instead landing on the small crowd of the dead I saw through the window heading in our direction. At the head of the group of five was a soldier, as were most of his companions, but just at his shoulder was an Indian man in a white coat, limping as he walked. Around his neck was a white card on a lanyard swinging side to side.
“No,” Toni said and I caught her turning back from the same direction. “I’ll go,” she added. I couldn’t let her do that.
“Give me the gun,” I said, but she shook her head, unable to stop her eyes darting back toward the rear compartment.
“No, please no,” she replied, her voice stringing out as she pleaded, but I stood before she could, reaching between the seats. She didn’t follow, she knew we were as head strong as each other, she too knew the root cause of our problems. She stayed watching from her seat as I took the gun from the side where she’d placed it to pull the vials from the bag. With one in the chamber and five bullets in the clip, I had a spare, I thought. If only my aim had improved.
Cold air bit between the gap as it opened wide, the inside of the van already warm as I pushed it shut at my back, turning as I felt the sticky handle and saw the ink blot of dark blood splattered above the jagged hole in the metal. I shuddered as I caught the air, the chill of the icy wind carrying the foul stench of sewerage and I turned, my eyes following the moan. I had no time. Around the side of van, the group were only a few paces away. Pulling the gun up, I took aim, choosing the soldier at the front, closing my left eye and centring on his forehead.
The shot missed, but I’d got their attention. In one fluid motion each turned, their faces electrifying with energy, mouths slapping shut, eyes gaping to show their full whites. I took a step closer, couldn’t miss at this distance, barely the length of the van between us. I centred my aim again, trying not to be distracted by the missing nose and fired. I might as well have missed, the shot pushing through its neck, thick blood barely filling the space left before I fired three, four and five and he was down.
One shot left and I looked to the van, turning just in time to catch a clawed hand as it swiped for my back. With my last shot I blew the back off a scientist’s head, my eyes widening on the pass hanging from its neck. I twisted back around, breath panting as I aimed, the click of the empty chamber echoing in the cold wind, the group’s slow procession was nearly at an end. I turned with one last dash, bending over, snapping the lanyard from the fallen scientist’s neck, but about to stand, I felt fingers claw down my back and I swung my fist in an upper cut with all my strength, hoping it was enough to send the creature’s jaw bone into its head.
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Reading out of sequence, here’s the rest of Season Two.
Not read Season One? Here it is.