I watched in the wing mirror, their eyes fixed forward, neither looking back as they hurried to cover the ground. Their hardened faces and the wide, disbelieving look in their eyes told me they’d seen as least as much as we had. A breath pulled unbidden as I spotted the barrel of a long gun rising from behind one of their backs.
“It’s him,” I said, not turning to Toni. She made no reply and I lost the train of thought as I turned to see a soldier shouting through my window.
“Move it,” a tall man in a moustache called. His confidence, more than the stripes on his chest, told me he was in charge. With breath misting against the window, he pointed to the left side of the roadblock where two soldiers were pulling down the sandbags while another moved one of the two Land Rovers. By the time I’d turned back he’d gone, racing up the side of the hill to meet the pair, turning when they didn’t wait, running at their side as they shouted their conversation.
I turned on the ignition, wheeling the van up the first of the incline, the tilt unsettling as I leant in the opposite direction, my hands constantly correcting the steering to miss the remaining sandbags. As the wheels settled back to the tarmac, I was straight out onto the road, forgetting my bare feet until they hit the cold, not listening to Toni’s calls for me to get back in, to stop being so stupid, to get us away from the danger. The words disappeared as my door slammed shut.
“Give me a pistol,” I shouted to the three soldier settling back behind the roadblock. None looked up from the sights of their rifles as they knelt against the sandbags. “Give me a gun,” I said, nudging the closest at his shoulder. He looked up and shouted across to the three returning.
“Sarge,” he said, flicking up a look in my direction.
“Hundreds,” said the sniper as he swung the long rifle from his shoulder. Jumping over the roadblock, he gave me the slightest of nods before running to the back of the closest of the Land Rovers before I could thank him or give any reply. The stench caught in my nostrils and I looked down the road, watching the valley cut between the hills as it wound out of view. The sergeant stood at my side as he looked, stone faced, in the same direction.
“Give me a pistol,” I said. “I can help.” The sergeant double took, looking down across my spoilt front.
“Get in the van, Ma’am. Get in the van and get the fuck out of here,” he said. I turned to the van, saw Toni’s wide-eyed command repeat his words with her head to the side.
“Where do we go?” I replied, folding my arms in the cold. He double took again.
“I take it by the state of you, you know what’s coming?” he said. I nodded. “In that case, get anywhere. Get as far away as you can. What you see,” he said looking back to his men. “What you see is everything, you understand? There’s a hundred or more of those, I don’t know what they are, but they were my regiment and they’re coming here with one thing on whatever remains of their minds. I don’t have to tell you what will happen. Now go,” he said, his voice raising. “Or do I have to waste one of my men forcing you back inside?”
I stayed put as he turned away, raising his rifle and peering through the sight. I flashed a look down the road. The tarmac was clear until I blinked and the moment my eyes opened I saw the first movement, saw the camouflaged legs, then the body, half an arm hanging loose at his side swinging in time with its slow, casual stroll. I jumped as a bullet leapt from the long rifle, snatching a look to the sniper crouching to my right, the double legs of the long gun leaning on a sand bag. I turned back to the road and watched the sea of legs trampling over the fallen figure. With the awful creatures in view, the stench felt like it was pouring from the sky. My heart raced, but I couldn’t just walk away. Toni said we needed to know where that woman was, she wanted her to save me. I wanted her for another reason altogether and I couldn’t let this pass by.
The rifle snapped over and again, my body’s reaction lessening each time. Each time was a hit. Each time was a kill, despite my head’s trouble with those words. Ten, maybe more, were down, but still they continued on, stumbling over their fallen, some moving to avoid, veering up the hill, only to be drawn back by the incline, funnelled by the valley back to the road. This was a stand, this was where history would be made. If they broke through here where would the next be? From here they could move out into the open, they would be out in the wide space and I’d seen too many movies to know how this would end.
I thought of my parents and my friends. I thought of the villages, the towns, the cities, all those people, those children, those lives to be lost. Those lives that would live again and add to the battle that would have to be fought. I couldn’t run and I walked to the back of the van, pulled the door open to the sound of the dried blood cracking and took the gun from the floor. I shouted just as the door slammed.
“You go. The keys are in the ignition.”
I took an ammunition clip from the back of the Land Rover and rejoined the line as the order to open fire was given.
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Reading out of sequence, here’s the rest of Season Two.
Not read Season One? Here it is.