The roar of the engine thundered high as Toni dropped. About to launch after, I watched with an ache as she fell short, her shoulder pushing aside the heavy green cover to clash hard with a hidden rigid stone wall. With no time for a Plan B, no time for a change my mind, all I could do was brace myself for the impact, hold my thoughts for the crushing weight to send me off into orbit as I lost consciousness.
I’d waited, eyes closed, for longer than the split second I’d expected for it to all be over, turning without thought, instincts taking control, my hands reaching up to my face as shrapnel exploded. Seeing the Land Rover collide with the wall, the eyes of the driver on me, his face so fearful, I twisted, let myself drop, arms wide, falling over Toni like a blanket. Debris peppered my back as Toni writhed beneath my cover.
Standing, stone and metal showered to the floor as I twisted and turned, easing out every new ache while I watched steam hiss from the crumpled front of the Land Rover. With the ring in my ears only just settling, I helped Toni up with an offered hand and she lunged her arms around me squeezing tight, gripping so hard I felt like maybe I’d been hit after all.
After longer than I should have waited, I peeled her off and turned back, remembering the poor driver who must have seen me after all, twisting the wheel at the last moment. The front half of the vehicle had crumpled like a concertina, the front tyre flat, the rim of the wheel resting to the floor. Steam continued to rise, black smoke intertwining and no matter how hard I looked the driver was no where. I didn’t wait for Toni’s response, leapt forward, gripping the handle tight, looking inside, surprised to see no loose white bags that should have saved his life. He’d vanished, completely gone, there was no trace of him ever being in the vehicle other than someone must have got it here.
I looked through the windscreen, continuing to battle with the stuck door. Letting go of the handle, I saw the windscreen undamaged, saw no sign of the hole from where the glass had spidered. I scrolled back through my mind, I’d definitely seen it, I wasn’t miss-remembering. A groan called from the field the other side of the wall and I stepped back, shifting to the front of crumpled bonnet, wafting away the blackening smoke mixing with the white of the steam and pushed my hand through the pace where the glass should have been.
Turning back to Toni wide-eyed, both of us twisted to the sound of movement, the rustle of leaves, of vegetation on the other side of the wall. Just then I heard stones grinding, rubbing together and I jumped back just in time to watch as the wall collapsed into the field, stones falling either side like dominoes. About to step through the settling dust and over the debris, racing into the field to help the man who’d put himself into the wall to save our lives, Toni caught my arm and looked wide-eyed raising her nose to the air.
I let a tentative pull of air into my lungs, coughing at the bitter smoke itching the back of my throat, but there it was hanging in between. My mouth dropped and my breath stopped as I turned towards the Land Rover, watching dazed at the thickening smoke and the flames crackling at the edges of the bonnet.
“Jess,” Toni called and I turned not hiding my alarm, nodding frantically, keeping my voice mute, she knew the worse thing she could have done was to call out, to make a sound. I watched the moment she caught up, her hand slamming to her mouth as another call cut in half, her head shaking, mouth bunching. I turned back, flinching as her hand gripped my shoulder, twisting to pull at the warming handle, coughing as my grip got tighter, the fingers on my right jabbing at the window, pointing to rifle laid across the passenger footwell.
Still she shook her head, pulling hard against my arm and I relented, stumbling back, steadying myself on my bare feet. Toni followed me as I stepped closer to the wall, almost tiptoeing as I leant down, my fingers touching on the patent leather when the body of the soldier lunged from the field, his face curtained with blood still gushing from a slit down the centre of his forehead. He stumbled, his bloodied hand still warm as it latched on to mine, falling face first across the stones.
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Reading out of sequence, here’s the rest of Season Two.
Not read Season One? Here it is.