I felt the pressure of the explosion through my body as the ground rose to smash against my shoulder, forcing the pain from elsewhere, but only for a moment. I tensed, ready for the fight, ready to take the pain, to kick and scream till it gave up, or I had to. As the echo died away in my numb ears, I squeezed my eyes open when the pain subsided and saw Toni’s offered hand, air sucking through my lips as the pain radiated down my shoulder while climbing up from the ground.
The dog lay lifeless, his long teeth hidden over hanging lips, a spray of red on the grass, scratches around my left ankles, new elongated splashes of blood up my legs. Turning my eyes away when I saw the wound to its head, I looked to the ground with a heaviness in my chest, a sore shoulder was a small price to pay, but the dog didn’t ask to join the military, the police, whoever sent it chasing after us. Ultimately, this was something else Toni’s mother would have on her conscience and I would make sure it sat heavy.
I looked up to see Toni already making her way across the field, the barrel of the gun tucked into her waistband. Waiting for her to twist around, to check I was okay and following. I turned back the way we’d come, listening with my breath slow, eyes hanging on the horizon not able to stop wondering what was going on beyond my view, how the battle was playing out and if life would ever be normal again. To the sound of distant gunfire only just heard, I turned and followed in her path.
She was easy to catch, her pace slow, but I hung a few paces behind and she knew, speeding as I joined. I had nothing I wanted to say, nothing I wanted to hear, instead I watched her hips sway, watched the tight of her jeans across her butt and had to look away as I felt urges rising, shaking my head to force a stare across at the horizon. Nothing was following, nothing tracking behind, despite the noise we’d made in our defence. Still, we didn’t rest and had soon climbed up to the building, a ramshackle shed whose roof had caved many years before.
Looking through where a fourth wall had once been, I saw inside was an animal, long dead, a sheep maybe, its bleached white carcass the only remains. The building marked the edge of the village which started over the crest, twenty houses arranged around a T junction. The road headed across our view, the point of the Tee running almost to the shed, tarmac halfway, before it ran to gravel. Crowded around the junction a post office bunched up tight to a local shop with bright orange signage, which sat alongside a public house. A lion roared out from the red board hanging on the side and our eyes fixed on the tall steeple just slightly removed from the rest of the village to the side.
Toni gave a sharp look in reply as I pointed out our destination, but my anger was only short-lived, dissipating at the sound of a pack of ferocious barking dogs. We moved closer, sharing the concern on our features. Toni’s hand reached around for the pistol, but before she took hold the fearful sounds lost their strength and headed into the distance.
Calming and about to set foot to make our way, a scream cut through the air and the unmistakable sound of a gunshot followed. The calls became a chorus with a second soon joining. We tried to find the source, tried to peer around the building, but it was only as two woman rounded the corner, coming from the right and running down the T towards us, we knew the source. The women were joggers if their tight shorts and figure hugging bright tops were anything to go by, but they were sprinting as if their life depended on their hobby, all whilst their heads twisted behind, screams echoing out each time they saw what we still couldn’t.
Doors of the houses opened as the screams grew more feral, not abating, and we looked at each other, but knowing it was the worst thing to do, knowing some wouldn’t live to regret their actions, the cause of the terror could only be one thing. We both stood in silence watching on with a fascination we had no time to take, but neither of us could pull away from the view. Something must have nagged unconsciously, as we both started a slow walk down the side of the hill, sidestepping the pain of the gravel and walking toward the danger the two joggers were about to know all too well.
Watching, we stopped again, by now half of the houses had their doors open. People stood on their doorsteps looking around, looking to each other and at the two women, unable to figure out why they were making such a din. It wasn’t long before they got their first sign, what should have told them to get behind their doors and to hide away, but none of them reacted to prevent their deaths, all watching on, hands at face, wide-eyed at the ear piercing shriek that told both Toni and I we couldn’t outrun what was chasing, knowing our only chance was to race forward toward the noise and find sanctuary as soon as we could.
We ran staring toward the first house, a man stood at the door with a woman at her back, both wearing dark Christmas jumpers with festive patterns inappropriate for the peril. As we ran, they caught a view of us, but took little notice, looking back the women’s screams now so high, looking to each other, neither sure what to make of what was happening, their glances hanging as the shriek lit the air again. Their faces turned wide, mouths opening, fixed as we ran not wanting to see, but already knowing one jogger would be flat on her face with something resembling a human dog tucking into her flesh. Neither of us were wrong as we caught a glance just before we pushed past the couple.
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Reading out of sequence, here’s the rest of Season Two.
Not read Season One? Here it is.