“Fire,” the word came slow and dry. “Fire,” I repeated, heaving against the force on my chest. Alarms rose and fell in the street. Car horns bellowed for attention. Bright lights flashed in and out like a white disco singing to the music of embers crackling and the burn of plastic, all while smoke thickened, collecting in my lungs. With a great heave I rolled the weight to the floor, glass scratching under my trainers as I pulled myself up against the table, snatching the gun as I leant heaving for breath while squinting around the room. The pizza boxes were just embers glowing orange, flames licking along the adjacent unit, the microwave melting, dripping down the counter, leading flame to catch on the floor.
I turned to the doorway. It was clear, the floor strewn with glass, but checking my feet I found the oversized shoes still there. My eyes fell on Ryan still quiet and pushing my hand into the crook of my elbow, I nudged him hard with my foot. When he didn’t respond I admonished myself for a thought even though it barely had time to form. Turning to the doorway, I pushed the Glock into the band of my skirt and gripped him under shoulders, nails pulling hard with each tug. His body moved with each pulled, glass sweeping along the floor, soot smudging in his path, but we were soon through the doorway with only a short distance left to escape.
The key sat in the lock and I praised my fortune when it turned, sucking out smoke billowing from behind me as the first chill of fresh night air sucked deep into my lungs. We were over the step before his body complained, lungs heaving, coughing as the icy air hit his face and the cold tarmac pulled from beneath him, a cacophony assaulting our ears. With heat pouring from the house at my back, I stared at the scene of destruction while I dragged Ryan a few more metres away from the house and towards the left. I pulled him backward into the road, the pathway blocked by parked cars pushed over, including his, found resting on its door, the tang of petrol in the air.
What I could only guess was once the police car, sat in the road just a short step away, black smoke pouring from the multicoloured flames dancing inside its glowing red cage, with no sign of what had caused the crash. Along the street half the houses, ten or more, whose owners were yet to update to double glazing, had no glass remaining, except for the odd finger dangling down ready to fall at an inopportune moment. We were the first out, but not the only house on fire. Two others, both opposite the centre of the blast, were alight and only now people burst into the street followed by smoke, trailing tears and pained, longing looks for their worldly possessions. Fingers jabbed at the keys of mobile phones, but I could see even from the other side of the street they weren’t able to make the call. Maybe no one would come, no one could come, even if they could get through.
Alarms continued to ring, boxes on the side of houses strobed, car headlight’s flashed, heat cracked wood splitting the air. As I looked down, I watched Ryan sit up and as he coughed, I let my lungs clear with each cold breath, ignoring with each intake of air, the sting of petrol vapour. Petrol, I thought, the word hanging in my mouth and I grabbed at Ryan’s shirt. He looked up as I shouted and tried scrabbling to his feet, eventually able to get up with my hand as a guide.
“Petrol,” I said out into the street, pointing back as I squinted to the orange light, but no one took note, my cotton wool filled head shook as we got to what I thought would be a safe distance. “Petrol, get back,” I shouted this time, my voice hoarse and with little power. Ryan joined me to make a chorus, but his voice gave little help against the chiming of the bells and the two tone alarms. I looked around, the street was filling, everyone must have been at home. There were people stood in their pyjamas, some covered with dressing gowns. Women cried, children screamed, people held torches, people held candles to stave off the darkness. Up the road the crowd was building, people walking, ambling along, the noise would have woken everyone up, would have woken up the village, or the army base by the look of those coming down the road. I pushed my fingers in my ears, the chaos enough to wake the dead.
I tried to concentrate, to fix on the crowd, watching their movements with intrigue. My eyes went wide as the realisation came, my hands raising up as the first of the crowd passed into the group of houses, as the crowd spread, turning this way and that, moving to those standing by the side of the road. Those watching on weren’t scared, weren’t worried until it was too late, their screams adding to background. Only I saw those weren’t people. Only I saw those weren’t rescuers. Only I saw those were the infected.
I grabbed for the Glock, but it wasn’t at my waistband. I scoured the floor, frantically turning to stare across my path, running back towards the house knowing I must have dropped it inside. I jogged, but fell to my knees, my arms covering my face as the cars on the side of the road exploded one after the other.
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Reading out of sequence, here’s the rest of Season Two.
Not read Season One? Here it is.