The heat beat me back once I’d stood, unsure on my feet, but the screams, the pain resounded between the houses. The realisation came from the crowd, echoing out, panic sparking to life. People ran into the dead, confronted with jaws locking to their fleshy parts. Some ran to the fires, adding to the orchestra of screams, while others ran to their houses shutting out those who tried to follow even though hearts still beat in their chests. Some jumped over fences and out of sight, some stayed put, fixed to the ground in disbelief.
I couldn’t watch, had to turn away, took a step forward, but the fire beat me back. My thoughts flashed to Ryan. He’d gone. I tried again to get through the heat but still the heat forced me away and I bounded back a few steps until I could just bear the energy pouring out. With a call, a familiar tone, an angry shout, I turned overlooking a pair in a tussle, until with a flash of light from a nearby fire, I saw his checked shirt, saw the long fencepost wielded in his hands, the club swinging left and right, figure after figure knocked to the ground. With pride rising in my chest I saw it was Ryan beating back the onslaught of the dead.
I turned as many hands gripped at the post, the fire at my back dying down and I ran past the flames, scooping up the gun and turned back racing towards the battle, but he’d disappeared again, leaving just a crowd surging forward where he’d been, hands grabbing at those whose brains were miss-wired, gripped to the spot with fear. I ran, a gust of wind almost pushing me over with the stench of the sewers and I looked beyond the front line of the group, high on my toes, but he was no where to be seen. They’d overcome him.
“Jess,” a call came to my left. “Jess,” it came again as I searched, but only on the second call did I see Ryan beckoning me between two houses as he stood beside the stream of people waving them through, circling his hand. I took one quick glance toward the crowd, watched wide-eyed as a middle aged man, his face grey, hand clutching his chest, disappeared, overcome by the crowd of faces bearing down as he collapsed to the ground. I ran.
Ryan followed behind me, the last of those who could still walk. The screams had died, the lights had gone dim, beams flicking around the night as those running dispersed. The sirens and car horns still blared away, calling more of the dead ever closer. We had to get away. Everyone should get out, everyone had to go. The right choice to run, the wrong choice to lock yourself away hoping the cavalry would come around the corner and save the day. It was my job to tell them, my job to let people know. It was my job to tell those people who could still hear me they had to prepare for the worst or die. It was my job to break the news and save as many lives as I could.
Once between the alley we filtered through the garden of the house on the right and followed the thin crowd down along the grass and over the tall wooden fence lain on the floor, out onto the fields and back where we’d started. Stumbling in the dark, Ryan gripped my hand, catching my fall as I listened to the sounds diminish and the smoke thin in the air but cling heavy to everything else.
Moonlit figures dotted around the field, most had stopped and turned back to their village, shining torches across the horizon with sharp pulls of breath following each moment someone caught a fright, saw movement from some unseen part of the field. Ryan stayed at my side, his eyes scouring like the others as we slowed. Words in the scattered group built to a hurried conversation and people drew together. Tears fell and rose and fell again as they sought and received comfort, their mouths full of questions.
“What now?” a deep voice said, the loudest of many voices. A reply came from one of the many.
“Wait for the police,” a woman said, her voice on the edge of tears. I looked to Ryan and could just make out his face in the dull glow until a torch shined right on him and he pushed his hand out to block the beam as he turned away shaking his head. The beam swapped to another face.
“We get away,” I said and the beam was on me, but I was used to the brightness and didn’t shy away. “We walk, find somewhere safe, stay in the fields until it gets light, till we can see where we’re going.”
A murmur ran around the thin crowd, tears dried and breath slowed.
“We should get back to our houses,” a man’s voice shouted towards the back of the group.
“You need to be quiet,” I said, hushing my voice and crowd murmured in agreement as they stepped closer.
“What are they?” a woman’s voice said close by, the clearest of the many questions pouring in my direction. I paused, not wanting my words to raise their blood.
“I don’t know,” I replied. “I know what they look like.” Noises of agreement ran around us. “All I know is you need to stay away, you need to keep quiet, you need to find somewhere safe, somewhere with food until you’re rescued.” Voices of encouragement greeted my sentiment and people shouted names of places, loud at first, then repeated quieter, the crowd broadly agreeing on a supermarket a few kilometres away.
“Great,” I said and stopped. “Which way is that?” I said and watched in the moonlight as many hands pointed to our right. “Okay,” I replied, watching as the crowd moved, following the outstretched hands. Ryan walked away until I put my hand on his forearm and held him back, my finger to my lips as he turned in my direction.
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Reading out of sequence, here’s the rest of Season Two.
Not read Season One? Here it is.