I woke to birdsong, but the music went the moment my eyes opened, replaced with a relentless scratch and scrape echoing from the stairwell. A dark figure stood looking out through the window, turning as I moved, their features in shadow. A sharp pull of breath sent my head ringing with a hangover of pain, my neck stiff as I looked down my body. Sitting up in the bed, lain on the duvet covered with blood, my legs were clean, arm high across my chest, the wound dressed, bandage still white, crisp and new, beside the pink of the oval already healed.
The first bite flashed through my mind. The haze still covering my time back in the compound, the teeth in my flesh, the feverish nightmare I’d let my mind park out of sight.
“The bleeding’s stopped,” Ryan said stepping from the light, his downcast features coming into focus.
“I’m not going to die,” I said. Now was not a time to be coy, he deserved that much for staying at my side, cleaning me up when he thought it was the end for me, thought if I woke I would be alone, a ravaging hunger coursing through my veins. He deserved to know even if it meant he would run a mile.
Ryan watched my arm as I bit down on the pain as I lifted.
“The tests?” he said. I nodded, raising my eyebrows. “What did they do to you?”
I paused, speaking when I realised I was thinking too much.
“They gave me an antidote.”
His eyes went wide.
“There’s a cure?” he said, his voice high, words coming quick, face alive, lit bright, but shrank away at my reluctance to reply.
“A vaccine,” I said looking away. I could see the thoughts running through his brain, the twitches of his brow as he tried to figure out my words.
“You were bitten after they gave you the medicine?” he said, eyes widening.
“They were testing the vaccine,” I said.
“That’s horrible, but,” he said pausing. “Good at the same time right?” he said seeing my eyes close.
“It wasn’t ready.”
He shook his head, his features bunching.
I tried to sit up, but the world span, my arm felt as if tied to a weight keeping it down.
“Don’t get up. You lost a lot of blood,” Ryan said turning around and grabbed a pint glass full of water and a packet of digestives open in the other hand. “Have something to eat,” he said pushing the cup to my good hand.
“We need to move,” I said.
“It’ll hold for a little while longer,” he replied, listening to the unchanging sounds coming from downstairs.
“No,” I said between sips, the water cold on my lips, absorbing into my pores the moment it touched my skin. “We need to get to the van. I need the cameras,” I said.
“Don’t be in such a hurry,” he said as I crunched the second digestive.
“Look,” I said, letting my eyes close for a moment as I tried to slow the spin. “I’m on a course of treatment. The last dose, hopefully, is in the van too and I need it before nightfall.”
He didn’t speak, instead watched as I ate, his head turning side to side.
“What happens if you don’t?” he said, but didn’t finish the sentence.
I paused, knowing what I should say, knowing what I wanted to say would be too much, should be too much for anyone to take. I watched as he raised his eyebrows in our silence. He expected an answer. He deserved an answer.
“Do you turn into a werewolf?” he said, forcing a laugh. Part of me was glad when I heard the front door collapse under the assault, but soon changed my mind when Ryan pushed his arms under my knees and at my back, scooping me up, my breath going from my lungs, chest tightening, water spilling to the bed. He didn’t rush, took great care, carrying me out of the door. Through blurred vision I saw the creature no longer in the doorway and my thoughts sprang for the gun, but the light had gone and I couldn’t see it on the floor. We were in the hallway and his pace hurried, soon out the other side, in another room, the window wide open and I balanced on the window ledge, daylight bright in my face. Cold air stole what was left of the breath from my lungs, the drop to the other side would have robbed the rest if any remained.
“Give me your hands,” he said and I turned, the world a soggy mess as I looked down to mattresses piled on the flat roof. Despite his preparations, I could predict the pain. “Give me your hands,” he said and I could do nothing else but what he told. With a firm grip he lowered me down, the bite screaming with pain until my feet touched cushion of the springs. I wobbled off to the bitumen roof, leaning against the brick to slow the vertigo and felt a weight hit the mattress, a rucksack, the wooden roof beneath giving just a little as he landed at its side. With my head settling, my heart leapt as I looked up and there it was. Seen across the gardens at the back of the row of houses, the van glistened in the bright morning light. It was in one piece, but soon the excitement died when at its back I couldn’t miss the hastily erected metal fence hemming in the densest collection of the creatures I’d ever seen, the van rocking side to side as time and again the walking dead crashed and bounced off its paintwork.
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Reading out of sequence, here’s the rest of Season Two.
Not read Season One? Here it is.