“Step aside,” came Ryan’s breathy whisper from behind.
“No,” I said, hushing my voice as I stood between the passenger side window and the raised butt of his rifle. “No,” I repeated, turning along the road to check I hadn’t disturbed the withdrawing masses. As I looked I saw through the creatures crowding, scratching at the Freelander with its hazard lights blinking, its electronic beat pulsing out, drawing the creature’s hands to open and their teeth to smash together as they groped to feed on the metal. The sound dulled in my head. I could still hear it but through cotton wool ears, my eyes fixed on the clustered olive drab vehicles and the hint of the house where I’d been taken, where I’d been held, where I’d been betrayed.
“No,” I said again as he lowered the butt, the confusion thickening on his brow as it lowered. “It’s alarmed, you’re just going to bring them back. I need the van too, the transmitter’s hard wired. Without it I’ll never get the story out.”
Ryan’s face melted away the confusion, but then rose again as he questioned.
“So where are the keys?” he said, staring at me with a deep intent, his brow low, before he looked around. I peered past him, turned to the side, past the flailing mob of the dead to the house where I’d last seen Toni. To the house where she’d died.
“Fuck off,” he said, his tone high and mocking. I turned his way, eyebrow raised. “You’re kidding right?” I didn’t reply, didn’t lower my brow. He thought for a moment, his eyes fixed on mine. “So we’ll need another distraction?” he eventually said. I could have hugged him, could have wrapped my arms around him tight, but I didn’t, instead leaving my gratitude to a shallow smile, cheeks bunching as my face relaxed. I watched him sling the air rifle over his shoulder and pick his way around the dead soldiers, plucking a rifle dropped to the ground, in favour of those still intertwined with their former owners.
“Go around the edge,” he said. “I’ll draw them away,” he added as he lowered the gun down, peering through the optical sight toward the ground piled with what were once people.
“No,” I replied, but he didn’t listen, he was already climbing the ladder set into the back of the van, his hands already on the rungs at the top, ready to pull himself up to the folded satellite dish. “No,” I replied again and turned away. “You should come with me,” I said gripping the bat as I crept around the back of the van. Walking along the new fence-line, I peeled a pistol from the cold fingers of a soldier whose face could no longer be seen, keeping my concentration fixed at my feet, only glancing ahead with every other step and not looking back, hoping he’d heard my words as I disappeared into a small copse of trees.
Hunger, the old type I hoped, left a cavity in my chest, in my stomach as I walked peering between the trees, the gun out in front as I fixed on the line of buildings, on the car alarming with flashing lights, the crowd five or more deep surrounding it. The alarm halted, but not the lights and I stopped, paused my breath as the crowd lost interest, each ambling in random directions. The pain in my chest grew, but it wasn’t real pain. It was a feeling, a hunger, no. Anger, maybe. A let down. I felt betrayed when he hadn’t followed. I felt stupid for the way it churned my insides. I was emotional. Of course I was. Any normal person would be in this situation. Even someone who knew who they were, knew what they would become, would have a hard time with what I’d done, with what I was doing. Alone.
An alarm took off again in the distance, the crowd drawing away like metal to magnets. He hadn’t needed to stay behind, hadn’t needed to play the hero. He should have come with me.
I stopped my thoughts as the alarm ceased, the silence broken only by twigs snapping, the rustle of the thick undergrowth under my feet. I’d known him for less than a day. My girlfriend. No. My lover, had been dead for the same time. The thoughts vanished as the view of the house became clear, the dark scorch marks across the front, the shattered clusters of bricks which somehow still kept the house held up straight. I stared at each of the trucks, but tried to avoid the burning carcasses. It had been a great battle, the start of which I’d seen, but the solders, the military hadn’t been the victors, with so many lain across the street, so many dead but walking, how could they have been?
I tried to ignore the scene, looked beyond the chaos and peered at the wide open door. Saw it fallen, great chunks of brick, of wood, missing from where it had hung. I moved, letting caution go, readying myself to make the run, preparing for the bounds, the long strides I would need to get over the bodies in time.
My heart jumped as the nearest car alarm went off again. It was so much closer now and drawing the creatures near. With my heart already going crazy, I heard footsteps behind, the gap in my chest, the emptiness filling. I turned to see Ryan, but he wasn’t there. Where he should have stood, another did, walking towards me with his arms raised out. A soldier, half his face burnt beyond recognition, a bloodied mess down his fatigues. I dropped the bat from my right, raised the gun, gripping tight with both hands and pulled the trigger half the way, stopping only when he said my name.
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Reading out of sequence, here’s the rest of Season Two.
Not read Season One? Here it is.