I didn’t hear the shot, only the shock wave across my face. I didn’t feel the grip release, only the cooling blood tightening as it dried across my skin. With pressure under my arms, my legs were the first to wake. No. My lungs were already pumping before I realised I was travelling, before I realised I was being dragged. Held up. Pulled along. My eyes opened to the trees moving either side, but my alarm didn’t hold back when I figured we were going in the wrong direction.
“No,” I shouted, the words dry and raw. We slowed, my arms pulling away, pulling from his hold until I juddered to a stop, leant over, gasping for breath. Each pull like flesh ripping inside my throat. Ryan paid no attention as he faced the other way, faced behind us, feet not holding still as he waited for me to rise.
I coughed, spluttered breath into my lungs, holding my throat as if it would drain away the pain, would ease the pressure still surrounded.
“Hurry,” I heard his vague words. Vague to my ears at least. I stood and looked up, his eyes still behind, only briefly catching on mine, then back to the sight of his rifle trained the way we’d come. With the car alarms still strong in the background, I twisted around, breath painful as it drew, painful as I saw the crowd in the distance. No need for magnification. The crowd easy to see at the edge of the wood, shutting out the sun as they ambled in our direction, the open door easy to glimpse. The place where I needed to be.
I tried to speak, but held back knowing the pain, instead holding my hand out, finger pointed toward the house.
Ryan shook his head.
“Change of plan,” he said.
“No,” I croaked, pulling myself upright and turning the way he’d dragged me, taking one step and then another as I squinted into the darkness of the woods as it pulled us in deeper. “No,” I said again, putting one step forward after the other. My pace built with Ryan at my side, the pain throbbing as each beat careered through my body. On and on I jogged, jumping over fallen trees, finding the energy somewhere to bound over roots sticking out, swerving left and right to avoid the undergrowth until I could see the ground fall away out of sight, my lips painful as they curled into a smile.
“Shoot them,” I said, holding back a repeat, fearful of another painful flare. Repeating once more but only in gesture, pointing to the crowd now barely visible with the naked eye. He stared back, turned, squinting, but soon followed my outstretched finger, the rifle stayed pointing to the ground. When he made no move, no effort, I grabbed the rifle ignoring his dumbfounded stare. Dropping to one knee, I shut out his protests, shut out his fears, pushed my eye to the sight and centred the iron in the view. With tip touching the movement, the white of a head bobbing in and out of view, I fired.
Not waiting for the echo to die, not waiting for the rustle of birds to get to their wings, the scrape and scrabble of those on the ground escaping on four legs from their hideouts, I fired again and again until the echo of the empty click gave me no other choice. Still, I left the gun level, ignoring Ryan’s feet, ignoring him searching for movement, for a large tree to climb or some other escape. I watched them grow bigger in the view, standing as they grew near, moving back, closer and closer to the river until I no longer needed the sight to see the detail, the bruised, broken faces, limbs missing, the same shade of red they all wore. I threw the rifle to the ground, following Ryan’s downward glance as it clattered against a stone, adding to the racket.
Knowing Ryan would fix to the spot, I grabbed the arm of his shirt, dragging him from his stare, peeling him from the approaching crowd, letting go only as the ground fell steeper, giving neither of us a choice but to fall knee deep into the river. Splashing through the water, slapping my feet to the surface, we reached the other side to find the bank too steep to climb, our feet sinking into the rapid incline. Twisting around, heads rose over the bounds, teeth gnashing as they fixed their stares on the veins proud in our necks. I saw through milky white eyes. I saw their dreams of our blood coursing, could feel as if inside their riddled minds, their instincts desperate to pull our flesh open.
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Reading out of sequence, here’s the rest of Season Two.
Not read Season One? Here it is.