The fingers of my right hand jarred against something cold and hard, curling around before I knew what it was, bringing it up before I could move my head, leaving my coordination alone to draw the rock down on the wide jaw sending its head twisting around. With a second blow, my heels pushed hard to get a grip, the rock smashing against its temple, the thick blood spraying out the least of my concerns. The charred animal went down, falling on top of me, its heavy head slapping to my empty belly, sending a wave of pain and nausea up through my throat, but I was more concerned to feel for its teeth unpicking my flesh.
When the pain didn’t sear through my once white vest, I knew it was out cold, or dead. I had no time to think about whether they had a consciousness to come out of. Two charcoaled creatures took its place in the attack, one either side with their hands out in front, lip-less mouths wide as they mashed their teeth. I threw the rock at the head of the one to the left, regretting as soon as my fingers released, the rock bouncing harmless from the side of its face, landing with a thump to my stomach and forcing the wind from my chest as my hands flailed left and right, pushing and shoving whilst trying to keep clear of both sets of mouths.
My hand slapped hard against a flash of white to my right, the pain radiating up my arm feeling bones broken into too many bits, stars in my eyes as I shook my head. There was only one row of assailants left, the right side clear, but I couldn’t tell how many had vanished, the one handed defence taking all my will. White flashed again, but this time to the left, the black of the creature attacking silhouetted against white, the large letters so well recognised hovering above its head.
With the slam of a door, Ryan appeared at my side, the creature punched in the head, then twice more. Ryan bent down and my ears exploded with noise and I was up in the air on my feet, pushed in through the open passenger door into the warmth. The van bounced over the ground as my hand throbbed nestled against my chest.
Breath settling, I watched the strewn bodies lifeless, but they had been before, now the word held new meaning. The bodies were still, except for one which some had power over its arms, the only bones able to hold weight. I watched as we drove past the abandoned flat tyre, the block of wood Ryan must have found in the back to rest the jack on top of, stopping it disappearing as he lifted the weight. The sky was clear until I peered over to the village where the wind blew the thick smoke in the opposite direction changing the bright daylight to night as it seemed there wasn’t a single part of the horizon not burning, not smouldering. I took hope in the strategy. The bombing had worked, despite our breach in their containment. There were no undead still walking.
Maybe, just maybe, this was the beginning of the end.
The pain had dulled by they time we were back on the smooth tarmac, my eyes scouring the horizon, scouring the sky for movement, for any sign of the living, for any sign of the dead.
“Thank you,” I said.
“No need,” he replied. “You gave me the time I needed. I’m sorry about the hand. How is it?”
I looked down, afraid of what I’d see, but it wasn’t deformed or out of shape. The skin was darkening underneath and swelling up as I watched. I tried a tentative movement. My fingers wiggled slow, which was as brave as I got.
“I don’t think it’s broken, but it fucking hurts.”
“I’m sorry,” he replied.
“Rather the pain, than being dead.”
He didn’t reply, instead placed the gun he’d left resting on his lap, to the seat in between us and fixed his face forward.
“What now?” he eventually said as he slowed for a T-junction with no signs showing the way.
“St Buryan,” I said, pulling out the Sat Nav from the glove compartment, handing it over to Ryan after trying to turn it on with my left hand.
He nodded and found the town, letting the mini computer choose the route, taking the left road as the van rolled slowly forward, the numbers in the corner falling from sixty as we did.
“We’re stopping for a change of clothes too,” he said and I closed my eyes, the thought of the candlelit bath coming into focus. “And painkillers and food.”
I let a smile bloom on my lips as we rolled slowly down the narrow country road only just wide enough for the white lines to mark the two lanes, but it fell as Toni’s image appeared in my mind. Her bruised face, the emptiness in my stomach when I first saw her in that place, the sound of her voice as she made the call which brought me here, which tempted me back to her. I’d fallen all the way down the rabbit hole at her command. She’d called me for help, said she needed me, but was it really the reason I came, or was it the want of a story.
Ryan’s voice saying my name turned me away from the window I stared as if with my lids shut. I drew my eyes back to road and saw another junction, this time leading four ways. I looked to the little screen, saw we wanted to head straight over, but giant concrete cubes blocked the way and even if we could get passed, cars parked the other side with their doors open, boot lids high, glass missing from the windows. Bodies lay across the road, I counted more as the van trundled on, slowing within each passing moment.
I saw soldiers, civilians and a tear caught in my eye as I watched a young body in a red top, its colour leeching to the road. My eyes caught on a column of black smoke rising in the distance, then on another, five more fires scattered across the view, but it wasn’t until I saw a figure walking towards us from between the cars, a line of blue seen through the great hole in their once pristine white coat, that the emptiness returned to my stomach and I closed my eyes.
“Oh my god Toni. What had you done?”
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Reading out of sequence, here’s the rest of Season Two.
Not read Season One? Here it is.