I didn’t ask for her meaning, knew she’d turned and knew with her went my chance to question. I knew from the rhythm of her feet padding on the hard ground she was running in the opposite direction. I knew from her words she’d told the truth; the truth being what I’d sought. I’d done my job, fulfilled my role, explored my passion to expose wrong and those in authority abusing their positions, but it hurt no less to know such a big part of my life had been false. To know what I had given, tried to give, had been taken, chewed and thrown away.
I questioned if there had been signs of her disfunction, had blind feelings put those down to quirks of personality? I wandered if Hitler’s companions had done the same?
I tried to stop my breath flinching at the comparison.
Turning, I didn’t look after. She had every right to leave, to turn down a role in my task, my goal which could end so badly for me, for everyone. Who knew?
My eyes fell on Ryan, a smile lifting my lips to see him stood on top of the van, his hand shielding his eyes from the bright morning as he peered across the blocked road.
“Can we make it?” I said calling toward the roof as I walked back, knowing one way or another I was getting through the mess. He didn’t reply and I imagined the thoughts spread across his features. Imagined him scratching his head as I walked along the side of the van, my eyes elsewhere other than the movement in the coach frenzying as a drew nearer, elsewhere other than the slight rock of the olive drab truck in a slow side-to-side rhythm.
“Jess,” I heard him call as I neared the coach, only giving the rattle of the door the barest notice, ignoring the slight parting of the clear plastic as the short bodies clambered to be the first to break through, the first to pierce my flesh, the first to fill themselves. I paid more attention to the paint scraped down its side, the buckled panels, black scuffs running the white length until blocked by the back of the truck. I listened, tried to feel, to sense behind the canvas, what lay behind of the musty green cover. The truck rocked with a gentle movement, but the canvas didn’t bulge, didn’t pulse with hands reaching out.
I heard Ryan’s steps down the ladder, feet landing to the road and I lifted my hand behind me, palm out to stop him from getting any closer. When I could no longer hear his steps along the road, I moved my hand back, unpicking the ties with good fingers, taking in a deep breath as I lifted. It was dark inside, nothing came from where I couldn’t see, no fingers jumped out, clawing for the softness of my eyes. I undid enough ties for me to fit through and I climbed, awkward with only one hand to steady, but I’d made it into the back still alive, unbitten.
Welcoming the musty air, I blinked, testing my vision with each opening, the four rows of seats lining the sides and centre grew clearer in my vision with each opening. They were empty, but the space between was not, instead lined with boxes stacked higher than the rows where soldiers should have sat. I climbed on the nearest long rectangular box, plastic, but couldn’t be sure, my thoughts elsewhere, beads of sweat forming across my forehead as the morning sun trapped under the canvas. I headed forward, slowly sliding on my knees, eyes fixed on the edges of light toward the front.
Air pulled sharp between my teeth, forcing myself steady with both hands as my knee found the space between two boxes. I wouldn’t let it slow me as I bridged the gap and my hand soon felt the flap of canvas I hoped covered a window to the cab.
Reaching out with my left hand, I told myself I’d seen the worst. I tried to prepare for the horror I knew moved beyond the thin fabric, beyond the glass the other side. I told myself the worst I could see was traffic lined up blocking the road, ending our path, sending us for hours around another way. Blood and guts were nothing new. No injury could top what had already burnt into my dreams.
I took a deep breath before lifting the fabric. A pale pink light flashed my eyes shut, but as the image went to black, I’d seen enough to regret not bringing the gun.
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Reading out of sequence, here’s the rest of Season Two.
Not read Season One? Here it is.