It didn’t matter which way he turned the wheel or how many times the key clicked in the ignition, the engine wouldn’t pay attention to his command. We soon travelled too slow to outrun, only heavy breath filling the cab as those we’d barged our way through gathered back around, hands slapping, clawing, scratching against our thin metal skin. A rising pressure gripped my empty stomach, a dread expanding deep down inside as the windscreen filled with faces, jaws slack, bloodied teeth bared and broken.
For the first time since we’d stopped, I glanced to Ryan and his stern expression, face fixed on the gathering crowd, but I knew he wasn’t looking, something else in his mind. I leant across, peering at the dashboard and lights of all colours flooding the view. With the fuel gauge hovering high above empty, I guessed the damage to the front had been too much, but still the question slipped from my mouth.
“What’s wrong with it?”
Ryan shook his head, looking down to the rainbow of colours staring back, none of which said anything other than we needed to find another ride.
“I won’t know anything until I can have a look,” he said, standing and heading into the back. I didn’t need to follow to know he was checking the rear doors were locked. I looked to Jordain, watching the raise of his brow in agreement. Ryan didn’t return and with a shot of energy surging from inside, I flashed a look around the cab searching for the guns, trying to remember how many we had. Not finding any of the weapons, but the rifle in Jordain’s footwell, a pistol back in the holster at his hip, I lifted out of the seat, lowering myself beside Ryan, moving the pistol from the seat as I planted, placing it out of reach on the shelf above my head with my eyes not leaving the tops of his hands as he buried his face deep within them.
“How long do you think it will take them before they move on?” I said, cringing each time I picked out a scrape of nails, the echo surrounding us. He lifted his head out of his hands, eyes searching when he’d found me in the seat.
“I don’t know,” he said, voice lowering as he spoke, his expression set on mine with a question he seemed reluctant to ask. My eyes fell on the back of the van and the far corner sprayed with blood, drips clotting to a stop, dried as they’d rolled from where they’d first hit. Light disappeared and I silently thanked Jordain for blocking my view as he stood, coming through from the front, taking the seat opposite me, his voice only just above the dim echoing through the thin metal skin.
“We wait?” he said, nodding as Ryan gave a weak reply, watching as I repeated the gesture. He sat back, closed his eyes while mine searched, skipping the corner, body rolling with the gentle shake from side to side as the suspension absorbed the slap of hands and bump of the crowd, my mind all the while trying to judge if their activity was retreating or getting worse.
I could see no food, my hand reaching for my stomach as a cramp held my insides to ransom. I hadn’t eaten since the night before and it hadn’t been enough to hold back the pain. I kept telling myself over and again the same would be true if Toni, her name sticking in my thoughts, hadn’t done what she had to me. Anyway, I’d was cured. Right?
Jordain snored. The noise light and barely there, but from his posture, the slow rise and fall of his chest, it was obvious he was asleep, confirming my previous experience with the military. Rest when you can because you don’t know when you’ll next get the chance. Was he right to feel safe with me trapped inside?
Soon, like rain battering the canvas of a tent, the scratch and scrape formed a pattern and although my fear didn’t subside, my breath slowed as I concentrated on Jordain’s rhythmic rise and fall of his chest, the slow, gentle pace of his breath I imagined over the din and with it my eyes grew heavy.
I woke to silence, fearing the quiet had brought the end, but as my eyes adjusted, I saw Jordain leant against the metal opposite, Ryan to my side, asleep still with his head in his hands. The scratch and scrape had gone, but I daren’t move, instead sat there listening for any clue of what was happening beyond the metal.
With each passing moment without action, without conversation, trapped in the tin can, I felt the pressure in my gut tighten, pain radiating up and down. My body’s way of telling me it needed sustaining, needed fuel, but did it have to make me hallucinate?
First came the smell. Steak fresh from the packet. An odour I’d never been a fan of. I’d always held my nose until it sizzled in the pan, but now I craved to slide back the plastic and take a deep pull. The thought caught me off guard, but as soon as I backed away from the image I felt a fist gripped tight to my stomach, twisting my insides. Licking my lips without command, another smell, lamb I thought, came to mind and the pain relented. I stood, Ryan lifting his head out of his hands, asking a question with his eyes. I nodded as I trod my feet light with every step, swallowing down saliva and his face dropped back to his palms.
With my hand at my chest I looked out past the windscreen, heart leaping to see the crowd had dispersed. Creatures still walked around with no aim, but they no longer crowded the van. A hollow victory if anyone made a sound.
Tapping Jordain on the shoulder, I felt a rush of energy rise through my body, it was all I could do to stop the pain pulling my features down. His eyes lit up, blinking fast to clear the downiness. He stood, his movements slow and silent, air wafting all around and the pain relented. He followed my look through the window, followed me as I trod lightly across the back of the van. With his mouth opening wide, his pace quick, but it wasn’t enough to get to me before I’d slid the bolt across and pushed the handle open. Before the light and wash of cold air streamed from outside. Before I stepped to the tarmac, leaving the door open and wide.
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Reading out of sequence, here’s the rest of Season Two.
Not read Season One? Here it is.