They have to reach the coast before dawn.
The darkness descended like death upon us all. Joel held Kayla tight in the corner. Ray stood to the left; a silhouette playing with a gun. Gaius and his trusted cricket bat stood watch at the window. And James, my precious boy, sat huddled in my lap while I stared at the door. The shed we hid in should serve well enough. It only had to last one more night. One more and we’d make it out. We could hear the waves crashing from where we hid; testing us, tempting us, reassuring us that everything was fine, that it was all a bad dream from which we could wake up. We told each other that, too. That if soon it would reach that stage of terror where you wake up. Nobody believed it, but we said it anyway because that’s what you’re supposed to do.
And if it isn’t, well, we’d have nothing left.
He didn’t hear me, but I wasn’t going to speak any louder. Ray did, though, and elbowed Gai and pointed at me.
I pointed to my eyes and shrugged. I hoped he could see me between the rusted shelves.
He shook his head and turned back. He suddenly ducked into the darkness. I couldn’t see him, but I saw three fingers rise, black against the moon.
We were no longer alone.
Ray sat down and began to twitch. His whole body joined in when he cursed; as long as he was silent.
I looked down at James. I never knew what was going through his head. I didn’t know if he understood what was happening, or if he thought it was a game. Or a dream. I hugged him tightly and told him I loved him. I heard Joel and Kayla saying similar things to each other.
Then I frowned.
I wish I had someone to hold me; someone to comfort me and tell me it was all just a dream. But Michelle was gone. I silently told her I loved her, too. She didn’t respond.
I looked up, my senses flaring. My sight flicked to Gaius, clear now. He lifted his bat. He slowly rose and looked out the window. He held up his hand, forefinger pointed.
He looked at Ray, who appeared beside him like a ghost. He shook his head slowly, then disappeared again. Gai looked out, then back to Ray, hoping he was right. But he had gotten us this far, hadn’t he?
The view was clear when Gai returned to his post. The other five of us tried to relax between the shelves of tools, attempt some semblance of rest. I almost did, too.
My mind was blank when Gai cried out. A sudden screech brought us back to reality.
We all looked around for half a second, nobody quite composed enough to know what was happening. We then looked at Gai. Then at Ray. Then we heard the car alarm. I grabbed James and pulled him against me. Gai broke the not so quiet silence with what we were all thinking.
‘Ray, what do we do?’
‘I…’ He began to curse, but it just became an inarticulate growl. ‘We have to go.’
We all agreed. It was easier and quicker than arguing. Joel found a tire iron, and held it in his left hand, and held Kayla’s hand with his right. Gai strangled his bat, and looked for another exit. Ray flicked something on his gun and followed Gai to the back of the room. The door opened, and Gai went out first, slowly. We knew the drill. Ray watched Joel for a moment, then offered him the gun. Joel accepted, swapping the iron. I went out after Gai, pulling James with me. He was still rubbing his eyes and he stumbled. I picked him up. He fell asleep in my arms. I wished it was Michelle. Joel and Kayla followed me, and Ray defended the rear. We were all tired, we were all distraught.
Our last night.
Last night of running, or last night of living?
We had no hope of hiding, now. They were everywhere, and they saw us. We had to keep moving. The waves became louder as the wind picked up. The street was empty; they trudged around as if in some demonic dance, dodging cars and bodies, but it would always be empty.
A thin fog weeded through the buildings, and the stars began to disappear. I crashed into Gaius. I stumbled back. I looked up. I wish I hadn’t. He was standing face to face with one of them. I looked around. They had surrounded us, and they were closing. Gai was shaking.
Ray moved like he was part of Satan’s own ballet. Dancing and weaving through them as we were herded together. He appeared on the other side of the one in front of Gai. His arms raised and dropped in one graceful motion.
A sickening crunch. It fell.
Gai twitched, but caught himself as he began to collapse. His face was white as the fading moon.
A shout. A shot.
‘Run!’ It didn’t matter who said it, we were all too happy to comply.
It was still dark, but the mist was getting thicker. It was almost morning. Almost there. Almost safe.
Another gunshot from behind. Gai collapsed a head as he ran ahead. James raised his head and looked around. I pushed it back, buried it in my shoulder. I didn’t have a free hand to hide my tears.
We reached the bottom of the hill. Only a few hundred metres. I wouldn’t be able to run much further. Ray caught Gaius and pulled him back.
I did as I was told. I didn’t look back.
The waves were exploding against the shore, I couldn’t imagine anything louder; anything more important.
I reached the top. I began to laugh; I had made it.
We had made it.
The sun rose.
I saw the boat. Leaving.
We were too late.
James began to cry.