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VIRO



BOOK TWO










VIRO


BOOK TWO



Barnaby Taylor


For Iris, as per usual and always …





Copyright  Barnaby Taylor 2018


All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.


ISBN 978-1-9996332-3-3 (eBook)


First Edition


10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


Barnaby Taylor

www.falconboy.ie


Tears


The rain fell like tears from all the eyes of all the dead. Everyone was soaking. It was freezing. The sky was black. The world was broken. The viros screamed. Loads of howling hate was all over. I didn’t look over the edge any more. I was too frightened. They would definitely find us. Vinnie saw my fear.

‘They can’t get up here,’ he said. ‘I pulled up the ladder. They can’t reach it. Logic dictates that we should be safe.’

I had no smile. I knew logic. Those rules didn’t work now. Dead people were living. It wasn’t like the world used to be. They were meant to be dead. That’s what happened. It was biology.

Not anymore.

Vinnie was wrong. We weren’t safe. We were trapped. I just gave up. I didn’t shout. I didn’t panic. I went inside me. That was my safest place. My most secret.

‘It’s okay to be quiet, Jake,’ Mum said. ‘It’s also okay to be private but please don’t let the world make you feel that you always have to be like this.’

She ruffled my hair.

‘It’s also okay to be loud and enjoy life and have lots of friends and play silly games and just be yourself.’

But Mum wasn’t here now. It was only me. She was anywhere. I closed my eyes.

Later I woke. Ellis was asleep on my shoulder. My arm was numb. I liked her leaning on me. It felt amazing. Her hair was by my nose. I could smell it. It was really lovely. I shut my eyes. I breathed in. I held the smell deep inside. It filled me full.

I breathed out.

I opened my eyes. Abe was looking. He saw me smelling Ellis’s hair. He did a weird smile. I tried to say. Abe shook his head. There was no smile. He turned away.

Baxter was sleeping. I heard a whimper. His fur shimmered with water drops. Baxter shivered. This was mean. Baxter was trapped when I rescued him. Now he was trapped again. He was a big dog. He could survive on his own. He didn’t need me. I wasn’t helping him.

This wasn’t good for him. This wasn’t good for us. We were stuck up here. No one knew. No one would come near. The viros would stop people looking in the school. Rescuers would never find us.

I was starving. We all were. There was no food or drink. We had nothing. We were going to die.

Maybe we should have let the viros eat us?

Would that be better than this?

I didn’t know.

Abe said we should sneak downstairs. Vinnie said we couldn’t. No one would get down the stairs and back again. Those things would find us easy.

‘I’ll give it a go,’ said Abe. ‘I’m good at sneaking about and staying hidden.’

‘You’re brave, Abe,’ said Vinnie, ‘but it would be suicide.’

Abe was disappointed. He understood what Vinnie meant. Amber punched her brother on the arm.

‘Vinnie’s right, you know,’ she said. ‘You’re good, Abe, really good, but no one could get down there and back. It wouldn’t matter who you were. There’s just too many of them.’


Thud


In my dream I heard a noise. It sounded like someone hitting a cushion with a stick. It went on and on. It stayed in my head. It was so annoying.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

‘Help.’

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

‘Over here. We’re over here.’

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

I woke up. I looked around. The guys were waving their arms. They could see something.

I jumped up. I saw the helicopter.

That was the noise in my dream.

‘It has been circling for some time now,’ said Vinnie. ‘They must have seen the giant swarm and wondered what was going on.’

‘Can they see us?’ I said.

‘I hope so,’ said Ellis. ‘It looks like they’re coming this way.’

The helicopter was far away. It looked really small. I squinted. I saw red and white.

‘It’s an Air Sea rescue helicopter,’ I said. ‘A Sikorsky or an AgustaWestland. Some models have a five blade main rotor plus a retractable undercarriage.’

‘Wow,’ said Ellis. ‘How do you know things like that?’

I shrugged. I was happy Ellis noticed.

‘Everyone does,’ I said.

‘Most people,’ said Abe.

Abe sounded strange. I guessed it was all the stuff that happened. I didn’t think anything else.

We stood watching. I waved my arms. I didn’t want to shout. It was ages before the helicopter reached us. I looked up. The side door was open. There was a man with a white helmet. He was the winch operator. The roof was too small. The helicopter couldn’t land. It hovered above us. It was loud. I worried.

‘The noise will give us away,’ I said to Vinnie. ‘The viros will know where we are.’

‘They already know,’ he said. ‘That’s why they’ve been hanging around the school this long.’

Vinnie looked up at the helicopter.

‘It won’t matter anyway if this is our way off the roof.’

The rescue line came down. It blew about. The wind was strong. It looked dangerous. The winch man held up a finger. He pointed at the strop.

I nodded. I knew what he meant.

‘One at a time,’ I said to the others.

Ellis went first. Vinnie helped her. He checked she was done up tight. Vinnie pointed at the winch man. He did a thumbs-up. Ellis went up to safety. Baxter went next. He didn’t bark. He was very calm. Abe was next. Amber followed him. They both went up alright.

Vinnie looked at me.

‘You’re next,’ he said.

I put my arms up. Vinnie attached the strop. He tightened the straps.

‘It’s a piece of cake.’

I grabbed the cable. The hoist pulled me up. My feet swung in the wind. I was blown around. I kept going high. I looked down at the school. I could see the viros. They were everywhere. There was no room. They bounced like a horrible ocean. It was so bad to see. I felt sad. Just death all over. They were people once. That was then. Now the viros looked like rotten flowers on a rubbish dump.


Dream


We huddled in the helicopter. I didn’t speak. It was too loud. The door was closed. I couldn’t see anything. I didn’t know where we were going. Baxter whimpered. I stroked his head.

‘It’s okay, boy,’ I said. ‘We’re safe now.’

The winch operator gave us the thumbs up. He didn’t take his helmet off. He went to the pilot in the cockpit.

This was amazing. I loved helicopters. I always wanted to fly in one. I had bunk beds in my old house. The bottom bunk was my cockpit. I drew a control panel. It was glued to a tea tray. My old wool hat was my helmet. I played flying for hours. I rescued drowning people from dangerous oceans. I dropped soldiers behind enemy lines. I delivered emergency supplies to starving villages.

We flew for a long while. The engine droned. I felt sleepy. We all did. I watched as everyone went drowsy. It was hot and smelly. We flew some more. Later, the noise changed. We were going down. I hoped that we were landing at Dungeness. I tried to guess how long we had been flying.

‘Where are we going?’ I shouted to Vinnie. ‘Dungeness?’

Vinnie nodded.

‘I hope so,’ he said. ‘I could really do with feeling safe for a while.

I got excited. Dungeness had soldiers. They had guns. They would keep us safe. Mum might be waiting. It was going to be fine. We were saved.

It wasn’t Dungeness.

We landed with a bump. The winch operator opened the door. We were on a small roof. There was a fence around us. I saw tall cliffs. A narrow road led down to a gate. The sea was flat and grey. A sign said ‘Fairlight Coastguard Station.’

We followed the winch operator and the pilot. They went down metal steps on the side of the building. We went through a metal door. The pilot switched on the light. We were in a big room. There were lockers on one wall. There was a small kitchen. A desk was in front of a small window. A radio set was on the desk.

The pilot removed their helmet.

‘Welcome to our humble abode,’ she said.

The pilot had red hair. It touched her shoulder.

‘I’m Fran and this is John.’

The pilot pointed at the winch operator.

‘Hi everyone,’ John said. ‘It’s great to meet you all.’

Fran had green eyes. I liked her. She had a friendly smile. Fran opened a locker. She took out big towels.

‘Get yourselves dry. I’ll put the kettle on and once you’re all sorted you can tell us what the hell you were all doing on that roof.’

I shivered really hard. Fran handed me a towel.

‘There is a shower just through there,’ she said. ‘Get out of those wet things and get yourself warm. You should find some spare overalls in a locker there.’

‘Thanks for helping us,’ I said. ‘We were doomed.’

I felt safe. It was such a big thing in my head.

‘No problem,’ said Fran. ‘It’s what we do.’

It was later. We were drinking hot chocolate. It was lovely. I was warm. We told Fran and John our story.

‘And then the headmaster’s gun went off and we knew that the viros had got into the school,’ said Vinnie. ‘We had to get to the roof as the school began to fill.’

‘Viros. Virus. I get it,’ said John with a grin. ‘Very clever.’

‘How come you spotted us?’ asked Ellis. ‘What were you doing flying past the school.’

John stopped smiling.

‘We got word,’ he said, ‘that the hospital was in danger of being permanently overrun and even though we had very little fuel left we went to see if we could do anything to help.’

‘Overrun?’ I said. ‘What does that mean? My mum is there.’

‘It doesn’t necessarily mean anything,’ said Fran. ‘The decision to evacuate the hospital had been made the day before. A fleet of army trucks got as many people out as possible. A small band of brave doctors and nurses volunteered to keep the emergency room open for as long as possible.’

‘Is your mum a nurse?’ asked John.

‘A cleaner,’ I said.

‘Then she should have been evacuated,’ he said. ‘She’s probably at Dungeness by now.

‘And that’s where we’re headed,’ said Fran. ‘The helicopter has no fuel left so we’re going to launch the lifeboat and make our way along the coast.

Ellis put her arm around my shoulder.

‘See, Jake,’ she said. ‘Your mum is probably waiting for you at the army base. We’ll be able to meet her there.’

‘Unless,’ Abe said.

‘Unless, what?’ said Amber.

‘Unless the trucks didn’t make it back to the base,’ he said. ‘You know how dangerous it is out there.’

My cheeks went red.

‘You didn’t see the trucks like me and Ellis did,’ I said. ‘They blasted through the viros. They’ll get Mum to Dungeness.’

‘Maybe,’ said Abe.

Amber stared at her brother.

‘Hopefully, I mean,’ he said.

Abe looked at his mug.

‘We’ll get you all to Dungeness,’ said Fran. ‘There’s plenty of room on the lifeboat. Once there, we’ll help you find your mum, won’t we, John.’

‘Of course we will,’ said John.

I felt much better.


Contact


‘Do either of you know what has happened?’ asked Amber. ‘The soldiers we met said something about a bomb.’

‘We heard the same,’ said John. ‘Some kind of terrorist attack.’

‘But we also heard about an airborne pathogen transmitted by migrating birds,’ said Fran.

She frowned.

‘I think it is fair to say that no one really knows what’s going on. The government networks are now permanently down. Martial Law has been declared and everyone is to stay in their own homes until notified otherwise.’

‘We’ve both lost contact with our families,’ said John. ‘The last time I spoke to my parents they told me that they were leaving for Scotland in the morning. That was three days ago, and I haven’t heard from them since.’

‘My parents retired to Mallorca several years ago,’ said Fran. ‘I tried to make contact but couldn’t get through. Perhaps they’ll be safer there than they would be on the mainland.’

She looked sad for a moment.

‘Perhaps I’ll never know.’

No one spoke. We knew. It was all just more sadness. More family lost. More hearts broken.

The radio crackled into life.

‘Mayday. Mayday. Is anybody there?’

John picked up the handset.

‘This is Fairlight Coastguard Station.’

‘Thank God,’ said a man. ‘We’re trapped in the Harbour Master’s office at Rye Harbour. My wife is about to go into labour. I need to get her to a doctor.’

‘Roger that,’ said John. ‘We’re just down the coast and can be with you within the hour.’

‘Thank you,’ said the voice. ‘Thank you so much.’

‘Sit tight,’ John said. ‘We’re on our way.’

John put the handset down and looked at Fran.

‘We’ll pick them up on our way to Dungeness. We can be in and out in no time.’

Fran nodded.

‘We’re going that way anyway so what harm a couple more passengers?’

‘What harm indeed.’

We were wearing baggy overalls. My rubber boots were a bit big. We went into the boathouse. It was a Mersey Class all weather lifeboat. They could be launched with a tractor or a slipway.

‘Isn’t she a beauty?’ said Fran. ‘She’s a bit of a temperamental old girl but we love her all the same, don’t we John?’

‘She sure is,’ he replied. ‘A bit cranky maybe, but there’s no one better in rough seas.’

‘Amazing,’ I said to Abe. ‘I’ve can’t wait to launch the lifeboat.’

‘Big deal,’ said Abe. ‘It’s only a boat. I don’t know what you’re getting so excited for.’

‘You’re in a bad mood,’ said Amber.

‘I’m not,’ Abe said.

I thought Amber was right. Abe was in a bad mood. He looked angry. Was it the sadness we saw everywhere? Was it something else? I didn’t know.


Future


The lifeboat was easy on the water. There were no big waves. The sea was grey. So was the sky. Drizzly rain fell all over us. We were cold and wet. I didn’t care. It was better than walking. There were no viros out here.

I looked at the land. There was lots of buildings. Some of them were broken. Some of them were burning. The black smoke made everything look sad. It was a horrible picture.

I was with Fran. She was driving the boat. She needed skill to do it. I loved seeing how clever she was.

‘How long have you been rescuing people?’

‘Nearly ten years now. I started as a volunteer after I left the Navy and have been here ever since. John joined the station three years after me and we got married last year.’

‘I’ll join the navy. I love boats and planes and helicopters.’

‘I hope you get the chance,’ said Fran. ‘There has to be some future for us all, don’t you think? We can’t just believe that this is the end.’

‘We won’t give up. We work hard to survive.’

‘You’ve done an amazing job. John and I are really impressed with how well you’ve all coped since this crisis began.’

‘Thanks,’ I said. ‘You must keep moving when the bad stuff happens. That’s what we do.’

‘Don’t forget, Jake,’ said Abe behind me. ‘Me and Amber have been out there surviving long before we met you and Ellis.’

Abe was still weird with me. It wasn’t nice. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t say anything. Abe looked at Fran.

‘John says you’re to come on deck. He has something to show you.’

John was holding binoculars. He passed them to Fran.

‘Look over there, on top of the cliff.’

Fran looked.

‘My God,’ she said. ‘Whatever are they thinking?’

‘I doubt they’re thinking anything,’ said John.

Fran let me look.

I saw a massive crowd of viros. They were on the edge of a high cliff. They didn’t stop. They kept walking. They fell off the cliff. Hundreds of viros were landing on the rocks at the bottom. It was crazy.

I gave Fran the binoculars.

‘I’m guessing that it is simply the crowd’s momentum that is forcing them over the edge,’ she said. ‘I can’t imagine that they are deliberately destroying themselves.’

‘It’s highly unlikely,’ said John. ‘Traditionally, pathogens like this tend to have some kind of inbuilt survival mechanism which causes these creatures to hunt and kill and thereby allow the pathogen to spread so quickly. I very much doubt that this mechanism has become genetically reversed this early in the outbreak.’

‘We can but hope,’ said Fran as she stepped back inside.

I went to join the others. They were watching the land go past. There was space next to Ellis. I went to stand there. Abe pushed past me.

‘Sorry, Jake, I was here first.’

I shrugged. I stood next to Vinnie.

Something was wrong with Abe. He was mad with me. It wasn’t the caravan park. That was ages ago. I thought we had forgotten about that.

It must be Ellis.

Abe watched me on the roof. He saw what I did. Did he want to do the same thing? Was he jealous? He must like Ellis. That made me worried.

Abe was cooler than me. He was better at things. I know Ellis thought so. She had told me. Ellis said I was like her brother. She didn’t say that to Abe. I didn’t want to be her brother.


Harbour


We came to Rye Harbour. The boat slowed down. John said we should hide.

‘Just in case. You never know who or what we’re going to meet.’

‘It looks pretty deserted,’ said Amber.

‘Even so.’

Fran drove the boat into the harbour. I saw a red beacon. It had three legs. Some broken boats floated sadly. I saw metal railings. There was an orange rope wrapped round them. A gang of seagulls flew over us. They wanted some food. There was a big gate at the entrance. Loads of viros were standing there. They looked like they were on holiday.

The Harbour Master’s office was a small concrete building. There was a big wooden shed next to it.

‘Everyone stay here,’ John said.

He got ready to get off the boat.

‘I’ll go ashore to assess the situation.’

‘Be careful,’ said Fran.

She gave him the boat’s first aid bag.

The boat stopped at the jetty. John climbed the wooden ladder. The jetty was too high. We couldn’t see John on top. We had to wait. I stroked Baxter’s head.

A little while later a strange man stood at the top of the ladder. He had a camaflouge coat. He was wearing a red baseball hat. I thought he was the man on the radio.

‘You’d better come quickly,’ he said. ‘You’re all needed in the office.’

Fran was suspicious.

‘Where’s John?’

‘He’s fine,’ said the man. ‘He told me to come and get you all.’

I didn’t trust this man. He was being funny. I looked at Fran. She was studying him. The others came on deck.

‘What’s going on?’ said Vinnie.

‘You all need to get off the boat straightaway,’ said the man. ‘We don’t have much time left.’

‘Much time left for what?’ said Vinnie.

The man got angry.

‘Listen,’ he said and put his hand in his pocket. ‘Get off the boat now. I am not going to ask you again.’

He pulled out a gun. He showed it to us.

‘No more arguing.’

We climbed the ladder one at a time. I went first. Vinnie passed Baxter up to me. We waited for everyone else. Baxter stood close to my leg. He growled quietly.

‘Tell that dog to stop growling,’ said the man. ‘I’ll happily put a bullet in its brain.’

‘It’s alright, Baxter,’ I said.

I stroked his ear. Baxter stopped growling.

Fran climbed up last.

‘If anything has happened to John, I’ll …’

‘You’ll what?’ said the man.

He pointed the gun at her. He laughed. His teeth were dirty.

‘You’ll keep your mouth shut and do what I say.’

He pointed the gun at us.

‘The same goes for you too. We only have two hours left before the tide turns and once it does nothing is leaving here today.’

He nodded at the office.

‘I’ve wasted enough time already. Get inside. I don’t want to hear another word.’


John


John was sitting in a chair. He was handcuffed. Two men stood by the counter. One had dirty trousers. He had a rifle. The other had jeans and a green jumper. He was holding a hammer.

‘John,’ said Fran.

She was worried.

‘I’m fine,’ he said. ‘These men want our boat and nothing else. If we do what they say they’ll leave us alone.’

‘There’s an island further down the coast,’ said the man with the hammer. ‘If we can just get there then we’ll be safe.’

‘Shut up,’ said the man with the pistol. ‘Don’t tell them where we’re going.’

‘Sorry, Pengelly,’ said the man.

‘So, there was no pregnant wife, was there?’ said Fran.

‘Of course not,’ said Pengelly. ‘Just three fine gentlemen ready to take advantage of the kindness of absolute strangers.’

He nodded at the harbour.

‘All the boats out there are broken. We needed something that floats.’

Pengelly pointed at the man with the rifle.

‘Mather makes a very convincing husband, doesn’t he?’

Mather bowed.

‘Mayday. Mayday. Is there anybody out there?’

I didn’t like this. It was really mean. This was a bad trick to play on us. We were only being kind.

‘What about us?’ I said.

Pengelly looked at me.

‘Who gives a shit about you? We’re headed for safety. We don’t care what happens to you.’

He pointed outside again.

‘There’s a large crowd of those things out there and the last thing we’re going to do before we head off is unlock the gate and let them all in.’

‘You wouldn’t?’ said Fran. ‘That’s crazy.’

Pengelly laughed.

‘Isn’t it?’

‘If you let them in we’ll be trapped,’ said Vinnie. ‘Is that what you want?’

‘Who cares?’ said Nolan, the man with the hammer. ‘All we care about is getting to the island. Nothing else matters’

‘It does to us,’ said Amber. ‘If you take the boat then you’re leaving us here to die.’

Nolan shrugged. Pengelly started to get annoyed.

‘It’s my plan. I don’t remember inviting you all here so that we could have a nice discussion about the pros and cons of what I’m proposing.’

‘It’s simple,’ he said. ‘We leave. You stay. We live. You die.’

Pengelly smiled. He was happy with himself.

‘What part of this do you not understand?’

Pengelly patted his pistol.

‘My little friend here says that this conversation is over.’

Pengelly looked at his friends.

‘Mather, you keep an eye on our guests while I get the rest of our stuff together. Nolan, take this key and be ready to unlock the gate as we are leaving.’

Nolan had dirty hair. His chin was really square. He looked sneaky. He would make a great pirate. I didn’t like him. Not one bit.

‘Nothing would give me greater pleasure,’ he said.

Pengelly left.

We were left with Mather and Nolan.

‘You may as well make yourselves comfortable,’ said Mather. ‘You’re not going anywhere.’

We sat down. Ellis didn’t.

‘It’s not too late,’ she said. ‘You could let us all go. We wouldn’t tell anyone. Who would we tell? Give us a chance to get away and we’ll leave you alone. We could be out of your hair before Pengelly gets back.’

Nolan laughed at Ellis. He had rotting teeth.

‘Nice try, kid. The plan is the plan and you’re not going anywhere. Now sit down before I tie you to a chair as well.’


Locked


Pengelly came back. He had two dirty rucksacks. He threw one at Mather. Mather couldn’t catch it.

‘Time to go,’ Pengelly said.

‘Nolan, get the gate while we load the boat. Don’t hang around after you’ve unlocked it. Those things have been there all night. They must be starving.’

Nolan went out. I didn’t like him. I hoped I never met him again. Not ever.

Pengelly bowed. He was acting.

‘It has been emotional,’ he said. ‘I’d love to stay and chat but we have an island to reach.’

He was teasing. Pengelly laughed.

‘I hear that it only hurts when those things bite you the first time. After that, you tend not to notice.’

Mather had a funny smile on his face. They both left. They locked the door. I heard the key click in the lock.

We were alone.

Vinnie and Fran tried to free John. The handcuffs were tight. They hurt his hands. The fingers were blue.

‘Pengelly has the key in his pocket,’ John said. ‘You lot had better go on without me.’

‘No way,’ said Fran. ‘We’ll get you out of here.’

Fran spoke to me and Abe.

‘Guys, the shed next door has to contain some tools. I need you to find some bolt cutters or something else that will let us get these handcuffs off. If you’re careful you could probably climb out that window.’

I nodded. Vinnie tried to open the window. It was old. The glass was loose. The lock was rusty. Vinnie pulled it open. We could slip through. I went first. I crouched down outside. Someone said something.

‘What the hell?’

It was Nolan. We stared at each other. I was frightened. I thought he was going to hit me with the hammer. He stood thinking. He looked at me. He looked at his hammer. He looked at me again. He stepped at me. The viros began to howl.

Nolan looked over his shoulder. He looked at me. He shrugged.

‘Whatever, kid,’ he said.

He walked away.

Abe climbed out behind me.

‘That was close. I thought he was going to hit you with that hammer.’

‘Me too.’

I saw a wobbly-looking viro wearing swimming trunks. It was coming towards us.

‘Let’s go,’ I said.

We saw the shed. The wood was rotten. There was a small alley next to it. We went down there. We were looking for a door. Abe found one. He kicked it open.

It was dim inside. Some light came through the broken roof. I saw metal shelves on the walls. A broken boat sat in the middle. It looked sad and lonely.

We took a wall each. I looked carefully. My concentration was big. I saw loads of paint pots. There were jars filled with nails. There was a screwdriver. It was rusty. I picked it up. It was heavy.

Abe gasped.

‘Aha!’ he said.

I turned around. He was holding some bolt cutters.

‘These should do the trick.’

Abe smiled.

‘Wait until Ellis sees what I’ve found.’

I said nothing. I headed for the broken door.

Abe was in front of me. He was laughing. It was annoying. I wanted to say shut up. Abe stopped. I bumped into him.

The wobbly viro had blocked the door.


Nicer


‘Back up,’ said Abe. ‘There’s a stupid viro blocking the door.’

The viro had one foot caught in a net. It was trying to get in. The viro looked confused.

‘Don’t be so mean about them,’ I said. ‘That was probably someone’s uncle once.’

‘Not anymore,’ Abe said. ‘Now it’s just a useless lump of flesh that wants to bite great big chunks out of us.’

‘Be nicer, Abe,’ I said. I meant what I said.

Abe laughed at me. He sounded mean.

‘Nicer, Jake? What the hell are you talking about?’

He pointed at the viro.

‘That thing wants to eat me. It wants to hold me down and rip a large chunk out of me with its dirty teeth. It also wants to let its friends eat me as well. They all want to pin me to the ground and rip me to shreds.’

Abe looked angry. He poked my chest.

‘Tell me why you think I should be a bit nicer?’

This wasn’t fair. Abe shouldn’t speak this way to me. I pushed his arm away.

‘Stop it, Abe,’ I said. ‘I’m just saying.’

‘Well don’t,’ said Abe. ‘Don’t say anything.’

He pointed at me.

‘You’re an idiot, Jake, a great big stupid idiot. In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re fighting to stay alive here and all you want to do is be a bit ‘nicer’ to these things.’

Abe snorted.

‘Wait until Ellis hears about this. She’s not going to believe her ears.’

My face went bright red.

‘Why would you tell Ellis?’

‘So she can see how stupid you are.’

He paused. He looked at me funny. I felt edgy. My tummy turned over.

‘You like her, don’t you, Jake?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘You know what I mean. You fancy her, don’t you? I saw you with her back on the roof. I saw you sniffing her hair. I see the way you look at her, the way you always want to stand next to her.’

Abe’s words hurt. I was unhappy. I was confused.

‘Ellis is my friend. We met on the roof. We’ve been friends ever since.’

‘Yeah,’ said Abe, ‘but you want more than that, don’t you? You want to be more than just friends, don’t you?’

My face burned. I was getting angry.

‘Stop it. Don’t say those things.’

Abe looked happy. He was pleased I was annoyed.

‘Make me. Make me stop saying them.’

I looked at him.

‘No. Just stop saying those things about me and Ellis.’

‘Me and Ellis, is it? Wait until she hears about this.’

‘Stop, Abe. I’m begging you.’

‘I’m begging you.’

Abe made the sound of my voice. It annoyed me more.

I looked down at the screwdriver. I looked at Abe. He looked at my hand. He walked back. The screwdriver was heavy. I pointed it at him. Abe looked scared. He held up his hands. I moved forward.

‘I was only teasing,’ Abe said. ‘I was only having fun.’

Abe went back again.

The wobbly viro grabbed him. It put its baggy arms round him. Abe was caught. He screamed.

‘Help me, Jake. Help me!’

The viro went to bite Abe. He struggled. The viro gripped him.

I liked seeing Abe like this. He was so mean to me. I thought I might leave him here. It felt good to think that. I was really angry. My head filled with nasty words. They got louder and louder. I thought my ears would break.

I hadn’t felt like this before. I felt strange. I felt frightened. I felt good. My arms filled with power. I was ready to attack. I was hard.

Abe looked so small. He was crying. He had snot on his face. The viro tried to bite his throat.

‘Please help me, Jake. I’m so sorry.’

I jumped forward. Abe ducked. I hit the viro in the eye with the screwdriver. I pushed really hard. There was a squelch. The viro howled. It let go of Abe. It fell backwards dead.

Abe was sitting on the floor. He was still crying. I stood big over him. I was so angry. I shouted at him.

‘Pick up those bolt cutters, you bloody baby.’


Nothing


The viros were coming down the jetty. We had to hurry. Abe climbed back in the window. I was behind him. The others were waiting.

‘Thank God,’ said Fran. ‘We were just beginning to worry.’

Abe handed her the bolt cutters. He stood by the door. He was still crying. Amber was worried.

‘What happened, Abe?’

‘Nothing, Sis,’ he said. ‘Just leave it.’

Amber looked at me. She knew something had happened.

‘Jake, what happened out there?’

I could see everyone looking at me. I had a smile. It felt good.

‘We met a viro. It was nothing.’

I kept smiling.

‘Abe held it. I rammed a screwdriver in its eye.’

Ellis looked horrified.

‘You could have both been killed. I wondered what was taking so long.’

‘We were fine, weren’t we, Abe?’

Abe was sad. It made me feel quite good.

‘Yeah,’ said Abe. ‘Jake killed the viro and we escaped.’

Vinnie was standing by the window.

‘We haven’t got long,’ he said. ‘The viros are just down the jetty. They’ll be on us at any moment.’

Fran cut the cuffs. John stood up. He rubbed his wrists. His face was hard.

‘I told them the cuffs were too tight but they wouldn’t listen. I can’t wait to tell them again.’


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