The sheets move and I take a step back, bumping into a bed behind me. Briefly it wobbles and then falls. The noise echoes around the front of the hospital. More sheets are moving.
I watch, horrified. Then reason asserts itself and I step forward. Colin stops me with a hand.
I push him away. “They might be hurt.”
Max shakes his head. “They were never meant to get hurt. Two outcomes, you live or you die.”
“Well, they did get hurt,” I say, moving toward the nearest sheet. Why are they not uncovering themselves?
I reach down, noticing that this sheet is stained brown with blood. There appears to be a handprint on the middle of it, as though someone had used the body to push themselves up, or they had shoved the body away from them. Oddly there is no other blood, not on the ground. Grasping the sheet I pull it toward me. There, on the ground, is a child. Her skin is so pale that it looks white. I wonder if the blood is the child’s. Her hair is white blond and so fine that it moves in the breeze, not that there is any breeze.
I reach down. “Don’t worry. You are going to be fine,” I say, just because it is what you are meant to say.
The child opens her eyes and screams. I can’t help it, I jump back in fright. Where my arm had been seconds earlier the child lunges forward and then falls back. Her head hits the pavement. She is wearing a pink dress, at least it had once been pink but is now stained with red and brown. Some of the red looks like it is still wet. How much blood has the child lost?
I move forward again as the girl cries out, but arms wrap around my waist. I look up and see that Max has a firm hold and is not letting me go.
“Stop it,” I say. “I have to help.”
But Max just shakes his head. “Look,” he says.
I do. The girl’s cries have become pitiful and similar to that of a new born kitten. Max doesn’t loosen his grip and I stop trying to escape. We both watch as the girl writhes on the floor. Her hair is moving in the wind, except there is no wind. And then the sun, which had been momentarily hidden behind a cloud, shines directly onto us. I feel the warmth and the girl is suddenly gone.
One moment she is there and the next, nothing.
“What?” I ask.
Max drops his arms. “Jesus,” he says.
Colin walks up next to us. “Oh, no,” he says. “As you said, this is man-made. It has nothing to do with God at all.”
I look round. There must be twenty bundles, all of them moving, but none of them standing.
“Was she trying to bite me?” I ask. Instantly thinking of the movies I’d seen about zombies.
“I don’t know,” Max says quietly. “This wasn’t meant to happen.”
“What?” Colin says harshly. “They were just meant to die?”
“Yes,” Max mumbles.
I step out of his reach. “The ash is people.”
Colin and Max look at me. The both looked shocked.
“The ash is people,” I repeat.