I stand beside Conor and look out onto the street. In truth there isn’t much I can see, due to a hedge, but the figures moving around are visible.
“How long have they been there?” I ask.
“Since the sun started to go down,” Max says.
“We need to get out of here,” I say. Max meets my eyes and nods. The house isn’t secure and I want to get Conor out of the place. He doesn’t need to be here, with his parents dead upstairs.
“You didn’t change,” Max says.
Conor doesn’t look at me, but I glance down. Up to now I just haven’t. My jeans are covered in blood. Mel’s blood.
I move at super-fast speed and go upstairs. I don’t look at Mel, I just reach her wardrobe and take a pair of trousers and a long sleeved top. I step over Philip and start changing.
“Bitsy, hurry!” Conor calls up.
I don’t think I’ve ever got ready faster. I leave the bloody clothes on the floor. I don’t suppose that I’ll be back, not for a very long time.
Running down the stairs I meet Max in the hallway.
“We need to go out the back.”
I don’t question Max, I just follow him and Conor. In the kitchen Max uses the picture window to see if anyone is around.
“Conor,” he says, still scanning the back garden. “I’m going to carry you. Is that okay?”
“I can run,” Conor says.
Max crouches and looks at the kid. “Yes, but we need to run fast and you are still a little sick.”
“I’m not going to be like them.” He looks toward the front door.
“No,” Max says.
He looks at me then. “Mum’s dead.” He doesn’t phrase it as a question but more of a statement. I nod and can’t stop the tears. He is crying too. Max lifts him and Conor grabs on like a limpet.
“Bitsy,” Max says. “We have got to run.”
I nod and then Max is throwing the back door open and we are moving fast. I follow Max and ignore the screams and cries going on around me. The fact that the others sound like babies is so distressing. I see Conor bury his head against Max’s shoulder and I wish I could do the same. Instead I speed up. In my head I hear my mother’s voice.
“Suck it up, girl.”
I can’t help but smile as I remember the lilt of her Welsh accent. If we get out of this I think I wouldn’t mind going back to the family home. It has been mine for the last ten years, but I’ve never visited. It holds so many good memories that I know any trip will make everything hurt.
The house has been looked after and I’ve paid for repairs, but all I get are quarterly reports from the caretaker. I just hope he didn’t lie.
Ahead of me Max veers out of the garden and onto the street. The gone are everywhere. They are stumbling around in pyjamas and suits, some wear nothing. I see Mel’s neighbours. The ones I would meet at the barbeques. I should be there now. If everything had been normal we would be sitting in the back garden eating burnt chicken and under-done burgers. Instead they are trying to reach for Connor.
I can tell that he still smells sort of human and I suppose they are hungry. Any humans left are probably safe in some hole or secure room. They know by now that the night is not their friend.
I run near Max and as a gone comes too close I punch it, making it fall. I notice that there are discrepancies. Some of them can barely stumble while others are able to run quite fast. We are nearing the road that will take us back to Heathrow when I see it. It’s a gone like the others, but it isn’t trying to get to us. Instead it is crouched and watching.
“Do you see?” I ask.
We don’t speak after that but Max speeds up and I carry on watching it. The gone seems to be intelligent. It is definitely looking at me with a curious expression. I keep up with Max, and I can’t help but jump when the creature starts to follow us.
“What are you?”
It speaks. Its voice sounds like nails and broken glass. I stop. Max carries on for a few metres and then turns.
“Bitsy!” His voice is urgent.
I hold a hand out, saying that this will only take a moment. Then I turn. The creature has come to a stop about ten metres away.
“What are you?” I ask.
The gone tilts its head looking at me. “I am new.”
Obscure, I think. “So am I.”
“You aren’t like them.” I point to the gone behind him.
“No, they are less.”
“Are you alone?” I ask.
These cryptic answers are annoying.
“Bitsy,” Max says. “We need to go.”
I take a step back and the creature echoes me.
“What do you want?” I ask.
“No,” the thing says and it’s then that I notice he is looking behind me, at Conor.
I dart forward before I can think about the consequences and I punch him, an upper cut that the gone doesn’t notice until he is flying through the air.
He twists and lands on all fours. He smiles.
“Mine,” I growl and the thing takes a step back.
I’m not sure he is accepting it or the fact that we are two and he is one. I take a step back and the gone doesn’t follow.
“Goodbye, Bitsy,” it says, and I lose my nerve. Turning, I run. Max sees me coming and he turns. Then we are flying toward Heathrow.
In my head all I can hear is its broken voice. The fact that he looks like a successful business man in a slightly crumpled suit makes him seem so much worse. How can something that looks so normal, behave and sound so wrong. That had been no man, it had been too animalistic.
Max turns into the terminal and we start toward the hangar. There are a few gone here, but not as many. They are all heading toward the hangar we were in, and I have a sinking feeling.
Max stops and hands me Conor. “Stay here.”
I’m about to argue but he doesn’t give me time. I watch as he moves toward the hangar and the growing throng of others.