A loud silence finally fell upon the road. I shifted uncomfortably and Ellis let go. I carefully stood up and looked around. My legs ached badly. I had pins and needles in my feet. Ellis let go of my hand. We stood side by side and looked around. We were surrounded by piles and piles of broken, battered, bloodied bodies. Each one thrown against and on top of the next in the craziest of positions and angles. We took a moment to look around. Then Ellis spoke.
‘Did you see those soldiers and their guns? I wonder how many other people survived and where they are living?’ I shrugged.
‘I have no idea but I wish we were with them now instead of standing here.’ I really didn’t want to be out alone at night. I wanted to be safe with my mum. Ellis picked up her backpack and loaded her catapult. She put her hand on my shoulder.
‘We had better get moving while we have the chance.’ I nodded and tried to hide my fear. Ellis smiled again but I didn’t want her to see my face so I went to look for my rucksack.
This time we were far more cautious and I walked backwards as Ellis walked forwards. ‘That way,’ she said, ‘we have all angles covered and we will see another swarm of those things long before they see us.’ It was a sensible plan but was very hard for me to do. I was still feeling very anxious after our encounter with the swarms and the soldiers and didn’t fancy any further upset this evening. Everything was becoming too much.
Ellis explained that Vinnie’s school could easily be reached by heading for the railway line near the ring road. We couldn’t really get to the school via the town centre, she argued, because that is where most of the town’s viros have probably gathered. Instead, we should follow the railway line. I was so glad that Ellis had such a sensible-sounding plan that I didn’t think much more about it. I was just happy to get going. After all, she said, it should save us a good couple of hours of walking and that was fine by me.
We approached the railway line under cover of the tall trees of the copse that stood on one side of the ring road. On the far horizon we could see the orange flashes of more gunfire and the sound of the bullets occasionally reached us.
‘That must be some battle over there,’ I whispered. ‘I’m kind of glad we’re caught up in that.’
‘At least it means that someone is fighting back,’ said Ellis. ‘I would hate to think that we were the only people left who hadn’t given up.’
‘Those soldiers didn’t look like they had given up,’ I said. ‘Quite the opposite!’
‘But what if that was all there was left of them?’ continued Ellis. ‘A handful of trucks against the rest of the world.’ She fell silent and I heard doubt in her voice. I wanted to be able to answer her with something positive and encouraging but that’s really hard to do when you are creeping around at night desperately trying not to disturb a town full of bloodthirsty viros.
The railway line runs along a cutting and then into a tunnel that passes under a large hill. It was only as the cutting came into view that I realised what Ellis really meant with her plan. She was actually proposing that we save time by creeping through the tunnel. You must be joking, I said to myself. I pulled her arm.
‘We can’t go through the tunnel,’ I whispered and Ellis could now hear the fear in my voice. ‘That is the craziest idea I have ever heard.’
‘But we must,’ she replied firmly. ‘It’s the only way.’
‘It will be packed full of viros!’ I protested.
‘So is everywhere else,’ Ellis replied and I could hear her resolve once more. ‘This way might actually be viro-free.’