‘Sorry, Amber,’ I said as we left the tunnel. ‘I saw the viro’s shadow as it moved but didn’t warn you in time. I guess I kind of froze.’ I felt terrible.
‘It’s fine,’ Amber said kindly. ‘This is so new and so frightening for all of us that it will take a lot of getting used to.’ Abe agreed.
‘We have a slight advantage,’ he said, ‘because the two of us have been alone for a while now.’
‘What do you mean alone?’ asked Ellis. ‘Even before the outbreak?’
‘Yes,’ said Amber. ‘Our parents were out of the country on business and we were being looked after by our neighbor but she got drunk and hit Abe one day and so we moved back into our own house without telling anyone. We naturally assumed that it would only be for a few days until our parents came back but then all this happened and it is highly likely that they are never coming back.’ Amber paused. No one said anything.
More sadness, I thought. More sadness than we should all have to bear at our young age. Normally, there would be time enough for all that later but now there is no more normally. I looked at the three new friends I had found and felt pleased that we had met, even if it was under such terrible circumstances.
‘I’m glad that we have found each other,’ I said. ‘It really means a lot to me.’ Ellis nodded.
‘Me too. I was stuck on a roof with my family gone and not knowing what to do. First Jake, then you two, I’m really lucky.’
‘I know what you mean,’ said Abe. ‘It feels better for the two of us since we met you.’ Following her very recent close encounter, Amber was understandably keen to get going again.
‘I hate to break up the party,’ she said, ‘but we have a viro-crawling town to cross and little time to do it. Once morning comes again everything is going to be twice as hard as it is now.’
Once out of the tunnel we began to make good progress and the wheelbarrow moved nicely across the pavement. We swung a right at the entrance and headed into the ornamental gardens. Built in 1872, the gardens were designed for relaxed strolls in the sunshine, stopping to smell the flowers in the carefully planted borders or sitting on a bench and watching the world go by. They were never intended for midnight dashes past members of the walking dead but there is a first time for everything and we hurried on. There is a small bridge in the middle of the gardens that marks the very centre of the site and as we crossed that we noticed a commotion in the duck pond to the right of the bridge. We slowed to a careful crawl and took a look. I gasped.
The moon was shining on the pond to reveal a writhing, churning mess of viros who were stuck in the thick mud and unable to escape. They wailed and howled as they slipped and thrashed and struggled. The water wasn’t too deep but the combination of the mud and the churning helpless viros meant that they were trapped. I watch horrified, as if I was witnessing the end of some terrible medieval battle.