I heard a scream and opened my eyes. My head really hurt. I put my hand on the back of my head and I could feel something wet. Blood.
‘Move, Jake! Move!’
‘Get out of there!’
Ellis and Amber were standing in the car park. Ellis was firing her slingshot. Amber was holding a viro at bay with her mop. I started to scramble backwards as the closest three viros came towards me. The low wall was slowing them down and one of them tripped as it tried to climb over. The other two fell on the first and all three tumbled onto the concrete just in front of me. The closest viro was getting onto its hands and knees when I felt someone brush past me. Abe stepped forward and sprayed paint in the viro’s eyes. He looked back at me.
‘Get the girls and head for the gate.’
I stood up and felt dizzy. I thought I was going to faint. Abe stepped back and grabbed me.
‘We haven’t got time for that!’ he said and started dragging me to where Ellis and Amber were waiting. A stone flashed in front of us and hit the viro on the nose. It howled in frustration, put both hands to its face and lost its balance. Another stone bounced off the top of its head. Abe looked at me.
‘Can you run?’ he asked. ‘Can you?’ I nodded.
‘I’m ok,’ I said sheepishly. ‘Let’s get out of here.’
We started to run. Ellis climbed into the wheelbarrow and Amber picked up the handles. I looked over my shoulder and saw that the viros were regrouping. The scent of fresh life was driving them on and they clearly weren’t going to rest until they had caught us. Amber pointed to the entrance.
‘That way,’ she said. ‘Quickly!’
We raced towards the entrance and as we did so I saw that Ellis was trying to catch my eye. I couldn’t look at her. I just couldn’t. This was all my fault. I had been showing off and trying to impress her but instead of being the hero and rescuing everyone I had managed to nearly get everyone killed. Just then she groaned.
‘Oh my God,’ Ellis sighed and pointed at the entrance. A swarm was stumbling and fumbling its way through the gate. There was no way we would get through there. Amber and Abe turned to the right.
‘Follow the fence,’ shouted Abe. ‘We’ll find somewhere to climb over further down.
A row of caravans ran parallel to the fence and we ran through this gap, dodging gas canisters and cables. I kept running and running without looking back but then I heard Ellis cry out. The front wheel of the wheelbarrow hit a brick. Ellis was thrown from the barrow. Luckily, she was able to stand up and start hobbling but everything else we had loaded into the barrow was now scattered on the grass. I started to try and collect our stuff.
“Leave it!’ snapped Amber. ‘It’s too late for that now.’ There was no mistaking the anger in her voice.
‘Up there,’ shouted Abe. He pointed at the toilet block. ‘If we can climb up there we can jump over the fence.’ He looked around. ‘The place is full of them now,’ he said. ‘We’re doomed unless we can get over the fence.’
I looked at Ellis. She nodded.
The toilet block had a low wall at the very back which hid a line of large plastic bins. Abe hopped onto the wall and by stretching his arms up was able to pull himself onto the roof of the toilet block. He leaned over and beckoned.
‘Here,’ he said. ‘One a time.’
Amber and I helped Ellis up onto the wall and with the help of Abe we were able to push her up onto the roof. Amber was next and then me. We looked at the fence. The gap was a fair way but it looked manageable. There was a small copse and long grass on the other side. It looked soft enough to land on. I looked back at the viros as they grimaced and groaned their terrible way towards us. I look at everyone and we all nodded. Ellis took a few steps back and then started to run. She was hobbling badly but picked up enough speed to clear the fence. I heard her scream as she landed on the other side. Amber went next. She cleared the gap and landed with a thud. Abe pointed and I shook my head.
‘You go next,’ I said, ‘and if anything happens to me make sure you look after Ellis.’
‘Nothing’s going to happen to you,’ he said and set off to jump. He cleared the gap and then it was only me.
I looked at the gathering swarm and was struck by the very real thought that perhaps I was a hindrance to the others and that maybe they would be better off without me. They wouldn’t keep getting into trouble if I wasn’t with them. Perhaps they stood a far better of chance of surviving if they didn’t always have to take care of me. I thought about Mum. If I carried on like this I was never going to find her. I would be dead before we were reunited. But what if she had already become a viro? If that was the case then I would never be able to find her in these swarms unless … unless, I became a viro too. That way I would surely stand far more chance of being reunited with her. I looked down at the viros and wondered what it felt like to be attacked. How long would I have to wait before I stopped feeling the pain? Would they rip me to shreds or stop biting me once it was obvious I was going to turn?
Abe was now at the fence, waving and urging me to jump. He looked confused. What was I waiting for? I walked to the edge of the roof and looked down. The viros were right beneath me and it wouldn’t take much of a jump to land right in among them. I could probably just step off the roof and it would all be over very quickly.