‘You complete idiot,’ whispered Amber as we hid in the copse and watched the viros get bored looking for us. ‘You could have got us all killed!’
I blushed. I was only trying to impress Ellis, I wanted to say but I was never going to say that out loud.
‘Hang on,’ whispered Abe. ‘We were the ones on the roof of the caravan. Jake was trying to rescue us.’
‘We were doing fine,’ she said, ‘until Mr. Marching Band here decided to do his circus thing.’ Amber jabbed me with her arm. She was very angry.
‘Don’t you ever do anything ever again like that,’ she hissed. ‘Not ever!’
‘I won’t,’ I whispered shamefaced. ‘I really promise I won’t.’
And at this moment I wished that I had jumped into the swarm of viros and not landed next to my friends. I couldn’t bear the shame. To make matters much worse, we had lost everything we had managed to scavenge up to now. We had no food, no water, and no supplies of any kind. What were we going to do? I was sinking rapidly into a hole full of hurt and shame. The way I was feeling now death would have been quite a nice alternative. Then, just when I thought that I couldn’t feel any worse, Abe noticed that Ellis was missing.
‘Where’s Ellis,’ he whispered.
‘Don’t tell me she didn’t make it?’ hissed Amber. She hit me again. ‘If she’s waking up dead somewhere because of your tomfoolery then I hope she gets the chance to eat you first.’
‘Hey!’ said Abe. ‘Don’t be so mean, Amber. Jake feels bad enough already without you making responsible him for everything.’
‘But he is responsible for everything!’
Abe put his hand on my shoulder.
‘I’m sure that I saw Ellis clear the fence,’ Abe continued. ‘She must be around here somewhere.’
We found Ellis propped up against the back of a thick tree. She was unconscious. Her ankle was all bent. It didn’t look good. She must have crawled as far as she could before she fainted from the pain. Things were just getting worse by the second. Amber looked at me and started to speak. There was fire in her eyes. Abe put his hand to her mouth.
‘Not now, Sis,’ he whispered kindly. ‘Not now.’
Abe looked at me.
‘Jake, I need you to try and find something to use as a splint. Ellis’s ankle looks broken to me.’
As I crawled away I looked over to the fence and saw a single viro leaning against it. Its head was titled to one side and I thought at first that it had seen me. I froze. The viro didn’t move. I watched and waited. After what seemed like a lifetime it was clear that it hadn’t seen me. I studied the viro in the early morning light.
The viro had once been a teenage girl and still had a ponytail. It looked exactly like the older girls l sometimes saw heading up to the secondary school on the hill; the ordinary older girls who were someone’s sister and someone’s daughter and someone’s best friend forever. The kind of ordinary older girls that fascinated me and intimidated me at the same time. The kind that excited me when I saw them standing together chatting but also made me worry that they were talking about me as I passed them on the street.
The viro’s face was angry and contorted, with bulging strips of muscle pulling its chin upwards. Its eyes were bloodshot and dangerous-looking. As it stood beside the fence the viro licked its ruined, bloodstained lips and I wondered if it was thinking about some of the people it had undoubtedly killed.
How many people had this viro attacked? I wanted to say ‘she’ but wasn’t really sure what to say. Could we still call them ‘he’ and ‘she?’ They were still alive but they weren’t still alive. They weren’t human any more. Or were they? Perhaps this was the future for the human race? There were more of them now than there was of us. That would then make me the odd one out. I was totally confused. I found a couple of thick sticks that I thought might be useful and crawled back to the others.
Ellis was awake again but in lots of pain. She was sweaty and crying. I couldn’t bear to look. I reached down to hold her hand and she tried to smile at me. I started to cry. Amber was trying to get a better look at Ellis’s ankle but every time she tried Ellis flinched and groaned. Amber stopped and looked at the two of us.
‘It’s getting light real quick and we have got to get Ellis out of here. It won’t take long for those things to find us and then we’re done for.’
Amber looked at Ellis.
‘We’re going to have to try and get you up.’
Ellis nodded. Amber looked at me and Abe.
‘You two need to get her arms and I’ll hold her legs.’
‘Ellis, we’re going to be as careful as we can but this is really going to hurt.’
Ellis gritted her teeth.
‘I know,’ she said bravely through the pain.