Abe and I lifted Ellis under her armpits and Amber grabbed her legs. Ellis howled with the pain. Not knowing what else to do other than try to escape, we set off towards the ring road. Ellis was heavy and each step we took made her cry louder and louder. She tried her hardest not to make a sound but the pain was too much. The three of us looked at each other. We all knew that were doomed. We got to the start of the ring road without any further adventure and turned right, heading out of the town.
It was morning now so at least we could see ahead of us. The ring road snaked away into the distance, cutting a dull wedge into the usual type of boring empty muddy fields and wooden fences that mark the next stage of development on the outskirts of every town. The winter sky was grey and low with thick-looking clouds hovering just above our heads. A vast expanse of boggy marshland stretched away on the other side of the road and in the distance I could see the sea glowering on the horizon. A hateful wind began to blow from off the marshes and hit us hard and cold. I shivered.
We trudged on in slow and stupid silence. Ellis had stopped crying and seemed to be half-asleep. Abe and I were really struggling not to drop her. Amber was walking backwards, bent at the waist and barely managing to keep hold of Ellis’s legs. They both looked spent. My back burned with every step I took. When a situation like this happens in a film you always know that someone somewhere is going to find that extra bit of energy to make sure that everyone gets to safety. They may even deliver a rousing speech. But films work differently to real life and though we were some of the most determined children you could ever hope to meet, we were rapidly reaching the point where we simply couldn’t go on. Amber was the first to stop.
‘I can’t go any further,’ she said and her voice sounded so tired and so disappointed. ‘I thought we’d be able to do this but I think it’s all over.’ She steered us to the side of the road. ‘Let’s put Ellis down here and see if we can catch our breath.’ We set Ellis down as gently as we could. I sat down next to her. She was now asleep. Amber sat the other side. Neither of us said a word. Abe stood on the road, scanning the horizon.
‘There must be somewhere we can reach,’ he said. ‘There has to be.’ He looked imploringly at the two of us. ‘Can we get going again soon?’ he said. ‘I can’t stand just standing still.’
‘I think this is the end of the line,’ said Amber sadly. ‘Ellis is far too heavy for us to manage and we can’t just leave her behind. That is not an option.’
‘I’m not suggesting that,’ Abe said. ‘No way.’ He looked back towards the horizon. ‘Perhaps there’s a barn near here where we can hide? There must be something.’
‘But we’ve got nothing left,’ said his sister softly. ‘We have lost everything.’ Amber looked at me. ‘I sorry,’ she said. ‘I’m sorry about earlier.’ She laughed.
‘I know that you didn’t plan to make any of this happen. You’re really brave and loyal but I just got angry when it all went wrong.’ I looked up, suspiciously.
‘Do you mean it?’ I asked hesitantly. ‘Do you really mean it?’
‘I do,’ replied Amber. ‘I didn’t mean to be so mean.’ She leaned over and touched my arm. ‘We really like you, Jake. We really do, don’t we Abe?’ Abe came over to stand next to me.
‘Absolutely,’ he said. ‘Of course we do.’ Abe’s voice trailed off. He gasped. ‘Don’t look now but I think we had better think of a plan real quick.’
Amber and I stood up.
The marshland to the right of us was slowly filling with viros as a massive swarm made its clumsy way towards us. There was hundreds of them and they must have spent the night stumbling across the boggy ground. The wind carried their foul stench before them and I gagged. They would be upon us in no time.
‘Where did they all come from?’ I asked as my eyes started to water. ‘Where the hell are they going?’
‘From everywhere,’ said Abe. ‘To everywhere.’
‘They must have some kind of memory of their life before,’ suggested Amber. ‘That must be what is making them head for the nearest town.’
Even though it was the most terrifying thing I had ever seen in my short life, I couldn’t stop watching the swarm as it made its lethal way towards us. I was hypnotized by this giant cartoon blob of angry, hungry dead people all twitching and slipping and trampling as they struggled over the boggy ground. Some of the viros looked like they were dancing.
All of them looked like they were hungry.