Chapter 12 – Dash To Safety
It began to rain, the gentle patter of drops quickly turning to angry drumbeats, the fresh downpour drenching the people in the garden. Rather than looking bedraggled, the creatures that once had been people turned their faces happily up to the liquid onslaught like sunflowers to the sun and allowed the water to flow into their mouths, sating the slugs’ need to be wet. The faces bulged as more and more slugs pushed towards the coolness of the flowing new water, distorting and distending the facial skin until it was drum-tight. One by one the faces went slack as the slugs were satisfied and returned to whatever it was they were doing deep inside the torso. The skin remained stretched and now flaccid; the Fat Controller was no longer recognisable, more akin to a jowly Bassett hound than human. Lowering their faces they continued staring in once again, the same menace present.
James prized the broom from her hand, put his free hand to her face and gently turned her away from the sight. She suddenly resisted, grabbing his hand, squeezing tightly, the look on her face turning to fear. With her other hand she pointed behind him and James turned to see what the matter was.
The Bassett hound people were climbing over each other in what appeared to be a desperate urgency to get inside through the broken window. Many were severely lacerated by the jagged glass still in the frame, their skin hanging in tatters with slugs clinging tightly to the squamous flesh, but none of this seemed to matter as much as getting inside.
As they slid their way in slugs poured into the sink which filled almost instantly, the excess creatures flowing down to the floor and towards the terrified couple. A sickly, earthy, pungent odour hit James in the face like a wet fish.
“Shit!” James exclaimed, the odour bringing his wits into focus.
No more words were needed; both turned on their heels and bolted for the front door, James still clinging to the broom. Pulling the door open they were confronted by some fifteen people, all drenched in rain. The rain certainly seemed to suit the infected because their personal vigour increased, almost to the extent of walking normally.
Remembering the broom, James used it to push a way through the throng. Aware of the fact that Claire hadn’t yet clothed herself enough to cover and hence protect her skin, he worked all the harder to push the people, most of whom had suffered the same Bassett effect as those from whom they were running.
The rain was intense and in a moment both of them were drenched, their clothes weighing them down. Suddenly it occurred to James, but he kept it to himself, that the water might negate a barrier such as a long sleeved garment to defend them against coming into contact with the infected. From their apparent love of water, perhaps whatever it was that passed through skin to skin contact might as easily swim in water and hence make its way through their drenched clothing.
“Don’t let them come near you, or touch you!” he cried to the love of his life. He kept pushing hard at those standing in their path using the broom and at last the effort seemed to be yielding results. They were almost clear of the crowd, Claire standing as close to James as she was able; the path behind them was filling in as they walked and she had no weapon for self-defence. Looking past the remaining few in front of him he couldn’t see any others beyond the huddled crowd; it was almost as if they knew of James and Claire’s presence in their home, hence the gathering outside the door - it was very clear they were being actively pursued. The thought hardened his resolve to get away from this place, get somewhere these things weren’t.
The car was mere feet away now, and as he pushed the last person clear they dashed over to it. Claire had managed to grab her car keys from on top of the radiator cover near the front door on their way out and pressed the remote. Over her terrified heartbeat thundering in her ears she heard the satisfying click of the doors unlocking. James dashed to the passenger side while Claire jumped in the driver’s seat. Hitting the central locking button they were now safe and secure in the little car.
The infected followed them though and in moments had surrounded the car. James was horrified because the car, a minuscule, trendy mint-green Fiat 500 looked so frail against the throng now pushing against it with all their might. The metal door panels clunked as they buckled against the strain. In spite of his lack of religion, James said a quick prayer.
Claire fumbled putting the keys in the ignition, succeeding after a moment’s panic. Now she understood those frustrating moments in films where the victims fumbled to escape while the attacker drew ever nearer. After a moment the little engine burst into life, well, it purred gently. Just in time, they realised as one, starring in horror as blood and slugs oozed all over the bonnet of the car.
“Come on babe! Move it, quickly now!” James shouted. The last thing they needed was for the slimy little buggers to block air intakes or get into the car via the air conditioning. Realising the threat he leant over and closed all the vents leading into the car and directed the air up to the windscreen, blocking air access to the foot wells. As a last action he switched the aircon to recycle internal air. His skin was crawling and the desire to pull his legs up under his chin was almost overpowering.
Claire reversed the little car and bounced over a couple of prone people. The wheels spun in the bloody and mucous-enveloping stickiness, the rain making things worse. Putting it into a forward gear the little car on its thin biscuit wheels slithered along, careening off people and sliding over the road as if on ice. Traction came after a bowel-loosening moment, the little wheels biting the tarmac at last.
James looked over at Claire and his heart swelled as he saw her cheeks wet with tears but with an angrily determined look on her face. She gently touched her bump and a faint smile flickered for a moment. She cast a quick glance at James and returned her focus to the road.