Chapter 8 - Circled Wagons Encircled
Two strange men stood at the kitchen window staring in. Both were pale, their eyes red-rimmed and unfocused, their clothing torn and dishevelled. Their slack mouths moved as if in silent speech. Dark patches moved around under their skin, this random motion suggesting uncontrolled muscle spasms just under the surface, changing their facial countenance in a mesmerising yet terrifying fashion. In spite of this internal chaos they stood stock still, while at the same moment another three climbed silently over the garden fencing, their movement smooth and slick, appearing almost to slither. Silently they arrived behind the other two and just stood there, staring through the window.
James slowly but firmly grabbed Claire by the upper arms.
“Keep still,” he muttered. The people outside the window didn’t seem to notice them at all, the unstaring eyes seemingly blind.
“James,” Claire exclaimed. James gripped her a little tighter, sensing her flight instincts rising.
“Shh,” he urged in a tight whisper. “I don’t think they can see us.”
He gasped involuntarily as something small and black appeared to crawl out of the left nostril of one of the faces and dove back in again. Did he see what he thought he saw, he wondered, a slight sweat cooling on his skin.
“What do we do?” Claire hissed, the words barely audible as they escaped her unmoving lips.
As one, all four heads turned in her direction. She stopped talking, her muscles quivering with fright.
Very slowly, James sidled towards the hallway door, keeping his grip on Claire. The four faces staring in became increasingly agitated but their bodies made no effort to move, almost as if they were rooted in the soil under the window. Once in the hallway, James pulled her down and out of sight of the garden intruders.
“Wait here and stay down,” he whispered and raced upstairs and into to the back bedroom, the window of which had a view of their garden as well as across those of the terraced houses either side of his own. Standing at the left hand side of the window, he peeled back the curtain slightly and looked outside. To his horror he could see people standing motionless in every single garden, as far as he could see. Looking through the windows of the adjacent houses he saw the occasional movement but other than that, there was no movement at all. Looks like others were as trapped as they were. Focusing his attention on the immediate gardens, he peered more closely; he could see dark, glistening tendrils wending their way across his neighbour’s tightly mown lawn, each black vein terminating at the feet of the four people that had invaded that garden.
James checked the other gardens and saw the same thing; strangers everywhere, seemingly planted. If he hadn’t seen the throbbing, glistening tendrils appearing to flow towards these people, then it could look like these strange unfortunates were putting down roots. The same thing was happening in his own garden, the two new arrivals already hooked up to their own tendrils.
He leant back against the bedroom wall, frightened to death of what he was seeing, his breathing short and urgent. He knew what the glistening tendrils were, he’d seen this on George, the memory of what happened making him shudder. His deepest fear was driven more by what seemed to be the slow-moving, inexorable progress of whatever this disaster was, although thinking about it for a moment, he realised it really wasn’t slow moving at all. Just over an hour ago at lunchtime he had seen simple, inert people playing mime. Now, not only could they move, there seemed to be some other, larger connection between these creatures, something that he could not begin to understand. He would love to believe he and Claire were safe inside the house, but he’d found a slug making its way across the carpet once before, having slithered through the air brick in the rear wall. One he could cope with, but not only were these things numerous as grains of sand, but they also seemed to move faster than the average slimy garden dweller.
How could these creatures have just come out of no-where? Yesterday he could have sat in the garden in safety, today, that was another matter. How was he going to keep Claire and the baby safe? Where could they go to escape this? He’d seen news reports of the zombie drug up and down the country, and although he knew better than to believe the drug lie perpetuated by the media, it still didn’t help him much.
He looked at his phone, hoping to see a connection. The cell connection was gone but there was still a Wi-Fi connection. He went to Twitter and clicked refresh. “Internet not available. Try later” came the message. He swore. He tried again a couple of times, hoping it was a momentary glitch. Nope, it wasn’t coming back.
They were on their own, it seemed. Whatever happened, however extensive this problem was, the only certainty he had was that he’d have to think quickly, whatever happened. He sighed in resignation and went into the spare room and dug out a pair of old binoculars. Claire appeared behind him.
“What did you see?” she asked nervously.
He started at her words, startled but not altogether surprised that she wasn’t waiting downstairs as he’d asked.
“I haven’t a frikin’ clue,” he replied, deciding lying was the better part of valour for the moment.
He walked past her into the back bedroom. She followed him over to the window, but he pulled her down roughly below the sill so that they wouldn’t be seen by whatever they were.
“Sorry. Stay down,” he added in a softer tone.
Rising slowly, he brought the binoculars to bear. A moment later he slid to the floor and swallowed hard.
“You alright?” Claire asked.