1; the chase
Freya ran inside the house and slammed the door, turning the lock. She looked behind at her younger brother, Gregory who was already looking outside through the windows. Her heart was hammering, pulsating with adrenaline as she ran to him.
“Get down,” she hissed in panic, pulling him to the ground and letting the curtains fall back together. “They’ll see you.”
“It’s too late, the smoke is here. And they will be, too,” he said monotonously, his body tense with fear.
“Hey, hey,” she said, placing her hands on her younger brother’s cheeks.
Her brown eyes searched his, “I need you to stay with me, okay? We will get through this.”
“No we won’t,” he mumbled.
“Look at me,” she whispered.
“I am going to get us out of here but you have to stay with me. We need to get to Mr. Richardson’s house, we’ll be safe there.”
There was a loud bang at the door and Freya almost jumped. She turned to Greg who was visibly shaking with terror.
“Go down to the basement, now,” she said in a dangerously low voice, touching his hand. “You know where the tunnel is, right?”
Greg nodded before running out of the room, disappearing at the end of the corridor.
Freya moved her eyes to the window and sat on her knees, quietly. Her heart almost stopped when she saw the smoke had gotten as far as the trees. Almost like slow motion, she saw a figure move from the corner of her eye.
Several men were outside the house, their faces empty of any features. Cloths were wrapped around their heads, stained with blood and filth. One of them turned its head, staring directly at Freya.
She could barely see his eyes which appeared like deep depressions under the cloth, making her doubt if he even had any. Suddenly, they all turned their heads in sync. They could see her.
Freya got to her feet and ran to the kitchen, grabbing a large knife before racing down the corridor. It was when she got to the basement door that she heard the door being kicked down. Freya locked the basement door and ran downstairs, her heart practically out of her chest by that time.
“Greg? Greg?” she called, searching for him with her phone’s torchlight.
“In here,” he whispered from the tunnel behind the large bookcase.
Freya ran and helped him pull the bookcase in front of the entrance so that it was concealed once more.
“They’re in the house,” she said as she pulled him by his arm and began to run.
The siblings ran through the cold tunnel, having been through it before. Joseph, their father had shown them the way months ago in case they ever needed the safe passage. Freya was thankful that she remembered where it was.
The tunnel was solemnly silent, sparing the sounds of their shoes against the damp ground. Greg couldn’t feel his nose or cheeks anymore, a cold breeze brushing past them from the opening on the other side.
Suddenly, Freya pulled Greg back by his arm and put her palm over his mouth. She pressed her back against the wall, her chest rising and falling as she tried to breathe calmly. It took Greg a moment but he finally saw what Freya was looking at.
One of the men were in the tunnel.
She hid the light from her phone behind her leg, afraid that he’d see them. Despite her effort, some light still still escaped.
The man, dressed in a dirty shirt and brown trousers seemed different from the ones upstairs. He was pacing in the dark, mumbling incoherently. The ones upstairs were dressed better but this one looked lost and confused.
Freya signaled her brother to stay quiet before she picked up a stone and threw it in the opposite direction. The man spun around and shrieked, stumbling on his own feet as he staggered to where the stone had landed.
Freya prompted her brother to silently walk ahead towards the exit. He shook his head, afraid that he’d be attacked if he moved. Instead Freya held Greg’s hand and kept the light obscured under the fabric of her hoodie, walking with him.
They walked past him, holding on to the wall for support. Freya’s eyes were fixated on the man as she continued past him, paranoid that her heart was beating loudly enough for him to hear.
Suddenly, Freya’s foot stepped on a pile of leaves outside the tunnel when she heard a loud shriek from inside the tunnel.
She quickly pushed her brother forward, lightly before yelling, “Run!”
They ran as fast as they could alongside each other, making the leaves crunch under their feet with every step. The shrieking continued and grew louder as it got closer to them.
It ran like an imbalanced creature from a horror movie. Its face scrunched into inhuman expressions of cannibalistic hunger and savagery. Its lip curled as it shrieked, revealing sharp teeth.
Suddenly, Freya lurched forwards, grabbing Greg and rolled on to the ground behind a large hedge. She pressed her hand over his mouth, silencing him.
They both waited, listening to the crunching of leaves as the creature ran past the hedge. Freya watched him disappear deeper into the forest while Greg kept his eyes shut tight.
Finally, after what seemed like hours to Greg, Freya took her hand away from his mouth.
“It’s gone for now,” she whispered.
“We need to quietly and quickly get to Mr. Jones’ house. Mum and dad are probably still there.”
Greg nodded and stood up, cautiously.
The pair walked the rest of the way but not without the occasional shuffling noises and paranoia of being watched. When the house came into sight, they sighed in relief. Deciding to go in through the back, they climbed over the fence one by one.
Freya felt Greg pull her sleeve and she turned around to see the most horrifying thing she’d ever seen. Bodies hung from the branches of the tree, necks broken and limbs moving slightly in the breeze.
She froze, her mind blanking out for a moment as she looked at their faces. Mrs. Jones, Henry, Veronica, Mr. Jones and then finally, Joseph, their father. Their cold eyes penetrated her soul and she couldn’t look away.
Freya held her hand over her mouth, in terror. Their dead faces all looked her way and Freya felt like someone had just knocked the air out of her.
She could hear Greg start to cry and instinctively, hugged her brother with one arm. She hid his face in her hoodie and pulled him towards the house. The house was still safe, it would always be safe from the smoke.
Freya looked through the cupboards, hastily. She found empty boxes of cereal and discarded plastic wrappers but there was no food in sight.
Opening the fridge, she finally sighed in relief at the sight of an egg and enough milk for one. After checking the expiry date on the milk, she heated it on the stove and poured it all into a clean glass.
“Hey Greg, wake up,” Freya said, softly as she patted his brown hair.
He woke up and slowly sat up on the sofa, still drowsy. “Drink this,” she told him, handing him the glass.
He gulped the milk down quickly, wiping the excess from his mouth with the back of his sleeve.
“Thanks,” he said.
“How about you come and sleep on one of the beds. You don’t have to go upstairs,” she suggested. “The sofa isn’t good for your back.”
He looked down at the sofa but finally agreed and walked to the room with Freya.
“This is Mr. Jones’ room,” Greg said as he picked up a framed picture from the bed side table.
“Yeah, I think it is,” Freya replied from the doorway.
Greg sat down on the bed and looked towards the windows which were barricaded with wooden planks. It was slightly uncomfortable being in a room that had no windows. He felt claustrophobic even though he said nothing about it.
“Hey,” Freya said as she sat beside him. “I know you’re scared but this house will protect us.”
“Like it protected Mr. Jones?” he mumbled in a low voice.
Freya was caught off guard.
“They were outside after dark,” she replied after a pause, not knowing what to say. “They just didn’t make it in time.”
“That means they could be out there right now,” he said.
Freya swallowed, “Yes, they might be. But as long as I’m around, nobody’s going to lay a finger on you, you hear me? And this house is our safe place for when the smoke comes. In the morning, I’ll make a run for food and some other stuff. It should clear off early.”
“I’ll go with you,” Greg replied.
“I can’t take you out there, it’s way too dangerous,” Freya frowned.
“No, we don’t split up. That’s how people die in the scary movies.”
Freya sighed and kissed Greg’s cheek. “Okay, okay. We’ll talk about this in the morning. For now, you need to rest.”
“Okay,” Greg mumbled.
Seeing Freya about to leave, he sat up again. “Can’t you sleep in this room?”
Freya nodded, “Yeah, of course.”
Locking the door out of paranoia, Freya put her phone on the charger and lay down next to Greg. She wondered how long it’d be before the power went out for good.
“Where do you think mum is?”
“Maybe she fled for safety,” Freya glanced at him.
“The house was the safe place.”
“Maybe she found another one.”
Minutes passed by when Freya heard her brother start to weep. “Oh, what’s wrong?”
“Dad- He’s dead.”
Freya hugged Greg, tightly. “Shh. Don’t cry. You have me, you have me,” Freya repeated, comforting him.
Freya couldn’t hold back the tears any longer and silently wept with her brother. Her heart sank within her chest with an overwhelming ache that only a loss of a parent could bring.
She’d never felt so alone and with their mother no where to be found, Freya was afraid of what the day would bring them. Until now, she’d been following her parent’s strict orders. God knows that was the only reason they had survived for so long.
When the sun would rise, Freya would find that their lives and safety were her responsibility and hers alone. For now, it was just them against it all.