All That Remains

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Temporary Refuge

It felt like they had been running for hours when they finally reached the train station.

Amelia ran for the large passenger train on the third set of tracks. It was the one they’d determined was most secure.

She could see Sam moving about in the cab of the train. And saw movement in one of the first passenger cars – Jeremy.

Amelia reached the sealed door of the carriage first and banged on the thick window with her plastic arm.

Jeremy looked up from one of the passenger car dining tables and saw them. She gestured wildly and a moment later Jeremy appeared and unlocked the door, pulling it open.

The two women climbed aboard and Jessica threw the heavy metal latch lock over, sealing them safely inside a tin can.

“Are the rest of the cars secured?” Jessica asked, turning blue eyes on Jeremy.

He nodded. “First thing we did was lock them all once we were in.”

The car juddered and Amelia had to steady herself, bracing against a narrow wall that separated spaces within cars. She heard Sam shout something from up front, but couldn’t make it out clearly.

And then the train began to move forward. “What?” Amelia stuttered, trying to make sense of what was happening.

“He got it going!” Jeremy shouted.

“How? Where?” Amelia fought to find the right words in her shock. “Where are we going? What are we doing?”

“We’re leaving the city!” Jeremy and Jessica said simultaneously, Jessica clapping her hands with excitement.

“What?” Amelia’s voice rose in a shocked screech. “Where are we going?”

“Who cares?” Jessica said. “Isn’t it just good enough that we’re getting away from here?”

As the train station slid further away from them, Amelia could see the ocean along one side. She spotted a group of infected huddled around something they had killed, hunched down and reaching and grasping towards something she turned her gaze from. Beyond them the ocean was a sliver of silver, lit by the sun. And then it began to disappear as the train changed direction, turning away from the water and heading inland.

She sighed and made her way to the cab where Sam was sitting in the engineer’s seat.

“Since when did you know how to drive a train?” she asked sharply.

Sam glanced at her with his green eyes, flashing a brief smile. “I used to take them a lot when I went to races. I preferred to see the country this way. It’s relaxing. Like driving but you don’t have to do anything. One time I entered a contest where you could spend a day up here in the cab being shown how to operate a diesel train.” He shrugged. “I never would’ve thought that would ever be useful...” he trailed off, looking out of the slanted window in front of them. The landscape flew towards and past them. Buildings clustered together in the downtown core, many irreparably damaged by the military when they had turned on the cities, trying to flush the savage, untamed people out, to save he rest began to thin out, becoming shorter shopping plazas, and long, low industrial warehouses. The warehouses eventually turned to houses. First large, grand mansions, and eventually shrinking to small, rundown residences. Amelia noticed that most windows and doors were boarded up. And that applied to all, from large to small.

"What?” Sam asked, turning to her.

Amelia shook her head. “Nothing.” She looked out the small side window and started, a gasp escaping.

Sam followed her gaze. “Wolves!” he shouted. A trail of infected were running alongside the train.

Amelia ran back to the passenger car where Jessica and Jeremy were. They had already pushed open a couple windows and were shooting at the men and women as they tried to surge toward the train.

Amelia removed her bag from her back.

Most of the people were falling back with the gunshots, but Amelia watched, her eyes widening in horror, as one woman in torn, stained jeans and similarly destroyed blouse, leapt at the train, and managed to grab on, her fingers crusted and stiff with dried blood, gripping the thin rims of the windows and pulling herself along. Jeremy was closest to her, and was too focused on aiming his rifle.

Before Amelia could even open her mouth to warn him, the woman, with a wild, crazed look on her face and in her eyes, tore the weapon from his hands and tossed it away, at the same time grabbing onto his arm, and bringing her head down.

The woman bit him, her jaws clamping down on his forearm, and Jeremy screamed, trying to pull his arm from her mouth. Amelia felt sick at the blood that spilled from him, dripping onto the fake leather chairs next to the window. Jeremy managed to yank his arm away, but left a hunk of himself with the woman, and a gaping hole in his arm.

The woman reached into the open window, trying to pull herself in. Amelia blindly reached into her bag and pulled something out. It was one of her running legs, with a thin curved piece of flexible material. It wasn’t ideal but it would have to do. She whacked at the woman with the running foot as hard as she could, swinging it down on its side like a blade.

She lifted it and swung again and again, until the dirty fingers lost their grip on the window sill and fell away.

Her heart pounded in her chest and ears, so loudly that it took a few moments for Jeremy’s cries to penetrate the noise of her heart that filled her head.

She turned and ran to Jeremy’s side. She was about to open her mouth to ask if he was okay when she shut it again. Of course he isn’t, she thought angrily, shaking her head at the stupid question.

Jeremy was collapsed in one of the many passenger seats in the carriage, grouped in rows of three, separated by an aisle down the middle. Sweat ran down his face, mingling with tears on his cheeks. He muttered something too quiet for Amelia to hear.

“What?” she asked, quietly, fearfully.

Jeremy thrashed in his chair, his eyes screwed shut tightly. “Do it,” he said, so softly that Amelia wondered if she’d imagined it. She was about to question him again when his eyes flew open. He stared not at her, but through her with eyes that had begun to turn cloudy. “Do it!” he screamed.

She jumped backwards, almost bumping into Jessica.

She rummaged in her bag at her hip, looking for her pistol. Her hands were shaking, her fingers fumbling.

Jeremy tried to launch himself up from the chair, still holding tight to his bleeding arm. Amelia shrieked with fright, falling backward, her prosthetic leg twisting at an awkward angle under her.

Before she realized what was happening, the car was filled with the too-loud sound of a gunshot. Amelia put her good hand up to her ear, and tried to press her other arm to her other ear to block out the noise, but it was too late. Her ears rang and buzzed, a loud high-pitched whine like an alarm going off.

Jeremy’s body fell onto the floor in front of her. He wasn’t a heavy man, but the weight of his body falling shook the ground beneath her. She closed her eyes tight against the vision of his body sprawling out in a jumble of arms and legs and the blood that was creeping its way slowly across the floor.

Jeremy was dead. Amelia didn’t want to open her eyes again and see him lying there. Even though she knew it was the only thing to do. People who were bit turned into one of the infected. If they survived that was. Just like a zombie.

Even though Amelia kept her eyes shut, she could feel the tears trying to squeeze out of the corners. She took a deep breath and opened them, and unsteadily climbed to her feet.

Jessica was back at the window. Amelia noticed that the trail of infected had thinned and were falling back. Jessica could handle it on her own, Amelia thought, heading to the cab where Sam was.

“What happened back there?” Sam said, turning panicked eyes to her.

Amelia had to swallow to speak. “Jeremy was attacked.”

Sam’s already wide eyes widened further. “He-”

“Was bitten,” Amelia finished for him. “We had to do it.”

Sam closed his eyes briefly and nodded in understanding. He had lost people before, when the virus first started changing people.

“There was a group following the train,” Amelia continued. “But Jessica has kept them at bay now.” She looked ahead at the dry barren landscape that was coming towards and past them.

She was silent for a moment, debating whether or not to ask a question she wasn’t sure she really wanted an answer to.

She took a deep breath. “Where are we going? Do you even have a plan?”

Sam laughed bitterly. “Of course I have a plan! I’m not stupid.”

Amelia waited for him to continue, watching his jaw clench as he stared out at the tracks unfolding before them. He was silent for a lot longer than she thought was appropriate, so opened her mouth to ask what his plan was.

He cut her off, raising a hand and pointing ahead of them.

Amelia looked. She didn’t see what he was pointing at. There wasn’t anything out there, besides fields, and the odd ramshackle farmhouse. The sky was a pale, watered down blue of high summer, and it was hazy out, but other than that…

She continued to look, but didn’t see what he was still raising a pointed finger at. “What-” she began.

Sam did something to make the train slow slightly, the rhythmic sound of its wheels rolling on the tracks becoming more spaced out.

She stared at the haziness before them, and suddenly with a shock that made her gasp and take a step backward, realized it wasn’t a hazy sky in front of them at all, but a light coloured wall of some sort that stretched across the horizon for as far as they could see in either direction.

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