The sound of the wheels crushing bones that were littered everywhere grated on everyone’s fragile nerves. As the bus reached the end of the high street Darrell had to stop because of a land rover that had ploughed into the back of a delivery van and was blocking the road.
A group of creatures were swarming over the car, tearing at the sunroof and windows. They could all see the young woman trapped inside. She looked around at them, her face filled with desperation and terror.
Cynthia cried out. ‘Oh my God. We have to help her.’
Darrell moved the bus forward, pressing the horn and flashing the headlights, trying to distract the creatures. It worked. They leapt from the car and raced towards the bus.
Darrell hit the accelerator. The bus shot forward hitting the group of creatures and rode over them. He backed up to see if any were still alive, two of the creatures were squashed flat, their innards were spread across the ground and were already taking on a blue glow. The other two were getting up.
He aimed the bus at them, trying to get them under the wheels. The bus lurched as the nearside wheel squashed the largest creature in the group.
Steering the bus around to the driver’s side of the Range Rover, he saw the terrified woman looking out at him. He manoeuvred the bus until its front touched the side of her car then pushed it around until the bus door was level with her driver’s door, making a ‘V’ shape of the two vehicles.
He got out of the seat and opened the door, looked around, then motioned for the woman to open her door. A small face turned to look at him through the rear passenger window.
‘Fuck. There’s a baby in there.’
He quickly sat back in the driver’s seat and backed the bus up.
Cynthia passed Elle over to the girls. ‘Look after her.’ She stood at the front of the bus holding on to the handrail at the open door.
Darrell used the bus to push the Range Rover around. ‘Open the door wide,’ he shouted.
The woman opened the driver door and climbed over into the passenger seat.
Darrell eased the bus forward. The front of the bus pushed against the open door. It flew forward with a loud crack as the hinges gave and smashed into the wing. Darrell sealed the gap between the bus and the car and jumped from the driver’s seat.
The woman in the car clambered over the seats. Cynthia stepped forward and helped her into the bus.
‘My baby, she’s in the back, please, get my baby.’
Darrell climbed into the car and leant over to the back seat. He undid the child restraints in the baby seat and pulled her into his arms.
As he stepped from the car in to the bus, a claw came up between the two vehicles and ripped into his leg. He screamed in agony, almost dropping the baby. Cynthia grabbed the child from him and handed it to the woman.
Darrell fell backwards into the bus. His trouser leg was shredded from the knee to the ankle, revealing the hanging calf muscle that had been ripped from the bone. Blood was pumping out from the shredded arteries in great jets.
The claw was crazily trying to gain purchase. Emma, overcoming her fear, jumped off her seat and ran to the front of the bus. She helped Cynthia drag Darrell away from the door, scattering bones and skulls that littered the aisle.
The arterial flow from Darrell’s leg had slowed. They pulled him into the aisle, leaving a trail of fresh blood to add to the already sticky mess that coated the floor. Darrell was going into shock and losing consciousness, but still managed to blurt out.
‘Shut the doors,’ then he fainted away.
Cynthia saw the switch recess above the windscreen. She ran to the front and twisted the handle. The doors closed, trapping the creature’s claw. She kicked at it until it fell away, allowing the doors to close.
The woman from the Range Rover handed the baby to Helen. She grabbed the blanket off the baby and wrapped it around Darrell’s leg. Blood soaked through it immediately.
‘We need to get him flat and elevate the leg,’ she said. ‘Help me get him on to the back seat.’
The three women pulled Darrell along the aisle, sweeping human remains along with him. They struggled to lift him on to the back seat. Once he was laid out the woman lifted his leg high. She took Emma’s hands and placed them around the heel of his blood soaked trainer. ‘Hold it up, he can’t afford to lose any more blood.’
As Emma held his foot high, the towel fell open and Darrell’s whole calf muscle flopped down and swung towards her. She screamed and went to pull her hands away.
‘I can’t. I can’t.’ she cried.
The woman held her hands over Emma’s. ‘What’s your name?’
‘I’m Julia. I used to be a theatre nurse. Now I know it’s hard, but if we’re to help this man I need you to be strong. Can you do that for me?’
Emma nodded, fighting down the bile that threatened to rise.
Scraping sounds were coming from below the bus floor. They seemed to be working their way along the underside to the back.
Julia quickly wrapped Darrell’s leg and fastened it at the knee with her scarf. ‘Someone has to drive the bus, we can’t stay here.’
Cynthia ran to the front. She sat in the driver’s seat and looked at all the controls.
‘Which one is the bloody gear stick,’ she cursed.
She looked around and saw a small red knob by the window and pushed it forward. The bus lurched and became stuck on Julia’s car. She pulled the lever backwards, the screech from the twisted metal as they moved backwards echoed throughout the bus.
A creature screamed from under the bus as the rear wheels bumped over it.
‘Ha! Got the bastard,’ Cynthia exclaimed, gleefully.’
She pressed down hard on the accelerator. The bus sped backwards, the rear end crashing into a bus shelter, completely demolishing it. Cynthia hit the brake and pushed the lever forward, she steered the bus into the middle of the road. As she accelerated the side of the bus clipped the Range Rover and dragged it along the road before shunting it into a shop doorway.
Unhindered, the bus roared along the road, swaying from side to side.
Emma ran to the front of the bus. ‘Slow down or we’ll crash.’
Cynthia released her pressure on the pedal. ‘Not much different from my old horse box really, once you get the hang of it.’ A look of concern and sadness filled her face. ‘How is he?’
‘He’s lost a lot of blood but that lady’s a nurse, she’s managed to stop the bleeding. It doesn’t look too good. He’s really hurt.’
‘We would all be dead if not for him, he saved all of us. Now, let’s get him some help.’
Cynthia pushed down on the accelerator. The bus picked up speed. This time she had the bus under control. ‘The hospitals not too far from here.’
Julia came to the front of the bus. ‘He’s in a really bad way. He’s lost an awful amount of blood. I’ve stopped the bleeding for now, but if he doesn’t get medical attention soon. I...’
‘The hospitals not far,’ Cynthia said, looking up at Julia.
She steered the bus along the deserted roads, her small frame looking out of place behind the big wheel. They reached the hospital entrance. Cynthia drove the bus in, bouncing hard over the speed bumps. The place was deserted.
‘Damn. They’ve already gone,’ she cursed.
She stopped outside the A&E entrance and pressed the horn. No one appeared.
‘Open the door,’ Julia said. ‘I’ll get some medical supplies. Then we need to get out of here.’
Emma twisted the handle above the window and the doors opened.
Julia turned to Helen. ‘Will you be okay with the baby?’
Helen, sitting with Elle cuddled into her and the baby sleeping in her arms, just nodded.
Julia grabbed Emma’s arm. ‘Come with me. I’ll need help.’
They ran off the bus and in through the hospital entrance.
Cynthia got up and shut the doors. She went to the back of the bus, nearly slipping on the blood that streaked the aisle. She looked down at Darrell’s unconscious form. Julia had tied his leg to the overhead rack. She saw it was still dripping blood, adding to the dark puddle on the seat below. His breathing was shallow and his skin had turned a grey colour.
Cynthia turned and walked slowly back down the aisle to Helen. The baby was sleeping and Elle cuddled into Cynthia as she sat down next to them. She put a protective arm around the girl.
‘Thank God you could drive this thing,’ Helen said.
‘Oh it’s not so hard. I drove horse boxes for years and they’re much bigger than this, just a little out of practice.’
‘Where will we go?’
Cynthia saw tears were beginning to form in the girls lower lids. She patted her hand. ‘We’ll be okay. I think the best place would be anywhere the army is, at least we’d be protected.’
‘They were taking everyone to Nottingham.’
’Then that’s were we should go. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a train down to London.
‘Have you got family there?’
‘My husband works for the government. He has a flat in Westminster. It’s too far to travel everyday so I only see him at weekends or when I visit London.’
‘It must be lonely for you. Do you have any children?’
‘I have a son, Jonathan. He’s at university. But enough about me. Do you have children?’
‘Two girls. Amy seven and Alison nine. They’re on holiday with their nan and granddad in Scotland, thank God. My mums not well so I was going to Norfolk tonight to look after her.’
‘So they’re with your husbands parents. What does your husband do? I mean what work does he do?’
‘He was a policeman. He was killed in a car accident.’
‘Oh you poor thing. I can see you still miss him, and with such a young family to bring up.’
‘I’ve had to come to terms with it. It was hard at first but I’ve got my two girls and Christian’s parents live in Middleton. They’ve been wonderful and they dote on their grandchildren.’
‘Well, as soon as we get to Nottingham you should get the first train out. Hopefully this will all be over in a few days. Now, you look after the children and I’ll check on that young man.’
Darrell was still unconscious. His skin had become sallow and his clothes were soaked in sweat. The flow of blood from his leg had stopped. The dark puddle on the seat was now dripping through the cushion to form a pool on the floor. Cynthia went back to the front of the bus and sat in the driver’s seat, scanning the grounds for creatures.