Primordial Soup

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Chapter 19

Cynthia was looking through the side window of the bus as the group burst through the open doorway. The four of them ran towards the bus, laden down with bags and boxes, she opened the doors and they all piled in.

‘Who are they? And why were you so long? I was getting worried,’ Cynthia said, shutting the doors from her seat now she’d had time to study the controls.

‘Explanations later,’ Julia said, breathless. ‘Get us out of here. Now.’

Cynthia shouted. ‘Good heavens. Look.’

The corridor they had just exited was full of creatures rushing towards the open doors. Cynthia jumped into the driving seat, put the bus into gear and accelerated away as the creatures surged through the opening towards them.

Julia and Emma went to the back of the bus to see to Darrell. He was still unconscious. His skin had turned almost translucent, even the veins on his face showed through the surface like a road map.

Julia checked his pulse. ‘We need to set up an I.V. Emma, can you help me?’

‘What do you want me to do?’

They both busied themselves attending to Darrell.

Shaun and Luke were standing at the front of the bus looking through the windscreen.

‘Where are we going?’ Luke asked.

‘I thought our best bet was to get out of the town and head for the motorway. Then make our way to Nottingham. It’s where everyone was evacuated to.’

‘You won’t get through up there. You’re heading for the Milburn Estate. Turn next right, then left. It comes out on the Bridgewater road. We can get to the bypass from there.’

‘Thank you young man, that’s very helpful.’

‘I’m Luke. This is Shaun. You drive all right for an old bird.’

‘I take it that was a compliment. I’m Cynthia. I’d shake your hand but...’

Luke smiled. ‘That’s okay, we can be formally introduced later.’

He joined Shaun who had gone to sit down and was staring out the window. He looked behind and saw Julia and Emma attending to the man on the back seat. A little girl was sitting quietly with a young woman. The baby she was holding was sleeping.

‘You all right Shaun?’

‘Did you see what that thing did to Dave? It ripped him to bits for fuck sake. What are they?’

‘I don’t know, probably some experiment that went wrong.’

‘Where are we going, Luke?’

‘Getting the hell out of here, that’s for sure. After seeing what that thing did to Dave I just want out. My mum and dad already went on the transport, so did yours. So what’s to stay for?’

‘But I thought we were taking the gear back to the others.’

Luke laughed. ‘What gear?’

‘Fuck. We left it all.’

‘Just as well really. It was Dave’s idea anyway. I just went along with it. You don’t even do drugs, neither of us do.’

The bus slowed to a halt. Cynthia called from the front. ‘Luke. Could you come up here a moment?’

Cynthia had stopped the bus about a hundred yards from the end of the road.

‘Oh Shit,’ exclaimed Luke.

They stared in horror, unable to believe their eyes. The Bridgewater road was choked with traffic. Thousands upon thousands of creatures were swarming all over the vehicles. The sounds of screaming from people under attack chilled their blood. Sporadic bursts of gunfire could be heard in the distance.

‘There’s thousands of them.’

‘Try not to alarm the others, Luke. Is there another way around?’

‘Yeah, back up. We can cut over by the football ground. It might be a bit rough getting through but we should be able to do it.’

‘Would you mind staying up here with me?’ asked Cynthia.

‘Course not.’

As she slowly backed up, Julia came to the front. ‘What’s wrong?’

’She saw the slaughter taking place in front. ‘Oh my God. How are we going to get out of here?’

Cynthia reached up and took her hand. ‘It’s okay dear. Luke seems to know the area quite well. He says there’s another way round.’

Cynthia turned into a tree-lined road.

‘Go up to the top and turn left,’ Luke directed.

‘Thanks for what you did back there...,’ Julia said.

Luke looked at her quizzically then realisation kicked in. ‘That’s okay. Dave weren’t a bad bloke really. He just got a bit carried away. Played too many computer games I think. He didn’t deserve to die like that.’

‘No, of course not.’

Turn right here Cynth.’

Cynthia shot him a look. Then accepted the shortening of her name as a term of endearment. She’d taken an instant liking to this boy, he reminded her of her own son, and she always believed she was a good judge of character. The road she turned into appeared to be a service road.

Julia turned and walked back up the bus.

At the end of the service road they came into a car park at the rear of the sports stadium.

Luke pointed across the car park. ‘Go over that way, there’s another service road.’

Cynthia drove along the side of the stadium and manoeuvred the bus through the narrow gate, scraping the sides on the gate posts.

‘There’s an opening ahead. Go through the other gate and then turn left.’

Cynthia followed his instructions, bringing the bus out on to a wide road at the back of the stadium.

‘Over there,’ said Luke. ‘It’s the industrial estate. We can get out the other side and on to the top end of Bridgewater road.’

As the bus crossed the road and into the industrial estate, Julia came back to the front. She sat with her back to the windscreen.

Cynthia reached over and took her hand. ‘How’s Darrell?’

‘I don’t know. He’s still out. I’ve dressed his wound and given him some blood, fluids and anti-biotic, but he’s running a very high temperature. I think he’s been poisoned by the wound. His skin is turning blue. He’s stable, but we really need to get him some proper help.’

‘Are you a doctor?’ Luke asked.

‘It’s Julia. And no, I’m a theatre nurse - well I was until I had Chloe, my baby.’

‘Oh, I thought it was hers, the girl that’s holding her.’

‘That’s Helen. She’s a friend of Emma’s. She’s been looking after Chloe for me since Darrell rescued us from the creatures that were attacking my car. A creature tore his leg apart as he got my baby from the car.’

They came to the end of the industrial estate. Cynthia slowed the bus. ‘Sorry to interrupt, but where now?’

‘Go straight across. This is likely to get a bit bumpy. Will your patient be okay. We can find another way round if not.’

‘He doesn’t have anything broken so he should be okay. Just get us out of here. Please.’

‘We’ll do our best, won’t we Luke.’ She drove the bus across the road and on to the common. ‘Hold on everyone.’

The bus shook and bounced crazily across the uneven ground. The suspension protesting and groaning loudly as the bus swayed. Cynthia tried to stay to the worn footpath, but the bus still heaved and shook as it made its way across.

Julia got up. ‘I’ll go and check on him,’ she said.

As she passed Luke he took her hand. ‘We’ll be okay. We’ll get out of this. Anyway who’s going to argue with Cynth at the wheel?’

Cynthia laughed. ‘That’s quite right young man. We make a good team.’

Julia smiled. She squeezed Luke’s hand and walked up the aisle to Darrell.

Luke grabbed the wheel. ‘Stop.’

Cynthia stamped on the brake. The bus skidded to a halt on the grass. ‘What’s wrong?’

Luke pointed through the windscreen. ‘Look.’

Way off in front, a large group of creatures were heading in their direction.

‘Pull off into those trees.’

‘Why don’t we just drive straight through the bloody things?’

‘No. There’s too many of them. Quick, put your foot down.’

Cynthia pulled the bus closer to the trees. ‘Let’s hope we don’t get stuck in here.’

Luke turned around to face everyone. ‘Get down and stay down.’

Shaun took Chloe from Helen, put her on the seat, then covered her with his body.

Cynthia crouched down in the aisle with Luke.

The terrible screaming sounds of the creatures got louder as they drew nearer. Luke peered over the front seat and saw the creatures pouring around the bus.

‘They’re all going past,’ he whispered to Cynthia. ‘There’s bloody thousands of them.’

A loud thump hit the front of the bus, followed by a scraping sound like nails down a blackboard.

Luke looked over the seat. There was a large creature trying to claw its way up the windscreen. He looked through the side windows. Other than the one on the front of the bus, the bulk of the creatures had gone. As he turned his gaze back to the front he saw the creature looking straight at him. It screamed, attracting a few stragglers.

‘Fuck. It’s seen me.’

He jumped into the driver’s seat, put it in gear and backed up on to the path. The creature was frantically scraping its claws on the window, etching rows of scratch marks down the screen. Luke hit the brakes trying to dislodge it, but the creature clung on as the bus skidded towards the trees.

Cracks spread across the glass like spider webs as the creature’s claws found purchase at the edge of the screen. The bus slid into a tree, squashing the creature and splattering blood and gore all over the front of the bus. He put the bus into reverse and backed up onto the path.

The remains slid down leaving trails of blood and pieces of skin and fur. He accelerated along the path, running over a few of the stragglers as the bus lurched from side to side.

Cynthia got up from the aisle and put her hand on his shoulder. ‘I don’t think I would have had the nerve to do that.’ She turned to face the back of the bus. ‘Is everyone okay?’

They all got up and resumed their seats. Shaun lifted the baby up and handed her over to Helen. She had slept right through it all.

‘Do you want to drive?’ asked Luke.

‘No. You’re doing okay. You stay there. I could do with just sitting for a while.’

Luke operated the washers and wipers, clearing most of the muck off the screen.

Julia called out from the back. ‘Can you stop the bus?’

‘What’s wrong?’ called Luke.

‘It’s Darrell. He’s dead.’

‘Oh no,’ Cynthia cried. ‘The poor man.’

‘We need to get him off the bus,’ Julia said.

‘We can’t just dump him,’ cried Cynthia. ‘He deserves more than that. We’re only alive because of him. It just doesn’t seem right, leaving him for those things to eat.’

‘I’m sorry Cynthia but we have no choice. Remember I said I thought he was poisoned, well his body is already decomposing. We have to get rid of it. We don’t know what we’re dealing with. It could spread infection.’

Luke stopped the bus and walked up the aisle. ‘There’s a door at the back, we could push him out there,’ suggested Luke. ‘Shaun. Give us a hand.’

Shaun took one look at Darrell and backed away. ‘I ain’t fucking touching him. Look at him, we could catch something.’

Luke laughed. ‘Don’t be a pussy mate. These two have been touching him and they haven’t caught anything.’ He reached over and pulled the lever, the emergency door swung open, setting off the alarm.

Julia gave them a pair of surgical gloves each. ‘Put these on, just in case.’

Shaun snapped his gloves, like a surgeon ready to operate.

They manoeuvred Darrell to the exit and pushed him out. His body made a sickening crunch as it hit the ground.

Cynthia began to cry. Helen reached over and comforted her.

‘Can you throw the seats out as well?’ asked Julia.

Shaun wrenched the seats from their frames and chucked them out.

‘Now the gloves,’

They peeled off the gloves and threw them out the opening.

‘Hold your hands out, both of you.’

Like two naughty boys about to be caned, Luke and Shaun held out their hands. Julia poured disinfectant from a bottle over both their hands. ‘Rub it well in.’ She handed them a clean towel each. ‘Throw them out once you’re finished.’

‘That it?’ asked Luke.

‘Yes, but stay away from this part of the bus. There’s a lot of bodily fluids on the floor where they soaked through the seat.’

She emptied the bottle of disinfectant all over the seat frames and floor.

Luke pulled the door shut and walked back down the aisle. Everyone had moved to the front of the bus. Luke stopped in front of Cynthia. ‘You okay?’

‘I will be when all this is over and we’re somewhere safe,’ she said, wiping her eyes.

‘I’m sorry about your friend.’

‘I only met him today. He was so brave. He saved us all. To die like that was so horrible.’

Luke took her hand in his. ‘Well let’s see if we can get out of here and make his sacrifice mean something.’

‘Thank you,’ Cynthia said, mopping at her tears.

Luke jumped into the driver’s seat and drove along the path to the edge of the common. The road ahead was empty in both directions. A left and then a right took them into a tree lined country lane.

Luke turned to Cynthia. ‘If we take the back roads we can get through to the motorway without going anywhere near the bypass.’

‘How do you know the roads so well?’

‘My dad’s a lorry driver. I used to go out with him all the time when I was younger.’

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