“Lexi? Marcus, get your arse down here now; I think we’ve found her.”
How the hell are these people? I don’t recognise any of the voices so it’s not anyone from the camp. I don’t fraternise with any other groups and we’ve always been careful to never use full names when on a hunt. Who are they and why are they looking for me? This makes no sense. Do I fight, run or allow myself to be subdued? I want to know why they were looking for me; do I really want to burn my bridges before they’ve been formed?
I stand up slowly, surveying my surroundings and escape routes. Suddenly, I’m surrounded. Claustrophobic, surrounded by people, not good. Extremely very not good. They just stare at me. Why are they staring at me? That unnerves me more than if they just tried to attack me. At least my thoughts would be justified in some regard, would they not?
I stare directly at the one who was shouting to me. I definitely have no idea who she is; she looks relatively young. She has facial features that can only be described as rodent-like. She has her ginger hair scraped back off of her face which doesn’t help mask her distinguished nose. She appears to have been talking to a walkie talkie. Who are you?
“I knew we’d find you. Come on dear, we have someone you need to meet...”
She extends her hand to me but I back further into the corner. I am not going anywhere with them; if they want me to meet someone, they can come to me.
“Come on, there’s nothing to be frightened of Lexi. My name is Linda and this is my group. We want to help you Lexi...”
“My name is Elektra. I am not going anywhere with you. Someone wants to meet me, tell them to come to me themselves. I am not going anywhere with you.”
“Come on...Elektra. If you’d prefer for us to call you that. We can get them to come down here if that would make you more comfortable. You have no idea how long we have been searching for you.”
No. I don’t have any idea because I have no idea who the hell they are. I recognise none of these people. I do not understand why they have been searching for me and I do not want to get involved. This frightens me. Unnerves me. But I can’t let it show. I won’t give them the satisfaction of seeing me frightened.
“Yes, I would prefer to be called by my name. No, I don’t have any idea. Bring them to me. Go on. Go on and talk to people.”
She smiles. She’s smiling at me. Why the hell is she smiling at me? Did I say something funny? When I use my obnoxious tone of voice that is usually the clearest indication I can give that it is not wise to ridicule me. Why is she not taking the hint? That smile is even more unnerving and the other bastards are still staring at me. Pointing their guns. Bastards. This is still scaring me.
“Of course, I’ll get him. He needs the exercise anyway. You have the spark, I can tell. Ha. It’s no trouble; Jason, look after her and try not to lose her.”
This gangly creature with hair like a mop walks over to me and places his hands around my arm. Jason can shove his hand where the sun don’t shine as far as I am concerned. He better let go of me or he won’t have his hands for much longer. I am not going to struggle. However, I just stare at his hands, almost burning into them. It has no effect and I don’t know what I hope to achieve but it’s not going to stop me.
He’s not too bad looking when he moves his hair from his eyes. He has these cornflower blue eyes, I am a sucker for eyes as you may have gathered, and a strong, squared jaw. He is handsome in his way. Not in the same way as Roman is but in a different way. Roman’s attractiveness comes from the way he knows he is handsome and his personality. Jason seems to have an element of coyness which is attractive in itself. I sound like such a slut sometimes but then again, I haven’t had a great of choice before.
“So...how’s it going?” That must be the worst attempt at a start of a conversation that has ever been established. Why am I talking to him? I mean, I don’t know him and the way he is gripping at my arm is making the atmosphere so awkward.
“I am well, madam. You?”
He’s polite, I’ll give him that much. Ugh, madam? Really? I have never been referred to as madam and I’m not sure I want to be referred to it now. However, he has a gun and, since my last run in with a man with a gun, I may as well be amiable.
“Good good...well the weather’s been a bit unreliable which has been inconvenient but apart from that...”
The door opens again. I look over and see an aged man with wavy grey hair. He walks aided by Linda and his eyes do not leave me. He seems to be almost analysing me. Well at least I know I am not in any danger; what harm can he cause me? Stare me to death? Well, there was the expression ‘if looks could kill’.
I still have no clue who he is. How does he know me? This perplexes me.
After five minutes, he finally reaches me. I still have no idea who he is. He appears well groomed under the circumstances. No stubble. His hair is not too long considering. His grey eyes pierce my soul. There is something almost crystalline about them. Something dead or precious, I’m still trying to decide.
He just stares. If only he knew how much I hate people staring at me. How uncomfortable it makes me. Then he places his hand against my cheek. I know him. There is something in the back of my mind that is screaming that I know him. Why can I not remember him? I don’t pull away from him but now, I’m aware of how I am staring at him. Reciprocating his analytical gaze.
His eyes seem to be filling up with tears and a smile creeps on his lips. I feel like I should be mirroring his emotion but I can’t. Why can’t I remember you? I feel guilty for not being able to muster this emotion. He whispers:
I nod. It’s all I can do. I mean it is my name but still, how does he know me? Even if he knows me from my past, I have changed. Changed massively over the period of ten years. I would be unrecognisable from the frightened child cowering in the shadows.
He draws me into a warm embrace. He hasn’t gotten the hint that I have no clue whatsoever who he is. I can’t force myself to pull away from him. Something about this feels natural. There is some form of connection but I cannot comprehend what it is.
He then pulls away from me and stares yet again. Why are you not telling me who you are? Are we playing the ambiguity game? I am not going to ask him; I’m sure I can figure it out somehow.
“Marcus, we need to clear out. This building looks unstable. We can sort things out at the base.”
Linda’s voice breaks this illusion of happiness. I was almost swept up in the moment but I have been brought back down to Earth. Who are you, ‘Marcus’?
“Yes, of course. We need to clear out; Jason, look after Elektra will you? I trust you will make sure she is alright and try to be less sullen.”
Oh yes, my friend Jason. Jason with his unnaturally long nails and firm grip. Well, maybe I should go with it. My gut reactions have served me well thus far, well I say that. They haven’t really but it is the only reassuring thought in my brain. He takes a hold of my arm again and we walk. Marcus seems to run off, aided yet again by Linda. This might not be too bad, I hope.
My horse. Where did he go? What did they do with my damn horse? My poor Barnabus. Wait, there are cars. Actual cars that were not there when I entered the building. No way do this group have petrol; that is bloody amazing. I have never actually been in a car but I will admit, it may be a welcome change to walking or cycling or riding a horse that wants to ride you.
Jason walks around to the side of this Smart car and opens the door for me. Riding shotgun. Okay then. The rest of the patrol file into this people carrier so it looks like it is just going to be Jason and I. Time to get to know each other if that was the intention. It is admirable that he is such a gentleman, opening doors. I get into the car and the smell is intoxicating. It smells like...leather I think. But the seats are felt. Contrast right there.
When Jason starts the car, after a few splutters, it actually starts. That excites me right off of the bat. A working car. This is amazing! My simple delight must have been registered on my face because Jason turns to me and says:
“Never been in a car before, madam? It is better than other forms of transport but this is a rarity. It is difficult to produce the quantity of petrol needed.”
“Yeah, my first time. You’re telling someone who has ridden a horse for over 15 miles; there are definitely better forms of transport. So, how long have you know Marcus?”
“Really? Ever since my mother died when I was 12. I had no other choice and Marcus was incredibly kind to take me in. He could have left me to die but he gave me a chance to live. I owe that man a lot. Why do you ask?”
“You didn’t answer my question. Well, you did but vaguely. How old are you anyway? You are extremely well spoken which is rare from what I have seen. You speak like you're from the nineteenth century.”
He expels a slight giggle. Not a laugh, a giggle.
“I am 20 years of age and I believe that being well spoken and articulate is a benefit in this world. An advantage. You mustn’t have seen a lot then. 20 miles? Where was your old camp then? I gather you ran from them, would I be right with that assumption?”
“True enough. Yeah, you would be right there. Towards Blackheath, I think. I was never too concerned with destinations, to be honest. That’s what John, the man who took me in, taught me. Never concern yourself with where you are, but where you are going. I don’t know either so I don’t know where that puts me.”
I start laughing when I realise how cynical I sound. I forget how I must appear to those who do not know me. He smiles as well. He has a nice smile. Mind on the task in hand, Elektra. Damn it, ha. Can’t blame a girl for looking.
“It puts you in the best position out of all of us. You have an adorable laugh, have you every been told that?”
“What do you mean? Jason, I do believe that you are flirting with me.”
Red begins to paint his cheeks.
“Am I really so indiscreet?”
We continue laughing. It provides a contrast, true enough. It’s gone from being awkward to feeling like we are old friends. It feels different for me to be so comfortable with someone I have just met. This is different because I feel I can trust him. Trusting strangers is a very dangerous thing. Why can I trust him so easily?
It is an hour drive until we reach their bunker. We spend that hour just chatting, getting to know each other. Jason is 20 years old, he joined the group after his mother became infected. They thought he was infected as well but he survived. His favourite season is Autumn, just like mine. He believes that the way to survive in this world is to be intelligent and never to underestimate anyone, or to overestimate them for that fact. He has never really fraternised with many girls which is why Marcus told him to look after me. Looking after a pretty girl. Ugh, the words make me cringe. After all of that, he still knows very little about me. What can I say? I am a very vague person.
“Come on, there must have been a time when you thought ‘what is it all for?’ Do not deny it, you must have thought of it. What are your thoughts about the purpose of life?”
“Well, I haven’t. It’s depressing to think about it. We’re born, we live, we die. What more is there? It’s what you do in life that matters. Alright then, you asked the question. What is your great philosophical argument for life?”
“ I believe that we are here to pay penance for the actions of our ancestors. Say your grandmother was a murderer or a petty thief, you would have a tougher time of it in this life.”
“But everyone has had a crap time of it in this world.”
“My point exactly. Humans are awful.”
“True that. You may have a point there.”
“ You are more intelligent than you give yourself credit for, you know that Elektra. I sense you have a self- deprecating air about you.”
“Piss off. I thought Marcus put you with me because you were awkward around the female sex; you seem to be flirting with me like nobody’s business.”
He begins to blush again. I think I may have insulted him.
“Why wouldn’t I flirt with you? You are incredibly beautiful. I have no idea where it comes from. I am sorry if I seem to be too forward but I have to speak my mind.”
Now I’m the one blushing. Oh my god, I am embarrassed and I am showing him. I do not know if I am flattered and embarrassed or if I am embarrassed and insulted. I love Roman and I have only just left him. He may be still waiting for me and here I am, flirting with this gangly, blonde creature who seems to have taken a shine to me. I have taken a shine to him, faster than I ever did with Roman. There is one thing I do know; Roman hates me now and Jason is a nice guy but I am here for one purpose, to find out what these people seem to know about me.
“I am not.”
“You are too modest. I am too honest which is my bane but modesty...that is a danger in its own right. Underestimating yourself.”
“Being honest is advantage; I am a compulsive liar so I guess we are polar opposites. Let’s agree to disagree.”
“Agree to disagree. I will warn you; I am persistent.”
“And I’m stubborn.”
“Aren’t we an absurd pair?”
When we arrive at the bunker, I realise why they must have done so well. Their bunker is underground.
“This used to be a disease research facility. Like the Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta but more efficient. We began to preserve the fuel from the generator and use it for the cars. We have air conditioning and warm water, we have it good.”
“I wish I could believe that but your face is telling another story, Jason.”
“Isn't it always is.”
Air conditioning sounds good but warm water...that statement wins me over immediately. The only hot water I’ve ever had was when we had baths made from boiling water from the battery operated kettle. They had me from warm water.
Okay. I am prepared. Let’s do this.
We walk through the front doors and...ugh, it’s hot. Where is this air conditioning Jason was going on about? Ugh...bloody hell, it’s humid. We walk in sync with each other. Left, right, left, right. There are also a great deal of lights, probably powered by the generators. It’s nice to be able to see where I am going without having to rely on natural light or torches.
“Are you ready to see Marcus?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be.”
He continues to keep his hand around my arm but now, he’s gripping me less. He’s being more gentle because I think he’s more confident that I won’t leg it. The walls have been whitewashed so the walls are so bright, they are painful to look at without feeling like you are about to lose your vision. Light seems to ricochet from surface to surface.
Marcus’ office is relatively small. It reminds me of a headmaster’s office. The stereotypical three bookcases and mounds and mounds of paper files. Rustic, I like. He is sitting in this egg shaped leather chair and just stares at me. Are we really playing this game again? Who is he and why, when he looks at me, does it seem like he is yearning for me? It makes me feel like even more of bitch that I can’t force myself to remember his face, even though it feels like it should carry some significance.
He clears his throat.
“It’s been a while hasn’t it, my love. It’s been too long.”
“Yes, it has been. I am sorry but who the hell are you? I am done with this cryptic bullshit. Who are you?”
I was probably too blunt about that. Well, there is no probably about it. I guess I just have to speak my mind.
“Oh you probably wouldn’t remember, would you? It’s alright, my pet. It’s not your fault. Elektra, I’m your dad.”