by Niamh Dunne
The bag was weighing me down, the heavy cans banging together, matching the clatter of my erratic footsteps.
I reached the crossroads and took a left, pausing to gather my breath. I was still over a mile away. I didn’t really need to run; in fact it running was stupid. The sand was gathering in my shoes and my quick breath was grating my throat raw. But I ran anyway.
And almost ran right past it.
The car was turned completely over, its belly shining in the sticky midday sun. Cal’s car. Cal, who has been missing for over 3 months. Missing, presumed dead.
I heard the bag drop before I realised I’d let it go. The sun was getting to me; I could feel my head swelling, my hair glued to the back of my neck. I needed to get inside, soon.
The car remained still, no sign of any life hiding in its corpse. And then behind me a rustle.
Even this sweltering sun couldn’t stop the cold shiver running down my spine. I turned to see a man leaning over the bag, sifting its contents. He looked up at me, his pale face made more so by the scarlet threads that spattered his cheek.
I stepped back from him, laying my hand lightly on the holster at the back of my shorts.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
He stood, revealing himself, and the blood wasn’t just on his cheek but all down his front.
“Maggie, it’s me.” He smiled and moved towards me, hands outstretched.
I took out my gun and aimed at him, just below the middle of his forehead like Joe taught me.
“What are you doing here?”
His arms flew up and he stepped back, bowing his head. I assessed him quickly. No visible wounds, not emaciated or dehydrated, well-groomed and clean. Apart from the bloodied shirt. Still aiming, I leant down and dragged the bag away from him.
“Please, Mags. We haven’t eaten for days.” He found my eyes, tried to pull that puppy dog face. His voice was different, already changed with age. Gruff, cruel.
“We?” I cocked my gun.
He looked to his left, back down from where I’d been running.
“Who are you with, Cal?”
“Put your hands behind your head.” He obeyed quickly. I could see the barn in the distance, a ten-minute walk away. Close, but not close enough. Panic was rising in my throat.
“You know me, Maggie!”
“Did you know I would be here?” My eyes stung suddenly. Images flashed through my head almost painfully: skin on skin, children running, me and Cal laughing.
“Of course I did; we used to do this run together.” He hissed the words, as if they tasted bad in his mouth.
“Where’s the blood from, Cal?”
He spat on the sand suddenly, bloody saliva dribbling down his chin.
“Run,” he said.
I stumbled backwards, his scream hitting me like a punch.
The rumble of engines was unmistakable. It had taunted the barn for weeks, like a pride of prowling animals waiting to catch one of us unawares. One of us being me.
It was too late to run.
I could see their cars sailing over the hazy horizon, slipping towards us with a low growl.
The Scavengers. Hunters, killers.
I’d never reach the barn before they reached me. And I’d be leading them right to the rest of the group. I’d be dooming them before they’d even woken up.
I lowered the gun and placed it back into my holster. I should’ve shot him. Cal, my friend, had brought them here, knowing they’d kill us all.
But instead I grabbed the bag and darted into the overturned car, its black leather interior scolding my skin as I wedged myself in as far as I could.
A suffocating minute passed before I heard the engines cut off and feet hitting the sand.
Petrol cut through the air, the chemical smell swirling at the back of my skull making my whole head heavy.
“Where is she?” a thick voice bellowed. Others started to talk in low voices but I couldn’t make out what they were saying.
I moved towards the window but I could only see their feet moving, kicking up the sand as they shuffled around.
And then Cal was thrown against the glass.
Continued in Part Two…
My name is Niamh Dunne. I’m 18 and have recently finished my A-levels at Craven College. Thinking about my writing heroes is a hard one (there are so many to choose from) but Gillian Flynn is definitely a favourite! Even though this story is pretty dark, I’m actually a very positive, friendly person! Ask anyone, apart from anyone I know…