The First Wave
Author: Hollie Leanne

Chapter 10
Chapter Ten

“I want to go home.” I sobbed, spitting the bitter taste out of the back of my throat. 

I wasn’t able to stop the tears, and I didn’t want to. I spoke to no one, for Levi was already stalking the premises, yet it wasn’t hard to accept that I was talking to a dead man and his dead dog. The tears felt warm on my cheeks, soaking my neck as they fell, and I couldn’t stop. The sobbing shook my body, wracking my bones against the inside of my skin, my lungs struggling to keep up with the lack of breath I was giving them. 

“You wanted somewhere to rest.” Levi said behind me, but his voice wasn’t angry. I couldn’t understand what his tone was, for the anger swallowed me before I had time to think. His ignorance was maddening. 

I jumped to my feet, my breath catching in my throat as I did. I surprised myself when I rushed him, and his eyes widened in surprise before my palms slammed against his chest. I felt the power in my body urging me forward, and even though I was blind with tears, it was my rage that guided me. Levi fell backwards with a loud thud. If it hurt him, he never let on he was in pain. It annoyed me even more.

“I didn’t want this!” I wailed at the top of my lungs. I was shaking with anger and grief and despair, and I was no longer in control of my voice or my body. I towered over him, raking my hands through my hair, and I could only imagine what I looked like. “I never asked for… for this!”

He gazed up at me, leaning back on his elbows, his feet shifting uncomfortably. “Look, I-”

“Don’t.” I snarled. “You dragged me here, took me away from everything I know; you don’t get to give excuses.” 

He regarded me for a moment, his expression unreadable. I don’t know why I didn’t just leave. I should have left. I could have just left him there, stunned and silent on the farm, and I could have gone home. But my feet wouldn’t listen to me, and my mind told me I couldn’t go back anymore. 

I thought of my mother. Yet the more I tried to picture her, the more my heart tore in two. I couldn’t remember her face. I couldn’t remember whether her nose was curved or straight, whether her eyes were brown or blue. I couldn’t remember her warmth, and her voice was only a whisper in the back of my mind. She was slipping away from me, just like everything else. I only remembered the colour of her long, thick hair; dark brown, like mine. Other than that, she was gone. 

I had nothing left, not even my memories. 

I turned back to the hanging farmer, the lump in my gut twisting again. “Cut him down.”

“What?” Levi asked, but I barely heard him.  

“Please.” I pleaded, closing my eyes. “If we rest here, we should at least save whatever dignity he has left.”

Levi slowly rose to his feet, looking down at me. His eyes weren’t cold anymore, but they weren’t warm, either. They expressed nothing but confliction. 

“You want to bury him?” 

“Is that too much to ask as well?” I snapped, glaring at him. He held his palms up defensively, surrendering for the first time. 

“No,” he said. “I suppose not.”

I reached down for the sheath on my ankle and provided him with the knife. He took it without question, gave me a quick glance, and left the shed once more. 

***

A few hours later, after Levi found some step ladders at the back of the shed, we had buried the farmer in the field we had passed through. He was a safe distance away from corpses littering the field, tucked against the wall surrounding the perimeter. It was dark now, and we had been working by torchlight, but it was enough. Levi was patting down the fresh soil with a shovel I had found in the garden, and his face was filthier than ever, his expression grave. 

I had seen that he didn’t relish in dragging the farmer’s body across the garden and into the field. He had been huffing, his posture rigid, and for the first time he seemed like he was, well, human. He had placed the farmer as gently as he could manage into the shallow grave I had dug, despite the stench of decay and the heaviness of the body itself. We were silent throughout.

When I began stalking back towards the house which now looked like something out of a horror film, Levi lurked not far behind me. I could hear him take a breath before thinking better of whatever it was he was about to say, and I could only roll my eyes. We continued until we reached the door of the house, which was unlocked, and his gloved hand grabbed my wrist before I could turn the handle. A fire blazed behind my eyes, and it was all I could do to not scream at him again. 

“What?” I hissed at him, fixing him with a fury that was threatening to choke me. The fire was in my throat, and the burn that lived there was almost unbearable. I had cried every tear inside me, but it just wasn’t enough. 

“Just…” he began, before he sighed heavily. “Don’t eat or drink anything, okay?”

“Whatever.” I said. “Do as you say and don’t ask questions; understood.” I yanked my wrist out of his grip. I didn’t miss the irritation in his face, nor the muscle that jumped in his jaw. I could have kicked him.

I turned my attention to the door. With my palm, I gently pushed it open; the creak was enough to set my teeth on edge. The hallway was in nothing but darkness, the shadows like beasts crawling over the walls. The cold air from inside hit me in the face like cool hands embracing my cheeks, only to crawl down my neck and along my back, making the hairs on my spine stand on end. I shivered, closed my eyes, and stepped inside. 

Levi guided the torchlight along the walls, illuminating the various family photos that hung there. He was close behind me, his fingers brushing the back of my jacket. I could feel the anxiety radiating off of him, his breathing almost silent in the darkness. Despite myself, I lifted my chin and breathed steadily, refusing to let the fear consume me any more than it already had. 

I needed to be brave, now. 

My fingers brushed the wall near the door, seeking the light switch. They traced what felt like a toggle switch just above my shoulder; I lightly tugged downwards. Light erupted in front of us, blinding me for a moment. 

But as my eyes adjusted, I couldn’t help the small ‘o’ that formed my lips. 

At the rear of the hall, through an archway the width of two ordinary doors, I could make out the kitchen. The AGA was straight ahead, just below the window, and it was something I had only seen in magazines and TV adverts. I walked towards it, my footsteps light on the wooden floor. I could feel the tension in the floorboards, sensing that they threatened to groan under my weight, so I attempted to be as lightweight as possible. 

When I entered the kitchen, switching the light as I did, I reached for the AGA. My fingers brushed against icy cold iron. I ran my fingertips along the length of the cream-coloured metal, remembering how my mother had dreamed about owning one of her own. I had imagined so many times sitting in our own little kitchen; the AGA warming us even in the dead of winter, and that the warmth could have made our house feel more homey, even if just a little. But Mum could have never afforded it, but we both dreamed, because dreaming was better than nothing. 

I looked around the kitchen gone with the days before. I could practically feel the memories remaining there; the great table that sat at the heart, able to sit at least eight people whilst still allowing room to work at the sink and counters made from oak. I imagined Christmas here. I could see the turkey in the AGA, the bodies laughing and rejoicing at the table, the music and the decorations filling the room. I could almost hear the birthday songs being sung, the family meeting late at night, and the arguments that would melt away into silly nothings. 

And, in less than three months, it was all gone. Only the cracked shell remained, the memories oozing through. 

East of the room appeared to be a pantry, the wooden door slightly ajar. It was darker, the light not able to reach. Inside, it tucked away the fridge to the corner at my right, and with little thought I opened it. Slowly rotting vegetables, fruit, meat packets and milk were inside, but that was expected. 

What I didn’t expect was the popping sound to return, creeping up on me and floating into my lost thoughts. It sounded almost like static now, and it was close. I turned, and Levi was in the doorway, his gaze hard on mine. Once again his hand hid in his pocket, and the crackling sound seemed to get angrier in my ears. I hadn’t heard it this loud before, and the question began to form on my tongue yet again. 

The fridge door slipped shut behind me, and with it, the crackling noise dulled immediately. But it was there, yanking at my curiosity, and Levi’s stare didn’t waver from mine. 

“Don’t eat or drink anything, right?” I said carefully. 

He regarded me silently, but didn’t reply. Instead, he slipped his backpack from his shoulders. His fingers worked the zips, and inside he pulled free another mask. It was smaller than the one I had seen previously, but it was just as intimidating. He handed it to me, and the rubber felt wrong in my hands as the empty sockets stared up at me. 

“Why do I need this?” I asked. 

“You don’t need it yet, but you will do. I think it’s best you have it now, though.” He replied, readjusting the bag on his back. 

I looked into the vacant eyes, the canister resting in my hand as the filter glinted in the light. It looked like skin shredded away from an alien, and I didn’t miss the sweat bleeding through my palms. 

“What’s going to happen to us?” I whispered. I accepted that no matter our differences, the world would not be kind to either of us. 

“I don’t know, girly.” He murmured, turning his back. 

“Morgan,” I said, finally looking up from the mask. “My name’s Morgan.” May as well be half truthful. 

He said nothing, only nodded. I didn’t expect him to say anything. It didn’t matter. Instead I followed him once I stuffed the mask into my bag, moving back into the hallway we had come from. 

The light flickered above us as we entered, and the front door creaked unnervingly. It was still slightly ajar, the wind whistling through, teasing us to go back outside. But Levi simply shoved the door shut almost too harshly, the bang deafening in the thick silence of the house. 

Both of us looked up, the staircase looking menacing. Levi looked as hesitant as I felt, for the gloom above made my skin crawl. I knew my eyes began to play tricks on me, for the shadows began to grow, edging towards us, threatening to crack through my resolve. It was then that I realised just how exhausted I was, so I pushed through my fear and gripped the handrail, pulling myself onto the first step. It whined below my weight and I cringed. 

“Slow,” Levi said, his voice low. I glanced at him, but he was looking ahead of me, his eyes fixed on the landing above. Was he worried that someone was there? Doubtful; he wouldn’t have encouraged the ascent if that was the case. When I moved again he followed closely, his body shielding the back of mine. For the first time I didn’t feel threatened, and instead I focused on making the climb. If anything, I felt like I was being observed by an instructor, and I had the childish urge to feel determined, like I wanted to prove something. 

The landing was even darker, and my heart was in my throat. I found myself frozen, the floorboards beneath me moaning in protest. Everything about this house felt wrong, as if poison ran through the pipes and bled through the walls. I couldn’t shake the paralysis, my pulse racing, my mouth running dry. I cursed myself when Levi nudged me, making me jump out of my skin. 

“You need to focus,” he whispered, his eyes angry in the low light. “You need to find a level ground, one that overrides your fear.” 

“And what would you know about my fear?” I snapped.

“I know that your nerves will get us both killed.” he hissed back.

“And who’s fault would that be?” 

“Grow up.” His voice was rising, and my anger raced with his. I couldn’t stop the words rushing from my mouth.

“Fuck you.” I growled, struggling to keep my voice below a yell. “Fuck you, you piece of shit.” I shoved past him, half expecting him to grab me, but he didn’t. His fury thickened the air, his eyes boring into my back, but I was at my peak. I didn’t even worry as I marched into the shadows of the landing, letting the blackness eat me whole. 

 

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