The First Wave
Author: Hollie Leanne

Chapter 11
Chapter Eleven

I tried not to think of my life before, for as far as I was concerned there was no point in dwelling on something that now seemed like a foggy dream. Yet my mind went back, back to when the most important thing was where I was meeting Robin to go shopping. I found it difficult to believe that I was once worried about what to wear on the weekend, or what style I should have my hair for college. It was hard to believe that a working shower was a blessing. Was there a day when I didn’t have grime that felt three layers thick on my skin? Was my hair really as shiny as I remembered it, compared to the mop on my head that felt like it had been doused in oil?

I thought about these things as I sat on the single bed of what must have been the guest bedroom. It was a small room, only able to occupy a small wardrobe, but it was just fine for what I needed. I needed to be alone. My legs were crossed as I stared down at the hollow sockets of the mask Levi had given to me, which seemed to glare back at me in the gloom. I fingered at the leather, which felt cold and alien to the touch. I couldn’t imagine what he wanted me to have this for, or why he had a second in the first place. What did he need two for? 

My anger had subsided, and a part of me wanted to feel embarrassed for letting it overcome me. I didn’t know what Levi wanted from me, and I still felt uneasy, yet speaking to him like that made me feel… rude. But he kept pushing me, twisting every nerve and yanking until I yelped, so it was only a matter of time until I blew up in his face. He was impatient, and I was fearful; it was a complicated blend. Another part of me hoped that, when I woke in the morning, he would be gone and I could make the day-long journey home. However, a piece of me so tiny I could have crushed it with my heel hoped he would stick around, just so I wasn’t alone; I hated that part.

As much as I wanted to, there was no point in pondering about my questions or my feelings. I theorised that my questions would be answered, just not when I wanted them to be. I would find out the hard way. So as the mask continued to stare, I felt the exhaustion wash over me like a wave; my muscles begged to relax into the mattress whilst my eyes no longer had the strength to stay open. So I sank into the old, dusty pillow, held the mask to my chest, and descended into an empty sleep. 

***

I woke to a hand clasped over my mouth tightly, and naturally I wanted to scream. I struggled, kicking and thrashing, until I heard Levi’s voice harsh in my ear. 

“Easy, it’s me.” he almost growled, but I stopped struggling nonetheless. “We’re not alone.” 

I felt the adrenaline bleed out of me, replaced by the rush of panic. As he said this, I could hear movement on the floor below, followed by muffled voices. Levi released me, moving quickly from the bed. As my eyes adjusted, I realised the room was beginning to brighten with dawn. 

Levi hastily shuffled me to my feet, his fists gripping the back of my jacket. His steps were calculated, steady on the floorboards, and it suddenly felt like we were in a strange sort of dance. The voices grew louder, followed by crashes, and Levi lost his nerve. He lifted me into his arms and rushed for the wardrobe, stuffing me inside as quickly and quietly as he could manage. It was then that I felt the fear seeping off of him, his breaths laboured, his calm shattering. I pleaded with him silently with my eyes, though for what I wasn’t sure. My life? My safety? He met my gaze, pulled some of the hanging clothes around me, and held his gloved finger to his lips. 

Blackness engulfed me as he closed the door. 

There was a crack in the door of the old wardrobe, just big enough for me to peek through. I held my hands to my mouth, once again trying to silence my frantic breathing. I tried to focus, to hold my fear in check, so I focused on Levi. I could see that he still had my knife, which was now glinting as if it were grinning in the light. He was poised like a predator, ready to lunge if he had to, and his eyes were pinned on the door. 

The voices and noises grew louder, the whole house vibrating with the disturbance. It was almost as if the house was groaning, the pipes whining and the floorboards creaking. Doors slammed, followed by the smashing of what must have been a window. Each bang, each smash, and ever loud, angry curse of a human made me want to bolt and not look back. It had got me out of my last situation, though reason reminded me that that was simply luck. 

I counted two voices, both agitated. I watched as Levi moved towards the wardrobe, his back to me. The door to the bedroom was just out of sight to the left, but the stairs cried with the weight of someone ascending them. I held my breath as Levi released a long, steady sigh. 

“I want no trouble.” he said. 

“Then why hide?” replied the intruder. They came into view, and my dread nearly choked me. He was big, much bigger than Levi, all round with muscle to match. He had shaggy red hair, a fire of curls, and a beard that was laced with grey. He wore a mask, though this one only covered his nose and mouth, complete with a filter. His grey eyes locked onto Levi, and the axe he held in his right hand was terrifying. It looked rusty, though something told me that the metal was not suffering from rust. 

Levi didn’t look fazed, not even when he saw the axe. “I wasn’t. I rested here, and I was about to leave.” 

“I don’t believe you.” his voice was muffled, however there was no mistaking the malice. I curled into myself, tucking my chin into my knees, tears pricking my eyes. No matter how frightened I had been before, in that moment I felt true terror. If Levi died here and this man, this beast found me, I didn’t even want to know what fate awaited me. 

But then the intruder began to cough. Once. Twice. He tried to hold back the third, but his body gave in and he began to shake uncontrollably as his lungs betrayed him. It sounded like he was literally choking on air, and for a moment I thought he might actually cough up his own intestines. 

A strange look overcame Levi in that moment. The hand that held my knife slackened, and a dangerous expression took hold of his features. That look terrified me even more. His jaw clenched and his eyes narrowed, and a muscle jumped in his neck as his body tensed even further whilst the threat struggled to catch his breath. Levi reminded me of a cheetah, sizing up his prey, ready to pounce. Every muscle was hard, his jaw set in concentration, his body beginning to ripple with adrenaline. It was the stance of a man who had been in this kind of danger before, and was ready for it. 

“You’re dying.” he said, his voice low. He showed no pity, no kindness. 

“Oh,” said the man, and his eyes creased with what looked like a bitter smile. “I see. You’re one of them.” 

Them? Who was them

“I should kill you to put you out of your misery.” Levi snarled. “Though, I imagine you have only left misery behind you.”

“And what about you?” snapped the man, stepping closer. “What kind of misery have you left behind? You walk this land and leave a trail of blood in your wake, my friend.” Another step. “Does it keep you up at night? Do the dead whisper in your ear about how much of a piece of shit you are?” He was close, too close, as they circled one another. I couldn’t see Levi. The man stood just a foot from where I hid, yet I just couldn’t stop listening. “Does your little friend know what you’ve done?” he whispered.

My breathing stopped. 

The door swung open. Pain burst from my scalp. A shriek burst from my mouth, my nails raking into the skin of the hands that yanked me into the light. His power overwhelmed me, yet I fought harder than ever before. A force shook the both of us, knocking us back, and at the same time my fingers reached for anything they could grab. I couldn’t see, my head pushed down and my eyes blinded with pain, but my fingers pushed into something soft and wet. I pushed harder, until the beast holding me roared in agony. 

In the second I was released, Levi tackled him again, knocking all of us to the ground. I scrambled towards the door, struggling to get to my feet whilst the two men struggled. Levi was fast, but the intruder was strong. Before I turned my back, Levi was pinned to the ground by the throat, wheezing for breath as the intruder cursed profoundly. They grunted and growled, Levi’s knees ramming into his attacker’s ribs whilst the attacker pushed harder on his neck, his left eye weeping and red as he glared wildly at Levi’s purpling face. I wanted to look away, but I didn’t turn fast enough to miss the knife appearing from Levi’s side in his free hand, nor did I miss it plunging into a red, swelling eyelid.

A sickening crunch. Red painted the floorboards. The large man slumped on Levi, his whole body spasming as he did. 

I ran.

He killed him. 

Levi murdered him. 

I couldn’t think straight, but my legs kept going. My feet thundered down the stairs, and I have forgotten there was more than one of them. 

He was waiting for me, though this one was skinnier, not much taller than myself, and his blue eyes were wide. I thought I could have shoved past him, just like I’d done before, but he easily grabbed me from around the waist. We spun as I flailed, toppling us both to the ground, but he easily overpowered me. Sweat and rotten teeth made me gag as he straddled me, pinning me down with little effort. Knees pinned into my thighs, my wrists gathered in one hand about my head. This one was also wearing a mask, the same as the other one, but his eyes looked furious. Grey hair was wet against his forehead, and in my fight I noted it looked like he hadn’t eaten in weeks. 

In my struggle, he gathered a fist full of my hair, only to slam my head into the floor. My teeth clattered. The taste of blood filled my mouth. The room was spinning, the man’s heavy breathing loud in my ears as he eased up and released my wrists. I couldn’t move. Pain was exploding everywhere, knocking the breath out of me. I struggled for air, and as the oxygen filled my lungs, my eyes saw clarity. 

A kitchen knife was in his hand. I didn’t think twice. My fist connected with his jaw. Before he could retaliate, I swatted the knife out of his grasp. It clattered to the ground, but I couldn’t see it. 

“You fucking bitch!” He yelled. He went to hit me, but he was off of me before he had a chance. 

Levi held him from behind, one hand grabbing his silver hair and his other arm around his neck, long fingers latching onto his shoulder. It was quick. Levi twisted in a single motion, filling the air with a revolting crack, before he let go. The body slumped to the ground at my feet, motionless, and all fell silent. 

I stared up at Levi, who looked right back at me. He was breathing hard, and his face was shining with tiny drops of blood. He didn’t look angry. He didn’t look afraid. He looked emotionless, like he was looking at me but not seeing me. But for the first time, I was truly afraid of him. I didn’t move, for fear he would hurt me, too. 

Then he saw me, and his whole expression changed. At that moment, he looked frightened, too. He reached out a bloody hand towards me, and I shook my head. No. I knew I shouldn’t have let my guard down. Deep down I’d known he was like this, that he was a monster, but to truly see it… 

“Morgan-”

“No.” I said, sounding bolder than I felt. 

“Listen to me,” he urged, stepping closer. 

“What?” I said. I hated that tears stung my eyes, the lump in my throat giving away my terror. “Is it my turn?” 

“No,” he said, taking another step. I shuffled back, clumsily staggering to my feet. Pain pulsed against the inside of my skull, exploding from the crown of my head. When I delicately touched the back of my scalp, my fingers met warm, wet skin beneath my hair. I cringed, falling to my knees again.

I didn’t know what to do or where to go. Levi was edging closer to me, but I couldn’t get a grasp of my surroundings. Everything was wrong. I shouldn’t be here. I should have been in Haddon, my home. I should have waited out my days there until the food was gone and the water was undrinkable. I should have died there, because that was better than this. That was better than being attacked by two men, and then watch the man who’d taken me murder them before my very eyes. This was a Hell I had never wanted to enter. 

“This is the new world, now,” he said, drawing my attention back to him. For a second, there were two of him, which made me feel even more ill. I shook my head, not understanding. The silence around us was heavy, the air thick with tension, and I was all too aware of the man that lay before me, aware of the blood that soaked the floorboards above. 

“What’s happening here? What’s happening everywhere,” he continued. He was crouched now, his eyes level with mine. “It’s a disease. A virus. It came out of nowhere, started sweeping through country to country. People started getting ill, and then more and more people began to die. Do you remember?” 

I tried to remember. My life before was a blur now, like the distant memory of a child. I remembered news reports on the TV, flashes of ambulances flashing blue, numbers and statistics that didn’t sink in. Back then I never listened because it didn’t seem to affect me. The news, the papers, they were Mum’s thing; all I wanted to do was to get out of the house. I remembered Mum being tense, telling me to be safe, but I never took notice. Viruses came and went every few years, so why was this any different? This particular memory felt fresher than the others, one that I hadn’t thought of until now. It frightened me. 

And then the car crash happened, and nothing else even mattered. 

“Okay, okay,” Levi said, seeming to understand for the first time. He was seeing me for who I was, or at least who I used to be; an immature, ignorant seventeen year old girl. I looked at him, shaking now, and he even looked lost himself. “This is a big ask, but I need you to trust me.”

“How?” I all but sobbed, curling into myself as I stared at the motionless body at my feet. 

A moment of heavy silence passed. “I won’t hurt you.” 

You already have, I thought. “What do you want from me?” I whispered. “Why did you take me away?”

His eyes fell to the floor. “Please, Morgan.” He said my name with purpose, like there was an unspoken promise in it. I still didn’t move. “I know I haven’t given you much reason to trust me, but,” he sighed, clenching his eyes shut, recollecting himself. “I'm the best chance you have.”

I felt that that was a lie, too. Maybe it was, but then Levi had killed these men when they threatened me. I didn’t know what to think, but it wasn’t like I had a choice anymore; it was obvious I couldn’t go home. So I got up, shakily brushed myself off, and practically stumbled up the stairs towards the room I had slept in only minutes before. I tried not to look at anything other than my backpack that was beside the bed, unscathed in the struggle a few minutes before. The mask stared at me, judging me, and I stuffed it harshly into my backpack. Slipping the straps onto my shoulders, I marched out of the house. Levi was a few feet behind me, staying rightfully quiet. 

My chin was held high, but my tears burned my cheeks as they fell. At that moment, I knew I needed to forget Haddon. I needed to forget everything. Being alone for eight weeks had clouded my judgement. This was bigger than a little town in Cumbria. This was bigger than the world I once held dear. Haddon, like everything else, was dead. 

 

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