It seemed as though they had been driving for hours. In reality, Ruby knew it had only been a few minutes. Death surrounded them everywhere; the entire scene was like something out of a horror movie. Bodies littered the streets, some moving, and others completely motionless. Silence filled the car as Lucie tore through the small town that had once been their sanctuary. They had no destination though and if they didn’t decide on one soon they could end up dead.
‘We have to go somewhere,’ Ruby whispered.
‘Where?!’ Lucie demanded, swerving to avoid a walking corpse that tried throwing itself at the car.
‘I want to find my mum.’ Hot tears filled Ruby’s eyes and she tried wiping them away. She didn’t want to show weakness in front of the girl who had left her for dead only moments before.
‘Where is she?’
‘She works at the local news station.’
‘That’s miles away!’
‘Lucie so help me you had better take me there or I’m walking and you’re on your own.’ Ruby’s voice was dead serious, dripping with venom and anger and for a few moments Lucie was struck silent. She began weighing up the options: Ruby seemed to know roughly what she was doing and Lucie couldn’t survive on her own. But she did have a car, and if she could make her way to her Aunt’s house, maybe she’d find her own parents. Her Aunt’s house was a good two hour drive though and the needle pointing to the amount of petrol she had was creeping closer to empty.
‘Fine, we’ll go to your mum’s workplace. Maybe we can find some answers there anyway.’
They drove on in silence. Ruby kept her eyes shut, not wanting to see the carnage outside. Occasionally, she’d hear manic pleas for help and she noticed that Lucie accelerated ever so slightly during these cries. Ruby squeezed her eyes shut tighter. She imagined where they’d be, along the high street, up the long winding round that took them to the outskirts of town, nearly there.
I’m coming for you mum.
They screeched to a stop and Ruby’s eyes snapped open. The place was relatively deserted but the scene in front of her caused her heart to drop a million miles. It was trashed. The door hung open, bits of paper lay strewn across the pavement, glass littered the concrete: the windows had been smashed in.
How much destruction had taken place in such a short amount of time? Ruby wondered if her mother would be huddled inside, armed with a bat, absolutely terrified.
They got out of the car, Lucie clutching the bat and Ruby holding the blood-splattered hammer. They were on full alert, listening out for any signs of movement. Every instinct in Ruby’s body was telling her to not go into the building; the place was dark and dangerous. She ignored her fear and crept closer, telling herself that her mother was in there.
Once inside, everything seemed to go in super slow motion. She could not move quickly enough through the corridors, like she was walking in treacle. She had been to this place a thousand times; knew exactly where her mother’s office was and yet her body failed to take her there. Instead, she stopped in the middle of the hallway, plunged into total darkness. Lucie walked straight into her.
‘Ruby?’ she whispered.
‘I’m here,’ she replied monotonously.
‘Why have we stopped?’
‘Because my mother isn’t here.’
‘What? How do you know?’
How did she know, indeed a good question, one that Ruby could not answer logically. She just felt it, knew it deep down like some primal instinct that her mother was no longer here. It was as though the bond that had connected them both since birth had suddenly been severed. She couldn’t feel her mother anymore. She was gone.
‘We need to get out of here,’ Ruby started backing out until Lucie’s shrill scream stopped her. Lucie shoved her forwards and suddenly they were both running, further into the building. It didn’t take a genius to figure out what was following them. They were weaving through corridors, round sharp bends and Ruby felt like a mouse trapped in a maze. They were going straight into the lion’s den, with no way out.
Lucie kept shoving her forwards, telling her to move.
Ruby suddenly ducked into an open door to the right, grabbing Lucie’s wrist and pulling her in sharply. She shut the door and locked it, pressing her body against it, trying to calm her breathing. Several haggard footsteps sounded outside, thumping against the door.
‘We’re trapped!’ Lucie began crying and Ruby was astounded at the girl’s lack of strength.
All at once she recognised where she was: her mother’s office. It was dark, the lighting had been cut off, but enough daylight poured in through the window to make out her surroundings. The computer had crashed to the floor and to Ruby’s shock; a bloodied handprint smeared the wall. Lucie seemed to notice this and she placed a hand delicately on Ruby’s shoulder.
She couldn’t move, she just stood, staring.
‘Ruby, we have to get out of here,’ Lucie sniffed, only now trying to hide her fear of the consistent banging at the door.
A thousand memories flooded Ruby’s mind all at once. Her mother trying to be brave about Ruby’s father dying, trying not to show her grief but crying when she thought Ruby couldn’t hear her. Her mother surprising her with a trip to the seaside for a long weekend in an attempt to cheer her up. Her mother’s failed attempt at a Christmas dinner and instead ordering take out for them both.
The floor rushed up to meet her and she somehow ended up on her knees, letting out the most animalistic howl of pain and grief. Tears flooded from her eyes and a horrible hole where her heart had been threatened to rip her apart. She curled up on the ground, not caring if she was caught. She wanted to die.
‘Ruby!’ Lucie shook her shoulder. ‘Ruby please we have to go.’
A crackling sound pierced the air and Lucie froze. Ruby kept on sobbing.
‘…a military base providing sanctuary for…. any survivors that may be out there… twenty miles from the shore…’
‘What the hell is that?’ Lucie rushed to where the sound was coming from; a small radio with a handset on the floor. Lucie picked it up and pressed the button on the side.
‘Hello? Can anyone hear me?’ she spoke desperately. ‘Hello?!’
The line crackled then died out.
‘Dammit,’ she threw the thing to the floor. A small napkin with writing on it caught her attention. Directions to somewhere. The military base perhaps?
‘Ruby, we have to leave, I think I’ve just found our ticket out of here.’