‘I’m not leaving without you…’
Those were the words I was waiting to hear. He was inches away from me, his blood-drenched face looking over his shoulder at me. His cool grey eyes scanned my face for a few moments, and then glanced down to where my sticky, dusty fingers were almost brushing the heel of his shoe.
Behind us a bloodcurdling scream rent the air. He calmly flicked his gaze to the source of the sound, and then back to me.
‘Please,’ I gasped, feeling myself slipping. ‘Help… help me.’
Turning his head, he gripped the next rung of the fire escape tightly, before pulling himself up one step.
‘Nathan!’ I screamed. ‘Help me, please…’ I began to sob. The screams behind us were getting louder and nearer, alternated with inhuman screeches. ‘You can’t leave without me.’
‘Yes I can,’ he muttered quietly, without even turning his head.
‘No!’ I screamed.
He proceeded climbing the ladder, each second taking him further from me. I barely had the strength to hold on any more, let alone climb.
‘Nathan,’ I whispered, trying to keep my voice steady, ‘it’s just you and me. The rest of the party is behind us. John, Beth, Rachel, Tom… they’re probably all dead, and if they’re not yet they will be soon. You can’t leave me too. You can’t.’
He ignored me and continued climbing.
‘Nathan, I’m going to die,’ I choked. ‘You know I’m going to die.’
‘You’ll slow me down,’ he replied angrily. ‘That’s all you’ve done this whole trip – slow us down.’
‘Wait!’ I begged, and with a sudden burst of strength I launched myself forwards, far enough to grab his boot.
‘Get off me!’ he yelled, infuriated.
‘No,’ I said, determined, ‘you are not leaving without me. You are not going to leave me here to die.’
‘Yes, I am,’ he replied, and kicked out with his other foot.
I felt the rough tread smash into my mouth. Gasping in pain, my hands slipped and lost their grip. I had no time to cry out; I was already falling… falling. And then I hit the ground with a thud. I didn’t notice the pain. All I could think was that the others were nearby.
I heard another scream.
Someone was still alive.
There was a screech from somewhere near, and I scrabbled up as fast as I could, sprinting in the opposition direction.
The creatures were still here.
‘Beth!’ I screamed, still running.
Something soft caught my foot and felt myself falling again. Crashing onto the cobbled street, I looked back. I had tripped over a body.
‘Oh no... no....’ I muttered, running my fingers softly across the sticky face, trying to identify it in the darkness. My left index finger felt the lips, nudged the jaw downwards and felt the tongue. There was a stud. It was Tom.
A flood of emotion rose up inside me as I closed his mouth again and allowed his head to fall back onto the ground.
Stifling a sob and pushing back the tears, I fell silent, listening for any sign of movement.
The suffocating silence was deafening. Half hoping for a sound, half dreading it, I squatted motionless. My muscles began to cramp.
A clatter of bones came from somewhere about twenty metres on my right. My body began to tremble with terror, waiting for either a screech or a scream, telling me whether the sound meant friend or foe.
A minute passed. Then another. Was it safe to move?
And then I heard heavy breathing, right behind me, an inch from my right ear. I began to shake uncontrollably, using every cell in my body to stay still, to not move…
The stench of rotting flesh filled my nostrils. The breathing remained regular but heavy. It was one of them.
Something touched my arm. The hand was moving slowly upwards. It reached my shoulder, and then touched my uncovered neck. The flesh was slimy, cold and calloused. As it moved across my skin a chill rushed down my spine. I was going to die. It was going to kill me.
The hand’s grip began to tighten. The breathing sound became louder, closer. The tip of its nose brushed against my jawbone as it tried to get its mouth close to my neck. I felt its lips touch my skin, and then the teeth started to sink in. I was paralysed with fear, unable to move, unable to make a sound. This was it.
And then I heard the scream. The creature drew its head back sharply, sniffing the air and loosening its hold on my throat. A second later, there was another cry, and the creature climbed over the top of me, knocking me onto the ground as it slithered in the direction of the sound.
‘Beth!’ I screamed. Was she still alive? ‘Beth!’
Tears were coursing down my cheeks and I was still shaking. There was a third cry followed by what sounded like the shrieks of at least three or four of the creatures. I heard a tear of clothes followed by a long drawn out scream and the sound of… eating.
A hand clamped itself firmly over my mouth. It was warm and smooth.
‘Beth’s dead,’ a voice whispered in my ear. John. ‘Follow me.’
He felt down my arm, searching for my hand, and then grabbed it tightly, almost dragging me along with him. The immense relief was like a wave over my body. I was no longer alone.
The creatures were too busy to hear us as we ran as quietly as possible in the opposite direction.
Suddenly, John stopped in his tracks and pulled me up beside him. We were against a brick wall.
‘Someone’s on their way to get us,’ he whispered. ‘Tom called for help just in time.’
‘I know, I tried to save him, but… I didn’t make it in time.’ His voice shook slightly.
‘What about Rachel?’ I whispered.
His silence told me all I needed to know.
‘Where’s Nathan?’ he asked me.
‘He left me behind.’
He was quiet for a moment, and then he squeezed my hand quickly, before we continued running along the wall into the thick darkness.