Chapter Fifteen: Aria Stephenson
Breath formed cloudy and misted, hanging in the air of the warehouse. The cold air gave me goose bumps and I found myself unconsciously moving closer to Kyle. I don’t know why. From what I could see, I was fine when flesh devouring, blood lusting, beyond evil, walking dead people were attacking, but when there was a bit of a chill, I’d to seek protection. Why did the world make so little sense?
Shaking it out, I gave the inside of the warehouse a once over. There didn’t seem to be anything different about the warehouse from what I had expected.
A wall of dust-covered, dull brown, cardboard boxes lay lined and stacked untidily directly in front of Kyle and me, Martha being slightly behind me. The only noises were distant and I didn’t want to dwell upon them or think about them. I knew all too well that they were the zombies eating or ripping Jason to shreds. My mind didn’t seem to want to obey me, so as we walked further into the building, I tried to concentrate on something other than the doomed Jason.
Footsteps echoed in the empty part of the room, the echoes coming back sharp and clear. It was unusual and it unnerved me slightly. A whirring noise reached my ears and I tensed, but only for a moment. Soon enough I recognised the sound. It was a ceiling fan.
It was only after a few more relaxed steps with Kyle by my side and Martha fidgeting nervously that I realised that there was no electricity. It had all blown out during the start of the apocalypse.
I turned to look at Kyle and he caught the nervous look in my eye. His hand snaked towards mine, seeking to protect me and keep me safe. Calmness was all I could read in his eyes as he looked at me. Soon enough he was walking towards the edge of the wall of seemingly boring cardboard boxes. His hand gripped mine protectively and I had to fight myself so as not to blush. Peering around the corner together, I hoped for the best, expected the worst. What I actually saw wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. Just a few built up box shapes with a white sheet on them. I looked around, checking for any signs of movement, testing to see if it was safe. “Well,” I thought to myself, “anywhere is better than out there with all the zombies.”
Slowly, with every step we took closer to the sheets echoing back to us loudly, we walked to the main bulk of what I presumed to be cardboard boxes covered by a dust coated white sheet that looked as though it belonged on a bed. The closer I got to the lumpy bulk, the more I realised that, unlike the other piles before them, they weren’t made from square shapes. These piles had curves, lumps and bumps, unlike any other cardboard box that I’d ever seen.
Bravely, I took the lead, ahead of both Martha and Kyle. I didn’t want to seem heroic, but I knew that if we didn’t uncover what was underneath the sheet now, we’d not be able to face it and uncover it any other time, so we’d live in fear while we sheltered here.
I reached out for the cloth. My fingers grasped the dusty material. All the muscles in my arm tensed. Of its own accord, my arm lifted the material and finally showed what was underneath.
A circle with two gaps in either side. They were some sort of computers I think, what with all the buttons and levers. I didn’t want to touch any of it, but Kyle is a technology geek. Almost instantly he was walking through the gap and scrutinizing the displays. Wires trailed from underneath the desks and Kyle wasted no time in pulling at them, changing them, swapping them around. I was dumbfounded. Unless it was games, I had no idea when it came to technology.
Over the next few minutes, I noticed Martha standing so still, it unnerved me. I was constantly twiddling my thumbs or tapping my long, blood filled, dirt encrusted fingernails against the surface of the nice clean top of the techno logistic desk. With Martha’s hard-set face, her pale white skin and the way she stood perfectly still, it would’ve been easy to mistake her on first glance for a statue.
Sooner than I expected, but still with quite a long wait, something started to hum. “Kyle…” I didn’t get much further with my sentence before Kyle hushed me with an agitated hiss and a disregarding wave of his hand. He concentrated on the buttons once more and scanned them all. It seemed to me as though he was searching for just the right button. The humming noise was still going and it was starting to alarm me slightly. Before I could say anything more, his hand shot out to one of the levers. He looked up at me, gave me a warming, comforting smile and pushed.
Up ahead, the lights flickered on, the buttons began to flash on the dashboard and I took a cautionary step back. I didn’t want to have come all this way just for Kyle to accidentally wreck it at a crucial moment. When nothing exploded or started to smoke, I started towards Kyle.
“So, hotshot, how did you manage that one?” I asked, trying to keep the smile out of my voice and failing.
He smiled back, “It isn’t so hard when you know how.” He winked and tapped his temple.
Sighing exasperatedly, I asked another question. “So, what can we do now with this? What do all the buttons do? Will the place explode if one of us presses the wrong one?” I tried to keep up the pace I was asking him these questions, making them sillier each and every time. “Can we make other things explode? Can you transport a not-smashed, still working car into the warehouse? Should I call it a warehouse, or a safe house now? Does it matter? Can I’ve a motorbike instead of a car? Oh! I want a quad bike instead now. Much better for running over zombies, do you not think? You know what? I think I’ve an even better idea!”
Kyle groans playfully, “Yeah?”
“Can you use it as a waffle iron?” I yell excitedly. Kyle just laughs, Martha still standing perfectly at a halt, unmoving and unnatural.
“I don’t think so,” he replies, laughing heartily. “But, I can do this.”
He walks towards the buttons and his hands begin to twitch in anticipation. Suddenly I’m nervous again. Does he really know what he’s doing? I mean, I know he’s a technical genius. I’ve seen him fix everything I blow up, despite how hard I try not to blow the electronic items up in the first place. He even fixed the toaster I made explode.
Exploding toasters isn’t a hobby of mine, so I don’t know what I did wrong. All I did was put the bread in and walk away for a couple of minutes. Next thing I know, the toaster is smoking, making all the alarms go off. I reach out to touch it and the second I do touch it, it sparks. Yanking back my hand, I take cover from where I watch it explode and scatter itself across the kitchen into tiny pieces. Try explaining that to the ‘rents.
His hands are moving swiftly across the buttons, missing some, pressing most. Flicking levers, stabbing buttons, it must all add up to something, surely? I want to talk to him, ask him what he thinks he’s doing, but silence hangs in the air and somehow, I just know instinctively that he wouldn't answer me.
Time passes, but quickly this time. I’m fascinated by how fast he works, scared stiff in case he makes a wrong move and manages to find a way to kill us all. Everything I think about that he could be doing I dismiss almost immediately. Transporting something? For God’s sake, it isn’t a time machine or something as futuristic as that, I tell myself sternly. That sort of thing happens in the movies, not in real life. Just like those zombies out there. They’re beyond strong and powerful, seemingly in control of everything they do. Mindless isn’t on the list of these monsters’ qualities. All the zombies in the movies are slow, clumsy and easy to kill. These are so much worse. As I stand here and think absent-mindedly, I curse the name of the person or people that created these monsters.
I cast my mind back as Kyle sets to work on some of the knobs, twisting and turning them as fast as lightning strikes the ground. The name of the man who wrote the letter to us in the church, the text message and the message we received via crow escapes me for a moment, but not for long. The Fifth Horseman. Who was he? But more importantly, why was he interested in us? Why not someone else?
A scraping noise woke me from my trance like state. I blinked rapidly and peered around. Martha was still in the same place, as still as ever. I shouted over to her, “Oi! Martha.” She didn’t respond. “You can move you know. You aren’t a statue.” Even now she didn’t move a muscle. Now I looked closely at her face. I began to understand more and more now.
She was transfixed in terror.
I followed her line of sight, hoping for an insight into why she was scared. All I could see was a huge stone wall. Nothing out of the ordinary for a warehouse, or a safe house made from a warehouse either. Just ahead of me, the panels of buttons were blinking persistently. “Are you not going to fix that?” I asked as I looked up to Kyle. At least, I would have looked up to Kyle. But he was no longer there.
“Kyle?” I shouted, in a wailing, high-pitched tone. “Kyle! Where are you?”
His head popped up from under the desk. “I’m here. Some of the wires that I re-did must’ve come loose and one of the big lights blew out.” He pointed over to where the light was. “I’m trying to fix it now. Want to help?” He gave me a grin that worried me a little. I knew that he knew about my awful experiences with machinery, or anything electrical. An iPod was about the only thing I couldn’t break. Or, look after so much to make it impossible for me to break it.
“I don’t think that is such a good idea,” I said exasperatedly, shaking my head. “You know how I am with anything that uses electricity.”
“It's okay. I need it to blow up anyway,” he said winking. When I didn’t move any closer to the machine, he reached out for my hand and dragged me to the middle of the circle of flashing lights. “I could do with a helping hand.”
Bending forward, he stuck his head into an open panel, searching for just the right wires. Eventually, he pulled two out that had the metal inside them sticking out. He handed them both to me and looked at me expectantly. “Well,” I said, “what do you want me to do with that? I’ve never touched one before in my life!” He motioned putting them together. When I didn’t respond, he grabbed my hands gently. Moving them closer to each other, I could feel the warmth of Kyle’s hands. I could see that he was sweating lightly, not a surprise, it was beyond hot down here. The computer things must’ve been pumping out the heat.
I heard a small cough from overhead. It was Martha. “I don’t like to interrupt private matters, but what are you doing, exactly? Nothing that is sinning I hope.”
Both Kyle and I popped our heads up at the same time. Martha took a step back out of surprise, but soon regained her composure. She wore a smirk on her face. The only time she chooses to smile and it is only because she isn’t the butt of the joke.
“We aren’t doing anything!” I exclaimed and Kyle says the same thing at the same time. I blushed deeply and tried to hide it. I knew I’d failed when I felt Kyle’s hand sneak around my waist, out of sight of Martha. He kept a straight face and continued to look at Martha.
“What did you think we were doing?”
“Well…” said Martha trailing off slowly, winking subtly. “I know that not everyone is perfect.”
“Get out of here!” I laugh. Then, slowly, I blink. This is the first time we’ve ever got on before. All the other times I’ve spoken to her, her religious beliefs have been in the way. Smiling now, I know I smile genuinely. She smiles back and this, I realise, is the first time she’s ever smiled with us around. The smile she flashes is genuine, I know. I know because it reached her eyes, which are otherwise devoid of emotion.
“So,” said Kyle, “are you ready to blow this thing up big time?” His voice sounded as though he’d dared me to do it. One of his eyebrows rose. “Or if you can’t do it,” he paused, betting on me butting in and telling him that of course I could do it.
He was right. “I’ll do it. You know I’ve never turned down one of your challenges.” He smiled at me, almost cryptically. I returned his smile.
“You want me to blow the whole thing up, or just a little bit then?” I ask, looking at him determinedly. At least, if I look determined rather than slightly embarrassed, his arm hasn’t moved from around my waist. I must’ve been beetroot red for ages afterwards as well. It was out of character for him. That isn’t to say that I didn’t like it.
“On second thought, it is probably better if we looked under the other piles of stuff around this so called safe house. I mean, there might be something we could use to defeat the zombies if what the letter said was true,” mulled Kyle.
“The letter from the Fifth Horseman?” asked Martha.
“Well, who else would it be?” I giggled. “It is nowhere near Christmas and I don’t think the Easter Bunny can write.”
“You never know,” Kyle said in reply.