The night that passes in the back of the van feels like a year. But it passes. Twice we hear Creatures calling so close by that I feel Lisa tense up beside me. And on more occasions than I can count we hear their heavy footsteps, or the monstrous slither of a worm passing close by the van. Once, something clangs against the side of the vehicle, and I hear Lisa catch her breath.
As the light of dawn slowly filters into the van, I feel like an immense weight is lifting from us. Like being in a plane as it pulls out of a fatal dive. My stomach unclenches, my heart opens up. I realise for the first time in ages how hungry I am.
I nudge Lisa. In the last few quiet hours she's managed to doze off, and although I'd much rather let her sleep I know staying put is not an option. She blinks awake, and then her eyes widen.
"It's day," she says, sounding both surprised and relieved in equal measure.
"Yeah." I squeeze her shoulders. "We made it."
We pack away the blankets and eat from our supplies. I split open one of the boxes to see if there is anything useful inside, but it's just paper. Then we're out of the van and walking again. The disturbed night seems to have energised Lisa somehow. She abandons one of the crutches and we make much better progress than we did the day before. Her face is set, determined. She even offers to carry some of the supplies, though I refuse, knowing that her leg still needs time to heal.
That night we're careful, finding shelter in a service station on the outskirts of town a long time before darkness falls. We restock our supplies from the small shop on the forecourt, and sit and talk until we first hear the Creatures calling. Then we barricade the door and bed down for the night. Sleep comes instantly, making up for lost time.
And so our life continues for the next few days. We walk along the motorway, heading north, stopping at service stations and small towns along the way. We get blisters and hunt out plasters to cover them. It rains and we scavenge umbrellas to keep ourselves dry. Soon enough Lisa is able to walk without the crutch. The wound on her leg has healed into a puckered, tender-looking mark, and her bandages no longer need changing. We walk under bridges, skirt around traffic-jams of abandoned vehicles, march past the site of a massive multi-car pileup.
The air out here is clearer, free from the cloying dust that came from the destruction of the city. And there are fewer Creatures too. We still see craters occasionally, still see the sleeping monsters standing sentinel at their edges, but not nearly as often as we did before. The nights are quieter. No screams or dragging claws to be heard out here.
People too are fewer and far between. Those few groups we see are always a long way in the distance. Lisa and I have discussed endlessly whether or not we should try and approach other survivors, with her being set against it and me in favour. Although I can see why she's scared, I know we cannot remain alone forever. Sooner or later we're going to have to take a risk. Fortunately, it turns out not to be a decision that we need to face just yet, as the others we see are quick to leave the road when they catch sight of us. Everyone is wary, it seems.
Five days of walking pass, almost without incident. And then, fifty miles outside of the city, we come to the farmhouse.