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Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Sixty-Five

We do keep moving. After an hour or so of stumbling through the pitch-dark forest we come to an old barn, where we hole up among spidery hay-bales until the sky starts to lighten. All the while, the night is punctuated by the distant mourning calls of the Creatures, wild and furious and lost. We're too exhausted to talk, but the noise and the shuddery aftermath of adrenaline keeps us from sleeping. As soon as the light is high enough we set off again, this time along a forest path that curves gently downhill. As we walk, steadily and in silence, I try to order the mess of thoughts in my head.

I killed a Feeder. A while ago I would be happy at that. But now, looking at what it has cost me and Lisa all I can feel is a sick kind of horror. The image of the Feeder's open mouth, and the memory of the noise the Creatures made when it died...it all keeps rising again in my head. Worse is the knowledge that Lisa must be remembering the same things. And it's all my fault...

I was talking in my sleep. Of course. How stupid. How utterly stupid. After all the months of being careful, of living in fear, of creeping and hiding. To almost lose everything over such a tiny, careless mistake.

But I know the cause of it. And I know what I have to do. What I should have done days ago. I have to tell Lisa what happened on my way back from my encounter with Sven. I have to tell her about the crazy. I have to tell her that I'm a murderer.

Decision made, I try at least a dozen times over the next few hours to simply come out and tell Lisa the truth. But every time, I find myself unable to break the silence between us. I can bear to break this fragile thing we have, to tell her what I did, maybe to see fear or hurt or anger in her eyes when she looks at me. And so we simply walk on through the forest, in silence.

We've lost everything. No weapons, no food, no water. Only the clothes on our backs and, by a stroke of luck, the maps and instructions Sven gave us, which were folded up and tucked securely into my pocket when the Creatures came and took us. If only we knew where we were...

At last, when the sun is well and truly up we stumble across a small ravine. Lisa drinks first, kneeling beside the thin trickle and scooping up the liquid with her hands while I keep watch. Then I take my turn, the water wonderfully cool and refreshing. It feels like the first thing I've ever drunk in my life, quenching the burning dryness in my throat and loosening the knot in my gut. I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand.

"You okay?" Lisa asks. She stands a little way off, cradling her belly.

"Yeah," I say. And then I try to add, "but there's something we need to talk about," but the words don't come out, and after a short break we set to walking again.

By the time we emerge from the narrow forest path onto an open road it must be close to midday. A little way up the road a mile marker protrudes from the verge, partially covered by the rampant undergrowth. I go to it and pull away the stands of vegetation, hoping for some insight as to where the Creatures have carried us.

"Porturaik," I read off the mile marker. The sound of the word is oddly familiar. "Six miles that way," I point down the road.

"Let's check the maps," says Lisa. And so we do, sitting down in the middle of the road to rest while I unfold the crumpled sheets of paper. We put our heads together, scanning the miniscule detail of the landscape until Lisa catches her breath and says, "Look, there!"

She points, and there it is. The tiny writing on the map matches that engraved on the mile marker. And what is more, the town of Porturaik sits on the coast, just a short hop by boat from the island of Holme.

2 comments:

Fiona said...

Hmm..I wonder if he's the first person whose ever killed one..

leroy miles said...

what a terrible mentality to have. Killing someone who is about to or trying to kill you is not murder.