Click here to read the previous chapter
Click here for a recap of the previous chapter
Bennett’s heart leapt out of his chest when he felt the hand on his ankle.
He dropped the spaceman helmet which he’d carried from the back of the tipper truck.
His fist raised – seemingly of its own accord – ready to be buried in the offender’s face.
He paused his strike an inch from the blood-covered face of a young woman.
Her dark skin was smeared in thick layers of soot and blood.
Her hair was thickly matted with gore and greyish-purple flecks of brain.
Her eyes were bloodshot and bulging.
‘Lie the fuck back down,’ she said. ‘If they see you, they’ll kill you.’
Though it sickened him to do so, he laid back down on the thick carpet of bodies.
He could feel the cold, clammy, feel of their blood-slicked skin even through his suit.
It made him retch, as did the mingled smells of blood and decay which intensified as he got closer to the ground.
‘We thought we’d escaped. But I think my oldest child was still in there. I don’t know if she’s…’ the lady trailed off, her body wracked with sobs which shook some of the corpses tangled up around her.
‘What happened here?’ Bennett asked, his heart already going out to this woman.
‘I don’t know. But even if she did make it out, she’s out there on her own somewhere.’
‘Not as sorry as I am. We were looking for help. There’s only me left now. The rest are…’ she shook her head, her voice choked with emotion. ‘They were only six and eight. The snipers just… gunned them down. They gunned us all down, didn’t care who we were or even how old we were. I’m the only one who didn’t get hit. It’s days since I’ve moved. I just lie here cos I can’t bear to leave them.’
Bennett put a hand on her shoulder. ‘I’m so sorry for your losses. But mark my words whoever is responsible for all of this is going to take their medicine.’
‘They’ll kill you before you even get to the road. It’s suicide going up there.’
‘Maybe. Maybe not. You want to help me?’
‘I do, but I don’t want to die. I just want to lie here, close my eyes and remember things the way they were before.’
‘I hear ya. But you can’t just fucking lie here waiting to die.’
‘My babies are here. I can’t leave them.’
Each of her blood-stained hands stroked a small head, one on either side of her.
Tears ran down her face, creating streaks in the dirt and blood. ‘Your best bet is to put this gun in your mouth and end things quickly,’ she sobbed, pointing to the weapon in an outstretched hand beside her. ‘That’s what I’m going to do once I find the guts.’
‘I ain’t doing that. I’m going down in flames and I’m taking as many of these pricks with me as I can. Name’s Bennett. It’s nice to meet you, if you excuse the circumstances of course. What’s your name, lady?’
‘Please reconsider, Monique. I’m gonna need all the help I can get here.’
‘I’m sorry, Bennett. I just can’t leave them.’ She began sobbing again. ‘I wish you luck, but I’ve got to say you’re only going to get yourself killed.’
‘It’s worth a try. I hope you find whatever you need to, Monique.’
He paused, seeing a guard patrolling the edge of the pit.
Monique froze, her eyes rolling back into her skull, her head lolling forward and to the left.
Bennett marvelled at how good her dead impression was.
Practising for the real thing, he thought with a grim smile.
He stood up out of the trench and looked around.
The trucks which had dumped the bodies were driving away into the distance, their lights slowly fading into the perma-dark.
The floodlights around the pit stopped maybe thirty feet from the edge.
If he could get into the shadows, he was home free.
He scanned around, seeing a few guards scattered around the perimeter.
Presumably more to guide the trucks than to defend anything.
Still, they carried high-calibre automatic weapons so he was keen to avoid them.
The nearest one was maybe ten feet from him, off to the right.
He was looking towards the pit.
Bennett ducked down, unsure if he had been spotted.
He scanned the other side of the pit, seeing more guards that way, but they were further away.
He realised that – since he still had his spacesuit on – he should be able to blend in with the guards.
If he could get out of the pit.
Explaining his way out of being in the pit in the first place was going to be tricky.
Then fortune seemed to smile upon him; the next truck came, its headlights carving through the night ahead.
He waited for it to turn, then climbed out of the pit just as it began to tip the bodies.
He kept low, his back and thighs blazing from the position, and crawled along the side of the lorry.
A guard off to the right was looking over at the truck, but Bennett felt sure he was out of his line of sight.
Still, he waited till he had looked away before he chanced moving again.
He could see the lower legs of a guard on the other side of the truck and kept a close eye on where he was headed.
He was watching too intently, as he failed to hear the driver’s door come open.
Before he could do anything to defend himself, dark flowers bloomed in his vision as the driver’s shotgun butt slammed into the back of his head.
He fell facedown, the world spinning around him.
The driver’s whistle and cry for back up seemed to swim around his head.
Then the twin black holes of a shotgun appeared a few inches in front of his eyes.
‘Any last words, fucko?’ the driver said, the words echoing strangely through his helmet.
‘The fuck are you doing?’ Bennett said. ‘I was finishing off a survivor in the pit.’
The driver shook his head. ‘We know one of the motherfuckers from the last shift vanished. Only place to hide is in with the bodies. We thought you’d have had more sense than to pop up like a rabbit in the ever-loving headlights.’
‘I swear to you, I’m not from that shift.’
‘Fuck me, you’re a bad liar,’ the driver said. ‘So, any last words?’
His finger tightened on the trigger.
Bennett exploded up over, but the gunshot was deafening as he reached halfway between him and the man.
Confusion reigned when he discovered that he was still alive to hear the gunshot, in spite of it being at point-blank range.
By rights, his head should already have been scattered across a foot-wide radius.
Even more confusing was the fact that the driver was falling back, blood spewing from the gap at the bottom of his visor.
While Bennett knelt in the dirt for a second, idly wondering what the fuck was going on, a burst of automatic fire raked the side of the dumper truck, sending a shower of sparks flying out to meet him.
A single gunshot rang out, not seeming to have any effect as it had wildly missed its target.
Bennett came to his senses, and took shelter under the lorry.
As he did so, he saw trousers and sneakers that didn’t look like those of the guards.
A guard came round to intercept him, assault rifle levelled at him, but a gunshot from their right went off.
The guard was unharmed, but the split second he spent looking for the source of the gunshot gave Bennett chance to run in and wrench the weapon from his grasp.
He fired a single bullet through the guard’s stomach, making the silvery material of the spacesuit slowly turn red.
The guard fell to his knees.
Bennett stood, aimed a burst at the two guards running in from the left.
They both fell, their masks riven with bullets.
Bennett saw a few more coming, but they were a long way off.
He glanced around, failing to see who had helped him out.
‘Are you fucking getting in here or what?’ a voice hissed.
He looked up and saw Monique in the driver’s seat of the dumper truck.
He was speechless at seeing her again.
‘Quit gawping and get your ass in the fucking truck,’ she spat.
He grinned like a retard at the sight of her and the realisation that she had snuck up behind the driver of the lorry and shot him at close range.
She cursed even more vehemently when he disappeared around the back of the truck, offering only a ‘Gimme a minute,’ as explanation.
When Bennett finally did plant his arse in the passenger seat of the truck, Monique smacked him on the side of the head and began calling him out.
‘I risk my life for you and you just fucking leave me here like a sitting duck? What the fuck is wrong with you?’
‘Sorry,’ Bennett said, rubbing his right cheek to combat the stinging pain that lingered after her slap. ‘But when you see why I did that you’ll be relieved.’
She shook her head, furious, already slamming the truck into gear and pressing the gas.
She brought the clutch up and the truck jolted forwards.
‘Any idea where we’re going?’ she said.
‘Not a fucking clue.’
‘That makes two of us then.’
As the truck pulled away, one of the guards stepped in front of them, raising an arm as if that would stop the hurtling truck.
‘This motherfucker is gonna be jam in a second,’ Monique laughed, flooring the gas.
There was a sickly wet thud and blood splattered the windscreen.
‘Nice,’ Bennett smiled. He looked across to his companion, running his eyes over her again.
‘What are you smiling at?’ she said, without taking her eyes from the road.
‘I’m just happy to be alive. Plus, I’ve got one hell of a nice surprise for you whenever we get somewhere safe.’
‘Ain’t nowhere safe. But I could do with a nice surprise. Life’s been one long nightmare recently.’
‘Tell me about it. Say, thank you for saving my ass back there. What made you change your mind?’
‘I figured you were gonna get yourself killed up there. Looks like I was right too. I thought if someone had had the chance to save my babies then I would have liked them to do it. And then I thought that lying there in that ditch wasting away was no way to go. I always believed if you are in a position to help someone then you should do so.’
‘That’s a fair point. So, how’d you come to be lying in that ditch anyway?’
Next chapter is here