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Monique crept low behind the headstones, maintaining the element of surprise for as long as she possibly could.
But the headstones stopped roughly fifteen feet from the gates.
She’d be right out in the open.
And it would only be a matter of time before he saw her.
Her breath already labouring, she took a step towards her fate.
She was maybe ten feet away when he turned.
His grin became truly malevolent as he began to raise the shotgun.
She popped off a single shot first, missing him by a country mile.
The bullet clanged off something metal behind him.
The shotgun spat fire and she threw herself to the floor hard enough to drive the wind from her tormented lungs.
She looked up, sighted carefully – harder than ever due to the terror-induced quaking of her hands – and squeezed the trigger again.
The man grunted with pain and she looked up to see a bloody hole in his left side.
The gun came up again.
She knew there was no hope of him missing now, so she ran, hiding behind the nearest tombstone.
She darted forward just as the shell smashed the gravestone to rubble and sent it raining down upon her.
As the snick-snack of his shotgun pump cut through the quiet, she inched over to the next headstone.
Another blast made the previous headstone illegible.
Her breath was deafening in her ears as she sought cover.
What the fuck was I thinking? She thought, forlorn.
The tree next to her suddenly developed a ragged wound, a split-second after the next shotgun roar.
She ducked behind a stone.
Waited a few seconds.
Popped up to fire a few rounds.
It missed, but made the man duck.
His next shot smashed the tombstone behind her into dust.
She felt a blinding pain in her back.
Warmth spreading from the site of the wound.
The pain was like nothing she’d ever felt.
It terrified her.
She ran, just as the rest of the tombstone shattered.
She ducked, turned, shot again.
This one missed, but was close enough to worry the man.
He stumbled back over the shattered remnants of one of the tombstones and landed on his back.
Smiling, she raised herself from her hiding place and lined up the killing shot.
But instead of the muted sound of the gunshot, the gun let out a dry click.
She stood in mute horror, for a few seconds, trying to figure out what had happened.
Then the man raised the shotgun.
The muzzle flash was like lightning, the blast thunderous.
Her belly lit up in waves of agony.
It was like being kicked by a mule.
She clutched a hand to her belly, cursing when it returned with dark blood smeared all over it.
She ducked low, moved forward as fast as she could, trying to put as much ground between her and her enemy as possible.
‘I can smell your blood,’ he chuckled.
A dozen tombstones from where she’d been hit, she stopped and reloaded.
If she’d kept track of the shots she’d fired as Bennett had taught her, she’d not have been in this mess.
She peered quickly, seeing that he was searching for her, his head turning from side to side.
His breath plumed in front of his face.
Gathered her nerve.
When he steps into view I’ll unload on him, she thought.
I’ve gotta hit him at least once.
She watched and waited.
When he stepped into view, she pulled the trigger as many times as she could before he fired back.
She’d just counted the tenth shot when he returned fire.
At least two of her shots seemed to have been greeted with pained grunts.
She looked up, saw that he had two more wounds in his torso.
His face seemed to have lost a little of its cockiness.
She had moved from her last shooting place.
She popped up, fired off the rest of the magazine.
There was no reaction.
She moved a few stones away, then ducked to reload.
She listened but failed to hear him.
The fog hid him effectively too.
Listening intently, she finally picked up the faint sound of his breathing.
She popped up and fired, intending to empty the magazine if possible.
She got two shots off before she realised he was nowhere to be seen.
Too late, she heard the twig snap to her left.
The shotgun butt came across, connecting with her hands in a homerun swing.
The gun flew from her grip and landed behind one of the graves in the near distance.
The man’s laugh filled her ears.
She screamed in frustration as she realised that her chances of surviving had significantly decreased.
She forced herself to think.
Maybe she could sneak round past him, make her way out of the gates without him realising what was going on.
The only problem was that she had no idea which way the gate was now.
No, you have to kill him before he kills you.
It’s the only way.
Her eyes scoured the terrain for a suitable weapon.
The best she could come up with was a ragged lump of marble from one of the gravestones.
It was heavy and had a nice weight to it.
If she could get close enough to him she felt sure she could inflict some damage with it.
If his shotgun doesn’t tear your head in two before then.
Shut the fuck up.
Gotta stay low.
Above all, stay positive.
His footsteps came closer.
She could see him in her peripheral vision, off to her left a little.
He was too far away for her to risk an attack, but he didn’t seem to have seen her.
He crept on, his head turning back and forth, scanning for her.
She approached him from behind, moving as fast as she dared.
After a time, she saw that he had stopped.
She smiled as she saw that the man she’d killed earlier was slumped against the gravestone.
He’d mistaken the body for her and was creeping in on it.
She followed him, crouching as he glanced around again.
Her heart lurched in her chest as she began what she felt was going to be the last approach.
Two things seemed to happen simultaneously; one, he moved round the side of the gravestone and began to unload into his buddy’s corpse.
And two, Monique realised that she wasn’t near enough to hit him.
Instead, she used the pitching skills she’d developed playing softball with her son.
The chunk of marble hit around the time of the third shotgun blast, making a wet thud as it caved in the right side of the man’s skull.
He went down.
She darted in, her knife pulled.
He aimed the shotgun at her as she rounded the graveside, but she dived, shoving it up hard.
As she landed, the blade sunk into his chest.
She twisted it hard, feeling a grim sense of satisfaction when dark blood bubbled up and began to run over his lips.
She pulled it and slammed it into his throat, marvelling as the blood splattered onto her visor and began to leave slick crimson trails.
When he was finished coughing and spluttering on his own blood, she took his shotgun and the handgun from his belt holster and tried to find her way back to the gate.
She could sense other men stumbling around in the gloom behind her, but they were nowhere near her when she eventually found her way to the gates.
The fog swirled around her as she finally set foot into the world on the other side of the graveyard.
She finally realised what the metallic clang had been when she’d first missed the gunman – a ragged hole was in the paintwork of the white transit van that she’d almost walked into in her haste.
Her skin crawled at the thought of what she might find in the back, in light of what had been in the other vans in their garage.
But it was empty, save for a few piles of roughly chopped wood.
She could see a use for these, so she left them where they were.
She moved into the driver’s seat and was pleasantly surprised to see that the driver had left the keys in the ignition for her.
Smiling, she started it up and began to pull away.
The roads were eerie, deserted except for the pileups that choked some of the lanes.
There were no people that she could see, although she could see lights in some places.
Whether these were from fires or torches was unclear.
She didn’t want to know.
She wanted nothing to do with people.
In spite of her strong wish to find her daughter, she was already sick of confronting what mankind had become.
Didn’t take long for us to regress into fucking savages, she thought with a grimace.
She saw a sign for the next town, bent out of shape by the red Fiat Punto that was wrapped around the sign post.
Two miles, it said.
Smiling, she crept on through the fog.
The next town lay in a dip, so she used the wisdom Bennett had taught her.
No idea who’s lurking in that fog.
So don’t announce you’re coming to town.
Kill the lights.
Find a place to survey things from.
If it looks safe, move on in.
But keep your guard up and your gun loaded.
She pulled up, quickly looking around the world at the bottom of the hill.
There were no lights on, which she found reassuring.
She dared to hope there was no one here.
Carefully, she moved through the gloom until she found a crumbling wall to hide behind.
She took the sniper scope from her right boot and began to survey the town.
The street immediately below her was residential, but it did look as though it was only a small town.
That meant the shops would be close.
People would gather near the food sources.
So if she was going to find the stores, she risked coming into contact with other people.
The idea terrified her.
But she needed to find medical supplies to dress her wounds.
And she needed to search for her daughter, even though it was a seemingly futile mission.
So she left the van where it was for now and set off for the houses.
Next chapter is here