The rain fell like tears from all the eyes of all the dead the world now knew. Everyone was soaking wet and freezing cold. The sound of the angry swarm raged beneath us. It filled the air. We were all too frightened to move in case they saw us.
‘I doubt that any of them could get up here,’ said Vinnie. ‘I pulled up the ladder so logically we should be safe.’
But the rules of logic didn’t apply anymore. Dead people coming back to life had rendered these rules redundant in the time it took for someone else to be turned into a viro. In any case, we weren’t so much as safe as actually trapped. The safe part was the simple consequence of being trapped. At least that was how I saw it.
I surrendered to despair. I retreated into that part of me where I had always felt the safest whenever my difference to most of the rest of the world became too noticeable.
‘It’s okay to be quiet, Jake,’ Mum would say. ‘It is also okay to be private but please don’t let the world make you feel that you always have to be like this.’
She smiled and ruffled my hair. I loved it when she did that.
‘It’s also okay to be loud and enjoy life and have lots of friends and play silly games and just be yourself.’
But she wasn’t here right now and so the self that I felt most like being was the quiet and private and despairing self, not the loud and life-enjoying one.
Ellis had fallen asleep with her head on my shoulder. Her hair was so close to my face that I could smell it. Even despite all the dirt and danger it smelled amazing. I closed my eyes and inhaled as carefully as I could. I held my breath for as long as possible.
As I gently exhaled I opened my eyes to find Abe watching me. I think he smiled but I wasn’t sure. He saw what I had done. What must he have thought? I went to speak but Abe didn’t want to. He shook his head and turned away.
Baxter was huddled at my feet and whimpered softly as he dreamed. His coat was covered in tiny water droplets and in this light he shimmered as he shivered. I felt really mean. Baxter had been trapped when I rescued him but now he was trapped again. A dog like that would have had no trouble surviving on its own but instead, in the short space that we had known each other I had pulled him free from one cage only to trap him in another.
Baxter whimpered again.
It wasn’t much of a life for him but this wasn’t much of a life for anyone. Were we better off stranded on this roof with no hope of being rescued? Or would it have been better to be engulfed by the swarm like everyone else? I tried to make the calculations in my mind but I couldn’t be sure.
I was getting hungry and with no food and no drink it wouldn’t be long before we were all in trouble. Abe had suggested that he crept back downstairs to try and find something to eat.
‘I’ll give it a go,’ said Abe. ‘I’m good at sneaking about and staying hidden.’
But, as Vinnie pointed out, the tower block would be full of viros by now and how would anyone be able to sneak down five sets of stairs, get into the kitchen, find what we needed and then sneak back up five flights of stairs without being noticed.
‘You’re a brave kid, Abe,’ said Vinnie, ‘but it would be a suicide mission and in any case, if you didn’t make it back then one of us would probably end up having to come and look for you and then if we didn’t make it back then the next person and the next person.’
I could see that Abe was disappointed. Amber punched her brother playfully on the arm.
‘Vinnie’s right, you know,’ she said kindly. ‘You’re good, Abe, really good, but no one could get down there and back. It wouldn’t matter who you were. There’s far too many of them.’