This was the first time in the short time that I had known her that I had seen Ellis looked scared and this of course made me feel terrified. She seemed so calm and collected, even when she talked about her parents and so I kind of assumed that she was one of those fearless-type kids you read about in comics or see in films; the ones who seem old before their time and wise beyond their years. I went to speak and she shook her head. Her eyes were wide and I thought she was going to cry. If this was how she looked then how must I have appeared to her? I would hate to think. It is hard to be cool when you are petrified but it is harder still to be petrified in front of someone you would like to impress. The swarm was stumbling noisily closer and had now blocked off the road completely, meaning there was no way we would be able to run back past them, even if we wanted to.
I looked around, desperately trying to think of something to do. The road we were on had terraced houses on both sides but all the doors I could see were shut and no –one had left their windows open just in case two kids might need to escape from a double viro swarm some time in the not-too-distant future. There was the odd tree in the front gardens but only the ornamental fir-type not the big-tall-hide-from-a-monster-type.
The viros were getting so close now that I was starting to see their faces and what they were wearing. Like those old paintings of Hell we were once shown at school by our art teacher, the swarm was twisting, howling, growling, moaning, mindless and contorted. Angry-looking men and women, as well as teenagers and kids are stumbling and bumping and getting in each other’s way and pushing each other along and generally moving towards me and Ellis in the kind of nightmarish, creeping way you normally see in those TV shows that none of us are meant to watch but all of us have seen. Fortunately, and unlike many of the other apocalyptic swarms you see in films, our viros weren’t the running kind which was handy because if they had been then it would have all been over before it had even begun.
I looked at Ellis and she still looked uncertain. I pointed at the nearest front garden and she nodded. We quickly climbed over the low wall and tried to find the thickest bush we could find to hide behind. Things didn’t look good and thinking that the end was about to begin I shut my eyes and tried to imagine exactly how it felt to be ripped to shreds by other people’s teeth. I reached out and gripped Ellis’s hand. She gripped mine hard in return. In any other situation this would have been a perfect next step in any developing relationship. Sadly, however, there was nothing perfect about any of this and so with no thought of anything else other than our rapidly approaching death, we just huddled together with only a flimsy shrub between oblivion and us.
The noise was deafening now and there seemed nothing left to do but wait for the inevitable to happen. The swarms wailed and gnashed and screamed and keened, as if angry to have been transformed into bloodthirsty monsters against their will. Contorted twisted unhappy figures raged against the circumstances of their new existence. But it wasn’t just hateful sounds that filled the night. My nostrils began to fill with the stench of the recently infected and the business that their infection has caused them to do, namely eat human flesh. I had never smelt anything like this before (thankfully). It was acrid and metallic and ripe and rotten. I gagged. With my eyes tightly closed I could feel my senses being totally overwhelmed. I felt small and weak and helpless. I felt like there was nothing I could do. Ellis crouched terrified beside me. I knew she was feeling the same way. She gripped my hand and I thought the bones were going to start shattering one by one, knuckle by knuckle, joint by joint, finger by finger.
‘This is it!’ I thought. ‘This is how it feels to die.’ I braced myself and waited for the swarm to fall upon us.
But it didn’t. Above the baleful din of the viros I suddenly heard the sounds of gunfire and engines. I opened my eyes and saw that the night was full of nozzle flashes and in the strange strobe light that these flashes created I watched in awe and wonder and shock as the swarms of angry viros were torn apart by a storm of bullets. A convoy of trucks was forcing itself through the swarms, scattering viros as it did. Each truck was carrying soldiers wearing gas masks and each soldier was firing at the viros. We crouched in stunned silence as the soldiers made short work of both swarms. Bullets flew everywhere. Dead viros began to pile up all around us and as they did so I felt the sudden urge to run towards the trucks waving my arms in a desperate bid for the soldiers to spot us and save us from the viros. I half-stood up, ready to leap over the low wall but Ellis pulled me back and held me tight and wouldn’t let me go.
‘They’ll shoot us too,’ she whispered. ‘At a time like this they won’t be able to tell the difference between the living and the dead. We’re all viros to them right now.’ She wrapped her arms tightly around me.