Chapter Fourteen

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A piercing scream erupted in his ear drums. Max's eyes snapped open, his finger trembling over the trigger. He had been a split second from letting fate decide whether he would live another day; although recently it felt more like enduring than living.

The screaming had ceased again; the quiet, chirpy wildlife took over once more. Maybe he had just imagined it, Max thought. Ghosts from his past screaming in his head, his subconscious screaming at him not to pull that trigger; something like that. But then there it was again. Max craned his neck, pointing his ear towards its source.

"HELP!!!!" the voice screamed. "PLEASE, SOMEBODY HELP ME!" it continued.

Max was close to shutting his eyes and continuing along his own dark path, but the scream unmistakably belonged to a young girl. Even on his potential deathbed, he didn't have it in him to let an innocent girl die; at least his last act could be a good one.

He climbed down off the side of the bridge, tucking the gun back into his bag as he did so and sprinted towards the source of the noise. He ran back through the trees, swatting branches out of the way as he refused to break his speed. Twigs whipped him in the face and roots sent him into stumbles, but Max ran on, determined to reach her before it was too late. He burst out of a clearing of trees onto a road.

He didn't recognise the street, so it can't have been anywhere near his and Joey's old house. The thought of Joey caused Max to pause for a split second. The screams however pulled him back to reality immediately.

"HELP!! CAN ANYONE HEAR ME?"

The young girl was stood on top of a red lorry, surrounded by abandoned vehicles, but also surrounded by undead. The clicking noise was overwhelming, engulfing Max immediately. He didn't think he had ever seen so many gathered in one place before; and on top of that, there were more arriving by the second.

The girl's screaming really didn't help matters but he couldn't blame the child for being scared; he would be lying if he said he wouldn't do the exact same thing. Max jogged towards the trapped girl, careful not to make any noise with his approaching footsteps. He wanted to save her, but it would do neither of them any good if he was mauled before he even reached the lorry.

She was young; couldn't be older than sixteen. She wore light blue jeans with a grey hoodie, and a cap covered her head with a short ponytail poking out the gap at the back. Her hair was a dark brown but streaked with highlights which ran down the full length of the ponytail.

She was a small girl; skinny too, but she somehow looked confident and tough. A large scratch ran down her left cheek, from her deep brown eye to the corner of her mouth. Her small nose and red cheeks made her look even younger than she probably was, her eyes brimming with fear. There was no way Max could leave her now.

The girl spotted Max out the corner of her eye and beamed from cheek to cheek.

"OH THANK YOU! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!" she screamed.

Max shot her a piercing look, snapping his finger over his lips and miming be quiet to the girl who immediately obeyed. Max leaped onto a nearby car and ran along the roof, bonnet, and across to the next car. The sound of warping metal had begun to attract the nearest of clickers, but Max was moving quickly and they weren't the fastest lot to react.

By the time Max had made it across the stationary traffic to within a few metres of the lorry, most of the horde had spotted him and were eager for him to join the young girl on the menu. Max clambered from the roof of a car onto a higher van before launching himself onto the lorry.

The horde swarmed beneath him, getting closer than they were previously, apparently now more driven to score their evening meal. The lorry was surrounded from all angles, hands and arms scraping against the metal with their long, dirty, yellow nails.

"Well what a great rescue that was! At least I'm not going to die on my fucking own!" the girl spat at him.

Max was taken aback completely, stuttering out a reply as best he could, "I...I'm sorry...?"

"Well what's next in this daring escape plan, genius?" she mocked. "You've taken me from a pretty bleak situation to an absolute shit storm!" the loud mouthed girl continued.

"I won't bother next time," Max mumbled.

"Say something there, Einstein?" the girl snapped back angrily.

"No, no, just give me a minute to think," Max stammered.

He drew the bow from over his shoulder and loaded an arrow from the quiver.

"Maybe I can clear a path down by the blue car there, then I guess we'll have to make a break for it," Max suggested.

"Oh Jesus, I scream for help for 20 minutes, and what do I get? Robin fucking Hood!" she replied with a disbelieving laugh.

Max ignored the girl and steadied his aim, releasing the arrow before hearing a satisfying thump and it came to rest between the eyes of a male clicker. Max turned to his young companion with a cocky grin.

"One down, 22 thousand to go," she clapped satirically before folding her arms.

Max went to argue, but the kid had a point. As soon as the body of his victim had fallen, two more had replaced it, desperately scrambling to climb up the lorry.

"Okay, plan B," Max said, running across to the other side of the lorry.

"Really? Are you sure we need it after the overwhelming success of plan A?" the girl gasped.

Max scouted around the perimeter of the vehicle, desperately trying to find a way out or a gap in the wall of rotting bodies. He came up with nothing. He just needed some way of distracting them, or pushing a few out of the way.

"That's it!" Max shouted.

The girl looked at him inquisitively, but kept her mouth shut, clearly seeing that he thought he was on to something. Max jumped down to the front of the lorry, standing on top on where the driver's seat was a few feet beneath him.

"Wait here!" he yelled back at the girl.

"Oh well, I do have a dinner to get to, but I'll try!" she snapped back again.

Max chuckled; he hated to admit it, but her attitude and sarcastic humour did amuse him.

Max gripped his hands around a metal bar which was attached to the top of one side of the lorry before pushing back and throwing himself off the side.

He swung out away from the front cab before catapulting back in towards the window, leading with his feet. Glass shattered around him as he clenched his eyes shut and ended up sprawled across the two seats. He sat up before fumbling around for the keys, still left in the ignition as Max assumed the driver had made his hasty getaway.

He turned the key and attempted to put the lorry into gear, struggling to work out how to drive the thing. Luckily the vehicle was fitted with stickers above each button and lever and within a minute or two Max had the engine roaring. He slammed his foot on the accelerator and heaved the wheel to his left, aiming for a small gap between two cars which he could barge through. The wheels struggled to turn with so many bodies surrounding them, but after a few tries the lorry eased forward.

"HOLD ON!" Max shouted up to his young companion.

The lorry scraped down the metal of the two cars, brushing them aside along with tens of clickers beside them. Max bumped up and down as body after body fell under the wheels of his vehicle, breaking through the main part of the pack.

Max gathered speed, punching through the clickers as best he could until his path was completely blocked by a variety of vans and cars. Now clear of the swarm, Max was able to throw open the door and jump down from the cab. He looked back down the road as the clickers shuffled after them, at least a minute behind. He looked up to see the young girl clutching the metal bar and he offered a hand up to her.

"Would Maid Marian care for a hand down?" he asked in an overly posh voice.

"Okay, to be fair, that was pretty cool," she laughed, as Max helped her down from the lorry which had been her prison minutes before.

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