Chapter 10

9 1 22

Virdon squinted at the sky - by the looks of it, some serious weather was gearing up. They'd have to seek shelter and wait out the storm, even if their horses weren't breaking down. He turned the horse around, and tried to estimate the distance to the city. The skyline was still visible.

Too close.

Burke followed his gaze. „You think they'll come after us?"

Virdon thought about that for a moment, glad to have something to think about beside Zana's condition. „I doubt it. These creatures seemed to be organized like... ants, or termites. They'll likely have their own... farms and cattle underground, and were just, just not averse to some fresh meat wandering into their territory."

Burke shifted on his feet. „But don't ants swarm out and, y'know, hunt in the neighbourhood? Like those leafcutter ants? What?" he said indignantly, when Virdon frowned. „I watched the nature channel, back home."

„Let's just hope the similarity ends there," Virdon muttered. They had two grenades left. And their knives. If these things did follow them, the odds weren't good.

Virdon turned his attention to Zana to stop thinking about bloodthirsty mutants wiggling their way towards them. It was... not really a relief. „We've got no other choice but to stop - the horses can't go on, and we need to have a look at Zana." She hadn't moved since Galen had come running out of the gate with her in his arms. Virdon hadn't dared to ask him if she was still breathing.

Right now, Galen was brushing away some strange, white substance covering her chest and face, and rubbing water from the creek over her face, but it didn't seem to help. Blood was drenching her robe, but then, blood was drenching all their clothes, not all of it their own. Virdon hoped that it was mutant blood that soaked the fabric; it made the robe cling to her body, exposing her rounded belly for the first time. Virdon averted his eyes; the sight made him self-conscious, as if he wasn't supposed to look at the evidence of her pregnancy.

His gaze fell on a little hollow surrounded by a grove of pine trees, sheltered by big blocks of rock, and after a moment's hesitation, he pointed it out to the others.

The wind wasn't as fierce inside the grove, but the rain would still drench them once the storm broke loose. They needed to build a shelter quickly, for Zana's sake if not their own. Virdon slid down from Apache's back, hobbled the horses, and sighed a breath of relief when he found the hatchet in one of the saddlebags. He hadn't been sure if Zana had thought of adding it when she had scrambled to pack their things during their escape, stumbling around in the shuddering wagon while bullets were whipping past her head. But Zana could keep her wits together in a battle. For a city girl who had never been in more distressing situations than budget meetings, she was...

Zana was...

Galen lowered Zana to the ground; he had encased himself in a stony silence that made Virdon hesitate a moment, before he took a step towards him. „A storm is coming," he said, „Pete and I will build a shelter. It won't take long."

Galen didn't acknowledge him; his attention was focused on his fiancée. Virdon glanced once again at her shredded and blood-soaked robe, and quickly looked away. She looked as if these things had tried to burrow through her belly. Galen hadn't succeeded at removing all of the spiderweb-like covering, and the white substance made the bloodstains stand out even more.

They worked mostly in silence, carrying a pole back to wedge it between the trees, then Burke began to cut down branches as thick as his wrist for the ribs of their hut, while Virdon cut pine boughs for the thatching. It was easy not to talk; the gale was roaring in the tree crowns above them, adding ominous creaking and crunching sounds to its repertoire.

The ChildWhere stories live. Discover now