Authors: Edwin Page
She looked down with an unhappy pout.
‘Do you understand?’ I repeated firmly.
Chrissie nodded, but didn’t look up.
‘We’ll do everything we can to keep you from harm,’ I stated, cupping her
chin in my hand and raising her face. ‘We love you, Chrissie.’
She looked at me a moment. ‘I don’t want to go.’ Her eyes glistened and
my heart ached in response.
‘There isn’t any other choice,’ I responded, wiping a stray tear from her
‘What about Rachel, Robyn and Caroline?’ she whined. ‘Will I ever see
‘Maybe they’ll go to Montreal too.’
‘Can I go tell them that’s where we’re going?’ she requested, a gleam of
hope in her sparkling eyes.
My frown deepened. ‘It’s the middle of the night, Honey.’
‘We can wait until morning to go.’
I shook my head. ‘We’re going tonight,’ I stated firmly.
She thought for a moment. ‘Can I leave a note on the door for them? Maybe
they’ll call round and see it.’
I thought for a moment and then nodded, making the concession in the hope
that she would leave without much more fuss. ‘Okay.’
‘I’ll make it now,’ she stated, immediately turning and entering the
house, Ollie’s legs dangling from her hand and brushing the carpet as she
rushed along the hall filled with a new sense of purpose.
I watched her go and wondered if I’d done the right thing. Would the sign
just give her the false hope of seeing her friends again?
‘We should finish packing the car,’ stated Bob behind me.
I turned, seeing that Tyreese had made his way back to his home during
the exchange with Chrissie.
‘How is she?’
‘As good as can be expected after seeing a dead body on our driveway,’ I
Bob looked down at the youth. ‘I’ll drag him into the shadows at the side
of the garden.’
‘Will you wash away the blood?’
He shook his head. ‘We haven’t the water to spare.’
‘What about the bath?’
He glanced at the house. ‘Let’s get the Falcon packed first. If Tyreese
hasn’t honked I’ll see what I can do before we bring Chrissie out. Okay?’
I nodded. ‘Okay.’
We stared across at each other for a moment and then I turned and went
into the house, going to the first of the boxes lining the left-hand wall. I
bent to lift it and paused, a wave of emotion coming over me after the tension
of the confrontation out front. I bit my bottom lip, fighting back tears as I
crouched and covered my face, body trembling with the force of the tide rising
I was given a start by Bob’s arm passing around my shoulders and looked
to him with eyes glistening. He drew me close and held me tightly. I put my
head to his shoulder and began to weep, trying to control the sobs in the hope
that they wouldn’t be detected by Chrissie as she busied herself with the sign
for her friends.
Chrissie went up
on tiptoes and tacked her poster to the front door as me and Bob watched,
standing side by side on the front path. It simply stated, ‘Gone to Montreal.
It’s safe. Hope to see you there. Love Chris xx.’ She’d decorated it with stars
and smiley faces, the latter adding to my feeling of melancholy as I watched
her press firmly on each corner to make sure the tack took to the door, her
Little Red Riding Hood coat making her look more dainty than usual thanks to
being a couple of sizes too big.
‘Ready,’ she stated, turning to us and her lack of sleep visible in her
We nodded and I put my hand out to her. Chrissie took it and we walked to
the Interceptor. Tyreese’s Japanese import was idling on the far side of the
road, its lights out so as to avoid attracting any unwanted attention.
Chrissie and I parted company as she and Bob headed around the hood to
the far side of the car. I opened the passenger door, careful with the
positioning of my feet as I climbed in, a backpack in the footwell. The back
seat behind me was piled with our cases and the floor space was jammed with
bags, the carryall resting on top within easy reach should we need any of the
My gaze fell on the glove box as Bob and Chrissie got in. I knew the
pistol was resting in there. I’d tried to persuade Bob to leave it behind,
telling him that it invited trouble, but he was adamant that it should be
retained, promising only to use it if absolutely necessary.
‘All set?’ he asked as he started the Falcon and the V8 growled.
I turned to him and nodded as I sat in a dark red sweatshirt, black Adidas
sweatpants and pale sneakers. They were the clothes I used to wear when going
for an early morning jog on work days, finding it the best way to wake myself
in readiness for shuffling papers. Those days were over and there wouldn’t be
anymore shuffling, but the outfit was warm and comfortable, and for that I was
He backed up, using the reversing lights to guide his progress and waiting
to turn on the headlights at the last possible moment before heading off. The
Falcon bumped off the driveway and onto the road as I stared at the house, my
eyes welling with tears.
Bob glanced over at Tyreese and raised his hand, our neighbour responding
in kind. Putting the shift into first, he put the lights on and we began the
journey, Tyreese following behind.
We headed southeast and joined Kennedy Drive, making west for the
eighty-nine. When it came into sight my eyes widened and my mouth hung open. The
interstate was a river of lights, all flowing in the same direction and filling
every lane on both sides of the highway. Glaring headlights moved towards us
from the left and taillights streamed away to the right, casting a hellish glow
as the traffic made its way north.
‘Holy shit!’ exclaimed Bob.
I glanced at him.
‘Sorry,’ he stated, glancing in the rear-view at Chrissie, who was
craning to look between the front seats.
‘What are we going to do?’ I asked as Bob slowed and brought us to a
‘We could take another route,’ he suggested, ‘but this way it’s under an
hour to the Highgate Springs border crossing. Besides, we can’t guarantee that
they’ll be any less busy.’
Tyreese appeared at the driver’s window and Bob wound it down. ‘What do
you reckon?’ asked our neighbour, looking at the steady stream of vehicles.
‘It looks to be flowing okay. I say we join,’ replied Bob.
Tyreese nodded. ‘Are there any other routes?’
‘A few, but this is by far the quickest.’
‘It’s your call,’ he stated, looking north.
‘It’s the best option,’ replied Bob.
He nodded again and headed back to his car.
‘Are you sure?’ I asked.
Bob turned to me. ‘There’s no way to know for sure, but I want to get
there as quickly as we can. There doesn’t seem to be any hold-ups, and so I
think we should go with the flow.’
Tyreese honked his horn behind us.
We started off again, turning down onto the ramp and heading into the
traffic. Bob looked over his shoulder, looking for a gap. An oncoming RV
flashed its lights and allowed both us and Tyreese to get on the interstate. We
pulled into the traffic and began north as I stared out of the windshield,
still shocked by the amount of people heading towards the border.
I looked at the clock on the dash to see it was just gone three in the
morning and shook my head in amazement. I couldn’t believe how many people were
trying to make it to safety, how many had heard the broadcast. ‘They could be
from New York,’ I commented to myself.
‘What was that?’ asked Bob.
‘I was just thinking, some of these people could have come all the way up
from New York.’
He nodded, glancing at the plates of the nearest vehicles. ‘They’ve come
from somewhere down there,’ he said with a nod to the vehicle on our left.
I stared across at the packed grocery grabber. Two kids sat in the back
amidst mountains of belongings, their parents up front. The husband was
driving, his wife’s head bowed as she slept beside him. He looked pale and
sickly, dark shadows about his eyes as the car drifted towards us.
Noticing his deviation with only a yard or so to spare, the man suddenly
adjusted. The car weaved a little as he shook his head and blinked in an effort
to keep his concentration.
We began to move past them as the speed of their lane dropped and I
turned my attention back to the way ahead.
‘Is it a straight drive there?’ I asked, grateful that they were dropping
behind and trying to distract myself, the vehicles all around us making me feel
‘Yeah, at least, I hope it is,’ replied Bob, keeping his eyes on the
There was a screech and then the sound of metal crashing into metal, the
beams of headlights flashing across the interior of the Falcon.
I turned and stared through the rear window. The sounds of horns lifted
into the night as I watched the car which we’d just passed veer into the side
of the RV, the hood becoming trapped beneath and the car being spun. A pair of
headlights appeared from behind the RV, careering off the highway and into a
strand of trees beyond the verge, the crunch of metal filling the night as it
smashed into a wide trunk and I saw the shape of its passenger thrown through
‘Don’t look!’ I exclaimed as Chrissie began to turn around in the back
‘What’s happening?’ she asked fearfully as she stared at my face.
‘An accident,’ I stated, briefly glancing at her.
Sparks sprayed into the air as the axel of the grocery grabber ground
against the road surface, its front forced downwards as it remained lodged
under the RV. A pickup crossed into the southbound lanes in an attempt to avoid
a collision with the side of the trapped car. Vehicles skidded and sounded
their horns, the pickup swerving violently and then slamming into a white
Mercedes, sending it into a spin which took it straight into two other cars in
the far lane. Carnage followed behind, cars slamming on their brakes and many
hitting the tailgates of those in front, shunting them into the initial crash
The RV was finally brought to a halt, horns filling the night in alarm
and desperation as the traffic on the eighty-nine came to a standstill. Darkness
drew in behind Tyreese’s car as the gap between us and the accident grew ever
greater and the swarm of headlights fell away.
Chrissie made to look around again.
‘What did I just tell you?’ I asked snappily, staring at her.
‘I only want to see.’
‘And I said you’re not to look.’
‘No! No buts, Chrissie.’
She continued to look at me for a moment and then turned her gaze
downward dejectedly. I stared at her for a little longer and then sat back in
Bob had dropped his speed and fallen back from the taillights ahead,
clearly feeling the same way I did about the possibility of another wreck
ahead. My neck and shoulders were filled with tension and I massaged myself,
trying to undo the knots that had become tightly tied in my muscles.
I glanced over and was about to nod, but shook my head instead. ‘Are the
pills for my tension headaches in the carryall?’
‘Yeah, can you grab it from there?’
I nodded and reached around behind my seat, Chrissie refusing to meet my
gaze as I took hold of the bag and dragged it into the front, placing it on my
‘They should be in one of the side pockets,’ stated Bob.
I unzipped the pocket on the right and opened it up, staring into the
shadows within. I sifted through the contents and found what I was looking for,
popping two of the tablets out of their foil enclosures.
‘There’s water in there somewhere.’
I transferred the pills to my left hand and dropped the packet back
inside the bag. Opening the main zip, I delved inside and withdrew a bottle of
water with which to swallow down the tablets.
‘Do you think it’ll take them long to clear the road?’ I asked before
putting the first in my mouth and unscrewing the bottle top, taking a swig.
‘No,’ he replied simply, glancing in the rear-view at the darkness beyond
I took the second tablet and sealed the bottle before returning it to the
bag and doing up the zip. My thoughts turned to Montreal and a sense of dread
arose in response. If the volume of traffic evident on the eighty-nine was
reflected on other routes to the city, then it wouldn’t be long until it was
overrun with survivors. That fact led to obvious concerns about food, water and
shelter. How could they possibly cope with such an influx of humanity,
especially a humanity robbed of its common decency by the destruction that had
been wrought upon the world?
I began to worry that the city would be in chaos, that any law and order
they’d managed to cling onto would soon come tumbling down. The pressure of
such a population explosion would mount until it was no longer sustainable.
When the food began to run out there would be no chance of holding on to the
last remnants of civilisation.
In my mind’s eye I saw scenes of violence and looting, streets filled
with feral people fighting each other for the remaining scraps as the last of
our species descended into barbarity in order to try and survive. They were
fearful scenes, my feeling of dread growing and my head starting to throb with
the onset of a migraine.
I tried to push aside the thoughts, finding that my jaw was clenched and
my tongue was pressed against the roof of my mouth. It was a sure sign of inner
tension and I lowered it while rubbing the sides of my jaw with my knuckles,
moving them in circular motions in the hope of kneading the tightness away.
‘Getting worse?’ asked Bob with a glance.
I nodded. ‘Hopefully the pills will knock it out of the park.’
He glanced behind my seat. ‘There’s room enough to tilt the seat back a
little, if that would help.’
I let the seat back as far as it would go against the bags behind, which
wasn’t far. I loosened my belt and turned onto my side. My back to Bob, I
closed my eyes and placed the knuckle of my index finger against my temple,
holding it there between my head and the leather of the seat. The throbbing
immediately lessened and I tried to release the tension in my neck and jaw,
keeping all thoughts of Montreal at bay.
The pills stated to take effect and I could feel the stiffness in my neck
receding. Stopping a migraine was often a question of timing, and it seemed
that I’d taken the tablets early enough to catch it before it became
full-blown. I massaged my temple with my knuckle, keeping my eyes closed and
taking deep breaths, Bob knowing better than to try and talk to me when I was
in that state.
I don’t know how long I remained that way, but it must have been at least
half an hour before I felt the car begin to slow, the tension almost having
lifted and no trace of the headache remaining. I turned slowly and looked out
of the windshield to see the glow of brake lights as the traffic up ahead
ground to a halt. Glancing in the side mirror, I saw that the road behind was
still shrouded in darkness as Tyreese pulled up alongside.
‘What’s going on? Are we near the border already?’ I asked quietly.
Bob shook his head as he pressed on the brakes. ‘About two kilometres
still. We just passed a sign for Route Seven.’
‘Should we take the turn?’
‘It’s still a kilometre away,’ he replied with a glance as the Falcon
came to a stop and he switched off the engine. ‘Best to conserve fuel,’ he
explained as he wound down the window, having seen Tyreese exit his vehicle.
‘This don’t look good,’ stated our neighbour.
‘Do you think this could be the queue for the border crossing?’ asked
‘Unless there’s another fender-bender somewhere up the road,’ replied
Tyreese as he stared north. ‘I don’t like being at the back like this. When the
jam is cleared behind us they’ll be racing to make up for lost time,’ he
commented, looking back over his shoulder.
‘Could we pull onto the verge?’ I asked, the thought of hundreds if not
thousands of vehicles racing up the interstate towards us making me feel
Bob glanced to the right, a grassy slope beside the road. ‘We could give
it a shot, but I can’t guarantee we won’t get stuck.’
I stared off into the darkness and saw a cluster of headlights moving south
west between the trees. ‘There’s another road out there. Maybe we can make it
across country and reach it?’
Bob reached in front of me and took the map from the glove box, turning
on the interior light. He unfolded it and took a little time to locate our
position. ‘That’s the seven heading back south,’ he stated, looking at the
group of lights making their way along the road. ‘They must have decided to get
off the eighty-nine at the turning ahead and try a different route.’