We left Lou, pacing outside her parents flat building, waiting for the mist and Hunters to come and kidnap her parents. Can she save them? Read on to find out.PART III
The mist really did sparkle, it was like a cave filled with glow worms, popping and twinkling so brightly I was mesmerised. I gravitated towards it.
I wanted to touch it. Needed to touch it. I reached out, a stampede in my chest made my fingers tingle as they edged towards it. I wasn’t sure if it was the adrenaline from Kirsty’s serum kicking in or the thrill of getting close to the mist, but my fingers kept stretching. Closer. Almost there. I just wanted. One. Touch.
My arm twitched. My eyes snapped to the microchip. A furnace of heat exploded from the chip and up my arm. I yelped and yanked my hand away. Was the chip failing already? I shook my head, I had to get as far away from the mist as possible.
I took a step back. And another. My heart kicked harder, stomach dancing. Rustles and twig snaps echoed intermittently from the wooded cops at the end of the car park.
I wasn’t alone, I was being watched. I’d felt it for weeks; the light prod of a single pair of eyes. Of someone watching me.
A hand clasped my mouth. I stiffened, muscles instantly charged, ready to lash out.
“Don’t scream,” a voice said, “I want to help and we don’t have long.”
He kept his hand across my mouth and stepped into view. He was dressed head to toe in black. His head was covered by a hood and a strange mask with cogs and tubes that protected his mouth. All I could see of him were enormous hazel eyes that had a perfect black ring round the iris.
He was a Hunter.
I had to think fast. He was a lot taller than me. If I attacked and didn’t knock him to the ground he would catch me and probably kill me. If I stayed put he could still kill me.
“I’m going to take my hand away. If you scream I won’t be able to save your parents.”
I relaxed just a fraction. Why would a Hunter want to save my parents? I opened my mouth to hurl questions at him but, he put his hand over my mouth again. I glared at him.
He smirked. “Knew I’d picked the right Orphi,”
“Orphi?” I mumbled under his hand.
My heart clenched at the inevitability of his word. I shoved my shoulder into his chest hard enough for him to know I meant business.
“Calm down, Orphi.”
I yanked his hand away from my mouth. “Thought you wanted to help?”
“I do, but I don’t have time to explain everything so none of this is going to make sense,” he said.
Wood cracked to our left. His eyes snapped across and examined the mist covering the wood.
“They’re near the edge of the woods, we need to hurry up.”
“Wait. Tell me who you are.”
“My name’s Hawk.”
“Hawk? What sort of a name is that?”
“Look, we don’t have time. I have to do this quickly or it won’t look convincing.”
“You ask too many questions, Orphi,” he said, pursing his lips.
“Well, you don’t give enough information, Hawk.”
Boots struck rhythmically against the tarmac. They were in the car park. If the mist wasn’t so thick I was sure they would see us. Hawk moved closer to me, pressing his body against mine until he backed us against the flat wall. I only came up to his neck and I could smell the faint trace of a woody perfume on his skin. The tiniest flicker of heat flared behind my cheeks.
“Listen, when you reach the end of the city, look down. I’ll be waiting.”
The clap, clap of boots stopped.
“HAWK? Where are you?”
His hand clamped across my mouth. My jaw flexed against the palm of his hand. I didn’t care if he was a Hunter, or if we were going to get caught. If he did that again, I was going to knock him out.
He leant into my neck, his lip brushing against my ear. My stomach tightened.
“Ready?” he whispered.
His hand slipped into mine and he gave it a soft squeeze, “I’m sorry, this is going to hurt because you took the anti-sleeper.”
He let go of my hand, yanked a needle out of his pocket stabbed me in the neck.
Pain erupted through me, blood solidfing like ice in my veins. I screamed clutching my throat and collapsed on the floor.
“GOT HER SARGE,” Hawk shouted and disappeared.
Frozen crystals flooded my system as I writhed on the concrete outside the flats. Black spotted my vision and my throat finally clamped shut. I couldn’t breathe, even the faint trace of heat from the suns first rays was too much.
Black dots turned to grey static; I was passing out. Poison poured into my limbs, stiffening my hands and feet. Palpations ricocheted through me feeble attempts at fighting the cold warrior trying to control me.
My vision dimmed. The patch on my arm where the microchip was embedded blistered. Shooting pains burrowed deep into my wrists.
I blinked again.
Dozens of heavily booted feet stormed through the flat building’s door. I rolled over trying to crawl towards them. Muscles defied me, pinching and convulsing instead of moving forward.
I reached out clutching at grass, trying anything to stop them getting my parents.
I blinked again.
I was surrounded by darkness.
“I’ll be waiting at the end of the city…”
Hawk’s words rolled around my mind, each one poked and prodded at the recesses of my consciousness. Time slowed like the thick gloop of primordial sludge. Words merged and hopped about like soldiers in front of me.
I blinked again.
Two enormous glowing orbs were floating out of the front door. Two Hunters pointed some kind of tube at the orbs like they controlled them. Inside the orbs were the limp bodies of my parents. They had wide eyed stares that darted across the chaos in front of them. They were still alive. For now.
“DAD,” I screamed, but only a silent breath escaped my mouth. I tried to force volume but I was paralysed. A gentle tug tempted me back to sleep, but I knew I needed to stay awake and witness the kidnap. My eyes were so heavy, maybe I could shut them for just a second?
The comfort of darkness consumed me. I swam through the emptiness. It was oddly comforting against the agonising paralysis. I searched my unconscious raking through memories, thoughts. I was meant to look for something, but what? Time oozed away, merging into the lake of memories playing out in front of me.
Two people drifted into view. They looked familiar. They floated into the air, heads hanging, eyes staring. I had to save them. I could do it, I just needed to move my legs.
I blinked again.
The car park was empty. I knew the sun was high because my skin throbbed from the heat blazing into the car park. The Hunters, orbs, mist, Hawk and my parents had vanished.
“He lied,” I mumbled staring at the place the orbs had been.
“you’re a dead man, Hawk.” How dare he lie to me and kidnap my parents.
The numbness in my limbs was subsiding.
“Harry,” I said sitting up, “where did you come from?”
He shifted on the spot, peering at anything but me. My gut lurched. I scoured my memories of last night, desperate to filter through the gunk and scan faces to see if I recognised Harry’s strangely large eyes through the Hunters masks. But my brain was fossilised, like ten thousand years of sediment was weighing down any coherent thought. I didn’t recall seeing him, so I decided to give him another chance and look after him like dad had said.
“It’s lunch time, we expected you to surface first thing this morning,” Harry said, and offered me a hand up.
His face was drawn, hungry black bags consumed his entire face.
“You look like shit, Harry.”
“Thanks,” he snorted. “Well, somethings, umm… we have a problem. I need to show you. The others are waiting. Are you ok to walk?”
“Think so. Where are we going?”
“Edge of the city.”
We walked for an hour, the closer we got to the edge of the city the more abandoned it appeared. Children needed to be together like pack animals. Parents were meant to be our alphas. But now we found solace huddled together in the centre of the city in flats and large office buildings where we desperately clung to any sense of belonging we could.
“So where were you living when they took your parents?” I asked.
“Falst…” he stopped dead, coughed and then continued, “just a suburb to the west of the city.”
I frowned, a seed of unease sprouted in my stomach. Falston was the next city but one. It was also the first city the Hunters attacked. My dad’s request to look after Harry filtered through my mind, and I did know of a westerly borough called Falstingbury. That must be where he came from. But what was he trying to hide?
“So what happened to you? You were the first in Daxley City, right? So you must have a story.”
He glanced at me, his face tight, A trace of sweat beaded on his forehead.
“Can we talk about something else?”
But we didn’t because I’d run out of things to ask and the seed sprouting in my stomach was rapidly growing. Instead I stared at our surroundings as we walked.
Since more people had disappeared we weren’t able to look after massive parts of Daxely but I hadn’t realised how quickly rust and decay had taken over. Bricks were crumbling everywhere I looked, our beautiful city had become a desolate waste land. But amongst the dying buildings and months of neglect, new life was thriving. A plethora of plants ravaged the sides of buildings. Growing like viruses up walls and into the cracks of houses.
“We’re here,” he said, drawing us to a stop, “when you round that corner, you’ll see…the, erm. You just need to look.”
Harry had said virtually nothing about what was wrong. Just that we needed to get to the edge of Daxley so he could show me. We were right by the border of Daxley and the suburbs which started at the end of the next street. My parents were going to move to the suburbs right before the Hunters started taking the adults, but they got caught up trying to protect their friends, and eventually thoughts of a move were forgotten.
I rounded the corner and froze. My heart squeezed to a halt making my breath catch in my throat. There were no suburbs. No ’end’ of the street. There was no street at all.
“What the hell?”
A grey concrete wall as tall as three houses towered above us. It stretched across the street and smashed straight through houses, paths and front lawns. It loomed angry and dark like a giant preparing for war.
“It’s surrounding the entire city, Lou. There’s no way in or out.”
“No. NO. It can’t.”
I stepped off the path and ran to the next street expecting the concrete monstrosity to vanish. My heart fired into life and pounded so hard I could feel the pulsing of blood in my ears. All I could think about was my parents. I had to save them. I had to be able to get out of the city.
The wall covered the next street. And the next. I ran harder. Skipped across pavements, gardens and alleys. Three more streets passed. But still the wall loomed as colossal and firm as it had on the first street.
Harry stumbled after me.
“Wait, Lou,” he said, panting.
“How do we get out, Harry?” I screamed throwing myself at the wall, “I need to get out, I have to save my parents.”
I slapped at the wall. It was cold and gritted like sandpaper but, I punched and kicked at it anyway. Pain sliced through my hands as the gnarled surface cut into my knuckles. I revelled in the hurt, it eased the panic.
“LOU,” Harry said, touching my back, “stop.”
I slumped to the floor, exhausted, blood seeping out of several knuckles and tears spilling onto my cheeks.
“We’re trapped aren’t we?”
His face was ashen and clammy. He looked as I felt.
“Harry?” I snapped, “are we trapped?”
He nodded once. A heavy, but resolute nod. We really were trapped.