Too lazy to carry on Million posts. Too lazy to write a proper post. Too lazy to make this bite-sized. Below, a message from one of my stories to celebrate the new month.
The van jolts once or twice more as weaker Bolters lose their grips and fall off the roof. It helps little. We are still in the god-forsaken grass, after all. In spite of all this, the driver happily maintains his pace, white teeth flashing whenever I see the rearview mirror. Ten thousand kilometres on a clear day, I think, ten metres in grass.
Indeed, the grass has become so tall even sunlight begins to find difficulty in entering. Surely the Bolters find it no hindrance, for even as I observe this six vaguely foot-shaped dents have appeared in the van roof.
‘Whack them off,’ says Alf unemotionally.
‘No,’ says Lockheed. ‘Sit down, guys. I gotta see how many of them will fall off later.’
Somehow, he finds it within his ability to push down the pedal even harder. He turns left, then banks. With a hollow rush of wind we leave the grass, exchanging them for trees. Lockheed maintains his bank, managing to evade a tree trunk that passes maybe a foot to our right.
Just in front of that tree trunk is a copse of rather stout trees, bowers hanging low in the dim light. They remain hanging, much to the Bolters’ misfortune. Terrible crunches come above and behind the van, but for that we go faster.
Lockheed lifts his foot and rides the van on the momentum. He looks left and right as he orients himself. He swivels the steering wheel suddenly to put us back on the main road. He does not resist as the van draws to a stop.
I cannot resist my temptation either. I lean forward, to the side of his head, and ask, ‘Is there something out there?’
He places a finger just in front of my lips. Flor sees this, but I know she can, so I am prepared when she jolts me forward. I sit back down, glowering.
We wait in silence. Utter silence. Our rampage through the forest has scared the local residents into muteness. Or they may be expecting another rampage.
Someone taps me on the shoulder. It’s Alf. I’m not as surprised as I would have been when he pushes me gently to the side and leans to the centre of the van. He makes a gesture with his left hand, index and middle fingers covering the top of his thumb, ring and pinky at the thumb tip. He places the side with the thumb to his eye.
The gunmen turn around and draw out small slits in the van wall. Very small. One narrow slit for viewing, a slightly wider one for gun placement. They use them both. Flor and I make way for them by moving to the back and watching the van rear.
Alf calls his men’s attention again and signs sentry duty for twenty minutes. Lockheed sees this and signs back at Alf. He must be concerned over waiting so long. They try to convey details with their hands and give up.
Alf whispers his stand in Lockheed’s ear, Lockheed his in Alf’s. They have their debate of low decibels for two minutes, before Alf signs ten minutes. It hardly makes difference to me. I’ve yet to see any clues that can reveal anything concise about the infected’s plans.
No clues at all. I search long and hard. Clues lying in the environment around elude me. Pointers of infected presence are absent. A tracker could conclusively say that this place was free.
I wonder this myself. All the infected wanted was their nexus, after all. A small group of speedy individuals was hardly worth the minute fraction of the force they could spare. Twenty Bolters wouldn’t lessen their effective power.
I have all these thoughts. I look at them. I accept them as logical and based on firm evidence of the past performance of infected. Then I carry on waiting.
A feeling of wrongness needles me. I can’t help but think that something is wrong. It feels like the border of a jigsaw puzzle has been assembled, but the interior is being filled up with wooden blocks. Unevenness in perception breeds doubt. I, I who observes, take note of the squirming doubt within me. It is a worm. Some horrible little maggot that was placed into me as a pallid waxy egg and has hatched into merely an immature form of the monster it will become. I am powerless to stop it as it consumes my substance, breaking down my body into proteins and fats and sugars, and cracking those substances for energy. I watch helplessly as it grows fat on my mental landscape. I look out through the slits, doubt gorging itself on all my logic.
Alf looks at his watch and signs that we’re leaving. I look at my watch. Five minutes have just passed. I hurriedly correct Alf. Any other time, it might have been a minor error. Here, everything will add up. The parts of my mind tainted by doubt say so. He insists ten minutes have passed. The men next to him are divided over it. They check their own watches, and I watch doubt propagate. I understand its life cycle. It will reach maturity when we are all riddled by doubt.
As the gunmen check among themselves, they lean away from the slits. I peer out into the open. In the forest, nothing but tree trunks in their solace, however intimate their leaves are with one another. Nothing could come up without being detected. In the grass on the other side, a small breeze whips the top of the leaf blades. Shashshaaa, they go.
Shashshaaa. I flick my eyes across the entirety of the cellulose wall, looking for something to sate my doubt, and hopefully the doubt of the others.
Nothing is the clue to the touch of the infected, nothing the tracks of slouching slobbering half-dead bodies, nothing the vestiges of past presence for investigation.
And I find nothing standing in the grass parallel to the van, neatly in the centre of the van wall. Right where nothing came from, and could continue telling us there was nothing.
I raise my gun and I pull two fingers and I see the discoloured blood spurt out from the hidden Genie, behind the van wall, head in front of the slit, right between two hysterical people.
Tension flows into the air, out of our bodies. Doubt dies. Danger comes.
‘Drive, Bridge!’ I scream. He gladly does so.
As we depart the rapidly amiable forest, we see two balls lying in the dirt, one a head, one a distended abdomen. They slowly deflate as viscous green-grey fluid flows out.