Read Tabitha Online

Authors: Andrew Hall

Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Superheroes, #Science Fiction, #Alien Invasion, #Genetic Engineering, #Post-Apocalyptic, #Superhero

Tabitha (11 page)

BOOK: Tabitha
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‘Just relax
Tabitha, please,’ Sam said pleasantly, approaching her with a fresh needle of
anaesthetic. ‘It won’t hurt a bit. I promise.’ Tabitha wrenched her arms free
from Jane’s grip and hit Sam on the jaw, laying her out on the floor. Jane
staggered away and pulled the gun from her belt. Tabitha leapt aside as the
pistol cracked, deafening in the cellar. Missed her. She tackled Jane and
brought her crashing to the floor, kneeling over her to grip her by the throat.
Jane spluttered and struggled, and gave up the pistol as Tabitha crushed her
hand around the grip. Teeth gritted, Tabitha raised a metal fist into the air
ready to swing, and saw the terror in Jane’s eyes.

‘Stop it!
Please!

Sam pleaded. ‘You’ll kill her!’ Tabitha looked around at Sam in a daze, and
back down at Jane gasping on the floor. Tabitha saw her metal hand bunched into
a cruel fist, and opened her fingers out in shock. She would have smashed the
woman’s skull, right there and then – what the hell was happening to her?

‘Please, don’t,’
Sam begged, terrified, watching Tabitha drag Jane from the floor.

‘Let me out of
here,’ Tabitha growled, her hand still clutched around Jane’s throat. ‘Now!’
panicked, Sam rushed past them to open the door into the first cellar. Tabitha
marched Jane into the other room and shoved her off into the corner.

‘They’re still
outside!’ Jane yelled hoarsely. ‘If you open that shutter they’ll kill us all!’
but Tabitha didn’t so much as look at the shutter where she’d come in. Instead
she climbed the steps at the back of the cellar, the wooden ladder that led up
to the shadowed trap door. She pushed at the hatch, but it only rattled in its
hinges.

‘There’s bolts
on it,’ Sam said timidly, holding onto Jane. ‘You have to –
Tabitha smashed her fist up into the door and burst it open with a bang, bolts
or not. Daylight flooded the staircase, and a flurry of dust drifted down in
the glow. Tabitha looked up at the room above, and the doctors below in their
basement. They were just staring at her from the foot of the stairs, terrified
in the gloom.

‘If you follow
me, I’ll kill you.’

 

7

 

There was no sign of Mog when Tabitha
got back home. She’d crept and sprinted her way back through town, keeping to
the walls. Taking cautious detours wherever the spiders lurked. Bees and wasps
still prowled her front garden, oblivious to the dead town. Tabitha smelled the
sickly-stale stench of rotten food as she went inside and headed for the
kitchen. She emptied a crinkling pouch of food into Mog’s bowl, and went
upstairs to her room.

It was all too
tempting to climb in between the
bedsheets
. Hide
away, and pretend none of this was happening. She kicked her boots and socks
off and slid in. Pulled the warm covers close, and just sat for a while against
the pillows. She ran the soles of her feet over the bobbly
bedsheet
;
breathed in the fresh smell of good washing powder. The world stretched only as
far as her bedroom walls, safe and familiar and full of her stuff. For a
blissful moment she was hidden away inside comfort; a sunny fluffy world glimpsed
only in ads for fabric softener. But it didn’t change a thing. She took her
pale green eyes from the far wall and glanced out of the window at a bright
blue sky. That new world was still out there, sunny and lethal. Then came that
one sickening thought again; the barbed wire round her heart. There was no one
left who loved her. It was just her now.

She stared
forever at the pattern on her duvet cover, and felt too numb to cry. Working
people with working emotions, they could cry. Like water from a tap, on and off
again. But Tabitha felt broken now. She was a dropped vase, shattered; no more.
All the grief had flooded out of her in one big tide. Now she was just the
pieces of a person. All the tears had dried away. She felt exhausted. A
headache thumped against her skull; probably caffeine withdrawal. She wanted
nothing more than to stay up here in her beautiful house, comfy in her bed, and
wait for everything to go back to normal. But she knew that was just the little
girl coming out in her. She’d done the same thing when her dad died, when her
world had fallen down around her. And hiding under the bed sheets didn’t change
a thing. After weeks and weeks of it, it had taken her mum coming upstairs and
berating her to finally snap her out of it.
I know it’s hard love.
That
was what she’d said.
It’s hard for me too. But life doesn’t stop. We both
need to be strong, and carry on.
Now her mum was gone too. And Emma and
Jen. John as well, probably. Tabitha let the thought sink in, hard and
glass-jagged as it was; she was on her own. All the strength had to come from
her. She could hide away from that new world, or she could survive it. She
could be the victim, or use her new body to fight back. The bed sheets were
paradise though. She didn’t even need to fight, not really. The spiders would
just find her and kill her in her sleep… or she could end her life right now.
There were plenty of sleeping tablets downstairs. She could fall asleep and
never wake up. Easy.

‘I’m not waiting
here to die,’ she told her bedroom, dragging her eyes from the window. She
threw the covers off and pulled her socks and boots back on. ‘I’m not. I’m
not
.’

 

Tabitha clomped back downstairs in her
boots. She called out to her cat and searched the house, but there was still no
sign of him. Sighing, she rummaged around the ruins of her living room for a
pen and paper, and scribbled a note on a lightning-burnt cabinet.

 

Dear
Mog
,

 

I know you can’t read, but writing you a
note makes me feel better. I have to leave, Mog. It’s not safe here
any more
. I wish I could just lock the door and close the
curtains, and we can watch films and snuggle on the couch like we always do.
But the world’s changed now, and it’s dangerous. Thinking about it, you might
not even be alive any more.

 

I need to find other survivors if I’m
going to live through this, so I’m going to look for them. I don’t know if I’ll
be coming back. I’ll try to, if I can. Maybe the army’s winning, somewhere out
there. I don’t know. Please forgive me, Mog. I know you’ll be alright. I love
you, you stupid cat.

 

Tabitha X

 

Tabitha kissed
the note and put it down on the kitchen floor, beside every bit of cat food in
the house. He was a cat; he’d be alright. It was her she had to worry about.
She had to think survival. She felt for the carving knife in her belt, and
cursed when she remembered it was in Jane and Sam’s cellar. She pulled the
other knives from the wooden block and studied them, and tucked a thinner
longer one into her belt. The breadknife and the smaller ones wouldn’t be any
use anyway. Rifling in the kitchen drawers, she pocketed an old crumpled tube
of superglue and some safety pins. Bound to be useful for something. The table
mats and birthday candles, probably less so. And the cigarette lighter for the
oven didn’t work anyway.

She threw a
hoodie on and shoved a hard stale heel of French bread into a pocket. Set about
rummaging through the other drawers for whatever it was people needed for
survival.
Even the word felt daunting; a vague concept. Suddenly a spider burst through
the kitchen window, and Tabitha ran as two more clambered inside. They were
already climbing in through the shattered living room window. They struck out
at her as she dodged past and fumbled frantically with the front door. Another
spider was lurking on the doorstep when she opened it. Tabitha leapt over it
and fell clumsily down the steps, and ran out of the garden as the chattering
horde raced after her on the street. Had they stalked her all the way back from
the lab? She tried to summon up the same electrical energy that had thrown Sam
and Jane across the room. Strained inwardly at a non-existent feeling. There
was nothing there to summon; she may as well have been trying to sneeze at
will. At least the stab wound in her thigh had long since healed. She sprinted
down the road with a fresh energy, a new intensity that the spiders struggled
to keep up with. Her muscles felt like coiled springs. Her heart was a power
plant, launching her on. Boots pounding the tarmac, Tabitha ran with every volt
of power her new body could summon. The silver chattering mass wasn’t at her
heels for long. Every sprinting step pushed the road away behind her; opened up
the gap between them. Instinct gripped her brain and numbed her burning
muscles. One by one, the spiders slowed and gave up the chase. Tabitha felt her
lungs wrenching air, gasping for relief. But she ran on, past dead skins and
crashed cars and shattered belongings on the road out of town. She wasn’t going
to die here in the ruins. She refused.

 

8

 

‘Why are you
doing this?’ Alex screamed. He was a bruised bloody mess, tied to a chair in a
ruined New York office block. Surrounded by filthy grim faces, staring at him
like he was a
freakshow
. Beyond the blown-out
windows, the pale daylight cast a ghostly glow over an ocean of toppled grey
buildings.

‘Why?’ he
repeated. He pushed the words out through broken teeth, slick with silver
blood. He swallowed a milky static gulp of it as more welled in his gums.

‘You were eating
people’s skins!
’ the burly man yelled back, disbelieving. ‘Who the fuck
does that?!’ the small crowd around him nodded and mumbled to one another. Alex
couldn’t hear their words properly. His bloody ears made everything a muffled
mess.

‘It’s not my
fault!’ Alex screamed, spitting blood as he spoke. ‘Everything else I eat, I
throw up! I’m
starving
! Those skins are all I can eat now!’ the crowd
stared, silent. Hanging on the monster’s words. ‘I can’t eat
food
any
more, do you understand?’ he yelled.

Do you think I wanted this? What
else am I supposed to do, starve to death?’

‘I saw a spider
sting him,’ said a woman in the crowd, dust-covered and loudly spoken. ‘He
should be dead.’

‘Yeah, and look
what happens if they don’t kill you,’ the burly man replied to the crowd.
‘Turns you into a god-damn
cannibal
.’ He stared at Alex’s hunched body
in the chair, barely conscious after his appeal. The carpet was a marsh of
silver blood around his feet.

‘This isn’t
right,’ said a young man in the crowd.

‘We’re not
setting him loose,’ said a woman, holding her kids tight. ‘He’ll kill us.’

‘I won’t kill
you,’ Alex mumbled into his chest. ‘Just let me go. Please.’

‘Well we can’t
keep him prisoner,’ an old man chipped in. ‘I mean what do we feed him,
skin
?’

‘…Just let me
go,’ Alex mumbled quietly.

‘What?’ said the
burly man, stepping closer.

‘Let me go!’
Alex yelled, looking up at him with a mangled face. Beaten out of shape.

‘We can’t,’ an
old woman said in the crowd, looking around at everyone. ‘We can’t do that.
He’s too dangerous. Think about our kids.’

‘Can’t believe
you’re pulling the kids card to justify this,’ Alex chuckled, looking up at the
crowd. There was something else there behind his eyes, something dark and
fierce. A new Alex. ‘I’m not going to eat your
kids
,’ he told them.
‘…There’s no meat on them.’ Gasps in the crowd.

‘I say we just
kill him,’ said a young man at the back.

‘We
can’t do
that
,’ someone else replied. A heavy silence, broken by a cough.

‘I can do that,’
said a man, pulling a gun from his pocket. The crowd erupted into moral debate.
Alex strained again at the blue nylon rope that bound his wrists to the chair.
Strained harder. The rope bit into his skin. Harder. His arms trembled with the
effort. The rope stung, rough and cutting. The stem of the office chair cracked
with a metal
ping
; a sound lost in the noisy chatter. The burly man
leading the crowd had his back turned. Some of them saw Alex stagger to his
feet and yelled to warn him, but it was too late. Alex wrapped his tied arms
around the man’s neck, curled a bicep round his throat. The crowd were yelling
and screaming. Alex squeezed the man’s throat with every ounce of rage he had.
His new bloody hunger drove him to bite down hard on the man’s ear, ripping it
away. Red blood coursed down the man’s neck as he screamed. Alex didn’t feel
the crowbar smack against his head at first. It was too hard and heavy and
sudden to register. He felt the second hit though, and felt the office floor
pound against his face when he fell. The kicks that cracked his ribs, he felt
those too. The crowd’s screaming angry voices filled his head; a mind already
at war with itself. He yelled at the hammer blow that shattered his hand. The
knife in his stomach. Screamed as countless hands and feet blocked out the
daylight above him, reaching down to claw the life out of him. Panic bit. He
flailed for life, grasping at nothing. He felt weightless then, light. The
ceiling tiles floated by above his head as the crowd carried him. And suddenly
all the raw horror of the new world fell away as he sailed out of the office
window, twenty storeys high. The mob’s roaring cheer faded away above him;
faces that peered out to watch him fall. He flailed limp in the huge empty
nothing, and heard the rush of air that blew cold against his bloody ears. He
looked beyond the shrinking faces, past the towering building above. There was
only sky, vast and pearly white above him; sliding out of reach as he fell to
the street below.

BOOK: Tabitha
5.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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