Read Tabitha Online

Authors: Andrew Hall

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

Tabitha (34 page)

BOOK: Tabitha
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‘They’ve stopped
climbing up over here!’ Natalie shouted, looking down over the wall.

‘Right!’ Will
called back. ‘Paul, how’s your ammo?’

‘Almost out, I
think,’ he said.

‘Right, Natalie!
Come up here please!’ Will called down the wall. She came running.

‘Natalie, help
your dad keep them away from the gate,’ Will told her. Natalie nodded and ran
over to be with her dad. Paul watched his daughter lean over fiercely and shoot
a spider climbing the wall, looking for all the world like a trained soldier in
combat. He felt insanely proud of her, and insanely worried for her in equal
measure.

‘Dad!’ said
Natalie, snapping him out of it. ‘Let’s give it to them!’ Paul nodded and leant
over the wall beside her, and shot another spider edging up the grass on the
hill.

‘Badass,’ said
Natalie with a smile, giving her dad a nudge.

‘They’re on the
run!’ Jim shouted. ‘Look!’ the dozen or so remaining spiders were scuttling
away down the hill and onto the field below, heading back towards town. Cheers
echoed across the walls. Tabitha finished off one that Natalie shot, and
staggered breathlessly away from the gate. She sat down in the courtyard,
unclipping her leg guard for a better look at her wound.

‘How is it?’
said Paul, looking at the silver blood streaming down her boot. Natalie was
staring.

‘Fine, thanks,’
Tabitha replied, wincing as she pushed the skin together on either side of the slice.
‘Claw got in between my leg guards. It’s alright, it’s closing up.’

‘You’re handy
with a spear,’ Paul told her. ‘Terrifying, actually.’

‘Thanks,’
Tabitha laughed, hobbling to her feet again. ‘I never knew I was a spear kind
of girl. So, do you still not like holding a gun?’ Paul smiled and held his
rifle tight.

‘Hey, if it
keeps my family safe, I’ll stand there by that gate all day and all night with
this gun in my hands.’

‘We’ll take it
in shifts,’ Natalie added, hugging him tight. They turned at the sound of
cheering along the wall, as the Ghosts watched the last spiders limping away
into town.

 

The rest of the day passed on a high;
the warm sunlight and the singing birds had never felt sweeter. Nothing
amplified life like knowing they were still around to enjoy it.

‘Is anyone else
really hungry?’ said Natalie, picking at the grass in the garden where they all
sat in the sun.

‘Starving,
actually,’ said Paul, watching the twins chasing a butterfly along the path.
‘Why don’t we see what we’ve got to eat?’

‘I’ll give you a
hand,’ said Chris, getting up off the grass with Paul and Natalie.

‘That’s a
first,’ said Jim. He looked at Liv. It wasn’t like Chris to volunteer his help,
ever. He had been looking at Natalie a lot though.

‘Chris,’ Liv
called to him, waving him back over. She waited for Paul and Natalie to
disappear into the keep. ‘I don’t think Natalie’s interested in you,’ Liv told
him. Chris glared at her, and said nothing as he turned and walked off towards
the keep.

‘Hey, whatever
motivates him to help out in the kitchen,’ said Will. ‘I don’t think Chris has
ever helped to make a meal before.’

‘Bit of grub
wouldn’t go amiss, whatever slop he ends up making,’ said Jim, rubbing his
rumbling stomach.

‘I think I’ll
get something to eat too. Or drink. Whatever you want to call it,’ said
Tabitha, getting to her feet. ‘I’ll be outside the walls for a bit, ok?’

‘No worries,’
said Will. ‘Just give us a shout if anything happens.’ Tabitha nodded and
walked off for the gate.

‘I know one
th
-thing though,’ Liv said quietly, sitting back on the
grass. ‘Chris is going to be stirring some shit about T-Tabitha while he’s in
there.’

‘Probably,’ said
Will, lying down in the sunshine. ‘But that’s freedom of speech. It’s a free
castle. We’re not going to start policing people’s opinions.’

‘I just don’t
want any of the n-new folks to take her the wrong way,’ Liv muttered, watching
the sparrows. ‘Especially Sylvia.’

‘Everyone takes
everyone in their own way,’ said Will, watching the clouds. ‘Tabitha’s
different. People are bound to talk about that. But we need to trust people to
make up their own minds about her. About all of us.’

‘Wisdom Will,
that’s what I’m going to call you,’ said Jim, lying back on the grass for a
snooze. ‘Someone give me a nudge when Chris brings my food out. I’ve been
waiting for him to cook us something for a long time.’

‘Just smell it
for poison before anyone eats it,’ said Liv. Will chuckled, and sneezed at the
bright blue sky. Liv watched him smiling, squinting at the sunlight; oblivious
to her. So what was going on with him and Tabitha? She’d never seen them
together, they never talked about one another… were they having problems
already? Or had she just gotten the wrong end of the stick the other day? Had
she imagined the whole thing and nothing was going on at all? The more she
puzzled over it, the more muddled it became. She’d have to ask Tabitha
straight, when she could get her alone. Maybe there was no Will and Tabitha any
more, or maybe there never had been. She could try for Will’s attention now,
though she’d tried and failed so many times before. She looked away from him
sadly and watched a bumblebee browsing the flowers by the keep. Sparrows
fluttered down on the far edge of the grass, hopping between the bushes. Liv
stared into nothing, lost in thought. All that rage and all that violence up on
the wall, and now everything was back to the same bright
sunbleached
silence. All was right with the world again, empty and lethal as it was. Maybe
it was a world that she’d just have to face on her own.

 

Tabitha made her way down the stone
steps outside the gate, winding her way down the hill onto the field. It was a
bright afternoon, with a hot sun and a cool breeze. The spiders piled by the
walls were too close; she wanted the walk.

A lone dead spider
out on the field dazzled her in the light, reflecting the sun. She ripped a leg
off it and sucked the blood from the meat; cold and fresh like electric double
cream. She looked back at the castle, and out at the town beyond the park
gates. Thinking.

She saw no sign
of spiders around in town, as she made her way downhill and round a bend in the
road towards the dead shops. Birds filled the silence with cheeps and songs,
the only sounds in the world. From the top of the high street she had a good
view of the stone archway where she’d first come into town, and the fields
beyond too. There was a line of dots there, moving across the fields, catching
the sunlight. The silver spiders, marching off into the countryside. From here
they looked no bigger than mites.

‘They’re
leaving,’ she mumbled to herself, staring in disbelief.

Prowling a row
of terraced houses, Tabitha booted a front door open and whipped her assault
rifle round from the strap on her back. There was a musty smell as she crept
through the hallway, like a charity shop. She tried her best to ignore the
sound of buzzing flies upstairs, and headed into the kitchen. The cupboards
were filled with tins. Taking two big shopping bags from a cupboard, she filled
them with whatever she could find – spaghetti, gravy granules, soup, beans. The
next house had empty cupboards, and the one after that. It seemed like a lot of
people had tried to just pack up and leave. Another house down the street was a
jackpot though. Easily enough tins to keep them all going for a week or more,
if they were sparing with their meals. On her way to her third house, Tabitha
stopped and picked up an MP3 player off the street. She wriggled an earbud in
and tried to switch it on. It didn’t work.

‘Obviously,’ she
sighed, tugging the earbud out. She tossed the music player across the street
with an expensive clatter, and mumbled the song she’d most wanted to hear on
it.

 

By late afternoon Tabitha came traipsing
back across the field towards the castle with two full shopping bags. Her arms
ached with the weight as she climbed the steps. It was only when she saw the
spider corpses littered around the walls that she remembered how hungry she
was. She set her bags down for a second, and tore into the nearest spider curled
up on the steps. One taste of its cold blood made her gasp, desperate for more.
She ripped at the white flesh and shoved her face into the hole, lapping and
sucking at the silver blood that pooled inside. Swallowing it gave her tingles
down her spine. The world looked sharper, more vivid when she looked up. The
sky was water-blue. And Chris was standing there above her on the wall, looking
down at her. He didn’t say anything; he didn’t have to. She could see the
revulsion on his face. He just stared at her, as if catching her feeding was
accusation enough.

‘What are you up
to?’ said Liv, coming up beside him. ‘Hi!’ she said, looking down to see
Tabitha below. ‘You’ve been gone ages, we were getting worried.’

‘I found food,’
Tabitha replied, wiping the spider’s blood from her chin.

‘Bloody hell,
nice work!’ said Liv. ‘I’ll give you a hand with the b-bags!’

‘So you’re just
going to pretend you didn’t see that?’ Chris muttered to her quietly, turning
away from the wall. Liv glared at him.

‘See what?
T-Tabitha eating?’ she said.

‘You’re acting
like it’s normal,’ he said quietly. ‘Her ripping into those
things
. Like
an animal. It’s fucked up.’

‘She’s doing
what she n-needs to stay alive,’ Liv shot back, waving away a fly. ‘We all are.
It’s s-survival, like you said, remember? And you’re the only one here who’s
making it into a problem.’

‘It’s not just
me who’s got a problem with it,’ he replied. ‘Ask Sylvia.’

‘No need,’ said
Liv. ‘I’m sure you’ve already p-poured all your opinions into her ear, you
slimy little shit.’ Chris glared angrily, and watched her go. ‘Keep stirring,’
Liv called back over her shoulder. Chris bit back his words, and walked off
down the wall.

 

‘Wow,’ said
Will, setting out Tabitha’s tins and jars on the table. Everyone had gathered
round to look at the haul, chatting excitedly about what was on the menu. ‘And
you didn’t run into
any
spiders in all that time?’

‘Well that’s
just it,’ said Tabitha, rubbing Laika’s side. ‘They’ve gone.’

‘Gone?’ said
Jim, looking up from the tin of peas he’d been admiring. The room fell quiet.

‘I saw them on
the fields,’ she said, suddenly awkward in the silence. ‘They were marching off
in a line.’

‘Get in!’ Will
shouted, slamming his fist on the table. Everyone jumped. ‘We’ve won!’ he told
the room. ‘We’ve got the town back!’

‘We don’t know
that,’ Sylvia chipped in. ‘They may be coming back with more.’ She had a point,
thought Tabitha, though she didn’t want to say she agreed. She didn’t want to
give Sylvia the satisfaction. Robert glanced around and took a chocolate bar
off the table while no one was looking.

‘You mean like
reinforcements?’ said Paul. ‘But they’re
spiders
, they wouldn’t think
like that.’ He looked around for someone to agree. Desperately hoping.

‘Exactly!’ said
Will, filled with a new energy. ‘They already swarmed on us, and we beat them!
I mean come on, they’re animals,’ he told the room. ‘Animals understand two
things. Hunger, and threat. If they’re leaving, I don’t think they’re coming
back.’ The room erupted into chatter again.

‘I can’t
b-believe it,’ said Liv, grinning.

‘Believe it,’
Will replied, giving her a hug.

‘I can’t,’ she
said playfully, her voice muffled in his jumper.

‘You have to,’
he insisted, resting his chin on her head while they embraced. When she hugged
him tighter Will felt butterflies in his stomach. Maybe he was finally ready to
move on from losing Anna and let himself get close to Liv. God knew, he’d
wanted to. He just didn’t want to go trampling all over Anna’s memory in the
process. When Liv glanced at Tabitha to gauge her reaction to their hug, she
was even more confused. Tabitha was smiling at her.

‘We can go out
and get all the food in town,’ Natalie said excitedly, thinking about tinned
hot dogs. She hadn’t seen any on the table. She’d dreamt about hot dogs some
nights, when her gnawing hunger finally gave way to sleep.

‘I can get back
to my house,’ said Jim, thinking about his allotment and Mary’s photographs.

‘And look for
survivors,’ Will chipped in, releasing Liv from their hug. Chris chuckled at
that.

‘I don’t think
there’s going to be any survivors, somehow,’ said Chris, appealing to the room.

‘Do you know
that?’ Will shot back.

‘Well no, but –

‘So don’t write
off people’s lives like that if you don’t know,’ Will snapped.

‘Alright, fine,’
Chris said defensively, throwing his hands up. He turned his attention back to
the food on the table.

‘When are we
going?’ said Natalie.

BOOK: Tabitha
4.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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