Read Tabitha Online

Authors: Andrew Hall

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

Tabitha (36 page)

BOOK: Tabitha
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‘We’ve been in
the attic at Jackie’s house, down the road,’ said Tony, pointing a thumb at Jackie
beside him. ‘We’ve been staying up there after everything kicked off. Anyway,
we heard some shouting yesterday then a car today, so we came out to look.’

‘You must be
hungry,’ said Paul, closing the front door behind them.

‘Starving mate,
absolutely starving,’ said Tony, filling the hallway as he walked through into
the kitchen.

‘Would you like
some beans?’ said Tabitha, trying again with the couple.

‘Cold?’ said
Jackie, puzzled. Tabitha looked at her. What did she expect?

‘So there’s no power
anywhere?’ said Tony, trying the light switch. ‘We didn’t know if it was just
Jackie’s house or what.’

‘It’s the same
all over the country, I’m afraid,’ Paul replied.

‘Why, where have
you come from?’ said Tony.

‘The other end
of it,’ he said brightly.

‘Thanks,’ Jackie
mumbled, looking distinctly unimpressed with the bowls of beans Tabitha put
down on the table for them. Tabitha wasn’t about to go to any more effort than
that for someone who kept staring at her like a freak.

‘We’ll get you some
hot food when we get back to the castle,’ said Paul.

‘You’re up in
the castle?’ said Tony. ‘Why didn’t we think of that?’ he asked Jackie,
spooning cold beans into his mouth. ‘Is it just the two of you?’

‘No, there’s a
few of us,’ said Paul, pouring them a glass of water each from a bottle. ‘We’re
out in town getting some food together, since the spiders seem to have buggered
off.’

‘So they have
gone!’ Tony told Jackie, with a look of victory. ‘I had to drag her out
screaming from that attic, she said they were all still here in town!’

‘Yep, they’ve
gone,’ Paul assured them.

‘Since when
though?’ said Jackie, picking at her meal.

‘Since we kicked
their arse in a fight,’ Tabitha said proudly. She tried to hide her delight as
she watched Jackie eating cold beans.

 

Despite the way they looked at her
sometimes, Tabitha couldn’t fault the new couple’s work ethic. The four of them
scoured half the houses on the street looking for food and supplies, and came
back to the car with eight full bags of food and a toolbox. The others greeted
the new faces warmly where they stood around the car.

‘Welcome to the
gang!’ said Will, shaking Tony’s hand enthusiastically. ‘I’ve seen you round
town before mate, the bodybuilder guy!’

‘Likewise mate,
you’re the dreadlocks guy,’ Tony said with a grin.

‘Where have you
been staying?’ said Jim, stopping to introduce himself before he loaded another
bag of tins into the car boot.

‘Well we’ve not
been living in a bloody castle, put it that way!’ Tony said happily, shaking
Jim’s rough hand. Natalie screamed suddenly around the street corner. Paul came
running. There was a spider on the road, scuttling towards her. Panicking,
Natalie fired her rifle. The shots hit one of the spider’s legs; not enough to
stop it. Before she could shoot again the spider leapt on her, knocking her to
the road. Paul raced in and grabbed the spider, throwing it off her with a
clatter.

‘Get away from
my little girl!’ he roared at it, keeping himself between them. Natalie reached
for her gun on the road and tried to aim around her dad at the hissing spider.
The others came sprinting around the corner then, finding Natalie screaming for
help. Paul yelled and grabbed at the spider’s legs as it leapt at him, and
dropped dead on the road with the creature’s tongue in his heart. Natalie
screamed. Tabitha ripped the spider away from Paul and threw it down on the
road. Hysterical, Natalie shot the spider over and over until it was nothing
but frayed and tattered flesh. Already it had drunk out some of her dad’s
insides, though. The spindly silver corpse leaked a bloody silver-pink soup
from its belly.

‘Oh my god!’
Natalie screamed, dropping down next to her dad’s body. She touched his face
with shaking hands, trying to get him back somehow. Lip trembling, she stared
into his eyes that looked up at the sky. ‘He’s dead!’ she screamed,
disbelieving. She stroked his head and grabbed at his clothes, frantic to pull
him back into the world. The others gathered around, looking on, shell shocked.
But something else caught Tabitha’s eye then, far in the distance. Things
moving, out beyond the town walls. She looked down at Paul and Natalie on the
road, and came closer.

‘Get away from
him!’ Natalie yelled at her, blinded with tears as she held her dad’s lifeless
hand. ‘Get away!’

‘Natalie,’ said
Tabitha, reaching out towards her.


Get away!

Natalie screamed, eyes wild, pointing the rifle at her.

‘Alright,’
Tabitha said gently, putting her hands up. She backed away towards the others
and wiped her tears away. ‘Will,’ she said quietly, nodding at the movement
she’d spotted on the distant hills.

‘Jesus. Look,’
Will told the others, pointing at the fields through the stone arch. He was
holding on to Liv as Natalie aimed her gun at the group. They watched more and
more silver dots appear on the distant hills, reflecting the sunlight. Too many
to count. A faraway droning carried in on the breeze; a deathly insect chitter.
Natalie looked up at the sound and saw the spiders swarming on the hills. Wide
eyes red with tears, she staggered up from the road and kept her rifle aimed at
the others gathered on the street.

‘I’m taking the
car,’ she said, sniffling back her snot. ‘I’m taking my family away from here.’

‘You need to
stay here with us,’ Will said calmly, putting his hands out as she aimed the
rifle at him. ‘Stay here in the castle, and we can keep your family safe.’

‘Safe?’ she
screamed back, looking at her dad’s body on the road. ‘You call this
safe
?’

‘Stop p-pointing
that gun at him!’ Liv yelled, trying to get in front of Will to protect him.

‘You said the
spiders weren’t coming back!’ said Natalie, wiping her nose. ‘You said so! We
trusted you!’

‘I was wrong!’
said Will. ‘I’m sorry!’

‘Sorry doesn’t
bring my dad back!’ Natalie yelled hysterically, raising her rifle. ‘I’m taking
my family! It’s not safe here, I’m taking them away!’ Will watched her, and
chose his words carefully.

‘Natalie, it’s
best if we –

‘If you try to
stop me I’ll kill you!’ Natalie screamed, storming over to aim the gun right in
his terrified face. Tabitha watched Liv watching the gun. Liv was about to do
something stupid to protect Will; she could tell. Jim was too old to be put
through this, and Chris looked like he was about to make a run for it. If any
one of them tried something…

‘Here, take the
car,’ said Tabitha, pulling the keys out of the ignition. ‘Get your family away
from here. We won’t try to stop you.’ She held out the keys for Natalie to see.

‘Throw them
down,’ said Natalie, staring, aiming the rifle at her. Tabitha tossed the keys
down the road to Natalie’s feet. ‘I’m protecting my family,’ said Natalie,
convincing herself. Tabitha nodded. ‘Get away from the car.’

‘We won’t try to
stop you,’ said Tabitha, motioning for everyone to step away. Natalie seemed
torn between her dad’s body and the car. The chattering insect drone was
getting clearer. The crest of a distant hill was turning silver.

‘We need to bury
my dad,’ Natalie told them, panicked and heartbroken.

‘Natalie, we
can’t do that,’ said Will.

‘We need to bury
him!’ she repeated. ‘I buried my mum, so I’m going to bury my dad!’

‘The venom
inside him would kill us,’ Will said, as gently as he could. Liv wiped away a
tear, and held onto Will’s hand.

‘We’ll burn him
then,’ said Natalie, pale and shaking with the shock. ‘I want him to have a

funeral.’

‘That’s fine,’
said Will. ‘We’ll do whatever you want but just please, put the gun down. Trust
us.’

‘I don’t trust
you,’ she replied, her voice nasal with her tears. ‘You said it was safe out
here. I don’t trust any of you. We’re going to give my dad a real funeral. Do
it.’

The group took
as much wood, coal, paper and lighter fluid as they could find from the houses
nearby, and piled it up over Paul’s body on the road. Natalie stood in the
street all the while, aiming her rifle at whoever came close to her dad.

‘She’s insane,’
Chris muttered to Jim, coming out of a house further down the street. ‘This is
what you get for giving guns to people you don’t know.’

‘Shut up Chris,’
said Jim, carting out a broken-up chair. ‘Just do whatever she says, then we
can go home.’

‘We shouldn’t
have come out of the bloody attic,’ Tony whispered to Jackie, carrying a stack
of newspapers up the road.

‘Let’s just go,’
Jackie whispered. ‘Come on, Tony.’

‘No,’ he shot
back. ‘She can see us. It’s not worth it. Just do what she says.’

 

‘Give me the
lighter,’ said Natalie, eyes red-raw with tears. Tabitha tossed hers over.
Natalie stood there with the lit flame blowing in the breeze, staring at the
pile of wood and paper at her feet. She closed her eyes tight and put her hand
on the woodpile, and whispered a few last words to her dad beneath the timber.

‘Bye dad,’
Natalie finished with a sob, setting light to the newspaper stacked around him.
‘I’m sorry that I couldn’t protect you. I’m sorry that I’m burning you in the
middle of the street,’ she said, with a desperate laugh, wiping her tears away.
‘There’s no time to do anything properly these days,’ she told the flames,
watching them catch across the broken-up furniture. ‘I’m going to look after
Grace and Robert,’ she told her dad in the bonfire. ‘I’ll die for them if I
have to. I promise.’

‘I’m sorry,
lass,’ said Jim, stepping forward.

‘Don’t talk to
me,’ Natalie snapped bitterly, watching the flames burn her dad away. ‘This is nothing
to do with you.’ They stood for silent minutes around Paul as the blaze
consumed him, watching Natalie sob and whisper to the flames all the while.
Something caught Tabitha’s eye then, through the heat haze over the fire. A
black figure on the distant moor, stalking through the silver swarm. When she
moved aside to see past the heat haze, it was gone. Natalie walked past the
Ghosts as Jim and Liv wiped their eyes, staring coldly at them as she pulled
the car keys from her pocket.

‘You’re really
letting her take the car?’ said Chris, disbelieving.

‘Yeah,’ Tabitha
replied, watching Natalie climb in and slam the door.

‘Don’t you think
we might
need
it?’ he growled.

‘Not as much as
she does,’ said Tabitha, as Natalie started up the roaring engine and drove
away. Tabitha felt an extra little sadness then, besides her grief for Paul,
watching Natalie drive off in her car. She thought about how far it had brought
her, and watching Laika sleep on the back seat. At least she still had Laika
though, waiting for her back at the castle. And thinking about it, things could
have turned out even worse here on the street. Tabitha breathed a sigh of
relief as Natalie drove off down the road, sure for a moment back then that
Natalie was going to shoot them. She looked around at the others on the
pavement. All of them staring; all of them shell shocked at everything that had
just happened.

‘Well, you’ve
just let her take our escape plan, if we ever needed one,’ Chris snapped. ‘And
it’s looking pretty fucking likely that we do,’ he said, watching the silver
horde massing on the hills.

‘Oh yeah, and
there goes all the f-food we just spent all
d-day
packing!’ Liv chipped in angrily. ‘What the hell were you
th
-thinking,
doing that?’ she demanded. Tabitha looked at her sadly, and said nothing. It
broke her heart to have Liv yelling at her.

‘We can find
more food,’ Jim said calmly. ‘And in case you hadn’t noticed, Tabitha just
stopped us all getting shot.’ Will nodded. Liv looked from Jim to Tabitha, and
her scowl softened.

‘Oh god, I’m
sorry,’ said Liv, walking over to grab Tabitha in a tight hug. ‘I didn’t see it
like that. I’m sorry.’

‘Well, it’s not
all bad then I suppose, if you put it like that,’ said Chris. ‘Now can we start
walking back to the castle before all those
big alien spiders
get here?’

 

By the time they’d walked back to the
hill leading up to the castle, they’d heard all the details of a shouting match
between Natalie and Sylvia inside the walls. Sylvia was nothing to do with
Natalie’s family, from the sounds of the argument, and Natalie was taking the
twins and leaving. After the slam of a car door the Ghosts saw Natalie racing
down the driveway, with the twins watching them in panic from the back seat. The
car roared off down through town, disappeared out of the stone arch, and sped
off down the country road towards the distant motorway. And just like that,
half of their new family was gone. Once the Ghosts got back into the courtyard
they found Sylvia hurriedly tucking a tissue away in her cardigan pocket.

BOOK: Tabitha
13.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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