Read Tabitha Online

Authors: Andrew Hall

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

Tabitha (38 page)

BOOK: Tabitha
7.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

‘One day, we’re
all going to die,’ she told them, taking up one of the spears Liv had put by
the wall. ‘All we get to choose is whether to face it, or to be afraid of it.’
Jim coughed. Chris shifted uneasily where he stood.

‘What matters is
how we live, and how we’re remembered,’ she told them. ‘When death comes for us
we can face it in fear, begging on our knees. Or we can look it in the eye and
go out fighting. We can be remembered as heroes, if we want to be. We can die
legends. A great man told me that once. And he’s standing right there.’
Everyone looked at Will. He was surprised by the sudden attention. Liv smiled
at him, and took his hand in hers.

‘There was another
man who called someone out for a fist fight in the middle of the night, because
he wouldn’t stand for threats. He knew there was a line that you just don’t
cross, and there are things worth standing up and fighting for. And he’s
standing there.’ The others looked at Jim as Tabitha nodded to him.

‘No hard
feelings Chris,’ said Jim, looking around at their smiling faces.

‘There’s a woman
standing here too, who walked out on her own into a town full of spiders to
lead me up here to safety. Armed with nothing but a shotgun and the biggest
pair of balls I’ve ever seen.’ Liv laughed. ‘She’s a force of nature, and she
fights like one too,’ Tabitha told the group. ‘And now I’m proud to say that
she’s my sister.’

‘Oh you,’ said
Liv, grinning.

‘And I’ll be
completely honest, there are two people here that I don’t like, and they don’t
like me,’ said Tabitha, looking at Chris and Sylvia. ‘But I don’t doubt that
they’ll fight for their home to their last breaths. I’m sorry Chris for
accusing you, and for pushing you off the wall.’

‘…
S’alright
,’ Chris grunted, in a rare show of grace. Whether
it was grace inspired by mortal terror, Tabitha couldn’t be sure. Sylvia just
glared at her, and said nothing.

‘And there are
two new faces here who’ve had a baptism of fire, and they wish they’d stayed in
their attic away from all this,’ Tabitha continued.

‘Yeah, we do,’
said Jackie, eyes wide with fear.

‘But when was
the last time you ate before today?’ said Tabitha.

‘A week ago, or
more,’ Tony admitted. He looked at Jackie to agree. ‘…So yeah, we would have
starved to death eventually,’ he said.

‘And that’s why
we’re up here in this castle,’ Tabitha told the group. ‘To keep people safe and
look after each other, and give each other hope. That’s
civilisation
.
Here inside these walls, this
is
civilisation. And take it from me, this
place is worth fighting for! These walls are worth fighting for!’ she banged
the end of her spear down on the stones at her feet. ‘I’ve seen places all over
where civilisation is
dead!’
she told them. ‘In all that time, I’ve
never seen a place like this. I’ve seen gangs and wild dogs out there, prowling
for victims. I’ve seen starving people who are going to turn cannibal just to
feed their kids, even if they survive the spiders. That’s what’s left of civilisation
outside these walls, but we’re safe here! This is our home! And
nothing
threatens my home and the people I love. Not while I’ve got a breath left in my
body to fight for them!’

‘Hell yeah!’
said Liv. Tabitha didn’t get the resounding cheer she’d been hoping for, but
there were definitely some positive-sounding grunts and mumbles. It was a
start.

‘If you fight as
much as you talk, we should be alright,’ Chris said sarcastically.

‘Well any time
you want to put all that charisma to good use with a rousing speech, feel
free,’ she replied, pushing past him as she headed for the centre of the wall.

‘Tabitha’s
right,’ said Will, coming forward. He took the other spear from the wall. ‘The
first day I got up here, I saw things clearly,’ he told the others. ‘We’ve been
fighting a war ever since those things appeared. And yeah, they’ve been
destroying us,’ he said. The group watched him silently.

‘But we only
lose if we give up hope,’ he said. ‘We can die, but the fight carries on. As
long as people believe the cause is worth fighting for.’ Liv smiled. ‘I’ve had
this idea in my head, ever since I got here,’ Will told them. ‘I wanted to take
people in and help them, and start a tribe. All the survivors without families,
hiding away out there afraid for their lives – they could come here. We’d look
after them. Train them to fight. We’d get strong enough to take those things
on, and fight back for our homes.’ The group watched him silently, hanging on
his words. ‘We could get scattered to the four corners of the Earth today, but
I’ll tell you what: we’ll take that fighting spirit with us, wherever we end
up. That tribe spirit. It’s an
idea.
It’s like Tabitha said, you can’t
kill an idea. We’re the first Ghosts. And Ghosts don’t die. They just go out
fighting.’ Jim nodded. ‘We didn’t choose this fight, but we can choose how it
ends,’ Will told them. ‘And I’d sooner die fighting today, than spend the rest
of my life running away and hiding from them like a fucking rat!’ Liv cheered.
‘I’d sooner die today with a spear in my hand, hacking those fuckers apart and
covered in silver blood! With you lot, my tribe, fighting with me!’ Tabitha
grinned. ‘This is a shit world to live in!’ said Will. ‘I’m going to build a
better one, or I’m going to die trying! Are you with me?’

‘Yeah!’ Liv
shouted out. Sylvia was listening; even Tony was looking ready for a fight.

‘I’m not waiting
to die, I’m going out fighting today!’ Will yelled across the walls. ‘I want to
rain down all fucking hell on those things for everyone and everything they’ve
taken away from us! I said are you with me?’

‘Yeah!’ the
others echoed.

‘Well let’s give
them a fucking war then!’ he shouted over the walls. ‘Everyone get a rifle,
let’s do this!’ the group busied themselves grabbing weapons from the wall.
Beyond the hill, the spiders crept ever closer through town.

‘We’ve got a
problem,’ Chris told Will. ‘You lot have got riot armour on, in case you hadn’t
noticed. The other half of us aren’t going to last very long when the spiders
get up on the wall. These aren’t going to stop us getting stabbed.’ He looked
down at his bulletproof vest, salvaged from the dead soldiers on the moors.

‘I want you guys
close to the keep then,’ said Will. ‘If the spiders start getting over, I want
you inside there and up on top of the keep to give us covering fire.
Understood?’

‘Yeah,’ said
Tony, putting his arm around Jackie. Chris couldn’t agree fast enough, given
the chance to be up inside the keep.

‘Right
everyone,’ said Will. ‘Take a bayonet each and two grenades. Two each. None of
us know how to use these properly, but the idea’s pretty simple. And we’re damn
well going to use them anyway.’ The group dipped into each box in turn, walking
away with weapons of war in their clammy hands.

‘I’ll tell you
when to drop a grenade over the wall,’ he said. ‘I’ll tell you when to fix on
your bayonet.’

‘And what if
you’re not around
any more
?’ said Chris.

‘You do it
then,’ said Will, watching Chris look uneasy all of a sudden.

‘They’re on the
field!’ said Liv, watching the spiders approach the hill.

‘Right, Tabitha,
get on the gate please!’ said Will. ‘The rest of you, spread out along the
wall!’ Tabitha jumped down to the gate and picked her gap between the barricade,
giving her spear a couple of practice stabs through the bars. Reluctantly,
Chris came over and stood on the end of the wall close by, to be closest to the
door of the keep.

‘If you let them
get in, I’ll kill you,’ he told her.

‘They’re not
getting in,’ she replied. ‘But I would love to see you try.’ He fell silent for
a moment, watching the silver mass creeping over the field to surround the
castle.

‘Are you using
that?’ he said, nodding at Tabitha’s riot helmet on the cobbles.

‘No. I can’t
fight with it on. Take it,’ she said, passing it up to him. He’d be less
inclined to talk with that visor down anyway. Chris said nothing as he took it.

‘Very gallant of
you, Christopher, to take that for yourself,’ Sylvia remarked further down the
wall, watching him put the helmet on. ‘I’m fine without it, but thank you for
offering.’

‘Age of
equality,’ Chris said with a shrug. ‘Every man and woman for
themself
. But that’s probably still quite a new idea to
someone your age.’ Sylvia glared at him, and turned her attentions back over
the wall.

‘They’re
coming!’ said Liv, the wind whipping at her hair. There was a chittering chaos
on the field as the spiders came scuttling up the hill. They’d reached the
stone steps winding up to the castle.

‘Come on then!’
Will yelled at them from the walls, raising his spear. ‘I’m going to cut your
fucking hearts out and eat them raw! Come and see what monsters look like!
Come
on!
’ when the first spider made it to the top of the steps Tabitha roared
and speared it through the gate in a burst of silver blood. Chris took one that
climbed the wall beside him, slamming his shield up against the spider’s
shooting tongue. Panicking, he buried his bayonet in its mouth and twisted the
blade, driving it in deep. He felt something crack inside the spider’s head,
and it tumbled back off the wall to crash down on the steps. Tabitha skewered
another and tore its silver skin apart as she wrenched the spear out. Will
charged past Liv to spear one that made it right up the wall; Liv leaned over a
gap between the parapets and shot another climber in the head.

 

The fight was gruelling; never-ending.
At least the barricades worked, though. Most of the spiders were clustering at
the foot of the castle, falling over one another like maggots to get a foothold
on the wall. The chattering tide crashed against the stones, and piled up
against the wall in a swelling mound.

‘Jim! Drop a
grenade there, straight down!’ said Will, watching as the spiders massed
against the wall below. Jim watched Will carefully and held the grenade out in
front of him, holding it gentle and nervous like he’d caught a bird. Jim pulled
the pin out and dropped the grenade straight down over the wall.

‘Cover your
ears!’ Will shouted out. They ducked down by the wall. A couple of seconds
later there came a loud vicious crack. Looking over the wall the explosion had
scattered the spiders, mangling half of the cluster and throwing the rest down
the hill.

‘Good work Jim,
open fire!’ said Will, aiming a rifle shot over the wall. ‘Give it to them!’
Jim pulled the rifle from his back and plugged another climber, watching it
drop back and crash down on the rocks below.

When Tabitha
skewered her next one through the bars and pulled her spear back, a living
chunk of spider came with it and dropped on the courtyard.

‘Jesus!’ said
Chris, aiming his rifle in terror at the flailing limb.

‘What’s wrong
with you?’ said Tabitha, stamping it to death on the cobbles. Chris watched in
horror as she picked it up, cracked the armour like a lobster shell and gulped
the stream of silver blood that came gushing out. He just stared at her.

‘What? I’m
hungry,’ she told him, wiping the blood off her chin. It slipped down better
than wine, cold and fresh and heady. When she picked up her spear again, she found
Chris still staring at her. ‘Chris? The spiders?’

‘Yeah,’ he
replied, turning his attentions back to the wall. ‘Shit!’ Chris jerked his
shield up and blocked a tongue that came whipping up over the wall, knocking
him down on his back. Sylvia turned and shot the spider out of the air as it
leapt up onto the wall. It hit the top of the wall dead and tumbled back down
with a crash.

‘Jesus Christ,
you can shoot!’ said Chris, struggling to his feet.

‘I’m a country
girl. I’ve been shooting since I was a child,’ Sylvia replied, plugging another
spider that clawed its way up the battlements.

‘Why didn’t you
say so?’ said Chris, shooting another that was scaling the wall.

‘Because
everyone treated me like the babysitter, and never bothered to bloody well ask
me,’ she replied.

 

‘Tony! Grenade,
straight down mate!’ said Will, looking over the wall. He mimed pulling the pin
out, and watched Tony do the same. ‘Straight down!’ Tony leaned over and let
the grenade tumble down into the silver swarm massing below. He and Will put
his hands over their ears, and nudged Jackie to follow suit. A sharp sudden
blast, and then Will was shouting to them to get back to firing their rifles.
Further along Liv leant over the wall and buried her fire axe in another
spider, as it struggled to find its final foothold in the stonework. She pulled
the axe back out with a spurt of silver blood, and saw Will running up to her.
He grabbed her and kissed her fiercely.

‘I like you with
an axe,’ he said, grinning. ‘How’s it going?’

‘Hard,’ she
said, dropping her axe to shoot another spider that was edging over the wall.

‘Someone
regretting the “gigantic fire axe” option?’ said Will.

BOOK: Tabitha
7.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

SmokingHot by Anne Marsh
The Darkest Whisper by Gena Showalter
A Breath of Frost by Alyxandra Harvey
The Bat Tattoo by Russell Hoban
Down Outback Roads by Alissa Callen
Dark Veil by Mason Sabre
Desired by Nicola Cornick
Afterwife by Polly Williams