Read Tabitha Online

Authors: Andrew Hall

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

Tabitha (39 page)

BOOK: Tabitha
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‘Piss off,’ she
said, smiling.

‘Help!’ Jim
shouted, fumbling to fit the bayonet to his rifle. Will saw silver legs on the
wall beside him, tapping and climbing over the top.

‘Watch yourself
Jim!’ said Will, sprinting down the wall with his spear held like a long-jump
pole. As the spider emerged over the parapet Will ran the spear into it with a
crashing stab, and tossed its gushing body off the wall.

‘On your left!’
said Jim. Will turned and speared another, failing to stab through the armour
but still giving it a good push off the wall. ‘There’s too many!’ said Jim
breathlessly. ‘They just keep coming!’

‘Use your other
grenade mate, I’ll stay here with you,’ said Will.

‘Right,’ said
Jim, pulling the grenade from his pocket. Will jabbed another spider, and
skewered a second. Jim turned and tossed his grenade over the wall.

‘Down!’ said
Will. They crouched down, hands on ears, waiting. Nothing happened.

‘…Did you pull
the pin out mate?’ said Will.

‘What?’ said
Jim, taking his hands off his ears.

‘Did you pull
the pin out?’

‘…Shit.’

‘Well, hopefully
twice the bang then,’ said Will, pulling a pin from one of his own grenades and
dropping it over the wall. ‘This is my new favourite sound,’ he told Jim
gleefully, clamping his hands over his ears for the violent boom that followed.
‘Now that’s just beautiful,’ he said, as they looked over the wall at the
bloody silver carnage below.

‘Must be at
least twenty we got then,’ said Jim, studying the twitching pieces of spider
beneath the wall.

‘I’ll be
dreaming about this tonight,’ said Will, spitting over the wall at their
bodies.

 

Tabitha buried her spear in another spider
reaching through the gate bars, releasing a slick silver gush as she tore it
back out again. She blinked away from a spurt of silver blood that dappled her
face. Already the dead spiders were piling up at the gates, with more
scrambling over them to reach inside.

‘I can do this
all day!’ she yelled past the barricade, as the crush of spiders crowded
against the creaking gates. Another spat its tongue through the barricade at
her, slamming its spike against her riot gear. She replied with a savage thrust
and killed it instantly, and licked the blood on her spear when she pulled it
back through.

‘You’re a
freak,’ Chris told her, shooting another that climbed the wall.

‘So you keep
saying,’ Tabitha replied. ‘Let me know when you get past a hundred kills though,
won’t you?’

‘You’ve not
killed a hundred,’ he said angrily.

‘Count the
bodies,’ she replied, nodding at the dismembered mess scrambling around at the
gates.

‘You’re messed
up,’ he said, plugging two shots at another spider that crawled up the wall.

‘Alright, so I’m
a freak,’ she said, stabbing another through the bars. ‘But at least I’m good
at it. You’re the worst shot I’ve ever seen.’ Chris looked pissed off, and went
back to defending the wall without another word. Tabitha glanced up at him between
kills. She liked seeing Chris pissed off.

 

‘Come on, let
the bastards have it!’ Will shouted across the wall. The sea of silver swelled
and swarmed on the hill below. ‘I want them shaking and shitting themselves by
the time they get to these walls, and I want them to see that we never,
never
give up!’ he yelled. ‘This is going to be the day they find out that we’re the
ones to be afraid of!’ the others cheered across the wall.

‘Look!’ said
Jackie, waving Will and Tony over. There beyond the sea of spiders they saw a
tall dark figure. It didn’t move like a human.

‘What is it?’
said Tony, watching it in terror.

‘Another kind of
alien? The one Tabitha mentioned?’ said Will. He checked that the wall below
was clear of spiders, and tried to get a better look down the scope of
Tabitha’s hunting rifle. The figure was just standing there, out beyond the
field of spiders. Watching.

‘More
importantly, can we hurt it?’ said Sylvia, coming over. ‘May I?’ she took the
rifle from Will, leant it on the wall and took her aim. The hunting rifle
cracked. ‘Ha!’ she exclaimed, handing the rifle back.

‘She hit it!’
Will laughed, as the distant watcher escaped back into town.

‘Right between
the legs,’ Sylvia added. ‘William. May I take one of the shotguns?’

‘Take whichever
you like,’ he said happily, picking them up from the wall for her to choose
between.

‘May as well go
out in a hail of bullets,’ she said, taking her shotgun back to her place on
the wall.

‘Hear
hear
,’ said Will happily. ‘Right Jackie, let’s get you
dropping some grenades.’

‘No, I don’t
want to,’ she said nervously, edging closer to Tony.

‘So you’ve tried
it before?’ said Will, smiling. ‘You didn’t like it?’

‘No of course
I’ve not done it before,’ she said, affronted.

‘Then how can
you know you won’t like it?’ Will said with a grin.

‘First time for
everything love,’ said Tony, holding out her hand and putting his second
grenade in her palm. Jackie looked at it, terrified. A sudden roar cut through
the drone of the swarm then, echoing from the town.

‘What the bloody
hell was that?’ said Tony, watching the town beyond the field.

‘Sylvia, I think
you upset our new alien friend with that shot,’ said Will.

‘Good,’ Sylvia
called back, blasting another spider with her shotgun as it edged up the wall.
There was another roar then, and the sea of spiders suddenly surged towards the
middle of the wall. What started as a wild scramble became rabid but orderly; a
total change in their behaviour. The swarm was forming ranks. They were being
directed.

‘They’re
climbing on
t-top
of each other!’ Liv yelled,
shooting desperately at the sudden flux of spiders clambering up the wall below
her.

‘Everyone, over
here!’ Will yelled, running over to be with Liv. The spiders piled up into a
single tumbling mass below them; a writhing silver hill that swelled and grew
against the castle wall.

‘Someone give me
a grenade!’ yelled Will, as the others opened fire on the growing mass. Jackie
put one in his hand, glad to be without it. Will pulled the pin and prayed to
god, and dropped it over the side. ‘Everyone down, cover your ears!’ he yelled.
There was an echoing boom through the park. The top of the swarming hill burst
apart like a living firework, scattering spiders high over the field below.

‘Another!’
yelled Will, watching the mass regrow rapidly towards the top of the wall.

‘Grenades,
everyone!’ Will shouted desperately. ‘Any you’ve got left!’ one after another
the Ghosts pulled the pins on their grenades and let them tumble down into the
swarm. With every booming crack, the massing spiders tumbled and clattered down
off one another with a sound like a truckload of scrap. The field became
littered with their dead shapes, and a rain of silver blood splashed down on
the rocks and grass below. But still the swarm kept swelling and climbing,
edging its way relentlessly towards the top.

‘I’m out of
bullets!’ said Jim, as the others fired uselessly on the mound.

‘They’re going
to come over! Tabitha, get over here!’ yelled Will. ‘Shields up! Everyone
without riot gear, get inside! Now!’ the first spider came clawing over the top
of the wall as Chris, Sylvia, Jackie and Tony ran for the keep. Will yelled at
the spider and speared it through, with barely enough time to pull the spear
out again before more of them climbed over. Tabitha ran up onto the wall and
remembered something then, as she felt the wind tossing her hair.

‘Chris, throw my
helmet back! Chris!’ she yelled. But he was already running in through the
door. Tabitha turned around and saw spiders come clattering over the wall,
crashing down around her in a frenzy. She buried her spear in the first spider
that scuttled towards her. The second took her spear with it as it fell
shrieking from the wall, the wooden pole slipping clean out of her slick bloody
hands. More spiders were smashing against the others’ riot shields, pushing
them back down the wall towards Tabitha and the keep.

‘Tabitha!’ Liv
screamed, hacking at the mass of spiders with her axe as they spread out over
the wall.

‘We need to get
back into the keep!’ Will shouted to Liv, putting the clear visor down on her
helmet. He
bashed
his shield into a spider as it spat
its stabbing tongue at them, and Liv buried her axe down in its head with a
crunching squelch. Tabitha came running along the wall to help them as they
backed away. A spider grabbed out at Jim’s legs and tripped him, and jabbed a
needled claw into the sole of his boot. He screamed and pulled the claw away,
kicking the spider back.

‘Jim!’ Liv
yelled, hacking the spider to pieces to give Jim chance to get away.

‘It got my
foot!’ Jim screamed. ‘Jesus Christ, it’s burning!’ Jim collapsed down in agony.
It was a metal-tasting fire inside him, searing his leg like a red-hot poker
through the heel. He was screaming, hysterical with the pain. Will dropped his
spear and shield and grabbed Jim under the arms, dragging him away down the
wall towards the keep. Liv held the spiders back for them, driving her axe down
into another that edged too close.

‘Go and help
Jim!’ said Tabitha, running past Liv to tackle the spiders head-on.

‘Keep them off
us, and follow us into the keep!’ said Liv. She passed Tabitha the fire axe and
ran to help Will. ‘Stay close behind us!’ Liv called back. Tabitha watched them
dragging Jim along the wall towards the keep, flailing and screaming with the
pain. It was just her and the tide of spiders, then. She felt the weight of the
axe and shield in her hands, ready to swing as one crawled closer. A rifle
cracked, and the scuttling spider dropped dead. More spiders burst and fell down
behind it. Tabitha saw Chris and the others standing on top of the keep,
opening fire on the horde.

‘Move!’ Chris
yelled down to her. Suddenly there was a distant rumbling sound, high and thin
over the scuttling racket of the horde. Tabitha turned to see a dot in the sky,
growing larger and louder by the second. A fighter jet. As it passed overhead
something dropped from its belly. As soon as Tabitha realised what the falling
shape was, she ran. The towering mass of spiders exploded with a deafening boom
behind her, blowing the mound of spiders apart and raining them down over the
field in their hundreds. Tabitha lay face-down on top of the wall, surrounded
by a giant dust cloud like a dry choking fog. She heard nothing but a high
ringing in her ears as she sat up; a shrill droning racket. It masked the sound
of the few surviving spiders scuttling along the wall towards her.

‘Tabitha!’ came
a muffled scream, like it was underwater. ‘Tabitha!’ dazed, she looked over at
the screaming figures through the dust. Will and Liv had lain Jim down in the
courtyard, unsure whether to get him inside or to come back for her.

‘Go!’ said
Tabitha, waving them on, choking on dust. Even her own voice sounded a hundred
miles away. She picked up the riot shield and the fire axe where she’d dropped
them, and saw a spider come scuttling suddenly out of the foggy dust towards
her.

She barely
managed to block its stabbing tongue with the shield, staggering back as it
swiped its claws at her feet.

‘Come on!’ she
growled, waiting for it to come in again. When it pounced she bashed the shield
into it to floor it, and buried the axe in its head with a bloody squelch.

‘I can’t see
anything down there!’ came Chris’s voice through the dustcloud, up on top of
the keep.

‘Don’t shoot!’
Sylvia called back. ‘There’s no use wasting bullets if we can’t see!’ down on
the wall, Tabitha adjusted the shield against her arm. Two more spiders crept
towards her out of the dust. More followed behind them; Tabitha reached for her
hunting knife. As soon as she heard barking though, she froze up. Laika had
gotten outside.

‘Laika, come
here!’ Liv screamed, as she and Will dragged Jim in through the door of the
keep. Liv tried to grab at Laika’s collar but she was too fast, and bounded
across the courtyard and up the steps onto the wall. Ears raised, teeth bared,
Laika was growling feral at the spiders creeping up on Tabitha.

‘Laika, stay!’
Tabitha yelled desperately, looking back at her as the horde of spiders edged
closer. When she turned back to face them one of the spiders leapt on her
shield and clung on. As its weight knocked her off balance another dragged her
to the ground. Tabitha screamed. She struggled helplessly against their sudden
strength gripping her limbs, holding her down. Working in unison. Her frantic
writhing was useless against so many; her riot armour made it even harder to
move. Panicking, Tabitha tried to force the lightning out of her body; pushing
and willing it with every nerve. It was useless. Screaming, she felt claws grip
her head still; felt a spider’s sudden weight as it crept onto her chest. There
in front of her a spike slid out from a slimy black mouth, edging towards her
eye. She smelled death on it, coming for her at last. Laika crashed into the
spider and bit down on a leg, dragging it off Tabitha’s chest. Even before
Tabitha could get to her feet she heard Laika yelp. She pulled her dog away
from the spiders as fast as she could, with Laika’s blood slapping down on the
stones at her feet. Tabitha screamed and split the spider in half with the fire
axe. She cratered the head of the next one, punching it over and over until the
spider stopped moving. The third she tore the legs off, and sank her hunting
knife into a fourth. The fifth dropped dead before she could get to it,
bleeding from a bullet hole. The shooters on the keep picked off the last few
on the wall through the fading dust cloud. Tabitha wrenched the fire axe free
from the first spider, and swung it deep into another that still lay twitching
on the wall.

BOOK: Tabitha
3.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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