Authors: Sarah Gray
Tags: #young adult, #Australia, #super team, #infection, #melbourne, #Dystopia, #plague, #zombies, #Sisters, #apocalypse, #journey
Copyright © 2012 Sarah
Gray. All rights reserved.
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Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of
fiction. Names, places, and events are either the author’s
imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual
persons, living or dead or undead, events or locales is entirely
her backpack and waits in the middle of the road for me. The sun is
white-hot today; a severe heat haze rises up from the bitumen and
makes her look like a mirage.
She’s so skinny
and small, standing in her white linen summer dress and bulky black
Doc Martin boots. Her hair is delicate and flyaway, as if the
golden strands are trying to reach out to the sun the way plants do
to stay alive.
I know I’m a
bad sister for allowing her to be exposed to the harsh Australian
elements like this. She’s only nine. All she understands is that
food comes from the fridge or the cupboard or the shop, that
electricity just is, and that your house is the safest place in the
world. How’s she supposed to understand there’s a big gaping hole
in the ozone layer right over our heads letting in super sun rays,
twice as hot and strong and deadly?
I’ll have to
find some sun-smart stuff on the road because I can’t stand to be
in dad’s house anymore. I guess nowadays melanoma is the least of
our worries but still, why give up good habits just because the
world fell into some crazy apocalypse?
I gesture for
her to come back, to stay closer. Liss dawdles over slowly and I
reach for her pack. She slides it off her shoulders and sits on the
fence, legs dangling.
We each have a
backpack and I can’t help but check hers to make sure she hasn’t
put anything stupid in there that’ll weigh her down.
I unzip her
pack and shuffle everything around. She carries a plastic water
bottle, an iPod shuffle, a toothbrush and band-aids. She also has a
lighter and a can of aerosol deodorant that spits a mean flame when
you use them together. That’s the only weapon I’ll ever give her
and to be honest it’s a last resort thing. I know things have
changed but the thought of my innocent nine-year-old sister hacking
into the flesh of an infected with an axe or something just
destroys me, and surely it wouldn’t be great for her. I mean, how
do you come back from something like that? Though the infected may
try to chase us we can always hide from them, but I don’t know how
to hide from the memories that sink like black tar through your
insides and can’t ever be cleaned out again.
With any luck
Liss won’t have to deal with those kind of haunting thoughts, just
me. I’m the courier and she’s the message, and I have to deliver
her safely… somewhere, I just don’t know where yet.
Right now all
we have is a backpack each, and each other.
hand slips over something foreign, square and hard with lots of
plastic corners. I dig out the offending item: a Nintendo DS… and
charger… and five games in their original big plastic cases.
“Liss?” I chuck
the games on the front lawn and hold up the DS. “There’s no
electricity, remember? You can’t charge it. It’s a useless hunk of
her arms. “But I want it.”
I ditch the DS
and zip up her bag. She slings it back over her shoulders and pouts
but about five seconds later she seems to have forgotten and is
sitting there swinging her legs like she’s bored.
A bubble of
irritation slowly expands in my chest and I stand for a moment
balling up my fists, trying to imagine popping it with a needle.
The last thing we need is to be fighting and storming off in
I take a deep
breath and double check my own pack, just incase she’s put anything
weird in there too. She hasn’t though, it’s just boring essentials:
a siphon tube, a plastic water bottle, antiseptic wipes, a
pocket-knife and a can opener. That’s it.
We never carry
food; in this world it’s the new gold. Everyone wants it and if
they know you’ve got it there’s no telling what they’ll do. I’m no
expert at this, but I figure staying as low and incognito as
possible is the way to survive. No big flashy weapons, no large
groups to slow you down. Just fast feet, great hiding skills and a
place to run too.
says in her bored whiney voice.
I shoulder my
backpack and step out of the shade into the baking sun. “Yeah?”
Cue inward eye
roll for my genius kid sister. It’s funny because before the
infection we didn’t really get along. At all. When my parents got
divorced we both took a side and joined the battle. I stayed with
mum over the other side of Melbourne and she moved with dad to the
northern suburbs: where we are now. But fear does weird things to a
person, and my first thought in the outbreak?
I have to get
And I did and
it’s been driving me ever since. We don’t know what happened to dad
or mum. I assume they’re infected like nearly everyone else. So now
it’s just Liss and me.
“Walk on the
footpath,” I say quietly. “There’s more shade.”
Liss slips off
the fence, cruises over to the nature strip and we walk. The glare
is insane; we’re both squinting. It must be thirty-five degrees
minimum, but at least it’s a dry heat; I can’t stand muggy and
humid. Within seconds I have an ultra snazzy sweat moustache
beading on my upper lip. Thank god there are no remotely attractive
guys around to see me like this.
Usually I wear
this brown leather jacket I flogged from a store (after the
apocalypse began, mind you, I’m no thief) because I hate to bare
skin. If I need to take out an infected person I can’t risk them
biting me or flicking blood everywhere and infecting me too. But
it’s just too damn hot today. So I’m down to my black skinny jeans
and this flimsy white t-shirt that you can totally see my dark
coloured bra through. Maybe if I’d known the apocalypse was coming
I’d have dressed more appropriately. But it seems you rarely get a
warning when your world’s about to collapse.
Liss stops a
few metres before the intersection and I creep along a fence. I
tilt my head so I can just see out behind into the adjoining
It’s all the
same as before, single story brick houses with parched front lawns
and dried up plants curling in on themselves. The colour of brick
varies from sandy beige to flat out dirt brown to a perky red.
Every house shape is different, set out on each block of land
randomly like a Tetris game exploded. Most windows have shutters
open or curtains closed; just a few are boarded over or blanked out
Slowly I do a
full scan from left to right. Movement is what the infected seem to
go after, and people move an awful lot. I straighten and beckon for
Liss to follow. We carry on to the right, along the shaded side of
Liss hooks her
thumbs under her backpack straps. “How long till we get there?”
I look across
at her. It’s amazing what kids can take, she always seems so
unaffected. “How fast can you walk?” I say.
We carry on
like this all day. Stopping at each intersection, checking the way
is clear before proceeding. At noon we stop and drink half our
water. Liss sits on the grassy nature strip and stretches out her
legs. I stay standing, quietly on guard.
Liss holds out
her arms. “Do you think I’m getting a tan?”
I quirk an
eyebrow. “What do you need a tan for?”
about it for a moment, shrugs and points straight ahead. “My
school’s just over there.”
“Yeah?” I screw
the lid on my water bottle and shove it back into my bag. “Bet
you’re glad you don’t have to go back again.”
glad. You always complained about High School.”
I wipe the
sweat off my upper lip. “Yeah but I only had one year to go and I
would’ve been free at last.” I turn my head and listen for a
moment, but it’s all quiet. I want to say
fat lot of good school
did for teaching us how to survive
but I try not to get cynical
in front of Liss because I know that no matter how much we might
have fought in the past she still looks up to me. “Come on,” I say.
“We should keep moving.”
I pull Liss to
her feet and we keep going. An hour or so later we pass two
abandoned cars in the middle of the street. A red Holden t-boned
into the side of a silver Volvo.
Liss stops when
I lift my hand. “Bloody Volvo drivers,” she says.
I can’t help
but smile. That’s something she got from dad. For my dad any other
car on the road was a pile of rubbish and seemed to have a blind
driver at the wheel.
I walk over and
peer in the through the Volvo’s cracked windscreen. Thankfully
there’s no one in it. I move around to the Holden and see the dried
blood splattered across the inside of the windows. The passenger
door is open, but there’s no body left. Actually that’s a lie, I
can see a gnawed off foot, still wedged under the accelerator
pedal. The rest of it is gone; without a doubt eaten by the
I back away,
and check the Volvo for anything we might need. The keys are still
in the ignition but when I turn them over it doesn’t start. The
boot is full of decomposing groceries but in the glove compartment
I hit the jackpot: a pair of chrome aviator sunnies and a sealed
bag of Chupa Chups.
I head back
over to Liss and hand her the sunnies.
says, trying them on. They’re too big for her face and make her
look like a bug.
terminator like,” I say, ripping open the bag of lollypops. “What
flavour do you want?”
“Is there any
through the bag. Of course there’s watermelon, it’s like the best
flavour they have. I throw one to her. Liss almost catches it but
it bounces off her fingers and clatters across the concrete. I
watch her chase it and wonder how she’d ever survive on her own. I
take a cola one because I know Liss won’t eat those and we head off
By six o’clock
a cool breeze starts to pick up and I swear it’s like freaking
heaven. I can tell Liss is getting tired but she doesn’t complain.
That’s not her style. She just states the obvious like
in the middle of summer or
horde of infected people are heading straight for us. It’s super
“What do you
want for dinner?” I ask, trying to distract her.
I wrinkle my
nose just as Liss stops. We’ve come to a big intersection, leading
to a main road. She hangs back as I creep forward. It’s clear in
both directions, though I can’t see that far into the distance
because the road curves away. In front is a big half finished
housing development, surrounded by a nice high chain-link
I wave to Liss
and cross the road, waiting for her on the other side. “We going
in?” she asks.
“It’ll be dark
soon. We’ll be safe here for the night.”
her elbow. “Me first?”