Blood was a mustang in her veins as she ran. She could no longer feel pain in her leg, only reminder she'd even been shot the faint snarl in the back of her mind commanding her to run faster. She tried, but fell short. Her body simply would not allow it.
Traffic clogged the bridge, the cars pressed bumper to bumper. Once they began sprinting through the traffic and the bullets began to shatter windshields people began abandoning their cars, running foolishly back towards the oncoming line of cops. They were smart enough to know who the bad guys were, however, and not a single soul fled in the same direction as the Carriers.
A man ran by Shay, roughly shoving her out of his way and onto the hood of an abandoned vehicle. "Dumbass teenager," he muttered under his breath, continuing on to run the other way. Stunned, she remained where she was, watching the man flee with wide eyes. She had yet to meet a person who would shove a young girl out of the way for his own sake… People do bad things in a panic. You shot two guys.
"Douchebag," Carson muttered as he trotted his way back over to her. He'd been several cars ahead of his girlfriend, most likely stopping when he heard the thud of her body hitting the car. "Here, unlike that guy, let me be a gentleman and offer you my assistance," he said, grinning as he extended his hand to her. She took it gratefully and he assisted her in getting back on her feet.
"Thanks," she said, glancing in the direction he'd run off to. Strangely, she found him doubled over, his elbow across his face. It almost looked like he was coughing… The realization hit her like a speeding train, causing her legs to wobble and dark eyes grow wide.
"What is it?" Carson asked, taking a protective step in front of her. Ever since he saw the wound on her leg something seemed on edge about him- more so than just what the situation called for. There was something else there, directed entirely at her. Maybe her close call had stirred something within him; the realization that he could lose her.
"It's transferred by touch, that guy touched me, oh, God…" she said, falling back onto the hood so her legs wouldn't collapse beneath her. Was this what Cassie felt? The terrible, horrifying realization that she'd just infected someone with something sure to bring them death… It wasn't even her fault. That being said, Cassie never intended to infect Noah, but Shay herself hadn't reached out and brushed her skin with his. He shoved me. It wasn't my fault.
Thinking such things provided no comfort.
She noticed his eyes travel towards the man before returning to rest on her. He didn't need to say anything- nothing could be said to comfort her. She had essentially just killed a man. The two officers she'd shot in the foot were a different story- she did it in a manner of self-defense and they wouldn't die. Unless this man was Immune or a Carrier, which she doubted, she had just sealed his fate with the touch of her skin. Monsters were capable of this, not humans.
The first gunshots she'd heard in several minutes ripped through the air. Glass exploded somewhere near her. Screaming in terror, she clasped her hands protectively over her head and ears as she slipped off the hood and crashed onto the ground. Carson protectively wrapped his arms around her and she buried her face in his shoulder, relaxing when the gunfire stopped.
"Are you alright? Were you hit?" He asked as he took her face in his hands, pulling her away from his shoulder. She struggled to make eye contact with him, as those large dark brown eyes he'd always been complimented on no longer looked so innocent and attractive. The rings that now encased his pupils horrified her, an emblem of what they now were. Her reflection, which she could see clearly in his eyes, did not resemble the same Shay she'd seen peering into her mirror two hours ago. She looked dirty, beaten and horrified, a shell of the well-groomed girl she usually resembled.
"No, I'm alright," she croaked, trying to bury her face back in his shoulder but he held her there, gazing into her eyes.
"No, come on. We need to keep moving," he said sternly.
"Carson, no, I can't. I can't do this," Shay said weakly, feeling tears begin to brim her eyes. She rarely cried- it wasn't something she made a habit of doing. It took a lot to bring the girl to tears, yet there she was struggling to keep herself together in her boyfriend's arms, the place most girls her age felt the safest. He's never even seen me cry, dammit. Pull yourself together!
He used his thumb to brush away a smear of dirt on her cheek. "Yes you can, Shay. I know you have it in you."
She shook her head violently, freeing herself of his hands and returning her face to his shoulder, shielding herself from the chaos all around. She wasn't sure how much more she could take. Her entire would was coming crashing down around her, her old life now set ablaze. There was no home here anymore. The city she'd grown up in only had death left to offer.
"We can't stay here forever," he whispered into her ear. "Pretty soon they'll stop missing."
As much as she hated to admit it, he was dead on. Eventually they'd stop hitting cars. They'd killed one today. Eventually a bullet would strike its target, and currently she and Carson were the easiest ones to hone in on. They were sitting ducks.
She pulled her face away, looking up to meet his eyes. A stray tear had slipped from her eye, slowly descending down her cheek. "I can't do this. I can't infect people. I'm not capable of ending a life."
"That's not what I was asking you to do. I'm asking you to stand and be strong. I know you can do that." He replied, the look in his eyes as serious as the tone in his voice. She knew better than to argue, for all of his words were perfectly accurate. She was being foolish and stubborn, arguing for the sake of arguing.
"B..But I don't want to. If I do what you ask I'll ultimately have to infect people," she cried softly. He brushed away the tear with one hand, lips pursed into a fine line. He took care of a few stray blonde hairs with the free one, brushing them back behind her ear.
"No you won't. You don't know what's going to happen, but if you don't get up and run we both know what will happen to both of us. I won't leave you here- but if you stay, would you really want that on your hands? Your blood and mine?"
"Cassie's blood is already on my hands."
"Her death was not your fault," he replied softly.
"No, her blood is literally on my hands. But figuratively speaking, yes, her blood is on my hands and so is that guy's, and I'm not ready to have all that blood the doctor talked about on my hands as well. He wasn't talking about two people. He was talking about billions."
The windows of the car exploded above them. Glass rained down and she shot up, adrenaline pulsing through her veins. Carson did the same and the two were running again, weaving their way through clusters of cars and streams of people fleeing in the opposite direction. She heard another gunshot and picked up the pace, trying to shut out the screams that followed.
Carson pulled her to the side as a group of people rushed past, her shoulder spaces away from checking a young child in the face. The couple took a moment to stop and catch their breath, Shay leaning up against an empty pickup. The relieved weight off her leg was welcomed, her injury thanking her with reduced pain.
"Even if we make it to the other side, we have two dilemmas," She said between inhales. "We don't have a car to get us away, and I'm not even sure there's a car big enough for all of us. Then, even if we do somehow manage to get a car and get away, there'd be nothing stopping the cops."
"Except for maybe what's inside of that U-Haul over there," Carson responded. She looked up to see the back of the medium-sized moving truck, brand declared by the logo on the back. Confused at first, she allowed her eyes to wander. What did he see in that thing?
"Does the virus suddenly allow x-ray vision?" She muttered. She saw nothing of potential in that beat-up moving truck.
Rolling his eyes, Carson made his way over to the truck, eyes skirting the bridge for oncoming officers. Guns hadn't sounded for several minutes now. Maybe they'd given up trying to find them in the fray of people. She could only pray that they did. She followed him cautiously, muscles bunching every time a person sprinted past. She never knew when they'd be forced to bolt again.
"What does this look like to you?" He remarked, a cocky edge to his voice. He scooped up something in his hand before twirling it between his fingers. It was a strap of some kind, but to what she wasn't sure. Backpack? Water bottle carrier possibly? Or a gun!
"I think it's a gun strap," she said nervously, looking over her shoulder. She could make out the black uniforms of the officers in the distance, pushing against the lessening masses of people. They were wasting time now. Before too long the cops would be upon them, guns at the ready.
"Well, let's check," He replied. He fastened his hands on the handle and pulled, sending the door rolling upwards. She had to help him at first, stopping when they managed to get it a majority of the way up.
"Hol-e shit," Shay muttered.
"Looks like someone never stopped preparing for the zombie apocalypse," Carson snickered. She looked at him and grinned briefly, although the moment didn't feel right to crack a joke. She'd found that he had an impeccable gift for sarcasm in the worst of times.
It certainly did appear that someone had been stocking up for an apocalypse. Cardboard boxes lined the walls, each labeled with the names of their contents. She opened the box nearest to her, finding three m-16s stored inside. She raised an eyebrow, carefully withdrawing one from the box. She set it down, observing it. The gun appeared to be new, black metal glistening and shiny. A sleeping bag was still laying unmade on the floor, flashlight off to the left of it. Someone had been camping in there.
Carson picked up the gun, examining it closely.
"Check the safety," She warned him. He shot her a quizzical glance before running his hands along the black metal.
"The what?" He replied.
"The safety!" she told him, her tone hard. It was easy to forget that not everyone had a father who took them to the shooting range and hid guns all over the house, but come on? He didn't even know what a safety was? He might as well shoot his own eye out.
"I can't find it. Maybe machine guns don't come with them," he replied blankly, still searching the gun for the switch.
"Give it to me," she barked, taking it carefully out of his hands, watchful to not point the barrel in any living being's direction. She found the safety quickly and checked to make sure the weapon was on safe. "Alright, you see this thing right here?" She said as she pointed to the switch. "Before you hold a gun make sure this is on. Don't put it on fire or auto until you're ready to shoot, and don't point it at anyone you don't intend to put a bullet in."
"If anyone should be teaching Guns 101 it's me, not you," a female voice mocked, sarcasm laced within her tone. She turned around to see Marena, her arms folded across her chest and a humored grin etched into her features. Standing behind her was the entire band, Katrina, Owen, Kyleigh, Jaycee and Laylia. Everyone was alive. Albeit, not all of them looked unharmed, Owen especially, but they were alive. Alive seemed to be a valid substitute for unharmed, given the circumstances of the situation.
"I was just trying to keep him from hurting himself," she shot back. Carson rolled his eyes and muttered something inaudible under his breath. Marena strode up beside her, taking a few moments to take in everything she found upon peering inside. Without hesitation she reached in and scooped another semi-automatic weapon from the box, checking the safety before turning it over in her hands.
"These are definitely real," she said very curtly, as if she was a teacher instructing a class.
"Captain Obvious strikes again," Shay remarked lowly. Marena rolled her eyes before looking over her shoulder.
"Okay, so we need to make it impossible for these guys to follow us. Any suggestions?"
"Blow a hole in the bridge?" Katrina spoke up. All heads snapped in her direction, disgusted looks on their faces. She rolled her eyes and let out a quick, arrogant hmph. "Fine then. Maybe blowing up a car and scaring them off?"
"What is it with you and blowing things up?" Shay said, her eyebrows raised in a look of curiosity.
"Well, we could either make the bridge impassable or kill all the cops. I don't think we want to do the second one," she replied defensively.
"Nobody wants to blow a hole in the city's most expensive bridge, either." Carson spoke up, still examining the weapon in his hands as if he was a child on Christmas. Everyone who voiced a part in the conversation did have a valid point- Blowing a hole in the bridge wasn't an option and neither was killing all the cops- she wouldn't settle for it even if there wasn't a chance her father was among them.
Turning around to face Marena she found the girl had climbed her way inside the back of the truck, thumbing through boxes. She went through several before retrieving a can of gasoline and a box of matches. Eyeing her warily Shay scooted her way backwards as Marena slipped out of the back, gasoline swishing around inside the red canister. What kind of dangerous idea did Katrina get drilled in her head? She can't seriously be considering torching something; she's not that much of a pyro.
"Uh, what are you doing?" She asked her, her questioning stare following Marena as she walked back in the direction they'd come. She stopped after about twenty feet, reaching a patch of relatively open road.
"Well, they can't walk through fire, can they?" Marena responded, popping off the lid to the canister and began spilling gasoline on the street. The idea was much more controlled than blowing a hole in ten tons of concrete so she went with it. The amount of time they'd have to escape would be smaller than a more drastic option, but they weren't looking for drastic. They just wanted to escape with their lives, and limbs, intact.
Marena made a few laps across the width of the bridge, dumping out the gasoline until the canister puked up the final drop. The officers were closing in, their guns poised to open fire. Marena was running out of time to set her plan on fire.
"Marena, do it now!" She barked, hey eyes jumping from the cops to Marena and back again. The situation had a lot of potential to go from bad to worse in the blink of an eye- they needed to act now before someone else got killed. It would only be a matter of time before bullets started flying.
Marena seemed hesitant at first, as if she suddenly doubted her own idea, but struck a match and threw it into the gasoline moments later. The flames instantly shot up, zooming across the line of liquid like it was a competition. It only took a few moments for the flames to grow, reaching for the sky with tendrils of orange.
Surprised shouts floated through the air as the flames continued to grow. Every once and a while a face would flicker through from the other side of the orange wall, gazing on with shocked expressions. Meanwhile the Carriers had gathered, bunching together to take in the damage. A handful of pillars of smoke rose from the streets of the city, thick and dark against the overcast sky. Car alarms wailed and shouts filled the streets, the reek of smoke, gasoline and blood strong in the air.
"Oh, God," Shay whispered as Carson pulled her tightly into his chest, wrapping his arm around her waist. Alongside everyone else they gazed on, too dumbfounded to utter a word. Lyrics to a favorite song of hers played over and over again in her mind, the only words that pushed through the haze that was her current mental state.
Let's watch this city burn, let's watch this city burn the world.