Nobody likes to see a church window broken. Or an anonymous arm throwing a Molotov Cocktail from a church window. But Tam watched it happen with almost no reaction. Her mind was struggling to get to her Happy Place. She had just seen over a dozen men, women and children being mutilated by rabid ex-humans.
A handful of hysterical escapees had made it out of the Wall of Death and disappeared from sight. A bit like Lily, Tam imagined, they were now safe but would carry permanent mental scars. Everyone else crawled, screamed, and shed their blood on the ground around the door of the church. It looked like the site of a car bomb. The Wrecks acted like the adults in a pride, ignoring the cubs who tumbled and screeched nearby.
There were people in the church. They had saved themselves by sacrificing the people outside. But they were known to the Wrecks now. Luckily, they were armed after a fashion and not afraid to do something about it. The Wrecks had split up to check for access routes to the new prey. A flaming bottle came from a window about thirty feet up, and half a dozen Wrecks were cloaked in flame. They, as well as all creatures in the vicinity, moved fast to get away from the fire. Their movements almost suggested a kind of fear.
The Wrecks on the other side of the church also acted, backing away from the windows in consternation. Tam glanced at Rand. They had not seen what happened to their cohorts. But they somehow knew. A chemical trace. Pheromones, or something like it. A primitive form of communication that worked, for the Wrecks, as effectively as a squad leader shouting orders.
Watching people burn was a reality check. Even if they were undead, they looked and moved like human beings. After that, the remaining Wrecks checked the fallen for something to eat. By doing this they would pass on their “genetic memory”. But the Wrecks in the middle of the blast had been too badly burned. They were abandoned. So there was a way to circumnavigate that strange, superhuman ability.
Rand’s phone rang. He answered it. “Zelinski. Yeah, we’re alive. No, no incidents. How about you? That’s great, good for you. Okay. Okay. But listen, there’s a lot more Wreck activity here. I mean, they’re everywhere. You’ve got to take care… what? Oh, okay then. We’re at a church in Varsity…”
“Infinite Goodness,” said Tam.
“Church of Infinite Goodness,” Rand repeated with palpable irony. “We might have to back up. We’ll be nearby somewhere.” He hung up. There was a puzzled look on his face. He looked at Tam and said, “He said we don’t need to worry about him.”
Tam was about to ask whether they should do something about the wounded when a Wreck opened the door and got into the back seat. While she and Tam were focused on the horrors in front of them, the wily bastard had just walked up behind the car. How it was still able to use a car door was a philosophical question right now, because it had reached right in and almost got Tam in its claws in a matter of seconds. She didn’t even see it. It was Rand’s reaction, as much as anything else, that got her moving. He said “Shit!” through grated teeth and started slamming it with his fist. Tam screamed and jumped out of the car.
The Wreck wasn’t after Rand, so it didn’t stay inside like a wasp that buzzes around until your husband deals with it. It came at Tam again. Jesus Christ, it was a child. It was no more than five feet tall and was wearing pyjamas. One of its arms was heavily bandaged. The face, the colour of a uniform bruise. Eyes soulless, demonic. It was close. Really close. Tam staggered back. She had chilli sauce in a spray bottle… in the car. An iron bar. Also in the car. Everything was inside the fucking car. It seemed that no matter how well-prepared she felt, something kept getting through her defences simply because her concentration slipped for a second. She was a truly hopeless Apocalypse survivor.
Rand tackled the little beast. The two of them hit the ground. He struggled to pin its arms down. “Get in the car,” he shouted.
Tam’s screams and all the movement had attracted the Wrecks around the church, and they were coming fast. She got in, slammed the door, locked everything. And knew that wasn’t good enough. They would get in. She wriggled into the driver’s seat. The first of the Wrecks slammed into the side window and looked at her. She was still in her elephant mask but her human sound and movement were a giveaway. The disguise method was a balancing act and she’d blown it a long time ago.