Monday, 2 March 2009 - 5:31 pm

Cockroaches Return

After yesterday’s excitement, we were all a little wary of setting out this morning. We weren’t eager to climb back into the 4×4 again, but we weren’t exactly thrilled by the notion of walking, either.

One of the most shocking parts was seeing the car again, seeing the damage that the cockroaches had inflicted on it. The nearly-shattered windscreen, gouges in the bodywork, dents and scrapes where they’d hit and kicked at it. It hardly looked like the shiny beast we push-started a few days ago.

It was hard work pushing the stupid great thing out onto the road and then far enough to start it, but we were all glad to climb in and put some more distance between us and that burned scar on the landscape. Between us and the memory of that kid and her friends. We didn’t get very far before it all came back to haunt us, though.

It was no surprise when we didn’t want to stop on seeing another youngster running around. This one was older than the girl in the red coat, more like teenaged. It was hard to tell, as all we could see was the kid’s back as it hurried away from us.

Then we saw the soot-smeared figures of the cockroaches chasing the kid. There was no mistaking that sound, the slapping of their feet and their voices raised in pursuit. They must have been on the move half the night to close the gap we had put between us and them. That thought still makes me want to check over my shoulder, the skin on my back prickling.

Thorpe was driving and he braked as soon as they popped into sight, hot in pursuit of the kid.

We didn’t want to get involved. We’d already had a close call with them and none of us was eager to repeat that. I’m sad to say that we were going to drive on, we were going to leave that kid to the untender mercies of the cockroaches.

Then Dillon leaned past me to get a better look out of the window. Before I knew what he was doing, he wound the window down and shouted out of it. Alice. More heads than the kid’s turned towards us, but there wasn’t much doubt whose name he was calling.

“Dillon, you know her?” I had to ask him twice before he would answer me, he was so frantic. The look he shot Thorpe was all plea.

“Please, we gotta help her.”

We hesitated; it was a big risk. There wasn’t much time to make a decision, but no-one was saying anything. We were all waiting, and yet again, I blinked first.

“Anyone say no?” I asked finally. No-one answered, so we strapped in and Thorpe swung the car around towards where the kid was trying to evade her pursuers. Ben was in the front seat, with Matt and me in the back. I made Nugget get into the boot of the car with Jones and told Dillon to belt himself into the middle. My heart thumped uncomfortably as we passed weapons forward.

It’s hard to believe now that we did it. We had to drive through the cockroaches to get to the kid – a couple of them bounced off the bumper and a wingmirror knocked one of them down. Blows rained down on the outside of the car and I was terrified that this was going to be too much for us. Thorpe managed to pull ahead of the group enough to give us a few seconds to open a door and shout to the kid.

She wasn’t going to come to us, but she saw Dillon in between us, calling. Out of breath and out of room, it didn’t take her long to make up her mind. Thorpe barely waited for her feet to leave the concrete before he pulled away again, leaving us to haul her inside. The cockroaches had caught up enough to grab her and pull, and from there it was a tug-of-war. Alice screamed as they tried to drag her out, Thorpe wouldn’t stop the car again, and I wound up leaning over her to smack at the clingers until they let go.

It was close, but between the motion of the car and the fact that we weren’t going to let her go, we managed to shake them off eventually. One of them almost managed to climb into the car over the girl, but between me and Ben we beat him back. Someone lost fingers when the door was slammed closed, but not one of ours.

There wasn’t time for explanations, just holding on while the 4×4 bounced down the road. When it grew quieter, Thorpe eased off on the gas and we collected ourselves. Made sure everyone was okay. Matt was closest to the door we dragged Alice in by and took some punishment, I think. The kid was pretty shaken up, understandably, and I think it was only Dillon’s presence that kept her calm. She had to lie across those of us in the back as we powered on. She has a bandage around her head, covering one eye, but she says that she’s fine.

We kept going until the rain threatened again. We’re not far from the river now – shouldn’t take more than an hour to get there tomorrow. We’ve given Alice some food and are letting her calm down on her own. She hasn’t said much yet, though Dillon has tried to introduce us all. Hopefully we’ll get more out of her tomorrow.