My eyes are stinging. I taste blood on my tongue. I’m scrambling over rubble: broken bricks, shards of glass, shattered concrete. Legs burning as I hurl myself onward, sucking noxious smoke into my lungs.
I try to steal a glance behind but my vision is a dirty smear. It’s like trying to see through the glass of an old broken beer bottle. There’s a siren blaring and I’m drawn to it. Normally in Scraptopia, sirens are something you run from. But I’m all out of options. Back there are the Inhumans. Back there are the enemies I once called allies. Back there is Azuba Hazard.
I spit a long phlegmy globule over my boots but I can’t rid myself of the toxic taste of treachery. That pathetic little girl who we dragged into our bunker and shared our precious food with. We taught her how to survive in Scraptopia. We gave up our secrets. Like an idiot, I told her things I’d told no-one else. We told her too much. We taught her too much. And now this.
A wheezing catches in my lungs as I force myself on, over the rubble toward the sound of the siren. Stupid and suicidal maybe. But there’s no other option now. Something’s on my trail. I can hear it clattering along behind me. Whatever it is, it’s gaining and I’m running on empty.
Exhausted, I slump to my knees and slip my rifle off my shoulder. Four bullets left. Hopefully, there are no more than four Inhumans on my scent. Half-blind, I jerk the rifle at the source of the footsteps. But they seem to be coming from all around me. I will myself to calm down, get my breathing under control. Remember my training. Stop panicking D’spair, you bloody moron.
I smell them before I see them. Not Inhumans. Even worse. Two spliceporkers come snuffling up on either side of me. Even with my vision blurred like an old man I can pick out the formidable tusks, the beady black eyes, the revolting snot-smeared snouts.
They come for me in steady, purposeful strides. Taking their time. Enjoying the hunt. I get a round off at the first but it just keeps coming. A second shot. Sure I hit it. It halts but then presses on, so I squeeze off my third shot and this time it shrieks. The high-pitched wail jolts through my ears and into my brain until the creature pitches on to the ground and falls silent.
I barely register the thunder of the giant trotters approaching behind me before the second spliceporker careers into me, one of its tusks catching me under the ribs and tossing me into the air.
My breaths are short and sharp. I lay on my back. Something cold and metallic is sticking into my back. It feels like all my internal organs have turned to pulp. For a moment, one sweet moment, my vision clears a little and I get a glimpse of the sky. The sky we used to see. Is that beautiful blood red sunset just for me?
But then the snout of the spliceporker looms over me like a thundercloud. It stinks like it’s been wallowing in rancid milk and maggots. It’s jaws open and its drool trickles onto my forehead. I turn my face in disgust and see the rifle beside me. One shot left if I remember right. Stay calm D’spare. You can still get out of this.
“I’m not done yet, my little pork chop,” I whisper, as I flick the rifle round and up and in between its gaping jaws. The shot is muffled as the bullet bites into the skull and a splattering of grey brain tissue comes spitting out of its ears. The spliceporker’s legs buckle and it lurches sideways but then tips back over and with a sickening thud, lands on top of me.
The air has been punched from my lungs. My ribs are crushed. My vision is darkening again. My head is swimming. Names and faces float by. I see mackattack staring down at me from a hill. I open my eyes and mackattack is gone. Now an image of Azuba is glaring at me. Her lips don’t move but I hear her voice…my family…my family.
Now the sky is darkening again. The siren is fading.
Some people will never understand. It was the end of the world as we knew it. In Scraptopia, you took what you needed to survive.
My eyes are open. It is night. My eyes are closed. It is night. The siren is fading away…