I heard the faint sound of alarm bells ringing in the distant but couldn’t pull myself away from the sight of my wife’s hand, lying palm down in the sand. I could hear someone saying my name as well but still couldn’t bring myself back to reality just yet. I didn’t want to turn and see the clumps of dark brown hair; didn’t want to see the glittering fairy wings she had been wearing shining with freshly spilled blood; I didn’t want to see my daughters head turned towards me, her eyes gazed over, gone forever. But I had to. I needed confirmation that both my wife and daughter were really dead. I heard my name again but didn’t understand it, like some foreign language, I didn’t want to understand what had just happened.
“Poison! We have to go now!”
The face in front of mine looked very familiar but with the numb pain now starting to hurt and burn my heart; the glossy white of the room where we were stood now starting to cause my head to pulse; I couldn’t concentrate on putting the face to a name.
This voice I did recognise as the voice of my brother, Kobra. I wanted badly to turn to him and comfort him as I heard the pain and sadness in his voice but I still couldn’t turn away from the hand. Someone started to scream and in the back of my mind I wondered who was coming. A hand hit me sharply round the face but the pain I felt didn’t even register next to how my heart felt like it was being ripped from my chest. Suddenly, the world was moving, walls and doorways speeding past me. Screams were now all around us and the heavy sounds of footsteps banged in my ears. I realised someone was carrying me and squinted up at the person whose arms were holding me and pulling me so tightly against them. It was the person whose name before had escaped me, in the sudden rush of emotion, I had forgotten his name. Fun Ghoul’s face, his cheeks red from carrying me, was wet with tears and he was breathing heavily.
He ran fast out of a doorway, the burning sun hitting him first then me. The desert landscape streamed past us, very different to the white surroundings of the building we had just left.
I looked up to see why he had spoke. But Ghoul’s face was scrunched up from the effort it took for him to carry me and run as well, his cheeks a burning shade of rouge and his breathing rapid. In a moment, I suspected he would drop me but still he kept going, the steady rhythm of his feet sounding beneath me. I wondered how he could carry on…
I looked over my shoulder at the two other figures that were running alongside Ghoul. Jet and Kobra ran along, both concentrating on the horizon far in front of them, neither looking at me. I watched as their legs seemed to blur from the speed at which they were running. If neither were looking at me, then who had-
My eyes snapped open suddenly and I had to close them quickly as the bright sunlight filled them. I grumbled loudly, causing the person whose foot was kicking a rhythmic pattern into my leg, to snigger. I rubbed my eyes and massaged them in my head. I didn’t want to get up yet. Another day of running, after the memory of the months we had now spent doing nothing but running, was enough to make the sores of my feet begin to ache. I opened my eyes again, this time shading them with the shadow of my hand and looked at the person who was stood over me. Ghoul’s face was smiling over me, his eyes dark with shadows, mirroring the ones under my eyes from lack of sleep, but nonetheless a smile was painted on his lips. His bandana was pulled down to his neck and his mask was nowhere to be seen. That was enough to wake me up and sit me upright. The sun had been up for hours and he had his face fully on show, ready to smile at anyone who happening to spot us out here in the desert. I wanted to slap the stupid smile right off his face at his stupidity. But before I could say anything I caught sight of Jet and Kobra, a few feet away, their forms gathered around a small fire. I watched as the dark smoke gathered in the air above the flames for a few seconds before moving higher into the air; alerting any eyes for miles around of our destination. I was immediately on my feet and running towards them, Ghoul quickly following at my heels.
“Oy! What do you think you’re doing?!”
They both jumped at the shout which came from my lips and turned sharply towards me. Jet, at least, looked apologetic while Kobra just gave me a cheeky smile as he saw how my cheeks had flushed with anger.
“You know we don’t do fires!” I spoke once I had reached them, gesturing to the smoke which was still moving at an alarming rate into the air, “Do you want them to find us?!”
I stared down Kobra’s smile until he was straight faced and had opened his mouth slightly to chew on his lip. Jet kept his head down, not looking at me.
“We just thought-“Kobra began, hurt now entering his voice.
“Well, you thought wrong! Now put it out! And get your faces covered…All of you!”
I spun around to face Ghoul at the last bit and was surprised to see that my outburst had produced nothing more than a cocked eyebrow from him, as he looked at me sideways. I tried not to let the surprise reach my face and frowning, I walked over to check our supplies. I counted the canteens of water and the few tins and packets we had left. My hand went to my head, to wipe away the small stream of sweat that had already gathered on my forehead and to massage the headache I could feel coming from the burning sun’s rays. I noticed out of the corner of my eye, a shadow which had moved in front of a tin of spam. I turned to see Ghoul stood before me, his eyebrow still cocked, his arms crossed and one hip stuck out to one side. It would have been almost comical if not for the look which he was giving me, the steady glare that made me want to look at my feet and bite my lip in discomfort. I stayed stood up straight with some effort and met his gaze.
“What are you doing here?! Cover your face and put the fire out!”
I had meant it to sound strong but my voice wavered and eventually under his stare, I slumped over and sighed heavily. He could always get me out of a bad mood but something seemed different this time, he seemed generally annoyed with me.
“We can’t eat raw meat forever! And I know the supplies are low, which is why Jet and I went to empty the traps early this morning before anything else could get to it!”
I could hear the annoyed tone in his voice and didn’t want to look up at him for fear that the anger had reached his eyes. I nodded at his words, knowing full well that I could never get up early in the morning so I was grateful to the others for getting things done in the morning. Though I had gladly stepped forward in the place of leader, it should have really been Ghoul. He did the majority of the work and always had a way with words, knowing how to plough each of us on and give us fresh hope after long days of running. Even now I knew, he was only reminding me of how the others had the same problems I had, how it wasn’t just me that was tired. Even now I knew I deserved his anger.
“Kobra was sick again last night!” he spoke viscously, his words having the desired effect as I flinched with the sharpness. “I would have thought that as his brother, you would be a little more understanding!”
I didn’t bother to nod my head at this, knowing my expression would show how bad I felt when I couldn’t think of any words to reply with. I turned my face up to look into his eyes and felt the slight breeze move my hair across my face. I silently prayed this wouldn’t mean a sandstorm later and then quickly cursed myself at how fast my mind ran off track. One thought of my brother, hunched over sweaty and green as Ghoul rubbed his back and brushed his hair away from the passage of sick which was making its way out of his mouth, was enough to make the familiar stab of guilt hit my stomach.
The words were quiet and I realised that I was on the verge of tears. I blinked rapidly and tried to casually move my hand up to wipe the gathering water from under my eyes. I had to be strong, for myself but more importantly for the others! Two hands gripped my shoulders and I moved my face fully up to Ghoul’s to see his kind eyes and calming expression look back at me. A sad smile lingered on his lips as he spotted my tears and his hands rubbed my shoulders, making them tingle from his light touch.
“Hey! It’s okay.”
His hand moved to carefully trace the shape of my cheekbone and jaw, I simply stayed looking into his eyes. I must have shown signs of discomfort at this action as he moved his hands off me but stayed looking at me, his smile now bigger on his face.
“But seriously, next time you get wound up, talk! To me…Or Kobra, or Jet,” he added at the end as I moved myself a little away from him, clearing my throat and straightening up.
I smiled at him and nodded. A little white lie but I would never choose to burden any of the others with my problems. My nightmares … I shook the thought off quickly, aware that my smile had slipped from my face and repositioned it, meeting his eyes again. He just rolled them in his sockets, he knew how my mind wandered. After he had touched my face, things were awkward and he moved his hand to touch my back and lead me to the fire but dropped it as I started to move towards the fire on my own accord.
“Come on, I-we made you some breakfast,” he followed behind me and I was glad as he couldn’t see the redness of my face, though of course I would just blame it on sunburn.