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South Pines - A short story

The zombie screamed as the rusty stake ripped through its body of rotting flesh.

"I love this game!" giggled Zoe, rolling backwards, as the credits rolled for the end of the game.

I always enjoyed visiting Zoe after school.
Always cheery, my problems of the day seemed to boil away to nothing every time she smiled and looked at me with her bright blue eyes.

The phone started to ring, surprising in the relative quiet.
Zoe crawled over me, toward the phone. She brushed her soft socked feet over my face, touching my nose. She picked herself up and walked quickly towards the phone before lifting the receiver to her ear.

"Hello?" she enquired.
"Yup, that's me" she said, her face widening into a smile.
"Oh! Great. I'll come and pick it up now. Thanks"

She was now balancing on one foot, nodding and making the occasional "ok" down the phone. A "bye" and a "thanks" later, she had replaced the receiver and was smiling at me.

"That was the shop, my uniform has arrived" she said as she switched legs.

Zoe hopped to the door; I followed, noticing a bruise on the back of Zoe's leg. I chuckled to myself. Clumsy Zoe.
She hopped over to beside the door. Sitting down quickly, she tied her white sports shoes on. With an enthusiastic grin she stood up and I was dragged out of the front door.

It was a clear day; white clouds dotted the sky and tall trees swayed in the slight wind.

I walked behind Zoe, soaking up the warm sun. Zoe was leaping from side to side of the path, making sure she didn't fall over.

She was still dressed from sports practice, the last lesson of the day. Her white T-shirt was tucked neatly into her red running shorts. Her short light coloured hair was tied in a pony tail, which bounced left and right as she leaped between paving stones.

"That's where my dad works" said Zoe, pointing up a driveway the right.

A large black iron gate blocked the way up the road. Huge concrete structures stood behind, quick fix buildings from the 60s. The buildings, dull and solid, seemed to never change, like tall rocks from Stonehenge.

In front of the gate, two bored looking guards stood either side of a small hut, not talking to each other. They both carried threatening looking weapons which required two hands to hold.

We continued walking. Zoe had now run off in the distance and could be seen lifting her legs up one by one onto a gnarly horizontal branch of an old oak tree. Letting go of the branch and hanging by her legs she looked towards me and gave a huge upside-down grin.

She grabbed the tree again, and somehow managed to land on her feet. She sprinted towards me. As she bounded closer, I noticed she was not slowing down, a grin still affixed on her face. She was enjoying this.
Just as I thought she was going to knock me down, she leapt into the air, wrapping her warm arms around my neck and her legs around my waist. I stumbled backwards, but stayed upright. She squeezed tightly and pressed her soft nose into my cheek.
"I..." She whispered as she moved her mouth closer to my ear.
"I really..." she began again. I listened carefully.
Now, with her mouth over my ear, she quickly poked her tongue deep into my ear and licked all around.
I dropped her with a yelp. She seemed to be expecting this and landed on her feet.
She gave a cute cackle and sprinted off past the tree. I followed in pursuit.
As Zoe powered off into the distance, her pony tail bouncing behind her, I realised I was not as fit as I thought.

I reached the shop out of breath. Zoe was standing next to the entrance doing an impression of someone who had been waiting for ages; she was examining her nails and attempting to not show how out of breath she was.
"What took you so long?" She started, grinning mischievously.
I just looked her in the eyes and smiled. One point to Zoe.

We entered the shop together, Zoe leading.

"May I help you?" enquired the shopkeeper, as he had done thousands of times before; it sounded more of a phrase of habit than an actual question.
"Yes. I'm Zoe Phillips. Your rang me a moment ago about the clothing you ordered for me"
"Oh yes" said the shop keeper, scratching his head briefly, and then crouched to peer under the desk.
"Phillips... Phillips..." he muttered to himself as looked under the desk.
A grunt in the positive later and the shopkeeper reached out and dragged a square plastic package out from under the desk. He lifted it carefully and placed it on the desk in front of him.

Feeling cramped in the small shop, I decided to leave Zoe to it.
"I'll see you outside" I said as I walked out the entrance.

Once outside I peered at the display in the shop's large glass window. There was a rack of three long rifle-type weapons on a wooden frame, and faded pictures of tanks traversing steep ridges. One poster on the display proclaimed that you must "Do your bit!" showing 3 black jets flying in close formation over a brown muddy landscape far below.
The front of the display showed a collection of knives and small arms, a line of bullets lined the front of the display, touching the window.

Warm hands covered my eyes from behind.
"Guess who?" came Zoe's happy voice. She must have slipped out when I was not paying attention.
I feigned thoughtfulness, trying to think of a ridiculous answer.
"Gustav Holst" I said with confidence.
Without releasing her hands, she said in the low but unconvincing voice;
"Yes, you're right."
And with that she collapsed on to the ground in a fit of giggles, uncovering my eyes, unable to keep the new voice any longer.

I put my hand out for her to grab, which she did. Putting no strength in her feet, she grappled like a rock climber pulling herself towards me. She finally scaled the great Mountain of Shoulder, and stood up. Still holding my arm tightly, she tilted her head towards mine, and placed her ear on my shoulder. I couldn't see, but I was sure Zoe was smiling.

We walked back slowly to Zoe's house, now with Zoe's arm round the back of my neck. Zoe was about two inches shorter than me, so it wasn't entirely working, but it felt good.

The wind had picked up, blowing a calm breeze over us. The bushes swayed as their leaves brushed each other. We walked on.

Passing the old buildings again, the guards looked like they hadn't moved.
The wind was stronger now, and I was getting colder. Zoe didn't seem cold, but I'd never known her to complain about anything.

By the time we reached the end of Zoe's road the weather had gotten decidedly worse, the sky was a dark shade of grey and the wind was buffeting the trees too and fro. The odd spec of water fell from the sky and although slight, with the wind, made it seem even colder.

We were glad to get inside.

With seconds of closing the front door on the growing storm, Zoe was bounding up the stairs directly ahead of us. She was swinging the plastic package back and forwards as an aid to balance, flicking off droplets of water.

"Come see!" She called down from the top of the stairs before disappearing right.

I ascended the stairs slowly, looking for Zoe's feet as I passed the wooden railings of the upper floor. One stair creaked noisily as I stepped on it. Clattering came from her bedroom.
As I reached the top of the stairs and turned into her room, she was finishing sliding heaps of clothes, magazines and books previously sitting on her bed onto the floor by the side.

"Sit" she demanded with a smile, pointing to the bed. I was powerless to resist.

Zoe traversed the mess next to the bed, and picked up a red box under her mirror.
"I'll be back in a tick" said Zoe as she hopped out of the room.

Taking my shoes off, I sat cross-legged on the bed.
One magazine had not quite made it to the floor, and was lying precariously over the ravine, pinned by a pillow.
Picking it up, I peered at the cover.

It was the United Nations Defence Force magazine, Zoe had been a long time collector of these as one could see from the new debris on her floor. Kind of a low-brow technical manual and military propaganda machine rolled into one. The cover sported a smartly uniformed military type focused off camera, an attempt to make him look dashing. I was secretly jealous.
"Pull Out S-40 Mesa Jet Full Colour Poster!" the cover proclaimed surrounded by a yellow star.

I began to flick through the pages. A found a page on 5th company's new emblem, where a small "info box" informed readers facts about the company. I flicked on. The next page was boldly entitled "Tech-specs: The Prototype M5!" and showed front and profile views of a 9 foot Mech, built to carry one person. The page had a sizable list of vehicle specifications, but the editors had filled many of the entries with a red "Classified" logo.
One of the pages later on seemed to hang out of the magazine slightly. I turned to it.

A photograph of a sleek black Jet was printed over two pages. Taken from above, it showed rolling countryside below blurred slightly behind the tips on the wings. The jet had swept back wings and the tail appeared to blend out of the body, but it was difficult to tell where fuselage finished and wings started. You could almost see the pilot, but the reflection from the sun caused...

"What do you think?" Zoe asked, breaking my concentration.
I looked up to see a smartly dressed female officer. The uniform was white, with black highlights along the side of the knee length skirt and smart suit top. Her hair was tied back by a silver hair clasp. It was quite unlike anything I had seen Zoe wear before, but somehow it seemed to match her perfectly.
She twirled around and smiled at me. Despite the uniform, it was still Zoe.

"You look amazing." I said while staring a little too much. It was true, she did look amazing.
Her smile parted to reveal an embarrassed grin.
"So when are you joining up then?" I asked.
"End of term. Once the exams are over."
I nodded.
"It'll be good to get out of here... and see the world!" she added, sounding like a cheesy military advert.

Then everything changed. Zoe froze. Her face showed fear.
Through the open window, the sound of gravel crunching could be heard as someone walked towards the house.
"It's my Dad. You'd better go. He doesn't like visitors."
Sensing the urgency of the situation, I quickly gathered my shoes which were lying upon one another on the floor. I slipped my feet in to the shoes. I would tie them once outside.
"Thanks. Sorry about this." said Zoe as she gestured me out of her room.

I hurried past Zoe, round the corner and began to descend the stairs as I heard the click of a key in the front door. The door swung open revealing a cross looking grey-haired man. He looked quite unstable as he carried with both hands a pile of 3 large metal boxes. He looked up and saw me. Something broke under my foot. I lost my balance and began to fall forward. My head hit something.

I woke up suddenly. I was being shaken by the man.
"Now look what you've done!" He shouted.
"Clumsy child!" he shouted again, growing angrier each time.
I looked around. It was a mess. One of the boxes had opened. The contents, glass bottles with black liquid, were scattered over the floor. Many were smashed. My leg was cut and blood was running down my leg into my sock.

My shoe. Where was it? I moved my head round to see that my shoe had made it out of the door.
"Oi! Are you listening to me?!" The old man screamed. His head barely inches from mine.
I needed to move. Get out of here.
I tried to pick myself up; my leg throbbed with a cutting pain. Grimacing as I stood up, I headed towards the door.
"Yes! That's right! You run away!" the old man shouted as he shoved me strongly out of the entrance, I hit the gravel harshly.
"Sorry Mr Phillips! Sorry!" I screamed, hoping to ease his temper.
Despite the pain I jammed the shoe on quickly and hobbled away from the house as fast as I could. "It's Dr Phillips!" the man yelled back as he slammed the door loudly behind me.

I hobbled on, the thunder and rain as my accompaniment.

I somehow managed to get home, after entering I clicked the door shut and fell limply on the sofa.
The rain had washed off a lot of the blood. Looking down, the cut was small, much smaller than I thought it would be.
After 10 minutes or so of staring at the ceiling, I decided to clean myself up. After a shower, I felt much better. My leg stung, but I could walk on it with care. I covered the cut with a plaster from the bathroom cupboard.

My parents wouldn't be home for ages. They always worked late.
Time for an early night.

My dreams had a presence. I heard silent voices shouting with no words. I saw bright flashes of darkness. I felt I was travelling at a million miles an hour, but I saw nothing to get my bearings. Arguing voices grew louder trying to shout other voices down until I felt my brain would explode. My body burned with the feeling of a thousand spines bursting out over my skin.

I woke suddenly. The bed was soaked from my sweat. My eyes pulsed with a strong heartbeat. I forced myself to breathe slowly.

It took me 40 minutes to get out of bed.

Dazed from the dream, I headed towards the shower.
As I showered, I woke up more. The cut on my leg was healing well, but black spots had appeared around it. I tried to scrub them off. Bad idea. My leg burned, just as it felt in my dreams. I finished my shower. Covered the spots and cut with a new larger plaster and prepared for school.

I put on my uniform, tossed over my chair from the evening before. I positioned myself in front of the mirror and managed to put on my tie after one failed attempt.

I gathered up the pieces of paper strewn across my desk, and stuffed them into my bag. I found my pencil case lying on the floor and my calculator under my lamp. I dropped them in to the open bag.

I opened my curtains and threw my cover into the air to straighten it. I then headed to the kitchen.

I quickly threw a slice of bread into the toaster, waited a while, but lost my patience and ejected a warm and only slightly toasted slice. I took a large bite and headed out the front door, clicking the door shut behind me.

The biting morning cold hit me, and I regretted not bringing a coat. But I would be inside soon, so I trudged on, chewing my warm bread.

I reached the school at around 8am. I headed through the wrought iron gates and entered a side door into the building.
I began to climb the stairs, a loud directionless noise clattered as my vision flashed black, then silence. My vision returned. I grabbed the banister until I felt well enough to proceed.
My leg was throbbing slightly, but I could walk on it without problem.
I continued up the stairs. Two floors. I headed along the corridor and pushed open the blue door into the first room for today, it was empty.
Throwing my bag behind my desk, I decided to clean the backboard as there was nothing else to do.
Paul arrived next.
"Oooh! Aren't you a keen bean?" He proclaimed
I could have pointed out that if it weren't for me he would have been the first in this morning, but it wouldn't have made a difference.
Many more arrived and sat down at their desks, before long the classroom was a hive of activity with groups chatting about TV, rugby or other such irrelevance. I sat down at my desk alone, glad that I wasn't involved in such pointless conversations, but secretly hoping that someone would let me join in.

"Morning everyone" came a voice from the front.
It was Mr Bennet, our tutor.
Tables screeched as they were moved back into position.
As the register was called, sleepy voices replied.
Balls of scrunched paper were hitting the back of my neck, almost in time with new names being read out. By the time my name was reached, I was really annoyed.
"Cut it out Lee!" I yelled back to the ruler wielding weirdo behind me.
I was sent outside.

Tutor period eventually finished, and the class filed out.
Lee and his goons towered over me.
"You... My ruler" drawled Lee as he opened his hand over my head, dropping shards of wooden ruler.
"You made it went broken." he continued with the flair of a true wordsmith. Two whole sentences! Lee was quite the gifted linguist today.

I knew what was coming. Running would only make it worse. I tensed my abdomen.
A grunt from Lee and my arms were pinned by his loyal followers. Lee pulled his fist back and showed a toothy grin as he ploughed the fist into my lower chest.

I lay on the ground clutching my chest, my breathing uneven. I wished that someone would notice and rid the school of Lee forever. Lee chuckled as he strode off down the empty hallway to terrorise the next student.

When I was able to move, I picked up my bag and headed to the first lesson of the day.

Lunch arrived quicker than I expected. Choosing a bottle of chocolate milkshake from the standing cabinet, I took my brown meat with questionable sauce to the counter and paid for it. I scanned the hall for somewhere to sit.
The lunch hall was very busy, everyone was hungry. The clatter of cutlery and the noise of hundreds of voices all chatting loudly filled the room. Now and again a food item was hurled from one side of the hall to the other. I saw Zoe eating quietly on a table on her own. I walked over to sit with her.

As I approached two boys began to harass Zoe. She was ignoring them.

"Got a boyfriend? Who do you fancy?"
I sat down opposite to Zoe.
"Oooh! Is this your snookums? Got a boyfriend now have you?" said one, very pleased with himself.
"How you could you go with him? You're attracted to me!" the other butted in.
"Yeah! You're attracted to me!" he continued, with a shrill voice.
He paused briefly as he tried to justify himself.
"Er... you've got mass and so have I, so we're attracted to each other."
So at least they grasped something about Physics.
"So you're attracted to each other then?" asked Zoe calmly
The two paused and looked at each other.
"Let's get some lunch!" said one.
A nod of agreement and they both left for the lunch queue.

Zoe gave me a sly smile.

I began to unscrew my milkshake bottle.
As I peeled off the silver foil cap, bubbles spilled over the rim. I lifted the bottle and licked the top around to remove the overflow.
"Ugh, Gross!" complained Zoe.

Zoe leaned across the table, her hair falling into her eyes. Taking a napkin she wiped at the left side of my mouth.
"Messy pup" she grinned.
She swept her hair behind one ear almost subconsciously, revealing a long red mark on the side of her forehead.
"Are you ok? How did you do that?" I enquired
"I... I tripped" she said quickly, brushing her hair back to hide the mark.
It seemed like a sensitive issue, so I didn't pry.

"I'm sorry, I'm going to have to go. Athletics meeting." said Zoe, looking at her watch.
She left me to eat alone.

I didn't see Zoe in any of the lessons that we shared in the afternoon. I wondered if she was ok.

After school, I decided to walk back via Zoe's house, it was only a little out of my way, and it would calm my nerves to see she was fine. It wasn't late, so Dr Phillips hopefully wouldn't be home.

The overcast sky did nothing to ease my feelings, but at least it wasn't raining.

I followed the route I had travelled many times before. Left at the post office, straight past the unmarked iron gates and left again for the tree covered road to South Pines. Zoe's House.

I trudged along the side of the road until the house came into sight behind some tall trees.

I heard a scream. It was Zoe.

I sprinted towards the house. Leaping across the tarmac and then onto the gravel path. Zoe screamed again. I heard a man's voice shouting. Reaching the front door, I banged loudly, hoping I could get in.

"Zoe!" I yelled. "What's happening?"

The door did not budge. I ran to the living room window.

Zoe, still in her uniform, was struggling wildly with her face forced down on the floor. A large man was sitting on her thighs, kneeling on her flailing arms. He was pressing her neck down to the floor with the side of a metal bar. His nails dug into her face, over her mouth and nose. Muffled screams came. Zoe pulled her head from his hand and screamed again.

I hammered at the window. I kicked it hard, but the window stayed firm. Zoe broke her head free and looked straight at me. The man grabbed at Zoe's face again. Clawing at her eyes he pulled her head to look away from the window. He raised the iron bar and slammed it against her neck. Zoe's desperate scream filled my senses.

I scanned for something heavy to throw at the window. Useless. Only gravel and pine trees. My eyes welled up as Zoe wailed my name.
I pulled off a shoe and hammered it at the window.
The man now was grappling with the top of her uniform, it was beginning to tear.
"Stop! Please Stop!" I wailed as if it would make a difference.
The window seemed to ripple. The man, still clutching to Zoe's uniform, was thrown to the far wall. The fabric was ripped, showing Zoe's bruised back.
Zoe choked hoarsely. Her clothes in tatters.
Now free, she sprinted out of the room. Coughing as tears ran from her eyes.

The man stood up. I now recognised him. It was Dr Phillips... Zoe's father.

We stood staring at each other. Dr Phillips reached to his suit pocket and retrieved a mobile phone. He looked down at the dim green display and dialled a number. He stared at me calmly as he waited for his call to be answered. He then uttered a few words, no more than 10, and pressed the phone off. He showed a subtle smile as he slipped the phone back into his suit.

I decided to find Zoe; she had not come out of the front door. I headed to the back of the building, jumping over a decorative fence.
"Zoe!" I yelled. No answer.
I heard the far off sound of a helicopter. I tried the back door. It was locked.
I took a few steps back and threw my shoulder as fast as I could into the centre of the locked door.
The door shuddered loudly, but did not open.

A siren rang out from a nearby road; it seemed to be getting closer.

I heard a weak but persistent knocking from inside the door.
"Zoe!" I yelled.
A rasping cough, trying to utter words came as the response.

The siren was much closer now... and getting louder.

I threw my shoe with all the force I could muster at the glass pane above the door. It shattered noisily.
Two hands grabbed desperately from inside at the open gap, causing gashes due to the broken glass. A sleek black car with siren still blazing had pulled up alongside the fence and the two occupants were getting out. In one last burst of energy Zoe screamed as her hands disappeared from view.
A great burst of pain filled my arm. I had been shot.
I screamed at the closest intruder, my voice cracking. The ground seemed to shake and they flew backwards, hitting the car's bonnet and smashing the front windscreen.
The other was behind me, I turned quickly but it was too late.

Everything went black.

I don't know how long I was out for.

White shapes faded in and out of view.

Something was buzzing.

I tried to open my eyes. My eyes, weak, bound together by tears that had dried.
I willed my eyes to open. Muscles throbbed from under use.
My eyes burned as I began to make out a thin blurred rectangle of light.

Slowly I began to see outlines, a grid of black lines in a sea of white. The rectangle still glowed brightly.

As my vision became less blurry, I realised what it was. A neon strip light. My eyes hurt less now, coping with the light better.

I lay there for a long time. Weak. My head throbbed. My arms and legs limp.

I could hear my breathing.

Feeling stronger, I decided to look around.

Something was wrong. My head wouldn't move. I tried to lift my hand. A tightly bound bracelet gripped my wrist, it was no use.
Trying each hand and leg in turn, my panic grew. I was tied down.
Overcome by my exertion, I closed my eyes.

I was woken by a piercing beep, and the clunk of a metal bar sliding into position. A heavy door squeaked slowly open. I tried to look down. My neck ached, but my head refused to move.

I heard a female gasp as footsteps spread out surrounding me. The door slammed shut, and metal clanked. The door beeped.

"Wha..." started a female voice, unable to finish.
An older male voice started talking. "This is one of our long term residents. Very strange. Started demonstrating channelling behaviours outside of the test programme."

The voices were unfamiliar. I tried lifting my arms again. No use.

"Is it... human?" asked the female, her voice trembling nervously.
The old man chuckled. "Of course! We just made some... adaptations." He coughed.
"His abilities were so much stronger than the others. Dr Phillips asked to try to create a viable natural weapon."

I tried to talk, my throat was raw. My tongue felt something sticking down my thought. I rasped noisily.
"He's awake!" Yelled the old man joyfully.

"Let's test his cognitive response" said the man. "Julie, will you do the honours?"
The top of my forehead suddenly grew cold, first on the right, then left. It felt like ice cubes on my skin. I tried to recoil, but my head was fixed and unmoving. Two more were placed on the back of my head and tugged at slightly.
"Ok, pads on." said Julie.

A motor started to spin up.

Suddenly everything was quiet. I was standing alone. I saw a flat back and white chequered floor, reaching as far as the eye could see. I turned round slowly, seeing that it was like this in all directions. The sky was a flat light blue colour, I could see no clouds.
I started to walk forwards, it felt unreal. The only clue to my movement, alternating squares of the floor below me.

Suddenly my senses were filled with activity. My ears heard the rumble and hiss of sandpaper being scraped together. My eyes saw the flash of black and white, pulsing like a mistuned TV, fading in and out of signal. My skin rippled with a million pins and needles.

I woke with a gasp. The strip light came quickly back into focus.

"Bloody technology!" came the man's angry voice.
I tried to look, but my head refused.

A hard metallic thud filled the room.

"Aaagh! My foot!" screamed the man.

With a clunk, my hands were free. I tried to lift my head. My neck was weak, or my head heavy, but I managed to lift and turn it to look at the man.

He was sitting on a chair, beside a tall cabinet. He was at least 50, thin, and had white greying hair. One foot was lifted onto his other knee. He was staring at his foot, rubbing it quickly. The tall red console to the side of him showed a shiny metal dent where paint had peeled off.

"It's free!" said Julie in hushed but urgent tones.

The man raised his head quickly and started directly at my eyes. He looked worried. Dividing his time looking at the cabinet and myself, he quickly prepared an injection of clear liquid.

I grabbed the tube in my mouth and pulled upwards. With a snap the tube came loose, gouging my throat as I pulled it out. I coughed; the air was cold and plastic.

I heard a whimper from behind my head.

"Julie. Stay calm. Just move slowly towards the door." said the man slowly, not taking his eyes from mine.

The man edged towards me, very cautiously. Our eyes connected.

With a sudden burst of speed he leapt towards my arm, jabbing the syringe down. I instinctively threw my arm outwards, the syringe barely missing my arm.

I looked down at my arm. It was warty and brown, and seemed dry like a distant moonscape.

I heard the man's feet scrape as he edged behind me. I twisted and grabbed him around the neck with my right hand. Too easy.

My hand. What had they done? It was more of a claw now, brown and warty like my arm. It was jointed at my wrist and was circled around the old man's neck. His face was turning red as he gasped for air.

A muffled gasp came from behind me, the old man chocked as I tightened my grip.

With a beep to my left I turned quickly, to see a tall, long haired woman straining to pull open thick metal door. Once the gap was large enough, she slipped round and out of the door. The door began to shut. This was my chance!
I discarded the now limp scientist in my right hand and slid forwards off the table.
Was I taller? My balance felt strange. No time for that now, I was being shut away.

I grabbed the door, stopping its movement immediately. I heard a female cry from outside. I swung the door open easily revealing a nervous looking Julia. She stared at me for half a second and then sprinted off to the left. As I ducked my head through the doorway to the hall outside, I saw Julia smash a red box on the wall.

A klaxon sounded. Red lights flashed down the hallway.

I heard shouting; I couldn't make out the words. I looked right and saw a team of 12 identically dressed UN Defence Force soldiers holding black rifles marching towards me in unison.
A command was given and the group fanned out, six crouching on one knee and the other 6 resting their guns on the shoulders of the crouched people.

I wasn't going to be shot again. I turned and sprinted away from the group towards a large glass window. As I leapt up towards the window, protecting my head with my hands. A command was given and two shots seared through my body. My left leg and right elbow throbbed strongly.

I burst through the window with a satisfying crash. Rolling slightly I fell down on to the roof of a parked car, stoving in the top of the car. The car alarm rang in protest.

The klaxon rang through my ears as I bounded up the road, away from the building, limping slightly. I caught my reflection in the front of a tall building. I was a monster. My body was brown and pitted. My hands, long claws. My face was the worst. It looked more insect than human. It was cracked and torn, with black pits where my eyes should have been. I could not recognise myself. Why would someone do this?

I felt around with my claw hands. I could feel my new face. This was me.

Where the shot had passed through, my leg was black and bleeding slightly. I was surprised I could walk on it.

The sounds of a gunshot brought me back to my senses. Where was the exit? I needed to get out of here.

Then, ahead at the far end of the road, I saw him. Dr Phillips. Stepping down from a portacabin, he saw me too.

The memories came flooding back. South Pines. The gravel. The window. The metal bar. The phone call. Her grasping hands.

Dr Phillips. He did this to me. Him. My anger bubbled as I ran faster and faster towards him. He was going to pay.

"He's out here!" yelled Dr Phillips as he began to sprint away from me.

I saw a turret on top of a tall brick tower turn towards me; I didn't recognise what it was it until it fired. With a deafening explosion, the road ahead of me exploded in a shower of tarmac and brick. I was thrown to the ground.

I turned quickly and saw two large mechs heading towards me. They didn't seem to have weapons, but were quickly getting closer.

My body aching from the explosion I pressed on. Leaping over the fallen rubble I leaped through the dust cloud over the crater. He wasn't getting away.

I ran faster and faster. I felt my feet were digging into the road. I reached out to grab him, I missed. He ran on.

The air around me exploded with a massive rush of wind, knocking me to the ground. For a moment I heard silence followed by the loudest sound I have ever heard.

I tried to get up; I could not feel my arm. I looked at where it should have been. Like a cooked chicken charred meat was falling off my bone onto the tarmac below. The air was hot, I looked forward. Dr Phillips was crawling away from me. Dragging my body across the ground I tried to follow him the best I could.

"Bastards!" I yelled at the tower, lining up for yet another shot. I could not hear my words, my throat raw from the tube. Metal seemed to snap within me. The tower buckled sideways and started to fall over. One occupant tried to leap out. They both fell into the growing pile of dust and rubble below.

I lost my balance and fell onto my back. Looking to the sky, I saw a mech step towards me blotting out the setting sun. I slashed towards the cockpit.

The mech was quick, it grabbed my arm tightly. Placing one metallic foot on my chest, it pulled the arm hard. With a painful crack, the arm tore off in a shower of blood. I screamed, knocking the mech off balance. I was in too much pain to move, I could only watch as the mech stumbled back towards me and forced my clawed arm deep into my chest, breaking bones and ripping flesh.

As my life ebbed away from me and my vision began to cloud, I looked up to see my killer.

I saw those bright blue eyes again, the memories flashed back.

It was Zoe.

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