Kristine quietens down a bit. I’m not sure if she’s annoyed about the Vodka incident or sorry for abusing me. Either way a bit of quiet time suits me fine.
I concentrate on tracking the sickness that spreads through my body. A blanket of molten lead covers my chest and stomach and unfurls down my biceps and thighs. Very soon it will knock me on my arse.
We crisscross suburban back streets, going to ridiculous lengths to avoid meeting with the aptly dubbed Creepies. A long walk turns into an epic obstacle course of fence hurdles, roof top crawls and overgrown park sprints.
We take a breather. I breathe, Kristine talks.
“You ever seen a Crawly wandering around on its lonesome?”
I shake my head. Is she serious? We’ve got enough to worry about without thinking up new shit.
“Neither have I. Maybe they can’t survive outside the human body for long.”
I nod hopefully.
I shake my head again and consult the map, pretending to check our progress. Truth is a stomach cramp cripples me. My veins flow with liquid fire. My insides churn. I’m swimming with sweat inside the leathers. I won’t last the distance if I stick to the Rules.
Time for Plan B.
The dangerous alternative is to cross the twelve lane motorway using a nearby footbridge. Months ago I’d scoped it out to use as an emergency escape if my safe house was ever overrun. Come to it from the other direction through the Botanical Gardens had been promising until I reached the bridge and seen the hundreds of hosts shuffling along the highway below. I’d skedaddled back home and marked the area a ‘Red Zone’.
There were lots of red circles on my map. We were on the border of one right now.
But, as a route out of here, it might be ideal. A short tramp through the bush then a pleasant stroll in the park and we’d be at the back fence of my hidey hole in no time.
Kristine jostles me to see the map. Since it’s her neck on the line too I take a minute to prod where we are on the map then at the ground.
She gets it.
I trace a crows flight with my finger to a building centred on a large property. She frowns.
“We can’t go through here. It’s all been cleared, no buildings, no trees, we’ll be seen for sure. If we’re going up there...” she points at the isolated building, “...then why don't we swing around to the north and go in from the front.”
“No? That’s it? No! Why’d you mark it in red?”
What does she think this is, a frigging democracy? I’m the boss. I fold the map and head towards the highway. Kristine crosses her arms, fuming, and then shouts at my back.
“You’re an arsehole, you know that!”
I know it.
She follows at a distance. Sulking.
We leave the suburban fringe, passing a huge sign announcing the imminent opening of an industrial subdivision. She’s right. A flat, exposed wasteland spreads out before us. The compacted stony sub-soil hasn’t nurtured more than a few knee high wispy weeds.
The unhindered view clearly shows a solitary upright shape. It stands motionless far off to our left. I tell myself it’s a stump. Or a survey marker.
The survey marker moves towards us.
Kristine runs to catch up.
“Happy now? That one’s seen us already.”
I wonder if she realises how annoying it is when people state the obvious all the time.