I slap an empty spot on my belt. There’s something missing. The magnetic card on its retractable tether.
We can’t get in the main gate without it.
I jump out and search Rat-face’s pants but my card and I aren’t reunited. Thinking hard, I’m fairly certain he slung it around his neck.
I leap into the truck to seek vengeance for this theft. Steam powered hatred scalds courage out of hiding. A seven point turn to reorientate the truck is more exercise than torn shoulders are happy about. I accelerate after Mr Smelly to modify his breathing status and retrieve my belongings.
We come upon a trio of Creeps carrying a struggling body. That they are transporting a living man instead of cannibalising his corpse is bad luck. I’d hoped to snatch the card from bloody remains. With a sinking feeling I recognise a white plastic card hanging from the pitiable screamer’s neck.
Creeps toddle at a leisurely pace. The lowest gear endures this snail’s pace. Stopping completely is unthinkable. A respectful distance elapses.
They’ve called for help. A baggy-suited woman vectors in to meet the trio, wordlessly taking the captives dangling leg, and then matches the set pace. Others wander out of houses and side streets to join the procession behind us. We’re shepherded up an off-ramp, and travel, once again courtesy of an Army bulldozer intervention, the wrong way along a cluttered motorway.
“Ohhhh shit, you shouldn't be on the motorway. Rule 78. You’re breaking the rules, man.”
That old nervous habit of talking to myself returns.
I edge closer, hunching over the wheel, thinking hard. The Creeps ignore the noisy motor but their new friend hears and is inspired to redouble his struggles.
“Pleeeeese help meeeeeee. Pleeeeeeese.”
Kristine resurfaces, sparked by the pleading. She’s tucked herself into a foetal position on the seat.
“You’re not are you? You’re not going to help him?”
It’s an unfamiliar, gravelly voice she speaks with. I sit back and click the heater up a notch when she shivers and pulls the parka closer.
“Umm, I don’t want to, but he has a certain something I need.”
Kristine locks my gaze with shocked confusion, then hard anger.
“He’s not worth it! He was going to KILL us!”
“I know. And I’m going to return the favour.”
Those careless words create an emotional storm inside her. As expected the nice side wins.
“You...don't have to do that. They’re going to change him or...eat him.”
I lay my theory of retained memory on her.
Then I admit my failing. The loss of the card.
The uncertainly of what to do affects her the way it affects me. Emotions fight then dissolve. She wilts and I’m alone.
The external screaming gets closer and turns into excited encouragement.
“Knock em flat! Don worry bout me, I’ll be right!”
The speed I return my attention to driving wrenches neck muscles. I slam on the brakes, chirping the tyres.
We’re almost on top of them.
The creeps perform a deliberate synchronised halt and turn all four heads in unison. An icicle traces my spine. God help me, it’s unnatural the way they move together like that.
Not one flinches at the sight of a chrome bar, bare centimetres away. The one they hold shows his disappointment.
“Fucken kill em. Kill em. I give ya anyfink ya wan.”
My card, and then your head on a stick.
I select reverse without breaking eye contact and banter with them as we move backwards.
“Whoops. Ok, I’m a bit close, sorry about that. Look, backing up now. Don’t mind me.”
A white-knuckled grip on the gear stick is poised to select first. If they attack, I’ll slam them with a seven tonne enema.
Dull interest wanes and they passively resume a lock-stepped march.
The space I give them is less than previously maintained. The Creeps behind crowd up on a small knot. Five or six of them. We recommence the low speed chase. Tense minutes and kilometres tick away as I dispose of fanciful plans involving courageous, if underdeveloped, Kung Fu and sharp-shooting skills.
Machine-like, the Creeps toil on without rest.
Their burden changes tact. Mindless howling is broken by abuse, directed at the Creeps and us. His dislocated kneecap must be agony.
I rub my wrists and swollen face. A tooth feels loose too. I try Kristine’s number again.
“You steer, I’ll hang out the window and blast him as we go past. Jump out, grab card, go home.”
Kristine doesn’t lift the phone. Concussion is likely from that blow she took to the head. I’m pretty sure sleeping is bad. I reinsert the annoying CD to thump a beat loud enough to keep eyelids flickering up.
A distant sentinel Creep appears. He stands centred in the road, wearing a dirty white apron, waiting on us like a jaded traffic cop. The dirt could be dried blood.
Misgivings about where I’m being led, mounts. We take an off ramp into a suburban estate.
I’m soon lost after several turns. An escape plan fizzles from poor memory retention. Every side road is blocked with piles of garbage and vehicle wrecks. The calculated placement of this mess slows wheeled traffic. More speed restricting objects jar the suspension; larger piles of crap overflow the kerbs and slow our progress further. Anxiously I scan for a place to perform at least five homicides and pull a U-turn.
A wall looms ahead. It’s a monument to human excess. The Creeps have taken household items, fridges, stoves, beds, to construct a barrier that disappears between double story houses. Anything not tied down has industriously been added to the creation.
Further proof an inhuman intelligence is at work.
The foursome walks through a single break without declaring their luggage to the single border guard manning the hole. His sole source of bored fascination is us.
A foot wavers on the throttle. A neon sign flashes ‘FLEE’ in my head but the Parasite stays its host from attack. I return the bug-infected man’s stare as we labour by, and wonder what that alien mind is thinking.
Since I’ve just entered their walled enclave, we’ll probably find out real soon.