The rucksack straps sink into the divots they’ve dug in my shoulders for what better be the last time. We stagger through high, waving grass that whips at us in the heightening wind. The gathering thunderheads promise rain which is good news. Creepies seek shelter in storms and maybe they’d forget about tracking us afterwards. Maybe.
Kristine is unusually quiet and her face is white and strained. Her bottom lip trembles and eyes swim with held back tears. She’s probably bordering on a nervous breakdown. I know I should be.
“alk behin me. I pud in man twaps all frew ere.”
My warning is not strictly necessary. As mantraps go mine leave a bit to be desired. I had good intentions of digging nice, deep leg-breakers, but the ground was rock hard. The end results of shallow trenches filled with aluminium cans and bottles were disappointing. If not a lethal protective system, the holes made a great rubbish dump for my empties.
We pass one of these aborted excavations. A weathered, beer carton covers part of the hole.
“That’s not a man trap,” Kristine says ungraciously, slightly less freaked now that she has something to ridicule.
I shrug. What would a girl know anyway?
Wouldn’t kill her to be less critical would it? I’d already saved her life twice.
Closer to the facility Kristine begins to appreciate the building’s size.
“Holy shit, this place is huge! How many people in here?”
I hold up one finger.
“Oh. Just you, huh?”
Her disappointment is cutting.
The savannah ends abruptly, giving way to a wide asphalt apron that surrounds the building. I trot across the black top and puff up a short set of stairs. Two steel jacketed doors wait for the master key I hold out in front of me like a sword.
I hate this part. On display, locked out, vulnerable. Being jumped this close to safety would be horrifically unfair.
“C’mon, geddin if ore coming.”
My invitation proves to be premature. Shaky key aimed at fuzzy keyhole, misses. Painful, chewed fingers let go and I drop them. Goddamit! Somehow the bundle doesn’t fall through the metal grating.
They should have, everything else has gone wrong today.
I lean down and gingerly pick them up. The pack slides up my back and crashes into my head. Thrown forward my forehead rams into the door. Sparks fly across burning eyeballs. I sink to my knees. The keyhole is directly in front of my eyes. I couldn’t be missed from here please!
I struggle madly until I realise I’m trying to force the key in upside down. I almost howl in frustration. This is the part in every horror movie where some clown is fooling about with the key while monsters bear down on him in slow motion. The similarities are too convenient. I snatch the pistol out of its holster and whip about faster than a virgin’s first orgasm. My wild eyes search the wide expanse of swaying grass for the mass attack that will surely come. Kristine ducks and squeaks her reproach each time the muzzle tracks across her face.
“Hey. Quit it. It’s okay, cool it, we’re safe.”
Her quiet, worried voice calms me, somewhat. Then she ruins it by casting a worried look over her shoulder as well.
I need to relax; all this stress is giving me heart palpitations.
“Could you hurry up? I need to use the bathroom.”
Why wait? Just let it go in your pants. All the cool people are doing it.
How she will enjoy my wit when I can talk properly again.
I holster the gun and finally the key is convinced to do its thing. The door smoothly opens and we scurry into the stuffy corridor beyond where I do an abrupt about face and slam it shut with my full weight behind it. Kristine’s lucky not to be on the wrong side but she slips in, having already learned to step lively around me.
I press an eyeball to the wire-reinforced glass portal for a long, last look outside.
Are we safe? Yes, yes I think so.
I tense as I back away, but no monsters slam against the other side. Strange black dots swell and fade across my sight. Nerves sing like overwound piano strings. I rattle the door once more. It’s secure. We’re safe.
Exhausted, I keep my cheer on the inside.