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Chapter Four

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Frankie screamed and fell back, almost knocking Beth over. The soldiers were shooting at the bus driver, not the kids, but the terror thundering through her brain wasn't listening to logic. It was screaming that bullets were flying and she needed to get out of the way.

The driver jerked as a bullet hit him in the head. Red sprayed out of the back of his skull then he fell back. He hit the road, limbs spread-eagled, and a dark pool formed around his head.

Frankie froze. A man had just died in front of her. One minute he was living, breathing, talking; the next he was a bloody shell on the road. Her brain couldn't process what had happened.

A hand grabbed her arm. Someone shouted her name - Allison, hovering in front of her face. Sound penetrated the fog of fear shrouding her mind.

"We have to get out of here," Allison yelled.

Frankie looked again at the bus driver, lying dead in the road. Reality snapped in, hard enough to make her gasp. If she didn't run she could join him in a puddle of her own brains and blood.

She fled.

Screams rang out around her, a medley of pain and panic. Somewhere in the confusion she lost sight of Beth and Melly. She screamed their names but everyone was screaming - hers was just one voice among many. She wanted to stop and find them, make sure they were okay and not lying dead in the road, but her feet weren't listening. She was too scared to stop.

Frankie and Allison ran past the bus and back the way they'd come, heading into town centre. Before this, Frankie hadn't been much of a runner. She could go around a track if PE required it, but she wasn't interested in running as a hobby.  

Running for your life was completely different.

She didn't know what she expected to find when they reached town centre. Somehow, in her naïveté, she'd thought that once she got closer to home, she could pretend this nightmare wasn't happening. The horror might be happening in her town but it wouldn't be at her doorstep. Bad things didn't come to people's homes. Home was safe. That was how it was supposed to be.

But reality didn't give a crap about how things were supposed to be.

Holmsley was in chaos. Crashed cars were skewed in the road or half-mounting the pavement, their doors flapping open. The air was thick with the stink of petrol. People raced around in a blind panic, screaming and shouting for help. A woman sat in the middle of the road, her hands pressed to her ears as if by blocking out the sounds around her, she could pretend none of this was happening. And everywhere Frankie looked she saw the sickness; the coughing, the retching, clammy skin and glazed eyes, the drool and blood slavering from open mouths.

Whatever this thing was, it was spreading. Fast.  

"Oh my God!" Allison cried. "What are they doing?" 

Three clammy-skinned, bloody-mouthed people had wrestled a fourth to the ground. Frankie didn't know what they were doing but the screams and frantically kicking legs chilled her. 

"Why are they attacking people?" Allison cried, pressing her hands to her face in horror.  

The sick were banding together, forming small groups that chased people down and pounced on them. Frankie was horribly reminded of wild animals bringing down prey.

She tripped over something, landing on her hands and knees on the pavement. She rolled over and a gasp choked her. A body lay behind her, a middle-aged woman, staring sightlessly up at the sky. Blood stained her mouth and neck. Frankie had been so focused on her own survival she hadn't even seen the dead woman lying right in front of her.

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