From Chapter 17 of The Storm by Virginia Bergin
The prof, the
soldier, and the driver bundled out immediately and plonked themselves down in
the funny little potted plants and seating area they had—so you could
make-believe you were at home on the sofa, chatting about which car to buy (or
what to do about the apocalypse, in this case). The discussion pretty much
reminded me of radio programs my mom and my stepdad would have on: people going
on and on about stuff. Angrily. It got even angrier when Beardy claimed that
the people in charge wanted to use the cure as some kind of international
bargaining thing (“More like a
card game!”)—though quite what trinkets they might want in exchange was not
known to him (most probably nuclear missiles, a few countries, oil reserves,
that kind of thing).
To be honest, I wasn’t really listening that
closely. Every time it felt like my brain was tuning into a thought, I’d just
tweak it back to the matter at hand: gotta get out of here, Ruby.
The Princess, whose sign did not show her name but
said “Nil by Mouth,” watched from the side door of the ambulance as, in near
darkness, I worked my way through every car in there; each one, same thing:
battery dead—and no jumper cables to be found. Useless.
I splopped plastickly-rubberily past the
discussion panel, ignored: ghost girl in a biosuit. There was a dinky coffee
machine and a store of creamers, so I grabbed the lot of them, went back to the
ambulance, and—ah! Saw the machine they use to start stopped hearts with. I
dumped the creamers and inspected it. It’s basically a giant battery pack,
I had a go with it on a
It didn’t work.
Mighty cross about that.
I took it back to the ambulance (lights still on
inside) to get a better look at the instructions—like maybe it was possible to
turn the thing up?—when the Princess tapped me on the arm.
“Yeah, yeah, just give me a sec,” I said.
It’s all probably sounding a little weird to you,
the whole situation and the not even speaking to the kid—it sounds a little
weird to me—but I tell you, I was so trying to keep my brain tuned in on what
I needed to do. Anything else at all could not be handled.
I didn’t get the instructions, but I thought it
was worth another go anyway. The Princess tried to pull me back—
“Yeah—one sec!” I jumped out of the vehicle
and—she slammed the door shut behind me. “What the—”
Headlights from the road rippled along the line of
cars. I hadn’t even heard the engine. I ducked—way too late.
Prof Beardy, the soldier, and the driver—they’d
I peeked—saw the taillights of a big, dark army
“We need to get out of here,” the driver—who’d
stopped blubbering but was still freaking out—said.
Yeah, I thought. Need to get out
of here. I ditched the heart-starter, and as I speed-crawled/splopped
plastickly-rubberily for the ambulance, I had a genius moment. Hanging on the
wall by the “Let’s pretend we’re at home on the sofa choosing our car” area was
a huge road map of Britain, so you could see all the places you could go once
you’d bought your fancy car.
I dragged over a spare chair and tried to pull the
thing off the wall. It wouldn’t budge. There was some random mini-tree in a
pot, a thing that had probably once looked totally plastic and now looked
totally dead. So I grabbed it by the trunk and swung the whole thing at the
glass. Big smash. Big mess. I tore the map out. Unfortunately, it was stuck
down at the edges, so there were quite a lot of places we wouldn’t be going to.
I turned around and…there they all were, staring
at me: the prof, the soldier, the driver.
“I just want to go home,” I told them, trying to
scrumple the map into a more manageable size. “Please just let me go.”
I felt my frightened heartbeat.
“I’ll keep my mouth shut. I won’t tell a soul. I
promise you! I just want to go home. Please. Please!
Just let me go.”
“I could take you,” said the driver, getting to
“Siddown,” said the soldier. He sat.
“I’m just a kid,” I told them.
I am so not. I was. Once. That’s gone.
“I don’t know how I got like this! I promise you I don’t!”
“Clinically speaking, she is no longer relevant,”
Another set of headlights—army truck—blasted us.
I stood and I pointed at the gleaming ambulance.
The elephant in the fancy car showroom. “They’ll see that,” I said. “Next truck
that comes past, they’ll see it.”
The soldier, who was the only one I really needed
to pay attention to (gun), nodded.
“Get out of here, kid,” he said. “Take the