[Here is Chapter Four of my Novel Journeys End. This is the last chapter that I will be posting on here as I am hoping to get it published. I am still working on the rewrite, and I want to thank everyone who is helping me with that. I will be posting if and when it gets published. I want to thank you all for your support Chapters One, Two & Three can be found here]
I pack up the remains of my gear and start to head out. I have no idea where I’m going so I just walk.
I come up to the old school that I went to and can’t help but think about Cassie, ‘Was that real? Or am I just reaching for something to hang onto?’ I wonder to myself as I walk.
I keep walking, wondering about this and before I know it I have made my way back to my parent’s house. I didn’t even realise where I was until I reach the smouldering remains of the house I grew up in.
I stand in front of the ruins, and start shaking.
My legs are about to give way so I sit on the front step of the house like I have done hundreds of times in my life, and try to think of what to do next.
I sit there for what seems like hours when the rain starts again. I pull myself to my feet, pushing the swinging door open and make my way into the ruins of the house to take shelter.
As I look about and take in the devastation, I realise that this is the first time I’ve been back since the invasion.
No one, besides me, has survived. I look around the rubble to see if I can find anything salvageable that could be useful.
I rummage around in what remains of the living room, and I find my mum’s old photo album I pull it out from under the pile of rubble that used to be the ceiling below my bedroom and look through it.
I can feel the tears welling up, along with the anger that I have at the fact everything has been taken from me. As I flick through the book, I come across a picture of the family, Me, my Mum, Dad and Karen. It was taken on Karen’s last birthday, and we all look so happy.
Tears start to fall as I hold the picture in my hand, and it hits me for the first time that this is all that is left, this one photograph is all there is of my family.
“There is nothing left for me here,” I say to myself as I hold the picture over my heart and slide it into my breast pocket. I head, to chase away the tears and to clear my head when I catch a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye.
I walk over, moving the upturned couch to see my old panda teddy bear. I pick him up hugging him close to me as the emotions burst out of me again. “I can’t believe you survived,” I say to him as a sad smile crosses my face. “Of all the things in this place to survive you did.”
I head out of the hollow husk that was my home for most of my life, holding Panda in my arms and say to him “Let’s go, old friend, it’s time we go on one last and final adventure.”
As I leave the house I hear the roar of an engine ‘Fuck, they found me.’ I think as I crouch behind the wall trying not to be seen.
I look around and see the ship soaring overhead as soon as it passes I make a run for it. I reach the fence that’s somehow still standing, and I jump up to climb it and get away. I have to admit I’m more than a little freaked out when I clear the eight-foot fence with ease, I scream as I fall over the top and land flat on my face on the other side. I don’t have time to think about what the hell just happened. So I haul myself up off the ground and run back towards the old school to hide until it gets dark.
As night begins to fall a thousand thoughts are running through my head, and I can’t clear them. Before I do anything, I need to compose myself and get my head together.
Before the attack I wasn’t happy, I was suffering from high anxiety and depression that I was gearing up for the fight of my life against my own inner demons to get better. Little did I know that real demons were on their way.
As bizarre as that sounds, the invasion has only done good things for my mental health. But I still feel the same way in my down time even though those times are fewer and far between. Anyway, at times that I am too wrapped up in my head, there was only one place I always went to so I could clear it out and get my thoughts together.
So that’s where I’m going, but first, I need a car.
I make my way to the industrial estate where all garages used to be, hoping that something is still intact there.
“Please for the love of god let there be something here. I need to get going soon.” Talking to myself as I get close to the Mercedes garage because the rest have all been a bust. I walk into the ruined showroom, and it’s hopeless. Everything is destroyed.
“Balls!” I slump down in the one remaining chair in the place and start trying to think of a new plan. This was my last hope now I’m going to have to walk, and it’s going to take forever.
“For someone so smart you really can be an idiot at times, you know that Sam?” Comes Cassie’s voice from behind me.
“Argh” I squeal as I fall out of the chair. “What the hell?” I stare up at the ceiling waiting for my heart to stop racing.
“Don’t hurt yourself there, big guy!” I can hear the smirk in her voice and know damn well that she’s trying not to laugh.
“You know, I can’t decide if you’re a voice in my head or not, but could you please not come out of nowhere like that and scare the crap out of me like? I’m a little on edge these days.”
“Oh buck up buttercup” replies Cassie through snorting laughter, “I’m here to help you. If you insist on doing something idiotic, then I want to try and make sure you survive it.”
“Well, isn’t that sweet!” I say irritably “For a strange disembodied voice that is probably in my head, you really do know how to make an entrance and why did you call me an idiot?”
“Thanks.” I can hear the grin in her voice, “You only looked in the showroom for a car. Did it not occur to you to look in the workshop out at the back before giving up?”
I just stare dumbfounded. How could I have been so stupid, it’s obvious now that I should have checked the workshop. I am an idiot, but I’m not going to admit it to a voice in my head, even if it is Cassandra. “No, I didn’t give up,” I protest feebly, “I was just regrouping my thoughts before looking further.”
Cassie snorts “Yeah right. Uh huh. I believe you.”
“Oh shut up, stop laughing at me,” I growl but have a slight smile on my face.
I get up from the ground and head out to the back of the workshop where I stop at the door to take a deep breath and get prepared for the worst that is yet to come. I close my eyes and step through the door, not daring to look. Slowly, I open my eyes, and a genuine grin spreads all over my face.
I never thought I’d own a silver convertible Mercedes, and here I am cruising down the motorway top down wind in my hair going a hundred and fifty miles per hour it’s an incredible feeling.
Well, I suppose “own” is a strong word but I just like the feeling of it, I can already feel my head begin to clear. I was lucky to find this impressive machine still working, even luckier that it had a full tank.
“See I told you not to give up.”
I almost veer off the road and into the crash barrier “Will you stop doing that!” You almost killed both of us!” I shout after I regain control of the car.
“Oh calm down, besides I’m not really here,” Cassie replies calmly.
“Right, fine but can you please stop jumping out on me Like that?” I ask sorely.
“Hmm let me think about that… no, it’s fun.” Cassie giggles.
“Well, I’m happy you are amused with yourself,” I say grumpily “I’ve missed that laugh of yours, it’s been too long since I heard your laugh. It’s nice. I’ve missed you, Cass.”
“I’ve missed you as well,” she says
“Are you alright? Are you safe? Can you tell me where you are?”
“I’m alright now, there are times when I’m not so alright, but I can’t talk about that. Is anyone safe these days? And I can’t tell you where I am, and I know that if I tell you, you will come straight to me, and I am not going to put you in any harm’s way. I’m sorry Sam, I know I’m vague, but I have no choice.”
I sigh to myself thinking back to all the years that I have known Cassie. We have known each other for as long as I can remember. We grew up next door to each other and used to spend almost every waking moment with each other before her family moved away.
She was the one that would always get me into trouble convincing me to go places that my mother had strictly told me not to go to. She liked to get into trouble, and I was always the one who had to get her out of trouble protecting her from the people who she would piss off, mostly by just standing there and intimidating them.
Even though I was trained in martial arts by my granddad when I was young I was more interested in the sword work than the actual fighting, I’ve never been much of a fighter, but I can hold my own.
So I would just stand there by her side and be the big bouncer just looking at people and chasing them off protecting her. Some things never change I suppose.
“Cassandra, when we were kids, I swore to you that I would always protect you, and I’m going to live up to that promise. Can you tell me if you are actually here or have I finally cracked with the solitude? I haven’t seen another living soul since initial attack, except for the beasts.”
“You can’t protect me, this time, Sam, this isn’t like when we were younger.” She replies, “I also can’t tell you if I’m real or not, or how I can contact you if I am. You’re not ready yet. If I told you now, it would destroy you, and I won’t do that to you.”
“Ok…” I start to say then push that aside. “Actually no it’s not ok I deserve, no scratch that I need answers! You have them, and I need them. You said if I’m going to do something stupid then you were going to try and keep me safe, so I need to know. What’s going on? Please.”
I can hear her sigh “I can tell you that I’m in no immediate danger. I’m being kept safe for now as long as I co-operate I’m safe.” Cassie said in a whisper
“Cooperate with whom? What are you doing for them?” I ask
“I can’t tell you anymore just now. I promise you that you will get the answers you need but not now, just wait a little bit longer. Ok?”
I can’t take the pleading in her voice, and I shed a tear. “Ok, Cassie. I’ll accept that for now, but this isn’t over. We will talk this out later.” My voice breaking as I say it.
I can hear the pain in her voice, what I’ve said clearly hurt her but it had to be said. “So where are we going?” She asks, changing the subject.
“Well you’re not really here are you?” I say arching an eyebrow at nothing “Anyway, I’m going down to the Forth River by the bridges.”
“Why the bridges?”
“It’s peaceful by the river. It’s where I’ve always gone to get my head and thought together, the sound of the water is soothing. You remember my granddad?” I ask her
“Yeah, I always liked him, he was so funny.” She replied, and I can hear the smile in her voice.
“Well, he used to take me there when my mum and dad were working.” I let out a chuckle at the memory, “We used to go to the beach down there to collect shellfish, and muscles, for him to cook or to go fishing with. It’s also where he taught me martial arts; you remember we were always playing with those replica swords. After you had left, he started training me properly on how to use one. He also taught me to fight.
“The view is especially spectacular on a clear night when the bridges brighten up the horizon just as if the stars fell from the sky and got attached to the stone granite and the high steel of the Forth bridge. God knows how many times I have come down here wishing that you were here as well.” I say
We drive along in silence for a moment then Cass says “I remember the view there. It is beautiful. It would be nice to see it again.”
“That’s a point, can you actually see me? Or are you just in my head?”
“Yes I can see everything you can see, and I can see you.”
“How is that possible?” I ask
“Sam, please, you promised you’d let it go.” I can hear the pain again.
“Ok, Cassie. I’m sorry, I’ll stop pushing you… For now.” I concede “So you can see me is it possible for me to see you?”
“I honestly don’t know, I haven’t tried and I can’t at the moment. I’m too tired. It takes so much strain and concentration to keep up the connection.”
I notice the slip there, and I store it away, this is the first indication I’ve gotten that Cassie is real and really with me, but I let it go.
We are almost there, I know it’s wishful thinking that the bridges will still be standing. I once read an article on high-risk targets and the bridges were ranked one of the highest so I doubt they are still standing, but I can hope.
I keep driving not saying anything further since my mind is too preoccupied trying to come up with a plan.
I’m pulled out of my thoughts by the sound of Cassie singing Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ I look over at the passenger seat where I imagine she is sitting, and I just burst out laughing. I can’t help it.
Here I am driving a stolen silver Mercedes convertible, heading to my quiet place to come up with a plan of what to do from there and my imaginary friend is sitting next to me singing ‘Don’t stop me now.’
Even in my wildest imagination, I couldn’t have come up with a more preposterous scene. It feels so good to laugh again.