“Hope,” Rosemary said with a wry smile.
“That was the same time they took Dad?”
“Yes. But we don't think they bring outsiders to Camp H.”
“He never told us where he went,” Jenna said, “or who took him, or what they did to him. When he left, he was so full of fight and anger. Every time I kissed him goodnight, there was a real power about him. He had purpose. He came back two weeks later and…” She opened her hand like a quickly blooming flower. “Pff. Gone. Sometimes I can't believe he's still my dad.” The volume of her voice had grown, but the tears came as well, and Jenna shook with anger and grief.
“Then I suppose he can't help me anymore,” Rosemary said sadly.
“Is it true they implant something?” Sparky said. “When they take people and send them back. Something to kill them if they start investigating again?”
Rosemary shrugged slowly. “How can I know that? This is your world out here. I live in London, but that's a whole new world now.”
“You've heard of it though, right?” Jack asked.
“And you still came to ask him for help?”
Rosemary stared at him then, and Jack was certain she was trying to convey some message that she did not wish to voice. He stood, let go of Lucy-Anne's hand and walked to the kitchen sink. Outside, the sunset was burning across the ridges of neighbouring houses. Jenna's parents would be back soon.
“I need to know,” Jack said quietly.
“Me too,” Sparky said.
Lucy-Anne stood and ran her hands through her purple hair. “Yeah.”
Jack turned back and looked at Rosemary; an old woman, worn and tired, scarred and grubby, but filled with an astonishing power that the government had gone to brutal measures to conceal.
“We'll come,” he said.
Rosemary nodded slowly and smiled. “The second you were all here together, I knew that would happen.”
“Another power?” Jenna asked. “You're an empath?”
“No, dear,” the old woman laughed. “I'm human.”
They split up, agreeing to meet at Camp Truth at dawn the following morning. Jenna and Sparky were taking Rosemary there to sleep. They said it was probably the safest place of all, but the old woman seemed too tired to be afraid.
She scared Lucy-Anne. There was something…different about her. There was that incredible thing she had done with Jack's leg, yes, but she seemed so very out of place here in the village. She sat at Jenna's table and drank tea, ate toast, talked to them and fended their questions, but to Lucy-Anne it seemed as if she were from another world.
In a way, she supposed that was true.
Jack had been keen to get home to his sister Emily, so Lucy-Anne had walked home alone. She'd stopped in the corner shop and bought a bottle of cheap red wine, joking with the boy behind the counter who flirted with her every time she went in. He was her age but seemed so much younger, and she thought it was because he'd lost no one to Doomsday. He seemed happy and content, and blissfully unaware of what had gone on in his world because so little of it had touched him. Sometimes she thought of inviting him home to see if some of his carefree attitude would rub off on her. But she knew that she'd end up showing him pictures, and talking about those she had lost, so she'd left him with a smile and a sway of her hips.
Sitting in the living room of the big, empty house left to her when her family had vanished in the Toxic City, Lucy-Anne allowed the tears to come. Usually they were driven by grief and sadness, but today there was something else: the terror that soon, all her fears would be realised.
She had never, ever let herself accept the fact that they were dead.
She swigged from the bottle. It was half gone already, and she knew she should pour the rest down the sink. Last thing she wanted tomorrow was a hangover. But she was enjoying the fuzziness in her head, and it seemed to relax her muscles, enabling her to sink into the sofa and lose herself in the music blasting from her stereo.
“Sorry, Mum and Dad!” she called up to their bedroom. Led Zeppelin was particularly loud this evening, and she knew they didn't like it very much.
She never went into their room, and kept the door locked.
“Andrew, you always did like good music!”
Her brother's bedroom door was locked as well, but she had not felt able to remove his favourite CDs from where he'd left them scattered around the music system in the living room. Now they were her favourites, too.
She drank a little more, and spoke to her family, because this was the only place and time she would ever allow herself to do so: at home, alone, when no one could see her true desperation.
Tomorrow, everything was going to change.
It looks like a huge, open wasteland, but she can see its ghosts.
There used to be buildings here, and parks, and shops and pubs where people had mixed and chatted, laughing and scowling their way through life. It has all gone now, and their absence seems to make the sky far too large.
Instead there is a vast plain of broken rubble, exotic-looking plants and flattened, blurred areas that look so strange. She sees movement far away across the plain, and she squints into the merciless sun, shading her eyes to see whether it's people…or something else.
She walks towards the movement because it seems the best place to go. It's hot and harsh here, with a warm breeze blowing from the left and carrying a melange of scents: the dust of ages; dry, old rot; and something spicy and forbidden which she cannot identify.
As she nears the thing she saw moving, she finally makes out what it is. The pack of wolves is rooting at something buried deep in the ground. It's one of those strange blurred areas that she had seen, and she can now identify that effect as welclass="underline" in this rugged plain of a dead city, this spread of land is as smooth as a bowling green.
The wolves growl, but she walks closer. She thought she had a knife in her pocket, still stained with the blood of a friend, but she frowns when she finds her pocket empty. Maybe she dropped it? She feels like a fool, because there are so many dangers out here.
She should be scared of the wolves, but she is not here for them. So she shouts and they flee, casting incongruous growls back as they disappear among the rubble.
The sky darkens as she walks out onto the flattened area. The breeze dies down, but she can smell rot well enough. And even though the sun has hidden its face behind a cloud, the glare of unearthed bones is obvious.
She kicks through the bones, hauling skeletons aside, rifling through half-rotten clothing, shouting out for her mother, father, and brother. She's desperate not to find them, but she cannot tear herself away.
And then there are her parents, dead but not rotten, buried deep down where the wolves had not reached, and there are worms in their eyes and beetles in their mouths, and even as she looks to the sky and screams she can see them still.
She will know them like this forever.
It is now believed that the explosion at the London Eye was a terrorist attack. Following the explosion, a toxic agent has been released into the atmosphere. Deaths have been reported in Westminster, Chelsea, Bayswater, Mayfair, and West Kensington. Security Services are closing off large tracts of south and west London, and residents are advised to remain indoors, close all windows and doors, and await further instructions. Please do not attempt to leave the city. More soon.
Next morning, Jack and his sister Emily headed for Camp Truth. Rucksacks over their shoulders, they were walking into the sunrise and beginning a journey leading somewhere Jack had dreamed of for two years.
He felt that rush of youthful anticipation-part wonder, part fear-that had been absent for so long. But above that even now hung the crushing weight of his responsibility. He had Emily to look after and look out for, a young girl who sometimes had trouble remembering her parents’ faces when she was tired, crying and needing them most. Jack was always there for her, offering a hug and trying to hold back his own tears because he was the grown-up now. He was the one who played with Emily and told her off, washed her clothes and helped with her school work, prepared her meals and looked after the house. He sobbed with her sometimes, but other times he had to scold her if she misbehaved. He'd tried to tell himself that not tidying her room when he asked was too insignificant to worry about, but the gravity of Doomsday sometimes seemed to exaggerate the smallest of things.