Lula shivered, even through the tight plastic slicked over her skin she could feel the wind’s bite as it slid through her mane of white blonde hair. Thync was designed to take the taint from the environment not keep the flesh cupped in it’s grip warm. It didn’t help that the suit had been designed by men. She wrapped her wings tight around her hoping the stiches would hold. They were new grafts, barely a few weeks old, and she was one of the lucky ones.
‘Believe it or not I’m made of flesh and blood,’ she muttered as the Thync strained with every move she made. Lula felt more exposed than if she’d been walking around naked, even her boot heels clicking off the tarmac sounded taught.
‘You there?’ She called to the empty buildings. ‘I want to talk. I could have stayed with the last lot you know even if there’s such a thing as a living death. Some of the youngest might have listened if they hadn’t had their wits scared from them by their elders.’
The Zone still had a few communities that managed to keep the company from their doors. But that left the demons they bred within; the ones nobody liked to talk about. They were just as dangerous and twice as hard to spot. Lula kicked a can hard enough to make it spang off rock. What was left of the buildings didn’t care and if the voice that had spoken to her in her dreams was out there it wasn’t answering.
‘I’ve walked through enough villages already. They won’t believe it’s true even after I show them.’
Her wings fluttered.
‘You better not be lying to me. I want sanctuary not more of the same.’
Lula’s shiver wasn’t entirely from the cold laced though the wind this time. She doubted she’d ever be able to quiet the memories of what had been done to the other captives.
‘Where are you?’ I want to see you. To know what you are.’
Lula fought to keep the petulance from her tone, but it had been a long hard road. She was entering the city proper now, a frozen dead zone the life had been stolen from and her boot heels tapped off the walls. She knew what she was doing, everything would be fine, ever since she’d heard the first whispers, she’d known that. The voice had to know something about the blast otherwise why had it sought her out?
There were too many things she and the other survivors had witnessed but she was the only one who’d seen it all. She still remembered the night she’d woken with the unburied bodies of her victims lying around her.
‘Those citizens deserved it. I told them not to lay a hand on me,’ said Lula.
Lula’s heels tapped louder; the streets were narrowing now. If she listened close she could hear a message in her boots white metal spikes. She was getting closer.
‘You can’t be far now.’
Lula’s perfect teeth ground together in frustration.
‘I’ve done my part,’ said the blonde girl with her hair whipping about her face. ‘You still haven’t done yours.’
Her eyes searched the shadows.
‘What’s out there?’
Lula watched litter dance as she struggled to catch a glimpse of what lay in the ruined cities depths. The thing was she wasn’t sure what to do. She was just doing what she’d always done – what instinct demanded. Lula arched her back and felt the Thync slip across her spine as she flexed her fingers. A landslide in the rubble brought her back to earth. She’d never felt so on edge, every platinum hair she possessed crawled with energy as the sound was echoed from a dozen spots down the street.
But there was no reply. The voice she’d first heard that night in her cell listening to the screams of her companions had gone. She’d been left to deal with the lurkers behind the towering slabs of brick and concrete alone.
‘You said if I did what you said…’
She stopped; she was being childish. She was free after all. That much the voice had been right about. It had been her decision to follow it.
Lula made sure the rest of her anger was kept low. There was too much at stake to let her guard down. When a shower of stones began she stumbled. She’d felt alone before, she was used to it, but this was a different matter. Lula liked to see what stalked her. The last of the light leaking from the sky granted her wish a moment later and Lula wished it hadn’t. Just as the sun finally slipped behind the vacant buildings she saw what was following.
‘There’s so many of them.’
Her nose wrinkled as another ten joined the pack. She’d only backed up a few yards before that had doubled. Pretty soon she didn’t bother looking for new arrivals. She didn’t want to see what was gathering behind her, not if it meant looking into the pack’s eyes. Her heart crawled up her throat in it’s attempts to free itself.
‘Tk tk tk tk tk tk.’
Grit drummed off the taught Thync on her shoulders and when Lula looked up through the rain, she couldn’t stop a shiver. The walkways overhead were full of the new arrivals too. Each metal branch holding a dozen tumorous fruit waiting to fall. She’d found what they’d done with the failures then.
‘Leave me alone.’
Her feet were having trouble finding purchase. She slid, and righted herself, but only just.
Nearby fire ladders shook. They were coming. Pale half-moon slivers blinked back at her as the first hands reached forwards. The strangers were fast, even faster than the cockroaches that were the only living things that survived here. Her suit had been designed to deal with them at least, but it couldn’t stave off this sort of contamination long. She keyed in a jolt of adrenaline and felt the surge as her body responded. But she wondered how long the Thync could keep her from them; even it had its limits and you only had to look at these new comers to see what happened if you didn’t have tek on your side.
‘What do they want?’
‘You already know Lula,’ said the nearest licking its lips. ‘But we’re going to teach you so you don’t forget.’
‘Call them off,’ this time she begged her comms unit transmitting the cry on all frequencies and this time it responded.
‘I will but first you have something they need,’ said the voice.
Lula’s head craned back over one shoulder as she fled up the street and she caught a glimpse of the pursuit from beneath her lashes.
‘Please no, there’s too many of them. ’
‘They’re only friends, what’s left of them,’ said the voice as her pursuit began to run up the street.
Rubble slid underfoot as she stumbled once again. This time they’d gotten close enough she could smell their breath. She didn’t want to think about the voice anymore, nothing could be worth meeting what it kept as companions.
The words only just made it past her lips as the first hands crept over her and she only had the suit’s skin tight contours to thank for their lack of purchase. She was faster than them still, but only by a small margin. Already the outriders were close to bringing her down.
‘Why are there so many?’ said Lula in between short staccato gasps like a deer at bay.
‘Because the lesson has to be taught well,’ said the voice.
‘And after this you’ll tell me? Tell me how to stop the killing? I don’t want to hurt anyone else.’
‘I’ll show you Lula. It’s better that way.’
After that she held her tongue. She needed every ounce of breath in her chest if she was to escape. But there was something underneath the adrenaline she hadn’t noticed before. It took her a moment to recognize it for what it was. She was curious. There was something in the look she could see in the packs empty eyes. She was still trying to work out what it meant when a stiletto caught fast in the streets splintered concrete. There wasn’t even time to look down as the sound of a spiked heel snapping took the breath from her lips.
‘No,’ said Lula.
They were all over her before she could save herself and every struggle and shout from her just seemed to make the attackers multiply. Soon the world disappeared beneath their limbs as they crawled across each other to get to her.
‘Fight them, if you can. If you want to,’ said the voice.
‘Get them off…. please…call them off.’
‘Why don’t you ask them?’
She struggled as sparks flashed across her eyes. The weight was so much she could only just suck air into her tortured lungs. There were so many she could barely think, let alone fight. A hand cupped a breast, another, her buttocks, slipping across the plastic of her thigh boots until it had found it way up high, squeezing, and kneading with busy fingers. She tried to scream again, but the fingers were at her mouth parting her full lips and calmly investigating the treasures within.
Lula could feel others joining them now, so many she lost count. The private spot between her legs was alive with them, and more had dragged her feet apart. Filth encrusted digits wrapped around her fragile ankles, so tight there was no possibility of escape. Something was headed toward her. She opened her mouth to scream once more and felt the space between her lips fill. There had to be someone who could help, some way to escape.
Her cheeks bulged as she tried to spit the intruder back out, but the meat wouldn’t move, not at first as she explored it with her tongue. Soon there was so much pressed into her mouth she was choking on the scabby thing. She tried to see what it was but her eyes crossed with the effort. Besides with its owner pressed hard against her face and their hands wrapped in her hair it was impossible. Only the meat and its contours had any meaning even if she was desperate to get it out. She tried to spit it free again terrified that she would damage it and enrage its owner further but they’d become busy; moving in and out of her like an engine gathering speed.
‘Mmmphh,’ Lula tried to scream again but it was impossible with so much inside her, and that wasn’t all. The Thync suit’s zippers were opening. For a moment Lula thought the attackers might relent if she went still. Perhaps they’d be bored if she didn’t give them any trouble. But all that happened was the press of so many bodies lessened slightly until she could see what was being done to her.
She wanted to howl with rage, but there was no way to do it past what was plunging in and out of her. She wanted to tell hem to leave her alone, to beg them, but they’d nailed her so far open she felt like a spit pig. There was movement at her back as the next creature shuffled into position. Her suit might have protected her once, but the rents where her attackers had found their way to her flesh had damaged it too far for that now.
The hammer between her lips left for a second and she gasped for air, spittle pattering down her chin and spreading across her heaving breasts.
That was all she had time for before it was back, and it wasn’t the only thing entering her. The space between her legs was filling too and she couldn’t stop the tears coming to her eyes. Now the intruder in her mouth had been joined by a different one forcing her jaw so wide she thought it would break, but she was more capable than she’d realized. It seemed it could only open wider as her assailants swapped places to explore the warmth hidden inside her.
Lula had to do something, but there were so many of them and so much lubrication spreading over her it was hard to find purchase on anything. The slick had spread down her suit now, smearing into a thin sheen that glistened on it’s straining plastic. For a moment her mouth was empty.
She thrashed and jerked but struggling was useless and her wings battered limply against the floor. There was too many of them shunting in and out of her. She couldn’t move besides being slammed back and forth. But that wasn’t the realisation that was creeping over her, slowly her muffled screams were becoming something else, something she didn’t know she could produce.
At first, she tried to ignore it, but as a protrusion so large it felt like a fist slid between her legs her brain shorted out. She was moving faster than ever now as she bounced between them. Except she was plunging to meet them, not writhing to escape. There was a reason why she was here, but she couldn’t think of it anymore. She couldn’t think around the meat inside her, and there it was, the one thought that had skipped around the edges of her fear. She couldn’t help wondering if there was room for more. She did want to say something then. Something she’d wanted to say for a long time. For a moment as the bodies shifted she got the chance. The word coming from her full dripping lips without her realizing it.
The bodies shifted again and a different rod entered her. She’d lost count how many had been in her now even if she could have gotten beyond two without her brain fusing.
When Lula woke there was no sign of her assailants, but they’d left their mark. Her fingers traced the sticky secretions plastered over every inch of her. She tried to wipe them off as she dragged herself to her feet with her hands crawling falteringly up the wall but it was no use. There was too much. When eventually she managed to stand without falling over what was left dripped slowly into a pool between her feet. Lula teetered on her one remaining heel and tried to ignore the soreness between her legs.
She remembered holding on as her body was passed around but after that it was a blank. She staggered to one side of the alley where they’d left her and pressed her spattered face against the brick. When she pulled away snapping the sticky strands that had adhered to the wall, she knew she had to find the voice. They’d answers she’d choke out of them if she could.
She didn’t have far to go until the buildings ended. This was city’s epicentre and nothing still stood inside it but foundations…and…something else. Shadows were moving in the ruins and atop a pile of twisted metal and broken rubble they were gathering into the shape of a man.
‘Welcome, I hope my friends didn’t hurt you,’ said the voice, but this time it was coming from lips she could see.
‘I don’t know, maybe. It’s hard to remember.’
Lula’s hand went to her head. It wasn’t that she was hurt so much that there was a gaping hole in her that ached to be filled again
‘Was that what you brought me here for?’ said Lula.
‘Some of it yes.’
‘You give them something they needed, it’s what you were built for.’
Storm clouds were gathering over the man and in the flashes of lightning as they broke and rain began to wash the mess off Lula.
‘And you? What do you want from me?
The man took a step forward and by another flash of lighting Lula could see his smile.
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