Thye had made a break for it and stole the keys to a vehicle. Now they were out on the open road travelling at a steady speed. Louise sat in the front, holding Sam the toddler she claimed as her own and Ian drove. Ian never mentioned the past, he just seemed to be getting along with the present. In the back sat Sue, a mousy haired woman in her early forties and Jason, red hair pulled back into a pony tail and toped off with a red bandana. Neither of them spoke much as the winter landscape ran alongside.
They were escaping once more, convincing themselves that it was the new threat that was driving them from the group. Louise had always known when to run, how to avoid the perils of The Purge and how to survive. She was at work when it happened. There was a big explosion, people were thinking it was a bomb and then the first of the alarms sounded. Everybody made for their phones.
The next day had been wiped from her mind. She’d done a cleansing job, brushed away those things that were going to be painful for her. She never returned home to see if her husband had somehow made it through the city and she had never got as far as the nursery in which her young daughter was waiting. Instead, she ran and hid, ran and hid until she reached the edges of the city.
At some point, she had stopped hiding in the dark and had ventured into an empty house. No sounds, no signs of life, she felt safe enough to spend the night in a bed.
The house stood in its own space on the edge of a field. Dusk was creeping along, a cold mist settling on the grass. Behind her, the city continued to explode, plumes of smoke running upwards before billowing out like deadly toadstools. The city was shrouded and awaiting its last rites.
Stepping on a stair, almost halfway up, she surprised herself with the reaction a creak had brought about. She froze, waited, expected a quick rush of death, but there was nothing, just the night. And then, the sound of a baby crying.
Louise found him in a small bedroom, hidden in a recess behind a heavy pine wardrobe. He was soiled and scared, but most of all he was hungry. Louise held him close, ignoring the whiff, squeezed him tightly as if he were her own and had finally found some food that he would eat. She was still a good mother.
Ian’s concentration was locked on the road immediately ahead, so when a mass of people jumped out from stand of trees that were growing on the blindside of a tight bend, his reaction was to avoid them. He could have counted at least six heavy thumps as each of the bodies collided with the vehicle. The back end of the car swung out. He lost control as it smashed through the barrier and went hurling down a steep slope. Nobody had the chance to scream as they descended an embankment and landed in a rapidly flowing stream.
Shock swept over them. Then things got worse.