Much love to everyone who’s supported me on my writing journey so far, and as a thank you, I would like to share with you all the very first chapter of Contagion.
My knuckles turn white as my fingers clutch the seat belt. What’s taking him so long? I continue to stare out the car window, past the shards of glass that lie glinting under the moonlight, into the dark warehouse.
Just as I consider picking up Dad’s car radio and ringing the station for backup, he steps out of the shadows, a handcuffed man in tow. I let out the deep breath I was holding upon sight of him. This isn’t the first time a meal out has ended in sirens and Dad rushing to the scene of a crime, and it never gets any easier for me, being stuck in the vehicle, having to watch and wait.
The window sticks as I hurry to wind it down, so I open the door a fraction instead. “Everything okay, Dad?” My voice echoes off the walls of the building, into the night air.
“Yeah, everything’s fine, Bryony.” He pants, dragging the handcuffed man over to the vehicle. “Could ya do me a favour and open the boot?”
I unclip my seatbelt and step out of the car to pop open the boot. I know immediately what Dad needs: antiseptic wipes and a medical facemask to prevent contamination. He should have put gloves on before going into the warehouse, but he was the first, and apparently only, officer on the scene and didn’t have time to spare.
He opens one of the backdoors and guides the man into the car with a harder than necessary shove.
“Sorry I took so long. I had to check the whole building for others,” he says as he opens the packet of antiseptic wipes and cleans his hands.
I hand a facemask over to him. “I was worried.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“I know, it’s just… since Mum—”
“—Your mum’s death was a terrible accident, courtesy of one of these a-holes. If they think they’re going to get me too, they’ve got another thing coming.”
The man scowls at us through the glass. I unintentionally reel back at the sight of his face—half a bald head that’s been taken over by oozing scabs and two long slits for a nose. He’s also older than I assumed he would be. He sees me recoil and slowly turns away, unfazed.
“Anyway, I need to get this guy into a jail cell as soon as. You know I hate to ask, but are you okay to walk back? I mean, I would drop you off, but I don’t particularly want you anywhere near this freak.”
I roll my eyes dramatically, making sure he sees. Sometimes I think he forgets that I am nineteen, meaning that I am more than definitely capable of walking myself home.
“Okay, okay, I get it. I’m mollycoddling you again, aren’t I?” He squeezes my shoulder gently. “Just make sure to ring me once you’re home, okay? Remember to lock the door behind you—”
“—And check all the windows are locked too. I know, I know. You’ve told me a hundred times.”
“And I will continue telling you even when I’m old and grey and you’ve long moved out.”
“You’re already old and grey.” I smirk, knowing Dad will take it in good humour.
“Don’t be so cheeky,” I hear Dad say as I turn away and start the walk home. And only once I disappear around the corner do I hear Dad’s sirens growing fainter and fainter as he drives off in the opposite direction.
I walk along the outside of our town, looking at the trees that surround it with our ‘no mutants’ signs nailed to their trunks. We’ve never needed a fence to keep the mutants out. Our public executions of the ones kept in our underground prison every time it gets full usually gives them enough of a warning to stay away. We still get the odd few that don’t listen, such as the one from tonight, but it’s not a common occurrence.
“Just a couple more steps,” I tell myself out loud as our house comes into view at the end of the street. I rub at my arms for warmth as each breath leaves my mouth in a cloud of steam. The gate has been left open. I close it with a click behind me, wondering who might have visited while we were out.
The sensor lights turn on, as I walk up to the porch, fumbling around in my handbag. “Where are you, damn keys?” I look under the doormat for the spare, but it’s not there. Tutting, I kick the doormat back into place with frustration. The amount of times Dad hasn’t been able to find his keys and taken the spare one instead should be a world record. I just wish one of those times wasn’t today.
I sigh and use our wheelie bin as a step to climb unglamorously over the fence, before landing on my feet in the squelchy mud of our back garden.
I pull the handle of the back door down, hoping for some kind of miracle, but as expected, it’s locked. “Crap,” I say, turning around.
“Looking for these?” A man is standing there, dangling a single key in front of my face. I open my mouth to scream, but before any sound comes out I feel a hard thump to the back of my head.
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