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Flesh 02 Skin

By´╝ÜKylie Scott

CHAPTER ONE

Stanthorpe, Queensland, Australia


189 Days Post-Apocalypse

In the end they took a vote on whether or not to trade Roslyn to the stranger at the gate. They even gave her a say, demonstrating that democracy was not dead, even if civilization had gone belly-up six months back, when the virus first struck.

All nine survivors had gathered on the school steps. No one would meet her eyes. The weak winter sun above them did little to combat the bitter wind. Roslyn’s marrow was ice and her teeth chattered. She wanted to wrap her arms around herself, huddle down into the green school jacket she’d purloined from a student locker. But she didn’t. Spine straight, shoulders back. Her father would have been proud.

She cleared her throat. They couldn’t do this. She would explain why in a sensible and rational manner, using small words. “I know we’re running low on food, but there’s no reason we can’t make a trip into town to look for supplies. If we just make a plan—”

“Let’s get on with it,” said Neil, former head of the Math department. Still pissed she had refused to put out. Never had she met such a pretentious, unattractive git. “Please raise your hand to vote ‘yea’.”

Her gaze skittered around the group.

Six people raised their hands.

Shit.

The world slid sideways and she locked her knees, breathing hard. Holy fucking hell, they were really going to do this. How could they? How could this have ever happened? The world made no sense.

But wait!

Directly across from her, Janie hesitated. The girl’s elbow jerked back and her fingers folded. Hope blossomed warm and deep in Ros’s gut.

Neil harrumphed and dealt Janie a stern look, brows drawn tight. It was the face reserved for particularly painful students and staff who dared cross his path. Janie caved. She reached for the sky, pale blonde hair flying in her pretty face. Her eyes were shiny-bright and she blinked furiously, trying not to cry. The damn teacher’s pet.

Double shit.

No point blaming Janie. Not really. The stranger at the gate wanted a woman and Mrs Gardner, formerly of the Home Economics department, was well past sixty, with an arthritic hip. That left Roslyn or Janie, and Janie was young, a trainee admin officer. They’d found her on day two, huddled behind a filing cabinet, a bloody letter-opener clutched to her chest. Apparently, she’d driven it through the Principal’s eye socket when the virus got the better of him. For months the girl had woken up screaming in the middle of the night.

Roslyn couldn’t have sent her out there. But why the hell did that mean she had to go?

The answer: because the shelves in the school canteen were bare and the cowardly, lazy bastards wouldn’t dare a trip into town. Nobody at the school had ventured beyond the stout stone walls of Lowood College, and none of them were planning on attempting it anytime soon.

Spineless, back-stabbing—

“Nay,” Ian, the former groundskeeper, said forcefully and raised his hand high. Mrs Gardner did likewise. Roslyn’s eyes fogged up.

Her own vote to the negative was a foregone conclusion.

The end tally stood at six for, three against.

She was outvoted.

Her empty stomach spiraled. The material of her pilfered gray school uniform clung wet beneath her arms.

They were going to trade her to the stranger to be used for God-knew-what perverted sexual purpose. She stood there slack-jawed at the horror of it. She wanted to wake up from this nightmare, safe in her own bed. Wanted all of it to have been a warped dream she told her girlfriends about after one too many glasses of wine at the pub.

God, how many times had she wished for her old life back?

The man waited at the gate, lounging against the side of his panel van. It was apparently loaded to the brim with goodies. Perhaps it would turn out to be a Trojan horse, packed full of ninjas. He’d drive it through the gates and kapow! Bad guys would attack in a flurry of action. Game over.

It would serve them right, betraying bastards.

Well, some of them.

Janie cried openly now, blubbering into a thick wad of tissues.

Someone stamped their feet and another coughed, bored or cold or a combination of both as Neil blabbered on. The wind howled around the grand old stone buildings and shook the leaves in the gum trees. Her insides felt hollow. They had actually done it.

Roslyn rubbed at her temples, willing her brain back online. Her hands shook with fear and frustration. What fuckery was this? The whole world had gone mad.

Meanwhile, Neil still droned on.

“He said you’d be treated decently.” Neil studied his sturdy, brown shoes. The wanker.

Something inside her broke. Roslyn balled her fist and swung wild. Giving it everything she had left in her.

Neil’s steel-rimmed glasses flew and blood fountained from his nose, splattering the concrete vibrant red. The color was stark and beautiful against the dull gray.

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