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Wednesday, 28 January 2009

The Rising - Chapter 91: Making New Friends

‘Don’t bother the nice man,’ her father said.

‘No, it’s okay,’ I said and did my best to smile naturally at the little girl, ‘My name is Tom. Are you going on holiday?’

‘I’m going to live with my mummy.’

I looked at her father, who was hiding the sadness in his mind beneath the obvious love for his child. Poppy opened the tiny pink bag she had carried onto the plane, took out a puzzle book and pen and turned her attention to a half-completed crossword.

‘It didn’t work out between her mother and me,’ her father said, seemingly desperate for someone to talk to. Given the situation and my history with Sarah, I was hardly the best person to dish out family advice but thought I’d better try my best.

‘I’m sorry to hear that,’ I said, ‘I know what it’s like. I went through a similar thing a few years ago.’

‘You have children?’

‘No, but I split with my wife. We got back together for a while, but… I guess some things aren’t meant to be.’

He nodded and shrugged, then held out his hand. ‘My name’s Jonathan. Friends call me Jonnie,’ he said as we shook hands.

‘Pleased to meet you,’ I said, then struggled to think of anything else to say. The uncomfortable silence was interrupted by Poppy, who was struggling with one of her crossword clues.

‘Eight across. Ship of the desert. Five letters.’

‘Camel,’ I said. She checked that it would fit, then turned and gave me a big smile. ‘Thank you, Mister Tom.’

The sight of such a cute, innocent little girl cut me deeply. For the first time in hours I thought of another little girl. The one whose blood I drank that morning. The one who I couldn’t resist feeding on, no matter how hard I had tried.

Is she still dead? Did she turn into a vampire? Have I turned someone into a vampire? Am I about to do the same to these good people?

The cloud that had been masking my thoughts of the girl and my feelings of guilt was blown away. The image of the dead girl’s body, her blood soaking into her clothes, popped into my mind. I knew I had to do something, anything to salvage some semblance of humanity. Once more I thought of the syringes tucked in my sock and gave myself a call to action.

I did my best to look round the cabin and couldn’t see any of my brothers and sisters. Not knowing whether I was within earshot of them, I decided to play it safe. ‘Do you mind if I have a go at one of those puzzles?’ I asked Poppy.

‘Okay,’ she said, and flicked to a new page for me. I took the book from her and started to write in an empty space on the page. When I was done, I handed the book to her father. ‘Maybe your daddy can help you.’

He took the book from me and looked at me quizzically. I nodded towards the page and he looked down. My message read:

Please stay calm. There are people watching.
There are terrorists on board. After take-off you will all be gassed and infected with a virus. I have no choice. I am being forced to do this, which is why I want to help you.
I have the antidote.
If you want to help your daughter, you must give her the antidote now. There will be no time later.
I wish there was more I could do.

He looked at me again, wide-eyed with disbelief. ‘You’re serious aren’t you?’

I nodded.

He thought to himself for a minute. The pilot announced that the plane would be ready for take-off in a few minutes, which prompted him to turn to me and hold out his hand.

‘We haven’t got much time. Give it to me.’

I took the syringes out of my pocket and handed them to him, trying to keep them out of Poppy’s sight. He put them in the pocket of his jumper and stood up, taking Poppy in his hands.

‘Come on, sweetheart. One last trip to the bathroom before we go up in the sky.’

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