Something shifted inside the car. The train trembled for a split second, and then was still again. Jenny leaned back and looked at the door. It looked like it was broken, held together with only a padlock and a latch that had been hammered into the metal. She pulled at the lock expecting it to hold, but it came open in her hand. Someone had forgotten to lock it. She looked behind her again, but she was still alone. Jenny pulled the lock from the latch and held it in her hand, looking at it for a moment. Slowly, she pulled open the latch. It only squeaked a little. Setting the lock on the ground, she pulled out her knife, tucking the handle up one tightly-buttoned sleeve.
She pulled open the doors. They hung loosely on their hinges, like they'd been hit hard from the inside. But they didn't make a sound. No squeaking or rusty hinges. Jenny frowned.
“Casey?” she said into the darkness. The smell hit her then and she gagged. Decomp. So he was dead then.
Hope flamed inside of her, filling her up. “Casey?”
A scraping sound. Jenny leaned forward, trying to see inside. She covered her nose with the back of her arm, being careful of the blade. She stared into the black of the car. This was no good. She was going to have to walk away and get Declan. Maybe she could convince him to come alone with her, without the crew. The crew meant violence, and violence meant death. Jenny didn't want to be responsible for innocent people dying. But she also wasn't about to walk into a pitch-black coffin that reeked of the dead. There might be a rotter in there.
Or it might be Casey.
Just fucking run.
She straightened. This was crazy. She needed to get out of here.
Just fucking run.
She started to step back from the door. Then she heard the scrape of a footstep directly behind her. She started to turn as a blunt pain shot up from her lower back and she was pitched into the car. Her head met something hard and she heard a dull thud before the pain exploded in her skull. Everything went white for a second. Jenny sucked in air, but it was rancid and vile. As her vision cleared she could hear someone behind her making noise. Shoes against concrete. The sound of metal against metal. A voice, a woman's.
“Now you'll stay away from my husband. Heathen whore.”
“Cora?” Jenny heard her own voice echo. She gathered her bearings. She was on the floor of the train car. The cold metal she was leaning against was the pole she had cracked her head on. Someone had pushed her. Cora. She touched her forehead and it came away wet and sticky. Blood.
She realized she was no longer holding the gun. The knife was still securely wedged in her sleeve, though she felt a dull throbbing in her left hand, like she'd sliced it in her fall. There was a fumbling at the door. In a flash, Jenny realized what was happening and pitched herself forward, ignoring the piercing pain in her head. She forced herself to her feet, the dizziness nearly sending her flying. She caught the pole and pushed herself hard toward the door.
The lock clicked into place. A woman laughed softly. And Jenny heard the sound of something moving in the darkness.
She shoved at the door. “This isn't funny, Cora,” she said, her voice high to her own ears. “Please. There's something in here.”
“We knew you were Heathen,” Jenny heard Cora say from the other side of the door. “Joshua and I. No one else. Only the two of us. We knew the whole time. He was going to kill you and put you next to your wicked relative. It was poetic. But then things changed.” She was quiet for a second, as if composing herself. “I'll not have your filth on my husband.”
“I don't want your husband,” Jenny said. She kicked the door and felt her boot bounce off the thick glass.
“Don't be stupid. Everyone wants Joshua,” she said. “His seed will repopulate the earth.”
“Gross,” Jenny said. The slow creaking and scratching behind her seemed to be spreading to either side. “Cora,” she said, her voice almost a whisper. “Are there rotters in here?” Cora didn't answer, but Jenny thought she heard her chuckle. “Cora, please let me out. I'll leave. I'll never come back. I didn't want to hurt you. I just wanted my brother back.”
“Your brother?” she said quickly.
“Yes,” Jenny said. “I thought he was here. But he's not. He's not fucking here.” She felt a prickle of tears behind her eyes and it felt like failure. Like shame. “Don't do this. Please.”
“Goodnight, Jenny.” She heard the sound of Cora's footsteps on concrete, receding.
“Cora! Stop this. It's murder. I thought you Righteous were against killing.”
Cora responded in a low voice, as if talking to herself. “All flesh is grass.”
“Fucking let me out of here, you crazy bitch!” Jenny heard the rustle of plastic as Cora slipped back around the tarp. Fuck.
The noises were growing louder. Closer. Jenny squinted into the darkness, but couldn't make anything out. She pulled the knife out of her sleeve and blindly cut it through the air. Squatting down, she waved the knife in a horizontal arc in front of her with one hand, and felt around on the ground with the other for the gun. The floor was sticky with bits of debris everywhere. It smelled even worse down low. She found the pole that she had crashed into, but she didn't feel the gun. She sliced into the air over and over, the blade making a whooshing sound. The groans were growing louder.
Jenny stood, her head still swimming and pulsating from what was no doubt a minor concussion. Blood wasn't streaming into her face any more, but it hurt like a mother. She felt like she was going to pass out. But if that happened, she was dead. She waved the knife through the air and it chinked off of glass. A window. She kicked at the glass, the contact sending the nerves up her leg vibrating. It was solid when she pushed on it. She needed that gun. Turning, she felt along the floor with her feet, trying to find it. She wanted to shoot at the door, try to hit the lock. Jenny remembered that always working in movies when she was a kid, though she had her doubts. But she had to try something.
There was the sound of something soft scraping along the floor behind her. She stabbed with the knife into the pitch darkness but only met air. Then she felt something touch her foot. She screamed and stabbed down towards the floor, both hands on the hilt of the knife. It connected with something both soft and brittle at the same time. A hissing sound rose up from the floor along with the stench of a very old rotter. The hand relaxed on her ankle and she kicked, her foot going right through what she guessed was a skull.
Jenny turned, waving the knife again, this time up and down, blindly. She may as well have been wearing a blindfold. Her only way out was to fight. If she could find the gun she could shoot one of the windows and kick out the glass. Maybe. The rotters were old, she was pretty sure. At least the first one was. She could do this. She'd done it before, just never in complete darkness.
The knife chinked off of something metal. She felt with her other hand. Another metal pole. Jenny stopped to listen and a putrid smell filled her nose and mouth. The knife hit something soft and her knuckles grazed something slimy. She took the handle of the knife in both hands and stabbed up, towards the place she imagined the head was. The knife went in deep and soft, like it was going through cold butter. A rattling groan came from inches in front of her face. She pulled the knife out. This one was much taller than she'd assumed. She realized that she must have hit him in the neck. Dry, scratchy fingers grazed her arm with a sound like paper. She kicked out as hard as she could and felt a reverberating crack followed by a thump. The rotter had gone down. Jenny suspected she'd broken his leg, possibly both of them. Stepping forward to smash his head, she screamed as something caught hold of her hair. Jenny spun round and one of the tiny Righteous style braids was yanked from her head with a ripping sound and a flash of pain.
“Fuck!” A new rivulet of blood trickled down her neck. She stabbed with her right hand and the knife ripped through a thick, brittle skull this time. Its head made a sickening noise like a rotten pumpkin when she brought her boot down.
It was eerily quiet. For a golden second she thought she'd gotten them all. Then she heard a scraping sound to her left. She turned, barely breathing. A creak like old leather. The smell of it permeated the air as she listened to it take each scraping footstep. She waited, still and listening.
A hand grasped at her dress, weak and slow. The rotter's teeth jangled together softly. The knife went in quick and smooth, and as she twisted the blade, she felt it go still. It dropped lightly onto the floor.
Jenny took a step back and her boot slipped on something hard. She caught herself on the pole and heard something slide across the floor. The gun.
The train car was silent again. She listened for a long time. No sound. She sucked in air, not realizing she'd been holding her breath. The pain in her head was agonizing. Fucking Cora. She didn't realize what she'd done. If Jenny didn't kill her for this, Declan would.
Declan. He was really going to enjoy telling her he told her so. So she had that to look forward to. Her foot touched a fallen rotter and she stepped over it. Crouching down again, she felt for the gun. She made her way towards the place she had heard it slide. She grasped something solid, but dropped it quickly in disgust. It was a bone. Probably human. Jenny remembered how Lily had told her about her father disappearing in the tunnel. Jenny's guess was that Joshua threw him in here. Can't have too many men in his little cult. Wouldn't want anyone to object to him raping his way to world domination. These people were better off without Joshua and his psycho wife.
She had reached the end of the car. With her outstretched hand she could feel the cool, slick wall. Her hand eased up and she felt the padded seat. Jenny frowned. There hadn't been any other seats. Probably looters or squatters had stolen them. Maybe Joshua. Maybe someone else. Jenny's head was spinning. She grabbed hold of the seat and felt along the floor. She gasped in pleasure as her hand wrapped around something cold and metallic. Setting the knife on the seat and holding the gun in both hands, she found the trigger with her finger. She squeezed, bracing herself for the explosive noise.
She cried out the shot was so loud. Jenny raised her hand to rub her ear. It felt like she was underwater. First the dizziness and darkness, now she was deaf. But when the pain subsided, Jenny blinked. Light was coming in through the bullet hole in the window like the beam of a flashlight. It must have been dawn.
Jenny put the gun in the holster still fixed to her thigh. Walking to the window, she kicked out hard. She felt the glass give way a little, and though she still couldn't hear anything, she imagined it made a pretty satisfying crack. Her foot went through the glass on the second kick. She could hear a muffled tinkling. Her hearing was coming back.
Light was pouring into the train car. Jenny glanced around. Rotters littered the floor. There were bones everywhere, along with shreds of fabric, probably from the clothes of victims. She looked down at the rotter closest to her. He gave a twitch and then was still. Jenny narrowed her eyes. The rotter's hand moved and her ears had cleared enough for her to hear the scrape of bone against the floor. It was his legs. It was the rotter she'd kicked. One of his legs had snapped off, and the other was broken, jutting out of filthy, shredded cargo pants. He gave a moan as her ears popped, and the scraping was instantly louder. Jenny turned to grab her knife off the seat, nearly tripping on a pile of clothes she didn't realize were there. Grasping the knife, she turned to finish off the last rotter when a noise stopped her cold.
“Jenny?” It was a hoarse voice and her name came out as a croak. A man's voice. She looked around. Her heart was beating in her ears again. The pile she had mistaken for clothes moved and she realized it was a man. A very thin man draped in larger clothes that hung off of his sallow body. He had been balled up before on the seat. A face blinked at her from his place in the fabric. She hiked up her skirt and took out the gun, leveling it at the man before he could blink again. She flicked her eyes to the knife on the seat next to him. He slowly raised his hands, wincing, like it pained him to do it. His face was emaciated. Shaggy dark hair fell in floppy curls around his ears.
“Is it you, Jen?” he croaked again. “The light hurts.”
Jenny frowned. “How do you know me?” Then the man did something strange. Slowly, almost tenuously, he smiled. He fucking smiled at her. His teeth were yellow. How long had he been here? But then all thoughts went out of her head. The arm holding the gun dropped to her side and she heard the gun clatter to the floor. She tried to speak, but no words would come out. She caught a harsh, rasping breath. Finally, she managed two syllables.
“I wasn't sure if you were alive,” he said. He stood up shakily, his clothes barely clinging to him. His tee shirt was brown with something that looked like dried blood.
Jenny shook her head. She couldn't wrap her mind around this. “How are you...” She staggered back, suddenly feeling dizzy again. She caught herself against something soft and rank-smelling. A musty groan in her ear. Panicked, she tried to clamber away from the rotter. She kicked back with my boot, but it grasped her shoulders; it was weak, but Jenny was off-kilter and fell back against it. She felt something tear at the back of her neck. The fabric of her dress. Thrusting back with her elbows, she felt something brittle give way. But the rotter just grunted.
“Casey, help me!” she screamed. “The knife!”
Jenny saw him look back where she had pointed and reach for the knife. And then there was pain so intense that her vision went white again. She didn't know when she started screaming, but she couldn't stop. She felt her shoulder become warm and realized vaguely it was from her own blood. There was more tearing, but it wasn't her dress. It was her. The rotter was ripping away a piece of her neck. She felt herself growing weak. And then she was falling back. Casey was standing over her with the knife and the rotter wasn't moving any more.
There was more ripping, but this time it was her dress again. Casey came up with a wad of fabric. He must have cut the hem of her dress with a knife. It seemed funny to her for some reason and she laughed as he pushed the fabric onto the wound in her neck. Then she looked at his face. Those brown eyes. They were paler than she remembered, but it was his eyes she'd seen all these years in her dreams. Leaving him had been the most horrible thing Jenny had ever done. She touched his arm. He looked on the verge of tears. He was so thin he almost looked like one of them. Like a rotter.
“I'm sorry,” Jenny said.
“For what?” he whispered.
“For leaving you. I shouldn't have left you.”
“It's okay, Jen. We have to get out of here. Can you stand?”
“It doesn't matter,” she said. She felt wetness on her cheeks. “None of it matters. I'm dead now, Casey. You have to go.”
“Shut up,” he said, helping her up. He staggered as he pulled. His nostrils flared as she fell against him. He shut his eyes for a moment before he put her arm around his stick-thin shoulders. He got Jenny to the broken window.
“Can you climb out?” he said.
“There's no point,” she said.
“Just fucking do it!” he said.
“Okay!” She put one leg out, but there was a short drop and she ended up tumbling out and falling on the concrete, catching herself with her hands. Casey dropped easily beside her. He offered a hand and Jenny stood up, her limbs feeling like jelly. Her head was pounding. Casey suddenly froze and she looked up to see what had spooked him.
There were people standing back against the tarp. Jenny blinked. Gradually she saw they were the Righteous from the camp. It looked like everyone. She saw Lily staring at her, wide-eyed and crying, her fist pressed against her mouth. Joshua was staring at them, too, his eyes flicking from Jenny to Casey and back again. Cora stood beside him. Her eyes were hard, but her mouth was pulled down in a frown at the corners.
Jenny felt Casey raise his arm. She looked to see he was holding the gun. He aimed it at Joshua.
“Don't try to follow us,” he said.
“Kill him,” Jenny said, her voice breathy. Her whole body hurt. It felt like her nerves were on fire. “Kill him and his asshole wife that put me in there.”
Joshua looked at Cora.
“No, let's go,” said Casey, pulling her. “No one needs to die.”
“I'll do it,” Jenny said. “Give me the gun.” She held up her hand, but she was shivering. Her teeth chattered. She swallowed and her throat felt raw. The wound on the back of her neck was pulsating and she could almost feel infection spreading through her body. She was dying. Her eyes watered. Cora had killed her after all. Jenny looked at Cora then.
“You're all going to die now,” Jenny said, her voice like shards of glass. “You know that, right? It won't be me. I'll be dead soon. I was the only thing standing between you and Declan Munro. He's going to kill you all for this. I can't stop it any more. And I don't want to stop it. You killed everyone when you pushed me in.”
Cora straightened and raised her head proudly. Joshua was staring at Jenny now. “Munro?” he said. He looked at Cora again. “What have you done?” Cora looked back at him, suddenly shaken. She frowned, confusion clouding her face.
“Come on, Jen,” Casey said urgently. “You don't understand. We need to get away from here.”
“Okay,” Jenny said. Her eyes fell on Lily, though, as she turned to leave. The girl's shoulders were shaking with sobs. She met Jenny's eyes.
“Run,” Jenny said, remembering Declan's words. “Just fucking run. Get as far away as you can. Save yourself, Lily. Save your baby. God doesn't live here anymore.” Then Jenny let Casey pull her down the tunnel, and they headed into the light.