DAY 20

DEVASTATION

After the explosion had gone off, everything went blurry. All sound seemed to turn off; nothing but a deaf, ear-popping silence.

Elisa cried out as she watched the flames rise higher and higher, John struggling to hold her back from running headlong into the fire. Tears ran down her face and she collapsed onto the ground, hands still reaching out to towards the wreck.

Charlie and Bryce were thrown up viciously against the concrete side railing of the overpass and were knocked out.

The entire building erupted in flames--everyone and everything inside immediately vaporized. Outside, debris, along with bits and chunks of brick from the building crashed into the streets below, as well as onto the overpass.

People screamed. No one could hear them, but they]were. Screaming. On the inside, they were all screaming.

It was over.

---

"John, help me lift them..."

"'Ere, you take Charlie..."

"Wake up[,] you two..."

"Come on, we've got ta get movin'..."

---

For five days, Bryce, Charlie, Elisa and John had made their way down towards Drover.

They had made it through the city down the maze of over-pass highway roads until finally, they had gotten out. To Bryce's and Charlie's luck, the two were found by John and Elisa after the explosion and only suffered very few minor injuries. Elisa and John had carried them three kilometers before they finally awoke and could walk on their own.

They had considered following out their original plan to Charlie's cottage, but that would be like walking to their deaths after the fire. Most likely, it hadn't killed all of the Infected in Manchester, driving out most of them into the surrounding forests. If they all has death wishes, sure, camp, why not? But after making it this far, and with what they had suffered through to do so, oh no. They were making damn sure that they were going to live.

So off to Drover they went. It was going to be a long walk.

Not once had they run into another Infected since that day in Manchester, --which was now almost completely covered in flames. Looking back towards the orange and red horizon, chills of amazement and disbelief filled each member of the group.

During the evacuation, fires had ignited all through out the city and with no firemen to extinguish the flames, they raged on untouched. Explosions also erupted through Manchester as the fire reached the gas stations and gas lines riddled amongst the city. With the afternoon breeze, ash, along with the stench of smoke and burning asphalt drifted their way. The entire city was now nothing but the world's largest smoke signal, a massive gray cloud covering the entire area.

On the way they found some food in gas stations, small market stores and empty homes. During the day, as usual, they would do most of their walking. When at night, they would rest and take shelter in the cover of the many large trees growing out of the side of the road.

The level of connection within the group had also changed. It seemed lighter and much happier. To their absolute amazement, John had even told jokes. His usual haughty attitude seemed to simmer down to nothing but a glowing coal and seemed to even become better after learning of Max's demise. He even clapped Bryce on the back with a wide smile for punching Max in the face. Elisa was not as impress as John and a bit sad, but for the most part she seemed mostly unaffected.

She too was also doing well. Elisa hadn't had one single panic attack since they had gotten out of Manchester. And as for Bryce and Charlie, they could have never been more pleased than when they spent time with each other.

"We're here," John said with a sigh as they approached the marina.

It was midday, and the sky was a bright, beautiful blue with a cool breeze blowing. The sun warmed their skin and smiles spread across all of their faces as they walked down the long wooden dock. The soft sound of water rapping on the against the shoreline along with the chime of seagulls filled their ears along with the smell of sea.

Charlie took Bryce's hand and pulled him along the dock behind her.

"Over there! We'll use that one!" she said happily, pointing over to a boat.

Behind them, Elisa also jogged up behind John and laced her fingers within his, resting her chin on his shoulder. She smiled up at him and he turned to her, returning the gesture.

"Hard to believe that almost a month ago we were stuck in that airplane in that God-forsaken airport," Elisa said, watching Bryce and Charlie,]who were getting into a boat.

John shook his head and sighed, "Yeah," he admitted, "hard to believe."

John planted a tender kiss on Elisa's forehead and they began swinging hands, giggling slightly.

When they reached the boat, Charlie and Bryce were already in and ready to take off.

"Hurry up!" Bryce laughed.

"We're comin', we're comin'," John smiled.

He jumped in and helped Elisa on board.

It was a medium sized white motor boat with two leather seats at the front and a matching bench at the back. A bright blue ring encircled the boat and on it's sides written in thick black cursive, The Escape.

John chuckled, How appropriate.

Once the two of them were settled into the front seats, Charlie and Bryce sat together in the back, gazing out behind them as the boat's motor rumbled loudly, filling the air.

As they pulled out of the marina, Bryce couldn't help feel an overwhelming wash of relief wash over him. He glanced over to Charlie, only to see that she was staring at him. She sighed and put her head on her hands, resting her arms onto the back of the boat.

Although unspoken, the knowledge and feelings everyone shared were the same.

They were finally free.

They had made it out alive and they were okay. They were okay.

Bryce looked back out towards England. It was time to go home--to their new home and to their new lives. This was going to work. Although more obstacles were sure to threaten their path in the near and far future, he knew, he just knew. Everything was going to be better.

"Bye Mum, bye Dad...goodbye Mark." he heard Charlie whisper.

He turned to Charlie and reached out for her hand again. "Charlie, you okay?"

She took a breath in and nodded, "I believe so,"

She paused and looked over to him, eyes searching his. "And you?"

He looked down to the small hand in his and rubbed it, laughing to himself.

"Yeah," he answered, "yeah, I'm okay...."

He lifted his gaze and brushed her cheek.

"I'm okay."

AUTHORS NOTE: Jan thank you again one last time for doing this with me and begin an amazing Beta. You helped me so much with the story and also helped me become a better writer. For that I am forever grateful :)

OTHER NOTES:

--I really have no idea if Manchester actually has overpasses. They might... they might not. Facts up the bum, in the end I could care less.

--On the part of characters.. Charlie was never really the main character in the story initially and still is not. It was Bryce, Charlie just happened to open the story. He, I knew from the beginning, was going to be the main character while I also wanted to tell the story from another character's prospective—Charlie-- along with that of Elisa's, John's and Max's—a painful(on my part :P) compromise I need to choose later in the story. Although the prospective jumps from character, it really helped tell the story in how keeping it under one singular person or overall observation could not.

--as far as the romances go, Charlie and Bryce like each other which is pretty obvious. From the minute I started I knew that their relationship wasn't going anywhere past batting meaning holding hands, hugging, and just being cute. They're 14 and 15 after all, that would be just pushing it a bit because this clearly isn't a romance story :P That's why I brought Elisa and John in around the middled. I really wanted to do a little romance somewhere (because usually I write romances) and Charlie and Bryce clearly were NOT going to over step that boundary so I moved along to bigger fish.

I can't believe it's been a year (and a few?) since I started this story! I was reading thought and man were those first few chapters brutal. When me and Jan first started out on this story I was in gr 8 and we still had not perfected the whole beta corrections plan and was also writing circles around in the dark not knowing what exactly I was doing. I'm in gr 10 now haha! Now though that the entire story is finished, I'm considering going back and fixing the entire thing up, but that will most likely not happen :P well at least not any time soon. Thank you again to all my few readers(haha) for taking the time to read and review the chapters! I hope you all really enjoyed it ^_^ I'm very happy that I started and finished this story, even if I have so few readers. It makes me feel very proud of myself that I have been able to finish something that I myself enjoy. It's like I have all these Ideas and stories inside of me and I've managed to completely let one out. This was fun! Thank you again everyone!

Here is a link to a poster I made for the story: .com/art/28-Hours-Later-128742026

Here is a ling to the character sketches(drawings): .com/art/28HL-Character-Sketch-131266553

"There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth...not going all the way, and not starting."

-Buddha.