“She’s gone.” Mason repeated again. Everybody in the room looked at him, trying to convey as much sorrow as they could, silently.
“She’s gone. What do we do?”
“Her body is gone, but her spirit lives on.”
There was a thud as Mason span and punched the wall, his fist ploughing through the plaster, dust exploding out. He punched again, this time with his other fist, then again with the first fist, striking up a thumping rhythm.
Reilly dropped from the chair upon which he stood and ran across the room. He grabbed Mason’s fists, struggling to hold them.
“Stop.” He said. Mason struggled against him.
“What’s the fucking point?” Mason shouted, wrenching his arms free and pushing Reilly away. Reilly stumbled, feeling someone grab him from behind and push him back up.
“Stop it.” Reilly said.
“Why? First half the fucking country is blown to fucking pieces. Then the cunts continue to kill us with radiation. Can’t they just let us live in fuckin’ peace?”
Mason stormed away. Reilly followed him, waving his hand behind him, calling back to the others, telling them to stay. He was relieved that he didn’t hear any footsteps behind him.
Mason stood in the kitchen, his face red and his head shaking. He grabbed at his necklace and ripped it from his neck, fumbled with the key and plunged it into the store cupboard door’s keyhole. He twisted it and flung the door open. Reilly leapt forward, tried to push him away from the door, but Mason was stronger. He stuck out an arm and pushed Reilly over.
Reilly felt something crack in his arm, but he stood up as quick as he could, ignoring the pain; the adrenaline that pumped through his body helped. He knew that he had probably broken, or at least fractured his right arm; it hung limply against his side and, although he couldn’t feel much pain, he could feel it throbbing as it began to swell.
Mason disappeared into the cupboard, and Reilly heard metal fall to the floor. He swore under his breath and moved closer so that he could see in to the cupboard.
Red shotgun shells rolled on the floor. Mason was crammming them into the shotgun.
“What are you going to do?” Reilly asked. “Loading that won’t help. You can’t hurt anyone. You can’t kill radiation.”
“Oh for fucking hell’s sakes Reilly. Stop going on about not fuckin’ killin’ things. I don’t want to hear it.” Mason swung the shotgun round, pointing the barrel at Reilly. There was a click as he cocked it.
“Say it again and I’ll fucking kill you.” Mason said.
The kitchen door opening distracted them both, and Reilly siezed his chance. He jumped across the room, rugby tackling Mason. Even the adrenaline was not enough to stop the pain that suddenly shot through Reilly’s arm, and he screamed.
The shotgun blast was deafening in the tiny cupboard. Reilly thought he had been shot. His body certainly hurt enough, and was covered in enough blood. But when he rolled away, he saw that the shotgun had caught Mason. He had fallen on top of it, his head propped up on the barrel; the rest of his skull was plastered across the ceiling of the cupboard. Blood and brain matter dripped from the ceiling.
Ears ringing, Reilly threw up, vomit splattering across the wall and Mason’s body.
There was another scream in the kitchen, and Reilly tuned his head, still vomiting, and saw that Martha was standing in the kitchen, her hands covering her face.
“Help.” Reilly said and passed out.
He awoke to find himself in bed, his clothes changed and the blood and grey brain washed from his body. His ears still ached, and his arm really hurt. He lifted his head and looked down at his arm. It had been splinted with a bit of wood. The table next to his bed was covered in what appeared to be half of the house’s medical cabinet.
His voice was hoarse when he called out. There was a chorus of rapid footsteps up the stairs. Kiera and Martha burst into the room.
“Tell me Mason’s still alive.” He said.
Both of them shook their head. “He died.”
Reilly burst into tears, his body shaking.
“It wasn’t your fault Reilly. It was an accident. He did it himself.”
Reilly wiped his eyes with his left hand. “What have you told the others.”
“Most of them believe that it was an accident, others think that Mason shot himself and hurt you. A few think that you shot him on purpose, but everybody else is arguing with those few, telling them that you wouldn’t kill a fly, let alone Mason.” Martha said.
Kiera sat next the bed and laid her hand on Reilly’s shoulder. “They want you to come down when you can. It’ll be good for you to speak to them. They need a leader now that Mason and Maureen have gone.”
Reilly nodded. “Have you buried them yet?”
Martha shook her head. “No, we’ve dug a grave, and put them in a coffin. We were waiting for you to wake up. We thought that you might want to say something.”
The pair of them helped Reilly out of bed. He was okay to walk on his own by the time that they reached the bedroom door.
“How long was I out?” He asked as they walked down the stairs.
“Just over a day.” Kiera said.
They reached the ground floor without seeing anyone. Martha took him through to the living room and he sat down on the same chair that he had been standing on when Mason had come into the room. The fist holes were still in the walls; he hoped that the kitchen had been cleared of blood.
It took a while for all of the residents to gather in the living room; they waited for the sentries to be called in. It was deemed that the issue was important enough that the risk could be taken. The sentries stood near the door, their shotguns hanging over their shoulders. While people arrived, none of them spoke to Reilly, standing far away from him, until the room begun to become full and they had no choice but to stand closer to him.
This time Reilly didn’t stand.
“I know why you are here. I know what you want to hear: the truth. The truth is, I don’t know exactly which of us caused Mason’s death, but I do know that it was an accident. I did not intend for him to die when I entered the kitchen. Far from it. I tried to take the shotgun from him, and in the scuffle it was fired. It was one blast, and that one blast proved fatal. I am sorry that it happened, and I hope that you believe what I am saying. I know there are multiple rumours going round, but I can only prove two of them wrong: Mason did not try to kill me, although he did threaten to do so. I did not intentionally kill Mason either. Please, trust me and take my word for it. Arguing will not do us any good. Let us not remember Mason how he was earlier, let us remember him for the man he truly was: A man who brought us together and cared for us all.”
Reilly stopped speaking and looked at the people assembled before him. They stood in silence, watching and seemingly waiting for him to continue.
“That is all.” He said.
The sentries left first, in silence, returning to their posts. The others left in small groups, twos and threes. Again, all in silence. Eventually only Kiera and Martha remained, along with Reilly.
“You did good.” Martha said.
“I don’t think some of them believed me.” Reilly said.
“Of course, but hopefully they will keep those feelings to themselves, or they will argue with the others and have their opinions changed.” Martha said.
“I hope so. Otherwise this could be the end of us.” Reilly said.