We huddle in the tunnel. Huddling we call it. We like huddling but we don't like it. It's like cuddling with a rock.
"No push," Myra says.
"Huddle more. Huddle more closer," says Steven. He's one of the newer ones. He thinks huddling will make it better.
"Want kissing," says Myra, pushing away from the others.
"Noo," I say. We all want kissing, but it doesn't make anything better.
"What. What you?" Myra is angry and pushes me with her stump.
"No push," I say and move away. "No push, no kiss."
Myra laughs. I know it's a laugh because I'm used to Myra now. "Rarrrr," she laughs. "Rarrr, rarrr, raaaaarrrrrrrrr."
The tunnel echoes with her laugh. It's not funny. It doesn't make you feel good like a laugh does. The others huddle closer.
The tunnel is wet. Cold and wet. But everything is cold anyway. Everything except the warmies. Drips fall from the roof and splot on the floor, in the dark. It's like a sad song. Splot, splot, sperlott. A drop splots on Myra. This time she doesn't laugh, she roars. I know her so I can tell the difference. She pushes Steven with her stump and he huddles closer with Tim and Jing.
"Keeeeees," she roars and stares right at me. She steps closer and leans forward, looking in my eye. "Keeeeees!" I think she might kiss me for a second, and I get scared, scareder than usual, which is always scared. But she won't kiss me, no matter how hard she looks. There's no point.
I hear a crack outside, like someone's kicked a stone down the hill. I hope she doesn't hear. But she moves her mouth. I know it's a smile because I know her. "Keees," she says quietly. "Keees."
Everyone looks up. The sound keeps coming. Someone is coming down the hill. Coming to the edge of the tunnel. Coming into the tunnel. Why would they come into the tunnel. Only one reason. Fire. They'll bring fire. I sniff. I can't smell fire but they'll have it, waiting in the matchbox. Matches and little tins of fire.
We listen. They don't come in. There's no more noise. Steven is standing. He doesn't understand. "Kiss?" he says. "Kiss?"
I push him. "Fire," I spit. "No kiss. Fire!"
I push him again and he sits down. But Myra is moving closer to the opening. She drags her foot, closer and closer. I hear her say "Kiss," quietly. Then a big noise, and the tin is pulled away from the opening, and I see it, the fire in his hand, swinging around and lighting all of us. I go back, quick like falling, and huddle with the others. We huddle so tight we push into each other. Steven whimpers. Tim and Jing get smaller and smaller in the middle of the huddle.
Just five of us. If they want to burn us we can't fight. Myra always says, more, more, kiss, kiss. But now only five. And the man with the fire.
I look back. Myra is crouching. She hasn't run. She's still there close to the man with the fire. Why isn't she scared? I wonder. Then I see, the fire in his hand isn't a fire. It's a torch. Cold light. It can't hurt. Not really. The man walks into the tunnel, past Myra without seeing her. He flashes the light around. It hurts my eyes and I look away.
"Aarrrgh," he says. "Oh my God!"
Steven is new. The light doesn't hurt his eyes. "Kiss," he says. "Kiss?"
The man turns, kicks something, drops the torch. "Kiss?" asks Steven, standing up. "Kiss?"
The man has fallen down, on his knees. He is making funny sounds in his throat. Funny scared sounds. He stands up and runs. Then he sees her. Myra is standing right in front of him. "Kiss," she says and grabs him. He pushes her, pushes hard, but he's too late. She kisses him on the neck and his blood shoots all over. Steven is struggling to get there, "Kiss, Kiss," he says, crawling forward. The others are behind him, following. Myra makes slurping sounds. The others get there, but she pushes them away. Steven crawls underneath and kisses him on the back.
I stay back. I know it's wrong, know it won't make us feel better. But I know his blood is warm. The only thing that feels warm, even if it's only for a second. I crawl forward. I push Steven out of the way, and kiss the man on his back.
At least we'll be able to fight better, now we'll be six.