Jim Bramer, Minister of Special Circumstances, stood and gazed out of the grimy rain-slick window of The Houses of Parliament office that was his home. Casually he picked at the damp peeling paint on the window sill, and dropped the flakes onto the aging, stained carpet. The office was once opulent in the seat of government, now faded and ruined as the city around him. He looked out into the night, and the further he looked west, the more dread snatched at him. He could feel the rising panic in the city below, queues of shabby workers rushing down Abingdon Street towards Westminster Bridge and the Isle of Dogs. They moved together in the vain hope there was still a boat with a friendly Captain. In his office he could hear the murmurs and shouts of the crowd, people shoving and arguing, fear barely concealed as they hurried along. Bramer knew that all the boats were gone, and that Death was coming. He knew this because The Minister had phoned him and told him so.
Jim leant against the window; the cool night air leaked around the broken frame and cooled his reddened, drunken face as he sipped at the whiskey trying to garner some resolve. His eyes refocused on his own reflection, as grey, wan, and lined as the skin of any Zombie. He thought about the last sixteen years running from the knowledge he had lost everything in The Fall, the same as everyone else. He had a memory of that black time, of biting teeth and running in the dark from the moans. Times of black grief and reckless mourning that weren’t to be talked about.
The weight of the experience formed a cross too heavy to bear. Everyone in Greater London yearned to share the stories of that time and gain some solace, yet few could, because the cross was carried by everyone. The memory of the Zombie apocalypse was too dark and personal to be borne by others. Jim wondered if he was the only one with that recognition. Then, as he poured himself another glass of rough whiskey, he thought about Shayna and the kids, three little gems of life, and although he had a picture on his desk he realised he hadn’t thought about them in a long time. He had hidden from the pain using responsibility. He realised, that after sixteen years of fighting the enemy and building this city, he hadn’t grieved for them. He knew that was probably the longest time for anyone in the city, but it was too late now to grieve, no tears came, and he wasn’t even sure any more of the name of the youngest one.
He tried to gain the will to face his men and tell them it would be OK, that it wouldn’t be like The Fall. He knew this to be a lie. It would be worse than The Fall, and they would all die, no one would escape that hadn’t left the city already. He knew this because The Minister had phoned him and told him so.
Eight days ago it had started as a curiosity, a lone Zombie shambling slowly down Knightsbridge, wearing a smart suit and carrying a sign, the last protester at an Undead rally. It was picked up on CCTV and tracked by a tired, laconic, operator who reported it to the Gate Patrol. They acknowledged with a casual grunt and watched it move onwards in its own quietly determined way past the husks of cars and overgrown verges piled with detritus. It was an ‘Ancient’ with sunken eyes and wiry limbs.
Eventually one of the guards folded his poker hand, shrugged at his friends around him, took his winnings and climbed the ladder up the wall of broken concrete and cars. As he struggled upwards he passed the hanging drapes that warned those who left that they would receive no more safety once through the steel and aluminium gate.
The wall stretched along Piccadilly in one direction and along Grosvenor Place in the other, encompassing Buckingham Palace and the gardens within the walls of ‘Greater London’. He climbed the forty feet to the top of the gate, constructed at the end of Constitution Hill, sat on the little chair in the rain rusted corrugated structure, took the binoculars from the hook, and looked out towards the lone figure ahead in the cracked and dusty streets. Once he had a bead, he focussed in. It didn’t look too fresh, but strangely the suit did. It shambled past the remains of shopping carts pushed to the side, and over shrubs that grew from the rain filled drains. The sign, clutched in its white knuckles, wobbled about as the grey Zombie lurched inexorably left to right like a metronome. It read;
The End is Nigh.
The guard finished his tea. Rifled in his bags for some bullets, found some and with them a pack of cigarettes. He lit one and carefully loaded the rifle. Looking up, the Zombie was a little closer, so he finished the cigarette and waited. Finally the guard raised the rifle, cocked it, settled it into his shoulder, and shot the Zombie through the head. It flopped dustily to the floor. The guard leant the rifle against the chair, rested his head in his hands and sighed.
An hour later to the second, Control rang through. Two more had been spotted coming down Knightsbridge, both carrying signs. He told the operator in the Department of Control about the sign the first one was carrying, and she asked him to tell her what was on the signs these two were waving.
The end is nigh
The Minister is coming!
Ten hours later, the guard was flanked by snipers, dressed in black fatigues and dark polarised glasses, their protection from the morning glare. They settled on the walls like Gothic crows, kneeling, crouching and lying with eyes pressed up to the sights. The minigun stations were manned, as were the flamethrower apertures at ground level. Behind him troops ran, frantically ferrying ammo from supply vans to the individual guns. He could hear orders being barked, men and women sweating as they threw case after case of ammo into position. An alarm sounded. Everyone fell silent and over public address system, an announcement was made.
“Here they come. Wait until the order to fire.” The tinny, disembodied voice said.
They number of Zombies had doubled every hour until this wave held over a thousand. The signs they carried repeating the same mantra.
The end is nigh
The Minister is coming!
In one week
He will come
As soon as the mobs of Zombies were in range, and the order was given, the miniguns fired up to speed with a spinning whine. There were four of them around the gate and as one they roared in defiance at the mob. The bullets ripped through the flesh of the Dead, into those behind. Those who were not shot in the head rose to fight again. The guns trained in on them and cut them down with efficiency. A few minutes later, it was over and the guns spun down. The acrid smell of hot metal pierced the senses of the soldiers around. They relaxed, flexed wrists, cricked necks, smoked, and waited
For an hour more ammo was ferried to the gunning posts, and Engineers tended the hot old guns with cooling oils and pastes in readiness for the doubling of the Zombies again. Jim had wondered at that time how many Zombies The Minister controlled, or could control, maybe it was about a thousand, as many as had been sent in the last wave. If that was the case, of course The Minister would be better using subterfuge, so why announce his arrival? Jim realised this was the psychological component. The attack had been broadcast all over the city on the BBC. Everyone knew the Minster was coming, everyone knew that something was about to happen.
After an hour the next wave never came, nor an hour after that, and there was nothing for a few days. Even the reconnaissance missions reported very few or no Zombies around. It was as quiet as ever in the City of the Dead.
Jim remembered sitting in his office three days ago. It was late afternoon and he was reading a very dry report about estimated repair times for the wind farm system when his phone rang. He flicked the receiver up to his ear and held it there with his chin.
“Bramer.” He said curtly. There was a shuffle and a click on the end of the line. Jim was just about to repeat his name.
“Ahh Jim. I kent I would just leave ya a wee message.”
Jim’s legs went weak. He recognised the voice from the MP3 he had played to Paul Jollie all those months ago. It was flat, hollow, threatening even in the quiet between words.
“Dunnae try talking to me, I’m just a recording…..I just wanted to let you know that its time for you to stop fightin’ and ready yersel. I’ll come and hear yer confession. I want you to kneel afore me and admit your sins. I say this, Jim, because when you see me for the first time, in three days time, i’ll walk straight intae yer city an’ you’ll weep an’ realise that there is nothing you can dae. Nothing you can dae to stop this happening. Make yer peace with God, Jim, and I’ll gladly welcome you intae my arms. See you soon big man. See you soon”
Jim held the phone long after The Minister rang off. He felt as vulnerable as the first time he had hidden unarmed from the Dead. The Minister had told him that he wasn’t safe. All the mechanisms and safeguards they had built against the Zombie horde meant nothing when there was a mind behind it.
The call was traced to a payphone on the Isle of Dogs. CCTV found the person who made the call and held the Dictaphone to the receiver. His name was Charlie Willoughby, and he had entered Greater London through the North gate claiming he had come to trade, in his Land Rover, from one of the isolated communities to the north. He had been admitted after screening, then made the call after travelling right across the six miles of walled city. Charlie was easily picked up, and under robust interrogation had admitted that the Minister had taken a thousand Zombies through his community and taken his family hostage, Charlie begged them not to tell the Minister when he arrived for the sake of his family. They reminded him they were more than likely already dead. According the Charlie the Minister was alive and well and on his way. They locked Charlie up and waited.
Then, on the morning of the seventh day the city of London awoke, turned on their TV’s and saw. Pictures were beamed live from a helicopter as it flew down Knightsbridge and into a sea of the Dead. They stood in a line starting a quarter of a mile from the gate. In between the buildings, they filled the car parks, streets, the shopping precincts, and sports fields, in every open space for mile after mile. The helicopter flew over not an army of the Dead, but a Nation of the Dead. Millions of zombies had appeared over night at the Gates of London and now stood facing the city in silence, evenly spaced and unmoving, muting all sound with their collective mass. The BBC reporter was trying frantically to describe the vastness of the scene whilst concealing the fear evident in his own voice.
At that moment Jim knew that the Minister was right, there was nothing they could do. They couldn’t evacuate the city, but they would try, and in the end the nation of the Dead would roll over the city like a tsunami. Jim reached for the whiskey bottle. The Dead stood there as the city fell into chaos. The army stood resolute. They had been trained well, but the population fled to the east of Greater London and into any ships, planes and even rafts that would carry them. Now, as Jim watched the last hopefuls file towards Westminster Bridge, a wave of tiredness fell over him. The empty whiskey bottle fell to the floor and spun. Jim lurched over and kept his balance against the desk. He was more drunk than he realised. He reached over to grab the faded photo of his long dead family and knocked it over. He scrambled to pick it up and looked at the smiling faces within. He had been wrong, there were tears left to grieve. He flopped into the leather backed chair and stared at the picture cradled in his hands weeping until the alcohol took hold and he passed out.
Little Paul Jollie sat up in bed and screamed.
“Mummy! Mummy!” He started to cry and although he knew he was safe at home he could still feel them all around him.
“Mummy turn the light on. Pleeeaaase” He wailed.
The door flew open and the light came on, not to show the crowded dining room of his dream, crammed with dead and rotting figures with little Paul cowering in the middle, but to his little bedroom. It was blue and had all his toys and little boxes and all his Bob the Builder posters just as they should be. His Mum ran in and swept him up. He sobbed, terrified into her shoulder.
“Oh my darling what’s wrong?” She soothed as she hugged him close. Between sobs Paul blurted out.
“It was the dream again Mummy. I…I was not walking. I was just standing this time. They were all around me all stinky and ill”
“Oh my baby. My Darling. It was just a bad dream.” She whispered. Paul began to calm down after a time and slowly she lowered him back into bed, with words of love and gentle kisses.
“Mummy.” Said Paul. “Leave the light on.”
“I will babe.” She tucked the duvet round his shoulders. It was cool and welcome.
“Do you want me to stay for a while?” She said.
Paul nodded. So she sat there and gently stroked his head.
Finally as he drifted off into the grey of sleep he could feel the weight of his Mum on the bed. He could hear her gentle breathing, the warm smell of her in her bed clothes, then, just as the grey of sleep drifted over his mind, just for a second, they were all around him again.
There in the grey, the space that existed between sleep and consciousness, surrounded by tiny eyes of darkness, a speck of light hid from the enormous black hole that spun silently before it.
Jim woke with the early summer sun full in his face. It streamed through the window and made his face sweat precious water. He groaned and tried to get up, but his old stiffened neck complained loudly with a crack. He rubbed at the loosened flesh. The war of flesh was coming. The memory shocked Jim awake. He grabbed a half empty glass of water from his desk and drained it. He staggered to the toilet in the other room, drained himself, washed quickly, and just as he straightened his hair while returning to his office there was a knock at the door.
“Come” Shouted Jim.
The door opened and in stepped Miss Mitchell, who was a short woman, in her late forties and fiercely efficient. She has short black hair and a faded but smart twin set.
“Good morning Sir. I have Control on the line. They want to give you a sit rep but couldn’t get hold of you, probably because your phone is off the hook.” She strode over and replaced it, shaking her head slightly. It rang immediately. She picked up the receiver.
“Mr Bramer’s office?…..He’s here…Yes….No, I’ll have him call you in five minutes…….Have the Zombies moved?……In that case, Sir, I will have him call you in five minutes.” She said tersely and plonked the phone down with just enough force to indicate to the caller on the other line they had been hung up on.
Jim sat at his desk, and Miss Mitchell wrinkled her nose at him.
“By the smell of you you’ll need coffee and water. All non-military staff have left the building so there’s no breakfast but I’ll see what I can do about toast. That was General Jones.”
Without saying another word she strode out of the office. Jim had employed her simply because to her the Zombies were another obstacle to be overcome, like not having milk in your tea. He put his head in his hands and pulled his hair back. He picked up the phone and dialled.
“Control. General Jones speaking.”
“Jonesy. It’s Jim. What’s the situation?” There were too few Generals to not be on first name terms.
“No different. They haven’t moved all night, but while you have been incommunicado we’ve pretty much got everything ready. I have a Division of troops at the gate, minigun and flamer crews ready. Everyone else is lined up on top of the wall or barricaded on the top of buildings along Birdcage Walk, the Mall and Buckingham Gate. We’ve also managed to get twenty choppers on the go, but no armour.” Tanks, like most military tech too big to be carried, hadn’t been used since The Fall.
“Any luck with the TIC Snipers?” The TIC snipers were Jim’s best hope. The Minister was the only one alive amongst the crowd, and with Thermal Imaging Cameras, a sniper would be able to pick out the heat signature and take him out. Needle in a haystack didn’t even begin to describe the task.
“None so far and the BBC helicopter we outfitted hasn’t seen anything either.” Said General Jones.
“Keep looking. Remember the TIC snipers can fire at will, but only at a signature. I don’t want that bastard walking up to the gate only to find they are out of ammo.”
“Righto. There are no reports of Z activity from the other gates too, so we’ve pulled a couple of Divisions over to the West Gate.”
“Good idea. Any luck with the heavy ordnance? “Jim said.
“None. All the tridents were made safe years ago, and we know from The Fall what nukes would do to the Undead, even if we had any.”
“Radioactive Undead? Not Good”
“No. All the bombs, tanks and heavy stuff were dismantled for parts years ago.” Jonesy said.
“Its ironic. There hasn’t been a war between humans for sixteen years. Peace at last eh?”
Jonesy didn’t know what to say to that.
“Also the situation at the Docks is getting worse, we estimate two hundred thousand trying to get out, we can’t contain the situation much longer.” Jonesy continued.
“Where the hell are they gonna go, Jonesy?”
“Everything’s that’s got an engine, wings or sails has already left.”
“Pull your men out. Get them deployed this side of the river. If the people want out the gate then let them go. It’s their choice.”
“You think they’ll think twice and calm down if we play ball?”
“It doesn’t matter either way, if we can’t stop him they might stand a better chance on their own, and all his forces are this side of the river”
“Fair enough, but we’ll get him Jim.”
“I bloody hope so. Call me if there is any change.”
Jim put the phone down and picked up the remotes. He turned on the CCTV system and logged onto the Control network. Several different sized TV’s fixed to the opposite side of the office flickered into life. He could see what the commanders on the ground could see. The might not have armour but they had information, nothing moved in Greater London without it being picked up. Jim flicked on the BBC as well and watched the footage of the reconnaissance flyover again. He couldn’t comprehend the scale. He had hoped to feel more positive after he woke but in the face of these odds, how could he? The gate might hold until they ran out of ammo. The gauntlet that the Zombies needed to run to get to Westminster and Westminster Bridge might thin them down enough. With a stroke of luck one of the TIC crews might pick up The Minister and they were then into a straight fight, but Jim was a realist more than anything else, and he knew that battles throughout history were won by the army with the most troops. He didn’t expect this to be any different, and as Miss Mitchell arrived with his coffee and toast, he swung into action. He picked up the phone, and made some calls.
Paul knew that part of him was here, in the dorm of the orphanage set up in the compound of Windsor Castle. He couldn’t move but he could feel the warm sheets, he could smell the dirty pillow beneath his head. Part of him was here, in the now, but part of him was in the dream. The same dream he always had. He was walking at night, surrounded by Zombies, through broken streets and overgrown fields, endlessly walking. He had no control over his movements but could see his hands, and they were as dead as those around him. He screamed and sat up in bed. One of the other kids told him to shut the fuck up. Paul was eleven and his Mum was long dead. He laid his head back on the pillow and sobbed quietly until he fell asleep into the grey.
“They’re moving. Yes they’ve started walking towards the gate. I’ve never seen anything like it. God help us. God help us all.” The reporter commentated, but Jim wasn’t listening.
The whole nation of the Dead, moving as one, started to walk towards the gate, their footfalls a low rumble through the concrete and stone of the cities’ foundation. Slowly, inexorably, they came. The images from the BBC helicopter showed them moving like an oily tide through the city, meandering over broken glass and rubble, around toppled streetlights and rotting furniture, the discarded remnants of history.
In the helicopter the camera span round to show a line of twenty helicopters heading out from the city towards the massed crowd. It was a rag tag collection of machinery, converted civilian and military helicopters, older than the end of The Fall as the parts were easier to find or convert. They stopped over the front line and waited for the order. Cannons exploded simultaneously at the crowd, flicking bodies into the air and splitting the concrete below into a fine dust that rose from the army, mixed with their black blood in an oily mist.
The BBC helicopter lurched sideways and the camera focussed in to see a covered arctic trailer. It was being pulled by a line of Zombies, roped together like slaves moving a sandstone block for their Pharaoh. Suddenly the covered side of the trailer fell away and inside you could see a row of Zombies holding tubes. The cameraman tried to focus in on what they were doing as they raised the green tubes to the sky, it zoomed in frantically to see that all the Zombies in the trailer had stinger missile systems crudely duct taped to their hands, and as Jim realised what was happening, they fired simultaneously. Missiles streaked into the sky trailing ragged fingers of smoke. The helicopters had either had their chaff systems removed for parts, or the pilots were too young to have been trained in this pointless defence against Zombies. In the case of the two remaining military Lynx machines, their old Pilots fired the chaff but in their surprise fired too late and, with a searing light and concussive blast that knocked the crowd below off its feet, it showered the Zombie army with fiery helicopter parts. The humans’ air defence was removed with one stroke, along with the BBC helicopter as the screen in Jims office turned to static for a moment.
The phone rang.
“Jim, its Jonesy. Did you see that?”
“He’s rolled through every military base in the country, picked up equipment and tools. You better expect more surprises.” Jim said, coolly. He realised now they had underestimated the Ministers power and cunning.
“Is there any news from the TIC snipers?”
“No.” Said Jonesy
“Stick to the plan, Jonesy.”
The Nation of the Dead approached the gate. Miniguns and rifles exploded at the crowd as they came within range. Thick cordite smoke rose lazily past banners on the gate pronouncing ‘Work Hard: Live Safe’ and into the summer sky as the miniguns and ten thousand rifles picked at the crowd below. Like pushing oil on a table, the fingers of each miniguns probed and prodded the mass only to be replaced by more dead as they surged forward towards the narrow opening.
The gate was sheet aluminium and steel, thick enough to protect against a multitude of banging fists, but not thick enough to protect against the thousand Rocket Propelled Grenades that streaked haphazardly toward the gate, loosely aimed by their Undead troops.
The Minister relied on quantity, not quality of each shot. They slammed into the gate and the surrounding area with such a ripple of explosions that it shook the windows in Jim’s office. He looked towards the gate, past the ramshackle city, and saw the flash of light past Buckingham Palace. Some of the RPG’s flew ineffectually over the barrier and some hit the crowd of Zombies in front of the shooter, flicking them up like plastic soldiers duct taped to a firecracker, but most hit the gate or surrounding wall. It shattered like glass sending shrapnel down Constitution Hill, shredding the home made polytunnels that housed some of Greater London’s food source, with a ripping sound. The blast knocked over home made ploughs and farm equipment like a winter gale.
There was a calm after the explosion at the gate, as blackened shards of metal clanged and clattered to the ground, then the sound of injured troops crying out in pain, victims of the RPG’s or shrapnel blast that followed. This was followed by the sound of tramping feet as the Zombies breached the gate. The CCTV’s in Jim’s office switched to show the gate itself and as the smoke cleared the first line of Zombies shambled casually through the breach. They marched round the ruined Portacabins and markets used to process those coming into the city and provide them with food and water when they got there.
The grey was nothing. Neither warm nor cold, neither dark nor light, it just existed as a distance between two unspecified points. Yet it had character, Paul could see this now. There were areas of grey thicker than others, clouds of etherea that he could use to hide from the black disc that spun in the centre of millions of black eyes. They watched it slowly rotate in rapture, these dead eyes, these soulless wells. All this time Paul hid from the dark. Then he could feel it, the road beneath his feet with the dead walking with him and the buildings that flanked them like broken monoliths. Ahead, he could see a gate explode as a thousand fingers of fire stretched from the dark hole in the grey to envelope it.
Paul juddered awake and could feel the warmth of Sarah against him in the cramped single camp bed and he wanted to stay here with her more than anything. They were young and in lust. He wasn’t dead, and it was just that dream again. He drank in her scent as she snored like a purring kitten. The fear finally left him, but he couldn’t sleep so he thought about passing his basic training in two weeks time and he rested his cheek against her soft warm ribs as they lay together in the darkness.
Inside the gate lay Constitution Hill and the fields of Buckingham Palace gardens. Between that and the gate lay the semi circular ring of five bunkers, each equidistant to the gate. Inside, the guns spat rounds at the aperture where the gate used to be, tearing at the dead and those injured from the blast, without prejudice. The bunkers were constructed from rubble left over from the buildings demolished to make the wall but had never been used, as the wall had never been breached. The mound of corpses grew, unable to pass the weaving aim of the gunners. Each gun was taken out in turn to cool, and for a while it held back the Zombies until, pushing through from behind, scrambling past their older slower colleagues, the runners came. They shoved their way through from the back like commuters hurrying for a train, each desperate to get to the front line.
These were the freshly dead. To run as fast as they did they must have been turned within the last forty eight hours, before they started to slow and become as unstable as their more ancient brethren. Jim realised that they must have been pillaged from the myriad small communities that had lasted since The Fall, or recently formed strongholds as humanity pushed back. They had been kept alive by The Minister until the day before the Nation of the Dead appeared. They had been turned into his shock troops, undead suicide bombers in The Ministers’ Jihad.
Figures sprinted through the thickening crowd, dodging and weaving towards the bunkers. Jim could see these were the young and fit dead, children and teenagers who had never known the world before The Fall, marched to the point of exhaustion and then turned to be moulded by the will of The Minister.
They closed on the bunkers and Jim could recognise the belt of grenades each wore, swinging wildly as they ran. The miniguns couldn’t track them all with the crowd of normal Zombies moving in behind past the gate. While The gunners concentrated on the runners, a solitary girl reached bunker number four to where the gun couldn’t reach. She ran behind the bunker and detonated. The steel door was blown off its hinges as a second runner, a thin teenage boy dressed in a dark blue shell suit, reached the entrance and disappeared inside. There was a crimson flash from the bunker and the minigun span down as smoke poured from the slotted window. One by one the bunkers fell and the mass of dead climbed over their comrades without a word, expanding out inside the city itself. Small groups closed in on the injured and dying, not to devour them but just to place a single bite so in a few hours they would join The Minister on his crusade.
Jim’s phone rang. It was General Jones.
“Jim. I want you to get out. Get on the last Evac and go. We didn’t last a fraction of the time we expected, shit we expected to run out of ammo first.”
“Don’t talk crap Jonesy. He’s after me, its my face on the posters. I’m ‘Uncle Jim’.” He said, quoting the posters all over the City. “He wants to make an example out of me and to prove no-one is safe”
“That’s why you should go.” Jonesy’s voice was cool and level.
“I’m not going. Full stop. Now give me an update.”
“Update is we’ve got a lot more Z’s left than we wanted, and we’ve lost everyone at the gate and along that section of the wall. At least ten thousand men if you include the support crews behind the gate.”
“Any TIC snipers left?”
“I’ve kept some in the city but most were on the wall.”
“And they saw nothing?”
“Bollocks!” Jim shouted. He banged the table in frustration. They had to find him to end this. They had to find the one lone heat signature.
“Pull back into the city for phase two, let’s hope the gardens thin them down a bit until they get into the streets.”
“Ok, Jim…and good luck.”
“You too, Jonesy.” Jim said replacing the phone gently on the desk.
The Zombies fanned out inside the gate and moved towards the converted gardens. They formed a rough front line before striding towards the Palace. They trampled across fields of corn, potatoes and lettuce, showing no regard for anything that was not human meat. They marched across the poly tunnels of tomatoes and strawberries. Jim watched as all his work was crushed into dirt.
Then there was an explosion as one of the hastily planted landmines exploded, showering dirt and body parts, flicking buckets and pots up into the sky to fall and smash to the ground. The Zombie Nation didn’t need fields or irrigation to survive, all it needed was time and meat. Greater London had the latter, The Minister the former. Further down the line a pipe bomb exploded flicking a Zombie above it into the air where it spun like a ragdoll before falling to the ground. Explosions ripped down the line as they advanced and the frequency increased until it was an immense firecracker celebrating the revolution. Corpses piled deep as the Dead marched on with most of the force still cramming towards the gate from the outside.
Jim and Jonesy had scant few hours from when the dead miraculously appeared to prepare. Every landmine and explosive had been used to make the killing fields the Zombie army now moved straight through. This was the perfect army. No fear, no morale, unswerving loyalty, invulnerable to pain and fatigue. It would not stop until it achieved the dark purpose The Minister set for it. The carefully ploughed fields and well stocked greenhouses were destroyed by both sides in their desperation to win this, the largest land battle the world had ever seen.
Eventually the firecracker died and the army rumbled on past the ruins of Buckingham Palace and the Victoria memorial. It was still covered with notes to the lost, little stories of those trying to find friends and families in the apocalypse. Left for all this time just in case, and now ignored by those who could be the object of the note, as they walked on into the city itself.
For months the grey had been a static place, but now the black hole rotated furiously, casting its gaze left and right as the tiny pairs of black eyes winked out of existence around it, and yet the disappeared ones were just a drop in the ocean for the cloud of Zombie minds was seemingly endless. The millions of empty vessels stared in rapture at the Undead Godhead.
Beyond, he could see the same familiar scene from all his dreams. He walked left, right, left, right endlessly walking with the thirst and hunger nagging him on, and then in daytime hiding in sewers and houses, in ruined sports halls and crumbling churches from the Helicopters that infrequently flew overhead.
As he lay in the hospital ward, numb from morphine with a memory of pain shooting through his temple and eye, he drifted in and out of the grey. He wondered, for the first time, just why the dream ran contiguously and yet he couldn’t remember a day between waking up and shouting for his mother, and waking up screaming in the orphanage. Yet the dream was changing and, rather than the endless monotony of walking and hiding, now the dream was a dream of carnage and horror as he joined his red armoured cohort and walked with the throng through the gate. He stumbled over corpses and rubble with the smell of death in his nostrils and the ripple of explosives and gunfire ahead in the distance. Then as he walked he realised that the black suited man in the centre of the cohort was a priest or Minister. Yet how he knew this and exactly who The Minister was escaped him.
Jim and the personnel in Control saw it first. Moving through the gate, like Astronauts to the flight, sauntered The Minister surrounded by his personal guard. Six of Jim’s Special Forces troops, symbols of Greater London, England and humanity itself, murdered so their loyalty turned, with their black armour spray painted the colour of blood. It was aimed, like the phone call, at Jim personally, but with a psychological component recognised by anyone who hadn’t already fled the city. He was using the army to clear his route and allow him to walk straight into the heart of Greater London.
Just over half a mile ahead, the forefront of the Zombie Army entered The Mall, Birdcage walk and the treeless St James Park. The wide streets where covered in multi coloured lines of drying washing, and cabling criss crossed the street providing the city’s jury rigged power supplies. Old buses and lorries had been moved and converted into cafes and shops, and on every street corner there were posters and banners reminding you of your responsibility to the collective, and the rewards of safety and growth for you and your family for that work. The banners were red lettering on a black background with a portrait of Jim Bramer himself watching over those under his protection. Prince William was still the titular Heads of State, but Jim was the power in Greater London and everyone knew this city wouldn’t function without Uncle Jim. On every building along the route, on top of the once opulent buildings that lined the route to Westminster lay the bulk of the British Army. They hid between windmills and rain water collectors for the advancing horde.
The front line came within range, and over the comms Jim heard Jonesy give the order to fire. The CCTV operators changed the screens to show the route through to Westminster and Jim watched as the troops opened up on the Zombies below. Jim expected it to be more frantic than it was. The troops were confident that the entrances to their individual buildings had been sealed by steel doors and rubble. They took their time, drew a good bead, and fired when they were confident of a headshot.
From the window of his office Jim could see the rising gun smoke in the distance as the troops engaged the enemy, the rumble of gunfire punctuated by grenades tossed from rooftops into the crowd below, bangs and flashes echoing through the ruined canyons of London. The troops settled into a steady rhythm of fire, reload, shoot. Once again the tide was slowed and once again the humans had underestimated the time and thought Minister had put into the invasion, and the resources he had gathered on his drive through the ruined countryside.
Gun smoke burnt the nostrils of the troops and made vision difficult in the windless summer. On the streets below, Zombies wandered aimlessly up to the barricaded doors of the buildings in which lay the soldiers. They meandered as close to the building walls as possible to make them difficult to hit by the soldiers above. In turn the soldiers picked numerous easier targets still making their way down the centre of the street. The dust and gun smoke obscured the Zombies close to the walls so they could not be seen to pull the pin on the grenade, or clamp the landmine in each hand, that many of them carried. The troops on the building rooftops could feel their barricades crumble and the slow tramp of feet up the stairs before they engaged the Dead that made their way slowly up to their position. Using time and numbers the first building fell, then the second, then the third. Then as the afternoon wore on and the troops began to run out of ammo the buildings fell more frequently, and still the mass crowded through the gate, with many more awaiting their turn outside in ruined London.
The Undead Army weaved its way through the streets, denser now and filled with the colour and life of the rebuilt city now abandoned for the second time. They made their way circuitously towards Westminster. Jim could smell the gun smoke now and see figures running through the streets as the troops backed from building to building in a running retreat, picking away at the masses as they went.
Jim and everyone in control heard the voice, it was quiet but authoritative, and in the background you could hear the moans of the Dead were very close to his position.
“Control? This is James Rogers. TIC crew seventeen. I have the target but no thermal signature. I repeat I have the target but no signature. Do I take the shot?”
The Minister and his red armoured cohort had entered the city; the start of the Mall was quieter now as the front line moved inexorably on a few hundred yards ahead. James was hidden on the roof of an already overrun building, near the entrance to The Mall, but they hadn’t seen him and he had waited for the opportunity that now presented itself. The CCTV showed the Minister walking down the street looking up at his troops on the rooftops above, but the smoke made an outline of Minister and Jim couldn’t put his finger on it but there was something wrong. Why was there no thermal signature?
Jonesy didn’t hesitate.
“Rogers. Take the shot!” There was a loud crack over the radio and the The Ministers head flicked back, his back arched and he fell to his knees before collapsing flat on his face. The comms went silent, no-one, including Jim, knew what to expect. Nothing changed as the cohort moved on leaving the black suited corpse behind, and then, in the crowd of Zombies behind the personal guard, one pushed through to resume The Ministers position. With a flourish he removed his thick overcoat to reveal the white dog collar and black suit within.
Over the open comms Jim could hear James Rogers fight his last desperate battle as the rooftop Zombies tracked in on his position from the crack of the shot. There was a scream before the operators cut the comms.
“It’s a decoy, any TIC crews remaining keep scanning the crowd for as long as you can. Standing orders remain. Only take the shot if you have a signature,” Jonesy said, dourly. Jim was sure he could hear “Goddamn it!” as he cut the connection.
Jim picked up the phone on his desk, hesitated slightly, and dialled the number.
“Miss Mitchell, could you come in here please?”
The door opened and she stepped in.
“Its time for you to go, Miss Mitchell. You and the rest of the troops downstairs.”
“Are you leaving?” She asked, hand on hip.
“I took the liberty of asking the men their opinion, and if you are staying so are we.”
Jim was dumbfounded. She walked over to his desk drawer, took a fresh bottle of whisky and two glasses from inside, poured two generous shots, took a glass and sat down on the cracked leather sofa on the other side of the room. She sipped half the glass straight off the bat.
Jim raised the glass at her, without a word, and drained it in one and she raised her glass in response.
It was nearing the endgame now. Jim stood slowly and looked out of the window. In the distance he could see the rooftop troops firing at the mass below. He could hear the distant rumble of continuous gunfire and he could see squads of troops directed by Control retreating from buildings to take up defensive positions closer to the Houses of Parliament. Jim sipped the whiskey and waited. Miss Mitchell watched the CCTV screens as the Zombies continued to pile through the gate in a never ending flow.
“How many do you think there are?” She said finally.
“It doesn’t matter.” Said Jim flatly.
Paul couldn’t sleep. He had spent the day practicing the Z Kata on live targets in the new armour Jim Bramer had provided. The cage had been set up in the courtyard with troops positioned to take the captured Zombies down if Paul let his concentration slip for just a moment. Paul was young and strong, intelligent and quick witted, and had known the Z all his life; he worked hard to perfect his skills.
However, even with the Zombies’ nails and teeth removed the fear of fighting them was still omnipresent. It was their stench and that ungodly moan they made. He lay in bed unable to sleep because of the adrenaline pumping through his system. He thought about the day’s exertions and what he would say when asked about the effectiveness of the armour and the Union Jack sword. Suddenly Paul thought he heard a noise like an explosion and a scream, he stood up quickly, his pumped muscles sore from the lactic acid of the day’s work. He looked out of the window to the courtyard and cage below but saw nothing. Then he had the strangest sensation that he was walking, slowly and steadily, and he could hear the screams again. He lay back down in the bed and confusion clouded his mind. What had he done yesterday? What had he eaten this morning? He couldn’t remember yet he could remember dreams from years gone by. What did it mean? Finally, as tiredness overtook him, he questioned what was the dream was and what was the reality.
Jim watched as the Zombies overran the entrance to the building below, slowly taking the gunners and their crew, falling and being replaced as if nothing had happened. The troops fought well and took many of the Dead with them, but the never ending well of Zombies replaced them immediately. The smell of blood and meat, both fresh and rotten drifted through the ill fitting window into Jim’s office and he wrinkled his nose in disgust. He watched The Ministers’ troops skilfully injure a stricken soldier by holding him down and biting his arm, ripping great ribbons of sinew from the bone. The blood ran in rivulets from the exposed artery. Then they wandered off in search of new prey leaving the man to stumble in shock and horror as the realisation of his fate overwhelmed him. More than one troop immediately raised the gun to his chin and pulled the trigger before the enormity of their fate could be realised.
Jim marvelled at the control The Minister had over his troops. He had expected a force of Zombies, thirty, forty, at the limit a thousand strong. This perfect army under the tacit control of The Minister was unimaginable. Each troop acting as they had since The Fall, yet operating within the boundaries set by The Ministers’. Working as the individual hunger drove them on, yet reined in by the power of the will of The Minister to mobilise the biggest army the world had ever seen.
Now they were in the building, and the roar of gunfire shook the ancient door on its hinges. Shouts and screams echoed through the home of a government overrun a second time. Then as Jim looked lazily through the window, and Miss Mitchell clinked bottle to glass on her mission to numb the forthcoming pain, he saw the battle move away from the window and towards Westminster bridge. Then through the smoke, and surrounded by the crowd he saw the red armour and the black suit. They walked purposefully down St Margerets street, and a rising panic took Jims’ drunken legs as the disconnect between the CCTV cameras and the reality outside his window was removed.
The Minister is coming
The end is nigh.
Jim chided himself and sat down in his chair. He straightened his tie and flatted back his hair. Suddenly he wished he had a gun, but at that moment he didn’t know who he would use it on when The Minister arrived. In the end he was glad he didn’t. He waited.
Then he could hear the shots die down to a sporadic pop and the screams fade to a panic filled gabble. The moans of the Dead rose in response and then there was the singing. It rose in volume pausing only to ask one of the dying troops the location of Jims’ office.
“All things bright and beautiful. All creatures great and small. All things wise and wonderful. The Lord God made them all.” It rang out triumphantly as it approached the door.
Three knocks, widely spaced.
Jim looked at Miss Mitchell.
“Come!” He bellowed with as much gravitas as he could muster, and the alcohol helped. He would stand up to the Minister. If it was a psychological battle The Minister wanted, it was a psychological battle he would get, and Jim would not fold nor confess his sins. At that moment Jim would be everything he guessed The Minister despised in humanity. He would not fold; he would be the very essence of courage in the face of overwhelming odds. Good God, he would be the essence of England itself. Jim reached across his desk to the comms unit, turned down the volume and opened the mic. Everyone based over at the Department of Control, safely tucked away high up on Canary wharf, would hear his last stand. Miss Mitchell shifted nervously in her seat.
The door opened.
In shuffled a number of old Zombies. Their torn and shredded suits and dresses hung from their emaciated frames. Pockmarked and grey-faced they moved silently into position around Jim and Miss Mitchell. Jim had never been so close to a Zombie without running or shooting wildly, but they were here now standing within grasp. They swayed and moaned slightly, and involuntarily, as they waited for their Master. In came the red armoured personal guard. Jim recognised them all, each sent after The Minister, each never to return. The plastic segmented armour looked scratched and bitten, the suit below ripped and torn with all the military insignia removed, but they still carried their weapons, including the short sword in the scabbard at their back. Looking through the open door, Zombies crowded in the hallway behind. The two nearest Jim leant down towards him and clumsily opened his suit to look inside. Satisfied they opened the drawers in his desk and rifled inside, finding nothing they pulled them out until they fell on the ground. Jim was glad he hadn’t had a gun after all.
“Hur, Hur ,Hur” Chuckled a voice in the corridor. The crowd parted and Jim could see a small figure in a ruined hooded leather cloak enter the room slowly chuckling to itself. Head bowed, it flicked the hood back. Jim was shocked to see a Zombie raise its head. All the reports he had received, and the MP3 where Joe Wyndham had described The Minister, had said he was human. It unclasped the cloak and let it crumple to the floor.
The Minister cut a small thin figure in front of him, tattered black suit and bloodstained dog collar hung limply from his ectomorphic frame. One shoulder was hunched higher than the other through choice or disfigurement. Jim realised this was why the TIC snipers hadn’t found him, he was already dead. What had been a needle in a haystack search had become an impossibility.
The Minister looked around the room and saw Miss Mitchell. His brow furrowed and he waved his hand gently in her direction. The three Zombies nearest her turned slowly in her direction. She looked up at them and finished her whiskey in a long swig. The Minister let his subjects go and they fell on her with all the fury of their hunger unleashed. She tried to fight them off as they ripped at her clothes and flesh but she wouldn’t scream. One grappled with her arm and gnawed on it like a chicken leg, another peeled at her torso to reveal the red morsels inside, and the third buried his face in her neck until a torrent of blood pooled on the floor around them. They slavered and chewed at her loudly until she stopped twitching and hung limply like a concubine pleasured by her hungry suitors. Jim watched in terror but would not let it show on his face. He was angry now, there was no need for this other than a demonstration of power. More psychological warfare. All the time, The Minister watched Jim’s face, until he had had enough and the murderers stood back up to attention. Blood covered their tattered clothes and dripped lazily from their stained teeth. They were passive again, all trace of their fury gone.
The Minister sat slowly in the chair opposite Jim and his black eyes gazed into his. Jim hesitated and wanted to run, his legs were weak, but he would not let it show.
“Ye looked taller in yer posters, Jim.” The Minister said finally. He spoke in a low cracked voice that still rang with a resonance around the room. Jim ignored the comment.
“So, are you another decoy or the real thing, because I’m done pissing about with this shit” Jim spat. The Minister raised his eyebrows, and smiled a thin, wan smile.
“I walk straight into your city, just tae come and see you and this is the welcome I get. Nae way to treat a man of God, a pilgrim, is it now?” He said cheerily, crossing his hands in his lap.
Jim felt stronger. Dead or not, this was just a man. He paused, knowing the calm would make his enemy speak first.
“Well.” The Minister said. “I’m ready to hear yer confession. Time to make peace Jim.”
“I’ve nothing to confess to you, you murdering scum.” Jim said with just the right amount of control and contempt.
The Minister feigned a hurt expression.
“Murderer? Me?” The Ministers’ Scots brogue rolling the R’s in the word.
“Well. Only the once. I believe you know Paul here.” Jim saw the Zombie Paul Jollie step forward. He had known Paul since he was a lad and now he was just another puppet in The Ministers’ Army. Another victim in a world full of victims.
“It turns out I havnae really got the stomach fer it. Paul and I have a special relationship. He killed me and I killed him. Mutually assured destruction, they used to call it.”
“Shame he didn’t finish the job.”
“Jim. This antagonistic attitude won’t win you a place in heaven, now will it?”
“Then I’ll see you in hell.” The Jim smiled sweetly.
Paul walked into Jim Bramers’ office full of trepidation about his latest mission.
“At ease, Paul” Said Bramer
“Sir.” Said Paul, relaxing.
Bramer motioned towards a chair.
“No thank you, Sir.” said Paul taking a seat in the red leather high back in front of the old mahogany desk.
“The reason I have called you here is, unfortunately, not a social one” Said Bramer
“It never is, Sir.” Said Paul, smiling
“No… No” chuckled Bramer.
“I want you to listen to this recording and tell me what you think”
Paul looked around, his brow furrowed. He was confused. He had been here before. He remembered this conversation. Jim leant forward to push the button on the Sony Vaio and Paul stretched and grabbed his hand. Jim just looked at him. There were two Jim Bramers. The real one he could see reaching forward with his hand and the ghostly image behind leaning back with a furious look on his face talking silently.
There were others around him too, dark shadows in the grey stood in the room with him, and, on the leather sofa over there, a ruined corpse. Paul could smell the fresh meat and a hunger rose in him. He wanted to grab Jim and consume him. He pushed the impulse away.
This didn’t make sense, why had he come here? What was the mission? How had he got here? The last thing he remembered was being in the hospital in a morphine fugue. What was the reality and what was the dream? Paul didn’t know anymore, but behind this all he could feel the grey envelop him as he shone like a bright star, close, but behind the gaze of the black hole that stared intently at Jim Bramer.
Jim saw something from the corner of his eye as Minister talked. Pauls’ slack expression changed for a moment. It looked confused.
“Well, if I must confess to you, then at least answer me a question.” Jim said. “How did you do it? How did you make your Army appear from nowhere, and how did an army this massive move through the country unseen by the helicopter patrols?”
The Minister laughed his hollow laugh.
“You mean you hadn’t even worked that oot?”
Jim shrugged, and stared into the obsidian black eyes of The Minister, sunk in his graying, ancient face.
“James. James. In the day I hid them. Simple as that. In town halls and cinemas, in sewers and houses, away frae the prying eyes o’ your whirlybirds. That wus the easy part. The hard part was training them to use the missiles tae take them whirlybirds oot. Hae you any idea how long it takes tae train a Zombie to fire a stinger. Bloody months, and it has tae be the right Zombies tae. An if they failed at that, they could use they RPG’s. The real brainwave wus the runners, did yer see that one coming, eh Jim? What yer real question should be was how did I outsmart you and walk straight into yer city and intae yer office to sit here.”
“I already know the answer to that.”
It was The Ministers’ turn to smile.
“Don’t flatter yourself. Your tactics, if you can call them that, were juvenile. Cheap parlour tricks from your marionettes. You won through numbers and nothing else. Your armies aren’t brave or noble or have any of the qualities that a great army has. You aren’t God or the Messiah, Alexander the Great or Genghis Khan. You are just a freak. In fact you haven’t been granted this ability; it’s just fallen to you through random chance. Maybe there are others in this world with your ability that haven’t realised it yet, or they were killed before they knew they had the gift. No. You were just lucky.” Said Jim, calmly. He paused, but didn’t give The Minister a chance to speak. He could see the doubt in his eyes now and pushed on.
“Each one of my men has given a good account of themselves and fought bravely until the end, each one of them is a hero, and given enough time and resources we would have whittled your army down to nothing, found you and put a bullet through your ugly head. Look at the piles of corpses you left in your wake. My troops must have taken a hundred of yours to every one of my heroes. Every single one of my men would die for his brothers in an instant, and every single one would die for his country to have things back as they were. Your troops aren’t loyal, they aren’t brave or heroic, they don’t recoil at the horror of war as they walk over their fallen comrades, they just are. You think God wants this? You think God wants his flock to die in screaming torment or turn into these monstrosities? No Minister whatever-your-fucking-name-is. God is on our side and one day God will grant one human the chance to put you down once and for all. Then we will rebuild this world without you or your army. Just as God intended.” Jim leant back in his chair and relaxed, smiling and in control of the situation. He had said what he wanted to say, let the bastard take him now.
This was a speech for the personnel in Control, not The Minister.
Anger flashed through Ministers’ face. He tried to reply but fury robbed him of the words.
Thoughts rushed through Pauls’ mind, and try as he might, he couldn’t remember the days between the dreams, yet the dreams ran on, longer than his waking hours. It didn’t make sense. In the dreams he was Dead, in his memories he was alive.
What if he really was dead, and the dream the reality, and the reality the dream? Why would he think this? Why would his mind think this way?
Then it came to him. His mind had protected itself from the unimaginable horror of this reality the only way it could. Its living soul had retreated into the recesses of this dead brain so it could learn and come to terms with its new reality. He was dead. He had died with a sword in his belly in a kitchen in Edinburgh. Whatever The Minister had within him had mingled with the fake Ministers’ Zombie blood and Paul’s human blood, on the black and white tiled floor. This forced evolution created something new.
With an almost audible lurch, Paul was in the room with the Minister and Jim Bramer as they argued back and forth. The Jim stretching forward to start the MP3 was gone and Paul was there surrounded by the Dead in Jim’s office so many months after he had first received his orders to go to Edinburgh.
In the grey, Paul shone like a thousand stars in the murk, light poured from him like sunshine eating away at the edges of the black hole that raged at Jim Bramer, like bright dawn through skeletal winter trees.
The Minister sat forward in the chair and ranted incoherently at Jim, while Jim sat back and watched impassively. The Minister spat insults and threats at him, promised tortures and pain to him and everyone who lived in the city or had fled in fear. Each sentence was unfinished, each threat worse than the last. Jim had hit all The Ministers buttons and he was giving it to Jim with both barrels. Jim’s failure to react did nothing to pacify him; in fact, it made the dead priest angrier.
Out of his peripheral vision he saw Pauls’ arm move. Instinctively he wanted to look, but knew The Minister would notice. Paul raised his arm slowly towards the Union Jack sword in the scabbard on his back, the look on Pauls’ face was grim and determined, yet filled with emotion. Jim was convinced this wasn’t The Minister in control, but Paul.
Paul reached slowly towards the sword on his back. He couldn’t afford for the Minister to see him. He had one chance to do this and he wouldn’t waste it. In the end it wasn’t Paul’s movement that alerted The Minister but his proximity in the grey. The light was close enough to eat away at the black of the Minister and black hole span round to stare at the tiny star in front of it.
The Minister spun and looked at Paul’s arm halfway to the sword on his back. He reached out and grabbed Pauls’ arm, pulling it down again.
In the grey, the full force of Ministers darkness was brought to bear against the tiny spark of Pauls’ light. For a second it threatened to consume him totally. It overwhelmed Paul and he could feel himself fading against its might.
Paul pushed back, igniting his soul against the blackness. Paul raged in the grey. He would not be consumed. The hunger and rage of a Zombie starved, combined with the anger and fury of a man who could avenge his own murder, created a firestorm of light that burned at the shadow. The black hole was fixated on Paul yet it seemed to struggle to turn away from him like a man forced to stare too long at the sun.
The Minister held onto Pauls’ arm but couldn’t look him in the face, his head flicked frantically about and a gurgled cry escaped his lips.
Paul had one chance, and the firestorm of emotion filled his every point of being. He lunged forward and tipped The Minister’s chair over, spilling the skinny old man to the ground. Paul tried to scream in rage but air rushed from his dead lungs through his torn throat which hissed and gurgled ineffectually. He leapt over the chair and onto The Ministers’ chest. There was no Zombie or man here now, Paul was a being of pure fury.
The Minister struggled, turning his head furiously away from the light as the grey and reality became one. Paul plunged his fist through the brittle bones into The Ministers chest and grabbed at anything it could find. He ripped a lung from the old Zombies body and held it in his teeth, his other hand around the old mans throat. He bit at the lung like an animal and ripped it away with his hand, shredding it. He discarded it like a rag and ripped at The Ministers’ throat. Skin and sinew came free and he held the bits of flesh in the air like a caveman glorying in the hunt. He plunged his ichor blackened hands into the chest again and ripped out bone and decaying arteries that spat black fluid over the green carpet of the office.
Finally he grabbed the Minister’s flailing head with both hands, and ripped his gargling screaming skull from his body, twisting it, pulling it as the vertebrae snapped and the ligaments tore until it was free in his hands, attached only by a few sinewy cords. He flung the head over against the wall where it lay blinking until its black eyes faded milky white and its jaw hung limply from its pivot.
In the city the Zombies stopped and gazed blankly into the distance. Those humans still fighting hand to hand or firing from rooftops continued the battle, all caught in their own bloodlust.
In the grey, the final vestiges of black dissipated like wisps of smoke and Pauls’ soul shone like the sun in the gloom of a foggy morning. All the tiny twinkling eyes gazed unthinking at the new Godhead that spun slowly before them.
Paul crouched over the headless torso. Jim noticed he was panting with exertion, his Zombie lungs needlessly pumping air into his dead blood. It was a thoroughly human autonomic response.
Paul turned his head slowly to look at Jim, but there was no vestige of humanity there and for a moment Jim thought the creature would turn on him, but it lowered its head to stare at the headless torso below and it stayed crouched over the corpse.
Finally, slowly, its breathing, slowed and gradually it stood, head crouched with clenched fists. Its eyes still focussed on its prey below. Then it turned its dark head, black fluid dripping from its chin and looked at Jim’s desk.
Jim stared aghast.
The Zombie Paul, its long dank hair hung over its face, raised its hand and stupidly shuffled the papers around until it found what it was looking for. It grasped the pen in its fist like a small child and raised its other hand to hold the paper in place. It raised the pen like a knife and tried to scrawl on the slippery page. The pen ripped the paper, so with its other hand it cast that paper to the floor and tried again. Slowly it drew on the paper and Jim noticed that its tongue was sticking out and Pauls’ face was screwed in concentration, like a small child.
Then it cast the pen to the ground, raised its head and lifted the paper to its chest. Jim stared in amazement as the creature raised its black, obsidian eyes to stare at him smiled a wide, twisted, scarecrow smile. Jim found himself, despite everything, smiling back at the monster before him.
Paul rustled the paper in front of his chest to get Jims attention. Jim stared at the crumpled form that it held to its chest and struggled to make out the words. In the city, and all around Jim’s office, the Zombies stood stock still and smiled a big, twisted scarecrow smile.
Finally Jim realised what the note said.