SEQUEL TO PART 2
For a moment, when Martin woke up, he was back in the Penthouse, nestling between the Egyptian cotton sheets; listening to the gentle hum of the air conditioning. Then he smelt the damp and realised he was sleeping in his clothes. The stark reality rushed at him like a fresh Zombie.
His dreams last night had been dominated by disembodied faces from the crowd, or that of the mechanic, as he was encased in the dead. He dreamt of being trapped in a phone box unable to get out as he screamed at passers by who ignored him, and carried on their way. His dreams had been a frenzied mash of screams accompanied by the sensation of falling. He had not had a good nights rest.
The bed was lumpy and soft, causing the twinge under his shoulder blade to return. His shoulder was healing though, he had the same amount of movement as yesterday but it was certainly freer, and he rotated his arm around the shoulder joint testing its limits. The graze on his face was tight but he had slept on his back so it wasn’t stuck to the sheets at least, and his knee was still strapped up well. The biggest problem was that his whole musculature ached from running the day before. After all he wasn’t getting any younger. It took him a few minutes to get up and stretch it out. He wanted a shower after all the dust and crap yesterday, so went downstairs to ask Mo if he could use one.
Downstairs everyone was up except Jez and the woman in shock. Binita was serving everyone mugs of tea. Martin took one and sipped it. It tasted metallic, and he made a face at the unexpected flavour.
“Electric’s out, as is the gas, so we used a camping set. The water tastes a bit funny as well, but it’s all we’ve got.” Said Mo, dejectedly. There was a sombre pall over the room. The fact that everyone had slept, to find the nightmare still happening had depressed all the survivors, and it hung over the room like a black, oily cloud. Binita used the last of the milk to give everyone cereal and tea. The group just sat in silence, staring into the distance. After a while Jez walked in wearing just a T shirt and pants, hands over his head, stretching out the aches and pains.
“Oh Jesus Jez!” Said Emma looking away. Everyone turned to look at Jez. He had one scruffy ball hanging from his boxers.
“Oh for fucks sake!” exclaimed Martin. Jez looked down, realised what had happened and spun round to sort himself out quickly.
“Get back in there and get some trousers on you disrespectful little bastard. My mother could have seen that!” Shouted Mo. Jez disappeared back into the hallway.
“Mohammed!” Binita said from the doorway to the kitchen.
“Language! And you forget, I must have seen them before, otherwise I wouldn’t have had you!” She said in her thick accent, but with a wry twinkle in her eyes.
“Mohammed’s were huge when he was a baby. Like two great bhajis.” She said turning to the others.
“Mother!” Said Mo, turning red. Everyone in the room laughed, until Mo waved them off with a smile.
This exchange lightened the mood considerably and Jez walked back in fully dressed.
“So what are we gonna do?” Asked Emma, sipping her tea.
“Get out of the city sounds like a plan.” Said Kelly. Martin stared at her for a moment. She had cut her hair back to a short bob, and removed her earrings and make up. She looked older than she did last night.
“What are you fookin staring at” She barked at him.
“The new look suits you.” Martin said, unfazed.
“Well its less for them dead bastards to grab on to innit. I don’t want to die for a pair of Pat Butcher earrings do I?”
“The radio this morning said there was a rescue center in Dover, that was the closest I think.” Said Kelly.
“We’ll head for that.” Emma said.
“We’ll need weapons.” Said Kelly
“No problems girl we got Gats innit mate” Jez said, winking at Martin.
“He’s not coming with us.” Emma said, holding Martins gaze.
“What! You gotta come with us bro, you was wicked yesterday.” Jez said. Kelly looked disappointed. Martin knew what Emma was doing. She was trying to manipulate him into coming. He didn’t like it, but it would make it easier to get away, besides he could always drop her like the mechanic if it got difficult. Instantly he dismissed the thought, even though he knew he would sacrifice any one of these civs if necessary.
“I changed my mind.” He said sitting up, challenging her. Emma smiled a dark smile.
“Cool man.” Jez said, reached out his hand for a bro fist. Martin just looked at it until Jez retracted it, embarrassed.
“We’re gonna need a big vehicle, there’s six of us.” Said Kelly.
“Five.” Mo said.
“What happened to the woman?” Said Kelly.
“Dunno. She was gone when I woke up. Must have gone out the back, in the night.”
“Oh no. She was in severe shock. She needs help. We need to find her.” Said Emma.
“I think we are going to have enough trouble looking after ourselves.” Said Martin.
“Yeah. She made her choice. She didn’t want our help. Let her go.” Said Kelly. Emma didn’t answer but narrowed her eyes imperceptibly.
“We’re not coming anyway.”Said Mo.
“What? Why?” Said Martin.
“I’m not leaving the shop to bloody looters. Taken me ten years to get this place how I like it. If you think I’m letting a bunch of bloody Chavs take it from me you can forget it.”
“Mo. There’s no-one left to loot the place. You may as well come with us, I mean, look outside those fires are out of control, and with less people around the Zombies will soon come looking for you.”
“No mate. We’re not coming.” Mo said, crossing his arms.
“I think we should go.” Said Binita. Mo replied in Urdu and they argued for a while while the rest of them looked on embarrassed. Eventually Mo sagged down in the chair.
“You better bloody well look after her.” He said finally.
“We will.” Said Martin, conscious of his earlier thoughts.
“I’ll come and join you in…Where was it?”
“Connaught Barracks, in Dover” Said Kelly.
“If things get hairy here, but when the army get everything back to normal you bring her back, OK?”
“OK.” Said Martin.
“We are going to need food and weapons.” Said Martin.
“We’ll get the food from downstairs. It’ll need bloody paying for tho.” Said Mo. Martin agreed and they both went downstairs to see what they could find.
After about an hour the group had freshened up as best as they could, and Martin put a number of cheap rucksacks on the table. Inside they had food and water, some cheap flashlights, Martins rubber flashlight from the Underground, lighters, a camping gaz set, and an assortment of other nick nacks they thought might be handy.
“I…I can’t pay for this.” Said Jez.
“I’ve paid for it. Mo gave me a discount in the end.”
“Bloody good haggler he is as well.” Said Mo.
“Thanks.” Said Jez quietly.
The search for weaponry had been less fruitful. The only things they had found was a rusty pry bar in Mo’s cellar, and a cricket bat signed by Ian Botham. Mo refused to let that go, besides he needed something to defend himself. Binita had a large bread knife, which resembled more of a machete than anything else, and Kelly took the metal poker from beside their fire. That was how they found themselves drinking beers at ten o’clock in the morning so Martin could fill them with a variety of cleaning fluids to make improvised napalm grenades that would shatter and ignite on impact. It was a trick he picked up in the DRC. When they were stowed and ready to go Binita said goodbye to Mo; she kissed him and stroked his face, and told him not too stay any longer than necessary if things got out of hand.
“Where we gonna get a vehicle from bruv?” Jez said.
“I don’t know this area so you got any ideas?” Said Martin.
“Theres a second hand car place down the road.”
“Unreliable. Any new car dealers round here?”
“There’s a Landrover garage on the next street over.”
“Ok we head for that and if we find a car on the way then we’ll take that instead.” Martin said. The rest of them nodded in agreement.
“Stick together, be quiet, watch each other’s backs, and most importantly, stay calm no matter what happens. Jez, you keep that gun on safety until I tell you, yeah?”
“Yes boss.” Said Jez, saluting.
They walked in silence down the stairs to the back door which opened out into a small courtyard at the back of the shops.
“Allah be with you. See you soon mum.” Mo said as they opened the door and stepped out. As Binita passed Mo she kissed him on the cheek once more and said a blessing in Urdu. Mo quickly closed the door behind them but stood at the door, watching them go.
Unlike yesterday, the city was silent. A pungent black pall blocked out the sky, bathing everything in a sickly grey light. On the air there was the omnipresent stench of smoke, but tinged with a another smell that Martin recognised instantly. He took point and they walked up to the corner. Out on the main street it was quiet. Martin assumed that the woman in shock had lead them away from the shop, he hoped she had made it far away.
Out on the street they moved as silently as they could, and the hushed city made them whisper unconsciously, but even that echoed in the concrete emptiness. They passed to a side street, along the road was a line of parked cars.
“Martin. Shall I check these out?” whispered Kelly.
“No. We don’t need an alarm going off. We need an open car with the keys in.”
Suddenly there was a distant moan that filled the deserted street with a mournful longing. Everyone jumped except Martin.
“Oh my God.” Whispered Emma.
They followed the street down, keeping the gated park to one side. Martin ducked down behind the furthest car. They all crouched down behind him.
They were at a T junction onto a main road. Nestled in between boutique shops selling the latest in trendy housewares and clothes, and a Subway; there was the glass fronted, and shuttered, Land Rover garage. Next to it was a compound with steel railings ten feet tall. To the side of that there was an alleyway blocked with a van and a city car in front of it. Free parking was always at a premium in London so people took it where they could. More worrying was the group of Zombies stood a little further down the road. Martin estimated thirty but they were less than a hundred metres away, they wouldn’t have long after they were spotted. The group of Zombies just seemed to stand silently, as if waiting. A couple of them were wandering slowly around as if confused. They were a mix of all races and classes, some in suits, others in normal day clothes. They had a variety of injuries, from limbs missing to ones that appeared perfectly normal, their pallid complexion the only clue as to their condition.
“Jez, you stay at the back with me. Kelly, Emma, you get Binita up onto that car, then the van. Then drop over the fence and catch her. We’ll follow. Jez. Take the safety off, stay cool and only fire after I do. Headshots only. Take your time and line it up. Everyone stay quiet as you can.” Martin whispered, taking the automatics out.
“That fence is spiked at the top Martin.” Said Emma.
“Use your rucksack. Lay it on top and roll over it. Hope that the spikes don’t go through.”
“This is a bloody stupid idea.” Emma said.
“You got a better one?”
“Double back and find an open car?”
“There aren’t as many cars as I thought, and more chance of getting caught in the open. This is the best bet.”
“Ok.” She whispered, cowed by his confidence.
They all nodded.
Martin stood tall and walked slowly, and cautiously over the road. The rest followed, still crouched. They got about halfway across before one saw them. It tilted its head back and howled an inhuman snarl. The rest turned and saw them. The girls ran to the city car and started to get Binita up onto its bonnet. Once again she proved to be more nimble than her years suggested. Martin stood in the middle of the road.
“Jez. You stand on the pavement there. Shoot only when I say” He shouted. Jez did as he was told and stood on the pavement. covering the girls as they made it to the roof of the city car. Martin started firing, picking his targets. The front runners started to drop as they sprinted towards him. Their bestial faces full of hate and lustful hunger. Their black blood from their injuries sprayed around them leaving black spots on the road. Martin emptied the clips. This was an entirely new type of combat, there was no need for cover or flanking tactics. All that was required was precision and confidence, qualities Martin had in spades.
Jez started firing at the front runners. He took his time, and was remarkably successful, as Martin dropped the empty clips and reloaded, walking, almost strolling to Jez’s position. Jez emptied the revolver, and fumbled in his pocket.
“Leave that and get up!” Martin shouted. Jez jumped onto the city car just as Kelly and Emma dropped over the railings onto the floor. Jez jumped onto the hood of the van and scrambled up to join Binita on the cab roof. She lay on her pack and swung her legs over, dropping into the arms of Kelly and Emma. Jez took his pack off and did the same.
Martin continued to fire at the front runners, pausing to hop onto the city car bonnet then roof. There were too many now and he jumped up onto the van as they surrounded the city car, clutching and grasping at his feet. Just then he jumped up onto the van roof out of reach, but his patent leather shoes slipped on the roof and he fell on his back. For a second he thought he was going to slide off, then he caught his foot on the aerial that stuck out of the cab roof and stayed there. Frantically, he tried to push back up fully onto the roof so he could holster his guns, but his long coat was hanging down the side of the cab where a dead nurse was pulling at it, trying to dislodge him.
For long moments he tried to stand himself up, but he couldn’t tug hard enough against the Zombie holding his coat to allow him to get to his feet. In the compound Jez was trying to get line of site through the cab windows onto the nurse, and just when Martin felt himself starting to slip there was a crash as the windscreen and side window shattered as Jez took his shot. The nurse collapsed backwards, releasing the jacket and Martin pushed himself up and away from the desperate clawing hands of his pursuers. For a second he lay back on the roof, then quickly took off his pack, laid it on the sharp metal railings and rolled over, to be caught by those below.
“You ok?” Said Kelly.
“Yeah.” He said breathlessly.
“That was some good shooting there Jez.”
“I logged over a hundred hours.” Said Jez.
“On a range?”
“Nah. Call of Duty Online mate.” Said Jez smiling. Martin was only aware of that from the adverts but it seemed to be a good training regime.
In the compound there was a number of new and used Landrovers, but the crowd of the dead was rapidly increasing in size, pushing and pulling at the padlocked gates, so they resolved to get inside as soon as they could. Kelly used the pry bar to open the back door into the showroom itself, and the workshop behind.
Inside they shut the door behind them, but the dead from the gate followed their movements and were soon rattling the shutters at the font of the showroom.
The showroom smelt of rubber and new leather and was sumptuously appointed with leather sofas, a coffee machine, a water dispenser, and a glass table layered with literature for the luxury cars. Jez moved in between them looking in the tinted windows of the latest models.
“We should take one of these new Evoques.” He said.
“No.” Said Martin. “That’s what we want.” Pointing in the corner at a new Defender, long wheelbased with exhaust up on top of the roof. It was the type of model used in the far flung places on the planet. It had a variety of spare petrol tanks strapped to the side, and a second spare wheel on the bonnet.
“We need to find the keys and a hand pump for fuel. You guys stay here. Try to stay out of sight of them” He nodded towards the increasing number of dead lined up against the shutters.
Automatic at the ready, he moved through to the back office, checking the corners as he had been trained. Quickly he found the keysafe and the Defender key. He stepped out into the darkened workshop at the back where he found a large red chemical cabinet. There was no sign of any Zombies inside, indeed the place was clean and tidy so he presumed it had not been used in the last few days. He smashed the lock on the cabinet and found a barrel of unleaded fuel with a hand pump attached. Kicking the drum it was about half full so he fetched the others and together they detached the cans from the Defender and filled its tank, and one of the spare cans before the drum was empty. Martin unscrewed the pump from the top and put it in the back of the car.
“How are we going to get the car out?” Asked Binita, having to shout over the sound of the dead rattling the front shutters.
“Good question. I don’t think we could smash through the shutters, and I wouldn’t want to get tangled up in it.”
“Can’t we just put them on open and jump in the car while they rise?” Said Emma.
“No power.” Jez said.
“So someone would have to manually raise them, then get in the car? Well that’s ok isn’t it?” Said Emma.
“If the glass holds. If it doesn’t that person is fucked.” Said Kelly.
“Can’t we get the car through that roller door into the compound. Would that be easier?” Said Binita
“I don’t see how. There are too many cars in here, we would have to open the rollers doors and start shuffling cars around. They are already five deep in front of the shutter, by the time we’ve done that we’ll have half of London here. It’ll have to be the front window shutters.” Martin said, looking at Emma.
“I’m not doing it!” She whined, half drowned out by the noise from the Dead.
“Oh for fucks sake!” exclaimed Kelly, walking over to the chains which controlled the front shutters. With the pry bar in one hand she held the chains while everyone else piled in the Land Rover. Martin started it up and indicated he was ready. Emma gave the thumbs up to Kelly over the sound of the engine and the constant banging against the shutters. Binita held the back door open for Kelly.
Kelly pulled on the chains, but the dead were hanging on as they pulled it back and forth like frustrated chimpazees in a cage. Eventually, Kelly, who was supporting her whole weight on the chains, began to lift the front shutters. Hand over hand, she pulled it up and the dead slowly let go of it. It rose to about chest height before some of the dead ducked underneath and started banging on the glass. She managed to get it to head height before she saw the huge jagged crack run from left to right across the whole window pane. She gave it two last pulls to try and clear the top of the Defender before the glass shattered with an apocalyptic crash and the dead spilled in. Martin gunned the engine and slipped the clutch and Kelly ran for the back door. The dead were rising to their feet, grabbing at Kelly as she dove for the rear door, smashing a traffic warden’s head in with the pry bar as she went. The Defenders wheels span against the marble floor with a terrifying screech and the vehicle lurched forward by a few feet, jamming itself against the shutters which caught on its roof bars. Kelly had only managed to get herself halfway in and the Dead grabbed at her trousers, fighting each other to sink their teeth in. Martin Floored the accelerator and the Defender lurched sideways, all four wheels skidding on the floor. One Zombie had its leg caught under the rear wheel and was flicked against the rear wall of the show room to land with a wet, bloody, thud before sliding to the floor. Kelly screamed and kicked her legs to prevent any of her attackers sinking their teeth in while Jez pulled Kelly as best he could. Binita was swearing in Urdu and hacking at the dead with her large breadknife.
Suddenly there was a tearing noise from the roof and the Defender broke free of the shutters. It shot forward bumping over bodies and slewing along the road on the slick skidpan of rancid blood. The dead were wrenched free of Kelly, and with a grunt Jez pulled her into the Defender. The dead were banging on the side window and howling or snarling in frustration. The occupants stared in terror at the line of damaged faces lusting after them in their self imposed cage. Finally, the Defender’s tyres began to grip the road and it accelerated violently as Martin used all his skill to straighten it up. Kelly and Binita were nearly tumbled out of the back, but as the Defender came under control and gathered speed they watched as the crowd of dead sprinted after them.
Kelly frantically grabbed at her legs, pulling up her trousers legs.
“Have I been bitten? Have I been bitten?” She cried. Her trousers were ripped and covered in grubby or bloody hand prints but there didn’t appear to be any breaks in the skin. Emma, calmly confirmed this. Kelly pulled her legs up and started to cry. Binita managed to grab the back door and slam it shut. In the distance they saw the Zombies slow and start to walk inexorably after them. Martin slowed down so that he could easily negotiate the detritus and cars in the road, sometimes having to mount the pavement to get around obstacles.
Suddenly Kelly jumped up and grabbed Martin by the shoulder. Without warning she punched him full force in the ear. The car lurched violently, scraping one side down a parked car.
“You fucking bastard! You were going to go without me! Why would you do that?” Screamed Kelly.
“No I wasn’t, you got in OK didn’t you.” He didn’t sound convincing, even to himself. Jez had grabbed her arms, stopping her from punching him again.
“Kell! He didn’t leave you, its OK babe. It’s OK!” Jez said.
“They had their hands all over me Jez! They nearly had me Jez! They nearly had me.” She calmed down as she spoke, turning to hold Jez close, ending the sentence in a whimper. Then the anger rose in her again.
“Why has this happened” She shouted, as Jez held her tight.
“What have we done to deserve this! The day before yesterday I was drinking with my mates and talking about X Factor and now I’m running for my life from bloody Zombies. I mean. What the fuck is going on?” She screamed.
“Kelly. Kelly. Look at me.” Said Binita, looking her square in the eye. Kelly looked back, face screwed in anguish.
“When I was your age I lived in Darpora in Kashmir. You know where Kashmir is?”
“It’s on the border with Pakistan, and I used to go to a great school, and play with my friends and talk about boys just like you. It was a beautiful place, full of rivers where we could swim, and cinemas where we could go and kiss boys on the back row just like you, yeah?” Said Binita.
Kelly nodded, and smiled briefly.
“Then Pakistan invaded India, and soldiers came to my village, and they killed my family, and I came home to find them slaughtered like dogs. I swore revenge and joined the resistance, and my whole world changed. I took my revenge, all the time thinking ‘Why me, why my family?’ and do you know what?” Said Binita, emotion making her voice tremble.
“What?” Said Kelly quietly.
“No matter if you worship Allah, or Vishnu, or Christ or whatever. When it comes down to it it’s just luck, and the Gods are good at getting you through the dark times, but ultimately you have no control over some things and you have to just accept them and survive. That’s all you can do, so there is no point in getting angry, or getting revenge, its meaningless. How you deal with things is all down to your own strength. And you are strong Kelly.” Binita cupped one hand over Kelly’s cheek, and wiped away tears with her thumb.
“You are so very strong, otherwise you wouldn’t have volunteered, and saved all our lives. So thank you Kelly. Thank you.”
“It’s ok.” Kelly whimpered.
“What happened after that Binita?” Jez asked Binita, rapt.
“What I thought was the end of the world was over in 6 months, and I met a boy and ran away to the UK, where I had my beautiful Mohammed.” She smiled.
“..with his big balls.” Smiled Kelly.
“Like Bhajis.” Binita smiled, cupping her hands.
Martin drove in silence. He felt like shit for nearly leaving Kelly behind. She was the bravest of the lot of them. No training, and yet she had volunteered straight away. His heart weighed heavy as he drove.
They carried on through the streets only to become slowly mesmerised by the scene around them. Only two days previous London had been a vibrant, thriving city. Now they drove past a vignette frozen in time. The light wind whipped up piles of litter that eddied and fluttered in the breeze, passing overturned cars dappled with bloody handprints, broken glass and curtains that waved forlornly from shattered windows. Occasionally they saw the Dead trapped in cars and tube trains, watching them with murderous intent as they drove on. Sometimes lone Zombies or small groups would give chase, the occasional, faster Zombie banging on the window as they pulled away.
Binita gasped as they took a side road round a Primary school, and saw the little Zombies follow them, running round the periphery of the playground, trapped inside the fencing like starved Piranhas in a tank. Their little green cardigans providing a chilling uniformity. Martin accelerated from the sight of it. Binita said a prayer.
As the afternoon wore on they passed out of the main body of London, through suburbs towards the outskirts of the city. The reason for the lack of vehicles in the city itself became clear. The density of the traffic increased, and they found they were having to travel across more of London’s verges and green spaces. They travelled in hushed silence as the enormity of the destruction presented itself like a freshly opened wound.
“Maybe we should try to get on the motorway?” Said Jez. Nobody answered and they carried on. After a few minutes they came across the slip-road to the M20, the main motorway leading East towards Dover. It was jammed solid with cars where people had tried to get up past the waiting vehicles. The bottom of the ramp was chaos where people had reversed trying to get back off the motorway, jamming themselves around in every available space. Martin steered a wide berth and wove round a number of trees on a slope to get past the empty traffic, everyone leaned to one side to keep the Defender from tipping.
They approached the M25 underpass where a large number of the Dead were milling about above, caught in place by the mass of cars and the barriers. They stopped and silently watched them pass underneath, perhaps aware that they would not catch the people passing below. Martin pointed out a transit van with a sign that simply said “HELP! TRAPPED INSIDE!”, they stared for a few minutes but couldn’t see anyone moving about, and they found it impossible to tell if the bloody streaks on the vehicle were on the inside or outside, and so they moved on.
They left that scene but were struggling to negotiate a path through, even with the Defender’s off-road capabilities, and on several occasions were caught by small groups of the Dead who banged on the glass until Martin could get enough speed to get away.
“I thought there would be more.” Emma said eventually.
“If it started in London they probably moved North, after the people.” Mused Binita. Kelly was fiddling with her phone.
“Well that’s fooked. No signal, no internet, nothing.” Kelly said. She quickly took the memory card out.
“What are you doing Kell?” Asked Jez.
“May as well keep the card, its the only photos I’ve got of my family.”
“Good idea.” Said Emma, and they all did the same, except for Martin. He had no photos on his phone. They tossed them all in the centre console.
“Want me to take your card out?” Asked Emma to Martin.
“Work phone.” He lied. “No point.”
“Try the radio Martin. See if there is any news.” Said Binita.
Martin fiddled with the radio, but the FM channel was just static. He switched to medium wave as he drove through narrowing roads, avoiding towns and villages where possible. After nearly cycling through the whole bandwidth it stopped and a lone voice could be heard. He spoke with a hushed West Midlands accent. It was the voice of the apocalypse and it sounded sad and alone.
“Emergency broadcast from the Droitwich transmitter. The following rescue centres have been overrun. In no particular order. Leeds, Bradford, Birmingham, Worcester, Gloucester, Bristol, Truro, Portsmouth, Bournemouth, Brighton, Leamington, Milton Keynes.”
For long minutes, accompanied by the occasional rustling of papers, he read what seemed to be a list of all the major population centres in the country, now a litany of graveyards. They listened intently as he finished the list.
“Inverness, Edinburgh and Glasgow………That’s all the information I have on rescue centres……Erm……We have very little in the way of information of medical advice. Infection can result in death within four to one hundred and twenty eight hours, dependant on the injury. Death is………. inevitable, followed by……..followed by reanimation. Err. We have some information that certain military bases are still operational so my only advice is head to one of those, or failing that get off the mainland. Other than that all the team can say here is……Good luck….and God Bless.”
There was an audible click then the message started again. They listened through the list once more, each of them thinking of people they knew in the cities listed. Once it started again Martin turned it off. A low depression filled the car as they drove slowly down the verdant lanes of South East England.
“Do you think the whole world is like this?” Said Emma, dejectedly.
“Probably. If it started at Heathrow and spread from there it’s probably safe to assume that someone infected flew in.” Martin replied.
“There wasn’t much on the news though.”
“If it was anything like London it was probably so fast that no-one could react.”
“There was a lot of rescue centres set up though.”
“Bloody politicians.” Jez said to no-one in particular.
Eventually as the sun dipped below muted clouds, they followed the signs to Connaught Barracks. They approached along a wide, tree lined, 2 lane road, and could hear the moans of the Dead before they could see them. The entrance to the barracks was a wide green painted gate, into an area big enough for a tank or articulated lorry, with a secondary gate behind. Extending from the gate were tall fences that ran off into tall oak trees either side. Cherry pickers were being used as sentry towers and they could see soldiers on either side. In front of the gate was a crowd of several hundred Dead, clawing uselessly at the solid metal structure. Their noise was such they didn’t hear the Defender slowly approach.
“What do we do now?” Kelly said.
“Good question. They won’t open the gate with all those there.” Said Emma.
“We’ll have to try and lead them away, and then they can open the gates for us” Said Jez.
“We have no guarantee they will open the gates anyway.” Martin said.
“But why wouldn’t they?” Jez said.
“We need to attract their attention. See if we can work out whether they’ll let us in.”
Martin flashed the lights briefly, but neither soldier looked at them. So Martin flashed them again, for longer, trying to not attract the dead in front. Eventually after a few seconds one of the soldiers looked up and saw the vehicle. Martin put one hand out of the window with a thumbs up. The soldier turned away and spoke to his colleague on the other cherry picker. Eventually, he turned back and pointed down at the dead, shrugging his shoulders. Martin slowly wound down the window and climbed out, sitting with his backside on the window frame. He motioned a wide circle with his finger and pointed to the Dead. The soldier shrugged. Martin pointed to the Dead again. Made a wide circle with his finger then pointed at the gates and put his hands together.
“Martin.” Said Binita impatiently.
Martin then took his hands apart simulating the gate opening.
“Martin!” Said Jez, pulling at his trouser leg from the seat.
The Soldier repeated the gesture followed by a thumbs up.
“MARTIN!” Shouted Emma. He looked back at the crowd in front to see a small group of Zombies peel off and sprint towards the Defender, followed by a steady stream. They were less than fifty metres away.
“Fuck!” Martin exclaimed, sliding back into the car. He slammed the Defender into reverse and floored it with a loud squeal, this attracted more of them but most were still at the gate. One of the lead pack reached for the bonnet, as Martin gathered enough speed to slam it into a J turn, the tires screeched and Jez, Emma and Kelly were thrown across the vehicle. Mobile phones flew out of the centre console clattering round inside the car, shattering into pieces. Martin floored it and tapped on the horn, making a series of random length parps. This attracted more, but the main body of the group were still at the fence.
“Fuck it. I’ll have to double back. Hold tight.” Martin shouted. Everyone held on as he crossed the central reservation and headed back towards the barracks, flashing his lights and sounding the horn, he put the hazard lights on to maximise the effect. As he passed the barracks the group turned in unison, like Starlings, and sprinted over the road towards them. Martin accelerated away as the crowd followed, and he balanced his speed to keep them interested but not slow enough they could catch the Defender.
“Are they all following?” Martin shouted over the horn.
“Pretty much. Maybe ten or twenty left mate.” Shouted Jez.
“They’ll have to deal with those.”
Martin carried on up the road, with his merry band of ravenous followers, slavering and howling as they followed.
“Look for a side street, we need to double back.”
Everyone looked but didn’t see one for a few hundred yards, until they reached a mini roundabout. They turned right along a short road that then turned right again. There was a series of houses and small local shops. In the distance they could hear sporadic weapons fire.
They drove up this road, still being followed by the slavering mass, until ahead they could see a left turn, and then further on a right turn. He hoped the right turn lead back onto the road with the barracks. He figured they were as far away as they could get, while still keeping the group together, so he killed the lights and horn and accelerated hard.
Emma screamed, and Martin had a second to wonder what at, when he felt the vehicle rock violently to the right. They had passed the road to the left, and it was thick with the Dead who had sprinted, unseen by him, towards the Defender. Slamming into it with such force that it had nearly tipped them over.
“Go. Just fuckin’ DRIVE” Screamed Jez. Martin rapidly got control of the Defender and floored it towards the right turn ahead. He quickly outpaced the horde behind him and slammed it into a long drift round the corner. The occupants and bits of broken plastic rattled around as he floored it again. Ahead was another mini roundabout that he guessed lead back onto the road with the barracks. He drifted round that, tyres screaming, and ahead could see the barracks gate. The soldiers had dispatched the remaining Dead. Martin accelerated then skidded to a stop in front of it, the rising smell of burning rubber pervading the Defender. For long seconds nothing happened. Martin wound the window down.
“Open the gate!” He screamed, but the soldiers stood there not moving.
“OPEN THE FUCKING GATE!” He screamed.
The soldiers were looking down at a lone figure who stood. Arms behind his back, eyes straight ahead at them inside the inner gate. He was dressed in fatigues with a beret on top of his head. Martin guessed he was a Colonel. One of the soldiers on the side shouted something at the figure. It shook its head slowly.
“Oh my God. They aren’t going to open it!” Said Emma.
“Why? What the fuck?” Shouted Kelly.
Binita shook Martin on the shoulder. The Dead were streaming around the corner they had come from, the faster ones leaning over into the sprint.
“Oh no.” Said Emma, plaintively. From where they had first lead the Dead away from the gate hundreds more were streaming round that corner. They were trapped on either side.
“Why won’t they open the fucking gate!” Screamed Jez, shaking his seat in frustration.
“What do we do Martin! Martin! What do we do!” Screamed Emma.
Martin wasn’t listening. He had found himself trapped, left to die like the mechanic, or the woman, or the teenager. He was left at the whim of a force more powerful than he. For a moment the empathy, and irony, threatened to sweep him away. Martin felt the panic claw at him the way it must have clawed at them as they felt their life ebb away in front of terror-opened eyes. Martin’s mouth was dry, but rather than the panic he had seen in their faces as he left them to die, his eyes were fixed on the Colonel, narrowed, like a stalking predator assessing its prey.
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