SEQUEL TO PART 3
“By change of place: Now conscience wakes despair”
Martin stared intently at the lone Colonel, and the soldier stared back. Martin watched as he stood with arms folded behind his back and chest out, a stern look on his face. It occurred to Martin that this was a man who loved power. He had seen the same stance, the same impassive look in African Generals and tin pot dictators, as their soldiers committed untold atrocities in front of his eyes. It was a look that challenged all who would stand against him. Under normal circumstances Martin would change that look to pitiful pleading.
He considered aiming a gun at the man, but ultimately it would end in a very short Mexican stand off, as the approaching dead overran the vehicle. He considered ramming the gate but the Colonel would order his troops to fire rather than compromise the facility. So what did he want? Why would the soldiers indicate that they could come in and then leave them at the gate to be devoured? What did he want? It was only them and…..
He wanted the Defender. He wanted the brand new Defender, battered and bloody as it was, and was prepared to sacrifice Martin and the other survivors to get it. He had to offer him more; something that he needed; someone that he needed. Martin leant out of the window.
“We have a Doctor with us!” He shouted, loud and clear, but controlled. Instantly the figure nodded to the guards, and the gate slid slowly open. The fastest Dead were now within a couple of hundred metres and closing rapidly. Martin reversed the Defender a couple of car lengths and positioned it in front of the slowly opening gap.
“They’re getting close man!” Jez shouted.
As soon as the gap was wide enough he manoeuvred the Defender into the space behind the gate and slowly it started to close behind them. The Dead hit the gate at speed with a crash, a group of about ten slipped through the slowly closing gap and started to claw at the back of the Defender, which was filled with the sound of scratching of nails on metal. The occupants watched the enraged faces as, one by one, the soldiers high up on the cherry picker guard towers shot them efficiently through the head.
Once the last Zombie fell the inner gate was opened and the Defender moved into the area in front. It was a wide tarmac road surrounded by well kept lawns and tall old oak trees. Ahead there was a series of small buildings placed randomly around, and of different ages from modern Portacabins to post WW2 prefabs. They drove forward slowly until a trooper indicated they stop. Another trooper came out with a pressure washer and slowly cleaned the vehicle from top to bottom. A tall, well built trooper, with dark eyes and closely shaved hair, indicated they get out of the vehicle.
“Guys, just do as they say. No sudden movements.” Martin said. He turned off the Defender, took out the key, put his hand above his head and opened the door, other troopers surrounded the vehicle, guns trained on the party. The others silently followed Martin’s lead. As they got out into the fresh, evening air, the breeze felt delicious and cool, and Martin walked towards the soldier.
“Just stop there. You others line up there.” He growled in a thick London accent. They did as they were told.
“Are any of you bitten?” They all indicated they weren’t.
“Are any of you injured?”
“Yes I am. I have an injured shoulder and face.”
“Nasty graze. We’ll get you seen to in a while.”
“Thank you.” Martin said.
Two of the troopers lowered their weapons, and moved up to Martin. As soon as they opened Martin’s coat they saw the automatics. The soldier reached round and undid the harness.
“We don’t allow civilians to have weapons on base. For your own safety.” The dark eyed soldier announced, without a trace of emotion in his voice.
They found Jez’s pistol, and then searched the three women. Kelly flinched as one of the soldiers reached round behind her.
“Hey! Mind yer hands you!” She barked at the soldier. The soldier ignored her and carried on searching, when he caught her gaze she winked at him, and he blushed. When they had all been frisked, the soldier indicated they were clear.
All weapons were lowered and the dark eyed soldier spoke.
“You can relax now. Welcome to Connaught Barracks. The Colonel wants to see you first, and then we’ll get you set up with the other civilians back in Fort Burgoyne. If you could follow me.” He smiled a smile that didn’t suit his face, and then spun on his heels and strode away. The others followed stretching their arms and legs after being in the Defender for so long.
They walked along a small road lined with randomly placed buildings of differing ages and sizes. It appeared the barracks had evolved over the years and had different uses, some of which were offices and rec areas, some of which were large sheds containing military equipment. They passed a small green on which stood a immaculately painted black cannon. Behind the buildings Martin could see a small Agusta helicopter on a patch of land behind. Soldiers were going about their business and barely glanced at the group as they followed the dark eyed soldier. Martin indicated to the others just to hold back a bit and whispered.
“I’m not sure about the Colonel, just answer what he asks you, and don’t look surprised if I don’t tell the truth.”
“Why?” Asked Emma.
“I’m just not one hundred per cent sure about this. That’s all.”
They trotted up to a metal door in a small building. The soldier went in, and they followed into the warm orange light. Inside they descended a set of concrete stairs into a long, wide, white corridor, with strip lights every few metres. As they went along they passed underground sleeping quarters, a restaurant, equipment lockers, a gym, and medical facilities. The underground space was quite expansive. Martin wondered why the Colonel kept his office down here and not in one of the more easily accessible buildings up top. He noticed that the air conditioning was running so they must be running on a generator somewhere, and cold blasts hit them as they walked under the ducts in the roof. Everywhere was a hive of activity. Martin estimated there were maybe a hundred soldiers in total from what he had seen above and below ground. Finally they turned a corner, passed the Armoury, and entered an area marked simply “Officers”. They stopped outside of a door, and the dark eyed soldier knocked once.
After a moment they heard the Colonel inside.
They entered into a spacious office to see the Colonel emerge from a side door drying his hands on a towel. Martin noted that the door lead to a living quarters behind.
“My name is Colonel Sachs, please have a seat.” He said, smiling warmly. They looked round to find there were only two seats.
“Ahh yes, well pull that bench over would you.” He said, sitting on the side of the large mahogany desk.
The others moved the bench into position. Martin couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing. The others sat down, considerably lower than the Colonel. The Colonel motioned for Martin to sit.
“I’ve been driving all day, I hope you don’t mind if I stand, stretch my old legs as it were.” He said, cheerily.
“No, of course not. Can I offer you all a hot drink? Coffee?” The Colonel said standing again. His accent was upper middle class, definitely public school.
“Yes please.” Said Emma. The Colonel picked up the phone and pressed a number.
“Can I have six coffees please. Everyone want white?” They all nodded. “Just bring the sugar in.” He replaced the receiver and leant back against the filing cabinet, with his hands in his pockets. Martin stood in the opposite corner, straight towards the Colonel, and crossed his arms in front of his chest.
Was this really going to be a little power game? He thought.
“Well. I would imagine you have had a bit of a time of it. I know we have. Tell me. Where have you come from?”
“London.” Said Binita.
“Yes. Yes. We have had a few from London. Its pretty bad up there?”
“Well the place is full of Zombies, fires are running out of control and I escaped from underneath a collapsing skyscraper.” Martin said.
“What about the government. Was that still intact? Westminster?”
“I didn’t see Westminster but it didn’t look like anyone was in control from what I saw. I was more on the City of London side.”
“Work in the City do you?”
“Work and live.”
“Ahh a Banker.”
Martin smiled but said nothing. He thought it was time, so he spun one of the chairs round and sat in it. The Colonel barely concealed his pleasure at this.
“Well from what we can tell it’s going to be a while before we regain control. So what can you add to our burgeoning little community?” The Colonel said, looking pointedly at Jez and Kelly.
“The lad there is a pretty fine mechanic, as am I, and the girls are good cooks. Emma as you know is a Doctor.”
“What kind?” The Colonel said, sitting at his desk.
“A GP.” Said Emma.
“Good. Excellent. We have a surgeon and a couple of nurses but a Doctor would be very useful. I have some injured men and I think some of the civilians have some complaints. None bitten though thank God.”
Just then the door opened and a woman in fatigues entered and deposited a tray on the desk. When all the coffees had been served, they sat there nursing the warm mugs, and savouring the first hot drink they had had since the brackish tea, early that morning.
“Why didn’t you open the gate?” Said Jez, abruptly. Without pause the Colonel replied.
“I had to be sure it was safe to let you in. We have three hundred civilians here and a hundred troops. I had to be sure we wouldn’t compromise the facility. I’m sure you understand.”
“Of course.” Smiled Martin, before Jez had a chance to reply.
“Well It was very nice to meet you all. We’ll try to make your stay as comfortable as possible, but please respect our rules and keep to the designated civilian areas. Understood?”
They all nodded.
“Well we’ll see you to your quarters. You’ll be staying in the old Fort. It’s the safest place on the base.” He rose and opened the door for them. They drained their coffees and filed out. As Emma passed him, he held his hand out to pause her.
“I would be grateful if you could come and see me once you are settled in, I have a couple of men in a serious, but stable, condition and would appreciate your opinion.”
“No problem. First thing in the morning?” Said Emma. The Colonel nodded.
Martin rose last from his seat, and as he passed the Colonel he paused directly in front of him. Martin put his hand out and was pleased to note he was a noticeable inch taller than the Colonel.
“One final thing. Can I have the keys to your vehicle? We don’t allow civilians to drive anywhere except the parade ground. I’m sure you understand.”
Martin hesitated, then took the keys from his pocket and dropped them into the Colonels waiting hand.
“Looted?” Colonel Sachs asked Martin. Martin paused.
“American Express Gold Card.” He said. The Colonel smiled and nodded, as if approving a fine wine delivered by a waiter.
“Thank you for your help Sir. I don’t quite know what we would have done if we hadn’t found this place.” He said. The Colonel shook his hand firmly.
“No problem. It’s what we are here for.” He replied, with his mouth smiling, but very little else. Martin continued to hold his hand, turning it slightly so his was dominant, and looked directly into his eyes. The Colonel did not flinch, so, before it became uncomfortable, Martin lowered his eyes and retracted his hand.
The dark eyed soldier lead them out of the bunker, into the cooling night, and towards a small building.
“Take just what you need; tents, sleeping bags, torches.” He said.
Inside there was a collection of military and non-military camping equipment. They took what they needed, distributing the stuff amongst themselves, and the soldier led them back through the back of the base to a large parade ground. There was a motley collection of cars, vans, seven and a half tonne trucks and camper vans parked in front of a long line of arched stone buildings sunk into the hillside. It was obviously built some time in the late nineteenth Century. From their appearance they didn’t look like they had been lived in for several decades, perhaps since WW2. The barracks area covered three sides of the polygonal parade ground and were constructed underneath arches, with a wooden front door in each arch.
The dark eyed soldier pointed to the entrance, then turned and walked back to the main barracks. Now they were alone again they felt free to speak.
“What was all that about with the Colonel?” Jez asked.
“He seemed OK.” Said Emma.
“Hmmm. I don’t trust him. I’ve met men like him before.” Said Binita, darkly.
Martin said nothing, knowing that Colonel Sachs was not a man you could trust. He would have to keep a close eye on him. Martin was amazed that Sachs had been so unsubtle in his use of body language to try to dominate the people in the room. He wasn’t welcoming them to the barracks, he was assessing if anyone was a threat to him. Martin had briefly challenged him by standing in a closed posture, but then acquiesced. What Sachs had done was remove all weapons and access to the Land Rover. He doubted they would see that on the parade ground.
“Why didn’t you say you were ex-military? I would have thought it would have been good for him to know.” Said Kelly.
“Probably best we don’t spread that around.” Said Martin.
“Proper Man of Mystery entcha.” Kelly said, looking away but smiling nonetheless.
They walked into Fort Burgoyne via a small wooden door in the central archway. Inside there was a hushed business as people walked around the labyrinthine interior corridors. The place smelt musty, and the walls and concrete floor were bare. They were approached by a friendly looking bearded man in his late forties who greeted them like old friends, whilst tying back his long greying hair, and took them along a set of corridors into the rear of the barracks. All sorts of extension cables and lighting systems were in the process of being rigged up, and the man talked about what they were going to put where, to make the Fort more livable. At the moment people were putting up tents inside to keep them from sleeping in the dusty rooms and to keep the heat in. Eventually, he stopped by two small rooms, one no bigger than a two man tent.
“Well here you go. It’s not much but it’s a start. I think we are going to be here for a while so if you want to help in the morning we are going to talk to Colonel Sachs about getting some sort of washing facility set up. Showers or similar. Goodnight. Oh my name is Mark by the way, and you may as well take this lantern. We’ll try and get you wired up to the electric tomorrow. Come and remind me.” And with that he was gone.
Tiredness overcame the survivors quickly and they erected a tent for Emma and Binita. Jez and Kelly shared one and Martin went into the other small room and erected his one man tent in there. Binita went exploring and found a large room where people where cooking up army rations and food they brought with them. She returned with a pan of chicken, peas and rice that they all shared quietly.
Afterwards they all turned in, and as Martin was just getting into his sleeping bag, barely able to keep his eyes open, he heard someone outside the tent knock on the door to the room.
“Come in.” He said intrigued. Kelly opened the flap and silently sat cross legged in front of him. The dim lantern light highlighting her sharp features. She had bags under her eyes from tiredness, but still retained an odd dignity and beauty.
“I want to ask you a question and I don’t want any bullshit answer.” She said. Martin nodded.
“Why the fuck did you almost leave me behind at the garage? What had I ever done to you?” She said, voice trembling.
“I didn’t. It’s just…” He replied. She closed her eyes and her face screwed slightly.
“I said no bullshit Martin. I want to know why.” She said calmly, and then opened her eyes. They were the same colour as a marble he owned as a child. The starkness of the memory confused him. He stared into the shocking blue, and for a moment he found himself incapable of lying, given the strength and fierceness of her gaze.
“My line of work is not something where you have a lot of friends. And the ones I have had. Well. They’re all dead. People don’t mean a great deal to me anymore. I’ve been on my own for a long time. I never expected that to change.” He said quietly, looking down at his hands as he said it. He felt uncomfortable to be questioned by her. She had no right. She was too young to show him such disrespect. She spoke.
“I got taken from my Mum by Social Services when I was nine. I never knew my Dad. I’ve been from foster home to foster home, but I’ve never done drugs and always tried to better myself. I was doing a college course before all this started, I even did night classes to finish my GCSEs. I like……liked watching X Factor, but never really liked Strictly. Every Sunday I used to help this old woman who lived two flats down do her shopping, it used to take hours because she struggled to walk but once a month she would do me a proper Sunday roast. You know, chicken, beef or pork, cabbage, broccoli, peas, and all that. I watched as she came out of her flat to be eaten by those things. There was nothing I could do.” She said as a tear rolled down her cheek.
“My favourite book was Catcher in the Rye. Ever read it?” She said, Martin shook his head.
“Erm…my favourite album is Purple Rain. A bit before my time I know, but I love it anyway. I always wanted to play guitar like Prince.”
“Yeah it’s a good album.” Martin said.
“Right. What about you?” She asked.
“What?” He said.
“What about you? Tell me about yourself.”
Martin just stared at her for a moment, unsure what to say, or even how to say it, then for some reason he couldn’t fathom, he told her.
“I…..I never knew my Dad either, and my Mum died when I was about sixteen. Rather than go into care I joined the Army. I did well, well enough to get into the SAS. I fought in wars all round the world. Some of them were never even on the News. Then……Well…….Then my best mate got killed and I didn’t really want to fight for some politician’s cause. I became a mercenary and carried on travelling round the world. Then I got too old, but didn’t know what else to do. I had all these skills but no-one wants an old soldier. I had enough money to retire and live a good life I suppose, but doing what? It was all I knew. So I became a……..I became an assassin. I kill people for money. A lot of money admittedly, but money nonetheless. I’ve never told anyone that before” He confessed, voice trembling.
“Did you always kill bad guys?”
“No. Sometimes I kill good guys. Sometimes I kill……..anyone…….If the price is good enough.”
Kelly put her hand out on his. The wrinkles on his hand contrasted with her plump skin. Martin felt the comfort of another human for the first time in a long while.
“Why are you asking me this Kelly?”
“Because being on our own won’t keep us alive now. Emma was right. We need each other. If you had been alone back there you would have died, so would we I reckon. I wanted to make sure that you knew a bit about me so that if you ever had to make that decision again, you would decide to save me not leave me to those fucking things. Now that you’ve told me you’re story I may not leave you either.” She smiled and wiped her face with her free hand.
“That sounds like a deal.” He said. She took her hand away and knelt up. She leaned forward and looked deep into his face, then turned his head with her hand and kissed him on his uninjured cheek. She smelt of fresh paper and strawberries, her lips soft on his old flesh. He turned his head back towards her.
“I forgive you.” She said gently, and then left the tent.
Martin sat up and stared blankly at the tent flap as it settled. He sat there like that for a long time, not knowing what to think of the conversation. He had never been forgiven for anything before, and he didn’t know how to take it. After a while he was going to settle down when there was another knock at the door.
“Are you there Martin?” Said Emma.
“Yeah..Yeah come in. I’m decent.” He said, shaking himself from his thoughts. Emma came in with a white box of first aid supplies.
“I better have a look at that shoulder” She smiled. Martin grunted, he was still thinking about the conversation with Kelly. He took his shirt off to reveal his muscled but grey haired chest. Emma gently removed the bandage, and dressing. The wound had wept plasma slightly but the puckered gash was less red than yesterday.
“How does it feel?” Emma asked.
“Its pretty good.”
“Yeah it looks ok. Let me give it a clean.” She took out a small bottle of fluid and some cotton wool and gently cleaned the wound. It stung but was better than previous days.
“I heard you talking to that Kelly. What did she want?” She asked. Martin used his other hand to rub his eyes.
“Oh nothing really, just asking how I was.” He lied.
“I would have done the same you know.” She said placing a fresh dressing over the wound. Lift your arm please.”
“What do you mean?” He said.
“I would have left her. I mean. You and I. We have skills. What’s she apart from some council estate Chav?” She said, looking him up and down. He didn’t answer, and didn’t know what to think of what she said.
“I think that wound on your cheek is best left to heal. What about your knee?” Martin wrestled his bare leg out of the sleeping bag. She removed the support bandage and looked at the bruising underneath the skin. It had faded from black to dark brown. Emma laid her hand gently on his leg as she replaced the bandage. He looked at her, and she leaned in towards him, moving her hand up his inner thigh.
“I want to stay here tonight.” She whispered. Martin said nothing and kissed her back, but by the time they laid back on the sleeping bag they were both asleep.
That night Martin slept as if home in his apartment, a long dreamless blank sleep, that encrusted his eyes and rested his muscles fully. The concrete floor helped his back and when he awoke the next day it was lunchtime, and Emma was gone. He lay there, his mind blurry, trying to shake the grogginess. His groaning attracted the attention of Jez.
“Morning mate!” He said chirpily, sticking his head through the tent flap.
“They want us to fix some of the trucks and that. One of the soldiers has been down.”
“Urrrgh. Right I better get up then seeing as you don’t know what the fuck you are doing do you?”
“Bang right boss.” Jez smiled.
Martin rose, dressed and followed Jez into the Parade Ground, emerging into a crisp autumnal day, cloudless and windless. He noticed that the Defender was not among the collection of vehicles. A pang hit Martin as he longed for a cigarette, but as he had run out he guessed he would have to give up. Stood by an old camper van was one of the soldiers and the obvious owner of the van, who, judging by the amount of oil on him was trying to fix the fault himself. Martin walked confidently over and asked what the problem was, so for the rest of that day they tried and eventually repaired the vehicle, whose electrics had seen better days. The owner of the vehicle told them that he had arrived two nights before they had. That meant that whatever had happened had had a news blackout in London, at least for a few hours. Martin asked if they had much to do with the soldiers but they were keeping themselves to themselves. The soldiers were supplying electric from the generator in the bunker, which ran from a underground diesel storage facility under the base. The man also mentioned a Brigadier that was in charge on the first day they arrived, but left that same night, called away to look after one of the rescue centres. In the daylight they could see that the parade ground was surrounded by a low concrete wall and a raised grassy mound that ran behind it.
It was late afternoon when Martin spotted Colonel Sachs pacing up and down the side of the Parade Ground, hands crossed behind his back, and chest puffed out, chatting to the dark eyed soldier. Emma had spent the day in the underground bunker tending to wounded soldiers, some were wounded from gunshot while others had obviously injured themselves trying to escape from the Zombies. None of them had bites. Binita had got herself involved with trying to clean up Fort Burgoyne and set up a proper kitchen and washing facility. Kelly had helped her but studiously avoided Martin where possible. Late in the evening there was another commotion from the front gate and another car’s worth of survivors arrived at the camp, whose gate was relatively free of the multitudes that were there yesterday. It seemed even Zombies ran out of patience and went looking for other sources of food. Martin wandered down to the Gate to watch the survivors arrive, and was standing next to the Colonel, tossing and spinning a black marker pen, as the Colonel considered whether to open the gate. It was opened and the few Zombies around dispatched. The Colonel turned and looked at him.
“I asked that civilians remain in Fort Burgoyne. Why you are here?” He said.
“Ahh yes you did. Sorry. Just interested in what was happening. That’s all. Bit boring up there.” He replied casually, waving his hand back at the fort. Martin turned and wandered back up towards the black cannon. The Colonel watched him until he was out of sight.
Over the next week there was a pall of normalcy over the whole place, provided you ignored the groups of Dead that amassed at odd points around the fence overnight, only to be dispersed again by the following morning. Martin slept a lot, and his knee and shoulder improved. The graze on his face tightened and reduced in redness. He spent time showing Jez how to fix vehicles, and enough jargon to blag anyone checking up on him. Binita got involved with the other civilians trying to make the best of it and they formed an ad-hoc council so they could talk direct to Colonel Sachs for things they needed, with Binita joining the council as well. Colonel Sachs thought this was an excellent idea. Emma worked pretty much full time in the bunker looking after the injured soldiers, only returning to the Fort to sleep and tend to Martin’s wounds. She apologised for trying to sleep with him, and he made a clumsy overture to try and initiate it again. In the end he was glad when she decided it wouldn’t be good for either of them. In the main he found himself spending time with Kelly or Jez, but Jez had found a couple of lads his own age and spent evenings with them. Kelly and Martin played cards, just talked, or sat in a comfortable silence, lost in their own thoughts, until Binita returned from Council Meetings. The shower block was set up, much to the jubilation of the Civilians but Colonel Sachs rationed showers to two minutes once every two days. At the end of that week a couple of Royal Engineers could be seen building a small corrugated iron shed right at the back of the base barely two feet from the fence. When questioned what it was for they replied:
After two weeks the council approached Colonel Sachs about the lack of food for the civilians, and he reluctantly agreed to free up some from the Barracks stores. It was also agreed that raiding parties needed to go out and search for food. The Colonel agreed on the proviso that some of the civilians vehicles, the seven and a half tonners, should be used for the raids to carry more goods. There were arguments about that in the Fort after the meeting but the owners of the vehicles eventually agreed. When the first raiding party left Martin noticed the Defender being used by the dark eyed soldier who lead the first raid. After they returned, bloodied and missing two men, the civilians were surprised, but not overly concerned, that the food was put straight into the Army storehouse. They were more surprised at the cases of beer, wine and the flat screen TVs that were taken into the bunker.
After three weeks, the council approached Sachs about the food rationing. The total weight of food supplied daily to the Fort had dropped by about ten percent. They accused him of reducing the rationing by stealth. He accused them of being underhand in weighing the food. The weight of the food remained consistent, and yet every day the raiding party, now developing tactics to deal with the Dead, returned with food and luxuries. One day Martin noticed most of the soldiers now wore Rolexes and Raybans.
After four weeks, and several days of a continuous grey smog that stank and permeated every fibre, it was obvious that the rationing was only being applied to the civilians and not the Soldiers. Martin asked Emma to confirm this but she dodged the question, and his gaze. The council met with Colonel Sachs and discussed the situation and were assured that this was not the case, but all the civilians knew it was. Martin noticed that the Zombies outside the fence seemed to be stiffening up and struggled to move with their previous pace and fluidity, they were, however, more numerous.
Later that day the dark eyed soldier stormed into the Fort.
“The Colonel wants to see you all outside..Now!” He barked. The civilians, wondering what was going on assembled on the parade ground, sitting on the bonnets of vehicles while soldiers ringed the area. A curious murmur rippled through them. Then, two soldiers could be see dragging a man from one of the sheds. He had been badly beaten. One of the women in the crowd cried out, and rushed towards him. Two soldiers intercepted her and pushed her back, she began to cry uncontrollably. The Colonel stood on top of the bank next to the dark eyed soldier.
“It seems that we have a problem. It appears that my generosity and largess is not enough for you people.” He bellowed. The beaten man groaned.
“This man was caught trying to steal food from the bunker last night.”
“Well give us more rations then!” One of the civilians shouted back, there was a chorus of approval from the civilians.
“Quiet! I will not tolerate insurrection!” He barked. The crowd fell silent.
“We are in an unusual situation here, working with limited resources, and under extreme pressure. Let me remind you that we are surrounded by thousands of Undead and if I am to protect you you must obey my orders to the letter.”
“This is supposed to be a rescue station not a Gulag!” Someone else shouted.
“Silence!” He spat, nodding to the Guards, who raised their weapons at the crowd. The Civilians gasped.
“Who said this was a rescue station? This is a Military facility and you must obey my rules! For that reason I sentence this man to one week in the Shed, and anyone, anyone, who disobeys will either be incarcerated or shot. This facility is now officially under Martial Law. My law!”
“And want if we want to leave?” A woman shouted.
“The opportunity for that has now passed. I will not compromise this facility for any reason. Your council is now dissolved, and I will not enter into any discussion about it. You will obey.” And with that The Colonel turned and walked away. The man was unceremoniously dragged to the small metal shed and locked inside. Within minutes, drawn by the smell of blood a small group of Zombies coalesced at the fence by the shed, and moaned as they tried to get to their prey. The moaning a constant reminder of the Colonel’s dominance. The civilians’ depression was now complete, and slowly they filed back inside unsure of what to do.
A couple of days later, Martin and Jez were working on the seven and a half tonner which was being used for raids, it had overheated and limped back to the base. The front grille was covered in blood and bits of hair and skin that hadn’t come off with the power washer, and Jez was cleaning it off with soapy water. Martin was stood on a plastic beer crate fiddling with the fan.
“I don’t get it. The fan has got electric but its not spinning.” Martin said.
“Mate. I don’t really care. This is disgusting. I mean, what do you think that is?”
“That’s a bit of brain Jez.” Said Martin, dryly.
“Really! Aw man that’s horrible” Said Jez as he fought with the the cloth to get the gore out of the radiator.
“I’m gonna start it again, just have a look and see if its straining to go. It could be the brushes.”
“OK.” Jez said, dropping the cloth and stepping up onto the crate. Looking inside at the radiator and the fan. Martin hopped into the cab. Just then Jez looked past the fan to see a piece of jawbone lodged between the fan and the motor casing.
“Hang on Mart I found something.” he shouted and jammed his hand in to retrieve the piece of bone. His fingers caught hold of the end and pulled it free, just as Martin started the engine. The fan span up rapidly, and caught Jez on the back of the hand, as he retrieved it, cutting a four inch cut in it. He screamed and fell back. Martin heard the scream and cut the engine, he jumped out of the cab to see Jez sitting on the floor blood streaming from his hand.
“You fucking idiot! I told you to hang on!” Shouted Jez holding onto the deep cut which was dripping blood at a steady and alarming rate.
“I didn’t hear you! Quick get up and lets get you to Emma.” Said Martin. He propped Jez up and marched him into the bunker. Inside the entrance a soldier stepped across their path.
“No civs in the bunker mate.” He said.
“Since when?” Asked Martin
“Since the Colonel said so.” Said the Soldier.
“We just want the Doctor to have a look at this.” Said Martin, holding Jez’ hand up so the soldier could see the blood dripping from it.
“I’ll have to clear it.” Said the soldier, distractedly. As they stood there he radioed through and there was a brief discussion before they were waved through.Martin hurried Jez through the base until they found Emma sitting in one of the Medical rooms.
“Oh Jesus, whats happened to you?” She asked as they entered the room.
“The old man here is going deaf and he started an engine up when I told him I had my hand in it.” Said Jez. Martin didn’t comment, but just held Jez’s hand high in the air as he sat in the chair. Emma placed a metal pan underneath to catch the blood and inspected the wound. It ran diagonally across the back of his hand and was deep enough to see the tendons. Luckily they appeared to be undamaged.
“That’s going to need stitches. Let me get some ready. Martin on that table there is some saline. Can you clean the wound?”
“Yup no problem.” He said, grabbing the bottle and a gauze from the table. He set about cleaning the wound.
“Ah! Ow! It stings.” Cried Jez.
“Oh stop being a wimp.” Said Martin.
“Says Mr Hard man SAS.” Jez exclaimed. Martin scowled at him. Kelly must have let slip. Emma briefly paused, then turned towards them with a tray with a dressing, a syringe, a tetanus vaccination vial, needle and thread, and a bandage.
“Let me find an anaesthetic.” She said starting to turn round.
“We can’t spare medical supplies.” A voice from the doorway said, sternly. The Colonel stood there, arms crossed.
“Think you can take the stitches without it?” He said.
“Not bloody really.” Said Jez.
“Its that or nothing Son.” Said the Colonel.
“Just do it Emma.” Jez said to her as she finished cleaning the wound. Martin turned to look at the Colonel who was watching the scene intently.
How long has he been stood there? He thought to himself. Emma stitched the wound with Jez doing his damnedest not to wince or move his hand. Eventually, she stitched it up, and dressed it. Jez relaxed back into the chair.
“You ok now mate?” She asked with her hand on his shoulder. Jez looked pale, and just nodded to her, cradling his hand. She turned to the Colonel.
“I should give him a Tetanus shot. We have enough supplies of that at least” She said bluntly. The Colonel nodded and left the room.
She took a syringe from the drawer and filled it with the clear fluid, before injecting it into his arm.
“You need to be more careful Jez.” She said
“Don’t tell me, tell the numpty here.” He said.
“Sorry Jez. I didn’t hear you I swear.” Said Martin.
“Ahh its alright.” He smiled weakly and looked at the dressing.
“Right come on, lets get out of here.” Martin said. They got up to leave.
“Wait. Don’t I get a lollipop? I always used to get one at the Docs.” Said Jez.
“I haven’t got any left I’m afraid.” Said Emma, smiling.
“Get out you numpty.” Said Martin, shoving Jez though the door. Martin turned and looked at Emma for a moment.
“Nice necklace.” He said, commenting on the expensive looking diamond and gold thing hanging from her neck. She was embarrassed, and turned away tucking it back into her blue jumper.
They left and walked back to the Fort.
“You go and take it easy Jez. I’ll finish up.” Said Martin, peeling off back to the lorry they were working on.
“Mart. I’m sorry about the SAS thing. I badgered Kelly until she told me. She’s rubbish at secrets.” Said Jez. Martin turned back and sighed.
“Its alright mate. Its done now.” But Martin knew it wasn’t alright, and he would have to watch his back from now on.
After five weeks, and with the cold wind of winter evident on the breeze which carried thick cloying dust that settled on every surface. The first Memo was received by the, now leaderless, civilians. All of their requests had been denied and Sachs announced he wanted to speak to everyone that afternoon. Surrounded by armed soldiers Sachs announced that it was unlikely that the country would return to normality soon and they should bed down for the long haul. He announced that the soldiers needed additional support in the bunkers, and that he would select lots as to who would be asked to provide that support. A list of randomly selected names was read out. They were all young women in their twenties or thirties, including Kelly.
His final proclamation was that food rationing was to be cut by twenty five percent due to the poor returns from the raids, even though the raids were invariably successful and food and other luxury items were unloaded every day. Finally, all medical distribution had to be authorised through him, which worried Jez as he had felt increasingly weak since the accident and Emma had been concerned that the wound was becoming infected. The thief who had been locked in the Shed was released, but the experience had affected his mind. The constant moan and rattling of the Zombies so close by had convinced him the base had been over run and he would remain trapped in the box forever. Two days later he hanged himself in a deserted part of the Fort, leaving only a long and poignant suicide note to his wife and child.
During the sixth week, where incessant rain and wind battered the base, stinging the eyes with its chemical acidity, it became clear that the girls were nothing more than eye candy for a group of soldiers more interested in looting than food. The civilians were barely on one small meal a day, and yet the soldiers ate three hearty meals, according to the girls. The ex-council demanded to speak to Sachs. His retort was that the soldiers were keeping the civilians safe, and it was in their own interest that the soldiers were at peak physical fitness. It was gently pointed out that some of the soldiers had put on weight. Sachs flew into a rage and ejected the civilians with no further discussion. Finally, on Saturday of that week it emerged it was the Colonel’s birthday. So, as the Civilians sat in the damp cold Fort, nursing empty bellies, listening to the children cry and complain, each drunken shout and thump of bass from the party fed their resentment a little bit further.
Later that night, Martin was sat in the larger of their two rooms with his back against the wall, writing by candlelight when Kelly arrived.
“I found this for you.” She said dropping a pair of black jeans, and a black poloneck next to him.
“Where did you get these?” He asked.
“A present from the Colonel. They got a load of clothes on the last raid. I had to guess your size” She said. Showing off a new pair of jeans and a hooded top.
“How generous. Not ‘working’?” He said flatly.
“None of the girls are.”
“I guess even the Colonel has limits to his embarrassment.”
“Hmm. Why is he doing this? We should be working together shouldn’t we?” She said, dropping down to sit next to him.
“Its all about control Kell.” He replied, not looking up from his writing.
“What do you mean.”
“He’s not interested in surviving those things outside. He wants a little Empire. He wants power.”
“What’s the point in that though?”
“There isn’t any, it’s how he is made. I’ve seen it before. Some people want nothing more than to control others. Its like being a bully but they never grow out of it.”
“Megalomania”. She mused. Martin looked up at her in the candlelight.
“You aren’t as stupid as you look are you.” She turned to look him in the eye.
“I look fucking stupid do I?” She said, but with warmth, not meanness in her voice. Martin winked at her and smiled, once again struck by her. Martin looked back at the page.
“I’m too old for you, you know Kell.” Immediately wondering why he had said that, and regretting it. Old habits die hard, keeping people away.
“No you’re not.” She said quietly, looking down. Neither of them realising they were both smiling to themselves.
“Where’s Emma?” She eventually asked. Emma had spent several nights in the bunkers and was becoming a less frequent visitor to the Fort.
“Enjoying our leaders hospitality I guess.”
“Hmm. I don’t think she knows what side her bread is buttered.”
Martin was about to comment when Binita stormed into the room. She seemed to spend a lot of time angry at the moment, as did most of the Council.
“This is bloody intolerable.” She ranted in her thick accent, before sitting down on an old cushion. Kelly and Martin said nothing. They were used to this.
“If they have enough for a party, they have enough to share. They think they are better than us.” She waited for a response, but Kelly just looked at her while Martin continued writing
“They are supposed to be protecting us not bloody looting watches and TVs and games consoles. We need food, and seeds to grow food. That bloody Sachs is an idiot. We need this to be a democracy not a bloody dictatorship, and if he says its for our protection again I’ll bloody string him up. One of the others was watching them unload after a raid and do you know what he saw? They were unloading bloody road signs and putting them in one of those locked sheds. Why do that? What was all that about?” She spat. Martin looked up.
“Road signs?” He asked.
“Road Signs.” She confirmed.
“Which shed was it again?” He asked.
Later that night, Martin and Kelly dodged round the cars and vehicles, avoiding the few roaming guards which now patrolled the base day and night. By their disinterested demeanour they drew the short straw not to be attending the Colonel’s birthday which still thumped underground. Slowly, they worked their way over to a series of garage sized buildings that obviously were intended to store vehicles. Martin had seen the soldiers going out to raids park a couple of Land Rovers, and their old Defender, in a couple of them. However, the one to the rear of the group nestled in a group of trees was never used as far as they could tell. They circled round the back and found a locked rear door. Martin pulled a set of small strips of metal he had fashioned earlier and picked the lock. After interminable minutes, and a brief period where one of the guards passed close by, so close that they held their breath, Martin heard the lock click into place and he slowly opened the door.
The stench of death hit them instantly, robbing them of their breath, the low buzz of flies rang like static in their ears. Kelly coughed and held her jumper sleeve up to her mouth. Martin turned to her.
“You ok?” He asked. She nodded quickly and they slipped inside. Martin had a small LED torch that he used to see the way. A mass of Flies rose as they took each footstep. Looking around but being careful not to shine light out of the window he was right in his suspicion this was a garage. The tool box and container of earplugs next to it confirmed it. They moved down a short corridor into the main room to find a pile of bodies five foot high.
“Oh my God.” Kelly’s muffled voice said. Martin guessed that these were the Zombies from the first night it happened as most of them were clearly turned when they died. Kelly looked around slowly until she found a the pile of signs. Martin thought there was something wrong about the bodies, not all of them, but some of them. Finally it was with a dread realisation he saw that not all had been shot in the head, some were shot in the chest, and finally he recognised on one foetid corpse that had died from a chest wound, the stripes of a Brigadier.
Kelly whispered for Martin to shine the light over in her direction. He did so and the brown sign said “Connaught Barracks 6 miles”. She looked at him quizzically.
“What does it mean?” She whispered.
“It means we are in the shit Kelly. It means that the Colonel doesn’t want anyone to disturb his little Kingdom and even on the first night this was his plan. It means he is a bloody madman. It’s highly likely that if there are any Military out there they have no idea we are here.” He replied, soberly. Silently, Kelly replaced the sign, and slipped back out, Martin followed a few seconds later, locking the door behind them. Without a word they worked their way back to the Fort. That night, as Martin was getting into his sleeping bag, Kelly opened the flap and slipped in beside him. She fell asleep with her arms wrapped around him, and her head in his chest, while Martin grabbed his pad and wrote long into the night.
The following morning they were woken by shouts from elsewhere in the fort. Martin was not afforded the time to do his normal systems check and internally hate his age. He rose quickly and shook Kelly awake.
“Kelly! Wake up. Something’s going on.” He shook her.
“Awaddasfugoff.” She mumbled.
“Now, Kelly! Wake up!” He insisted. She sat up rubbing her eyes.
“What is it?” She asked.
“There’s something going on.” He said, throwing her clothes at her. She roused herself awake, and got dressed. Together they rushed out to the Parade ground, and were blinded by the bright autumnal sunshine. The clean crisp air woke them fully. Outside were a lot of civilians arguing and shouting while soldiers stood around the grass bank.
“We want to see the Colonel. Now!” One of them shouted. They surrounded a dishevelled looking girl, who looked bruised, with tear tracks down her dirty face. Her lank blonde hair hid the rest of her features.
“He’s not up yet.” Said one of the soldiers. Martin checked his watch.
“Well go and get him then!” Said Binita, who was crouched next to the girl.
“No need.” A booming voice said. The Colonel approached pulling on his jacket, he looked a bit hungover, as did most of the soldiers.
“What’s the problem?”
“The problem is that one of your men raped this girl last night.” Said Binita, with a mask of controlled anger.
“I very much doubt that. Where is your evidence?” He said, reasonably.
“Look at her you bloody idiot!” She screamed.
“You’ll keep a civil tongue in your head woman. It was probably one of you ‘civilians’.” He spat the word at her.
“No. It was him! She recognised him.” She turned and pointed at a young soldier with a long scratch on his face. He turned red instantly.
“Well if that IS the case, and I very much doubt it, we will hold a proper trial in accordance with the law where you can prevent your evidence.” He said, barely hiding his irritation.
“Like you did with Jim? The man you sent mad in a box? The man who hanged himself! Eh?” There were jeers from the civilians. She had moved up to stand in front of the Colonel, and spat at him in disgust. His face darkened, and without warning he took his pistol and shot her point blank in the head, the sound of the shot echoing round the Fort.
Time seemed to slow and as Martin watched, Binita buckled and fell backwards, a dark spray fanning from her head. Martin found himself screaming.
“NO!” he called, as he rushed towards the falling body. One of the soldiers stepped in front of him, and he lashed out catching the man square in the jaw. Another soldier stood between him and the body of his friend and he swept the legs out from under him, before elbowing him in the neck as he fell. He lunged forward crouching at Binita’s corpse. He saw her lying there with a neat round hole in her forehead and all he could think about was how she had stroked Mo’s face as she left the shop all that time ago. He remembered her story about her childhood to Kelly and how much he had come to rely on her himself. Martin had had few friends, the dead woman in front was one of them. Martin turned and looked at the Colonel with blind hatred.
“Just one excuse Soldier. Just one.” The Colonel said calmly to Martin, who was so consumed with hatred he didn’t see the dark eyed soldier approach from the left and punch him square on the jaw. Martin head flicked round and he fell onto Binita’s prone body. Instantly he was up, but the younger man was quicker, and not distracted with grief. Once again he punched Martin to the floor, and once again Martin sprang up shouting in rage. Finally the soldier punched him down again and Martin lay there for a moment, motes of light filling his vision as unconsciousness threatened to take him.
“It seems some of you STILL don’t understand. There is no insurrection. There is no treason. There is no betrayal. My word is LAW!” Shouted the Colonel.
“A month in the Shed!” He said to the dark eyed soldier.
“No!” whimpered Kelly.
“No food for two days, and none of my medicines for any of you. That’s it. I have no more compassion for you scum.” He said, approaching Martin, but talking to the crowd. He bent down to whisper in his ear.
“I don’t give a fuck if you are SAS, that means I’ll enjoy breaking you all the more, and then, when you are begging to me to live, I’ll make a fucking example of you, you lying piece of shit.”
Martin didn’t reply but let a long dribble of bloody phlegm drip onto the Colonels boot. The Colonel wiped it on Martin by kicking him in the stomach.
“Take him away.” Said the Colonel. Kelly rushed up to Martin and he struggled free, she hugged him quickly.
“Don’t go mental!” she said to him, he tried to smile but his face hurt and made him wince. One of the soldiers shoved her away and they dragged Martin towards the Shed.
That night, Kelly, numb from the day, crawled into Martins tent, and cried long sobs for Binita and Martin. She felt more trapped than she had ever felt in her life, and her one solace was imprisoned next to the living dead, to go mad. She realised that she loved Martin. Even through all this chaos she found she couldn’t prevent it. He was strong in the same way she was, he was kind to her and that idiot Jez. She had worried she saw him as a father figure but they had too much of a laugh for it to be that. He was alone in the same way she was, and that drew them together. Eventually, she undressed to go to sleep and as she did so she saw the paper fall out of her pocket. She looked at it for a moment in surprise, and then, wiped her eyes before she unfolded and read it.
In the Shed Martin sat cross legged, hands relaxed on his knees. The moans of the dead outside silenced by the small foam ear defenders he had taken from the garage they had investigated the night before. He sat coiled, hearing only his own breath, like a caged animal, his mind a seething mass of hatred and anger, making the pain from the beating small and inconsequential. A small shaft of moonlight from the gap in the corrugated tin door lay across his madness-tinged eyes. And, like the shaft of light, a thin stream of pure consciousness spread across his mind, mirroring the wry smile on his face.
The thought was this. He had been an Assassin a long time, and there were only two things you needed to be a good Assassin. One was patience. He had that in spades through training and age. He would need it now to get him through the next month. The other was a coherent plan. A plan that could not fail. A plan that could not be seen through or suspected. A plan that would get the civilians off this base and allow him to get revenge for Binita’s death.
A plan, that was already in place.
Thanks to Pete Griffiths for editing this series.
My collection of short Zombie stories “All the Dead are here” is available on Lulu.com and Amazon as a paperback. It is also available on Amazon for the Kindle reader or app. The link is on the right hand side of this page.