David K Roberts – self-published author sci-fi thriller horror novels

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12 – Bridging The Gap

Pius unceremoniously skewered the helmsman standing in the wheelhouse from behind, thrusting up into the brain and taking whatever life it possessed, after which we threw the flaccid corpse unceremoniously overboard. I looked at where he had been standing and saw that the key was still in the ignition, a small, yellow plastic Homer Simpson hung blue-trousered and fat from the key – I guess they were getting ready to ply their trade up and down the river when the day went less well.
Today was turning into the ultimate ‘shit happens’ scenario for millions, perhaps even billions of people around the world and I was beginning to wonder why I and Becky were resistant to the populist trend of becoming a zombie. I guess there were exceptions to every rule. Maybe we were lucky, maybe not. That day began an increasing chasm of ambiguity over the definition of being lucky.
I looked at the shore, from which we had drifted some thirty feet. We had been just in time; thousands of zombies had amassed, pouring down the ramp onto the pontoon to which we had been tethered only moments ago. Their noise and stench was formidable, their groaning intensifying as I fancied their disappointment at our escape. Some began falling into the water as others came from behind, their weight of numbers forcing those at the edge into the Thames. They floated like logs.
I remember smiling as I felt safe for the first time that morning. Unfortunately that was a short-lived emotion as I noticed that their huge number was locking together like a floating logjam onto which others were clambering to try and get to us. The writhing flotsam was moving apace with our drifting vessel.
I heard Becky squeal in fear as she realised the implications of what was happening.
“Let’s see if we can get this boat going,” I said, speaking to myself mostly in my fear.
I turned the key, gave the glow plugs a moment and then pressed the starter button. The engine turned over several times before I took my finger off the button. Nothing.
“Shit!” I exclaimed angrily. “Start you son of a bitch!”
I pressed the button again and it turned over, the engine catching on one of the upstrokes. I tried again and suddenly the engine burst into life and a plume of diesel smoke belched out from behind the boat.
“Thank God,” Pius mumbled, fingering the cross that hung around his neck.
“Yes!” I exclaimed and moved the gear lever into the position marked by an ‘F’, presumably forward. There was a throttle next to it and I gently pushed it to its limit and we started to leave the lethal logjam behind.
A small cheer sounded from the cabin area and I smiled at Becky who smiled and gave me the thumbs up.
Looking out ahead of us at the great expanse of the Thames I suddenly realised just how far we had to travel by boat.
“Keep a look out ahead,” I warned our group. “If they can float they can get to us!”
At that warning they gathered at the bow to make sure they could watch out for obstructions. From where I stood in the wheelhouse I had a good view ahead so I was more interested in our people being able to repel boarders. This wasn’t the fastest boat in the world and I imagined a determined, floating zombie could potentially haul itself onto the decks. After all, they were completely indefatigable as far as I could tell.
“Are there any boathooks?” Pius asked, clearly seeing the same risk as I had done.
I look around the wheelhouse and saw a varnished wooden door. I opened it and was pleased to see it was a closet in which were the various tools of a boat, including half a dozen brass hooked staves.
“Here, pass these out to the troops,” I said to Pius and he smiled, taking them as I passed them over. In a moment our people were armed, at least minimally. Better than nothing, I reckoned. The brass ends would be good for stabbing.
Looking ahead I saw we were approaching the bridge over which trains travelled to and from Charing Cross. I was grateful we no longer had to fight our way to Waterloo, bypassing streets I could now see were crammed with zombies. On the shore roads I could see many zombies seemingly following us as we made our way seaward. I knew there would be obstructions that would stop them in their tracks so I stopped worrying about our shadows and gave them no further thought.
As we drew nearer to the bridge I gasped. The Golden Jubilee Bridges, walkways that ran alongside the trains as they crossed the river, were crammed with zombies. And we had to pass underneath them. I shivered as my hackles rose.
Looking along its entire length I could see no way of avoiding passing under dozens of the bastards – and their enthusiasm for our flesh would almost certainly make them fall onto the boat in their natural pursuit. Even if our people hid under the boat’s eaves, invisible to those on the footbridge above, I couldn’t be sure the vessel would not be swamped as they played lemmings as we came within their grasp. I used some rope I found in the wheelhouse to secure the wheel and ran to the lower decks where my gallant fellow survivors waited.
“Listen, guys,” I began. “We’re about to go under that bridge and those bloody things might jump or fall down onto the boat.”
“Can’t we avoid them, Emile?” Indre asked, almost pleasing. She stared at the bridge trying to find an answer I hadn’t been able to discover.
“I can’t see how,” I replied. I looked at Becky, I was only too happy that she was a strong swimmer, as was I. “If worse comes to the worst then jump overboard. They might be able to float but I haven’t seen any of them swimming.”
“I can’t swim very well,” Joshua piped up.
“Put on a lifejacket,” I told him, and it gave me an idea. “In fact we should all do that; the padding might offer us some protection if any do get onto the boat.”
We scurried around looking for the jackets. We found them in a padlocked central locker. One hit with a rifle butt and the padlock broke. Suitably attired I returned to the wheelhouse. If these zombies could be lured to the place on the bridge above where we passed, then perhaps I could draw them to a particular part of the bridge, thinning their number either side of the target area. Then a sudden turn to the left or right might allow us to slip under the bridge with many fewer zombies to worry about. At this moment it was pure guesswork because we still didn’t know if they would even try and get onto the boat. Whatever happened, I wanted to make sure we had the best possible chance of survival – after all there were quite a few bridges between us and Woolwich.
As we neared the bridge I tried to work out the best place to aim for. There wasn’t much in it so I aimed for one of the grey supports. Becky came up to stand by me in the boathouse.
“I want to be near you,” she said, her face bullish. I was not going to be given a chance to argue. I smiled and pulled her close to me in a hug.
“Love you,” I said, I think for the first time in our relationship. She looked at me and gently kissed me on the cheek.
“I have always loved you,” she replied.
We lapsed back into silence and I concentrated on keeping a straight line to telegraph our intentions to the brain-deads above. We were less than half a mile from the bridge at this point.
As we closed in I could see that my ideas actually held water, there was definitely a perceptible movement of the horde, ambling to where I looked likely to pass under the bridge. The bastards, I thought, they really do want to get to the boat. I looked down and couldn’t see our people, which meant the zombies on the bridge were likely to have the same empty deck in view. Clearly anything big or small that moved were targets to these creatures.
I was getting excited, my plan was working; either side of my target the numbers were thinning nicely. At about one hundred yards off I spun the wheel forcing the boat to take a sharp turn to the left. I heard a squeal as Indre fought to hold on against the manoeuvre. Some zombies saw the move and tried to change their direction of travel but they were moving too slowly to make a difference at this point.
As we drew under the bridge, the boat moving as fast as I could make it go, half a dozen or so bodies fell onto the cover of the deck, two or three of them sliding harmlessly into the water. The remainder fell to the deck and we pounced onto them stabbing our hooks at their heads, trying to dispatch them before they had a chance to attack. We were doing pretty well when another couple fell from the second bridge on the far side of the railway platform. They landed squarely on Joshua who had ventured out from under the deck cover to kill one of the first intruders.
I ran to his side but before I could help him one of them had taken a chunk out of his hand. He screamed in pain and terror as he saw bright red blood squirt from an artery in his wrist. I stabbed both zombies in the head with my bayonetted rifle – their focus was on Joshua and were an easy kill for me.
I dragged him over to a bench seat and lay him down on its white faux leather surface. The others came over to help.
“Stay focused!” I cried. “We might get more.”
They turned back to the main deck clearly dreading the arrival of more lemming zombies. Another couple of zombies fell into the water behind us as they misjudged their fall, one hitting its head on the fantail leaving a smear of black blood and brains on the white paintwork.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” Joshua incanted, writhing in pain from his wound. His wrist was already turning dark, the blood vessels becoming noticeably dark under his translucent skin as they traced their path up his arm. I looked around for something to bandage the wound when I remembered I had seen a green-crossed white tin with the life jackets. I fished it out of the locker and ran back to Joshua. I wrapped the wound after pouring some sort of sterilising fluid onto the wound. He screamed as it seared his flesh. There was no point in pussy-footing around dabbing it on gently. If there was the slightest chance of stopping the infection I was going to do everything I could to do just that.
“Come on,” I encouraged when I had finished my work. “Sit up, you’ll feel better.”
Joshua struggled as he obeyed. Under his eyes there was already a growing shadow of death, veins and arteries becoming clearly visible under the skin as they darkened. I remembered that Brad Pitt had chopped some soldier’s hand off to save her from the infection, but this thing had travelled so fast up his arm it had taken me by surprise. Anyway, I didn’t have a machete to hand.
I looked up at the wheelhouse and saw Pius had taken the helm. He just looked sad and shook his head ever so slightly. I knew exactly what he was saying, I just didn’t know how much time before Joshua became the enemy.
Looking ahead I could see Waterloo Bridge looming. I thought about it and realised there were eight more bridges to get past. This was going to be the longest short journey in history.
“Do you want to try the same thing again, Pius?” I called to him.
He just nodded and focused on steering the boat. Making sure Joshua was comfortable I went over to Becky and Indre. Our little band was shrinking; I wondered if any of us would survive to get to Woolwich.
“Hopefully the next bridge won’t be as packed with the goddam things, but at least we do have a way of minimising their numbers above us. Waterloo Bridge has a bigger set of railings for them to get over so we might not have the same problem, but…” I shrugged my shoulders and held up the rifle. “We will be more prepared this time.”
“Why is that?” Indre asked.
“Because we survived the last attack and know what to expect. Stay under the awnings so they can’t land on you. Quick stabs to the head and move onto the next one. Okay?”
Both girls nodded and gripped their boathook staves more tightly.
I put my rifle down and began dragging the bodies to the side of the boat and rolling them overboard. The girls joined in. The last thing I wanted was for any of us to trip over a cadaver. That would be game over.
We were approaching Waterloo Bridge. I could already see the numbers of zombies on this bridge were fewer than last time. I heaved a sigh of relief as I could see that the same trick was working on this bridge as before. At the last moment Pius veered the boat to port and we dove under the bridge. This time only three flailing bodies landed on the decks and were easily dispatched.
“Emile!” Pius shouted from the wheelhouse. I turned to see Joshua coming at me, arms outstretched and fingers claw-like. His whole countenance had changed from gentle and decent person to blood-drooling creature with lifeless, nacreous eyes. Without hesitation I raised the rifle over my head and thrust down into his brain successfully flicking the off switch. Poor old Joshua dropped like a stone to the deck. Indre let out a small cry of grief and she clung to Becky, her second close associate cum friend’s departure too much to bear. Becky spoke gently to her, stroking the distraught girl’s hair while leading her to a bench. I left them and went to Pius.
“Only seven more bridges to go,” I informed him.
“Jesus,” he sighed.
“We really need another plan,” I decided.
*

Copyright © 2016 David Kingsley Roberts

If you want to read a completed Zombie series, The Common Cold: A Zombie Chronicle, click here.

11 – Taking In The Sights

It was weird but as we ran for the trees I kept on thinking how this place looked in normal times – filled with office workers, civil servants, tourists, protesters, and the encampments of long term political complainants. All of that was now gone, in its place huge amounts of rubbish, torn down tents, discarded placards and of course diseased people with no obvious thoughts other than getting to us in search of sustenance – that and converting us into one of them I now knew, having seen Sneaky Bastard come back after being bitten.

At the beginning of our heroic dash my legs felt like jelly, my strength was being sapped by my fear. Running out into the open like that was a serious challenge to me – if I hadn’t had Becky by my side, well, honestly I don’t know how I would have fared. I’ll be frank, I’m not the bravest soul in the world, which may or may not explain why I’m still alive to tell this story so far into the Apocalypse. Anyway, back to the present, I listened out for the footsteps of our group behind me to make sure we didn’t get separated as we made our hurried way towards the trees.

In spite of our relative silence the zombies quickly picked up on our presence and began their shuffle dance in our direction. My heart beat faster as I realised that somehow they were moving not so much towards us as more to block our passage across the square. Up to now I had only attributed the most meagre of mental abilities to them but definitely not this. Seeing this group activity at the very least indicated some sort of basic innate hunting skills, if not some form of group communications. All the way across I wondered if we were doing the right thing, although by now there was no going back. I looked over my shoulder and caught sight of Pius dispatching a zombie that had been more enthusiastically chasing us than the others. He seemed very proficient with the rifle and bayonet – deep waters lay there I suspected.

Arriving at the trees and thankfully still alive I pushed on, Becky staying by my side. I could see Winston’s statue almost urging me to fight on, the square and riverside our twenty first century beaches. Looking beyond him I judged there would be just about enough space for us to get over the bridge and down to Westminster Pier but it would be one hell of a close call. It was a serious gamble so I just prayed there would be a boat waiting for us. Even if we couldn’t get the engine started I still maintained that we would be safer by simply casting it away from the shore, out of reach of those deadly hands.

We were running hell for leather now, our restraint and carefully planned moves thrown out the window in our rising collective panic. We were nearly at the far side of the square when the first of us met our end. The upside was that it was only Matt. Fair do’s to the fella he appeared fearless in his struggle against the one that caught him. Struggling to overpower each other they both went down and were almost immediately set upon by another four zombies who were already close behind out group, their lumbering gait relentless. His screams brought more zombies to the scene. Dinner was served.

I grabbed Becky’s hand and cried out to the others to keep moving. Indre just stood there and seemed nonplussed at Matt’s demise, their sparking relationship now evident for what it had been. Pius grabbed her roughly by the arm and pulled her along, she all the while looking over her shoulder at the food lust behind us. From what I saw I only remember bright red. It seems that Matt did indeed step up in the end, although I don’t imagine it was exactly a voluntary contribution on his part to give us a small hiatus in the chase so giving us precious seconds to get further away from death. What do they say: you existed as long as someone remembers you. Well, I remember all of them.

We were now alongside Portcullis House, that great modern edifice built to house our MPs and their minions as they struggled to keep our country afloat on a daily basis. As we passed by that monstrous folly I am absolutely certain I saw a couple of members of our cabinet, only now their own concern was in chasing us. I wasn’t about to stop and ask for an autograph. They joined the chase as the pier appeared, guarded by Boudicca as she had done since 1850, although this time she merely watched as we panted and struggled to stay ahead of the ever increasing horde of zombies collecting at our rear.

Vlad, our erstwhile impaler seemed not to be so much of a barbarian as I’d hoped, he was beginning to lag behind us, something that didn’t seem to go unnoticed by the zombies. Vlad was holding his left side and looked like he was suffering a debilitating bout of cramp. They seemed to smell blood in the water and from all around they began to converge on him. I felt for the guy, he seemed to be a pretty decent person.

I turned to face a couple of zombies that at that same moment thought it was a good idea to deliver a frontal attack. On the first thrust I delivered on the leading zombie I felt and heard the crushing skull as the blade penetrated into the brain. She fell motionless at my feet and I suddenly realised the blade was being held in by suction, her lolling head soaking up my efforts to get free. The second one sensed opportunity but instinctively I fired a shot and the woman’s head opened up releasing the bayonet. I read once that firing a shot was how troops in WW1 quickly released their long bayonets from a resistant body. The ancient wisdom seemed to work and so I managed to skewer the second one in the chest, not being in the right position to attack its head. Its arms flailed in an attempt to close the gap the rifle afforded me. This time I kicked at the torso, delivering it a heavy duty blow born out of the adrenaline rush I was experiencing right at that moment. It flew away backwards from me, giving me the precious moments needed to place the blade between its eyes. I twisted the rifle and the blade came out easily.

Looking back I saw no sign of Vlad other than a crowd of zombies gathering around something on the ground. Damn, I thought. I was beginning to feel rather freaked out by now, the adrenaline rush notwithstanding. The sensation of stabbing a person, the thought of being torn apart by teeth, it all felt overwhelming and almost too much to bear. I kept running and finally saw there was indeed a boat at the pier. Together we rushed down the steps and leapt aboard.

“Untie the ropes!” I shouted. “Pius and I will clear these bastards off.”

The two of us rushed at the three crew members which had clearly turned at some point in the night and were standing at their stations as if waiting for passengers. As they appeared to be in a trance-like state they put up little resistance. We gave them no time to wake up from it and quickly dispatched them with increasingly practiced bayonet thrusts. I was surprised how little blood came out of our victims. It wasn’t at all like the films; I guess no pulse equals no blood pressure equals no squirting blood. Pius and I threw them overboard as we began to drift out into the river, Becky, Indre and Joshua having taken the initiative to cast us away from the shore.

On the pier dozens of zombies crowded, inadvertently toppling some of their number into the water in their blinkered enthusiasm to get to us. I was right, or so I thought, the water would be a safe place to be for now. I sighed with relief.

“Let us get the motor started,” Pius suggested.

“Sure,” I agreed and went with him to the wheelhouse.

*

Copyright © 2016 David Kingsley Roberts

If you want to read a completed Zombie series, The Common Cold: A Zombie Chronicle, click here.

10 – Once More Unto The Breach

Looking out of the window in the stairwell we could see that the zombie herd had moved away, probably inflicting misery and terror wherever they went.

“Now’s our time to leave,” Pius suggested.

“Where are you going?” Vlad asked.

“He has to get to his family in Woolwich,” Becky piped up. “We’re going with him.”

“Can you even do that? Wouldn’t it be safer to stay indoors until all this is over?” Indre asked, her voice quavering with fright at the thought.

“Over?” I replied. “I think it’s already over, the world we knew that is. Anyway, you saw how quickly they got into this building. If there hadn’t been a loft walkway we would have been trapped with them and, well, who knows what if that happens.”

“At least we can outrun them,” Becky agreed. “We have already done that – more than once.”

Indre whimpered self-pityingly.

“Come on, girl,” Matt, the fourth staff member interjected, putting an arm around her shoulders. “I’ll keep you safe.”

Indre’s withering look as she freed herself from his clutches said everything about their relationship.

“You two had better keep it together once we’re out there,” I told them. “I won’t have your personal problems getting one of us killed. We may be able to outrun them but it won’t be a walk in the park, not by any means.”

“I will not be a problem,” Indre said through gritted teeth.

“Don’t worry about me, mate. I’ll step up,” Matt retorted arrogantly. Strange, I thought, I hadn’t seen much evidence of that up to now.

“You better do so. We won’t wait and I won’t risk one of our lives for your lives so we have to stick together. If any of you want to come with Pius, Becky and me then you are welcome but the only decisions that count, at least until we get to his family, are ours.”

Pius raised himself to full height as if affirming my little speech.

“Let us go before we meet anyone else,” Pius suggested.

“Righto,” I agreed. “You ready, Becks?”

“As ready as I’ll ever be.”

With a look of steely determination she began to descend the stairs, Pius leading the way, gun at the ready. The rest of us followed and I wondered how seven of us would make it in one piece across the ravaged city.

Pius collected a couple of clips of ammunition as we passed Sneaky Bastard in the stairwell. The squaddie’s neck was broken, the head resting unnaturally close to his shoulders. His face writhed as it spotted us coming nearer. The teeth clacked in some sort of deathly anticipation and his legs flailed uselessly on the smooth floor. Without hesitating Pius crushed the man’s skull with the rifle’s butt and began searching the corpse’s pockets, recovering a couple of ammo clips and his stash which the big man threw away. There was something very unnerving about Pius’ emotionless state at that point and it deflected me from a more pressing matter – the soldier hadn’t been bitten, leaving the reason for his zombie state unanswered. I gave it no more thought at the time.

Coming to the Victorian glass and wrought iron frontage on the ground floor we crouched down and gingerly made our way towards the door. Lying on the ground next to the door was a rifle, bayonet still fixed; one of the drugged up squaddies must have dropped it in his frightened flight. He must have really been out of it to leave that behind. Pius shared one of the ammo clips he had recovered with me as I picked up the weapon. I guess I was going to learn how to use it in the field, so to speak.

I signalled for everyone to stay back and wait as I slowly opened the front door. Fortunately it was on a spring and had slammed shut after the troopers left or we may have had to work our way through unwelcome guests. Looking down the road in each direction I could see that most of the zombies had cleared off, leaving a few stragglers behind wandering around aimlessly.

The road seemed slick with something I couldn’t recognise – the smell it gave off made up for any visual clues as to what it was. The Zombie Apocalypse taught me that an unfortunate yet normal reaction to death in a human was to release all sphincters, hence why death was rarely the dignified event films mostly portray. Because they were standing up their bowels behaved like a bucket with a hole in the bottom, so to speak, spreading faecal matter in their wake. Thousands of them walking down the road was neither a pretty sight nor something to be easily forgotten, especially in the early days. And I thought what the drone had done was appalling enough! I pulled my head back and shut the door while trying to get my breath back. The others groaned and Indre retched as the odour caught them full in the face.

“Oh, Jesus,” Becky groaned, her face going pale once more. “We can’t go out in that!”

“We have no choice, babe,” I replied, trying desperately not to vomit. Before the ZA the worst thing I’d had to do was pick up my old dog’s poop using a plastic bag. “You know, I think I’ve just had a good idea. We’ll never get to Woolwich if we have to get across the town. What if we could get to the river and grab a boat? They couldn’t get to us if we travel down the middle of the river, surely? What do ya reckon?”

“You can’t steal a boat,” Matt said indignantly.

I looked at him in disbelief before I remembered he probably hadn’t stepped outside since all this began.

“Let’s just say that it’s quite possible ownership is no longer an issue,” I countered. “Anyway, I wouldn’t want to keep it, so technically it isn’t theft.”

“You can walk around town if you like,” Indre said to Matt, her lip curled in disdain. “I’d feel safer on the water, especially if these things are everywhere.”

“Alright then,” I interrupted. “If no-one has an objection we’ll head down toward Westminster Bridge – if the plane’s fire hasn’t blocked that route of course. There’s a pier next to the bridge so I’m sure there must be something there we could use.”

“What plane?” Joshua interrupted. “We heard a noise…”

“That was it,” Becky explained. “Right next to the Houses of Parliament. Half a mile further off course and this place would have been under it.”

“Oh, crap,” Joshua muttered as the explanation sunk in.

All conversations over and with no objections we made our way down the road towards Parliament. As before, we kept close to buildings and ducked from hiding pace to hiding place. The temptation to simply run the route as fast as we could was strong, but all of us were frightened of the risk of running into a crowd of them. I firmly believed we could outrun them but all one of us needed to do was turn an ankle and we’d be in trouble. I used to have a blue t-shirt with the words ‘I like you but if zombies attack I’m tripping you’ printed on it in brilliant white. I remember I used to laugh at it thinking it was amusing. Oh well, times change and now I couldn’t imagine leaving a single person behind, without a fight at least. For me, in these desperate days jokes don’t really seem to be particularly relevant. I think part of everyone’s humanity died when zombies started living.

We came to Parliament Square Green with little or no trouble; a couple of stray zombies met the sharp end of my and Pius’ bayonets but other than that we were in the clear. We stopped by the corner of the Middlesex Guildhall building and crouched down as low as we could against the iron railings. I felt disheartened as I looked across the expanse – it looked way bigger than I remembered. While there were plenty of obstacles we could use for cover on the journey, everything from slender trees to good old Churchill’s statue plinth, I could see quite a number of zombies milling around, waiting for a meaty meal to come wandering across their attention. At the far side a crowd of them were gathered around a lump of something on the ground, their attention riveted on it. I tore my gaze away and quickly calculated our chances of getting through. I saw no other options: it was across Parliament Square or bust, as they say.

“Okay, now listen,” I whispered to my fellow survivors. “We are going to have to run for it. It isn’t far to the river but it’s far enough with those things on our tail. Pius and I will clear our way forward using bayonets unless we become cornered. Whatever you do, try not to make any more noise than you have to.”

“Duh,” Matt muttered under his breath.

“Just for that, you can be our rear guard,” I spat, glaring at the idiot. “You’d better take this seriously or you won’t get across the square.”

“Oh, I will,” he countered.

“You might just be a brave young man but if you do get anyone killed,” Pius said, speaking quietly enough that everyone had to listen carefully. “I will be having words with you about it.”

The look on his face made Matt swallow involuntarily and I smiled inside. I didn’t care whether the git respected my command over him or not; with Pius glowering at him he certainly got the picture.

“We can’t go in a straight line, we will be out in the open too long,” I said. “We can follow the line of the trees to the left. As it happens the zombies seem mostly to be out in the open, at least from what I can see from here. No-one stops or hesitates. If you get left behind we probably won’t be able to go back and help you. So we have to help each other all the time. I would like it if you each chose a partner for this.”

The look Indre gave Matt stopped him from making the obvious comment.

“I will partner with you,” Pius told Matt. “We can protect from behind.”

Initially I thought that only one bayonet up front might prove problematic but if it came to needing a second weapon then we were probably done for anyway.

Becky and I were obvious partners, and the others paired up somewhat sheepishly.

“Ready?” I asked and received nods from each person. “Okay, let’s do this.”

My heart was pumping so loudly that I was sure everyone else would hear it but I guess they were too busy with their own to hear mine. I grabbed Becky’s hand and we ran for the first trees.

*

Copyright © 2016 David Kingsley Roberts

If you want to read a completed Zombie series, The Common Cold: A Zombie Chronicle, click here.

9 – The Rise And Fall – And Rise – of Sneaky Bastard

Sneaky Bastard was right behind me. In spite of his drugged up state he’d managed stealth in spite of my precautions. The squaddie’s gun was pointing unerringly between my eyes – it was one of my worst moments in the early apocalypse. My fear for Becky was intense; I didn’t want these bastards to harm her, or the other women for that matter.

I glanced behind him and mentally sighed with relief; the staircase was empty, his buddies had clearly declined to accompany him on his little adventure. Or maybe they were too high to care.

“What do you want?” I demanded, trying not to show my fear of his gun.

“Dumb question, you poncy bastard,” he replied. “Move out the way, I wanna meet your girl. Is she the security guard?” he continued sarcastically.

Jerking the bayonetted rifle he commanded me to move aside. At first I hesitated, desperately thinking about what I could do without getting myself killed. Dying wouldn’t protect Becky. I had to be smart, play for time. He prodded me painfully in the middle of my chest, his face full of anger and a burning hatred. My face drained with fear – I forgot to tell you, I have an intense fear of being stabbed which started in childhood, but I won’t go into that now.

“Move it, fucking civvie bastard,” he hissed, his bloodshot eyes glaring venomously into mine.

I stepped slowly backwards and sideways to my right. Somehow, and I’ll never be able to explain it, I could feel Pius above me in the darkness of the attic, waiting to pounce. I kept moving backwards and closer to the open trapdoor, my now hidden right hand plucking at Becky’s sleeve drawing her slowly around me, sideways and away from the open loft aperture. Sneaky Bastard was being drawn along with my movement, his drug-addled brain dulling his instincts for a trap.

The squaddie was licking his lips now in anticipation, the look in his eyes telling me he was mentally stripping Becky – and liking what he saw.

“You’re a pretty one, ain’t ya?” he whispered hoarsely. Becky cringed in horror at the sound of his voice and gripped my arm tightly.

“I told you to get out of the fucking way!” he blared at me, pulling his rifle back in anticipation of using his bayonet.

He never got the chance. Pius fell through the aperture and landed on him feet first, his enormous bulk inexorable. Together they went down and on hitting the ground there was a loud cracking sound as Pius’ foot crushed Sneaky Bastard’s chest, bones splintering and creating their own internal bayonet-like havoc. The soldier gasped in agony, blood spilling from his mouth mixed with pink foam. A couple more gasps and he stopped moving, dead as a door nail. I checked for a pulse in his throat. Nothing, it was the first time I’d touched a dead man.

“I do not like men who abuse women,” Pius stated, spitting on the dead man. “I left Nigeria with my family to get away from that sort of thing.” Pius was glaring at the man as he said his piece. I liked Pius man more and more, a man after my own heart.

“Thanks, Pius,” I said, tearing my gaze away from the crushed dead soldier on the floor.

“It was nothing,” he replied – somehow I really believed his words. I think he might have a story or two to tell about his previous life but his lips would always be sealed.

I hugged Becky, relief flooding me. Her eyes were not filled with relief but a hard flinty look as she stared at the corpse. She broke free of me and hugged Pius.

“Thank you, Pius,” she whispered. “You are a good man.”

The big man suddenly looked sheepish. He could crush a man easily but a woman’s thanks floored him.

“It is nothing, truly,” he replied to her, then looked over at me. “Are there any more of them?”

“Yes. There are two on the ground floor.”

“Are they like him?”

“I think they are high on something but I don’t think they followed him up here so maybe he’s the rogue one.”

“Uh, guys,” Becky interrupted.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Look,” she replied pointing at Sneaky Bastard.

We both looked down and saw him move.

“But…” I began.

The crushed squaddie moved his head and opened his eyes.

“Holy shit!” I exclaimed. Pius felt for the cross hanging around his neck.

Sneaky Bastard’s eyes were like those of the people we had seen earlier. All of a sudden it made sense as to why we hadn’t seen loads of corpses everywhere. They were reviving to turn into zombies. This implied whatever it was affecting London’s population was more than a simple infection; would we all turn into one of these things when we die?

I didn’t get any more time to think on this. The zombie clumsily got to his feet and we backed away from it. It stumbled backwards a little, off-balance like a new-born foal on fresh, unused legs and I saw my chance. As it lined up with the entrance to the stairwell I rushed it and pushed with all my might. It rode with my force, its legs flailing to keep it upright. At the top of the stairs I skidded to a halt and its momentum propelled it through the air before finally hitting the staircase a dozen steps or so down. It bounced bloodily off the walls and went down another two flights before it came to a halt.

I could hear the remaining two squaddies running up the stairs to investigate what was happening. Roaring gunfire erupted next to me as Pius fired Sneaky Bastard’s gun down the stairwell. I jumped back in surprise, shielding my face instinctively from the flashes and noise. I heard a scream from below followed by running feet as the soldiers beat a hasty retreat. Next minute we heard the front door opening and slamming shut. I peered out the window in the stairwell and caught a glimpse of them running for it along Broadway behind the New Scotland Yard building. In their panic they bowled over a few zombies who tried in vain to capture the two before they disappeared from view.

“Bastards,” I muttered before turning back to Pius. He was holding the rifle which in his hands looked like a plastic toy.

*

8 – Division In The Household

After climbing the stairs at full tilt we burst out into an open foyer that had two elevator doors at the far end and a cheap-looking plastic imitation veneer reception desk. Off this same area were several office doors. Seeing this floor I was dismayed. If we sought safety in one of these rooms we would really be trapped. We needed to keep on going up, away from our pursuers.

I turned back to the stairwell – my gut told me it was probably no more sensible to use lifts in a zombie apocalypse than it was in case of a fire. Coming at me was a large, obese man who may have eaten all the pies when alive but was now expanding his horizons into foods new and from what I could see in that moment the Paleo diet was his latest fad. In his left hand was the remains of a leg with stringy globs of meat stuck to its blood covered femur. Without a thought of what I was doing I ran towards him, grabbed the top of the door jamb and swung at the meat mountain using my feet as a battering ram. I guess I was lucky and caught him in his upper torso and he was toppled backwards onto his followers, leaving our way upwards temporarily clear.

“Come on!” I urged and we all ran up the stairs, this time I remained with Becky and Pius. Our feet clattered on the marble steps as we raced onwards and upwards. Below us I could hear the rabble rousing itself again in its endless pursuit of living flesh.

If I remembered correctly, these old buildings were five or six storeys tall and if we could create a suitable barrier further up the building we might be safe for a while, at least to gather our thoughts and come up with a plan. At the next floor we dragged the reception desk into the stairwell and jammed it at the top of the stairs, blocking easy ingress. We did this for another couple of floors and then finally came to the top floor.

“What now?” one of the staff members asked. His name badge announced him to be Vlad. I hoped he was an impaler – that would be of use right now.

“Dunno,” I replied, breathing heavily from exertion. “We rest for a moment. Shame we didn’t have time to bring any sarnies from downstairs. I’m famished.”

“Funny you should say that,” the girl I spoke to earlier said, holding out a carrier bag full of sandwich packets. Her name tag said Indre.

“Nice one, Indre,” I replied, smiling.

She opened the bag and offered it to me. I pulled out a pack. Chicken salad. Well, at least it was a healthy option. I piled into it as the others grabbed a pack each and began munching in silence. I looked over at Becky and she seemed reasonably recovered from all of our trials up to now; still a little pale but at least her colour was returning.

From downstairs we could hear moaning and the crashing of furniture as they struggled to get past our hurriedly created barriers. From the increasingly enthusiastic sound of splintering wood echoing up the stairwell I estimated we had no more than about twenty minutes before they joined us.

Glancing up at the ceiling I noticed a hatch. Gut instinct told me that climbing up there would set us free. In a worst case scenario we could hide out until the zombies moved on, assuming that’s what they did of course. I looked around and pulled a table over until it was under the hatch. I climbed up and pushed at the cover. It opened inwards so I pushed it all the way open.

You’re going to think I’m a bit of a sad fucker, but for as long as I can remember I always carried an 8cm long Maglite Solitaire LED torch with me – even before the ZA – you never know when you might need one. At least in the end I was justified so all of you that rolled your eyes at my little habit – bite me, so to speak. I needed my torch that day and so used it to check out the loft area. There was nothing up there of any threat; the entire length of the area was boarded and only contained a few storage boxes and old zinc-coated water cisterns. Thinking of water suddenly I realised just how thirsty I was. Mind back on the matter in hand I saw that the loft area extended the full length of the building. Just as I thought, I preened happily; it ran the length of the offices along the street. That meant we didn’t have to remain trapped in this one; the building below me was a sinking ship and it sounded like it was quickly filling with death dealing zombies. We rats had to get clear, and quickly.

Looking back down at the group, I saw all their expectant faces looking up at me and I smiled. It’s amazing how a little hope buoys you up.

“There’s a way out up here, we can get away from this part of the building,” I announced happily.

Looks of relief converted the worried faces.

“Come on,” I encouraged, climbing easily into the loft space.

I reached down and beckoned to Becky. Leaping onto the table in her enthusiasm she nearly fell over but I caught her hand and held on. Recovering, with my help she hauled herself on up. Pius was arranging the others ahead of him and so between us they all clambered into the safety of the loft. Finally, Pius hauled his big frame onto the table and we heard an ominous crack from under it. Office tables weren’t designed for this kind of abuse and this one was letting us know that the ghost was being given up. Grabbing at his outstretched hand I hauled with all my might and held him aloft of the collapsing table while he struggled to fit through the aperture. Damn, he was heavy and it felt like my shoulder was being dislocated but I held on.

Hearing running feet below I saw Pius’ eyes widen as the zombies grabbed hold of his legs.

“Oh,” was all he was able to say – his increasingly desperate struggles taking all of his breath.

“Help me!” I called to the others and immediately Vlad lent down and helped by grabbing Pius’ coat and hauling for all he was worth. Slowly but surely the big man was hauled to safety and we collapsed panting on the floor.

I peered down through the aperture and saw the zombies’ and their rabid attempts to climb up. Fortunately the table was now in pieces on the floor and couldn’t have been used as a step up. One of them managed to slap the side of the aperture frame but it was becoming clear that they had chased us as far as they were able. I closed the trapdoor and the noise from below ebbed as the creatures lost interest. To make sure the entrance was really secure we piled some of the cardboard boxes, presumably belonging to one of the businesses below, on top of it. It’s amazing how heavy tax files are and how grateful I was for them.

Walking quietly the length of the loft I stopped by one of the cleaner looking cisterns, cupped my hands and drank deeply. I had not realised just how dehydrated I had become. Becky and Pius followed suit, slurping greedily at the slightly warm water. Finally we arrived at an identical loft hatch at the far end of the building. Lifting the cover a little I stopped and we waited in silence listening for any sounds from this particular office block. There was nothing to be heard. Lifting it a little more I peered down and could see that the office and stairwell were empty, at least on this floor.

“You lot wait,” I instructed. “I’m going down to check it out. Be ready to help me back up here if necessary.”

“Sure we will,” Vlad assured me.

Pius was crouching near me at that moment and I glanced at his shoes.

“Jeez, Pius!” I exclaimed quietly. “I didn’t realise they got that close to you.”

He looked down and saw the bite marks on the heel and side. There was something that I later realised was brain matter on the toe. Pius just smiled.

“I kicked him good,” was all he said.

I raised my eyebrows and smiled back. Gently I lowered myself down, dropping quietly the last couple of feet. Perhaps I should state now that, before the end came, I was a martial artist studying Shorinji Kempo. Although not an expert I was fourth kyu so at least I had fitness, some suppleness and quickness about me. Perhaps this explained my willingness, once I realised what the hell was going on, to have ago and push myself a little more than most of the others. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m no hero – heroes don’t usually endure, they shine brightly before being snuffed out – at least in the ZA.

Adopting silent mode I searched the room in which I had landed as well as the adjacent rooms and found no-one. It was clear that this floor had not been occupied since the start of the fun. Maybe their staff members were out on the street below, no longer interested in working for a living.

In the distance I heard a huge explosion that sounded remarkably similar to the 747 we had seen die. I tried to imagine all those aircraft up there, their occupants probably zombified. I shuddered at the terror the uninfected must have felt trapped in those aluminium tubes of death.        Bringing myself back to the here and now I finished the search and went back to the hatch and signalled it was clear. I stopped them from coming down while I went down the stairs to investigate further. Better for them to be up there if things got nasty.

The first two floors were clear and I was starting to breathe a little more easily. Reaching the ground floor                without incident I made my way cautiously to the glass-doored entrance and peered outside. The throng appeared to have walked on by, leaving a few stragglers wandering aimlessly and a small knot of them crouching over something. It was hard to make out what they were doing but when one of them turned around and seemed to stare straight at me I gasped in shock. Its hands were bright red and it seemed to be munching on a limb. I drew back quickly and rested against the cool, marbled wall letting my heart rate slow a little.

“Get back from there, you stupid bastard!”

I started in shock again and saw three troops hiding behind the reception desk. One of them was pointing his rifle at me.

I skirted the open area and joined them behind the desk.

“What you doin’ here?” the same soldier asked aggressively. “Are you lootin’? We’ve got rules about that.”

“Fuck off,” I replied instinctively. “We’re hiding out, just like you.”

The squaddie gave me a derisive look. Looking at his face I could see his pupils were dilated which I initially put down to the fact that they were skulking in semi-darkness behind a desk.

“You said ‘we’,” he continued.

“Yes, there is a group of us hiding out upstairs,” I offered, not suspecting anything about them other than their justifiable fear of zombies.

“Any women among ya?”

Now alarm bells rang.

“Nope, just a security guard and a couple of other blokes. Why?”

“No reason,” he replied. Looking at him more closely I could see he was a sneaky one, this one, and the other two didn’t come across much better. Shit, what had we walked into? If I didn’t respect the fact that they were squaddies and supposed to be our protectors I would have sworn they were all in the grip of some narcotic, their jittery disposition could be nerves or something else – substance abuse. I hate drugs, always have. I watched a couple of good people go that way after the ZA started, they seemed to think it was the easy way out, although when you consider they were eaten alive because they were too out of it to fight back, I question that wisdom.

“Who are you guys?” I asked, hoping to deflect any further enquiries about my group’s makeup.

“We’re from the Palace, Household troops. We got cut off from the rest of the patrol when that lot showed up,” he said jerking his thumb at the front door.

“Why are you so interested in women? Not that I’m not,” I added quickly hoping to play on their thought process.

“It’s pretty obvious from everything that goin’ on that nothing is normal out there, probably won’t be – ever again.”

“What do you know about all this?” I asked, hoping he would be forthcoming.

“Not a lot. All we know is that civil law has been suspended and the army is now in charge.”

“When did all this happen?” I asked incredulously. It seemed that any notification of this sort had passed by me and that Becky and we’d had to find out the hard way.

“About four this morning. Bastards got me up early. Now we’re stuck ’ere, nuffing to do. It woulda been good if you’d ’ad a bird or two, that’s all.”

As he was speaking he was absent-mindedly fingering his rifle in a way that I’ll bet was not taught on the parade ground.

“So, are your guys coming back for you?” I asked.

“Nah, they’re pretty fucked I reckon. We’re on our lonesome.”

I thought about what I should do, the others would be getting nervous, wondering what had happened to me if I didn’t return shortly. The last thing I wanted was for these guys to see the women in our group. There wasn’t much we could do against three tweaking guys with rifles and fixed bayonets. I’d done very little weapon fighting practice and so I’d probably be about as competent as someone with no training. Anyway, as far as I could tell there was a world of difference between training and the real thing.

“Right, I’ll be getting back to the lads, they’ll be wondering what’s happened to me.”

“What? Are they so pussy they sent you out alone?”

“It’s not that, it’s just that there’s no point in risking more lives than you need to. Anyway, I can move more quietly and quickly on my own.”

The soldier just shrugged.

“Whatever.” He’d already lost interest in my story. “Just stay out of sight. Don’t want you bastards bringing them down on us. I’m warning ya.” The last words were accentuated by lifting his gun up to aim at me again.

“Sure thing. I don’t want them near me either. Good luck.”

Quietly I slipped away from them and returned to the top floor, occasionally stopping to make sure I hadn’t been followed. I thought the Household Division at Buckingham Palace were the elite of the British Army. I guess rotten apples existed everywhere in life.

Arriving, I noticed Becky had already descended from the loft and was waiting anxiously at the top of the stairs.

“What are you doing?” I asked anxiously. “I need you to wait up in the loft.”

“Why? I just wanted to make sure you were okay.” I loved it when she jutted her jaw in defiance.

“Because there ae some doped-up troops downstairs and I don’t like the look of them one bit. They asked me if there were women in our group. I said no. I think they believed me.”

“Oh,” Becky exhaled, suddenly apprehensive.

“So I want all the women back up there and out of sight for now, and we’ll wait for them to leave.”

“Aw, she doesn’t have to hide,” came a voice from behind me.

*

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7 – Prêt  Survivre, Anyone?

Trudging up the road we began to see people rushing out onto the street. Some were flailing at themselves desperately trying to put out the fire that had engulfed them having been caught up in the conflagration. Others seemed oblivious to the consuming flames and when I ran over to one to offer assistance he turned on me, arms outstretched. I sidestepped him easily enough but I did get a close look at his face. I remember it only added to my confusion and fear. He seemed to have no eyes, almost as if the eyeballs had turned around revealing the white sclera and no iris. In spite of this he tried again to get to me, moving unerringly in my direction no matter what avoiding tactics I employed. Pius finished the game by hammering his fist into the side of the man’s head. The head cracked open spilling brain and blood, leaving Pius’ fist blood soaked.

“Oh, Jesus!” I exclaimed. Pius, too, was surprised at the result of his punch.

“I did not hit him that hard!” he almost pleaded, looking around guiltily while trying to wipe off the evidence of his crime.

“It’s alright,” I acceded calmly. I think I was filling up with horror to the point where I was barely reacting even to something so horrible. “For what it’s worth I don’t think he was all there.”

I grabbed Becky’s hand once more – thankfully she did not seem to be aware of the altercation – and we moved on, staying close to walls, looking for doorways we could use to hide if necessary.

There were a lot of people on the road now, most appeared to be in the same state as the man Pius had pole-axed. Some seemed aware of us while others were completely oblivious; all seemed to have the strange affliction with their eyes. I know Becky had used the z-word but at the time I was dubious, after all up to that point they were the stuff of legend only as far as I was concerned. Quite honestly at that time I was beginning to wonder if we had walked into a mass poisoning; perhaps some gas had leaked and affected this area during the night.

Becky was starting to become more aware as we made our covert way down the road towards Victoria Street; suddenly she reached into her pocket and pulled out her phone, her fingers flying across the surface as she searched desperately for something. I was wondering if she was losing it when she looked up suddenly and smiled. A tinny voice emitted from the phone announcing an emergency was under way. I laughed at the blindingly obvious statement.

“Which scientist did they employ to discover this fact?” I whispered to her. She grinned.

The announcement continued, telling everyone that was listening to stay indoors and await help. Looking at the station she had picked up I saw it was the BBC which meant it was probably a country-wide transmission. I stopped smiling and a shiver ran down my spine at the final realisation that we were probably not alone in our struggle.

We came out of Artillery Row onto Victoria Street and froze. As far as the eye could see were thousands upon thousands of zombies. That’s right, I’m using the z-word now – what I was seeing finally awoke me to the reality. Looking around quickly we threw ourselves into a Prêt à Manger on the corner. Crouching low one of the staff had opened the glass door for us to get in. He signaled for us to get onto the floor and crawl behind the serving counter. We did as we were told.

Behind the counter there were three members of staff already there. They looked pathetic and frightened to death. Looking at the guy who had let us in I wondered where he’d gotten the courage to do so. Staying hidden was the right thing to do so while I was grateful for his bravado I was also concerned for this foolhardy move. Some of the zombies outside the window had seen movement behind the shop’s glass and had wandered over. More joined them and now more than a dozen pairs of nacreous eyes peered in looking for us. Their hands drumming on the large panes set up a significant throbbing beat which continued to attract yet more.

“What is this? What can we do?” one of the staff members asked, looking beseechingly at us, the newcomers. She had a soft Eastern European voice, her Slavic cheekbones hinting at the same region.

Pius shook his head.

“Pray,” he whispered. I did a double-take at my new friend. His face was dead-pan and I suspected he was having problems with what he had done using only his fist; if he was a devout Christian I imagine he was struggling deep down with his conscience.

“Come on Pius, mate,” I coaxed. “Think of your family. We’ll get out of this. You’ll get back to them.”

No reaction.

“What are their names? How many kids have you got?” I thought if I made him think of each one in turn that he’d come back to us. We really needed his muscle; what we really didn’t need was one of our growing number losing faith in survival. I’d seen the films, those slow to react would get themselves and others killed and at that moment I was all about getting through the day. It was my turn to pay back at least one of the times he’d rescued me. I put my hand on his shoulder and squeezed to get his attention.

He looked at me and I saw the glazed look fade, replaced by a steely determination.

“I will be alright,” he muttered and smiled a little. “My wife’s name is Florence, and my two daughters are called Olutoyin and Teju.”

I sighed inside with relief – his voice had the same strong timbre I had heard previously and knew he was back.

“They are lovely names. How old are your daughters?” I asked.

“Olutoyin is eight and Toyu is six.”

“They are good ages,” Becky chipped in. “We are going to get out of this, you know. I want to meet your family. Today for preference.”

At that moment there was a resounding crack and I couldn’t help myself but take a peek. One of the large windows had crazed with the punishment it was receiving from the outside. It was only the plastic lamination that held it in place.

I turned to the staff members.

“We need to get the fuck out of here,” I urged. “Is there a back exit, or can we go upstairs?” I asked urgently. I looked at the name tag of the one who had let us in. “Joshua? Is there another way out?”

“Yes,” he replied. “But last time I looked they were out the back as well. There is an office upstairs.” He pointed to a doorway just to one side of the serving counter. It was in the open and we would be seen if we made for it. Damn.

“We have to get away from this area,” I shouted. By now the cacophony from the windows and groaning of the zombies was overwhelming and shouting was the only way we could communicate.

“”Let’s go!” Becky shouted and made for the doorway. Peering back she beckoned us to come. We did, driven by the sound of a window collapsing completely and an uplifting moan from the horde at their success. It felt like one of those dreams when you can’t get your feet up onto the bed quickly enough to avoid the monster.

I was the last of our new group to race out of the public area and up the stairs, with hell trailing close behind us. There wasn’t even a door I could close behind us. At the time I believed this was the end. We were trapped in the building.

*

Copyright © 2016 David Kingsley Roberts

All rights reserved, No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the author. Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organisations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Maidenhead Zombie Walk 2016

maidenhead zombie walk 2016

It’s that time again – the season of good fun. The Maidenhead Zombie Walk is back! Make sure you are there, unless you aren’t dead yet!

THE HORDES RETURN TO MAIDENHEAD WITH A TOWN HALL TAKEOVER!

Date: Saturday 29th October. Start Time: From 1pm Location: From The Bell PKB

The Maidenhead Zombie Walk, now in its 4th consecutive year, returns this Halloween for the spookiest and most hilarious event to date! Adding to the festivities this year we have the very first Monster Mash Halloween Ball! Taking place at a very special venue at the end of the walk; theDesborough Theatre in the Town Hall Maidenhead.

The Zombie Walk itself starts at The Bell pub at 5pm and remains completely FREE to take part in, with zombifying make up available from 1pm.

maidenhead-zombie-walk-monster-mash-halloween-ballTickets for the Monster Mash Ball afterwards are £2.50 for under 18s, and £5 for overs, with under 5s going free. The evening’s entertainment consists of live music, a dance flash mob, a bar, a pizza kitchen, plus the usual Halloween fare of decorations, a raffle and spooky fun and games galore! Tickets >>> http://www.wegottickets.com/event/376431

The event is run entirely not-for-profit by community based volunteers from Maidenhead Live, the Maidenhead Round Table, and the Rotary Club of Maidenhead Bridge. This year we are all coming together to raise awareness and money for local charity organisation Number 22 Counselling Services.

Maidenhead Zombie Walk Timetable:

1pm – 5pm: The hordes gather at The Bell pub opposite the train station where they can get their zombie make up done for a few pounds, play some Halloween games, and learn how to walk and ‘talk’ like a zombie, courtesy of our very own zombie trainer from the movies, Chris von Ruhland

5pm – 6pm: The hordes will be alerted by zombie leader, Windsor and Maidenhead Town Crier Chris Brown, to gather opposite The Bell pub on the pedestrian area by the 3 building, where he will read out his horrifying annual speech, to announce the start of the walk. The zombies will then meander down King Street and turn into the Nicholsons Shopping Centre. They will then exit opposite Marks & Spencers and turn right onto the High Street before turning down St Ives Road and ending at the Town Hall.

6pm – 10:30pm: Fun, games and live music will be on order at the biggest Halloween Party Maidenhead has ever seen! Featuring a flash mob dance by Dance Inspired, local ukulele genius Mark Deans, busking and loop pedal legend THE busker rhymes, local rock n roll party band Bourbon Myths, Reading’s rebel rockers Fish Hook and fresh from their most recent Boomtown Festival appearance, the tremendous Popes of Chillitown will finish the night with a spooky spectacular of a show.

Tickets for the Monster Mash are available to buy NOW via the ticket link in this event page and wil alsol be on sale on the day at The Bell and the Town Hall.

Tickets >>> http://www.wegottickets.com/event/376431

10.30pm – late: For all those older zombies not ready to hang up their brain eating habits for another year just yet, there will be an after party at the Anchor pub on York road, featuring guest DJ sets from local community members with a generous donation of a percentage of the evening’s takings being donated to Number 22 Youth Counselling.

If you are interested becoming a sponsor for the event, or would like to donate a raffle prize, please contact chairman Vicky Lunt on:

vicky@maidenheadlive.com

**IMPORTANT NOTICE**

The official venue for the zombie walk after party has changed to the RVS York Centre! This change in venue allows us more flexibility with logistics enabling us to set up for an even more spectacular party! The RVS York centre is situated at the end of St Ives road and is visible from the town hall. Due to the close relation to the town hall there will be no change to the walk route, we will end at the town hall and those who want to continue onto the after party can continue down the road and use the zebra crossings to reach the venue for the after party.
We will be contacting everyone who has already purchased tickets directly via email to let them know about the change of venue – TICKETS ALREADY PURCHASED ARE STILL VALID. Thanks for reading, the MZW committee.

 

6 – Frying Pan or Fire – You Choose

By the time we crossed the river we could hear steady gunfire starting up again, presumably at the crowd coming up from the south. The sci-fi buzzing of the drone’s guns could also be heard as they dealt death and destruction from above. I wondered if the ‘Battle of Lambeth’ would be remembered like 9/11 or 7/7; of course at that time none of us had a single clue as to the ubiquity of what was going on. To be quite honest I thought it was ‘just’ another terrorist attack, some biological or chemical incident – probably like most other survivors out there at the time. We had absolutely no idea the world as we knew it was coming to an end. I’ve had many an occasion since that day to wonder if those that died at the outset were the lucky ones. Meanwhile, to concentrate on our survival I tried desperately to close my mind to what was going on across the river.

In spite of the tonnage of lead flying that morning the moaning continued to intensify, frequently punctuated by distant screams, and as we stood there transfixed the sound of gunfire finally abated down to the odd sporadic shot or two. Moments later a drone crashed into the Thames, its death-dealing finished. I wondered what had happened; had it simply run out of fuel or was there a problem with the remote pilot? Where was he and why he had stopped the extermination?

After the craziness of it all I felt like I was losing my mind; I just couldn’t take in what was going on. I was still trying to work out what was going on with these people. I could easily rule out protest, no-one would deliberately infect themselves to end up like that; there were no police to speak of, it was the army I’d seen and not a single policeman since Victoria Station. Why and when had the army been called out? I was slowly joining dots but I was damned if I could recognise the shape it was revealing.

“We can go along Millbank and then cross back to Waterloo at Westminster Bridge or maybe go further to Cannon Street,” Pius suggested, somewhat pleadingly. It took me a moment to realise he was talking. His face showed that he, too, was frightened and dumbfounded by the turn of events, his cheeks glistening with tears which he wiped away furiously, but it was clear that the imperative to get to his family was still acute and overrode his natural desire to escape it all by mentally shutting down. Unfortunately, by this time his optimism at being able to catch a train was no longer infectious – none of us really believed that option to be viable any longer. Becky looked frightened to death, her lovely pale face shades whiter; she had started shaking involuntarily clearly in shock at what we had been part of. I think we were all shocked and overwhelmed to see the army on the street; I knew full well that the fact they were on the streets meant the police and civilian authority had lost control and that wouldn’t do at all on such a pleasant morning. Who knew there would be beautiful weather to die for at the start of the Apocalypse?

“Okay, whatever,” I agreed absent-mindedly, nothing better having crossed my mind.

In a shaken daze we crossed the road but no sooner had we stepped onto the opposite pavement than we heard the laboured sound of jet engines very close by. Looking up we saw a British Airways jumbo that, from the direction of its flight, appeared to have taken off from Heathrow in the last few minutes – its landing gear was still down and its engine power settings sounded as if it was trying to climb. It was weaving from side to side, and when it was supposed to be gaining altitude it wasn’t. For a brief moment it seemed to steady itself and continue on its way. I heaved a sigh of relief. All of a sudden it peeled away from its flightpath by doing a roll out dive to port. I swore as I realised it was heading straight for the Houses of Parliament, only half a mile away. At the last moment it veered more towards us and we instinctively hunkered down behind the low stone wall, not that such a barrier would have protected us from a direct hit.

With an all-enveloping roar, the likes of which I had never heard before, it seemed to splash down among the buildings on the north bank. I say splash because it spread itself across a massive area spilling its full load of fuel across several blocks in the direction of Westminster Abbey. The scene was more reminiscent of a napalm run in Vietnam than good old London. That was all I saw of it as by then I was hugging the pavement like I was in love.

In spite of the overwhelming noise created by the death of the 747 I saw more than heard Becky squeal in fright, the look of terror on her face stabbing me to the core; I hated seeing her so completely frightened, it tore at my heart in spite of everything going on around us. Perhaps I really was in love. Pius seemed to be saying something but all sounds were drowned out by the blast that engulfed us. Maybe he was praying and I didn’t blame him one bit; if I’d had someone who might have listened I would be chattering thirteen to the dozen. It was as if hell had opened its doors and was dragging us in. Its violence rolled across us bringing an intense heat that seared my flesh and burnt the hair on my legs, arms and head. Wearing shorts and a t-shirt into the apocalypse is not something I can recommend.

After a minute or so – I really can’t be sure – we raised our heads over the wall to see what had happened. A great pall of smoke and flames rose into the sky, hundreds of feet high and at least half a mile across; the whole area to the east seemed to be on fire, the heat oven intense. Even the trees along the embankment were burning brightly, driving away any thought of heading in that direction. Strangely the Hoses of Parliament seemed to have escaped unscathed, defiant to the last.

The streets were littered with rubble, aircraft debris and torn bodies; peering closer to our wall I could see what looked like the remains of a turbofan engine embedded deep into the pavement mere feet from our position. The opposite side of the wall from us was blackened and pock-marked by shrapnel. It looked like ducking had been a good idea after all.

The air stank of burning avgas making it difficult to breathe.

“I’m guessing we can’t head east just yet, Pius,” I said. “Something seems determined to stop us.”

Pius just stared at the scene, a fierce look of frustration at being thwarted yet again creasing his face. I put a hand on his shoulder.

“Come on, mate, let’s head up Horseferry and see if we can circumvent all this,” I suggested. I had no desire to head west and east was out of the question for now. It didn’t matter in what direction we wanted to travel, heading north was our only survivable option at the time. I looked at my beautiful woman.

“Are you okay, Becky?” I asked, noticing her hair had frizzed somewhat in the intense heat. “Having a bad hair day?” I smirked and got ready to duck again but she barely reacted. I wondered briefly what I looked like.
Becky seemed catatonic and was unresponsive to my words or touch. I took her hand and led her away and up the road. Pius followed along behind, his steps lackadaisical. In all the horror I realised my stomach problems had subsided. Weird but true.

*

Copyright © 2016 David Kingsley Roberts

All rights reserved, No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the author. Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organisations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

5 – Puppet Master

Arriving at Lambeth Bridge, we discovered our route along the embankment was blocked by the military standing shoulder to shoulder on the far side of the roundabout, guns ready with bayonets fixed. In spite of the fact that they had tank back up even from this distance I could see apprehension in each man’s eyes – I don’t imagine for a second the poor sods ever thought they’d be ranged against their own people. As for tanks, the troops were backed up by half a dozen of them, some of their cannon pointing directly at us and the rest down the road to our right towards some other threat until now unseen by me. I looked in the direction of their barrels and finally saw the problem – to the south and away from the river a mob similar to those pursuing us was making its way towards the intersection.

“Jesus,” Becky exclaimed skidding to a halt next to me.

The three of us drew together as if trying to present a smaller target.

Someone standing on one of the tanks was waving at us and shouting something. Seeing we couldn’t hear he picked up a megaphone and repeated himself.

“Get a move on! You three! If you want to live, get yourselves over the bridge!” He ordered. He pointed towards the far shore and my heart sank. It seemed our destination was about to become increasingly harder to get to.

The Puppet Master had spoken.

We began to move again, the decision as to our next actions already taken out of our hands. I don’t know about you, but I hate it when guns held by nervous people, soldiers or not, are pointed at me. Even this far into the new world disorder I still haven’t become used to it. Looking back I remember that as we ran towards the bridge still hotly followed by our zombie horde I felt my skin prick with the sensation of being targeted by all those soldiers.

“I really don’t like this,” I mumbled to myself over and over again. As if to confirm my thoughts and trepidation the army opened fire before we were clear of their line of fire. Bullets whipped past us and slapped into those zombies closest to us. I distinctly remember one slug fly past my ear – I felt the pressure wave as it passed by, feeling as if someone had hit my ear open-handed. I cried out in shock as much as anything and Becky looked around in surprise.

“I’m okay, babe,” I shouted. “Keep moving!” I put my hand on her back pushing her as we rushed around the corner. The fusillade increased in volume as the tank machine gunners joined in the massacre. We fell to the ground, huddling close into the solid marble walls for our protection.

Peering around the corner onto the Embankment I saw that the army had decimated every one of those poor bastards who had been chasing us. I watched as heads popped and bodies shuddered and were thrown around as the heavy bullets struck home, tearing limbs from them and creating holes in torsos I could see through. From my early terrified observations it seemed that the zombies were capable of taking round after round to their limbs and bodies but a single headshot did the business every time.

Suddenly a buzzing sound erupted from the skies as a drone I’d not noticed previously opened fire using what I assumed to be a chain gun – its death ray ripped through the remaining crowd of zombies. Right now I cannot think of a single simile for what I saw to give you a hint of what it was like. It certainly confirmed my previous belief that drones had always been flying over the Capital!
The one remaining clear memory I have of that day was the odour of excrement as torsos were ripped open and faeces flew around mixed in the human remains. I can honestly say that I’ve never seen or smelled anything quite so awful before or since.

The three of us sat there in stunned silence at what had just taken place, unable to move and certainly not to rationalise the fact that this terrible action had almost certainly saved us for another day. My hands shook involuntarily so I clasped them together so Becky wouldn’t see how unnerved I was by the madness. Thinking back I estimate it was another few minutes before we rallied and began to cross the Lambeth Bridge as previously instructed by the officer with the megaphone. It suddenly dawned on me that if I had lingered another five seconds with that old man we could have been part of that disembodied crowd. Even now I shudder at the memory and a couple of years have passed since then.

*

Copyright © 2016 David Kingsley Roberts

All rights reserved, No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the author. Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organisations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

4 – Questions Answered

Becky looked at me and I could see abject fear on her face – I knew she agreed with my decision because I struggled to keep up with her on our devil-chased retreat. My girl was never normally one to do as she was told – or maybe it was just with me, I don’t know. Whatever it was I loved that trait in her; I have always loved and admired women with spirit – it’s a weakness in me. In moments we collapsed gratefully against the yellow security hut. Pius was already standing outside; he, too, had heard the noise. Using the MI6 building’s solid wall for cover, we peered around the corner and waited to see whatever it was. I confess that at this point I needed a privy more urgently than I wanted Piri Piri – in fact my hunger had mysteriously vanished. Strange how quickly your body reacts to external stimuli.

The sound began to differentiate itself and now we could hear footsteps, hundreds of them. A siren sounded in the distance, its blitz quality giving me goose bumps. I heard heavy metal clunks coming from the security agency’s gates as their deadbolts slammed into place. A humming began to emanate from the fencing above us and I realised in an instant that the metal bars had been electrified. I sincerely wished we were inside those gates – at that very moment I had never in my life felt so vulnerable.

“Holy crap,” I muttered, tapping Pius on the shoulder and indicating the fencing. He nodded pragmatically, clearly understanding what had just happened.

“I think we may have to get out of here,” he muttered under his breath.

“I think you might be right,” I replied and Becky nodded her head in vehement agreement, clinging tight onto my arm.

The footfalls were becoming clearer by the moment, each step differentiated from the next – a little like rain on a conservatory roof. It was accompanied by a low moaning of a thousand voices. I hopped from one foot to another in pent up fear. The pain I had previously felt in my ankle was completely nullified by the effects of adrenalin that was once more flooding my body.

We ducked back as a grey-suited man hurtled past us from the direction of the bridge, a phone held in a death grip in his right hand and his face a mask of terror and blood. He appeared to have a gash across his forehead, while his left sleeve had been ripped off revealing a gored arm. I called to him but in his blind panic he heard nothing but the rushing of his own blood through his brain. In a flash he was gone, his expensive-sounding leather-bound footsteps receding into the distance.

At last I could see what had terrorised him so completely – and I began to know the same fear that I had seen in his face. It’s a funny thing but when you watch zombie or other horror films they might give you a frisson of fear; you may even curl your toes in anticipation of an event. But when you are out on the streets with absolutely no chance of safety, that is the moment you feel a fear like nothing you have ever experience in your life. I imagine a soldier feels it in his first and probably every fight thereafter, as does a policeman when faced with a baying, angry crowd. Most of us civvies are buffered from it every day of our lives – if we are lucky. So when I mention fear in this context, stop for a moment and think about bowel liquidising terror. Think of your worst physical fear and keep on multiplying it. You still won’t get where I was at that moment.

Hundreds of people appeared from the direction of the bridge, pouring over the intersection like a swarm of ants, all consuming and terrifying. Mere hundreds became thousands as the whole area to our right filled with Them and began oozing in our direction. When I considered where they had just come from I realised how close Becky and I must have come to running slap bang into this horde. I shivered involuntarily. They weren’t exactly running along, neither were they walking, but their loping gait was still brisk and I suddenly realised that we were in great danger staying where we were.

As if to prove the point a woman broke from their ranks, clearly not one of them. Like a person rising from the breaking waves on a beach she launched herself from among them and in our direction. I could tell she had not seen us but she was doing her best to escape the horde. One of her legs was hanging at an odd angle, her black, shiny high-heel shoe looking strange in the moment. Her other foot was bare, her tights torn and legs covered in blood. The poor woman did her best but was soon overpowered and it was then that we first saw what these deranged creatures wanted from her – what they were capable of. Three or four of them caught her trailing leg and she screamed in excruciating pain as the break in the bone was wrenched. Collapsing to the ground, another was on her in a flash and had dug its hand into her stomach, literally tearing her flesh asunder. Her intestines spilled onto the pavement and bloodlust increased the moaning of the crowd. That was the last we saw of that poor woman, but it did teach us not to loiter in their presence.

The crowd completely obstructed our escape to the west by now and each zombie could be seen clearly now – they hadn’t seen us yet and those not gormandising on the unfortunate woman were milling around awaiting some sensory input; most appeared to have blood liberally splattering them, others had open gash wounds, some even with limbs hanging off but seemingly oblivious to the fact.

It was their faces that were the most unnerving to me – they seemed to display every emotion from deadpan through to a fierce, unrelenting fury. All of them had colourless, nacreous eyes, but it wasn’t this fact that disturbed me quite as much as how emotionless the windows to their souls were. I remember meeting a bat-shit crazy psychopath once and his eyes were just like these, his soulless look saying I could kill you just because I can and it wouldn’t mean a damn thing.

“Fucking zombies!” Becky said.

“Couldn’t have said it better myself, sweetheart,” I agreed. “let’s get the fuck away from here.”

“I agree, my friend,” Pius agreed. “I think it will not matter now if my shift is not over.”

I think Pius, no matter how short a time he may have been in the UK, had certainly picked up British understatement and was using it for dramatic effect right now.

“I think it is now,” I concurred. “Something tells me your family wouldn’t be very impressed if this lot catches up with you.”

“I must get to my family,” Pius said, his self-assured demeanour slipping a little.

“Where are they?” I asked. We were already making our way eastwards, away from the danger.

“Woolwich,” he replied, panting as he ran with us.

“Okay, that’s lucky ’cos the only direction we can go right now is towards Waterloo. If there are any trains running you will be able to get one home. You alright with that, Becky?”

“Yeah, of course,” she replied. “Just stop fucking talking and move faster,” she urged, her pace slowly drawing her ahead of us.

Suitably admonished Pius and I rushed to catch up with her. Together we ran along the Albert Embankment, staying as close to the buildings and fences as we could to reduce our visual exposure to the deadly crowd behind us.

Stealing a glance over my shoulder I saw that many had seen us in spite of our efforts and were now in dedicated pursuit. Luckily their speed could not match ours and we managed to stay clear of them. I remember thinking that it almost felt too easy, which it was of course. Others joined the chase from the buildings and narrow side streets we passed, our footsteps and movement seeming to attract them. In no time at all it felt as if the whole of London was on our tail. As for those chasing us, in spite of their condition, they seemed truly determined and did not want to give up the chase, their constant speed of pursuit almost superhuman. Exhaustion, as with death, seemed to be no barrier to them.

Not so with me; exhaustion and a queasy stomach began to overwhelm me and I slowed my pace and started to lag behind the other two. Becky noticed and stopped to let me catch up. Pius stopped his gaze fixed behind us.

“We are okay for a minute,” he surmised, looking concernedly at me. “Are you alright?”

“I don’t feel so well. I think I might have swallowed some water after all.” My ankle was throbbing like crazy at this point, the benefits of adrenaline all but gone.

He looked behind us again and a steely determination came over him.

“We must keep moving,” Pius urged. “They are still coming.” Putting my right arm over his shoulder and his left arm around my waist he moved off, pretty much carrying me for a while, Becky next to me holding onto my free hand. I was grateful for his strength and realised that he might have been in the process of saving me a second time. The man seemed to have no limit to his energy.

Ahead of us out of a side street came a man running for his life. He was elderly, in his seventies in my estimation and wore casual clothing and trainers – lucky for him. He was slim and fortunately appeared to be reasonably fit, which was just as well because he was being pursued by at least a dozen or so zombies.

Letting go of Pius as I forgot my woes, we ran hell for leather as we caught up with him. He ran alongside me. I glanced sideways and noticed he had what appeared to be a bite mark on his left arm – I wasn’t sure at the time, running for your life is a little distracting. He was trying to talk.

“Help” – pause – “me” he panted. His face was pale in spite of the effort he was putting into staying alive.

“Just keep running, man!” I wheezed back.

“I can’t…” he replied, slowing visibly.

I stopped with him; I estimated that we had only a few seconds before those chasing him caught us up. I looked into his face, about to plead with him to keep moving. His eyes changed in that moment – almost instantly they went from a pale green to dirty white. His whole demeanour also altered from resignation to steely determination. He rose to his full height and groaned at me, drool escaping from his mouth and running down his shirt. I recoiled at the sight. Raising his hands to grab at me I ducked from his reach and ran after Becky and Pius who had stopped a few yards further on.

“Get going!” I cried, catching them up. Together we hurtled away from the crowd of zombies now led by the old man. My mind was in turmoil, what I had seen had to be impossible, surely. Perhaps it explained what had happened to those people with injuries. As for the rest, I had no idea where this malady could have come from, if that’s what it was. I suddenly remembered advice from the telly that had warned the population to keep away if in public several people came down with something simultaneously – in our modern world where terrorism was everywhere it was advice aimed at protecting in case of gas or biological attack.

*

Copyright © 2016 David Kingsley Roberts

All rights reserved, No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the author. Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organisations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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