I watched the T.V. Things were out of control.
“…the infection seems to be spread through bites and scratches. Contact with infected people is considered highly dangerous.” The reporter said from the safety of the newsroom.
“The military are telling us that if anyone you know has been infected then you must immediately restrain or quarantine them,” she was just repeating what the hospital receptionist had told me.
I could still hear Holly thrashing around in the garage. I changed the channel.
A well-dressed man was standing in front of pure mayhem. He tried to maintain a calm, professional demeanour but he was absolutely shitting himself.
“Here in London,” he yelled at the top of his voice in a futile attempt to drown out the sounds of mayhem around him. Police and ‘infected’ ran back and forth, then ‘infected’ police ran back again attacking anyone who looked alive and well.
“The scene is horrific, Jo. It is all-out war on the streets; the police are clearly not equipped to handle this situation. There are dead bodies everywhere,” he ducked his head and covered it with his hands when a loud explosion erupted in the distance. After coughing nervously and checking he was relatively safe, he continued his report, “and we’ve been hearing that the dead are-” He glanced left and right one too many times.
“Get out of there, you idiot!” I screamed at the TV and the picture switched to Jo in the newsroom.
“I’m sorry, Alistair, you were cut off then. The dead are what?” Jo asked.
Alistair was demoted to a small box in the bottom corner of the screen.
“Coming back to life,” he shouted. Before he could even react, a tidal wave of people engulfed him, some fighting for their lives and others trying to bite and tear the flesh of those that were uninfected. His tiny screen went black but the screams were still coming through, loud and clear. I can still hear them in my head now. The desperate sounds of victims facing their inevitable death mixed with the excited yelps and snarls of the infected to create a noise that turned my stomach. It sounded like a hyena pack taking down their prey with squeals of blood raged delight.
“Cut the feed, John. Cut it,” Jo looked off screen and used her hand to motion cutting her throat. The sound died and Jo stared out at me, unsure of what she was going to say, what could she have said?
I turned it off. I’d seen enough to know what was going on. My Holly, my sweet, caring Holly, had become a zombie. Just like in the movies.
Don’t look at me like that.
My first though was that they had to be working on a cure. They had called them infected on the TV, and infected people have a chance at becoming uninfected. It’s not like Holly died, she had been bitten and that bite infected her, but she didn’t die... Right? The dead weren’t really coming back to life. That would be impossible.
If this is a dream then I would like to wake up now.
Distant sirens, screams and explosions kept me awake all night. It sounded like World War 3 was going on in town. Something or someone rattled the door at around 4 A.M but it went away after a few minutes. I just laid on the couch staring up at the ceiling until the clock ticked its way round to 6 A.M.
I tried to call Gemma again, but all I got was her silly answering message. I was certain that she would be with Travis, her (eighteen-year-old) boyfriend. While I didn’t approve of her seeing him, he did seem like he could handle himself, as if he was capable of keeping her safe.
Today, I decided. Today I would go and find her.
I resolved that I should eat something for breakfast, even if I didn’t have an appetite. I stood there dazed, watching the bacon and eggs pop and sizzle. A knock at the door dragged me from the trance and then came the fear. It was as if a colony of ants had surged into my mind, biting and scraping at my thoughts, telling me that a constant state of terror and doubt would be the best way forward. Fear can be a healthy survival mechanism; but for me, it’s a debilitating illness.
I poked my head around the kitchen entrance and stared at the front door. The letterbox popped open and the ant colony told me that some horrible un-named thing was about to come slithering through and attack me, so I stepped back.
“Bill Daniels,” a man whispered urgently through the letterbox opening. “Are you in there? It’s Jim from across the road.”
“Jim?” I moved closer to the door, still hesitant.
“Let me in, Bill.”
I have always hated that nickname.
“William,” I told him matter-of-factly.
“William then, just bloody well let me in will you?”
I glanced back into the kitchen to see that the bacon and eggs were acting naturally, filling the place with their wonderful aroma. Is there any smell better than bacon and eggs?
After sliding the bolts at the top and bottom, I turned the key and opened the door, just a crack though; I wanted to check that he was normal before letting him in. Jim did not give me the chance to make sure it was safe to let him in, he barged into the house (almost knocking me over in the process) and quickly but quietly closed the door, re-bolted and locked it.
“You been bit, mate?” He asked.
“No,” I pointed toward the kitchen. “I’m making…”
I didn’t have the chance to finish the sentence. Jim rushed into the kitchen and dipped his thick fingers into the frying pan. He pulled out a strip of bacon, realised how hot it was and passed it from one hand to the other while blowing at it furiously. Once satisfied that it had cooled enough, he took a bite.
“Bacon,” his lips glistened with grease. “It’s done,” he smiled at me and turned the stove off. “William,” he stuffed the rest of the bacon strip into his mouth and sucked on each of his fingers.
At a guess, I’d say Jim is in his fifties, although he could be older. Holly told me that he was ex-army, possibly Special Forces. Of course, she would know. I didn’t really speak with any of our neighbours. Taking the aloof approach to social interactions usually stopped people from bothering me, but Holly was the opposite in that respect. When someone invited her to any kind of gathering, she always accepted and took Gemma with her if she couldn’t force me to go. Holly was definitely a people person. She enjoyed meeting new faces and making new friends, and she had taken the time to get to know the people that lived on our street.
I wish that she was here and healthy instead of in the garage and infected.
“You know what’s going on, right?” His greying horseshoe moustache bristled angrily as he spoke.
“Yes, Jim. I know what’s going on,” this huge, bald man intimidated me. He had come bursting into my home, helped himself to my bacon and acted as though he knew me. Living across the road does not mean you know someone!
He nodded his head and gazed down at me, I’m no shorty, but he towered above my 5’11. He was as big as a tank and had massive hands that looked as though they could easily throttle a rhinoceros.
“Where’s Holly and Gemma?” He folded his arms and leaned back against the stove.
I didn’t know what to say. I must have looked like a fool just staring down at the floor, unable to look him in the eyes. Unable to answer him.
“William,” he tapped his foot impatiently.
“I,” still unable to lift my head high enough to look him in the eye. “I don’t know.”
Yes, I lied to him. So would you have, he’s a very intimidating man. Besides, it was only a half lie; I really didn’t know where Gemma was.
“Have you tried calling or looking for them?” He unfolded his arms and started digging around in the pockets of his thick, black duffle coat. After a few moments of searching, he pulled a mobile phone from his inside pocket.
“I’ve tried calling. No answer,” I was still admiring the floor tiles.
“I’ll give Holly a try, maybe she’s stuck at work,” he stabbed his finger at the phone, and before I could protest, he had it at his ear.
Jim, the human tank from across the road had my zombie wife on speed dial and was about to give her a call.
The ringtone of Holly’s phone was louder than I remember it ever sounding. I looked up at Jim and he looked pissed off. The happy, chirpy ringtone playing in the garage definitely did not match the moment.