Doctor Webb told me that a charity held collections in the hospital once a month and he led me to a small storeroom that was stacked with black bin liners bursting with clothes. I checked through some of them and found one that had a good mix.
“Can I take this bag?”
“Take whatever you need,” he reached out and lightly touched my face. “Who did this to you?”
I pulled away from him and grabbed another bag full of clothes, “I'’ll take this one too, just in case.”
“Does it hurt?” He asked. “I can give you some painkillers.”
“It'’s fine, thanks for the clothes,” I closed the door of the storeroom and walked down the hallway, Doctor Webb jogged to keep up with me.
“Are you going to stay here in the hospital?” He pulled at my arm, stopping me in my stride.
“Does everyone want us to stay?” I carried on down the hall, skirting past an overturned wheelchair. “They didn'’t seem too happy about us showing up.”
“I told you, we were attacked,” he ran slightly ahead and stopped in front of the double doors that were the hallway exit. “It'’s different now that we' know you'’re not a threat. Although we haven'’t really got to know any of you yet,” he paused and stared at me. “You'’re not a threat, are you?”
“No,” I answered curtly. “What happened here, Doctor?”
Doctor Webb looked slightly perplexed by the question, “what do you mean?”
“I haven'’t seen any infected. There must have been some here, we saw them everywhere, tower blocks, police stations,” I dropped the bin liners, one at each side of me. “How did you get rid of them all?”
“Oh, that,” a sombre expression darkened his features. He opened one of the double doors. “It'’s easier to show you.”
I picked the bags up and followed as he led me up two flights of stairs and then through a labyrinth of hallways, most of which were slick with blood and viscera, until he finally stopped at a huge window and gazed outside.
“Most of the people downstairs weren'’t here when the army came,” he looked up at the sky; grey clouds had covered the morning sun. “When the hospitals closer to the city centre had filled up, they shipped some patients to us. An outbreak started in the children'’s ward and quickly spread through the hospital.
“We called the police but they told us that the army was dealing with it,” he closed his eyes and breathed deeply before continuing. “The army showed up, there were wearing bio-hazard equipment and looked ready for a war. They swept through the whole place, shooting everyone that had been infected and some that hadn'’t,” he looked back at me and I stepped closer to the window.
“When they were done with that, they started rounding everyone up, staff, patients, visitors, everyone. Gavin, he’s our head caretaker, grabbed me and a few patients and we hid in his storeroom down in the basement. All day and night we could hear the screams and when it finally went quiet, we came out to see what had happened,” he waved an arm to the window. “This is what we found.”
I stood beside him.
“Oh, God,” the words stuck in my throat like mobility scooters in a rotating door.
Below us was a square of grass the size of two small houses side by side. The area had been surrounded by razor wire four feet deep and twice as high. Inside this makeshift holding pen was a pile of dead bodies, there must have been well over a hundred. All of them were charred and bloody, lying awkwardly across each other like contestants in a sickening, deadly game of Twister. Some held small children or various loved ones in their arms while others held their arms up to the heavens begging for divine help that never came.
A young child hung limply on the razor wire; his burned, fleshless face looked up at us. The bodies of a man and a woman embracing each other crouched next to the child, perhaps they were his parents hoping that he would find an escape route through the cruel razor wire. The grass around the remnants of that human bonfire was black and lifeless.
Bodies were scattered around the outside of the razor wire boundary, they must have climbed the burning nightmare and jumped for freedom, only to be rewarded with a bullet to the head.
“Why?” I gagged and my stomach dry-heaved, I was as empty as the bodies below. Steadying myself against the wall I stared at my feet and wiped my hand across my face. “Why?”
Doctor Webb placed a hand on my shoulder and squeezed reassuringly.
“I wish I knew,” he stepped away from me. “Soon after that, people started to arrive, some injured and the rest just looking for safety.”
I hefted the bags of clothes over my shoulders and staggered down the hallway, my mind still reeling from the images of death that had just burned into my psyche.
“I'’m sorry, Doctor,” I stammered the words out with all the grace of an elephant ballerina. “I just didn'’t think that... Those bastards. Those fucking bastards.”
Doctor Webb nodded his head solemnly, “I hid away like a frightened rat while they were being murdered.”
“If you hadn'’t, there'’d be nobody to help the people downstairs,” running and hiding were my forte, I wasn'’t going to give him a hard time for choosing to survive. “Dexy is just one of -who knows how many- that are alive because you didn'’t get thrown on that,” I pointed back towards the window. “That funeral pyre.”
“Thank-you,” he held his hand out. “I'’m Mervyn, Mervyn Webb.”
I put one of the bags down and shook his hand. “William,” It was time to start thinking about more practical matters. “We'’ve been talking about securing this place; do you think that will cause any problems?”
“It sounds like a good idea,” Mervyn said. “I'’ll tell Gavin to bring his toolbox to the entrance hall.”
“Thanks. How do I get back downstairs?”
“Just head through those double doors, there'’s some stairs at the end of the hall.”
“Thanks again for the clothes,” I headed back with the bags, excited about the prospect of showering and wearing fresh clothes that weren'’t crusted in blood.
The hallway was full of rooms, some open but most of them were closed. The open ones had bloodstained sheets on beds and reeked of death. As I pulled the stairwell door open, I heard a noise coming from one of the rooms.
“Mervyn?” I craned to see if the Doctor was still there, but he had gone in the opposite direction, probably on his way to let everyone know that the lunatics were planning to take over the asylum.
I put the bags down, closed the stairway door and headed to the room where I had heard the noise. I put my ear to the door and wrapped my fingers around the handle.
Had the army missed one of the infected? Maybe there was someone in there who needed help, someone that had hidden from the trigger-happy hazmat storm-troopers.
The growl slowed and got quieter.
“Is someone in there?” I tightened my grip on the door handle and asked myself what the hell I was doing. I'’d seen enough movies to know that this was not a good idea. Images of infected bursting through the door and ripping me apart flitted through my ant infested mind.
What if they needed help? The question ran around my head like a dog chasing its tail. I had to help, I wasn'’t Jim, I wasn'’t cold and intimidating. I wouldn'’t have been able to close the door on that woman back in the flats, sentencing her to a horrible death, even if it would have put me at risk.
Holly had shaped me more than I thought. My brave Holly. If she were with me, the door would already be open.
Another noise came from inside the room; a soft thud, like someone or something landing heavily on the floor.
“Fucks sake!” A voice cursed.
I rushed into the room as soon as I heard the voice and instantly wished that I hadn'’t.
Travis was lying in a heap on the floor. He looked up at me and smiled at first, but that quickly turned into a look of surprise and then worry. There was a syringe and some empty glass ampoules scattered across the bed.
“Oh, shit. Shit,” he scrambled to his feet and pulled the bed sheets back so they covered the drug paraphernalia, but it was too late, I'’d seen everything.
With a shrug of his shoulders and a long sigh, Travis sat on the bed and looked at me through big, guilty eyes.
“I'’m sorry, Mister D,” he said. “I just can'’t stop myself, I need help.”
I closed the door and walked across to the bed.
“You'’re putting everyone in danger, Travis. Anything could have happened up here, what if you got hurt or infected?”
“I know,” he looked up at me, his eyes brimming with tears. “I can'’t help it. I'’m a proper mess,” he pulled his red beanie hat from his head and used it to wipe the tears away.
I was angry, but I also felt pity for him. It wasn'’t long ago that I said nobody gets a third chance in this nightmare; Travis was about to get one.
“Okay, Travis. You'’ve got two roads,” I crouched down on my haunches so that we were face to face. “One road takes you to Doctor Webb, you ask him to help you get off the drugs, and you stay with us at all times,” I reached out and held his arm above the elbow, staring into his eyes. “All times. So we can keep an eye on you, but you stop right now, you hear me?”
“I do, I hear you. I'’m sorry,” he wept into his hat.
“The second road takes you straight back to getting high.”
He dropped the hat onto his lap, “Getting high?” He gave me the questioning, suspicious look of someone certain they were walking into a trap.
“Sure. Get as high as you want, when you want. Only next time, I send Jim to come find you,” my eyes narrowed and darkness rushed through me. Using Jim as a threat felt good. “We both know how that ends, right?”
“You won'’t need to do that, Mister Daniels. Road number one for me, no doubt.”
“Good, don’t let me down,” I stood and headed for the door. “Come on, we'’re going to shower and change, then we'’ve got a lot of work to do.”
A book laying on the floor caught my eye. “Hey,” I said, snatching the book up and admiring the cover. “I wrote this, it’s my first novel,” I stuffed it into my courier bag.
“That’s great, Mister Daniels,” at least he tried to sound like he gave a shit.
“Someone will think so,” I knew exactly what to do with that book. “Time to go, Travis.”
I hoped that this would be the end of the drug issue, that Travis would clean up and become useful. The ants niggled and picked at my mind, trying to convince me that I was deluded and he would never change, better put him down now like a sick dog, than wait until he causes some real damage.
I really needed that shower.