“Take out the group of hoodies at the front first,” Jim knelt at the wall, rested his rifle on it and aimed down into the car park. “They'’re the leaders.”
“Leaders?” King backed away from his scope and grinned. “You'’re taking the piss, Sunshine. They are grade '‘A'’ equal opportunity nutters, they don'’t have leaders,” he snorted a laugh down his nose.
“Call me Sunshine one more time and I'’ll throw you down there as the fucking appetiser,” Jim didn'’t look away from his scope. “Listen to me, trust me, and do as you'’re fucking well told.”
King shrugged and went back to aiming his rifle at the infected. “Sir. Yes, Sir,” he whispered.
“The middle one in the red hoodie,” I said. “Kill that one first.”
“Got it,” King squeezed the trigger.
The Hoodie infected looked up at us when the shot rang out. The bullet missed its mark, prompting all five of the Hoodies to run closer to the hospital and out of sight.
“Shit!” King groaned with disapproval of his own marksmanship.
“I thought you were a good shot?” Jim said.
“I am,” King adjusted the scope. “The sight'’s off, must have knocked it.”
“Knocked your fucking head, more like,” Jim'’s jaw muscles bulged with tension. “That shot might have fucked us all right up the arse.”
“Well we'’ve still got the rest of them for target practise,” King let loose another shot.
That time, the bullet hit its mark, ripping through the head of an overweight male infected dressed in nothing but bloodied white boxer shorts. The spray of blood washed over the monsters behind, which got them even more excited. The growling and snarling grew louder until the noise surrounded us, invading our heads with its terrible promise of savage death.
Screams from the hospital survivors filtered through the cacophony of the infected.
Have the hoodies got to them already?
Jim turned his head and eyed me. “Go check on them. Make sure they'’re okay down there.”
I nodded and raced across to Doctor Webb who was still standing by the door, rigid with fear.
“I need the door key,” I looked into his eyes but he was looking through me, oblivious to my presence. I placed my hands on his shoulders and shook him. “Doctor Webb!”
“Y... yes,” his eyes finally focused on me.
“Give me the key,” I released my grip on his shoulders and held out a hand.
“Oh, of... of course,” he passed me the key and then retreated back to whatever was going on inside his head.
Maybe he has his own ant colony.
I could understand that. I had spent my life allowing those fearful, paranoid ants to dictate what I did and didn'’t do. They wanted me to curl up into a ball and just let things happen, but they were growing less powerful and an unbreakable will to survive strengthened with each passing moment.
I was going to fight for survival, and I was prepared to do anything that kept my daughter safe.
More screams came from inside the hospital and I pushed open the door at the bottom of the stairs. Some of the survivors were knelt in prayer, while others leaned against the wall crying and screaming at the sound of each shot fired from the roof. Kate was doing her best to console the most distressed people but nobody wanted to listen.
Dexy spotted me and waved. I walked around a small group of children who were sat in a circle on the floor with their arms around each other and their heads down. One of them, a little girl, was trying to sing a nursery rhyme but her sobs overpowered every word. The door opposite the children was cracked open and voices came from inside the room, I couldn'’t hear what was being said but I assumed it was more prayers or a family in need of some privacy.
“What'’s going on?” I stood close enough to speak directly into Dexy'’s ear.
“They just went mental, Bruv,” Dexy shrugged his shoulders. “Soon as the shooting started.”
Kate saw me talking with Dexy and made her way through the crowd.
“Everyone okay up there?” She shot a glance to the ceiling.
“Doctor Webb'’s a bit shaken up, other than that, we’re fine,” I stared down the hallway. “We’re more worried about the screaming down here.”
Kate nodded and smiled. “They'’re scared, some of these people have never heard a gun before, that and the noise from those monsters,” her smile vanished and she sighed. “It'’s a lot to deal with.”
“Is Sean helping?” I scanned the hallway but couldn'’t see him. “He knows these people better than we do.”
“Haven'’t seen him since we got up here, Bruv,” Dexy scratched his head. “He only causes trouble, probably a good thing he'’s gone A.W.O.L.”
“Okay, I'’m going back to the roof,” when I turned to leave, Dexy put his hand around my elbow to stop me.
“What'’s the plan? We all know that they'’ll be in here soon,” he released my elbow and waved in the general direction of the car park. “How are we getting out?”
“Just stay close to the door. We'’ll be going down the fire escape.”
“That'’s his plan?” Kate didn'’t try to disguise her contempt for Jim. “Send fifty-odd people down a fire escape and hope we don'’t get spotted?”
“That’s what he told me,” I hadn'’t really thought about the feasibility of the plan, let alone questioned it. Jim led and I followed.
“Is he mad?” She asked. “We'’ll never get all these people down there. What about the older ones that can barely walk? What if there'’s a panic and people get trampled?”
“I don'’t know, just be ready,” I leaned closer to them both and lowered my voice to barely a whisper. “We'’ll be taking the minibus.”
“What about everyone else?” Kate pointed at the children that I had walked past earlier. “These kids?”
Dexy rested his back against the wall and stared at the ceiling. “We can only do so much, Kate. At the end of the day, they'’re not our responsibility.”
Kate opened her mouth to argue with Dexy but held it back and sighed instead. “Fine,” she stormed down the hallway.
“Don'’t worry about her. Bruv,” Dexy patted my arm. “She' knows it’s the right move.”
“Yeah, maybe,” I wasn'’t convinced. “I'’ll see you soon.”
“Later, Bruv,” Dexy strolled down the hallway as if he didn'’t have a care in the World. I wish I knew his secret to staying calm when everything around him was pure pandemonium.
I skirted around the huddled group of children, the little girl that was singing had overcome her fears and her voice was as sweet and melodic as a songbird.
“Hush little baby, don'’t say a word,” she had blonde hair that flowed almost all the way down her back. “Daddy'’s gonna buy you a mockingbird,” she looked up at me through big blue eyes. “And if that mockingbird won'’t sing,”
I smiled at her and stood by the door opposite. It was open a little more than when I had first passed it, but the voices had gone.
“Daddy'’s gonna buy you a diamond ring.”
I felt a slight breeze at the back of my head and saw that the little girl wasn'’t looking at me anymore, she was looking at something behind me. An arm wrapped around my throat, a sweaty hand with thick, yellowing fingers that stank of cigarettes pressed across my mouth and before I could react, I had been dragged into the room and the door was closed.
I lifted my gun.
“Watch out,” Sean' ducked down to avoid the line of fire.
The person holding me moved his hand from my mouth and grabbed the back of my head. I tried to hit him with the pistol but he dodged the swipe and rocketed me towards the door. Black stars danced across my vision and a deep thud reverberated around my head when my face missed the door and smashed against the wall. The gun slipped from my hand and landed on the tiled floor.
I was on my knees, holding my head in my hands and groaning when Sean walked up to me.
“I heard everything you said out there,” he bent down and picked up the pistol. “You' bastards are going to leave us behind.”
“No,” I tried to stand but my head was still ringing, so I settled for crouching with my back resting against the wall. “We'’re not.”
It was a small room with one bed, a night stand and a small chest of drawers. The yellow curtains had been pulled across the small window and the room glowed with a dull golden light. Sean'’s wife was sat on the bed glaring down at me, she picked at a hole in the knee of her black leggings that was laddering its way up her thigh.
Two other men were in the room with Sean. The man that had grabbed me was thick set and had almost no neck. His face resembled a bulldog chewing on a mouthful of hornets. He stood beside Sean and smirked down at me. The other man in the room was Travis. He sat on top of the small chest of drawers and passed his red beanie hat from one hand to the other while avoiding any eye contact with me.
“You'’re full of shit,” Sean aimed the gun at me. “I know what I heard.”
“You heard wrong,” I felt a warm stream flowing from my nostrils and my tongue darted past my lips to taste blood.
Bulldog stepped forward and moved as though he was going to kick me but stopped his foot short just before it connected with my face. He laughed at my flinching, a thick, coarse laugh that made his face red.
“Heard wrong, did I?” Sean asked. “You didn'’t just tell your lowlife friends that you were going to leave us all down here while you escaped from the roof?”
“What?” I shouldn'’t have been surprised that he was lying; either that or he was so paranoid that he believed what he was saying. “No.”
I looked at each of them in turn, hoping that at least one would see that I was being honest. The look on their faces told me all I needed to know. They saw me as the enemy and there was a strong possibility that I would die in that room.
“We want to help everyone,” I tried to stand but Bulldog loomed over me with a ‘don’t even think about it,’ look plastered across his face.
“You just don'’t stop lying, do you?” Sean'’s wife lurched forward on the bed and pointed an accusatory finger at me. “Just shoot him, Sean.”
Sean aimed the gun at me and I looked him in the eye, he was no killer, terrified, yes, but not a killer.
“Please, don'’t kill me,” What else do you say when someone is pointing a gun at you? I was still new to situations like that. “Just tell me what you want. We can work this out.”
He lowered the gun and looked at each of his group, all of whom gave him a small nod and a '‘might as well,'’ shrug.
“We want you to get us out,” there it was. The man who had spoken out so loudly against us, the man who convinced the hospital survivors that he was fighting their corner, fighting for their children. The man who picked his own small group and now showed his true colours.
I smiled at his hypocrisy. “What about everyone else?”
“Can'’t save everyone,” Bulldog'’s voice was as ugly as his face. “So you'’re going to take us with you.”
“Mick'’s right,” Sean glanced across at the thickset man. “Our kids are out in the hallway, Kerry and me have got a daughter and Mick’s got two boys. It will be them and the four of us.”
“It makes sense, Mister Daniels,” Travis decided to throw his hat into the ring.
“If I say no?” I asked, ignoring Travis.
Mick the bulldog moved quickly for a man of his stature. He wrapped a thick hairy hand around my throat and hoisted me to my feet, his fingers choked me with increasing pressure as he moved his face close to mine and spoke in a low, intimidating voice.
“If you say no, we'’ll kill you,” his smile revealed teeth that were stained by years of cigarette smoke and coffee. “We not giving you a choice, we’re telling you what you’re going to do.”
His grip tightened with each word and had blocked my breathing. I tried to choke out some words but only managed to sputter and gag.
“Let him go, Mick,” Sean said. “He knows the score.”
Mick released his hold on me. I doubled over, rubbing at my throat and coughed breath into my lungs.
“We on the same page, then?” Mick asked, his face still uncomfortably close to mine.
I nodded and held up a hand, still coughing.
“Good boy,” he patted me on the shoulder and backed away, smiling.
My stomach burned with fury. I didn'’t want to help them, they didn'’t deserve any help. I'’d never even seen Mick the bulldog before. My guess is that he was only in this little group because Sean needed someone who could get tough. I felt bad for their kids, but as far as I knew, everyone was going to get a fair chance to live through this, not just a select few. We owed Sean nothing and all that his threats had accomplished was that I disliked him even more.
I certainly didn'’t trust them. Travis and Sean had both proved themselves to be liars and as soon as they found an opportunity, this desperate group of people would try to kill us. I couldn'’t let that happen, not after we had come so far, lived through so much.
I was out of options. I had to play along, had to survive.
They waited for me to recover and once I was breathing normally, Sean waved the gun at me.
“Let'’s go then,” he nodded towards the door. “You first.”
Travis and Kerry moved over to stand behind Sean and Mick. I straightened my shirt, hobbled across to the door and grabbed the handle.
“William,” Sean'’s voice was barely audible as he spoke my name.
I turned to face him, keeping my fingers firmly wrapped around the door handle.
“Don'’t do anything stupid,” he narrowed his eyes and aimed the gun more carefully at me.
Fuck you, Sean.
I yanked the door open, rushed into the hallway and dived to the floor.