A rush of air whizzed across the top of my head before I had even heard the gunshot. People were screaming all around me.
Through the chaos, I heard Kate shout at Sean. “Drop the gun!”
I looked up and saw that the group of children had scattered.
All except for one.
The girl that had been singing to the others stared at me through lifeless eyes, her head lolled to one side like an unattended ventriloquist’s dummy. Thick streams of blood trailed down her face and gushed out of her nose, splattering thick globs onto her violet dress. The bullet had hit the top of her head and travelled down to the back of her neck, killing her instantly.
“No! Oh God, No!” Kerry rushed past me, crouched next to the dead girl and cradled her, rocking back and forth as she sobbed and kissed the girls forehead.
“Dani?” I looked back at Sean and saw a terrible pain travelling across his face. “Dani, baby?” He looked at the gun in his hand and then at the little girl. “It'’s me, baby, it'’s Daddy,” he dropped to his knees and tears flooded down his face. He held the gun in both hands and stared at it with disbelief.
Mick the bulldog crouched behind Sean and held his arms out. Two boys ran up to him and he embraced them both, pulling them close to his chest so that they couldn'’t look at Sean and Kerry'’s dead little girl.
“Drop the gun, Sean,” Kate closed in on him until the barrel of her shotgun was touching his ear. “Right now!”
Dexy leaned across and offered a hand, I put my hand in his and he winced as he helped me to my feet. He immediately stood beside me and slowly backed us both towards the roof door.
Sean glared up at me. “You did this,” the words were muffled with sobs but the venomous hatred came through loud and clear.
“No,” I closed my eyes, wishing that it would all go away. It was still there when I opened them again.
Sean bared his teeth and lifted the gun, pointing it right at me. “You did this,” he wiped away the tears with his free hand, replacing grief with the need for vengeance.
“Don'’t do it, Sean,” Kate nudged him roughly with the shotgun barrel, pressing it closer still. “I will shoot.”
His index finger curled around the trigger of his- no-, my gun. He ignored Kate and the shotgun barrel that pushed against his head and just stared at me. Most of the hospital survivors had calmed down enough to see what was happening and they all crowded behind Kate, inching forward towards the devastated parents that they still saw as allies. Allies whose lives had just been destroyed by one bullet.
“Leave him alone!” A woman shouted.
“They killed little Dani,” another voice cried from the crowd. “Six years old.”
More and more voices filled the hallway, merging together to make one unintelligible noise. The angry mob had formed and it wanted blood.
“Damn it, Sean, put the gun down,” Kate remained focused on Sean. “You'’re wife needs you.”
Sean glanced at his wife who held her dead daughter to her bosom and screamed until her throat was sore.
“Stay back,” Dexy aimed his gun at the angry mob. “It didn'’t go down like you think.”
They paused, almost within arms-reach of Kate.
Sean turned his attention back to me. He bit his bottom lip so hard that blood dripped down onto his chin, giving him the appearance of a vampire that had just feasted. He slowly began to press the trigger.
I closed my eyes.
The report of the gun was almost deafening, like a small explosion. Instead of the pain that I tried to prepare for, I felt a warm, wet mass splatter across my face. More screams, including my own, hammered at my ear drums. I opened my eyes but could only see blurred images. A figure rushed towards me and I cringed when it got close enough to touch.
“Move it,” the figure was Kate. She grabbed my arm and pulled me back towards the roof door.
I wiped the sticky wetness away from my eyes and blinked the world into focus.
Sean'’s body laid in a heap on the ground. All that remained of his head was the bottom jaw and skin that used to be a face now flapped across his neck, the rest had exploded onto me, covering me with bone and brain and blood.
The hospital mob looked on in silence, wide eyed and open mouthed. All that could be heard was Kerry whispering into her dead daughter’s ear. “It'’s okay, sweetie. Daddy'’s going to be okay, we'’re all going to be okay.”
Kate pulled the door open and shouldered me through, never once letting her shotgun stray from its firm aim into the crowd. I tripped on the first step and crawled up the next two before managing to stand. Dexy was close behind me with Kate hot on his heels. She closed the door.
“Get them!” Someone screamed.
The three of us raced up the steps, pushed the door open and tumbled through in a heap.
“What the fuck?” Jim snapped his attention to our sudden arrival.
“Lock it,” Kate scrambled to her feet and pulled me up. “Quickly!”
The first of the angry mob had pulled the bottom door open and were rushing up the stairs. I pushed the top door closed and fumbled around for the key. When I pulled the key out of my pocket, it flew out of my hand and bounced against the door.
“Shit, come on, come on,” I bent down, grabbed the key and rattled it against the lock, fear and adrenalin forced my hands to shake uncontrollably.
The mob had reached the door and pushed against it, almost opening it enough to get through until Dexy pushed back. Jim sprinted across the roof and powered into the door like a truck careening down a mountain side.
Kate snatched the key from my hand, calmly pushed it into the keyhole and snapped the lock in place.
“Things didn’t go well,” Kate aimed the comment at Jim who was eyeing us all incredulously.
Fists and feet hammered, angry voices cursed, but the door showed no sign of giving way.
“It fucking looks like it,” Jim stared at the mess that covered me. “Are you okay?”
Gemma, Dodge and Barney ran over to us when they had decided it was safe. They had gotten halfway across the roof when an almighty roar came from the car park.
King slowly backed away from his scope and stood up. He looked at us, then the car park and back to us.
“They'’re coming,” King tried to make himself heard above the crash of breaking glass and the war cries of the infected.
We rushed over to him and stared down into the car park.
The infected sprinted towards the hospital like wild beasts that had just been released from their cages. They howled and growled and snarled and snapped and hooted and every last one of them wore a huge insane smile, as though this was the most fun that they had ever had.
Those crazy bastards were loving every second of it.
What if they'’re not hungry for flesh? What if they'’re just hungry for the hunt?
If that was true then they weren'’t killing us to survive. This was genocide.
“We have to let them out,” Doctor Webb scratched his face until red welts scarred his skin. “All those people. We have to.”
“Dad?” Gemma tugged at my arm. “Dad, we can'’t just leave them locked in there.”
“If we let them out, they'’ll kill us,” Kate said.
Doctor Webb dived at Kate and pushed her against the short wall surrounding the roof. She lost her balance and the only thing stopping her from falling into the car park were Doctor Webb'’s hands which were firmly gripped around her neck.
“Give me the key,” his face was flushed and his eyes bulged with madness.
Jim got between them both, he grabbed Kate'’s arm with one hand and pushed Doctor Webb away from her with the other. The Doctor fell and landed on his back. He looked up at us and then covered his face with both hands. Jim pulled Kate away from the wall and closer to himself, wrapping an arm around her waist.
“You owe me one, sweetheart,” he gave her a quick pat on the backside and a dramatic wink before releasing her.
“I'’ll never owe you that,” Kate glared at him. “Next time you touch me, I'’ll cut your dick off,” she walked across to the fire escape.
Jim looked at me and smiled. “I think I'’m in, there.”
“Seriously, Jim?” Gemma stepped in front of him when he turned to follow Kate. “Keep it in your pants, mate. Those people are going to die if we don'’t help.”
“You heard what Kate said. They want us dead. We have to look after each other, here, remember?”
Gemma was about to reply when the screaming started.
Kate walked back to us and we all stood in a line, holding our breath and staring helplessly at the door. The frantic cries of pain mingled with the grisly noise of the infected to make a sound that not even the worst nightmare could recreate.
They had found their prey.
I pictured all those people trapped on the claustrophobic steps, the infected tearing flesh from limb. Helpless as teeth ripped through skin and the monsters clamoured over the freshly killed bodies, quickly and merrily working their way to the door.
When the noises stopped, I let out a breath and we looked at one another, our faces covered with the dark shadows of remorse.
“What have we done?” I asked.
Three slow, deliberate knocks came from the other side of the door.