I don'’t remember falling asleep but waking up was hard to forget. My whole body ached from sleeping on the cold, hard floor of Mister Singh'’s shop. I wiped the crusty sleep away from my eyes and sat up. When my vision had cleared, the first thing I saw was Jim holding his index finger up to his lips.
“Shhh,” he pointed towards the door that led into the Singh living quarters.
I looked back at the door and heard a faint scratching coming from the other side; quickly followed by a slight groan. My eyes widened and I looked back at Jim who was already waking everyone up by tapping them on the shoulder and then putting his hand over their mouths.
“Aw, mate. My back is wrecked from that floor,” Travis yawned and looked at Dexy. “You got any of those bourbons left, mate?”
“Shut the fuck up!” Jim said.
“Alright mate, keep your hair…” a loud bang from the other side of the Singh'’s house door stopped him from finishing that sentence.
“Dickhead,” Gemma smacked Travis in the chest with the flat of her hand.
Another bang. Then a low, guttural groan followed by more banging and scratching at the door.
“Well, they know we'’re here now,” Jim rubbed his bald head in frustration.
“Let'’s just leave,” Dodge said. “They aint getting in.”
“What about Becky though?” Gemma asked, a worried look cast dark shadows across her features.
“That probably is Becky, sweetheart,” Jim said. “And her mum and dad.”
“We can'’t just leave,” Dexy said.
The rest of us looked at him, waiting for him to elaborate.
“Mister Singh'’s got the keys,” he added. “We'’re going nowhere without those keys, Bruv.”
“Fucks sake,” Jim nodded in agreement. “He'’s right.”
I haven'’t slept well since all this started and if this is what I can expect to be waking up to every morning, I might just never sleep again.
“There'’s only three of '‘em,” Travis said. “My ankle still hurts like a bitch though, so I should probably stay well clear.”
Jim stood up and pulled the pistol from his belt. He released the clip and checked it before slamming it back into place. “It would be a great loss to mankind if anything were to happen to you, Pikey,” he stared down at Travis, who was slowly getting to his feet using the cereal shelf as support.
Gemma laughed nervously, unsure if Jim was joking or not.
Jim aimed the gun at the door. He held it in one hand and supported it with the other. I have to admit, he looked like a professional. “Shooting them will make a lot of noise,” he glanced over his shoulder at the front window. “If more of those monsters are close, they’’ll hear it.”
“If you don'’t, they might get one of us, Bruv.”
Jim looked at Dexy and nodded, “shoot them it is, then. Open the door for me, son.”
Barney growled as Dexy moved slowly towards the door. He wrapped his fingers around the handle and silently mouthed a countdown.
Jim was ready to bring down a hail of bullets on the monsters behind the door.
Dexy yanked at the handle, “shit!”
“What?” My heart thumped against my rib cage like a heavyweight-boxing champion.
“It'’s locked, Bruv.”
“Pull harder,” Jim told him.
Dexy tugged at the door handle a few more times but the door wasn'’t budging, “nah, Bruv, that aint going nowhere.”
Jim pulled out his knife and handed it to Dexy, hilt first, “try jimmying the lock with this.”
Dexy reached out and took the knife. He rolled the hilt in his hand and marvelled at the blade, “nice.” He nodded his head in admiration, then turned back to the door and set to work, sticking the blade between the door and the wall. After a lot of grunting and cursing, the distinct click of a lock releasing echoed across the shop.
The Singh family were going crazy behind the door. One of them made vicious snapping noises and a feral growl rumbled deep in its throat. These were noises that I had never even heard animals make, certainly never a human.
“They'’re getting frisky,” Jim said with a smile.
I wasn'’t comfortable with his gallows humour, but I understood that it was probably a coping mechanism. The less seriously he took a situation, the less chance it had of turning him into a quivering heap of insanity.
I'’m actually jealous. All I have to help me cope are words on paper.
“Alright, Bruv,” Dexy pushed his weight against the door to stop the Singh'’s from making a surprise entrance. “On three.”
“Just fucking open it!”
Dexy pulled the door open and took a small obliging bow before running back to the rest of us. I covered my ears, gunshots wouldn’’t deafen me a second time.
Three shots, three fresh corpses.
Becky and her mother were sprawled across Mister Singh, dark crimson blood and brain matter spilled out onto the clean white floor. Gemma doubled over and heaved, the contents of her stomach rushed out of her mouth and spattered onto Travis'’s white trainers.
“Shit, babe,” Travis’’s lips curled with disgust. “Watch out.”
“Sorry,” Gemma wiped her mouth with the sleeve of her black suede jacket.
Jim crouched next to the Singh’s and started digging around in Mister Singh’’s pockets.
“Here we go,” he held up a bunch of keys and looked over at Dexy. “Now let'’s go see your arms dealer, son.”
Dexy leaned across and spoke quietly into my ear, “why’’s he keep calling me, son, Bruv?”
I smiled and shrugged my shoulders.
“I'’ve been thinking,” Jim absently stroked his moustache, “when we’’ve got some weapons, maybe we should come back here.”
“Okay,” I said. “What for?”
“Look around,” he waved his arms toward the aisles of food and then at the metal shutters, “it'’s a fucking fortress of food and drink.”
“Yeah, Bruv!” Dexy said. “Fucking fortress!”
Even Barney jumped around and wagged his tail in agreement.
“Sounds good,” I agreed, appreciating the façade of me having a say while Gemma was around.
Jim held his hand open in front of Dexy and nodded his head towards it. Dexy looked confused for a moment but the light of realisation quickly illuminated his features.
“Oh yeah,” he said, handing Jim'’s knife over. “Forgot about that.”
“As you say,” Jim put the knife back into the inside pocket of his coat and smiled at Dexy. “Good lad,” he patted Dexy'’s arm, walked past him and stopped at the front door.
After opening the door, Jim pulled at the shutter, which rattled and creaked as it rolled up. He poked his head outside and took a few seconds to check for any obvious danger before turning back to face the rest of us.
“Looks clear,” he stepped outside.
We followed closely behind him. I could hear Holly groaning and kicking inside the car. This was something that I would have to deal with, eventually. I just knew, deep down, I knew that there was no hope for this virus; these cannibalistic animals would never be cured. When the time came, I would have to man up and finish Holly off. A mercy killing. Holly would never want to live like that, where her only goal was to rip her teeth into the nearest throat, or worse, Gemma’’s throat.
Nobody wants to live like that, right?
I'’ll tell you this for nothing, if I become one of those things; Jim has my full permission to lead the group in a '‘bash William'’s head in'’ party.
I had to do something, for the sake of us all.
What if she got free and bit Gemma?
I wouldn'’t be able to live with that. Why put these people at risk for a million to one shot that the NHS find a cure? They were in the dark just like the rest of us.
Jim locked the shop up and stood by the passenger door.
“Shit, babe,” Travis put his arm around Gemma. “I forgot your mum was in the car.”
The conversation between Timothy Mills, spokesperson for the National Health Service and Jo Pearce, spokesperson for the apocalypse, played repeatedly in my mind. The ant colony of fear attacked every word and my veins filled with paranoid dread.
I stepped back from myself and the ants took control.
“It'’s not her mum,” I said. “Not even a person.”
I walked to the back of the Ford and pulled open the door to Holly'’s makeshift holding cell. I reached in, grabbed her legs, and dragged her out.
“Not even a person!” Gemma ran up to me and rained a hailstorm of punches onto my back.
“Dad no!” She pleaded. “Stop!”
I ignored her pleas and tears and gave one final heave, dumping Holly onto the road. She snapped and growled at the inside of her pillowcase mask.
“Mum,” Gemma fell to her knees, sobbing with disbelief. “No.”
“It'’s not your Mum!” The tone of my voice made her jump visibly. She looked up at me through tearful eyes but I was too far-gone.
“William,” Jim stepped into the fray. “Stop.”
“Oh, piss off, Jim,” I said. “You wanted to kill her in the first place.”
Travis crouched down to comfort Gemma, placing a hand on her shoulder and whispering something in her ear.
“Don'’t do this, William,” Jim narrowed his eyes. “That’’s your wife, your family, for fucks sake. Not in front of your girl.”
“Not family,” I lifted my foot, ignoring Jim'’s warning. “Not even,” I brought the heel of my foot down onto Holly'’s head. “A,” I did the same thing a second time; I could feel the bone of her skull crack beneath my weight. “Person.”
The third stomp filled the pillowcase with blood.
“That'’s some cold shit, Bruv.”
The ants retreated, leaving me to deal with the realisation of what I’ had done. My poor, flesh eating, not family, not even a person, dead Holly.
Blood and adrenaline hammered past my eardrums, drowning out Gemma’s wailing.
“I'’m...” I stepped away from the scene, suddenly feeling crippled with guilt. “Sorry.”
The last thing I remember was Jim'’s massive fist smashing into my face.