Barnes and his unit arrived at the football stadium to find the area had already been cordoned off by the police. Fleets of police cars, ambulances and fire tenders where in evidence everywhere. A policeman who removed the red and white tape, allowing his Jeep and the army vehicles to drive in, directed him over to where operations had been set up.
Barnes got out of the Jeep and walked over to a group of senior police officers.
Chief Superintendent Harkin turned to greet him.
‘Hello Greg.’ I was told you would be taking over.
She held out her hand. Barnes shook it. ‘Janet. Haven’t seen you in, how long has it been?’
‘Almost three years.’
‘Too long,’ Barnes said.
‘Terrible tragedy. So many people.’
‘I’ve just left a housing estate over at Thorney Wood. The creatures attacked leaving hundreds dead. I’ve left a unit there to clean up. We don’t expect many survivors. The whole estate was out, drawn by the spectacle of the creatures on their roofs. They thought they were birds. The people were defenceless against such numbers.’
‘We’ve had attacks all over the city but this is the worst. Resources are severely stretched. I’ve had to ask for help from neighbouring counties but they’ve all suffered attacks as well. Your arrival is most welcome.’
’I’ve been ordered to lock the place down, for now. As soon as unit arrives we can get started retrieving the bodies. My men will enter the grounds and search for survivors.
‘There is one,’ Harkin said. The camera man. He’s still up on the gantry. He won’t move. We’ve cut the feed to his camera but he’s too terrified to come down.’
‘I’ll send two of my men up to get him. Right now I need you to move your services back. Most of them can probably be of more use elsewhere. Leave a couple of ambulances, just in case.’
‘We can certainly use them. I’ll organise that right away.’
Barnes walked over to his men where Sergeant Malloy was awaiting his orders.’
‘Sergeant, there’s a camera man still up there. He’s refusing to come down. Send two men up to the gantry and get him down. Then I want the stadium searched for possible survivors.’
‘Yes sir.’ Sergeant Malloy turned to the soldiers. ‘Markham. Stone. You heard the Major. Find a way in and bring him down. Use any force you feel necessary. Get to it,’ he barked.
Markham and Stone set off running towards the stadiums main gate.
‘The rest of you come with me. And be alert. There may still be some of the creatures in there.’
As Sergeant Malloy and the soldiers ran at the double towards the stadium the emergency services were leaving in convoys, away from the ground.
Every entrance the soldiers went to, every turnstile, was choked with bodies. Some had still struggled to get out even though they had suffered terrible wounds from the creatures attack.
‘Sergeant. We can get into the ground through the shop,’ Private Cole called out.
They made their way through the shop to the rear. As Cole pulled open the double fire doors leading into the ground, a pile of bodies, some whole, some partly eaten, tumbled in towards him. Malloy pulled him back, narrowly avoiding them both being crushed.
‘Fuck,’ Cole shouted.
A gap of about three foot from the pile of bodies to the top of the door frame gave them access into the ground, but it meant climbing over the corpses to do so. Cole looked from the bodies to the Sergeant, his face visibly pale.
‘Right. Let’s get moving.’
Malloy stepped on the bodies and made his way to the top. As he ducked under the door frame his foot squelched into a half-eaten corpse. He could hear someone being sick behind him and turned to see who it was.
The soldier looked as if he was about to take flight.
Malloy shouted at him. ‘Pull yourself together lad. You’re no good to me like that.’
The young soldier wiped his mouth on his sleeve. ‘Sorry Sarge. I couldn’t help it.’
‘Well get used to it. You’ll probably see a lot worse when we get into the grounds.’
They climbed up the pile of bodies, trying to avoid the messier ones, and scaled down to the pitch. Once they were all inside the stadium Malloy paired the soldiers up and sent them off in search of survivors.
Markham and Stone were leading the camera man down the steps and through the debris of human bodies.
’Malloy shouted out to them. ‘Meet me over there.’
He pointed towards the goal at their end, then made his way across a pitch ankle deep in bones skulls and half eaten bodies.
Barnes was sitting on a bench with Janet Harkin. ‘That’s about all we can do for now. If you need to be elsewhere we can manage from here.’
‘What’s going to happen Greg? Where will this end? I’ve just had reports come in from Leicester, Birmingham, Peterborough and Northampton. The creatures are everywhere. The loss of life has been appalling.’
‘I wish I had answers but I just don’t know. I go where I’m told and do the best job I can.’
‘Why aren’t the air force and ground forces attacking them?’
‘There’s just too many. We’ve already lost a number of jets and helicopters through contact with flocks. The ground force are shooting them down but they’re appearing so fast it’s having a negligible effect. All air traffic will be grounded. There won’t be any flights in or out north of Watford, and possibly Scotland, until the situation changes. I would think they’ll have to declare Marshall Law. Keeping people in their homes may be the only thing that saves them.’
I think you’re needed,’ Barnes said.
A young woman stood in the doorway of the trailer.
‘We’ve just had an update on the creatures, Ma’am.’ Her face looked grave.
Barnes followed Harkin into the trailer.
‘What is it?’ Janet asked.
‘It’s the flocks that swept through here and the towns and cities on their way south. The density has been estimated at five-hundred-millions, and more are on the way.’
She handed Harkin the printout.
‘Oh my God,’ exclaimed Harkin. ‘How on Earth can they have grown in such numbers so quickly?’
Barnes took the printout. He looked at it in disbelief. ‘I need to contact base.’ He walked over to a desk and picked up a phone and dialled. ‘Get me Colonel Phillips...’
‘Sir, its Barnes. Did you get the up-date? I’m with Chief Superintendent Harkin... Yes sir. Right sir.’
He put the phone down. ‘I have to get my men out of there, a huge flock is coming this way. We have about twenty minutes.’
Barnes ran from the trailer and over to the group of army vehicles. Climbing in to the Jeep he picked up the radio. ‘Sergeant, come in. Malloy, come in.’
‘Malloy here. We’ve not found anyone alive yet...’
‘Sergeant. There’s a huge flock headed this way. ETA twenty minutes. Get your men out now.’
‘But sir, Markham and Stone are still coming down from the gantry. They’re finding it hard to get past the piles of bodies.’
‘Get them down Sergeant. If you can’t get out find a place of safety. I’ll contact you when and if the flock clears the area.’
Barnes ran back to the police trailer. ‘We need to find somewhere more secure than this.’
He led the group of officers and ambulance personnel over to an office building bordering the river Trent.
‘We’ll use the basement.’
The glass entrance doors were locked. Barnes removed his service revolver. One strike of the butt against the glass door and it shattered. He climbed through and led the way to the fire stairs and down to the basement.
Inside the football ground Sergeant Malloy had got his men and the camera man into the dressing rooms; the door was quite substantial and there were no windows.
‘We’ll wait here until I hear from the Major.’
‘Is it alright to smoke Sarge?’ Cole asked.
‘Yeah, light up lads.’
The camera man was sitting alone, back against the wall. Cole offered him a cigarette which he gratefully accepted with a shaking hand.
‘We’ll be all right in here,’ Cole assured him, lighting his smoke for him. ‘You’re with the army now mate.’ he laughed.
‘Give it a rest Cole,’ Malloy said.
The sound of millions of pairs of flapping wings seemed to set up a resonance within the confined space of the changing rooms. Malloy looked around at his squad. ‘There must be one hell of a flock up there.’
As the vibration died away Malloy got up. ‘Stay here all of you. I’m going to see if they’ve passed over and gone.’ He got no arguments from anyone.
He went to the door and put his ear to it, silence. Opening it a crack he looked through and could see the corridor was empty. Shutting the door behind him he crept along the short passage leading to the pitch. He peered around the corner and could just see past the bodies that had spilled into the corridor, and on to the pitch filled with creatures feasting on the corpses.
As he watched the spectacle take place, a large swollen creature landed on the pile in the corridor and began to rip flesh from the corpses. Malloy crept back down the passage to the changing rooms and slipped inside.
‘We could be here for a while lads. The stadium is full of the bloody things.’