Primordial Soup

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Chapter 15

A convoy drove slowly through a terraced street in Nottingham. Human bones littered the road and under the headlights of the vehicles shone out starkly against the darkness. It was not possible for the drivers to avoid them and the crunching sounds the tyres made as they drove over them sickened everyone on the transports. Most of the houses had broken windows where the birds had crashed through them to get at the occupants inside. Every available surface above ground level was covered in roosting creatures.

Totally ignored by the creatures, loud speakers blasted out the same message continuously.

‘This is the army. We’re here to take you to safety. Please show yourself.’

Luke and Shaun were sitting in the back of a heavily fortified personnel carrier. ‘How many streets have we done Shaun?’

’Twenty-two, and only seventeen people. I never thought it would be this bad. They’re everywhere. Just look at the rooftops, they’re completely covered. Every street we’ve been down is the same.

‘There must be millions of them,’ said Luke, ‘and this is just one city. Imagine how many there are in the whole country.’

‘This is not working,’ Malloy said. ‘The people are too afraid to come out.’ He picked up the radio mike. ‘Unit one to base.’

‘Base here unit one.’

‘Get the Major on the line for me.’

‘Yes Sarge.’

The speaker went quiet.

‘Barnes here Sergeant. What’s wrong?’

‘We’re not having much luck sir. The people are too afraid to come out. I think we’ll have to go on foot, house to house. The creatures are ignoring us so I think it should be safe enough.’

‘Proceed with extreme caution Sergeant. Get back to your vehicles at the first sign of trouble. We can’t afford to lose anyone.’

‘Right sir.’ He replaced the mike and turned to the driver. ‘You just make sure and be ready in case they attack.’

‘Yes Sarge.’

‘Right lads, let’s do a bit of house calling.’

Malloy opened his door and looking down at the bones that littered the road he got out. Casting furtive glances at the rooftops he slung his automatic rifle over his shoulder and walked back to the armoured vehicle behind.

‘We’ll have to go door to door lads. If you find any civilians march them out here at gunpoint if you have to, but be on your guard. First sign of movement from those bloody things, get back to your vehicle on the double. Right, let’s go.’

The soldiers paired up and ran over to the houses. They kicked in the front doors and disappeared inside. Malloy looked around for Luke and Shaun. He leaned in to the driver. ‘Where the fuck have those two gone.’

‘They went in that house Sarge. The fat one booted the door in.’

As Malloy walked over to the house, Luke came out carrying two young children followed by a dishevelled man and a woman, with Shaun bringing up the rear.

‘Get them on the bus, and next time wait for orders.’ He smiled at Luke. Luke smiled back.

The soldiers came out of the houses and led a group of equally dishevelled people over to the bus.

Luke and Shaun ran down to the next house.

‘At this rate we’ll soon fill that bus,’ Shaun said.

‘Yeah, feels good doesn’t it,’ replied Luke.

They stopped at the next house and Shaun put the door through with one kick, crashing it against the wall, the noise resounded throughout the house and echoed along the street. The creatures on the roofs remained still and eerily quiet. They walked into the hallway and looked into the first room, it was empty. Luke checked the back room then the kitchen at the end of the passage.

‘Is any one here?’ shouted Shaun.

Luke backed out of the kitchen and ran up the stairs, followed by Shaun.

The room doors were all closed. Luke opened the one nearest to the stairs. He shone his torch over the bed. A young girl aged about seven, dressed in pyjamas, was lying on top of the covers facing the wall. Luke walked up to the bed and shook her. The girl rolled onto her back. Dead eyes stared up at him. He saw her clothes were covered in blood. A single stab wound close to her heart was clogged with congealed blood.

Luke turned to Shaun waiting in the doorway. ‘She’s dead.’

He gently rolled her back to face the wall, covered her over with the duvet and came out to the landing and closed the door.

Shaun could see his friend was upset at finding the dead child. ‘Are you...’

Luke cut him off. ‘Check the room at the end. I’ll check this one.’

He opened the door to the second bedroom and shone his torch around the room, stopping on a set of bunk beds. Each bunk was occupied by a small boy. Luke walked into the room already knowing what he would find. They were both dead, stabbed, just like the girl.

Shaun came into the room. He shook his head. ‘The parents are both dead.’

‘Let’s go.’

‘You alright mate?’

‘They were only little kids. How could they do that?’

‘They probably thought it was better than being eaten alive by the creatures.’

Luke ran down the stairs and out into the road. Malloy was standing by the gate scanning the rooftops. He read the expression on Luke’s face.

‘Move on to the next house.’

‘How can you be so fucking detached from all this,’ he shouted.

‘It’s what we’re trained for. We can only help the living, and the more we help the better our chance of survival. Now if it’s too much for you I can still put you on the supplies detail, because what you saw in there you’re going to see a lot more of.’

‘No. I’ll be alright. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to take it out on you.’

‘That’s okay son. I’ve been a soldier for a long time and it still affects me. You’re sure you want to continue?’

‘Yeah. I’m sure.’

‘Good lad. Now go and find me some more people. The bus is nearly filled up so we’ll be heading back soon.’

In the next house Luke shone his torch around the room and stopped on an old lady sitting by a gas fire that wasn’t lit. She was wrapped in a blanket, her head was tilted back and her mouth was wide open.

‘Shit. I have to deal with this,’ Luke said to himself. As he turned back to the hallway a voice said. ’Who are you?’

Luke spun around. ‘I thought you were dead.’

The old woman got up from her chair and walked towards him. She stopped in the doorway. ‘What are you doing in my house? I haven’t got anything worth stealing.’

‘I’m with the army. We’re taking people to a place of safety. There’s a bus outside. Is there any one else in the house?’

‘Only me. Where’s this bus then?’

‘It’s just outside.’ Luke turned to Shaun. ‘Just the one old lady. I’ll help her on, you check the next house.’

The old woman came out into the hall and took Luke’s arm. ‘What about those birds? They was attacking people you know.’

‘They’re all asleep now,’ Luke said. ‘What’s your name?’

‘Alice. Who are you?’

‘I’m with the army. We’re taking people to safety. Away from the birds. Let’s get you on the bus, yeah?’

‘What bus, where?’ she said, confused.

‘The bus is just outside Alice.’

The old woman hesitated as she looked out into the street. ‘Where’s all them birds. They was attacking people you know. My husband had birds, pigeons they was. They was nice birds. Not like them other ones.’

Luke walked her out to the bus, grinning.

‘We going for a ride then?’ Alice asked the soldier standing by the bus. ‘I like great Yarmouth I do.’

‘Yes love. All aboard for Great Yarmouth,’ he sang.

Luke looked at Shaun. They both laughed.

Malloy came up to them. ‘That’s what it’s all about lads. Now go and get me some more.’

Luke and Shaun ran off down the road, laughing loudly, with Shaun mimicking the old woman. ‘I like great Yarmouth I do.’ This made them laugh even harder.

~

In the basement of a darkened house, five girls, all students at Nottingham Trent University, sat huddled around the last of their scented candles. They had been hiding there for days and things were becoming desperate. The meagre rations they had managed to grab as they sought safety when the creatures had crashed through the bay window on the ground floor had quickly run out.

Arguments were beginning to break out amongst them. Lara and Alexa were both for going upstairs to get food and drink from the kitchen, but Abby and Tracy were against it.

‘They could still be up there,’ cried Tracy. ‘You’ll let them in here and there’s nowhere else to hide, we’ll be trapped and killed.’

‘Tracy,’ Lara said, trying to calm her. ‘We haven’t heard a sound up there for days. It’s been silent. There hasn’t been any noise, even at night.’

Lorrell was sat on a crate staring fixedly at the flickering candle. Her silence over the past two days was becoming oppressive and putting the other girls on edge.

‘Fuck this,’ Lara said. ‘I’m going up to get some food. You coming Alexa?’

‘No,’ cried Tracy. ‘Please Alexa, don’t go.’

‘Tracy, we have to. We’re all starving and we’ve not had anything to drink in nearly two days. I don’t think any helps coming.’

Tracy began to cry. Abby comforted her. ‘Please be careful,’ she said.

Lorrell stood up. ‘It stinks down here. I’m coming with you, and if those things are gone I’m going home.’

But even if they’re gone from upstairs,’ said Alexa, ‘they could still be outside and you saw the size of that one that had its head stuck through my room door.’

‘I don’t care. I’m going home. I can’t stand the fucking smell down here any longer.’

After a lot of arguing and bickering it was finally decided that they should all go together.

They crept silently up the stairs, the tiny glow from the scented candle lighting their way.

Lara, brandishing a wooden broomstick, led the way. Alexa followed close behind with a mop that had seen better days.

~

Shaun ran up the few steps leading to the front door. He looked across at the broken glass in the bay window and waited for Luke before he put the door through.

‘It looks like a derelict house,’ Luke said. ‘Be careful, just in case, there could still be creatures in here.’

Shaun put his shoulder against the door and pushed. The flimsy Yale lock gave easily. The door sprung open a few inches and stopped against something wedged behind the door. He tried to push through the gap, opening the door a little wider, but whatever was behind the door was holding the door fast.

Luke, a lot slimmer than Shaun, pulled him back out and slipped through the gap.

‘It’s a small cupboard,’ he called. He pulled it out of the way and opened the door. ‘Whoever put it there must still be here.’

The door to the room nearest the front, the one with the broken bay windows, was shut, its lower panel looked as though it had been kicked through from the inside. As Shaun entered the hallway, Luke slowly opened the door. He shone his torch around the room, picking out shards of broken glass on the carpet. The room had been ransacked. Clothes were strewn everywhere; on the bed, the sofa at the far end of the room, and all over the carpet.

‘Looks like they had visitors. Let’s check the rest of the place out and move on.’

~

At the sound of the street door being pushed open the girls had stopped moving, huddling together at the top of the stairs.

Lara turned to them on the darkened staircase. ‘Someone’s in the house,’ she whispered. ‘Listen.’

They heard a door being opened and footsteps coming along the passage.

Tracy turned in the confined space, causing a loud creak from the stair. ‘Let’s go back down,’ she pleaded, her voice trembling.

No.’ whispered Alexa. ’If it is people then the creatures must be gone.

‘They could be rapists,’ cried Tracy.

‘You should be so lucky,’ quipped Lorrell.

‘Quiet. They’ll hear us,’ said Lara, inching closer to the door.

Bringing up the rear in pitch darkness. Abby asked. ’What’s happening? Lara, what’s happening?

Lorrell turned to her. ‘There’s someone in the house,’ she whispered.

~

Shaun checked the next room along whilst Luke checked out the kitchen. They both came out and headed for the stairs. A creaking sound stopped them both in their tracks. Luke turned back towards the kitchen and saw a door under the staircase. He motioned for Shaun to be quiet. Another creak came from behind the door. As Luke gripped the door handle Shaun flipped the safety off his semi-automatic rifle.

Luke turned to him. ‘Ready?’

Shaun nodded.

~

Lara, her hand shaking, the broomstick held high, reached for the door handle, it twisted in her hand and the door shot open. A bright light hit her eyes, momentarily blinding her. The staircase and passage were filled with ear piercing screams.

Lorrell knocked Abby down the stairs as she turned in blind panic to run back down. Tracy screeched, petrified to the spot, and Lara and Alexa charged through the open doorway, the broomstick finding its target and snapping in half.

The target the broomstick had found was Luke’s forehead. Seeing stars he crashed backwards as something wet and slimy and smelling strongly of urine hit him full in the face. As he tripped over Shaun’s size elevens the thing he’d glimpsed waiting behind the door fell on top of him.

Seeing the apparitions in the flashing torchlight that had rushed through the open doorway, their faces streaked with dirt and what Shaun took to be blood, he screamed in fright at the sight of the two demons. His finger pulled back on the trigger sending a hail of bullets into the ceiling and up the staircase wall; the sound in the enclosed space deafened everyone.

Luke scrambled out from underneath the thing that had attacked him as more of them came through the open portal. The one that had struck him was back on its feet, the weapon raised to strike again. The screams and gunfire from the house brought soldiers running in at the double, thinking the worst. The passage quickly filled with torchlight and soldiers.

Luke raised his torch, still clutched in his hand. He saw the one holding a broken stick above her head with both hands was a young woman.

The small passage at the end of the hall was now crowded with soldiers. Shaun, holding his weapon tightly to his chest, Luke, trying to get up off the floor, and five terrified girls crouched in the doorway to the basement looking like evil Harpies from the depths of hell.

Sergeant Malloy pushed his way through the crowded confined space. ‘What the fucking hell is going on in here?’ he shouted.

Luke, now upright, turned and grinned. ‘It’s just girls, Sarge,’ he laughed.

‘Who fired their weapon?’ Malloy demanded.

‘It was me Sergeant,’ Shaun admitted. ‘I fell backwards and pulled the trigger accidentally.’

Malloy turned to the soldiers filling up the hallway, ‘Right. Back to work you lot.’

The soldiers, all grinning, returned to the street leaving Malloy looking at a very embarrassed Luke and Shaun, and five terrified young women.

‘Fine bloody soldiers you two are. Overpowered by a bunch of girls.’ He reached forward and took Shaun’s rifle. ‛You’ll get it back when you’ve had some weapons training. Now get them on the bus, if you can manage that,’ he shouted.

The girl who had clubbed Luke had lowered the stick and was whispering to a redhead, still holding a mop, who was smiling at Luke.

‘Sorry I hit you,’ Lara said. ‘You scared us. We thought it was the creatures.’

‘Not as much as you bloody scared me,’ Luke laughed. He wiped at his face trying to get some of the stinking slime off. ‘We’ve got transport outside and a place of safety to take you to.’

The other three girls were now standing in the passage all giving Luke appraising looks.

Shaun led the way out of the house. Luke, surrounded by five girls and finding it difficult to get along the passage, came out on to the front step. The girls looked up and saw the roofs covered with creatures.

Luke could feel their fear rising at the sight of so many dark shapes. ‘It’s okay,’ he reassured them. ‘They’re sleeping. They won’t take any notice of us.’

Alexa slipped her arm through Luke’s. ‘I’d feel safe anywhere with you,’ she smiled, turning to stick her tongue out at her friends.

With all five girls holding on to him, Luke led them over to the bus. As they boarded, Alexa turned to him. ‘Sorry about the mop.’

All the girls laughed. So did the soldiers.

Even Sergeant Malloy had to suppress a laugh. ‘Come on lads. We’ve still got room for a few more.’

Luke and Shaun ran along the street and began shouting and banging on doors and windows. ‘Come on out everyone. The army’s here. We’re here to take you to safety.’

People came out of the houses and into the street. They looked warily up at the rooftops full of sleeping creatures.

Luke shouted at them. ‘On the bus everyone. Plenty of room for everyone.’

With the bus filled like sardines Luke and Shaun returned to their vehicle and got in.

Malloy turned around to Luke. ‘Well done you two. A bit unconventional but it worked. Right, let’s get these people back to base.’

The convoy drove slowly down the street under the dark skies and the watching creatures.

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