Wednesday 12th May 2021,
No one really knows how this all began. Some people believe a terrorist attack with a weaponised virus got out of hand. Some think that a tropical disease was brought back from an unchartered jungle and spread too rapidly through civilisation, before the medical egg heads could find a cure. I’ve even heard conjecture that what is happening now is the result of evolution, and that the human race is slowly being wiped out by the next dominant species on the planet. Whatever the source, there’s no hiding from what is happening all over the world, causing people to hide away, alone or in clustered societies, desperate to survive and constantly in fear for their own lives; zombies are taking over the world.
My name is William Harrow, and I am a survivor. I am writing these accounts in the hope that one day humans will reclaim the Earth from these creatures, whom most call ‘the affected’, and that my experiences may go some way to understanding what happened, or even help in overcoming this crisis. The affected, sounds trivial doesn’t it? Non-maleficent. I don’t know who first coined this name but it seems to have stuck, although I’ve heard them referred to as many things; shamblers, rot-bags, flesh-eaters, even gods. There’s one name, though, that I’ve never heard anybody use to describe the fetid humanoid husks that hunt us; zombies. Maybe the word has too much fear associated with it, maybe it’s too familiar a moniker; pop-culture in the early 21st century was saturated with zombies, they were popular! Whatever you call them, to me they’re zombies. They act like the famous undead from all the old movies, slow-moving and relentless, and they feed on humans. Once the affected have fed on you, if there’s enough of your body left to reanimate, you come back to life as one of them, beginning a bloody pilgrimage to satisfy the insatiable appetite for flesh. From what I have been able to determine, they’re attracted to noise and the smell of blood, and they can recognise a non-affected person by sight. They tend to gather in packs, perhaps to increase their hunting efficacy given their sluggish movement, and tend to shy away from daylight, preferring to stalk their prey under the cover of night. They seem intelligent, able to communicate silently with one another and herd the non-affected into vulnerable situations, though some would argue this point; some people believe the affected are diseased, regressed forms of ourselves. These people, the ones who toy with the affected, dance with death, who believe in killing them for sport, are usually the ones who fall victim more easily to a masticated doom. As much hate and fear as I have for the affected, equally I respect them and how truly dangerous they are. That’s how I’ve come this far and am able to write these passages. Don’t get me wrong however, hate is my primary emotion towards these stinking flesh-bags that have taken over my world; the fury I have within me cannot be expressed any other way than aggressively decapitating an affected. I feel it always, bubbling behind my eyes like an overflowing saucepan filled to the brim with boiling rage, but I’ve learned to control it. Without self-control I would have fallen victim to the onslaught as many have before me. That reminds me, very important point to note; removing the head of an affected does not kill it! If you remember nothing else then remember this; I’ve seen hundreds of wannabe heroes wading into battle with blades of all shapes and sizes, over-zealously beheading one after another of the affected only to be overcome by the still-active bodies lying on the floor, and forced to the ground where the lolling heads can lazily enjoy an easy meal. In fact, as far as I can tell, the only way to kill an affected is to destroy it so completely that there are no body parts left capable of movement; I’ve even seen their severed fingers crawling towards unsuspecting victims like bloodied, bony worms.
OK with that said, let me tell you more about myself. Before all of this, I was a police officer in London. I’d only been in the job a couple of years but I loved it; the camaraderie of working with my fellow officers brought us so close together that, despite our law-bringing responsibilities, we often enjoyed pretty raucous nights out and suffered through hungover morning duties together. After having no idea what I wanted to do with my life throughout my school years I finally felt fulfilled, adopted by a community of friends that would do anything for me, and whom I’d lay down my life to protect. I was an only child, and my parents had died shortly after I left school. My father, a retired paramedic, had beamed with pride from ear to ear during my passing out parade; mum hadn’t been able to make it as she was in hospital with what turned out to be cervical cancer. She had died two weeks later, leaving my father distraught and alone, but despite this he would call me every day to hear about how work was going, and continued to do so for the eight months before he himself also passed away from a severe stroke. I still sometimes scold myself for this, but I’m now pleased at the timing of my parents’ passing; that they were saved from having to endure the emergence of the affected, which began about a year after dad died. I’ve never really held down a meaningful long term relationship either, partly because of my job, but that’s a fact that never really bothered me and, to be honest, something I consider a blessing since the affected ravaged the world; having no emotional ties makes for a far easier existence now the world has changed, that much I’m sure of.
So now I’ll tell you what you’re all waiting to read about; how did the affected crisis begin? Remember, I don’t profess to know everything about them, and I certainly don’t have any answers regarding their origin, so I can only tell you of my own experiences. The first encounter I had with an affected was at work; a group of us had been called to a domestic disturbance in a council estate in Brixton, apparently some guy had locked himself and his family in their flat and the neighbours had complained of hearing screams and the sound of things being smashed inside. The man wasn’t previously known to us; he was a Lithuanian who had come to the country to work and found employment at a local factory, packing boxes of mobile phones for shipping. His employer would later describe him as a good worker and a quiet man who focussed on his work and kept himself to himself. This description was far removed from what we found when we arrived at the scene. Due to the potentially violent nature of the alleged crime, two cars had been sent to investigate; me and my partner Micky ‘Chopper’ Gwynn were first to respond, we’d been instructed to await the second car before making our approach and, when it swung into the carpark and slowed to a halt, from it emerged our sergeant, John Weaver, and a relatively new face to our station, Wendell Cramer. The reassuring presence of Sergeant Weaver, a burly by-the-book taskmaster with a solid jaw and a cold, penetrating stare, was offset by Wendell, who was an awkward, clumsy Jamaican standing well over six feet tall but weighing no more than ten stone. Chopper and I exchanged worried stares; Wendell had never responded to a domestic violence call and, judging by the crowd amassing around the entrance to the tower block and the crashes and screams that were audible from the twelfth floor all the way down to the entryway where we were stood, this was a particularly nasty example. We trusted the Serg, though. Hell, everyone has to be blooded sooner or later, and it was comforting to know that we had his experience and muscle on our side. Word of the disturbance had spread across the estate quickly, and residents of the neighbouring two tower blocks, flanking our destination like dirty grey pillars of perpetual poverty stretching endlessly into the cloudy sky, had gathered on the grass surrounding the centre tower. Our presence usually drew a small crowd on such estates, petty criminals curious to see if they had been found out or just keen on shouting abuse at us, but never had I seen a crowd this large, or indeed as disinterested in our approach. A bolt of fear shivered down my spine as the four of us made for the door; inhabitants so reputable in such communities were seldom good news. As we neared the door and the crowd parted like a penurious red sea, I remember the sky had clouded over even further, casting an immensely thick shadow over the ground. The day had been warm, and as the first drops of rain began to fall onto our custodian helmets, the smell of damp asphalt rose into my nostrils. We pushed through the door and began to climb the dusty concrete stairs to the twelfth floor; the lifts were so often out of order in these buildings that we never even bothered to check them anymore. The cement dust rose in plumes around our boots as we ascended, and the rain became heavier the higher we climbed, crashing against the windows of the stairwell, as if drumming a percussive warning to what awaited us on the twelfth floor, and blurring the view of the ground below as it drizzled down the panes. Chopper commented on the scarcity of people in the hallways, especially considering the mob assembled outside; there wasn’t a single curious neighbour hanging around to see what was going one, despite the continued screaming and, apart from Chopper’s observation and the desperate vocalisation coming from flat 1284 piercing the sound of water on glass, the only sound was the crunch of our boots on the coarse layer of grime covering each step. As we reached the twelfth floor and rounded the corner into the main hallway, an emaciated young man burst out of his flat and collided against the wall opposite his door. He clattered into Wendell as raced passed us, before descending the stairs so quickly he seemed to fall more than run, his bare feet sliding in the accumulated grime. Wendell was breathing heavily, eyes wide and nose bloodied, clearly shaken by the sudden appearance of the only other person we’d encountered since we entered the building. His eyes found mine and I held his gaze, holding a palm up to him while breathing deliberately slowly until he snapped out of his panicked trance and gave me a nod, a signal that he was OK to continue. By now the screaming had stopped and there was a deep, rhythmic booming coming from a door about halfway down the hallway, like someone was slowly knocking on the door from the inside but with such force that it shook in its frame with every blow. We all instinctively knew that this was the door to flat 1284. As we approached hesitantly, the violent rapping at the door became more vigorous, as if whatever was producing it could sense our presence, and the wood struggled against the force of each subsequent pounding. The hairs on the back of my heck stood to attention, half in anticipation, half in fear, and I realised my mouth was dry as we reached the flat. My squad flanked the door, now moving silently in formation, and waited for a pause between crashes before the Serg breached the entrance with a swift, expertly executed boot. The person on the other side was forced back by the impact and our subsequent entry into the flat but the door, albeit no longer attached to its frame, remained standing between our squad and the perpetrator, who was now standing completely still behind it. We announced our arrival and demanded the man lie down on the floor with his hands behind his back. Poised to defend ourselves and neutralise any threat, we waited, panting, as the door toppled towards us as if in slow motion, revealing the man standing behind it; his skin was grey and torn away from his lips in ragged ribbons, blood had dried on his chin like a frozen crimson waterfall, and strings of bright red flesh glistened between his teeth as he snarled at us. He had a large gash in the side of his neck, the bleeding from which had long stopped and been replaced by a black ooze that stuck to the leathery edges of his wound. His eyes were clouded over and white, seemingly obscured by thick cataracts, but they were fixed intently upon us as he stood breathing unnaturally slowly as drops of blood fell from his chin onto his torn white shirt, which was stained and grubby with sweat and dirt. His clothes were bedraggled and torn, as though he’d been in a fight, and the right sleeve of his shirt had been completely ripped away, revealing an emaciated, veiny limb that the man slowly raised towards me, as if reaching out to touch one of us, his fingers dangled loosely from his hand in a limp claw, tipped with splintered, bloodied nails. All of us were taken aback by the appearance of the man, and I remember the sting of fear penetrating my brain through a haze of confusion like the sickly ammoniac affront of smelling salts forcing one into clarity. I drew my gaze away from the rotting man in front of me to look past him into the living room beyond the entryway, and almost recoiled in horror at what I saw; lying on the floor in a pool of bright red blood which seemed far too large to have come from a single body, was a woman. The flesh of her neck was hanging from the bone in shreds, and floating on top of the puddle of blood surrounding her, weaving to and fro like sluggish fish in a stream as the blood continued to exude from her arteries, its flow now thready and weak. The woman’s dress, once a shade of white or beige, was stained a deep red and clung to her body, stuck by the coagulating gore, except in the centre of her abdomen where it was torn open revealing a jagged hole ripped into her stomach out of which her entrails hung. They draped over the edges of her abdomen like the remains of a gory party popper and glistened as lightning from outside interrupted the gloom stochastically. As I returned my gaze to the man, who was still swaying sideways in front of us, reaching out one bony hand, he groaned a throaty vocalisation and took a step towards us. His gait was laboured, and he more dragged his foot forward than lifted it, his advance far too slow to be threatening. We all stood in awe and disbelief of this freakish man making his way towards us determinedly, fingers clenching and unclenching as if grabbing at our faces, until his trailing foot caught on the handle of the door, which was now lying on the floor, and the man lurched forward and fell at our feet. The impact of the man’s torso against the floorboards produced a sickening crack, and the inertia of his fall whipped his head into the floor with a similarly awful sound. Blood erupted from under his face and he lay completely still for a moment. I was sure he was dead, but before I completed my sigh of relief the man groaned again, propping himself up on his forearms and lifting his head; I could see his skull was cracked open, revealing the pink, jelly-like folds of his brain swimming in more of that black ooze. One of his eyes fell loose from its socket as his cheekbone fell away, and he reached out for us again, his withered hand clasping the hem of Wendell’s trousers. Reflexively, Wendell withdrew his leg and kicked at the man’s hand. His wrist snapped sideways and shards of bone penetrated his flesh as dark blood spewed onto Wendell’s uniform. Still though, the hand extended towards us, and before Chopper, the Serg or myself could stop him, Wendell began stamping on the hand, each thud squelching as blood-saturated flesh was squashed between the wooden floor and his boot. With each stamp though, the hand continued to move, still grasping for us as it became more and more deformed under Wendell’s assault. Unappeased by his failure to stop the man grasping at us, our junior colleague took a step forward and kicked the man’s head, snapping it backwards and sending shards of skull and sprays of blood back over his prone body. The head was almost dismembered by the blow, now resting on the man’s back looking up at the ceiling, but it continued to moan, its eyes lolling around haphazardly, trying to locate our whereabouts. We were all frozen by fear, uncertain if what we were witnessing was real. All of us except Wendell, who dropped to his knees and began punching the man’s head, which slumped from side to side as it became increasingly bloodied but refused to refrain from groaning and biting at Wendell’s fists as they impacted against its cheeks and jaw. The first of us to snap out of our trance was the Serg, he lunged forwards and dragged Wendell off of the fleshy mess he’d made on the floor. He was breathing heavily, a crazed look in his eyes as he muttered inaudibly under his breath, his fists were swollen and dripping with blood, the skin of his knuckles broken, and his face was splattered with blood so dark it was almost camouflaged against his Caribbean skin. The man on the floor, now more gurgling than groaning, still clamoured clumsily for our ankles, and I’m still not proud that we ran away at that point, but with hindsight I’m glad we did. We called in the HazMat team to deal with what we’d left behind on our way back to the station, and we’d left a third team of officers to set up a perimeter. Wendell was still muttering under his breath, ignoring any of our attempts to communicate with him. By the time we reached the station, he was feverish and drowsy, we had to carry him into the locker room where he passed out and started fitting, his limbs flailed uncontrollably and he nearly hit Serg across the face as he struggled to slip a folded jacket under Wendell’s head to prevent any further injury. After an ambulance had taken Wendell to hospital, the rest of us agreed to write our separate reports at home before the team debrief in the morning; what had happened was so unbelievable that we wanted to be sure we’d all seen the same thing. I was exhausted and went home to bed without even considering starting my report, I was off duty the next day and I needed time to get my head straight.
By the time I awoke, well into the afternoon of the following day, the affected crisis was in full swing; parents were chasing their children down the street, mouths slathered with bloody foam, eyes lit by an unquenchable hunger. Cars were crashed into lamp posts or abandoned in the middle of the roads, doors hanging open and swaying in the wind. The windows of my flat had been smashed but the sound hadn’t woken me, and I could hear the distant screech of tires, screaming women, and the occasional gunshot. I remember switching on the television to see reports of flesh eating monsters, dead bodies coming back to life and thousands of people fleeing the city. On one such news report, beamed live from outside our local hospital, I saw gurneys being wheeled past the reporter one after the other, each with a body covered with a bloodstained sheet and strapped down securely with leather belts. As the female reporter hurriedly spat words into the camera, gesturing wildly as she described the horrors occurring around her as if desperate to finish her report and get the hell out of there, an unsecured body lurched off of a gurney, stumbled into her back and sunk its teeth into her shoulder. As I saw the bloodied white sheet fall from the attacker as he ambled towards the reporter, I scrambled for the phone and dialled the station, sending several dirty dishes smashing onto the floor from my coffee table as I did so. The reanimated body was Wendell.
Anyway as you can gather things went from bad to worse, I never got through to the station so I decided to fortify my flat. I barred the doors, covered the windows with clothes and old newspapers I had lying around, and sat tight for as long as I could. That first day was terrifying, I could hear thudding footsteps racing past my doorway as people fled the affected, and the agonising screams as some of them were cornered and eaten by the undead horde. There were frequent episodes of knocking at my door, and I buried my head in my arms to block out the sound; I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving people for dead outside but I couldn’t risk letting one of those things into my flat. Before long the sounds of my fleeing neighbours died down, as did the knocking at my door, and all that punctuated the silence was the slow, shuffling footsteps of the affected roaming my halls. My nerve lasted a good couple of weeks, until I ran out of food and was forced to brave the outside world. By that time most of the affected had left my building in search of human flesh, so my escape was relatively easy. I’ll never forget the scene that greeted me as I left my building; smoke billowed through smashed panes of glass in several of the buildings across the street, burnt out cars were abandoned in the middle of the road, their hazard lights blinking insistently. A dirty white transit van had crashed into the shop on the corner of my street and knocked out a considerable number of bricks from its outside supporting wall, and everywhere there were trails of blood; smears on the concrete as the injured had attempted to escape, and dark crusted puddles where some had been caught and devoured, depicted the horrors that I had thankfully been spared being witness to whilst I waited out the initial outbreak in my home. A thick mist was forming at either end of my street and I could see silhouetted figures limping slowly to and fro in the haze, I heard their faint, raspy groans carried towards me on the breeze and I knew I had to get out of the city fast. Since then I’ve been on the move, bedding down where I can and scavenging supplies by whatever means. When I first set out I’d come across another survivor every couple of days or so, in deserted shops or hardware stores, but now I’m lucky if I see another living soul once a month. The affected are growing in number, as you’d expect, but I’ve learned to scavenge by day and hide away at night, and that seems to keep me off of their radar. Even so, the world is now a dangerous place; if just one affected spots you there can be several descending on your location before you know it. By themselves, out in the open, they’re not too much of a problem but in groups, or if they catch you unawares, you’re in big trouble. They’ve started to come out more during the day recently too, I see them shambling through the streets, possibly in search of the food that has become so scarce since they’ve devoured most of the population. So I’m as careful as I can be, and I hope that somewhere there’s a pocket of humanity holding fast against this undead tide. I’ve seen the strength that the affected can have in groups so I’m searching for a group of my own. That’s why I’m heading south; I figured an island might be safe as it’s cut off from the mainland and no affected could get there to spread this disease, so I’m going to the Isle of Wight. If I don’t make it, and someone finds this diary, please keep it with you. Use my experience to save yourself. Find sanctuary, humanity must not peter out wilfully.