William Daniels is successful author of children’s books, a loving husband and a caring father. His normal, happy life is turned upside down when an infection turns normal people into bloodthirsty animals who want only one thing, human flesh. William learns a lot about himself and his fellow man in this bleak and deadly new world. This is his diary. This is The Final Diary.
Dexy dug around in his pockets before pulling out the brass key.
“Got it.” He turned to face us and smiled triumphantly.
“Well?” Mason asked in an exasperated tone. “Get to it, then!”
“Alright, alright.” Dexy ran to each cell door and unlocked them with the key, taking care to do it quietly, so as not to risk disturbing the inhabitants. He ran to us and crouched down next to me after opening all the doors.
“Done.” He aimed his pistol towards the main gate, which had been intentionally left open.
“Cells, Berry!” King’s voice grew closer with every syllable. Heavy footsteps thundered against the floor, echoing through the station. “Now!”
King came into view, sniper rifle slung over his shoulder. He saw us crouched behind riot shields, slowly moving towards the exit behind us and he laughed. It was a raucous, almost maniacal laugh that made my nerves jangle as it buffeted down my ear canals like a hurricane ripping its way through a wooden house.
I heard the first snarl coming from a cell to our left. King’s laugh was waking them.
“You’re choosing them over us?” King took the rifle from his shoulder and aimed it in our direction. “I thought you were smarter than that, D.I. Mason.”
The Chief Inspector and P.C. Berry arrived together, Berry wielding a shotgun while his superior held her ‘Dirty Harry’ cannon. All guns were quickly pointed at us. A low, coughing growl came from a cell ahead of us.
“Palmer.” I had expected the Chief Inspector to be angrier than she was. In fact, she just looked disappointed. “Stop being silly. Come over here.” She held out her free hand, palm up.
“Can’t do that, Ma’am.” Kate gritted her teeth, jaw muscles bunched and throbbing angrily.
The Chief Inspector then turned her attention to Mason. “Come on, Phillip.” She took a step forward. “You don’t really think you’ll be safe with those two idiots?” She eyed Dexy and myself with derision. “The hoodie can’t stand you.”
We continued our slow shuffle backwards.
“Just let us go, Ma’am.” Mason said. “This doesn’t need to get messy.”
King aimed his gun with more precision, one eye staring down the scope. The cell door to our left creaked and shifted. It was an almost indiscernible movement, like a summer breeze whispering across hanging laundry.
“Let you go?” The Chief Inspector spat the words out with disgust. “You’re Police Officers!” Her face flushed red with bitter frustration. “Your duty is to stay here.”
Mason looked back at me. “Phone.”
I quickly laid the bag of guns on the floor and reached into my back pocket. After pulling out the phone, I moved my finger across the touch screen menu before finding what he had explained to us earlier. I turned up the volume button, moved to Kate’s side and slid the phone up the hall towards The Chief Inspector and her entourage.
Everyone stared at the phone. King moved away from his scope, confusion washing across his face. The phone skittered and sailed across every imperfection, every bump in the floor until finally, it came to rest just in front of The Chief Inspector’s well polished shoe. She stared at us, then down at the phone before looking at us again.
“What’s this…” Before she could finish the sentence, the unmistakable first chords of Elvis Presley’s ‘Jailhouse Rock’ rang out from the loudspeaker of the phone.
Kate grinned. “Bloody hell, Phil.” She said. “Elvis?”
“Can’t beat the King.” Mason told her. His attention now turning to the cell doors. “Everybody,” He paused for a moment and smiled. “Let’s rock.”
He had barely uttered the words, when the cell doors burst open and the infected relatives of King, Berry, and The Chief Inspector, came rushing out into the hallway. They nipped the air like vultures tearing at the flesh of carrion, and looked around for the source of the loud music. I quickly returned to my earlier place behind Kate. As we backed away from the now freed infected, her foot pushed against the bag of guns that I’d forgotten to pick back up.
“Guns, William.” She said.
“Oh shit.” I grabbed the handles and dragged the bag closer to me. “Sorry.”
The infected were all standing there, looking towards the main gate, yet none of them moved, they just stared. Two of them, a boy and a girl can’t have been older than Six or Seven. Their small, once innocent faces were now smeared with blood and eyes that would have once looked full of life, were now milky white and impassive.
“Who’s kids are they?” I asked in a hushed tone.
“Harry’s.” Kate looked at me and I saw the pain and sorrow swimming in her eyes. She didn’t want to do this to her colleagues, her friends. “This is going to tear him up.” This wasn’t a moral choice, this was survival.
The Chief Inspector dropped to her knees. “No.” She repeated the word in a whispered mantra of anguish. The sight of her infected husband rushing out of the cell seemed to have broken her.
The music played on and Harry King dropped the sniper rifle to his side. “I can’t,” He kicked at the bars beside the gate. “Why would you do that?” He pointed at us. “I’ll kill you all!” Another kick crashed against the bars, the sound resonating above the voice of Elvis. “You’ll see!”
The kicking had excited the infected and just as my back pushed up against the exit door, the infected relatives ran toward their family members for a bitter reunion. Dexy pushed the bar on the door and a rush of cool night air greeted us. Once we were all safely outside I heard a gunshot. Berry had fired his shotgun into the infected. The Chief Inspector screamed as her husband staggered back, blood spraying from the fresh wound in his neck.
“Don’t shoot them!” She got to her feet and grabbed at the shotgun, wrestling with Berry for ownership.
Harry King closed his eyes tightly and for brief moments appeared to pray. When his eyes snapped open he lifted his gun, aimed through the scope and shot his two children and wife with frightening speed and accuracy. The powerful shots left gaping holes in the heads of his family. They sank to the floor like deflated balloons.
The Chief Inspector’s husband had already recovered from the shot in his neck, and was rushing towards the Officers, howling and biting at the air. The Rock and Roll sounds of Elvis carried on regardless. King studied the situation and then turned his attention to the Mother, Father and girlfriend of P.C. Berry. He aimed the rifle.
Mason slammed the door closed. “This way.” He rushed past us and around the building.
I slung the bag handles over my right shoulder and moved as fast as I could with the guns weighing me down. Instinct forcing me to duck at every shot that rang out from inside the detention block.
Mason looked back at the rest of us. “Hurry up!” He pointed to the car park. “We’re taking the Land Rover.”
The three of them were already standing beside the Police Land Rover by the time I had caught up, a bag full of guns is bloody heavy! Mason passed his riot shield to Dexy and climbed into the driver’s seat. Kate opened up the back and threw her riot shield inside, Dexy followed suit.
“Put the bag in, William.” She used both hands to motion where I was to throw the bag.
I took the handles from my shoulder and with a last push of energy, hefted the bag into the Land Rover.
“Okay, you two in the back.” Kate slammed the hatch down and rushed around to take her place in the front passenger seat.
Dexy tapped me on the shoulder and grinned. “I think she just called shotgun, Bruv.” He pulled the back door open and climbed across to the far end of the back seat, behind Kate. Once I was inside and the doors closed, Mason thrust the key into the ignition and turned it.
Everyone breathed easier when the engine came alive and purred like a sleepy kitten. Mason drove forward toward the closed gate. A small group of infected had seen us from the street and were trying to climb the tall chain link fence that surrounded the car park. As we got closer to the gate I looked across at Dexy and something caught my eye, just past him, I saw movement in a window. I quickly realised that it was The Chief Inspector’s office window. The lights were out but I definitely saw something, some movement in the shadows. I lurched closer to Dexy and peered at the huge pane of glass, trying to see through the car reflection and into the room beyond.
Harry King aimed the sniper rifle at us from inside the office. It took my brain a second to register what I had seen. “Down!” I grabbed Dexy’s shoulder and yanked him towards me as I dived towards him, until we were both laying on the back seat.
“What?” Kate turned to see what was going on in the back. Mason slammed his foot down on the accelerator, the Land Rover lurched forward and gained speed until it was barrelling towards the tall gate.
The ear-blistering crack of a gunshot echoed into the night. The office window bursting outwards as the bullet ripped through it.
The car squealed and a loud popping sound erupted into the air. Mason was desperately trying to keep control of the vehicle, cursing as he fought with the steering wheel. The tyres screeched and groaned their disapproval.
We were almost at the gate. Almost out.
Mason had now lost any chance of control. I realised that none of us had fastened our seatbelts, and an old car safety advert flickered through my mind.
It was a bit late for that.
Kate dived down into the foot well and curled into a ball. Mason held the steering wheel as though it was a rope sent down to a drowning man by a rescue helicopter. The Land Rover somersaulted into the air. I had hoped that time really did stand still in moments like these but that’s just not how it works. I slammed into the roof of the car as it turned over and then Dexy slammed into me, knocking the wind out of my lungs. I hadn’t even started to choke down a breath when the vehicle landed with a painful crunch and rolled into the fence. Dexy landed on the back seat, his nose pouring with blood. The air bags hissed and released in the front, embracing Mason with their promise of safety. Kate was still crouched into a tiny ball, the air bag on her side filling the empty seat.
I fell awkwardly, just managing to wrap my arms across the top of my head before smashing against the window on Dexy’s side. It was pure luck that the safety glass held. If it hadn’t, the concrete ground that we were skittering across would have ripped through my arms and skull.
The Land Rover squealed and groaned as it slid through the fence, the tall chain link barrier wrapping itself around the vehicle until finally, mercifully, our tiny world stopped moving. A few seconds of silence ticked by, and then the Land Rover rolled one last time, sitting itself back on its wheels.
Kate was the first to move. “Phil?”.
I coughed, the biting, metallic taste of blood filling my mouth. Dexy sat up and rubbed his head, groaning like someone who had just woken up with the biggest hangover ever experienced. “What happened, Bruv?”
After crawling back into the seat, I checked out of the window. Harry King wouldn’t be too far away, not now that he had us on the ropes. The infected that had tried climbing the fence were now circling around the Land Rover. One of them, an overweight elderly woman with curly white hair was looking directly at me. Her lips and chin plastered with blood that had dripped down onto her pink dressing gown. A gust of wind pulled at the gown and opened it up, revealing her naked body. She growled and loped closer to the car.
“King.” I said. “He shot the tyres out.” My head thumped like a drummer had taken up residence and was annoying the neighbours.
“Phil.” Kate was now sat in her seat and leaning towards Mason, shaking his arm. She pushed the air bag away from his face. “Phil.” Her voice becoming more insistent as she checked for signs of life.
“Is he…” I didn’t need to finish the sentence, everyone knew what I was asking.
“Dead?” Mason looked back at me and smiled. “Can’t get rid of me that easily.”
Kate slapped his arm playfully. “Wanker.”
“We need to go.” I pointed at the infected that were moving in on us, they were like jackals circling the weak, the easy prey.
“Well, we won’t be driving out of here.” Mason slammed the heel of his palm against the steering wheel.
“Danny!” The voice came from behind. “Chelsea!” I whirled around to see, “Michelle!” It was King. He jumped out of the office window, heavy boots crunching as he walked across the glass and strutted across the car park, shards of moonlight splintering across the barrel of his sniper rifle. “My boy, my girl, my wife!” He looked through the gun-sight and fired a round. The bullet obliterated the back window, safety glass rained in on us like an ice storm. The round then whizzed past my head and rocketed into the dashboard. Black plastic exploded into a cloud of dust and debris. “You’re all going to pay!”
Mason tried to open his door. “Damn it!” The car park fence had wrapped itself around the Land Rover when we rolled through it. “Come on!” He pushed harder, the fence started to give way. One of the infected, an emaciated man with a thick black beard raced toward the now open car door, his fingers scrabbling at the chain link fence.
Dexy took out his gun and looked through the hole that was once our back window. Harry King was no more than ten feet away. Dexy aimed his gun and fired. The shot ricocheted off the concrete, totally missing its target.
King stopped and smiled. “That it, Sunshine?” He looked through his gun-sight.
Mason was now kicking at his door. “This time.” He leaned back against Kate, lifted both his legs and smashed his feet into the door with all the strength he could muster. The fence tore away from the car and fell on black beard, pushing him down to the floor. Mason jumped out of the Land Rover and crouched down.
“Let’s go, then.” He poked his head through the door opening, hands gesticulating wildly for us to move.
Kate scooted across to the driver’s seat and then climbed out. Black beard howled and tried to free himself from the weight of the fence. Dexy looked at me. “You next, Bruv.” He jerked his head towards the open door. “I’ll cover.”
I dived through the opening between the front seats and spilling out onto the floor. A shot from the sniper rifle rang out. Dexy shouted in pain and the bullet hit the windscreen like a freight train, the infected waved their arms above their heads with looks of wonder on their faces as tiny squares of safety glass rained down on them.
Kate barged past me and climbed back into the Land Rover. Within seconds, she was dragging Dexy’s arms, pulling him to our relative safety. She fell onto her back and Dexy fell on top of her. I looked down at them and saw blood spreading out from the right shoulder of his hoodie.
Another of the infected came around the car, a thick set bald man, the right lens of his small round glasses were broken and a shard of glass was sticking out of his eyeball. His head kept moving to one side in a tic like a dog with an itch it can’t reach. I wrapped Dexy’s left arm around my shoulder and started to pull him to his feet. He still had a tight grip on his pistol.
“I’m alright, Bruv.” He pulled away from me and aimed at the infected that had now decided to attack. It uttered a low growl and jumped at us. Dexy squeezed the trigger. Brain and blood and bone exploded like a firework display from the back of the bald man’s head. His body was still being carried by the momentum of his leap towards us, and he fell heavily beside Kate.
I offered my hand to Kate and she grabbed it, letting me pull her to her feet. “Thanks.” She put her hand on my shoulder to steady herself.
“Can everyone run?” Mason asked.
Nobody answered, we were all tired and hurting. The last thing we needed was to sprint down the street, chased by infected and a mental sniper-cop.
King cursed loudly. I looked back and saw two infected running at him. The old lady was leading the charge, closely followed by a young boy dressed in a school uniform, one of the blazer arms was missing and I could see a large gash in his arm. The old lady’s pink dressing gown was whipping at the air behind her as she sprinted towards her prey.
“This way.” Mason pointed down the street and then started to run. We all followed close behind. I took a moment to stamp on black beard’s head as he continued his struggle to get out from under the fence.
The slap-slap-slap of our feet bounced across the buildings on either side of us. Three of the infected group gave chase, snarling and clawing at the air behind us. Dexy had overtaken us all, steaming ahead and looking back anxiously twice every second. His right arm was now hanging limp and lifeless at his side, he held his left hand across the blood stained shoulder of his hoodie.
Two shots boomed their reports behind us. The infected that were chasing us instantly changed course, running back towards the gunshots.
“I’ll find you!” Harry King shouted, his voice hoarse and grating. “Bastards!”
We turned a corner and kept running. Each of us gasping loudly with every step. My lungs felt ready to explode and I was lagging behind. Mason looked back and slowed his pace, grabbing me by the arm.
“Faster, William.” He pulled me along so roughly that I stumbled a few times, but miraculously managed to keep up with him. Terror can be a great incentive.
We turned another corner, the street was empty, no infected. At the end of the street was a park entrance, the double gates were wide open. On either side of the gates ran a tall stone wall.
“There.” Kate headed toward the park. “In there.”
As soon as we had passed through the entrance, we stopped and crouched down in a row against the wall. My legs were burning, my face was swollen and bloody, my lungs were pulling in oxygen as though the price was about to go up and my whole body ached.
I was alive.
Mason poked his head out to check the street. “I think we’re clear.” He looked at me and laughed quietly. “I think you need to work on your cardio, mate.”
I tried to smile but was too busy hawking and spitting and gasping, so I just gave the middle finger. Dexy laughed, then winced with pain. Kate shook her head in that ‘not impressed.’ way that some women have.
“Let me see that.” Kate reached for Dexy’s shoulder.
“It’s fine.” He swiftly stepped away from her. “Just scratched me.”
Kate moved quickly, slapping her palm firmly across Dexy’s mouth and using her other hand, she lightly punched his injured shoulder. If her hand hadn’t been over his mouth then I felt sure that his resulting screams would have brought every slavering, sadistic infected within fifty miles straight to our location with Harry King close behind.
“Just a scratch?” She pulled his hoodie up and over his head.
“What the…” Dexy couldn’t find the words. He held out his arms to make it easier for him to take the hoodie off.
“That was a bit much.” I said.
Kate shot me a glance that told me to shut up. Dexy stood there in his tee-shirt and we all crowded around him to examine the damage.
The moonlight reflected from blood that poured down his arm in thick rivers, flooding across his hand and finally dripping down from his fingers. The wound was just below his shoulder. The bullet had torn a thick valley from his arm, it looked like a demonic gardener had been busy digging a ditch in his flesh.
“Still safe, Phil?” Kate asked.
Phil Mason carefully checked the street beyond our location. “We’re good.”
Kate pulled a penknife from the back pocket of her black uniform trousers and hacked away at Dexy’s hoodie. Dexy sighed and leaned back against the wall. “My best hoodie, that is, Bruv.” He said, looking at me.
“We’ll get you another one.” I told him. “Right?” My question was aimed at Kate.
She had cut an arm from the hoodie and was wrapping it around Dexy’s injured arm. “How about I save his life first?” She sniffed indignantly. “Then, you girls can worry about clothes shopping.”
Dexy took a few sharp intakes of breath as the hoodie arm became a makeshift bandage. “I have to wrap it tight, so it’s going to sting.” Kate told him. “Only way to stop the bleeding.” Once that was done, she made a sling from the rest of the hoodie, tying the arm and the hood together and putting it over his head. He placed his arm into the sling, letting it take the weight.
“Take this, Bruv.” He passed his gun to me. I stared down at it as though I had never seen one before. “Point this end at the bad people.” He tapped the barrel. “And press the trigger.”
“Okay.” I said, nodding my head to affirm my understanding.
“We left the guns.” Mason peered into the darkness of the park. “This place does not look inviting at this time of night.”
“Can anyone else hear that noise?” Dexy stood beside Mason, both of them listening intently. “Like a rumbling?”
“Yeah.” Mason said. “What is that?”
I heard it too, although it sounded more like groaning to me. Like a thousand Holly-monsters filling the night air with their discontented noises of infection.
Kate was the first to move. “Well we can’t go back.” She headed further into the park, the gravel path crunching and popping underfoot.
We all followed, each of us jumping at every noise, every rustle of leaves, every crunch of gravel. The rumbling groans grew louder and louder until they roared in our ears, filling our heads. Kate turned and motioned for us to get down. We all crouched and shuffled towards her as she hid behind a tall row of bushes.
On the other side of the bushes was a massive children’s play park. It had sandpits and roundabouts, slides and swings, climbing frames and ropes, everything that any kid could possibly want.
“What the fuck…” Dexy’s voice was so hushed that we barely heard it.
The play park was full of infected. This must have been an area half the size of a football field and it was shoulder to shoulder full of them. They all stared in one direction. I pushed further into the bush, moving leaves out of the way so that I could get a better view.
Standing on top of the biggest slide was a Hoodie infected. I couldn’t tell if it was the one that had led the ambush on the Police cars. Two more Hoodies stood in front of the slide, arms folded across their chests.
A solitary street light glowed behind the Hoodie atop the slide, casting a halo around his head and long dark shadows across the crowd. He held his arms up to the sky, fingers outstretched, and growled. Then he looked across the sea of infected and made other noises; small snarls and phlegm filled utterances that moved with the intonation of language. When he had finished, his infected audience thrust their arms into the air and howled. This wasn’t like the howl of a dog left home alone for too long, this sound froze the blood in my veins and made my head hurt, it was like the mucus filled cough of en elderly smoker with a crying baby stuck in its throat.
Whatever he had just said to them, they were in full agreement.
“Oh my God.” I recoiled as the realisation cascaded across me like a bucket of ice. “It’s organising them.”
“Let’s go.” Mason said. “Now.”