The Final Diary: Entry Twenty Five
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.
Entry Twenty Five
The sting of loss had left none of us untouched, and the heavy weight of guilt hammered down without mercy.
I had smashed my infected wife’s head in with my foot. We had watched Mason shoot himself to stop being taken over by the infection, Dodge was dead, killed by a stray bullet. We had locked a door and turned ourselves into mass murderers by proxy, and a doctor chose suicide over being in our company.
None of us were innocent.
We travelled as far as we could in the minibus, which wasn’t very far at all. The further we tried to get away from London, the more blocked the roads became. Vehicles of all shapes and size had been abandoned, most of the doors had been left wide open to creak against the breeze that slithered through the streets, carrying with it the putrid stench of decay and ruination.
With no real chance of driving anywhere, we started to walk in silence. Dexy carried the body of his dead brother and while I wished that I could say something to ease his pain, I knew that saying anything at all would just cause more agony.
After a lot of walking and no talking, we searched a few houses in a very well-to-do area and decided to stay in one of them. It had five bedrooms, an indoor pool, a games room with a well stocked bar and best of all there was a walk in freezer full of food and not one single infected monster in sight.
The house had a long driveway and its expensively landscaped gardens were surrounded by a solid wall of eight foot tall conifer bushes. It was a perfect hiding place, somewhere to lick our wounds and regroup.
Dexy stayed away from everyone except for Gemma and Barney. They would walk in the gardens, talking for hours while Gemma threw a tennis ball that Barney would excitedly catch and quickly bring back for her to throw again. I’m sure that dog thought we had gone to heaven, he absolutely loved it there.
When I asked Gemma what they talked about, she told me that he was broken and she was trying to fix him, to bring him back to us.
Dexy decided to bury his young brother on our fourth day in the house. He asked for all of us to gather around the grave with him.
“Look, I just wanted to say that…” He paused for long moments, taking the time to look each of us in the eye. “I’m sorry I went off like that after…” He stared at the freshly dug earth with tears streaming down his face.
“It’s okay, son.” Jim placed his hand on Dexy’s shoulder and squeezed. “We understand.”
“I’m so sorry, Dexy.” I walked over and held out my hand.
“I know you are, Bruv.” Dexy took my offered hand and pulled me in for a hug.
We stood there for what felt like a long time, Dexy crying on my shoulder and me crying on his. My own tears weren’t borne of sadness, but of joy. I had needed his forgiveness like a scared puppy dog needs comfort. Now that he had been granted me absolution, I knew we would get past the death of Dodge and maybe find some morsel of normality within our ever-decreasing group.
Kate stood behind me, as though she were forming an orderly queue for forgiving hugs. Turns out that’s exactly what she was doing. As soon as I pulled away from Dexy, she stepped in, then Jim and finally Gemma. Each of them offering their own words of comfort and regret.
We stood at that grave all afternoon and long into the evening. A drop of rain splattered across my nose and I looked up at the sky. It started out as a small shower but quickly became a full blown rain storm. The thick sheets of rain drenched our clothes and turned our noses into waterfalls. We remained where we were, standing stoically in spite of the inclement weather. Nobody wanted to be the first person that walked away from this young boys graveside.
“I know those hoodies.” Dexy’s voice broke the silence. “Well, I knew them.”
All eyes were on him, but nobody spoke. We knew which hoodies he meant, and we seemed to have collectively decided in silence not to ask questions but to let him speak.
“The main one’s called Bryan Campbell. Big time gangster, Kate’s probably heard of him.” He looked over at Kate, his eyes searching hers for an answer.
“Yeah.” She said quietly, the word instantly swallowed up by the rain. “We couldn’t ever get anything on him, evidence or witnesses always disappeared.”
“He’s a right slippery bastard.” Dexy nodded his head and half smiled. “Anyway, him and his crew came up to me late last year, near Christmas time. They were chatting about how they had the deal of a lifetime and they wanted every crew in London to be a part of it.”
Thunder heads crashed together above us, sending echoes to explode across the rooftops. Dexy swiped the rain away from his face and continued the explanation that we had all been waiting for.
“Said they could get their hands on something brand new, a powder. I haven’t sold drugs in a long time but I kept listening.” He held his hands out and the rain danced across his palms. “Money’s money, right? It sounded good at first. They told me about the guy selling it, I can’t remember his name but he was from Eastern Europe. Bryan said this guy was fucking crazy, scars all over his face, covered in tattoos and saying that this powder would make us rule the world. When I asked how much it would sell for, Bryan said it was just for personal use.”
Barney shook the wet from his fur, decided that enough was enough, and scampered off towards the house.
“He said that something big was going to happen early this summer, and that’s when we should snort the powder. I asked what was going to happen but he got well cagey about it, said he couldn’t tell me, but told me to call him if I wanted the stuff, and that he’d text everyone on the day. Sounded like a massive wind-up to me so I didn’t bother calling him. Next time I see him and his crew, they’re in charge of those zombie looking things at the hospital and shouting my name, like they’re taking the piss, laughing because I didn’t turn myself into whatever they are.” He looked up at the erupting sky and allowed the rain to pour across his face.
“I should have taken it more seriously.” He lowered his head and stared down at his brother’s grave. “Should have asked more questions. Warned somebody, stopped this from happening. I could have saved all my boys that got killed back at the flats. I could have saved my own brother.”
“It would have sounded like fucking bullshit to me too.” Jim said. “Go easy on yourself, there’s nothing you could have done. No fucker would have believed you.”
“There could be more of them?” Kate asked, her gaze fixed on the grave.
“Could be a gang of them in every borough for all I know.” Dexy looked at the house. “Let’s go inside.”
While we were all trudging back to the house, Jim pulled at my arm to slow me down.
“If those hoodie fucks are all over London, organising their armies,” He had waited until everyone else was a safe distance ahead before speaking. “Then we’ve got no choice. We have to try and get out.”
“You think it’s even possible?” I remembered Jim explaining to us that leaving town was a non-starter of an idea.
“No.” He wiped his hand across his bald head, skimming the rain down his back. “But our alternative is to sit here and wait for them to come and kill us. We can’t fight this war, we have to run.”
“Let’s wait until the morning before we say anything.” I glanced back at Dexy, Gemma and Kate. “Let them get one more good nights sleep.”
“As you say, William.” Jim walked past me, stroking his sodden moustache. “As you say.”
“As nice as this place is,” Kate dug around inside the box of cheerios that she held and scooped a handful into her mouth. “Staying here is just delaying the inevitable.”
“They found us at the hospital.” Gemma sank into the oversized brown leather armchair beside the couch that Kate and I were sitting in. She patted her lap and Barney jumped into it. She smiled down at the dog and scratched his ears. “Shame though, I like it here.”
“Dexy?” Jim was sitting on his own couch, opposite ours. He looked back at Dexy who was standing in front of the huge bay window. “Are you with us?”
Dexy continued to stare through the window, his shoulders were sunken and his head low. the morning sun splashed across his face but failed to raise his spirits. He sighed and shrugged with resignation. “Whatever, Bruv.”
“Which way are we heading?” I sat forward and clasped my hands onto my knees.
“North.” Jim said.
“What, like, North, north?” Gemma stopped scratching Barney’s ears, sat up and scowled. “Like, where Northerners live?”
“It’s better than taking our chances with the army of crazies.” Kate took another handful of cheerios and stuffed them in her mouth, smacking her lips as she chewed.
“That’s debatable.” Gemma sank back into her chair and pouted.
“We’re all agreed then.” Jim clapped his hands on his thighs and abruptly jumped up. “Everyone grab as much food and water as you can carry and be ready to fuck off in thirty minutes.”
We stayed where we were, all wearing the same solemn look on our faces.
“Cheer up, for fucks sake.” Jim pointed out of the bay window. “At least it’s stopped raining.”
I don’t think I’ve ever walked as much as I did that day. Having to carry a shopping bag full of food didn’t help and I kept needing to rest every half hour.
We saw small groups of infected but managed to avoid them. They seemed lost, wandering around aimlessly like they were looking for something to do, something to kill. I was still bitter about all that we had lost, and would have preferred to shoot every one of them. Jim reminded me that one gunshot could bring every infected in the area down on us. The thought of having another horde to deal with was sobering enough to quell my thirst for revenge.
The sun started to sink down into the horizon and set the heavens on fire with its dark orange hue.
“Over there.” Jim stabbed his index finger in the air, pointing at something on the other side of the road. Then he looked back at us with all the excitement of a little boy that had just been given his first bicycle.
“Where?” Dexy ducked down, worried that Jim was pointing out some infected that we hadn’t spotted yet.
“That shop.” Jim darted across the road and headed straight for a shop. “Exactly what we need.”
We followed and stood behind him as he cupped his hands on the display window and peered inside. The window display had a male mannequin that was dressed in camouflage gear and standing beside a green domed one-man tent. A camping stove was set up in front of the tent entrance, with metal plates and pans scattered around it.
“Fucking perfect.” I swear that Jim was drooling on the window.
I looked up at the sign above the display window.
Gemma moved past us, grabbed the door handle and pulled. The door opened and Barney ran inside, tail wagging.
“They’re open.” Gemma said.
Jim rushed past her and stopped just inside the shop.
“Let’s go shopping.” He glanced over his shoulder at us and rubbed his hands together.
When we were all inside and the door was closed, Jim moved briskly up and down the aisles grabbing boots and clothes.
“This place has got everything!” He was piling items in front of us while we looked on, smiling at the excited little kid that he had become.
Kate leaned over and whispered in my ear. “Never seen him this happy.”
I laughed into my hand, hoping that Jim wouldn’t notice us mocking him.
When Jim was done, he stood on the opposite side of the gear mountain with his hands on his hips.
“Well?” He raised his eyebrows and stared at us expectantly. “Find your sizes and get dressed.”
“You want us to wear this crap?” Gemma looked down at the heap of camouflage and then at Jim.
“Oh this isn’t crap, Gemma.” Jim leaned down and pulled a jacket out of the pile, holding it up for us all to see. “This is top quality multicam equipment.” He dropped the jacket and then rummaged through the clothes until he finally pulled out what looked like thermal underwear.
“See this?” He waved the garments at us. “This is your base layer, quick drying and keeps you warm in the winter and cool in the summer.” He went down on his knees and pulled out more items, showing us each one and telling us what it’s use was. “We’ve got waterproof boots, knee pads, wash kits.” He threw one of the wash kits up to me, it was a wallet with a velcro fastening that opened up to reveal a toothbrush, toothpaste, razor and a small shaving mirror.
“What else is there?” Dexy took the wash kit from me and nodded his approval.
“Side-arm holsters and rifle cases with shoulder straps, tactical vests with plenty of ammo pouches, torches with a compass, head torches, patrol packs, bi-fucking-noculars, water filtration kits,” He passed one of each up to us in succession, the smile on his face never once faded. “Medical kits, cooking equipment, waterproof boots that let your feet breathe and won’t fall apart in five minutes like that high street label shit you kids buy.”
“Take a breath, Jim.” Kate said.
It was quite a shopping list.
“Best of all.” He stood up with a huge blade in his hand and a wicked grin on his face. “Foot long machetes.”
I have to admit, I was sold. If you’re travelling through a war zone, you might as well dress like a warrior.
“This is some good shit, Bruv.” Dexy smiled for the first time in days. Jim’s enthusiasm was infectious.
“Yeah,” Gemma agreed begrudgingly. “It’s okay.”
“Come on then!” Jim sounded like a drill instructor, barking his orders at us. “Gear the fuck up.”
We slept in the store that night, and in the morning we left, fully geared up and heading North.
After we had been walking for a couple of hours Jim stopped suddenly and crouched down behind an abandoned tow truck, a wave of his hand told us to do the same.
“What’s wrong?” Gemma asked, her voice barely even a whisper.
Jim placed his finger across his lips and then pointed at the road ahead.
I craned my neck and peered over the tow trucks bonnet. Two figures were moving towards us, slowly and methodically checking every doorway and every vehicle. Each of the figures held a rifle.
“Survivors?” I quickly ducked out of sight, and sat on the floor with my back resting against the front wheel.
Jim slipped his backpack off, pulled one of the side pockets open and took out a set of binoculars. He crept over to me, raised his head up over the tow truck and looked through the binoculars.
“Fucks sake.” He glanced down at us for a second and then returned to the binoculars. “Army. Something’s not right though, there’s only two of them.”
“That’s a good thing, right, Bruv?” Dexy looked up at Jim hopefully.
“No, not fucking good. They look like a standard four man infantry fire team.” Jim pulled away from the binoculars and sat beside me.
“You said there were two of them.” Kate said.
“I know what I fucking well said, Sweetheart.” Jim’s eyes narrowed and he pulled his pistol from the quick release holster around his leg.
“So where are the…” Gemma never got to ask that question.
“Put down the firearm, Sir!” A voice boomed across the street. “Right now!”
Two soldiers dressed in full combat gear and gas masks moved out from the bottom corner of the street with their automatic rifles aimed at us.
“Just do as they say.” Jim quickly placed the pistol on the road and put his hands behind his head.
“Got some live ones down here, Tommo.” The one that had shouted spoke into his radio. “On your twelve, blue truck.”
The second soldier quickly made his way across the road and stopped six feet away from us, went down on one knee and stared at us through the scope of his weapon. I’d never been so close to a gun like that, it looked serious but not as serious as the soldier holding it. I was in no doubt that if any of us moved, we were dead.
“Now all of you on your knees and put your hands behind your head, interlocking your fingers.” The first soldier walked past his colleague and stood over us.
We all obeyed his order and were soon in a straight line and on our knees looking like we were waiting to be executed. Barney laid beside Gemma and growled at the soldiers.
“Please don’t kill us.” I stared up at the soldier but he didn’t even look at me.
I heard the footfalls of the other two soldiers coming quickly from behind. They came into sight and as soon as they clapped eyes on us, they had their weapons aimed and ready.
“What the bloody hell are you doing here?” The first soldier asked. “And why were you about to fire on my men?”
“What’s your name, Corporal?” Jim showed no fear as he stared at the soldier.
“I ask the questions.” The Corporal said, his voice deep and muffled through the gas mask.
“We’re just trying to get out.” I told him. “We’ve been through hell.”
“My name is Jim Croft, retired Captain of Delta Squadron, special forces.” Jim looked at each soldier in turn, finally glaring at the Corporal. “I’ve been in zones that would make you piss your pants, so if you want this situation to end well for you and your men, stop treating us like enemy combatants and tell me your name.”
The rest of us winced as Jim spoke, expecting to be shot dead as a result of his diplomatic technique.
The Corporal lowered his gun and looked at his men.
“Orders are to shoot anyone that’s been in contact with the virus.” The one that had closed in on us first shrugged his shoulders.
“They look like they’re FFI, Corporal.” One of the other soldiers said.
I gave Jim a questioning look and he grinned. “Free from infection.” He told me.
“Where did you serve?” The Corporal asked.
“Everywhere, Son.” Jim eyed the Corporal and smiled. “Ever heard of Operation Kestrel?”
“I have!” The FFI soldier said excitedly. “One of our ‘planes carrying paratroopers was shot down in the Gulf, fifteen survivors were taken prisoner. The SAS raided the town where they were being held and tortured, rescued every one of them.”
“Everyone’s heard of that, doesn’t prove anything.” The Corporal was unimpressed.
“I led that mission.” Jim’s chest swelled with pride.
They didn’t believe him at first, but after a long discussion laden with acronyms that I didn’t understand, Jim managed to convince them. The Corporal allowed us to stand up and his men lowered their guns.
“You’re a bloody hero, Sir.” The Corporal shook Jim’s hand vigorously. “I’m Corporal Matt Ellis.” He pointed at the soldier that had been with him when we first met. “This here’s Legsy, you’ve never seen anyone run as fast as he can.”
“It’s an honour, Sir.” Legsy leaned in and shook Jim’s hand.
“Good to meet you, Legsy.” Jim patted him on the shoulder.
“These two are Rossy and Tommo.”
Rossy and Tommo each came to shake the hand of the hero. Once all the introductions were out of the way, Jim decided to start asking some questions.
“What’s the situation then?” He leaned down and picked his pistol up, shoving it into the holster. “Are we winning?”
“We had roadblocks set up but they were attacked and some of the infected got through.” Ellis told us.
“They got through?” Kate’s eyes were wide with shock. “When?”
“Four days ago.”
“Have they been found?” Jim asked. “Is it under control?”
“Under control?” Ellis almost laughed at the notion. “It’s spreading like bloody wildfire. We tried pushing them back, but there’s so many of them.”
“We’re getting ready for battle. Satellites saw the infected gathering in central London.” Legsy added. “Now they’re coming this way. Thousands of them.”
“Another group of them just left Essex.” Ellis said. “Also heading this way.”
“So we’re stuck in the middle of a fucking pincer formation?” Jim’s hand swept across his bald head.
“You’re stuck in the middle of a war, Sir.” Rossy looked up and down the road. “And you’re on the losing side.”
“Shut it, Rossy.” Tommo snapped the words out angrily. “We’re sick of hearing that shit.”
“Foxtrot-Three-Fiver, this is base camp, what’s your status Foxtrot? Over.” We all jumped at the voice that blared through Ellis’s radio.
“That’s us. Excuse me.” Ellis walked to the other side of the road and had a conversation with the voice from base camp. When he was done, he came back over to us.
“Look, we’ve got a camp set up a mile down that way.” He pointed in the direction that Rossy and Tommo had come from. “We can take you all there and see about getting you to safety.”
“Sounds good.” Gemma walked past us all and headed towards the army camp.
“On we go, then.” Jim picked up his bag and followed her.
“Our C.O is going to want to talk with you.” Ellis walked briskly, trying to keep up with Jim’s long strides.
“Oh, we’ve got a lot to talk about.” Jim glanced back at me. “Isn’t that right, William?”
I nodded my head in reply. I didn’t trust these soldiers even if Jim did. All I could think about was the mountain of burned corpses at the hospital. A heinous crime, one that Doctor Webb had told me was committed by the army.
“He’s been writing all about this.” Jim told Ellis. “Everything we’ve seen, he’s written about it.”
I tried to hope that everything was going to be okay, but my heart wouldn’t allow me to. Kate had once said “Nothing’s ever easy with you lot, is it?” How true that was. As the song goes, “If it wasn’t for bad luck…”