The Final Diary: Entry Twenty Four
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 Four
We looked at each other in turn and then at the door, all of us wide eyed and mouths gaping.
“What the fuck?” Dexy was the one to say the phrase that went through all our minds. “Do they expect us to answer the door?”
“All those people.” The words tumbled from Doctor Webb’s lips almost imperceptibly. “All those people.”
I moved across and placed my hand on his shoulder, giving a comforting squeeze.
“I know. I’m sorry.” My words seemed trite, inadequate. What words would be right in this situation? I couldn’t think of any that held enough weight to convey how terrible I felt about what had happened behind that door. Suddenly my mind was distracted with the possibility that not all those people had been killed and were becoming infected crazies right there and then.
This was a war that couldn’t be won.
“Don’t touch me.” Doctor Webb jerked away from me like a nervous cat. “You people.” He backed up and pointed an accusing finger, waving it to encompass each one of us. “They were right about you. You’re bad people.”
Jim walked past the Doctor as though he wasn’t there and headed for the door.
“Jim where you going?” Dexy went after him. “Don’t even think of opening that door, this ain’t like back at the flats, Bruv. There’s thousands of those fuckers now.”
“I think it’s saying something.” Jim waved his hand dismissively and continued on his course.
Curiosity got the better of us and we were all gathered around the door, listening for a voice. All of us except Doctor Webb, who was now looking down at the car park from the wall where Jim and King had been shooting.
“There.” Jim pressed his ear against the door and spoke quietly to us. “Did you hear it?”
I shrugged non-committally. All I could hear was low growling and the occasional thud followed by a wet slopping sound.
“I can’t hear nothing.” Dexy said.
“Me either.” Kate shook her head and eyed the door suspiciously.
We all jumped back as three more knocks pounded against the door, each one louder and more insistent than the first.
The only one that didn’t gasp at the voice was Jim, who instead gave us a ‘told you so’ look.
“Nah, Bruv.” Dexy shook his head and moved further back from the door. “Nah, fuck that. It ain’t saying what I think it’s saying.”
The voice hissed like a punctured lung.
Jim eyed him impassively and shrugged. “It’s saying your fucking name.”
We all turned and faced Dexy, demanding an explanation with our silence.
“Why’s it saying your name, Blud?” Dodge furrowed his brows and regarded his brother with questioning eyes.
“Whatever. We’ve all seen those things, they just growl and shit, they can’t talk.” Dexy gesticulated wildly as he tried to convince us, or himself, that it hadn’t said his name. “That’s messed up, why would it even say my name?”
As if in answer, the infected behind the door knocked again.
“Shut up!” Dexy ran at the door and kicked it. “Just shut the fuck up!” He kicked again and again until Jim grabbed him from behind and pulled him away.
“Behave yourself.” Jim said through gritted teeth.
“Do you know something about this?” Kate asked in a matter-of-fact Police investigation way. “The bombs? The infection? Do you know who’s behind it all?”
“No!” Dexy looked shocked at the question and squirmed out of Jim’s grasp. “Why would you ask me that?”
“He’s lying.” King nodded his head knowingly, narrowed his eyes and jabbed an index finger at the air between himself and Dexy. “You’re lying, Sunshine.”
“Dexy?” I didn’t want to believe it, I couldn’t believe it. I had become friends with him, shared a cell with him, been through hell with him. He had never given me a reason to think he knew more about this shitstorm than I did. What if, though? What if? I hated myself for doubting him.
“William, Bruv.” He held his hands out, palms facing the darkening sky. “You’ve got to believe me. What, just ’cause he say’s I’m lying, you all doubt me now?” He gave King a ferocious glance and then stared at me like a wounded dog. “You saw what he did, look at what he did to your face, Bruv!” He threw up his arms and let out an exasperated sigh. “Know what? I’m done with this bullshit.” He turned his back on us and walked towards the fire escape. “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll get the fuck out of here, too.”
“Dexy.” Jim had taken the pistol from his belt and aimed it at Dexy. He pulled back the hammer and the unmistakeable click stopped Dexy in his tracks. “We’re not done here.”
“You gonna shoot me, Bruv?” Dexy didn’t look back at us, but kept his gaze firmly fixed on the fire escape.
“Only if you force me to.” Jim said with a stern no-nonsense look on his face.
This time I heard some of the infected behind the door start laughing. Not an all out human laugh but more of a spluttering snicker, halfway between the wheeze of a heavy smoker and the maniacal laugh of a Saturday morning cartoon show villain. They were fully aware of what was happening on our side of the door and revelled at the wedge that had been driven between our group. The longer they were infected, the less they seemed like wild animals that were only able to focus on the next kill. I’m no zoologist, but I do know that laughing shows intelligence and understanding, however minimal it may be.
When I turned to tell everyone my insight, I saw Doctor Webb standing in front of our gun bag, aiming a shotgun at us.
“You’re bad people!” His face was hateful and twisted, bulging and bloodshot eyes stared down the barrel of the shotgun. “Bad people!”
I silently admonished myself for almost agreeing with him.
We weren’t bad, we were victims of circumstance. The infected had kept us in a constant state of stressed reaction, most of the plans we made just didn’t happen and the ones that did, had left us in even more shit than when we started. None of this was our fault. If the hospital survivors hadn’t been so intent on hurting us, they would have been on the roof with us, in relative safety.
It wasn’t our fault. It wasn’t.
Jim was the first to react, moving his pistol from Dexy to the Doctor.
“Don’t shoot him, Sunshine.” King said. “He might be the last doctor in London.”
“You know that’s not true, Mervyn.” I decided that I was going to talk him down. My turn to be the hero. “What happened here,” I waved my arm back towards the door while slowly moving towards Doctor Webb. “It wasn’t our fault. They were going to kill us.”
“And now they’re dead!” His voice cracked with nervous energy and he aimed the shotgun at me.
“Yeah.” I said solemnly, keeping my gaze firmly locked on his. “Yeah they are, and we’re sorry that it happened like this.” I had walked past Jim and stood beside Dexy. “But shooting at us won’t change anything.” I glanced back at Jim. “He’s just going to shoot you back. Nobody wins here, Mervyn.”
The infected had started throwing themselves against the roof door, each thump making us all that much more skittish.
“It won’t take them long to get through.” As much as I was trying to sound soothing and calm, the noise from the door forced me to raise my voice. “Just come with us. We can get through this. We can live.”
His face told me that I was getting through to him, the hatred was ebbing away. “You’re wrong.” He lowered the gun and allowed it to slip from his fingers, the cold metal of the barrel clattered against the rooftop. “We can’t live.” Tears streamed down his face and he wiped them away with his sleeve.
“Yes.” I said. “We can.” I held out my hand. “Just come with us.”
“Running and hiding isn’t living, William.” He looked down at the car park and then gave me a smile that chilled me to the core. “Good luck.”
I sprinted towards him and he stepped up onto the small wall. Everyone behind me cried “No!” as loudly as they could but it had no effect. He calmly leaned forward with his arms outstretched and fell out of sight. When I had reached the wall I looked over and saw him lying on the ground far below us, a large sphere of blood had burst from his head and his limbs were twisted at unnatural angles. A few infected stragglers stood at a distance and carefully regarded the dead body, then they looked up at me and I quickly backed away from the wall. Doctor Webb had taken the cowardly way out, the path of least resistance.
That went well. Good job playing hero, William.
King stood beside me, placed his hands on the wall and peered down.
“Messy.” He took a sharp, over-dramatic intake of breath and clucked his tongue.
The others had gathered round and each taken a look for themselves, as though they didn’t fully believe he was dead.
Jim put the shotgun and two rifles back in the bag and hefted it over his shoulder. “Fucking idiot.” He looked down at Doctor Webb’s broken body and shook his head.
Another loud crash came from the door and startled us all.
“Can we just go, now?” Gemma folded her arms across her chest and nervously eyed the door that weakened with every subsequent blow.
“What about him?” King inclined his head in Dexy’s direction.
Dexy was still standing where Jim had stopped him.
“He comes with us.” Jim said.
“But if he knows something about all this.” The scar across King’s face seemed to pulsate with anger.
“He’ll tell us. Just not right now.” Jim walked across the roof. “Come on Dexy, we’ve got a fucking bus to catch.”
A huge, toothy smile lit Dexy’s face up and he ran across to us, relieved that the interrogation had been postponed.
The fire escape was old and creaked angrily at each step we took. The red-painted metal grille steps were more rust than paint. The general consensus was that moving down as quickly as possible would work better than taking each step slowly and deliberately, I would have opted for nice and careful over dangerously reckless but I also didn’t want to be the one right at the back, taking things easy when the infected managed to smash their way through that door.
Our footsteps clanged noisily on our way down and I was certain that the infected would hear, even my breathing and pulse sounded like someone was pressing a foghorn to my ears.
Jim was the first to put his feet back on the ground, closely followed by Barney, who wagged his tail and panted happily all the way down. It felt good to finally have grass beneath my feet, it even fooled me into thinking that we were safer down here.
“Which way to the bus?” Jim looked to me for an answer.
I took a few moments to get my bearings and then pointed vaguely in the direction I thought I had seen the minibus.
“Down there, I think.” I told him.
“Oh, he thinks.” King’s upper lip twisted up into a snarl. “Well, thank God that our lives are in your hands, Sunshine.”
“It was outside the room where they fixed Dexy’s arm.” I ignored King but felt his cruel gaze burning into the back of my head.
Jim nodded and put the bag of guns on the ground.
“Let’s tool up before we go.” He opened the bag to reveal the treasure trove of rifles, shotguns and pistols. He then crouched down and passed a pistol to each of us, except Kate, who was still holding her shotgun. “Right then. Everyone keep in tight behind me and we’ll move quickly and quietly.”
Barney had wandered over to the bag and stuck his head inside, sniffing carefully at the weapons inside. Jim swatted him roughly and Barney scrambled away from the bag with his tail still wagging as he stared playfully at the mountain of a man.
“Dodge, keep your fucking dog under control, will you?” Jim said.
“He was just looking.” Dodge pushed past Dexy and scooped Barney up in his arms.
“Kate and King, I want you two to watch our rear.” Jim was still staring at Barney who was now licking Dodge’s face.
“Got it.” King popped the clip of his pistol, checked the ammo and then slammed it back into place.
“Don’t knock the fucking sight on that one.” Jim narrowed his eyes and grinned maliciously. “Sunshine.”
I couldn’t help smiling at Jim’s joke but nobody else did, least of all, King.
We walked along the back of the hospital with Jim in the lead, Dexy and Dodge behind him, then me and Gemma. Kate and King walked backwards, weapons at the ready.
The inevitable explosion of splintering wood echoed across the hospital grounds and we all stopped to look up. The hoodie infected was the first that we saw.. He jumped onto the fire escape and pointed down at us, chattering nonsensically at the rest of the army that rushed to the edge of the roof and stared at us. The other four hoodies that we had seen in the car park crowded around the leader and repeated the noises that he made.
The hoodies raced down the fire escape and the rest of the infected followed. A long line of bloodthirsty crazies biting and scratching at the air with deadly anticipation.
“We better get a wiggle on!” King shouted over his shoulder.
Jim picked up the pace and we followed, moving at a rate that wasn’t quite a jog but faster than a power walk.
The hoodies reached the ground quickly and stood there glaring at us while they waited for the rest of their army to get down the fire escape. As each infected jumped off the last step, they stood behind the five hoodies.
Dexy looked back and stopped dead, causing me to crash into him and Kate and King subsequently bumped into me.
“What the hell?” Kate turned and glared at me angrily, then she saw Dexy. “Dexy? You alright?”
“I said stay right behind me.” Jim whirled around angrily. “What’s the fucking problem?”
“I thought they were chatting shit.” Dexy spoke in barely a whisper. “I swear down, I didn’t believe them.”
“Believe who?” Kate asked. “What’s going on, Dexy?”
The crowd beneath the fire escape was getting bigger with every second, and a familiar chill was creeping into my belly at the sight of them.
Hello fear, my old friend. Glad you could make it.
“It doesn’t fucking matter.” Jim spat the words through a snarl and grabbed Dexy’s shoulder, pulling roughly to turn him around. “If you don’t want to get eaten then fucking move your arses.”
A loud creak followed by a sharp metallic pop burst into the air and the fire escape pulled away from the wall, groaning as it went. The five hoodies looked up and chattered angrily with each other while the fire escape full of crazies fell towards them. They dived out of it’s way, but the army of infected that had crowded behind them were so focused on us that they didn’t even see it coming.
The huge tangle of steel and monsters hammered down to the ground, crushing part of the mob beneath its weight, blood and frenzied howls surged up into the twilight sky. None of the monsters that had been unaffected came to help their fallen brethren, instead, they climbed over the fire escape and the bodies while staring and growling at us.
“About time we got lucky.” Gemma put both hands on Dexy’s back and pushed him. “Move, you muppet.”
We started walking again and were soon back at our original pace.
“They’re getting frisky.” King said.
I glanced over my shoulder to see the main hoodie raise both his arms and then drop them to his sides and start racing towards us at an inhuman speed. The rest of the hoodies and their army followed him, a dark mass of monstrous cruelty sprinting across the grass to kill us or fill their ranks with us.
Jim looked back and barked one single word at us.
As fast as we could, feet slapping against the grass, all looking back anxiously to see how close the infected were and then finding that extra particle of energy to give our legs more speed. Barney had his front legs over Dodge’s shoulder and was growling at our homicidal pursuers, his white fangs bared and ready.
I spotted an opening in the walls ahead of us and was filled with elation when I realised that it was the small paved area where I’d seen the minibus.
“There!” The adrenalin coursing its way through me made me feel as though I would explode at any moment. “It’s in there!”
We ducked into the small area and sure enough, the minibus stood there in all its splendour. It was more of a mini van than bus, with only six double seats on each side but to us it was the finest minibus we had ever laid eyes on.
Kate shoved her shotgun into Gemma’s arms and ran to the big sliding door on the left side of the bus. She pulled the key out of her pocket and quickly unlocked the door. It screeched angrily as it slid along rusted runners when she pushed it open. We all piled inside and Kate dived into the drivers seat. She looked back nervously and then slammed the key into the ignition. The engine roared into life and the gearbox squealed as she fought with the stick. The bus lurched forward after she had won the battle with the gears and we drove out of the small paved area. I rushed into the double front passenger seat and Gemma sat next to me, between Kate and myself.
I looked through the side window and saw that the infected were within arms reach of us.
“Get the door!” I heard Jim yelling behind me when the main hoodie slammed into my door with a maniacal grin on his face and murder in his eyes.
The sliding door sang out its lamentation as King and Dexy heaved it across and locked it. More infected threw themselves at the side of the bus while others hammered their fists against the windows.
Kate stamped her foot down on the accelerator and we soon left the infected behind.
“Nice one!” Dodge jumped up and banged his hands against the roof in jubilation.
“Go right around the hospital and stop at the gate where we came in.” Jim was staring out of the back window while giving his orders.
The infected hadn’t given up yet. They were chasing after us relentlessly.
“Okay.” She looked stern and pensive, totally absorbed with escaping this hospital of horror.
Jim rifled through his pockets and produced Gavin’s keys. He worked one of them off the hoops and handed it to King.
“What’s this?” King took the key and stared at it blankly.
“Gate key.” Jim told him. “You’ll be jumping out and unlocking the gate.”
“Now just hold on a minute!” King tried passing the key back but Jim turned away and continued his vigil at the back window.
Kate slammed down on the brakes and the bus shuddered to a halt. She turned to face King.
“Give me the key and get out, then.” She pursed her lips and stared at him through narrowed eyes.
“What?” King was as surprised as the rest of us at her outburst.
“If you don’t want to help,” Kate’s face flushed red with anger. “Then you can just fuck off and make some new friends.” She nodded her head towards the back window, through which we could see the infected still giving chase.
“Fine. Don’t get your knickers in a twist.” King sat back in his chair and pouted. “I’ll do it.”
“Good.” Kate released the brake and started driving to the gate, swerving to avoid bodies of the infected that Jim and King had shot from the roof.
The monstrous clamour of the infected horde grew louder and as soon as I looked back, I wished that I hadn’t. Blood-soaked and wild, they kept on coming. They moved as one, athletic beyond human capabilities, never seeming to tire, even the ones that had been overweight or unhealthy before they became infected had found new energy. They were driven by the sole purpose of slaughter and that dark determination was fixed on each inhuman face.
“They’re not giving up.” Jim turned from the back window to face us. “We’ll have to get that gate open very fucking quickly.”
“You mean I will. Not we” King’s face twisted with ugly derision.
“As you say, Mister King.” Jim winked and smiled at the psychotic sergeant. “As you say.”
“We’re here.” Kate brought the minibus to a sudden stop and the momentum carried us all forward slightly.
Jim bolted out of his seat and prepared to pull the sliding door. King took a deep breath and got up slowly.
“Ready?” Jim stared at King expectantly.
“Born ready, Sunshine.” King said in a humourless monotone.
“Go, go, go!” Jim pulled the door open effortlessly, despite the grumblings of its stiff, rusted runners.
Sergeant King rushed through the opening with the key in one hand and a pistol in the other. As he passed my side window, he pointed to the headlights which Kate dutifully switched on, casting the night shadows from the gate. While King was fumbling with the lock we were all watching the horde get closer.
“William.” Kate said my name in a low, hushed tone.
I looked across and she gazed intently into my eyes. Then she glanced over at King who had finally unlocked the gate and was about to pull it open. She looked back at me and raised her eyebrows questioningly.
I saw the unspoken question swimming through her eyes, I saw it etched into her face, felt it radiating from her. I knew exactly what she wanted from me.
“Yes or no?” She asked.
“What you going on about?” Gemma looked at Kate and then me. “Yes or no, what?”
I smiled wryly and watched King pull the gate open wide enough for us to drive through. I shot a glance to my side door mirror and saw the infected were about thirty feet away and moving even faster now that we had stopped to offer them a window of opportunity. King started jogging back to the minibus.
“Yes.” I stared ahead and gritted my teeth.
Kate nodded her head and a cruel grin snaked across her lips. She stamped down on the accelerator, thrusting the minibus towards the open gate.
“Woah, woah!” King sidestepped to avoid being hit as we speeded past him. “Wait!”
He raced towards us and dived for the still open door. Unfortunately for us, the minibus couldn’t manage zero to sixty in three seconds and King managed to get a grip on the door, his feet still running to keep up.
“Don’t do this!” His voice was full of desperation and fear. “Don’t you fucking dare!”
He tried to swing his feet up into the minibus but missed and instead of running alongside us, he was now being dragged along, holding on to the door with one hand, the other gripping his pistol which he started to raise at me.
“Looks like you’re catching the next bus,” Jim kicked at King’s fingers. “Sunshine.”
He kicked again but King wouldn’t relinquish his grip so Jim stepped half in and half out of the doorway and held onto the roof. King managed to squeeze off a shot but it fired harmlessly outside of the minibus. Jim raised his foot and then powered it down into King’s face. I watched through the side mirror as King let go of the door and tumbled across the road.
“I don’t like surprises.” Jim pulled the door and slammed it into place.
I was still watching King. He scrambled to his feet and aimed his gun at the minibus.
“Get down!” I ducked down and pulled Gemma with me just as the first shot echoed through the night.
The back window shattered inwards, spraying glass over the floor. Jim dived across to the open window and pulled his own gun from his belt. He aimed the gun at King but didn’t fire.
I peeked over my seat to see what was going on. The infected were almost within kissing distance of King, although kissing was the last thing on their minds. He took a couple more pot-shots at us and then turned to face the horde. For a fleeting moment I thought he was going to go down fighting but instead, he set off running. We watched him race along the hospital fence and the infected turned to pursue him even though the hoodies were chittering and howling and pointing at us. When the blood lust is at fever pitch, even the most obedient crazies stop listening.
“Good riddance.” Kate said.
“I don’t know,” Jim smiled mischievously. “I was starting to like him. How about you, Dexy?”
I waited for an answer that never came. I was starting to feel as if things were going our way, as if we were getting closer to the fabled light at the end of the tunnel.
I was wrong.
“Oh, God.” Gemma was the first to look around.
Dexy was kneeling beside the seat that Dodge had been sitting on, he held his hands across his face. They were covered in blood.
I could hear Barney whimpering from behind the seat. Jim moved closer to see what was happening and then he looked at me, his eyes full of sadness.
“What did you do?” Dexy fired a glance full of anger at me and then stared into the rear view mirror, seeking out Kate’s eyes. “The fuck did you do?”
I still wasn’t sure what had happened.
“What’s wrong?” Kate looked at Dexy through the mirror.
Dexy leaned across his brother’s seat and pulled Dodge into his arms. Barney padded across and licked Dodge’s hand, whimpering dolefully with each stroke of his tongue..
“I’m sorry.” Jim slumped down into the seat beside Dexy and placed a hand on his shoulder.
“The fuck did you do?” Dexy pulled away from Jim’s hand and rested his forehead on that of his brother.
Kate stopped the minibus and Gemma climbed over the front seat to kneel beside Dexy. She looked back at me with eyes full of tears.
“Is he…” Kate didn’t want to say it.
None of us wanted to say it.
“Check his pulse.” Gemma gently took Dodge’s hand in hers and put her fingers across his wrist.
“He’s got a big hole in the back of his head.” Dexy grabbed his brother’s hand away from Gemma. “He’s dead and it’s their fault!” He looked at me and Kate through bloodshot eyes, his face stained with tear streams.
Dodge looked so young in his brother’s arms, his face unblemished and peaceful. Sometimes we forgot how young he was, he seemed so capable but in reality, he was just a little boy.
“No.” I scrambled over my seat and crawled across to Dexy on my hands and knees. “No. King did this, not us.”
I wasn’t sure that I believed what I was saying, guilt pushed down on my shoulders and jabbed it’s knee into my head.
Dexy gave me a murderous look and before I knew what was happening he had dived past Gemma, pushed me onto my back and was sat on my chest with his fingers curled around each of my ears.
“You should have told us you were going to leave him there!” He pulled my head up and smashed it back down onto the minibus floor. ”
“Dexy, no… please.” Dark spots danced across my vision.
“We could have got ready!” He released one of my ears and raised his fist high into the air. “You stupid wanker!”
Just as he was about to slam his fist into my face, Jim grabbed his arm and dragged him away from me.
“Enough.” He wrapped his arms around Dexy. “That’s enough.”
“I’ll kill you.” Dexy struggled to get free of Jim’s grip but couldn’t manage it.
He kicked his feet out at me and cried out with rage.
Barney ignored us all and was laying beside Dodge, with his head on the boys chest.
“We’re sorry, Dexy.” Jim tightened his arms, pulling Dexy even more firmly into the bear hug.
“Kill you.” Dexy stopped struggling and sobbed uncontrollably, his body heaving with each broken breath. He looked up at Jim. “My brother’s dead, Jim. My fucking brother.”
“I know, son.” Jim rested his chin on the top of Dexy’s head, his eyes full of melancholy. A single tear dripped down onto his cheek. “I know.”
“I’m so sorry.” I pulled myself into a sitting position, put my head in my hands and allowed my own tears to fall. “So sorry.”
“Let’s go, Kate.” Jim said.
No more words were spoken. We drove off into the night and silently mourned the loss of a young boy.