The Final Diary: Entry Twenty One
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 One
We buried them in a small garden on the hospital grounds. It felt strange burying these two people when there was a pile of charred bodies just around the corner. The short ceremony consisted of Kate telling us that Mason was a good man and Don informing everyone that he and Gavin were planning on buying a house together, then he burst into tears. No hymns were sung, no prayers said. There were two shallow holes in the ground, two bodies wrapped in blankets and two mourners stood beside the graves when everyone else had left.
“I didn’t like him.” Jim had said to me as we walked back to the hospital. “But I was glad to have him on our side.”
If it hadn’t been for Mason, I would have never escaped from the Chief Inspector. He was the one that dragged me along when I couldn’t run fast enough.
I was going to miss him.
Sean and his group had chosen not to pay their respects. They hadn’t explained why, but it seemed clear to me that they felt guilty and didn’t think they would be welcome if they had showed their faces at the burial. That was probably a good call, but it also made the rift between us all that much wider.
That night, our small group retreated to the third floor of the hospital. We found a clean ward with more than enough beds and staked our claim to it.
“This looks good.” Jim sat on the bed that faced the door. “We need to stay together, in case any of those fucks downstairs tries anything.”
“I don’t trust any of them.” Kate said.
“They’re bricking it.” Dexy opted for a bed on the far end of the ward. “Most of ’em don’t look like they’ve ever even taken a beating, never mind dished one out.”
Gemma and Dodge took the beds opposite Dexy. Barney walked up and down the ward wagging his tail and looking up at us all expectantly.
“The problem with scared people is that when one person starts telling them what they want to hear, they latch on to the fucker and before you know it, the mob rules.” Jim looked through the windows that stretched along the whole wall. “We need to leave soon, before they start building crosses to fucking crucify us on.”
“Nobody else came up here with us.” Kate stared down at the floor, her left foot tapping with nervous adrenalin. “Not even the ones who helped us today.”
Dodge stretched across from his bed and poked Gemma. “Where’s your boy, Travis?” He asked.
Gemma shrugged. “He’s not my boy. Probably found the pharmacy.”
“I thought you two was a thing.”
“Yeah, till I found out he was a lying junkie.”
“Leave her be, Blud.” Dexy grabbed a scrap of paper from the bedside cabinet beside him, crumpled it up and launched it at his brother. The paper missile bounced off Dodge’s head and landed on the floor.
It looked like Travis had gone back on our agreement and chosen to get high. I would have sent Jim to find him but we had enough worries, and besides, Jim had said we should all stay together.
It was close to midnight when all the lights went out. There were some gasps and cries from the survivors in the entrance hall but they quietened down once the hospital’s emergency power had kicked in. We looked out of the window and watched the comforting glow of street and building lights snuff out like dying stars. The only thing to break the darkness now was the orange hue of fires, thankfully none of them were too close but one day soon those fires might eat their way through the whole city.
“Phone service and internet is dead, too.” Gemma looked at the screen of her phone and sighed.
“We need to go out and get supplies tomorrow.” Jim turned away from the window. “Can we get the minibus?”
“Dexy told me that Sean owns it.” I said.
“Of course he does.” Kate covered her face with her hands and shook her head despondently. “Nothing’s ever easy with you lot, is it?”
Jim chuckled to himself. “You’re part of this group, sweetheart.”
“She’s right though, Bruv.” Dexy rested his head against the cool glass of a window. “This is hard work. No way he’s just going to hand the keys over.”
“Can you start it without the keys?” Gemma tugged at the loose strand on her cardigan sleeve.
“What?” Dexy stepped away from the window and narrowed his eyes. “Cos I’m not white means I know how to steal cars?”
“No. That’s not what I meant…” Gemma looked shocked that he had angered so quickly.
“No.” Jim said. “It’s because you’re a fucking criminal.” He stared at Dexy for long moments and then at the black abyss that used to be our city, our home. “Can you start the fucking thing or not?”
Dexy scratched his head vigorously and tapped the toe of his blood spattered white Nike against the wall beneath the windows. “I don’t know, maybe.”
“Good to know.”
Gemma quickly punched his good arm, making him take a sharp intake of breath. “Dick.” She walked across to the door on the other side of the room and peered through the thin strip of safety glass that ran down it’s left side.
“Anyone out there?” Jim watched her reflection in the window.
Gemma pushed her face up against the glass and looked to the right and then to the left. “No. We should barricade it though. For tonight.”
“Yes.” Jim nodded slowly in agreement. “Yes we should.”
“Why would they stop the phones and internet?” I understood that cutting off the electricity and gas lessened the risk of explosions and meant that once the infected were dealt with, there would still be a London to come back to. I just couldn’t figure out why they would stop any survivors from contacting their families, friends or even emergency services.
Jim sat on his bed and placed his huge hands on his knees. “They don’t want anyone to know that people are still alive.”
“That’s stupid.” Gemma said. “What’s the point?”
“The point.” Jim raised his head to see that we had all turned to face him. “The point is that if they can convince everyone the city is fully infected, no survivors, then they can mount a clean-up operation. Killing everything that moves is a damn sight easier than rescuing civilians.”
“The bodies outside prove that’s how they’re thinking.” The words left a bitter taste in my mouth. “They were never going to let anyone out alive.”
“So what, did the government do this?” Dodge leaned over to scratch behind one of Barney’s ears.
“God, no. Even they wouldn’t do something this insane.” Jim rubbed a hand across his bald head. “They’re shitting themselves that it will spread. Not letting anyone out is pure fucking damage control.”
“So we’ve got those things out there,” Gemma pointed at the city beyond the windows. “And the army wants to kill us, too?”
“The people downstairs are going to become a problem as well.” Jim said.
“Never easy.” Kate shook her head and turned back to face the windows.
We pushed one of the empty beds up against the door and one by one, we fell asleep; although I doubt that any of us were fully asleep. Deep in the night I was awoken by the squeal of shoes on well polished floors. I sat up wearily and rubbed my eyes. Someone was whispering in the hallway. Once my vision had adjusted to the darkness I saw that Jim and Kate were already sitting back to back on our bed barricade and listening to the hushed conversation that was going on outside the ward.
I made my way over to them. “What’s going on?” I asked in a low tone.
Both Jim and Kate turned and shushed me. I stepped closer to the door and leaned over Kate to look through the safety glass but didn’t see anything, not even a shadow.
“They’re in there.” A voice in the hallway whispered. The hospital was so deathly quiet that even a whisper carried a long way.
“Well, go tell them to get out.” A second voice said. “We were fine before they showed up.”
“We can’t just kick them out, Sean.” The first voice seemed uncertain and full of fear.
“Why the bloody hell not?” A third voice, this one was female. “If it wasn’t for them, Gavin wouldn’t be dead.”
“She’s right, Mervyn.” Sean said. “When can you kick them out? Shall we wait for them to throw more of us at those creatures out there?”
Mervyn. That was Doctor Webb out there, conspiring with Sean and some woman, probably Sean’s wife.
There was a long silence before Doctor Webb replied.
“No. I just…” Doctor Webb let out a long sigh. “I don’t know.”
“Look, you’re the only Doctor in this hospital.” The woman whispered. “They’ll listen if you tell them to go.”
“Or we can get everyone up here and make them go.” Sean finished his wife’s train of thought. “We’ve got a lot of people downstairs wondering if their kids are going to die next.”
Gemma and Dodge padded across the cold floor. “What you doing?” Gemma asked, half yawning and half sighing.
Jim, Kate and myself turned around and said “Shhhh!” in unison.
“Sorr-eee.” Gemma crossed her arms huffily and slumped down beside Kate.
Dodge came around and sat next to Jim. Barney had decided to stretch out on Dodge’s bed and catch some more sleep.
“Dave and Emma said their daughter, Chelsea is scared to death of that big bald bloke.” Sean’s wife wasn’t really whispering anymore, she was hissing like an angry snake.
“I think she means you.” I looked at Jim and smiled.
“I fucking know she means me.” Jim kept his voice quiet, although he obviously wanted to shout.
“Scaring kids, now, Jim?” Kate asked with a big grin on her face. “That’s just wrong.”
I controlled my urges and smirked rather than letting myself laugh.
“Fuck off.” Jim dismissed our jibes with a wave of his hand.
“So you can all talk but I’ve got to be quiet?” Gemma asked, and then snorted loudly.
“Shush, Gemma.” Jim moved his ear a little closer to the door.
“So-not-fair.” Gemma stood abruptly and paced back to her bed where she flopped down face first and then forced an agitated grunt into her pillow.
“You saw him fighting those creatures.” Sean said. “What if he turns on any of us? We won’t stand a chance. He’s a fucking psycho, Mervyn.”
“He’s on our side.” Doctor Webb told him.
“Until we piss him off.” In my mind’s eye I could see a forked tongue stabbing at the air as Sean’s wife spoke. “He’s already got it in for Sean.”
“We were all at the meeting tonight and everyone agreed that we’re better off without them.” Sean sounded like he was getting angry, his voice grew louder. “Everyone!”
“They have children too.” Doctor Webb was trying to be the voice of reason but from what I’d heard so far, he was just wasting words. “What about them? Do we kick them out too?”
“You heard what Travis said about them. Gangster brothers and a fifteen year old prostitute.” Sean said. “They all threatened to kill him if he told us about them. He couldn’t wait to be rid of them and around good, normal people like us.”
Sean’s wife finished his train of thought. “Are those the kind of people you want living with us? Eating our food? Hooligans, bullies and tarts?”
“No… I…” I was feeling sorry for Doctor Webb, he really didn’t ask to be placed in the corner that they were putting him in. “They just seemed like decent people. A little rough but decent, hard working people.”
“That little pikey fuck.” Jim muttered beneath his breath. “I’m going to snap his scrawny junkie neck.”
I didn’t think Jim would get the chance to hurt Travis before we got turfed out, but I wasn’t going to tell him that. Besides, I would never bet against Jim Croft.
“Alright, Mervyn.” Sean said. “Let’s leave them for tonight, but you need to make a decision.”
“You know it’s the right thing to do.” Sean’s wife said.
“Easy way, hard way.” Sean echoed Jim’s words when he had given Mason the gun. “We don’t want to fight them.”
“But we will if we have to.” Sean’s wife spoke slowly, allowing the menace of what she said to sink in.
“Fine.” Doctor Webb sounded defeated. “I’ll tell them in the morning.”
Sure enough, as soon as the morning sun peeked over the horizon, there was a tapping at our door. We were all awake and waiting for it.
We’d actually been talking about the whispered conversation through most of the night. Gemma was understandably angry that Travis had called her a prostitute, so angry that Jim would have to move fast if he wanted to kill him before Gemma got there first. Dexy and Dodge were also angry, not for what Travis had said about them but because of the risks we had taken back at the flats.
“Should have just left him.” Dodge had said. “Let him get boyed by dem monsters, init?”
Jim looked confused by the choice of words but we all got the point, and to some extent, I think we all agreed. That’s what this nightmare has done to us, we agreed that someone would have been better off dead. That an actual life, no matter how insignificant, was worthless. I told them that I felt responsible for Travis turning on us. Told them about the threat I had made when I found him getting high. Even though everyone said I did the right thing, I still felt bad.
“He’s lucky <em>you</em> found him.” Jim had said through gritted teeth. “You gave him one more chance than I fucking would have.”
It was comforting to know that I was almost human.
The Doctor knocked a second time.
I walked across to the door and looked through the thin strip window. Doctor Webb stood there. He was staring down at the floor and looked nervous, like a wayward student that had been sent to the headmaster for a good talking to.
I pushed the bed barricade clear and opened the door. “Come in, Doctor.”
Everyone stood when he walked inside.
Doctor Webb opened his mouth to speak but Jim didn’t give him the opportunity. “We know why you’re here.” He stabbed the air with his index finger. “Sean and his merry fucking band want us out.”
“I’m so very sorry.” Doctor Webb’s voice cracked with nerves. “I really am. They had a meeting and a vote and…”
“And they sent you up here to do their dirty work.” Kate said. “William told us you were a good man, Doctor.”
“I was…” He tapped his hand on his thigh. “I am… I didn’t want it to come to all this. I think you’ve made this a much safer place than it was.”
“Then why are they making us leave?” I asked.
“Yeah we make this place safe and that’s it? Cheers for that you mugs, now fuck off?” Dexy waved his hand for effect.
“No, look, if you don’t go peacefully then they’ll force you.” He continued tapping his thigh nervously.
“We’ll go.” Jim said. “But not because of bullshit threats. If we wanted to stay, then there’s fuck all that bunch of pensioners and beer bellied dads could do about it.” He stepped towards Doctor Webb. The Doctor moved back until he was up against the wall. “We’ll go because we don’t want to hurt them.” Jim’s face was close enough that Doctor Webb could have touched the whiskers of his horseshoe moustache. “Now you go tell them that. And if they want trouble, then we’ve got plenty for everyone.”
“Ok.” Doctor Webb twisted his body away from Jim and bolted for the door. When he reached it he turned to us one final time. “I’m sorry.”
“Oh, Doctor?” Kate held a finger up in a ‘eureka’ pose. “Tell Sean we want the keys to his minibus.”
Doctor Webb nodded in agreement and scurried out of the ward like a rat from a burning building.
“Good call, sweetheart.” Jim said with a smile.
“Still not your sweetheart, Jim.” Kate told him. “Never will be.”
Jim winked at her and grinned before turning to the rest of us. “Right then, grab what you need and let’s move the fuck out.”