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.
We made our way through the abandoned streets in silence that Jim broke occasionally to give directions. I stared at the roads through tired, bloodshot eyes. A quick glance in the rear-view mirror showed me that everyone in the back had fallen asleep, everyone except Travis, who was shivering and rocking his way through withdrawal. A tall church steeple cast its long shadow across the road and I briefly looked into the church grounds. Bushes and flower gardens fought for space with old gravestones and a paved pathway ran from the wrought iron double gate up to the closed, heavy wooden doors of the church. The path then split into two, both of which wound their way through the graves and bushes all the way around to the back. I marvelled at the huge, ancient building that was still standing in defiance against the madness of the infected.
A man dashed from behind one of the gravestones and crouched down beside a bush. “Did you…” I was about to slam the brakes on, hoping that I had just seen another survivor while at the same time, dreading that it was one of the infected.
“Don’t stop.” Jim said. “It’s been following us. I noticed it a few streets back.”
“Why didn’t you say something?”
Jim turned and looked into the back of the van, saw that everyone except Travis was still sleeping and then looked across at me. “Would only get everyone awake and worried. Let them sleep. When we turn left at the next corner, get some speed up and lose the nasty little fuck.”
“Is there just the one?” I drummed my fingers nervously on the steering wheel.
“I haven’t seen any more, just that fucker.”
Once we had passed the church, I instinctively pushed down on the accelerator, swerving around rotting corpses and cars while checking the mirror more often than I blink. After a few more turns, we were on the road that leads into the Hospital car park. “Do you think we lost it?”
Jim rubbed the palm of his hand across his grey horseshoe moustache. “Let’s fucking hope so.”
The Hospital car park was massive and almost full of vehicles, some burned out, others were left with their doors wide open, but most were parked normally. As we weaved our way down the road, the Hospital came into view. The front of the building was made up of windows that were separated by thin strips of concrete. It was a tall, sprawling monster of a building with separate smaller buildings attached to it with thin glass and steel corridors. An ambulance was overturned by the side of the road, its back doors open to reveal the body of a paramedic laying amidst a confusion of medical equipment. His hand was pointing towards us, index finger outstretched as though warning anyone who had got this far, to turn back.
“We’re here.” Jim spoke loudly enough to rouse our sleeping passengers. “Wakey, wakey, rise and fucking shine.”
Gemma was the first to wake up. She moved up to the front of the van and knelt in the space between the driver and passenger seats. “Is it safe?” She craned her neck to see what lay ahead.
When we had passed the ambulance, I could also see movement and hear noises. Mason was now standing behind my seat and Kate behind Jim while Dodge and Barney were jostling with Gemma to get a better view.
“Looks like it’s been overrun.” Mason said.
I stopped the van. Gemma stood up and rested one elbow on the headrest of my seat and the other on Jim’s side. “One’s coming.” She pushed her head forward so that it was level with mine. “Over there, Dad.”
The one in question was a tall, thin man dressed in a dirty grey suit. He looked around Jim’s age, maybe closer to sixty. His face was gaunt with sucked in cheeks and thick black eyebrows that almost met in the middle. His eyes were dark and sunken; he looked exhausted but not infected. A long, pointed nose that could have belonged to a vulture jutted from his face. The man’s hair was jet black and styled in a no-nonsense side parting. Blood stained his tan shoes and a tightly knotted red tie flapped across his right shoulder. He was waving a square piece of paper at us.
“Is that a photograph?” I leaned forward to get a better look. He was shouting something but I couldn’t make out the words.
“What’s he saying?” Mason asked. “Get the window.”
I pushed the button and the window whirred down. The man was now right in front of us. He lithely stepped around to my side, thrust a blood-stained photograph through the open window, and waved it in my face.
“Have you seen Alice?” He yelled. “My wife. Have you seen her?” He showed everyone the photo in turn and we all shook our heads. The photo was of a portly woman wearing a white dress with a purple flower print. She was sitting on a park bench with a green handbag on her lap. A bloody thumbprint was smudged across her face.
“Sorry.” I said. “We haven’t seen her.”
The man silently regarded each of us in turn. He suddenly pulled the photo to his chest and walked away shouting, “Have you seen Alice?”
Jim leaned across to watch the man walk away. “Poor fucker’s lost it.”
“Dad.” Gemma pointed at the Hospital entrance. “There’s loads of people in there.”
“Oh my God.” Kate said. “She’s right; they’re coming out.”
A group of at least twenty men and women rushed out of the oversized plate glass door that was the main entrance and headed straight for us. A small man wearing a blue suit was leading the charge toward us. We were at least thirty feet away from them but they were moving quickly. I could see cricket bats and tyre irons being waved around as they got closer. The small man that led them looked to be the only one that was unarmed.
“They’re proper tooled up.” Dodge said.
Jim pressed the button that made his window buzz its way down into the insides of the door.
“Should we leave?” I asked, ready to get out of there as soon as someone gave the word.
“No.” Jim opened his door and stepped out, he rested his elbows on the bottom of the window frame and aimed the pistol into the throng of people. “That’s close enough.” He shouted.
The small man and his following were only ten feet away from the van. They all stopped when they heard Jim.
“Don’t shoot!” The small man held his hands up above his head. The people behind him grumbled loudly. “I’m Doctor Webb. Are any of you injured?”
“I think he wants to help, Jim.” Mason turned and headed to the back of the van, he was quickly followed by Kate.
“We’ll see.” Jim didn’t look away from the mob.
Mason opened the back doors of the van. He and Kate jumped down and walked around until they stood behind Jim.
“Yes.” Mason shouted in reply to the small man. “We have someone who needs medical help.”
“Have any of you been bitten or scratched by someone with the virus?” The man adjusted the small round glasses that he wore.
One of the mob yelled, “Just tell them to piss off, Doc!” Others shouted out, “Yeah, get lost!” and, “
“No. Gunshot wound in the arm.” Mason told the Doctor.
“Okay.” Doctor Webb turned to his mob and said something that made most of them grumble in disagreement. He then turned back to face us. “I’m going to come and look at him.”
“Slowly!” Jim waved the gun to remind everyone that he was in charge.
Doctor Webb started walking. Gemma, Dodge and Barney all got out of the van. Gemma turned back to Travis. “You coming?”
Travis raised his head. “No.”
“Whatever.” Gemma walked around to stand with Mason and Kate. Dodge stayed close to the back of the van, never losing sight of his brother.
Doctor Webb was now close enough to shake Jim’s hand. “Hello.” He smiled at Mason and Kate but kept looking nervously at the barrel of the gun.
“He’s in the back, Doctor.” Mason moved past Jim and placed his hand on Doctor Webb’s elbow, guiding him to the back of the van. “I’m Detective Inspector Mason and this,” He waved his free hand towards Kate who was following slightly behind them. “is D.C. Palmer.”
“A pleasure.” The three of them stood at the back. “What’s wrong with him?” The Doctor stepped away from Mason and pointed at Travis.
“He’s fine.” I said, turning to face the Doctor. “Just scared.”
“Scared he won’t get any more fucking drugs.” Jim muttered through gritted teeth.
“What?” Gemma pulled at Jim’s shoulder. “What about drugs?”
Doctor Webb climbed into the van and knelt beside Dexy. After a quick examination he looked at me. “Drive us to the entrance, mister…?”
“I’m William.” Everyone got back in the van and I slowly drove closer to the hospital. Gemma was staring at Travis in the same way that Holly used to stare at me when she was angry. The mob parted to let us through, all of them staring in at us with eyes full of distrust.
“The last people that came here were with a man who had been bitten.” Doctor Webb explained. “They didn’t tell us, and when he turned into a crazy, he killed seven of us and all four of the people he came with before we managed to stop him. They’re scared of newcomers now, that’s all, they don’t mean anything by it.”
“As soon as Dexy is fixed up, we’ll be on our way.” I pulled up right next to the entrance doors.
“We will?” Kate raised her eyebrows and tilted her head slightly.
“One thing at a time, William.” Jim got out of the van and ran around back to open the doors.
The mob had caught back up to us and two men came forward holding a stretcher. One of the men was more than a little overweight. He had a ruddy complexion and thick rivers of sweat ran down his face. He wore grey sweatpants and a black t-shirt with the slogan ‘Rock Star’ printed on the chest in red lettering. He held out a hand. “Name’s Don.”
Jim looked him up and down before shaking his hand. “Jim Croft.”
We got Dexy onto the stretcher and then we ran him into the hospital. The reception area was a huge hall full of chairs. At the back of the hall, opposite the entrance, was a small coffee shop. Elderly people sat in small groups around the coffee shop, all whispering amongst themselves and pointing at us. Children ran around pretending to be aeroplanes or soldiers. In one corner there was a group of teenagers dressed in black and had lots of piercings. They had smug looks on their faces like they were happy that the world had ended. One of them held my gaze, offered a contemptuous grin and then gave me the middle finger. His friends laughed and patted him on the back.
Most of the adults had been in the mob led by Doctor Webb but there were some wandering around the hall. A man who looked to be in his early thirties wore a green hospital gown and was attached to a drip that he wheeled along with him. The tall man who resembled a vulture had found his way back. He was sitting with the photograph still clutched to his chest while he stared blankly at a television screen. The television was attached onto the right side wall between two elevators. There were no programmes on the television, just the static message ‘Please standby’ stared back at him.
Don and his friend jogged just behind Doctor Webb with the stretcher. Dexy looked close to death, he was pale and his bandages were soaked with dark blood. “Just through here.” Doctor Webb led us out of the hall and down a wide corridor. He opened the first door on the left and rushed inside the room. Don and his friend were the next into the room, followed by the rest of us. “No dogs.” Doctor Webb held the door open and glared disapprovingly at Barney.
“No way, man.” Dodge narrowed his eyes and lifted Barney into his arms. The dog licked his face. “That’s my brother. We ain’t going nowhere.”
“He’s a good dog.” I just wanted the Doctor to fix Dexy and be quick about it, not waste time worrying about dogs. “Please, just help him.”
Dexy had been laid onto a bed in the middle of the room. I pulled up an orange moulded plastic chair and sat at the foot of the bed.
“Don’t worry.” Don placed a sweaty hand on my shoulder and squeezed. “Doctor Webb will take good care of your friend.”
“He’ll be up and about before you know it.” Don’s friend assured me. He was overweight too, but next to Don he looked like a stick figure. He wiped his hands across the baggy blue chequered button shirt that he wore. “I’m Gavin. You can call me Gav.” He held out a freshly wiped hand.
“William.” We shook hands and his felt like a dead fish , limp, lifeless, cold and wet. My eyelids grew heavy as I watched Doctor Webb working on Dexy and within seconds, I was asleep.