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.
Mason came to our cell that evening. He handed cheese sandwiches and two bottles of water through the hatch.
“So, the great escape tonight, is it, lads?” He stared at my lumps and bruises and shook his head. “Hardly Steve McQueen are you?”
“What you going on about?” Dexy asked through mouthfuls of stale bread and cheese.
“The youth of today, oblivious to the classics.” He ignored Dexy and kept his gaze firmly locked on me. “Isn’t that right, William Daniels?”
“What’s the plan?” I wasn’t hungry so offered my sandwich to Dexy, he snatched it out of my hand and set to work on it.
“Straight to business is it?” Mason wagged his finger in my direction. “Are you <em>the</em> William Daniels, writes kids books about that Knight; what’s his name again?” He furrowed his thick brows as he tried to recall the name. “Peacock?”
“Knight Pleasant.” I put him out of his misery and then took a sip of water. My lips were so swollen that most of it dribbled down my chin.
“That’s it!” He smiled, happy that I really was, <em>the</em> William Daniels. “I’ve got a seven-year old nephew, he loves those books. He’s got all of them.”
“Oh.” Was all I could say. I wondered if his nephew was dead, or worse, one of those things. Either way, the books I wrote about ‘The Great Knight Pleasant, Hero of Snow-top Fortress’, were not his list of priorities. I miss writing stories. Writing this diary, journal, whatever it is, only reminds me how terrible things are. My stories made me happy, transported me into a world full of wonder and magic where anything was possible. They made me feel young again, like a wide-eyed little boy, amazed by tales of dragons, knights and wizards.
Holly loved my stories. She was pregnant with Gemma when I started to write my first book. We lived in a tiny flat back then. I sat at a small two-person dining table in the kitchen and typed away on a computer that we’d bought for fifty pounds in a second-hand electrical store.
I can still see her now, coming into the kitchen at the end of each day.
“Let me see!” She would grab at the mouse, trying to re-open the document that I’d finished on for the day.
“It’s not ready yet.” I always told her, trying my best to look stern. A smile always cracked my face within seconds, making it obvious that I would always give in to her demands.
Holly would sit on my lap and read, always laughing, gasping or nodding her head at the right moments.
“Oh, this is good!” She would tell me. “This is really good.”
I was always my own worst critic, never truly believing in what I wrote. Holly though, Holly always believed in me. She would come up with ideas for the story too, making it a joint effort. One of the most popular characters in the Snow-Top series, a bumbling, comical evil Prince by the name of Colby Creepington, was entirely her invention.
I sent the manuscript to several different publishers and waited. After the birth of our beautiful baby Gemma, the first book was on the shelves just before Christmas. It sold well. Really, really well.
I was a full-time writer. We bought a house and turned one of the rooms into a real, honest to goodness, office where I could work in comfort. It was a far cry from the small table and uncomfortable, rickety wooden chair.
I owed so much to Holly, I was nothing without her.
I repaid that debt by dragging her from the back of a Ford Explorer and stamping on her head until it caved in.
“Do your people have a safe place?” Mason’s voice dragged me away from my thoughts.
“Yes.” I hoped that Gemma and the rest of them had made it back to the shop. Hoped that they were safe. A warm trickle of blood seeped from the wound above my eye. “Very safe.” I wiped the blood away with the sleeve of my sweater.
“Harry had a proper go at you, didn’t he?” Mason eyed my wounds and grimaced. “I knew he was a nutter, but this…”
“Yeah, and your mental-as-fuck Chief Inspector sat and watched.” Dexy used what was left of the cheese sandwich to point angrily at D.I. Mason. “Probably got off on it while she dreamed of feeding me to her fucked-up, cannibal husband.”
“That’s why we want out.” Mason said. “Only a matter of time before she turns on us.”
Dexy half sighed, half laughed. It sounded like a kid blowing a raspberry at a schoolmate. “You know that.” He stuffed the last of the sandwich in his mouth. “Init?” He added.
“Don’t be an arsehole, Dexy.” Mason rubbed his nose with the palm of his hand. “To be clear, I don’t like you, you’re a lowlife little thug.” He narrowed his eyes. “Even so, feeding you to this lot,” He waved a hand toward the other cells, the cells teeming with sickness. “Does seem a bit harsh.”
Dexy smiled. “I love you too, D.I. Mason.” He blew a kiss at Mason.
“Oh, piss off.” Mason said with a grin.
The grin soon gave way to a more serious countenance and Mason told us the plan for that night. He passed a large brass key through to Dexy and explained what it would be used for.
“Sweet, Bruv.” He held the key up as reverently as a priest holding a holy relic, and beamed like a Cheshire cat.
“Do either of you have a ‘phone?” Mason asked.
“The battery died.” I pulled the phone out of my pocket and stared at it, trying to will it back into life.
“Take this.” The Detective Inspector handed a small phone to me. “Call your people, tell them we’ll be coming tonight.”
I took the ‘phone from him and put the dead one back in my jeans pocket. I pressed the power button of the new ‘phone and the screen bathed my face in its comforting glow.
Mason turned his attention to Dexy. “So, Dexy, you ready for this?”
Dexy still stared at the key with a mixture of disbelief and excitement. “I’m always ready.”
“Of course you are.” Mason seemed unimpressed. “How about you, William?”
I offered a non-committal shrug.
“Well then, this should be an interesting night.” He scratched his head. “Me and D.C. Palmer will grab as much equipment as we can.” He looked up and down the hall, checking for possible eavesdroppers. “We’ll be leaving through the door down there.” He gestured toward the opposite direction of the main gate. “We’ll come get you at Two A.M.” He closed the hatch. “Get some sleep.”
“Holy shit, Bruv.” Dexy offered his fist for another ‘bump’. “This is really going down!”
I complied with the fist bump, dourly reflecting that this was becoming a habit. Was I one of his ‘Homeys’ now?
“Come on then.” Dexy pointed at the ‘phone that I held. “Get calling.”
I searched my memory for Gemma’s number and stabbed at the on-screen number pad with my index finger. After pressing ‘call’, I put the ‘phone to my ear.
“It’s ringing.” I said.
“We’re going home, Bruv!” Dexy punched the air with glee.
“Hello?” It was Gemma.
“Gemma?” I could barely contain my excitement. It was so good to hear her voice, even if there was a strong possibility that she hated me. “It’s me, it’s Dad.”
“Dad?” Her voice was suddenly hushed. “Are you okay?”
“Who is it?” I heard Jim’s voice booming in the background.
“It’s Dad.” Gemma told him.
“Ask him where they are.” Jim said.
“Is Dexy okay?” Dodge asked, his voice was closer to Gemma than Jim’s.
“Tell Dodge that Dexy is fine.” I looked over at Dexy, his eyes moist with tears at the mention of his little brother.
“Gemma, I can’t talk for long.” I wished that I could talk to her for hours, but it was too risky, I didn’t want The Chief Inspector’s goons getting wind of our plans.
“He said Dexy is okay.” Gemma passed the information on to Dodge. I heard a loud, “Yes!” followed by a quieter, “yes,yes,yes,yes.”
“What’s going on?” Gemma asked me. “Where are you?”
“I’ll tell you later.” I offered my fist to Dexy. “We’re getting out tonight.” Dexy grinned and obligingly bumped my fist. “Are you at the shop?”
“Yeah, we just got here.” She said. “Dad?”
“Yes, love?” It was the happiest I’d felt since this virus had destroyed our lives. “What is it?”
“I’m still well pissed with you.” She burst my balloon faster than a shark tearing into prey.
“I know.” I ran the fingers of my free hand through my hair.
“I’m glad you’re okay, though.” Just like her Mother. Letting me know that she was angry, and then throwing me a bone to tell me that she still cared.
“Me too.” I realised how that sounded and quickly added, “Glad that <em>you’re</em> okay, I mean.”
She laughed. The sound filled me with warmth and for a moment my face didn’t hurt, but my heart ached.
“Let me talk to Dodge, Bruv.” Dexy held his hand out expectantly.
“Dexy wants to talk to his brother.” I said. “I’ll see you sometime tonight.”
“Dodge.” Gemma shouted over to the young hoodie. “Dexy for ya.”
“I love you.” My voice cracked as I said the words.
“Dexy?” It was Dodge. Gemma had gone.
My shoulders sank and I and passed the ‘phone to my cell-mate.
I could only hear one side of their conversation. Dexy had a huge smile on his face the whole time. I didn’t care what the Police said he was. None of that mattered now. I didn’t see a low-life thug in the cell with me, I saw a caring young man who loved his brother just as much as I loved my daughter. His past was just that, past, gone. He had saved my life at our first meeting and had become my friend in the detention cell. All the past would tell me is that he’d made mistakes.
When Dexy handed the ‘phone back to me I put it in my pocket and we both sat on the bench and listened to the silence. Even our infected neighbours were being quiet. Not so much as a groan sailed down the hallway.
“How is he?” I was getting uncomfortable with the quiet, my mind racing with all the ‘what if?’ possibilities of our escape plan.
Dexy stared at the ceiling. “Yeah, he’s good, Bruv.” He nodded his head. “He’s good.” His words trailed off into the quiet shadows.
“We’ll be back there before you know it.” I patted his shoulder.
“I worry about him.” Dexy eyed me with uncertainty. He was obviously unaccustomed to speaking about feelings. “Our Mum and Dad died in a car crash two years ago.” He pulled his hood tighter across his face. “I’m all he’s got.”
“We’re getting out of here tonight.” I assured him. “Even if you don’t trust Mason, it’s still a good plan.”
“Yeah but what if he screws us?” He moved his head from side to side, the bones in his neck popped loudly.
“Then you take that gun,” I raised my hand. “And you shoot him right here.” I tapped the back of my head.
Dexy smiled. “Alright, Bruv.” He said. “I’m down with that.”
Neither of us could sleep. The butterflies in my stomach were epic. It felt like they’d mutated into carnivorous monsters that were eating their way out. We tried to make smalltalk but it always ended in awkward silence as time marched closer and closer to our escape. I talked about books, Dexy talked about video games and we both talked about movies. I tried to act surprised that his favourite genre was the gangster movie.
After what felt like an eternity, we heard the key rattle and the main gate opening. It was much quieter than usual. A bump against the wall followed by a stern “Shhh.” sounded off just outside our cell. We both rushed to stand by the cell door. Dexy had his pistol ready.
A key turned and the lock clicked.
“Okay.” Mason pulled the door open. “We’re on.”
Mason and Kate each held a riot shield. Kate had changed her clothes and now wore the standard police trousers and tunic instead of her plain clothes outfit. I quickly resolved that now wasn’t the time to ask why. She smiled at me and handed me a brown leather sports bag.
“Take this.” She said.
I was about to ask what was in it when I saw gun barrels poking out. It was heavy but the adrenaline was already pumping through my system.
“Make sure you keep hold of that, William.” Mason faced the main gate, riot shield up. “Now get behind us.”
I crouched behind Mason and Kate as they slowly backed down the hall.
“These aren’t bulletproof, William.” Mason tapped the riot shield with his free hand. “So if they shoot, you hit the floor.” He looked back at me. “Got it?”
“Got it.” I replied.
We heard a commotion coming from beyond the main gate.
“They took a load of guns!” It was Harry King. “Ma’am, we have a fucking situation here!”
“Shit.” Kate said in a hushed tone. “I thought he was asleep.”
“Well that didn’t take long.” Dexy shook his head and laughed.
“The key, Dexy.” Mason spoke hurriedly, impatient for the plan to be under way. “Use the fucking key.”