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.
“It’s a bad idea.” The uncomfortable plastic chair creaked noisily under Jim’s weight as he sat back and folded his arms across his chest.
Kate paced up and down the back of the room. “I hate to admit it,” She stopped at the window and took a moment to look out. “But I think Jim’s right.”
Jim’s horseshoe moustache twitched and he allowed himself a self-satisfied smile. “Of course I’m right.”
“Why?” I sat in my chair like a crumpled item of clothing and held my head in my hands. “Why can’t we just leave? You wanted to leave London, Jim; you said so when we got the van.”
“That was before you told us that the military are watching the roads and killing any poor fucker that tries to pass.” Jim tapped the side of his head with his thick index finger. “Use your fucking head, William.”
“They can’t watch everything, there must be some way out.” Even as I said it, I knew that I was wrong. Deep down, I just knew.
“Satellites, armed drones, CCTV, helicopters, planes and plain fucking checkpoints.” Jim held his hands out like a supplicant receiving communion. “I’d say they’ll have it covered and then some.”
“Shit.” Mason stood up quickly, the sudden movement knocked his chair onto the floor. “Shit. Shit. Shit.” He whirled around and kicked the upturned chair, sending it clattering against the wall. “I don’t want to be stuck here in crazy cannibal town.”
Jim shook his head and chuckled.
“What’s funny, big man?” Mason moved quickly across the floor and stood over Jim, fists clenched, jaw muscles bulging and face bright red with rage. He was itching for a fight, an excuse to release the tension building up inside him, inside all of us.
“Give it a rest, Bruv.” Dexy said from the bed. “Last thing we need is you two fighting.” He looked at Dodge who was sitting at the foot of the bed with Barney curled up sleeping beside him. “Even if it would be funny watching Jim mash you up.”
Dodge smiled at his brother and then they both laughed.
Mason shot Dexy an angry glance and looked back down at Jim. After a few moments of consideration he stepped back and walked across to stand beside Kate. Sunlight flooded across the two Police officers, silhouetting them against the window.
“I’ll be honest, Detective Inspector.” Jim added extra sour onto Mason’s job title and sat forward. “I’d have thought that you’d be on the same page as me, here.” He stroked his moustache with thumb and forefinger. “Leaving now is as good as jumping off a building, grease stains on the road is all that’ll be left when they spot us trying to sneak out. The power is getting switched off, but we’re in a hospital.”
Gemma sat up with a ‘eureka’ expression lighting up her face. “Emergency power.”
Jim nodded his head and pointed at Gemma. “Exactly, Gemma.” He said. “Hospitals have back up power. We couldn’t have picked a better place to be when they turn everything off. All we need to do is secure it and sit tight.”
“Sit tight for how long?” Kate asked.
Jim shrugged and clapped his hands together. “As long as it takes for us to make a better plan. One that doesn’t end in us being shot to fucking death.”
“Hospitals are big.” I said.
“Ten points to Sherlock fucking Holmes here.” Jim looked up to the ceiling and shook his head.
“He’s right though.” Mason turned to look out of the window. “Securing a hospital will be almost impossible. There are entrances and exits everywhere, the front of the building is just glass.”
Jim sat back and that self satisfied grin snaked its way back across his lips. “I’m trained to deal with the almost impossible.” He laced his fingers behind his head and stretched out his legs. “There’s a lot of people out there just waiting for some guidance, some order. They know they’re fucked without it, they just don’t know what else to do so they stick together and hope for the best.”
“So what, you’re here to save them?” Mason looked over his shoulder, eyes narrowed.
“No.” Jim stood up and patted his overcoat, a plume of dust burst from the thick material like a fungus exploding with spores. “But I’ll help them save themselves.”
“Themselves and us.” Gemma added with a smile and an unfamiliar glint in her eye. Unfamiliar to me, at least.
“As you say, Gemma. And us.” Jim eyed us all and then shook his head despairingly. “Fuck me, we look like refugees. If we want these people to take us seriously, we need to get showered and changed.”
I had to agree with him, we looked like we’d been through hell and gone back for another helping. “I’ll go find the Doctor and see if there’s any clean clothes that we can have.”
Doctor Webb told me that a charity held collections in the hospital once a month and he led me to a small storeroom that was stacked with black bin liners bursting with clothes. I checked through some of them and found one that had a good mix. “Can I take this bag?”
“Take whatever you need.” He reached out and lightly touched my face. “Who did this to you?”
I pulled away from him and grabbed another bag full of clothes. “I’ll take this one too, just in case.”
“Does it hurt?” He asked. “I can give you some painkillers.”
“It’s fine.” I closed the door of the storeroom and walked down the hallway, Doctor Webb jogged to keep up with me. “Thanks for the clothes.”
“Are you going to stay here in the hospital?” He pulled at my arm, stopping me in my stride.
“Do your people want us to stay?” I carried on down the hall, skirting past an overturned wheelchair. “They didn’t seem too happy about us showing up.”
“I told you, we were attacked.” He ran slightly ahead and stopped in front of the double doors that were the hallway exit. “It’s different now that we’re sure you’re not a threat. Although we haven’t really got to know any of you yet.” He paused and stared into my eyes. “You’re not a threat, are you?”
“No.” I answered curtly. “What happened here, Doctor?”
Doctor Webb looked slightly perplexed by the question. “What do you mean?”
“I haven’t seen any infected. There must have been some here, we saw them everywhere, tower blocks, police stations.” I dropped the bin liners, one at each side of me. “How did you get rid of them all?”
“Oh.” A sombre expression darkened his features. “That.” He opened one of the double doors. “It’s easier to show you.”
I picked the bags up and followed Doctor Webb as he led me up two flights of stairs and then through a labyrinth of hallways, most of which were slick with blood and viscera, until he finally stopped at a huge window and gazed outside. “Most of the people downstairs weren’t here when the army came.” He looked up at the sky, grey clouds now covered the morning sun.
“When the hospitals close to the city centre had filled up, they shipped some patients to us. An outbreak started in our children’s ward and quickly spread through the hospital. We called the police but they told us that the army was dealing with it.” He closed his eyes and breathed deeply before continuing. “The army showed up, there were wearing bio-hazard equipment, all heavily armed and ready for a war. They swept through the whole place, shooting everyone that had been infected and some that hadn’t.”
He looked back at me and I stepped closer to the window. “When they were done with that, they started rounding up everyone else, staff, patients, visitors, everyone. Gavin, our head caretaker grabbed me and a few patients and we all hid in his storeroom down in the basement. All day and night we could hear the screams and finally it went quiet, so we came out to see what had happened.” He waved an arm to the window. “This is what we found.”
I stood beside him. “Oh, God.” The words felt like the croaking of a dying frog as they rattled through my throat. Below us was a square of grass the size of two small houses side by side. The area had been surrounded by razor wire four feet deep and twice as high. Inside this makeshift holding pen was a pile of dead bodies, there must have been well over a hundred. All of them charred and bloody, laying awkwardly across each other in a deadly version of Twister. Some held small children or various loved ones in their arms while others held their arms up to the heavens begging for a divine help that never came. A young child hung limply on the razor wire, his burned, fleshless face looking up at us. The bodies of a man and a woman embracing each other crouched next to the child, perhaps they were his parents hoping that he would find an escape route through the cruel razor wire. The grass around the sickening remnants of this human bonfire was black and lifeless. Bodies were scattered around the outside of the razor wire boundary, these ones must have climbed the burning nightmare and jumped for freedom, only to be rewarded with a bullet to the head.
“Why?” I gagged and my stomach dry-heaved, I was as empty as the bodies below. Steadying myself against the wall I stared at my feet and wiped my hand across my broken and bruised face. “Why?”
Doctor Webb placed a hand on my shoulder and squeezed reassuringly. “I wish I knew.” He stepped away from me. “Soon after that people started to arrive, some injured and the rest just looking for safety.”
I hefted the bags of clothes over my shoulders and staggered down the hallway, my mind still reeling from the images of death that had just been burned into my psyche. “I’m sorry, Doctor.” I stammered the words out with all the grace of an elephant ballerina. “I just didn’t think that…” I turned to face him. “Those bastards. Those fucking bastards.”
Doctor Webb nodded his head solemnly. “I hid away like a frightened rat while they all died.”
“If you hadn’t, there’d be nobody to help the people downstairs.” Running and hiding were my forté, I wasn’t going to give him a hard time for choosing to survive. “Dexy is just one of -who knows how many- that are alive because you didn’t get thrown on that…” I pointed back towards the window. “That funeral pyre.”
“Thank-you.” He held his hand out. “I’m Mervyn, Mervyn Webb.”
I put one of the bags down and shook his hand. “William.” It was time to think about more practical matters. “We’ve been talking about securing this place, do you think that will cause any problems?”
“It sounds like a good idea.” Mervyn said. “I’ll tell Gavin, our caretaker to bring his toolbox to the entrance hall.”
“How do I get back downstairs?”
“Just head through those double doors, there’s some stairs at the end of the hall.”
“Thanks again for the clothes. ” I headed back with the bags, excited about the prospect of showering and fresh clothes that weren’t crusted in blood.
The hallway was full of rooms, some open but most of them were closed. The open ones had bloodstained sheets on beds and reeked of death. As I pulled the stairwell door open, I heard a noise coming from one of the rooms. Was it a growl?
“Mervyn?” I craned to see if the Doctor was still there but he had gone in the opposite direction, probably to tell everyone that the lunatics were planning to take over the asylum.
I quietly put the bags down, closed the stairway door and headed to the room where I had heard the noise. I put my ear to the door and wrapped my fingers around the handle.
Had the army missed one of the infected? Maybe there was someone in there needing help, someone else who had hidden from the trigger happy hazmat storm-troopers.
The growl slowed and got quieter.
“Is someone in there?” I tightened my grip on the door handle and asked myself what the hell I was doing. I’d seen enough movies to know that this was not a good idea. Images of infected bursting through the door and ripping me apart flashed through my mind.
What if they needed help, though? The question ran around my head like a dog chasing its tail. I had to help, I wasn’t Jim, I wasn’t cold and intimidating. I couldn’t have just closed the door on that woman back in the flats and left her there to die horribly, even if it did put me at risk.
Holly had shaped me more than I thought. My brave Holly. If she was here the door would already be open.
Another noise came from inside the room. A soft thud, like the sound of someone falling out of bed. “Fucks sake!”
I rushed into the room as soon as I heard the voice and instantly wished that I hadn’t.
Travis was lying in a heap on the floor. He looked up at me and smiled at first but that quickly turned into a look of surprise and then worry. I saw a syringe and some empty glass ampoules on the bed.
“Oh, shit. Shit.” He scrambled to his feet and pulled the bed sheets back so they covered the drug paraphernalia, but it was too late, I’d seen everything. Caught red-handed.
With a shrug of his shoulders and a long sigh, Travis sat on the bed and looked at me through big, guilty eyes.
“I’m sorry.” He said. “I just can’t stop myself, I need help.”
I closed the door and walked across to the bed and stood over him. “You’re putting everyone in danger, Travis. Anything could have happened up here, what if you got hurt or infected?”
“I know.” He looked up at me, his eyes brimming with tears. “I can’t help it. I’m a fucking mess.” He pulled his red beanie hat off and used it to wipe the tears away.
I was angry but I also felt pity for him. It wasn’t long ago that I said nobody gets a third chance in this nightmare; Travis was about to get one.
“Okay, Travis. You’ve got two roads.” I crouched down on my haunches so that we were face to face. “One road takes you to Doctor Webb, you ask him to help you get off this shit, you stay with us at all times.” I reached out and held his arm above the elbow, staring into his eyes. “All times. But you stop right now, you hear me?”
“I do, I hear you. I’m sorry.” He wept into his hat.
“The second road takes you straight back to getting high.”
He dropped the hat onto his lap. “Getting high?” He gave me the questioning, suspicious look of someone certain they were walking into a trap.
“Sure. Get as high as you want, when you want.” I let go of his arm and patted it. “Only next time, I send Jim to come find you.” My eyes narrowed and darkness rushed through me. Using Jim as a threat felt good. “Do you understand me?”
Travis looked terrified. “You won’t need to do that, Mister Daniels.” He held his hand out. “Road number one for me, no doubt.”
“Good.” I pushed myself back to my feet and shook his hand. “Don’t let me down.” I headed back to the door. “Come on, we’re all going to get cleaned up and then we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
I hoped that this would be the end of the drug issue, that Travis would clean up and become useful. Worry niggled and picked its way into my mind, trying to convince me that I was deluded and he would never change, better put him down now like a sick dog than wait until he causes some real damage.
I really needed that shower.
“Does anyone have any objections?” Jim looked at the crowd that had formed a circle around us in the main hall. “Or questions?”
A man stepped forward, he looked to be in his early thirties. “Yeah, I’ve got a question.” He scratched his thick black stubble and eyed Jim with the kind of look a man gives another man just before he punches him in the face.
A slim, blonde haired woman wearing black leggings and a tight grey sweater grabbed his elbow and tried to gently pull him back. “Leave it, hun. Just leave it.” The man shot her an angry glance and pulled his arm free of her grip.
“It’s fine, sweetheart, let him ask his question.” Jim stepped forward and puffed his massive chest out. He towered above the man, he towered above most of us, if I’m honest. “What’s your name?”
“None of your fucking business, mate.” He inclined his head in the direction of the woman who had grabbed his arm. “And she’s not your fucking sweetheart, right?”
Jim held his hands up and smiled. “As you say, Mister none-of-my-fucking-business.”
I looked nervously at Mason and then at Kate. They both looked as worried as I was that Jim was about to explode; he didn’t like being confronted.
Dexy had his bad arm in a clean sling and his other arm was draped around Gemma’s shoulder, helping him to keep steady. Travis stared at the floor and furiously chewed on his fingernails until they were bloody. Dodge was sitting on the floor with Barney, both looking bored.
“Just ask the question, Bruv.” Dexy shouted. “Stop trying to look like a big man.”
“You can’t talk to me like that!” The man’s face twisted angrily and he tried to get closer to Dexy but Jim blocked him.
“I’m about to lose my gentle and caring side.” Jim used his middle finger to prod the man in the chest. “Either ask your question, or fuck off.”
“Fine. I will.” The man sized Jim up and seemed to think better of starting a fight. Instead, he took a couple of steps back until he was safely out of reach. “You lot have only just got here and you think you can take over. Telling us we have to do this that and the other like you’re the boss.” Some of the people behind him made noises of agreement.
This man had a chip the size of Buckingham Palace on his shoulder.
“Finished?” Jim asked.
The man grunted and scratched at his stubble again.
“All we want to do is make this a safer place for you all.” Jim walked around the small space that the hospital survivors had left around us. “I know how to do that. It doesn’t make me the boss, it just means that if you listen to me then we’ll get the job done quickly and properly.”
“Do it your bloody self then!” A voice shouted from the anonymous safety of the mob.
Jim stopped walking and rubbed a hand across his bald head. Mason moved away from Kate to stand beside him.
“Look, if you don’t want to help, then go sit down.” Mason said. “If you do want to help then come and see Jim for a job to do. Either way, this needs to be done.”
“Thank-you.” Jim said in an exasperated tone.
The man with the chip on his shoulder piped up again. “We haven’t had any trouble since that car came with one of those crazies in it. We’re fine, thanks.”
Doctor Webb and Gavin pushed their way through the crowd, Gavin wheeled a large toolbox behind him. “They’re trying to help us, Sean.” Doctor Webb said to Mister none-of-your-fucking-business. “We should be thanking them.”
That caused a massive divide. Some of the survivors started shouting obscenities, while others seemed to be in agreement with the Doctor.
“Fuck this.” Jim pointed at Gavin. “Come with me.”
We all bustled past the arguing crowd and out of the hospital entrance. I grabbed Travis by the hand and pulled him along behind me.
Jim took a huge breath of air and slowly exhaled. “You must be the caretaker?”
“Gavin.” He looked back into the hospital. “My friend Don will be coming to help, and a few others.”
“What the fuck is wrong with them?” Jim stood beside Gavin, both staring in at the angry mob.
“Been like this for a few days now.” Gavin sniffed and wiped his sweaty hands across his blue chequered shirt. “They just want to do their own thing. You’re the first one that’s asked them to work together.”
“Welcome to Britain, where nobody knows or gives a shit about the people living on the same street.” Mason said.
“Pretty much.” Gavin pointed into the hospital. “Here comes Don now.”
Don walked out of the hospital followed by Walter. “Hello again!” Don waved at us and gave an almost apologetic smile.
“Hi, Don. Good to see you again.” Gemma flashed her eyes at him and smiled. “Is this all of us, then?”
“Oh no, no.” Don’s face turned as red as a beetroot, he probably wasn’t used to being spoken to by pretty young girls like Gemma. “They’ll be here soon.”
“Does the hospital have that fencing all the way around?” Jim pointed across at the cast iron fence on the other side of the car park. Each fence pole curved at the top to make a spike that faced outwards.
“Oh yes. All the way.”
“Five of them.” Gavin pulled a bunch of keys from his pocket and dangled them in front of his face. “Got the keys right here.”
Jim crouched down and opened up the toolbox. “Very nice.” He moved his fingers across the wide selection of tools until finally pulling out a long screwdriver. “Take this. In case you see any of those things.” He handed the screwdriver to Mason. “Go with Gavin and get all the gates closed and locked.”
“Aye, aye, skipper.” Mason took the screwdriver and walked off with Gavin following closely behind.
More people started filtering out of the hospital, including the teenagers I’d seen when we first arrived, one of which had given me the finger. It wasn’t long until more than fifteen people had turned out to help and more were still coming.
“Right then.” Jim said, clapping his hands together with glee. “Let’s get to fucking work.”