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.
Six figures stood in the hallway beyond the door, youths, all wearing the standard hoodie uniform, jogging pants, brand name trainers on their feet and as a finishing touch, the ever popular hooded jacket with the hood firmly up. Two of them wore a baseball cap under their hood, casting dark shadows onto their faces.
The hallway had three huge windows facing the street, one of which had been smashed and the light breeze of fresh air gave a small amount of relief to the stench of the building. The far end of the hallway was shrouded in shadows, for a moment I thought that I had seen movement in those shadows but dismissed it as my vision playing tricks on me.
The youths all stood looking at Jim and myself and they had a variety of weapons, mostly carving knives, but one held a large flat head screwdriver and the smallest of the youths leaned against a door with his fingers wrapped around the handle of a two handed mallet that stood proudly before him. He was so small and thin that I wasn’t sure how he would fare when it came to swinging that mallet, but on the same note, I didn’t want to provoke him into an attempt.
I didn’t want to provoke any of them. I wanted to back out of the hallway as quickly as I could.
“Jim,” I said quietly, “Maybe we should just…”
“Come on in, lads.” A voice interrupted.
The voice came from a seventh youth that had been standing in the shadows at the end of the hallway. I inwardly admonished myself for dismissing the movement I had seen. That was when I decided to have more confidence in my senses. The newly appeared youth was dressed in the same regalia as his fellow hoodies except this one was a lot taller than the others and as he stepped closer I saw that he held a pistol in his hand. It was the first time I had ever seen a gun that wasn’t on TV or in a movie.
“I see you found my crowbar, Bruv.” The youth said, pointing his gun in my direction. “How about you leave it on the floor there?”
A wave of laughter rippled through the hooded gang.
“I threw it at one of those things from over there.” He nodded his head toward the broken window. “Hit it on the back but it just walked off. I never seen nothing like this, Bruv. Mental shit”
His friends murmured the word “Mental.”
“Now just hold on…” Jim boomed, moving toward the tall hoodie.
The youth quickly turned his gun toward Jim. He held the gun side on, rap star gangster style.
“Where you going, Granddad?” He snapped. “I will shoot your wrinkly face right off, you hear me, Bruv?”
More laughter. These kids were like sheep and the tall one was their shepherd. Jim nodded to verify that his hearing was fine and he stepped back to his original position beside me. I placed the crowbar onto the floor and gently pushed it forward with my foot. The last thing I wanted to do was annoy a teenager with a gun.
“We don’t want any trouble.” I told him.
“Glad to hear it.” He grinned. “Now, empty your pockets. I want weapons, phones and wallets.”
“What?” I was stunned.
“You heard me.” He said, brandishing the gun at me. “Empty all your shit out and piss off.”
“Fuck off, you petty little crook.” Jim spoke sternly and his face mirrored the sentiment.
“Say what, big man?” The youth rushed down the hallway and pushed the barrel of the pistol under Jim’s chin. “Do you know who you’re playing with here, bruv?” He pushed the gun harder to accentuate the gravity of the situation.
“Not a fucking clue,” Jim grinned as he answered. “Bruv.”
“You trying to be a funny man?” The youth wanted to know.
“Look, we’re just trying to find my daughter.” I pleaded.
The tall hoodie looked over at me.
“Your daughter?” He asked, moving closer to me but keeping his pistol trained on Jim. “Who is she?”
“Her name’s Gemma.” I told him, relieved to have seemingly postponed Jim’s face being shot off. “Gemma Daniels.”
He was in my face now, and he laughed. The others predictably joined in on cue, all laughing at the name of my daughter. Rage burned in my stomach but even against a teenager it wouldn’t help.
He had a gun.
“Gemma Daniels?” He asked, still chuckling. “She is one dirty skank, Bruv.”
“Proper skank.” Another of the hoodies agreed.
While all eyes were on me, Jim whirled into action. He grabbed the youth’s arm and twisted until he released the gun into Jim’s waiting hand.
The words rang out and the gang came running towards us, weapons at the ready. Jim aimed the pistol and squeezed the trigger, one of the youths dropped heavily and I crouched down, putting my hands over my ears to try and muffle the ringing caused by the firearms deafening report. It felt as though my eardrums had burst into a hundred different pieces and each piece rang out it’s final death knell in unison with the others. I looked up to see that the rest of the gang had stopped dead in their tracks, unwilling to risk another casualty. I could hear Jim shouting but couldn’t hear the words. Then his massive hand was under my arm and lifting me to my feet.
He was talking to me but it was all drowned out by the constant tone sounding off in my head.
After long moments my head began to clear.
“William!” I heard Jim bellowing at me. I heard him! My ear drums hadn’t exploded. “Get your crowbar!”
I looked down at the tall youth who was now on his knees and nursing the arm that Jim had twisted. Jim kicked the tall teenager in the stomach, making him fall back onto the floor.
“Alright, Bruv, alright.” The hoodie lifted his arm in submission. “We were just messing.”
“Well?” Jim yelled, ignoring the surrender and kicking him a second time. “Who the fuck are you?”
The hoodie leader lay gasping for air and the smaller youth dropped his huge mallet and came running up to his freshly assaulted comrade. Jim aimed the gun at the youth but for reasons known only to himself, decided against pulling the trigger.
“Leave him alone!” The smaller youth cried out as he got to his knees and put his hand on the chest of his leader. “That’s my brother!”
As the smaller youth helped his brother to stand up and I slowly retrieved my crowbar, we all heard the growling infected racing up the stairs to find the source of the gunshot and shouting. Every single one of us stared at the hallway door with dread.
“William, crowbar.” Jim said, holding out his hand.
I quickly passed the crowbar to him. Jim then jammed it into the door handle and pushed it down so that it was fixed tight between the handle and the wall, effectively making sure that the infected couldn’t open the door.
“Everyone be as quiet as a fucking church mouse.” Hi hissed, looking round to make sure that the youth gang were on the same page. They were.
The tall youth was now standing and looked as though he had recovered from the kicking.
“Shit, bruv. Shit. Shit. Shit.” He whispered. “Look what you did.” He shot an accusatory glance in Jim’s general direction.
“Me?” Jim seemed genuinely shocked to be given the blame.
“You little shit.” He continued. “If you hadn’t tried to rob us, I wouldn’t have shot your friend over there.” Jim used the gun to point at the dead gang member who was now laying in an ever increasing pool of dark, thick blood.
“Whatever, Bruv.” The leader of the gang said dismissively.
“What’s your name, son?” Jim asked.
The teenager eyed him with suspicion and thought for a moment before deciding to answer.
“Dexy.” He said begrudgingly. He then put his hand on the head of the smallest youth, “And this here is my little brother, Dodge.”
“Fantastic. I’m Jim and my friend here is William.” Jim pushed his weight against the door when we heard the first infected throw itself against it. “Get your weight up against this fucking door, there’s a good lad.”
Without thinking, Dexy did as he was asked. We all understood that we were in this together now, none of the machismo and alpha male bravado that had been displayed by Jim and Dexy mattered in this moment. The only important thing now was for us to survive.
“Is there another way out of here?” Jim grunted as more infected threw themselves against the door.
“No.” It was Dodge that answered him.
“Well that complicates things.” Jim said, his eyes closed in frustration.
“Why’s that, Bruv?” Dexy inquired, pushing against the door in perfect teamwork with the man who had handed him a beat down only moments before.
“Me and my friend over there,” Jim nodded his head in my direction. “We need to find his little girl, and we think she’s in her boyfriends flat.”
“You mean Travis?” Dexy asked.
“Yes.” I answered. “Where’s his flat?”
“Next floor up, Bruv.” Dexy winced as the door popped against his shoulder. The crowbar was getting looser with each attack on the door. The infected were getting louder and throwing themselves harder as their blood-lust grew. For a brief moment I wondered if the infection might be some kind of evolutionary regression, turning them into pre-historic animals that only stopped when their brain was smashed in.
“I’m going to let them in.” Jim said.
“What?” Dexy looked at Jim and then at me, an expression of disbelief firmly etched into his features.
“Jim, no.” Was all I could say, sharing the disbelief of Dexy, but knowing that there was no real value in arguing. Jim was going to do what Jim wanted to do.
“We can take them.” Jim told us. “I don’t think there’s that many out there. Five at most.”
“There must be another way.” Dexy looked around wildly, trying to find options. “The ceiling, let’s smash our way through the ceiling.”
“Solid concrete.” Jim was right. We would never get through in time, if we got through at all. “Okay then, on the count of three, let’s give them a good dose of fuckery, lads.” He smiled.
“No, Bruv, don’t do it.” Dexy was no stranger to violence, but even he didn’t want to invite those things in.
Jim pulled at the crowbar. Everyone held their weapons up, even little Dodge looked ready to take heads off with his mallet. Me? Well my weapon was stuck in the door so I slowly made my way behind everyone else.
“One.” The countdown started. Jim pulled the crowbar again.
“Awww shit, Bruv.” Dexy said mournfully. “You’re fucking mental, you are.” He stepped away from the door and pulled a knife from the inside of his hooded jacket. He then stood with his friends, knife at the ready.
“Two.” The door cracked loudly as another infected threw its weight against it.
“Three.” Jim pulled the crowbar free and opened the door. The infected snapped at the air excitedly and ran at us.