Authors: Richard Murray,Richard Murray
“Please. It’s not safe here and we really need to get away.” Lily pleaded.
“I really don’t care. Get the hell out of my car.” said the angry man as he reached across and grabbed Lily by the arm, hand grasping tight and causing her to yelp in pain.
My knife was out and unfolded in an instant; I stepped up against the angry fat man and stabbed the blade into the side of his leg. He screamed and fell over releasing his hold on Lily.
“What did you do?” Lily shouted.
“I didn’t kill him” I said, surprised at how defensive I sounded and how much I wanted to not upset Lily. “We really need to go and his shouting will attract them.”
Lily looked at me for several seconds, I couldn’t tell exactly what she was thinking but she looked annoyed. I hoped she wasn’t going to set off without me.
“Pick him up and put him in the back.” Lily said finally.
“Because we can’t just leave him lying here, he needs some medical attention.” she said looking down at the angry man who lay on his side, hands pressed against the bleeding wound in his leg.
“You stabbed him. You get to look after him” said Lily. “Don’t you dare even think of arguing, if you say one word I will leave without you.” She punctuated this last word by slamming the door shut and grabbing hold of the wheel.
I resisted the urge to sigh and put away my knife. I grabbed the wounded man under the arms and I was able to lift him, straining slightly under the weight, before I pushed him awkwardly into the back seat of the car. I told the man quietly to keep hold of his leg to staunch the bleeding before I closed the door and trotted around the car.
“So where to?” Lily asked, as I climbed into the passenger seat beside her.
“I have an idea.” I said. “First though, we need a library.”
Lily spared a moment to glance my way, one eyebrow raised in silent query. I gave her my widest grin. I had a plan. Seeing that she would receive nothing further from me and with no place of her own in mind, she nodded once and we set off.
The journey to the library in the town centre took twenty long minutes. The streets we passed were deserted by the living. The few undead
we saw seemingly excited by our presence as we passed through their midst set up a gurgling sort of wail which, coupled with the moaning coming from our passenger in the back seat was extremely unpleasant.
The undead themselves were fascinating to watch. I could recall movies I saw as a child about the undead
coming back to life and shuffling around eating brains and such like. These creatures seemed to have no special interest in the brains of their prey, any flesh would do.
As we passed one intersection I chanced to see two of the undead fall upon a young woman. In the all too brief moment before we passed beyond view, I had the chance to see them as they used their teeth to devastating effect. They ripped into her flesh, blood and pieces of meat spattering the ground around them. I was unsure whether or not they would be able to actually digest anything, but they were certainly trying.
Another group of the undead we passed were a mixed lot. The leading fellow in a suit and tie had no wound apparent at all. The old man directly behind him was missing a hand and had a large hole where his throat should have been. These wounds didn’t seem to inconvenience him in the least. Yet another of the group had such a large hole in her neck that she was unable to raise her head.
It occurred to me that these creatures were truly undead. They didn’t seem to feel pain and whilst they did bleed, as proven when I stuck my knife into Mr Josh Taylor for the second time, it was thick and dark and almost congealed. Rigor mortis was likely setting in, which would indicate that the older these undead became, the slower they would be.
I recalled Lily’s words from earlier that this seemed to have started with a superbug of some kind. It was entirely likely that the bug was transferred through contact with bodily fluids. My gaze travelled down to my hand, still bearing some of the blood of Mr Josh Taylor. It apparently didn’t matter too much if you got their fluid on your skin, but I doubted how safe it would be to get their fluids in the mouth, eyes or an open wound. It would be a good idea to wash my hands as soon as possible.
“We will be at the library in a few minutes. You want to tell me why we are going there?” said Lily breaking into my quiet contemplation.
“The world is going to hell, perhaps literally.” I said, nodding towards another group of the undead wandering out of a side street as we passed. “Food will become an issue and clean safe to drink water will definitely become a problem. I personally have no idea how to purify water, how to grow vegetables or what medicinal benefits can be found in the plants that grow all around us. I think this may be knowledge that we will need though and the best place to get that is at the local library.” I said, adding as an afterthought “it will also likely have all kinds of maps of the surrounding area.”
Lily seemed to consider what I had said, swerving around a gruesome looking corpse standing in the road. I wondered idly if it had any thoughts swirling around in its rotting brain.
“Ok. I see what you mean. It’s as good an idea as any I suppose. Perhaps it will have a phone that works inside.” Lily said.
I was pleased that she had agreed with me. I had spent so much of my life alone it was an interesting feeling to have someone listen and act on my words. I was so pleased that I didn’t bother to complain as she pulled up outside the library and instructed me to bring the angry little man who was now whimpering and bleeding all over the back seat.
The town centre was as deserted as the streets we had driven through. I imagined that if we went by the hospital we would find it a great deal more crowded, but for now I was happy not to have to deal with too many walking corpses.
Lily jogged across to the library entrance as I lifted the angry man out of the car, throwing one arm around him to help keep him upright as I ignored his curses. Fortunately the library was a new building. Two stories high and built on level ground to ensure the elderly and disabled didn’t have too many stairs to climb. I was happy for that considering how heavy the angry man was.
Lily pulled the doors open and stepped inside. She stuck her head back out a moment later and motioned for us to join her. Angry man gave a whimper and a new curse word every time he put any weight on his wounded leg. A little more blood dribbled out with every step, which would have amused me more if it wasn’t being brushed onto my own leg as I helped him along.
I stepped into the library and heaved a sigh of relief as I dropped angry man on the floor. He swore at me and moaned. Lily looked less than amused. I felt it prudent to find some way to secure the door and have a look around.
The doors each had a small bolt at the top and bottom which allowed them to be locked tight without the aid of a key. I reasoned that as long as we stayed out of the line of sight of anyone outside then we should be ok.
Lily was busy helping angry man to a chair behind the librarians counter so I decided to wander about. The library was two stories high, the ground floor being almost exclusively books with a few computers for people to use. The second floor could be reached from a set of stairs by the entrance that led up to door for an art gallery of some sort. I can honestly say that I had never felt the need to go up there so perhaps that would be something worth doing.
Lining the sides of the building for its full length were shelves full of books. Through the centre of the room were rows of standalone bookshelves rising almost to the roof, whilst in the centre were the desks and chairs, where the casual reader could look through their books in comfort.
To the right of the doors were the librarians counter and a square office, the plain wooden door was closed. Lily was rooting around under the counter.
“What are you doing?” I asked her.
“Looking for a first aid box, they must have one, it’s the law or something, I’m sure.” Lily glanced at me, showing her most fearsome frown so far. “We need a first aid kit because someone stabbed Brian.”
The formerly angry man who I now knew as Brian was also flaring at me. I felt that perhaps we may have gotten off to the wrong start. “Hello Brian, glad you could join us.” I said offering him my most sincere smile.
“It’s Mr Johnson to you.” Brian said, as my smile faded under his withering glare. I shrugged and walked away, leaving them to it. I made a mental note to look for something I could use as a weapon as I headed for the computers.
The first terminal wasn’t in working order; the second though had an internet connection. I sat and spent the next thirty minutes browsing any of the news sites that I could actually access. A great many of them were either running extremely slowly or simple showed an “error, unable to connect” message. It looked like I was not the only one trying to find some news.
Eventually though I had a working picture of what was happening. The world had indeed gone to hell. In an incredibly short space of time the governments across the globe were calling on people to get off the streets. Not so much to maintain order but to try and stop the undead killing people and adding to their ranks.
The name I had seen bandied about by several news services was Zombie. It made sense I supposed.
Undead and walking around eating people would kind of fit most people’s definitions of zombie. I wondered why I had been shying away from calling them that. In the end I figured it didn’t matter. Zombies were rising and taking over this dreary little world of ours.
According to the news, the militaries of the many nations of the world were having problems. Simply shooting the zombies wouldn’t work. The movies had been right about that at least, destroying the brain was the easiest way to kill them. That alone made much of the modern militaries weaponry pretty pointless. Grenades designed to incapacitate or fling shrapnel around would be no use. Blow up a zombie and all you had for your trouble was lots of pieces of zombie lying around and any parts still connected to a head trying to bite your ankles as you walked past.
The BBC at least was working and listed some advice. If you knew someone had been infected in any way – usually by a bite or initial sickness– then you needed to quarantine them. There was no cure. If you could stay in your home or place of business you were advised to do so and the rescue services would get to you as soon as they could. I kind of doubted that one.
If you had nowhere that was safe to go, the military and police were setting up refugee centres in most towns that they could reach with the limited personnel. Generally these would be in schools or sports stadiums as they could hold plenty of people and be secured. The final piece of advice was to avoid hospitals. The majority of these would by now be swarming with zombies.
I leaned back in the chair and digested this. It certainly wasn’t looking good. I looked over to see Lily and Brian chatting. It seemed she had found some bandages and managed to get Brian to calm down a bit. It was annoying how easily he could talk to her. Small talk was a skill that I had never really acquired.
Through years of practice I had become used to assessing people as threats or potential victims and Brian was neither. Middle aged and overweight, a handle bar moustache and glasses. He sat there in his beige khakis and flannel shirt. I would have no trouble killing him if required. Though at the same time he was too loud, too likely to be missed if taken as a participant in my hobby. All told he would be someone on the street that I would have no cause to look at twice. He annoyed the hell out of me though and that bothered me.
Lily on the other hand would certainly never have been a victim of mine. She too would be the sort of person who would be missed. Her shoulder length dark hair, beautiful blue eyes like windows into her soul – a cliché but no less true for that - and a smile that could light a room, though I had seen little of that; no, even sitting there talking in jeans and a t-shirt she stood out. She would be missed by far too many people.
At the same time I couldn’t see her as a threat, but something about her made me wary. I couldn’t help but think that getting too close to her would be a really bad thing for me, though I didn’t know why. It was an instinctive feeling though and over the years I had learnt to trust those when I got them.
Shaking off my thoughts of my current companions, I stood and started to walk around the shelves of books. The ones I wanted would be in the reference section which would make the area to search manageable.
I was stood between two of the large shelves searching amongst the books when the smell hit me. It was revolting, something along of the lines of rotting meat mixed with raw sewage. I wondered briefly if the drains were blocked when a rather unpleasant realisation hit me.
The library doors had been unlocked yet we had seen no sign of any of the members of staff who may have opened then. I still had the knife I had used to stab Brian and I took a moment to take it from my pocket and open it up. I could hear Lily laugh at something Brian said back by the entrance and, wary of calling out and alerting any potential zombie, I slowly started to walk back the way I had come.
I was having another ‘eerie’ feeling, as though someone or something was watching me. I really don’t like that sort of feeling at all. The hairs were standing up on the back of my neck again. I swivelled on my heel quickly to look behind me, nothing there. I breathed a sigh of relief and turned back.
Oh shit! The zombie had come around the corner of the bookshelf. A dark trail of blood led from her mouth and down the front of her dress. Her silence disturbed me as I couldn’t tell if that was due to some predatory instinct or damage to her vocal cords. However this woman died, the number of wounds she bore told me that she must have been attacked by several other undead.
My blade was raised before me. I intended to wait until she came close enough that I could swiftly drive my small blade up beneath her chin and end her miserable existence. At least that was the plan. As she came around the corner and realised I was there, a ready meal just waiting to be eaten she picked up speed. Unfortunately she had been dead long enough that her limbs had stiffened and one of the wounds on her ankle was too deep. The ankle gave way and the zombie stumbled, her claw like hands taking a vicelike grip on my jacket as she pulled me down with her.