Authors: Stephen Charlick
Tags: #Science Fiction, #Post-Apocalyptic, #Horror, #Fantasy
‘Look,’ Patrick said, pulling off the glove to show nothing but a small red mark where the skin had been pinched
, ‘the skin hasn’t been broken.’
With a nod and the sense of worry visibly draining from his face, Imran smiled.
‘Just didn’t want to be the one to have to tell your Mrs you got bitten on my watch,’ he said, finally lowering his bow, ‘she’d kick my arse.’
With a laugh, Patrick picked up the pus covered policeman’s vest with his remaining gloved hand and walked back over to Imran.
‘What, and Liz wouldn’t beat me senseless if I let you get bitten?’ he asked.
‘Let’s face it, we chose some real scary women to fall in love with, Patrick
,’ Imran replied, slapping his friend on the shoulder.
‘Yep, real scary,’ said Patrick, as he turned to scan the tree line for any more movement
, ‘and we wouldn’t have it any other way.’
‘It’s all clear
,’ Gabe shouted down from above them, ‘I’ve done a complete circuit and there’s no sign of any more at the moment.’
‘Cheers,’ Patrick called back to Gabe with a wave
, ‘we’re coming back in then.’
With a wave, Gabe disappeared from view and ran along the walkway to the ladder, so he could open the small side gate.
‘He’s left the ropes hanging this side again,’ Imran noted, pointing with his bow to the two rope ladders hanging over the wall.
Keeping the integrity of the Convent was an integral part of their lives
, and making sure either the living or the Dead didn’t breach the walls, was paramount to ensure the safety of everyone inside.
There were basically three ways into the convent. The small fortified side door that was only used when they were certain the Dead had been cleared from the walls, the large main gates, which had been extended outwards to a second set of gates to create a ‘holding’ area
, and the rope ladders that were lowered over the wall from the walkway when there were the Dead to deal with. When they needed to do this, one person would make some noise on the walkway to attract the Dead over to a certain part of the wall, while the other would lower one of the rope ladders some six metres away along the wall. When this person had safely reached the ground, they would gain the attention of the Dead, so the other person could lower their own ladder. As the Dead that came to the walls were slow moving, there was usually plenty of time for the other person to descend their ladder before the Dead were even half way to the first person. Then, in a pincer like movement, the Dead would be dispatched from either side, until once again, only the living remained.
‘Right, it’s the third time now
,’ said Patrick, his dark eyebrows coming together. ‘I know he’s just a teenager and his hormones are going crazy, but he’s got to learn to keep his mind on the job.’
‘Being a teenager is no excuse,’ Imran added, slipping his bow over his shoulder
. ‘Liz is only a bit older than he is, and she could run this place single-handed if she needed to.’
, but Gabe didn’t have Charlie to teach him,’ Patrick replied, banging his fist against the metal side door, ‘Gabe grew up among the Dead alone, only coming out to scavenge at night and spending his days hiding in cupboards, car boots, and under floorboards. He’s still got a lot to learn about being around other people, and now he’s going to learn that rules are rules. Sometimes, you just have to learn the hard way.’
At that, Gabe pulled open the door, the smile dropping from his lips when he saw the look on Patrick’s face.
‘What,’ he asked sheepishly, ‘what have I done?’
,’ was all Patrick needed to say for the realisation of what he had forgotten to do, flashed across Gabe’s face.
‘Shit!’ he said, turning to sprint back up to the ladder that led up to the walkway so he could pull the rope ladders back over the wall.
The two men walked in, secured the side door behind them, and followed Gabe up to the scaffolding walkway that run inside the entire outer wall of the Convent.
,’ said Gabe, pulling the second rope ladder up onto the walkway, ‘I forgot.’
‘Well, what if we hadn’t noticed the ladders? Anyone could’ve got in
,’ Patrick began, resting his heavy length of pipe against the wall. ‘You know there are people out there that would love to get in here. We’ve got it pretty good here and we can’t afford to take any risks that put us in danger, not with so many children here too.’
‘I’m really sorry
, Patrick,’ replied Gabe, images of what could have happened flashing through his mind.
‘For punishment, you can clean this for a start
,’ said Patrick, tossing the stinking policeman’s vest to Gabe, ‘and then help Phil when he goes out to shift the bodies, and I’d better hear from Phil that you did the majority of the work, okay!’
,’ Gabe replied, holding the reeking vest at arm’s length away from him.
‘Wash what you can off it first, boil it, then ask Sister Rebecca for a jar of her Apple vinegar to disinfectant it and boil it again
,’ Patrick said. ‘You’d better ask Avery if it should be boiled for a certain length of time to make sure.’
,’ said Gabe, ‘and sorry, it won’t happen again… promise.’
‘Make sure it doesn’t or we’ll have to think up something else to get the message into that thick head of yours
,’ Patrick replied, the friendly smile slowly returning to his face. ‘Now get going, that thing stinks worse than you do.’
,’ Gabe said, returning the smile as he ran to the end of the walkway back to the ladder.
Imran watched the young man sprint across the large courtyard and disappear inside the main building. When they had first come to
Lanherne, the Sisters in residence had already gone a long way to converting much of the large area behind the high walls into a viable food producing compound. They had already had the stable where they housed the horses and goats, a chicken coop full of scrawny looking hens, some bee hives, and had turned most of the remaining land over to a patchwork of vegetable patches. Since then, a pig sty had also been built to accommodate the slowly growing herd, and Duncan, Lanherne’s resident engineer, had knocked through two of the small outbuildings to make one sizable building into a workshop for himself. They had also constructed a poly tunnel just outside the walls and a few of the surrounding overgrown fields had been ploughed for barley, wheat, and potato crops. Imran had been shocked how utterly back breaking the summer and winter harvests had been, but they had gathered a store of grain and potatoes and thanks to Duncan’s ingenuity, their bread had gone from a tough hard loaf to something a little more palatable.
‘Looks like Leon and Cam are back
,’ Patrick said, breaking Imran from his thoughts, as he gestured to the box covered cart being pulled along the lane that led to Lanherne.
‘What? They’re back from the Penhaligan place already?’ said Imran, turning to look at the approaching cart
. ‘They didn’t stick around…’
had been a troubled youth when the Dead first arrived. Gangs, soft drugs, and petty crime, had been his life, but that all changed the day he hurried home to find the body of his mother eating a neighbour. With his childhood friend, J-Man, he soon learnt his urban bravado and ‘fuck you’ attitude held no place in a world where death was just a hands grasp away. So as the world changed, Leon changed with it. He discovered he had a remarkable knack at throwing knives, and like Imran, his skill kept the Dead beyond arm’s reach for the survivors who had made their home at the Pylon.
, Cam had been an ‘in the field’ reporter for the BBC, and as the world descended into chaos, there he had been sending reports of one massacre after another to horrified looking anchor men and women in the studio. But that was a lifetime ago now, and it had been almost two years since he had come across the small caravan of carts led by Charlie, an ex-soldier and the father of Alice’s baby, and eventually found its way to the Lanherne Convent and he gave thanks to God every day that he had.
‘Hope nothing’s wrong
, ’Imran continued, moving to stand by the winch that would open the outer gate of the ‘holding’ area.
minutes, the dappled mare was patiently standing just beyond the outer gate, her tail swishing back and forth, as she waited to be let in. Using the winch Duncan had developed; Imran turned the crank handle and watched the gate begin to open, while Patrick stood with a concerned expression on his face waiting for news from the two travellers.
Cam and Leon had been sent to the old Penhaligan home to collect the spring harvest of vegetables and to prepare the ground for a
second crop. The Penhaligan place was a large manor house, which the Penhaligan family had fortified to make their home. They had fallen foul of a religious cult almost a year ago and had been slaughtered, all apart from their youngest child, Alex, who had subsequently been adopted by the Lanherne croup. The house, with its orchard of fruit trees and large grounds turned over to food production, was too good a resource for those at the Convent to abandon. So it had been decided that until the house was taken over by some other group of survivors, they would routinely visit and take advantage of the bounty it had to offer.
With it taking a good six or seven hours to get there and the same to get back, the trip should have taken three days
, but with their unexpected early arrival something had obviously happened, and with the way the world was at the moment, Patrick knew it wasn’t going to be something good. Also, the fact that they had arrived back at Lanherne mid-morning meant they must have left before dawn and that worried him too. After the Dead had come to blight humanity, roads soon fell into disrepair and now many of them were little more than cracked and broken grey lines criss-crossing the countryside, and because of this, they didn’t tend to travel at night. All it took was one unseen pothole and a wheel could be damaged or worse, Delilah could hurt herself. With either option leaving them stranded with no means of safe transport, and with the only way back on foot through a terrain full of the Dead, it simply wasn’t worth the risk.
Once Delilah had pulled the cart through the first set of gates and Imran had closed them behind her, a hatch popped open on the side of the box shaped cover of the cart.
‘Hey, Imran, my man,’ called Leon, as he appeared through the opening and waved up at the walkway, ‘how’s things here?’
‘Fine,’ Imran replied as he checked
that none of the Dead had slipped into the holding area along with the cart, ‘Clear! Why are you back so early?’
,’ Leon called back, as he jumped down from the cart to check there wasn’t anything unexpected hanging on or caught underneath.
When he was sure it was safe, he gave Imran the signal and the inner gate began to crank open. Walking alongside the cart, Leon led Delilah through the gates and into what was left of the courtyard. Immediately, Penny and Lars appeared from the stable to take care of Delilah, as Cam got out of the cart.
Lars had been a geography teacher before the Dead came and Penny the remaining survivor of one of his classes. Having looked after her for eight years, Lars had taken on a grandfatherly role for the young woman who had spent much of that time trapped within her own traumatised mind. It had only been when Lars had been fighting for his life with one of the Dead that Penny had been able to pull herself back to reality and save him. Now she was the bright, inquisitive, beautiful woman she was always meant to be. But, by some strange twist of fate, Penny was not the only survivor from Lars’s school days, Steve who along with Avery had spent those years on the military base, was also a face from his past. Steve’s father had been a Sergeant on the base and when the world changed, the young boy had been taken to the island as part of the civilian entourage. Steve’s father had been a cruel and vicious soldier and when Steve ultimately betrayed him so he could spare Penny, his first love, from being sent to the island, his father had condemned him to a heartless death. It had only been thanks to Phil and the others from Lanherne that Steve had survived at all.
‘You’re back early
.’ Penny said, giving Delilah’s muzzle a stroke.
‘Yeah, something came up
,’ Leon casually said, while he turned to watch Patrick make his way along the walkway to the ladder.
‘I was talking to Delilah, actuall
y,’ Penny said, as she began to unbuckle the mare’s tack, ‘glad you got back too though.’
‘What? Sorry, Penny
,’ Leon replied, ‘didn’t mean to sound rude, stuff on my mind, you know.’
‘No worries,’ she replied with a smile, handing Delilah’s reins over to Lars
‘Not sure,’ he replied, scratching at the tight braiding that kept his hair beyond the grasp of Dead hands
, ‘but something’s up for sure.’
‘Though ‘what’ is anyone’s guess
,’ added Cam as he began to unload the cart of its cargo.
‘Is that all there is?’ asked Patrick
, seeing the cart only held only a few sacks of vegetables.