Authors: Ian D. Moore
The author, Ian D Moore asserts the moral and legal right to be identified as the author of this work.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher.
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
This book is a work of fiction with some factual references and based on certain characters very much alive and well. With their exception, any similarity to other persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.
Ian D Moore 2016. All Rights Reserved.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
This novel is dedicated to Angela Mary Moore, my mum. For all the grief I gave you as a child, for all the times you’ve been there and for your unconditional love.
, lost at sea two months ago, reappeared on radar. The vessel, registered in Murmansk oblast, left Hull in the United Kingdom bound for Russia via the Northwest Passage. The journey, made twice monthly, usually took no more than seven days to complete. The ship carried twenty thousand tonnes of grain in its cargo hold, bound for the Russian Federation.
When it set sail, the impact of the accidental outbreak of the Salby type Y virus strain, the epicentre less than forty miles from the docks, had just begun to impose a stranglehold upon the country. The vessel had evaded normal search protocols due to the unprecedented events unfolding in the UK. The viral outbreak would last many months and claim tens of thousands of lives. A spotter plane located the cargo freighter in the Barents Sea, powering towards the shipping lane and docking port, coming in far faster than the five-knot limit imposed.
Captain Olav Bochorov sat in his chair facing the windows of the bridge, his stare cast out over the sleek, steel hull of the freighter. His eyes were fixed, face expressionless, unconcerned at the pace with which he was about to enter the port. The hailed, frantic warnings from the radio didn’t warrant a response. He sat, as he had sat for the last nine weeks, without so much as a blink while the warning lights flashed on the cabin-wide console in front of him. Rigor mortis, long set into his body, held his clawed hands in his lap, which in turn once held his own intestines and stomach. The ferocity of the unprecedented attack, which resulted in his body sliced hip-to-hip, left no room for mercy. As the subtle, undulating motions of the waves carried the ship forwards, in harmony with the low background hum of the diesel engines, the putrefying liquids of his corpse had slowly drained and pooled under his seat to spread out in a yellowy-brown, sticky liquid. His entrails dangled in mid-air between his legs. Of the eleven crew members originally on board, five jumped, met by the icy waters of the sea, to take their chances with nature rather than face the carnage on board.
At the base of the cream metal access steps leading down into the bowels of the ship, human remains littered the iron grate walkways. Rats teemed over the rotting meat feast, and swarms of flies jostled and darted, their melodic hum the background music as they too swooped to gorge upon the decayed flesh of the dead. The acrid, foul-smelling stench of rancid flesh wafted through the entire cavernous cargo hold area—even the darkest of corners proved no haven. In one such corner, a pair of jet-black eyes stared at the undulating mass of rats as they feasted.
Kill, kill, kill them all.
The voices inside his head screamed relentlessly. Simon Lloyd made it to the docks killing or wounding countless along the way; he couldn’t remember just how many. He boarded the ship undetected and then waited
It began like every other day. He’d been at work and planned to stop by to see his two children afterwards, just as most absent fathers do from time-to-time, only that day had been different. It would have been the first time he’d seen them in almost five years, if he had made it, and wasn’t it just typical that he didn’t turn up? He couldn’t remember trying, couldn’t remember anything as he stared at the rats scurrying between the remains.
Kill, kill, kill them all, what are you waiting for?
His leg wound had healed a little. The black, jelly-like blood coagulated the wound from the frenzied, senseless attack, sustained by something he couldn’t quite bring to focus. The remaining crew members were no match for him. He had torn each one apart. How good it felt as their limbs separated, the dull clicks and pops as joints gave under pressure, sinews and tendons stretched as the demons in his mind laughed. The overwhelming sense of pleasure he felt as the life left their eyes was tangible. How satisfying it had felt as he bit into the softer parts of their flesh, tearing away sweet-tasting mouthfuls from the now slain bodies—satiating his desire to kill, if only for a few short minutes.
Time to go and kill some rats ...
Salby, North Yorkshire, 0100 hours, three hours before the viral outbreak.
he medicinal bottle, positioned in the middle of the table, beckoned me once more. The glass was my favourite crystal tumbler, specifically set aside for such occurrences. It called to me. I couldn’t though, not before work.
I wiped the back of my hand across two days of growth—satisfying the itch—removed my glasses and pinched the bridge of my nose. My routine, unchanged since the split, trudged onwards in an endless cycle of work, eat, drink, and sleep. The sorrows simply refused to drown, no matter how deep the liquid I immersed them in. After five years, you’d think I’d have snapped out of it by now, and yet as I sat here contemplating those very thoughts, the burden remained.
My bag contained an unappetising sandwich. A limp, soggy ham and cheese, tucked in beside a flask of tea, which usually carried an undertone of the contents before it. Lastly, a book, for the long nights spent waiting.
For the last few years, I’d done little but walk the moors, aimlessly looking for something, only to return home empty-handed. This wasn’t home, at least, not the home I recalled.
In effect, my sentence was to serve the mundane, the flame inside me thwarted, extinguished to monotony with only the barest glimmer of hope in retirement for the future.
This would do no good—it never did. I hauled my self-pitying bones from the chair, pushed it neatly back under the table and grabbed the workbag. I winked at the bottle.
“I’ll be back for you, later.” I muttered.
My day started normally—as mundane as the rest of the week, really. It wasn’t until the early hours that things began to get a little strange. I worked the graveyard shift as a railway junction box operator and signalman for a major rail freight company. While a lot of the signal boxes and crossings were being made electronic, controlled by computers and machines, the company still had certain places that required the presence of an actual body. Me.
I was on shift at a rural, local signal box, one I’d done many, many times before, one that was usually just a two-operation night. The 2159 from Salby came out of the power station, across the junction heading south for more coal, and then it returned from Leeds railhead at 0509 the following morning with a full load. That would pretty much be it as far as the actual traffic was concerned. Last night, it hadn’t happened that way—at least not entirely.
Sure, the 2159 rumbled through with a honked horn from the driver as it passed. The locomotive ambled its way from the power station terminus to pick up the mainline route south, pulling the usual fifty behind it.
I counted each and every one, just as I always do.
The phone rang five minutes before; the railhead operator at Leeds Central let me know the train was on the way through, a safety procedure just in case any of the mainline trains had been diverted for any reason. That would allow me time to stop the train until I was given the all clear. There were no such concerns last night, and the train passed as usual, without incident.
After it had gone, I settled back down in the worn, threadbare easy chair to watch a little TV. I’d maybe finish another chapter of the current book I was into, an indie author novel from an unknown writer, werewolves of all things. To be fair though, the book
As usual, my mind wandered back to the break-up of my marriage. This ritual became my nightly, futile attempt to figure out what went wrong, who was to blame, and what the future held. There hadn’t been much contact with my ex-wife since the split; what dialogue there had been, usually ended in bitter arguments. The filing of divorce papers hadn’t helped matters much either, let alone what I thought were vastly over-calculated maintenance payments for our two children.
Although I visited my son when he was little a few times, lately there hadn’t been much in the way of quality time with either him, or his sister, whom I had yet to meet. This was something I planned to resolve, and I’d reached a point where rationality dawned. It told me that no matter what, it could never be the fault of the children for the break-up. I was, and would always be, their father.
Now, marginally calmer having reached this conclusion, I pulled the plug on the TV and turned on the small radio to listen to the news bulletin. It was usually all doom and gloom, but there were
uplifting stories, sometimes. The music they played was a little more to my taste, too, given the hour. I sipped at the tepid tea from the stainless wrapped plastic of the flask lid.
At 0400, the radio presenter announced that an additional “breaking news flash” would interrupt the usual programming. I turned up the volume a little, listening intently as the newsreader reported an explosion, close to my home on the outskirts of the town. It wasn’t a million miles away from where my wife—
—ex-wife and children still lived.
I thought nothing of it. The report was pretty vague: people missing, presumed dead at some sort of gas drilling site. From the beginning, it was vehemently opposed by the residents of Salby anyway. Hell, I signed the petition against it myself.
When the 0509 to Salby failed to arrive,
was breaking news, at least as far as my job was concerned. It never failed to turn up, nor, if I remembered correctly, had there never been a phone call from the main rail office to let me know that it wasn’t coming. Very strange. The procedure was simple from here on in. Dial the number to the rail office, which was only a small control centre on the tracks that passed Salby town, inform the controller, and log the call. No response. The phone rang and then rang some more. I dialled again, this time, the central rail control office in Leeds.
The fact that the train hadn’t been seen would have to be reported; then it could be left in the hands of people who got paid a whole heap more than I did to worry about such things. Today, of all days, this had to happen. Why, oh why can’t people do their jobs properly?
If there’s one thing which really gets on my nerves, it’s slackers.
The merciless, nicotine-stained clock on the wall jeered on— it must have been there for years, the same uncaring, unknowing regulatory professor of time.
Tick, tick, tick, tick!
At 0600, I would be turning the points back over to remote control at Leeds. The power station line only operated during the night hours, due to the length of the trains. I began to pack my night bag ready for the sedate ride home.
It was only a few miles, usually no more than twenty minutes. All of the roads were national speed limit, 60 mph stretches and at that hour, I usually missed the first of the early commuters heading in.
Despite trying to call for half an hour without response, I transferred the signal box back to the main signalling offices at Leeds.
With a last look to the grimy interior, I closed the door to the raised cabin and locked it with the master key—just in case there should be any curious kids playing near the lines later in the day.
Once the proud owner of a shiny 4x4 with a whopping 2.8 litre V6 in the front, I found its days were numbered after the separation. It had cost me a pretty penny to get new furniture, not to mention the sizeable deposit on the rented house, now called home. The badass, gas-guzzling monster had to go, replaced with a more efficient but slightly-the-worse-for-wear Vauxhall.
That was another of the niggling grievances in my mind. Every time I drove it, I always felt that it wasn’t supposed to be like this, that it wasn’t fair, and more to the point, that it wasn’t
I got behind the wheel and slammed the driver’s door a little too hard, forcing the ignition and revving the engine a little too much as the car rattled into life. The dust and gravel track road leading to the points’ office proved no match for the tyres as they kicked up plumes of chippings. I vented my angst on the accelerator and took out my frustrations on the car itself, before mounting the blacktop main road with a distinct squeal as the traction changed.
“Screw it, and screw you for leaving me!” I snarled at the windscreen. The stressed, furrowed face glared back without compromise. I fumbled in my jacket for the crushed pack of smokes. With a well-rehearsed tap on the centre console, the filter rose just enough for me to get a hold with my lips and pull the cigarette clear. I dropped the pack as the car lighter clicked its indication of readiness, pulled out the glowing red-hot implement, and seared the tip of my fix.
That first long, slow, deep drag was always the best one, and it calmed me down a little. The familiar tingle as the toxins hit the back of my throat, despite the constant angel at my shoulder, which waggled an ethereal finger along with the words: ‘
You really should quit,’
felt comforting. The wisps of smoke curled up around my face as I blew out through my nose, slowly, revelling in the moment and in utter defiance of my impromptu celestial saviour.
There were some nasty turns as you got out towards Salby—if you didn’t know they were there, they could take you by surprise. With a certain sense of ‘I told you so’, I noticed a car at the side of the road, the front end embedded in the drainage ditch. Skyward tail lights created a luminescent beacon in the surrounding mist. The driver, not used to the road, must have lost control. I slowed the car to a crawl as I passed the stranded vehicle, which didn’t look like it had been there for very long. Curled smoke from the tailpipe suggested that it had only recently come to an abrupt stop. No sign of the driver; perhaps they had gone for help to the smallholding nearby, in the hope that the farmer might tow them out to continue their journey.
Given the weird night I’d had and the dark mood I was in, I decided to carry on home and pushed down on the accelerator once more. The front end of the car rose slightly as the power surged through the front wheels.
My focus shifted back to the road, just in time to round a sweeping bend but too late to avoid the sickening thump as something bounced off the bonnet. In my wing mirror, I saw it catapulted to the roadside by the impact of my car, nudging 60 mph. Unsure of what I’d hit, I slowed and pulled over, the engine still running as I sat for a few seconds just staring into the rear-view mirror, hoping it was just an animal that had run out of luck.
The undulating mist obscured my vision as I peered into the murky half-light. The sun began to warm the morning dew from the grassy fields on both sides of the main drag, which sent ethereal, spectral formations floating up and over the hedges. I looked back over my shoulder towards the car, the gesture more to reassure myself it was still there rather than anything else. An odd, uneasy, churning sensation in the pit of my stomach urged me to turn tail, return to the car, and flee—but I couldn’t though, it wouldn’t be right would it? I mean, what if they, or
, were still alive, lying there injured? I had to know. I had to find out. I popped the door and walked back towards the location of the body.
“Uh—hello, is anyone there?” I called out sheepishly. I prayed for a clear window through the rising vapour or any chance of an unhindered view.
“H—hello. Are you hurt? I have a phone. Do you need an ambulance?” I was conscious of the waver to my voice.
A shape forming in the swirling maelstrom just up ahead made me stare first in disbelief, and then in horror, as a gap in the mist shifted between us. No more than thirty feet in front of me, the grey, boiler-suited form of a man, but that wasn’t what made me tremble.
The impact of the car had caught the victim at his right knee joint, literally spinning the man’s leg and foot around 180 degrees. His left foot faced forwards, and his right foot faced directly behind him, yet the man still attempted to stand and miraculously, made it to his feet. He began to limp towards me. His twisted leg dragged behind him as he drew closer.
I could see the expression on his face, which sent a cold chill running through my whole body. It pushed the boundaries of my resistance to the fear welling inside me to the absolute limit.
“Jesus Christ! Your leg, mate! How can you possibly stand?”
The wounded man staggered towards me. His face appeared distorted by a grimace that I could only put down to the agonising pain of his injury, enhanced by a low, guttural growl that came from between his tightly clenched teeth. When he was less than ten feet away the piece of wood protruding from his chest registered in my brain. It was all I could do not to double over, instead gasping in a lungful of air in amazement as my gaze locked onto it, clearly able to see that it passed right through his body.
When my car hit him, he must have been flung into the air and landed upon the wooden fencing which ran alongside the fields, shrouded by the hedgerows. I deduced that the impact must have sheared off part of the fence which he had become impaled by, piercing him a fraction below the breastbone, which surely must have missed his heart by mere millimetres. Yet here he is, limping ever closer.
Get away from me, dammit. How the hell are you still alive?” The question, I knew, was utterly ludicrous.
No response from the approaching figure, no cries of pain and no visible blood trail either despite the horrific wounds to his chest and leg. His right foot dragged uselessly across the ground every time he moved forwards, the sound chilling me to the core.