Wednesday, 9 February 2011
The Church- Chapter One
As a little taster I've now added Chapter One of my debut novel to my blog and website- please have a look.
1- How it Started
I slowly awake to the sounds of the birds singing in the apple garden. My eyes open to the view of a cloudless sky with its sun shining down upon me. I feel so content until my mind forces me back to reality.
During these warm summer months I, Sam Miller, always sleep up on the roof of my new home, Saint Luke’s Church. The cool nights under the stars are my only escape from my memories. For the plague has ascended from Hell to wipe out everything I ever cared for.
It started about six months ago. Time, days, calendars don’t mean much any more, so I may be a little out. The dawn, the dusk, and the changing seasons- that’s all that matters now.
Standing up I walk stiffly over to the edge of the roof. In the distance I can see my house. Where we used to live, when it all started.
“Come on everyone. Let’s get moving!” Standing at the front door of my house all I see is chaos. Our kids Jack and Katie are immigrating to Australia today and with my wife Pamela in tow they’re racing around getting their last minute bits and pieces together. “Okay, ready” they shout as they bundle past me and head down the drive to the car. As I leave I gently pat my two Dalmatians- Molly and Tyler- who are standing faithfully by the door. “I know you’ll miss them. We all will.”
Laughter fills the car on the trip to the airport but I also see the sadness in my wife’s eyes. Our children are all grown up now and flying the nest.
“Bye Mum. Bye Dad. We’ll ring when we arrive.” They run away down the security lines and are off on a new adventure.
A couple of days later the warnings start on the television and radio. A severe strain of the flu is what they’re saying. At first we aren’t that bothered. There is always something they put on to scare you. Our attitudes change when the newscasts from around the world show hospitals overflowing, filled with masses of sick people. I will always remember the words of that broadcast.
"This virus is highly contagious. If you develop any symptoms, please stay at home. Don’t risk the chance of infecting others. Don’t go to the doctors or to the hospital. Call the emergency number below. They’ll come to you.”
There is lots of conjecture about what this virus actually is. News channels, chat shows, even documentaries come up with their own ideas and conspiracy theories: secret military experiments gone horribly wrong, the ultimate act of global terrorism, perhaps an act of vengeance from God for all we’d done. Seems to me that we’ll never get the answer.
Pam and I start to worry. Sure we are both pretty healthy but still it’s only natural. We’ll be okay, so will the kids, or so we thought.
After calling Jack and Katie in Australia we hear the terrible news.
“It’s getting real bad here, Dad” Jack’s voice shakes with fear. “We’re helping out in the hospital but there are just not enough beds.”
That is our last contact with them. The phone lines go down. Pam and I just hold each other and cry. We worry far more about them than we do for ourselves.
I keep telling my Pamela that everything will be alright. They’ll sort out a cure soon enough. It’s only a matter of time. She smiles back at me, but I can tell she is no where near as confident as I am.
Things deteriorate quickly. By the end of the first week, all streets are full of army patrols. Walking down the road we can see them decked out in anti-viral white suits that I’d only seen before in movies. Their faces are masked, served oxygen from tanks strapped to their backs. For the first time in my life, we have armed soldiers in our city. Driving around in armoured vehicles, they blast out a chilling message from loudspeakers:
"The city is now in full lockdown. Martial Law has been declared. Under no circumstances is anyone allowed out in the streets. If you disobey this order you will be shot on sight. You have been warned.”
Within a month, I estimate, about eighty percent of the world’s population die. Going by the reports from the last ham radio broadcasts, and from the accounts of passing travellers who manage to dodge the patrols, it seems accurate. Horrific as those numbers are, it gets a hell of a lot worse.
Once the Berlin Virus runs out of viable hosts it viciously mutates. It starts to search out and infect recently dead human flesh. It raises them up and turns them into mad raging beasts with an unstoppable urge to kill. Packs of monsters attack immune people so the new virus will have more hosts. Its way of killing is to eat its victims.
The virus turns itself into near perfection. No matter how much it has destroyed the host’s body it keeps on going, relentlessly searching out fresh victims to kill and then infect.
My beloved Pamela falls victim to both strains of the virus. Crying out in agony as pounding headaches run through her head, her temperature soars higher and higher by the hour. I feel so helpless. My fingers go numb from dialling the emergency number they gave us. All I get is a fucking recording. I leave my name and address just in case someone is checking, but they never come.
Three days after the first symptoms, my dear love breathes her last sweet breath and dies as I hold her in my arms. With tears rolling down my face I carefully wrap her lifeless body in a crisp white bed sheet. Before covering her beautiful face, I give her one last kiss.
Night comes but I am unable to get any sleep. Sitting in my kitchen, with only a flickering candle light for company, I wish the damn virus would come and take me to join her.
The dogs start to growl and run about daft. Barking like mad they look up the staircase.
“Shut up!” I scream. “Sit yourselves down!” Their barking only gets worse. I know they want to go up but something stops them. Tyler, the older one, finds bravery from somewhere deep inside. He runs full speed up the long staircase.
It goes quiet.
“Tyler,” I call out. “Come on boy. Get down here now.” But he doesn’t return. I grudgingly grab the candle and start to go up. With each step I take the boards creak. My shaking hand causes the candlelight to bounce off the walls, changing the shapes of the shadows.
Reaching the top of landing, I make out a vague outline at the far end of the hallway. The candle light is so damn poor I can barely see a couple of feet ahead of me. I walk slowly onwards to investigate.
As I edge myself closer to the shadowy figure I hold the candle way out in front of me. Its light catches the face of the silhouette. My darling Pamela stares at me.
I start moving towards her. I stop. What I can see is no longer my love. This thing standing in front of me is an abomination. While it looks like her, its sunken grey eyes just stare back at me lifelessly.
Her skin is a horrible shade of grey, yet her teeth and lips are a bright red. When I look down I see the reason why. Grasped in her hand is the head of our dog. His blood drips down her nightdress.
She drops the chewed meat to the floor, groans deeply and moves towards me. My muscles refuse to move. The shock has paralyzed me.
As she reaches for my neck I instinctively move, twisting away from her deadly grasp. Stiffly she shambles forwards. On missing me, she loses her footing and stumbles down the stairs.
During the fall she smashes her head repeatedly on the bare wooden steps. Thick, black blood oozes from both her ears.
Sitting beside her, I shudder to think what would’ve happened if she survived the fall. Deep down I know that I could never have delivered the fatal blow. There is no way I could have ended her undead life. It doesn’t matter to me what she had become. She is my wife, and my love for her is undying. I couldn’t have killed my Pam.
For another two weeks I stay in the house with Molly, my last dog, as my only company. She is definitely this man’s best friend. By now all the food has run out, along with the supplies I have took from my neighbours’ house.
Ron and Mary Gavin were away in Spain on holiday when the outbreak started. Soon after, they were stranded when the authorities banned all non military air travel out of the country. It was a futile attempt to contain the threat.
I know I have no choice but to go outside. I can’t just starve to death. Danger from the army patrols no longer existed, but the numbers of the undead roaming have grown rapidly. They are passing by my house every hour.
I’m not sure anywhere would be safe. Even so I decide to head for the local police station at South Norwood. After all, they are supposed to protect us- not that they have been doing a good job of it recently. My reasoning for heading there is faulty, I know that, but logic has long since disappeared from my life.
One morning I decide it is time. Molly and I have to set out while we still have some energy left. We wait until the road outside the house looks clear. Not a mile away, things start to go terribly wrong.
We are attacked by three of the undead. The bastards stumble out of a hidden doorway, just as we are passing a small row of shops.
I drop the leash in shock. Molly runs straight for them. She doesn’t stand a chance. She attacks but the zombie doesn’t even flinch as she bites deep into its rotted leg. Within seconds all three descend on my dog. At least her howls don’t last long.
In a state of despair I run. As I pass houses and gardens several more zombies spot me. They are soon in pursuit. About twenty of them are now right behind me.
Around the next corner I find my salvation. The church stands before me in all its glory, and there are people- real live people- standing on top of the walls.
“Help!” I scream. “Please let me in!”
Thankfully the doors open just enough to let me inside. I arrive at my new home.