A post-apocalyptic zombie tale
© Thomas Maxwell-Harrison
The Second Month
And his poem was written on the cracked, white stone wall on the left side of the small bunker sitting room: Hope not, for love is lost, no longer growing from the weeds I have embedded in my soul.
‘That’s how it goes,’ George says, smudging his bloody finger across the slab of concrete before turning to face the iron grey door of the hundred-year-old war bunker. Their gnarly, undead fingers consistently scratch against the metal sending spindles of spikes crawling across his back and throat. A half melted wax candles sloppily slides down the wall and drips into a coagulated puddle on the floor.
He walks, naked, across the dim and dusty room. The ventilation no longer works, and the candles are burning faster than he would like. He has his poetry and it has him. The undead on the outside his much-needed relief, his last embrace. His clothes mashed up in a scruffy pile against the right-hand side wall, next to a messy sprawling poem that spirals along the concrete. The first poem he wrote inside the bunker on that fateful Sunday evening, the day he found safety among a sea of corpses.
‘But for the creatures outside, I’d be free,’ he says aloud approaching the metal bunker door, running his fingers along the wheel locks and eyeing the small peephole. The dead had increased, the unmovable hunger for flesh was still strong in their hearts. But he would not be free. He listened closer to the cold steel, his ear beating with each dull thud. Each undead creature an expression of society.
George had stumbled into the bunker two weeks ago, a breezy April day at dusk after a long stroll into the Welsh town of Mumbles. He’d explored the lighthouse, written a poem, drank milky tea as he sat gazing into the sea and talked to four or five different, aspiring poets including a lady called Dian, however the day was cut short as the tourists and residents turned to crazed freaks, conversations to screams and smiles to scorns. He ran with all his mighty sixties strength along the coastline, and met the bunker, open and abandoned, yet moderately furnished with a single bed and cabinet of books and candles, but no pencils.
April turned to May, and the hot weather turned to torture. He resorted to drinking a small sip of water a day and nibbling on a pack of cream crackers that were in the bunker. Food and water would run out tomorrow or the next day. He had read the Oxford Dictionary and skimmed the mammoth book of English Towns and Counties with a full two-hundred-page coloured photo addition.
George sagged over towards the single bed and sat down, the metal frame creaked beneath his frail body, down at least three pounds this week. He had to defecate and urinate in the corner. Basically, he was stuck in a fifteen by fifteen cold, concrete box. The hard mattress pushed against his arthritic hips; this was a deathly existence. He picked at the scab on his elbow, blood trickled down his forearm and he dabbed his thumb in the wound.
George stepped over towards the thudding bunker door and began to inscribe the next poem on the wall, in blood. The blood stained the concrete nicely, it began to take form, the long sentences tilting towards the floor and the words beginning to sink in, there was hope and it was in the form of courage.
He stepped back to admire the poem and a tear ran down his mucky cheek. It read: for the sun fades over the hill, only to return the next morning, for you to will sink into darkness before finding the light.
It was his most powerful set of words, and he listened to the creatures outside and cheered and jumped to the ceiling. This frail old man was not done yet, he had gallons of life to give and he wasn’t going to give up this opportunity life just yet. He scrambled over to his heap of clothes and began to dress. His ragged blue jeans, and grey sweater had collected dust and smelt of cigarettes, even though he didn’t smoke. He checked his pockets, pulled a filthy tissue and wiped the blood from his thumb. The hammering on the door stopped and he heard the birds in the distance and smelt the salty breeze of the sea creeping through the gaps in the stone walls.
‘Nelson Mandela, I learned that courage was not the absence of fear. But the triumph over it.’ George glared at the steel door, and marched over with intention, a fire raging in his empty belly, a scouring trickle of doubt shading over his neck and caressing his mind. Turn back, it says, don’t do it, his conscious yells, or his primal brain of no use now. He turns the locks; they clunk, and rattle and he slide the locks open. The last bolt and then pulls the door open.
The Last Day
It’s a scorching May day and Lenise hikes along the cliffs of Wales, bordering the town of Mumbles. The lighthouse is in the distance. Her feet ache after walking for miles with no safety, no shelter. Her thirty-year-old dreams of trekking the world slashed when her hostel was overrun with raving lunatics, they ate one another, and she darted out and never looked back.
She stops and rests on a rock overlooking the sea, the salty air whipping against her face and the wind blowing her brunette locks over her face. She wipes her hair aside, wondering how much longer she can continue. Her hiking trousers, with a dozen empty pockets, had begun to rub very harshly on her thighs. Her waterproof jacket weighed heavily on her athletic arms and her rucksack pulled down on her now ailing shoulders. She gazed into the sun as it reached mid-day, beating upon the ocean, shimmering in the distance.
Lenise continued, walking over the dry, cracking grassy ground, through oddly shaped rocks and loose stones until she could see the town in its full glory. What she wouldn’t give to be back in Lithuania, or to be in another country. Her father would be sat at home worried, but she was strong and with each step disarmingly paced along the well-beaten weeds towards the outskirts of town, hoping there was some shelter untouched. Crows squawked overhead, their squeals for food alerting her to a crowd of maniacal undead wandering around a rectangular stone structure.
Her eyes could see a man, he was dressed as a teacher, a wizard. His greying hair waving in the wind. Lenise had to get to him, she needed to find someone because her boredom and fear were taking over. She cowards around a boulder, the moss sprouting out of the cracks as she brushes her cheek along the rock to see the man. She is not going yet. She recounts her trip, her destinations and goals. She had yet to see Manchester, Edinburgh and London, France or Madrid and instead was trying to keep her hair out of her eyes as the wind grew stronger, more forceful as if fighting an invisible dragon.
‘You are a brave young girl,’ she said aloud, repeating the words her father had spoken to her before her departure. They were a small family and had come through bad times to arrive at this great separation, this great test of her skills, youth, adventure and ambition. ‘But it feels like the last day,’ she whispers, her voice barely audible among the gushing wind.
Her gaze never leaves the frail old man, whose face is scrunched as he lashes at the creatures, before the pummel him to the floor and begin to pile on him. She can see, and squints, half covering her ivy eyes as he is ripped apart, crying out for help. She hears the end of what he screams, and tears roll down her cheeks, he yells: sink into darkness before finding the light.
He was a brave man, and she takes a few minutes to compose herself and dry her eyes. Her eyeliner has washed down her neck, but she manages to wipe it off. His words were wise, to find the light after sinking into darkness. The wind, birds, sea and earth seemed to stand still as Lenise felt a wave of deadly excitement wash over her. She looked towards the lighthouse. A hope.
‘I must get there,’ she says. It is almost too late, when the creatures sneak up on her, three of them. Each bloodied and gnawing and tearing at her jacket, but she is stronger, faster and tugs away, breaking free and heading valiantly along the meadow grassland towards the lighthouse. The browning sand on her right, she darts towards it, more creatures appear. She cries out, tears blinding her as she runs with all her might, her thighs shaking from the chafing, from the fatigue. With each plodding leap she sinks deeper into the sand, the waterlogged beach.
‘I see them, down there,’ Michael says to himself. He flies the helicopter over the lighthouse, over the small bunker on the outskirts of the welsh town. He looks over the corroded rocks and wet sand. A woman struggles through the tide sneaking up on her. Michael knows she’s going to die, and he is helpless to do anything. What can he do? He can’t land!
The sun blinds his eyes, and he pushes the yoke forward and the chopper flies along the coastline. Michael feels the stomach-churning anxiety riding his chest. He grasps the yoke hard, yet his sticky palms cause him to lose grip. The chopper flies faster and faster, he manoeuvres the helicopter round to get another look at the woman, she was young, with a huge backpack, she should have got rid of it. The wind picked up and Michael fought to keep the helicopter level as he began to descend over the grasslands in front of the lighthouse.
‘She’s alive, my god,’ Michael whispers. His hands shake with the adrenaline pumping through his veins. He’s going to rescue her. The helicopter touches down on the grass and he thumbs a few light switches and slows the throttle some more.
She looks toward him, and Michael removes his headset. She is struggling, limping through the sand, the creatures gaining. Her face an expression of muddled fear. He waves her in, and she sees him, thank god. Her strength is unbelievable, and Michael takes the chance to hop out of the chopper, the rotor blades still spinning. He ducks down and begins to leap across the grass where the sand meets the mud.
‘Come on!’ he shouts. Her legs are shaking, and she heaves her backpack off, but it’s too late and the dead people lunge on her, devouring her neck flesh, blood spurting onto the sand. Michael freezes and then gathers the courage to run back to the helicopter. He’s too late again, a group of two men in leather jackets and a woman wearing a black biker hat are snarling at him, wielding wrenches. Michael tries to run past but as one, they lift their wrenches and bring them down hard on him, his lungs crush and his ribs crunch, he sighs and gasps as they beat his head. Darkness and the scent of burning candles surrounds him.
Michael wakes, his body aches, his face so sore to the touch it feels like he’s had his skin cut from his bone. He wriggles around the damp grass, mud smudging over his orange puffer coat. He sighs and his ribs crackle, each breath bringing up lugs of blood and mucous. Seagulls swoon overhead, whilst grey clouds accumulate and covet the sunlight. There are no dead, for now. His first thought was not the helicopter but getting orientated. The attackers had gone but been stupid enough to drop their jackets here before doing so. They wouldn’t get far on foot in chilly weather without a safe place to go.
Michael turns, of course the chopper is gone. He gazes up into the greying clouded sky and inhales the salty air. The day has been short, disturbed and completely unexpected. Inaudible groans begin to clamber across the wetlands, he shuts his eyes, sinking further into the mud, his coat rustling beneath his limp body.
‘Can’t give up,’ he says. He grabs his thighs and pulls himself up. His sagging eyes see the ghastly wound inflicted on him. He’s missing both feet from the knee down. He is in no pain, but shock. He falls back to the grass, the groans get louder, the dead people are closing in.
Soon enough, Michael inhales his last breath, clasps his palms and prays before five or six beasts pile on him and begin to devour him from stomach to spine.