Authors: Ryan Casey
Tags: #british zombie series, #post apocalyptic survival fiction, #apocalypse adventure survival fiction, #zombie thrillers and suspense, #dystopian science fiction, #zombie apocalypse horror, #zombie action horror series
Now, it was split in two. Cracked and crumbled into many pieces. Shattered, like the rest of the boat, and like everything they’d worked so hard at building.
“My bet is that you came in with this part,” Pedro said. He pointed at the red stains on the metallic walls. “The bloodstains would match that theory.”
“No,” Riley said. “I was…I was at the other end of the boat. I think I…I think I fell from the boat and into the water.”
“Well, I dunno. I mean, I find it unlikely that you’d just drift on in here without any—”
“If I’m here, then there’s a chance somebody else made it too, right? There’s a chance Anna and Claudia and Chloë made it.”
Pedro leaned against the twisted metal of the boat and tilted his head from side to side. “This and the front cabin aside…I don’t see much else boat on this coast. So I’d say it figures that you and me are here. Very lucky to be here, sure. But it adds up. I’m sorry, bruv. I hate to be a party pooper. Fucking hate it, in fact.”
Riley sighed and crouched down beside the wrecked part of the boat. The sound of the grey sea crashing against the coast was starting to get right on his wick. Right down the coast, for as far as he could see, he couldn’t see any other parts of the boat. Pedro was right. They were gone. Anna, Claudia, Chloë, they were gone.
And soon, he’d be gone, too.
“I mean it really does pain me to say it. What with your…your condition, and all. Last place I wanna be is stuck here in the middle of nowhere on my bill, bruv. Last place I want to be is—”
“Wait,” Riley said. He felt something under his hand as he leaned against what was a table.
“What is it?”
Riley tried to push the table aside, but his leg wouldn’t allow him to maintain the pressure. He’d seen something. He could see it glimmering underneath the wreckage. Glimmering in the light of the morning sky. “Help me with this.”
Pedro helped Riley lift the table out of the way. “I don’t know what you’re stealing a table for, bruv. Can’t imagine we’ll be on a gourmet diet out here. Nothing on the years out of date canned tuna we had on the boat, I hate to say.”
Riley reached underneath the table and lifted the item up. It was just what he thought it was. The silver chain. The little locket, heart-shaped.
“What is that you’ve got there?” Pedro asked. “What is it?”
“It’s Anna’s,” Riley said, turning back to the pebbles and looking across the beach. “She’s…she’s here. She made it. She—”
“Now I hate to break it, but a necklace on its own doesn’t mean a thing. Again, sorry to spoil the party, but…Well, you need to be realistic. It just got caught. Caught in the wreckage. It just got—”
“It’s not just the necklace,” Riley said. He nodded his head at the pebbles. Crouched down and turned one or two over, so the pattern continued. The pattern he hadn’t noticed at first. The pattern that could so easily be missed, so easily dismissed.
“I don’t see what you’re seeing,” Pedro said, squinting at the rocks. “What is it you’re seeing? Tell me you’re not going mad already. Tell me your leg’s not already got loaded up with infection and you’re—”
“They’re footsteps,” Riley said, nodding at the watery red marks on the grey pebbles ahead.
Pedro squinted for another few seconds. He opened his mouth to protest.
No sounds came out. His mouth stayed open, and his mouth widened.
“They start at the boat and they carry on down the beach. Anna made it, Pedro. She made it.”
“It still doesn’t mean she’s alive. Not…not necessarily.”
Riley and Pedro followed the pebbles away from the wreckage of the boat and along the beach. Every few steps, Riley crouched down and turned a pebble that had been knocked out of place. He turned a pebble, and every time, the path continued.
“I mean, who’s to say it’s…it’s not the footsteps of a creature, or something?” Pedro asked. “Who’s to say a goon didn’t…didn’t feed on some of the blood in the wreckage and—”
“We have to try and follow this path,” Riley said. He gripped Anna’s necklace in his left hand. “If you don’t want to help, then fine. Go do whatever it was you were doing before you found me.”
Pedro sighed and helped Riley turn over a pebble in front. “I’m just trying to be realistic. I’m concerned. I’m concerned about this situation, and I’m concerned about you. You need to rest, bruv. You need to rest that leg.”
“And then what?” Riley asked, his voice raised. “I rest, and then what? Wait to die? Sit around and wait for the creatures to get me? Sit around and wait to die of infection or blood loss or starvation? Pedro, you know better than anyone that this world isn’t like it used to be. You don’t survive by resting. You survive by thinking. By being pro-active.”
Pedro was silent. Riley could see the shame in his eyes. Perhaps the “you know better than anybody” part was a little harsh and uncalled for. Because no matter how Riley tried to dress it up, both of them knew what he was referring to. Ivan’s freezing of his old colleagues’ bodies. Pedro’s role in that secrecy. Riley could see it in Pedro’s bloodshot eyes. He could hear it in every word he spoke from a place deep within.
He was haunted by the things he’d done. They all were.
“Look, I’m sorry,” Riley said. “But I just—”
“You’re right. We move on.” He stepped ahead of Riley and turned a few pebbles over. He looked back at Riley, that pained look still in his eyes, and then he looked at the pebbles again, giving up whatever he was planning to say.
They walked past the place where Riley had killed the creatures, and then the place where Riley had woken up. Eventually, they reached the metal gate at the top of the coast. The footprints ended here.
Riley examined the patch of grass in front of the gate. He looked at the stones beyond the gate. All of the footprints had stopped. There was no chance they’d gone off in another direction because none of the surrounding pebbles were marked. They stopped with the grass, and with the gate.
“We need to be careful if we’re going to go through here,” Pedro said. He lifted two large metal shards from the wreckage of the boat from his pocket and handed one to Riley. “We don’t know what’s beyond this gate, but we have to assume for the safety of ourselves and because we’ve already seen the bloodthirsty goons on the beach that this area is taken.” He looked right at Riley as he leaned against the gate. “And you know what that means, right?” His eyes drifted to Riley’s wounded leg. “You…you know what—”
“Yes,” Riley said, looking straight up the pathway beyond the gate. He knew exactly what Pedro was saying. If something happened—if creatures attacked—then they watched their own backs as a primary and watched each other’s backs as a secondary.
And with Riley in the condition he was in, his leg weak, the pain burning like a hot poker right around the circumference of his thigh that pretty much meant that if the creatures attacked, he was dead.
“I’ll do what I can,” Pedro said, pulling the squeaky lever of the heavy metal gate and moving it, so there was a human-sized gap to get through. “We go in there and we scan the immediate area. Any sign of a potential threat and we head right back out onto the beach. You ready?”
Riley stared up ahead. The footprints. They were Anna’s. They had to be Anna’s. She couldn’t be far away. She had to be through this gate somewhere.
“I’m ready,” Riley said, and walked through the gap of the gate.
Pedro followed and closed the gate behind them.
Riley and Pedro stayed close to one another as they moved up the path beyond the gate. The grass beneath their feet was frosty and patchy, interspersed with tiny stones. To their right, trees lined the growing cliffs that led back down to the beach. To their left, more trees and bushes, inaccessible. Up ahead, the path went on and on. Riley couldn’t see any creatures up ahead. The place looked clear.
“This place looks more like a dirt road than a path,” Pedro whispered.
He was right. Riley had been thinking the same. Up ahead, a dirt road led on to another gate, but he couldn’t see what was beyond it. The further into the area they got, the more open the space grew. Something twitched in the bushes to their right. Both of them swung around.
Just a bird. Just a blackbird. Nothing more.
“Well I’ll be damned,” Pedro said.
Riley had his back to Pedro still, but when he turned around, he knew exactly what it was that Pedro was so surprised by.
At the end of the bushes, leading up the hill, there were a series of large moss-covered concrete steps.
And on the steps, the bloody footsteps started again.
Riley lunged forward towards the steps.
“Wait,” Pedro whispered. He pointed at the gate in the distance to their right. “We don’t know what’s that way yet. Wouldn’t it be better to—”
“The footsteps,” Riley said. “They go this way. We follow those.”
Pedro clenched his jaw. “I don’t know what impression of the footsteps you have, bruv, but what makes you think they’re gonna end up someplace good? What if they just stop bang in the middle of, oh, I dunno, a goon feeding ground?”
“Like I said. You’re free to go your separate way. But I’m finding the end of this trail.”
Riley stepped onto the first of the large concrete steps, a bolt of pain stinging his leg as he did.
“Would you do the same for me?” Pedro muttered.
“What do you mean?”
Pedro nonchalantly walked forward and helped Riley up the steps. “Come running after my trail. Say you and Anna found my…Oh, I dunno. My whisky flask. Say you found it, would you come searching for dear old me? Or would you be too busy fucking in the woods to care?”
The grin on Pedro’s face was enough to give the impression that he was joking, but Riley could sense the sincerity behind the words. Would he have gone after Pedro? Would he have gone after Claudia and Chloë, for that matter? Where were they, even?
“Of course I would,” Riley said. “If I found the time, of course.”
Pedro laughed, and the pair of them ascended the steps.
At the top of the steps, they met a road. It wasn’t a dirt road like the one at the bottom of the steps. It was an actual concrete road.
And lining the road were a series of static caravans.
Riley and Pedro walked slowly down the road. All of the green, modern caravans looked empty. Made sense, considering it was winter, but Riley knew from his holidays at these caravan parks when he was younger that loads of retired people lived out here.
Enough people to pose a serious creature threat.
The pair of them continued down the road. Some of the caravans had nice, large gardens. Others had expensive looking ornaments in the windows. Caravanning—a quintessentially British pastime that Riley always liked the idea of. It wasn’t like the American equivalent of a trailer park, or even a run down RV camp. It was more like a holiday site. A place to disconnect from the business of day to day life and reconnect with nature. Riley always wanted to own one of these static caravans, but they were so expensive.
At least price wasn’t an issue in the zombie apocalypse.
The bloody footprints grew fainter as they walked down the road, completely silent, completely on guard. Up ahead, their view was disturbed by a turn in the road where the caravans, watching them as they passed, came to a sudden end.
The pair of them slowed down as they followed the footprints to the corner. Riley could hear something. A shuffling. Something in the bushes to his right. Or was it up the road? Was it round the corner?
The moment they turned the corner, he knew exactly where it was coming from.
At the end of the faint trail of footprints, there was a corpse. A bloody corpse with dark hair, guts spewing out of its stomach, bitemarks across its neck.
And above it, tucking in, there were three creatures with silver hair.
Riley tightened up inside. He stepped forward. He had to see her face. He had to know it was her. He had to—
“Riley, what the fuck.” Pedro grabbed Riley’s arms and dragged him back. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. We need to go back. We need to—”
When Riley swung around, he saw the reason Pedro had gone silent.
On the lawns of the caravans, drifting out of the gardens and into the road, creatures.
All of them blocking their path back to the steps.
Riley and Pedro waited in absolute silence. They were frozen to the spot. Riley’s heart raced. Anna. The creatures. They hadn’t groaned yet. As long as they hadn’t groaned, they didn’t know they were there. They didn’t…
Behind them, a loud, chesty groan emitted as one of the creatures rose from the body, blood waterfalling down its face, and staggered in Riley and Pedro’s direction.
Another groan up ahead.
“We’re stuck,” Pedro said, backing further into Riley and lifting his metal weapon in the air. “We’re fucking stuck.”
“Up the ridge. Quick!”
Pedro moved to the left, where a little pathway led up through the bushes. Creatures came from in front. Creatures came from behind. Slowly, step by step, they were getting closer.
Closer to Riley.
Closer to finishing him off for good.
“Quick!” Pedro shouted. He was standing at the edge of the opening in the bushes now. Riley could hear him shouting, and he knew he should move as quick as he could, but he was frozen. Frozen to the spot, staring at that corpse behind the grey, decaying feet of the creatures.
The footsteps ended at that corpse. They started at the boat wreckage, with the locket, and they ended at that corpse.
Anna. It couldn’t be. She couldn’t be…
Riley snapped out of his trance. The creatures in front of him were gnashing their teeth together, lurching forward in his direction. He moved his right leg towards the bushes, with all the strength he had, but it wasn’t enough. He wasn’t quick enough. The pain when he moved his leg, it was more intense than ever. He wasn’t going to make it. He was trapped.