Authors: Suchitra Chatterjee
Tags: #Zombie Apocalypse
Lumbering behind them was Cassidy and a bewildered Stevie and now it was my turn to sink to my knees, taking the girls with me, saying nothing at that moment for what could I say to them? What could I tell them? The truth was way too horrible for them to comprehend, but to lie to them was not an option.
What was I going to do?
Colonel Mason Wolf or just Wolf as we came to know him as didn’t let anything, even the infecting of one of his men with the Twice Dead contagion from stopping him from doing his job. He barked out orders to his troops and within minutes, they were setting up a base in and around the home, including a quarantine for the wounded soldier in the now empty TOR space.
The broken window of the room was sealed and bolted over and the man put into it. He had been drugged and the wound in his face packed with gauze. Now it was just an ordinary looking wound, but I knew it would change, it would become like the wound on Gregory’s neck. The blood would become black and pulsating, oozing out of the hole in his cheek and then it would become part of his skin, a reminder of what he would become eventually.
Gregory’s remains were put in a metal container that the soldiers bought into the home and swiftly taken away. I sat in the garden under the tree with the girls, Stevie and Cassidy watched as the soldiers moved swiftly in and out of the building. They had arrived in eight trucks and a jeep, which were lining the long pathway of the home, and from the look of it, they had a lot of equipment with them.
They worked swiftly and with precision. In and out of the building they went, carrying things in and out.
“What’s happening Lucy?” Jasmine asked me clutching at my hand, “What’s happened?”
“I’m hungry,” Cassidy whined unhappily, “I want some food.”
“You always want food,” Eden began but I turned and gave her a hard look. Eden flushed and looked at the ground.
“We have to wait Cass,” I said quietly to the young man “But as soon as I can I will make you a nice big meal,” His eyes lit up and he sat down on the bench, he trusted me I thought with surprise. He trusted me to feed him. He didn’t melt down as I half expected him too.
Mitch had returned to the building and I couldn’t see him or the others. I knew Paul was in his room. I hoped he was OK.
“I’m really thirsty Lucy,” Stevie spoke and I nodded my head. When I saw the soldiers, carrying out Gregory’s body I stood up, slowly as my bad leg was throbbing.
“Have Shannon and the Gorilla come yet?” Jasmine asked me innocently and everyone looked at me expectantly.
I didn’t like lying but right then I simply could not speak the truth, instead I shook my head and said, “No, not yet.”
Before any more questions could be asked Captain Lacks-Renton appeared, striding toward us from the side of the building where the garage was.
“The Colonel wants to speak to you,” she said curtly
“I need to get them some food,” I nodded toward the four people with me under the tree who were staring at Captain Lacks-Renton with frank and bewildered curiosity.
Elise opened her mouth to tell me that wasn’t her problem, but Stevie blurted out, “Are you a real soldier? You are very pretty.”
Captain Lacks-Renton was pretty. Tall, physically fit, she stood five foot ten in her socks. She was African American, her skin was smooth and dark, she had high cheekbones and when she stood in profile, you glimpsed the last of the Pharaohs in her bones, the slightly flared nose, the delicate chin, the smooth forehead. Her eyes were ink black and under her army helmet, her dark springy hair was scraped back into a matronly bun. She looked good in green combats, she still had a woman’s shape, but it was a strong, lean shape, fit and toned.
Captain Lacks-Renton’s mouth snapped shut, she stared at Stevie in surprise and he smiled at her, “I’m Stevie,” he said proudly as he introduced himself, “I am going to be in the Olympics.”
“Oh,” she said taken aback by his candid friendliness, “Are you?”
“Yes,” he nodded his head vigorously, “Could I have a drink please soldier lady? I am really thirsty.”
To my surprise she nodded her head, “Take them to the kitchen,” she said abruptly to me, “It’s clear in the dining room, the Colonel is in your office, go there after.”
I lead my little troop of people back into the building. I had to take a deep breath when I stepped over the threshold, but the soldiers had cleared everything up, the walls had been washed down, but the holes in them reminded me what had happened not so long ago. I could smell disinfectant, and Eden wrinkled her nose and sneezed.
“What is that?” she said gagging, “It stinks.”
It’s just disinfectant,” I said.
“It smells horrible!” Eden made a face, “It’s nasty.”
I though could only smell disinfectant and said as much.
“It’s stinky!” Eden ever the drama queen held her nose in an exaggerated fashion, “Like…like stinky fruit,” I told her to put a peg on her nose, which made the others giggle.
There were thick green bags with the words “MEDICAL WASTE” on them, but they were sealed and a soldier in a yellow bio-suite picked them up in gloved hands and took them out of the room.
The kitchen had been spared the onslaught of Gregory’s rampage, the door had been shut and so for me it was not contaminated in my mind the way the dining room still was.
There was no sign of Seb, Adag, Phoenix or Mitch as I hurried my four companions into the kitchen. They protested at first as they weren’t normally allowed in the kitchen, but I assured them that it was OK and that Adag knew.
I made them help prepare the food. They were surprised, but delighted. Salad and big thick ham sandwiches all round and yes, Cassidy could have two sandwiches and I would make everyone a big cup of soup and who wanted an apple or an orange and, yes, Cassidy could have both as long as he helped get the cups out of the cupboards to make the soup.
Cassidy beamed at me, no one asked him to do anything I realised, his clumsy gait, his unpredictable emotions made people, even the ones that had a modicum of liking for him wary of him.
“I’ve got them Lucy,” he said as he clattered the plastic beakers onto the table and began to line them up in a neat row.
“Get the butter out of the fridge,” I instructed him, “I’ll butter the bread.”
As we were making the sandwiches, one of the soldiers came into the kitchen from the side door. The one called Corporal Peters who had almost hit Phoenix. He blinked when he saw us and stopped in his tracks. Jasmine turned and their eyes met. She gave him a big smile.
“Hi,” she said.
He looked almost as stunned as Captain Lacks-Renton had done when Stevie had spoken to her.
“Oh, huh, hi,” he said and he shuffled uncertainly. He was out of his bio-suite now, in combat greens and carrying a black case.
“Do you want a sandwich?” Jasmine asked him innocently, “I can make you one.”
“The soldier is very busy Jasmine,” I said and Corporal Peters quickly walked across the kitchen and through the door that lead into the dining room, but I saw his eyes flick back toward Jasmine, and then he was gone.
“Shall we make sandwiches for the Gorilla and Shannon?” Eden asked me innocently.
I shook my head. She frowned, “Won’t they be hungry when they get back?”
“They will eat in town,” Stevie spoke up, “Won’t they Lucy?”
“They could do,” I said and I changed the subject, “Can someone get the coleslaw out of the fridge?”
Very soon, I had everyone sitting around the huge butchers block on stools in the middle of the kitchen with their sandwiches, salad, soup fruit and hot drinks.
“Stay here until I come back,” I instructed them, as soon as they were tucking in “Don’t talk to any of the soldiers, don’t go into the dining room until I say so, OK?”
I headed to the office, which Wolf had now taken over. Adag was sitting on a chair by the window, she looked pale and ill. She was smoking a cigarette. Mitch was there too, also smoking.
“Where are the others?” I asked.
“Seb’s with Paul,” Mitch spoke, “The medic has given Phoenix some stuff to help relax him, he’s in his room, but he’s ok.”
I looked at Wolf, “Your Captain said you wanted to speak to me?”
“I want to speak to all of you,” he said abruptly, “Epsilon Command has put us all under quarantine for the next three weeks, we can’t leave here and neither can you.”
I digested this information and then said slowly, “They think we might have been infected by Gregory, don’t they?”
“It’s protocol,” he said.
“Really?” I said in my mildest voice, “If you say so.”
“You have done this to all of us,” he said sharply, “You should have told us about him, told us he was here.”
“Like you told us why you were here?” Mitch snapped, “Trust cuts two ways Colonel, and you hid from us what had happened outside the home.”
“You knew what had happened,” Wolf stated the obvious.
“That isn’t the point,” Mitch, I could see was getting worked up.
“Stop it,” Adag spoke, her voice sounded reedy. I wondered how far she was from breaking. She was more than likely thinking about her daughter in London, probably aware that there was no chance of her having survived the contagion, “What is done is done, when the quarantine is over, what happens?”
“We will return to our base for further orders.”
“What sort of orders?” I asked.
“Trying to take back control from the Twice Dead,” he replied.
“What are they doing?” I asked.
“Gathering apparently, moving across the country,” he exhaled, I could see he was wondering how much he could tell us, but what could we do with the information, we were alone in more ways than one, “They appear to eat their own as well as the living, there seems to be some sort of basic collective intelligence from what little info has been gathered by the Drones.”
“Cannibals who eat cannibals?” Mitch grimaced with the horror of it.
“No,” I said before I could stop myself, “The stronger eating the weaker in order to survive.”
Wolf looked at me sharply; it was obviously something that he and the powers that be had not thought about.
“What happens to us then?” Mitch asked suddenly.
The Colonel didn’t answer and Mitch looked at him expectantly as did Adag even though she had said very little so far.
“They don’t want us,” the realization came to me quickly and I found I was not at all surprised by this revelation, “Not two cripples, and a bunch of retards, even the ones with high IQ’s.”
“I don’t make the rules, Epsilon Command does,” I was surprised to detect for an instant a dislike of what he had been ordered to do.
“What the hell?” Mitch said incredulously, “You are taking the piss aren't you?” However, the expression on Wolf’s face told the old soldier that I was right, we were to be abandoned when the quarantine was over.
“Well fuck you then,” Mitch said savagely, and he stood up and walked out of the office. He hit the door with his fist as went passed it, he was so angry.
It took a bit longer for this information to register with Adag.
“So you are going to leave us here to die,” she said.
“I have no say in the matter,” Wolf said curtly.
“Just what most people said in Europe during the disabled Holocaust in the 1930’s,” Adag’s parting words as she followed Mitch out of the office made Wolf physically flinch, “And we all know how that ended.”
I laughed. Yes, I know, it wasn't funny but I couldn't help it.
“You have a seriously warped sense of humour,” Wolf said tightly.
“Far from it,” I said with a smile, “I was just thinking how predictable people are, they run par to course, one size must fit all, no deviations or difference, but I guess that is what you are used to, being army, thinking outside of the box, it doesn't come naturally, does it?”
He didn't reply but my words made his lips tighten and I saw his fists clench. He so wanted to slap me, I could tell. I left the office and went back to the kitchen to make sure everyone was OK and to get my own lunch.
The Colonel’s platoon consisted of 26 men and women. Of rank there was Wolf, a Colonel, a Captain, Elise Lacks-Renton, a Lieutenant Nat Barnes who was the unit’s medic, Griffin was a Sergeant, but he was the man who had been bitten by Gregory, a couple of Corporals, one of them being Corporal Peters and the rest were ordinary if varying lower ranks.