Authors: Suchitra Chatterjee
Tags: #Zombie Apocalypse
To my consternation Seb was there, tinkering a way with his spare electric wheelchair that he affectionately called Lewis Hamilton, Lewis for short. He glanced up at me, but said nothing. He had when I first arrived at Thorncroft tried his hardest to rile me as he did with everyone in the home, he succeeded with most people, but mostly I refused to be drawn into his angry world.
He often called me Lady of Shadows, telling me that one day I would disappear into the shadows never to be seen again. Seb liked to give people knick-names, mainly to annoy them, but mostly I thought because he was often bored despite his speed obsession.
I in turn just shut his voice out of my head whenever I felt a touch of ire rising in me. It was something I had always been able to do from being a child who had been forced to undergo painful medical treatment for days at a time.
I sat on the bench under the tree and drew my good leg up under my bad leg to get more comfortable.
“Lucy!” the high-pitched voice of Jasmine cut through the air like the opening of a rusty can with a saw. I ignored her at first, flicking open the first page of my book, unaware that I would never get to finish it, intent on loosing myself in its pages of fictional fantasy, “Lucy!”
When would people get my name right? It was Lucia, not Lucy. Jasmine’s voice came closer. I lowered my head, ignoring her.
“Lucy,” she bellowed in my ear making me jump, my head jerked and she beamed at me.
“Don’t yell!” I said.
She gave me a happy smile, “You didn’t hear me.”
“She was ignoring you, she is good at doing that is our Lady of Shadows,” Seb spoke from his wheelchair; he had a ratchet in his hand and some wires. What he was doing to his spare wheelchair I had no idea, but it looked interesting if nothing else. Interesting and probably downright illegal. Like the time he had increased the speed on another’s resident’s mobility scooter.
Poor Mark had literally shot across the gravel pathway as if he had been flung out of a cannon. His shrieks of terror had reduced Seb to hysterical laughter. He didn’t like Mark who was a bit of a pet to all the staff, in the same way that Eden was, and on a few occasions had got Seb into trouble for home infringements that he had witnessed.
Mark had gone home to his family for the long weekend. I had watched as his mobility scooter, now back to a sedately four miles an hour speed wise being put into the back of his father’s adapted car. His excitement at seeing his family had been palpable. Hugs, kisses, and laughter.
Jasmine stuck her tongue out at Seb and turned her back to me, “Can I borrow your CD player?”
“No,” I said as I tried to find my place in my book.
“Please,” her voice was wheedling, “Eden and I want to practice our dance routine and mine is broken.”
“You broke it,” I moved my head away from her breath which was sweet, she had been eating chocolate again, “You dropped it.”
“It was an accident,” she protested.
“No,” I repeated.
“Please!” she pleaded, “Please, Lucy,” Jasmine simply didn’t know how to take no for an answer. I exhaled, pushed my untidy fringe from my forehead and wished I had stayed in my room.
“If you break it…” I said in a warning voice and she flung her arms around me and hugged me, which made me flinch, but I didn’t pull away. Jasmine had no understanding of personal space, she was an innocent child in a woman’s body.
Twenty-two years old, with a body a cat walk model surely would kill for, beautiful to look at facially too, everything physical about her was in proportion, from her long natural platinum tinted hair, along with her pale, and almost perfect skin, to her rosebud shaped lips and round blue eyes with delicate white eyelashes that gave her an almost ethereal appearance.
She also had, as the singer Meghan Trainor said in one of her songs, “
All the right junk in all the right places,
” but this was where perfection ended. Jasmine had the brain power of a punch-drunk pumpkin. She would forever be seven years old and not a very bright seven-year-old either. Deprived of oxygen at birth Jasmine had the outward appearance of an exquisitely beautiful young woman, until she opened her mouth that was.
“Thank you!” she squealed and skipped off down the path to find her friend so they could get my CD player from my room.
“She will break it,” Seb looked up from his work on Lewis. He was tightening some bolt and the clicking of metal on metal was rhythmic as he spoke.
“Be quiet!” I responded.
“Just saying,” I turned away from him, surprised that he had managed to irritate me. I was very rarely irritated by Seb, mainly because I could shut him out of my line of internal thoughts, but today was different.
I tried to get on with my reading, but became aware of shouting. I looked up again. Stevie was stamping out of the French doors to his favourite “sulking place” as Seb called it, his Downs Syndrome face like thunder. Walking calmly behind him was Adag the Assistant House Manager.
“Stevie,” she was saying to him in a consolatory voice “We told you that your mum and dad weren’t coming down for this weekend, we told you last week remember?”
“They promised!” he shouted throwing his arms into the air, “They promised!”
“They had to go to London to help your sister, that’s why they couldn’t collect you this weekend,” Adag’s voice was soothing, full of patience and understanding for this unhappy young man’s feelings.
Seb snorted as he watched them disappear into the copse toward the knee-deep stream that surrounded Thorncroft before meandering underground to some sort of limestone pool that was apparently hundreds and thousands of years old, “Help his sister? That’s a bloody laugh, it’s his sister’s graduation weekend, they could have taken him with them, but little sister snooty pants didn’t want him there, I heard Adag talking to his mum on the phone, seems like she doesn’t want anyone to know she has a Mong for a big brother.”
“Don’t call him that,” my head shot up and I snapped my book shut.
Seb laughed, “What do you care Lady of Shadows?”
“I might not care,” I said in a hard voice, “But I don’t go around calling people hateful names, that makes you as bad as the people you profess to despise.”
Seb’s lips thinned out into a line. He didn’t like my reply. I had hit a nerve. Seb hated people who treated him as if he was a third class citizen because he was now in a wheelchair. He hated that he was now dependent on others for help. Until the car crash, he had been able-bodied, disabled people didn’t cross his radar, he was a golden boy living a golden life.
Now he was a cripple in a wheelchair, living in a residential home, under a court order because he refused to slow down, refused to give up his love of speed.
“She should tell him the truth,” Seb said taking up a position of defense, but not being so belligerent, “Tell him that his sister is ashamed of him.”
“And what good will that do?” What the hell was I doing talking to Seb, had I lost my marbles since coming out into the garden?
“At least it would be the truth,” Seb muttered and he viciously turned the handle on the ratchet and the metal creaked under the pressure and then spun when he released it and cracked his knuckles, making him swear and put his hand to his mouth and suck on the bruised flesh. He would be good looking if didn't always have a sour expression on his face I thought as I flipped open my book again.
The truth. What was the truth? It was a question that was going to haunt all of us for a long time to come, but not for the reasons behind Seb and my conversation that particular day.
Oh no, the truth we would have to deal with soon enough was going to be something else, something that would rip us all apart and put us on a collision course with a brand new world.
We first started to notice something was wrong when we put the TV on at lunchtime and all we got was white and grey static on the wall mounted 52-inch screen. Seb who was one of the home’s techno whiz’s fiddled with it and the satellite box for ages, and then grumpily turned to the Gorilla and said, “I bet the dish has disconnected again.”
Gregory smiled his lazy smile, and said he would go and get the ladder to check and how about we put on the radio instead?
Gregory was a mellow person; he needed to be, because he had to deal with Seb on a day-to-day basis. He was a giant of a man, over six-foot-tall, he weighed at least 22 stone but most of it was muscle, he liked to work out as well as playing with all things fast.
He was a good-looking man in a body builder type of way. Toned and tanned skin, slick black hair, chocolate brown eyes that had an almost puppy dog look about them when he smiled. He always smelt of Old Spice, an old-fashioned after-shave that he liked and which made Eden sneeze. He had big hands and you’d think he’d be clumsy as he was so tall and big but he moved with surprising grace and there was nothing clumsy in how he handled Seb.
“Luddite technology,” Seb muttered, but all the same, he went over to the digital radio on the windowsill and turned it on. Or rather, he tried to turn it on. Channel after channel he tried, but like with everything else there was static, just like the TV.
“What the hell?” he muttered as he tried to find a channel to listen to.
I was buttering bread and handing it out to the others who were sitting around the dining table in the large communal area that we all had access too. I found it easier to do certain things than let the others try and do them. I don’t like mess and the others made a mess when they buttered their bread.
“I want four,” Cassidy’s whining voice made me look up from my task.
Cassidy was 17 years old, one of the youngest in the home. He was big in size, lumbering and always hungry. He wasn’t the most appealing person to look at with his round face, close shaved head, buttery coloured skin, double chin and little piggy eyes that peered at you with hungry intensity. He always wore t-shirts that were too tight for him and showed his fleshy belly, but at least his grey cotton tracksuit bottoms fitted reasonably well.
“Now Cass,” Shannon’s easy going voice came from the serving hatch as she started to put out the bowls of chicken soup, “You know you only can have two.”
“I want four,” Cassidy’s piggy eyes narrowed, he was getting ready to have a tantrum. He caught my eye, I put my finger to my lips, and he watched as I carefully put four slices of buttered bread to one side.
Cassidy isn’t as stupid as everyone in the home seem to think. His size and obsession with food is all they can see, but I began to realise early on that behind that food obsession was a feral intelligence. Was it a conscious or a subconscious intelligence? A combination of the two I think, but he and I had cultivated an understanding over time. I gave him extra food if he didn’t go into melt down all the time.
Cassidy’s meltdowns were spectacular. He goes on the rampage like a maddened bull in a bullring, smashing everything up in sight. Even the Gorilla is hard pressed to stop him and so he is sedated and put in the TOR Space when this happens with pretty much all of the home staff piling on top of him.
Shannon, Adag and the Gorilla and other staff members have access to the injections that would knock him out. The Ketamine Kid Seb called Cassidy, but even he had the sense to get out of Cassidy’s way when the teenager was in full melt down mode.
Cassidy gave me a happy smile and made a point of sitting beside me, knowing that I would slide the bread over to him when Shannon wasn’t looking.
“He’s greedy,” Eden said wrinkling her nose as she looked at Cassidy who had turned his head and was looking anxiously toward the kitchen to see if his soup was ready.
Eden was a favourite with all the staff like Mark had been, but I didn’t much like her. She was Jasmine’s best friend and had something called Kabuki Syndrome, a mild form of autism, along with a moderate form of
. Her sense of smell was quite acute at times, and on a few occasions, she had been violently sick because of it.
I hadn’t heard of Kabuki before I met Eden. She was not a tall girl, and she certainly didn’t carry the kind of weight that Cassidy did. She lacked Jasmine’s curves, and she had no chest to speak of which she grumbled about all the time.
She had oddly long openings between her eyelids and her lower eyelids were turned outward ever so slightly. Her head size was somewhat disproportionate to its features, which were slightly lopsided. She had quite prominent brown eyelashes, along with arched eyebrows and a pronounced nose that was a bit big for her face. Her ears were a bit misshapen, but not overly so. Her eyes were pretty though, slightly slanting and a deep green colour and Eden took great care of her shoulder length red brown hair, which had a natural curl to it.
Eden also had what was deemed as a moderate intellectual disability, she struggled to read complex text, but her writing was surprisingly neat, even though her spelling was atrocious. She loved to wear bright colours; even I had to admit she had a good fashion sense. She wanted to be a model, but she had no more chance of being a model than Seb had of getting behind the wheel of a racing car again.
Like Jasmine she watched all the trashy soaps and reality shows on TV, loved to talk about celebrities, especially those who were models and longed to be on the X-Factor, something she and Jasmine were working on with their dance and song routine.