Authors: Suchitra Chatterjee
Tags: #Zombie Apocalypse
We all ate breakfast in silence in the kitchen, and then I went to check on Gregory with Mitch. We looked through the toughened glass window set into the door that monitored the room and we saw he was curled up under the duvet, only the top of his head showing. He was as still as could be and I tried to see if the duvet was rising and falling with his breathing, but I couldn’t.
“He’s just asleep,” Mitch said. We both wanted to believe that. We told Adag he was asleep. To our surprise she agreed we wouldn’t go into the room until he was awake and sitting up.
Phoenix had been working on the smashed Drone most of the night. As I cleared away the breakfast things, he called us to come into the office.
He fired up the office computer, and produced a disc, which he put into the CD drive of the computer.
As was his want, he didn’t much talk at first. He just pulled up a load of files and began opening them one by one. Once this was done, he began to speak, not looking at any of us, but talking in flat monotone.
The Drone apparently was more than just a recording machine as we had all assumed. It was he said a sophisticated piece of military hardware/technology that was part of what had happened.
The experiment that Mitch had heard mentioned on his military radio was global, and apparently, it wasn’t supposed to do what it did.
“No shit Sherlock,” Seb said sarcastically, “What the fuck was it supposed to do then?”
“No need for that kind of language Sebastian,” Adag said and Seb rolled his eyes.
“It wasn’t supposed to do anything,” Phoenix said and we all looked at him in surprise. He flicked at a file on the screen which was a movie file and it showed people in bio-hazard suits moving across what look like a desert area, “It was apparently some kind of test experiment, to see if an air born pathogen could spread out across cities in minutes via a micro system incorporated into various satellites, there wasn’t supposed to be anything in the contagion, it was supposed to be an empty nucleolus, just a few harmless chemicals to come raining down on us, no one would know, it was just a test.”
“What the hell went wrong then?” Mitch asked.
Phoenix didn’t answer; he tapped on the computer and up came a map showing where the supposed harmless contagion was supposed to land when it was sprayed from space down upon us. All over the world.
“Why would they do such a test?” I asked.
“To be able to disseminate contagions easily for mass outbreaks of epidemics like Ebola, Swine Flu, it wasn’t supposed to do what it did.”
“But it did!” I yelled because I was frustrated, “It did!”
“It did,” Phoenix agreed and then he added thoughtfully, “But if it did, how did we survive and most of the world didn’t?”
I had been thinking the same thing. Why had we at Thorncroft Residential Home survived the contagion, it had fallen from the SKY, but it had missed us. How was that possible?
“And the Military are involved?”
“It was a training exercise for them too,” Phoenix I realised was reading some of the information he had up on the computer screen, “They were in bunkers waiting to do a follow up exercise, along with some government officials and people of rank, I don’t know what the follow up training was supposed to be, those files in the Drone’s memory bank were damaged.”
“What a bloody irony,” I said and I snorted back a laugh even though there wasn’t really anything to laugh about.
Everyone looked at me quizzically and I said, “The Military survive along with a few people who probably don’t know how to wipe their own backsides! And I don’t mean us! Who is going to rule who now the world is shot to shit?”
Seb realised what I was saying first and he let out a bark of laughter. Mitch’s lips twitched, but Adag didn’t find it funny and Phoenix didn’t understand the nuance of what I was saying.
“The Military should help us,” Adag said angrily.
“Really?” I responded, “Right now they have their hands pretty full, because the world so it appears is populated by the Twice Dead.”
“Twice Dead?” Mitch said puzzled.
“It’s what Gregory called Ben and the others who attacked him and Shannon, far better than calling them Zombies, don’t you think?”
Before anyone could reply there was a cracking sound, like wood splintering and seconds later Thorncroft Residential Home for the Physically Disabled and Mentally Impaired was under Military control.
hen all the shouting and screaming was done and dusted we were all forced into the dining room, under the watchful eye of people in heavy rubbery yellow bio-hazard suit, their faces distorted by the thick glass protecting their faces. We were roughly handled at first.
Poor Mitch had been slammed face against the wall when he tried to stop a soldier from dragging Phoenix from his chair. Phoenix hates to be touched, he went into melt down, the noise of the shouting, screaming freaked him out, and it was only mine and Adag’s intervention that stopped a soldier from smashing the butt of his rifle into his skull.
“He has autism!” I had screamed at the soldier who had poor Phoenix on his knees, a hand on his shoulder, the weapon raised to slam in to his head, “He has autism!” My words must have penetrated the soldier’s brain because he let go of Phoenix who immediately curled himself into a ball on the floor, whimpering softly.
It was quickly ascertained that Stevie was in a drugged sleep on the sofa along with three others in three other rooms and not victims of the contagion. The TOR had been missed because it looks like part of the wall, once the window cover is across the toughened glass, it is easily missed.
“Why is he drugged?” a man who by the insignia on his biohazard suit was some sort of officer barked at me as he pointed at Stevie. He had an American accent. On his heavy yellow suit was a woven badge with the word WOLF on it. I noticed the other soldiers had badges on their suits as well, PETERS, SALTER, DUKE and so on, obviously surnames.
“We didn’t want them to be frightened,” I heard myself say, “They have learning disabilities.”
“We wanted to protect them,” Adag was sitting on the floor with Phoenix who she and Mitch had managed to get into the dining room from his foetal position, but who was now sitting on the floor, his arms wrapped around his legs, his head on his knees, rocking back and forth and staring into space. Gone was the hyper-intelligent young man, replaced by a shell, with eyes so vacant you could take up residence in them.
There was about twenty or so soldiers, from the tone of voices under the heavy suits they were wearing, they were both male and female. I watched as they moved through the building, shouting out the word “Clear.” after they had checked a certain area. None of us mentioned the TOR.
The officer who had barked at me made a sudden decision. He unzipped his biohazard suit and lifted off his heavy yellow helmet. He shook his head, there beads of sweat on his forehead and I realised that the gear he was wearing must be extremely hot. Underneath the yellow suit was green camouflage, army issue.
This was my first meeting with Colonel Mason Wolf. As he wiped his forehead with his now ungloved hand, I scrutinised him carefully.
He was over six-foot-tall, in his mid-thirties, with sun-burnished skin, and a pair of vivid violet coloured eyes that were a direct contrast the rest of him. His nose I suspected had been broken a couple of times, and his lips were set in a firm line. His hair was short, not totally shaven, but close to his head; I could see a tinge of red among the short cut blonde strands. He was solidly built, not fat, but it was obvious he was fit and strong. We found out later he had been a soldier since he was 17 and was based in England for a Cross-Atlantic military training exercise.
Swiftly the other soldiers followed his action with their bio-suits and we saw the faces of the people who had invaded our home. Men and women, all in their early to mid-twenties.
The man called Wolf looked at each of us thoughtfully, “Do you know what has happened?” he asked.
What could we say? I glanced at Adag whose lips were now pursed tightly shut. Mitch who had been forced to sit down on a chair was rubbing the left side of his face and wincing, it was already starting to swell.
Any sense of kinship he might have felt with fellow military personal was well and truly out of the window. They were now the enemy, his concerns from earlier on, proven by the rough treatment we had all just been subjected too.
I glanced at Seb and I could see by the expression on his face he felt the same way as Mitch. I looked at Phoenix rocking back and forth on the floor and my stomach turned, anger flared inside of me. I met Wolf’s gaze, tilted my head to one side and said nothing.
A soldier appeared from his search, holding broken parts of the Drone in his hands. Seeing his companions hoodless, he did the same and then took the remains of the Drone to Wolf.
“I found this in one of the rooms Sir,” the soldier said. He handed over the broken bits to Wolf who examined them and then turned back to us.
“We were tracking this Drone,” he said, “The camera went offline several hours ago, we thought it had malfunctioned, obviously it didn’t,” he knelt down and picked up the black dumbbell that was still on the floor, making the connection between the shattered Drone and the heavy dumbbell, “Effective.”
I was trying to process a ton of information in my head. Why hadn’t he asked us about Gregory? Wasn’t he aware this was where Gregory was heading to?
Wolf’s eyes moved from person to person, coming to rest finally on me. His gaze was hard, without emotion and I sensed he was processing what information he had and what might fill in the gaps.
“You know more than you are letting on,” he said when he finally did speak, “Have any of you left this place?”
“Does it look any of us could leave here?” Seb spoke, his voice filled with sarcasm, “This is a home for disabled people, or hadn’t you noticed Mr. Military Man?”
I lowered my head, my lips twitching. Mitch snorted and even Adag allowed herself a glint of amusement in her grey eyes.
Wolf gave this some thought and then said, “Why did you break the Drone?”
“Why did we break the Drone?” I repeated his words; Seb’s sarcasm was obviously infectious, because I added, “Excuse me? What the hell would you do if something like that flew into your dining room and hovered over one of your friends? Shake hands with it and ask it to sit down and have a cup of tea with you?”
Mitch snorted again and Wolf’s eyes swiveled to him, “You seem to find this funny.”
Mitch looked him squarely in the eye, “No,” he said acidly “I don’t think any of this is funny at all, I don’t think it’s funny you try and crack a disabled kid’s head open and corral a group of terrified people who don’t know what the hell is going on into their dining room and bully the hell out of them. Look around you, this is a residential home for people with disabilities, no one here is of any danger to you at all, and you storm in here, terrify everyone, knock us about and ask cryptic questions, don’t tell us anything, all we know is that the world has gone tits up and we know that because you guys are here!”
Some of the soldiers had the decency to look uncomfortable, well at least one did, the one who had almost cracked Phoenix’s head open. He was young, in his early twenties with short-cropped sandy brown hair, and bright green eyes. He caught me looking at him, his cheeks flushed and he looked away.
“The country is on lockdown,” Wolf carefully placed the broken bits of Drone onto the dining table, “A state of emergency is in place, there has been an incident.”
“No shit Sherlock,” Seb said and he crossed his arms over his chest to show his contempt for the state of emergency and also the military.
“Corporal Peters,” Wolf addressed the soldier who had almost hit Phoenix, “Call up Epsilon Command, tell them we have survivors.”
“Yes Sir,” Corporal Peters said and he swiftly left the dining room.
Another soldier appeared from the corridor that lead down to the bedrooms, she spoke to Wolf, “One of the occupants from the room is awake, he looks very sick.”
“Paul,” I said and I moved instinctively toward the door, but was blocked by a soldier, to give him credit he didn’t touch me, but he stopped me from leaving the dining room.
“What’s he sick with?” Wolf spoke and I noticed a change in the soldiers, they became tense, their hands moved ever so slightly on the weapons they were holding onto.
It took me a second to understand why, and I reacted accordingly, “He’s dying,” I hissed, “From cancer.”
Wolf nodded at the soldier standing in front of me and he moved out of the way. Adag scrambled to her feet, “I need to get his medication,” she said.
“Go with her,” Wolf directed his words to the female soldier who had reported that Paul was awake. The soldier who had blocked me followed me, but he didn’t enter Paul’s room.
Paul was wide-awake, he stared at the shadowy figure behind me, his fingers moved spasmodically over his sheets and he said in a rasping voice, “What’s wrong? What’s going on?”
“It’s ok Paul,” I said in a soothing voice, “There’s been a bit of a…” I hesitated, “A problem, it’s being sorted out.”
I could tell by his face he didn’t believe me, he opened his mouth to argue, but I moved my hand to form the word for danger whilst mouthing it at him. The soldier behind me could only see my back, not my hands. Unlike Phoenix, Paul was far better able to understand facial expressions and of course Adapted Makaton.
He nodded his head slightly and said, “Can I have something to drink?”
I nodded my head, “Adag’s going to get your medication, are you hungry?” he shook his head.
The soldier followed me out of the room, I made a point of not looking at the space where the hidden TOR door was. How long before they found it? Moreover, why wasn’t Gregory hammering on it to be let out? I had a damn good idea as to why and my stomach boiled.
The soldier, Corporal Peters had returned and had obviously given Wolf the response from the Centre, whatever or whoever that was.
Some of the soldiers had dispersed from the dining room and were now out in the grounds, looking around.
Seb had been allowed to go into the kitchen to get a drink for everyone, Mitch had checked on Stevie who was still fast asleep and I asked if I could check on the girls and Cassidy. I was told they were still asleep.
I sat down beside Mitch, reached out, and lightly touched his cheek. He winced.
“You need some ice on that,” I said.
“I need a fag.”
“I’d really like a spliff,” I replied, thinking of the drug dealer in my previous home and how his presence right now would be a gift.
Adag came from giving Paul his medication, followed by the female officer a one Captain Lacks-Renton. Seb came out of the kitchen with a tray balanced on his lap whilst steering his wheelchair. Mitch got up and took it off him. Phoenix was still catatonic on the floor, staring into space.
“I used the last of your whiskey,” Seb said to Mitch. We had just taken a mouthful of our drinks when a soldier came from outside carrying Mitch’s old military radio.
“We found this Sir,” he said “And the car we are looking for, it’s in the garage.”
We went still.
Wolf looked at the radio, then he turned and looked at us.
“That’s mine,” Mitch piped up, “I used to be in the army.”
“Where is he?”
“Who?” Adag responded.
“Don’t screw around,” Wolf’s voice was harsh, “You know exactly who I am referring too,” he shook his head, “You had me fooled, I have to admit, you had me fooled into thinking you knew next to nothing.”
“Actually,” I said slowly, “We do know next to nothing.”
It got worse from then on, if that was remotely possible. One of the soldiers randomly checked Phoenix’s computer and of course, what he had been looking at popped up. Then the computer in the office was checked.
We sat silently where we were. I saw Stevie stir on the sofa, but he didn’t waken.
“Search this place from top to bottom again,” Wolf said to his soldiers, who dispersed quickly throughout the building yet again. He then he turned to look at us, and I could tell he was furious though he spoke calmly.
I wonder what he was mad the most about. Being fooled by a bunch of cripples or the fact we had broken into a government computer system, “Who accessed COBRA?”
I smiled then, I couldn’t help myself and he pointed a finger at me, “If you know half as much as I am beginning to think you might think you know, then you know this isn’t a game.”