Read The Abandoned Trilogy (Book 1): Twice Dead (Contagion) Online

Authors: Suchitra Chatterjee

Tags: #Zombie Apocalypse

The Abandoned Trilogy (Book 1): Twice Dead (Contagion) (4 page)

              “Are you taking the piss?” Seb said and I laughed.

              “Do you think I am capable of doing something like that?” I said, “Look at your mobile phone.”

              “Why the fuck should I…” he began, but I pushed my mobile under his nose where he saw the no service sign on the screen. He took his phone from his jacket pocket and flicked the leather cover open.

              Like mine and Phoenix’s, the No Service sign winked back at him.

              “And what’s the bet it’s the same with every mobile phone in this place?”

              “The landline works.”

              “But no one answered at SKY when you rang,” I replied, “They work 24 hours, someone should have answered.”

              “What the hell is going on?” Seb stared at the phone in his hand.

              “No idea,” I said, “Do you think Adag will have realised something is wrong?”

              “That woman couldn’t find her own ass with both her hands slapped on her butt,” Seb was dismissive of the Assistant Manager.

              “She’s not stupid,” I said to Seb.

              “I’m glad you think so,” Adag’s voice made us both jump and we turned, Seb swinging his wheelchair around so fast that he almost knocked me over. I grabbed the table to steady myself and called him a twat.

              Seb had the decency to look embarrassed, but it didn’t last.

              Adag stood at Seb’s door. She didn’t look worried, but she was not a person who was ruffled easily by most situations. Adag was not a tall woman, a bit on the plump side, but she had good curves. Not overly busty and always smartly dressed in a pencil skirt, white blouse and either a cardigan or blazer. Her hair was black tinged with red, henna I suspected, it was cupped around her oval shaped face, and her eyes in contrast to her hair were a light brown with gold flecks in the pupils.

Adag’s grandparents had come from the Gujarat in India, she was second generation born in England. She spoke English like a Londoner and her ex-husband had been English. She was on the surface totally assimilated into an English way of living, but sometimes I saw a glimpse of her long forgotten heritage in the way she spoke and how she did certain things.

              Right then as she stood at the door, she was fingering the chain around her neck, it had a silver pendant on it, she told everyone it was a St Christopher medal, but I knew differently. About six months ago, the clasp on it had broken and I had found it on the floor outside of the Yellow Room where the medication for the residents was kept. I had picked it up and taken it to Shannon to give back to Adag, but not before I got a good look at it. It was not St Christopher engraved on the heavy piece of silver that had been moulded over a piece of burnished amber. Of course, I had said nothing about my discovery. What did it matter what was engraved on Adag’s pendant?

              “Mitch said he couldn’t get a signal on his mobile, I couldn’t get one on mine either,” she said, “He came to use the landline, but no one answered.”

              “Our mobiles aren’t working either,” I said.

              “I rang SKY,” Seb said, “No answer.”

              “I went on line,” Adag said. She didn’t have to tell us what she had seen.

              “Who else knows?” I asked.

              “Mitch, me, you two.”

              “Phoenix as well,” I added, “You need to tell Shannon and the Gore…Gregory, but not the others.”

              “My thoughts exactly,” To my surprise Adag agreed with me, “I need you two to act as if nothing has happened, we need to keep calm for the sake of the others.”

              “What’s there not to be calm about?” Seb said in his usual flippant way.

              Adag smiled thinly, “Nothing,” and she turned to leave the room, hesitated, then grabbed her bottom with both hands and said with a wry look in Seb’s direction, “I can find my ass with both my hands better than you can Sebastian Garrow!”

              And then she was gone. I laughed. Seb bit his lip, I thought he would be angry, but he was grinning. He looked away from me when he realised I was watching him.

              I didn’t particularly want to talk to him, but I was compelled to think and then ask a question, “Have you any idea what it might mean?” I nodded toward the computer.

              I waited for one of his flippant answers, one designed to irritate and make me walk away, but he let his eyes move to the flashing red words and he stared at them.

              “Something pretty bad Lady of Shadows,” he said when he finally spoke, “Something pretty bad…”

 

It wasn’t difficult at first, keeping the others ignorant that there was a problem outside of Thorncroft. Residential homes, however nice they are, are institutions, these institutions are run on routine, and habit and the residents become used to their days being set out in a certain way.

              The fact the TV wasn’t working was easily explained away and recorded programs could be watched.

              Shannon, once informed discreetly of the problem immediately tried to phone her family, but of course, her mobile phone was dead. She then rang them on the landline, which rang, and rang but no one answered. To give her credit she kept calm, but I could tell she was really worried.

She went to check on Paul who was in his room, still exhausted after his last bout of treatment and was sleeping it off.

              The Gorilla though wasn’t overly worried, he said he would drive into town and see what they were doing, Adag at first said no, the message on the internet said people should stay where they were, but the Gorilla was persuasive. If it was a hoax of some sort, he would find out and everything would be ok.

              I think Adag wanted it to be a hoax, well we all did, but for Adag who had the responsibility of all of us, she wanted it most of all. My instinct was that the Gorilla should stay in Thorncroft, but I said nothing and neither did Seb.

I used to have regrets about not saying anything, but Wolf once said to me that decisions made were decisions you could not regret once they were done even if they turned out to be wrong.

              Suddenly Seb and I had been elevated from residents to confidants to the Assistant Manager and it was rather disconcerting. Seb and I both were smart people, Seb had not always lived in homes/institutions so he had an understanding of the outside world and though I had been shifted from foster family, to homes, to hospitals I had learned how to survive and live my life according to a set of morals I had created for myself over time.

In a way I was lucky, my early years were with mostly nice if somewhat indifferent foster families, reasonably decent care homes when I wasn’t in foster care or hospital and only the last place I had lived in before this one had been bad, but I hadn’t stayed there long enough for it to overly affect me.

I remember the first day of the rise of the Twice Dead as if it was yesterday. There was nothing remotely sinister or terrible about it in the beginning. At that moment there were no stumbling Twice Dead trying to snack on all our body parts.

We were all in the kitchen because it was bigger than Adag’s office. Jasmine, Eden, Stevie and Cassidy were watching a DVD in the lounge, Seb had put on the
Wizard of Oz
, as it was a good two hours long and a favourite with everyone.

I was leaning against the industrial sized fridge, my arms crossed over my chest, to the left of me was Seb in his wheelchair, he was fiddling with the joy stick that his right hand was perpetually on, staring at it as if it could answer all the questions going around inside his head.

Shannon was making tea for everyone, I watched her bustle about, whilst Mitch who had come in from the garage washed his hands in the sink. I liked Mitch. He was in his late fifties, solidly built, with a bit of a beer belly, but otherwise in good health. He was a very calm person, never losing his temper even with the most difficult of residents…like Seb.

Mitch had been a soldier for many years, rising through the ranks to Sergeant, doing 30 years from the age of 18 and retiring when he was 48. Since then he had worked as a driver, at first for a trucking company before coming to Thorncroft six years ago. He was a sensible man who unlike Adag, the Gorilla and Shannon had no family to worry about. He was divorced, childless and had lost contact with his siblings.

Adag was divorced, but she had a grown-up daughter who lived and worked in London. The Gorilla had family in Sheffield, but he didn’t appear overly worried about them at that moment, he was still of the opinion that everything would be sorted out once he got back from town. Shannon’s family and boyfriend lived locally and she was itching to make sure that everything was ok and it was nothing, but a stupid hoax.

I could tell that Adag wanted to believe that as much as Shannon did, Mitch was reserving judgment I could tell.

Shannon took the tea out to the residents and we drank ours in the kitchen. For once, I had sugar in mine, three teaspoons; I noticed Seb did the same. The sickly sweet taste gave me a feeling of calmness that I actually didn’t feel.

We talked for a bit more, about the flashing red message on every link on the computer and as to why our mobile phones were not working, but the landlines were. Finally, we had to make a decision about going into town.

The Gorilla had his own car, and it was agreed that he would drive into town and find out what was happening. Shannon asked if she could go with him, Adag refused at first, but Shannon insisted.

“I just need to make sure my family are ok,” she said, “And I will be with Gregory.”

Adag finally agreed and the Gorilla went to get his coat and car keys. Shannon rushed to get her coat and belongings and clad in her powder blue parka, her handbag swung over her shoulder, she smiled at me, trying to be upbeat and said lightly, “We will be back soon.”

I nodded my head, out of the corner of my eye I saw Seb looking at me. For once, he didn’t make any sarcastic remark; he muttered something about going to speak to Phoenix and Adag asked me if I would check on Paul.

I watched Shannon as she followed the Gorilla out of the door. I remember her long blonde hair falling down her back and resting on the pale blueness of her shiny new coat she just bought during one of our outings. She always wore boots to work, smart knee high brown leather boots that fitted snugly around her ankles. I envied her slim long legs in tight drainpipe jeans, her trim figure and healthy gait. It was a good memory and one I hold onto because that was the last time I was to see Shannon. The last time any of us saw her.

 

I checked on Paul who when I entered his room was being sick into a basin. Luckily, I am not squeamish, too many times in hospitals myself had made me immune to vomit and shit, though I wasn’t a big fan of needles.

I went and got a bowl, warm water and some flannels from the store room. I also got a bottle of cold water from the fridge.

              “Where’s Shannon?” Paul rasped when I entered the room. His hollow cheeks and sunken eyes showed the toll the treatment he was having was taking on him. When he had arrived at Thorncroft apparently, he had been a stocky teenager, with a mop of curly red hair and he had meat on his bones. He wasn’t fat, but he had, had a healthy glow about him. Now he was stick thin, had lost all his hair and his skin was bruised and paper thin from so many bloods tests and cannula’s being inserted into his veins. He had a hearing impairment and he used to wear hearing aids but his sore ears forced him to often discard them. He was adept at Adapted Makaton and he was one of the best of us for lip reading.

              I didn’t really interact with him, he had Asperger’s like Phoenix, but unlike Phoenix he had a modicum of social skills and when he was well enough, he had interacted reasonably well with most of the other residents. He had also formed a friendship with Stevie who when Paul was feeling well enough would let him push him around in his manual wheelchair in the garden.

              I found it odd that such a high functioning Asperger’s person like Paul would look twice at someone like Stevie who spoke monosyllabically, and simply. Stevie had no academic leanings in any direction other than looking at pictures of weight lifters and reading comic books. He was good at Adapted Makaton though.

              When I had arrived at Thorncroft, I had been taught the rudiments of Adapted Makaton, it was one of the house rules; everyone had to learn Adapted Makaton as this helped those with speech difficulties integrate with those that didn’t. I hadn’t been overly keen, but a rule is a rule and I dutifully attended my induction workshop.

To my utter surprise, I found that I enjoyed learning Adapted Makaton, which incorporated signs, symbols, and speaking if the person using it could verbilise.

Adapted Makaton comes in between Makaton and British Sign Language (BSL). It has more nuance than Makaton itself but is not as richly complex as BSL.

It did, however level the playing field for many people in the home though Seb said it was a load of shit and he would rather scratch his arse and sniff his fingers then learn the language of morons. He had, unfortunately, I was told by Shannon said this in front of a Social Worker and the fall out for his behaviour almost resulted in him being reported for a Hate Crime.

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