Front cover of What Went Wrong

Front cover of What Went Wrong

Chapter Nine : Leaving London

Ella had cried. Dave had said she would. Then she had threatened to kill Jim, if he didn’t bring Dave back. He’d said she would do that too. The one thing he had’nt assumed though, was the affection Ella had directed toward Jim. She had held him for a very long time. Long enough for her brother to tell them to ‘get a room!’ in pretend disgust. The sentiment was purely out of concern though. It was only a week since Aimee died, only a week but the three friends had become quite close.

The docks were full of activity. Ships were being unloaded everywhere, huge cargo ships were lined up throughout the area. Soldiers stood on every corner, all wearing body armour, and the constant drone of aircraft filled the sky. Even after joining the group due to disembark, it still took over an hour to actually stand on dry land.

Jim and Dave were part of a group who were planning on going home. Dave had been told that Manchester was a no go zone, so they had lied and told the sailors they were both travelling to Stockport. This was now classed as a high risk area, but they were still allowed to go. The line they stood in, joined an even bigger queue, and Jim was getting impatient.

"I can’t bare this!" Jim hissed. The line didn’t seem to be moving.

"It’s OK mate, we’ll get there."

"But it’s been a week now, you saw Portsmouth, you know how bad it was."

Dave paused for a few seconds, "We will get there, all of this is keeping London safe. We will get there." He put his hand on Jim’s shoulder. "Listen, if Jess and the old man are built like you, they’ll be there, pissed off and waiting, but alive. You don’t know when to quit mate."

"I can’t quit. I have to get there."

"We will, don’t worry we will."

Finally the queue started to move.

They had left the docks on large coaches. Four soldiers and around fifty passengers on each one. The government had declared martial law, and the country was now under the command of the military.

The good thing was that now buses ran on time, trains ran on time, but the bad thing was that nothing else did. All non essential travelling was now deemed illegal. Personal cars, motorbikes basically anything other than military vehicles was stopped and removed. The idea was to limit the travelling distances available to civilians, therefore slowing down the spread of the infection. In one respect it was working, there were very few vehicles on the roads, but in another respect it wasn’t the best of ideas, every citizen of London seemed to be walking.

The coach lumbered towards the M25 ring road. This was the quickest way out of the city. The two friends were sat together on the right hand side. Everywhere they looked shops were closed. every building which had a shutter was sealed up. Army trucks and Land Rovers stood on each of the major cross roads, and you could’nt see a place which didn’t have a soldier.

As they moved into outer London, you could see there had been trouble. Burnt out buildings and cars stood on every street. Scorch marks scarred the roads, and people were lining up at the back of big trucks. soldiers were handing down cardboard boxes, ‘food and water’ stamped on the sides.

They both marvelled at the organisation on display. How could the government arrange all of this in one week?, how did they know how to contain the outbreaks. The positioning of the troops, the use of the coaches it was very impressive.

The coach was headed towards the motorway, but a single Land Rover raced past, and the passenger indicated for them to stop. The coach driver slowed to a stop, parking behind the other vehicle. The troops on the bus used the doors, and walked to meet the others. There was a short discussion, then they returned. The Land Rover did a quick U turn, and disappeared back the way it came.

One of the soldiers stood at the front of the bus, he had been speaking quietly tot he driver, but now he turned his attention to the passengers.

"Can everyone listen up?" His Scottish accent cut through the background noise. "There is a problem with the M1. We have to make other arrangements. We’re going back to the docks, then we have to wait for another window."

He was talking about the motorway which connected the south of England, with the North.

"What do you mean window?, and what’s the problem?" Dave asked form his seat.

"We don’t know what the problem is yet, but apparently the M! has been lost to us. The window i mentioned, is when we’ve cleared the motorway. It doesn’t last for long, so we use it quickly. If we lose the window, we then have to wait for another one."

"So does this mean it could be later today? or...."

Before Dave continue his question, the soldier turned to the driver, "Come on, we can’t just sit here. Anymore questions will be answered back at the docks." He turned his back and took his seat, ignoring Dave completely.

"Charming!" Dave said to Jim.

"Seems to be the norm now. Soldiers never tell us what’s going on." Jim looked out of the window as the bus turned around.

"Contact! Nine O’clock!." Shouted one of the soldiers. He immediately smashed the closest window, and started firing from the bus. Panic exploded amongst the passengers. Screaming and shouting almost drowned out the rifle fire. One of the soldiers was knocked to the ground as the bus screeched to a halt. The driver opened the doors, and then ran from the bus. Hysterical passengers trampled the fallen trooper as they ran down onto the pavement. Within seconds they had scattered in all directions. Jim and Dave stayed on board, not sure what to do.

They could see around twenty zombies walking towards the coach. Bullets ripped through them, clothes tearing and dust exploded all around. three of the soldiers were now on the pavement, firing from a kneeling position. they were firing into the walking dead, three round bursts hitting each one, but only when a head shot occurred, did the zombie fall to the ground.

The group had been cut down by half by now, but there was only 30 feet to go. Fearlessly they advanced. The closer they got, the more details could be seen. Blood stains covered each one, and rips and tears in the skin hung down from faces and arms. Some had shoes missing, one was without an arm. The kneeling soldiers had fallen back to the bus now, opening up the distance between them. More zombies fell, but the remainder still advanced. The firing stopped, and the friends were horrified to see two of the soldiers run from the bus. They didn’t look back.

Dave ran to the front of the bus, he was trying to get the rifle from the fallen soldier. He managed to wrench it free, and stepped down onto the road. He aimed the rifle and pulled the trigger, nothing happened.

"Safety!" shouted the injured soldier "Safety!". Dave searched frantically for the tiny lever, his hands were shaking and he struggled to find it. The only soldier who hadn’t ran had been dragged down by the zombies. His scream filled the air, and blood was pumping from his body. His helmet had been ripped off, and the undead were ripping into his face. Dave froze, he was staring in horror, as a loud gunshot went off close to his head. A zombie fell as Jim strode purposefully past him, a large black pistol in his hand. He fired again and another one of the zombies fell to the ground. Jim walked over to the seething mass of teeth. The screaming had stopped, but Jim was too focused to notice. He fired again and again, each time another zombie fell. Only one was left, but the gun was just making a clicking sound. He had ran out of bullets.

The zombie seemed to lose interest in the soldier, and started to get to its feet. She used to be a woman, probably quite pretty, but not now. Her hair was matted to her blood stained face, and flesh fell from her mouth. Her dead lifeless eyes turned to look directly at Jim. He started to back up, but she was advancing on him. Her left leg was missing large pieces of thigh, but it didn’t stop her, it only made her limp. A loud hissing noise was escaping from her mouth, and her hands were raised into the air.

Jim stumbled on something and started to fall backwards. He managed to stay on his feet, but she had gained significantly by now. With only a few feet left, Jim heard someone shout "Down!". He instinctively dropped to the ground as bullets ripped into the undead woman. Her body shook with the force of the bullets. They travelled up her body, only stopping when they hit her in the face. As the last few rounds landed, her head exploded into a shower of grey matter and bone. Her body stayed upright for a few seconds, but then slumped onto the ground. Jim stayed on the floor for a few seconds, and Dave rushed to his side.

"You alright mate?, did you get bit?" Dave was dragging him back to the bus.

"No, no i don’t think so." Jim had started shaking, but Dave didn’t stop until he was next to the Bus steps. The soldier who had been trampled was sat there, his rifle across his knees. Pain etched across his face. The two friends now sat against the bus.

"Thank you" Jim said to the trooper, "Where the hell did your friends go?"

"There not my friends, we all got assigned this morning. My unit’s gone, and we all got thrown together. I don’t even know there names."

"If i ever see them again...." Dave left the rest unfinished. All three of them felt the same way.

"Do you guys want to collect the rifles from the dead guys, we have ammo on the bus, get the pistols too."

Jim and Dave walked slowly over to the fallen soldier. His head was nearly gone. He wouldn’t be rising soon. They quickly collected the weapons, and made there way back to the bus. The soldier had crawled up and into the aisle. The door was shut as soon as they were all on board.

"I have a broken leg, so i can’t drive this thing, can either of you?"

Jim shook his head, but Dave said quietly, "I can, but i’ve lost my licence!"

They all burst out laughing, the tension causing them to become reckless.

A rotten, stinking grey arm reached through the broken window, it was trying to reach Jim.

"Time we got the fuck out of here!" Dave shouted. He started the engine, and struggled to get the bus in gear. More arms were reaching through the shattered windows. The powerful bus engine roared, and it started to move away from the curb. Crunching sounds could be heard as the large tyres crushed zombies beneath them. More fell under the sides and as the bus picked up speed, a long line of destruction was left behind.

"Where are we going?" Dave bounced in his seat, as they crashed past a burnt out car.

"Keep going south, we’ll hit a checkpoint soon enough."

"No problem mate." he replied with a grin.

Jim just sat next to the soldier on the floor. "What’s your name?"

" Er..John, and you two are?", it was obvious he was in great pain.

Jim answered for them both, "That idiot is Dave, or if he’s being annoying, David!, and i’m Jim." The bus lurched again as Dave crashed through something.

"Is he trying to hit everything on the road?"

"Probably!" Jim replied.

"Where are you going?"

"Home to Stockport, i have to find my daughter."

"Where is she?"

"Blackley, but i have to get my car first."

"Wow that’s about 10 miles from Stockport, you’ll never make it!"

"Well i still have try John, I need to know what happened to her."

The conversation was cut short by a loud thumping noise, and a huge shadow passed over the bus. All of the men strained to see what it was, when a loud voice was heard.

"Stop the bus guys, we’re here to pick you up!".

It was a helicopter. A huge black helicopter, with two top rotors came into view , the pilot was using his on board public address system.

Dave slowed the bus to a standstill, and the helicopter landed gently on the road in front of them.

Dave opened the door, and looked around, for any sign of danger. Jim however had struggled to get the injured John to his feet, it was made more difficult because of the rifles he now carried. He was half dragging, half carrying John towards the helicopter, when another soldier, who was stood on the open ramp, opened fire with a heavy machine gun. This no ordinary weapon, it stood fastened to the helicopter floor, and the bullets were fed in via a continuous chain.

Jim didn’t even stop to see what the target was, he dropped the spare weapons, and tried to speed up. Dave now joined in on the other side, and they grabbed John on either side, between them they quickly ran up the ramp, and on board. hot metal clips were flying everywhere as the tail gunner fired passed the bus.

Only when the engine pitch changed, and they started to climb into the sky, did Jim look through the open tailgate.

Hundreds of zombies were approaching them . They could never have survived this onslaught. Hundreds of arms were raised to the sky, but the huge machine carried on climbing, the heavy machine gun still pumping hot bullets into the mass. The noise was incredible, and it was impossible to be heard, so Jim and Dave sat silently together, watching a medic working on John. The journey seemed to take forever, and even with the loud clatter of the helicopter, nothing could keep the two friends awake. John shouted something directly into the medic’s ear, getting a nod in response, and they both looked over at Jim and Dave.