Front cover of What Went Wrong

Front cover of What Went Wrong

Chapter Five : The Journey Home

After leaving the briefing room, Jim sat with Dave and Ella, nothing was said, nothing could be said. He then wanted some time alone. He was struggling to keep up with the information he now possessed. Aimee, his beloved Aimee had become infected. He hadn’t seen why the Spanish soldiers had shot her. He hadn’t noticed the blood pouring from her nose and ears. It was hard for him to accept it all. She had said she wasn’t going to spend her holiday on her bum, he just hadn’t realised she meant to go so early. He felt guilty about it all. If he’d been awake maybe she wouldn’t have gone to town so early. Maybe she’d have stayed at the hotel with him.

He found himself standing at the side of the ship. Twenty feet above him stood the Aircraft and runway, normally he would be excited to see them, but not today. He stared at the crystal blue Mediterranean flashing past, tears flooding from his eyes. The only thing between him and the sea was a small wired railing.

"Not thinking of doing anything stupid are you?" . He hadn’t noticed Dave approach, hadn’t even noticed him lean against the railing next to him.

"No, Aimee wouldn’t approve." He tried to hide his tears.

"Don’t worry about that mate, you let it out." Dave paused and lit a cigarette. "She wouldn’t want you to lose your marbles now would she?"

Jim laughed, Aimee had always said men who could cry were emotionally stronger. He didn’t feel strong at all.

"How’s Ella?" Jim said through loud sniffing sounds.

"Tough as old boots her mate. Take more than an infection and zombies to faze that one." Dave winced at his own insensitivity. "Sorry mate, i wasn’t thinking."

"Don’t worry Dave, I have to get used to it. We all have to get used to it."

"Ella sends her love anyway. She’s there if you need her."

"Cheers, but i need to get on with this. We’ll be back in England soon, and there’s things i have to do."

"Like what mate? Pay the rent? Car Tax due?"

"Life goes on Dave, i can’t just go to pieces you know. She wouldn’t want me too."

"I don’t mean you mate. I mean England. She’s been hit too. Everywhere’s been hit! You didn’t know did you?"

"When i got here, how long was i out?"

"They kept you under for two days mate"

"So Aimee didn’t die yesterday?

"No mate, this is your third day on board. Things turned from shit to worse in Spain. They’ve abandoned the islands now. We got out just in time."

"Tell me everything Dave, and how the hell do you know all of this?"

"I can do better than that mate, come with me and i’ll show you."

The two men disappeared into the ship, and after following several corridors they entered the briefing room. This was the same room where Dr Bellows had given his presentation, only now Jim noticed computers set up along the walls. Dave guided him to an empty seat and logged onto the BBC News website.

"Everything you need to know is there mate, from when the outbreaks started, right up to today. They censored it pretty bad at first, but now it’s on a constant feed. They see it, they report it.

Jim searched the page for the oldest entry, he barely noticed when Dave left.

The first reports had been posted online. News agencies around the world had been sent short segments containing attacks. Both stages of the infection were provided, but in all of their wisdom it was decided that this was nothing more than a very elaborate hoax. The agencies hadn’t actually displayed these segments. Not until the attacks were happening ,everywhere. The news website contained unedited shots of people suffering from the infection jumping from roofs, throwing themselves in front of cars. A large group of people actually barricaded themselves into their Church and set it alight.

The reporters only indicated an infection at this stage. They only pointed out the physical symptoms, but didn’t put the pieces together.

The military however wasted no time. Within hours of the news breaking the story, British troops were in almost every city. Soldiers based in foreign countries were recalled. All leave was cancelled and bases were closed up tight. Teams of soldiers were patrolling the areas where the infection was reported, they were trying to collect the sick people, to remove them from the population, to aid their treatment it was said.

That was until a four man detail was attacked by around 200 stage 2 infected.

They had been patrolling along a residential road, and had just reached a cross roads.They put up a good fight, but by the time reinforcements arrived, all that was left was ragged bloody clothing and twisted weapons. Around half of the attackers lay on the ground. Not one bullet was left between the rifles, even the pistols the soldiers carried were empty of ammunition. Apart from the blood stain and clothing scraps, no evidence of four men being here was visible. Or so the military thought. A reporter had recorded the whole attack. He had been hiding in his car, filming the soldiers walking down the centre of the street and entering the junction, when the stage 2 fallen had attacked them. The soldiers had stood in a line and fired into the crowd. Dozens of attackers had fallen dead, really dead, but is was to no avail. The rifles had ran out of ammunition and the men, surrounded now, were using their sidearms.

When these had run dry, the soldiers had fought with bayonets and rifle buts, but after three of the men had been swarmed, the last man pulled out some grenades and pushed into the crowd. Within seconds two separate explosions had knocked many of the attackers off their feet, many more had been literally blown apart. But more still came from the side streets. Attracted by the noise they came in even bigger numbers. The reporter’s nerve had finally gone and he started his engine, driving away as fast as he could. The crowd of undead followed him. Shuffling and moaning as they went, it took minutes until the cross roads was empty again. Then the reinforcements arrived.

Across the country more and more attacks were reported. Civilians, Police officers, even a priest was attacked. The story was out.

Thousands of news agencies from all over the world seemed to report the same things simultaneously. The BBC could wait no more, footage from all over the UK was displayed. Stories of people being attacked, people being infected even people being eaten. The whole thing looked like a sick horror film, but it was not a film, this was life.

Over the next few hours, Jim scoured the news sites. He read on late into the evening. The more time he spent reading, the better idea he had about what was going on. He read the reports on casualties from the stage 1 infection. How it could be reversed if treated soon enough.

What was the best way to escape an attack. How both stages were mortally afraid of open expanses of water, and this fact had saved thousand of lives. Reports of people running into lakes and rivers, canals and even the sea to escape the infected. Hypothermia was preferable to being eaten after all.

Over the previous four days, the news had become dominated by the outbreaks. No other story could be found anywhere. Cities which had fallen were bombed out of existence. Liverpool was already gone, and Glasgow was next. Links to newly created websites were everywhere.

Stage 1 infected and treated lists, stage 1 infected and dead lists, stage 2 identified lists, it went on and on. Links to safe zones within each city were there, and how to survive in your home for up to two weeks. Jim marvelled at the information available. He couldn’t believe that the British government had become so responsive. This is a body which takes 6 weeks to change a street light bulb.

As he was searching something became apparent. Manchester, Dave and Ella’s home town had not been mentioned. He searched the sites again, but still found no reports of attacks.

Again Jim hadn’t noticed Dave approach. He jumped when Dave sat down next him.

"Bloody hell, you trying to scare me to death?"

"Sorry mate, I brought you some dinner." A metal plate held some form of meat, 2 potatoes and a thick nasty looking gravy. Jim didn’t care, he hadn’t realised how hungry he was. He wolfed it down in seconds.

"Wow, slow down." Dave laughed, "You’ll make yourself sick!"

Jim finished off the meal and burped loudly.

"Thanks for that, i can’t remember the last time i ate something."

"We figured that. Anyway you seem a bit brighter." Dave looked towards the monitor. "What’s with the Manchester search anyway?, you’re no Mancunian".

He was right, Jim and Aimee we’re from Stockport, a town to the south of Manchester.

"I have to go there Dave."

"Why, everything’s gone to shit mate. The army reckon in another six weeks they’ll have it all under control. Stay on the ship with us."

"I can’t wait another six weeks Dave, My daughter might be dead by then."

His words rocked Dave to the core.

"Daughter!, for Christ’s sake mate, you never said anything!"

"Why would I?. Up to now I thought it was just the Spanish islands. We flew out just a few days ago, none of this was happening then. She’s with her grandad, in Manchester."

"Whereabouts are they?" Dave spoke softly now.

"Blackley, in a high rise tower. Me and her mum split up and they both went to live with him. She left and Jess stayed. I have to go and find them. I have to get them out."

"Well here’s where your in luck mate. I live in Crumpsall, just down the road, i know it like the back of my hand." Dave sat back with a big toothy grin.

"I can’t ask you to come with me Dave. What about Ella?"

"My sister looks after me, not the other way round!"

"Sister!, i do have some catching up to do." Jim had just assumed they were a couple.

"Oh forget it mate, you had other stuff on your mind."

"We’ll be back in England tomorrow mate, we’d better get packed."

"Your sure you want to do this?"

"I don’t even know if we’ll be able to get off this ship mate, but we can only try. Little Jess needs her dad, and i bet the old guy could do with some help too."

"Oh you don’t know Antosh!"