I started this book some time ago after moving to the small village of Bodle Street Green. After a brief shopping trip to Hailsham I could come up with no better place to end the world. This is my story.
————————- The Start ————————-
I rolled over and looked out of the window, it was still dark but the slight glow on the horizon told me the time. I rolled back and got comfy wrapping the cold part of the duvet around my legs. As I lay there thinking about how wonderful the feeling of a cold duvet was and how I had just seconds before it warmed up my brain relaxed and I entered that wonderful state somewhere between being awake and asleep.
Just before I fell asleep completely I was rudely brought back to reality by what sounded like a crash from outside. I lifted my head and listened. Nothing.
When I next woke it was eight-twenty. I stretched until I felt my right calf muscle start to cramp, promptly stopped and threw back the duvet. I slowly dressed and made my way downstairs.
My mornings were about routine. It was the same set of tasks every morning and their mundane nature made me dread getting up. As I emerged from the stairs into the kitchen I was greeted by Dog and Cat.
“Morning Dog, morning Cat.”
I looked down at Dog and Dog lovingly looked up at me. I smiled, ruffled her hair and gave her a good morning pat. The cat sat quietly a few feet away with an air of superiority about her and pretended not to watch as I fed the dog.
I hit the switch on the kettle and made my way outside to feed Cat. Cat proceeded to play her little games and refused to follow me outside. She would eat in her own time. Coming when called was so beneath her.
With both Dog and Cat fed all that was left now was to feed the chickens. I took a healthy sized scoop of grain and another of pellets and carefully made my way over the electric fence and into the chicken’s area. I did my level best to avoid as much chicken shit as possible but getting some on my shoes was inevitable.
“Morning ladies.” I said as I opened the door to their coop.
The first chicken out was always Gloria. Gloria was originally called Chicken but was subsequently renamed Gloria after Gloria Gaynor who sung I Will Survive. Gloria was one tough cookie having survived numerous attacks by foxes, badgers and rats. If ever there was a chicken version of Bear Grylls, Gloria was it. Next out was Little Brown Hen, she was a tiny little Pekin with a waddle that warmed one’s heart. Third and last was Greybo. She was originally called Lavender but when she started eating her eggs and squawking at anyone who came close I felt the need to change it to something a little less sweet and squidgy, Greybo popped into my head and it stuck.
I stood there for a while and watched as they ate their food, they tucked into it like velociraptors devouring a cow. As I stood there I noticed a distinct lack of noise. There was no clicking from the electric fence, no car noise, not even any clattering from distant farm machinery. I took a quick look at the electric fence but everything seemed to be in order.
I needed a coffee, I couldn’t think straight before I had my morning coffee. Once back in the kitchen, I took a mug from the cupboard and checked the kettle was hot.
“Bloody hell Richard.” I said cussing myself for not being more careful. I pressed the on button but it was already on. I looked over at the fridge expecting to see the temperature readout but it was blank.
“Dog” I said “we’ve got ourselves a power cut.”
I checked the fuse box but everything seemed normal. I reset the breakers but that made no difference. I looked at Dog and shrugged. In an act of pure love Dog pressed her head against my leg and wiped her eyes on my jeans.
A quick glance out of the window revealed that the power cables for the house were sagging right down to the ground and the pole from where they came was listing terribly. It was time to investigate. I grabbed my mobile, donned my Barber and made my way outside. As I walked down my driveway I couldn’t help but wonder if the crashing noise I thought I heard early this morning had something to do with the lack of power.
Whenever I had to go out and investigate something there was always a feeling of excitement in me. The last time it was a house down the street, its burglar alarm had been shrieking continuously for ten minutes and being the good neighbour I took on the responsibility of checking it out. The fact that there was no burglar (and that by the time that I arrived on the scene I found that my elderly next door neighbour had already checked it out) took the edge off the excitement but that feeling was still there.
As I turned the corner I got my first clear view of the crash site. There was a car on its side next to the listing pole, the ground was a mix of broken glass that sparkled in the morning sun and a liquid, probably water from the radiator. The driver was clearly visible through the broken side window. Gravity was pulling him downwards but his seatbelt held firm. His head was slumped to one side and a string of saliva dangled from his mouth.
It would only occur to me later that the most memorable element of the whole scene was actually the serenity. The sun was shining, the temperature was perfect and, other than the most beautiful cacophony of bird song, there was complete silence. It felt as if time itself had stopped.
The sight of what was probably a dead person was a bit of a shock and my walk turned into a run. When I reached the car I stopped and looked at the person inside. Other than a slight hint of blueness to his lips (and the fact that he was hanging from the seatbelt in a crashed car) he could have been sleeping. I looked at the man’s chest but there was no movement. I gingerly took the man’s hand and felt for a pulse but the body was cold. The man was, without a doubt, dead.
I grabbed my phone from my pocket, dialled 999 and put it to my ear. After a few seconds there were two beeps followed by silence. I examined my phone.
“Shit, no reception.”
The closest house was less than thirty feet from the crash site; I ran up their path and banged hard on the door. Time seemed to slow down to such an extent that I had to force myself to be patient and wait for an answer. I just about managed ten seconds then banged again, this time even harder.
“Hello, hello. There’s been an accident!” I shouted trying to keep the panic from my voice.
After getting no response from there, I ran across the grass to the house next door. Again I banged hard but again there was no response. Where the hell was everyone?
I was a reasonably fit person but being on the verge of panic was making my heart race. I made my way back to my house as fast as I was able whilst trying to think what to do next. As I ran up my driveway I heard Dog whining with excitement over the return of her daddy. It was completely irrelevant to Dog whether I’d been away for five minutes or five months.
“There’s been a crash.” I said to Dog as I rushed past “We need to find that old phone, hope you’ve not eaten it.” Dog looked up at me and moved her head sideways as if to say ‘I almost understand’.
After a few minutes of frantic searching I found the phone in the cupboard under the stairs. I unwound the cable, plugged it into the phone socket and lifted the receiver. It was completely dead. I tried again a few times but there was still no dial tone. I knew that power for old style phones came direct from the telephone exchange and that all telephone exchanges had backup power supplies in case of power cuts or emergencies. It seemed that whatever had caused the power cut had also taken down the phones. I walked over to the kitchen and looked out of the window. The telephone line looked fine.
I was knee deep in thought when the dog shoved past.
“Come on, we’re going out in the car”. The moment Dog heard the word car she instantly jumped up, I leant forward to counter the dogs’ weight.
I locked the house, put Dog in the back of the car and drove to the neighbours on the other side of the field. The house wasn’t actually that far away but the driveways were long so the car was definitely the best option. As I drove past the crashed car I tried to keep my stare away from the unfortunate occupant within. I indicated left and pulled into the driveway.
As I knocked on the door I noticed that both their cars were present. I waited for twenty seconds or so then knocked again, this time accompanying it with a loud
“Hello! Anyone home?”
After getting no response I let out a long sigh and got back into the car. I looked in my mirror to check Dog was okay.
“Where the hell is everyone?” Dog cocked her head sideways and stared back. “Well you’re no bloody good are you?” I said allowing myself to smile a little.
I turned right out of the driveway and back onto the lane. From there it was around six miles to the police station in Hailsham.
I drove past the pub and down the long road to Windmill Hill, nothing seemed out of place until I reached the T-junction with the main road. This junction was normally alive with cars, joggers and dog walkers but today there was nothing, just an eerie emptiness. I stared for a moment or two, frowned and turned right driving the mile or so to Herstmonceux.
Herstmonceux was the small village where I went each day to post my orders. The Post Office was always busy; people buying milk and provisions, others drawing their pensions and lots of small businesses dropping off their orders from Amazon and eBay.
The parking spaces outside the Post Office were always full, not once in the last six months had I been able to park within one hundred yards of the place. As I descended the hill into Herstmonceux I felt what can only be described as a moment of fear; all the spaces outside were empty. I stopped right outside the Post Office, got out and peered through the window; it was dark inside and completely deserted. I stood there for a few moments wondering what was going on. I checked my watch; it was 10:20 on Tuesday morning. I turned around to check the mini-market opposite. Closed.
I got back into my car and looked at Dog in the mirror.
“What is going on?” Dog just stared back.
I drove off towards Hailsham and the police station. I went round the deserted mini roundabout, over the empty zebra crossing, past the silent school with absolutely no cars parked at the side of the, usually chock-a-block, road. Then I spotted the fire station. The large door at the front was open and inside were two giant fire engines.
“Perfect.” I said as I drove off the road and up to the open front door.
I got out and switched off the car. With the engine off the silence became even more apparent. I found myself crouched down, almost sneaking towards the door of the fire station.
“This is stupid, it’s 2015 and I’m in Herstmonceux for Christ’s sake, not bloody Syria!” I straightened up and walked in confidently, through the front door and down the side of the fire engine.
“Hello, anyone here?” I said.
When I reached the back of the station I froze in disbelief.
At the foot of the fireman’s pole were two dead firemen, one on top of the other. At the top of the pole there was another hanging over the edge. There were three more by the bottom of the stairs. Even with all the weird happenings of his morning I was not ready for this moment, the weight of my body seemed to multiply a hundred times. I managed to stagger to the running board of the closest fire engine and sat down before my legs gave way.
My mind spun with thoughts; why were these people dead? Where was everyone? And what the bloody hell was happening?
After a short while the shock had faded enough for me to check the firemen. I stood up and walked over to the two firemen at the bottom of the pole. This would be the second time in under an hour that I’d checked someone for a pulse. I gingerly took the man’s hand taking note that it was only slightly off being cold. I felt for a pulse but there was none. I quickly looked over the fireman’s body trying to see if he could find a reason for his death but there was nothing obvious, he’d certainly not been shot or attacked.
I was still feeling weak but strong enough to search around the station for a phone. I looked at the three dead firemen as I approached the bottom of the stairs. They also didn’t seem to have any obvious signs of a struggle or being attacked. I avoided looking at the closest man as his eyes were still open; I recognised how close I was to panic and didn’t want to push my luck.
Upstairs was split into four distinct sections; kitchen, sleeping, eating and what looked like an office. There were no dead people upstairs with the exception of the chap by the top of the pole. As I made my way to the office I glanced down at the dead fireman, there was a half-eaten sandwich still in his hand. Whatever had killed all these people must have done so incredibly quickly.
The office contained a desk with what looked like a complicated phone, a computer, a radio and various pieces of equipment that I did not recognise. There was a notice board on the wall full of pieces of paper and a holiday rota. The room was completely silent. I picked up the phone and pressed it against my ear hoping against hope that I would hear a dial tone but there was none. I pressed the 9 button but that made no difference.
“Sssshit.” I muttered under my breath. Even though I’d barely whispered, against the surrounding silence the volume of my muttering took me by surprise. I picked up the radio handset and pressed some of the buttons but it was obvious that the unit wasn’t working. Nothing was working, there was no power.
I turned around and looked at the notice board, all the normal stuff was there but nothing to explain what was going on. Then one piece of paper caught my eye, at the top was written ‘Generator Test’ and underneath was one word, ‘Tuesdays’. This obviously meant that they had a generator and with a little luck I was confident that I could get the power back on in the station. Hopefully the phones would then work, but if not the radio could be tried.
I made my way down the stairs and back outside. I was unsure if letting the dog out was the right thing to do but managed to persuade myself with the excuse there was no traffic. The truth, however, was that I just didn’t want to be alone. Dog was an excellent companion and Dog and I were best of friends.
“You stay with Daddy.” I said as I opened the back door. Dog jumped down from the boot and stuck close by. We walked round the back of the station looking for the generator or some kind of out building that could house one. It didn’t take long before I spotted the small enclosure with an exhaust coming out of the back. The door was locked but the lock was cheap and broke with a little force. Inside was a small panel with buttons for start and stop and a three-way switch with positions for Mains, UPS and Generator. There were also various lights which were all extinguished. I pressed the start button and after a few cranking noises the generator jumped into life. The standby light came on but none of the others. I moved the switch from Mains to Generator, the in-use light illuminated which was followed by a small clonk, then by the familiar humming noise of a building with electricity.
I let out a small sigh of relief and looked at Dog.
“Now we see what works.” We walked back round to the front of the station and in through the large door. “You stay with Daddy”, I said making sure Dog didn’t go anywhere near the bodies. I thought it was best to put Dog back in the car but didn’t really fancy going back in there on my own. The dog was both good company and completely obedient sticking by my side perfectly. We climbed the stairs and made our way to the office.
Inside the radio had jumped into life along with some of the other equipment on the desk. I picked up the phone but there was still no dial tone. There were a number of buttons on the base of the phone; one for “Kitchen”, another for “Garage” and another one that simply said “Boss”. Then I saw it. I pressed the one labelled “Outside Line” expecting to hear a dial tone. Still there was nothing.
I replaced the receiver and looked down at Dog with a frown that said I just don’t understand. Dog looked back silently replying I don’t understand either.
I switched my attention to the radio. There was a large, orange LCD panel on the front and lots of buttons and dials. The LCD panel contained loads of information, most of which I didn’t understand. A mouthpiece hung on the side as did a pair of headphones. I fiddled with the radio for the next ten minutes but just got varying types of hiss from the irritating unit. I sat back in the chair and wished it was as easy as the radio in my car.
“The car radio, we haven’t checked the car radio!”
I felt a great desire to run to the car as quickly as possible but forced myself to walk calmly to avoid exciting the dog. As I walked down the stairs I wondered what news the radio might bring. My head was so full of questions and, it seemed, the car radio was the answer to them all. How many people had died? What was the cause? Where was this happening? How long will it be before it all gets back to normal? Would my business get bad feedback on Amazon or eBay and if so, would my orders suffer? I pushed that last though aside labelling it as selfish and insignificant in the present circumstance.
When we reached the car I opened the door and climbed in. I started it up and switched on the radio. It was tuned to BBC Radio 2, nothing. I turned the volume right up but this just produced a louder hiss. I tried BBC Radio 1, Heart, Radio Sussex and finally the World Service but there was nothing.
I felt the skin at the back of my neck tighten as the realisation hit me that this was not just a local phenomenon. I stopped the engine, got out and sat on the floor next to my dog. She looked up at me, sighed and then dumped her head into my lap. We sat there in silence whilst I thought about what to do next. I thought about my wife and hoped to God she was safe in New York. I’d last spoken to her the night before. We’d had a brief chat using the Internet; it was about midnight here so would have been seven O’clock New York time. Her Mum was finding all the walking tiring so they’d gone back to their hotel for the night. I closed my eyes and pictured my wife in my head.
“They could be there for a lot longer than a long weekend.” I said looking at Dog. She lifted her head an inch off my lap, listened, then plonked it back down.
I allowed Dog to sit in the front with me; it was less about being a special treat and more about feeling the need for company, and having a large, black dog on display could well be a good thing if there were hostile people around. I kept my speed low and watched for anything that could shed some light on what was going on. What I was really looking for were people.
We drove the five miles from Herstmonceux to Hailsham without seeing a single sign of human life. As we slowly drove into Hailsham I slowed further expecting to see the odd person here and there. I looked hard seeking out any kind of movement but there was nothing; No people, no cars on the road, no movement from anywhere. It was completely surreal, like something I’d seen in a film or read in a book, I half expected a zombie to walk out in front of me.
I pulled up outside the Police Station and switched off the engine. I walked through the complete silence to the front door, I pushed against the door hoping against hope that it would be open, it was locked.
Even though I’d not seen any people, or even any signs of people, I still felt a need to keep quiet; people can be unpredictable creatures when circumstances become unfamiliar. I walked around the building looking into each of the windows for signs of life, as I did I checked around the edges for a possible entry point. It wasn’t long before I came to the conclusion that the place was empty.
The feeling of needing to know what the hell was going on was incredibly strong. I went back around the side and used the bins to climb up onto the lower roof. From there I was able to get to the top and have a good look around. Nothing moved for as far as the eye could see. Deducing that something catastrophic had happened to the population from the fact that radio didn’t seem to work was one thing, but seeing a large expanse of built up suburbia with no sign of human life whatsoever with my own eyes was something else altogether. This was fast becoming very scary and I didn’t like it one bit.
I carefully climbed down to the lower roof and peered through a small skylight window. Through a layer of dirt and grime I could just about make out a tall filing cabinet and a desk. I thought about breaking in on the off chance that I could find something that would help me to understand what was going on but decided against it. What I really needed to do was to take a trip to London. It was quite a risky move but I was confident that I’d somehow find out more in our biggest city. I got back down, sat next to my dog and gave her some fuss.
“I’m sure Mummy’s fine.” I said as I stroked her head. She looked up at me with her beautiful brown Newfoundland eyes. The mention of the word Mummy got her attention immediately. Dog and I always got on well but it was her Mummy that she was really close to. Dog definitely noticed that Mummy wasn’t around, she was a happy little lady but slightly less so when Mummy was away.
I looked at the time, it was 3:30. If I left for London now I’d be driving back in the dark which I didn’t think was a great idea.
Before going back home I decided to drive around for a bit. I drove through various housing estates, an industrial estate and all the main highstreets and not once did I see another car in the road; it was almost as if the world had been paused at three O’clock in the morning. At the end of Diplocks Way I zipped around the roundabout and turned onto the Hailsham Bypass, just as I was accelerating up to speed I saw a car stopped on the road. As I approached it I saw another, then another. Two of the cars were stopped on the road, three more had drifted over to the left and scraped down the barriers until they stopped. I pulled up and stopped.
“You stay here Dog.” I said as I switched off the engine. As I got out I noticed that the engine of the black Mercedes CLK was still running. I stood there for a minute or two watching for any signs of movement but there were none. I slowly and carefully made my way around the side of the Mercedes being sure to give it a wide birth. The driver was the only person in the car, he was sitting up right with his head back against the headrest.
“Hello.” I said but there was no response. I crept closer, pausing for a few moments with each step that I took. When I was close enough to tap on the window I imagined the man turning his head towards me and screaming. I tapped on the window but there was no response. I tapped harder but still there was no response. It was hard to see through the slightly tinted Mercedes windows but from what I could see the driver looked okay, no signs of a cold or the flu. I gingerly took hold of the door handle and opened the door. The driver stayed in place, he was about thirty, wearing jeans and what looked like a rugby shirt, he was cleanly shaven and his hair was smart. In the back, hanging on the left was a dark blue pin striped suit, a white shirt and a blue tie. The air in the car smelt of cigarettes and aftershave. The radio was tuned to Radio 2 and the volume was loud enough for me to hear the same hiss that my car had produced earlier. The automatic gearbox was in drive, whatever happened to this man must have happened very quickly, he didn’t even get a chance to pull over and stop. I put the car into Park, switched off the engine and closed the door.
The other car that was still on the road was an old Ford Mondeo estate. It looked tired, like it had lived its life and was ready for the end that it had indeed reached. As I walked closer I spotted the occupants; two adults, probably mum and dad, and three kids, I’m guessing all under ten. I stopped and glanced back at my car making sure Dog was okay. She was fine (and keeping a close eye on her Daddy). I took a deep breath and turned my attention back to the Mondeo. The boot was piled high with what looked like camping stuff; tent, sleeping bags, blankets, et cetera. As I got closer the tops of three little heads appeared just above the back seat. I walked around to the driver’s side and opened the door. Dad’s arm swung down to his side and the coffee that he was holding spilled to the floor. A Sing-Along Book of Car Songs was poking out between the seat and the arm rest. In the tray by the gearbox were two bags of boiled sweets and an OS map of Kent and Sussex. I peered into the back; three perfect little faces stared back, the lack of colour told me all I needed to know. I closed my eyes and forced myself to stay in control.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” I muttered as I backed back out of the car. It felt wrong just leaving them there but now was not the time, and I had more pressing issues to deal with like finding out what was going on and trying to get in touch with my wife.
I gently closed the Mondeo’s door and looked over at the three cars that had scraped down the barrier. Two were reasonably new, the other one was a big old Range Rover V8. My emotions had taken a real battering from the Mondeo and as such, I decided not to check them out. I returned to my car, chatted to my dog for a bit and set out for home.
The drive home took me round the Boship roundabout, through Horsebridge, Herstmonceux, Windmill Hill and finally Bodle Street Green. Other than one crashed car just off the Boship roundabout the route back home was clear.
Having just experienced what can only be described as the weirdest day of my life I’d allowed myself to get all out of kilter so when Dog started barking at me I feared someone was approaching the house. I kept below the windows and scrambled out the back door and round the side. No one was there of course; it was just me being a little jumpy. When I got back inside Dog was waiting for me, wagging her tail and bouncing up and down.
“Ha! I’ve forgotten your walkies.” I said smiling at Dog. She jumped up against me and whined with excitement. I put her collar on, grabbed her lead, then stopped.
“What am I doing? You’re not likely to get run over today when I’m the only person alive for miles around.” I shook my head as I removed her collar. Was everyone around here really dead? Even after the experiences of today I still had my doubts.
The walk we do with the dog has to be experienced to be believed. There are beautiful lakes, secret woods, fields, little lanes and all sorts; it’s even pretty in the rain. Today it was as beautiful as ever; however, there was an underlying eeriness that made me uncomfortable. I noticed that one of the reasons it was so quiet was because there were no planes. With no farm noises, no planes, no wind and no cars the noises that Dog and I made seemed amplified a thousand times. Each step on the ground seemed to echo through the trees and hedges. Dog ran around as if nothing had happened. She chased a rabbit but didn’t really come close. She looked over at me to see if I saw, I smiled at her to show her that I saw and was proud and she carried on. Half way through one of the fields I started thinking about my wife, I pictured her waking up and watching the news. Seeing what had happened in England and not being able to reach me. It all got a little too much and I sobbed a little. Dog immediately returned and stuck to my side for the rest of the walk. She’s good like that.
Once back I closed the gate between the kitchen and the rest of the house. This stopped Dog from leaving a trail of dirt through the place until I’d given her a blow dry with the blaster. Today, with no electricity, she was just going to have to sit next to the Aga and dry off slowly. When taking a scoop of dried food for her bowl I noticed that I was almost out. I looked through the pantry to see if we had anything else I could give her. I could probably keep her alive for a few days on jars of bolognaise sauce, tinned pilchards and chopped tomatoes but the long and the short of it was that I needed to go shopping, for both Dog and for me.
I was keen to leave bright and early tomorrow to give myself ample time in London and didn’t really want to start the day by raiding ASDA. I checked my watch; it was six twenty. I put the dog in the car and we drove to Hailsham.
The underground car park was completely deserted. I parked, let the dog out and locked up. We made our way up the narrow staircase to a glass door at the top. It was locked and secure. I gave it a thump with my shoulder but it didn’t budge. I peered through into the outer area and could see that the place was deserted and all doors were closed.
I wanted to get in and out as quietly as possible as to not attract any attention but breaking in was going to make some noise. The noise I was really dreading was an alarm going off, I was hoping against hope that the alarm would not be backed up by a battery, and with the mains being off perhaps it wouldn’t sound at all.
I peered through the glass and examined each of the entrances in turn. There was another set of doors about twenty feet away, they looked secure and I could see that they were locked top and bottom. The bright sunlight illuminated the whole area completely which I didn’t like. For my first bit of breaking and entering I wanted to be as concealed as possible so bright sunlight was a big no-no. The other entrance was the main entrance from the high street; it was large, bright, completely on display and, as such, also out of the question.
That left the entrance I was at. It was darker than the others, quite concealed and the route from the door to where my car was parked was all undercover. This was definitely going to be my way in. All I had to do now was to break the door. I returned to the car and pulled out my wheel nut wrench.
The wrench was big and heavy, it was like a crowbar at one end and had a large socket at the other. I tried jamming the crowbar end into the gaps in the door and jimmying the door open but it withstood all my attempts. This wasn’t how it happened in the movies. At this point I decided that breaking the glass was the best option. I swung the wrench pretty hard at the middle of the lower panel, the glass shattered completely but stayed in place. I stopped and listened, silence.
A few kicks later and I’d created a gap large enough for both me and Dog to get through. As I started climbing through the hole in the door I noticed that there was no alarm sounding.
Once we were safely through the outer doors we made our way to the doors of the actual supermarket. It was dark inside and everything was still. I tried jimmying the doors apart but they held firm. I swung the wrench at the middle of the left door reasonably hard but it bounced off making no impact at all. I looked over at Dog.
“Harder I suppose”. Dog cocked her head in agreeance. I swung the wrench using all my strength, this time I aimed for the bottom corner of the door and the glass smashed completely. I used my foot again to kick the glass out of the door frame which was harder than I expected. Five minutes later the dog and I were in.
Having been in ASDA many times I expected to feel that I was in familiar territory but familiar this was not. The fact that I’d actually broken in combined with the silence of no air conditioning and no lights produced an eerie atmosphere. Some light came in from outside so it wasn’t completely dark but looking down to the end of the first isle was like looking into a dark tunnel. As my vision recalibrated itself to the new darkness I saw the first body. It was about thirty feet away next to the mince section. I walked closer and had a look. She looked about twenty, her hair was tied back in a ponytail and she was wearing her green ASDA uniform. Her glasses had come off in the fall and were laying broken a few feet away. I looked for any sign of infection; snot, dribble, swollen eyes but none of these were evident. The best way to describe her was that life had been paused. I touched her hand, she was stone cold.
I made my way back to the entrance and found a large trolley. This was, by far, the most surreal food shop I’d ever done. Wheeling one’s trolley around a dead body to get to a large pack of lean beef mince was a novel experience but it was one I got used to far more quickly than I was expecting.
As tempting as it was to go straight to the wine section and fill the trolley with the most expensive reds I could find I managed to control myself and was as logical as my brain allowed given the circumstances. I enough meat for about a month, lots of bottled water, tins of everything, UHT milk and enough coffee to keep my going until Christmas. I also stocked up on dog and cat food. I came across four more bodies as I did my rounds; one had half a Toffee Crisp poking out her mouth. Dog wasn’t interested in the bodies in the slightest, I think the fact that she was surrounded by more food than she could possibly ever eat in an entire lifetime grabbed her attention and kept it for the duration. She stuck by my side and was as good as gold.
It took me quite some time to get all the food through the holes I’d made in the doors to my car but once done I forced myself to go back in for more. More tins, more water, more pet food and this time loads of ice and frozen vegetables. The frozen vegetables would keep the contents of my freezer cooler for longer and could be eaten once thawed. I made six trips in all until the car was crammed full.
Just as I was about to leave I thought about the bodies. In a few days they were going to be in a terrible state and leaving them in the place where I could be sourcing most of my food felt like a bad idea. I decided to move them out of the shop. The girl from isle one was first. I apologised as I took hold of her cold hands. I pulled but she stayed put. I pulled again, harder this time, and she started to slide. She was much heavier than I was expecting and moving her was quite hard work. After just a few feet she made a deep gurgling noise from her throat as air escaped her lungs. I quickly dropped her hands and stood up sharply. There must be a better way than this. I made my way down to the dark end of the supermarket and opened the door to one of the rooms where customers weren’t allowed; The sign on the door said Staff Only. Inside was almost pitch-black but I could just about make out a large stack of boxes near the back of the room. I did my best to look around but it was so dark that I could hardly see. I walked towards the boxes, as I got closer the outline of a pallet truck came into sight.
“Perfect.” I said taking the trolley. I wheeled it back through the door and over to the body in isle one. As I passed the bread counter I took one of the large trays from the display stand and placed it on the forks of the pallet truck. Now for the part I was dreading. Seeing a body, or even dragging a body by its hands, is a very different experience to actually lifting a body. To lift the body I had to get close and interact with it, as I picked it up I’d be able to feel the lifeless body bend and flop, I’d be able to feel its weight and smell its smells.
As I leant down to hook my hands under the body’s arm pits I noticed a name badge; her name was Anna and she was a Shop Floor Assistant. Knowing this actually made me feel better about lifting her, before I’d seen the badge it was a dead body I was lifting; now she was a girl called Anna. I carefully positioned my hands under her arm pits being careful to respect her dignity and lifted; her head flopped back against my stomach. I dragged her onto the bread tray, bent her knees so I could get her feet on and apologised profusely. I took Anna over to the entrance. Getting her through the hole in the door I’d made earlier was not going to be easy and, as such, I decided that trying to get the doors open was my next task.
From what I could see the doors were bolted top and bottom with small bolts that went down into the ground and up into the door frame. I jammed the wrench into the gap between the bottom of the door and the ground right next to the bolt. I bent the door forward, backwards and to the side until the door did all but fall off, a final kick had the door coming away completely. I pushed the door out of the way and had my entrance. I noticed that the little bolts were all still in place, tough little buggers.
The trolley just about fit through the now open single doorway, I wheeled Anna as far away from the entrance as I could and carefully sat her near the far window against a wall. I nodded my approval and returned to the store. The other four bodies were dealt with in the same way and half an hour later all five were sat leaning against the wall as far away from the store as possible. Anna, Steve and Dianne were Shop Floor Assistants, Derek was a Personal Shopper and Susan (Toffee Crisp lady) was a Baker.
Once home the car was completely unpacked and all the food was put away. The chest freezer in the garage was completely emptied then repacked with a layer of frozen vegetables then a layer of meat then repeated until full. The pantry had never seen so much food, full of tins, packets and God knows how many gallons of water it looked like some kind storage room for a nuclear bunker.
Up until the events of today, the mains electricity supply for this house had always proven to be reliable; however, when my wife and I first moved here, just over two years ago, that wasn’t the case. In the first week alone we had two outages totalling three days. Being that I ran an Internet business and needed a stable supply I decided to purchase a nice shiny new generator. From that point forward the electricity never faltered. The generator sat there in the garage gathering dust for two years and was never used once. Now it was going to earn its keep.
Dog and I made my way out to the garage, unlocked the padlock and opened the door. Inside sat my two motorbikes; a Transalp and a CB1300s, both made by Honda. I admired their lines as I walked around them and over to the generator. My eyes glanced over the heavy layer of dust and I couldn’t help but wonder if I should have run her up each month like the manual said. I guess it was time to find out. The fuel gauge read full and the oil dipstick was sitting right on maximum. I opened the double doors at the front of the garage and did my best to reposition the generator so the exhaust pointed outside. I pulled out the choke, switched the main switch to on, grabbed the pull-start and gave it a bloody good tug. Nothing, it didn’t even burp. I bent down and looked round the side to see if I’d missed anything. All seemed in order, just to be on the safe side I removed the HT lead and checked the end, no corrosion. Before plugging it back in I sprayed the cable and the top of the spark plug with some WD-40. I replaced the HT lead and gave it another pull. It still didn’t start but it sounded far more promising. The third pull had it running though it was pretty lumpy. I pushed the choke full in and the lumpiness disappeared immediately, replaced by the wonderful smooth noise of power. I switched the generator to 240v and the lights on the front illuminated.
After a few minutes of searching for the right cables and connectors I had the generator powering the freezer. The fuel would last for about sixteen hours so it would be fine until tomorrow. After pulling the doors to Dog and I made our way back into the house.
It didn’t take me long to prepare for the evening. I took candles from under the sink, the old paraffin lamp from the utility room and logs for the fire from outside under the tree. Once everything was lit I fed the dog and cat and made myself a couple of baked potatoes with beans and grated cheese. I sat down on the sofa in the living room with Dog by my feet, watched the fire and thought about my plans for the days ahead. It wasn’t long before I’d drifted off to sleep.
It was an uncomfortable night; the sofa wasn’t quite long enough and my forty year old knees ached after the first hour. Thoughts of the end of the world went around and around in my head both during my sleeping hours and whilst I was awake. By the time the horizon started to glow I’d had enough. I got up, fed the animals and started loading the car.
By the time I was ready to leave the car was almost full of stuff; the air rifle, digital camera, mobile phone and wallet were all in the just in case section whereas the survival knife, crowbar, London maps, Thermos flask (full off strong black coffee) and blankets were in the must have section. Dog joined me in the front, which she seemed very happy about, and we set off.
The first part of the journey took me to the Boship roundabout, that part of the route was clear but from there onwards was unchartered territory. I went straight over the roundabout and onto the A22. It was completely clear with not a single vehicle on the road. As I drove past the Harley Davidson dealer I made a mental note to investigate it someday. As I continued along at my sedate pace my mind raced with questions.
Is everyone really dead? Why am I not dead? Am I dead? What happened?
From what I could work out it seemed that whatever had happened had happened quickly and in the dead of night. I assumed that the cars that I found on the road were actually driving at the point where the drivers had died. If I was right about this then I figured I’d be okay until hitting London, and even then I’d probably not have too much trouble getting past; especially as I didn’t have to stick to the Highway Code any more.
I was confident that the route would be reasonably clear until I got closer to London.
————————- This is as far as I’ve got ————————-
So, “What now?” I hear you ask. Well, that’s a good question. I’d like you to put your ideas forward for what should happen next. I’ll then pick one and write it; then I’ll ask again. It’s all in your hands, my friends.