Cox turned back to face the front door and put his key in the lock. He stopped and took a deep, calming breath before opening the door and going in. Inside the house was as quiet as everywhere else.
'Marcia,' he called hopefully, 'Marcia, are you here?'
She should have been there. She hadn't said that she'd planned going out anywhere on Tuesday morning. He walked further down the hall. He instinctively started to take off his coat but then stopped and quickly pulled it back on. It was almost as cold inside the house as it was out on the street.
'Marcia?' he called again.
He peered through the doors into the living room, dining room and kitchen. All empty. They all looked just the same as he'd left them. He then began to climb the stairs, knowing that his wife would most probably still have been in bed when it had happened. Christ, he hoped she was all right. But she would have answered him when he'd called, wouldn't she? Cox prepared himself for the worst as he neared the landing. Through the gaps between the wooden banister posts he could see into their bedroom. Their duvet lay in a heap on the carpet at the side of the bed. He climbed the last few steps two at a time and burst breathlessly into the room but she wasn't there. The bed was empty.
The carpet on the landing was wet. Water had seeped out from under the bathroom door and had spread along virtually the entire length of the landing. It was obvious now where Marcia was. Cox walked up to the bathroom, his feet squelching beneath him, and knocked on the door.
'Marcia? Marcia, it's me, love. I'm home...'
He tried the handle. It was locked. He pushed and shoved at the door to little effect before taking five or six splashing, sliding steps back down the landing and then running back and trying to shoulder-charge his way into the bathroom. The lock was weak and gave way almost instantly with Cox's considerable weight pushing against it. Marcia had been moaning at him for months to get someone in to change it. He pushed the door fully open (sending a low wave of water rippling back across the bathroom floor) and there, in front of him, stood what remained of his wife. Completely naked and completely oblivious to its surroundings it walked blindly towards the dumbstruck Cox and collided with him. He grabbed hold of his dead wife's arms and held her tightly. Her eyes were dark and vacant and she felt cold to the touch. He pulled her close to him but then pushed her away again. He pressed himself back against the wall and watched in heartbroken silence as she lurched past, staggered the length of the landing and then crashed into the door of the spare bedroom.
Cox shut Marcia in the living room and then went around the house and locked and bolted every ground floor door and window. Wednesday night turned into Thursday morning as he busied himself around his home. The flood in the bathroom (Marcia had been running a bath when it happened) had caused massive damage both upstairs and down in the kitchen below. The cold water made the house smell of must and decay, or perhaps that was just the smell of his wife? Cox wasn't sure. At least she'd left him with a bath full of water. That might prove to be useful.
Very occasionally, and only for the briefest of moments each time, Cox allowed himself to think about what had happened. What could have caused the deaths of hundreds, maybe thousands of people and why had some of them dragged themselves back up onto their dead feet again? Why hadn't it happened to him? Why had he been spared and why were there no other survivors? Why hadn't anyone come to help yet? Surely this couldn't have happened everywhere, could it?
Despite his vocation, thinking about other people was most definitely not something that came naturally to Cox. Soon enough, he had come to the conclusion that the most sensible course of action for him to take would be to just continue to concentrate on his own safety and wellbeing and sit tight and wait. Despite the fact that the gas, electricity and water supplies were all off, his house was still relatively comfortable and, as far as he could be sure, safe. There was a shop round the corner from where he could get food and drink supplies. It made sense to stay at home. What use would he be to anyone else, anyway? One man to help hundreds, possibly even thousands? It would be far more sensible for him to concentrate on looking after himself. That was, after all, what he was best at.
A strange sense of normality gradually overcame Cox. Apart from making one hurried trip to the shop around the corner to fetch food early on Friday morning he remained locked in his home from daylight until dusk. He checked on Marcia a couple of times but there had been no obvious change in her condition. He dressed her and moved her to the garage to limit the damage that her endless and pointless staggering around was causing in the living room. He didn't get annoyed. She couldn't help it. Somehow the noise and inconvenience his wife's corpse caused was more bearable than the constant banging and clattering of the body he'd left behind in the bunker.
With little else to do to occupy his time Cox tried to make good the water damage to his home. It was difficult to do much without any power but he was glad the electricity supply was off. It was safer that way. The light fitting in the kitchen was full of water which had dripped through the ceiling from the overflowing bath. He'd drained as much of it off as he could. By the time the water supply came back on, he decided, it would probably have dried out. He'd have to get someone to come out and look at the damage later. No doubt they'd charge him a fortune...
On Friday evening Cox sat at his desk in an alcove at the side of the dining room towards the front of the house. He read books by candlelight until his eyes began to droop and close. It was good to be occupied and distracted. It was a relief to have something positive to think about and do for a while. He was finding it increasingly difficult to deal with the relentless silence of the dead world around him. After a good hour of searching he found a battery powered cassette player upstairs and used it to play a tape of loud classical music to drown out the quiet.
At a quarter to two on Saturday morning, Malcolm Worsley's corpse (his dead neighbour from over the road) escaped from its garden, staggered over to Cox's house and slammed against the window next to where he was sitting reading. Startled, he leapt back, his pulse suddenly racing. He quickly began to regain his composure when he realised it was only one of the dumb bodies from outside and nothing more sinister. He nodded in recognition when he realised it was what was left of Malcolm and watched as the corpse on the other side of the glass pressed its lifeless face against the window, leaving behind a greasy, bloody smear. As he watched, it lifted a single, rotting hand into the air and slapped it down on the glass. Strange, thought Cox as he watched the wizened, decaying shell of his friend hitting the glass again and again. It didn't bother him unduly. In fact he felt quite sorry for it. The windows were double-glazed and that muffled each bang to little more than a dull thud. Tired, Cox turned up the volume on his cassette player and carried it upstairs with him to bed.
Saturday morning. Day five.
Cox slept well. It would have been wrong to say that he was happy with his situation but, all things considered, it could have been much, much worse. He'd begun to accept what had happened and was determined to make the most of it. Regardless of what had happened to everyone else, he remained relatively safe, warm and well protected. For a while he lay there and didn't move, staring up at the ceiling and thinking about how everything had changed.
What was he going to do today? He really needed to start thinking about getting more supplies in. He'd noticed earlier in the week that workmen had been at one of the houses down the road when all this had started last Tuesday morning and their van was still parked outside the house. Perhaps he should borrow it and drive it round to the local supermarket? If he spent a little time today filling the van with absolutely everything he'd need, it would save him having to go out again for maybe as long as a couple of weeks. By then he was sure that the situation outside would have improved. It couldn't get any worse, could it? In a couple of weeks time, he decided, the other people who had survived like him would start to coordinate themselves and get things organised.
Cox forced himself to get up. He swung his legs out of bed and winced at the sudden drop in temperature - without the central heating working the house was icy cold. He tiptoed across the landing to the toilet (stepping gingerly over the still damp carpet) and relieved himself in the plastic bucket he'd been having to use since the toilet cistern had dried up. Once a day he carried it down to the bottom of the garden and emptied the contents over his roses. That felt better, he thought as he shook himself dry and walked back to the bedroom to get dressed.
He was half-dressed and halfway down the stairs when he noticed that something had changed. It was a subtle, far from obvious change and he struggled for a moment to put his finger on exactly what it was that was different. It was dark. That was it, the ground floor of the house was unusually dark this morning. Feeling slightly uneasy, but not overly concerned, he continued down the staircase.
He saw them at the front door first. Visible only as shifting shapes through the frosted glass, he could see the heads and shoulders of at least three or four corpses, maybe more. Unusual, he thought as he continued down, zipping up his trousers and tightening his belt as he walked. As it was every morning, his next port of call was the kitchen at the back of the house. Still half asleep he walked barefoot across the cold, tiled floor to fetch himself some breakfast cereal from the cupboard next to the sink. The cupboard door slammed shut (the hinges were loose and needed tightening) and the sound echoed through the empty house like a gunshot. Cox cringed and then frowned. He could suddenly hear Marcia moving around in the garage. Was it just coincidence, or had what remained of his wife just reacted to noise for the first time since she'd died? He was about to go and see her when he caught sight of something in the dining room. Like the rest of the ground floor of the house this morning, that room also seemed darker than usual, and Cox was sure he could see some movement. He put his head around the door and then quickly drew it back again. Bodies. Hundreds of the bloody things, or that was how it seemed. Fighting to keep himself calm, he peered through the narrow gap between the open door and the door frame and saw that the entire width of the wide bay window at the front of the house was packed tight with dead flesh. He could see countless ghastly, cold faces pressed up against the glass, scouring the room with their dry, clouded eyes. Why were they here? What did they want? Cox leant his head against the wall and tried to understand what was happening. None of the creatures had shown the slightest interest in him before, so why now? Were these somehow different to all the other bodies he'd so far seen? His mind wandered back to what had happened just before he'd gone to bed. Malcolm Worsley. That was it, that bastard Worsley had brought them here. He must have tipped them off that he was from the council. Did they think he'd be able to do something for them? Before he'd died Worsley had asked Cox to do favours for him on more than one occasion - everything from rushing through planning permission for an extension to his house to trying to get a parking fine overturned. Cox had no reason to think he would have changed his ways now just because he'd died. He peered through the gap again. There he was, the sly bugger, his dead face pressed hard against the window, letting everyone know where Cox was, wrongly assuming that he was the man who could (and would) help them.
His fragile confidence rattled, Cox felt suddenly uncomfortable and unsure. He ran back upstairs and peered out of the window in the spare room. Bloody hell, there were hundreds of them out there. A huge, ragged crowd of diseased, decomposing flesh had suddenly gathered in front of his property. The nearest corpses had been rammed tight against the front of the house by the relentless pressure of countless others behind, and the whole mass had spilled out into the middle of the road. His car - his escape route - had been surrounded and swallowed up by the dead hordes.
The nervous counsellor considered his suddenly limited options. As he continued to watch from behind the curtains he could see more of the dark, shuffling shapes dragging themselves along the nearby streets towards his house. Individually they seemed weak and distant and he had no reason to believe that they would intentionally do him any harm, but how could he be sure? How could he be sure of anything? These things were dead, for Christ's sake. He never thought that his constituents would resort to mob rule to try and get action from the council. They'd never shown any interest before. He began to regret the day he'd stood for election.
Cox crept round to the back of the house and sat down on the edge of the bed. I'll stay here and keep out of sight for a while, he thought. Maybe they'll get tired waiting and go somewhere else.
By mid-afternoon the crowd of bodies had filled the entire length of the street, and still more were approaching. They were hammering against the windows and front door, and the sound could most probably be heard for miles around. Cox had finally plucked up enough courage to creep back downstairs and had quickly come to the conclusion that, as his stay in the house might now prove longer than he originally expected, his supplies were far from sufficient. He only had enough food for a few more meals. Sitting there with his throat dry and his stomach rumbling at the breakfast bar in the kitchen (well out of sight) he came to the crushing realisation that, because of the bloody public outside, his situation was now nowhere near as comfortable or safe as he'd originally thought. Disconsolate he stood up, walked across the room and went out to the garage to see Marcia. Maybe her condition would have changed today? Perhaps she might have improved enough to be able to offer her husband some support at this increasingly difficult time. No such luck. He peered into the garage through the window in the door and saw that his dead wife was still crashing tirelessly around the room. Her dressing gown had slipped off and she was naked again. Bloody hell, she looked awful. Several stones overweight, wrinkled with age, limp-breasted and her skin had turned a dirty shade of blue-green. He wished she'd stop. As long as she was making this much noise the people of Taychester would know there was someone in and would continue to beat a slow (but very definite) path to his door. Perhaps if he went in there and found a way of keeping her quiet? Christ, what was he thinking? He'd never been able to keep Marcia quiet when she was alive and she'd been able to listen to him, how the hell was he supposed to get her to cooperate now?
Maybe he needed to get away and lie low for a while. But how was he going to get out and where was he supposed to go? The answer was disappointingly obvious. He anxiously glanced up at the clock on the wall. It was already close to midday. In a few hours time the light would start to fade. He could either sit tight for another night or make his move today. His mind wandered back to the size of the ever-increasing crowd on the street. If there were hundreds of them out there now, how many more would he find when he got up tomorrow morning? Or the day after that, or the day after that? It wasn't so much the size of the crowd which bothered him, instead it was the fact that they wanted him to help them. As a counsellor surely he had a public duty to help and protect them? As he'd done for most of his life in public service, he decided to turn his back on that responsibility and run.
Get some food, he thought, then get back underground.
Almost four o'clock. A tired and frightened Counsellor Cox, on foot and with a heavy holdall full of spare clothes in his hand, approached the supermarket that he and Marcia usually shopped at. His way out of the front of his house blocked, he'd sneaked out of the back door and clambered over the fence at the bottom of the garden. Bloody hell, some of the public had been waiting for him there too! He'd found himself in the middle of a crowd of between twenty and thirty of them. For a moment he'd tried to reason with them, tried to make them see that there was nothing he could do to help so many of them but they wouldn't listen. To his shame he'd pushed and barged his way through the crowd in tears, unable to get away quick enough. A fifteen minute walk through the shadows and he was there.
The supermarket was as quiet and desolate as everywhere else. That pleased Cox. He didn't want to see anyone else, unless they could talk and control themselves and help him. He was sick of the pathetic, lethargic population and the way they gravitated towards him whenever they saw him. He wished they'd just leave him alone. Didn't they know that he had problems too? Who was going to help him out? Just because he didn't appear to be as sick as they obviously were, it didn't mean he was there to run to the aid of every person who happened to see him. As he got closer to the building he could see that there were people swarming around the front entrance and car park. He decided to try and get in through the back. The loading bay was a much quieter option.
Cox weaved through the abandoned lorries, trolleys and carts at the back of the huge store and slowly worked his way through the staff area, the bakery and into the main part of the shop. Bloody hell, the place smelled awful. The council health and safety department would have had a field day. A week's worth of rotting food and rotting flesh. It was so strong that it made him gag and he thought about turning round and getting out. 'Keep calm Ray,' he told himself, 'this is the hardest part. You can do this. Get everything you need here and then you can shut yourself away for as long as it takes for this bloody mess to sort itself out.'
Two bodies tripped and staggered towards him. Cox turned when he heard their heavy, shuffling footsteps.
'Leave me alone,' he hissed at them, loud enough for them to hear but not so loud that the rest of the dead shoppers would notice. 'I can't help you. There's nothing I can do for any of you...'
They kept coming towards him.
'Look,' he continued, 'I'm really sorry. I'm sure someone will be along soon who'll be able to help you, but it's not me. I really can't do anything for you. I'm just here to get some food then I'm leaving. I've got problems too, you know.'
The corpses continued undeterred. The nearest of them was just a couple of meters away now and its relentless, slothful approach unnerved Cox. He turned and tried to make his way over to the other side of the building but there were more of them approaching. Panic rising, he looked around and could suddenly see them dragging themselves towards him from just about every direction. Creeping up the aisles. Crawling over empty cardboard boxes and piles of spilt food. He could see more than twenty of them now, and others were beginning to drag themselves in through the supermarket's open entrance doors. In desperation and exacerbation he climbed up onto the lid of the nearest of a row of freezers full of decaying, defrosted food to both escape from and address the advancing public.
'Stop!' he yelled, his voice echoing around the cavernous building and attracting the attention of the few remaining bodies nearby who hadn't yet noticed him. 'Just leave me alone, will you? There's nothing I can do for any of you. Go away!'
In his frightened, confused and misguided state Cox failed to appreciate the stupidity of his actions. With renewed interest the corpses continued to advance towards him. As the nearest few began to reach out and grab at him with cold, numb hands he scrambled back across the row of freezers. One of the freezers - the third or fourth in the line - was open. Cox didn't notice until it was too late. He struggled to keep his balance but was unable to stop himself from falling down into it. He sank deep into a mushy sludge of soaked cardboard boxes and defrosted pizzas and lasagnes and he threw his arms out to steady himself. The sudden unexpected descent had brought him face to face with the dead, eye level with what was left of the people of the borough. The same people who used to use the tennis courts and football pitches that he had responsibility for. The same people whose lives were shaped in the council meetings he used to sleep through. Cox tried to scramble up again but lost his footing and slipped deeper into the mire. Cold, wet and terrified he reached out and grabbed hold of the shoulders of the nearest cadaver and hauled himself up onto his feet using the body for support. Once upright again he climbed out of the freezer and pushed the body away. Cold, soaking wet and covered with foul-smelling, rotting food he pushed through the heaving crowd. The dark mass of bodies turned and followed him as he ran towards the rear of the shop and back out through the loading bay.
Cox arrived back at the council house in a supermarket branded home delivery van. He slammed on the brakes when he reached the civic square and looked anxiously in his mirrors. Already more of the people of the borough were coming his way. Would they never stop? He'd only been stationary for a couple of seconds and already they were swarming around the van, banging and hammering angrily on its sides. He edged the vehicle forward nervously, hoping to nudge the bodies out of the way. They just stood there defiant and stared at him. Stupid bloody things. In temper he slammed his foot down on the accelerator and tore through them.
Into the car park. Down the ramp. Round and round and down until he reached Level 2. He left the van in front of the still open bunker door and ran into the underground shelter. It was still empty, thank God, except for the body in the dormitory, of course. Too scared to stop and think about what he was doing Cox crashed through the bunker rooms and yanked the dormitory door open. Shelly Bright's corpse, now looking particularly grotesque and discoloured, lunged at him at the same time that he lunged at her. The counsellor and the corpse both fell heavily to the ground. Cox scrambled back up onto his feet and then, with an utter contempt and lack of respect, he grabbed hold of the cadaver's hair with one hand and its right arm with the other. Panting heavily he dragged the kicking and squirming corpse out of the bunker and threw it into the car park.
There were other bodies close now. He could see what appeared to be hundreds of them tripping and falling down the concrete ramp towards him. Obviously attracted by the noise he'd made returning to the bunker, more crowds were spilling in from the surface. The steep downwards slope of the car park seemed to be increasing their uncoordinated speed dramatically.
'Bloody hell,' Cox whimpered as Shelly Bright's body lunged for him again. He threw her to one side, not even giving her a second glance as she collapsed to the ground and then stood up again. He'd wanted to check the back of the van to see if there was any salvageable food inside but he knew he didn't have time to do it now. Maybe he'd be able to come back out in a couple of hours time when the excitement had died down and the bodies had disappeared. He remembered the ever-increasing size of the crowd of corpses outside his house and tried to convince himself that this would be different. They wouldn't stay down here in the darkness waiting for him, would they?
Shelly Bright was coming for him again. There was another body almost as close. He had to move.
Ray Cox looked out at the desperate scene around him one more time before scurrying back into the bunker and slamming the door behind him.
No sign of them disappearing yet. Every so often I try and open the door a little bit to see what's going on. It's been a couple of days now and the bloody things are still waiting for me. From down here it looks like the whole car park is full now. How the hell am I supposed to get out? Maybe it's the noise of the generator and the air conditioning pumps that's attracting them, but I can't turn them off, can I? I'll just have to sit here and wait. They'll have to go eventually, won't they?
I don't mind being down here on my own. I've spent years keeping a low profile and trying to keep out of sight. It won't be long now. Just a few more days.
I try not to think too much about what's happened because I don't understand it and I don't think I ever will. All that matters now is making sure that I get through all of this in one piece.
I can finally see the sense of 'Duck and Cover' now. It has to work, doesn't it? Stay under cover long enough and you'll be okay. I'll keep my head down until this has all blown over.
Penelope Street is nearing the end of her life. She's becoming very weak now and it's an effort for her to lift her head, even to keep her eyes open. In many ways its much easier to stay head bowed and eyes shut. She doesn't want to see what's happening around her.
Penelope wants the end to come quickly but every single second seems to take a cruel eternity to pass. She just wants it to be over.
One hundred and thirty-three.
I've been sat here for one hundred and thirty-three hours now. How much longer will I last? Will I reach one hundred and thirty-four or one hundred and thirty-five? Christ, I hope not. I can't take much more of this but there's absolutely nothing I can do. I can't make the end come any faster. I've reached the stage when the frustration is worse than the fear.
I feel so weak. I haven't got my medication with me and I haven't eaten or had anything to drink since first thing on Tuesday morning. That's more than five and a half days ago now. Surely I can't last much longer, can I? I can't do anything but sit here with my head hanging down, looking into my lap. Sometimes I try to look up and look around but it's all so horrific that I can't stand it. Everything has changed and I don't know how or why. Arthur's body is just in front of me (I can see his feet sticking out from behind the sofa we were looking at buying) and they are all around here. Dark, decaying shadows of people who should be lying dead on the ground. Cold and empty bodies. Thank God there are none of them here in the shop with me. When I look up I can see them through the window, constantly moving up and down the street outside. I don't move so they don't see me, but if I make any noise they stop. I screamed and shouted at them to start with because I thought they'd be able to help me but now I know they can't. When they hear me they stop and stare and bang on the glass, and then more of them come. I'm used to being stared at. I don't move. I don't react. After a couple of hours they start to drift away.
Arthur brought me here on Tuesday morning to choose a new sofa. Not that he needed me to come. There wasn't any point in my getting involved in the decision. It was down to him to choose one and try it out and decide whether or not we were going to have it. We got here early so that there wouldn't be many people about. If there are too many people then I just feel like I'm in the way. We'd just got through the front door and round to the sofa section when it happened. It got him and everyone else. I watched them all crumble and fall and I wish that it had taken me too. I kept waiting for it to get me, hoping and praying that it would, hoping and praying that it would soon be over. I can't stand being alone like this. It makes me feel more helpless and vulnerable than ever.
I'm so hungry. And thirsty too. My mouth's dry and I'm so dehydrated that I feel like my tongue's swollen to ten times its normal size. I can't talk properly now, not that there's anyone left here to speak to. I think there must have been a fire near here a couple of days ago. People must have been trapped inside. I smelled the smoke first, then the burning bodies. It was like sitting the middle of a damn barbeque. The whole world stank of roast meat. Every so often I can still smell it. It made the hunger pains immeasurably worse.
The worst part of all of this is the fact that I haven't got any control over anything. I've not had much control for a long time, but now I don't have any. It hurts more than the fear and the not knowing. I can't do a bloody thing about the situation. I can't do anything to help myself or to bring the end any closer. Help might be just around the corner, but I can't even get myself out of this damn building, never mind get anywhere else. An inch might as well be a hundred bloody miles for all the good it'll do me now.
Just trying to look up takes so much energy. There are more bodies outside now, gazing at me with their cold, vacant eyes. I feel like a bloody shop window dummy. People always stared at me. You'd think I would have got used to it by now, but I haven't. I've never been able to handle the sideways looks and the glances and the stares and the whispers behind people's hands. Mostly they didn't say anything at all or they'd go completely over the top and patronise me. They made me feel like a freak. They always saw the wheelchair before they saw me sitting in it. I'm paralysed from the neck down, not up. I can't move my body, but that was the only difference between me and everybody else. My arms and legs might be numb and frozen, but I've always been able to feel pain and get scared and panic like everyone else. Christ knows I'm scared now.
I would have been all right if it hadn't been for him, that stupid bloody husband of mine. If he'd have left me there after the fall I would have been okay. It would have taken time to get well again, but I would have been okay. But no, he knew best, didn't he. It was him trying to move me that did the real damage to my neck. He blamed himself and so did I. And now here I am, trapped in this cold, dark and empty place and starving to death with the rest of the world already dead around me. I can't move an inch, and all I have for company is Arthur's useless corpse. I don't know what I did to deserve this.
Come on death, hurry up. Enough's enough. I want it to be over now.
I'm tired of sitting in this bloody chair just waiting... DAY SEVEN
AMY STEADMAN Part iv
It is now several days since Amy Steadman's corpse took its first unsteady steps away from the shadows of the building where she died. It is a week since infection.
The body continues to move at a painfully slow and lethargic pace. Its movements are still limited and difficult. It has, however, been moving constantly and has now covered a considerable distance since leaving the crowd on the motorway. The dog trapped in the car - the cause of the disturbance which originally attracted the mass of cadavers - became weak and quiet after several hours. Many of the dead, Amy Steadman's corpse included, gradually drifted away from the scene in random, uncoordinated directions. By pure chance Amy's body continued to follow the route of the road forward in the general direction in which it had originally been travelling. Although it has come across numerous blockages and occasional distractions along the wide, rubbish-strewn road, it has been able to keep moving in largely the same direction. It has now covered several miles.
As time has progressed so has the body slowly regained a further degree of control over its movements. It now walks with slightly more fluidity and speed although its muscles, flesh and nerves are continuing to decay. The body's limbs - previously stiff, awkward and largely inflexible - are now able to bend and flex to an extent, although their range of motion is still severely limited. The body is now able to draw its hands into fists and can move its fingers independently. It can also move its head. There has been a substantial increase in the number of voluntary head movements, indicating that the corpse is becoming increasingly aware of the direction of sound.
The long and wide motorway, which had remained relatively straight for a considerable distance, eventually curved round to the right as it merged with another major road which skirted around the centre of the city of Rowley . Amy's body, however, did not change direction. Instead it continued to move forward and straight ahead, leaving the tarmac and tumbling down a grassy embankment. After managing to stand up again, the corpse crossed the width of a field, stumbled through an open gate and then found itself following a narrow gravel path which ran alongside an isolated bungalow. After dragging itself along the length of the gravel path the body then reached another narrow tarmac road. The steep banks on either side of the road channelled the corpse and prevented it from moving in any other direction but forward.
The physical effort of the distance travelled has caused the condition of the body to deteriorate further. The process of decay has continued unabated. Its skin is now extremely discoloured. The chemical reactions continuing to occur throughout the cadaver have manifested themselves as numerous weeping sores and lesions. In the fall down the embankment the corpse sustained a number of cuts and lacerations to its right hand, its arm, its upper torso and its face. Thick, congealed blood has slowly seeped (rather than poured) from these cuts. There is no pulse. The body's circulatory and respiratory systems no longer operate. Blood and oxygen is no longer being pumped around the body.
The self-awareness of the corpse has steadily increased. Although still at an extremely low and rudimentary level, it is now aware of its own general shape and size and compensates for its bulk whilst moving. It can now use its hands to push and grab with limited success. Its balance has also improved although it is still occasionally unsteady on its feet and has difficulty coping with uneven ground.
A sudden heavy downpour of rain has drenched the body which is now struggling to cope with a steep gradient of descent down a hillside. It is still following the road. There is now a canopy of trees hanging overhead which, coupled with the increased cloud cover, has substantially reduced the available light. The loud, echoing sound of the rain hitting the ground and the leaves overhead is confusing the creature. It is now surrounded by noise. It moves its head around constantly, looking for the source of the directionless sound. It eventually emerges from beneath the canopy and the volume of the noise subsides.
Both of the body's feet are bare and the exposed flesh is rapidly wearing away. It leaves a greasy, bloody residue on the ground with virtually every footstep. Already there are insects feeding off this residue and also off the many other corpses scattered around the countryside. Amy's body has just passed another cadaver which died as the result of a car crash. The body is trapped in the wreckage of the car and it appears, over the course of the last seven days subsequent to its death, to have been picked at and ravaged by various scavenging animals. The sheer amount of dead meat which is now easily found almost everywhere is proving to be an unexpected benefit to many millions of predators and parasites. It is likely that over the coming months the population of these creatures will increase massively. The lack of any form of pest control will further allow their numbers to multiply unchecked. It is still very early days, but it is already clear that the removal of almost all of the human population will have an unprecedented effect on the ecosystem.
A brief moment of sunlight bathes the scene with unexpected brightness and warmth. Although unable to detect or understand the change in temperature, Amy's corpse does notice the increased light levels. The quality of its eyesight is still rudimentary and poor - it sees shapes and is aware of movement but has so far been unable to make out any level of finer detail. The sudden illumination allows it to see slightly more, but nothing of any significance. The control the body has over its eyes and its ability to absorb and interpret what it sees is improving, but at the same time its physical condition continues to deteriorate. The eyeballs and the associated nerves and muscles are rotting.
The body has reached a junction where the road it has been following joins a more major route. Here a crowd of bodies has gathered around a young survivor. Caught out in the open looking for food, a ten year old girl has become lost and has found herself dangerously exposed. With nowhere else to shelter she has shut herself in a telephone box. She is on the ground with her back pressed up against the door to prevent it from opening. There are already seven bodies surrounding the girl with a further three approaching. Amy Steadman's corpse is now also close. Whilst the young survivor has learnt that by keeping still and silent she can evade detection by the corpses, her situation is so unexpected and unnerving that she is finding it impossible to contain her fear and emotion. She is sobbing uncontrollably, and the bodies on the other side of the glass are reacting to every sound. Although they don't understand why, they are driven to try and get closer to her. One of them begins to bang on the glass, and this new sound attracts the attention of even more nearby cadavers.
Steadman's corpse has now reached the telephone box. Although it does not understand what it is doing, the body has an instinctive, insatiable desire to reach the source of the disturbance at all costs. It reaches out and grabs hold of the nearest corpse and awkwardly attempts to pull itself nearer to the survivor. Less decayed than some of the surrounding cadavers, it clumsily rips at them and pulls and pushes them out of the way. Their rotting flesh is weak and is literally torn from the bone. Steadman's body keeps moving until it is standing directly in front of the telephone box. It leans forward and presses its decaying face against the glass. The girl inside is now face down, covering her head in fear. Steadman's corpse stares down at it with dry, cold and unblinking eyes.
As long as the girl continues to move or make any noise the bodies will remain.
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com