Chapter Twenty-Four

The awkward conversation was interrupted by the sounds of more scuffles and fights taking place deeper within the base. Wright peered out into the corridor again, then quickly drew his head back inside.

'Anything?' Carlton asked.

'Nothing,' Wright replied, 'but it's just a matter of time. Won't be long before this whole fucking place goes up in smoke.'

'You reckon?'

'Absolutely.'

More noise. Getting closer. Wright started to shuffle uncomfortably.

'Where you been hiding?' he asked, the desperation very evident his voice. Carlton thought for a moment before answering. What did he say? He didn't want to tell him. 'Come on, man,' he begged as the noise in the corridor continued to increase in volume. 'Let me come with you. I won't do anything to get you found, I promise. I just want to find somewhere safe where I can...'

Soldiers appeared at the end of the corridor. More gunshots. A figure collapsed in a hail of bullets. More troops trampled the body as they ran for shelter.

'Christ,' Carlton mumbled under his breath. He wanted to turn and run back to the service tunnel, but Wright would follow and he knew that he couldn't afford to let him. No matter what the other man said, having him with him would increase the risk dramatically. He had to find a way of getting rid of him, and quickly.

'Come on,' Wright pleaded. 'Fucking show me!'

In desperation Wright whipped a knife out from his belt and held it to Carlton's neck. Christ, thought Carlton, not the suit. Cut me but don't cut the bloody suit.

'I can't...' Carlton began to protest. 'Show me where you're hiding or I'll do it,' Wright threatened, his face now close to the other man's. Carlton recoiled at the noxious smell of Wright's acrid breath.

'I can't,' he said again, bringing his pistol slowly up from his side. Before Wright had realised what he was doing Carlton fired a single shot, ripping a bloody hole through his chest cavity and lungs. Wright collapsed to the ground and Carlton stepped over him, wiping dribbles of blood from his precious suit.

He was about to step into the corridor when another group of soldiers thundered past the mess hall doorway, this time moving in the opposite direction to the first, moving back deeper into the base. More followed, then more. One of the soldiers straggling at the back of the pack tried to grab hold of Carlton and drag him along with him. Carlton instinctively recoiled and squirmed free from the soldier's grip.

'Get yourself out of here,' the soldier in the corridor screamed. 'Get out of here now. The fucking idiots are trying to open the bloody doors!'

He couldn't afford to wait. Not caring who saw him Carlton turned and ran back through the mess hall and clambered quickly through the serving hatch and into the kitchen. Behind him a constant stream of desperate, terrified troops fled deeper into the bunker.

Carlton ran back to his hideout as quickly as his tired, under-exercised legs would carry him. He threw himself into the service tunnel and scrambled around furiously in the darkness for his breathing apparatus. With hands trembling with nervous fear he put on his kit and melted back into the darkness and waited...

At the entrance to the bunker a group of soldiers had fought their way through into the decontamination chambers. Their minds twisted and deluded as a result of weeks of hopeless isolation, two of them struggled to open the sealed doors while another three held off more troops who fought to prevent the base being compromised. Risks, priorities and perspectives had been distorted after spending months buried underground without hope. Perhaps the infection had finally passed? The men now struggling to open the doors and get outside genuinely believed that this was their last chance for freedom and life.

The soldiers at the doors were being protected by their three colleagues who, whenever they saw the slightest movement in the corridor leading up to the chambers, unleashed a torrent of bullets. Those trying to stop them didn't stand a chance, such was the position of the doorway being defended at the far end of a long corridor. Explosives and grenades were useless too. Fire munitions of any strength at them this close to the chambers and enough damage would almost certainly be done to immediately compromise the base. A few desperate fighters continued to try and prevent the breach. Those who had been unfortunate enough to have already seen what was outside and who knew what was about to be let into the base. Those who had already fought hand to hand with the dead and who had witnessed for themselves their vast and unstoppable numbers. Those who would rather be mown down by bullets than face the rotting crowds that were about to flood into the bunker.

It was inevitable that the doors were going to be opened. It was just a matter of time.

Carlton lay on his back in the tunnel and trembled with fear. The world sounded different from behind the mask, muffled and somehow distant and indistinct. It made him feel even more uncertain and scared.

In the distance he could hear further battles raging. Bullets were flying and screams of pain and panic were ringing through the twisting maze of subterranean corridors and passageways. Even more than before it was now impossible to gauge the direction of any of the sounds. The noise seemed now to surround Carlton and come at him from every angle. The volume increased steadily and previously distinct sounds gradually merged into a single unintelligible cacophony.

Then it stopped.

A sudden silence so ominous that it made Carlton lose control of his bladder. He lay on his back in a pool of his own piss and lifted a shaking hand up to his mask. He wrapped his fingers around the breathing apparatus, ready to rip it off. Perhaps I should just do it now, he thought, just get it over with...

He couldn't bring himself to do it.

Sobbing with fear he lay still and waited.

The silence continued for the best part of two days. In his cramped confinement Carlton listened intently to the stillness, hoping for a clue as to what had happened but too afraid to move and investigate. Weak with hunger and nerves, he waited impatiently. He didn't know which was worse, the physical or mental pain? Every bone in his body ached and he knew that if he moved some of that pain might ease. But he couldn't do it. He was too bloody scared to do anything.

After endless hours, minutes and seconds of nothing he finally heard something. Had he imagined it? He held his breath and listened carefully, the rapid thump of his own frightened heartbeat ringing in his ears and threatening to drown out any other sound. What was happening? He'd begun to presume that the all-consuming silence of the last forty or so hours had been a good thing. Surely if the base had been invaded by swarms of decaying bodies he would have seen or heard something by now?

There it was again. The bang and clatter of metal on metal. It sounded more like a random, clumsy crash than anything more purposeful or sinister. He had to do something now, he couldn't just lie here and do nothing. Moving as cautiously as he could he slid back down the service corridor to the junction with the second, slightly wider passageway. Once there he crouched down on his aching knees and listened again, keeping out of sight. More noise. This time even further away, still unclear and indistinct. He shuffled further forward again.

Carlton stopped when he reached the next corridor. He glanced over at the kitchen door. The lights were lower than he remembered. The main power supply within the base must have failed and the structure was now illuminated only by the low yellow electric back-up lighting throughout. He retraced the steps he'd taken a few days earlier, tiptoeing carefully through the wreckage which covered the kitchen floor and trying not to make any unnecessary noise. He stepped over the fallen body of the officer he'd discovered last time he was here and then slid through the serving hatch and out into the mess hall.

More distant sounds. He primed his pistol, cringing at the noise it made, and walked to the end of the hall. He was about to step out into the corridor when a figure appeared from a doorway to his far left. Christ, who was that? More to the point, what was it? It was dressed in a soldier's uniform, but it was so slow and clumsy. Whoever it was must have been injured, he decided. Maybe he should try and help them? Carlton chose instead to do nothing, preferring to wait until the solider got closer before he took any chances. You can't trust anyone these days, he thought. And, he quickly remembered, the advancing solider might be equally uncertain of him. One unexpected move and he might find himself staring down the barrel of the other man's rifle. The trooper was close now. Carlton held his breath, trying not to move for fear of giving away his position. Something wasn't right. Another sudden sound came from the other end of the corridor behind him but he ignored it, concentrating instead on the solider still approaching. The figure's head hung heavily over to one side and it seemed to be dragging its feet rather than managing to take proper, controlled steps. What the hell was going on? The soldier was now no more than a couple of feet away. It staggered into the dull yellow glow of one of the emergency lights directly overhead and Carlton recoiled at the creature's nightmarish face. What the hell had happened to this man? It was as if the life had been sucked out of him. His skin was white, almost blanched, and thick, dried blood had dribbled from his mouth, down his chin and onto his uniform. His eyes were dull and unfocussed, staring ahead but not actually appearing to look at anything. To all intents and purposes this poor bastard looked dead. Carlton disappeared back into the shadows of the mess hall. The soldier (or corpse or whatever it was) shuffled past him oblivious.

It had to be the infection. That was the only explanation. The integrity of the bunker had been compromised and the germ or whatever it was that had done all the damage outside had been let in. His mind began to work overtime. If the rest of the soldiers are infected, he thought, then I have to get out of here. Christ, he'd seen for himself what the dead hordes were capable of when they'd forced the military back and entered the hanger almost seventy days ago. And now he found himself trapped on the wrong side of the bunker doors with, potentially, anything up to a hundred of the bloody things. He had to get out. He had to get out right now. He didn't know where he was going to go, but he had to try and make a run for it. He was going to die soon, that much was inevitable, but he wasn't about to let himself be torn apart at the hands of his former friends and colleagues. As weak and tired and frightened as he was, he wasn't prepared to end his days like that. One last burst of energy...

Carlton stepped out into the corridor. The body of the soldier continued to trip away to his right. It must have heard him but it didn't react. To his left the passageway was clear. Leaving the safety of the shadows he limped further down the corridor, passing the door from which the body had emerged and eventually reaching a T-junction. Left or right? All the corridors in this damn place looked the same - white-grey and disappointingly featureless. Carlton was disorientated and in pain and he couldn't remember the way to the control room. If he could reach the control room he was sure he'd be able to then find the communications room. Once he'd managed to reach the communications room he knew he'd be able to find his way back through the maze of tunnels to the decontamination chambers. That had to be the area he aimed for. If he could reach the chambers then, providing there wasn't still a flood of rotting bodies trying to force their way inside, he'd have a chance, albeit a very slight one, of getting out of the base alive. What happened after that, however, was anyone's guess.

He turned left. Damn, the door to a ransacked equipment store and a dead end. He turned back again and began to move down the corridor in the other direction. Movement was gradually becoming easier and his joints were feeling less stiff. Now all that he had to do was... Shit, another one of those creatures right in front of him. He looked at it and wondered if he could see who it used to be. To keep moving in the right direction he knew he had no option but to try and pass it. For a moment he stood helpless in the middle of the corridor, completely still and completely useless, unable to decide what to do. He watched the shabby figure as it tripped towards him and he poised himself for its attack. Three meters between them and he held up his pistol.

'Stop,' he commanded. 'Stop or I'll blow your fucking head off.'

The body continued its lethargic advance. He had no option but to shoot. He closed his eyes and squeezed the trigger and winced as the deafening sound of the gunshot echoed throughout the whole of the underground complex. When he dared to look again he saw that the soldier's corpse had crumbled to the ground in front of him. The back of its head and the contents of its skull dripped red from the grey corridor walls. Carlton was so preoccupied with the bloody fate of the first body that he failed to notice another two approaching until they had almost reached the cadaver on the floor. Without stopping to consider his actions he lifted his pistol again and fired another two shots at close range.

Control room. He'd found it. Carlton weaved around the empty desks and past dusty, lifeless heaps of long-since redundant computer equipment on his way through the room. Another body staggered towards him but, rather than waste precious time fighting it, he instead simply stepped out of its way. The stupid thing blundered past. It hadn't even seen him.

Out of the control room. Another left turn, down the corridor and then right. Jesus Christ, yet another body. He shot this one in the face - the corridor was too narrow to risk taking any chances. He stepped over the fallen corpse and pushed through the door into the communications room. And then he stopped. Another couple of hundred meters or so of corridor and he'd be outside the decontamination chambers. Did he really want to do this? Could he do it? More to the point, did he have any choice? Carlton's ever-decreasing alternatives were continuing to rapidly deplete. His final choices were now appallingly grim - stay underground with a hundred dead soldiers for company, or try and get up to the surface and have to face the possibility of having to deal with many, many more bodies up there. The thought of escaping from the relentlessly grey and enclosed confines of the bunker was the deciding factor. Okay, so it might not be any better (it might be much worse) above ground, but at least he'd be out in the open, if only for a few minutes. The choice was made.

Carlton paused for a second longer to catch his breath, and then pushed through the door out of the communications room. He ran headlong into a crowd of seven bodies, all struggling to make progress down a corridor which was only wide enough for two. Instinctively he began kicking and punching at them, smashing them out of the way and knocking them to the ground. They offered no resistance as he angrily battered his way through them.

The corridor ahead was clear. He could see the doors to the decontamination chambers. Just a few meters further now... Yet more bodies. In the doorway to the main chamber lay a pile of fallen corpses, blood-soaked and riddled with bullet holes. Bloody hell, the creature at the very bottom of the gory heap was still moving... In the room itself more corpses staggered around aimlessly. Doing his best to ignore their disarmingly insistent, clumsy movements, he looked past them and out towards the open decontamination chamber doors, ready now to face the onslaught of endless thousands of savage, decaying figures baying angrily for his flesh.

Where he had expected to see frantic, angry activity he instead saw nothing. No movement. Relative calm.

In disbelief Carlton pushed away the dumb bodies still tripping around the chamber and stood at the final door which separated the interior of the bunker from the rest of the diseased world outside. He could see that the huge hanger doors were still open and the vast cavern was filled with harsh but beautiful sunlight. After months underground it took a while before he was able to open his eyes fully and look around the hanger properly. As the bright stinging in his eyes faded away he looked around at an utterly unbelievable scene.

Carlton took a single hesitant and very uncertain step out into the hanger.

The place was appalling and virtually unrecognisable. The hanger buzzed with the angry noise of millions of swarming flies, germs and other insects. He carefully put his foot down on the ground, having to step into a putrefied sea of human remains several inches deep. Bloody hell, the whole of the room was covered with a coating of stinking and festering rotten human flesh. As he looked deeper into the sickening quagmire he was able to make out features - bones, the remains of clothing, abandoned weapons and armour. And it was moving! All around the apparently endless grey-green-red mire he could see occasional twitches of movement almost like a heat-haze.

Overcome by the horror of what surrounded him and almost forgetting the fact that he was now standing outside the bunker's inner sanctum, Carlton moved slowly forward through the once-human sludge. He forced himself to look up rather than down and he dragged his tired feet. It was easier to drag and scrape the soles of his boots along the ground rather than risking taking proper steps and slipping and sliding deeper into the gore.

Before long he had reached the foot of the ramp that would lead him back up to the rest of the world. He didn't hesitate to start climbing. No matter what he found up there, it couldn't be any worse than the sickening pit of death that he was already standing in, could it? It was almost impossible to climb the flesh-covered incline. His boots wouldn't grip in the slime and relentless filth. He dropped down onto his hands and knees and began to crawl, still keeping his head facing upwards so that he couldn't see what he was crawling through. He kept moving steadily, trying desperately to think about absolutely anything that might distract him from the slurry of rotting human remains beneath him. Whilst generally slippery and creamy and almost liquid in places, the gruesome mixture was peppered with untold thousands of brittle bones and pieces of abandoned military equipment. Don't rip the suit now, he thought desperately to himself, for Christ's sake, don't rip the suit.

Finally he had reached the top of the ramp. Before looking out he remembered the lush green countryside which had surrounded the base. It had been the last thing he'd seen before they'd disappeared underground more than four months ago. He'd been haunted by a lost vision of the blue sky, bright sun and endless rolling hills every day since then. He never thought he'd see it again.

Carlton carefully climbed to his feet and walked out through the main bunker doors.

The sky was as deep and blue as he remembered, but everything else... Jesus, just what had happened to the world? For as far as he could see in every direction the ground had been torn and scarred by battle. Mud replaced grass, there were huge craters and dips where munitions had exploded, trees had been scorched and burned to the ground and the bodies... God, the bodies... Carlton stood completely still, transfixed by the horror all around him. Everywhere he looked he saw more and more of the dead. The withered skeletons of his former colleagues, still wrapped in what remained of their now useless protective suits, lay side by side and entangled with the twisted, gnarled, charred remains of the emaciated corpses they'd died fighting. And there was still movement. Subtle and indistinct, but some of the bodies were still moving, too decayed to get up and walk, but still moving. Bloody hell, hadn't these things suffered enough?

Shattered and disconsolate, Carlton finally walked away from the underground base.

It was a cold, dry and bright winter morning. The precise time, day, date and season didn't matter anymore, Carlton knew that this would almost certainly be the last day of his life. If not today then tomorrow or, at the very latest, the day after that. He couldn't imagine lasting much longer than that. If he was honest, he didn't want to last much longer.

Months back, from the relative safety and security of the bunker, he had failed to appreciate the sheer scale of the battles that had raged on the surface above. He'd heard what his few colleagues who'd been out there and returned had said and he'd seen some of it for himself, but the scale of the devastation was incredible and hard to comprehend. It seemed to go on forever. He had walked for hours and was still surrounded by craters, abandoned military machinery and bodies. Endless hordes of twitching, putrefying bodies...

He guessed that he must have covered several miles by the time he reached the outermost edge of the battlefield. It had clouded over and the light had faded but he could see that, slowly but surely, the number of bodies and the battle-scarring of the land had gradually reduced. A short distance further forward and the world around him suddenly began to appear deceptively normal and familiar. Grass, trees, roads, hedges and even birds in the trees. For a few misguided seconds he allowed himself a little hope. Might there yet be an escape from this nightmare? But then, as a few drops of icy winter rain trickled down his visor, he was reminded of the need for his protective suit. He remembered the germ in the air which had caused all of the devastation, and his illusions of salvation were again shattered.

Carlton stumbled through several more fields before coming across a narrow, twisting road. For a while he walked along it cautiously, keeping close to the hedge at the side of the tarmac should a car or other vehicle be driving towards him. The longer he walked, however, the more he listened to the silence around him. He accepted quickly that there would be no car, van, bike or any other vehicle. Today - for one day only - he was completely alone in the world.

Further down the track Carlton finally came across a car. It was a small but pretty standard saloon car. He stopped and stared at it for a moment. There was nothing special about the car, and perhaps that was its strange attraction. It looked so normal and so usual. In the bizarre world he was walking through, however, what he considered usual was now most certainly unusual. The car looked completely at odds with its surroundings. Carlton looked further and saw that it had been parked on a patch of gravel next to a gap in the hedgerow. It was a drive. Curious, he took a few steps away from the road. There was a house. It took him a while to be able to properly distinguish the outline of the building. Once typical and ordinary, today the house looked strangely different. It had been partially obscured by growth from the unkempt and overgrown garden. It looked like it was slowly being swallowed up by the countryside. Its windows were covered with a layer of yellow-brown mould and grass and weeds had begun to climb over the brickwork. Untended garden shrubs and trees had grown across the face of the building, obscuring much of it from view. Carlton stood and stared for a while longer before moving on.

Another house, then another and then another. Soon he found himself standing in the middle of a cold and empty village. It was perfectly still - like a freeze-frame - and uncomfortably eerie. Several buildings on one side of the village had been destroyed by fire and were now little more than charred black outlines of their former selves. The rest of the silent shops and houses looked dirty and overgrown like the first building he'd come across. He stood in the middle of the road and thought about calling out. What good would it do? It had been an instinctive reaction. What if he found someone? There had to be survivors, didn't there? But what could they do for him? More to the point, what would they expect him to do for them?

Carlton continued to walk until he could go no further. He followed the road as it trailed back out of the village and dragged himself along it as it wound up and around the side of a hill. The earlier rain had passed and the world was now drenched in bright, warm winter sunlight again. The sun was well on its way down towards the horizon. The lone soldier watched its descent with fascination and a fond sadness, knowing in his heart that he wouldn't see it rise again.

At the top of the hill, the tired and disconsolate soldier clambered over a wooden stile and sat down at the edge of a steep field. There were sheep at the bottom of the field, and from where he sat he could see cows and horses in the distance. His eyes were tired and his vision blurred but he scanned the horizon constantly. It occurred to him that he couldn't see a single trace of man. It would be there all right, if he looked hard enough, but he didn't want to. Buildings, roads and everything else seemed to have been swallowed up and absorbed. Carlton felt an overwhelming sense of alienation and isolation. He felt like he no longer belonged there, but at the same time he was also glad that he'd been given this final opportunity to see the world.

It was getting dark. One last thing to do.

Carlton unclipped his pistol from its holster on his belt and loaded it. I'll take off my mask, he decided, and then end it. I'll take my life before the infection gets me. I'm ready to die now. I don't want to come back.

Nervous and cold, he took off the mask and slipped the end of the pistol into his mouth. He pressed it against the roof of his mouth, gagging as he shoved the oily metal deeper towards the back of his throat, and waited. Should it have happened by now? He sucked in cool, clean air through his nose, too afraid to take the gun out of his mouth just in case the infection caught him before he was able to fire. He'd heard his colleagues in the bunker talking about a germ which struck and killed in seconds, so why hadn't it got him? Was it over? Was the air here clear? He couldn't believe that - the soldiers in the base had been infected just a couple of days ago. The only alternative, he decided as the seconds ticked by, is that I am immune. The bloody irony of it he laughed, trying not to choke on his pistol. All that time! All those long, awful days, weeks and months spent down there and I could have walked out at any time!

Almost a minute had passed. Still no reaction.

Carlton took the pistol out of his mouth and shook his head and laughed out loud. The perfect end to the day he thought as he grinned and lay back on the grass.

I'll give myself a few minutes longer, he thought.

Carlton looked up into the sky and thought about his family and all that he had lost. He thought about the nightmare of being buried underground and how he'd had to battle through the reanimated bodies of his dead colleagues to get outside. He thought about Daniel Wright, the soldier he'd killed in cold blood just a few days earlier. He thought about the fact that he might well have been the only man left alive. He thought about the aching in his bones. He thought about his appalling physical state - the dehydration and malnourishment. He thought about how much effort it would take now to find food and clean water, and how much of a pointless struggle it would be to try and make himself well. The village he'd walked through earlier would be the most sensible place to start. He thought about those cold, empty, dead buildings and the distance he'd have to cover to get back there. He thought about the effort and whether it would be worth it.

Carlton enjoyed the next hour. He lay on the grass, completely at ease, and dozed and daydreamed and remembered until the light had all but disappeared and the sky above his head was full of stars.

Calm, composed and completely sure of his actions, he slipped the pistol back into his mouth and fired.

DAY THREE HUNDRED AND NINETY-TWO

THE LAST FLIGHT JACK BAXTER

About an hour ago, just before she went to bed, Donna asked me if we've done the right thing coming back here. I think it was just nerves talking. I told her to shut up. She knows full well that this was the right thing to do. Bloody hell, we'd been talking about it for long enough before today, hadn't we? We've been planning this for weeks.

About a month ago the group started planning to make one last trip to the mainland for supplies. We decided (myself and Donna included) that it was time to cut-off completely from the past and concentrate our efforts on developing Cormansey. But things suddenly changed. Two important events took place in September which started me thinking. It was those two events that altered how I felt about everything.

At the beginning of the month we reached the first anniversary of the infection. A whole year had passed since that dark day when all of our lives were turned upside down and shaken to the core. A year since the hurt began, and still I don't know whether the pain will ever completely go away. Two weeks later, though, and we were celebrating. For the first time in a long time we finally had a reason to be happy and positive about something when Emma and Michael's baby was born. Maggie, they called her. Named after Emma's mother and Michael's grandmother I think but I might have got that the wrong way round. We lived every moment of the labour and birth with them. The whole bloody group were just sat there in the church, waiting for it to happen. If I'm honest, I expected the baby to die the moment she was born, as did most people. Donna thinks she lived because both Michael and Emma had immunity. Whatever the reason, things suddenly stopped feeling as final and hopeless as they had before. That doesn't mean I think we've got a chance. I still think our days are numbered. We just might last a little longer than I originally thought, that's all.

Before all of this happened I used to read books voraciously. I always used to love post-apocalyptic fiction. I used to love hearing about the world being destroyed or invaded and mankind being brought to its knees. My problem was I hated the end of most of the books. Nine times out of ten they'd finish with some smug little community rising up out of the ashes. A little group of farmers and cooks and teachers and... and call me selfish if you like, but I've never liked the sound of any of that. Now I'm here, now that I've actually made it to the very end of the world, I don't want to spend my last years tending sheep, boiling water over log fires, growing a beard and wearing home-made clothes. For God's sake, we've got the remains of the entire world at our disposal, and I for one intend to rape and pillage it for as long as I can. It won't be sophisticated or clever, but I know that I can carve a better existence for us here out of the remnants of the past than I ever could on Cormansey. Some people are born to live off the land, but not me. Donna feels the same way, and that's why she came back with me. And as Clare is closer to the two of us than anyone else, she decided to come along too. We have to accept that the human race is all but finished. I'm not interested in trying to prolong it. The people on the island are trying to rebuild, but I don't think that's ever going to work.

They tried to stop us. I think just about everyone on the island tried to talk one or both of us out of coming back over the course of the last couple of weeks. Even Richard Lawrence tried during the flight over here this morning. He said it wasn't a problem if we changed our minds. He said he'd sooner take us back to Cormansey than a helicopter full of supplies.

The flight had been planned for a long time. Richard and one passenger (it was Harry Stayt who came over in the end) were flying back to the mainland specifically to fetch as much medical supplies and fuel as they could find to get the group through the winter. I've always thought that was another disadvantage of the island - the isolation was wonderful when we had to worry about the bodies, but being so cut off our food and provisions were always going to be in short supply. And it wasn't just a case of getting in the car and driving to what's left of the nearest village to get more either. Food has always had to be measured, monitored, rationed and controlled for as long as we've been there.

We left just after ten this morning and arrived back on the mainland just before eleven. We asked Richard to drop us off right on the coast, thinking it would be safer to check things out here before we headed inland. He left us in the middle of an empty car park on the sea front. He wanted to stop and make sure we were okay but I insisted he went. They flew on to the nearest large city. I told him to fly back over the car park on his way back to the island and if we were still sitting out there, to land again and pick us up. Needless to say we'd already found ourselves a place to stay by the time he flew back overhead.

The first thing I noticed were the bones. We'd been away so long that the bodies had rotted down to just about nothing, leaving countless piles of bones littering the streets. The place was quiet - eerily silent - like a ghost town. We're used to the quiet, but this was different. We knew that we'd probably got the whole country to ourselves. For a while I felt uneasy, particularly when we walked through a deserted playground and amusement arcade. It seemed strange to think that there had been hundreds of people there once. Families. Kids on the rides...

We let Clare choose where we stayed. I thought she'd be sensible but we ended up in a static caravan in the middle of a holiday park overlooking the sea. It was a sensible choice really - isolated, small and self-contained. Reminds me of being on holiday, sitting here. It's strange. Tonight I actually feel excited sitting here and looking out over the ocean.

Tomorrow morning the rest of our lives start again. We don't have any great plans. We'll get food and clothes and I'll try and persuade Clare to let us move into a house for the winter. It's going to be bloody cold. My guess is that because all the cities across the world are dead, the temperature will drop lower than normal. I don't think we'll have an ice-age or anything like that, but it's going to be bloody cold.

Donna's going to teach me to drive, if we can find a car that will start. It's about time I learnt. She says I should pick it up pretty easy. She says it will be easy for me to learn because I won't have to bother with the highway code or anything like that. We'll just be able to point the car forward and go. And that's what we're going to do eventually. Next summer, if we're still here, we're going to find a motorhome like the one Michael and Emma used to have. Then I'm going to fulfil my ambition and drive right around the coastline of our little country. It will be a complete waste of time but who cares, we've got nothing better to do. Michael used to say to me that all we can do now is make the most of the time we have left. That's exactly what we're going to do.

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