We found a river just at the northern edge of the forest. I think we actually laughed as we pulled off our clothes and dived in. I hadn’t washed in three weeks. The water was fairly warm and soon we were shouting and splashing and ducking each other under.
As we lay on the grass at the rivers edge, drying in the summer sun, we chatted about where to travel next as we dressed. Liam was pulling up his trousers and telling me we should find one of the islands off the coast when a shot rang out and he flipped backwards. Nine of us made it to the treeline, the screams off the dead and the dying ringing in our ears. That was almost three months ago. We found another group of travellers near Cromer, at first we were wary and suspicious of each other but soon settled into an easy alliance. We had a medic and they had food and a shotgun. Their leader Calvin told us how they had escaped from Durham and walked as far as they could. They had started out as a group of 43 now there were just 16 left. His wife had died giving birth at the roadside. The child had lived for only four hours. He spoke in such cold tones that we recognised as a harrowing grief. We had heard so many stories that were almost identical. My brother had cut his hand as we were searching a shop for supplies. He had started to feel sick during the night and I woke with the dawn with him dead next to me.
I’m not totally sure where we were but we found a quayside and a boat that could accommodate us all. One of Calvin’s group knows maps and had been a keen sailor before all of this and thought we could make the northern tip of the Netherlands. After almost an hour we hear the low humming of one of their drones. One of Calvin’s group, I think he is called David fires the shotgun into it. The drone veers off to left and hits the water. Everyone is terrified, no one knows what to say or what to think. We have all been running for so long and lost so many. I can’t help it but I start crying. Calvin doesn’t even know my name but he hugs me and strokes my back. “Come on lad, it’s never as bad as you think.”
It has been a little more than five weeks. We landed near the coast and had to swim to shore. We found a house on the Zeerendstraat that was easy to defend. We divide into groups of three or four to search for food and medical supplies. It was my third outing into the area when we see them. I wave my hand to warn the others but Claire is looking the other way. As she turns she clamps her hand over her mouth and drops behind a burnt out car. She is staring straight at me when one of them reaches down and lifts her off her feet, she screams as she is ripped in half. None of us move, I am too scared to even think. Aiden reaches into his back pack and pulls out a bottle filled with petrol. he lights the rag stuffed into the top and hurls at at the closest one. As it bursts into flame we all run back towards the safe house. None of them follow us. They do not think of us as anything other than vermin. Back at the house we reset the boobytraps and grenades at the doors. We start to unpack the food we found. Calvin ruffles my hair as he walks past. “Okay kid?” He pauses for a moment. “Oh shit. What happened?” I almost can’t even say it. “Claire is dead, one of them killed her near the market.” He crosses to the window to look down at the street. “Did they follow you?” I shake my head. I don’t want to speak anymore. I want to lie down and sleep. To forget them coming, the damage and deaths they caused. My Father and brother dying. The countless and endless horrors I have seen. If I have worked it out right today is the second of September, my eighteenth birthday. Calvin turns and hugs me. He is tall and has such strength, I can almost forget what utter sadness I feel. “This is shit isn’t it kid? Okay. Little poet. Write me something amazing and we’ll get you drunk. Isn’t today your birthday?” He kisses the top of my head, I’m amazed he even knows that. We eat stew and Zara’s homemade bread as Calvin tells everyone it is my birthday. I am quite shy and the attention embarrassed me. Aiden is standing by the window telling everyone about how seasick I was on the crossing, even I laugh as he can make even that sound funny. The window behind him smashes open and Aiden is pulled backwards like a doll. Everyone is running, we pour out into the night in different directions. I trip over something and it is only when Calvin grabs me by the arm that I see it is the top half of Aiden.
Six of us make it to the boat. Devon is a pretty good sailor and seems to know what he is doing. I sit at the back. Calvin has his arm over my shoulders. “You okay?” I nod but can’t speak. I realise now that man is ending. That this is the end of our world. Calvin is brave and honest and everything I am not. he really tried to help and save as many as he could. I doubt I could have done as much. Devon had told us he thinks he can get us to the Isle of Wight.
I wake up with cramp in my neck. Somehow i fell asleep on Calvin, he smiles at me. “Morning Mr snore.” I must be blushing. “Sorry.” “It’s okay kid. I think I dozed off before you did,”
He stands and stretches out his back. “Devon! How are we doing?”
As Devon turns to answer his jaw falls open and he point behind us. I turn and see one of them rising out of the water. It swipes Devon and Joe aside and as Calvin drops to the deck it misses him by inches. I run to the wheel house. I can’t even remember how I know this but there is a flare gun in the locker to the right of the steering wheel. I fire it directly into it’s face and the smoking flare hits it in one of it’s many eyes.It seems to be screaming and half its head is on fire. As it falls back into the water, Calvin grabs me and pulls me down to the deck.
We sail onwards for a few more days.
“Happy Birthday.” laura, my wife hand me a piece of cake in a napkin. Today is my 23rd birthday. For the last fer years we have been living in Rookley. Calvin and his partner Samantha live next door. We work the land and keep chickens and goats and cows. We haven’t seen one of them since the boat. There are almost a thousand people on the island now. We have Doctors, teachers, electricians, plumbers. Doug worked on a farm for 15 years and Margaret was a Vet.
Every day is hard and every day is a struggle. We don’t have enough resources or medication for everyone but as Calvin says, no one goes hungry.
We are sat in the Garden. Laura and Samantha are telling each other really dirty jokes. Calvin hands me a glass of whiskey. “Twenty three… you are practically a kid.” He smiles. I trust this man with my life. he never once gave up on any of us. “Well soon I won’t be the only kid in this family.” he looks at me like he didn’t understand what I just said. “What the… Really?” I can’t help but laugh. “Really. Doctor Tam told us this morning.” He touches his glass to mine. “Lets hope the kid looks like Laura.”
We both laugh and knock back our drink as the warning bell from the village sounds. There are two explosions one after the other and a dark shape rises over the roof of the house. I run to Laura but I am about six feet away when I rise into the air. One of them crushes me. There is almost no pain as I fall maybe twenty feet to the ground. The last thing I see is Calvin running with Laura and Samantha.