Time for another apocalyptic excerpt for your delectation (or not). This is another section from my first fiction book (Survival of the Fittest: Metamorphosis), and we return to the two characters that appeared in the last excerpt I posted (concerning evolution). This pair is an unlikely combination (excuse some robust language) amongst the half dozen or so characters whose threads intertwine throughout the book.
Here, they are just piecing together what is going on after having been camping in a field for the best part of a week.
I was wondering, if you heard such a thing on the radio, what would you do? End of the world beckons. What would be important?
They had exhausted all of their supplies and most certainly needed to do something today. Jason moved over to the van, opened the door and turned on the radio.
“…message. All listeners are advised to stay in their homes until further notice. Under no conditions are they to leave, for their own safety. The pandemic is still an unknown quantity and there is no known cure or relief from the symptoms. Victims are advised in the event of a death to please call 101 which has been co-opted as the new national line for reporting flu deaths. Please be aware that the armed forces and the police are doing all that they can to help…“
“What the f—“
“Shut up!” shouted Bevan, listening intently.
“The police 999 number is not presently working due to personnel shortages but will be up and running as and when possible. Please take care to look after yourselves, and do not leave your houses until further notice. Live broadcasts are restricted to one hour from 21:00 tonight. This is a national emergency message. All listeners are advised to stay…”
Both men remained where they were, unable to move, their brains digesting what they had just heard, trying to distinguish fact from wild fiction being concocted in their minds. The only problem being, there appeared to be no wild fiction.
Jason turned slowly toward Bevan, who was slumped in thought in his chair, long-finished empty can in the holder. “So, I actually think, unless I am dreaming, that the country, or even the world, has fallen to pieces in less than a week. Literally fallen to pieces.”
Bevan looked up. “Well, it hasn’t literally fallen to pieces. I mean, the van is in one piece and the field—“
“Dick. Look, we need to get out of here, but what if we go back to Olding and everyone’s got the flu? What then?”
Bevan looked at Jason anxiously, “Well, we can’t just drive around forever. Actually, we haven’t got enough petrol to get Annie back home, even.” Bevan indicated his beloved van.
“Bollocks. Well, we need food, we need petrol and we need to know what the hell is going on.”
The men agreed to clear up and head back to the shop where they had bought their refreshments. After packing everything away, they said their goodbyes to the field, and with Jason driving, crept along the road back toward the village post office.
Whilst they were navigating a slow rising bend, a BMW screeched past them in the other direction.
“Jeez, mate, slow down. D’you know how hard it is to get parts for Annie?” Bevan bellowed to the long-distant car.
After a few more bends and turns, Jason said, “The shop should be up here on the left somew—SHIIIIT!”
With a crunching thump, Annie hit what looked like an old man who had wandered on to the road from his front gate, which directly opened on to the narrow country lane. Jason jammed on the brakes, and both men flew forward and then slammed back into their seats like rag dolls being thrown around by a young girl. Annie was rough with her toys, it seemed.
“Did you just hit a man? Have you just run someone over? Jason what the hell have you done, mate?”
Jason had never been in an accident before. Well, unless you count the night in his nineteenth year, in a beachfront car park, when he reversed his Austin Metro, with its steamed-up windows, into a parked minivan. The owner had got out of his van in his boxer shorts, of all things, surveyed the limited damage, and had proceeded to tell Jason not to worry about it. Jason had been disbelieving at the time, and very grateful, since his young driver’s insurance would have skyrocketed. It turned out, some years later, on talking to a friend who had worked in the café to the side of the car park, that the owner of the café used to sleep with his mistress in his van of the odd evening, parked next to the café. Jason was delighted thinking he had got away with his accident on account of a man wanting to keep his dalliance under wraps.
This, though, was threatening to be in a whole new league. The two men unbelted themselves and got out of the sky-blue and usually gleaming van. Bevan looked at his left hand passenger-side corner. The damage was plain to see: a smashed headlight and dented corner, liberally spattered with dark blood.
“Oh Jesus, mate, this is bad,” groaned Bevan with his hands clasped to the side of his balding head.
Jason looked back down the road to where he could see, lying to the side, a crumpled and distorted body. “Call an ambulance!”
“You’ve got the phone, and remember, 999’s buggered!” retorted Bevan.
Jason jogged towards the man and almost stumbled when he caught a flicker of movement. “He’s still alive, Bevan. Get the first aid kit out of the van!”
The man’s body was slightly twitching, lying on its front, with one of the leg bones jutting its jagged end through polyester trousers. “Are you alright, mate?” Jason stammered.
There was an odd, choking groan, nothing more.
Jason flipped the old man onto his back, realising that he was probably not helping the man’s back or legs, and yet the casualty gave no hint of resistance. Jason looked at his face.
“Jesus!” The face was battered from the impact, bloodied all over, possibly carrying a broken jaw, and his wiry white hair was matted with dirt and dark red blood. His eyes, though, appeared odd to Jason. Thin and darkened bloody capillaries infused his eyes like spider’s silk; in the middle of the webs sat large irises-cum-pupils, milky and dark. To Jason, the old man had some serious cataract issues. Tearing his stare away from those eyes, he positioned himself behind the man’s head, resting the battered skull on his thighs as he knelt on the road.
The thin and aged body started to moan in pain. Jason grasped his head to pull it back into the recovery position, to clear his airways. He stared in the man’s odd and somehow disconcerting eyes.
Suddenly, the head moved to the side to where Jason’s hand was. His mouth, with its thin, wan skin (even under the dirt and blood) started stretching back over his teeth. His mouth was full of congealed and muddy saliva. It snapped toward Jason’s hand, the teeth making awful clacking sounds.
“What the hell, old man!?” exclaimed Jason in disbelief, yanking his hand back. The head flopped to the other side and snapped at Jason’s other hand, saliva, dirt and blood dropping liberally from his mouth onto the ground, and dribbling down the side of his face. “Are you mental?” Jason let the head fall the short distance to the concrete, giving a dull thud to which the old man paid no attention. The body was now twitching energetically.
Bevan slid to a breathless stop beside Jason. The old man, his spittle spattering, growled at them both through his snapping teeth.
“Here you go, mate,” Bevan said, gasping for air, and he held out a small green first aid kit, replete with plasters and safety pins. “First aid kit.”