How the zombie apocalypse started – 7

Manchester, UK

Police Constable Barker was in another wing of the hospital when the urgent call came through. He’d been in the main reception, chatting with one of the receptionists who he’d taken a fancy to. His inept attempts at flirtation were monumentally ineffective, and the call over his radio spared him further humiliation.

“I suppose I’d better go and do what they pay me for,” Barker said to the beleaguered receptionist, and as he left, the woman rolled her eyes, tired of the amorous glances her admirer had been giving her.

As an officer of the law, Barker was something of an embarrassment health wise. In his mid-forties, he’d let his health go in the last year or two following the divorce from a wife who he had deeply loved. The feeling hadn’t been mutual, and it had been a shock to discover that she’d been cuckolding him with another man ten years his junior. It had taken everything in him to not beat the living crap out of the man he had found sharing the matrimonial bed. Barker displayed even greater powers of self-control when his wife had gloated at him, glad that she was finally free to live without the lie.

He’d had absolutely no idea of her infidelity. So much for him being a good judge of character.

Barker was, however, undeniably amused to have recently heard that his ex was now pregnant and that her young stud had flown the coup. Ah, perhaps there was such a thing as karma after all.

Now he ran, something his expanded gut made difficult. The distance from the main reception to the emergency department wasn’t far, and he arrived on the scene to find walking wounded everywhere. A security guard had needed to let him in because apparently, the department had been put on lockdown. Now wearing a mask and nitrile gloves, Barker made his way through the department, astonished at the level of carnage. Nurses and doctors were patching up their stricken comrades, as well as the patients, many of whom were wishing they had stayed at home today.

“What happened?” Barker asked, trying to find someone in charge.

“A patient that was brought in went mental,” a nurse said. “Started attacking everyone.”

“Where’s the patient now?”

“He went out the main entrance,” the nurse said, before going back to bandaging the bitten hand of the twelve-year-old who was sitting whimpering next to her. Barker followed the direction the nurse had pointed.

Before he got much further, someone shouted for him.

“Officer?” Barker turned to see a doctor holding a medical compress against the side of his head. Blood had already soaked halfway through it.

The doctor’s name badge told everyone his name was John.

“What happened to you?”

“It bit my ear off.”

“It?”

“Look officer,” John said remarkably calmly, “this isn’t some drunk. When I tell you this, I want you to look at the faces of the people presently standing around you.” There were three other medical staff, and they all looked terrified.

“Sounds ominous.”

“Firstly, you need to assure me more police are on the way.” Barker nodded. “Thank God. Ok, so the patient that was brought in, the one who did all this…well he died on the table.”

“So, what, you brought him back?” Barker watched as John nervously looked at the surrounding people. The officer could tell they all shared a secret that they were reluctant to share.

“The patient came back,” a nurse said, interjecting. “But all the monitors, all our equipment, said he was dead.”

Barker looked at her blankly.

“He ripped himself out of restraints. No able-bodied man can do that. I saw him take down two security guards that combined had two hundred pounds on him easily.” John tried to ignore the pain as he relayed what had happened. Barker fondled the Taser on his utility belt absently.

“What exactly are you saying?” Barker asked. This didn’t make any sense.

“Don’t try to take this guy down on your own. Wait for backup. And I want you to tell whoever is in charge that this whole department is isolated. Some of the patients here ran off. We have been in contact with Public Health England about that.” John gave one of the nurses an apologetic look. “We need to be quarantined.”

Barker found himself retreating a pace or two.

“What, you think there’s something contagious involved?”

“From what I saw, yes, I do. So don’t do anything without a mask and some gloves.”

***

He had once been called Peter, but all memory of that was lost to him. The moment his heart had stopped beating, the delivery of oxygen to his brain had ceased, but that hadn’t been the end nature had intended. Already swamped with viral particles, the neurons started their inevitable cascade towards death. Everything that made Peter unique, the memories, insights, concerns and fears, all started to be eradicated. That should have ended with Peter being a cold slab of meat on a metal slab, but the apocalypse had to start somewhere.

In the brief seconds after his resurrection, there was still something of Peter left in there, but it was merely the remnants of his rage and raw burning need. Even that quickly died away as the zombification process progressed.

There was no semblance of Peter now. Nothing at all. And even though selected parts of the brain remained intact by a mechanism humanity would never really understand, the concept of Peter as a human being was dead. He was something else now, something beyond the understanding of medical science. The body left was just a vessel, a walking, grabbing, biting means for the virus to spread itself more directly. It was merely a decaying meat machine that reacted purely to the surrounding stimuli. The only response available to it was to attack with unstoppable force, to clench, to rip and to try to swallow the food that it pulled from the screaming, wriggling humans.

It would not tire, it could not be reasoned with, and it absolutely would not cease in its pursuit of anything that could cancel out its hunger.

“Stop, police.” The words themselves meant nothing, just a human noise, and Peter(Z) turned in the originator’s direction. More food. More blood. It could hear the life-giving fluid moving through arteries and veins, so enhanced was its hearing now. Then there was the beautiful fear that it could smell all around it, sending it into a frenzy of destruction.

“Get back. Officer with a Taser.” More noise, enticing, inviting. Peter(Z) ran at the sound, the smell of the flesh ripe in its nostrils. Something sharp struck it, registered briefly by the remnants of a neural system that was rapidly obliterating itself. The high voltage that sped through the zombie’s body did nothing to stop its advance because there were little or no electrical pathways to disrupt. In seconds, it had closed the gap, and it crashed into its prey.

There was a pitiful scream.

The smell was even stronger now, so close to its food. Intoxicating. It worked its teeth open and closed, trying to get purchase somewhere… anywhere. They closed down and it bit hard, only to find it wasn’t meat. Peter(Z) had bitten down on the policeman’s body armour, and it opened its mouth for another attack. Rearing its head back, it made to strike, only for something hard and unforgiving to be thrust in between its jaws. It tried to clench, and several teeth broke, so great was the force exerted. Still, it bit down in an attempt to crack through the barrier that was preventing it from fulfilling its only purpose.

Peter(Z) felt itself being pulled backwards, and despite its strength, the leverage the second officer had with his baton allowed the zombie to be pulled off his terrified colleague and was thrust off to the side.

Reflex rather than strategy ruled the day. The zombie reached up and found a wrist. With incredible force, it dug its fingers into the human skin, bringing a howl of protest, which invigorated the zombie even more. Fear was the sound it seemed to love the most. The baton in-between his mouth dropped, but Peter(Z) kept his grip on the being that was attacking it.

Now free, the zombie pulled the unwilling hand into its mouth, the teeth their sharper now due to the multiple fractures present. It bit, severing two gloved fingers, the leather making the appendages almost impossible to chew. It let go of its grip, and the fingers fell away from its mouth. Such a waste.

It felt the humans backing away in retreat. Peter(Z) heard sirens blaring, more vehicles arriving, disgorging more prey. It did not care that these ones fought back. All were fodder to be dined upon.

“Get back, don’t get anywhere near it,” a voice said.

“Armed police, down on the ground,” came another commanding voice. “I said get down on the ground or I will fire.” The syntax was irrelevant because Peter(Z) only understood one thing…the need to feed.

“Just fucking shoot it.”

All that mattered to Peter(Z) was the opportunity to consume. It attacked again, the pain of desire within spurring it on. Baring its teeth, Peter(Z) went for the nearest human. Juicy, plump, full of precious bodily fluids that were like ecstasy on its tongue. There was a loud shot, and something hit it in the right shoulder, hard. It’s body span, almost falling to the floor, but Peter(Z) kept its feet, the right arm now feeling useless, the bones in the shoulder shattered. Something hit it again, centre mass this time, propelling it backwards several steps. It was not deterred; it would not be denied.

More hits, three, four, five. Alas, it did not go down. Feed, it had to feed.

“What the fuck is this thing?”

Another bullet struck, this time in the throat, ripping the tissue of the oesophagus away, miraculously unblocking the congestion there, but at the same time obliterating any means for the food to reach the gastric sack that so desperately wanted to be filled. If it was conscious, it would have realised that anything it ripped away with its teeth would now not be able to reach the stomach.

Peter(Z) cared not.

The final bullet was a headshot, and it crashed to the ground, finally defeated. Death came finally, but already those it had bitten were starting their inevitable descent into madness.

That was the first reported attack of by a zombie on the UK mainland.

It was far from the last.

 

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