“In an undead world, zombies aren’t the greatest threat.”
The outbreak began in February. Nations went to war. Governments collapsed. Billions died in the chaos and anarchy that followed. Billions more were infected. They died. They came back.
It is now October, and out of the tens of millions who lived in southern England, only ninety people remain. They sought sanctuary behind the ancient walls of the Tower of London, but it was only a temporary refuge. There is no more food to be scavenged from the ruins of the old world. Their water supply is polluted. As the days get shorter, the weather worsens, and people begin to get sick.
They have been betrayed and are besieged by the living and undead alike. Over their heads hangs the threat of a last catastrophic weapon. This spectre of the old world conspiracy that brought the living dead to plague the Earth leaves them with a terrible decision. Some must be sacrificed so that amidst the horror, others might find somewhere in the undead wasteland that they can call home.
Betrayal ultimately leads to revenge and redemption in this, the final novel in the post-apocalyptic series, Surviving The Evacuation. (80,000 words)
Excerpt - Prelude: Last Orders
London, 23rd February
“You want another?” Corporal Thompson asked, holding his own empty glass up as a signal to the barman.
“Better not,” Derry said. “I don’t want to turn up for my transport smelling like a brewery. But it was good seeing you again. Maybe another… well, maybe another time, another place.”
“Another life,” Thompson said, raising his glass in a final salute. Derry nodded, and left.
Thompson watched her go and then downed his drink. He supposed he should follow her example, but on the other hand, to go where and do what? There was the hotel, of course, but all that was waiting for him there was a mattress crammed between two beds in a room on the third floor. At the moment, the memory of that overheard conversation between the man dressed as a colonel, Cannock, and Sir Michael Quigley, made him want to stay as far away from the hotel as he could. He considered wandering the streets for a few hours, taking in the sights. If he’d correctly understood what the politician had said, this may well be the last opportunity he’d have to do that before the city was destroyed. After a moment’s reflection, he dismissed the idea. There was too great a chance some officious sergeant would dragoon him into some other tedious duty. That left…
“One more,” he called to the publican standing anxiously in the doorway to the back room. The man nodded, hurried over, and pulled a pint.
“Thanks,” Thompson said. “And get one for yourself.”
The barman nodded and forced a weak smile at the weaker joke, but he didn’t reach for a glass, just retreated back to the doorway. Thompson sighed, took a sip, and decided it would be his last drink.
The glass was half empty when the door opened. Hoping that Derry had returned, Thompson turned and saw Cannock walk in. Thompson jumped to his feet, though he would have done that even if the man hadn’t still been wearing the uniform of a colonel.
“Relax,” Cannock drawled. “You’re not on duty. You’re not, are you?”
“No, sir, not due to report until tomorrow morning.”
“Then sit down,” Cannock said, sliding onto a stool next to Thompson’s. “Have another. Anything good here?”
“The Musketeer’s not bad.”
“Then I’ll have a pint of that,” Cannock said, nodding to the barman. “How much have you got left?”
“It’s the last barrel, sir,” the publican said, drawing a pint.
“And it truly will be the last of it,” Cannock said, pulling a folded wad of notes from a pocket. “At least for a while. Keep the change,” he added, laying two fifty-pound notes on the bar.
“Thank you, sir,’ the barman said. There was no gratitude in his voice, only fear.
“If it’s the last barrel, then I’m the one getting the deal,” Cannock said. “I tell you what, why don’t you go away? We’ll get our own drinks, and I’ll leave the money on the counter.”
The expression of gratitude that flashed across the publican’s face had nothing to do with money. Thompson had offered to pay for his drinks, but the man had refused on the grounds that nowhere was open. Not the banks, not the brewery, not the shop down the road. Thompson had taken that as an unsubtle hint that the pub wasn’t open either. Wanting to impress Corporal Derry, he’d ignored it. He regretted that, as he watched the barman retreat through the back door, leaving him alone with Cannock.
“Africa, wasn’t it?” Cannock said, as he took a sip from his glass. “Was it that thing in Liberia? Or Libya? It was somewhere with an ‘L’, I remember that.”
“The desert, sir,” Thompson said. “A year and a half ago.”
“Oh, yeah, that. The oasis. I don’t think the place even had a name. Not one I could pronounce.”
The alcohol making him incautious, Thompson said, “You said you were a civilian then.”
“Soldiers and civilians, it’s all the same in the end,” Cannock said. “And I’ve never needed insignia to instil loyalty. But our lord and master insisted, and what Sir Michael wants, Sir Michael gets.” He took another small sip. “You and that girl, how much did you hear?”
“Sir?” The hazy alcoholic warmth turned to a deep chill.
“I saw you. There was a reflection. I thought they taught you lot to watch out for those. You overheard me and Sir Michael talking. How much did you hear?”
“Not much, sir. We were just looking for the exit, so we could come here and get a last drink before we were deployed.”
“Right. So what did you hear?”
The publican was gone. There were no witnesses. Not that that would matter to Cannock. Thompson had learned that during the assignment eighteen months before. They had been waiting at the watering hole expecting a convoy of armed militants. Instead, a few men had arrived with their families. They were unarmed, at least by the standards of the region, and had come to talk. Before they’d had a chance to do so, Cannock had slit the throats of the men’s wives, and then he’d taken the knife to their sons. One slow cut after another, he’d dragged their deaths out for hours. The men had talked, though Cannock didn’t seem to care. He’d killed the men, too, leaving their bodies to pollute the only source of fresh water for a day’s journey in any direction. That, Thompson had guessed, had been the purpose of the trip. It had been a message, but to who and why, Thompson hadn’t asked nor wanted to know.
Not knowing when the man had seen their reflection, he opted for honesty.
“I overheard that London might be destroyed. Something about suitcases being guarded. You were talking about a backup plan.”
“A plan in case everything else fails,” Cannock said. “Yeah, the trick with those is that you have to have more than one. You want another?”
Thompson looked down. He still had more than a third of what he knew should be his last drink, but he didn’t want to say no.
“Please. Thank you,” he said, downing the dregs. “Will London… I mean, is it likely it will be attacked?”
“Likely. Probable. It all depends on whether the plan fails,” Cannock said, as he walked behind the bar. “Or on how much it fails. And that’s all dependent on another plan, and another. What I can say is that when the dust settles, and you better believe there’s going to be a lot of dust and it’ll cover the entire world, but when it settles, some of us will be left. Maybe me, maybe you. We’ve thrown the dice in the air, now we’ve just got to see how they land.”
“It’s like that? There’s no certainty.”
“The only certainty’s death and that comes to us all in good time. Which one are you being sent to?”
It took a moment for Thompson to understand the question. “An inland farm in Hampshire.”
“Then you’ve got a better chance than most. The farms are important. We need to secure the food supply. Not so much for this year, as for the decade to come,” Cannock said, turning his attention to the bottles on the shelf behind the bar. “We need good soil for planting, soil that isn’t tainted when it’s all over.” He picked up a bottle, peered at the label, and then put it back.
“You mean the zombies, sir?” Thompson asked.
“No. Not them. They weren’t part of the plan. You’ll know it when it starts, but if London is still here when it’s all done, then this is where you should come to. This is where we’ll begin to rebuild.”
“My orders are to stay on the farm.”
“Well, as you said, I’m a colonel, so I’m giving you new orders. If it all falls apart, and if London’s gone, head to Wiltshire. You know Longshanks Manor? The place with the safari park? That’s going to be the regional headquarters of Britain West. That’s where I’ll be, and I’ll want good, reliable men. There’ll be a place for you there.”
“How will I know?” Thompson asked.
“If it all falls apart.”
“Supplies will stop coming to the farm,” Cannock said.
Thompson thought about that for a moment, weighing up his options. “Wiltshire? Yeah, I think I know where the Manor is.” Though if it did all fall apart, he had no intention of going anywhere where Cannock might be.