We made our way over to the stairs and crept slowly down to the entrance. I peered through the window in the door; there were bodies on the flag stones just outside, lying like rag dolls, limbs at odd angles, covered in blood. Many had chunks of flesh missing from their arms and faces, and one had a leg missing. My eyes searched around, stopping when I saw it lying several feet away. Despite the carnage, there was no movement.
As quietly as possible, I unlocked the door and inched it open. I adjusted my grip on the machete I was holding and nervously stuck my head outside. Everything was still. I crept forward to the edge of the stone steps where I could finally see not just down Buchanan Street, but also up the street to the right; it, too, was littered with bodies. Off in the distance, I could make out some movement, but nothing closer. I beckoned the others to follow and together we picked our way along Buchanan Street, alert to any signs of life.
As we passed the dead lying in the street, I couldn’t help but stare. Some bore deep wounds and had clearly been killed by those with the virus; others had bruises and broken limbs, and looked more like they’d been trampled to death in the stampede. We reached the steps at the entrance to a shopping mall and I glanced through the glass doors: bodies were piled at the base of the escalators, some having fallen from a great height. Above them, I could see others hanging over handrails, held there by the mass of people that had pushed up from behind in a desperate bid to escape. In amongst the bodies, there were movements from those trapped in the crush, or who’d been so badly injured they couldn’t get up again. Then I saw him: a man dressed in loose-fitting chinos and an open-necked Oxford shirt, both of which were soaked in blood, chewing on the face of a teenage girl. From the way she was lying, I could tell both her legs were broken, but the fall hadn’t killed her; she was trying to fend him off, but she was no match for him and he buried his teeth into her flesh again and again. Knowing there was nothing I could do to help and unable to watch any longer, I turned away, feeling the bile rise in my throat as I did so.
Then I felt the ground tremble beneath my feet. It was something I’d felt hundreds of times before and I knew exactly what it was. I looked at Tom. ‘You feel that?’
‘You think the underground’s still going?’
The tremors stopped as the subway train pulled into the station which lay directly below us. Then I heard a sound, so faint at first I wasn’t sure it was real, but as it grew louder and louder, I became certain it was. It seemed to be coming from the glass-covered entrance to the station thirty yards further down the street, and sounded like distant thunder.
Iliana gripped Tom’s arm. ‘What’s that?’
Not having an answer, Tom and I shrugged. Suddenly, I realised I could hear screaming and shouting mixed with the noise itself. Then the first person burst onto the street, running as fast as he could. He glanced back and stumbled over a body lying in front of him. He scrambled to his feet, without even bothering to look at what he’d tripped over, and started running again. Another person appeared, but this one looked different: he was dishevelled, with blood dripping from a wound on his left cheek. He chased after the first man and was quickly followed by another and then another. Soon, people were streaming from the entrance, and it was clear they were infected. As one, we turned and raced up the street and back to the stone steps. At the top, I stopped and looked back: the man was still running, but the infected were closing in behind him.
‘Oi, up here,’ I waved as I shouted. He saw me and changed direction. Iliana was already inside and Tom was holding the door open as he yelled at me. ‘Ben, you’ve got to get back in here now.’
‘We can’t leave him out here; they’ll kill him!’ Turning back to the man, I saw he was at the bottom of the steps, with the first of the infected only a few yards behind. I sprinted over to Tom, and got there in time to see the man reach the top just as the heads of the pursuing infected came into view. He made it to the door with only moments to spare and we slammed it shut, but before we could get the lock turned, the infected hit the door like a freight train. The force threw us backwards and clawing fingers appeared around the edges. Tom and I pushed as hard as we could against the door, but it wouldn’t move: the fingers of the infected were stopping it from closing.
Shaking with fear, I turned to Tom, ‘What the hell d’we do now?’
He looked at me, terrified. ‘Use the machetes?’
I felt the weight of the long metal weapon in my hand, and I gripped it tightly, wondering how things could have changed so fast. I swung the blade and sliced off half a dozen fingers; blood spurted across the walls and the floor. I swung it again and again until the door was clear and we could finally get it closed and locked.
Tom and I sank to the floor, both of us breathing heavily. Iliana had her phone out again and was desperately tapping away, while the man was sitting on the bottom of the stairs with his eyes fixed firmly on the door behind me. I felt it move, but the lock seemed to be holding. I surveyed the severed fingers that lay strewn across the floor. Suddenly, I felt sick.
‘How’d you end up with that lot chasing you?’ Tom’s voice trembled with fear. I looked at the man properly for the first time: his face was ashen and he couldn’t have been more than eighteen at the most. He turned to Tom. ‘What?’
Rather than push him to relive what he’d just been through, I held out my hand. ‘I’m Ben. This is Tom, and that’s Iliana.’
The teenager stared blankly at me for a second before taking it. ‘I’m Daz. Well, Darren really, but everyone calls me Daz.’ He paused for a moment. ‘You guys got any idea what’s happenin’ out there?’
‘Did you see what went down in Miami last night?’ Tom got to his feet and glanced through the window in the door. The infected could sense we were inside and were still clawing at it, blood from the stumps of their fingers smearing the glass: even their injuries didn’t slow them down.
Daz’s eyes drifted towards the floor. ‘Yeah.’
Tom avoided making eye contact, too. ‘We think the virus which caused that is here.’
‘Fuck!’ A puzzled expression appeared on Daz’s face. ‘I thought they’d closed the borders or somethin’, so that couldn’t happen.’
‘I guess they were too late.’ I thought about this. It was odd. Of all the places for the virus to suddenly appear, the centre of Glasgow seemed one of the most unlikely. I could see it happening at Heathrow, or Gatwick, or even somewhere like Manchester Airport: they all had plenty of connections to the US, but as far as I knew Glasgow only had two direct flights: one to Newark, and the other to Miami. That’s when it struck me: the morning flight from Miami would have arrived just before the borders had been closed; someone on that flight must have been infected and they must have made it as far as the city centre before they turned.
‘So how’d you end up being chased by our friends out there?’ Tom nodded his head towards the door as he looked at Daz.
‘I stayed over at a pal’s last night in the West End an’ was just headin’ into town for a bit before goin’ home. I got on at Hillhead an’ sat down in the first carriage. I was just textin’ this girl I met the other night, tryin’ to get her to go out for a few drinks later when we pulled into the next station. There was this young boy lying on the platform with people crowdin’ round him. Before I could see what was goin’ on, the train had moved past. Looking through the doors which connect all the carriages, I could see a fight breakin’ out at the far end. I thought it was just a bunch of Neds messing’ around, an’ I went back to my phone. At the next station, I looked up again and saw the fightin’ had spread to the next carriage. I could see people strugglin’ with each other an’ that.’
Daz took a deep breath and looked quickly at each of us in turn, as if he was checking we were ready to hear what he had to say next.
‘We moved off again, but I kept watchin’. Just as we arrived in Cowcaddens, a man burst into my carriage and tried to force the door shut behind him. He was covered in blood an’ was shoutin’ somethin’ I couldn’t quite make out. Everyone turned an’ stared at him, an’ the train lurched forward; he lost his footin’ an’ fell onto the floor. The door burst open again an’ these people just started pourin’ through. Except they weren’t actin’ like people, they were actin’ like animals, attackin’ anyone they could get their hands on. They were covered in blood an’ one of them was rippin’ into some poor woman’s face.’
He shook his head, as if trying to rid himself of this image. It was a few seconds before he carried on. ‘As everyone started to crowd towards my end of the carriage to get away from these people, I was squashed up against the door. Just before the first of them got to me, I felt the train slow an’ I realised we’d pulled into Buchanan Street. The doors opened an’ I was pushed onto the platform by the people behind me. The same thing was happenin’ at the other doors an’ soon there were all these people on the platform. I scrambled to my feet an’ started runnin’ up the steps. I heard this sound behind me, an’ I looked back an’ saw all these people chasing me, their faces screwed up with anger an’ blood on them, on their hands an’ all over their clothes.’
There was a loud bang as one of the infected threw itself at the door with enough force to cause it to shudder alarmingly. Daz jumped as a look of panic flashed across his face, but when he realised we were still safe, he steadied himself, closing his eyes for a moment before speaking again. ‘When I got to the top of the stairs, I ran into the first turnstile, but it didn’t move so I jumped over it. Then I heard a crash and l glanced over my shoulder. It seemed that the turnstiles weren’t working for them either an’ instead of leapin’ over them, they were just pilin’ up against them; the ones in front being crushed by those comin’ up after. I slowed down, thinkin’ I might’ve gotten lucky, but one of them made it through by climbin’ over the bodies of the others ahead of it. Then another made it, an’ another.
‘I sped up again an’ headed for the escalators, takin’ them two at a time. I could hear the people comin’ up behind me, an’ the noises they were makin’ were echoing off the walls around me. It was pure terrifyin’.’ His voice faded out and he took a deep breath before carrying on.
‘Anyway, I think you pretty much know the rest from there.’ Daz was staring down at his shoes. He slammed his fist into his thigh. ‘Fuck! I can’t believe this is happenin’ here.’ He looked up. ‘What the hell’re we goin’ to do?’
I could hear the infected still hammering at the door behind me. ‘Well, we can’t go back out there.’
Tom stared at me. ‘Are you saying we’re trapped in here?’
Iliana looked up from her phone. ‘We could try the other door. It leads onto the street by the bus station. We might be able to get out that way.’
‘Sounds like a plan to me,’ Tom grabbed his machete. Which way?’
‘Up here!’ Iliana shoved her phone into her pocket and raced up the stairs. We followed as she led us through a maze of empty corridors. I wondered where everyone was, but then I realised it was still too early for the concert hall to be open, or even for many of the people who worked there to have arrived. Eventually, we reached a solid-looking door and Iliana stopped. She put her hand on the handle, then hesitated before withdrawing it again. ‘What happens if they’re out here, too?’
Up to this point, none of us had considered this possibility. I pressed my ear to the door, but heard nothing. I eased it open as quietly as I could and peered through the gap. The street looked deserted and there were no bodies in sight. It looked like the horde of infected hadn’t passed this way. I glanced back at the others. ‘I think we’re in luck.’
‘What’re we going to do once we get out there?’ Iliana sounded scared.
‘We need to get out of the city as soon as we can. We need to find a car or something … anything,’ I hesitated for a moment, ‘Ehm, any of you happen to know …?’
‘Know what?’ Daz looked at me enquiringly.
‘How to steal a car?’ I glanced round nervously as the others shook their heads.
‘What are the chances?’ Tom snorted. ‘Four Glaswegians and none of us knows how to nick a car!’
I stifled a snigger, knowing Tom was just trying to lighten the mood. ‘Not really the right time, Tom.’
I opened the door a second time, and risked poking my head out. I could see a portly middle-aged man in a business suit prowling round a car, slamming at the windows as he tried to get in. As quietly as possible, I pulled my head back in and turned to the others. ‘D’you want the good news or the bad news?’
Tom put his ear to the door, trying to work out what was going on outside. ‘What’s the good news?’
‘I think I’ve found us some transport.’
Tom pulled away from the door. ‘And the bad news?’
‘There’s an infected man between us and it.’
Daz glanced at me. ‘What d’you mean?’
‘There’s a woman out there sitting in a Range Rover, so she must have the keys. The trouble is there’s one of them trying to get to her. We’ll have to deal with him before we can get to the car.’
‘How’re we going to do that?’ Tom asked worriedly.
I looked down at the machete I was still clutching in my right hand; it was already covered in blood from where I’d severed the fingers of the infected as they’d tried to get inside. The very thought of what I was about to suggest made me feel like I was going to throw up. I swallowed hard. ‘I guess we could use these.’
‘And do what exactly?’ Tom was staring at me.
‘Take it out, you mean?’ Daz was staring at me, too.
Iliana gulped, disbelievingly. ‘You’re going to kill someone?’
‘Yes.’ I closed my eyes, wondering if I could bring myself to do it. ‘I don’t think we have any other choice.’
Tom shuffled his feet nervously. ‘Have you ever done anything like that before?’
‘No.’ I stared at the ground. ‘Have you?’
Tom shook his head.
As we looked at each other shiftily, I heard the sound of breaking glass outside followed by a roar. I opened the door and stuck my head outside; the fat man had broken through the front passenger window of the Range Rover and was trying desperately to reach the woman in the driver’s seat. He was, however, sufficiently rotund that he couldn’t fit through the window and she remained beyond his grasping hands. As I watched, she swivelled round in her seat and started kicking him as hard as she could. Soon there was nothing left of his face but a mass of blood and broken bones. Finally, he stopped moving and lay still, half in and half out of the car.
I turned back to the others. ‘Looks like we won’t have to deal with him after all.’
They looked at me questioningly, but before they could ask, I turned and ran out of the door; seconds later, I heard them follow. I was halfway to the Range Rover when I noticed a distant sound; I glanced round to see a crowd running towards us. By the way they were moving, I had no doubt they were infected. When we reached the Range Rover, Tom and I tried to pull the lifeless body from the window, but the man’s bulk meant he was tightly wedged. Up the road, the infected were rapidly closing on us. I called out to the others, ‘Daz, Iliana give us a hand!’
While Iliana grabbed one of the man’s legs, Daz remained staring at the approaching crowd. ‘What?’
‘Daz, we need to get this body shifted.’
Daz turned and gripped the man’s jacket. With all four of us pulling and the woman pushing from inside the car, we finally got him free. The infected were now only fifty yards away.
The woman pointed out of the broken window. ‘The keys! I need the keys. I dropped them in all the confusion.’
I scooped them up and tossed them to her. She caught the keys with her outstretched hand and hastily shoved one of them into the ignition. She turned it, but the engine didn’t catch. She looked up. ‘Are you getting in or what? We need to be ready to go the moment I get the engine going. It’s always a bit temperamental, especially when it’s cold.’
We didn’t need to be asked a second time. Tom pulled open the front passenger door and jumped in while Daz, Iliana and I piled into the back. It was only once we were inside that I realised the woman wasn’t alone: a young boy was clinging to her side and she had one arm wrapped protectively around him; huddled in the back behind the driver’s seat was a teenage girl, tears streaming down her face as she shook with fear. The woman turned the key again: still it didn’t catch. ‘Damn thing never starts when you really need it to.’
I stared wide-eyed through the windscreen: the nearest of the infected would be on us in seconds. The woman glanced up, but she didn’t panic; pumping the accelerator, she twisted the key for a third time and the engine spluttered into life. ‘Finally! Now let’s get the hell out of here.’
She slammed the Range Rover into gear and floored it. Without even blinking, the woman drove straight into the mass of infected charging towards us. Even with the SUV bearing down on them, they kept coming; not even trying to get out of the way. Blood sprayed across the windscreen as we hit the first one, and I felt the car judder as we drove over its body. There were so many of them ahead of us, I worried they might be able to bring us to a halt. If that happened, we’d be dead in seconds. Looking round, I saw we were just coming up to a crossroads. I leaned forward and pointed. ‘Turn right here.’
As the car skidded round the corner, narrowly missing another one coming in the opposite direction, Iliana was thrown against me, pushing me hard into the door. I reached around, searching for a seat belt, but with four of us crammed into the back seat, I couldn’t find one.
‘Where’re we heading?’ The woman yelled over her shoulder.
‘If we can get onto Great Western Road, we should have a pretty clear run out of the city. Turn left there,’ I pointed again, ‘and then keep left at the next junction.’
The woman braked hard and shifted the SUV down a gear as we overtook an empty bus on the inside, before throwing us round the next corner. She shifted back into a higher gear and accelerated again. As we left the city centre behind and crossed the bridge over the motorway, I glanced down, wondering if I’d made the right decision; the road below was packed with stationary cars, and infected were streaming between them. Some people got out and tried to run, but were dragged to the ground before they got more than a few feet; others stayed inside and locked the doors, but the infected simply smashed through the windows to get to them.
We reached the east end of Great Western Road and I saw the route ahead was blocked with traffic. ‘Shit! How’re we going to get passed that?’
I felt a jolt as we mounted the kerb and I was thrown upwards, my head slamming into the roof. There was just enough room for us to squeeze between the shop fronts and sandstone tenements on one side, and cars parked along the side of the road on the other. As we sped along the pavement, forcing panicked pedestrians to dive out of the way, I looked into the cars that were jamming the road; the people inside seemed to have no idea of what was happening in other parts of the city. We passed a junction where one car had rear-ended another; the passengers standing round as the drivers exchanged their insurance details. Given the circumstances, this seemed rather pointless, but they had yet to find out why.
Ahead of the accident, the road was clear and the woman steered back onto the tarmac and slowed down. She turned to Tom, ‘I’m Claire, by the way; this is Jake.’ She smoothed the hair of the small boy clinging to her side. ‘And that’s Sophie.’ She nodded to the teenage girl in the back seat: she was no longer crying; instead she just looked terrified, not only by what was going on outside, but by having these strange people, who’d appeared out of nowhere, waving machetes and wearing bloodstained clothes, in the car with her.
Tom leaned across from the front passenger seat and shook Claire’s hand. ‘I’m Tom.’ He twisted in his seat. ‘That’s Ben, Iliana and Daz.’
I waved when I heard my name. Tom carried on. ‘How did you end up with the big guy attacking you?’
‘We were just picking up some tickets for a concert we’re going to next weekend, and it took longer than expected, and then Jake needed to go to the toilet. When we finally came out, it seemed like everyone, all the people and the traffic, had just vanished. We were about halfway back to the car when the “big guy”,’ she looked at Tom, ‘as you so eloquently called him, appeared. I could see almost immediately that there was something wrong with him; I think it was his eyes. Anyway, he started running towards us and I knew we had to get to the car as quickly as possible. I fished out my keys and pressed the button to unlock the doors, but Jake slipped and I dropped the keys as I picked him up, so we got into the car in time, and got the doors locked, but I couldn’t drive away. God knows what would have happened if you lot hadn’t come along when you did.’
I caught Claire’s eye in the mirror. ‘From what I saw, you were doing pretty well on your own.’
We drove by grand sandstone buildings and the glass palace of the Botanic Gardens and then, as we passed over the brow of a small rise, for the first time I could see the hills that lay beyond the city. They looked so close and my spirits soared: surely we were going to make it out. We dropped into a dip and then up over another rise.
‘Shit!’ Claire jammed on the brakes and we skidded to a halt. The road ahead was filled with queuing traffic. ‘What’s this all about?’
I leaned forward, trying to get a better look. ‘Must be the lights at the next junction.’
After a minute of just sitting there with nothing happening, Tom noticed something odd. ‘How come there’s nothing coming the other way?’
Now he mentioned it, I realised I hadn’t seen a single car pass in the opposite direction for a while.
‘This can’t be good.’ I opened the rear passenger door and stood on the SUV’s sill. I was high enough up that I could see down to where several police cars, their blue lights flashing, were parked across the road, just on the far side of the junction. Beyond that, the road was clear as far as I could see.
I called down into the Range Rover. ‘It’s the police. It looks like they’re setting up a roadblock.’
I heard another door open and saw Claire appear on the other side. She stared down the road.
I watched her reactions: she didn’t seem surprised; instead, it was more as if she was trying to work out what to do next. I nodded towards the police cars. ‘What d’you think that’s all about?’
Claire glanced back at me. ‘I guess they’re trying to contain the outbreak before it spreads too far.’
‘But why are they setting it up around here? We haven’t seen any infected for a good couple of miles.’
Claire stared off down the road again. ‘I’m guessing they’re doing it here exactly because the infected haven’t reached this point yet. Anyway, whatever the reason, I don’t want to be stuck on this side of it.’
Ahead, at the crossroads, a police van pulled up and two uniformed men got out. I saw them pointing to the road which led off to the right and I realised it must still be open, at least for the moment.
‘We’ve got to go!’ I shouted to Claire. ‘Pull onto the other side of the road and turn right at the junction.’
We both dropped back into the SUV and slammed our doors. As Claire pulled out and accelerated down the opposite carriage way, I noticed Jake was now sitting on Tom’s knee. Tom had slipped his seat belt on and was holding Jake tightly to stop him being thrown around. We were at the crossroads in seconds and with the policemen waving at us to stop, Claire turned right and then stood on the brakes again: two police cars were already blocking the road ahead.
‘There!’ Iliana pointed over Claire’s shoulder to where a narrow lane led past a row of blonde sandstone town houses. Claire revved the engine and pulled the car to the left, throwing Iliana against me once again. We sped down the street, running parallel to the main road, separated from it by a grassy bank and a low stone wall. Soon, the lane ran out, but a wide pedestrian path led back down to the road. The Range Rover juddered as we leapt onto the kerb for the second time. After a few seconds, Claire jerked the wheel to the left and pulled us onto the road again, well beyond the roadblock.
‘Woohoo! That was way cool; like a video game or somethin’.’ Daz squirmed round so he could see out of the rear window. ‘No one’s chasin’ us. I think we got away with it.’
As we raced along the deserted road, I noticed the trees which now separated the two carriageways were just coming into blossom. I’d always loved driving along this road in spring when the cherry trees were in full bloom: on a sunny day, it could beat almost anywhere in the world, but today, all I could think about was getting out of town as quickly as possible. We passed under a railway bridge and immediately ran into another queue of traffic. Claire didn’t brake. Instead, she bounced over the kerb and we sped down the pavement once more. Suddenly, the unmistakeable silhouette of a tank emerged over the top of the cars ahead of us. As we got nearer, I could see machine guns mounted on armoured jeeps and heavily armoured soldiers manning a barricade spread across the road ahead.
‘No wonder they didn’t bother following us; it looks like they’re pretty serious about containing this thing.’ Claire adjusted her grip on the steering wheel. ‘Hold on.’
I grabbed onto the handle above the window and felt Iliana brace herself against me. Ahead of us, a metal barrier blocked our way; on the other side of it, a slip road curved off to the left, away from soldiers. If we could somehow get to that, we could at least keep moving. Suddenly, there was the sound of gunfire and the windscreen exploded. Ducking down, I looked through the shattered glass; at the right-hand end of the main barricade, three men in army uniforms, machine guns raised, were firing at us.
Despite the gunfire, Claire kept the accelerator pressed to the floor as I felt more bullets slam into the car.
‘Why the hell’re they shootin’ at us?’ Daz was crouched as low in the seat as he could get. Before I could answer, Iliana’s face exploded and Tom screamed. ‘Fuck, I’m hit!’
The teenage girl crammed in beside Daz screamed too.
‘Sophie, are you alright?’ For the first time Claire sounded panicked.
‘She’s fine.’ Daz called out. ‘She’s just scared.’ There was a moment’s pause as he swallowed. ‘I think Iliana’s dead, though.’
Claire looked across at Tom. ‘What about Jake?’
‘He’s fine,’ Tom winced with pain. ‘It’s just me that got hit.’
Claire turned her attention back to the road ahead just as the Range Rover crashed through the barrier. The car skidded and Claire had to fight hard to keep it under control. I felt the SUV slide across the tarmac and we side-swiped the barriers on the far side, causing Iliana’s body to rattle back and forth between Daz and me, sending blood flying in all directions. Claire wrestled with the steering wheel, managing to keep us moving in the right direction. She glanced at Tom’s shoulder. ‘Don’t worry, it looks like it’s only a flesh wound, but we’ll need to get some pressure on that pretty quickly so you don’t lose too much blood.’ She turned to me. ‘Are we out of their range yet?’
I nervously inched my head upwards until I could see out of the back window: the soldiers were no longer in sight. I breathed a sigh of relief. ‘Yeah.’
‘And they’re not following us?’
‘No.’ I wondered why this was. Maybe we were still inside the cordon they’d set up to stop people leaving the city. If that was the case, we’d need to find another way out.
‘Good.’ Claire stood on the brakes. Tom yelped as he was thrown against his seat belt and Iliana’s lifeless body slammed into the back of his seat. The car screeched to a halt and Claire jumped out. She pulled open the back door. ‘Sophie, you need to take Jake.’
The teenage girl got out and took the small boy from Tom, kissing his head and stroking his hair before climbing back into the car. I glanced at him. He seemed listless, almost as if he was unaware of all that was going on around him.
‘You,’ Claire pointed at me, ‘get that body out of there and then help me get him,’ she pointed at Tom, ‘into the back seat.’
I opened the passenger door, stepped out and reached back to the car. I grabbed Iliana and pulled, but she didn’t move. I changed my hold to get a better grip and tried again. This time I managed to drag her lifeless body out of the car and there was a sickening thump as it hit the ground. I glanced down and saw that Iliana’s blood, mixed with flecks of her brains, was now smeared across my jacket; I had to work hard to stop myself throwing up. Trying not to look at Iliana again, I helped Tom out of the front seat, while Claire disappeared round the back of the Range Rover. She reappeared a second later carrying a rectangular black bag.
‘Get him in here.’ She pointed to the back seat, and then she looked up at me. ‘D’you know how to drive?’
‘No, not really; not cars at any rate.’
Claire turned to Daz, ‘What about you?’
‘Good. Get up front and let’s get going again.’
Daz slid behind the wheel as I clambered in the passenger side. I heard Daz fiddle with the seat, moving it back and forth until he was comfortable. All the time I was watching Claire: she’d torn Tom’s shirt open and was pressing a thick white pad she’d taken from her bag against a ragged wound in his right shoulder.
‘Why aren’t we moving?’ Claire glared at Daz as she worked on Tom.
‘Where’re we headin’?’ Daz looked from Claire to me and back again.
I thought for a second. ‘Try the tunnel. We might still be able to get out that way.’
The Range Rover leapt forward as Daz floored the accelerator. I turned my attention back to Tom and Claire. She seemed to know what I was thinking. ‘Don’t worry. I know what I’m doing.’ She smiled at me. ‘I’m a doctor.’
‘Fuck! More polis.’ Daz was pointing ahead, where three police cars were parked — lights flashing but empty — across the road leading to the tunnel that I hoped would take us under the River Clyde and out to Glasgow’s Southside. At first, it seemed like our path was blocked, but then I saw they’d been positioned too far forward and there was a way for us to get past. ‘Daz, take that slip road to the left and then turn sharp right. We can get round them.’
‘Gotcha!’ Daz barely slowed as he followed my instructions and soon we were on the road that led down to the tunnel. With no other cars around, Daz was able to push the Range Rover to the max and we were doing about eighty when we shot into the darkness. As a kid I remembered playing a game where you had to try to hold your breath from one end of the tunnel to the other. Going at the legal maximum of thirty, I’d never managed it, but at the speed we were going now, it would have been easy.
Ahead, the tunnel descended and then turned slightly to the left. The sound of the engine roared against the concrete walls and was thrown back through the broken windscreen. Suddenly, I saw something ahead: blue lights from some unknown source flashing in the gloom. A second later, first one police motorcycle, then two more, shot round the bend and passed us in the opposite direction. I turned and watched them disappear up towards the entrance, wondering what they were doing coming through the wrong side.
‘What the hell’s that all about?’ Daz slammed on the brakes and we skidded to a halt: a sea of shadows danced on the tunnel wall, thrown there by some unseen light. Then they came into view: a mass of people charging towards us, their yells and screams echoing all around. There was no mistaking it: these were infected.
‘We need to get out of here!’ I shouted.
Daz looked across at me, scared and starting to panic, as he struggled to find reverse. ‘I’m trying!’
By the time he finally found it, the first of the infected were only a few feet from the car. He stood on the accelerator and the engine screamed as we shot backwards, doing a speed that the reverse gear was never designed to do. At first, it seemed like the infected were able to keep up, but slowly the gap between them and us widened. By the time we reached the entrance of the tunnel, we were well clear of them, but I could still hear the noise they made as they chased after us.
‘Where now?’ There was an urgency in Daz’s voice as the car continued to shoot backwards.
‘What about your boat? You said it’s at the exhibition centre, that’s not far from here, is it?’ Tom was leaning forward, his shoulder tightly bandaged.
‘Okay, that sounds like a plan.’ I glanced round. ‘Daz, aim for that slip road there.’
Daz stomped on the brakes and then put the Range Rover into first gear. He pulled sharply on the steering wheel as he accelerated, spinning it round. We bumped across the central divide and shot up a slip road which curved back on itself as it rose above the entrance to the tunnel; below, I saw the infected emerge and scatter. Soon, we were speeding along a broad dual carriageway, heading back towards the city centre. Our side of the road was empty, but the other was jammed with cars held up by yet another police roadblock. Some of the drivers had got out of their cars and were arguing with the policemen. They were so intent on shouting at each other that they didn’t notice the first of the infected sprinting towards them. In seconds, they’d been pulled to the ground, and as more infected streamed between the idling vehicles I turned back to face the front, knowing what was about happen and not wanting to see it.
Daz was squirming round, trying to figure out what was going on behind us. ‘How far’re we goin’?’
I leaned forward to get a better idea of where we were ‘There’s a pedestrian bridge over the road. We can use that to get across to where the boat is.’
Daz squinted through the windscreen. ‘Where?’
‘There! Right there!’ I pointed ahead to where a narrow metal bridge spanned both carriageways of the road we were on. The other side was still filled with cars, while ours remained clear.
Daz hit the brakes, bringing the Range Rover screeching to a halt. I looked back at Tom. ‘Are you okay to run?’
Tom stretched his shoulder tentatively. ‘Yeah, I should be.’
I turned my attention to Claire. ‘You good to go?’
She nodded. ‘Where’re we heading?’
‘Just over the bridge, and then it’s about fifty yards to the boat. You can’t miss it; it’s the only one there.’
‘Let’s go!’ Claire grabbed her black bag and leapt out of the car, quickly followed by the rest of us. Daz helped Sophie over the metal railings which ran along the side of the road, while Claire lifted Jake across. As we started to run up the sloping ramp of the bridge, I heard a shout and turned to see Claire begging Jake to run, trying to make him understand the urgency of the situation, but he just stood there, staring vacantly at her. I stopped and waited for her as she grabbed Jake’s hand, trying to pull him forward, but still he refused to move. I heard a crash in the distance and then a scream, and I looked round to find people running between the cars on the other side of the road. They didn’t appear to be infected, but they were running from something, and I had little doubt as to what it was. ‘Claire, infected! You’ll have to carry him.’
Claire scooped Jake up and within seconds she was level with me; together we ran after the others. At the top of the ramp, the bridge turned sharply to the right, taking us out over the dual carriageway. To the left, was a railway line and a stationary train. Within its carriages, I could see people wrestling with each other: blood splashing onto the windows as people fought for their lives.
Turning away, I saw infected on the road below us, chasing people down and attacking those they caught; screams and snarls mixing with the sounds of idling engines. By the time we were halfway across the bridge, I could see Claire was struggling to keep up. I held out my arms. ‘Here, I’ll take him.’
As she passed Jake to me, I could feel his body was limp and his skin was warm and clammy. As we ran on, his head bounced against my shoulder as he drifted in and out of consciousness.
Claire and I caught up with the others at the far end of the bridge where another ramp led back to the ground. Some of the infected on the nearby road must have heard Claire yelling at Sophie, urging her on, because their heads snapped round, and within seconds, they were sprinting after us. As we raced across the car park to where the boat was tied up, I glanced round; we were well ahead of the infected, but they were closing fast, their screaming and howling audible even above the sound of the blood pounding in my ears. I tried to judge the speed they were moving at, and the distance we still had to cover, but the fear of what would happen if they caught us clouded my mind. All I could do was hope and pray we’d get there with enough time to not only get on board, but also get far enough away from the shore to be safe.
‘Tom, get that rope; Daz, help Claire!’ When I felt we were close enough, I’d passed Jake back to Claire and raced ahead, reaching the boat seconds before the others. Once there, I ran along the dock and untied the front rope from its cleat on the pontoon. Following my orders, Tom did the same with the one at the back, while Daz leapt on board before turning to take Jake from Claire. Sophie was still a few steps behind and Claire waited to help her on board before climbing on herself.
As soon as the ropes were free, I looked back: the infected were only twenty yards away. As I pushed the front of the boat away from the dock, I shouted to Tom. ‘Get on!’
He didn’t need to be asked twice, and the moment he landed on the deck, I jumped on myself. I ran down the side of the boat and leapt into the cockpit. When I reached the wheel, I pressed the starter button, and breathed a sigh of relief when the engine immediately burst into life. I glanced over my shoulder: the first of the infected had reached the pontoon and were pounding along it. I slammed the throttle forward, causing the engine to scream in protest, and turned the wheel, taking the boat away from the dock. One of the infected, a man, perhaps in his late twenties, ran alongside and threw himself towards us, but we were just out of his reach. I watched as he fell into the water and sank from sight. Back on the dock, the rest paced back and forth, roaring with frustration at our escape.
As I manoeuvred the boat towards the middle of the river, I heard the sound of another, more powerful engine approaching at speed. Looking upstream, I saw a …
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***The Outbreak by Colin M. Dryudale will go on sale on the 21st of July 2014 in both paperback and Kindle eBook formats. To purchase, click here