Dawn Breaks (an end of the world story)

9 Nov

Dawn Breaks
By Ray Daley

EJ has spent all day in the safety of the back of the garage with nothing but a screwdriver, a soldering iron and the Top Gun soundtrack for company. He has been disabling the roger bleep on his walkie talkies.

“Go to the bottom of the alley. Count ten, then key up.” He passes me a walkie talkie.

I look through the safety mesh. Trust the runner to be given the dangerous job. “To the pavement?” I ask.

EJ nods. I pull the garage door open as quietly as possible. They slide it closed as soon as I am outside. I run down the alley, alert for any signs of movement.

Ernesford Grange wasn’t where I’d planned on spending the end of the world. I was there more by accident than design.

As I reach the end of the alley I slow down to a complete stop. Then I walk far enough forward, I can see up and down the street. Nothing there. Or rather, no-one. Good.

I fire up the walkie and key up. “This is me. No-one’s dead out here. Not even me. Can I come back now?” I let go of the transmit key.

“And this is me. You’re tuned to EJ FM, all EJ, all the time. Any roger bleep?” Ah. The comforting tones of EJ. Smoother than a large Baileys over ice.

I key up again. “Not a dicky bird bud. How about your end?”

“Nope. Nothing here either. Get yourself back here now. Door’ll be open when you get here.”

In fact the garage door is just sliding open as I reach it. I was clearly quicker than they thought. Or so frightened I was running quicker than even I thought I could.

I roll under the garage door before it is fully open. Justin and Jason are already stepping over me to push it closed again.

“All dead out there?” That’s Richie B, drinking what looked to be the last of the beer.

“Was that the last one?” I ask, hoping it wasn’t.

He nods. “Boards birthday. Had to drink it.”

Every empty can is stacked up in the traditional Bud rocket. It’s now the end of the world without any beer in the garage. What to do, what to do? I’m looking around, my friends are doing likewise. Then all but one of us focus on the same face.

“Soutar. How would you like to make everyone wildly happy?” I ask.

He isn’t sure what I have in mind but doesn’t fancy the idea of a trip outside. My suggestion of a quick beer run to Bills  is met with near violence.

“It’s just down the street! I didn’t see any bodies about. Zip in, grab some beers, zip back here. Ten minutes tops?” I say.

“Unless he wants to get us all crisps as well?” says Justin.

“Actually Soutar, more food isn’t a bad idea.” I say.

We’ve finished all the soup. EJ cooked it over his soldering iron. Someone had joked that Shaz should cook it. She joked that she’d happily punch anyone who suggested she should cook because she was the only living female. So far.

Soutar actually got punched after that, never ask Shaz to cook. She’s not that kind of girl. Shaz is worth any man here. Probably two of Soutar, on her best day. Easily two thirds of Bobby.

Shaz gives Soutar one of those looks. “If you go, I’ll go. Two can carry twice as much as one. We’ll take Bobby for the crisps.”

So it’s decided. Basically because once Shaz makes her mind up, you don’t argue with her. She might only come up to your shoulder but she’ll make up for lack of height in volume.

Bobby is given the walkie talkie, it’s put in a back pocket to make space to carry more food.

“Grab shopping baskets!” Justin’s always one for a good suggestion in the heat of the moment.

“Check in when you get there, let us know when you’re on the way back too.” says EJ.

Then the garage door is pulled open and the three of them are pegging it down the alley. Just as the garage door is being pulled back down, something makes me roll under it and start running after them. I’ve caught them as they are reaching the corner of the street.

“You decided to join us then?” Shaz asks.

I nod. “Not sure why. We can carry two baskets each, if we fill ’em all with food we can last a good while before we have to forage again.”

We reach the bottom of the hill, waiting outside the shop as Bobby radios back that we’ve made it this far. Then I have a thought. “What if Bills isn’t empty? He lives above the shop, right?”

We go in anyway.

By the door we pick up a couple of wire shopping baskets each. Soutar and Shaz are quickly into the booze aisle, stocking up.

I hear Shaz say “Red Stripe? What are you, gay?” No Red Stripe for us then.

I could vaguely hear Soutar muttering something about K and Bud. I’m too busy trying to find food that will last us.

“Any crisps?” Bobby asks.

“Pickled Onion Monster Munch for me if they’ve got it, Bob! Or anything Salt and Vinegar!” I call back.

I fill my baskets first, tins, packets. And an opener, because I’m not a complete twat, just bits of one on my worst days. I position myself at the front door, ready to lock it if anything dead approaches.

Shaz is next to finish, Bobby and Soutar a few minutes later. Everyone’s filled their baskets.

I look over to Bobby. “Radio and tell them we’re done, we’re on our way back. Have the garage door open in four minutes tops.”

I half hear Justin asking what kind of crisps we’ve got. Then we’re off, back outside and running up the hill. It’s really hard to run whilst carrying two full wire shopping baskets, trying to not drop anything.

Soutar’s the first casualty there. A bottle of something big goes. We have to push him to keep going, turns out it was the one and only bottle of JD left in the whole shop. Shit. We’re gonna catch some grief for that from everyone else.

Still running, top of the hill, round the corner. Down towards the alley. Lucky for us, we’ve encountered nothing dead.

The others haven’t been so lucky.

I’m at the front, so I see the blood first. And the body opposite the garage door which is half open. That’s not good.

No-one’s in sight as I enter. That’s bad.

I look behind the board. Initially, everyone seems alright. Then I see what they are crowded around.

Or more rather, who.

It’s Dawn. She must have turned up while we were getting supplies.

Everyone’s arguing, do they chuck her out or not? She’s been bitten. And it looks terminal.

I’ve piled my baskets inside the door. Shaz comes in next, followed by Bobby and Soutar. It’s left to me to shut the garage door this time. I’m trying to keep the raiding party at the back of the garage but they can hear the arguments up front, from behind the board.

“EJ, we dropped the JD! Sorry mate!” Soutar’s already preparing his excuses.

Shaz knows something’s wrong straight away. Smart cookie. “What happened?”

Then EJ walks round to us. “One of them got Dawny. She was banging on the door, it must have heard her.” He stops there, he can’t say any more but he doesn’t have to.

We’ve been on the rig all this time, as the world’s been going downhill, we know what happens to the bitten. Dawn hasn’t got long left and no-one here wants to chuck her out in her current state. She’s a mate, you don’t shit on your mates, not like that, at least.

Jason sticks his head around the board and fills the rest of us in. First Aid isn’t going to save her. Nothing is. Not even Pea rags.

“When’s she going to turn?” Typical Soutar, cutting straight to the chase.

“Ten minutes tops?” says Justin.

I’m looking through the safety mesh. There’s nothing else out there, nothing coming up the alley either. Whatever we decide, it better be quick.

“If we don’t decide, she’s going to turn. And she’s totally not eating me. She’s not my type.” Thanks for those words of wisdom, Shaz.

“Logical idea, vote on when we put her out? I guess no-one wants to kill a mate. Not even Dawny. Bright side there, at least there’s gonna be more Baileys for the rest of us.” Richie B, trying to see the good in this situation. You can count on him for that.

I’ve suddenly got an idea. “We’re not killing her. Because she’s dead already. She just hasn’t gone yet. People on the rig were saying the dead seem to remember being alive for the first few minutes. One of us needs to get her as far away from here as possible before she goes. Because the last thing we want when she turns is her bringing dozens of her new dead mates back to the garage. We’re already pretty fucked enough already as it is.”

I look around. Any takers? Anyone want to carry the dying girl and probably get eaten?

“I’ll do it. I’ll take her to The Standard Bearer. Maybe she’ll think she just finished work. She might go home.” Of course EJ is going to volunteer. She’s his ex, after all. That’s why she came here, she knew at least some of us would try to make our way here. Safety in numbers. The end of the world is much safer with your friends.

“Two of us can move her quicker. I’ll go as well.” Richie M. No surprises there either.

I give EJ the walkie talkie, Jason’s already moving to the garage door.

But we’ve taken far too long to decide.

Then Dawn breaks.

It was a nice life. While it lasted.
If you’re going to check out, at least be with your friends.


One Response to “Dawn Breaks (an end of the world story)”

  1. no11811 November 21, 2014 at 6:36 pm #

    Fantastic! I loved it!

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