When the Zombie apocalypse happens – you will want this man on your side. Horror writer Stephen tells about an outbreak on the Aylesbury in his short story.
Stephen’s novels are available now on Amazon.
On The Eighth Day
With a weary sigh, Carol slowly lowered her heavy shopping to the floor, arched her aching back and then, after pulling one of her gloves off with her teeth, forced her cold and unwilling fingers to unzip her handbag.
‘Now… where are you?’ she mumbled, as she began to rummage through the flotsam and jetsam of scraps of paper, tissues, loose change and make-up that her handbag always seem to acquire. ‘Ah,’ she exclaimed, her fingers triumphantly encircling the cold metal of her keys, ‘there you are.’
With a jangle of metal against metal, Carol slipped first one key and then another through her fumbling grasp, searching for the one she knew would open her front door.
‘God…it’s freezing,’ she thought to herself, at last finding the Yale she needed.
She was just about to turn the key, her fingers pausing mid-action, when she glanced to her right and noticed the front window of the adjacent flat had been left ajar.
‘Well no wonder he’s been ill,’ she muttered, her brow creasing with concern as she remembered the deep coughing she had heard coming from Mr Feldman’s flat the previous evening. ‘Hard enough keeping warm as it is, without letting all the heat out like that,’ she thought to herself, giving the open window one final and disapproving glance before finally tuning the key and pushing open her door. ‘I’ll check him later… see if he got to the Doctor today…hope Charlie hasn’t got out,’ she added as an afterthought, referring to the old man’s beloved and somewhat mangy looking cat as she nudged open the door with her foot and bent down to retrieve her shopping.
‘Naomi!’ she called out as the door swung slowly open, a waft of warm air rushing forward to greet her. ‘You home, Nay?’ she continued, all thoughts of the pensioner and his pet momentarily forgotten as she awkwardly shambled her way into her flat. ‘Some help with the shopping would be nice,’ she shouted, straining under the weight of her load as she turned into the kitchen and with a grunt of effort, lifted the heavy carrier bags one by one up onto the kitchen table.
‘Nay!’ she called again, turning back to quickly shut her front door behind her. ‘Naomi, are you…’
Carol was about to continue when at the end of the hall her daughter slowly ambled out of her bedroom, her iPhone headphones securely lodged in her ears.
‘Naomi,’ Carol called once more, theatrically waving her arms to get her daughter’s attention.
‘What?’ huffed Naomi, the reluctance to even acknowledge her mother’s presence completely in line with the manifesto of every teenage girl, resentful of being still being treated like a child.
‘Shopping,’ Carol simply replied, with a jerk of her head, stepping back into the kitchen, aware of the grumblings already coming from the hallway behind her. ‘So, how was school today?’ she went on to ask, without turning round as she started to pull items from the groaning plastic bags.
As usual Carol’s attempt at being involved in her daughter’s life was met with the standard disinterested silence.
‘Naomi…’ she repeated, waving away a fat and iridescent bluebottle fly that had suddenly decided to make an annoying appearance from out of nowhere. ‘I said, how was school?’
For a moment Carol simply watched her daughter silently remove one item at a time from the bag in front of her, glance at it disapprovingly and then add it to the growing stack on the kitchen table.
‘She’s doing it on purpose,’ fumed Carol, fighting the urge to rip the headphones from her daughter’s ears and force her into what Naomi would be consider tortuous conversation. ‘Don’t rise to it… don’t let her get to you.’
But as she reached across to take some of the tins their eyes briefly met and in that one glance Carol knew that any conversation tonight would quickly swing from the normal reluctant monosyllabic grunts to a full-blown screaming match.
‘That’ll do… thanks…’ Carol finally sighed, waving away the teenager, already too exhausted to muster up the energy to fight her corner. ‘Just… just go get on with your homework.’
Seemingly able to hear this one comment first time round, Naomi turned and with her usual grace and speed shuffled out of the kitchen and back down the hall to her room, mumbling to herself as she went.
‘God, I hope she grows out of this soon,’ said Carol to herself, picking up a tin of beans and putting it in a cupboard.
Piece by piece the shopping was put away and she was just about to put a the bottle of washing up liquid next to the sink when she happened to look out of the small window and saw her friend, Val, from the block opposite, staggering slowly along the walkway towards her own flat.
‘Bit early to be that legless, Val,’ smiled Carol to herself, watching as her friend stumbled and almost fell, only just catching herself against the doorframe in time. ‘You’re wasted, Lady.’
It was as Val stood swaying, still trying to steady herself, that Carol noticed that in fact the woman didn’t look too well. She was just making a note to give her a call later to make sure everything was okay when the door to Val’s flat opened and her husband, Mike, rushed out to help her inside. Just before Mike kicked the door closed behind him, Carol saw him put his arm around his wife’s shoulders, they were shaking; it looked like Val was starting to cough.
‘There must be something going round,’ she thought, her eyes inadvertently gliding to the wall dividing her flat from the pensioner’s next door. ‘Perhaps I should go check on him… make sure the old bloke’s okay.’
Just then, as if to punctuate her thought, she heard a soft thump against the wall followed by what she was sure sounded like breaking glass.
‘Damn,’ she tutted, grabbing for her phone and bunch of keys, fearful the old man had taken a tumble. ‘Nay… Nay, I’m just going to check on Mr Feldman next door… Okay?’
Without waiting for a reply or acknowledgement that may never come, Carol went to the front door, clicked the button on the lock so that it would stay on the latch and once more stepped out into the cold wind funnelling along the estate’s concrete walkways.
‘Christ!’ she shuddered, pulling her flapping coat closer around her, certain the temperature had dropped even within the few minutes it had taken for her to unpack her shopping.
‘Don’t be dead…don’t be dead… please, don’t be dead,’ she repeated over and over in her head as she nervously pressed the doorbell to Mr Feldman’s flat and waited.
‘Mr Feldman… John…’ she called, peering through the letter box after ringing of the bell had failed to summon the old man. ‘It’s me, it’s Carol from next door… are you okay, John? Do you need some help?’
Pressing her ear to the letterbox, Carol strained to hear a reply, any reply.
‘You’d better not be dead,’ she whispered to herself, fishing through her collection of keys to find the emergency key to the old man’s flat. ‘Ah,’ she continued, at last locating the one she needed.
Glancing over her shoulder as if she felt guilty invading the old man’s home, Carol idly noticed a light in Val’s flat go off.
‘John… Mr Feldman, I’m coming in, okay?’ she called, slowly pushing open the door, hoping for the sake of the old man’s dignity he hadn’t taken his fall undressed. ‘John? John are you there,’ she softly called, making her way along the dimly lit hallway. ‘John, it’s me… are… are you okay? Do you…’
But as she passed the open doorway to the living room her words died in her throat, for stood with his back to her, hunched over something and facing the corner was the old man. Whatever he was doing he clearly wasn’t aware of her presence and as she gingerly stepped into the room, her hand reaching out to touch him, she noticed he was holding something in his hands; it was dripping down his sleeves.
‘Mr… Mr Feldman,’ she nervously said, the words escaping her barely a whisper.
Yet whisper or not, it was enough for the old man to hear and with a guttural grunt his head snapped back to glare at her. For a second Carol’s mind couldn’t process what she was seeing. Yes, it the old man she knew, the old man that had lived next to her on the estate for the last ten years but something was different; something had changed. There was no doubting his eyes now held a savageness in them but that wasn’t what sent a finger of terror slicing through Carol’s soul, it was the blood. Even as she stared at him, dumbfounded by what she saw, a dribble of thick bloody saliva slid from his chin to land on the thing he held in his hands.
‘Don’t look! Don’t look!’ she tried to tell herself, even as her eyes began to drop to the torn and bloody thing the old man held in his hands.
But it was too late and as she beheld the half chewed mess that had been the old man’s cat, something inside Carol snapped, at last giving voice to her terror with an almighty scream. And as the sound of her horror grew to fill the room, the old man’s wild eyes grew wider and wider, until, with a wet growl erupting from his throat, he threw the dead cat aside and leapt at her.
‘No!’ cried Carol, reacting to the old man’s movements a fraction too late as he barrelled into her, sending the pair of them crashing backwards. ‘Too strong! He’s too strong!’ her mind screamed, as she fought to keep the old man away from her. ‘How can he be so strong?’
But no matter how much unnatural strength the frail body of Mr Feldman seemed to possess, Carol would not give up; she would not let him win. So with a cry of rage exploding from her, she shoved him away from her at hard as she could, creating just enough space between them so she could make a grab for a nearby heavy vase.
‘Arrrgghh!’ she screamed, smashing the vase against the side of the old man’s head.
For a second everything in the room seemed to stop, a snap shot in time showing two people staring at each other, one young, one old, one male, one female, one with a bleeding head wound, the other with a shard of glass slicing deep into her hand. Yet all too soon this brief respite was exhausted and in the split second before she knew he would come at her again, Carol turned and fled.
‘Please, please, please!’ her mind screamed, praying she could get the door open in time as she crashed against the walls leaving bloody hand prints in her wake; her whole world suddenly becoming the closed door ahead of her.
Yet even as she reached it, her bloody fingers slipping as she fumbled with the lock, she knew Mr Feldman was thundering down the hallway behind her.
‘Come on!’ she screamed, at last throwing open the door with just enough time to pull it shut behind her, right in the old man’s face.
But John Feldman would not give up his quarry so easily and even as Carol struggled to desperately pull air into her lungs, his grasping hand smashed through the small glass panel set in the door; oblivious to the shards that sliced deep into his flesh.
‘No! Let go!’ she cried, forcefully pulling herself free of the man’s bloody fingers, a fistful of her hair a small price to pay for her freedom.
Lurching frantically away from the door, Carol fought to make sense of what had just happened. Stumbling over to the railing, hoping it had all been just part of some strange nightmare, she hardly registered the sound of more breaking glass and the cries that seemed to fill the air around her. In fact even as she looked across to the flats opposite and saw Mike desperately climbing through his own shattered front window, her mind could barely process that Val, appearing behind him, had throw herself at his back; burying her face in his throat. It was only when Mike’s neck erupted in a torrent of wild scarlet that Carol’s horrified mind managed to shake itself of its brief torpor and then with a cry of terror she bolted for her own front door.
‘Naomi!’ she screamed, slamming it behind her, her bloody fingers once again slipping across the lock. ‘Oh, my God, Nay! Something’s happening, something bad!’
But as Carol ran down the hall to her daughter’s bedroom, her heart hammering in her chest, she was unaware of the sound coming from the room ahead of her; unaware until she threw open the door and saw Naomi sprawled on the floor, her with eyes wild with child-like panic, her lips slowly turning blue.
‘M…mum!’ Naomi managed to gasp, reaching out for her mother.
‘God, no… please, no!’ sobbed Carol, collapsing to cradle her child.
And then Naomi started to cough.