As it is Christmas tomorrow I'd thought that I'd give you all a treat. Here's Chapter 2 of Dead South.
After a restless night I got out of bed at around six am with a banging headache. I went into the kitchen and headed straight to the medicine drawer. I dry-swallowed a couple of painkillers and made myself a cup of tea. Troy seemed to be a bit confused when I barged into his bedroom (our living room) an hour earlier than he had anticipated. After a good ten minutes the tablets managed to take care of my headache.
I ate a little breakfast and passed out on the sofa next to Troy. I only woke up when Sarah came into the room two hours later.
“Are you okay?” she asked me.
“Yeah, I just didn’t get much sleep. Yesterday must have got to me more than I thought.”
“Don’t go into work, if you’re not up to it. I’m sure they will understand.”
“No, I’ll be fine.”
I ran into the bathroom and literally got through the Three S’s (Shit, Shave and Shower) in record time and was out the door in fifteen minutes flat. I flew down the stairs and exited the building. As soon as the door closed behind me I remembered that I wanted a word with Mr Trotter. So I went back inside, held my breath and gently tapped on his door. My gentle tap nudged his door open a crack.
I pushed the door with a little more force and it creaked as it opened. I took one step into the hall and gently called out, “Mr Trotter, it’s Dean from upstairs. The door’s unlocked, are you okay?”
I heard nothing, so I took a few more steps into the flat. All of the doors leading off from the hallway were closed. The place was filthy, the walls had marks all over them and the hallway was filled with items of old electrical equipment and bags of fetid potatoes (an odd combination, I know). Imagine the worst smell you have ever smelt and double it, no scrap that, triple it. It was as if someone had eaten a rancid doner kebab, thrown it up, taken a dump on it and then left it to stew in the sun for a year.
I stood outside the door for what I assumed was the master bedroom and listened. I couldn’t hear anything. I lightly tapped on the door. There was no answer. I tapped again with a little bit more force. No answer again. I gently turned the knob and slowly opened the door. I took a single step in and looked around. The room was filled with dirty old clothes and had a filthy mattress tucked up against the wall. I couldn’t believe the amount of clothing that he had in there and then I couldn’t believe that he seemed to always wear the same things every day. I stepped out of the room and closed the door behind me.
I walked across the hallway, navigated a heavy looking VCR player and stopped outside the bathroom. I tapped on the door once, then twice. Nothing. I turned the knob, opened the door and looked in the room. There was just a dirty bathroom suite and about two hundred rolls of toilet paper. I suppose you can say what you want about Mr Trotter but at least he wiped his bum.
After coming up blank twice I didn’t bother to knock on the living room door. I just turned the knob and pushed it open. The stench instantly cranked up a few more notches and I started to gag. The room was filled with junk. Stuff was piled so high, it was as if he had constructed a corridor within the room and within half a second I had seen several newspaper mountains, stacks of old cathode-ray TVs and piles of rusty old tin cans. But what was truly nasty, and what I thought was probably the cause of the foul smell, was that every empty bit of floor space and every miniscule surface was covered with half-eaten, decomposing fast food—pizza, KFC, McDonalds. Name a fast food chain and there was food from them in that room. Maggots were everywhere. I felt dirty just standing in the place. I ventured into the corridor, took a couple of turns and then I saw him. Mr Trotter was standing in a small clearing beside a particularly tall stack of pizza boxes. He had his back to me but it looked like he was furiously eating something.
“Mr Trotter, sorry to bother you, it’s Dean from upstairs. The door was ajar and—”
He turned around. He looked awful. His skin was grey and mottled and his nose and mouth were covered in blood. It looked like he’d gone a few rounds with Lennox Lewis. But as bad as he looked, he still had his favourite Thomas the Tank Engine baseball cap on at the exact same jaunty angle that it always was.
“Blimey! Mr Trotter, are you okay?”
He started to moan.
“Obviously not! Let me call you an ambulance.”
I pulled out my mobile phone and he started shuffling towards me. “It’s alright, Mr Trotter, they won’t be long.” I looked at my phone and started to dial ‘999’. “Oh bugger. I don’t have any reception. I will just go upstairs and make the call for you. Okay?”
I put my phone back in my pocket and casually looked up at him. He was now less than a metre away and coming dangerously close to entering my personal space. “I’ll be quick, Mr Trotter. I promise.”
He bared his teeth at me and took another step closer. It was then that I noticed that his eyes were completely black. There was something really wrong with him. “Back in a tick.”
He didn’t say anything; he just continued to moan, so I took a step backwards. He mirrored my step backwards with a step forward of his own. He was a small man and could easily navigate this junkyard maze. I’m not a particularly big man myself. I’m only five foot ten inches and weigh about twelve stone. But that was too big for me to turn around without entering the small clearing first and getting closer to him, and to be fair I wasn’t going to do that. I didn’t want to catch anything. So, if I wanted to go back through the corridor, I needed to shift my arse into reverse. I went to take another step back but my left foot had kind of stuck to a congealed Big Mac, which was itself stuck to the maggot-infested carpet.
“Ah that’s disgusting.”
He moaned this time even louder, stopping me in my tracks. I looked up and I saw his blood-stained mouth wide open and his outstretched arms trying to grab me. Now, it’s not that I froze, it’s more that it took my mind a second or two to process what was happening. He got hold of my jacket and tried to pull me towards him.
“What the fuck!” I shouted as he tried to bite into my neck.
I pushed him off me as I yanked my foot up off the Big Mac and I ended up stumbling into a newspaper tower. Mr Trotter wasn’t deterred by my push and he came straight back at me. I regained my footing and kept my back against the wall; I moved crab-like along the makeshift corridor and stumbled back into the turn behind me. I looked over my shoulder and could see that I was nearly in the hall.
I was going to get out, I was home free, but then I slipped. I slipped on a fucking banana skin. If I didn’t think I was going to die, I might have laughed. I mean what a cliché; I slipped on the only bit of fruit this geezer had ever eaten. He turned the corner and was now only a few feet away from me. I scooted backwards, dragging my backside on the floor. I felt rancid food go up my shirt and maggots fall down into my jeans. It felt like I was in Hell. My back bashed into the door, I turned onto my hands and knees and crawled out of the room.
He never stopped, he kept on coming.
I just wanted to get out of the flat, shut the door behind me and go upstairs as quickly as I could. As I said earlier, I’m a lover not a fighter.
I lost another second as I bumped into the wall trying to get back onto my feet. And he was now gaining on me. He was that close that I’m sure I could feel his putrid breath on the back of my neck. I lurched forward and just missed a stack of TVs. I eyed a seventeen-inch Panasonic one as I went past and I was suddenly overcome by some kind of primordial urge. The TV was at waist height and perfect for me to pick up. I stopped in my tracks, lifted it and turned around to face him. He didn’t stop coming so I raised the TV as high as I could. As he took another step forward I smashed it over the crown of his head. But it didn’t stop him and although he could no longer see me, he still tried to grab me.
I looked around the room and noticed the stray VCR player from earlier. I quickly picked up the heavy machine and launched it right into his left knee. The impact must have shattered his kneecap into a thousand pieces as it gave way from under him and he clattered to the ground. As he hit the deck, the TV fell off his head, but his beloved baseball cap somehow stayed in place. Thick bloody goo started to ooze out of his neck, but it didn’t stop him and he kept on crawling towards me. I was shaking, adrenaline surging through my body; I picked up the VCR player again and I smashed it into his skull. Two times, three times, again and again and again and finally his skull caved in. His body went limp.
I staggered out of the flat, I was covered in filth and I was still shaking. My head felt light and I vomited all over the communal entrance. I walked up the stairs and stood outside my flat. I couldn’t steady my hand to put the key in the lock. I banged on the door and called for Sarah. A moment passed before the door opened. She looked at me. I was crying uncontrollably and tears were streaming down my cheeks.
Her face contorted as she said, “Dean, what’s happened?”
I just stood in the hallway sobbing. Sarah dragged me inside the flat and Troy came trotting into the hall to investigate. I was covered in a foul combination of rotten food, maggots and blood. I must have stunk. I wanted so badly to explain what had happened but I couldn’t get the words out. Sarah was panicking, but in fairness she managed to hold it together. She looked me in the eyes.
“Dean, are you hurt?”
I shook my head.
It might have taken a few seconds, but I slowly started to regain my composure. When I did I realised that I didn’t know how to explain what had just happened. I mean, how do you tell your wife that you just killed your next door neighbour?
“I killed him,” I finally managed to say.
“But I don’t think it was him.”
“You’re not making any sense.”
“I went in his flat to talk to him about the smell. But he came after me.”
“I smashed his head in.”
“I had to. It was either him or me.”
She was stunned. Plain and simple. But as she stood there dumbfounded, it all started to make sense to me. “He was already dead.”
“How can you kill someone who is already dead? He was either dead or he wasn’t!”
“I think he was a zombie.”
“His eyes were black, his skin was grey and his face was covered in blood.”
“Dean. You need to sit down. You’re in shock.”
“No I’m not… well, I might be. But I’m right. It all makes sense, especially after yesterday. The bloke from McDonald’s biting Jermaine. Trotter just trying to eat me.”
To Sarah’s massive credit she didn’t shout at me, she didn’t slap me round the face and tell me to get a hold of myself, nor did she make an immediate call to the men in white coats to have me taken away. She just stood there staring at me. “Was it self-defence?”
“Of course it was. He tried to rip my neck out with his teeth!”
She nodded. “Okay, you need to call the police and explain exactly what has happened.”
“They will never believe me.”
“It doesn’t matter if they believe he was a zombie or not, does it? They just need to believe that you were in danger and protecting yourself. Like the two dustman yesterday. Remember?”
“You’re right,” I said, walking into the living room to make the call.
“Stay there. I’ll get the phone. You’re not taking another step in here covered in that filth.”
Sarah came back clutching the phone and as I took a step forward to meet her, I felt a clump of squashed maggots and congealed meat fall from my bum cheek and slide down my leg. My throat instantly filled with bile. With a concerted effort I managed to swallow it down as she handed the phone to me. I dialled ‘999’ and waited. After three rings my call was answered. I was connected to a recorded message.
A lady’s voice simply stated, “All operators are busy at present, please try again later.”
“It’s a recorded message. A bloody recorded message!”
“Try again. It must be a mistake or something.”
I did as she asked and again the phone rang through to the recorded message. This time I held it to her ear. “Oh my God! What’s going on?”
“Zombies, Sarah! It’s got to be. Think about it. Think about what’s just happened.”
“I don’t know. It all seems a little farfetched.”
“I know it does.”
“Anything could have happened. It could be a terrorist attack or something.”
“If Mr Trotter hadn’t just tried to eat me, I would probably agree. But I’m telling you that he did and I’m lucky to be alive.”
She didn’t respond, she just looked at me. I mean really looked at me. Did she think I was mad? Maybe I was. Eventually she nodded. “Okay, let’s say it’s zombies. What are we going to do?”
“We need to warn as many people as we can. Call your mum and dad and make sure they’re okay. I’ll call my side of the family.”
I frantically tried to call my mum, but I couldn’t get through to her. I also tried my brothers, Pete and Steve, and my sister, Emma. But I had no joy with any of them. I didn’t give up and after a good ten minutes of trying I eventually got through to my mum.
“Dean, is that you?”
“Oh thank God. I’ve been trying to call you for ages. I think there’s something wrong with the phones.”
“It must be your one. I’ve got full reception.”
“Well anyway, don’t worry about that now. You’ve got to listen to me.”
“You sound panicked, Dean. What’s wrong?
“Mum, something really bad is happening.” I paused a second. Would she believe me if I told her what I thought was really going on? “Look, I can’t really explain it. But people are attacking each other for no reason and I don’t want anything happening to you. Promise me that you won’t go out today.”
“Okay, no problem.”
“That’s great, Mum. Just sit tight.”
“I’ll just pop out to the Co-op to get a chicken for dinner and then I’ll be right back.”
“Mum, please! I need you to take this seriously. Bad stuff is happening out there. Someone I know just got attacked.”
“Are they okay?”
“Just; but they nearly weren’t. Please listen to me about this.”
“Okay. Well I suppose Graeme can make do with pork chops.”
“Good. Good. Tell Graeme to go and get Nan.”
“You just said to not go outside.”
“Mum, she only lives next door. Just tell him to be quick and not to speak to anyone.”
“What about Emma and your brothers?”
“I’ve been trying to call them as well. They need to stay home too.”
“They’ve probably all left for work already.”
“Perhaps. But we still need to warn them. Can you try too? One of us should be able to get through to them. And anyway Pete and Steve are more likely to listen to you than they are to me.”
“If you really think it’s necessary. Of course I will. Now try and relax. I promise that we won’t go anywhere.”
I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I ended the call. Speaking to Mum had really put my mind at ease. I looked over at Sarah to see how she was getting on. “Have you got through to them yet?”
“No, it’s still not connecting. What are we going to do?”
“It’s okay. Just keep trying. Don’t give up. I’m going to try Emma again. It will be okay.”
I scrolled to my sister’s number in my mobile phone and hit the call button. I impatiently tapped my right foot as I waited for it to connect. It took about twenty seconds but eventually the phone started to ring.
“Morning, Dean. This is early.”
“Where are you? Are you and Jeff okay?”
“We’re both at the bank, just waiting for a meeting to start. What’s wrong? You don’t sound yourself.”
“I know this might sound a bit weird, but something strange is going on. How is everything where you are?”
“Although thinking about it, it is a little odd around here. There aren’t that many people in yet and my meeting is running about twenty minutes behind schedule. This place is usually full of people by now and things do normally run like clockwork around here.”
“Shit. It sounds like something’s wrong where you are too.”
“Dean, what do you mean?”
“Okay,” I said, blowing out my cheeks. “I got attacked earlier.”
“Oh my God! Are you okay?”
“I am. But I nearly wasn’t.”
“Do you know who did it?”
“Kind of… you know Mr Trotter, don’t you?
“What, the smelly little man who lives downstairs to you?”
“Well it was him, but it wasn’t him.”
“What does that mean?”
“I know that this is going to sound crazy, but I think he was a zombie.”
“Dean, is this some kind of a wind-up?”
“I promise you that I am telling the truth, okay. He tried to eat me, for God’s sake.”
“Like what happened to the people in Margate?”
“Yes exactly, it was just like that. I need you two to leave work as soon as you can. Come straight to mine. It isn’t safe to be out.”
After a few seconds she started to laugh. “You nearly had me. Very good. You know we can’t leave work. It’s not like working for the Council up here, you know.”
“For fuck’s sake, Emma, this isn’t a joke! Just leave and get to me as quickly as you can. Don’t go on the train, just jump in a black cab and come now. It will be quicker for you to come to me from London Bridge than it will be for you to go all the way home.”
“Dean, are you being serious?”
“Of course I am. I’ve never been more serious in all my life. This isn’t a wind-up and I’m not bull-shitting you. Please listen to me, okay?”
“Okay, okay. I believe you. We’re leaving now.”
“Thank you. Just be careful. Don’t hang around, and get straight into a cab.”
I got off the phone at the same time that Sarah finally managed to get through to her parents. Relief instantly cascaded all over her face, but it didn’t take long for it to be replaced by dread. “Dean! Dean!”
“Dad’s just said that some strange people are trying to get into the house.”
Without thinking I said, “Tell him to lock the doors and shut the windows. I’m on my way.”
I hope you enjoyed. To find out what happens next Click here and get your copy now.
Have a great Christmas.