The next part of my novel in response to demand. Thanks for all the encouragement. Enjoy!
Daniel and Polly stood in the brightly lit hospital corridor and wondered what to do next. It had not taken long to escape the spying room but suddenly there was a feeling of bewilderment. The next move was uncertain and they sensed this in each other. After standing in the unsettling silence of the hallway for longer than intended, Polly turned to Dan and asked quietly "Where now?"
"Not sure, it's either left or right, flip a coin?" offered Dan.
"Oh let's just go this way" whispered Polly as she took hold of his left hand and eased him towards the left, "You are so indecisive".
Dan couldn't help but smile, he was being scolded at a time like this. Polly glanced up at him and gave a knowing wink. She could always put him at ease, even when it was ridiculous to be relaxed.
They made their way along the corridors, taking left and right turns whenever the mood took and looking for signs of activity. After half an hour or so of searching, they slumped down on the armchairs in reception. They seemed wonderfully comfortable, even with the usual hospital wear and tear. The royal blue corded fabric was threadbare in places and one or two stains were in evidence that the couple both thought were best ignored.
"So what now?" asked Dan, realising how tired he was from the exertion of the escape.
"I suppose we leave and head to the Police" suggested Polly.
"Police?" replied Dan, and then realised that the police would indeed be interested in the entire human population of a city hospital having gone walkabout.
"Where else?" asked Polly in mild disbelief, "the pizza parlour?"
"OK don't be sarcastic, I am shattered" said Dan with a sigh.
"I know hun, I'm sorry. I'm just a little uneasy myself. Maybe when we get to the cops, things will be a bit clearer." Polly eased forward a little as Dan slid his arm round her shoulders in a fashion not unlike a teenager at the movies hoping he doesn't get instant rejection. Polly rested her head on his shoulder and they sat in silence for a moment.
Dan could not believe how exhausted he was. These old chairs were divine at the moment and he would have happily had forty winks there and then to recharge the batteries.
Secretly, they were stalling. Unsure if it was a good idea to venture outside into the unknown. What had happened? Would they find some terrible, post apocalyptic, empty world outside? Or would there be hoards of people waiting in some sick surprise holding 'Welcome Back Dan and Polly' banners? The truth was, they had no idea what to expect. All sorts of scenarios were running through their heads, most of which were the stuff of novels and movies.
Eventually, the pair gathered enough resolve to stand, hug and head towards the silver automatic doors.
"Hang on," said Polly, "we should find something for you to wear, that gown is not very practical."
"Good thinking." replied Dan. With that they went over to the reception desk and found a set of hospital scrubs and a leather jacket in the office behind. The scrubs were enormous but beat the gown hands down.
After hurriedly dressing, the pair headed over to the waiting exit.
Surprisingly, the doors silently slid open for them. The couple paused momentarily, tightened their grip on each other's hands and strode through the open door into the unknown.
The first thing Dan noticed as they emerged from the other side was the air. It was cool and fresh. He couldn't remember his last lungful of crisp fresh air. For a moment it was invigorating.
They stopped and took in the scene before them.
To the right of the entrance was an ambulance with its rear door wide open, to the left a couple of cars and directly in front was a carpark full of unattended vehicles. Not a single person was in sight. Not a single dog or cat. Not even a bird. Apart from their own heartbeats, there was total silence.
The pair looked at each other.
"Police?" asked Dan.
"Yeah, let’s get going, this is too weird" replied Polly.
Hand in hand they hurried to the end of the street and disappeared around the corner.
It wasn't long before they came upon a tourist map of the city. They were not as familiar with the city as they would have liked. Dan had realised they were in the city immediately. Most hospitalisations ended up in the city due to Oakleigh’s ridiculously low budget for healthcare. A population of 15,000 apparently didn’t warrant much help in an emergency.
They stood and worked out how to get to the police station. It was about a mile away and so should not take too long to reach. This was a good thing as the couple were becoming more unsettled by the step. Along the route, they passed many abandoned cars, shops that appeared open for business but completely desolate and several discarded bicycles. Things were certainly getting difficult to comprehend. The pair walked on in a daze, never thinking of taking one of these abandoned vehicles, in fact too busy with their thoughts. Families flashed before both of them, loved ones and friends (few and far between but still friends). They progressed in a swirl of emotion, a cacophony of questions swimming through their minds. There were no bodies, as one would expect after some sort of disaster, it was more a case of the Marie Celeste. It seemed the entire population had just decided to leave.
The meeting had finished and the collection of shadowy figures had all but dispersed. The three remaining figures rose and left the grand but somehow foreboding surroundings, in silence.
The three joined two more in another room which had one entire wall taken up with monitors and computers.
"Where are they?" asked the Tall Man to the pair who were avidly scouring the screens to keep watch on Dan and Polly through the city closed circuit television cameras.
"Just passing the bus station on St Margaret Street sir," was the reply from a plump, shabby looking man in grey trousers and a crumpled white shirt, his brown tie pulled down a little from his neck.
"They are just coming up to the Police station sir, we are pretty sure they are heading there" offered the other man. He was smarter looking and wore small oval spectacles and a navy blue suit.
"Any ideas on where they will go when they find it is empty?" asked one of the Tall Man's companions.
"Not a clue" was the synchronised reply.
"Keep me informed of all movements, I want to know exactly where these two are at all times" demanded the Tall Man.
"Yes sir, of course" was the courteous reply from the smarter of the two.
It crouched behind cars, moving swiftly when the opportunity arose, to keep pace with the prey. It froze when Dan looked in its direction and it held its breath. As soon as Dan looked away again, it continued to breathe. Its breathing was harsh and rattly, like an aged heavy smoker and its exhalations came with a slight wheeze. It didn't think like man but it looked vaguely like one. All it knew was instinct. It hadn't eaten for days and it must be cunning, as these two seemed to be the last meat around. It could smell them, especially the female. It drooled and saliva fell from its bulbous bottom lip and hung momentarily on a string before disappearing to the floor.
He was the last of his kind, the last one standing. The infestation had dwindled to one when the pack began to feed on each other. He was the strongest; he had survived and fed on his kindred. It was the only way. But now there was some fresh meat. This food would be his and only his.
Dan and Polly stood at the steps to the police station and looked up at the doors. They felt gloomy and were not exactly filled with hope, but they began to climb the steps.
The double doors were old fashioned and reminded Dan of the entrance to the TARDIS in the old Doctor Who series. He grasped the handle and pulled the door towards him.
The pair stepped inside and a glance around confirmed what they already knew. The police station was deserted. It was a familiar scene by now. A cup of unfinished coffee sat on the reception desk and a sergeant's jacket was draped over the back of the chair. There was not a sound.
Their hearts sank. Dan turned to Polly without saying a word and was overcome with sadness to see a single tear rolling down her beautiful cheek before heading towards her chin and finally dropping to her chest.
Realising Dan was staring, Polly tried to pull herself together and wiped at her eyes before saying in a shaky voice, "Dan, I'm scared"
Dan could not find the words to console his soul mate and simply replied, "So am I, Pol, so am I".
They sat in a couple of plastic moulded chairs in the waiting area to gather their thoughts. A few minutes passed in complete silence, the pair sat hand in hand with nothing for comfort save an impending sense of dread.
Finally, Dan spoke; "Well, we may as well look around" he suggested. Polly replied with a silent nod and they rose, hand in hand in perfect synchrony.
The police station was bigger than expected, which made Dan mentally return to his earlier comparison with the TARDIS. The fictional time travel machine was an enormous labyrinthine device on the inside whilst externally appearing to be an unassuming police telephone box which was no more than four feet square and about eight feet tall. Dan couldn't help but muse that Tom Baker would bustle in at any moment and explain everything. Strange how the mind wanders off, darting into the ridiculous at the most inappropriate of times.
The exploration of the law enforcement building was brisk. The couple moved rapidly along the corridors, opening closed doors and scanning inside but with no success. The place was completely empty. Eventually, they found themselves in a rather plush office with a huge, leather topped oak desk. Pictures of the Prime Minister and the Queen adorned the walls alongside a shot of an obviously high ranking officer in full uniform accepting some sort of medal from a superior who had even more decorations on his uniform than the protégé. Dan surmised that the receiver was likely to be the inhabitant of the office they were standing in the middle of.
"What now?" sighed Polly.
"Not sure" replied Dan lowering himself into one of the huge black leather chairs. Polly followed his lead and took position next to him.
"I suppose we should try to find weapons or something," offered Dan.
"Weapons? What on Earth for?" was Polly’s surprised reply. "I don't know if you noticed, but the entire city appears to be deserted!"
"Yeah, I did kinda notice, but I can't shake off a very bad feeling about all this."
"Well," Polly suggested, "It's probably the fact that we ARE completely alone and have absolutely no way of knowing what the hell has happened."
"I don't know Pol, I just get the feeling we are in deeper than we think at the moment, and anyway, it wouldn't hurt to be ready for anything would it?"
" Well, I suppose not, but I just can't see what can hurt us if there is nobody here," countered Polly.
"If it's a disease, what good is a gun? Or even if it's some sort of nuclear or biological attack?" she reasoned.
"I know, I know. I've been thinking all those things myself, but still, I would feel better if we were armed," said Dan whilst rubbing his eyes as if they were full of sawdust.
Polly saw no point in pushing the issue and had to admit that deep down, she too was beginning to feel uneasier than you would expect, even in such a desperate situation.
Dan glided across the floor in his seat towards the centre of the desk, the casters squeaking a little in the process and began to open drawers.
"Maybe this guy has something stashed away that might be useful," he said without looking up from the task in hand. He pulled out a half bottle of whiskey, four fat cigars and bizarrely, a packet of ginger biscuits. He put the bottle into the inside pocket of the jacket procured from the hospital, put the cigars back and popped a biscuit into his mouth. They were a little soft, but good all the same. He slid the packet along the table in Polly's direction. She accepted with a shrug.
Before long, the biscuits were gone and they had emptied a large jug of water that sat on an ornate silver tray along with half a dozen up turned glasses. They had not realised until the biscuits came along, but they were both feeling the effects of hunger and dehydration. It had been a couple of days since they ate and they had rationed the water in the hospital. It suddenly seemed strange that they could forget something as fundamental as food and drink. Stress does some odd things.
After a ten-minute pondering session, they decided to continue the search. They left the plush office, taking a large bunch of keys with them that were hanging on a hook next to the doorframe.
After a three more uninteresting rooms, they finally hit the jackpot. They entered a small room with a counter top desk area dividing it in two. Several pieces of paper were neatly piled up on top and a large book lay open. Behind the desk were several cupboards with heavy-duty steel mesh doors and padlocks. Behind the mesh were guns, lots of guns. They were in the armoury.
Dan went to the counter and lifted the hatch. It was hinged and opened upwards like the ones you see in bars that allow the bar staff to come and go. He stepped over to the cupboards and examined them in more detail.
"These are going to take some getting into," he said dropping the padlock he held, it swung back into position with a clatter.
A quick search of the room produced a set of pliers from the drawer beneath the counter top and police nightstick. These were the only tools they could find.
Dan proceeded to batter the life out of the padlocks. They took the beating well and in fact, hardly complained at all!
The pliers were useless too and Dan threw them at the wall in frustration.
" Well they are supposed to be difficult to get into," said Polly.
Dan didn't say a word. He just looked in her direction disapprovingly, without moving his body from its position slumped sideways against the wall.
"Maybe we should carry on and come back if we find anything that might help to get in," Polly suggested.
"Yeah, you're right. I just haven't got the strength right now to achieve anything with these bloody things!" he gave a dismissive gesture with his hand toward the cages.
Outside the armoury they stood for a moment deciding whether to go left or right, when Dan suddenly disappeared back into the room. Polly followed wondering what his inspiration was.
"You'll never get in Dan, why don't you just give up?" said Polly with a sigh.
"Because, young lady, I have a pocket full of keys that I took from the big cheese's office and I am not leaving till I know none of them fit these padlocks," replied Dan with a hopeful smile.
It was an enormous bunch of keys and Dan immediately began the process of eliminating them from the lock on the middle of the three cabinets.
By the time Dan got to key number eighteen, there was a click and the padlock dropped open.
Hurriedly, he undid the clasp and grabbed several weapons from the cupboard. He laid them on the counter one by one. When he was finished he turned back to Polly and asked, "So which do you think we should take?"
They stood surveying their spoils for a few moments before choosing two pistols, one each. Dan handled a pump action shotgun, he had to admit, it felt great. It was the epitome of machoism.
"Put it down," scolded Polly.
"There is no point in lugging that around everywhere. A penis extension is not what we need here!" she grinned.
Dan thought about justifying himself but thought better of it. He put the pump action shotgun back on the counter.
"Right, lets get out of here" he finally said after sulking for a moment about the penis gag.
"Hang on Rambo," teased Polly, "aren't you forgetting something?"
"What?" he asked in a weary tone.
"Bullets genius!" came the reply.
"Ah" said Dan.
He turned back to the cages and looked at the contents. There was no sign of any ammunition anywhere.
It stood silently, holding its breath, at the police station doors. Its head was cocked to one side like an inquisitive canine, listening intently for any sound from its quarry.
Suddenly, the creature dropped to its knees, struggling to hold in an anguished cry as intense pain burned through its stomach. It happened whenever his kind were hungry and accounted for the relentless and indiscriminate harvesting of human blood. It was simply necessary to avoid the pain.
His lived as an animal, though he hadn’t started that way. Sometimes, during sleep he would experience images in his mind. To the average person they would be described as dreams, but the creature did not have the mental ability to understand what he was seeing. To him, they were just confusing images which served no purpose other than to instil strange feelings deep within his subconscious.
Sometimes the images were of men, sometimes of his brethren. But always there were images of his old home. He missed his home and did not want to leave, but it had become necessary. He did not wish to leave the man who tended to him either. They shared the bond of a father and son, in feelings if not in words.
Everything changed for him when he awoke one day to the very pain he was experiencing at this moment. The torment would not desist. It was only a matter of time before one of his brethren (before he even knew he had them), managed to break free of his jailer in a frenzied bloodlust. Chaos ensued and creatures were breaking free all over the compound. There was a gruesome banquet for all. Many humans died that day and although he had feelings for his own jailer, he had finally succumbed to this terrible, all encompassing hunger and pain; he tore out the man’s throat with ease and feasted on his blood until the pain stopped.
He saw the man’s eyes in his dreams. The look of sheer horror, disbelief and confusion in his eyes, the emptiness that he saw when he looked up from his vampiric task at the poor man’s throat, remained in his subconscious to this day. It served no purpose now and only roused a minimal pang of emotion. It was his first killing. The first of many.
The creatures rapidly adjusted and became accustomed to the fact that they had to kill and feed on human blood in order to live a pain free existence. A hierarchy soon formed and the creatures became a pack in the truest sense. They quite literally ate their way out of the compound and made for the cover of the nearest woodland.
When they emerged, they were surprised to be shot at. His main recollections were of flashing lights, loud bangs, confusion and panic.
Many of his brethren were injured that day, but the humans with the flashing blue lights were all drained of life. They just served to satisfy the bloodlust once more. Bullets were no good against the creatures; they felt no pain, not externally anyway. They were highly resistant to impact, gasses, fire and bacteria. That was how it was meant to be.
He got to his feet when the pain had passed. It had been getting worse the closer he got to his prey. Again, he held his raspy breath and listened. As soon as he was certain that there was nobody behind the door, he risked pushing it open just a touch, so he could get his nose in the gap. He sniffed, a long, continuous intake. He was trying to catch the scent and satisfied himself that they were not in the immediate vicinity.
He pushed the police station door open and disappeared inside.
“There has to be some ammo somewhere!” was Dan’s exasperated cry. He slammed his fist on the counter with a bang that made Polly jump.
“Sorry Pol,” he said with a sigh.
“Its so bloody frustrating,”
“I know babes, but we need to try to keep it together if we are going to get through this,” Polly replied softly. She reached up, put her hand over his on the countertop and squeezed slightly.
“Let’s go,” she suggested, “We might find some bullets somewhere else.”
“OK, you’re right, there’s no point in hanging around here, we are just wearing ourselves out.” It was the truth, he was visibly sagging.
“Come on then, I can’t be carrying you,” said Polly as she pulled on his hand and guided him towards the door. Dan was reaching for the handle when he abruptly stopped.
“What’s up?” enquired Polly.
“Dunno, thought I heard something that’s all,” Dan replied.
“Well I didn’t,” offered Polly, listening hard herself now.
They waited for a moment in silence, before looking at each other, shrugging in unison and opening the door.
They stepped into the corridor and stood again momentarily, partly to listen and partly to ponder their route. No sound was forthcoming and they quickly decided to head towards to the back of the building.
They wasted no more time and moved in silence. For some reason they had become uneasy in this place and just wanted to leave as swiftly as possible.
A sign directed them to the car compound and they quickly found themselves in the traffic office. A quick scurry around showed the location of the car keys. It was a key safe hanging on the wall.
Dan flicked through the bunch of keys he had acquired earlier on and began to try possible matches. He was soon in and grabbed a keyring that had a d.i.y tag with a piece of paper sandwiched between two clear plastic covers. It had the registration number of the vehicle on it and the number 6.
They soon found out that the number 6 related to the number of the bay the car was parked in and they found themselves standing either side of a Peugeot saloon police car.
Dan was standing at the driver’s door unlocking the car when Polly suggested that she ought to drive. After a short altercation about his fitness to drive they swapped places and Polly got into the driving seat.
“I can’t help but feel guilty nicking a police car!” she said, shaking her head and pushing the key into the ignition.
“I know, its weird but what are we supposed to do?” replied Dan
“I don’t know. Anyway, where shall we go?” she asked realising they hadn’t discussed it.
“I think we should just get somewhere warm and with food so we can recharge the batteries a bit. I don’t know about you but I am exhausted and starving.”
“Good plan, I’m hungry too” and with that she started the Peugeot.
Neither of them noticed the back door of the police station open and the creature slip out into the shadows. As the car left the gates he leapt from the shadows and screamed a long, gargling and sorrowful scream. He had been so close and now they were gone. He did not like the boxes the people travelled round in. They were most inconvenient when chasing a meal.
He left the police station gates and broke into a run. He chased the car at an incredible pace around several left and right turns before the vehicle extended its lead by too much and the creature had to admit defeat in this round of the battle. He would soon find them again, he had to, he couldn’t take much more pain.