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Authors: Frank Tayell

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Surviving The Evacuation (Book 7): Home

BOOK: Surviving The Evacuation (Book 7): Home
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Surviving The Evacuation

Book 7: Home



Frank Tayell


Dedicated to my parents


Published by Frank Tayell

Copyright 2015

All rights reserved


Whilst the journeys depicted follow a real route through our real Britain, all people, places and (especially) events are fictional.


Other titles:

Work. Rest. Repeat.

A Post-Apocalyptic Detective Novel


Surviving The Evacuation

Book 0.5: Zombies vs The Living Dead

Book 1: London

Book 2: Wasteland

Book 3: Family

Book 4: Unsafe Haven

Book 5: Reunion

Book 6: Harvest

Book 7: Home


Undead Britain

(In the charity anthology, ‘At Hell’s Gates 1’)


History’s End

(In the charity anthology, ‘At Hell’s Gates 2’)


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The outbreak began in February. Nations went to war. Governments collapsed. Billions died in the chaos and anarchy that followed. Billions more were infected. They died. They came back. Zombies.


It is now October, and out of the tens of millions who lived in southern England, only ninety people remain. They sought sanctuary behind the ancient walls of the Tower of London, but it was only a temporary refuge. There is no more food to be scavenged from the ruins of the old world. Their water supply is polluted. As the days get shorter, the weather worsens, and people begin to get sick.


They have been betrayed and are besieged by the living and undead alike. Over their heads hangs the threat of a last catastrophic weapon. This spectre of the old world conspiracy that brought the living dead to plague the Earth leaves them with a terrible decision. Some must be sacrificed so that amidst the horror, others might find somewhere in the undead wasteland that they can call home.



Prelude: Last Orders

London, 23


“You want another?” Corporal Thompson asked, holding his own empty glass up as a signal to the barman.

“Better not,” Derry said. “I don’t want to turn up for my transport smelling like a brewery. But it was good seeing you again. Maybe another… well, maybe another time, another place.”

“Another life,” Thompson said, raising his glass in a final salute. Derry nodded, and left.

Thompson watched her go and then downed his drink. He supposed he should follow her example, but on the other hand, to go where and do what? There was the hotel, of course, but all that was waiting for him there was a mattress crammed between two beds in a room on the third floor. At the moment, the memory of that overheard conversation between the man dressed as a colonel, Cannock, and Sir Michael Quigley, made him want to stay as far away from the hotel as he could. He considered wandering the streets for a few hours, taking in the sights. If he’d correctly understood what the politician had said, this may well be the last opportunity he’d have to do that before the city was destroyed. After a moment’s reflection, he dismissed the idea. There was too great a chance some officious sergeant would dragoon him into some other tedious duty. That left…

“One more,” he called to the publican standing anxiously in the doorway to the back room. The man nodded, hurried over, and pulled a pint.

“Thanks,” Thompson said. “And get one for yourself.”

The barman nodded and forced a weak smile at the weaker joke, but he didn’t reach for a glass, just retreated back to the doorway. Thompson sighed, took a sip, and decided it would be his last drink.

The glass was half empty when the door opened. Hoping that Derry had returned, Thompson turned and saw Cannock walk in. Thompson jumped to his feet, though he would have done that even if the man hadn’t still been wearing the uniform of a colonel.

“Relax,” Cannock drawled. “You’re not on duty. You’re not, are you?”

“No, sir, not due to report until tomorrow morning.”

“Then sit down,” Cannock said, sliding onto a stool next to Thompson’s. “Have another. Anything good here?”

“The Musketeer’s not bad.”

“Then I’ll have a pint of that,” Cannock said, nodding to the barman. “How much have you got left?”

“It’s the last barrel, sir,” the publican said, drawing a pint.

“And it truly will be the last of it,” Cannock said, pulling a folded wad of notes from a pocket. “At least for a while. Keep the change,” he added, laying two fifty-pound notes on the bar.

“Thank you, sir,’ the barman said. There was no gratitude in his voice, only fear.

“If it’s the last barrel, then I’m the one getting the deal,” Cannock said. “I tell you what, why don’t you go away? We’ll get our own drinks, and I’ll leave the money on the counter.”

The expression of gratitude that flashed across the publican’s face had nothing to do with money. Thompson had offered to pay for his drinks, but the man had refused on the grounds that nowhere was open. Not the banks, not the brewery, not the shop down the road. Thompson had taken that as an unsubtle hint that the pub wasn’t open either. Wanting to impress Corporal Derry, he’d ignored it. He regretted that, as he watched the barman retreat through the back door, leaving him alone with Cannock.

“Africa, wasn’t it?” Cannock said, as he took a sip from his glass. “Was it that thing in Liberia? Or Libya? It was somewhere with an ‘L’, I remember that.”

“The desert, sir,” Thompson said. “A year and a half ago.”

“Oh, yeah, that. The oasis. I don’t think the place even had a name. Not one I could pronounce.”

The alcohol making him incautious, Thompson said, “You said you were a civilian then.”

“Soldiers and civilians, it’s all the same in the end,” Cannock said. “And I’ve never needed insignia to instil loyalty. But our lord and master insisted, and what Sir Michael wants, Sir Michael gets.” He took another small sip. “You and that girl, how much did you hear?”

“Sir?” The hazy alcoholic warmth turned to a deep chill.

“I saw you. There was a reflection. I thought they taught you lot to watch out for those. You overheard me and Sir Michael talking. How much did you hear?”

“Not much, sir. We were just looking for the exit, so we could come here and get a last drink before we were deployed.”

“Right. So what did you hear?”

The publican was gone. There were no witnesses. Not that that would matter to Cannock. Thompson had learned that during the assignment eighteen months before. They had been waiting at the watering hole expecting a convoy of armed militants. Instead, a few men had arrived with their families. They were unarmed, at least by the standards of the region, and had come to talk. Before they’d had a chance to do so, Cannock had slit the throats of the men’s wives, and then he’d taken the knife to their sons. One slow cut after another, he’d dragged their deaths out for hours. The men had talked, though Cannock didn’t seem to care. He’d killed the men, too, leaving their bodies to pollute the only source of fresh water for a day’s journey in any direction. That, Thompson had guessed, had been the purpose of the trip. It had been a message, but to who and why, Thompson hadn’t asked nor wanted to know.

Not knowing when the man had seen their reflection, he opted for honesty.

“I overheard that London might be destroyed. Something about suitcases being guarded. You were talking about a backup plan.”

“A plan in case everything else fails,” Cannock said. “Yeah, the trick with those is that you have to have more than one. You want another?”

Thompson looked down. He still had more than a third of what he knew should be his last drink, but he didn’t want to say no.

“Please. Thank you,” he said, downing the dregs. “Will London… I mean, is it likely it will be attacked?”

“Likely. Probable. It all depends on whether the plan fails,” Cannock said, as he walked behind the bar. “Or on how much it fails. And that’s all dependent on another plan, and another. What I can say is that when the dust settles, and you better believe there’s going to be a lot of dust and it’ll cover the entire world, but when it settles, some of us will be left. Maybe me, maybe you. We’ve thrown the dice in the air, now we’ve just got to see how they land.”

“It’s like that? There’s no certainty.”

“The only certainty’s death and that comes to us all in good time. Which one are you being sent to?”

It took a moment for Thompson to understand the question. “An inland farm in Hampshire.”

“Then you’ve got a better chance than most. The farms are important. We need to secure the food supply. Not so much for this year, as for the decade to come,” Cannock said, turning his attention to the bottles on the shelf behind the bar. “We need good soil for planting, soil that isn’t tainted when it’s all over.” He picked up a bottle, peered at the label, and then put it back.

“You mean the zombies, sir?” Thompson asked.

“No. Not them. They weren’t part of the plan. You’ll know it when it starts, but if London is still here when it’s all done, then this is where you should come to. This is where we’ll begin to rebuild.”

“My orders are to stay on the farm.”

“Well, as you said, I’m a colonel, so I’m giving you new orders. If it all falls apart, and if London’s gone, head to Wiltshire. You know Longshanks Manor? The place with the safari park? That’s going to be the regional headquarters of Britain West. That’s where I’ll be, and I’ll want good, reliable men. There’ll be a place for you there.”

“How will I know?” Thompson asked.

“Know what?”

“If it all falls apart.”

“Supplies will stop coming to the farm,” Cannock said.

Thompson thought about that for a moment, weighing up his options. “Wiltshire? Yeah, I think I know where the Manor is.” Though if it did all fall apart, he had no intention of going anywhere where Cannock might be.




Bloody, weary.

(The story so far)





Nilda gritted her teeth in frustration as she held the bandage to Chester’s head. Bright red blood oozed out around her fingers and she cursed. She dared not press down any harder in case the skull was fractured. In her mind’s eye she could picture grey brain seeping out through cracked bone, and she swore again, this time cursing the experiences of the last seven months that meant she knew what that looked like.

About her the raft rocked and bobbed as it was rowed oh-too-slowly downriver towards the Tower of London. Nilda wanted to scream for them to go faster, but there was no point. Everyone was putting all they had into the effort to save Chester. She feared it wouldn’t be enough.

It all seemed unreal. Graham had shot Hana, and she was dead. It was impossible to believe, but it had happened. When Nilda had discovered the stores had gone missing, it had seemed so simple. They only had to lie in wait and confront the thief. They’d given no real thought to what would come next, but whatever it was, it hadn’t been this.

Chester had worked out exactly what needed to be said with Styles, the only adult survivor of what had been a large community down in Kent. It had all seemed so straightforward until Nilda had seen Chester with his hands around Graham’s throat. Then the enormity of what they were doing had become clear. She’d stopped it then, taking Graham’s word that he’d only stolen the food he’d had on him that night, and that he’d taken it with the intention of leaving of London. As the only alternative was death – and she saw that as murder, not lawful execution – they had exiled him. Nilda had assumed that would be an end to the matter. She’d been wrong. Under cover of a storm, Graham had stolen the lifeboat, the one working rifle, and all their ammunition. That was the clue screaming that the matter was far from over. They’d ignored it.
ignored it.

Chester groaned.

“It’s not far. Not far now,” she murmured. “Hold on, just a bit further.”

A bit further to what? A dark voice asked. Hana was dead, and the young vet had been their only doctor. There was little help waiting for them in the Tower, just inexpert knowledge based on savage experience. There was no help anywhere, except on Anglesey, but if that community still existed, they had no idea anyone still lived in London.

Chester had been meant to go to Wales. He almost had. The plan had been that they would find a bike from a shop near Embankment Tube, and he’d set off from there. A few days of cycling, a few weeks at worst, and he would have reached Anglesey. Not long after that, a boat would have sailed down the Thames bringing food and supplies and people, and that had been her real concern. That those people would try and take over, that Jay would end up as nothing more than a serf or soldier. It was arrogant stupidity. If only she’d pressed Chester to leave earlier. If only, if only…

“Please, don’t die,” she whispered.

Chester had been right. They should have killed Graham. Now Hana was dead, Chester was dying, and there was no reason to think they wouldn’t all soon face the same fate. But perhaps it wasn’t too late.

“Stop the raft. Let me off,” she yelled.

“Why?” Jay asked.

“I’m going after Graham,” she said. “Someone has to.”

“Tuck’s already gone,” Jay said. “She chased after him. Don’t you remember?”

Nilda didn’t. As she looked around, she saw that her son was right. The soldier wasn’t on the raft. But was Tuck a match for Graham? All things being equal, yes, but they weren’t. Tuck had been caught in an explosion eighteen months before the outbreak. The blast and subsequent fire had left her horrifically scarred, deaf, and functionally mute. But she was a soldier, and she’d kept her son safe after Nilda had thought him dead. She’d led him down through England, to London. No, if any one of them could deal with Graham, it was her.

“She took the grenade launcher,” Jay added, as if sensing his mother’s doubts. “Don’t worry. She’ll take care of him. I’ve seen her do this before.”

Nilda nodded absently. The grenade launcher had been attached to one of the broken rifles that she and McInery had brought back from Westminster during the first expedition to the old centre of government. Nilda had assumed it didn’t work and had forgotten about it until they’d followed McInery back to that hotel and found the ammunition dump in the ballroom.

Why someone had wanted to create a supply dump in that hotel was something she didn’t understand. But nor was why they’d built a barricade around a narrow strip of land stretching from Buckingham Palace in the west to Tower Bridge in the east. It didn’t matter, not to her. Not to anyone except McInery. It was the old crook, Chester’s former gangland boss, who’d run off to the hotel. They’d all followed because they had to help one another. A bitter laugh escaped her lips.

Chester groaned again.

“Not much further, Chester,” she said. “Just hold on.”

“Not much further,” Stewart repeated. “Not much further. We’ve got to save him. He can’t die. No one can die. Not much further.”

Nilda shook her head and clamped down on the impulse to tell the man to shut up. It would do no good. Twisted by some unknown experience during the early months of the outbreak, Stewart rarely existed on the same plane as anyone else. Jay and Tuck had rescued him from near Kew Gardens back in July. He’d been savaged by the undead, but before that he’d been shot. By whom, Nilda didn’t know. The injuries, or perhaps whatever he’d endured during the aftermath of the outbreak, had warped him, fuelling an obsession with food and terror of starvation. He was always dreaming about a girl, always moaning in his sleep about how he’d keep her safe. Anne-something, the girl was called. A girlfriend, or perhaps a daughter. Nilda didn’t know, and the few times she’d tried talking to the man, he’d become even more incoherent than usual.

“I can see the Tower,” Eamonn Finnegan said.

“Then turn around,” Greta snapped. “You slow down whenever you look. Keep rowing.”

Finnegan and Greta had gone with Chester to Kent searching for food left in coastal orchards and farms. By anyone’s definition, the trip had been a success, but from where she sat now, in the bottom of the raft, cradling Chester’s bleeding head, it seemed like a failure. It was the high point from which they were still falling. They hadn’t found food near the coast, but Chester and his small group had found Styles and forty-three children at a fortified mansion in the middle of the county. In the aftermath of the evacuation, seven hundred and eighty-eight survivors had sought refuge there. Walls had been built, crops had been planted and, one by one, everyone but Styles had left seeking help. None of them were heard from again.

When Chester arrived, he’d found enough fresh food to feed those nearly eight hundred survivors through the winter. He had returned to the Tower, and they had mounted a rescue expedition. The children, and as much food as they could carry, were packed into two coaches and four road maintenance vehicles. Using most of their remaining diesel, they’d driven to the QE2 Bridge, and offloaded the children into the waiting lifeboat. Then they’d crossed the Thames, and driven back to the Tower. They’d almost made it. The coaches had to be abandoned a mile from the old castle. The food was still there, inside those vehicles, and with the addition of the children, there were now twice as many mouths to be fed. That trip had changed everyone and everything, yet it had changed nothing. Starvation was still only a few weeks away.

“We’re here, Mum,” Jay said. “Where do we take him?”

Nilda looked blankly at her son. She had no idea. They’d had no need for a sick room in the few weeks they’d been in the Tower.

“What happened?” It was Fogerty, the old warder.

“Graham shot him,” Jay said. “And he killed Hana.”

“Well, bring him inside. The office next to the old cafe will do. It’s close to the boilers, and we’ll need hot water. Come on, Stewart, Finnegan, bring him.”

Nilda tried to stay near Chester’s head, but found the others moving faster than her leaden feet could manage.

“What do we do?” Nilda asked as Chester was laid down on a table.

“We need to clean the wound and stop the bleeding,” Fogerty said, and then turned to the room at large. “We need bandages and sutures. Someone find the medical kit.” Then he turned back to Chester and peeled back the dressing. “And a razor. We’ll have to cut away his hair before we try and sew him back up. Scrub your hands,” he added, speaking to Nilda. “You’ll have to clean the wound and stitch it. I can’t do it, not with my arthritis.”

“I’ll do it,” Jay said.

“No,” Nilda said, shaking her head. “No. Go, Jay, please.”

Nilda scrubbed methodically at her hands.

“That’s good enough,” Fogerty said. Nilda looked up. She realised they were alone in the room. She hadn’t noticed everyone else leave.

“Start by cleaning the wound. Careful. That’s it. Just like that.”

The old soldier’s voice was soothing, and it was comforting hearing someone speak with such calm authority. The warder had been the only occupant of the Tower when Hana had arrived with most of the refugees from Kirkman House. Fogerty had retired from the post years before but returned to the castle after the outbreak. Exactly why, Nilda wasn’t sure, though he’d said it was out a sense of duty. Not to Queen and country, he’d told her, and certainly not to the government, but to the idea that some called democracy and which he thought of as the one that gave everyone a fair and equal chance.

“He’s lost most of an ear,” Fogerty said. “I’d say he’s probably lost his hearing as well. But we won’t know that until he wakes. It’s the same with the eye.”

“What about brain damage?” she asked. “If the skull’s fractured isn’t there a chance that a fragment of bone went into his brain?”

“There is, and if he wakes we’ll find out, but I’d say that since you carried him here by boat with the waves jostling him all the way back, if it was anything more serious than blood loss and a concussion, he’d already be dead.”

Nilda found that oddly comforting.

“I’ve got the medical kit,” Jay said, opening the door. “And a razor. Well, it’s a knife, but it’s sterile and razor sharp.”

“Thank you,” Fogerty said.

“Jay, I told you to wait outside,” Nilda said.

“It’s okay, Mum. I know what to do. When we rescued Stewart, I had to cauterise his wounds while Tuck held him down. I can help.”

“Please,” Nilda snapped. “Just go.” She didn’t turn around as she heard the door open and close again. She knew her son was right. The boy he’d been had disappeared while she was stranded on a Scottish Island. In their months apart he’d become a man in every sense except years, but she didn’t want him to see Chester die.

“We need to stitch it,” Fogerty said. “Can you sew?”

“Buttons and hems,” Nilda said.

“It’s the same principle and it’s best to think of it as cloth.”

She nodded, threaded the needle, and bent to the task.

Chester whimpered.

“This isn’t how it was meant to be,” Nilda whispered.

A year ago, she’d have been getting ready to spend three hours cleaning other people’s houses prior to an eight-hour shift at the local supermarket. On the 20
February it had all changed with the broadcast of the attacks in New York. She’d only realised something was wrong when the phones of everyone in the queue at her till had started pinging and buzzing. Everyone’s heads had looked down, fingers had moved as links were opened, and then mouths had dropped open and she’d heard tinny screams from the handsets.

“What?” she’d asked. “What’s happened?”

It was only when one of the customers had turned her phone around that Nilda had seen for herself. The screen was small, the image shaky, but it showed a woman falling off the roof of a mall to land in the parking lot below. Somehow she survived the fall only to be ripped apart by one of the… Nilda hadn’t known they were zombies, and probably they weren’t. Not really. But that was what they had called them. The fictional horror that had delighted so many on a late evening had become their horrific reality.

Some of the customers had abandoned their shopping trolleys and run out to the car park. Others had run back into the shop and started to empty the shelves. A few tried to pay, but most just took what they could and pushed straight past the security guard, himself engrossed in his own screen.

The manager had closed the store soon after, and she’d returned home, only to find Jay with his headphones on, lost in some computer game, oblivious to the terrible news. They’d sat together in their small living room, glued to the screen as the news came in. News wasn’t the right word; it was mostly speculation. The only real information came from what they could glean from the shaky footage filling the screen behind the equally shaky anchor.

They hadn’t joined the evacuation. There had been something about the government plans she hadn’t trusted. Instead they’d stayed in Penrith, gathered supplies and other survivors, and tried to create a redoubt. But the undead had come, she and Jay had been separated, and she’d believed he was dead.

Fleeing a horde, she’d been stranded on a Scottish island. Those who’d rescued her from the Atlantic had all died of radiation poisoning. Months had gone by, but then she’d been impossibly rescued, taken to Anglesey, and there discovered her son hadn’t died all those months before. With Chester, she’d returned to her old home in Penrith only to discover a note from Jay saying he and Tuck had gone to London. She and Chester had headed south to Hull. They found a lifeboat, and followed the coast until they reached the old capital. She’d been reunited with her son, and there had been a glorious moment when her life had once more seemed full of possibilities, and now…

BOOK: Surviving The Evacuation (Book 7): Home
6.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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