Undead UK: Remember Me Dead, page 1part #1 of Undead UK Series
Remember Me Dead
This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2016 Rob Lopez
All rights reserved
First Edition July 2016
Table of Contents
By The Same Author
The maggots were what he remembered the most. That was easily the most profound recollection Staff Sergeant Breht had of that day, so long ago. The maggots crawling over dead skin. Writhing, chewing, eating. Except the skin they were consuming didn’t belong to a body that was dead, but to a body that refused to die.
Breht had just shot his first ever person – some lunatic in a hospital gown who’d come crashing through the ward double doors. But that person wasn’t alive, and the moment made no sense to Breht. It still made no sense. Thumbing the safety off his SA80A2 assault rifle, he’d put two 5.56mm rounds into centre mass. Hours and hours on the firing range, shooting at man-shaped targets, made that instinctive. The panic that set in when his bullets had no effect wasn’t.
On it came, partly decomposed, covered in earth and crawling with maggots: one of the plague victims who’d been dumped in the mass grave behind the hospital. But it was running, and Breht’s brain failed to compute.
It was nearly on him when he switched to automatic fire and emptied his entire magazine into it. Hands shaking, he sprayed his bullets out in a wide, jagged arc, puncturing pale skin, slicing tendons, churning intestines and smashing leg joints.
The leg hits were what finally dropped the thing, toppling it over onto the hard polished floor and splashing putrefied liquid and maggots in a wide spray. But that wasn’t the end of it.
With milky white irises staring out of blood-shot eyes, the corpse crawled on, reaching out for Breht with its slender fingers, fluids pumping out of every bullet hole with each exertion it made. Backing away from the slithering, jerking monstrosity, Breht fumbled in his pouch for another magazine. He ejected his spent mag, letting it clatter to the floor, and slammed in the fresh one, his sweating fingers drawing back the cocking handle. Then he emptied the magazine into the creature’s head, exploding the skull.
In the ensuing silence, the last spent cartridge pinged as it bounced off the floor tiles. Behind him, the rest of his squad stood frozen, mouths hanging open. A mix of inexperienced recruits, peace-time reservists and part-time soldiers, they’d never seen anything like this before. Training exercises on Salisbury plain were no match for the horror they were now witnessing.
Corporal Baker broke the paralysis, slapping Breht on the shoulder. “Nice one, Staff. All right, lads. Let’s get moving.”
It was Baker’s squad, so it was only natural that he should be giving the orders, but Breht knew that Baker was giving him a minute to recover, so the others wouldn’t notice his utter shock at what he had just done. Raw recruits were supposed to be unnerved by their first kill, but not iron staff sergeants. Not in public, anyway.
Twelve years in the army, and he’d never fired a shot in anger until that day. And the person he’d killed wasn’t even alive. Not in the normal sense. Not in any sense.
By the time Breht woke from his stupor, Baker had got the squad moving, shepherding the laboratory research staff to the other end of the ward.
The ward was empty, the beds stripped of all sheets, the curtain rails naked. At the height of the plague, the available number of nurses and doctors had dwindled since they were usually the first to get infected, in spite of barrier precautions. In the end there were only enough staff to keep a few wards open. Afterwards, when the dead began to walk, the living ran. The city turned into a tomb, with only the research staff staying doggedly at their posts, camped out in the labs with their families, trying desperately to find a last minute cure, until the day the army came to save them.
Now they had to save themselves, with Breht struggling to comprehend how his world had changed. Chained to a desk for the last few years and dying of boredom from admin duties, he’d been drinking himself into oblivion, the regimental sergeant major successfully covering up his latent alcoholism from the depot officers. The RSM was dead now, as were most of the officers. Being given command of what was left of the platoon was the first of several sobering shocks.
Breht wanted to throw up.
“You coming, Sarge?”
Forgetting his nausea, Breht turned. Everyone else had gone, leaving just Nobby Stiles, holding open a ward side door. Nobby was a stocky young soldier who prided himself on his physique. Filling out his battle dress with slabs of muscle, he liked to tell everyone how much he benched, whether they wanted to hear it or not. Breht didn’t know him well, but he knew that cocky look, the sneer denoting a faint trace of contempt.
Everybody knew Breht was a burnt out pen pusher – a has-been counting out the rest of his years. Maybe Nobby thought that, with the world falling apart, the old rules didn’t matter anymore.
“What did you just call me?” snarled Breht.
The smirk vanished from Nobby’s face, and Breht marched over to him.
“You do not call me Sarge ever again, do you understand?”
Nobby went pale. “Sorry, Staff.”
“Yes, Staff Sergeant!”
Breht looked him over once, like they were still on the parade ground. “Move.”
Nobby moved, running out through the door and up the stairs.
Breht held the door open, feeling his heart beating fast. He took one last look at the body, seeing what looked like one tiny, displaced maggot crawling back towards the putrid mess. Then he threw up.
The chopper was supposed to be waiting for them on the roof, but when they got there all they found were bird droppings, steel vents and satellite dishes.
“Do you think it got called away?” murmured Corporal Baker quietly.
“Maybe another unit in the city,” reasoned Breht.
They stood alone, away from the others. The civilians huddled near the vents, nervous now that they were in the open. Breht counted them. Seventeen in all: five research scientists and their respective partners and children, plus one elderly grandmother. Seven kids, ranging from toddler to teenager. Breht hadn’t expected that many. Add the eleven members of the squad, and that made for a very crowded helicopter.
“Are there other units in the city?” asked Baker.
“I don’t know,” said Breht.
The sun was high in the sky, ideal for sunbathing. And it was Sunday, perfect for lawn mowi
Private Harris, a lanky, freckle faced youth, spoke into the radio. “Bravo Six, this is Alpha One Zero, we are ready for extraction, do you copy?”
Beyond the estate, near an electricity pylon, was a tall plume of black smoke.
“Bravo Six, do you copy, repeat, do you copy?”
Baker and Breht both looked at the smoke. Neither said anything.
Harris’s voice rose in tenor, his calls becoming a little more frantic, adding to the tension. Agitation spread among the soldiers. The civilians huddled together more closely, comforting the children with anxious caresses. Eventually, a scientist, still in her white lab coat, came striding over. The lines on her face emphasised her annoyance.
“Sergeant...” she began, addressing Baker.
“Corporal,” corrected Baker.
“Corporal,” said the scientist. “Could you get your man to keep his voice down? It’s frightening the children.”
Baker and Breht glanced at each other, eyebrows raised.
“Just be patient, Miss...” began Baker.
“Doctor,” corrected the scientist.
“Doctor... whatever your name is. The chopper will be here and we’ll soon have you safely out.”
“My name is Dr Filipova, and I do not think you understand. The dead are attracted by sound.”
Baker and Breht exchanged glances again.
“Sound,” reiterated Filipova. “The city is silent and the slightest noise draws the dead to us. Don’t you understand?”
Breht intervened. “We understand, Dr Filipova. Don’t worry, we’ll tell him to keep his voice down. Just get back to your group and wait. We’ll soon be out of here.”
“Are you certain of that?”
“Yes, don’t worry.” Breht signalled to Harris to keep his voice down, and a few more minutes passed as his calls went unanswered.
Lance Corporal Cobb, a twenty two year old reservist who’d only recently been recalled from his job in a London stock exchange, came hurrying over from his position at the edge of the roof. “Hey, I think you need to take a look at this,” he said.
Baker, Breht and Filipova followed him back to the edge, dropping to their bellies to peer over into the grounds below.
Behind the ambulance bay, on a heath that stretched to the perimeter fence, a yellow digger sat parked next to a huge expanse of disturbed soil. It was the mass grave for the plague victims and it boiled over as corpses clawed their way out of the soil and clambered over each other to crawl towards the hospital buildings.
“It was the sound of your helicopter arriving that woke them,” whispered Filipova. “Now they are coming for us. We need to get back to the lab, quickly.”
Breht stared in fascination at the spectacle below. With careful observation it was possible to discern the different layers of the burial pit. The first victims to be buried at the very bottom were the most decomposed, their faces bloated and purple, noses broken and crushed by the bodies that had been piled on top of them. Their skin had split and slipped off their muscles, like peel off a hot tomato, and they moved awkwardly, crawling or shuffling thanks to decayed tendons or maggot-eaten hamstrings. They wore dirty hospital gowns or the remains of shrouds created from sewn-together bedsheets. The more recent casualties buried near the top of the grave were naked, the hospital having run out of either gowns or patience, and they were the ones in better shape, bone-thin from their illness but with their limbs intact, running into the building like concentration camp victims to a buffet. Breht felt a chill as he realised he was on the menu.
“Where is the chopper?” hissed Cobb.
Breht turned to the distant pall of smoke and Cobb followed his gaze.
“Oh Christ,” said the lance corporal. “How the hell did that happen?”
“Your guess is as good as mine.”
They moved back from the edge.
“The lab,” said Filipova emphatically.
“Wait a minute,” said Baker. “We don’t know for certain what happened to the chopper. It could have just flown out of radio range. There’s only one stairwell up to the roof. We can block it. HQ knows we’re here.”
“If the chopper’s gone down,” said Cobb, “HQ will think we’ve had it. They’ve got enough on their plate.”
“We can’t stay here,” said Filipova. “We’ve no food or water and we have an elderly person who could die of exposure in the night. The laboratory is barricaded from the inside and fully provisioned. We can hold out longer there.”
“And then what?” said Baker irritably. “We going to start eating each other when the food runs out? If we get trapped in there, we’re never getting out again. When the chopper comes, we’ll be stuck and they’ll bugger off without us.”
“They already did, mate,” said Cobb.
Baker turned on him. “Whose side are you on?”
“He’s right,” said Breht. “This building is going to start filling up. You’ve seen how many there are down there. Soon it will be impossible to get out, no matter where we are. We need to relocate to open ground, somewhere we can keep moving. If the chopper comes back into the area, we radio it to pick us up.”
Baker was aghast. “Open ground? You want to run with them things chasing us? You’ve seen Granny. You think she’s going to be able to keep up when we’re legging it through the streets?”
Breht gave him a look. “Not all them things can run. And this isn’t a democracy, Corporal. I’m giving an order.”
Baker ground his teeth. “Okay. It’s on you.”
“It is.” Breht turned to Cobb. “Get the lads to fix bayonets.”
Cobb was impressed. “Really? That’d be a first.”
“Let it. They’re not just for opening tins. When we run out of ammo, they’ll be all we’ve got.”
Filipova cleared her throat. “It wouldn’t be wise to let them get close enough for bayonets, I’m afraid. One scratch from one of the, uh, undead, and you risk an infection that will make you just like them. It spreads quickly once it enters the bloodstream.”
“We can only do our best, Doctor. Get your people ready to move.”
As the word passed round, Breht took out a pair of Kevlar gloves and pulled them on. It was too hot for them, but he needed the extra protection.
Alone with him, Baker watched the others and murmured, “I hope you know what you’re doing, mate.”
Breht grimaced as he flexed the stiff fingers. “Me too.”
“Sure you’re up to this?”
“Shouldn’t I be?”
“Just saying. You’ve only just come off the wagon.”
“I’m fine now.”
“Okay. I just want to let you know that me and the lads are right behind you.”
Breht looked at him. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“The tribunal. We know you got stitched up. That little bastard should never have made a complaint about you.”
Breht started. “You know about that?”
“Everybody knows about that. It’s the army. Even the newcomers know the story.”
“Don’t worry about it. It was ages ago, and nobody gives a shit now.” Baker looked around. “Certainly not in this world. Those days are gone, and I don’t think they’re ever coming back.”
The civilians were arranged in a column, two wide, with soldiers at the front and rear. After checking everyone over, Lance Corporal Cobb waved a signal. It was time to go.
They made it as far as the canteen before the undead caught them. Breht thought about the irony of that, long afterwards, but by then it was too late to undo what happened next.
The running dead swarmed out from behind the food counter, bumping into everything and knocking tables over as they l
“Headshots,” screamed Breht, “headshots!”
The few who heard him adjusted their aim, but it was too late.
The dead flew at them, picking individual targets and locking their jaws onto flesh with a vice-like grip. Breht ran out of ammunition and did not have time to change to another magazine. He thrust his bayonet into the face of the monstrosity trying to bite him, but the bayonet was useless against the undead, failing to penetrate deeply enough, and Breht was caught in a desperate dance as the creature’s hands clawed at his chest armour. Kicking it off the bayonet, he swung the butt of his rifle as it came back at him, smashing its head sideways and cracking the jaw. The undead felt no pain, however, and the zombie jumped on him, trying to bite his neck as he held it back. In spite of its ferocious strength, the zombie had all but wasted away, and Breht was able to use its momentum to toss it easily over his shoulder. The zombie fell to the ground and Breht stamped his boot on its neck, trying to break it. Undeterred, the creature struggled to break free, and Breht thrust his rifle down, the bayonet piercing its ear and cracking down through the skull. The zombie ceased its exertions, and Breht pulled hard to disengage the stuck blade.
As the soldiers fought, the civilians ran. Most followed Filipova back the way they came, through the double doors into the corridor. Others ran in random directions, finding themselves cornered and dying horribly, their bodies thrashing as the dead feasted on them. One white coated doctor jumped at a window, smashing the glass and flying out. They were two floors up. The zombie chasing him flew out after him.
Breht reloaded and fired short bursts that blew open the faces of two zombies shuffling towards him. A toddler stood nearby, alone amongst the squirming bodies, his little mouth open as he cried. Momentarily deafened by the echoing gunfire, Breht couldn’t hear the sound of his distress, but he could see the child’s mother next to him, her throat being torn open by one of the undead. Breht blew apart the thing’s head and kicked off its body, but the mother didn’t move. Snatching up the toddler, Breht backed away towards the exit, making a quick assessment. There were only four soldiers left standing, and Baker wasn’t one of them.