Extinction – 1st chapter
So here’s chapter 1 of Hell on Earth book 3, Extinction. This is a rough draft, so no need to point out any typos. Just enjoy.
“Max, come back here. It’s not safe.”
“There’s food, mummy.”
Marcy crouched beside the crumpled, flat-tyred Volkswagen and motioned to her son. At four years old, Max had not yet developed an adequate danger-radar to keep him from running off wildly at every opportunity. Trying to control a child in the apocalypse was no easier than it had been before, but now there was a severe shortage of alcohol to help recover one’s senses at night.
Christ, I would kill for a G & T.
Bizarrely, Marcy’s bond with her enthusiastic son had only galvanised since the demons came and drove them from their home. No more rushed shopping trips or stress-filled play dates with her bitchy mum-friends to endure, she now spent every waking hour with Max and gave him her absolute attention. They were inseparable—apocalypse survivors scrounging through bins and hiding out in burnt buildings together. Marcy had to admit having only to worry about food and shelter was a simpler life than the one she’d had previously—an existence of mortgage payments and cheating husbands—but being constantly terrified did take its toll. Her hands shook constantly and she started most mornings by vomiting.
“Max, be careful. We don’t know if we’re alone out here.”
Max peered back at her from the wheelie bin he was leaning into, and frowned in a way only inquisitive four-year olds could. “Monsters? I don’t like the monsters.”
Marcy looked left and right, then scurried from her hiding spot and crossed the road to the bins. She placed a hand on her child’s warm back and felt the relief of physical contact. “We haven’t seen any for a while, but we still have to be careful, okay?”
“Okay, mummy.” He gave her a hug and she shuddered at the feel of his ribcage against her own. “But look!”
She eased her son away. “What have you got there?”
Max yanked a crumpled pizza box from the bin and held it out like a prize. He lifted the lid with an excited smile, but his expression quickly turned to a frown when all that greeted him was an unravelled condom. Max called them wet worms. Now he groaned. “I want pizza.”
“I know, honey, but I think all the pizza is gone. I still have a couple of chocolate bars in the backpack. You want one?”
He shook his head, pouted. “I want pizza.”
“One day, there’ll be pizza again, I promise.”
It wasn’t easy lying to her son.
Food was becoming an issue. The supermarkets were full of pests and stray dogs, and anything not in a can was either spoiled or devoured. Searching through bins was usually a waste of time, and they had survived the last couple of weeks by rummaging through the cupboards of empty houses. Sometimes they found bodies. Max knew to close his eyes and call to her whenever that happened.
Six weeks now since the gates had opened.
Six weeks since those first horrifying reports on the news.
Six weeks since Max had last seen his father.
Marcy’s sweet boy didn’t deserve this. No child did.
But at least mine’s still alive. I’m the luckiest mother in the world. Maybe the only mother…
“Come on, Max. It’s getting dark. We should find somewhere to sleep tonight.”
“Can we find somewhere with a boy’s bedroom? I want some new toys.”
She nodded and smiled, buoyed that her child could still be entertained by colourful trinkets. Max’s innocence protected him in ways she envied. For Marcy, their inescapable fate tied a constant knot in her tummy. Human life was ticking seconds on a rusty clock, and time was growing short. She couldn’t protect her child forever. Not in this world.
“Shh! Did you hear that?” Marcy pulled Max close to keep him quiet, then tilted her head, sure she had heard something.
No, not heard—she had felt something. Vibrations beneath the worn soles of her shoes.
There it was again. Something distant. Something big. Big enough that the ground shook.
“Oh no…” Marcy felt the knot in her stomach tighten. “Max, we need to get inside.”
The son had come to learn the mother’s instincts well enough over the last weeks that he didn’t argue now. He stuck close to Marcy, and the two of them took off across the road, heading for a row of shops further along the pavement. Marcy had already made an earlier mental note of a ransacked charity shop with a broken door. That’s where she headed.
“The monsters are coming, aren’t they, mummy?” Max’s short legs had to hop to keep up with her frantic strides. “Mummy?”
“Yes, sweetheart. We need to get indoors now.”
The charity shop lay just ahead. A dead cat lying in the gutter marked its location. Funny, the methods she now used to navigate in this new, horrifying world. No more sat navs. Not in this world where Marcy and her son existed alone—alone except for the odd demon or crazed survivor. Without Max, she would have lost her mind weeks ago. It was love that kept her going.
Marcy yanked Max’s hand and pulled him into the charity shop’s doorway. The interior smelt damp—rank and rotten. A pile of paperbacks covered the entryway rug and their yellowed pages were stamped by muddy footprints. The broken door was unrepairable, but the shop’s plate glass window was still intact. Looters had put through the windows of most shops, but obviously charity shops were not prize pickings. Good for her and her son, as it meant they had shelter.
Max released his mother’s hand and went running deeper into the shop, already picking through the detritus of abandoned and refuse. He grabbed a grungy old bunny rabbit off the floor and clutched it by his side. “I like it here,” he said.
She shushed him. “Just keep on moving towards the back.”
The demons were more roaming gangs than fastidious searchers. If you kept off the streets and avoided the open, most threats would pass by, but it still meant you had to spend your days hiding. The early days of the apocalypse had seen mass slaughters, but human beings were now so rare that the demons seemed uninterested in picking off stragglers. Marcy assumed they were focused on something greater—perhaps taking on a last bastion of humanity that Marcy didn’t know about. Maybe mankind was holed up somewhere fighting back. She hoped.
If there was some place safe—truly safe—then Marcy had to get her son there. Max was just a little boy.
“Mum, can I have this?”
Marcy looked over at the wall shelving and saw that her son had procured a hobby horse. Its brown and black fur was still plush and upright, and it still sported both beady eyes. Such a rudimentary toy would have held no interest to her son two months ago, but now, in the absence of electronic entertainment, it was the kind of thing that leapt out at him.
“Sure, you can have it, but no more talking.”
“No, you cannot have that!” someone shouted. “How dare you come in here and start taking things that don’t belong to you. This is a charity. You are stealing from a charity!”
Marcy stumbled backwards and collided with the cash register. It slid across the desk on rubber feet, making a screeching sound. “I-I-I was… we were just looking for somewhere safe. I’m sorry, sir.”
“Don’t you sir me, you thief. Get out of here right now before I call the police!”
“The police? Are you crazy?”
“Mummy says the police have all gone away,” said Max gravely.
The old man stepped out of the shadows at the back of the store and into the dim light coming in from outside. His eyes were swollen and red. His cheeks were blotchy. A feral look about him—a crazed look.
Marcy threw out her hand and waggled her fingers. “Come here, Max! We should leave this gentleman in peace.”
Max frowned. “But the monsters. You said the monsters were coming.”
That was right. Something was coming, and that wasn’t good, but something about this old man made Marcy feel more threatened than being outside did. “We’ll hide somewhere else, sweetie. Let’s just go.”
Max moved towards her, but the old man struck like a snake and caught the boy by the wrist. “Hold it right there, sonny.”
“Mum, help me!”
“Let my son go!” Marcy’s fists curled at the sight of this man accosting her son. “Don’t touch him, you crazy old fuck!”
The old man shot her a bug-eyed glance, all while still holding onto her son. Max struggled and twisted, the grungy bunny in his free hand flopping around. “What did you just call me, miss?”
“Let my son go. We’re leaving.”
“He’s trying to steal this horse. This horse was donated to charity. Your boy is trying to steal from charity.”
Marcy strode towards the man holding her son. “No, he forgot he was holding it. Let him go, right now.”
“You people disgust me.”
Strangely, Marcy was offended by the comment. Perhaps it was because it sounded like the crazy old man truly meant it—she disgusted him. She’d never disgusted anyone in her life. “What do you mean?”
“I mean mothers who let their kids run amok. Whoring about with a different man every month, smoking drugs while their kids get up to knows what. I see it on that Jez Karl show every morning. Scum the lot of you.”
The Jez Karl show? This guy had lost the plot entirely. There hadn’t been any television for weeks. “I’m sorry, sir, but you you’re mistaken. I’m a married woman, and Max is a very well brought up boy. We just made a mistake coming in here, that’s all. Let him go and we’ll leave.”
“No. I’m calling the police.”
Max struggled and the old man yanked his arm, making him cry out. “Mum, he’s hurting me.”
Marcy reacted. She closed the short distance between the two of them and lashed out, shoving the old man under the chin and knocking his head back. He cried out in surprise and let Max go. Max scurried over to Marcy’s side and she gathered him close Pointing a finger in the old man’s face, she spat with anger. “Maybe you’ve got Alzheimer’s, I don’t know, but my son and I are leaving and you are going to back the hell away.”
The old man did the opposite. He lunged at her.
A jolt of pain shot along the back of Marcy’s hand in an arc. She looked down and saw blood.
“Mummy, the man has a knife.”
Marcy spotted the small pen knife in the old man’s claw-like hand. “Stay back. Just…”
The old man lunged again, his delusion evolving to full blown mania, his expression twisting and distorting like his face was full of maggots. His snarling mouth was devoid of teeth and his tongue darted in and out of crusted lips. “Bloody whores and thieves. Ruining the country.” He slashed the knife and missed Marcy’s face by an inch. If it had been a longer blade she would have had a hole through her nose. “I’ll kill you!”
“Just run, Max. Run!”
No use in fighting, Marcy shoved her son towards the doorway and clambering over the debris. The old man’s aged joints popped as he pursued her. He turned the air blue with his language.
Max made it outside onto the pavement, and Marcy was only a step behind him. He was crying, the chase summoning panic. “It’s okay,” she told him. “It’s okay, sweetheart.”
“Mummy, he’s coming.”
Marcy shielded her son behind her and faced the old man down. She took several steps backwards, being careful to avoid the dead cat, but was ready to defend herself. The old man slithered out of the shop doorway, pathetic yet deadly little blade held out in front of him. “I’m going to do the world a favour, you dirty whore.”
“Fuck you,” Marcy covered her son’s ears. “Fuck you, you crazy old fuck!”
“How dare you.” He slithered towards her, quicker than an old man had any right to be. In the grey glow of the waning sun, he revealed his true madness. Shit and piss caked his trousers. Bruises covered his the tissue-paper skin of his forearms.
Marcy kept her son behind her and threw an arm out in front of her. “Stay bac-”
All of a sudden the old man was airborne. One minute he had been there, about to strike her, the next he was launching like a rocket into the sky. He didn’t even make a sound. Marcy’s vision blurred. Her hearing buzzed. She heard her son’s terrified screams, but was too confused to react.
She sensed a presence.
Slowly, she turned her head to see what stood over her.
“Mummy, it’s one of the big monsters.” Max dropped the grungy bunny on the floor and clung to Marcy with both arms.
Marcy was frozen. She’d known this moment would eventually come, but now that it had she could do nothing except yield to its inevitability. The suffering was about to be over. Her son’s life was about to be over.
She muttered the word, please.
The twenty-foot angel glared down at her, same disgusted expression on its face that the old man had worn shortly before being launched into oblivion. The angel had saved her, but it had been no noble deed. The beautiful thing, with its perfect snarling face wanted her death for itself. “Bugs,” it said in a booming voice. “Insects and bugs.”
Marcy knelt and pulled Max into her breast. The boy trembled. It hurt her heart. “Be brave,” she said. “Mummy’s got you.”
The angel reared back, massive hand outstretched and ready to swat her like the bug it deemed her to be.
Just let it be quick.
Marcy flinched. The angel tottered, reaching out and catching its balance against the roof of the charity shop. It let out an angered roar and spun around, ripping out a section of roof tiles that shattered onto the pavement like giant hailstones.
Marcy clutched her son tighter, stifling his terrified screams against her.
Gunfire? Someone is shooting!
In the early days of the apocalypse, gunfire had been as common as bird song. Marcy had had no idea that Britain possessed so much firepower, but every old, antique revolver came out of the cupboard to join the modern equipment of the nation’s armed services. Then, a week or two later, the gunfire had stopped and only silence remained.
Now the gunfire returned as an anthem.
Bang bang. Clatter-clatter-tatter.
The angel swatted it arms like a swarm of bees attacked it. To Marcy’s surprise, the angel bled. Bloody holes pockmarked its body—bullets finding their mark. But that was impossible. Angels could not be harmed. The news reports had declared it with certainty before going off the air.
“Take that, you big piece of stank!”
The angel spotted its attackers and stomped across the road. There, Marcy saw a small group of three men. One black, one white, and one notably Asian with baggy trousers and shirt. Each of them sported guns and were firing confidently at the approaching angel.
No, thought Marcy. It’s they who are the angels. They saved us.
But it might not be enough. The bleeding angel was undeterred, and picked up speed as it raced across the road. Marcy cried out as the three men scattered, leaving her once again to her fate. Max went silent in her arms, the wetness of his tears soaking through her blouse. “It’s okay, sweetie. Everything is okay.”
One of the men legged it across the street, gaining the attention of the chasing angel. It was the white man. He was hugely-muscled and wearing a tight black t-shirt. He dodged between parked cars, using them as obstacles to keep the angel at bay. He held what looked like a machine gun, but he wasn’t using it. What was he doing? He was a sitting duck.
In the corner of her eye, Marcy saw one of the other other three men emerge from a side street. It was the black man, a lad with a bright green baseball cap. He held what looked like a bottle of whiskey in his hand. Then he lit it on fire.
Marcy watched the flaming bottle arc through the sky where it came down and shattered against the angel’s back as it attempted to get at the muscled white man. Flames engulfed the creature and sent it into a panicked rotation. Its deep bellow became an animalistic screech, and it turned and fled. Marcy watched the giant disappear down the road behind the shops.
Several moments passed while the three men let the dust settle, then they came racing across the road towards Marcy and Max. Marcy continued to cower, having no reason to trust these men any more than she had the old man or the angel. Everything living had the potential to kill you. Probably would.
“You okay, luv?” asked the lad in the baseball cap. When he spoke, she thought she caught a glimpse of metal in his mouth.
“Who are you?”
“I’m Vamps. These are my bros, Mass and Aymun.”
“It is a joy to see a female soul,” said the Asian gentleman in a very thick accent. He gave a little bow.
“You’ll have to excuse him,” said Vamps. “He’s from the Middle-East or summin’. Got here by way of Hell Gate. You okay? Your little boy okay?”
“What? Oh…” Marcy let go of Max and moved him a step away so that she could look at him. His eyes were wet and nose snotty, but he was no longer crying. Slowly, she turned him to face the three men. “This is Vamps, Mass, and… I’m sorry!”
“Aymun, my dear. My name is Aymun.”
Max waved a hand shyly, but did not speak.
Vamps grinned at the boy, exposing two gold fangs. “You must be a right gangster, little man, looking after your ma out here. What’s your name?”
“Buzzin’ to meet you, Max. Hey, you know what, I think I have something for you.” Vamps nodded to his colleague Mass who turned around to expose a backpack. Unzipping it and fumbling inside, Vamps pulled out a colourful packet then handed it to Max. “Here ya go, bud. You like these?”
“Haribo! They’re my favourite.”
Vamps smiled again, flashing those teeth. “Good thing it’s a family pack, huh? Should last you all day.”
“I think you’ll be surprised,” said Marcy, giggling with joy at a stranger being kind to her son. Those days had seemed gone. “Thank you for saving us. I… I have a few things in my pack you can have but—”
Vamps waved a hand and cut her off. “We don’t want your stuff, luv. We do just fine. The streets ain’t so bad once you know how things go down.”
Marcy chuckled. “I’m afraid I spent most of my life as an accountant.”
The big guy—Mass—shrugged his wide shoulders. “S’okay. Aymun here used to be a terrorist. Past’s the past, innit?”
“Are you… are you comparing accountants to terrorists?”
Mass shrugged again.
“I was no terrorist,” said Aymun. “Just a soldier born to one side fighting against those on another. Now there is no sides, only brothers and sisters. We all must be as one.”
Vamps rolled his eyes and gave Marcy a subtle smirk. “What Aymun is try’na say is we all need to look out for each other. It’s us verses them.”
“Really?” asked Marcy, finally trusting the situation enough to stand. Max clung to her thigh. “Because that would make you the first good guys I’ve seen in weeks.”
Vamps nodded as if he understood. “We’re on the search for more. You fancy tagging along with us? I’m sure we can rustle up some more sweeties for your boy?”
Marcy went to speak, but wavered. “You’re…. really what you say you are? You won’t hurt us?”
All three men shook their heads adamantly.
“Only things we hurt,” said Vamps, “are demons. So, tagging along or not?”
Marcy grinned. “Hmm? Stay here on my own, waiting to get attacked again, or go with three heavily armed men who just saved my life. Hell yes we’re tagging along! Thank you thank you thank you.”
Vamps laughed and patted her on the back. It was a friendly gesture and not lascivious in any way. Ironic, because in her previous life, this apparent street thug would have frightened the life out of her, but today, in this moment, she was eager to trust the lad with her life. He made her feel safe for the first time in weeks.
“Thanks for being our friends,” said Max, already munching on his sweets. “I miss having friends.”
Vamps put an arm around the boy as if he were a big brother. “Let’s go find you some more then, bud. We could all use more friends right now.”
Let me know what you think in the comments.