Sunday, 21 May 2017

The Dead Are Coming: Simone, Part 4




Simone Parts 1 & 2 & 3 found on the numbers!

The two settled down in the main room. Linus prepared a simple meal for them of rice with mushrooms and herbs from the wood, salt and pepper. It was by far the best food Simone had eaten in days. Chocolate bars and crisps may last but they’ll only keep you going so long. Though he had those in abundance, too. He’d an air rifle which he hunted with, he said, so occasionally he’d eat rabbit or pigeon, maybe squirrel. Although he wasn’t too fond of squirrel, and he refused to shoot the red ones on an ethical basis which seemed out of place to Simone in the new world. The air gun was quiet, he explained, and the leftovers and innards the dogs would eat. Food was an issue for him, he had been hiding for a month or so, which was almost as long as the world had been in this shit. Another safety precaution. Simone wanted to know what drove him to such extreme safety.
“Oh come on. We all knew.”


“Knew what? It just seems like you saw it coming.You seem so, ready.”


His face flickered. Dismissed. Then ejaculated.
“I kind of was! We knew immediately. We all did! What did you think when you saw what was going on?”


Simone had only done what was told of her. What the news said. The government's advice. She was starting to hate the person she had become. Unquestioning.


“We did the best we could. We did what the announcements said, we stayed indoors.”


He clicked his neck.


“But what you were seeing? For fuck’s sake. It didn’t remind you of anything?”


“Honestly, we didn’t see much. We hid. We were... We were scared. There was a lot happening. It feels like you’re judging me for something.”


Simone looked at Linus, eyes red and sore. This was her limit. He was clearly annoyed by having to stop, but he respected her tacit request and they sat in silence.


Silence. For a few minutes. Until, unable to restrain himself, he blurted out


“You’re telling me you’ve never seen a zombie film or read a zombie novel? Or heard of zombies!”
It wasn’t what Simone was expecting to hear, so she engaged with her inquisitor.


“I think I’ve seen the big film, the old one.”
“Black and white? Or colour? Either Night of the Living Dead or Dawn of the dead. Yes. But Christ, if this isn’t close to what those films are I don’t know what is. Apart from the fact that there are less of them than as far as I can see it’s almost exactly the same. Destroy the brain, kills them. They eat you if they can catch you, they gather together where there’s food, don’t seem to feel pain, don’t get tired. No?”


It was not something she had thought of. But it did fit.
“I know what you mean, but you really think this is the same? The films are prophecy?”
“No of course not, but look, every story has been told before, right? Every original idea in fact a replica of another from somewhere or someone else. Religion being the big example. Why shouldn’t something have been written or said that ends up happening, even if it is fucked up and off the wall?”

It was bullshit. Clearly Linus was mad. Simone was polite, however.

“I suppose. So you know about these things? The dead?”
Linus burst out laughing. Simone wasn’t sure whether to feel stupid or not. It wasn’t a feeling she was used to.


“It’s pragmatism. Trying things. I don’t know, we had a. We had a hard time. But we were smart, I hope. Next up, the second coming!”


Simone smiled, but was inwardly annoyed by the scatter gun thought process.


“How do you mean?”


She was curious as to Linus’s take on this. It was in her nature to ask questions. He didn’t look happy about having to give more up, and paused for a while, eyes darting. Saddened.
“We were all dead before, right. Life is one long trip to the grave. Only difference now is how most people get there. And that a grave is a fucking luxury. And that most often you’re not really dead. There is no discernible society. I don’t see one anyway. I am in a cave though! No law. Other people will kill you. You’ll kill yourself. You die. End result the same. It’s all about how you deal with this, death, the unavoidable mortality. Ok so now other people are going to tear you apart, it’s still the same. Not involve you in their war, or run you over. This is humanity, inverted. I, I….”


Linus paused. Upset. He continued, voice braking. Broken.


“You’ll make a mistake and get killed. Pissing in a ditch by a hungry corpse perhaps. Or take your own life to escape it all. I think it’s much the same as before. But it’s more, more personal.”
Simone’s mood dipped too. She muttered,


“Very nihilist.”
He half laughed. He did that a lot. Someone trying to find humour in the abyss. Grasping at walls which weren’t there. Failing. Falling.


“Quite. I felt that way before and I do now even more so. Do you want a drink? I need a drink.”
Linus got up and walked to a dark corner which had it seemed dozens of bottles of wine, whisky and spirits.
“Why not.”


Simone needed the escape. A luxury.
The two sat and drank in the half lit room. Apparently Linus would sometimes not leave his den for a few days, except to feed and spend time with the dogs. Storage food was plentiful and he could live on it, but it struck Simone that he was easily bored, and enjoyed variety. He’d set aside one of the rooms to use as a toilet, and apologised for the smell, he hadn’t expected company. Although he obviously enjoyed it. The company, not the smell. There was no loo roll. He’d run out. It was now an Indian approach, he explained, trying to keep his humour. Splash, splash check. His words. He did dispose of the waste, he was quick to point out, it just didn’t help having limited air circulation. Linus showed Simone his books. She had to squint to read titles but to her surprise there were some she knew very well.
“Sartre.”
“Ha. Yes. ‘Hell is other people’ I like that one.”


“Huis Clos. I know it. I teach.


Then the mental check.


“I used to teach.”


“Isn’t it perfect?”


“Perfect?”


“Perfect. Prophetic. Fucking... apt.”


“I always found Camus more relatable. More human. Real.”


Linus huffed.


“Hell is other people. We being in hell. I mean…”


Simone almost cut him off.


“You think there’s humanity in this? That applies?”


“It’s hard. I know. It’s not normal, or usual, or whatever. But it worked then and it works still.”


“But?”


A pause for thought.


“Maybe I’m hopeful. Humanity is. It’s. It’s never been challenged. As a concept. What is humanity now?”


“Challenged?”


He continued with his musings.


“It’s just a thought. But gender, sexuality, race, all have been redefined. Or accepted, or on the road to.”


“You want to accept this?”


“Well for a start we have to, it’s pretty fucking in your face.”


Simone swayed. This was drunk talk. Surely. But she liked asking questions.


“Where do the dead fit in then? You said you like killing them. If they are still human. How?”


“Ha! Well you called me a nihilist... Maybe I’m righting nature’s wrong. Maybe I am just angry.”


Anger. What a motivator. Catalyst.


They paused. A change of direction. The books.


“Ah! You want to see the most relevant?”
Linus laughed. Simone swayed as she stood, she did not usually drink this much.
“Go on then.”
Linus seemed unfazed by the alcohol, he was clearly used to it. He reached for a book right on the end of his makeshift bookshelf and handed it to Simone. She read the title out loud.
“The Zombie Survival Guide.”

“Yup. I doubt he knew it when writing but that has actually turned out to be pretty handy. I’ll give you tips, it has helped me. Not all correct but yeah, stuff in it I guess. You know he's Mel Brooks's son? Seriously. Springtime for Hitler. He's still going I think. Or was. Can't imagine the elderly have it easy now."

Simone did not care about elderly comedians. She did care about not being eaten. Ignoring half of what Linus had said, she responded.


“Such as?”

"The Producers, Blazing Saddles. You must know Mel Brooks?"


"No, what good hints?"


He huffed at the curtailing of his thoughts. Waved dismissively.


“Ah man. Read it while you're here. There's things he don't mention that are pertinent now.”


Linus’s accent slipped with the drink. Simone noticed the glottal stop. But her interest in the dead was more important. Her drunkenness made it more so.


“Go on!”

She almost shouted. It was uncouth.


He laughed.

“This is making me feel very special. I might get a big head. Although no, I won't. It'll be easier kill me when I turn.”


Simone realised she must be very drunk, because that made her chortle.


She went on,
“So. Why do you hide then? What are you hoping for?”
A big question for a young man. Linus waved Simone back to the main room and they again sat on his mattress. He topped their glasses up.
“Well I hate what has happened. But I do like the simplicity I’m left with. If I have to look for positives. Which I do.”
“How do you mean?”


“The world was a hateful place before, the way votes, the media, were going and so on, now it’s nakedly hateful. Angry. Destructive. It’s like we’ve been. What’s the expression? Unmasked.”


Simone looked at him. He didn’t seem to be lying,


“You, you like this? Why?”


“Haha! For a start I don’t have to work anymore. Hattie and Jake are better company than most office workers I ever met. This is my early retirement.”
Simone snorted with laughter.
“Those are just great names. How do you even know that actress? I’m older than you and she’s almost before my time.”
Linus smirked and looked thoughtfully into his glass.
“I like Tony Hancock. Always have. My dad introduced me to him and.”
He stopped suddenly.
“And that’s it.”


He finished.
The conversation died again. Linus got up and began pottering about, checking his stocks of things and trying to appear busy. He was clearly upset. Simone slumped back on the mattress which was comfortable but a little dirty. She stared at the ceiling, a dark yellow in the light, fading to grey in the corner. Linus spoke.
“What are you doing?”
Simone turned her head to him, her eyes a bit blurred from drink.
“I mean, where are you going? What are you doing? Why were you driving around?”
“I don’t know. We had to get away, we were holed up and so got in the car and…”


Simone trailed off.
Linus looked up at her. Simone smiled sadly. No more needed to be said on that.
“Where are you headed? Now I mean.”
Simone wasn’t sure, she could have driven that car until she died, there was no plan.
“Away. Just away. We’re in Surrey you said?”
“Yes. Near Guildford. But I wouldn’t advise going there.”
“Why?”
“Well, the cities and towns are more densely populated, more living means more dead, and more potential dead. I haven’t been myself but last I heard London was a clusterfuck.”
“Oh.”
The boy was right, Simone hadn’t been in a busy town but it was certainly less dangerous in the country. However she had subconsciously wanted to aim for London, maybe. London had more chance of rescue, surely, either from international sources or some remaining army or Government.
“I was maybe going to go to London.” She said.
Linus looked at her.
“It’s up to you. I mean, we’re probably all doomed, matters little. Do you have people there?”
“My sister. She’s blind.”
Linus winced. Then, realising his faux pas.
“Sorry.”
“It’s OK. The dead are everywhere. That one in the field was my second encounter of the day.”
Linus nodded.
“I suppose they’re chasing us everywhere. Lots of people headed away from the cities so it’d make sense they’d follow, not to mention them that have left home and turned en route.”
Simone let out a sob. She stifled it but brought her legs up to her chest on the mattress and curled her arms around them, resting her head on her arms. She shook gently with the tears which felt acidic and useless at this point. She hated them. Linus looked more uncomfortable than before. He walked over and sat next to her on the bed, which wasn’t nearly as dirty as him, though still not freshly sheeted. He rested his chin in his right palm and stroked his face thoughtfully.
“What’s E.T short for?”
Simone turned her head from her cocoon toward him. Her eyes reddened. She looked puzzled. Her gaze caught, he continued.
“What’s E.T short for?”


She shook the dust off her repartee. Emerging shocked and confused. Simone said,


“What?”


Linus amplified the reply, moving his hands dramatically.


“He’s got little legs.”
Simone snorted. A distraction, a welcome distraction. Her chain of thought, of pain, broken. Linus went on.
“How do you get… Oh no. Wait. Sorry, I can’t think of any other appropriate ones.”
He pulled a mockingly worried face. Simone lifted her head properly and wiped her eyes.
“Don’t worry. Thank you. And not just for that, for today.”
“Forget about it, no problem at all. Christian upbringing I can’t get rid of. Charity and kindness etcetera. Look, you look exhausted, why don’t you sleep? I’ve got to feed the dogs and can read for a bit, it’s only late afternoon but we’ve no need to go out if you don’t want. In fact I’d suggest we don’t, unless you’re dead set on leaving.”
He paused.
“Poor choice of words. Sorry.”
“If you don’t mind, I could sleep a bit, do you have another bed?”
“Nah have mine, like I say I’ve things to do. Sleep a few hours, I’ll wake you for dinner if you like?”
“That would be nice.”
Simone was falling asleep at the thought of falling asleep, such was her fatigue and the sleeping aides of whisky and the first safe place she’d been in for an eternity. She undid her boots, slid back, pulled the duvet over her and the world went away.
Her sleep wasn’t perfect. Drifting in and out at one point, she could see Linus sitting on a cushion at the other end of the room. He’d a glass in one hand and was crying into the other. She left him to it, he was used to his privacy. She thought briefly about what he’d been through, sadly, it was probably exactly the same as what she had, and probably what most of what was left of England or the world had. Terror and anguish in every direction. Death literally stalking every living being, it wasn’t even a metaphor now. Gnashing teeth, rotten, putrid faces, all still resembling vaguely the people they were before death had claimed them for its legions. No more thinking. Sleep Simone.

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