BREAKING POINT

 

The farmhouse was gone, and with it all their security and comfort. The two of them sat motionless in the back of the Land Rover, locked in a frightened embrace, afraid to let go because all they had left now was each other.

Why are we even bothering when the odds are stacked so high against us? What’s the point? When everything’s lost, why do we keep trying to survive?

They both asked the same questions individually, but kept their answers to themselves. They each maintained the pretence and refused to dwell on the seriousness of their situation for the sake of the other, but both Michael and Emma knew their situation now was dire.

Their desperate flight from Penn Farm, overrun with dead flesh, had been unplanned, unexpected and terrifying. It had all happened so quickly: a long, drawn out wait and then, finally, suddenly, breaking point had been reached. The number of bodies which had crawled through the wilderness and converged on their isolated hideout had reached unmanageable levels, and then Carl had... well, Carl had reached breaking point too, and then he’d been pushed over the edge. In many ways the final loss of the farmhouse had been as a direct result of his actions, and yet they felt no anger towards him. The fragility of his state of mind was wholly understandable in the circumstances. Michael wondered if he too might go the same way before long. He even wondered if that might be for the best. Could insanity possibly be any worse than this reality? Might it even make things easier?

They’d waited in this desolate, windswept car park on the edge of one side of a steep valley for as long as they’d been able. Times past, people had come to this isolated place to admire its beauty. Today all that Emma and Michael were interested in was its remoteness. From their high vantage point they looked down over a landscape which felt eternally empty now, and their microscopic size amidst the vastness of the hills which surrounded them was humbling. The world should have been theirs for the taking – Christ, as far as they knew, they were the only ones left alive and they should surely have inherited everything by default – and yet they had nothing. It was because they were here too. The relentless, tireless dead. Millions of slowly decaying bodies which hounded them incessantly, never stopping, and never giving up.

As it was, they’d only seen one body since they’d been up here. Who had it once been? How had the dead man managed to get this far? Surely he couldn’t have followed them, so how had he ended up out here in the middle of nowhere at the same time as Michael and Emma? They couldn’t help asking themselves such unanswerable and irrelevant questions when the hideous creature had lumbered into sight. The gnarled corpse had been horrific: all grubby skin and bone, the gusting wind blowing its ragged, flapping clothing against its skeletal limbs, highlighting its brutal emaciation. Its grotesque face, deformed by decay, had appeared both expressionless and impossibly furious at the same time.

The two of them had remained perfectly still, waiting for the corpse to disappear again, too afraid to go out and confront it, despite knowing full well that either of them alone could have destroyed it in seconds. They chose instead to wait, sitting silent in the back of the Land Rover until the dead man had gone. It seemed to take for ever for him to disappear, but neither Michael or Emma moved even a muscle until he was completely out of sight, both fearing there might be more of them nearby. The damn things followed the herd. If they attracted the attention of just one of them, countless more would inevitably follow.

‘We need food,’ Emma said after they’d been sat in their wind-beaten, blood-splattered Land Rover for what had felt like days, continually watching the road ahead and behind should other corpses appear. Michael didn’t answer. She was right, of course, but why bother? ‘We can’t just sit here indefinitely, can we?’

‘Why not?’

She looked across at him. He stared out through the rain-lashed window, doing all he could to avoid making eye contact.

‘Because I’m hungry,’ she said, and she scrambled over into the front and sat down behind the wheel. She started the engine, and the sudden noise and movement forced Michael into life.

‘What the hell are you doing?’ he protested as she pulled out onto the road. He climbed into the front and collapsed into the seat next to her.

‘What does it look like? I can’t stand any more of this.’

He wanted to argue and make her turn back but he knew he couldn’t. He had no counter.

#

Another unplanned drive through the heavy-skied gloom of a cold September afternoon came to a sudden end outside a lone house as far away from everything else as Penn Farm had seemed. Michael silently thanked Emma for forcing his hand. For a while he’d begun to genuinely believe they might spend what was left of their lives up on that rocky outcrop, too scared even to move.

‘So what do you reckon?’ she asked. Michael looked around. The house stood alone at the roadside, no other buildings in sight. He could see a solitary corpse in the distance, too far away to be of any real concern.

‘I’ll go in and check it out,’ he replied, and before she could say anything else he was gone. He checked the front door – locked – then walked around the side of the building. He peered around each corner, checking the garden was empty, before trying the back door. It was unlocked, and he slipped through into a small, square kitchen where a rustic-looking table and chairs filled almost the entire room. He stared at the never-finished remains of someone’s last breakfast until a sudden noise behind disturbed him and he spun around to see Emma standing in the doorway. She hadn’t wanted to wait alone outside.

‘Well?’

‘Don’t know yet,’ he said. ‘Haven’t got any further than here.’

He walked around the edge of the table and down a short hallway towards the front door. Something grabbed at his leg and he recoiled, jumping back with shock and tripping over the corner of a rug. He was flat on his backside before he knew what was happening, face to face with a woman’s corpse lying on its belly. He scrambled back away from the hideous thing, unable to take his eyes off its repulsive, disease-ravaged face. One of its legs was badly broken: horrifically swollen in all the wrong places. A sharp point of broken bone had torn through the skin and was now scraping along the wooden floorboards as the creature tried to move closer to him. It reached out but its grasping fingers fell short. It tried to grip the rug and pull itself closer, but its weight was too much for its weakened muscles to shift.

Emma was standing in the kitchen doorway, unable to move. Michael was still sitting on the ground. He drew his feet up closer, keeping out of range of the dead woman’s thrashing arms, moving back as she moved forward.

‘Get rid of it,’ Emma said, but Michael couldn’t move. This was the first of the dead he’d been this close to since their escape from the farm house, and its undeniable, vicious intent terrified him. And yet, physically, it was nothing. It appeared so pathetically weak that he couldn’t understand why he, Carl and Emma hadn’t been able to defend their home in the woods from these bodies. Their flesh was weak. They were rotting. Empty. Pathetic. This one had been an elderly woman – no match for him in life, let alone death – and yet he still couldn’t bring himself to fight. He pictured himself booting her face, but he couldn’t do it. Patchy white hair. Dribbles of decay staining her cardigan and her floral print dress. Slippers.

For fuck’s sake . . .

Forcing himself to get a grip and move, Michael stood up, grabbed the corpse by the scruff of the neck, and half-dragged, half-threw it back into the room it had been crawling out of. He pulled the door shut, safe in the knowledge it couldn’t reach the handle from the floor, and that even if it did, it would probably only be able to push, not pull.

And again, if this is our enemy, how the hell did we lose the farmhouse?

#

The rest of the small house was clear. The dead woman in the lounge banged the door repeatedly, doing little more than filling the building with unwanted noise.

Michael and Emma sat in the kitchen together and ate. What they didn’t eat now, they’d take. Despite their hunger, their nervousness had stolen away their appetite and each mouthful was an effort to swallow. Emma didn’t think she’d be able to keep much down. Her stomach turned over every time the dead woman hit the door.

‘We can’t stay here,’ she said.

‘I know.’

‘That noise... it’ll bring more of them here.’

‘I know.’

‘So where are we going to go?’

Michael didn’t answer. He couldn’t answer. He got up and walked to the front of the house. Emma followed. There was another body outside now. They watched from the safety of the shadows as a creature which used to be a paramedic awkwardly lumbered past, its loose and badly soiled jumpsuit uniform flapping in the chill wind. It looked as if it was going to keep walking, but an inconvenient thump from the corpse in the lounge attracted its attention. It pivoted around awkwardly on leaden feet, then came towards the house, crashing into the window through which Michael and Emma had been watching, pawing at the glass.

Another noise from the woman in the lounge, louder this time.

‘We could shut her up,’ Emma suggested.

‘What, tie her hands behind her back?’

‘You know what I mean.’

Michael knew exactly what she meant, but just the thought of having to face that foul old hag again made his legs weaken with nerves. He’d never been particularly good at handling confrontation, and the longer this nightmare continued, the less-equipped he felt to be able to deal with the dead. They were weak and yet so driven to attack: so relentlessly hostile and so bloody unpredictable. He couldn’t face it. Not yet. The damn things scared the hell out of him.

‘Let’s go,’ he said, and the dead paramedic began beating on the glass in response to his voice and movement. It was just a matter of time before more and more corpses arrived here.

Between them they carried a small supply of food and other supplies out to the Land Rover, carefully creeping around the back of the paramedic and avoiding yet another corpse which was tripping unsteadily down the road towards the noise now.

Michael started the engine and watched as both of the creatures turned towards the Land Rover with renewed speed. ‘Which way?’ he asked.

‘Any way,’ Emma replied. ‘It doesn’t matter. Just go.’

#

No maps. No satnav. No real idea of where they were or where they were going...

As the afternoon stretched away into the evening and the light began to fade, Michael and Emma found themselves skirting around the edge of a small town. Their nerves increased as their surroundings became more urban and less open. There seemed to be movement around them constantly now. The road immediately ahead was blocked by a crash which neither of them saw until they were almost upon it: during the final rush hour, two buses travelling in opposite directions had collided with each other at speed. One was still standing upright, the other over on its side. Michael swung the Land Rover around, bumping up over a low central reservation, then accelerated back the way they’d come. The road they’d just driven along, virtually empty just a few moments earlier, was filling with teeming movement now as the dead gravitated towards the Land Rover’s noise. A group of them that had been trapped in a building – some kind of coach station, it appeared – managed to get free and spilled out onto the carriageway like a slick. Michael swerved, then steered hard the other way to avoid ploughing into another group emerging from a side street. Maybe the dark was making things look worse than they actually were, but there seemed to be hundreds of bodies up ahead of them now, fucking hundreds.

‘Get off the road,’ Emma said, sounding calmer than she felt.

‘And go where?’ Michael demanded, more than a hint of desperation in his voice. ‘We can’t risk going any deeper into the town.’

She grabbed his arm and pointed towards the entrance to a multi-storey car park on the far side of a traffic island they were fast approaching. ‘Head up. Just get up off the street.’

Michael grunted something unintelligible then steered up the exit ramp, crashing through a barrier. He drove up floor by floor, using whatever gaps he could find to keep climbing, having to fight against his instincts and ignore the road markings. He was turning and turning the car like they were riding a helter-skelter in reverse, half-expecting to still come across other drivers coming back down the other way.

They finally stopped when they reached the top floor of the car park and there was nowhere else to go. A sudden sharp shower of rain hammered down and wind whipped across the rooftop, but the conditions didn’t stop Michael from getting out of the car, running over to the edge and looking down. He held onto a metal railing as another gust blasted into him.

‘See much?’ Emma asked when he returned.

‘Not a lot,’ he replied. ‘The dumb fuckers don’t know we’re up here.’

‘Not yet, they don’t,’ she grumbled as she climbed over the seats and bedded down in the back. ‘Give it time.’

#

Several days passed. It was now dawn on the third day. Each hour seemed to drag on for ever. The meagre, barely sufficient supplies they’d gathered from the house were supplemented by bags of shopping they’d found in other cars nearby. Emma and Michael sat in the Land Rover together through the light and the dark and the wind and rain. Conversation was infrequent and difficult, the atmosphere unremittingly grim. Their situation, whilst by no means completely hopeless, was unclear at best.

Several times Emma tried asking the questions Michael was doing his best to avoid thinking about.

‘So what are we going to do? And please answer me this time, Michael. Don’t just ignore me again...’

But that was exactly what he did. Rather than answer, Michael got out and walked to the edge of the roof again and looked down, as he’d done countless times since they’d got here. This time Emma followed.

‘This is crazy. We have to do something.’

‘Like what?’ Michael demanded, his voice suddenly uncharacteristically loud. Emma took a step back with surprise at the strength of his response. He sounded desperate, close to tears. ‘You keep asking me the same thing again and again, but I can’t give you any answers. Just look down there, Em. It’s fucking hopeless.’

He pointed down and Emma leaned over to see. The crowd of bodies around the car park had been growing steadily since they’d first arrived. Now a crowd of them filled the street directly below. She didn’t know why they kept coming. Was the rest of the world really so quiet that they could hear even the slight noises she and Michael made up here? Had this crowd grown from the remnants of the dead attracted here by the noise of their arrival? But why so many?

‘They know,’ Michael said, his voice a little calmer now. ‘It’s the only explanation. They know we’re up here – some of them, anyway – and that’s enough. And I think they’ll keep trying to climb up until either they get to us or we have to go back down.’

He stared down into the silent, constantly shifting mass of dead flesh so far below. He couldn’t tell whether their movements were controlled or just random and involuntary, but he was sure he saw several of them lift their heads and look up. He tried to block the thought from his mind, but suddenly all he could think about was this car park steadily filling up with the dead, floor by floor, until he and Emma were trapped and surrounded again, until the point of no return had been reached. Breaking point.

#

Another endless day eventually turned to night. Emma busied herself by looting other cars on the top floor of the car park, occasionally creeping down to the floor immediately below. She’d found scraps of food in one car, the odd bottle of water in another, some warmer clothes for both of them in a third. Michael, spurred into doing something because Emma suddenly seemed so busy, filled the tank of the Land Rover with fuel siphoned from other vehicles, then built a bonfire in an empty space and lit it, desperate for warmth. Emma came running over as soon as she saw the flames.

‘What the hell are you doing?’

‘Keeping warm,’ he answered quickly.

‘But you can’t... what if they see it?’

‘Who, the bodies?’

‘Yes!’

‘They won’t.’

‘How do you know?’

‘Because we’re on the top floor of a fucking car park, Emma. We’re fifty fucking feet off the ground!’

‘But what if they do see it?’ she screamed at him. ‘What if it brings more of them here?’

‘For Christ’s sake, think about what you’re saying. How can they possibly see it from down there?’

‘How do you know they can’t? There are other buildings this tall. What if there are bodies up there too? They’ll see it.’

‘And how are they going to get here? Get a bloody grip.’

‘Don’t talk to me like that-’

‘Don’t talk to me at all then! Anyway, if this fire doesn’t bring them up here, your bloody screaming will.’

‘I’m not screaming.’

‘You fucking are!’ he yelled at her.

They both shut up, aware that they were being as loud as each other. Michael’s last words echoed off the walls of the empty buildings which surrounded them.

‘We should just go,’ she said, quieter now. ‘Take our chances and get out of here.’

‘There are still too many of them down there. We can’t. We’re trapped. I don’t want to go anywhere near any of those fucking things, do you? We should just wait. They have to go eventually, don’t they?’

‘You think?’

Michael turned his back on her and walked away, not about to let her see how scared he’d become of the hordes of dead down at street level. He didn’t know how much more of this he could take.

#

Michael had been sitting in the front of the Land Rover, staring out into the ever-increasing darkness for what felt like for ever, when he thought he saw movement out of the corner of his eye. It was almost dawn – yet another dawn - and he glanced back over his shoulder to check on Emma. She was still asleep behind him, her head buried under blankets to try and block out the rest of the world. He peered deeper into the gloom around the ramp which led up onto the rooftop, desperately hoping not to see anything. Had it, as he now prayed, just been a trick of the low light? A scavenging bird landing and taking off again, feeding off the scraps like he and Emma did? Ash being blown from the remains of last night’s fire? But then he saw it again, and this time he knew exactly what he was looking at. He could tell from the slow, loping movements, from the unsteady awkwardness and painful, listless gait that it was one of the dead. How it had managed to drag itself all the way up here, he had no idea. It must have heard them looting and arguing earlier and reacted to their noise. And now, hours later, the total lack of other interruptions had combined with the bizarre, dogged persistence the dead now displayed to allow this one to finally reach the top floor.

Was this corpse alone, or was it just the first of thousands? Was this the beginning of the deluge he feared?

What do I do?

Michael sat perfectly still and watched the creature as it approached. He moved only his eyes as he tried to work out what his next move should be. Maybe if he just ignored it, it might go away like the lone body they’d seen out on the hills? But this one couldn’t get away – there was nowhere for it to go. Perhaps he should wait for it to reach the edge of the roof and hope it would take a final step too far and fall off. As the corpse staggered closer, the first shards of morning sunlight allowed Michael to make out all the details he didn’t want to see. It was a pathetic, miserable sight. Barely able to support its own emaciated weight, it dragged its feet along and its leaden arms swung with every step as if it was half-heartedly attempting to march. It had dark greasy hair covering most of its face and its ragged clothing glistened with damp decay where the light struck. Bizarrely, something about its lethargy – its apparent ignorance, apathy almost – annoyed Michael. The corpse reminded him of a useless teenager, like one of the kids in the school classroom where he’d been delivering a talk when this nightmare had begun. It looked pathetic, and he asked himself “Why am I afraid of you?”

Michael glanced back at Emma again when she stirred in her sleep, forgetting himself for a fraction of a second, and his sudden movement was enough to make the corpse react. It began to move towards the car. And as it approached, he began to properly consider the cruel irony of their situation. He was still alive. He was still strong. He could still think and eat and sleep and laugh and cry and do all the other things he’d always been able to do, and yet he and Emma were the ones who’d become virtual prisoners of the dead, trapped up on this inhospitable car park roof. The body continued to stagger closer and Michael watched it intently. Its face was hollow and vacant, infuriatingly expressionless. It barely looked capable of moving much farther forward, let alone causing either of them any harm. And yet he still couldn’t bring himself to do anything about it. Michael thought back to the farmhouse again, to the life with Emma he’d almost had there. They should have done so much better. Had that been their last chance as they’d feared, or could they try again? Was he really going to allow what was left of his time to be ruled by these foul, decaying creatures, this one in particular? Or was he going to be a man and finally do something about it?

     Michael got out of the car, waking Emma in the process, and marched towards the corpse. His sudden determination waned as quickly as it had begun. He slowed, then stopped and stood his ground. The body continued its desperately slow approach. It’s just you and me, he thought, looking deep into the foul aberration’s face and doing all he could to ignore the bilious feeling at the back of his throat. It suddenly felt as if everything boiled down to what happened next; that the next few minutes would somehow shape every day he and Emma had left. So was it sink or swim? Fight or flight? Win or lose?

The corpse took another lurching step forward, and Michael flinched.

‘Get back in the Land Rover,’ Emma said from somewhere behind him. ‘Quick!’

He looked at the dead body as it reacted to her voice. Then he turned around and looked at Emma and said: ‘No.’

Before she could stop him, Michael lunged forward and grabbed the corpse. The smell up close was foul, and the soggy noises the pitiful cadaver made as it squirmed in his grip made him want to vomit. Its flesh was cold and pliable under his fingers. It tried to push his arms away but its comparative lack of strength meant it didn’t stand a chance. Michael straightened his arms and surprised himself by lifting the creature’s entire body several inches off the ground. It continued to try and fight, but it was miserably weak. Michael shoved his other hand into its gut, grabbing hold of a handful of loose clothing, then lifted the corpse higher before running to the edge of the rooftop and hurling it over. He watched as it tumbled down like a shop window dummy, stiff arms and legs sprawling, then crashed into the crowd below, hitting the deck with a sickening crunch which Michael could clearly hear over the silence of everything else. Down at ground level, the dead immediately surged forward again, tripping and sliding inquisitively over what was left of their fallen brethren.

Breathless and strangely exhilarated, Michael returned to the Land Rover.

‘We’re going,’ he said.

‘Where?’

‘I don’t care.’ He wiped his hands clean on a towel then threw it out of the window. ‘Anywhere but here. We’re not going to be prisoners.’

He started the engine, and another corpse dragged itself up onto the rooftop, seemingly in response to the sudden noise.

‘Are you sure about this? You were the one who-’

‘I was wrong,’ he interrupted. ‘And no, I’m not sure about anything any more. But if we do something and fuck it up, at least we’ll have tried. You were right, we can’t just sit up here and either starve to death or wait until more of those damn things get up here. I’m taking back control, Em.’

She was about to speak again, but it was obvious there wasn’t any point. Michael put his foot down and the Land Rover juddered across the wet asphalt. He swerved around a tight corner, smacking into the lone approaching body and sending it flying, then ploughed down a steep, stomach-churning incline into the darkness. Emma held on to her seat, her safety belt, the door... anything she could grab hold of as the Land Rover hurtled further and further down. With each level they descended, the amount of dead flesh around them increased, but it was never enough to stop them. On one floor Michael clipped the wing of another car, but his response was simply to accelerate harder and get out of this gloomy, germ-filled concrete maze as fast as he could. Eventually he smashed through the exit barrier next to the entrance they’d broken through when they’d first arrived here, then raced out onto the street. He gripped the steering wheel tight and thundered through the mass of rotting flesh, no longer bothering to try and avoid hitting them, just doing whatever he had to do to get away.

#

They stopped at a cut-price supermarket on the way back out of town. Emma had spotted it in a side road: ignored and overlooked by the dead. Michael slammed on the brakes and reversed up to the doors. They’d done this before.

     ‘We should fill the car up,’ Emma said as she climbed out and ran into the store, ‘then just get away again.’

Michael didn’t answer. He was already inside, dragging a pile of plastic shopping baskets over towards the nearest aisle. He looked around anxiously and began to fill them. Fortunately there were no corpses inside that he could see, but a handful had already appeared at the floor-to-ceiling windows which ran the length of the shop floor. They slammed their hands and slid their decaying faces against the glass, moving from side to side, slowly matching the movements of the two looters inside.

By the time the first four baskets had been filled at speed and carried back over to the Land Rover, there were eight corpses at the windows. By the time they’d filled ten baskets, there were twenty of them. By the time they’d collected enough, it had become impossible to gauge how many of the damn things there were. The full expanse of glass had become a solid mass of greasy grey flesh, and a crowd had formed around the front of the Land Rover too. Neither Michael nor Emma said anything until they were loaded up and ready to leave. They stood a short distance back and surveyed the chaos outside together.

‘Are we in trouble now?’ Emma asked.

‘Only if we wait around here much longer. We need to move.’

‘Just drive through them?’

‘Exactly. Before they reach critical mass.’

‘Critical mass? What the hell are you talking about?’

‘Critical mass, breaking point... it’s all the same thing. We’re safe unless we let them get to a certain level. When there’s too many of them, the balance of power shifts and we’re screwed. Until then, we’re still just about in control.’

‘Breaking point... is that what happened to you on the car park roof?’

‘Something like that,’ he answered under his breath. ‘You ready?’

Emma nodded, and the two of them ran for the back of the Land Rover and scrambled over the supplies they’d collected. Michael virtually threw himself over and into the driver’s seat, then started the engine, put his foot down, and careened away. Emma held on tight behind him.

‘So what’s the plan now?’ she shouted over the noise of the engine and the relentless thump of the stream of unsteady bodies they ploughed into. Michael didn’t answer at first, concentrating instead on mounting the pavement to weave around the back of a truck, then avoiding another clutch of corpses to get back onto the road.

‘Still no real plan,’ he eventually replied.

‘Great.’

‘Plenty of food, though.’

She couldn’t really argue, but she did. ‘We need to be better organised that this, Mike. We can’t just keep stopping and starting like this.’

‘Why not? I’m beginning to think that’s exactly how we need to be. The same thing’s going to happen wherever we go, isn’t it? Wherever we are, whatever we do, we’re going to have about ten minutes grace before we’re surrounded. Fact is, we’re massively outnumbered, Em. We just have to deal with it.’

‘So is this it then? Just drive, loot, drive, sleep, drive, fight...? We’re going to end up spending the rest of our lives stuck in this bloody car.’

‘If you can think of a better solution, I’m all ears,’ he grumbled as he swerved to avoid a child’s corpse which walked down the white line towards them, arms outstretched in a classic ghoul-like pose. ‘We need to drive out into the middle of nowhere, find somewhere practically inaccessible, then hope there’s a building or something we can use nearby.’

‘There’s a café on the top of Snowdon,’ Emma offered.

‘That’s not as dumb as it sounds.’

‘It wasn’t dumb at all,’ she said, offended. ‘I was being serious.’

‘But it’s impractical. Too extreme. There are probably loads of places like that, but less remote. It’s just a question of finding them.’

‘Let’s stop and get a map or something. Plan things properly instead of just lurching from crisis to crisis.’

‘We’re not lurching from crisis to crisis. It’s all the same bloody crisis, in case you hadn’t noticed. We just need to find somewhere as isolated as the top of Snowdon, then only a handful of them will ever be able to reach us. Christ, it’ll be hard enough for us to get there.’

‘Déjà vu. Haven’t we been down this road before? Wasn’t that the big selling point of the farmhouse? Look where that got us.’

‘It almost worked,’ he replied, wincing as the Land Rover powered into another corpse.

‘Yes, but almost is the same as didn’t these days. It’s not that simple. There are too many of them.’

Michael braked as he reached a cross-roads. The Land Rover skidded to an abrupt halt. The dead poured towards them from every conceivable direction. Other than heading back the way they’d just come, their only option now was to turn hard-left and drive away from the centre of town.

‘This is bloody crazy,’ Emma said under her breath. She ducked instinctively as another corpse lunged for the Land Rover. It tripped in the road and fell forward, its skull cracking against her window with a sickening thump.

‘Well what else do you suggest?’ Michael grunted, struggling to keep control of both the Land Rover and his temper. ‘I’ll keep driving until we find a bloody light house or something like that, shall I?’

Emma didn’t bite. She gripped the sides of her seat as he accelerated again. And then she saw it.

‘Stop!’

Michael instinctively reacted, bringing the Land Rover to another juddering stop and wiping out another four straggling cadavers in the process.

‘What is it?’

‘Over there,’ she said, pointing up ahead and way over to their left. ‘Look!’

Michael saw it immediately and sped up again.

‘You’re a bloody genius,’ he said as he steered them towards an industrial estate. Through the chain-link fence he could see a vast expanse of tarmac covered with caravans and motorhomes of varying shapes and sizes. She’d found a temporary solution to their problems. A way of getting as far as they could from the towns and the cities and the dead without having to resort to living out of the back of this bloody Land Rover any longer.

‘I want that one,’ Emma said as they approached, pointing out the largest, most luxurious, and strongest-looking motorhome she could see.