He gets a real buzz when the cameras are on him, does Dominic. It’s an unreal adrenalin rush that never gets old, second only to hearing the backbenchers’ cheers behind him when he’s on his feet debating in the chamber. It sometimes makes him feel like a kind of vampire, feeding off the energy of everyone else, but is that really such a bad thing? In the end, he gets what he wants, the people (sometimes) get what they want, and the individual cost to them is (usually) not so high. In any event, Dominic’s silver tongue is his superpower, so even if the people he’s supposed to be representing are being shafted, he can still make them think otherwise.

A politician’s life is most definitely not for everyone, but for the chosen few like Dominic Grove, it’s everything. The power, the money, the glory. Short term risks for long term gains. The situation he finds himself in today, though, is a particularly tricky one.

The PM has sent him out to bat. Dom gets why he’s the chosen one, and in a way he’s flattered. It’s an incredibly unpopular, potentially volatile, high stakes policy he’s having to defend, and putting a positive spin on it is nigh on impossible. He’s having to drub the opposition to shift the focus, and that’s never a good look. Honestly, politics these days is like playing a game of interdimensional chess with your hands tied behind your back, wearing a blindfold. It’s almost as if the PM has set him up to fail.

That’s because he has. He’s trying to get rid of Dom before Dom gets rid of him. There’s even more back-watching and back-stabbing going on in Westminster this week than usual, and that’s saying something.

This is a hatchet job. The PM needs Dom to fail today because he’s reached the point where the only way that he’s going to be able to ensure his own political survival is by getting rid of his rivals. Dominic, however, knows the score. He’s anticipating this. As usual, he’s ten steps ahead of the game. They’re waiting for him to drop a bollock on live TV, but what they don’t realise is that he has a bombshell of his own ready to detonate instead. The PM really shouldn’t have confided in Valerie the other week, not when Dom was in possession of such incriminating evidence about Val and, more specifically, her hubby George’s financial interests in the IT company that stands to directly benefit from the PM’s flagship scheme.

They’re being interviewed out on one of the green spaces around the Houses of Parliament. It’s a bright, sunny, and dry September morning, fairly warm, but with the slightest hint of an autumn chill in the air. There’s a producer and camera operator here (both of them look half his age), but the questions will be fired at him by a couple of presenters sitting on a comfy-looking sofa in a studio many miles away. He knows Edward, the more experienced of the sofa double-act. He’s on-side. Dominic took him for lunch at his club the last time he was in London.

Dominic bats away the first few questions with consummate ease. Unlike many of his colleagues, he knows how to do this without alienating himself from the general public. He somehow manages to sound sincere, even though he’s not. He pitches it just right, with a promise he knows will resonate with the common people, without alarming the big business CEOs. For some reason, people trust him. They believe him. He has a good poker face, because if folks knew the truth, they wouldn’t listen to a fucking word that comes out of his mouth.

It helps that the guy the opposition have put up today is absolutely fucking useless, totally out of his depth. He’s drowning. With a few choice comments and questions of his own, Dominic has him tied up in knots. It’s not what Dominic says that has the biggest impact, it’s what he makes the other guy say, the lengths he makes him go to to avoid saying the wrong thing. Dominic twists his words and deflects his attacks, leaving him contradicting himself and looking either inherently dishonest or dumb as fuck. This is a game to Dominic, and he’s always been a winner. The other chap, in comparison, is going to struggle to come back from this. This is brutal. When you’re humiliated this badly so early in your political career, it’s hard to ever reclaim your credibility. Dominic’s almost starting to feel sorry for him now (almost, but not quite). Oh well, Dom thinks, not my problem. All I need is to—


Has he gone too far?

His political opponent appears to be having a full-on meltdown now. He can’t get his words out, can’t catch his breath, red-faced and choking. Dominic waits for a moment longer, for once unsure as to what he should do. Is this a panic attack or a genuine medical emergency? He’s starting to think this is serious, that someone needs to help, but should that someone be him? He tries to listen to what the voices in his earpiece are saying, but he can’t hear them clearly. Sounds like static. No, wait… he realises the noise he can hear is a mix of the guy choking alongside him and the people in the studio struggling the same way. He rips out the earpiece. What the fuck is happening here?

He doesn’t panic, though, because he’s acutely aware that the camera’s still on him. His biggest concern is how this – whatever this is – is playing out on screens up and down the land. Politically, he needs to eviscerate his opponents, but he also needs to consider how it’s going to look if the viewing public are treated to several minutes of him standing staring awkwardly into a camera, doing nothing while this poor bastard chokes to death.

He realises this is his chance to be a hero.

It’ll really piss the PM off… the government’s unworkable, borderline illegal policy won’t get an inch of column space or even a second of airtime if he saves the life of a political opponent on live TV. What a story! There’s no question they’ll lead on it – it’ll definitely get more viewers and sell more papers than any amount of political wrangling. This has viral hit written all over it.

The other guy is on his knees now, clawing at his throat. Dominic lays him flat on the dew-soaked grass and undoes his top button and loosens his tie. He realises the camera operator has gone down too, and the camera lens is aimed into the distance, missing all the action down at ground level. Dominic shouts for help, making sure that if the viewers can’t see him, they can damn well hear him trying to save a life. The man’s body goes into spasm, and now Dominic’s torn, thinking how there’s the potential for the news story to blow up in his face disproportionately if this chap ends up with a serious brain injury, or worse, because of something he does.

He needs to get help.

He needs to deflect potential blame, avoid accountability.

In the heat of the moment, Dominic has become uncharacteristically focused on one thing. Normally, his mind’s running way ahead of his mouth, working on tactics and strategies to keep him ahead of the game, thinking in several different directions at once. Here, though, he’s been so focused on how this is playing out to the viewing public that he’s not yet fully appreciated that it’s not only the poor bastard lying on the grass who has been affected by this (whatever this is). He’s already clocked that the camera operator and producer have also gone down, and he knows the people in the studio were also in trouble, but it’s only now that he picks himself back up and looks around that he finally realises the full implications of what’s happening.

All of the pedestrians on their morning commute along the streets of Westminster are similarly writhing in agony. Wherever he looks, he sees people on the ground, dying. The chap at his feet grabs Dominic’s ankle in a desperate, instinctive last gasp. Dom shakes him off.

There’s an awful, ugly noise as a red double-decker London bus collides with a concrete barrier, then tips up and over. It comes to a halt on its side, partially propped up by the barrier, bodies hanging out of broken windows like discarded toys.

There’s too much destruction for him to take in at once, but it’s already clear that the world he knew – the world where he mattered, the world he was intent on becoming a dominant force in – is changing forever. Everywhere he looks now, people are dying.

Is this a terrorist attack?

Local, or widespread?

National, or international?

He wasn’t aware of any briefings, any rumours on the wires… there are very few things that are completely unexpected these days, but he gets the feeling this is one of them. If all the intelligence agencies were caught off guard, then what the hell is happening?

Pull yourself together. Follow the emergency protocol.

Dominic knows it’s going to look bad if there are people at home watching him standing out here doing nothing. He makes sure he’s away from the unblinking stare of the camera lens, then races back towards his office.

Prevalent in his mind now, is just one thought: Jesus, if the PM’s been caught up in all this, I might be in charge. This could be my moment!

Several days have now passed, and each new morning is worse than the last for Dominic. Today has been unimaginably horrific. Today, the dead have begun to rise.

When this nightmare began, he returned to his office in the House and spent the rest of a terrified day trying to get help. He’s a well-connected man, but a contact book stuffed with the numbers of all the most important people in the country (and beyond) counts for nothing when they’re all dead.

He’s starving hungry. He’s avoided leaving the grounds of parliament for as long as possible. Up to now he’s been able to keep himself fed and watered by using vending machines, but they’ve stopped working now the power’s died. He tried the restaurants and bars but couldn’t bring himself to stay around long enough to find food. He thought he might go to the kitchens and fry an egg or rustle up a sandwich, something like that, but that involved stepping over and around the corpses of his former colleagues. It was bad enough before they got up and started walking about again, but there’s absolutely no way he’s going back in there now. Christ, it was enough of a chore spending time around some of these people when they were alive.

Dominic’s used to things being done for him. He is (was) a busy man – he had people to deal with the basics for him so he could focus on the stuff that really mattered (to him). He’s struggling now he’s on his own. He feels like one of the zombies himself – if that’s really what they are – staggering aimlessly from place to place without knowing what he’s doing or why. For the first time in years, he’s not the one calling the shots. He no longer has any control over his policies and public image.

He’s been trying to avoid the bulk of the corpses and, without realising, he’s ended up a couple of miles away from Westminster. He’s lost. He’s used to being driven along these streets, not walking them. It’s like one of those nightmare anxiety dreams that wake him up most nights, the one with all the corridors with all the doors that all lead nowhere… the harder he tries to dig himself out of this hole, the deeper the pit he finds himself in. The further he walks, the more lost he becomes.

The trouble is, nothing looks like it should. He’s had a filtered, selective view of the world for as long as he’s been an MP, and it’s only just sinking in how disconnected he’s become. People used to avoid telling him the truth, and instead just told him whatever they thought he needed to hear. He’s not sure how much of what he’s seeing is apocalyptic, and how much is just the current state of the nation.

He nearly walks straight into a herd of dead people. Christ, they are abhorrent. Dominic avoided mixing with the public before all of this (the great unwashed, he used to call them), but things are infinitely worse now. Their cold, rubbery flesh is unbearable to touch. You don’t realise how physically warm and pliable people generally are until they’re not. And for a man who used to pride himself on his ability to sway, manipulate, and control people, it’s especially difficult having to deal with their new-found unpredictability. They don’t do what you tell them. You can’t bend them to your will. They don’t make any sense.

He takes shelter in an office block where he used to hold meetings from time to time. The interior doors are all electronically dead-locked, but he’s able to access the central staircase because a courier has dropped dead and is still propping the ground floor door open. Dominic climbs all the way to the top and sits with his head in his hands. He doesn’t know what to do. He’s lost in every sense of the word.

When it gets dark, he sees a single light shining out.

It takes him a while to work out where it is.

It looks like it’s at the top of the Monument to the Great Fire of London.

Piotr should be having an absolute fucking blast. He’s dreamed of shit like this happening for years. It’s the fucking zombie apocalypse, for fuck’s sake, so why isn’t he enjoying himself? He thought he was going to die of boredom when everyone dropped dead like that, but when they got up and started moving again, he knew there was going to be plenty to do. They’re not causing him major problems (yet), but when have walking corpses ever been a good thing? He’s decided to get rid of as many of them as possible before they become too much of an issue. He wishes he could be more creative, wishes he could drive a truck along the streets and wipe scores of them out at a time, but the streets in this fucking place are too narrow and winding. He’d never be able to get up enough speed.

Instead, he’s armed himself with tools from the construction site where he was working, complemented with a few choice blades from a butcher’s shop he walked past, and now he’s on a fucking rampage.

The first few kills – if you can kill something that’s already dead – weren’t as easy as he thought they’d be. Sure, he’s had more than his fair share of fist fights over the years, even stabbed a joker with a box cutter once who was giving him grief, but this is completely different. It’s the fact they barely react that gets to him, don’t even seem to notice. He uses a meat cleaver primarily, and they don’t even blink. They just stand there all cut up, looking at him like they’re thinking, is that all you’ve got?

Where’s the sport in that?

He expects spurts and fountains of bright red blood, but all he gets are dribbles of brown muck, all jellied and lumpen.

Numbers and betterment, that’s what he’s started measuring himself by. How many can he dispose of in an hour? Can I do even more in the next sixty minutes? What are the best ways to cut and carve? He’s looking for weak points to exploit so he doesn’t have to waste his time hacking through gristle and bone.

But it’s not just the dead that are pissing him off. He’s inadvertently attracted a crowd of hangers on.

He made a decision a while back to base himself at the Tower of London. His logic was simple – it’s lasted centuries and survived numerous wars, so it should definitely stay standing through this. Trouble is, other people have started to follow his lead. Some bright spark put a beacon at the top of the Monument, and more and more of these miserable losers keep turning up. They’re looking at him like he’s some kind of leader, a fucking action hero of sorts, but apart from a couple of them who’ve shown a willingness to get their hands dirty, for the most part they’re a bunch of miserable, grizzling, traumatised pains in the ass, little more use than the dead. Some of them – get this – think it’s their civic duty to try and pick up the pieces, to try and rebuild the world anew. Fuck that. There are too many broken pieces of this devastated country, scattered over far too wide an area, for it to ever be put back together again.

Today, Piotr’s decided he’s going to follow the post-apocalyptic movie playbook. He’s going to build himself an ivory tower where he can sit and enjoy the rest of his days watching the remains of the old-world crumble around him.

The light’s fading and there’s friction around the Monument. Piotr’s throwing his weight around. He’s pissed because more and more people keep turning up, attracted by the light, and none of them seem capable of doing a fucking thing for themselves. He gets that they’re in shock or whatever, but come on… they’re going to have to take responsibility for themselves pretty damn fast, because there’s no fucking way he’s going to do it.

They’re not all useless, though. He’s seen a couple of folk who could be worth having on side. There’s a woman called Ruth, built like a brick shithouse, who can clearly handle herself. She’s getting rid of the corpses almost as fast as he is. There are plenty of others who just talk the talk. When it comes to the crunch, they bottle it. He watched one guy with a mallet just now, holding one of the dead at arm’s length, but unable to bring the weapon down and smash the damn thing’s skull. Eventually Ruth did it for him and he scuttled away, but not before slipping in something gross and spewing a fountain of vomit over the street.

And he’s not the worst.

The people who fuck Piotr off more than anything are those who have turned up here then hidden themselves away. There’s loads of them. What don’t they understand? He’s doing this for him, not them, and he gets angry when he thinks about all those lazy bastards who won’t lift a finger but who’ll benefit from all his hard work. He thinks he should maybe order them to work, but why should he? Instead, he just keeps fighting, keeps massacring, upping his rate and piling up mountains of greasy body parts.

Christ, there are people here who are even moaning about that.

There’s a doctor, she’s been here a little over a day, a real fucking do-gooder, and she’s doing his fucking head in. He’s just trying to keep wave after wave of corpses from getting any closer to the Tower of London, but she’s on at him because she reckons it’s a health hazard.

‘A health hazard?’ he shouts at her. That’s about the most redundant thing he’s ever heard. ‘Look around you, for fuck’s sake. The whole of London’s a fucking health hazard.’

‘Yes, but you’re exacerbating it.’

‘I’m what?’

‘You’re making it worse. If we can clear the dead away from here instead of getting them here then chopping them up, then that’s got to be a better option. Every time you cut one of them up, you’re massively increasing the risk of disease.’


‘For crying out loud, look around you. The streets are running with blood. Germ-filled blood. If we’re going to have even half a chance of surviving this, then we need to—’

He turns on her, stepping away from the front line of battle momentarily. Behind him, a handful of decent fighters continue to hold back the ranks of the dead.

‘You keep talking and you’re not going to survive the day. You’ll be the next thing I cut up.’

She stands back and applauds him. Bloody woman stands in the glistening street in the low light and gives him a slow handclap.

‘Oh, that’s just perfect,’ she says. ‘Well done, love, killing the doctor’s really going to help.’

‘It’ll help me.’

‘Until you get sick.’

There’s a third person edging towards this conversation now. Whoever it is, they’re taking a hell of a risk positioning themselves between this fiery doctor and the adrenalin-fuelled thug. Piotr realises it’s the wimp with the weak stomach he was watching a while back. He’s shouting to try and make himself heard over their slanging match.

‘I think there’s a better option here.’

‘And who the fuck are you?’ Piotr demands to know.

Dominic Grove steps out into a pool of light coming from an arc light someone’s managed to set up so they can keep fighting through the night. He steps back into the shadow again momentarily, long enough to allow Piotr to deal with a meandering corpse that’s slipped through their defences and wandered too close. Piotr cleaves the top of its head off like a hardboiled egg.

The doctor’s realised who he is.

‘Oh, that’s just frigging perfect,’ she says. ‘Someone said they thought they saw you here. Great. Of all the people to have survived the apocalypse, why does it have to be a bloody politician? What use are you going to be to anyone? What use were you ever?’

Dominic smiles politely and holds his nerve. He’s used to the abuse. He’s gotten so used to it that he’s actually missed it since almost everyone died. He turns his back on the woman, because it’s Piotr he needs to talk to. ‘Can we have a word? I think I can help.’

‘I saw you trying to help a while back. I don’t fucking think so.’

‘Sorry about that. I’m not cut out for killing.’

‘That’s the only help I need right now.’

‘I think I can do more than that.’

Piotr is distracted. Someone’s not doing their job right, because more and more corpses are getting through. He punches his gloved fist into the nose of another one of them, turning its head almost concave. He pushes the rag doll away, then shakes lumps of gory muck off his hand. Dominic swallows down bile.

‘Like I said, unless you’re here to fight, I’m not interested,’ Piotr says to him.

Another couple of days have passed, and things aren’t getting any better. Piotr and his fighters are flagging. They keep slaughtering, but the dead just keep coming. They’re incessant, and their lifeless numbers show absolutely no sign of reducing.

The area around the Tower of London is like hell on earth. Every visible surface is covered with remnants of the sustained massacre that’s been carried out here, and those who continue to try and hold back the dead are having to contend with increasingly difficult conditions. The ground underfoot is a sea of churned innards and slippery body parts. Piotr has been over on his ass more than a few times already this morning, though that’s as much due to exhaustion as anything else. It’s hard to stay standing upright in the mire. He’s starting to think he might be fighting a losing battle. Might be time to get out of here and set up somewhere else on his own.

Away from the front-line, though, changes are afoot.

Dominic is standing on top of the wall that surrounds the Tower of London, looking down at the almost unimaginable scenes of horror continuing to unfold below. He’s starting to get used to the surreal impossibility of their dead new world. He’s started to see through the gore. Where other people see only bleak hopelessness, he’s started to identify opportunities.

Yesterday, he brought a couple of people up here and pointed out to them that as most new arrivals seem to reach the group via the Monument and the light on the top that’s still (just about, intermittently) burning, they should set up some kind of reception committee up that way. Nothing too grand, just a couple of welcoming faces who can show the traumatised people who’ve fought to get here where they can get something to eat and get cleaned up. Good-meaning folk have run with this idea, and now there’s a decent number of them working to put together a more substantial offering. Some have taken it on themselves to scavenge from the nearest buildings. Dominic knows it’ll change in the near future, but for now there should be an abundance of food, drink, clean clothing, and other supplies in the shops, homes, and offices in the immediate vicinity. Last night he suggested – didn’t tell – a chap called Mihai that he should maybe start sorting and storing all their provisions in a swanky-looking office block just across the way. Mihai used to work in logistics, Dominic overheard. By all accounts, that made him a perfect candidate.

He went to see Liz, the doctor who’d been rubbing Piotr up the wrong way and asked her to look at a slight injury he’d picked up on the way here. He gave her some cock and bull story about being worried about infection, but that was just an excuse to talk. He mentioned he’d been looking around an area on the first floor of the building he’d suggested Mihai start using. Dominic thought the first-floor suite would be an ideal makeshift surgery, and he also recommended she should probably have a word with Mihai, because he knew for a fact that there’d been a couple of pharmacies cleared out yesterday and their burgeoning group could definitely do with someone who knew what they were doing going through the meds and storing them properly. Liz didn’t hesitate. It kept her busy and kept her away from the mindless morons on the streets still hacking and slashing at the living dead.

Dominic also had a similar conversation with a lady called Phillipa Rochester, who he’d heard mention that she’d worked as a chef. He thought she’d be really well-placed to make a start on sorting out a proper catering provision. Like Liz, Phillipa was keen to help. He noticed that despite the world having all but ended last week, people were already incredibly keen to return to roles they’d held in their former lives. He’d expected that might be the case. He was beginning to feel like he was doing much the same thing himself.

He thought it would be a good idea to get a few cars and vans and use them to block the roads and give the group a bit more security and space to move. He mentioned this to a couple of people – a lady called Ruth being the keenest – and he was pleased when they acted on his suggestion. Piotr certainly didn’t complain. He noticed that the number of corpses coming his way had reduced. It made them far easier to deal with, and it meant that, at long last, he could take a proper break.

Dominic sees Piotr sitting on a wall, eating a hot meal that Phillipa has cooked. He’s covered in so much blood that Dom has to do a double take to be certain he’s not another one of the pitiful corpses that’s somehow regained a little more control than most. ‘Great job you’ve done here,’ he says. Piotr just grunts. ‘Do you think we can have that word now?’

‘No. Piss off.’

But Dominic doesn’t. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He goes on a charm offensive.

‘I just wanted to say that I think you’ve done an incredible thing here. This place really needs people like you, people who are willing to dig in and get their hands dirty.’

‘So that people like you can sit on your backsides and do jack-shit?’

‘I wish. I’ve been working flat out,’ Dominic says, defensive.

‘Yeah, right.’

And Dominic tells him about all the things he’s made happen, all the people he’s managed to convince to work and all the jobs they’ve done. Then he talks about the ideas he’s had for the future, how they can build on the strong foundations Piotr’s built, and how, if they all pull together, they can really make something of this place.

‘None of this would have been possible without you, Piotr,’ he says. ‘In the future – if we have one – we’re going to rely on people like you. I could never have done the things that you’ve been doing.’

‘You didn’t even try.’

‘That’s because I have other skills.’

‘Yeah, I heard about your skills. Fucking politician.’

‘I’m an ex-politician,’ Dom says, quick as a flash, because he’s been planning this conversation for a couple of days. ‘Politics died along with everything else. There’s no need for that kind of nonsense anymore. If I’m completely honest, I’m not sure that there ever was.’

And that, he thinks, is a text-book political statement: say the exact opposite of what you believe to align yourself completely with the person you’re trying to convince.

Piotr’s bored of the bullshit. ‘What is it you want?’

‘To help. I want to take responsibility for coordinating all the dull, boring things we need to do to keep us safe and turn this group into something positive. I want to bring these people together.’

‘And why should I give a shit?’

‘Because we can both benefit from that.’

‘You think?’

‘I know. We can help each other, you and me. You’re exceptionally good at the physical side of things, I’m not. My skills are about persuasion. I can talk the talk.’

‘I wish you’d stop talking and just get to the frigging point. I don’t have time for your shite.’

Dominic smiles to himself. Piotr makes a good point. Why does he always feel the need to use a hundred words when one will do?

‘Symbiosis,’ he says.


‘You know what a parasite is, right?’

‘Yeah, a politician.’

‘Nice. No, a parasite is something that lives of something else at that other thing’s expense.’


‘Symbiosis is where there’s a mutual benefit. If we work together, Piotr, then between us you and I can cover all the bases. We’ll build this place together from the ground up, and we’ll run it exactly how we want to. The world is dead, but not completely. If we’re smart here, and we don’t piss each other off, then between us we can take everything that’s left.’