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Philip Evans (part i)

Philip is dis­cov­ered towards the end of the first AUTUMN nov­el by Michael and Emma. A sad and lone­ly bach­e­lor, all he knows is the house he shares with his elder­ly moth­er and the small vil­lage com­mu­ni­ty near­by. Any­one would strug­gle to com­pre­hend the effects that the virus has had on the rest of the world, but Philip’s naivety dis­torts his under­stand­ing of what has hap­pened to every­one else.

In the 2009 Rene­gade Motion Pic­tures film of AUTUMN, Philip was played by the leg­endary David Carradine.

Mom’s not well.

She’s suf­fered with her health for years and she’s prac­ti­cal­ly been bed-rid­den since last Decem­ber, but she’s real­ly tak­en a turn for the worst this morn­ing. I’ll have to get the doc­tor out to see her if she doesn’t pick up soon.

I don’t know what I’d do with­out my mom. I know I should think about it, mind, ’cause I know she’s not going to be around for­ev­er. We’re very close, Mom and me. Dad died when I was lit­tle and there’s just been the two of us since then. I don’t ’cause I look after her, so we don’t get out much. We pret­ty much live out on our own here. There’s our cot­tage and one oth­er on either side and that’s about all. The vil­lage is five min­utes down the road by bike. We’ve nev­er both­ered with a car. Nev­er seen the point. We can get a bus into town if we real­ly need to, but there ain’t much we need that we can’t find in the village.

She’s call­ing again. I’ll make some tea and take it up with her tablets. I don’t like this. This isn’t like her. She always says she doesn’t like mak­ing a fuss. She tells the doc­tor that, and the health vis­i­tor, and the Dis­trict Nurse, and the priest.

It’s just her way.

#

I need to go and get help but I can’t leave the house. I can’t leave Mom on her own.

Oh, God, I don’t know what to do. I was up there with her when it hap­pened. I was try­ing to get her onto the toi­let when it start­ed. Usu­al­ly when she has one of her turns she’ll let me know it’s com­ing, but she didn’t just now. This came out of the blue. It took her by sur­prise as much as me.

She start­ed to choke. Mom’s chest has been bad for a long time and it’s been get­ting worse, but noth­ing like this. It was almost like she’d got some­thing stuck in her throat, but she turned her nose up at break­fast this morn­ing and she hadn’t eat­en any­thing else, so that was impos­si­ble. Any­way, before I knew what was hap­pen­ing she was cough­ing and retch­ing and her whole body was shak­ing. I lay her down on the bed and tried to get her to calm down and breathe slow and not pan­ic, but she couldn’t stop. She couldn’t swal­low, couldn’t talk. I didn’t even know if she could hear me. Her eyes were bulging wide and I knew she wasn’t get­ting any air but there wasn’t any­thing I could do. I tried to tip her head back to open up her wind­pipe like the nurse showed me once but she wouldn’t lie still. She kept fight­ing. She was thrash­ing her arms around and cough­ing and splut­ter­ing, mak­ing these hor­ri­ble nois­es. She didn’t sound like Mom any­more. It was like some­thing out of one of them hor­ror films. She was mak­ing this croak­ing, gar­gling noise and I thought there was phlegm or some­thing stuck or she was chok­ing on her tongue (the nurse told me about that once too) so I put my fin­gers in her mouth to make sure it was clear. When I pulled them out again they were cov­ered in blood. Then she stopped mov­ing. As sud­den­ly as the fit had start­ed, it stopped.

I knew there was noth­ing I could do. I sat down on the car­pet next to her and held her hand until I was cer­tain she’d gone.

I could still hear that hor­ri­ble chok­ing sound she was mak­ing in my head, long after Mom stopped fight­ing. I could hear it ring­ing in my ears when every­thing else went quiet.

It’s been qui­et like this for hours now.

#

Mom’s dead.

I can’t just sit here and do noth­ing. I know I can’t help her, but I can’t just leave her lying here either. The doc­tor will have to come around and check her, then some­one else will come to take her away and then … and then I don’t know what I’ll do. I’ve always had my mom.

About half an hour ago I moved her. I couldn’t leave her lying on the floor in the mid­dle of the land­ing like that, that just wouldn’t have been right. She was twice as heavy as when she was alive. I put my hands under her arms and dragged her into the bed­room, then lift­ed her onto the bed. I wiped the blood off her face and tried to close her eyes to make it look like she was just sleep­ing like they do in the films. I got one eye shut but the oth­er one stayed open, star­ing at me. It was like she was still watch­ing me, like one of those paint­ings of faces where the eyes fol­low you around the room. It was freaky, but in a way it made me feel a lit­tle bet­ter. Even though she’s gone it’s like she hasn’t stopped look­ing out for me.

I tried phon­ing the doc­tor but I couldn’t get an answer. Some­one should have been at the surgery (it’s open until late on Tues­days) so I guessed it was our tele­phone that wasn’t work­ing. The lines often go down in win­ter because we’re so iso­lat­ed out here. But it isn’t win­ter. It’s ear­ly Sep­tem­ber and the weather’s been fine for weeks.

I didn’t want to leave her but I didn’t have any choice. I shut the bed­room door, locked up the house and got my bike out of the shed. It didn’t take long to get into the vil­lage. Mom nev­er liked me rid­ing on the road (she said it was the oth­er peo­ple she didn’t trust, not me) but it didn’t mat­ter this morn­ing because there wasn’t any traf­fic about. The vil­lage ain’t the busiest of places, but there’s usu­al­ly always some­thing hap­pen­ing. This morn­ing it was so qui­et that all I could hear was the sound of my bike. And as I went fur­ther into the vil­lage, it got much worse. So much worse that I near­ly turned around and came back home, but think­ing about Mom made me keep going forward.

I was cycling down past Jack Halshaw’s house when I saw his front door was open. That was odd because Jack’s always been care­ful about things like that. He used to be a friend of my dad’s and I’ve known him all my life, so I stopped the bike because I thought I should tell him about Mom and I thought he might help me get things sort­ed out. I went down the path and leant into the house and shout­ed to him but he didn’t answer. I checked to see if he was in his back gar­den, and that was where I found him. He was lying flat on his back and I could tell just by look­ing at him he was dead. There was a pool of blood all round his mouth and it looked like he’d died the same way Mom had, even though that didn’t make no sense.

I didn’t know what to do. I kept going until I got to the mid­dle of the vil­lage. When I got there I just stopped the bike and stared. What­ev­er had hap­pened to Mom and Jack Hal­shaw had hap­pened to oth­er peo­ple too. All the oth­er peo­ple. The longer I stayed there, the more obvi­ous it was that I was the only one it hadn’t hap­pened got. Inside the doctor’s, Mrs Crib­bins from the chip shop and Dr Grainger were both lying dead in the mid­dle of the wait­ing room. Their faces were hor­ri­ble — splat­tered with blood and all screwed up like they’d been in ter­ri­ble pain when they’d died. The doc­tor looked like he’d been try­ing to scream when it had happened.

I kept going, but I wished that I hadn’t. Even though it had hap­pened ear­ly in the morn­ing, there had been lots of peo­ple out and about. They’d all died wher­ev­er they’d been, what­ev­er they’d been doing. And because our vil­lage is a small place I knew them all. Bill Lin­turn from the hard­ware shop was dead in his car out­side the store. Vera Price, the lady who’s on the till at the grocer’s on Tues­day, Thurs­day and Fri­days was lying dead on the pave­ment just out­side the shop. She’d fall­en into the mid­dle of the fruit and veg dis­plays they always have out­side. There were pota­toes, car­rots and apples all over the place.

I kept look­ing, but there was no one left to help me. It sounds sil­ly, but I didn’t want to leave Mom alone for too long, so I got back on my bike and cycled home.

#

It’s been almost half a day now since it hap­pened. I can’t get a pic­ture on the tel­ly and I still can’t get any­one on the phone. I’ve tried lis­ten­ing to the radio to find out what’s hap­pen­ing but all I can hear is silence or hiss­ing and crack­ling like it’s out of tune. I’ve been into the cot­tages next door on either side but both Ed and Mrs Chester are dead as well. I found Ed in his bath (the water was all pink because of the blood he’d been drib­bling) and Mrs Chester was at the bot­tom of her stairs with her neck all twist­ed. I tried to move her into her liv­ing room but her legs and arms had gone all stiff and hard. She was wedged behind the door and I couldn’t move her.

I think I’m just going to sit here and wait for a bit longer. Some­one will come soon­er or lat­er, I’m sure they will. And any­way, I can’t leave Mom here on her own. We did our week­ly shop yes­ter­day morn­ing so I’ve got enough food in. Every­thing will be all right again in a cou­ple of days time when the police and the gov­ern­ment start sort­ing out what’s hap­pened. I’ll have to phone around the rest of the fam­i­ly and let them know about Mom.

THE AUTUMN SERIES