30 June 2016

ZAMJC cont.

Chapter Three: Road To Nowhere


Our problems continued as we pulled off the driveway. As if murderous lunatics weren’t enough, we had a slightly more mundane issue to contend with. I glanced down at the fuel gauge again, willing it to tell me something different. The orange warning light came on to spite me.
I had been meaning to get petrol all week but something had always come up and I hadn’t got around to it. How was I supposed to know we’d be running for our lives?
I decided not to tell the others about the lack of fuel as I reached forward and turned off my TV theme tunes CD. Tasha was already having a full blown freak out in the back and it wouldn’t take much more to push Beth over the edge.
I was having trouble getting my head around the situation myself. There was a blood thirsty mob in our street. Why couldn’t pirates have invaded instead? Especially ones that looked like Orlando Bloom. We could have commandeered a ship and gone sailing off into the sunset. After that...
“Watch it dude!” yelled Beth as she leaned across me and jerked the wheel to the left.
“Wha...?” I snapped out of my day dream as the car swerved violently across the road, narrowly avoiding the first of the crazies. We ended up tipped over slightly as two wheels went up on the pavement. Beth let go of the wheel and I steered us back onto the road.
          “I know psychos must be worth a lot of points but that doesn’t mean you should actually try and hit them!” shouted Tasha from the back. She had her phone pressed to her ear.
 “Sorry. Got distracted,” I said sheepishly.
“Yeah, well... mind on the road,” said Beth gruffly as she settled back into her seat.
She had a point. There were abandoned belongings all over the road as well as the odd car. On a couple of occasions there was something that looked horribly like a body, although I tried not to look too closely. That went double for the one I didn’t see in time and ran over.
“What was that?” asked Beth as we went over the unexpected bump.
“Nothing,” I said quickly.
“Was that...?”
“No. No it wasn’t.”
An awkward silence settled over the car. Time to change the subject.
“Have you managed to get through to the police yet?” I called, realising I hadn’t heard Tasha talking to anyone. I glanced back at her in the rear-view mirror. Tasha was staring at her phone’s screen, a frown creasing her forehead.
“I can’t get the call to go through,” she said, tapping in 999 again.
“It sounds like its engaged, it’s really weird.”
“Screw it – we’ll go to them!” I said hauling the steering wheel to the left and making the tight turn down one of the side streets. Tasha and Beth did their best to stay up right, well used to my driving.
The road ahead of us was littered with the sort of speed bumps that could easily rip the bottom off your car if you drove over them too quickly. As we’d put a bit of distance between us and the crazy gang, I felt safe in easing the pace slightly. There still wasn’t anyone around. Like our street, the rows of terraced houses looked like they had been abandoned in a hurry and belongings were strewn around.
“Think we’ve found out what we missed last night,” said Beth as I steered around a couple of suitcases in the middle of the road.
“Looks that...” I trailed off as something down the road caught my eye. “Bollocks.”
Another mob of people had staggered out of a side road up ahead and were blocking the road. There were a couple of cars parked up on either side of the road, leaving me no way to get past them. To our right, another group were stood in the basket ball court, pressed up against the chain link fence. I slowed but we had already caught the attention of the group in the road. Like their friends, this lot also had troubling red stains on their bodies.
“If I didn’t know better, I’d say they looked a lot like zombies,” said Tasha with a nervous laugh. Beth and I joined in.
“Ha, yeah. Good one mate,” I said as I crunched the car into reverse, half turning in my seat for a better view out of the back window.
“Only if we’ve somehow fallen into a bad B movie,” said Beth. “Even I know that’s unlikely.”
          I swung the car up onto an empty drive and got my faithful Peugeot facing in the right direction.
          “If we can’t get through to the police or to the station, what do you say to getting the hell outta Dodge?” I asked, casting a furtive glance at the fuel gauge. “There must be someone around who can explain what the fuck is going on.”
          There wasn’t any disagreement from the other two and I retraced our route, praying we weren’t going to get cut off by the original group of zombie wannabes. Luckily for us it seemed they had found something better to do and had buggered off.
          The motorway seemed our best bet for getting out of the city as quickly as possible. It was odd driving along with no one else on the road. If the petrol situation hadn’t been getting rather desperate, I would probably have gone for a spin round the city. Some banging tunes on the stereo, windows down, sun out – it would have been wicked.
          We dodged a couple of wooden pallets and pulled onto the ramp that led to the motorway. I was building up a decent speed when we encountered another, rather larger, problem.
          “Shit!” Beth and I both yelled as I stood on the brake pedal. Tasha cursed as her seatbelt locked as she was flung forward. There was a horrible squealing noise from the tyres as we skidded along towards a sheer drop where tarmac used to be. I managed to bring the car to a halt just short of the edge.
          All three of us sat for a long moment, recovering from the shock. Still not quite believing what I was seeing I got out, after fighting with my seatbelt which seemed determined to keep me pinned in place. Behind me, I heard Beth and Tasha climb out.    
“Holy shit,” muttered Beth. 
I’d driven along this stretch of motorway a couple of days ago. I was pretty sure there hadn’t been a bloody great Navy warship jammed into the side of the motorway then. The prow of the ship was half hidden behind broken pieces of concrete and tarmac. A huge crack stretched out across the motorway dividing it in two and separating us from the mainland.
On the other side of the gap, the tarmac curved away to the right until it disappeared from view past the enormous white sail sculpture that I had never really seen the point of. There were several cars standing abandoned across the lanes of the motorway and signs that people had been in a hurry to get away. That was all that was left though, signs. There wasn’t anyone in sight.
My mind wasn’t really focusing on that at the moment though. I was struggling to get past the massive hulking warship.
“Am I still drunk or am I actually seeing that?”
“It’s definitely there...”
          “Reckon they did it on purpose?” I asked kicking a loose bit of concrete, sending it skittered over the edge.
          “Fucked if I know,” said Tasha standing with her arms folded, glowering at the bizarre sight.
          “Alright, tetchy. Was only asking.”
          I put my hand up to my eyes to shield them from the bright sunlight. I couldn’t see anyone moving on board. It looked like the proverbial ghost ship.
“Don’t really fucking matter why it happened. The important bit is it’s doing a bloody brilliant job of stopping us getting the hell out of here,” said Beth distractedly as she patted her pockets looking for something. “Bollocks, must’ve left me bloody baccy pouch on the table.” Her fingers fidgeted at her sides, giving away her craving.
          Tasha turned back to look towards the city.
          “Look at all that smoke. Must be a fair few things on fire.”
          She was right. There were tall columns of black smoke rising up all over the city, obscuring the familiar landmarks. It was a weird feeling to be standing in the middle of a motorway, looking back towards a silent city. There should have been cars. There should have been sirens. There should have been life.
          A shiver ran down my back that had nothing to do with the cold. Well actually, it might have done as I was wearing only a vest top and it was blowing a gale up on the bridge. It was more likely to do with the situation however.
 “Where the hell is everyone?” I wondered out loud, twisting a finger in a strand of hair to keep it from whipping into my face.
“Bit creepy, ain’t it?” said Beth from behind me.
I turned away from the view.
          “C’mon guys, there’ll be another way out.”
          We all climbed back in the car. I sat for a moment before starting the engine, staring out over the destroyed road. Beth and Tasha stayed silent. I guessed they were thinking the same as me. If someone had gone to the trouble of destroying one road, it was unlikely they would have left any others standing.
          Still, we weren’t going to find out if we stayed sitting here so I coaxed the Peugeot’s engine back into life and pulled a u-ey before heading back off the motorway.
          I guided us back through the city and we made our way up London Road, only to have our suspicions confirmed as we found our escape route destroyed once again. Disheartened, we carried on across the city looking for any possible way out of the city. Everywhere we went was blocked. Railway lines, footbridges, roads - everything had been systematically blown up.
When you first tell someone who isn’t from Portsmouth that it’s actually an island, they tend not to believe you. I doubted it myself when I first found out – even after driving in and out of the city a few times. It was only after a lot of zooming in on Google Maps, that I realised it was true.
If someone hadn’t pointed it out, I probably would have just carried on in blissful ignorance. Portsmouth’s island status had never really featured highly in my day to day life. It was just one of those vaguely interesting facts that occasionally proved useful during pub quizzes.
Today I was cursing the thin strip of water that separated us from the main land.
          We were getting so desperate that we even considered swimming across where the water was at its narrowest. The three of us were all set to wade in when Tasha spotted several zombies stuck in the mud down at the bottom of the bank. We were just plotting a route past them, when one of the zombies stumbled and fell face first into the mud. There was a loud boom and the body was blown sky high before raining down in tiny pieces. The force of the blast sent us staggering backwards and we all landed in a heap.
          “What the...?”
          “Was that a fucking landmine?!”
          We quickly decided that wading across was a very bad idea.
Despite suspecting that it was hopeless, we carried on towards the Eastern Road. We made it just close enough to see that the bridge was destroyed like all the others, when the Peugeot started coughing. With a final splutter the engine died and we rolled to a slow halt.
“Err... why are we stopping?” asked Tasha, leaning forward through the gap between the two front seats.
“The car ran out of petrol,” I replied tightly.
“Fuck!” Beth exploded. It had been a while since she had a cigarette and she had been getting increasingly ratty as we had repeatedly had our hopes of escape dashed. “What the fuck are we supposed to do now?”
“Well... we can’t stay here,” said Tasha. There was panic in her voice. She was staring at something in the rear-view mirror. I turned in my seat to look.
“Oh for fuck’s sake...” I muttered, scrabbling to undo my seatbelt.
More zombie like figures were shuffling up behind us. They hadn’t spotted us yet but it was only a matter of time. If they trapped us in the car, we’d be sitting ducks.
“Why can’t they just leave us in peace?”
“What we gonna do?”
“Only one thing we can do,” I said, trying to locate the door handle whilst not taking my eyes off the mob behind us.
Tasha and Beth caught my drift and as one we flung the car doors open and got out.
“Which way?!”
“This way!” I yelled, picking a direction completely at random before running off and hoping the others were behind me. I knew we’d been spotted us from the chorus of groans that sprang up but I didn’t look back. Thinking about it, we probably could have been a little more subtle getting out of the car.
          I had only gone a few metres when I remembered that I was wearing flip flops and that running in them was a right pain in the arse. Of all the days not to be wearing trainers.
I wasn’t the only one who was struggling. Tasha was whimpering quietly behind me, although how much was due to fear and how much was due to her hangover was anyone’s guess. Beth was running alongside me and was somehow managing to keep up a constant string of swear words in between massive coughing fits.
Our all out sprint quickly slowed to a brisk jog and then a fast walk. Eventually we had to stop and get our breath back. My lungs were burning and I had the mother of all stitches in my side. As I tried to draw much needed air into my body, I looked around us. Nothing was familiar. My sense of direction was messed up after we had run blindly along various roads.
“So,” I wheezed, bent over with my hands on my knees. “Anyone know where we are?”
“Yep,” gasped Tasha who was lying flat out on the ground.
“Seriously?” I asked, surprised. Tasha’s sense of direction was notoriously lousy. “Where?”
“Some god forsaken part of Portsmouth.”
I sighed.
“We’re fucking lost aren’t we?”

1 May 2016


Zombies Ate My Jaffa Cakes

Chapter One: Dead To The World


Achievement unlocked
25G – What The Fuck Am I Supposed To Do With This?

Back before everything went to Hell, I sometimes used to imagine I was living inside a computer game.
Don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware of the difference between real life and fiction. It’s just sometimes after putting in a hefty session on the Xbox with my housemate Beth, I found myself looking at buildings and trying to work out how to climb them or pretending the crowds of town centre shoppers were enemies to overcome. I’ve lost count of the number of times I wished for a Renegade interrupt option like Commander Shepherd in Mass Effect - some people really need punching.
          People told me on a fairly regular basis that I was wasting my time gaming and that I should be getting on with more important things – like my university coursework. Or housework. For some reason, important always seems to equate with boring.
          Then everything changed.
Now I’m wishing I’d spent more time gaming.
          If real life had achievements, I’m pretty sure I’d have unlocked a whole string of them. Now I come think about it, the fact that we’ve found ourselves in this situation at all is an achievement. It took real dedication to the student lifestyle to pull this off...

          There was a loud banging noise coming from downstairs and something with a large engine was chugging away in the street.
          Normally I would have tuned out all these unwanted disturbances and gone back to sleep. One of my housemates could investigate what was going on and let me know if there was anything to worry about.
However there was also a god-awful wailing noise coming from somewhere. I really hoped it wasn’t the smoke alarm. Reluctantly, I forced my eyes open and peered blearily at the illuminated numbers on the alarm clock next to my bed. I stared at it for a long moment as my still drunk mind struggled to comprehend the sheer horror of what the display was telling me.
Fucking 5 am.
I am not a morning person. Despite this, I have seen 5 am plenty of times. Admittedly this only happened when there was a party or an essay deadline involved. I had absolutely no desire to be awake at this time without a bloody good reason. What the hell was that noise?
The pounding coming from downstairs stopped. Now that I was a bit more awake, I could hear shouting in the street outside. The voices were muffled by the double glazing so I couldn’t make out the words. It was perhaps a bit late/early for people to be coming back from the pub but it was not unheard of in this area of Portsmouth. Perhaps it was the couple down the road having another domestic.
I briefly thought I heard a child crying but dismissed it. It was probably next door’s cat having another standoff with the urban fox that had been hanging around recently.
That bloody wailing noise was still disturbing my peace. Finally I managed to kick my groggy thoughts into gear and I placed the sound. It was a sodding air raid siren.
“What the fuck am I supposed to do with this?” I mumbled, half sitting up in bed. There were no sounds of movement coming from the rooms of any of my housemates. Either they were all still dead to the world or they had also decided to leave it someone else to investigate.
I waited a moment longer to see if I was going to be granted a reprieve. Nope. It was no good, I was going to have to get up and look.
I got as far as throwing back the duvet when abruptly the siren stopped and with final shuddering roar and crunch of gears, the vehicle pulled away. I groaned in exasperation.
“About bloody time,” I muttered as I collapsed back down and pulled the duvet up over my head. Within ten seconds I was fast asleep again.

I woke again to find sunlight streaming through a gap in the curtains. My mouth had that special dryness you only get with a hangover and there was a banging pain in my temples. I knew I should have had more water before bed.
          I glanced at my alarm clock, slightly afraid what it was going to show. It was getting on for 1 pm, which was annoying as it meant I had missed Homes Under The Hammer. I had intended to go to the library this morning to start on my dissertation research but I wasn’t so fussed about delaying that as I had the whole summer ahead.
          Given the size of my hangover, I decided that today’s plan should consist of slobbing about on the sofa with tea and toast. A trip down the road to the local Co-op was about as energetic as I wanted to get. Scrabbling around in the piles of discarded clothing that littered my room, I dragged on my favourite pair of jeans and a vaguely clean vest top and made my way downstairs.
          I met Beth in the kitchen as she was switching on the kettle.
          “Awesome mate, do us one as well would you?” I asked collapsing down on one of the rickety kitchen chairs. I hadn’t really needed to ask. Beth had been reaching for another mug the moment she had heard me walk down the stairs.
          “How you doing this morning?” I asked massaging my temples as I watched her drop tea bags into our favourite mugs. Mine was the one with The Clangers on, Beth’s was decorated with dragons.
          “Not too bad considering, bit of headache though,” she answered, her back half turned to me, intent on her task. “Did we forget to do something last night?” she asked, tapping her fingers on the counter as the kettle spluttered and hissed.
          “Like what?”
           “Dunno. Got this feeling like we were meant to do something after the pub. Probably nothing. Pass us the milk dude,” she said over her shoulder as she wrestled the lid off the sugar pot.
          I tipped my chair back slightly and opened the fridge behind me, pulling out Beth’s carton of soya milk and the half skimmed stuff for me.
          As I passed them over, heavy footsteps came clattering down the stairs from the top floor, the sound causing my headache to throb painfully. Without saying a word, Beth reached for a butterfly covered mug as the kettle clicked off.
          Jess has some weird sixth sense for knowing when the kettle has boiled. She can be fast asleep, properly sparked out, but the moment the kettle clicks she’s awake and ready for tea.
          “Morning guys!” she said brightly, as she practically bounced into the room and sat down opposite me. Despite drinking far more than Beth or I the night before, Jess appeared to have once again dodged the hangover bullet.
“Hardly morning,” I said, yawning. “And do you have to be so bleeding chirpy? It’s sickening.”
“Don’t blame me if you feel like shite. I told you not to mix your drinks. Cheers mate,” she said as Beth placed a steaming mug of tea in front of her. I stuck my tongue out at her before picking up my own mug.
“What happened to Nat last night? I text her when we left but didn’t hear anything back from her,” Beth said as she sat down in one of the spare chairs.
“Don’t know,” I mumbled, leaning back in my chair. Nat and I had never seen eye to eye. She had taken an irrational dislike to me from the moment we had moved in. It started with petty name calling but things had been getting steadily worse. Last month back she had stolen my Clangers mug and last week she had scratched my copy of Dodgy’s latest album. She said it was an accident but I wasn’t convinced.
Most of the time I tried to ignore the fact that she lived with us, although I wasn’t above the occasional act of petty retaliation when she really got on my wick. After the CD incident, I had tipped a load of her really expensive toothpaste into her similarly pricey conditioner making it go really watery. A small thing but it made me smile.
“Did she even come home last night? I tried looking for her when we got kicked out but it was a right scrum by the door,” said Jess.
“Could always go up and check in her room if you’re worried,” I said, innocently.
“Yeah, I’m not that worried,” said Beth, fiddling with one of her many piercings. “She kicked off big style when we did that before.”
“Last I saw of her, she was chatting to that scrawny looking bloke at the bar. Maybe she went back to his place,” said Jess, blowing on her tea to try and cool it to a more drinkable temperature.
“That really pale looking bloke?” I asked.
Jess nodded.
“I thought she had standards. He looked like death warmed up,” I snorted.
“There was a severe lack of anything hot at the Reg last night,” said Beth ruefully, still idly spinning a silver hoop through the hole in one of her earlobes. Jess and I grunted in agreement.
The Registry had everything we wanted in a pub - great music, cheap booze and, usually, a really good atmosphere. However, there had been hardly anyone out last night. Hopefully things would pick up once term started again.
“Perhaps Nat’s got that bug that’s going around at the moment,” I said, swirling the dregs of my tea around my mug.
 “Wrong time of the year for Fresher’s Flu, ain’t it?” Jess asked, twirling a length of her brown hair around her fingers. “Not like there are many students left in the city over the summer.”
Beth shrugged. “Never seems to be a pattern to it.”
 “Did either of you hear all that noise last night?” I asked, rubbing my temples again. My headache was getting worse – I was going to need my sure-fire hangover cure.
“Yep,” said Jess. Beth nodded.
“Was hoping one of you would get up and have a look.”
They both scoffed.
“Yeah right, like that was going to happen!” Beth laughed.
“You’d think people would have the common decency to keep the noise down at that time of the morning,” I said.
“Some people are just twats,” said Beth as she pulled a packet of tobacco from her pocket, fished out a Rizla and started making herself a roll up.
“Deep dude, deep,” I said and we clinked mugs.
“Christ, I’m starving. Anyone fancy a bacon sandwich?” asked Jess, making to stand up.
“Good luck with that. Nat ate the last of it yesterday.”
“Well that’s just fucking rude.”
I pushed back my own chair and stood up unsteadily.
“Not sure I can manage a bacon sandwich anyway,” I said, crossing to my food cupboard. “I need Jaffa Cakes.”
“Jaffa Cakes?” said Beth, raising an eyebrow as she sparked her lighter and touched the flame to the end of her cigarette. “You must be feeling rough.”
I pulled open the cupboard door and stopped dead. There were no Jaffa Cakes on the shelf. I stared at the empty space puzzled. I could have sworn I had left a box in there.
“Ahhh, shit,” I said slamming the cupboard shut.
“Thought I had another box left. Must have eaten them last night.”
“Yeah, must have,” said Jess, just a bit too casually. A flicker of suspicion crossed my mind. Before I could question her further, she got to her feet and began gathering the empty mugs. Jess is incapable of leaving any sort of mess lying around for too long – not that the rest of us minded.
“Well seeing as you’re up, you can go down the shop and get bacon and Jaffa Cakes,” she said, sliding an ashtray across to Beth.
“What? You’re stood up as well. Why the hell do I have to go?”
“You know the rules, first person to stand up goes down the shop.”
Crap. What was worse, I had come up with that rule.
“Wait, didn’t you stand up before? When you asked about bacon?”
“No. My arse didn’t leave the chair.”
I did my best not to sulk.
“You couldn’t get me some baccy, could you?” asked Beth, removing a load of ash with a practiced flick. I sighed.
“Fine. Anything else?” I asked huffily, crossing to the money tin on the shelf and taking out a £10 note and a handful of change.
Neither of them could think of anything else but I shoved my phone in my pocket just in case. After I’d managed to locate my trainers and found my keys under the sofa, I pulled open the front door and reluctantly stepped out.
The sun was high over head, baking everything. The bright light and the heat were doing nothing to help my hangover. In fact I was so busy wallowing in my suffering that I didn’t initially notice there was something very wrong with the scene in front of me.
As I got to the end of our driveway and halted.
The street was deserted. Our road was always fairly quiet but there were usually a few people about at this time of day, even if it was only the creepy bloke who lived in the house opposite.
The lack of people wasn’t the only thing wrong however. A couple of houses opposite me were standing with their front doors wide open. One had a smashed window. I dredged up drunken memories from the night before. I was pretty sure if we had been responsible for the broken glass, we would have heard about it by now. Why would people just leave their doors open though? It wasn’t that hot.
There was a car standing abandoned in the middle of the road with all its doors open. I could see inside and the keys were still in the ignition. As far as I could see, all the other neighbours’ cars had gone. The only other car visible was Jess’, sitting on our driveway. The only movement was a small cluster of seagulls fighting over something in road. One of them glanced over at me, there was an evil glint in its eye and I looked away.
The pavements on either side of the road were dotted with odd articles of clothing and pieces of paper. At my feet, staring up at me, was a Ben 10 action figure. I stupidly bent down to pick it up and regretted it as my head felt like it was going to burst and the world spun around me.
Straightening up didn’t help. My temples were pounding and it felt like my stomach was trying to crawl up my throat. Dark smudges appeared in front of my eyes. I rubbed them with my free hand. Worryingly the spots were still there – Perhaps this was a sign I needed to lay off the booze for while.
I blinked and then relief spread through me as my vision cleared and I realised I wasn’t seeing things. Further down the road, there was actually a group of about ten people.
I took a couple of steps towards them, intending to ask if they knew what was going on but something stopped me from calling out. In the glaring sunlight, it was tricky to see them properly but my gamer instinct, or possibly common sense, was warning me that something was off.
Telling myself that it was the hangover that was making me shake and not panic, I quickly walked back up the drive and with a trembling hand, opened the front door.
“Hey guys,” I called through to the kitchen, leaning heavily on the doorframe.
Jess lent back in her chair and looked at me through the kitchen doorway.
“That was quick mate.”
“I’ve not been. You need to come see this.”
Jess disappeared back out of sight and there was the sound of chair legs scraping on the laminate flooring. I turned back to check on the approaching group, not willing to let them out of my sight for long. A moment later, I heard footsteps behind me.
“What’s the...” Jess started to ask before she noticed what was wrong with the picture in front of us. Embarrassingly she twigged a lot quicker than I had but then she wasn’t dealing with the hangover from Hell.
“Anyone else getting a seriously bad vibe from that lot?” I asked, my voice cracking slightly. I pointed to where the crowd were slowly creeping closer. Beth and Jess leant out through the door and looked down the road.
Now they were closer, we could see that they were stumbling along as if movement was difficult for them. One of the figures at the front of the group was holding their head at a very odd angle.
As we stood watching, a loud moan echoed out, cutting through the still air. Instantly goose bumps broke out across my skin and I shivered despite the warm sunshine.
My gamer sense was definitely tingling now. I moved to one side as Beth stepped out onto the doorstep to get a better look at the approaching mob.
“Well this lot can’t be good,” she said quietly.
“Probably just a bunch of pissheads,” said Jess, although she didn’t sound that convinced by her own argument. I could feel my heart rate beginning to rise as all three of us stood transfixed, watching the group move inexorably closer.
More of them were groaning now. It was quite possibly the most horrible thing I had ever heard. Their faces were deathly pale and their clothes were torn in places. They looked even worse than I felt. Then I noticed the suspicious looking red staining on their hands and clothes.
I was about to ask if the others had seen it, when one of the group hefted what was undeniably a human leg into the air.
“Fuck!” we said as one.
“What the fuck are we fucking going to do?” I yelled. I was far too hung-over to be dealing with a group of murderous psychos and was rapidly heading for a full blown freak out. My mouth was hanging open but I didn’t seem able to do anything about it.
I had always thought that if confronted with a life-threatening situation, I would react in the same way as I did when gaming. I’d remain calm and do whatever needed to be done to get the situation resolved.
It was therefore a bit of a disappointment to discover that this wasn’t the case. Still, I consoled myself, facing down death in real life was a lot more terrifying than it ever was in a game.
Luckily for all of us, Jess had kept her composure. Reaching back inside to the bowl sitting on the front room windowsill, she grabbed her car keys.
“Leg it!” she shouted as she blipped open the central locking on her dirty white Peugeot. “We’ll call the police from the car!”
Having her yell right in my ear was enough to break me out of my trance. We might have been running for our lives but some things are sacred. Beth and I looked at each other and both yelled “Shotgun!”
Annoyingly Beth was marginally quicker, so I ran around the side of the car and jumped in the back, while she got in the front. Jess slipped into the driver’s seat and slammed the key into ignition before turning it. The engine spluttered and died. Jess laughed nervously and tried again with the same result.
The mob was about fifty metres away and groaning louder than ever. The noise was making the hairs on the back on my neck stand up. It was pretty obvious we had attracted their attention.
What I wouldn’t give for the Master Chief’s shotgun right about now. Desperately I searched the back of the car for anything that I could use as a weapon. Unfortunately, Jess had recently had a clear out so all I found was an AA map book, a half eaten Mars bar and the sodding action figure I still had clutched in my hand. We were so screwed.
“Any time now,” said Beth, her fingers drumming nervously on the glove box, her attention fixed on what was happening outside.
“Working on it,” said Jess through clenched teeth as she turned the key in the ignition again. “Come on you bitch, start!”
Thankfully on the fifth attempt, the Peugeot’s engine decided that it wanted to play ball and it coughed into life. All three of us breathed a huge sigh of relief as Jess crunched into gear and backed off our drive way.
It was at that moment we realised that the stereo was on and just what was playing.
It was the Scooby Doo theme tune.
“What the fucking hell is this?” Beth yelled as we tore off down the street.

Chapter Two: The Other Housemate


Last night

My housemates and I were down the Registry. I hadn’t wanted to go but I knew the others didn’t want me there either. Any opportunity to annoy them had to be seized.
I was regretting my moment of pettiness now.
Everything was pissing me off. The music was shite, the beer was shite and the company was worse. The three fucking amigos had managed to get completely off their faces on Carling, rum and red wine in record time. They were now laughing hysterically at some inane joke one of them had made. As I watched, Jess fell off the low stool she was sitting on, sending the remains of her rum and coke flying in all directions. Predictably this set them off in new gales of laughter.
          Finally I couldn’t take any more. Gulping down the last of my warm pint, I slammed my glass down on the table and stood up.
          “Oi! Nat! Where go?” Beth slurred.
          “Away from you lot,” I said.
          “Ooooh!” they all chorused in mock offense.
          “Shove it up your arses,” I snarled as I made my way across the bar. This only made them laugh louder. That hadn’t quite been the dignified exit I was going for.
          The Registry was nearly empty tonight. Normally this would have been a right result as it meant you could actually get to the bar. However, it’s a bit of draw back when you are trying to avoid your idiot housemates. I’d left my phone at home so I couldn’t even find a quiet corner and spend the night on the internet.
Eventually, for want of anything else to do, I got chatting to a bloke who was leaning heavily against the bar. I say chatting. It wasn’t exactly the best conversation I’d ever had. It was mainly me talking and him occasionally making the odd grunting noise at vaguely appropriate moments.
          To start with, I was too pissed off to care about the lack of decent responses. As the night went on, this became just too pissed as I was more than happy to drink what he bought me.
          Normally chucking out time is 2 am. Tonight however, one of the bouncers started yelling that it was closing time a lot earlier than usual. There was something else about going home and waiting for an announcement but I wasn’t really listening, as through the alcohol haze, I saw the three idiots stumbled off into the night without giving me a backward glance. Obviously none of them gave two shits about whether I got home safely. Not that I cared whether they did either.
          As it happened, things seemed to be going alright with the bloke I’d met. As the bouncers gave us the hurry up, we both stumbled out one of the side doors and into the balmy night air.
          My head was buzzing and I felt like I was in a bubble, separate from the rest of the world. Somewhere at the back of my mind, I wondered if I was more than drunk but I was too far gone to really care.
I took the guy’s hand in mine as we crossed the road outside the pub, dodging the maniac taxi drivers and the other pub goers who seemed in a real rush to get somewhere. The bloke’s skin was oddly cool to the touch but I put this out of my mind as we found ourselves a quiet corner in a shop doorway and set about getting to know each other better.
          I’m going to blame the my inebriated state for the alarm bells not going off sooner. They were however ringing loud and clear when the guy grabbed my shoulders, pulling me closer before sinking his teeth into where my shoulder met my neck.
          Pain seared through me and I screamed, instinctively planting both my palms firmly on his chest and shoving him backwards.
          “What the fuck d’ya thing you’re doing?!” I shouted, pressing my hand to the bite. My head swam as I fought the urge to be sick.
          The man was lying on his back with his arms waving in the air like some sort of enormous beetle. He was groaning but I wasn’t sure whether this was due to the fall or his general inebriation.
After the love bite he had just given me, I wasn’t about to offer to help him up. Instead I dispensed a swift, yet satisfying, kick to his bollocks, before staggering off into the night.
“Arsehole,” I yelled over my shoulder.
I thought about going back into the pub to take a look at the bite but the heavy wooden doors were shut by the time I had crossed back over the road. I didn’t have enough cash to get a taxi back to ours and there was no way I was going to call a fucking ambulance. I would never hear the end of it. There was nothing for it, I was going have to walk and hope I didn’t pass out on the way.
Guildhall Walk was rammed with pub goers. Everywhere seemed to be shutting earlier than usual. Even if I had the money for a taxi, I would have struggled to get one judging by the crowd at the rank. Horns blared and people shouted as scuffles broke out on the pavement. I was too wrapped up in my own drama to give it much attention.
I made my way to the top of Commercial Road when there was the sound of shouting and running feet. I couldn’t pin point exactly where it was coming from as the sound was echoing off the buildings, distorting the noise. It sounded like it was coming from all around me.
Fear spiked through me, sending a new jolt of pain through the bite.
“Fucking hell, what else can go wrong tonight?” I muttered. I thought I saw shadows moving down Arundel Street but they disappeared too quickly for me to get a proper look.
“I’m not gonna get mugged or murdered, I’m not gonna get mugged or murdered...” I found myself repeating this over and over as I hurried onwards, desperately hoping I could make the words come true through sheer force of will.
 There must have been a small spark of magic in my mantra. Everyone I passed seemed too busy to give me much thought. There seemed to be traffic everywhere, the headlights swirling dizzily before my eyes.
As I rounded the last corner and our house came into sight, I tentatively lifted my hand away from my neck. My hand felt sticky and another wave of nausea crashed over me.
I was feeling really light headed and not in a good drunk way. More worryingly I was veering from hot flushes to the shivers even though it was a warm night. Just what I needed to top this night off, catching some disease from a scum eating lowlife. I really knew how to pick them.
I had been worried that the others were still going to be up when I got home as I hadn’t been able to come up with a convincing cover story. In the end, I needn’t have worried. The house was dark and silent when I turned my key in the lock. The others had clearly gone off to bed.
“That’s fine guys, no need to wait up to make sure I got home ok,” I muttered through gritted teeth as I slammed the door behind me. Fuckers.
My room is on the top floor at the back of the townhouse we shared. I thought about stomping around for a bit to try and wake the others up but by now I was knackered. The only thing I wanted to do was crawl under the covers and sleep for a week. Somehow I made it up to my room and collapsed down on my bed, all thoughts of checking the bite banished by exhaustion. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.
I woke up to find it was daylight. I’d fallen asleep without closing my curtains and I squinted as the light was like needles to my brain. There was shouting coming from downstairs followed by the slamming of car doors. After several false starts an engine roared and tyres screeched as I assumed Jess pulled off our drive way.
The silence that followed was a blessed relief. I had an absolutely banging headache, a powerful throbbing that started at the base of my skull and ended behind my eyes. Simply put, it was the worst hangover I had ever had.
Groaning, I turned over and went back to sleep.