The house stood silent as a mausoleum. Nothing inside moved. It was as though the passage of time had suffocated all life with. A grandfather clock stood mute in the hallway and grey lines of dust lined the picture rails and tops of framed photographs that still hung on walls -- reminders of a time when the house echoed with life and captured memories and moments of the family who had known it as home. The front door was ajar, testimony to the careless hurry of the last person to leave it. A shaft of sunlight shone through the gap, creating a band of light that crept lazily across the dust layered linoleum floor as the sun rose higher in the late morning sky.
The tranquillity of the house languid and seemingly eternal suddenly ended as the front door crashed fully open. Long shadows were thrown along the hallway as two figures filled the entrance. They half stumbled half threw themselves inside, breathing hard, their movements urgent and heedless of the quiet they had disturbed. The taller figure, a man, pushed the door shut behind them, closing it quietly with practised care. The other, a girl, leant against wall, taking deep breathes of musty air.
Both took several seconds to compose themselves, panting like runners who have just crossed the finish line. The girl spoke first, wiping strands of blonde hair from a forehead sticky with sweat.
'Do you think they're behind us?'
'Don't know, probably. We can't stay here, Aimee. Five minutes and we go, right?' he breathed out slowly then shook his head as though to clear it.
'I can't run anymore. I can't. Do you think this house is empty?' she asked, her voice low.
'We need to rest before we go,' she said, anxious that he might insist they move on immediately.
He looked at her as though gauging how exhausted she was. 'Okay babe, let's check it out -- but the longer we stay the riskier it is.'
'I know,' she said, relieved at the chance to rest.
He raised the claw hammer that was gripped in his right hand, its head stained with dark matter, and moved towards the nearest doorway. Aimee followed her boyfriend Tommy as he moved stealthily from room to room downstairs. They'd made a noisy entrance and logically anything threatening should have appeared by now. But you never knew.
A cursory look into each room was all that was required. A more detailed inspection could follow if the house was clear. The front living room was empty and the next room, some sort of study area was also clear. There were school text books scattered on the floor, and Aimee could not help but wonder what had happened to the books' owners, knowing that in all likelihood they were dead or worse. Either way she hoped they were not still here. The kitchen provided clues to the dark secrets of the house. There were signs of a struggle. Knives were scattered on the floor and there were dark smears of blood across the fridge and white cupboard units. A black congealed pool was under the table, chairs overturned. Tommy guessed whoever the victim of the struggle was they had sought shelter from their attacker under the table. The attacker was most likely one of their family. Tommy shuddered at the contemplation of the horrific scene that must have happened here, scenes that doubtless had been played out across the whole country.
'What do you think happened?' Aimee asked reading the expression in her lover's face.
Tommy shook his head. 'It doesn't matter. Let's check upstairs.'
They went from room to room upstairs, growing more confident of safety as each place they looked was empty. They finished their search in the largest of the bedrooms. A large opulent four poster bed filled the centre of the room, its covers made as though it were a hotel room awaiting guests. Aimee lay down on it, sighing with pleasure at the comfortable mattress.
Tommy was by the widow peering outside from behind half drawn heavy curtains. The window looked out onto the back garden, was which empty. A six foot fence framed the perimeter, though a gate at the far end hung open. Safe for the moment, Tommy thought. But the place was far from secure. He turned, startled at two thumps sounded behind him. Aimee grinned apologetically from the bed, her trainers lying on the foot of the bed. 'Sorry, my feet are killing me.'
Tired and bedraggled, frightened and vulnerable, but Christ, she looked good on that bed, Tommy thought. He was surprised he could still think such a thought given the torrent of despair flowing though his stressed body and mind. He kept his gaze on her trying to imprint the image forever on his mind. Sadness and self pity tugged at him for the future he would never have.
'What?' Aimee asked, reading concern in his eyes.
'Nothing, c'mon. Give me a hand moving the wardrobe.'
Groaning with reluctance she heaved herself off the bed and helped Tommy push the wardrobe across the door. Tommy stood back appraising the makeshift barricade with a grunt. The wardrobe was heavy. It might hold them for a while.
Aimee sat down on the bed. 'The others?'
'I don't know -- everything was so chaotic. I saw Everett go down, Candice too -- the rest?' he shrugged, then sat beside her. The flight from the flat in Wimbledon had been a desperate affair. Walkers had caught them with their guard down, attacking in the dead of night. It was a miracle Tommy and Aimee had got out. There were dozens of the things. Rotten, decayed and deadly.
Tommy took Aimee's hand in his.
'Do you think we're the only ones who made it?' Aimee asked, her voice small.
'I love you Aimee,' Tommy said looking deep in her eyes.
She frowned sensing something was terribly wrong.
'I'm so sorry, Aimee. I didn't make it either.'
'No,' she said, snatching her hand from his, recoiling at his words - at what they implied. 'No!'
'On my ankle,' he continued gently. 'One of them bit me as we left the flat.'
'No, no, no,' Aimee said in disbelief, tears beginning to cloud her eyes.
'Aimee . . .'
She threw herself at him, fists flailing, raging at truth of his words. He held her tightly barely registering the blows on his back and shoulders. The anger gave way and Aimee sobbed into his shoulder, he felt his own tears come and they both cried as they clutched each other, forlorn and despairing.
The tears ran their course, and Tommy took Aimee by the shoulders, looked into red bleary eyes.
'I can't do it Tommy,' she said. 'I can't make it without you.'
'You have to Aimee. You have to. And not just for us,' he pressed the palm of his hand to the slight bump on her tummy.
Aimee placed her hand on his, protectively over the life that grew inside her.'What will I do?'
'You'll be okay, Aimee, you're strong, stronger than you think.'
'Don't talk anymore, don't. I can't bear it,' she said, leaning forward kissing his cheek, his lips. He tried to pull away, needing to talk to her. There might not be much time. The infection spread fast.
'Aimee, please stop,' he said, turning his head away. Aimee persisted, her hands on his chest her ardour desperate and urgent.
Tommy sensing her hysteria, fearing it would consume him too, slapped her in the face. The sound was violent, loud. It echoed it the room. Aimee pulled back, shock written on her face.
'Aimee, we must talk.' Tommy urged.
'No, no we must not. I won't,' she said adamantly.
Tommy looked at her, fiery, determined and right then he was more proud of her then ever. He pulled her to him, his lips meeting hers their tongues entwining in urgent need, the wave of emotions breaking around them. Aimee's fingers pulled at his t-shirt. He broke the kiss to pull the t-shirt off. Aimee was already unfastening the buttons on her top. They kissed again as though fearful the moment of spontaneous desire might fade, that reality would snuff out the moment, drive them from the refuge of passion. They slowed a little once they were stripped down to their underwear. Aimee, pulled him onto the bed her eyes fixed on his, the smell of their fresh tears a bitter shroud. Aimee bent her hear kissing his face, his neck, his chest, moving downward. She tried to push away the unwelcome realisation this would be the last time they would make love. She remembered the first time, three summers and a thousand years ago, he was seventeen and still a virgin, Aimee a year older in age and several years older in experience. She recalled his nervousness, guiding him through the careful motions of his first time, building his confidence, taking his body and mind to new horizons, peeling away his innocence one layer at a time, her tongue, her fingers, her breasts, her silken wetness opening doors to him that she led him through - never letting go. He'd looked into her eyes seeing only the knowledge and confidence of an experiencing lover, not seeing beyond the veil of emotions to her regret that he was not her first.
But that was another world, a dream place that could no longer be revisited. Now they existed in the nightmare of dystopian reality - the virus that had consumed the world in just weeks, the dead that walked, and hunted and killed - parasites on the corpse of society.
Aimee reached Tommy's crotch. She hooked her thumbs on the elastic of his underpants then pulled them down, exposing his erection. He raised his knees so she could remove the garment easily, she noticed by accident the bite mark on his ankle, the skin around it discoloured and swollen. She looked away from the unsightly reminder.
Aimee stooped close to the underside of his taut erection, brushed her lips against the soft stretched sensitive skin, inhaled the scent of his sex. She ran her tongue along his shaft from the base of his scrotum to the head of his penis. The taste of his pre-come in her mouth deepened her own arousal. Tommy gasped at the pleasure she bestowed on him. His hands clasped the sides of her face, his hips rising on the bed as she took him fully in her mouth. She began to move her head rhythmically, her wet hungry mouth a surrogate vagina as he thrust himself faster into her. Her fingers moved to his scrotum, massaging his balls, urging the release of his semen into her mouth.
Aimee used her other hand to slip eager fingers under the thin material of her panties, to find her wetness and rub her own growing need. She was giddy with arousal, her labia slick and swollen, slippery to her fingers' touch. She angled her head slightly to take Tommy deeper into her throat, her lips almost able to base of his engorged member. Her eyes met his eyes, half closed and glazed with pleasure. She worked him faster, needing to sate her hunger -- needing his release, to fill her mouth with his essence, feel his love slide down her throat and warm her belly.
The rapid increase in Tommy's breathing indicated he was close to orgasm now.
He cried out her name and his fingers' grip tightened on her face as he came. Thick spurts of warm saltiness flooded Aimee's mouth. She swallowed fast, not wanting any of the creamy effluence to escape her. 'I love you,' Tommy whispered.
Aimee released his ebbing erection from her mouth a smiled at his words, her eyes tinged with sadness. Her hand slid idly down his leg toward the angry red swelling on his ankle.
'Don't,' he said abruptly, stilling her fingers before they reached his wound. 'Maybe this isn't such a good idea. You should go now. Leave me here.'
'I won't' Aimee said defiantly.
'Listen Aimee, I don't want you see me become one of those things, I don't want you to risk your and our baby's life, do you understand?'
Aimee nodded miserably, tears beginning to well up in her eyes.
'You know it's for the best now.'
'Okay,' Aimee agreed, her voice small. 'But let me stay a while longer, please.'
Tommy took a deep breath. He knew he should be cruel to be kind, he knew he should insist she leave but the words would not come. He was frightened. He did not want to die alone. He wanted to spend every last precious second with her.
'Okay, but we gotta take precautions. See what clothes are in that wardrobe.'
Puzzled she pulled open the heavy pine door and peered inside. 'Mostly dresses,' she commented.
'Take them out, ones easy to tear.'
Aimee guessed his intentions. 'There are scarves too.'
'Even better. Pass them here.'
Aimee took out several and handed them over.
Tommy lashed the first one around the bottom bedpost and looped it several times over his injured ankle. He winced as he drew the material tight and knotted it. Then taking another scarf repeated the action with his other foot. 'You'll have to do my hands.'
She wanted to make some quip about him giving her kinky orders, but the grim reality of his actual intent silenced such thoughts. Aimee took a scarf in one hand, and hesitated.
'C'mon, Aimee, tie me now or you'll have to go. I won't be a danger to you and our baby.'
Aimee crawled over him. Tommy positioned his hands by the top bedposts and Aimee began tying the first hand securely. As she leant over him her breast brushed her face. Tommy opened his mouth, kissing her tenderly on the soft pink flesh of her nipple. She moved to tie his other hand. Again, he kissed and licked the tip of her breast that hung delectably over his face. Aimee felt the fresh stirrings of arousal. Tommy too was becoming turned on, surprised at his own arousal given the creeping pain that raged in his ankle and lower leg. Aimee finished tying him but remained in her position, allowing him to suckle her more intently. Her need for him inside her grew swiftly, and she moved down over his body, pressing herself against him, kissing his lips, his cheeks, his chest. Feeling his erection against her thighs she moved, spreading her legs, moving her hips into position. She lowered herself so the tip of swollen member teased the outer lips of her labia, that puffy and wet with arousal. Aimee drew her knees up to better control her leverage, then sank down, letting him slide inside her, enveloping his hardness with her slick warm wet cocoon. They gasped in unison at the sensation. Aimee began to make slow gyrations with her hips. This was likely the last time they would make love. She did not want to rush it. She wanted to stretch every second to eternity. She wanted the pleasure of the moment to never end. Tommy arched his hips, needing to be deeper in her. Aimee pressed her breasts against his broad chest, needing his touch there. She wanted him to use his hands. Feel his powerful fingers knead and crush her breasts, but that could not be so now. She raised her hips, so he almost slid out of her, then after a teasing second, dropped back down so he plunged inside her once more. Then she sat back up on him, into a riding position. She began making slow bucking motions falling into a regular rhythm. Tommy gasped at the pleasure as Aimee began to milk his cock, urging him to orgasm. Her movements grew faster her body's need overcoming any intention to make love slowly. Aimee grunted with each thrust. Both their bodies were sheeted with sweat as they fucked harder, faster, driving themselves to the peak of orgasm.
Aimee cried out as she came, and Tommy called her name as he emptied himself inside her. They both tensed in orgasm, before taut muscles and nerves relaxed once more.
Aimee, spent, collapsed on top of him. He was still inside her, and she was pleased. Her head lay on his chest and the rhythmic sound of his heartbeat filled her head.
'If I turn, Aimee, you must use the hammer,' he breathed.
'Don't talk,' Aimee pleaded, trailing fingers through his chest hair.
'Promise me, Aimee.'
Aimee felt him relax on hearing her assurance. She wondered how she would go on without his strength. She pushed the foreboding thoughts from her mind. 'I love you Tommy.'
'I love you Aimee.'
Aimee's eyelids grew heavy. In the afterglow of lovemaking she closed her eyes and drifted into the welcome oblivion of sleep.
Aimee was back in her bedroom, strong sunlight streamed through the window pain, warming her face. Dolls and pony figurines sat neatly on her bedside table, pin ups of boy bands blue tacked to the wall. A yellow vase of chrysanthemums stood on a small table by the window, her mother had helped her cut the stalks and arrange them. From outside she could hear the comforting sound of her father mowing the lawn, and although her window was closed the smell of freshly cut grass wafted into the room. The song of a blackbird perched in the cherry tree outside her window complete the lazy summer afternoon feeling. She lay back on her bed relishing the soft duvet beneath her. She breathed in deeply and fancied she could detect the odour of freshly baking seeping into the room under the door. She could picture her mother downstairs in the kitchen pulling out a tray of home baked current buns, placing them by the open kitchen window to cool. Aimee closed her eyes submerged in the comforting sounds, smells and sensations that are burnt indelibly on every person's memory of home. She was naked and the feeling of the sunlight warming her was lulling her into a doze. Gradually the sound of the lawnmower faded into nothing. She had an inkling that something was wrong but tried to ignore it wanting only to savour the halcyon sensations around her. Through her closed eyelids she noticed it had grown darker as though the sun had been smothered by clouds. It was also noticeably cooler. She turned her head and opened her eyes. With alarm she noticed the chrysanthemums were wilting before her eyes, their bright petals shrinking and turning grey, curling and falling dead from the stalks. Aimee let out a startled cry as something black and feathered crashed against the window pane then fell from view leaving only a bloody smear and a crack where it had hit the window. Her nose wrinkled as the smell of fresh cut grass and home cooking gave way to another smell, sickly sweet and nauseating, the smell of rotting flesh. Aimee suddenly felt terribly afraid. She drew her legs up, hugging herself protectively. She could sense something was coming up the stairs approaching her bedroom door. She looked fearfully at the door. It was close now and the stench of decay was strong, almost making her retch. She wanted to call to her parents, but words died in her throat. She heard the sound of something strike her bedroom door. Then again, as though whoever was there was trying to batter their way in.
The smell of decay was there as though filtering through from her dream. She listened intently for any sound and was relieved only to hear silence. The smell though had raised the hairs on the back of her neck. She was fully alert. The air was cool on her skin and the room was darker. She wondered how long she had slept.
She lifted her head from Tommy's chest.
'Tommy,' she hissed.
He lay unresponsive. His head was turned away from her, his eyes closed. She decided to let him sleep a little longer. She rose from the bed, and moved to the window, careful not to make herself visible. She sidled to the edge of the window pain, and looking down, gasped at what she saw. On the lawn below they were there, at least a dozen of them - dead rotting figures, shuffling toward the house, drawn by the scent of warm living human flesh. Aimee stifled a cry.
'Tommy!' she hissed as loud as she dared.
Tommy remained still and oblivious. Then as though in unbidden response, she heard a crash against the door. It was the sound in her dream that had woken her. Though now, this was no dream. It came again, an urgent angry sound. Aimee's stomach flipped, a primeval sensation of fear -- a realisation of imminent mortal danger.
'Tommy!' she cried, this time shaking his shoulder.
Tommy's head turned to face her. His eyes opened. Aimee screamed.
Tommy had turned.