Though Much is Taken, Much Abides

The mind of an unconscious person is a very odd thing I have heard it said. For a period, I was later to find out was almost a month,
my mind behaved in a strange but not unpleasant fashion.

"I wandered lonely as a Cloud that floats on high o'er Vales and Hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd, a host of dancing Daffodils;"

My old mate Wordsworth. The voice however, was possibly American, certainly female and very pleasant indeed.

"Along the Lake, beneath the trees, Ten thousand dancing in the breeze."

I sat on a grassy bank, listening to the voice which seemed to be coming from a nearby oak tree. Warm afternoon sun bathed me.
As I said, strange but not unpleasant. The voice continued as the image wavered in and out of focus. I had no sense of passing time
until my eyes opened. Then I wanted the oblivion of my lovely voiced poetry reader back pronto like.

The inside of the portacabin was stuffy; it smelled like a cross between a Ramses the second's recently unearthed laundry basket and a
poorly cleaned crapper of the same era. My gradually focusing eyes first noticed the light coming through what appeared to be narrow
windows high in the wall and then the hospital like wheeled table thing they use for patients in bed no more than a foot from my head.
I have no idea exactly how long it took for my peepers to start functioning within an acceptable range.

When they did, I noticed the handwritten note in thankfully large and easy to read print taped to the edge facing my less than
fully functional eyes. Inexplicably they got my name right and went on to tell me to drink all the water in the bottles on the table
and eat the snack bars. They would be back to check on me when they could.

I know they were having problems but I didn't think the National Health Service had gotten quite this bad.
The inside of my mouth was doing a perfect impression of what I assumed the bottom of an unkempt budgie cage must be like.

I moved my arms, they hurt and over the course of the day and night, interspersed with what I assume were short periods of
unconsciousness, I slowly discovered so did everything else connected with them. As time wore on, I managed to get some water
down me and my senses began to work again. Not a good move as I began to realise that the smell pervading the room was
emanating from me.

I could only hope they left at least some soap or a bottle of industrial strength Febreze in here somewhere.

The large IV bag of fluid someone had plugged into my arm was almost depleted so that got pulled and over the course of what must
have been at least the next day; I used the water that was left on the table thing. Training again helped here, slowly and easy
does it fella. The same thinking went into getting my limbs moving again.

Whoever had set me up in here knew their stuff. They must have been doing some movement stuff to my limbs or something or this
would have taken a lot longer I suspect. The place had a fair supply of bottled water so I wouldn't die of thirst. Kudos to
whoever thought of that.

I could keep track of time now and judging by my watch on the table, something approaching a month had passed since my less than
stellar car-door-post-head-butting episode. The wound had been cleaned and stitched up quite nicely and I was starting to get mobile,
albeit very slowly. The large bucket I found came in handy for waste management.

The door had been barred from the inside which I thought somewhat odd. The shape I was in led me to conclude that taking a walk to
stretch my legs was probably not a good idea, plus I couldn't help thinking the door was barred like that for a reason. Questions were
starting to pile up and vie for attention in my slightly dented noodle. I managed to clean myself up a bit in the places the mattered
and considered looking for a mirror.

Pondering on that led me to conclude that wasn't a good idea considering I probably looked a lot rougher than I felt, so refrained from
that search.

After what I judged was three days or so, I had enough movement in my limbs to shuffle fairly well about the place and take stock of
what I had. Food was there in the shape of snack bars but not a huge amount; overall with careful use of supplies, I could probably
go for a week before it was time to leave.

A folding ladder was resting against one wall, long enough for me to take a look out the small windows. Even at 6' 7", I would still
need a boost to see out of them. In my current physical shape, using a ladder would have been less than sensible. For some reason, a
wooden table of the buy flat pack and assemble yourself was standing all on its own in the middle of the floor underneath what I assumed
was some form of roof hatch or covered skylight. Apart from that, there was a bag of sorts marked
'NHS London Ambulance Service'.

I had a rifle through the contents.

Standard field first aid stuff so all useful. Scalpels with blades, forceps, suture kits, alcohol wipes, and some metal implements.
I was not sure of the use though some looked like small pliers or grips.

I had taken off the rather fragrant hospital like gown and used a slightly less pungent spare bed sheet to cover what little modesty I had
left. Gave myself a standing scrub up, trying not to waste too much water. Where to go? What to do? I gave this more than a small
amount of thought and was deep in concentration on these topics. Without information on the world outside my small and smelly domain,
the resolution of these things would prove difficult. I needed some focus here.

The sudden sound of light footsteps on the roof solidly focused my attention quite nicely.

What I assumed to be a roof hatch or low covered skylight moved slowly, whoever it was coming in, they didn't seem to want to attract
any attention. The late morning light streamed in and a shadow took form as a pair of small feet clad in hiking boots connected to a
rather shapely pair of legs in tight grey trousers slid in through the hole. I assumed female by the leg shape as I suspect most blokes
would. Yes, I'm fairly typical in that respect.

I have to admit that the legs were quite nice and the backside that followed them was no less pleasing to my eyes which did nothing to
dampen the female assumption. The figure dropped to the tabletop with a surprising amount of agility and lack of sound which I found
somewhat impressive. The body armour was a bit of a twist,
it looked to me like the sort of gear dirt bikers wear.

The mane of dark, slightly curly hair was controlled only by a hair band and a baseball style cap. The figure was little more than five feet
tall and slender; the backpack was a standard high street sporting goods type of thing. Turning toward me, she and happy to confirm it was a
she, seemed slightly startled at me, who must have looked like 20 miles of bad road standing calmly looking in her direction.

"Oh...you're awake."

She had a slightly olive/dark complexion, though I suspect from parental background rather than a sun bed or the like. I judged her to be no
more than 20 years old at a push. A rather pretty girl indeed, full pouting lips with large dark eyes and one of them slightly upturned
button noses that did nothing to harm the overall impression.

"So it would seem and no-one more surprised than me." I answered cheerily.

It is always my manner to inject some humour into opening conversation lines, seems to help put folks at ease when they are speaking to
me and having to almost continuously look up at the same time. Sometimes height can help for putting some fear in folks, social stuff
not so much. Also helps to gauge a person's attitude early on. For a few seconds we looked at each other, and then it dawned on me what
a bloody shambles I must have looked. I realised the somewhat stained hospital bed sheet plus the months' worth of beard growth was not
exactly helping to make a good first impression in this instance. At least I wasn't naked otherwise I fear that would have sent my fetching
visitor heading for the hills with all due speed and I wouldn't have blamed her in the slightest!

"Pardon the state of me and the place, I would've tidied up but hey, no-one called ahead."

I said gesturing around the room and at myself while speaking in a partially apologetic tone. This appeared to help and at this comment,
her lips slowly parted and revealed a very beautiful, broad smile of the type that would make anyone feel better even if they were bloody
dying. She visibly relaxed and almost seemed about to laugh but caught herself, stifled that and stepped closer. She and I introduced
ourselves, said her name was Maxina but preferred Max.

She spoke in a low voice, I almost instantly recognised it as the American accented poetry reading girl.
At that point, the thought of mentioning the poem reading dreams evaporated with her next words.

"We have to be quiet, sound attracts them."

Them? At least we'd found a different topic of conversation than the one that originally came to mind. I matched her low speaking tone

"And who exactly might 'them' be?" She seemed to take a moment to collect her thoughts then fixed me with her chestnut brown eyes.

"Walkers, that's what I call them, they are everywhere out there." She spoke gesturing with a thumb towards the barred door.

Walkers eh, I thought. Well, this could be interesting to pass the time. She continued.

"You've been out for a while, almost a month." That tallied with what I had been able to work out thus far.

"They are what's left of the people in London after what happened." Before I was able to ask, she expanded on it.

"You remember the flu thing? The airborne spraying of the vaccine?"

I nodded, dimly remembering the TV news blurb. She continued.

"Well that's when it all started, people got sick with a fever and then died but they didn't stay that way."

It was the best response I could muster.

"Sorry, Come again?!"

Again, she paused to arrange her thoughts.

"The people died, then got up again and attacked anyone living and that's how it spread. You got bitten or scratched, you get
infected, you die and then you get up and it starts again. They will try to eat anyone or anything living they can get hold of."

Well, I'd heard a few good ones in my time but this tops them all. I was thinking that maybe she got hit in the head harder than me but
for some reason, her manner of speech and body language indicated honesty in what she was saying. I could see genuine fear in her eyes
and hear it in her voice which only began when she started speaking of this. I put my thoughts and feelings of disbelief on hold for a
while and decided to let her continue though I think my face gave it away.

She went to the ladder and with some care, laid it at an angle against the wall under one of the windows.
"Take a look for yourself." She spoke with no trace of irritation and pointed toward the window.

Well this I had to see, despite the still slightly shaky legs of mine even if to humour her. I will freely admit that I was thinking it was the
way my luck was running, to meet and get the undivided attention of a lovely young woman only to find out she had a kangaroo loose
in the sanity paddock. Carefully stepping up to the second rung, I could see out the narrow top window.
I recognised the approximate area we were in.

It was a bit away from the Houses of Parliament; I could just about see Big Ben to the north and that also made me a bit back from the
Lambeth Bridge area. Must have been some building work or the like going on around here at some point and it was about half a mile
or so from my home on the north side of the Thames. The portacabin was up against a wall and the area outside was a small patch of
ground, across the road in front of that seemed to be a car park area or the like.

Once that recognition had been arrived at, I noticed the people outside. Some of them were standing still, others just shuffling very
slowly along. They reminded me of how I must have been when I first tried standing up. Then I took a look at them closely.

All of them looked like they could do with a severe wash and brush-up. Clothes tattered and filthy, some with almost no clothing at all.
The sunburned and leathery skin varying between overly dark tan and necrotic grey was a bit of a giveaway that things were not as they
should be. One close to the window but above his, I assumed it was a male, view line was a bit of a shock. His face was a mess, or more
correctly the half of his face that was still attached to the skull was.

The shredded clothing and mangled decaying flesh showing through was on a par with some nightmare vision but brought to life in the
light of day. He looked like he'd lost a fight with something large with more teeth and claws than I felt comfortable thinking about.

I'd seen corpses that looked like that but they were not self-propelled as this one was. The others looked in various states of goppingly
awful. It looked like Napoleon's retreat from Moscow crossed with a horror movie and not one I'd usually pay to go see. Sadly I had a
front-row seat. The credits weren't going to roll and lights weren't going to come up anytime soon.

What in the merry fuckin' hell had happened here!? How come those poor bastards are still mobile?? I slowly climbed back down and
just stood for a few seconds letting it sink in because I had no choice. Max was looking at me with a face that just said "Sorry"

Taking a deep breath and sitting on the bed, I just looked at her and asked her to tell me what she knew and that was everything. It was
about an hour and a bit later when she had finished. The whole of London had gone straight to shit without passing 'GO' and collecting
200 quid. This was all over; she said she hadn't seen another living soul besides me and her friend. This friend who she called Martha
was a doctor who she had met getting out of London and it turns out that one ambulance had arrived on scene while I was having an
enforced nap. Seems the doctor had been pretty switched on, she managed to get me in, or more correctly, over a discarded low
shopping cart and push me to this place.

Must have been a bit of a herculean move because I'm no lightweight. The Ambulance crew apparently did what they could but services
were overwhelmed with incidents and then it all came apart pretty quickly. I assumed the doc had had her reasons for not taking me
to a hospital. No government of officialdom she was aware of and had had no contact with anyone other than the doctor and me since
it came apart. I must have made for lackluster company I remarked. She smiled at that and said that she read to me from the book
she found in my back pocket.

Wordsworth strikes again I thought and smiled at her "Thank you me sweetheart, believe it or not, I heard you."

And then recited the words I know so well. That seemed to do the cheer up trick, for us both. This doctor used what she could from the
ambulance to set something up here and then, as Max put it, got 'the hell out of dodge'. Looking at the bed I had lying in, I got the picture.
Well bless her for doing that for me and must thank her. Assuming I could get out of this that is.

She told me that they are slow and they could be outrun easily but react to sound. Well currently, running was not on the menu for me I
have to say. At least not for a while. It turned out that the doc and she had sort of found each other near where Max lived. A place
called Eel Pie Island near Twickenham. I knew of the place she was talking about.

"So you drove all the way here? Don't tell me you walked."

She said no, her grandfather had a small boat at their place on the island and it's tied up at a dock near here. I was hoping she meant
Westminster Pier as that was pretty close by. Still no small journey along the Thames by boat though, I'd estimate that's a good fifteen
or sixteen miles along the river. The question of her grandparents being ok was met with silence and not meeting my eyes.
Ah, subject number one to avoid in later conversation then.

She related that she had come here on her own as many times as possible to make sure I was ok. Alone, unarmed and in harm's way.
Guts and gorgeousness in one small and well-shaped package, I fully admit I was righteously impressed with this girl. If not for her
bravery and that of the doctor, things would have turned out less than splendidly for yours truly. Well, a plan and a way out was starting
to form in my mind.

"Ok then, assuming that I can get out of here under my own steam, any chance you can put me up at your gaff for a bit?"

Apparently, my usual English wording was a bit lost on her but she got the idea.

"How will you get out?" She asked.

"Same way you got in." I answered. "But it will take a few days to get my legs and the rest of me up to that task."

She unloaded her pack, more water, snack bars with some first aid gear. Not much but it was something to work with. She also produced
my old clothes and trainers; I smiled when I noticed they had been washed. I asked her to describe exactly how she got from the dock to
here and she was happy to oblige.

"Thanks me blossom! Now then, here's what I propose..."

She decided to closely examine the opposite wall of the room while I got myself scrubbed up and changed into my proper clothes as we
talked. I managed to ascertain that the dock she had her boat moored at was indeed Westminster Pier. One up for our side then, that
made it about a mile and a smidgen of ground to cover. Normally I'd consider that a short stroll but for the right here and now, it was,
in Army parlance, a fair old tab. A route march. One which I was not looking forward to, in the bloody slightest. So that was one
problem down and more problems than I'd like to go.

I got her agreement that in three days, about the 20th at mid-day, she would be at the dock and wait for no longer than 30 mins. If I
hadn't shown up by that time, then about face and don't look back. My Little Angel, as I'd taken to calling her over the short time we
had been speaking and she seemed to like, felt just the opposite about the pickup plan.

"Max, I'm not exactly ecstatic about it meself sweetheart, but if I haven't made it out by that time then I'm not going to be there.
Seems that the way things are, catching a break as you might say is a rare thing and I'm not in the habit of pushing me luck
any more than I have to, in this situation, doubly so."

The frown on her face was fairly firmly set.

"Besides," I continued "I move best on my own and how exactly, are you going to get me up if I fall over? Nothing personal but
I'm a tad above your lifting capability I'd reckon unless you have a forklift truck in ya pack, so you leave the details to me and
I'll see you then, okedoke?"

Far from convinced was she but the frown softened slightly and that would have to be good enough.
I continued in a low but slightly more upbeat tone.

"Now then, times getting on and you have a boat to catch so I'll see you in three days, my little angel."

She agreed and it was at this point I noticed some lettering on the front of her body armour. It wasn't part of the original design I think as
this was that loud hot pink colour, looked hand painted on and simply read 'Z.F.F.' with a lightning flash. I asked what that was about; she
went a rather nice shade of crimson and looked at the floor with no small amount of embarrassment. Max answered in a somewhat
sheepish fashion.

"It stands for Zombie Fighting Force"

Now if I needed a pick me up, I got it with all the bells and whistles with those words and I then realised that I was dealing with a girl
rather than a woman. A bloody brave girl to be certain but still not quite all there in the 'grown-up' status. At that point, I knew I
seriously liked this young lady and would be more than honoured to call her a friend. I ended with a smile that seemed to come very
easily in present company and a gentle hug.

Luckily, her nostrils must have become accustomed to my current cologne as I held her for a moment, something along the lines of
'Eau-de-sewage works' I think but she didn't throw up or recoil in horror so all good. She elected to leave the pack and made her exit, on
her own and rather neatly I might add by way of doing a rather elegant standing spring from the table top, which was just enough to reach
the open skylight at arm's length, hauling up then out and away without a look back.

The gruesome gang and their friends outside must have noticed or heard her moving away.

A mixture of gurgling, rasping moans rose up from the ones I assumed were close to the cabin. As I listened to the noise, it seemed to
spread outward and I risked a look out one of the windows. Indeed the sound was spreading, not loud or rising in volume but it seemed
like the sound spread from figure to figure as they slowly all turned and started to come toward the cabin and move to the back wall
Max had disappeared over.

Mental note then, they have a call of sorts that attracts one to another when a self-propelled smorgasbord is in the vicinity it would appear.
Stealth will be a deffo advantage around the shuffle and moan brigade. A few hours after my little angel had departed; they seemed to calm
down and went quiet again. The only sound was the odd bump against the outside of the cabin as they shuffled about doing whatever they
were doing.

I had no intention of fighting my way out in my state so over the next three days I drank, ate and exercised near constantly to get my
chassis back in shape enough to make the journey from here to the boat dock and prepared myself. The fiction I had read over the years
concerning zombies, granted Max called them 'walkers', but these...things...by and large fitted the description so beheading or skull
crushing implements would be a good idea. Or at least a place to start at making the un-dead really dead...

Assuming of course, that the authors of said fiction writings had guessed correctly.

Some bastard is going to make a fucking mint off a 'How To Combat A Zombie Horde!' book sooner or later. I smirked at the thought of
getting in a patent or copyright sharpish, planning ahead as I do.

Some form of weaponry was called for just in case I should be unlucky enough to have to go hand to hand with some of these things.
I couldn't muster enough of an optimistic or compassionate perspective to call them 'people'.

The wooden table gave me something.

Carefully turning it over to keep noise to a minimum, I studied the underside, specifically where the legs joined. As I had hoped, they were
attached by butterfly nuts and undoing one gave me length of timber some two and a half feet long with a steel threaded spike for want of a
better term. Time was something I had a fair bit of so used it to take the other three legs off and using what I had, implanted the threaded
bits from the other legs in the top of the first leg I'd removed. Each one inserted at 90 degrees from the last.
That at least gave me a spiked club. Not ideal but it was something that could impart some serious injury if I was left with no option.

As I worked, I thought about what had led to this as Max had told me. This made my brain start off on a numbers exercise. It's a
by-product of my forces life that I always consider and analyse the tactical situation. On any given weekday in London, you have about 10
million people give or take a few. This happened mid-week. Assuming at best, only 25% of that lot infected by whatever this is.
So we are looking at a mobile munching mob of about 2.5 million.

Not fuckin' great by any stretch of the imagination. I decided that to consider what would constitute a worst case would not help matters
so discarded that.

I could only hope that London was the only place to cop this but had to admit to myself, it didn't look good. I needed a way out (got that),
a place to dig in (ditto I hope) and then consider what to do about this. I might have been just one bloke but I was dammed sure I wasn't
just give up on my city all together.
An attitude of bravado? Quite possibly but I just couldn't leave her and walk away for good.

One way or another, I'd win back my home and someone would answer for this...in blood if needs be.
A lofty aim to be sure but it gave me a sense of purpose none the less.
My exercises continued.