Black coffee and paracetamol were not going to be enough to cure the banging in my head today. Like an unrelenting hammer drill, the pounding continued seeming to touch the very essence of my soul. The day had started normal enough, the same group of people sat in the same seats on the commuter train, all avoiding each other’s eye contact. I somehow had muddled through work shouting at people who had got in my way only, to be rewarded with the home bell just as I was about to solve a major problem. However, on the journey back that was when the unsettling feeling started, like the disappointment when Christmas is over.
It was a familiar feeling. I was 16 when I escaped the clutches of my mother. As I grew older and developed, more of her men thought that we were a mother and child package. All except Wyatt that was. At the time I don’t think I fully understood what a big affect Wyatt had on my life. My mother had a succession of men whilst I lived with her. On reflection, it was Wyatt who spent time with me and taught me how to survive. At the time he was just a man who treated me well and didn’t expect anything in return, unlike some of the men mum brought home. What I didn’t realise then was that Wyatt was going to teach me the skills that would keep me alive when millions of others perished. Wyatt was a soldier, not a soldier like you read of in history books. Wyatt was a soldier trained to kill the Night Walkers. I would sit and listen to Wyatt for hours whilst he talked about his work. The best way to capture the Night Walkers, the best way to keep yourself safe from them. At the time I was a child listening to stories, whilst receiving some well-needed love and attention. Now I realise that I was learning, learning skills that meant I would survive. Maybe at the time, Wyatt had an idea they were skills that I would need. Maybe he was just a gentleman who saw a child who needed some attention and gave it any way he could. I constantly wonder what became of Wyatt as he just disappeared one night. Did he survive or was he just one of the million unnamed humans who perished without anyone taking a breath to honour them?
Fed up with having to fight off yet another man from my room at night I decided to leave my mother on my 16th birthday. My mother to her credit did shed one tear as I walked out the door. Whether this was because she was losing a daughter or because she realised that fewer men would be interested in her if they didn’t have a younger desert who knows. As I walked out of the door with my one bag of clothes I did not look back. Hidden at the bottom of my clothes was the small handheld crossbow that Wyatt had left on my pillow the night he left. It took social services two weeks to place me in a school that had a residential side. That was the moment that my life started. I spent hours at my books learning, soaking up information like a sponge. Replacing all the negative **** that my mother had put in my head with fact and figures. It took the teachers a month to notice that my true area of strength was mental arithmetic and science. At 21 I was one of the youngest people to work for the department of blood-borne diseases. At 25 the day the cloud appeared I had one of the largest departments in the country and at least 3 large pharmaceutical companies competing against each other to offer me a job.
I had finished work at the normal time on an October day 230pm. I have read history books that talk about people staying at work until 7 even 8 at night but, since the Night Walkers first appeared 230pm was the normal end of the day. The convention stated that the day belonged to us but, the nights belonged to them. Anyone found out after dark was fair game for what was unleashed on them.
When I stepped off the train as it came into my hometown I knew that something was wrong. For a start, it was dark, darker than it should be. I remember looking at my watch and checking that it was working. No, it was fine 4 pm, darkness was not due for another hour which was plenty of time to get home safely. That was when I first felt the fear coming from the other passengers getting off the train. Several of them were stood like statues in a garden looking at their watches and looking at the sky to see what was happening. I heard one couple mention that this must be something the Night Walkers had designed to ensure constant night so that the land became there’s. The fear seemed to grip the commuters like a wave as the first one and then all of us were rushing at high speed towards the exit as if a film had suddenly started playing in fast forward. It was time to get home and get home quick before total darkness descended. People rushed towards the exit steps trampling over each other and pushing to making it out of the doors first. If I had thought the panic in the station was bad, nothing would have prepared me for what was happening outside the station. I think it was the smell that I noticed first a sticky, metallic smell. I walked out into the car park and there was blood and destruction everywhere. Manners had always been limited amongst commuters, social etiquette had completely disappeared now.
The fear started to uncurl itself starting at the nape of my neck and travelling down my spine, like a snake waking from a warm sleep. That was the first moment when I wondered whether this was it and whether I was going to survive. Everywhere I looking in the car park people were rushing around, fighting and pushing each other trying to get into the few waiting taxi’s that were left. I remember seeing an elderly couple trying to get into a taxi only for the door to be ripped open by a young man dressed in a smart suit who pulled them both out dumping them on the pavement and claiming the taxi for himself. The elderly couple picked themselves up and sat on the curb cuddling each other a look of resignation in their eyes. Knowing my strength was no match for the others and that my best chance of survival would be to try to run home before complete darkness took over I started moving. The last memory I have of the train station was walking over something sticky as I looked down to see what I was walking in I realised that it was a mixture of blood and flesh from the weaker commuters. Like a scene from Saving Private Ryan, there was blood, people and limbs everywhere. This was when I started to run, run as fast as I could, leaving the cry of agony and anger behind me as I left the station.
As I ran I knew the quickest route to get home would be through the park down the long avenue lined with houses on either side with my house at the end of the road. However, I also realised that the park was dark on a good day and in these conditions, the park would be even darker than normal. I risk assessed both routes as I ran. In the end, instinct seemed to take over and I headed towards the park. Yes, it would be dark but it was almost half the time of taking the main road. Now I think about it I can’t remember ever feeling tired as I ran. As I neared the entrance to the park I realised just how dark it was with its willow tree’s overhanging the paths. How many places could the Night Walkers hide. It was too late I had made my decision and for better or worse I had to go through with it. I pumped my arms and ran as fast as I could. Throwing my beloved briefcase to the grass knowing that I would never make it without both arms to keep up speed.
Halfway through the park, my heart froze when I heard the noise behind me. The unmistakable sound of footsteps. Not the normal human footsteps of someone rushing to get home before dark but the slow deliberate footsteps of a hunter stalking its prey. I tried to control my breathing at that point to establish whether I had really heard the footsteps or was just being fooled by my pounding heart. No, there they were again. I knew I was being followed by a hunter and I was still 10 minutes from home. The utter hopelessness of my situation overcame me at that point. All those years of surviving my mother and her men. All those years of working to make a better life for myself and this is what it was going to come down to attacked and killed in the park when my life was just starting. The dread filled me similar to hearing the door shutting on my mum’s door and her latest man walking across the hall. For that second I was back there again hiding under the bed hoping he would **** off and leave me alone. That was when the survival instinct that I hadn’t used since I was small kicked in. I ran, ran faster than I had ever in my life, powered on by adrenaline and pure fear. Sprinting at full speed I burst from the park like a rocket on fireworks night straight into an elderly man who was rushing home. I stumbled as I hit him but managed to remain upright. The man tumbled to the ground with a cry of shock and pain clutching his ankle as he went down. I like to say that I stopped to make sure he was OK but at that moment I didn’t care all I cared about was surviving. I didn’t even turn round to see if he was all right. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a dark man emerging from the shadows and helping the man to his feet but, I cannot be sure. I thought about knocking on one of the houses that lined the avenue but, what was the point. I wouldn’t have opened my door to anyone on this dark afternoon so why should they. The time of the good Samaritan was gone, replaced with humans need for self-preservation.
At this point, my lungs and legs started to burn from the effort of constant running. I knew I had to keep going to survive and somehow my body obeyed and my legs kept pumping. This was when I noticed the footsteps of my pursuer were back, still slow and deliberate. As I rounded the corner I spotted my house and found another gear in my running. I was not going to be killed yards from my house I would not let it happen. For the first time in my life, I wish I had spent more time at the gym and less in the laboratory. No one was on the streets anymore either they had made there way home or they had died in their attempt. I felt into my coat pocket and was relieved to find my keys were still there. As I reached the doorstep I pressed the button to realise the door locks feeling a warm breath on the back of my neck. Hitting the door fast I shot into the house and swung the door closed with a bang hitting the button again to engage the locks and window shutters. As I heard my house turn into a fortress I heard a sound that turned my blood to ice.