Terry risked a peek through the boards across his bedroom window. The street was silent. A couple of stray dogs were fighting over something or other – Terry didn’t want to know; he was having enough trouble with nightmares as it was. Sudden movement made him dart away. He dropped to the floor and held his breath. The flapping of wings told him the movement had been a bird. Terry felt foolish. As far as he knew, birds didn’t carry the virus. And to think it wasn’t long since people had been wetting their knickers about the perils of so-called bird flu.
He groped his way down the stairs in the dark. It was daylight outside but Terry had made sure no light could get in or out. He took a tin of beans from the cupboard. There were three tins left. There were no two ways about it: he would have to go on a sortie in the next couple of days. Would there be anything left for him to salvage? He doubted it. He’d been holed up for three weeks. Anyone who had come along would have taken what there was to be found. The shelves of all the local shops would be stripped bare. Or perhaps someone more enterprising than Terry had barricaded himself in the supermarket. You could last for months in there. Longer! Terry cursed himself for not thinking of it. The beans – he ate them cold directly from the can – tasted bitter in his mouth but Terry knew it was envy he was tasting, and anger at his own slow-wittedness.
Two tins left… Things were getting serious.
He swigged from a bottle of water. He would have to be careful with that too. He knew he must stink to high heaven but that was the least of his concerns.
Terry froze. A wild thought came to him: it was the dogs! They had somehow mutated and developed the ability to knock on doors. In two weeks? Don’t be silly, man. Terry whimpered. He didn’t know whether to laugh or weep. He was afraid the noise would attract the attention of someone who could do more than just knock on doors – someone who could batter the door in!
Terry grabbed his shotgun. It had been his father’s but now it was Terry’s. When he’d got wind of the world going to Hell, he’d gone to his parents’ and raided the cabinet. They were away. The Algarve or somewhere. Terry was certain they were… not dead – he was no longer sure that word had any validity – not alive.
He stole along the hall to the front door. He had barricaded furniture against it. Anyone or anything bursting in would have quite the obstacle course before they got to him. Oh, yes!
He listened. He could hear them – there was more than one – moving around the house. The gravel under the front windows crunched beneath their feet. Their lumbering, shuffling feet.
Terry darted to the front room. He imagined the shapes lurking beyond his blackout curtains. He estimated where the head and shoulders of an adult male might be then he braced the shotgun against his shoulder and fired.
Terry’s world fell apart. A woman was screaming Harold, Harold over and over. That was his father’s name. Confused Terry crawled under the dining table. He hugged his knees the way he had done as a child.
He was saved!
Voices outside – just when Terry thought he would never hear human speech again.
“Come out with your hands up!” bellowed a voice, distorted and metallic through a megaphone. Terry stayed put. It could be a trick. Who knew what those mutants wouldn’t do?
“Terry, it’s your mother.” It sounded a bit like her. Except this voice was tinnier and louder than hers had ever been while she was alive. “I know you didn’t mean to shoot your father but please come out now. We’re – I’m worried about you, darling. I knew we shouldn’t have gone away and left you in that state. I knew something was up. Ever since you saw that dreadful zombie film, you’ve not been yourself.”