Paul Larkin sat in his seat and fastened his seatbelt. His body was caked with sweat and dry blood. His ears rang from the gunshots, and his ankle swelling again, remnants of an injury he acquired jumping from the first floor window of his suburban home; at least, it used to be suburbia, before everything went to shit.
He sat back and let out a long, deep breath. Shock threatened to take hold of him, and so he closed his eyes and waited. The plane filled up, and the cries of those refused admittance echoed down the walkway, swiftly followed by the sound of their execution.
Paul spared but the most fleeting of moments thinking about it. He found it strange how killing and death had become such a large part of his life.
“Excuse me,” A fragile sounding voice stirred Paul from the calm place he had just started to settle into. “I believe this is my seat.” An elderly woman, late seventies at best stood before him, her face was smeared with blood, while one eye had been covered by a filthy rag that had been hastily secured to her face with what looked like Duct Tape.
“I’m sorry…” Paul asked, confused.
“Seat 17b, this is my seat.” The woman waved the ticket in Paul’s face.
Paul said nothing, but gave the woman a look which screamed, ‘the world as we knew it has ended, are you seriously going to complain that I’m in your seat’. If she could read his expression, she showed no signs of it, and so with another heavy sigh, this one of frustration, Paul undid his belt and scooted one seat over.
“Thank you. I don’t mean to be rude, but after all that has happened, I feel the need to remain proper about some things.” She said as she sat down. There was an odor to her person that Paul found distinctly repelling, but still, she had clearly gotten through the scanners at the gate.
“It’s fine.” He answered her, closing his eyes once more.
The seat he had taken was a window seat, just before the wings of the Boeing 737 that the military had been using as an emergency evacuation vehicle for the past two weeks. Looking out across the tarmac, Paul saw the army standing guard at the perimeter of the small airfield. The sun had begun to disappear beneath the horizon, and in the dull afterglow of yet another survived day, Paul found himself staring at the firework like bursts of gunfire and wondering how it could have all gone so wrong, so quickly.
He tried to stop himself, but before he knew it, his mind was cast back. He saw his wife, Julia andtheir two children, Doug and Maddy. They were outside, Paul was stood behind the barbeque, and Julia busied herself by setting the table, while their kids played in the garden, enjoying the summer weather. He blinked, trying to force the image away. It worked, but was replaced by the memory of his wife’s battered, bloody corpse lying on the floor in their living room. Her face blackened and swollen by the sickness, her body broken from the repeated strikes he had delivered with his son’s baseball bat. Her blood dotted his clothes, his face, everything.
“Daddy, I don’t feel well,” his daughter called. Paul had turned around just in time to see the blood flow from her mouth like vomit. She collapsed to the floor, the convulsions already upon her. His son followed suit within the hour; their small bodies were an easy target for the virus.
“I love you,” Paul had whispered as he hugged them both tightly, and then pushed their heads beneath the surface of the water. They struggled of course, but their bodies were too weak from the disease to provide much resistance. His daughter fought the longest. “You’re with the angels now” Paul whispered to them as he dried their faces, dressed them in clean clothes and laid them in their beds.
The sound of an explosion within the terminal rocked the plane and pulled Paul from the nightmare. The sun had fallen behind the trees, yet the plane did not seem anywhere near full.
“Close those doors.” The lone flight attendant called out, running down the aisle, pushing passengers out of their way without a second thought. “Close them now,” She screamed again just as the roar of machine gun fire reached them.
The screams of those still in the walkway cut out as the doors were closed and the engines roared into life.
“Ladies and Gentlemen please take your seats, we are making an immediate departure.” The now out of breath young women spoke into the intercom. “God help us all,” she added.
The plane shuddered into life and rolled away from the gate. The coupling that connected it to the terminal was still filled with bodies. Paul watched them cascade to the floor like lemmings; a human waterfall. “Lucky bastards,” he whispered as he stared at their still, lifeless forms.
The plane rolled onto the runway, and stopped. They sat there for ten minutes, and then, just as people started to get nervous, three armored Jeeps came to a screeching halt either side of the aircraft, the machine guns mounted on the top of each firing into the unseen enemy.
“Oh God, they got past the perimeter fences.” A voice cried out. This was accompanied by a wave of panic that saw people leap from their seats. Paul however, sat still; shock and weariness had overcome him. As a result, he saw the guns cease firing, and the gunner of the car nearest his window waved his hands in a signal which even Paul understood meant “Get going, NOW!”
Paul opened his mouth to warn the panicked mob, but he was too late. The engines roared and the plane sped down the runway. Bodies were thrown to the floor and into their seats as the plane gathered momentum. Through his window Paul watched as the bodies of those that had caused the delay were mown down by the speeding jet. Even that wouldn’t be enough to kill them all, but what did it matter now; they were airborne and the legions of the undead were behind them.
Looking back, Paul was just in time to see the main concourse explode in a ball of flame. The mushrooming ball of fire looked, for a few seconds at least, as though it would engulf the plane too, but their ascent was steep; too steep to be safe. They avoided the blast, but the resultant shock wave shook them enough to dislodge an extra round of screams from his fellow passengers.
Once they leveled out, and everybody had pulled themselves to their feet, an eerie hush fell over the cabin. Nobody moved nobody spoke. They had all lost people to the disease, they had all killed as a result of it, and while they were alive, the world beneath them was locked in a bitter fight for survival. The city burned around them, the air dark with ash and soot. The military presence was immense, tanks, aircraft, and platoons of men, armed to the nines with every weapon that could be issued. They had a lot to mourn, and a lot to be thankful for.