Copyright © 2014 Toby Bain
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I have a love-hate relationship with anything related to zombies. I love zombie movies and video games but would hate to be one. I guess it’s the thought of a diet consisting solely of human flesh that spooks me. I like chocolate too much! My love for the Resident Evil franchise of video games and films explains how Incident on Sunset Island came into being.
The idea had been swimming around my head for a while. And, as writer’s sometimes do, I filed it into my subconscious until its clarion call compelled me to take action. I hope you enjoy it.
My blissful dream dissolved, punctured by terrifying reality. Of course, I wasn’t to know this at the time. All I knew was that Scott ‘Plato’ Clarke – a boisterous yet likeable cockney who’d been designated as my room-mate – had done it again; ruined my sleep with his restlessness.
Upon entering the room we’d argued about who got the top bunk. He’d tossed a silver shilling in the air. I called heads. When he pulled his hand away I was relieved to see George VI on the back of his pale hand.
No way did I want the lower bunk, with its unattractive view of the crudely painted white skirting boards. And no way did I want pole position in front of the heavy wooden door, which failed abysmally to hold back an intense draught that bit into anything below knee level.
For a week the crosswinds had swirled about the tiny room, ripping into Plato’s flimsy bed sheets, causing severe insomnia for him, and hence, for me. And he was at it again.
With the benefit of hindsight, the series of thrashing sounds in the bunk below did seem rather strange, even for Plato.
I’d given him the nickname because any question aimed in his direction was likely to provoke a philosophical ramble about the nature of human existence. OK, I know, existentialism wasn’t quite Plato’s specialist subject, but the name was catchier than Nietzsche and it was poignant; my roommate was studying philosophy at the University of London.
Liz, an excellent judge of character, liked the guy and that was enough for me. Unlike our peers, his conversation amounted to more than just sycophantic gushing over the latest Bing Crosby song or psychotic rants about how the Nazis were a serious threat to world peace. ‘There’s always a war going on somewhere,’ Plato had remarked when asked about the possibility of a conflict with Germany. He preferred to focus on the here and now, and that was good enough for me too. So Plato and I came to a pact, we’d leave Bing Crosby and war talk to others.
At that moment, as I awoke from a splendid vision of Liz doing something amazing to me with her mouth, I hated the guy’s guts. So once my body and brain had fully defrosted from sleep, I twisted off the sheets. Gripping the bed’s sturdy frame, I craned my neck over the underside of the mattress, ready to give him hell and vowing not to settle for a philosophical reply to his latest misdemeanour.
No man should be subjected to what I saw lurking just a few feet away.
At first, the two bodies writhing around on the bottom bunk seemed unmistakably like one lover doing a serious job of kissing the neck of another. Plato, at the bottom of the two, seemed to be squirming with pleasure from the embrace. It says something about how annoyed I was at being woken from my dream that the grim reality of what I was witnessing didn’t register right away.
But something wasn’t quite right about the figure on top. Plato had a girlfriend back in London and when he wasn’t extolling the virtues of “authenticity” he was bragging or bitching about Freda – his six foot blonde Swede (blonde everywhere, apparently) with ice blue eyes and tanned skin (tanned everywhere, allegedly). Still mindful of the Hindenburg disaster, the squeamish Swede refused to join him on the medical trial – in her ignorance confusing an air ship with an aeroplane. I’d seen the Swede’s photo and though Liz was pretty this girl was a stunner; certainly not worth cheating on with the bloke now straddling him. Plus, something else about the scene had caught my attention.
I heard gurgling; as though one of them was trying to swallow more fluid than his throat could handle. That’s when the man on top jerked his head away from Plato’s neck, wrenching away crimson strands of muscle tissue from my roommate’s neck. The cavity was now bubbling with blood. As the stunning realisation of what I was witnessing hit me, I gasped. My next thought was how I could help him.
And then I froze. I would be lying if I told you my indecisiveness was down to some spur-of-the-moment grand scheme. I was thinking the exact same thing you would if you’d woken up to find a crazy man making a snack out of your roommate’s neck: thank fuck I won that coin toss.
My gut clenched. I was paralysed by fear and the mesmerising sight of strings of fibrous tissue hanging from the attacker’s mouth like strands of red spaghetti. Blood dripped from his mouth onto my roommate’s pale torso in disorderly polka dots. Then it dawned on me, Plato was struggling for breath. He was still alive. It was time to cast fear aside and help him. And maybe I would have had the assailant not done something I’ll never forget. Gradually the red strings slithered into his mouth. He was eating Plato’s throat, each hearty chew accompanied by a loud crunch. Then the threads of tissue were gone and the cannibal was licking his lips, pawing the blood running down his chin, and sucking his fingers. And was that a satisfied murmur coming from his mouth?
My theory is it that this act of cannibalism, coupled with my unnatural position – contorted over the top bunk – caused me to wretch. I gripped the underside of the metal frame and released last night’s fish and chips. It gushed out like Niagara Falls, lustily hitting the wooden floor with a firm plop and spreading like a living organism. As the last remnants squeezed up my stomach and out of my gullet, I remember thinking that I really ought to chew my food more, then the chunks of flaky white fish might have had a chance to digest. As it was, the meal – encased in some whitish sauce I had no recollection of eating – was easily recognisable.
Tartar sauce. I’d remembered the white sauce just as my horrified gaze fell impulsively back on the carnage. I was horrified not because I recognised Plato’s attacker, but because Roy McTavish was staring straight up at me, blood painted unevenly across his lips in a hideous smile. I remember thinking that for all his wiping the blood from his chin he still needed a napkin or a bib.
There was a hint of recognition in his bloodshot eyes, yet for the most part his gaze – above deep purple eye bags – seemed sightless.
I guess if I’m honest I knew from the blue Glasgow Rangers football shirt that it was Roy all along. He knew one of the players and was given it as a gift. He wore it everywhere, even slept in it. Confirmation of his identity brought rise to all sorts of questions and theories. None made any sense.
Roy was the only Scot on the trial and I’d gotten on well with the mild-mannered Glaswegian. During our quick chats he only ever got excited about football and whisky. Strange how people you think you know turn out to be raging cannibals, I thought. Seconds ago I’d seen him digging into Plato’s throat and munching away with bewitching gusto and now he was eyeing his next meal. Me. As a reflex I touched my throat.
Just then Plato’s thrashing ceased. This stirred Roy for he did something that saved my life: he turned from me as though I was a mere distraction and focused on his meal, unhurriedly sliding his head down to my expired roommate’s stomach, tearing apart the soft pale skin and fatty tissue as though it were marshmallow.
No matter which way I looked at it, no matter how much guilt I harboured, it wouldn’t bring Plato back. And there was still Liz to consider. I had to get to the ladies dormitory and we had to get away from whatever was going on here. Somehow we had to get off Sunset Island.
The dormitories on Sunset Island were located in the heart of an inhospitable forest, itself encircled by imposing mountain ranges. It had been a strange choice for a medical trial, but up until that morning this strangeness struck me as eccentric rather than menacing. Yet I realise now there was also an undercurrent of fear, as though from the time the plane touched down on the island something sinister was afoot in this remote location.
With Roy tucking in I instantly went back into self-preservation mode, gently raising my head and dragging my body to the end of the bed. The nominal creaking of the mattress as I lowered myself to the floor was lost among the incessant jerking motion on the bottom bunk. I stretched out a hand and eased the curtain aside, peering into the bright morning. Freedom and death were a heartbeat away. I guess I could have turned and made for the door, but then I’d have to step over my own sick, and Roy might take exception to the main course escaping. Accompanied by the sloppy sounds of organs being consumed, I pulled the window open in stages, eventually creating a gap wide enough to slip through. I launched myself out head first, hands cushioned by soft grass. I slammed the window emphatically back in place but couldn’t resist one last peak through the crack between the curtains; to absorb the reality of what I’d seen. And that’s when Roy stopped eating and looked straight into my eyes. He gave a serene smile as though he gamely wished to give his prey a head-start, then he returned to gnawing on Plato’s sausage-like intestines.
I fought the urge to wretch again because at that moment something more important than self-preservation entered my thoughts. Liz. Was she all right? Maybe she’d know what the hell was going on.
To get to the female dorm I had to cut around the side of the men’s block. From there I took a sliver of a path connecting three monolithic buildings: the male dorm, female dorm, and the medical centre. The path ran alongside the forest, a mosaic of deep luscious greens and ravishing browns. Occasionally a flourish of grey and black from the omniscient squirrels and monkeys cut into play. This prevalence of animal life underscored the total absence of its human counterpart. What the hell had happened during my sleep? What could make a man eat the raw flesh of another? And enjoy it.
I would have stormed straight into the female dorm building but two chilling thoughts stopped me: the potential presence of some other flesh-eater and the thought that I could find Liz in bed, a gaping hole in her throat.
For this reason I hadn’t paid much attention to the buzzing sound overhead until it was right over me. The plane’s dark profile was marked against the clear dawn sky. With curiosity I watched a fine vapour trail spill from its undercarriage. My spirits lifted. This was the same MediCorps plane that had brought Liz and me to Sunset Island.
Actually, my journey to Sunset Island started with eight simple words in The Morning Post: ‘Make cash safely and quickly through medical trials,’ read the advert.
When presented with the advert in the university canteen Liz made a point of asking ‘what advert?’ in that facetious way of hers, even though I’d circled it heavily in red pen. When our mates joined us they said I was mad to even consider such a thing no matter how hard up I was. Didn’t I remember the parrot-fever pandemic of 1929? And, given the polio epidemic of the 20s, everyone knew that a civilised white man was more inclined to disease than anyone else. So why take the chance? I could have been offended by their words but by then Cairo, Sydney, New York and Tokyo were all in my crosshairs now that planes were able to fly several thousand kilometres without refuelling.
‘You’re talking nonsense,’ I said, addressing them with as polite a laugh as I could muster. ‘You’ve been listening too much to Draper. Eugenics plays no part in susceptibility to diseases like polio.’ This was true. From what I’d read in The New Yorker the most virulent aspect of parrot-fever was the widespread panic amongst those crazy Americans. They’d strangled their cockatoos and parrots and threw them into the street en masse. I told my friends that the advert assured us the medical trials were safe. ‘And anyway,’ I said smiling across the table at them, ‘I won’t be attending on my own. Liz is coming with me.’
Liz Shales wasn’t known as ‘Sensible Shales’ for nothing. Our friends stared at her with something approaching disbelief and joviality. As if to say ‘Surely you’re not that stupid?’ Liz smiled uncertainly but my mind was made up for the both of us. In retrospect I have to admit that her participation in the screening process was half-hearted at best. Throughout MediCorps’ testing procedures she gave only tentative endorsement.
When she’d been told by MediCorps that she’d failed the screening, she took it with the relief of someone who’d woken from a slightly unpleasant daydream.
So what did I do, fool that I am? I called MediCorps. Told them we came as a package. There was more chance of a cat and dog getting married than me going to their trial on my own. Overtly, my words were calculated to show that I was disgusted with their decision. But deep down my actions were selfish. I didn’t feel as though our round-the-world trip should be financed solely by the money I made from the trial.
I don’t know what the truth of this is, but according to MediCorps Liz had only marginally failed the first stage of the test. The second stage was more important. They re-instated her with no reference to my politicking.
The second stage involved sitting inside a classroom and completing multiple choice questions. I remember one question gave me the creeps. It read: “During the third plague of March 1894 thousands of people throughout the world died. Assuming you were one of the survivors, one of those immune to the plague, how would you have tried to help others?” A) You wouldn’t, you’d just go on living as normal a life as you could, B) You’d donate blood in the hope of creating a vaccine, C) You would help yourself by getting as far away from the infected as possible, D) Sell your blood for medical purposes?
I thought about this as I watched the plane circling above. From the first, I’d suppressed the instinctive urge to scream at the plane. Roy was otherwise engaged and that’s the way I wanted things to stay. Now, as I watched the MediCorps craft soaring high above the forest and then dip below a distant mountain, my heart sank. What were those questions all about? Did Roy have some hybrid version of the plague? For my part, I felt great so maybe I was immune. To my right, running alongside the path, was thick vegetation. Swathes of trees, their thick muscular limbs swaying in the breeze, sent an icy chill over me. Not only did my pyjamas expose me to the elements, if there was some other flesh-eater in the forest I was exposed to them too. I raced along the path toward the entrance to the female dorm, easing the front door open and creeping inside.
Deathly silence enveloped the dimly-lit corridor. Everything was calm. Calm like it might be in the aftermath of a natural disaster with very few survivors.
If the calm was a bad sign the thick smear of blood on a door leading into one of the rooms was a red alert. Inside, framed by its glass panel, was a figure. He was kneeing on the floor as if in prayer. Red blotches stained the sides of his long-johns. A more focused look made my throat tighten. He was lapping up a silky pool of wet blood while his lifeless victim lay close by.
The blood-sucker was James from Cheshire. He studied law at the University of Durham when he wasn’t indulging in cannibalistic tendencies.
There was nothing I could do for the girl so I turned and faced the corridor. Only one light worked. It winked intermittently. Its sphere of light embraced a carpet of blood, strings of muscle tissue, and chunks of flesh and limbs. Somewhere beyond these obstacles was Liz’s room. We’d swapped room numbers and were allowed to see each other during the day.
The thought of Liz spurred me on. I edged forward, trudging barefoot across a sticky puddle of human remains. The stench, an unrelenting concentrate of death and decay, accompanied each sloppy step.
Every few seconds I held my breath against the nausea forcing itself inside my nostrils and dared not contemplate the redcurrant jam served each day at breakfast.
Halfway down the corridor there was a noise. At the far end of the corridor a door opened and a shadow appeared against the wall. My heart kicked up a gear and I froze. At the time my feet were planted in a thick puddle and I could feel something squidgy, perhaps a portion of liver, under my toes. Then a figure emerged cautiously through the door. I saw enough of it to know Roy McTavish had found me. He was only a little guy but even little guys became giants when they literally want your blood. Maybe he’d fight James for first refusal or maybe they’d both be at me like hungry lions. Either way I hoped it’d be fast. I spotted a door to my left, yanked the handle gently, and crept in. If Roy saw me I was dead meat.
I found myself resting against a metal cabinet, the ridges pinching into my back. The air was cleansed against the smell of death by the harsh scent of ammonia and bleach. A meagre column of light ran along the bottom of the door. The implications of that sliver of light being filled were too ominous to contemplate. I counted to fifty and then a hundred. On 1-0-1 my worst fear was confirmed. A shadow drifted against the thin light. I touched my Adam’s apple lightly. In less than a minute, a fresh twenty-one year-old from north-west London with more bone than muscle would be served. Hopefully it would be over as quickly for me as it was my room-mate. The shadow hovered teasingly around the door for a few moments and then slid by. An inordinate time elapsed. I guessed that my scent had been masked by the scattered body parts in the corridor. Or maybe there were two other reasons he’d ignored me: Roy was playing games, saving me until last. Maybe meat tastes sweeter when it’s scared to death. Or he was full. A human stomach could only hold so much. After he’d cleared his bowels the hunt would be back on.
I eased the door open. The corridor was silent and empty. It was time to find Liz.
The ragged body of Liz’s roommate had been discarded toy-like to the floor. The swollen pool of blood under her torso and the bite marks to the back of her neck suggested she wasn’t asleep. An immaculate hand-print, painted in blood, was on the bed cover. It looked about the same size as Liz’s but thankfully none of her body parts were around to compare it to.
I wasn’t usually the kind to shy away from being in a woman’s room but I got out of there pretty quick. I ventured into all the other girl’s rooms, doing so, I reflected grimly, with a degree of haste I never knew existed. Bodies, well, body parts, were everywhere. All had seen better days. None belonged to Liz.
It was time to move on.
The path outside was clear. The trees rustled to the rhythm of the wind, which filtered through to me and flapped at my blood-stained pyjamas. I studied the forest and walked cautiously to the final building in the chain of three – a building markedly smaller than the two dorms – when a familiar buzzing compelled me to look skyward. The plane. It was still circling the island, chased by that vapour trail.
The thought had occurred to me there was something wrong with the sole runway on Sunset Island or perhaps the pilot had seen what was going on and was awaiting orders. That was only part of the reason I didn’t wail like a banshee and try to grab its attention. I knew that as soon as I opened my mouth Roy and James would home in on me like vultures and tear into me like a chicken dinner.
As I continued to look skyward, I wasn’t so sure this was the plane that brought us in. As it did a sweeping turn just below the clouds I saw the MediCorps logo, minus the ‘s’, and knew I was wrong. This was the exact same plane that waited on the runway at the Surrey Aero Club to take us to Sunset Island. According to someone in our group the private aviation club had been issued with its first licence for commercial craft in 1934. The MediCorps plane, being a commercial carrier, was distinguishable as being the largest in the hangar.
Liz, going against her usual happy-go-lucky nature, was filled with agitation at the missing S, calling it amateurish. That wasn’t necessarily down to the company, I told her. They probably commissioned a sign painter for the job. I pointed out that the p and s in MediCorps were silent, so the oversight could have been worse. Liz suggested I take a course in flippancy next year.
Sometime during the flight every passenger aside from Liz and I had fallen asleep. Liz felt sick and refused all offers of food, drink, and medicine. Out of sympathy I abstained too. She looked around the plane and cocked a hand to my ear.
‘This doesn’t feel right,’ she said. ‘Everything is so secret. We don’t even know where we’re going.’
She knew all this when we signed the confidentiality agreement. MediCorps conditions required us not to disclose any details of the medical trial to anyone or we’d forfeit the money. We would be flown to a secret location. Beyond this they weren’t obliged to tell us anything. I was fine with that. Liz was beginning to sound like her mother, finding fault in everything. An avid rock climber, Liz spent several weeks a year up mountains. The thought of this fearless woman whining pushed me over the edge.
‘What does it matter that we don’t know anything about the trial?’ I replied. ‘Once the ten days is up we’ll have made enough money to spend all our gap year living off the proceeds.’
‘You’ve been blinded by greed, Andy. What good is money if something goes wrong?’
I accosted a hostess, ordered food, ate, and fell asleep shortly after. Upon waking we were still airborne and Liz, her eyes shut tight, was shifting to the rhythm of her breathing. A member of the crew, wearing a blue suit with the MediCorps logo – a red cross shielded by a red umbrella – came up to me and said, ‘Andrew Downing?’ I nodded. ‘We had to sedate your partner. She was getting hysterical, kept insisting she’d changed her mind and wanted the plane to turn round. She tried to storm the cockpit.’
If I hadn’t fallen asleep I may have died of humiliation at the sight of my paranoid girlfriend struggling with the staff. And I would’ve been forced to take sides. When the plane landed they carted her straight to the medical centre; such was the high dosage of sedatives administered. From then on Liz had it in for me, MediCorps, and Sunset Island. She’d spent more time than most at the medical centre being treated for the side effects of whatever they’d injected into us on the trial.
On my first day in the medical centre, in between being lectured on the no-sex rule (bizarrely, masturbation was fine), I noticed maps on the wall. Sunset Island was a speck of land stranded between Russia to the west and Japan to the east. In other words it was in the middle of nowhere.
‘No chance of popping to a hotel for a quickie then,’ I had muttered to Liz, when we discussed the location on one of our rare forest walks. ‘We’ll have to do it here in the woods.’
But Liz never did feel the inclination to be amorous. She hadn’t taken to the trial. The medical centre had become her second home. And that’s where I was headed. Maybe she was in there when the shit hit the fan and was still in hiding. Yeah, she’s there all right said my not-so-optimistic alter ego, in several unidentifiable parts.
Upon entering the medical centre it soon became apparent Roy, James, or both had been busy. The scene was a faithful summary of what I’d witnessed earlier. The MediCorps employees, white coats stained red almost beyond recognition, were contorted into unnatural positions on the floor, estranged from various limbs. All possessed a variety of defensive wounds – bites mainly – and one had tried to defend himself with a scalpel. He lay on the floor in a sticky cloud of blood, the unstained weapon still in his grasp. I undertook the gruesome task of turning all the bodies over. One female was minus a stomach. Her intestines unfurled over the floor like a sack of spuds being slit open. Her face held the terror that was probably etched on mine. But it wasn’t Liz. There was still hope.
In the short space of time since waking up I’d developed a keen sense of gallows humour to ward off the fear of death. And, upon witnessing Roy McTavish’s love of raw meat, I’d also developed enough curiosity to want answers. Plus, in some vague and over-optimistic way, I hoped the medical records would lead me to find out what happened to Liz.
The medical records were in a closet-sized space in a connecting room. After each visit –we’d see the doctor three times a day – the nurses would be back and forth replacing and retrieving records from the side room. It was the only place I came across not decorated in blood and body parts. ‘Nice,’ I said as I entered and stood over the filing cabinet. ‘A place that doesn’t look like a bomb’s hit it.’
I dug out my records first, slapped them atop the cabinet. I didn’t stop there. I retrieved Liz’s and Scott ‘Plato’ Clarke’s too. A sense of dread ran through me as I leaned my elbows on the cold metallic surface and opened my folder. I’d been dosed with something called the T3-virus on my first day. The amounts administered had been doubled because my body was showing “amazing immunity” to the virus. Virus! My blood ran cold. They never told me they’d put a virus in me, or that they’d increased the dose. And what the hell was T3? I was forced, for the first time, to admit Liz might be right: I was blinded by money. Like an idiot I just thrust out my arm and waited for the needle: the equivalent of a whore who spread her legs and thought of England.
The results of my physical tests were there too. They’d tested my reflexes, alertness and strength. I wasn’t showing any signs that the T3-virus had taken hold. Liz’s and Scott ‘Plato’ Clarke’s results were a mirror image of my own.
Roy McTavish, on the other hand, was making ‘remarkable progress’. Progress, apparently, meant enhanced strength, aggressiveness, heightened alertness, and resistance to sleep. I didn’t want to read James’s file. But I did. It read the same as Roy’s.
Liz’s resistance against the T3-virus gave me hope, as did a familiar sound. Filtering into the tiny room was the humming of a plane. Something about the sound was different. I left the records on the cabinet and bolted from the room.
The landscape was framed by the medical centre’s square windows. I caught sight of the plane as it descended towards the tips of the trees, swallowed by the forest. It was going to land. For the first time I felt a spontaneous rush of something other than fear. I would be saved. More importantly, I could tell them about Liz and we could look for her.
I couldn’t trace the path we’d taken upon our arrival to the island so I trekked through brush and bush in the vague direction of the airstrip. Every now and again nettles, twigs, and branches clawed at my pyjamas and into my bare feet, triggering a sharp snap, the sound probably no louder than a polite cough, but to my mind as glaring as a yell. Each time it happened I remembered the reports on Roy and James: their “remarkable progress” included things all good hunters needed – enhanced strength, aggressiveness, heightened alertness, and resistance to sleep.
Though my inner pessimist didn’t expect to reach the airstrip alive, I kept on driving forward. Mr Pessimist knew that either Roy or James would emerge from behind one of the banks of trees cloaking the runway, deliberately waiting until I was within tantalising reach of my goal before ripping away my throat in a swift, graceful motion. The only saving grace was that, with a day’s killing on their CV’s, the two would make light work of a scrawny soul like me.
Mr Pessimist retreated into the depths of my mind when the runway – a slice of neatly manicured dirt carved into the dense forest – came into view. I was still alive. There were no man-eating maniacs in sight, just sections of the plane obscured by thick branches. Its propeller slowed and the engine died. In the cockpit the pilot lit up and was immediately engulfed in clouds of smoke.
I caught my breath as the plane door opened and six pairs of heavy boots descended the steps onto the dirt track. They were clad in army fatigues with matching flat caps, each brandishing rifles. I was about to call out when one of their number – a tall thin redhead – gestured into the forest. ‘The gas should have anaesthetised them. We’ll split up. It’ll make the job quicker.’
They knew what was going on and this heartened me. I was about to reveal myself when a shrill cry for help echoed around the forest and a figure crashed through the luscious growth towards the men. As she reached the dirt track shots rang out. Liz hit the dirt as though floored by invisible punches.
I suppressed a scream with my hand. After all the secrecy surrounding our visit how foolish of me to think they’d come to save us.
The redhead wandered up to Liz’s corpse and casually fired two shots. ‘Target neutralised,’ he shouted. ‘Remember to aim for the head guys. It’s the only way to be sure. Let’s dig a pit and burn her.’
The anger and hatred I felt toward them was suddenly turned inward. I had pushed Liz onto the medical trial. Her death was my fault. A few minutes later I saw thick smoke curling into the air above the trees. Hopefully they’d torched themselves.
No such luck. When the soldiers returned the redhead reiterated his warning to aim for the head and burn the bodies. After receiving orders to disperse, one of the men headed my way. By this time I’d put a veil on my emotions. He drew close enough for me to make out a logo on his camouflage jacket and cap – a big red umbrella with matching cross underneath. Stitched in black letters under the logo were the words MEDICORPS SECURITY TEAM. The urge to kill them all in retaliation for Liz seemed perfectly reasonable. What was there to lose? I was fated to end up like Liz anyway. As he sauntered by I readied myself to pounce. But I couldn’t do it.
I waited for him to draw further away before attempting to follow. Several trees camouflaged the distance between us. This might have worked but for the grip of an enthusiastic tangle of nettles on my ankle. I let out a soft moan. The security guard swung around and fired in my direction. I had by this time ducked behind a tree and knew from the errant shots ripping into the growth around me that the gunman’s reaction was based on fear. He hadn’t seen me.
What happened next came and went in a blur. I saw Roy emerge from behind a tree and launch himself. The textbook rugby tackle took the MediCorps man down. In the next movement his mouth was gnawing at the man’s neck. Seconds later Roy scraped up some leaves, and like a dog preserving a bone, covered up the corpse. Then he was gone through the trees.
He’d left the MediCorps guard in a pretty decent state but had probably done so to feed on it later or because he was eager to set about the task of killing the other MediCorps men. This stroke of good fortune gave me an idea.
After brushing off the excess dirt and making a few adjustments, the MediCorps uniform fitted snugly. I’d covered the naked corpse with leaves. Roy would still have his dinner and hopefully wouldn’t be any the wiser. I also hoped the same applied to the MediCorps security personnel, who were now my colleagues. I trundled through the forest, making a point of pushing the cap over my eyebrows to shadow my face. I had no idea how to use a gun so my best hope lay in Roy and James completing the job. None of the other men had returned when I made my entrance. The pilot was leaning against the wheel of the plane smoking a cigarette. He gave me a cursory glance before turning away.
‘All done huh?’ he asked.
‘Yeah,’ I replied, praying my clumsy grip on the rifle didn’t raise suspicions. He thrust a cigarette my way. ‘Thanks,’ I said. I hated them but the hazy smoke obscured my face even further.
The security men returned sporadically. The redhead was last. He carried a stack of medical records under his arm. He apologised for the lack of effectiveness of the chemical sprayed over the island.
‘It worked last time for the T2-virus. Knocked ‘em all out cold. All we had to do was shoot ‘em in the head where they lay. It was like shelling peas. The T3 strain must be more potent. I’ll ask for a more concentrated anaesthetic next time.’ He performed a head count as we boarded the plane.
I’d gone unnoticed so far but the next few minutes seemed like hours. The officers exchanged stories on how they fared. From this I ascertained anyone still with a pulse was no more. Roy and James were now burnt to a crisp along with some staff who had barricaded themselves in the medical supply room after making the distress call to MediCorps’ Russian HQ.
I kept my head down, silently seething. Somewhere, Liz was watching over me, aching for my creative side to plot a worthy of revenge. The plane began to trundle down the runway. A hand tapped my shoulder. I swallowed hard and mumbled, ‘Mmm?’
I shook my head. He insisted. I felt pangs of hunger invade my stomach with each chew on that stick. I hadn’t eaten a thing and needed something substantial to appease the growling.
As the plane picked up speed the gum donor said, ‘So how did it go?’
‘Good.’ I nodded. Pointing to the stacks of medical records in the seat beside the redhead, I whispered, ‘What’s that all about?’
He smiled. ‘Rumour has it there’s a war going to be happening soon. And if not, there’s always war somewhere.’ He’d stolen Scott ‘Plato’ Clarke’s line. Not that he’d be sued for copyright anytime soon. Then, in a whisper, he added, ‘They’re really excited about this T3-virus.’ I nodded again, mindful that I was probably supposed to know all this. ‘What army wouldn’t want soldiers who don’t need sleep and can take a bullet anywhere but the head? And they don’t need feeding cos they can feed off the enemy. Genius.’
I understood the implications. ‘Perfect for the British Army,’ I agreed.
He looked at me as if I’d insulted him. ‘Who said anything about the British army? Once the scientists have perfected the T-virus, MediCorps will do what they always do. Sell to the highest bidder. And they’ll be plenty of those.’
None of this mattered to me anymore. I’d decided that as soon as the plane was airborne two needs had to be addressed: my appetite for revenge and my newly-acquired appetite for human flesh.