Ruth stood before the doors of the library’s lift and regarded the ‘Out of order’ sign with weary resignation. Of course the lift was out of order, of course she had three bags, a huge Winter coat and a precarious pile of papers to carry around with her, and of course the bloody Dewey Decimal System meant that the History books were all waiting patiently for her on the very top floor of the building. Ah well, she told herself, you’ve got a pair of legs and a pair of lungs – get up there! What you learn about the past today could be something that changes your future…
30 YEARS LATER!
Alex and Peter scrambled across the muddy grass of the Wartime Farm garden, eyes desperately searching for a place to hide before the groaning undead currently banging on the outside of the fence managed to claw their way through.
“Quick!” Peter gasped. “The Anderson Shelter.”
The two men hurriedly dived into the metal shed and barricaded the door shut behind them with the boxes of carrots they’d stored in there. Then they hunkered down in the dark and listened hard for the sound of impending zombie doom.
The banging continued steadily, but didn’t seem to be getting louder or resulting in a breach of the fence. After a moment or two, their vision now accustomed to the dim light, Alex and Peter turned to each other and frowned. “Perhaps we should try moving again…” Alex whispered. “I kind of thought they were going to break through straight away.”
Peter nodded. “Or at the very least, find the gate and walk in. Maybe they’re not as dangerous as all that?”
Suddenly, there was an almighty crash and the unmistakable noise of several bodies falling through a fence. Simultaneously, the squeak and clack of the gate swinging open could clearly be heard.
“Well, that jinxed it! What the hell are we going to do now?” Alex exclaimed.
“We’re going to be very quiet, and hope that they can’t find us,” Peter whispered, giving Alex's hand a quick, reassuring squeeze. “They can’t stumble all over the garden forever – something will distract them, or night’ll fall and they’ll… go off somewhere.”
“Night’ll fall? What difference does that make to the undead?”
“I don’t know – I’m trying to be helpful.”
Alex grimaced. “What would be helpful is if we had some weapons. Why couldn’t we have used this thing to store tools as well as veg? A nice, sharp scythe would be very welcome right about now.”
They both squinted around the tiny shelter. The only things in there were hundreds and hundreds of carrots.
“Damn, it’s a shame Ruth hadn’t already made this lot into fudge – that stuff was bloody lethal!” Peter said.
“Think. What would MacGyver do?”
“He’d pointlessly make a bomb out of his own clothes.”
BANG BANG BANG. BANG. BANG.
“Oh my god!” Alex and Peter grabbed each other, stricken with fear as the metal wall of the shelter rang with the impact of fists upon it.
BANG BANG BANG. BANG. BANG.
The thumping repeated, more urgently this time. BANG BANG BANG. BANG. BANG.
“Wait, ‘Bang, bang, bang…’?” Peter’s eyes widened.
“‘…Bang. Bang’?” Alex finished off.
“It’s the secret code!”
“It must be Ruth!”
As if on cue, a frantic voice came from outside. “Quick, you idiots. Get out here before the zombies come back.”
The boys hastily jumped up and pulled the carrot-barricade away from the door, joining their comrade in the garden with a mixture of trepidation and relief.
“Ruth, how did you manage to get to us?” Alex asked.
“Henry’s leading the undead on a merry chase,” Ruth explained. “But he can’t distract them forever. We have to get to the van.”
Grabbing some branches and stones to use as makeshift weapons as they ran, the trio headed around the side of the farmhouse and towards the lane. The modified ambulance was parked beside the outbuildings, mercifully already loaded with coal.
“As soon as we fire it up, every rotten corpse on the farm is going to hear it!” Peter despaired. “And the van can only go two miles an hour.”
“That’s faster than the zombies can manage,” Alex pointed out.
Hastily, they ran over to the van and Peter set about getting it started up. Sure enough, as the engine rattled and sputtered, confused groans could be heard in the distance. They surely only had minutes to make good their escape.
The van set off down the lane at an agonisingly slow pace, with Ruth eventually choosing to jump down and walk alongside, scanning the undergrowth around their route for any signs of a possible ambush.
“Can’t we make this thing go any faster? I think I can see some zombies coming around the farmhouse!” Alex shouted.
The three looked back in dismay – their pursuers were already gaining on them, it appeared.
BARK BARK BARK. BARK. BARK.
The faithful border collie was at the end of the lane, frantically attempting to attract the attention of the trio and the zombies.
“What’s he doing?” Peter asked, trying to make sense of the dog’s urgent mime of digging and jumping into a hole.
“He’s by the ditch with the cattle grid over it!” Ruth exclaimed. “I think he’s signalling a plan. Hurry!”
Peter piled more coal into the van’s furnace, and a small spurt of energy propelled them forward.
“We’re nearly there,” cried Alex. Unfortunately, by this time the zombies were hot on their tail.
The van wobbled over the cattle grid, and as soon as the wheels were clear, Ruth and Alex grabbed hold of the metal edge and pulled as hard as they could, dragging it away and leaving the deep ditch uncovered. As the first zombies arrived, channelled towards the trap by the hedging on either side, they moaned greedily at the four friends cowering behind their van, and lurched straight forward into the hole.
“That's amazing!" the humans chorused. "Henry's plan worked perfectly.”
As Ruth watched the last zombie tumble stupidly into the ditch to languish with its fellows, unable to climb out again, she ruminated on her luck: apocalypse notwithstanding, she couldn’t help considering herself incredibly fortunate that History had brought her together with Peter, Alex and Henry the dog. That, and for the fact that 30 years ago, she had spent a day in the library reading all about the importance and utility of domestic animals during wartime action.