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 Poppy Summers

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Posts : 16
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Join date : 2011-06-02

PostSubject: Poppy Summers   Thu Jun 02, 2011 7:16 am

This is something I started writing ages ago with a friend, and it kinda died out... I hoping to revive it at some point, so for now I'll just get opinions ^_^

Poppy Summers

Chapter 1

My first thought was unrepeatable. My second was something along the lines of 'What the HELL is going on?' I felt a weight, pressing down on me, I was stifled, I couldn't breathe I almost screamed, until my tired mind jerked itself awake enough to realise that my idiot of a brother was jumping on me in a very misguided attempt to softly wake me. I did scream, then, and shoved him off with all my strength. He ran away giggling. I could have killed him - he knew how much I hated that feeling of being stifled, yet he was happy to jump on me when I was asleep. He would pay later, I thought, tumbling out of bed and staggering across my room to the shower. Another Monday morning. Oh, the joy. I let the hot water spill over me, waking me up a little. Later, on the bus to school, I pondered revenge, but my heart wasn't really in it. I'd get into too much trouble for it to be worth it. That was always the way. I chatted idly to my friends, the usual; how was your weekend, when's that essay in, don't you hate Mondays? Mundane, pointless conversation. It was like that all the way to school, and then by the time we arrived, it had started raining. Just wonderful. And because the bus was late, so were we and naturally Mrs Evans used that as a reason to have a go at us, the hag. And because of The Hag's rule about silence in the form room, and in the corridors, and in assembly, and pretty much everywhere else (which was just a major pain), it wasn't until biology that I got to talk to Christie (my best friend). Then the rest of the day went OK... we mucked around in biology (our teacher really has no idea that we’re not paying attention, she just continues her monologue to the back wall), almost fell asleep learning about the history of agriculture in history (seriously, there was even a 'Golden Age of Farming!), we chatted through IT and slept through Physics (really, with the lack of teaching that goes on in our school it's a miracle we learn anything!). Lunch was a laugh, Christie and I spent the whole time mucking around on the field with Alice and Hannah. Hannah (who else?) somehow managed to get stuck up a tree and one of the teachers had to use a ladder to get her down, so we had bait to tease her for the rest of the day, which was one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever experienced. It was a pretty good day, I guess. Got the bus home, as per usual, got in at about a quarter to five, went up to my room, turned on the radio, sat down and relaxed. I was happy. I listened to the news (the usual, NHS failings, more political upheaval, trouble in the East, oil prices rising…) and then I heard something new. Something about this disease…a new strain of something-or-other…coming over to England. Here we go again, I thought. The nationwide panic. The adverts telling you what precautions to take. The posters in the school loos reminding you exactly how to wash your hands, just in case you forgot. It was ridiculous, but sort of fun in a way, if you know what I mean. It created a kind of buzz. Something to think about, to distract you. They didn’t know if it was transmitted person-to-person, or what. All they could say was that it caused ‘severe internal damage’ and was fatal within as little as a couple of hours of contracting it – they had no cure, nor vaccine. Perhaps this was slightly more serious than the regular ‘pandemic’ scares that never materialized. I opened my book and forgot all about it.

By the next afternoon, it was certain. This virus, whatever it was, was over here, and spreading fast. Very fast. All recorded cases had died before further medical examination could be undertaken. Now I was actually taking this seriously. The schools were closing down, and there were rumours that the government would order nationwide quarantine – nobody was to leave their own homes. I could hardly believe it – we’d never had anything like this before, never. I didn’t know how many cases had been recorded in Britain, but there were obviously enough to present a real danger of the disease spreading.

Wednesday – it had happened. School closed, no leaving the house. I suppose we were all in shock, maybe thinking that it wasn’t real, that they would find a cure, it was only a matter of time, and it wouldn’t actually affect us. I rang Christie to see what she thought. No answer. I tried her mobile. No answer. She couldn’t be out, not with the quarantine. I rang Hannah, then Alice. No answer from anyone.
We ate in silence that night – me, Mum, Dad, and Matt, my horrible little brother of nine years. I thought Mum was going to say something at one point, but she didn’t. None of us tried to pretend it was normal. I didn’t have anything to say, and I think my parents were scared. Matt looked paler than usual, and managed (for once) to eat like a normal human being, without gobbling it down and begging for more.
I went to bed early. I was bored, and had nobody to talk to and nothing to do.
The next morning, Friday, I woke early. I don’t know why. I felt ill, tired. I went down to my parents’ room, seeking comfort and welcome, but I paused at the threshold for some reason. There was an odd feeling in the air, a chill. I called through the door, hesitantly, ‘Mum? Dad?’ No answer. Still asleep. I pushed the door open a little, oddly frightened. They were both lying there, dozing peacefully. I sighed with relief and went to sit on the edge of the bed. I took a closer look at my dad, to see if I could wake him or if he was deeply asleep. His face was deathly pale. He lay completely motionless. A sense of horror and nausea was beginning to dawn on me. I looked at Mum. She was in the same condition. As if in a trance, I stood up, and left the room without looking back. I went to Matt’s room. He, too, lay perfectly still, pale and drawn. He, too, was not breathing. I turned and left his room, too. I turned and left the house. That place. My home. That place of death. There. Look, I said it! I said it! Death. Death death death. They were dead. My mother, my father, my horrible little brother of nine years. Dead, all of them. Dead.

So I ran. I ran down the deserted streets, down the empty alleyways, down the desolate roads. I ran until I could run no longer, until my head ached and my mouth was dry and I couldn’t breathe. I ran until I fell down, until I stumbled, falling onto the cold, hard, unforgiving concrete of the road. There I sat, alone, numb with shock. Somewhere in the back of my mind registered that there was no sign of movement in any of the houses, nothing to suggest another soul was alive.

About an hour later I began to think again. Survival. Primal instincts clicked in, and I thought of food. Shops – everywhere. I could take what I wanted. There was nobody to stop me. I think I knew, really, that I was the only one left. I had a new feeling, of emptiness. Not simple loneliness, much deeper than that. I had no name for it, then.

I went to the local supermarket and broke in through the window. I took bread, bottled water, biscuits, chocolate – sugar and carbohydrate. I ate with my back against the wall of the shop, in the morning sun. I tipped my head back and closed my eyes. I wasn’t ready to think just yet.
I didn’t know what to do. I wondered if there was anybody else out there…I didn’t think so. I felt too alone. I stayed by the supermarket for a while longer, before I decided to move on. I returned to the house where I used to live, to collect what I would need. A watch, clothes, batteries and a torch, books, a couple of blankets and a pillow, and a photograph of me and my family. I put it all in my rucksack and left. I felt nothing. I only entered the rooms I needed to. This was not my home any more. The people lying dead upstairs were not my family.
I had to fend for myself now.

I took the car. I couldn’t drive, but I learnt soon enough. The dents I made, the trees I hit…none of it mattered. I drove for hours, the rucksack on the passenger seat. I would sleep in the car, or maybe in hotels if there were no bodies there. I would take food and water from supermarkets. There was no electricity, I discovered, and I had no idea how to use petrol pumps, but I could find out. I drove for what seemed like hours, until the area was no longer familiar to me. Everywhere I went, the same scenes greeted me. Nothingness, emptiness. Everyone was dead.

It took me an hour to find a petrol station, and another hour of trying unsuccessfully to work out how to use the pump. I was hungry. I’d already eaten all the food I’d taken from the first shop and every other shop I’d past since was covered with those metal shutters. Everything had been closed due to the quarantine, I remembered. I was certain that there was food in the petrol station, and I knew there was plenty in all the other shops. I just needed to work out how to get in. I tried forcing the shutter open, but it didn’t budge, so I tried to drive the car through it, but all I got as a result was a big dent and what I think could be mild wind lash (it hurt at least). In the end I walked around to the side of the petrol station and slumped down against the wall.
“It’s hopeless…” I muttered to myself, feeling strangely tired. I began to sing softly but stopped myself quickly. The song was slow and sad; it had come out just before the quarantine and I had it stuck in my head. I’d started singing it before but I just couldn’t get very far. It seemed wrong somehow. The sound echoed around the empty spaces that filled the world around me, reminding me that I was alone. That I could never rely on anyone ever again. I’d taught myself to whistle, something I’d never been able to do before, but it sounded too shrill, too piercing, too… happy. It didn’t fit.
It had started raining and I blinked, realising that I should be wet. I looked up, the sound of the raindrops on the pavement sounded horribly loud in my ears. Above me was something large and silver. Part of my brain registered that it was one of the air vents that could often been seen crouching on the side of shops and other similar community buildings. Then it hit me. An air vent. They were used for keeping the air in the shops clean. They led straight into the buildings. I clambered up, cursing myself for being such an idiot and never noticing something so obvious before. I climbed on the big bins that I had been sitting next to, ignoring the rain, and pulled off the grill that covered the end of the vent. Inside was a big fan. For the first time, I was grateful that the electricity had been switched off. It tried to unscrew the fan, but it was no good. I jumped down and looked around on the floor. Then I saw what I needed. Picking up the large rock in one hand, I slowly climbed back up. It didn’t take long for me to break the fan. The sound of stone on metal echoed horribly but for once I didn’t care, after all there was no-one left around to hear. I dragged the remnants of the broken fan out and let them drop to the floor and then I pulled myself up in to the vent on my stomach. It was a tidy fit, and was easily able to slide myself down the vent, pushing the rock in front of me, I had a feeling I’d need it again. Sure enough, there was another fan waiting at the end of the vent. I bashed it apart in seconds and the grill on this side caved in easily. I fell in a heap on the cashier’s desk beneath the vent and sat up, wincing and rubbing my bruised hip.

The quietness of the shop brought a new feeling of horror to me; a new emptiness. In my mind’s eye I could easily see it filled with people, a busy weekend scene: A bored cashier, long impatient queues, children energetic from sitting for a long journey pestering their parents to buy them chocolate... then it was gone, wiped out by my common sense, to leave me with another empty, echoing space, already lightly covered in dust. The first thing I did was strap on a neck brace. I don’t know exactly what I did to my neck when I tried to break in with the car, but it was killing me, and crawling through the air vents had done absolutely nothing to help. At least if the brace was on I would remember not to move it so much – no-one was left to look after me if I got hurt.
My stomach was rumbling audibly now. First I went to the food which would eventually go off, ignoring the packaged and tinned things, the bread and milk. Last time I had concentrated on foods that would give me the most energy, but I knew that if I wanted to stay healthy I would need a proper balanced diet. My Food Tech teacher would have been so proud of me. I made myself a proper sandwich: sliced ham, turkey, chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, all between two thick loafs of buttered brown bread, washed down with a pint of milk. I knew that the meat probably wouldn’t have lasted much longer; this would probably be my last taste of meat before I was forced to become vegetarian. I ended up having two of the massive sandwiches before my hunger was satisfied. Then I walked over to the entrance of the store. The dent my car (I now considered it mine, it’s not like there was anyone left to complain) had made in the metal cover had caused the glass behind it to crack and splinter like a deranged spiders web. I was pretty sure that it was opened electronically, but I searched around the cashier’s desk anyway. Sure enough, I found the switch that activated the shutter, and a bunch of keys in a box beneath it. I flicked through the keys until I found the one that fitted in the switch. Of course, without any electricity, turning the key did absolutely nothing. I slumped and let my legs go out from beneath me, landing on the linoleum floor with an exasperated sigh. The short fall had jarred my neck and it was hurting again. I suddenly felt extremely young. My stomach was full for now, but it wouldn’t stay that was for long. I was fifteen, barely a child anymore, and I’d always had a big appetite. I needed to bring food with me, there was more than enough room in the car, but I knew there was no way I’d be able to get any quantity of food back out through the vent, and I wasn’t sure if I’d even have the energy to try. It had been an incredibly long day. That morning felt like a lifetime ago, a different world, so much had happened. I’d learnt to drive for a start.
I picked up the bunch of keys and idly played with them in my hand, absent-mindedly wondering what the rest of them were for. Then it hit me, and I felt like an idiot for not realising it before. If the shutter was activated from inside the shop, then there must be another way out. I searched and, not surprisingly, found a door in the back corner of the store. Opening it, it led into a short corridor, with three doors, one directly opposite me, and the other two on either side, facing each other. The door on my left turned out to be a toilet, which I used gratefully. I made a mental note to remember to get a good supply of toilet paper. Once I was finished I tried the door on the other side of the corridor. It was locked, but I soon found the right key. Musty air flew out at me as the door creaked open, sounding achingly loud compared to the other doors which had opened noiselessly. It was an office and I stood looking in warily, racking my brains to think what I could find in an office which could turn out to be useful later on. I wandered in and my eyes fell on a photo on the desk. I picked it up and wiped the thin layer of dust off. A picture of a little girl smiled benignly up at me and I felt a pang in my chest as I realised that the toddler in the picture was now dead. She looked so young and innocent. How could someone like that deserve to die? I placed the photo face down on the desk, picked up a knife that would have been used as a letter opener, pushed it into my pocket, and left quickly. The last door was also locked, but again I found a key that opened it and pushed it open to allow the outside air, fresh from the rain that was still pouring, to flood in. I welcomed the fresh air and breathed in deeply. Then, having found an exit, I turned and headed back into the store.
I filled loads of bags with anything I thought would last. Litres upon litres of mineral water were collected to fill the boot of my car. I debated whether or not to bring energy drinks but decided against it; I didn’t know how long they would last for. Instead I grabbed jars of coffee and boxes of tea. Cold tea and coffee, whilst not tasting the nicest, would do just as well for energy and I’d never heard of stale coffee so I reckoned it would be safe. I also found a couple of flasks which I could use to make and store the drinks.
I talked through the food groups to myself. Dairy would be the hardest to store, I decided. Cheese was my best bet; it was the only dairy product I could think of that tasted better with time. I used to be fussy with cheese, only really liking cheddar, but sometime during the day I’d given up on being fussy for the sake of survival. I cleared the cheese rack. I also grabbed a couple of pints of milk to drink in the short term, even though I knew they would go off soon. For protein I grabbed as many types of nuts I could find. I estimated that the meat wouldn’t last for more than I couple of days and the only other source of protein I could think of was nuts. Fats. I raided the sweets counter; crisps, chocolate, boiled sweets. Energy and sugar. Bread was a problem. I’d had to go through about five loafs to find one that wasn’t covered in mould for my sandwich, and even then the bread was quite hard and I could taste the impending staleness. So I went for crackers and biscuits instead. They were all in air-tight packages and would last for a long time. I also found packets of what was called ‘Crackerbread’, which according to the packet was ‘The light and crispy alternative to bread’. I stocked up on those happily, and I also found a whole bunch of air-tight containers to store open packets in. Fruit and veg’ was easy. I ignored all the fresh stuff (it was already going off) and instead grabbed the tinned fruit. I was relieved that the store I had broken into had a massive supply. There was also some fairly fresh fruit and vegetables in plastic cartons. I took some of those for short-term consumption. And lastly I piled up toilet roll. Having finished I stood back and looked at the piles of bags that covered the back of the store, and the slightly sad-looking, empty shelves.
I pulled on one of the oversized mac-in-a-bag ponchos that were sitting next to the cashier and went out the back, having already decided that I wasn’t going to heave all of the bags round to the car. The waterproof turned out to be unnecessary, as the rain had stopped, but it was surprisingly dark. I hadn’t realised how much time I had taken, not that it had been very light before. Winter was coming and there had been dark cloud cover all day. It wasn’t until I was back in front of the car that I remembered why I had come to the petrol station in the first place. I frowned at the car, trying to work out how to get fuel into it without breaking anything. My eyes widened as I remembered something and I turned and ran back around to the store. The good food and success of finding everything I thought I would need had pushed the tiredness out of my mind and replaced it with a giddy adrenaline rush. I ran over to the magazines and my eyes scanned them until they found what I vaguely remember spotting earlier. I picked up the magazine excitedly. It was a farming magazine, something I’d never have given a second glance before, but on the front was the announcement of an article inside. I flicked through the pages until I came to a page talking about pumps. It was meant to be for tractors but I didn’t think the theory would be that different, and I was right. The magazine practically gave me a step-by-step guide to filling up my car and I gratefully stored it in the dashboard for future use. Then I started my car up and began to drive it around to the door at the back of the store. I stalled twice, but I got there eventually.
I filled the car up, using every space possible. The boot was filled with the milk and water. I had put the cheese in there as well, seeing as it was the coldest part of the car. It only just squeezed in. I piled everything else neatly in to the interior of the car, leaving no space unused. Eventually the back seat was piled up, as was the window space behind it and the floor beneath it. The passenger seat and leg room were also full. I had the sense to leave the dashboard and driver’s seat clear, but I realised that I had a problem. I had been planning to use the back of my car as a place to sleep, but that was impossible now that it looked like a miniature supermarket. And I really needed to sleep now.

I started up the car and drove around the large town, searching hopefully. I was lucky and quickly found what I was looking for. A bed shop. I broke in using the air vent again. Now that I was looking for them I found that practically every building that wasn’t domestic had one, which was very useful for me. I had brought in with me the rucksack I had brought with me from the house and flicked on the torch, swinging it around the shop in a wide arc. Inside the shop I had a wide choice of beds, as well as sheets and duvets. I chose a bed and made it beautifully, but I pulled out the pillow and blanket I had brought with me and put the blanket under the duvet. I pillow smelled familiarly of home and for the first time that day I felt tears trickle down my face. I curled up, wrapping the blanket around me, and hugged the photo of my family to my chest. I drifted softly into sleep, crying silently.
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