Penny and I share a long kiss. We both know it could be our last. She slinks back into the trailer looking like a ninjas centrefold, and I hop through the roof into the tractor. I stare down the hill to the gate, where uncountable dead eyes stare back. Taking a deep breath I yell to Penny to hold on, and put my foot down. I don’t get the wheel spin I was hoping for, but we start moving. Going down hill now, picking up speed. The zombies stand firm. They don’t know what’s about to hit them. I close my eyes and can’t help but scream. The tractor slams into the gate, tearing it from its hinges. I’d braced for the impact, but still nearly went through the window. The gate flattens the first wave of the dead, and acts like a kind of bridge. Wails and moans surround us as the tractor rocks from side to side, crushing heads under its huge tires. The front loader is decapitating and amputating limbs in front. The windscreen is splattered with cherry red blood.
‘We’re gonna make it!’ I yell. No word from Penny. But the trailer’s still attached. I can see zombies clawing at the wood from the wing mirrors. Not long Penny, hold on. The sheer number of zombies being crushed under us makes it slow going, and now they’re trying to get through my door, but the bars are holding them back. Only fifty more feet, come on! Move you piece of shit! One of them has got on the side of the cab now, and is clawing at the window. I pick up my lucky crowbar and stab it through the glass. With a satisfying squelch it lands right in its eye, and the zombie falls off. An eyeball is left stuck on the end. Wish I could think of a James Bond style one-liner. We reach the building. Damn, that roof looks higher than I thought. Nothing for it now. Jumping out the cab onto the roof, machete in each hand I look for Penny.
‘Let’s go!’ I yell. She’s crouched down, trying to shield the flame from the wind. A zombie has pulled itself up to the windscreen. I slice the top off its head like a hard boiled egg. The fuse is lit, and Penny is running towards me. She uses my hands as a springboard and I launch her to the roof.
‘Now you!’ she yells, ‘come on, you’ve got about fifteen seconds!’
Throwing my bag and weapons up first I jump for the edge. I land with my elbows on top, the rest of me dangling over the edge like fish bait. Can’t get any purchase.
‘Come on! Get a move on!’ and she grabs me and pulls. I roll over onto the roof.
‘There’ll be time for rest later!’ and she’s off leaping to the next roof. No rest for the wicked. I follow her, leaping over the zombies below. Then the next. She’s one building ahead of me when the bomb goes off. A blinding white light is followed by a deafening blast that rocks the building. The supporting beams collapse and I’m dumped to the ground, dazed but not hurt. But I can’t see Penny. I yell, but the fires raging behind me drown them out.
Stumbling out into the alley between the shacks, I see a lot of dead. Still I yell for Penny, still I get nothing. Rage has total control of my body now, and my arms are shaking. No more running. Time to face up. You think you can stop me! I’ll kill all of you! And I stride down the alley, blades whirling around like a helicopter. Heads are rolling everywhere and my shirt is drenched with blood. It’s not mine though. Laughing like a maniac I take down the ones behind me and carry on, nothing but pure adrenaline keeping me going. I turn the corner and it’s empty. The boat is about two hundred yards away; I can see the mast just above the rooftops. Got to get my breath back. My arms are hanging limp, burning with lactic acid. That’s when I hear a low growl from the open doorway in front. Two large Alsatian dogs trot out and glare at me. Maybe they were Rose’s.
‘Good boys,’ I pant. The sound of my voice seems to calm them. Maybe they know I’m not dead. One licks my hand, and I stroke his head. ‘Wanna go for walkies?’ and we set off down the next alley. Just two more then I’ll be on the pier. But then I see the zombies coming towards me. I’m so exhausted I’m ready to drop. No. Can’t quit. Penny’s there. She must be. She’ll be waiting. I lift my head, and see that the dogs are charging the bastards head on. I yell encouragement. I don’t think they will kill them, but they’re certainly holding them back. Giving me time to rest. But I see two more behind me. One of them is a nun and has no arms. The other’s in full military gear. I laugh. Religion and the army, our two protectors. But the amusement soon gives way to anger. Where was our protection eh? Where were you when we needed you! Nowhere, that’s where! AND WHERE IS PENNY! I fling the machete with my last drop of strength. It severs both heads in one fell swoop. The bodies stand for a second, then catch up with the situation and slump to the ground. And I see something amazing. Maybe there is a God. Slung across the soldiers back is an assault rifle. My eyes light up and I lift the strap over my shoulder. Never held a gun before. Never even seen one in real life. It’s heavy. I whistle for the dogs to come, and they leave the zombies who are stuck in the middle of the alley.
‘Oh boys!’ I yell, pointing the gun at them, ‘say hello to my little friend!’ I pull the trigger.
How do you turn it on? I find a catch on the side, and twist it. This time the bullets fly out. The recoil nearly knocks me over. Looking up, I see the bullets have hit almost everything but the zombies, who lurch forward again. Wedging the butt in my shoulder, I take aim. In short bursts I blast the bastards down, one by one. Watching their heads explode gives me new energy. You lot are done for. I storm down the alley and onto the pier, the dogs bounding alongside me. Wish I had a Cuban cigar. How cool would that look? Stallone and Seagal can kiss my ass.
The zombies are fewer out here, and I can see the carnage the bomb caused in the distance. But not Penny. Where the hell are you? As I walk towards the boat a lone zombie stumbles towards me. Not wasting any bullets on you pal and I kick it into the water. It thrashes around briefly and sinks beneath the waves.
The boat is small, but smart looking, the kind you see wealthy businessmen lounging in off the coast of some tropical island. I’m standing on the deck, desperately looking for Penny. The dogs stand guard on the jetty. Then I hear a yell. There she is! She’s on the wrong jetty, and I see a lot of zombies following her. I chop through the rope anchoring the boat and kick away from the pier. The dogs jump in as I start the engine. It starts first time. Penny is almost halfway down the wooden walkway now, and I know she can’t swim. Just hold on babe. Keep fighting. This damn boat is too slow! She’s maybe twenty foot from the edge now. That’s when the boat stalls. I yell at the skies. Picking up the gun, I take a few pot-shots at the zombie horde lurching towards Penny. She looks shocked, almost as much as I am as I see a head pop like a water balloon. Slowly the boat drifts closer. Penny is hacking away at them; the ones she doesn’t decapitate fall in the water and sink. I keep firing until the magazine is empty, and toss it away. I’m only twenty feet from her, but she’s almost at the edge.
‘Jump!’ I yell.
She shakes her head.
‘It’s the only way!’ Finally the zombies are on her, and she turns and jumps into the water, taking four with her. I grab a lifebelt and run back to the hull, where Penny is struggling to keep her head above water. I throw it in, but it’s too short. She drops under, and doesn‘t come back up. Nothing for it. I drop the deck ladder and jump in. The shock of the freezing water traps the air in my lungs but I swim on. Diving under, it’s too dark to see. Blindly I flail around. I come up for more air, then back under. I grab hold of an arm! Reaching the surface I see two yellow eyes looking back at me. Screaming I push it away and something grabs my ankle. I try to kick it away, but what if it’s Penny? The lifebelt has drifted closer. With one arm I hold it, and with the other reach down and grab a handful of hair and pull up. Penny’s face comes out of the sea. Her eyes are shut and her lips are blue. I put the lifebelt around her limp body and use my waist belt to tie her to it. After climbing up the ladder I haul Penny slowly up the side. It’s harder than I think. Straining every sinew I finally get her close enough so I can grab her hand. That’s when I see the gaping wound in her arm. I almost drop her back, but catch myself just in time. With one last haul I pull her onto the deck. She lies motionless. I start compressions, my heart full of sorrow that she might be gone, and my head full of dread at what might wake up. Breathing deeply into her mouth, she coughs and sprays sea water over my face. A low moan escapes from between her teeth. The dogs are sat on their haunches, growling. Stepping back, I grab the machete. Held high above my head it gleams in the sunlight. Not like this. It can’t end like this. My eyes are full of tears, and then she opens hers. I bring the machete down. It sticks in the wooden deck. Next to her. Two eyes as green as the ocean are staring at me. She grabs the machete, and puts it into the wound, showing me where she cut herself.
‘That was close,’ she croaks. I hold her and we sob like newborn babies.
We sail on. It’s late in the evening when we see the island ahead. We drift towards it in silence, too nervous to talk.
‘There’s something on the beach,’ says Penny looking through her binoculars.
‘Something or someone?’ I ask. Then I see her smile.
‘Not sure, but I think they’re waving at us!’
We start laughing and wave back.
The sun is setting behind us as more figures appear on the beach, some holding flaming torches, all waving and cheering. We’ve made it. After all we’ve been through. The hope that always seemed too far away to touch, always just out of reach. It was gone. We didn’t need it anymore.
We jumped off the boat, hand in hand and walked towards a new beginning.
As I’m sitting here on the beach, looking out over the oceans, I imagine I can see all of you. The other survivors, still going through hell. I’ve written my story about a hundred times now, and just like with this one, I’ll pop it in a bottle and launch it out to sea, with our islands co-ordinates, in the hope that one day it’ll reach you. You’ve all got to keep hoping. Keep dreaming. Without these, what have we got to live for? My dream is now walking towards me with our two dogs at her side. If mine can come true, why can’t yours?