Rich Hawkins: The Last Plague

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Rich Hawkins The Last Plague
  • Название:
    The Last Plague
  • Автор:
  • Издательство:
    Crowded Quarantine Publications
  • Жанр:
    Ужасы и Мистика / на английском языке
  • Год:
    2014
  • Город:
    Wolverhampton
  • Язык:
    Английский
  • ISBN:
    978-0-992-88383-6
  • Рейтинг книги:
    4 / 5
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The Last Plague: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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A pestilence has fallen across the land. Run and hide. Seek shelter. Do not panic. The infected WILL find you. When Great Britain is hit by a devastating epidemic, four old friends must cross a chaotic, war-torn England to reach their families. But between them and home, the country is teeming with those afflicted by the virus – cannibalistic, mutated monsters whose only desires are to infect and feed. THE LAST PLAGUE is here.

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Rich Hawkins

THE LAST PLAGUE

To Sara, Willow and Molly,

Who keep me sane amidst the madness

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Thanks and gratitude to my family and friends, present and absent; my old mates from the good old days (you know who you all are). Cheers to Matt Darst for his beta-reading talents and literary wisdom, Paul M. Feeney for the kind words, Adam and Zoe Millard for having faith in me, David Moody, Wayne Simmons, Adam Baker and Conrad Williams for inspiring me, everyone in the Facebook groups Moody’s Survivors and the Wayne Simmons Fan Page, all the other writers I’ve come to know online, and everyone who’s ever supported me and my writing.

My humble appreciation to you all.

PROLOGUE

Her name was Florence, and she did not cry when the end of the world came. She didn’t scream when Mr. Stewart from next door stumbled into the garden with something pulsing and wet erupting from his throat.

In the distance a plane fell from the sky and vanished beyond the curve of the earth. She heard the explosion just before the black smoke stained the horizon. She imagined fire and metal and people burning in their seats. She imagined bodies obliterated by impact with the earth.

Mr. Stewart fell down, writhing on the front lawn, spluttering a yolky fluid from his mouth. His bones pushed against his skin. He arched his back and his insides cracked and popped like something chewed by a slavering mouth.

Florence watched him with fascination, her feet planted on the garden path. The smell of cut grass in the air. She did not run away.

Mr. Stewart stopped moving.

Florence’s father grabbed her by the arm and dragged her into the house. Her mother was waiting for them in the kitchen. Smudged make-up and running eyeliner. Pale skin like boiled tripe.

Mum put down her mobile phone. “Couldn’t get through to my parents. Couldn’t get through to anyone.”

“What about the television?” Dad asked.

“Bad news.”

Florence held her mother’s hand. Mum offered a weak smile through glistening tears.

“What do we do?” Mum’s voice was strained.

Mr. Stewart was screaming outside. He didn’t sound human.

Dad picked up a carving knife. “Lock the doors.”

CHAPTER ONE

Two days earlier.


The battered and dirt-speckled Vauxhall Corsa was an intestinal worm in the guts of the Kent countryside.

Frank Hooper’s bones shook as the car lurched over a pothole. The road’s surface was scarred and uneven, dusted with gravel and dirt. The shadows of trees loomed across the road, stretching from one side to the other, onyx and creeping with the sun behind them.

His back was aching. Driving was bad for his posture. His throat and mouth were dry, like he had been chewing cotton wool. He yawned. A dull pain throbbed at the top of his skull.

“We’re nearly there,” said Joel, studying the map beside him. “I think.”

“Glad you’re certain about that,” Frank said.

“You’re the one who turned off the sat-nav.”

“It sounded like my mother.”

“I like your mother’s voice,” said Ralph, from the back seat. “Especially when she talks dirty.”

“You’re obsessed with older women,” said Magnus, across from Ralph.

“I’ve got a problem,” said Ralph. “Always fancied Captain Janeway.”

“Who?”

“She’s from Star Trek: Voyager,” Joel said.

“I’d rather have Princess Leia,” Frank said.

“She hasn’t aged as well as Janeway,” said Ralph.

“Good point,” said Joel.

“Fucking nerds,” said Magnus.

“I didn’t say I liked Star Trek,” said Ralph. “I just said I liked Captain Janeway.”

“Captain Janeway is a woman, right?” asked Magnus.

Ralph grunted. “Funny.”

Frank glanced at Joel. “Look at the map. Find out where we are.”

Joel gave him a mock salute. “Yes, sir.”

“No need to be sarcastic.”

“Sorry. Right. Okay. I think we’re heading in the right direction.”

“You think?”

“We just went through Wishford. The house is somewhere around here.”

“That sounds reassuring.”

“Now you’re being sarcastic. It’s not very far. Keep an eye out.”

Frank’s grip on the steering wheel tightened. He slowed his breathing, exhaled through his nose, and his hands loosened upon the wheel until he relaxed again and the throbbing in his head faded a little.

Ralph laughed. He was short stocky man with a crew cut, eating a packet of crisps which rustled every time he reached his ape-like hand inside. The floor around his feet was sprinkled with bits of food. Frank glanced back to see Ralph brushing crumbs from his lap. Frank sighed, didn’t bother to scold him. There was no point.

“You two are like an old married couple,” Ralph said.

“They’ve been like that since school,” said Magnus. He was shaven-headed; an attempt to hide male-pattern baldness, a hereditary condition in his family. Thick-rimmed glasses framed his grey eyes. An oversized jacket and cargo pants shrouded his meagre, wiry figure.

“So are you both sharing a room, when we get there?” Ralph asked.

Frank laughed.

“Very funny, Ralph,” said Joel. “You should be on TV.”

“They wouldn’t let the ugly fucker on television,” Magnus said.

“Piss off,” said Ralph. “There are many women who can’t resist the bearded and portly look.”

“Depends how drunk you get them,” said Frank.

“Very true, Francis.”

 “Don’t be too hard on yourself,” Joel said. “There are plenty of ugly, sober women out there that’ll sleep with you. A lot of desperate women out there.” He winked at Ralph.

“I don’t need your sympathy, Joel – you’re the poor sod getting married next month.”

“Says the bloke who’s got his right hand for a girlfriend.”

“Left hand actually. Well, both, to be honest.”

“Have they got names?” asked Frank.

“Yeah,” said Ralph. “Magnus’s missus and Joel’s missus.”

The four men laughed. Magnus tried to twist Ralph’s ear between his thumb and forefinger, but Ralph batted away his hand and slapped him on the back of the head.

“Wanker,” said Magnus.

Ralph grinned. “Love you too.”

They passed a small farm with a grey-walled, crumbling barn. A tractor was parked at the front of the farmhouse.

Ralph finished the crisps and scrunched the packet into a ball.

“Where you thinking of putting that?” Frank eyed him from the rear-view mirror.

Ralph made an innocent face. “Somewhere…”

“Put it in your pocket; if you can’t do that, put it up your arse. You’ve already made enough mess.”

“Wouldn’t putting it up my arse make more mess?”

“Ralph, don’t be facetious,” Frank said.

“No need to use the long words, college boy.”

“Just do it, mate.”

“Okay.” Ralph put away the empty packet, then picked up a paper bag of cookies from the seat. He nibbled on one, and crumbs fell down the front of his Metallica t-shirt, over his curved belly and onto his thighs.

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