I used to love looking out over the bay in the summer evenings. Across the water, the view of clusters of multi-coloured lights in a dozen spots made the shoreline beautiful. Over in those clusters of light I knew that the bars would be open, and heaving with young people getting drunk and kicking up a hell of party, but from two miles across the bay on the south side, where I was, you only occasionally heard the noise drifting across the water.
It was always quiet here, and that was how I liked it.
In the early evening, before all the partying began, the boats would head back from the sea. Luxury yachts, bright white and glowing like ghosts or swans drifting in with the tide, and fishing ships trundling along with their day’s catch with it’s proud crew wearing their best fishing hats. They’d head towards the different bays, never once stopping in my quiet spot on the shore. The sight of the first fishing ship was always my cue to head back into the house, throw my gear into the cupboard, string up my catches, and settle down with a coffee to read a book, but most of the time I would sit there on my small dock and watch them come in, at least for a while.
My visits to town have grown less frequent over the years. Once, I’d head to the nearest village, to the tiny convenience store along the main road, and grab some supplies, you know, dried goods, tins, and maybe a couple of the magazines they stocked on the stand at the front, no, not skin magazines, before you think that. My interest in sex vanished after my wife took ill and passed away, some thirty years ago now, and I wasn’t even very young when that happened.
Gwen and I never did much like being around people. The house we bought, with the small seafront stretch, was as close to civilisation as we wanted. She made us some money selling crafts and gifts over the internet, and I grew most of food in the garden at the side of the house, or caught it on the dock that I built the same year we moved in. The only regular contact was with the delivery guy who came one a week to pick up a stack of parcels for the post, and to drop off an equally large pile of supplies for Gwen to make yet more of those baubles that people seemed to love.
The little rubbish, is what I called it. People always loved their little rubbish. If they weren’t buying it while on holiday they’d order it over the web, stick it on a shelf somewhere, and let it gather dust. You know the kind of things I mean. Those snow globes with a winter scene, or a little grey stone, supposedly genuine and from the ancient city of Pompeii, which the shop happened to be lucky enough to have got hold fifty of them, or porcelain figurines, or decorated coffee cups. All little rubbish. Well maybe the coffee cups had a use.
Gwen made the special stuff, though, even if it was still of the little rubbish variety. Jewellery made from shells from the shore and some silver wire, wedding gift bags – also sporting a shell from the beach outside our home. And our house was, hell, still is, littered with the stuff. Though these days there seems to be more dust and cobwebs than ornaments.
One week the delivery guy didn’t come. We waited for three days before picking up the phone to give the mail company a ring, but the phone was dead. Gwen switched on the computer, hoping to use the internet to get in touch, but of course that wasn’t working either.
So we waited, but the mail didn’t come again.
It’s hard to think of those days, the days of fear. And to think that it only lasted what? Two years? Three maybe. Every evening I’d look out over the bay, and feel a little more disappointed as less of the lights switched on. I even bought the last dated newspaper from the little shop in the next town, while that was still open, just to find out what was going on in the world – the first time I had done that for five years. I didn’t do news.
Half way home I ditched the newspaper in bin at the side of the road, and vowed that I’d never tell Gwen what was going on. I’d never lied to her before, not in all the years we were together, but that one little thing I kept from her even in death. I didn’t like to, and quite a few times I nearly blurted out about the terrible, horrific pictures in that paper, and those huge, bold terrifying words. But I never did.
One day there were no lights on the horizon. The world outside our windows had gone dark.
I saw one, once. A live one I mean. It was the only one I saw in the few years that they roamed the world, doing all manner of nasty things to everybody. It was along the road just down the lane. And I was out in search of supplies that we had run out of.
I already figured at with that trip that I’d have to head out further from then on, with the store being nearly completely empty after I’d been visiting for two years, and I thought I’d head along the road in the other direction, out towards the crossing. It was a fair way out, maybe five miles, which is quite a journey on a bicycle when you have trouble with your knees.
The crossing was where our little coastal road met a main road, and just over that road there was a gas station, a convenience store, and a car wash. I hoped to find something in the store, or maybe in the petrol station, if it wasn’t already stripped bare. I really didn’t want to head further along the road and down into the bay, where the sea front towns were.
I did find something, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. As I approached the opposite side of crossing, and slowed down, peering out over the road and down the highway where at least a hundred cars were parked on the side of the road, abandoned, I noticed movement in the forecourt of the gas station. There, leaning against one of the gas pumps was a figure, and as I stood, my jaw nearly bouncing off the road, it noticed me, stood up, and started staggering across the main road towards me.
Its skin was pale, almost grey, with dark lines spidering cross the remains of its face. I couldn’t tell if it had been male or female, because any features that might have identified it had long since shrivelled away. Out of the peeled, cracked and blackened face was a bloodied skull, with no eyes or tongue, only ravaged and worn bones and teeth.
I threw up on the road. Couldn’t help it.
Two seconds later and I was back on my bike, pedalling like all of hell was chasing me down the road to my house.
I’ve been back to that crossing a number of times since then, but that first time was the only time the creature had been alive, if it even was. The second time I went back, about a month later, the body was slumped at the side of the road, it’s head laying next to where I had been sick. It didn’t move as I approached, and never has since. Over the years it slowly rotted away, bit at a time, just like they all did, like everybody did.
Gwen took ill about five years after the dead walked the earth. We’d had half a decade where we really were left alone, the only people around, but I guess it had to come to an end. I never did know what it was that took her away, only that she refused, absolutely, to let me go out in search of a doctor. She was still with me for another year before I woke up one morning and she didn’t.
She’s been buried in the back yard, under her apple tree, for thirty years now, and I still sit out on the dock of our little bay, fishing, most evenings. I often look out over the bay, hoping for any signs of life, but not really expecting to see anything. After what I’d seen in the cars abandoned on the side of the road, and the houses in the nearby villages, I had little hope that there was anyone out there, not even the dead, who had all rotted away long ago.
I’ve not seen a single human in the thirty years that a have passed since my wife died, since the virus turned everybody into walking corpses that then rotted away, leaving everywhere scattered with piles of bone filled rags.
Not a single sign.