“Sorry,” he replied.

“Are you going to stay here now?”


Two Years, Seventeen Days Since Infection




Have we done the right thing? Our first night on the mainland in an age, and it feels strange … almost like we’re trespassing. The first night of the rest of our lives, Cooper said.

Two years. Five deaths. Three births.

Life on the island has been hard but successful. We’ve done well—better than any of us ever thought possible—but things have steadily changed there and I don’t feel the same about the place as I used to. Neither of us do. The birth of Maggie, Michael and Emma’s first child, was a turning point for all of us. When that little girl was born last year, we all knew we had a better chance of surviving long term than we’d originally thought. We sat in the pub and held our collective breath on the night she was born, waiting for the germ to kill her, not expecting her to survive. When she lasted a minute I began to believe the impossible might have happened. Days later and we were still expecting the infection to get her, but it didn’t. And now she’s over a year old and Emma’s pregnant again, and I couldn’t be happier for them. Lorna is pregnant too, but that’s not for me. Not yet, anyway.

The babies have taken the edge off the air of finality we’ve all felt since the day the world died. For a while things started feeling less hopeless than they had been. But while most people on Cormansey seem to think that everything’s changed and we’re back in control now, I don’t. As it happens, I still think our days are numbered. It’s just that we might have a few more days left than we expected, that’s all.

So we’re going to make the most of them.

I came back to the mainland once before with Jack and Clare, but it was too soon. We weren’t ready. We thought we could live here again but we were wrong. We lasted a while, then got ourselves picked up again when Richard and Harry came back for more supplies.

Things feel different this time. Coop and I hitched a lift and I don’t think we’re ever going back. I don’t know if we can. The flight that brought us over here had been planned for some time. Richard said he thought it might be the very last flight, depending on how hard the winter proves to be on Cormansey.

Jack used to love to read. When we were over here before, he was always telling me how he used to like a good end-of-the-world story more than anything else. He talked a lot about them, and on his recommendation I read a few last year, but the endings used to piss me off. Often they’d finish with some smug little community of do-gooders rising up from the ashes against all the odds: a merry little band of farmers and cooks and teachers and … Call me selfish if you like, but I’ve never really gone for all of that. It’s taken me all this time to realize I didn’t want to just jump straight back on the wheel again and build up a carbon-copy, small-scale imitation of what we used to have. I want to do something with what’s left of the rest of my time. I don’t want to spend my life tending sheep, boiling water over log fires and wearing homemade clothes. Why should I? Why should any of us? I tried it, but it didn’t work out. There are too few of us left to make a difference anymore, too much damage has been done. They tried to stop us, said we’d be back like last time, but Coop and I had made up our minds.

We left just after ten this morning and we were back on the mainland by eleven. Everything has changed beyond all recognition here. Buildings have started to disappear—swallowed up by moss and weeds, a crawling layer of green slowly overtaking everything. There are huge cracks in some of the roads, craterlike potholes in others, and some buildings have already collapsed. And when you look closer, hidden among all the greenery and rubble, there are bones everywhere. Those bones are all that’s left of everyone else. Jack said it was going to be like this, but until you see it for yourself, you can’t begin to appreciate the scale of it all. It makes you realize how insignificant you actually are.

Before we left the island I went to see Jack one last time. He had his face buried in a book, as usual. He said he’d come across a word in the dictionary that summed everything up, and he told me to look it up once I got here.

Coop and I walked through a town this afternoon. We took tins of food from a supermarket and strolled down the overgrown high street like we owned the place, drinking wine, shouting out, and doing whatever the hell we wanted. It felt good, like a lot of ghosts had been laid to rest. Later we found this house. We checked it was empty and structurally sound, then set up camp for the night. Coop was asleep in minutes, but I can’t switch off like he does. Maybe I will in the future, but not yet.

In a small office on the ground floor of the house, I found a dictionary and I looked up Jack’s word like I promised him I would. Aftermath. I didn’t know it had two meanings. The first was obvious, the one that everybody knows: something that follows after a disastrous or unfortunate event, like the aftermath of a war. But it was the second definition that struck me: a new growth of grass following mowing or ploughing. Jack was a deeper man than he’d ever admit. I thought our little community was the aftermath, but he saw the greenery which is slowly covering everything as the aftermath of the human race.

Michael used to say that all any of us can do now is make the most of the time we have left. That’s exactly what we’re going to do.

We are the last of the living.

Also by David Moody


Dog Blood

Them or Us


Autumn: The City

Autumn: Purification

Autumn: Disintegration

David Moody is the author of the Hater and Autumn series.

Вы читаете Aftermath
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату