The tyres crunched over gravel outside the Rose and Crown. Immy stopped to drink and wash her face in the roadside pub, but inside, the water that trickled from the taps had been rancid and brown. She swiftly went out through the conservatory doors, holding her breath to prevent the stench of the rotting corpse that sat in a corner invading her nostrils. The day was growing hotter, as the sun arced the world through its daily journey. There was a river at the bottom of the pretty beer garden that Immy was walking down, where she intended to wash and maybe even drink from. The grass was thick, vibrant, and almost dazzlingly green, and the white stone that had been placed artistically throughout the garden exemplified it.
When Immy reached the river, she noticed the iridescent sheen of oil floating on its surface. She glanced up to her right, and saw the white tail of a Cessna sticking up out of the water, nestled between the reeds. Sunlight danced off the water lapping at the tail, sending blue and white diamonds flashing into Immy’s eyes. She walked up to the tail, and peered into the clear depths at the aeroplane. There was a crack just behind the cabin, probably formed as a result of the impact with the water, Immy assumed. River-weeds and plants flowed over the plane. Light played through the water, creating frescos on the gold shale on the riverbed, offset by the purple oil that slicked from the aircraft. Immy could see a person strapped in behind the light aircraft’s controls. Waterlogged and puffed, the corpse grinned up at her with lipless charm. She decided against the river water, and trudged back to the car park.
As Immy approached London the roads deteriorated. Cracks and holes abounded, and on several occasions detours had to be made. Abandoned and wrecked cars became more abundant, and Immy’s progress was halting and slow. A few times she saw people hiding in the shadows of alleyways and dark doorways, peering out, wondering who the lone woman was. The dead lay in the street, but signs of greater violence were on show for view.
As Immy drove through Tooting, for almost the entire length of an avenue, a body swung in the breeze from every lamppost. Some had been stripped. Some had been burned. It was almost medieval, like a warning to travellers who stumbled upon this deserted wasteland. As Immy drove through Battersea, chairs, television sets, radios and furniture rained down on her car, thrown from above. Immy sped through, weaving through the smashing debris, once risking a look up to a high rise where a woman stood on the precipice of the building, launching heavy household furniture at the car as it passed.
Eventually, Immy reached her apartment building, in between Regents Park and Camden. She approached the high rise at a crawl, rolling the car along in first gear, looking up through the windscreen. The tall, elegant white building looked as it always had, and relief flooded into Immy. The front entrance doors were intact, but the lobby lay in darkness. Immy parked right outside the broken doors, on the pavement, gathered her courage, and got out of the car. The silence was huge. She’d never known London to be so quiet. Nothing moved about her. The street was still. Now that she was once again in familiar surroundings, real fear gripped her, and she saw terrible images in her mind about being the last sane person left on earth. She wanted to scream. Her heart pounded in her chest, and the tight fist of fear threatened to choke her, as she struggled for breath. She fell to her knees, and put her face in her hands, trying to regain some composure. She knew she had put herself in danger. She simply knelt on the pavement, in full view of anyone, or anything that cared to see, and struggled to keep hold of her sanity. Sweat soaked her as palpitations racked her chest. Panicking, she fled into the building, through the front doors, and into the darkness of the lobby. As she entered the lobby, she realised she didn’t have her door key anymore, but remembered the spare key that she left with the doorman in case of emergency. Glad to have something to focus upon, she swung herself around the corner of the marble reception desk, and began hunting for the spare keys. She was rushing, still panicking, and lost with fear. She told herself to be calm, and slow down. If she wasn’t careful, she would miss the keys, or not hear the step of approach that told her someone was coming.
It took her some time to find the residents’ spare keys. They were all on one key ring, stuffed into a cubby up inside the main desk. Immy would not have known they were there, had she not slammed her fists down on the desk in frustration and heard their jangling response. As Immy scooped the keys with her hands, a wail, as if from a ghoul, drew Immy’s eyes to front door. A few seconds later a body seemed to appear from thin air, and hit the concrete in front of the high rise. A crunch of bone, and a sickening wet smacking noise entered the building, and the body rebounded off the concrete and spun a full one hundred and eighty degrees in the air, throwing liquid rubies away, sparkling as they trailed through the still air. Horrified, Immy turned and fled up the stairs, seeking the safety of her apartment.
By the tenth floor her legs were burning, and her lungs objecting. She stopped to take a breather, hands on her knees, lungs gasping. Only once the pouring blood had stopped rushing in her ears did she hear the consistent mewling. Immy slowly advanced up another flight of stairs, to be greeted on both sides of the stairway by lines of cats. They sat purring, and mewling at her, their stink of urine and faeces drifting off them in waves. Confused, and appalled by the smell, Immy rushed past them, kicking at any that got in her way. One went sailing through the gap in the stairs and elegantly floated down six floors, where it landed on legs that buckled and appeared to snap as it hit the hard marble stairs at an awkward angle.
Immy eventually reached the fifteenth floor. She opened the door that fed onto the wide corridor. She was pleased to find that no bodies lay up there, and all was silent. At the back of her mind, as she slid the key into the lock, she was aware that she had limited her movements by ascending to her fifteenth floor apartment, but at that moment, she didn’t care. She was home. She shut the door behind her, quietly.
At the large picture window in the living room she looked out over London. It was burning. Smoke rose to the sky, and buildings stood at odd angles. Immy collapsed onto her bed and fell into dreams of cats, and dark men, in dark suits.
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