Terminal Transit, Book IV ‘The Million’
Here’s another excerpt from Terminal Transit. An elderly academic uncovers a cosmic plot engineered by the NotBeSpeak, a race of intergalactic entities who wish to destroy the world. With only a young child to help him, the two race against time to save the planet from oblivion.
In this chapter, the dread influence of the NotBeSpeak causes havoc on the streets of Dublin.
Terminal Transit, Book IV ‘The Million’
The repercussions of the liberation of the zoo shook the city for days afterwards but before anyone was able to properly settle a further cosmic tragedy took place when the now-doubled presence of the NotBeSpeak caused Glasnevin Cemetery to give back all those who had ever been buried there since its opening in 1832 and a million dead people suddenly found themselves reanimated and as the television cameras cast their digital eye on this new phenomenon so this army of shuffling, staggering, crawling, limping, ambling corpses started to make their baleful way back to find those who had buried them in the first place, flowing, as they did so, like the rot-crested froth of some awful cadaverous stream.
The first problem that presented itself regarding the Million, as the media dubbed them, notwithstanding the general existential terror created by the dead coming back to life, was the inevitable chaos that their presence caused on the streets. With the city now changed beyond all recognition and generations of people having lived (and died) in buildings and at addresses that no longer existed, vast numbers of these returned relatives were able to do nothing more than hang around in the approximate areas they knew when they were alive. Great herds of the hideous soon began to congregate as small groups of lost and dislocated corpses flowed into each other, swelling as they did so and accumulating momentum with a tomb-blasted dreadness that became one more thing to sicken this already revolted city.
For some this tide of dead people became an opportunity for fun to be found and it wasn’t long before hundreds of illegal firearms were being fired at the animated corpses from windows and passing cars. Braver people formed small crews and set upon the cadavers with sticks and gold clubs and hurls, beating already broken bodies into a further pulp. Unlike the undead in every film ever made the Million had no desire to consume the living and so made easy targets for their attackers, who stalked the edges of their crowds like cunning lions looking for stray antelopes to kill.
The second problem with the Million was the anger they brought with them from beyond the grave. These particular undead were not driven by a lust for living flesh but were rather animated by the need to confront the people who had buried them and thereby confined them to an eternity in the grave. Though he was now way past being shocked by anything that was happening Mac paled the morning he woke up to find Sibeal standing shrieking in Front Square. Her corpse seemed remarkably well preserved for someone who had been buried for forty-odd years and knowing that he had no choice Mac got dressed and went down to speak to ‘her’.
‘So there you are at last!’ Sibeal shrieked. ‘I’ve waited a long time to have this out with you.’
Mac was stunned.
‘You are dead, Sibeal,’ he said, ‘and were it not for some infernal cosmic will, you and your new kind would have stayed that way forever more.’
Sibeal’s rotten face formed a partial smirk.
‘So now the truth is out,’ she snarled. ‘You couldn’t wait to get rid of me and now I’m back you want me to go again.’
‘But that simply is not true, my dear,’ said the widower. ‘The day you left me I thought that my life would end also.’
‘But it didn’t, did it?’ she said. ‘Mine did, and that of our son, but yours didn’t. How fair is that?’
‘Fair?’ asked Mac. ‘What do you mean by fair? What’s fair about losing your wife and child in the same dreadful moment?’
‘You always were a selfish man,’ croaked Sibeal. ‘Always focused on yourself and your silly research. I bet you have never once put yourself in my shoes and wondered what it would be like to be dead, have you?’
Sibeal raised a rotten fist to Mac’s face.
‘The guilt of leaving loved ones behind pales very quickly in the face of an eternity of resentment about a life ended early.’
Sibeal began to shout.
‘All us dead are always angry. All we know is stolen time forever more.’
For every hour since the day she left him Mac had wanted Sibeal to come back to him and help rebuild his broken heart but now she was back the way she was he simply couldn’t bear her being around him and longed for her to return to the grave.
‘After all these years,’ Sibeal continued, ‘I care very little for your loss as it is nothing compared to the things that I was forced to relinquish the day I died. You still had your future even if you chose not to see things that way. Me, I lost my everything.’
Mac didn’t reply. How could he? There simply were no words to counter Sibeal’s undead anger, an anger that had festered in her rotting heart for the last forty years beneath the headstone Mac had lovingly chosen for her. But buried no more, Sibeal’s anger was now the energy that coursed through her broken veins and caused her worm-filled mouth to speak.
‘Enough,’ said Mac at last. ‘Stop your keening and your crying. The simple truth of the matter is that I have spent every lonely minute of my life from the day I lost you wishing you were back here with me; beside me at night, smiling when I come home, walking with me in the city. But now that you are here before me again I wish you had never come back. The dead are not supposed to feel angry about being dead, they are not supposed to feel anything ever again, they are simply supposed to be dead. It is only these cursed cosmic interlopers who have upset the world’s natural rhythm and caused poor lost souls like yourself to experience the very state that supposedly brings an end to all experiences.’
‘But what about the bloody bastard baby?’ shrieked Sibeal wildly. ‘The rotten fruit of your reeking loins.’
Mac reeled as he remembered how excited they both were the day Sibeal came home to tell him that she was expecting. They had been trying for ages and they were just resigning themselves to the fact that maybe one or both of them were infertile when Sibeal made her announcement.
‘This will complete us,’ said Mac as he drew Sibeal close to him. ‘This will make us whole.’
Her hair smelled amazing and the scent was something that had always stayed with him, even long after she had gone. But there was to be no completeness for either of them, nothing whole, only everything broken and empty, only nothing.
‘You had me buried with the baby, you bastard!’ Sibeal’s shrieking grew shriller. ‘A forever reminder of my life now ended as I was forced to cradle the cause of my death until it rotted to nothing in my angry arms.’
‘But that’s what I thought you would have wanted,’ said the tearful Mac. ‘It seemed …’
Mac’s voice trailed away as he realised that his justifying would simply serve to enrage the corpses of his dead wife even more. He knew that there simply be nothing he could say.
‘You thought! You thought! You thought of no one but yourself that day. I can picture you now, standing by the grave, selfish tears falling down your foolish face as the earth is dropped on my coffin. Then a hug and a handshake, a kind word here and a small drink there.’
As her anger boiled and boiled so small parts of the remaining flesh began to fall from Sibeal’s skull.
‘And all the while I just lay there, cradling my murderer for the rest of time. I bet not even one thought of how I was feeling crossed your mind.’
‘But how could it have?’ sobbed Mac. ‘You were dead and therefore not meant to feel anything any more.’
The hateful logic of Sibeal’s argument began to make him dizzy.
‘There is no sense to any of this,’ he said pitifully. ‘There is simply no sense at all.’
Sibeal began to beat her broken hands on his chest.
‘For you, maybe, but not for me,’ she shrieked. ‘I only knew the crawl of time as it pressed upon me and held me in place forever until that moment when I climbed free from the grave.’
She hit him harder.
‘I only knew the crawl of worms as my flesh fell away and I watched myself disintegrate until my eyes themselves were gone away and I could see no more only feel.’
Eventually the Million became too much even for this put-upon city and so the cull began. Like rabbits or badgers or kangaroos or any other vermin that threaten to overrun their environment, it became necessary to trap and snare and corner the corpses in order to start disposing of them. For small groups it was a simple affair for Army units with flamethrowers to set the corpses on fire and cremate them where they gathered. However, for the rest, something more drastic was required.
The city’s fire appliances were mobilised and drove slowly through the city looking for large groups of corpses to gather together. Slowly, and as if they were herding sheep, the fire engines drove these groups before them using their water cannons. Any stragglers were simply incinerated or crushed beneath the tracks of a unit of Scorpion tanks deployed to support the round up.
North of the river the corpses were herded onto the motorway and then forced towards the airport. Three of the runways had been commandeered for the cull and as the corpses were pushed onto the runways they were sprayed with aviation fuel from a line of tankers and then incinerated from a safe distance. The fires burned for a day and a half and the plumes of smoke were visible in all directions, hanging heavy in the air like mournful clouds.
South of the river the remaining parts of the Million were driven down to the quays and then along towards the docks. Helicopters hovered above the streets and the images on the television showed thousands and thousands of angry corpses shouting and berating as they headed towards their second doom like some perverted public parade. Once at the docks, the corpses were forced down a funnel made from containers, sprayed with fuel and then ignited and driven into the water.