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The Wall
(© Colin M. Drysdale)

Page 1

I stand staring north along the broad road as it disappears off into the distance. I’d always wanted to visit Scotland but now this is as close as I’d ever get; it’s as close as I’d ever want to get. Infected swarm around the base of the wall that has become our latest line of defence against them. I hope it will hold; we all do. It’s our last chance of keeping the disease contained. I hear the sound of an engine racing even above the groaning and shuffling of the infected that push against the wall in their hundreds, possibly even thousands. Those are just the ones I can see and I’ve no idea of how many others there might be out there, attacking the wall along its entire 73 mile length. I search for the vehicle but it takes me a while to find it; an RV, off in the distance, hurtling down the deserted northbound carriageway of the M74; the road that once connected Scotland and England and that the wall now cuts in two. I wonder how they’ve survived so long out there in what has become the badlands; where they think they’re going. Surely they must know that even if they make it past all the infected, we can’t let them through. Not wanting to watch what will happen to those inside, I turn away and light a cigarette. The smoking’s new. Before, I’d always been scared of getting cancer but now there are worse things to worry about, much worse, and anyway it gives me something to do with my hands while I’m on guard duty; just like drinking does when I’m off. I watch the end of the cigarette glow as smoke spirals up into the sky and I wonder at how much the world has changed in such a short space of time.

There’d been outbreaks all over the world but ours had started in Glasgow the week before. At first they’d tried to contain it there but the soldiers on the barricades couldn’t easily distinguish the infected from those that were just trying to flee and there weren’t enough of them to stop the mass of people who wanted to get out. They’d seen on the news the day before what’d happened in Miami when the infection, and the infected, over-ran the city and they weren’t about to wait round for the same thing happen to Glasgow. That just made the job of containment all the more difficult for those on the front lines; in fact it was impossible.

I think the Generals must have known this from the start because even before they’d ordered the first pull back they’d set us to work resurrecting the ancient wall. It had originally been built to guard the northern frontier of the mighty Roman Empire against wild Pictish warriors who tried again and again to expel it from their homeland. Now we’d rebuilt it to keep at bay a much more frightening enemy: a virus. It didn’t sound scary until you saw what it made people do to each other. It took over their brains and their bodies, extinguishing all traces of who they’d once been, turning them into something altogether different. Driven to pass it on, the infected would attack anyone without the virus but often they’d go too far: killing them, tearing them apart, even eating them. That was what happened if the infected found you one on one but if they got into a crowd it was different. All those people running around, panicked, screaming and shouting; it seemed to confuse them. They’d attack one person but only long enough to bring them down before running after another then another. In crowds, they wouldn’t kill; instead they’d just infect. This allowed the virus to spread and spread rapidly. That’s what had happened in Glasgow and what was now happening everywhere north of the wall.

When we were re-building the wall, it seemed like almost every soldier and reservist in the country was there, well all those not directly fighting the infected on the front line. Whether they knew it or not, their job wasn’t really containment, as it was being reported on the news, but rather to slow the spread of the virus and buy us enough time to get what we hoped would be our new frontier finished. Yes, the Generals were condemning anyone north of the wall to death, or worse, but what choice did they have? They were sacrificing five million but they were doing it to save 60. It was a tough decision but it was the right one; it was the only logical one.

It was amazing to watch the wall go up. Twenty-five feet high and ten feet wide, it had a scaffolding skeleton lined with almost anything we could get our hands on: plywood, tarpaulins, sand bags, bales of hay, anything that would hold back the rocks, the rubble, the earth and the sand we filled it with. Like the Romans before us, we used the natural features of the land to help make the defences as impregnable as possible. In some cases, we even used the remains of the Roman wall itself to help speed up the construction but unlike the Romans, we didn’t need to worry about gateways or forts: once it was completed, no one was going to be allowed through from the north, no matter what.

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Genre:Living Dead
Type:Short story
Rating:7.14 / 10
Rated By:69 users
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