A laboratory on the south coast of the Isle of Man. A man wearing a bio-hazard suit enters and goes through an airlock into an enclosed area. As the inner doors close he places a briefcase on the desk and opens it. Getting out a test tube out of the case he carefully places it in a centrifuge. After checking the seals he switches the centrifuge on, watching as the vial begins spinning round. A fire alarm starts. Quickly switching the centrifuge off he quickly grabs the vial but in his haste it slips from his grasp, hitting the table and rolling towards the edge. It stops just as it reaches the edge of the table. A moment later a gas pipe explodes. The force breaks the walls of the enclosed area. The tube trembles, then falls off of the table, smashing as it hits the floor.
A few moments later a different alarm starts sounding.
David Thomson opens up his flight bag to get out his passport and tickets. Feeling a sneeze coming on he also grabs his hanky. All the while cursing his luck. He had only been in Tokyo a couple of days and had somehow managed to pick up the cold that was going round. The problem was he had several important meetings in London and couldn't afford to take any time off.
Willow Rosenberg & Tara Maclay
It was a typical bedroom in a typical farmhouse in a typical village in the south of England. It was sparsely furnished, containing a bed, dressing table, wardrobe and a solitary book case. The wall paper , which had once had a nice floral pattern, was starting to yellow and was peeling from the walls in a couple of places. On one wall there was a poster from the Isle of Man, showing a map of the island. It had come away from the wall slightly during the night, revealing another poster, of two women kissing, beneath it.
The owner of the room, the furniture, and both posters was a young, blonde haired woman, who was soundly asleep, despite the radio playing the news.
"More and more people are being infected. With the death toll already in the hundreds emergency meetings are being held by the health authorities to work out what to do. With fears of vaccine shortages mounting the health secretary is telling people to only get vaccinated if they are in a high risk group. Andrew Lansley MP, the shadow secretary of state for health, said..."
Finally Tara woke up. After lying listening to the radio a few moments she reached over to turn it off. She had a throbbing headache, and didn't feel like listening to politics. She groaned as, sitting up, a sharp pain went through her head. Tara stretched, lifting her arms above her head, before lying back down, pulling her duvet up round her chin. She didn't want to get up, and she most certainly want to go out in the cold to do her daily chores. A part of her wanted to close her eyes and go to sleep. The soft light coming through the window, proving she was already late getting up, made that impossible. Getting out of bed, Tara was forced to grab her bedside table in order to steady herself. Once the dizzy spell had passed she began getting dressed. Tara made sure to dress up warmly, not wanting her cold to get worse. While she was dressing, Tara noticed there was swelling under her armpits. Putting it out of her mind she finished off dressing.
Leaving her room Tara hurried downstairs and to the back door hoping to get outside before...
"Ah, Tara," Her father said. "decided to have a lie in did you?" His words were pleasant enough, but his tone definitely wasn't.
"Sorry, sir. I'm feeling ill."
He walked over to Tara and studied her a moment. "You don't look too bad. You're not going to let a little cold to keep you from your housework are you?"
"Good. I don't want you getting like those people in London where they just need to have a few sniffles and they're acting like the world's coming to an end."
Shaking her head Tara went past him and outside. Despite all the layers she'd worn, the cold wind cut into her. Yet for some reason she was sweating. Taking a glove off, Tara felt her forehead. She was surprised to find it was burning hot.
Reaching the door to the chicken coop. Tara had another dizzy spell and was forced to grab hold of the door frame as her legs almost gave out. She stood a while, clutching to the frame, her eyes closed, till she felt strong enough to go in. As she did so Tara told herself that she'd just get the eggs and then she'd have a lie down, no matter what her father said.
Tara went to the first chicken and bent down to get it's eggs. Standing she felt dizzy again, the room starting to spin. A moment later she saw the floor rushing up to meet her.
Tara woke up to find the room filled with light. It took a moment for her to go over recent events and to work out where she was. Judging from how light it was Tara guessed it must be going on for noon, which meant she had been unconscious a few hours. Flinging the sheets off Tara started to jump out of bed. She stopped when she realised that she was tethered to the bedpost. Further investigation revealed it was actually a tube running to a drip hanging by the side of the bed. The bag was empty.
"How long have I been out?" Tara asked herself. "Dad!" She called out, "Dad!" There was no response. Tara waited a while, knowing someone would come to check on her soon. After a few minutes Tara started to get bored, besides after being in bed for who knew how long, she probably had a lot of work to do. Leaning over, she studied the IV a while. Pulling the tape off the needle going into her arm, Tara gritted her teeth as she pulled it out. Getting out of bed Tara started getting dressed. She was just putting a jumper on when she heard a neighing from outside. Going to the window she saw one of their horses grazing in the back garden. "How did you get out?" Tara asked it.
Knowing the horses wouldn't be out on there own unless something was wrong, Tara ran downstairs and flew out the door, heading to the barn. As she suspected the door had been left open and all the horses had bolted. Going through the doors she saw her father lying a short distance away, on his stomach. Running over Tara turned him over, to find that he was dead. Breaking down, she leant over his chest, sobbing loudly.
When she had recovered Tara went to the house and tried the phone. The line was dead. She decided she was going to have to go into the village to get some help, and to see if anyone knew where her brother was.
As Tara entered the kitchen she suddenly felt dizzy and the room began to spin. She was forced to grab the table in order to avoid falling. Sitting down she began to worry that she hadn't completely gotten over the flu. Then it occurred to her that for the last few days the only food she'd had had come from an IV drip, so it wasn't surprising that she was hungry. Looking round the kitchen the thought of getting some food made her stomach turn. She couldn't picture blithely preparing a meal with everything that was going on. Though to be practical, and her father had always taught her to be practical - to be strong in the face of adversity, she knew she wouldn't be able to help her father or find her brother if she passed out from hunger.
With this in mind Tara forced herself to prepare some sandwiches. She ate them slowly, all the time trying to not think about what was going on around her.
When she had finished Tara walked down the driveway, intending to walk to the village. As she left the door she saw something at the end of the drive. Her heart in her throat Tara ran down the drive. Getting to the end her fears were confirmed, it was her brother. A quick check confirmed that he was dead as well. "Oh God Donny, not you as well."
Picking him up by the arms Tara dragged him round the back of the house. When she was almost at the barn his hands slipped out of Tara's grip, his head banging against a stone. "Sorry," Tara whispered. Then she started laughing at the idea of apologising to someone who was dead, her laughter soon turning to sobs. She knew that she was hysterical, but couldn't do anything about it. 'Get a grip Maclay,' she thought, 'You can't afford to break apart now.' After a while she managed to calm herself down and took her brother's hands again. When she finally reached the barn Tara laid him next to her father. She then went to the house and got a couple of sheets which she used to cover their bodies.
As Tara walked to the village she began to grow more and more worried by the lack of noise. It wasn't particularly quiet, she could hear dogs barking and the sound of sheep on the hills. However what she couldn't hear was the tractors or cars, or any other sounds of human activity.
As she reached the village, Tara's feeling of unease became worse. The main street was normally fairly busy at this time, people working in the shops, making deliveries, Now the village was dead. There were a couple of abandoned cars but no people. Tara went into the post office, but there was no one there. She went into the next shop, the butchers, again it was empty. Starting to panic Tara went into the small supermarket. This time there was someone there. Sitting with his back against one of the shelves there was the body of the local police constable. Putting her hand over her mouth Tara ran back out of the shop.
Wanting to know more about what was going on Tara walked the short distance to the local doctor's office. The door was ajar and as Tara let herself in she wasn't surprised to see it deserted. Going to the desk she began going through the doctor's note book. She saw that up until a couple of days ago the doctor had been making increasing visits to the people of the town. One entry caught her eye.
Have visited the Maclay farm to see Tara. She has caught the flu bug that seems to be making the rounds and is in a coma. I have put her on an IV and have told Donald I will call again in a couple of days to check on her condition. However I doubt if she will survive much longer.
It was a shock to see her own death predicted in such a fashion. Even though it had turned out to be wrong, she still felt a shiver reading his notes. Going further through the book Tara noted that the entries stopped the day before yesterday. Tara guessed that it was then he had succumbed to the same infection that he had been treating in his patients.
Tara left the doctor's office, wondering what she was going to do now. It was then she heard the church bell ringing. Sighing with relief Tara began to run towards the sound. Reaching the church she went in the front door. For a moment she couldn't take in the sight in front of her. There were bodies laid out along most of the pews. Tara guessed that at least half the people from the village were here. The room was filled with a buzzing sound from the flies, moving between the bodies. Staggering outside, Tara bent over and was sick by the doorway.
The bell started chiming again. Wiping her mouth Tara went round the back of the church. Reaching the bell room she looked in the window, She saw a body hanging down, with the bell rope tied round its neck. Every so often a breeze caused the body to move, ringing the bell.
Turning Tara ran away from the church, heading towards the houses. Reaching the first one she pounded on the door, "Is anyone here?" Tara moved onto the next house. Then the next one. Tara thumped her fist against the door, "Someone answer me!"
Moving out into the lane she looked up and down the houses, searching for any sign there were people still alive. Tara's hands were shaking and she could feel herself being overcome with panic. Fighting it down she ran down the street, running up to each door that she passed and pounding on it. By the time she reached the end of the row of houses she was out of breath.
Leaning against a gate post Tara tried to get her thoughts calmed down. It was clear that no one in the village had survived. Which left her with one undeniable conclusion. Since there was no one around to help take care of her father and brother, she was going to have to do it herself. Straightening Tara began walking home.
Tara shoved the spade in to the ground and raised her hand to wipe her forehead. She guessed it was deep enough for... No she didn't want to think about what it was for. She was just digging a hole. Pulling herself out of it Tara went to get the half moon spade. On the way she stopped to grab her drink. She then went back and began cutting the turf.
Tara sat at the window, watching the sun set. Her eyes occasionally moving to her father and brother's graves. She had marked the graves with simple wooden crosses, bearing their names. She knew it was mainly a symbolic gesture since they wouldn't last long, but she couldn't let their passing go unmarked.
As the sky darkened Tara's thoughts drifted to what she was going to do. As far as she knew she was the only person to survive the flu epidemic. However it seemed to Tara that if she could survive then other people must have done. Besides the alternative was too horrible to think about. Still she was the only survivor in her village so any other survivors would be pretty spread out. How was she going to find them? Going to a large city would be the best bet, but there would also be risks there. Tara had read The Day of The Triffids when she was younger and remembered how some of the survivors had formed gangs, quite happy to use lethal force to protect their territory.
Gazing at the sky Tara had an idea. Jumping up she ran outside. Going to the tool shed she grabbed some hedge clippers. She then hurried to a hedgerow and began cutting it up, carrying the pieces to the front of the farm and dumping them in a pile. Once it was a reasonable size she went to the garage to get some petrol. After pouring some on, she wrapped some cloth round a stick and set light to it. She then threw the torch on the pile.
As the bonfire started to burn, Tara started to have doubts about her plan. What were the chances that someone would be close enough see it? Particularly before it burned down. Thinking about this Tara began to panic again. What if all this proved was that she was truly alone. She had never been a very outgoing, sociable person and had never had many friends but the thought of spending the rest of her life isolated, with nothing to look forward to save death, filled her with terror.
Looking up at the sky she shouted, "Please God, don't let me be the only one!"
Five days ago
The traffic going through the heart of London was surprisingly light given the time of day. Fears over the flu problem had achieved something that congestion charges hadn't and ever rising road tax bills hadn't, practically cleared the streets of rush hour traffic. This meant that rather than sitting in a traffic jam, wondering if she was going to get to work on time, Willow Willow was cruising on her way to work, looking to be a good deal early. Growing tired of the channel she was on, Willow reached over to hit her radio's scan button. After a few seconds it settled on a channel playing the news.
"With fears of vaccine shortages mounting the health secretary is telling people to only get vaccinated if they are in a high risk group. Andrew Lansley MP, the shadow secretary of state for health, said that this was a direct result of mismanagement of the NHS. Labour have been destroying the NHS since the day they were elected and we're now feeling the results."
"Oh shut up," Willow shouted at the radio. "You can hardly talk about mismanagement. If you had your way we wouldn't have an NHS." Willow flicked the radio off, too annoyed to listen to it any more.
She was still seething about it as she pulled into the garage for the hospital where she worked. She yawned as she got out of her car. She had been working extra shifts lately and hadn't been getting much sleep.
Willow rubbed her eyes and tried to focus on the patient's chart she was holding. She frowned as noted that there didn't seem to be any improvement. Looking up at the nurse she said, "Okay keep him on fluids for the moment."
As Willow was walking away another nurse called, "Dr Rosenberg, can I talk to you?"
"Sure Cecile, what is it?"
She handed Willow a clipboard while saying, "We're running low on flu shots."
Willow looked over the sheet the nurse had given her. "Are you sure this is right?"
"I double checked."
"We've barely..." Willow stopped, suddenly becoming aware of the patients around her. "I'll discuss this with the chief of medicine."
Cecile glanced about and said, "Just so you know, I'm leaving when my shift ends."
"Leaving London. My sister and niece are living in Wickford. I'm going to make sure they're okay."
Willow nodded, "I understand. Good luck."
Cecile nodded and went to check on a patient.
Willow quickly tracked down the chief of medicine and approached him, saying, "Dr Gordon, Can I talk to you sir? About the vaccine situation."
"Come this way." He led her into an empty room saying, "So you noticed? I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, you always were a smart one."
"What are we going to do?"
"I'm not sure there is anything we can, except keep giving people the vaccine and hope someone comes up with a cure."
"I was thinking we could talk to the other hospitals, see if they have any to spare."
"What?" The doctor stared at her, confused, "What are you talking about?"
"The fact that we've almost run out of vaccine."
The doctor laughed. "Willow, the vaccine doesn't work."
"The only reason we're still giving it out is to stop any panic."
Willow frowned as she considered this. She realised that she had known but had been avoiding thinking about this. Since if the only treatment they had for the flu wasn't working then... Willow pushed these thoughts aside as she said, "So we're just giving people a placebo, while they're dying."
"The truth is there's nothing else we can do."
"And when we run out?"
"May as well start giving out saline solution, for all the good it's doing."
Checking the time Willow worked out she had enough time for a short break. So she decided to find her friend Xander Harris. They had been friends since they were young children, but had lost contact when Willow had gone to university. When Willow had taken a position as doctor at the London Independent Hospital she had found Xander was working there as a nurse and they had soon rekindled their friendship.
She found him in the break room watching the television. Seeing her come in Xander said, "Hey Willow, how's it going?"
Willow sat down next to him. "Not good."
"I can understand that, you've been pulling some pretty long shifts lately."
"I don't think they're going to get any shorter."
"There are lot's of rumours going round. That the prime minister's going to declare a state of emergency soon. Riley, one of the other nurses says all the TA are being ordered to report to barracks over the weekend."
"I don't think the army are going to be able to do anything about the flu. Maybe they'll be able to help when people realise we can't treat it."
"Maybe." Xander was quiet a moment, "You want my advice? Get out of London. Some of the nurses are already leaving."
"Yeah, Cecile said she's going to look for her family." Willow thought about it a moment, "I'm not sure I can just leave."
"Whatever happens things are going to get nasty round here. You want to get out in the country, till things have calmed down a bit."
"What about you?"
It was a while before Xander answered, "I found lumps under my armpits this morning. I've got it."
"You're sure? But other people have contracted the disease and recovered, maybe you'll be okay."
"One other person has survived. You're right though, maybe I'll get lucky, and hey you know it won't be long till the Americans arrive with a cure. So I'd be best off staying near a hospital. You though... You've been lucky so far, you're not showing any symptoms, you shouldn't push your luck any further."
"I'll think about it."
As had become usual Willow ended up working late. As she got changed she checked the time. There didn't seem to be much point in going home, so instead she went to the break room and lying on the couch she went to sleep.
Willow was woken up by one of the nurses shaking her. "Is it time for my shift already?" She asked?
"No, it's about your friend, Xander."
Sitting up Willow asked, "What's happened? Is he okay?"
"He collapsed a short time ago. The doctor says he's in a coma."
"Where is he, I need to see him."
Willow followed the nurse into one of the private rooms where she saw Xander in one of the beds. This surprised her given the shortage of room. Turning to the nurse she asked, "Why is Xander in a room on his own?"
The nurse shrugged, "I was off duty when he collapsed."
Walking to the end of his bed she picked up his chart and looked over it. She frowned at what she saw. It seemed that the disease was progressing faster in Xander than in most people. If he had contracted a more virulent strain then it explained why he had been put in a room on his own.
Sitting down in the corridor Willow thought about the recent events. During the day she had been seeing more and more people who had contracted the faster working flu strain. She had heard that the virus responsible was mutagenic. That would explain how the new strain had suddenly appeared. Which meant that any work to find a cure was even more urgent now than ever.
Willow was broken from her thoughts as she her a voice over the tannoy saying, "Medical assistance to room five oh four."
Recognising that as Xander's room she got up and rushed towards it. She got there in time to find a couple of doctors working on him. In the background the heart monitor was making a long continuous tone.
"He went into respiratory distress a few minutes ago,"
The doctors struggled to revive him, using a defibrillator to get his heart going again. After what seemed like an eternity one of the doctors straightened up. "Time of death, fifteen thirty two."
Willow backed out of room. not making a sound. She couldn't, didn't want to, accept that her friend was dead. Leaning against the wall she tried to get her mind around what had happened, but she couldn't, her mind constantly shying away from the implications.
"Rosenberg, you're needed in ward five."
Willow spun round, her eyes flashing, she wasn't even going to be given a chance to grieve properly.
Willow was checking on a new patient when Dr Gordon approached her. "Willow can I have a word with you, in private?"
While they were walking to his office Dr Gordon said, "I'm sorry about Xander. He was a good nurse."
Willow turned away as her eyes filled. While she had been busy working she had been able to keep her mind off of what had happened, but now there was no escaping it. "Thank you sir." She managed to say, in a small voice.
He opened the door for his office and let her in. Turning to Willow he asked, "Have you heard the news?"
"It's official, Prescott has declared a state of emergency. The territorial army have already started moving into London and other major cities. The regulars should be joining them soon, well those that aren't in Iraq."
"Prescott? But what about..."
"That's the other news, the Prime Minister is ill. White Hall is being circumspect about his condition but it probably isn't good." He stared at Willow a moment. "You didn't go home last night did you?"
"It didn't really seem worth it."
"I know you've been pulling longer shifts than you should. In fact you've hardly been outside the hospital in the last week."
"Everyone has," Willow said, wandering why she was being singled out. What she didn't say was the reason she had been working such long hours, and getting her sleep in the break room was that when she left the hospital she had to face hour bad things were getting. While she was in the hospital then she could just focus on the current patient and forget about the bigger picture.
"Yes. You should go home, get some proper rest."
"No buts. Look with the army taking over things'll quieten down a bit. Anyways less people are coming in who have the flu." He laughed, his tone sour, "I don't blame them. If I had a choice I'd rather die at home than in a hospital."
Willow hesitated a moment then said, "Yesterday Xander told me to leave. Leave London I mean."
"Hmm, good advice. Some people already have to be with their families. If you did leave, where would you go?"
Willow thought about it a moment, "I don't have any family. I'd probably go south, try to get across to Europe." Noticing the way he was looking at her she added, "I've always wanted to see Venice." and die, Willow added silently to herself, remembering the old saying.
Dr Gordon laughed, "Well that's as good a reason as any." He looked at Willow a moment, "Go."
"There's nothing you can do here. Hell there's nothing any of us can do. If you're going to reach Venice then you're going to need to get going before they seal the borders up. Hell they might seal off London, just to have something to do."
"Do I look like I'm wanting to be argued with?" He asked, giving her a determined look.
Willow couldn't help smiling at his attempt to imitate her own resolve look. "No."
"Well then. stop wasting time flapping your jaw at me and get going."
"Okay, I'm going off duty," Willow called to the other doctors as she walked to the exit. Getting in her car she was going to start the engine, but stopped. Sitting still she thought about what Xander and Gordon had said. There had been growing numbers of violent incidents and she knew that chaos was about to break out soon. She wasn't sure that the military would be able to deal with it, even with calling in the Territorial Army. The question was could she just up and run, leaving her home behind. Even if Gordon was right that they couldn't do anything, a part of her felt like she should stay, try to do something. The thing was she wasn't captain of this ship, so was it really her responsibility to go down with it. Willow had turned onto the road out of London before she was even consciously aware that she'd made a decision.
Willow had been driving a few miles along the A12 and was just heading through Eastway when she realised she'd been rather rash. She'd set off without any supplies or any sort of plan. That part stunned Willow. She never did anything without planning it out to the last degree, including making notes in different coloured pens. This time she had just set off, almost on a whim,
Willow realised she had two options. She could turn back and try to plan out her trip or she could keep going. The first option had a lot of appeal but she knew if she did go back then she'd never leave again, so she'd have to hope the rioting didn't get as bad as she feared it would. With this in mind Willow decided she needed to go on.
Seeing a service station Willow pulled into it, amazed at how empty it was. There was a lorry parked over from her and a few cars parked round the side of a row of buildings. Willow pulled up by one of the petrol pumps and after turning the engine off she got out. Grabbing the right nozzle Willow put it in the tank and started filling it. While the tank was filling she wondered at how empty the road was. There would normally be a lot more traffic travelling along the road. Maybe the flu had gotten even worse than she thought. Willow had spent most of her waking time in the hospital, so she hadn't really seen what was going on outside. Hadn't let herself see what was going on. Willow guessed that if people had heard the rumours about a state of emergency then they might be staying inside.
Once her tank was full Willow headed towards the shop to pay. As she went past the other car, a large four wheel drive vehicle, she glanced in the window but didn't see anyone. She then went inside, missing the young man who was slumped over the two front seats with a bullet wound in his head.
Willow pushed the doors open and glanced around she couldn't see anyone in the shop. Grabbing a basket Willow began walking round the shop, picking up anything she thought she might need. Willow was just reaching for a box of long life milk when the window opposite her exploded and a hole appeared in the box. Spinning round Willow saw a man standing outside, holding a rifle. She quickly dived behind the shelves as the man fired again. Peering round the shelves Willow scanned the area outside the shop. She could see two armed men out there, one standing next to her car. She knew there was no way she would get to it. As another shot hit the shelf near her head Willow decided she needed to get out of there. Seeing a back exit Willow began quickly crawling towards it. Pushing the door open she stuck her head out far enough to see if there was anyone there. Relieved Willow ran towards the trees, making sure to stay as low as possible as she did.
After a while Willow circled round and headed slowly back towards the services, hoping the men would have left and she'd be able to get her car back. As she approached she noticed that the army was in the car park. Thinking they'd driven away the attackers she started to speed up. Just as she was getting close she heard one of them say, "Anything to report?"
"We found a looter here. We drove her away into the woods."
As they started to turn towards her Willow quickly moved behind cover. Her heart racing she tried to sort her thoughts out. It had been the army who had attacked her, thinking she was a looter. She tried to work out what to do. Then as the soldiers started to walk towards her she realised she couldn't stay there. She quickly ran back towards the trees.
After getting a few miles away from the services Willow turned to head back to the road. When she got close to it she saw workmen setting up barricades across the road. She saw others taking bodies out of the cars which were stopped on the road and then moving them off the road. Willow was about to approach them when she saw that some of them were armed. After the bombings a couple of years ago Willow was growing more used to seeing armed men around London. However it still unnerved her, especially given what had happened at the petrol station. Changing course she started back towards the trees. When she had reached the trees she turned to make sure she hadn't been seen, then continued on.
After Willow had been walking a few hours she stumbled on a root. She was having trouble keeping her eyes open and finding it difficult to see. The long shifts and the panicked escape from the petrol station were starting to take their toll on her. Deciding that she needed to get some sleep Willow began looking around for somewhere to sleep. After a short while she found a barn. Seeing it was deserted she climbed up into the hay loft and after piling up some hay she lay down on it. She thought about what she was going to do. With no transportation her idea of getting across to Europe was out, but where else could she go? She had no family and all her friends had been in London. She was still thinking about this as went to sleep.
It was about midday when Willow reached the M25, the ring road that encircled London. After a short debate she decided the best way to keep from getting lost would be to keep following the road she was on. As far she could see both sides were blocked up with cars going in each direction. None of seemed to be moving. Some had been abandoned, while the drivers had died in others. Shivering Willow quickly made her way onto one of the foot bridges and quickly crossed, being careful to not look down at the chaos below.
Willow was making her way through a small village, she had passed a sign identifying it as Brentwood, when she came to a sudden halt. Out of the corner of her eye she had seen someone lean out of a window and wave at her. Turning she was surprised to see the window was shut and that there was no one there. Then she realised it was just a branch blowing. Shaking her head she continued on.
She had taken a couple of steps when she heard a bang from up ahead. Breaking into a run Willow made her way towards the sound. As she was running she wondered if this was such a good idea. It had sounded like a gunshot and she didn't want to get attacked again. Realising that if someone was hurt it was her duty to help them Willow pushed these doubts aside and continued on, soon reaching the house the sound had come from. As she drew closer Willow heard music coming from an open window.
The colours of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Willow knocked on the door. "Hello, is anyone there?"
Are also on the faces of people going by
Getting no response Willow tried the handle. Finding the door unlocked Willow made her way in. "Hello?"
I see friends shakin' hands, sayin' "How do you do?"
The music was coming from upstairs so Willow started up them. "I'm coming up, but I'm not armed." Saying this sounded silly to Willow but she knew that getting shot would ruin a terrible day.
They're really saying "I love you"
Willow reached the door the music was coming from and pushed it open.
I hear babies cryin', I watch them grow
As the door opened Willow soon saw a figure sitting opposite her. It was a young man who was clutching a shotgun in his left hand. Most of his head was missing.
They'll learn much more than I'll ever know
Willow had seen death plenty of times. She had seen worse deaths than this, yet for some reason this one affected her more than any of the other's she'd seen.
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
Spinning round Willow knocked the iPod off the dresser, knocking it out of its cradle. It stopped as it hit the floor. Turning Willow sprinted down the stairs and out of the house, not slowing up till she was well away from the place.
Willow walked a couple of miles out of the village when she decided to stop again.
Her legs felt like lead as she struggled to keep going. She had been walking all day without seeing anyone. She was finding it hard to keep her eyes open. She stumbled slightly as she accidentally stepped off the pavement. She decided that she needed to get some sleep and was looking round for a good spot when she noticed a light up ahead. Taking a couple of steps forward she realised that it was a fire. Suddenly feeling more awake, Willow started running in that direction.
As Willow got closer she saw it was a bonfire in front of a large farm house. She could make out someone standing by the fire. As Willow reached the gate she saw it was a woman. The woman turned and started to say something, but Willow couldn't make out what it was. Then the world started spinning.
Tara leaned on the door frame staring at the young woman who had arrived the night before. After the redhead had collapsed Tara had checked on her, afraid that she had had the flu and that she had arrived, only to die. So it had been a relief when she'd failed to find any of the symptoms and had decided she was obviously just suffering from exhaustion and exposure, she had taken the painfully thin woman inside and put her into bed. She had then spent most of the night watching her. At the moment she seemed to be sleeping peacefully, thought she had had nightmares earlier.
Willow awoke to find herself in a soft, warm bed. She thought back to the dream she had just had, about the flu pandemic and fleeing from London. Rolling over, Willow pulled her duvet higher over her shoulders, revelling in the feeling of relief that often came when waking up from a bad dream.
Even as she was doing this, her brain started pointing out flaws in the idea. There was no traffic. Living in London, one constant was the sound of cars going past. All through the day and night, the drone of passing traffic could heard. Opening her eyes Willow looked round the room. Even with just the dim light coming in through the thick curtains it was clear this wasn't her room. Even the curtains were wrong.
Maybe she had spent the night with a friend. Sitting up Willow surveyed the room further. No, none of her friends had rooms this nice.
Maybe you should just give up on the whole dream idea, Willow thought.
Willow tried to see what she could recall from before waking up here. She knew that she had been just about falling over from exhaustion. She remembered a fire, and she remembered a young woman. Had she been real? Willow swung her legs out of the bed and walked over to the window. Throwing the curtains open she looked outside. The most surprising thing about the view was how normal everything looked. She seemed to be in a rural area. She could only see a couple of houses nearby. Everything seemed so calm, so peaceful, so untouched by the chaos that was running through London.
Then Willow saw the two crosses out in the garden.
So the Death had reached even this secluded little town.
"You should be resting."
Spinning round Willow saw the woman from the night before. Willow was able to see her clearly for the first time. She seemed to be about the same age as Willow, with long blonde hair and a quirky smile.
Tara said, "Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you. You should be in bed." She motioned with the tray she was holding. "I made you some breakfast. From the state of you, I'd say you need it."
Getting back into bed Willow said, "You're right. It's been a while since I've had a hot meal. Will you join me? I've been on my own so long, I'd like to have someone to talk to."
Sitting on the bed Tara nodded. "Me too, I was worrying I was the only person left alive."
"That must have been awful, but isn't there anyone else in the village?"
"I don't think so. I collapsed a few days ago. I guess I was in a coma. I didn't wake up till yesterday. In that time, everyone had died. I couldn't find anyone alive in the village. I lit the fire in the hopes someone would see it."
Willow glanced at the pile of pancakes, 'Funny shapes? I've never seen that before.' Realising what Tara had said she looked up in shock. "You say you collapsed? From the flu?"
Tara nodded. "Is that unusual?"
"As far as I know, only one other person who contracted the flu has recovered." Gazing off, Willow went on, "The virus is a lot stronger than the bird flu, plus it's mutagenic. Which makes it harder for the body to cope with it. I guess some people's immune systems are able to adapt, to be able to cope with the virus." Willow picked up the glass of orange juice and took a drink before saying, "Willow."
"Huh?" Tara looked bemused at this outburst.
"Uh, that's my name, Willow Rosenberg."
"Oh, I'm Tara Maclay." She held out her hand saying, "It's a pleasure to meet you Willow Rosenberg."
Willow shook her hand saying, "Likewise Ms Tara Maclay." They both started giggling at the silliness of their actions.
"So what are you doing all the way out here in Marks Tey?" Tara asked.
"Well I'm a doctor at the London independent Hospital. A friend there advised me to get out of London. I was driving out when I made the mistake of stopping at a shop to get supplies. I was attacked by gunmen and forced to abandon my car. I've been walking since then."
"You walked from London?" It was Tara's turn to look shocked at this news. "No wonder you were exhausted. While you were walking, you didn't see any other survivors?"
"I saw some people in London, soldiers mainly. That was a few days ago. I only passed through a couple of villages on the way. We both survived, so it seems logical that others did."
Tara nodded. "I hope so, though things seem a lot less lonely now."
Willow smiled. "Yes they do."
Standing Tara picked up the tray. "You should get some more sleep."
Willow was going to argue, but found that she felt too tired to. Nodding she lay back in the bed, She had fallen asleep before Tara had even left the room.
Tara put the plates on the counter and started filling the bowl with water. At first Tara had questioned the need to do chores like washing the dishes. After all if the world was coming to an end, what did it matter if the dishes were dirty. Then she realised that doing things like this provided a sense of normality which she needed more than ever.
Tara thought about Willow and about the changes that she had gone through over the last couple of days. She realised how terrified she'd been at waking up to find herself alone in the world, though at the time she'd forced those thoughts from her mind. Now she'd found someone else, someone to share the ordeal with, things seemed a lot easier.
After finishing the dishes Tara checked the stores, deciding that they'd need to get some supplies soon. She didn't like the idea of going back into the village, but realised that it was necessary. She decided to do it now while it was on her mind. After checking on Willow, she went out to the car then drove to the village. Going into the shop Tara got a trolley and began loading it up. As she was going round the shop she spotted a section of shelving holding a variety of fireworks. For a moment she wasn't sure why they were there, then she remembered it was Bonfire Night in just under a week. She had forgotten about that, for obvious reasons. As she continued on Tara recited, "Remember, remember the fifth of November, the gunpowder treason and plot. I know of no reason why gunpowder treason, should ever..." Stopping Tara turned the cart around and headed back to the fireworks, She began loading some of the boxes into her cart.
Willow woke up to a slight tapping sound. After a couple of moments she realised that it was someone at the door. "Come in."
Tara came in saying, "How are you doing?"
Willow smiled brightly. "I'm feeling a lot better, thankyou."
"I was wondering if you wanted something to eat."
Before Willow could answer her stomach gave out a low growl.
"I take it that's a yes," Tara said.
"I am a little hungry," Willow conceded.
"You can take a shower while I'm getting dinner ready." Tara turned to leave. Stopping in the doorway she said, "You can borrow some of my clothes. They might not fit perfectly but they should do."
"Yes, thank you."
Once Willow had had the shower and gotten dressed she hurried downstairs. There was a pot on the stove bubbling quietly but no sign of Tara. Walking over to it Willow lifted the lid off and took a deep breath. "Mmmm,"
"Hey, that's good timing, dinner's just ready," A voice from behind her said.
Willow almost dropped the lid. Turning she said, "You made me jump, again."
"I just went to check on the generator, and pick up a bottle." Tara held up a bottle of wine.
Willow tilted her head. "Cool, you've got a wine cellar?"
Tara smiled, in a crooked fashion which made Willow's stomach flip over. "Actually it's a fallout shelter, my grandfather had it fitted during the height of the cold war. Though it does double as a nice wine cellar." Closing the door Tara went on, "My grandfather was really paranoid about the possibility of a nuclear war. So he made the farm as self sufficient as possible, so it could keep running even if civilisation collapsed."
"Well it's a good thing he did."
"Yes." Tara smiled as she said, "I remember how he would take his copy of Protect and Survive everywhere with him."
While eating dinner Willow thought about the last couple of days. Finally meeting up with someone had been fortuitous but that that person was the most beautiful woman she had ever seen went way beyond that. Willow didn't know what the odds were but she figured they were about the same as winning the Lotto and Euro Millions at the same time. Speaking of which, Willow thought, if I'd known the world was going to end I wouldn't have bought five weeks worth in advance. I didn't just think that did I? Since that would be beyond crass. Willow paused a moment to perform a mental reset. The point being that it was very lucky.
Willow was broken from her thoughts as she realised that Tara had said something. "I'm sorry, I was miles away."
"I noticed. I was just asking how long you've been living over here. I mean I couldn't help noticing you had a bit of an accent."
"And there I was thinking I'd managed to lose it. I moved over nine years ago to study at Oxford. I had planned to move back to California once I had graduated, but I just fell in love with this country." Willow smirked and went on, "I think it was the weather that did it."
Laughing Tara said, "Because you so like being rained on." Tara sobered up before going on, "Isn't it hard though, being away from your parents?"
"To be honest, I saw more of them after moving to Oxford than I had when I was living with them."
"Oh." Tara wasn't sure how to respond to that. After a moment she asked, "Do you think they're okay? Have you talked to them recently?"
Willow shook her head. "No, they died a few years ago. A plane crash."
Tara reached over to take Willow's hand. "I'm sorry."
Nodding Willow said, "Thanks." After they'd been sitting like that a while, wanting to break the silence and change the subject, Willow said, "What about you, have you lived here all your life?"
"Oh yes, There have been Maclays living in this area for several generations now."
They continued talking for a couple of hours, discussing a variety of subjects ranging from what school had been like to what types of food they particularly liked.
Glancing over at a clock Tara said, "I didn't realise how late it was getting."
"Do you have to get up early tomorrow? Perhaps to go to work?" Willow teased.
Standing Tara said, "Actually if you'll come outside, there was something I wanted to show you."
Following Tara outside Willow spotted the fireworks. "What are these for?" She asked, "Are we celebrating Guy Fawkes night early?"
"I thought we could use them as a signal, attract other survivors. I thought it'd be better than a fire."
"Wow, you're as smart as you are sexy." Oh god, I didn't just say that out loud did I?
"Well I try." As she started setting some of the fireworks up Tara thought, Did she just say sexy? Well I guess from the way she's gone red, she did.
Tara walked to one of the fireworks and lit its fuse. She hurried back to Willow as it shrieked up into the air, and then exploded.
"Oooh!" Willow said, clapping her hands with excitement. She blushed as she noticed the amused look Tara was giving her. "I always liked going to the firework displays when I was younger. I haven't been to any in a while though."
"Me too. I mean I used to like going with my mum, and I haven't been to any in a long time."
"Well it's a pity we're not seeing this one under better circumstances."
"Yes," Tara said as she went to light the next firework. As she did so she wondered if she was doing the right thing, after all there was no of knowing that anyone who was attracted would be friendly. Plus with all the supplies which had been stockpiled it would attractive for looters. Tara decided to do something about this.
As Tara got ready for bed she thought about her earlier concerns. If anyone did try to hurt them, or loot the place she'd need to be ready. Leaving her room Tara went into her father's study. Going to the desk she pulled one of the drawers out from it's slot and turned it upside down. She pulled a key, which had been taped to the bottom, away from it. She then went to a case opposite and unlocked it. Pulling the shotgun out she opened the breach and inspected the barrel. Putting it back she got out a box of cartridges and checked them. Putting them away she locked the case and put the key round her neck.
Getting up Tara went to check on Willow. Getting no answer when she knocked, she pushed the door open slightly. She was surprised to see the bed made up and no sign of Willow. Going downstairs she found Willow standing in front of the stove.
Turning Willow smiled and said, "Morning."
"Morning," Tara responded, "You didn't have to make breakfast."
"Well I woke up early, so I thought I might as well. You've been so kind to me, I wanted to help out a bit, to repay you."
"Really it isn't necessary, but thank you."
As they went to the table Willow said, "I think we're going to need to start looking for other survivors. I mean if there are then they might need help."
"I was thinking about that before you arrived. Do you think we should leave the farm?"
"I'm not sure that's a good idea. I mean we've got everything we need here, plus there aren't many places with their very own fall out shelter. I was thinking we could check out the surrounding villages while staying here."
Tara nodded. "Should we both go?"
"I think it might be better if you stay here, to see if anyone else comes here."
"That sounds risky, you've been attacked before."
"I'll be careful." Seeing Tara look doubtful, Willow smiled and joked, "trust me, I'm a doctor."
When Willow had left Tara went out to the barn. She gave some feed to the horses she had managed to round up. She then grabbed a pitch fork and started cleaning out the barn. As she did so she thought about Willow. She had only met the redhead a couple of days ago and yet every time she saw Willow, her whole body tingled. She had always had trouble dealing with other people. Yet she hadn't had any trouble with Willow. More than that though, Tara felt a connection to Willow. She knew it was silly as she hardly knew the other woman. Yet she couldn't deny the fact that talking to Willow she had felt as though they were kindred spirits. Tara shook her head, wondering if this was just a result of their shared ordeal.
Tara looked up, that had come from the loft. Dropping the fork she climbed up the ladder, looking round for the source of the sound.
Going over Tara lifted some hay up to reveal a small black and white kitten there. "Hello, what are you doing here?" Kneeling down to stroke the cat. As she did so she noticed a collar round it's neck. "So what's your name? Miss Kitty Fantastico? What a lovely name." Picking the cat up Tara said, "Well we'll have to get you some food."
Hearing the car pulling outside Tara went out to meet Willow. "Any luck?" She asked.
"If by luck you mean, did I find any one then no. However I did pick this up." Willow leant into the car and pulled a large torch out, "I thought we could use it as a signal."
"A torch?" Tara frowned, not understanding. "Will people be able to see it?"
"It's five million candles," Willow beamed, almost as brightly.
"Most light houses are only a million candles."
Tara nodded, "Okay then." She still wasn't sure how a torch, even one that large, could be five times as powerful as a lighthouse. Still, if Willow said it was, she wasn't going to argue. "There was someone I wanted you to meet."
"You mean you've..."
Willow stopped as Tara walked to the door and called out, "Miss Kitty. Miss Kitty."
A moment later a small black and white kitten came out. Walking over to her Willow said, "Where did you find her?"
"She was in the barn."
Picking the cat up Willow said, "Well it looks like there's three of us now."
Later that night they went up into one of the bedrooms. Opening a window up Willow pointed the torch out, up at the sky. As she turned it on it created a visible spot on the clouds.
"Okay, so maybe this will work," Tara conceded.
Looking out Willow said, "Maybe we should stick a picture of a bat to it."
Laughing Tara said, "I'm not sure that that will help. I mean it's a long way to Gotham city."
Sitting on the bed Willow sighed.
Turning towards her, Tara asked, "What's wrong?"
Sitting next to Willow Tara pressed, "No what is it?"
"It's kind of silly." Seeing that Tara wasn't going to take that for an answer she went on, "Now I'm not going to get to try out one of those new Macs with an Intel processor." Seeing Tara looking at her in disbelief she said in a defensive tone, "I said it was silly."
Laughing, Tara said, "Okay, next time I'll take your word for it. So are you into computers then?"
"Yeah, I have been since I was little. I'd always thought that I'd get some sort of job involving computers, so it was a bit of a surprise when I ended up in medicine."
"So why did you?"
"Well when I was about fifteen my Mum got breast cancer."
"That must have been hard."
"It was. I mean she recovered, thankfully, but yes, it was a hard time. Anyway I was never really close to my parents, they were always busy going to conferences and giving lectures. While my mum was being treated, they didn't really tell me what was going on, so I had to research everything myself. I'd always sort of had an interest in medicine," Willow laughed as she said, "When I was young I used to make Xander pretend to have different conditions so I could treat them. So when I was looking up my mum's illness it reawakened my interest, plus I've always wanted to help people. So when it came time to decide on a career I decided to become a doctor. I've always kept up an interest in computers though. What about you?"
"What about me what?"
"Well I notice there's no computers here. Weren't you ever interested in them?"
"Not really. I mean I went on the internet a couple of times at school but it was depressing, the spelling was so bad."
Willow just nodded, knowing she was probably one of the people who's spelling had put Tara off. Though being a doctor it was almost mandatory that her spelling be terrible, just like her handwriting.
Tara raised her hand to stifle a yawn. "I should probably get to bed," Tara said, "Should we leave the torch on?"
"Probably not. We don't want to drain the batteries." Turning the torch off Willow said, "We'll put it on this time every night. Well goodnight."
Tara moved forward to kiss Willow, but realising what she was going to do she stopped herself and said, "Goodnight."
Willow carefully eased her car between some cars. Soon after she had gotten onto the A120 she had been dismayed to see that the outgoing lane was completely blocked off by abandoned cars. She had made her way over the verge to the other lane, but since other people had had the same idea, that was almost as bad. On several occasions she was forced to go along the hard shoulder. In all it was slow going.
It was with great relief that she saw the sign for Coggeshall. She was particularly glad when she saw that the road for Coggeshall was relatively clear. She was able to speed up quite a bit, not having to swerve round parked cars. That is until she came to a gate that had been pulled across the road. Getting out of her car Willow walked up to it. There was a sign on it saying, "No entry. Trespassers will be shot." For a moment Willow wondered if they were serious.
There was a cawing sound to one side. Turning Willow saw a crow taking off from a scarecrow. It only took a moment for her to recognise her mistake. It wasn't a scarecrow, it was someone who had been crucified.
Willow backed up till she bumped into the front of her car. She hurried to get back into it and turning around she drove off.
As Willow pulled up at the farm she was greeted by Tara. "You were longer than I expected."
Trying to smile Willow said, "The traffic was murder."
"I take it you didn't have any luck."
"Well I did find signs of other survivors, but from the looks of it they didn't really want any company." She explained about the sign and the body.
"Well if they survived there must be some normal people who have."
"I hope so."
Later that evening Tara said, "I've been thinking about what happened today. I don't think you should go out any more. I mean if someone at that settlement had seen you..."
Willow nodded. A part of her, the part that couldn't deal with the though of isolation, of not being surround by people, wanted to keep looking. However she knew Tara was right, that she'd been lucky to have not been spotted, and that she might not be so lucky next time. "You're right. It is risky."
"I mean this would just be till things have settled down a little."
"How long do you think supplies hold out?"
"Well petrol is the big problem. With what we've got here. It's only going to last a week or so."
"What about if we get some from the nearest gas station. You do have some in these parts, right?"
"Yes we do. The pumps probably won't be working, but we can probably get at the petrol. Given the amount we use, I think there should be enough to last us, up to a year."
"What about food?"
"This is a farm."
"Oh yeah. So we should be able to hold out till civilisation has rebuilt."
"I think so, yes."
The next morning they took Tara's landrover to the nearest petrol station. Getting out of the car Willow hesitated a moment, a concerned expression on her face.
"Is something wrong?"
"I was just remembering the last time I came to one of these places." Willow shook herself, trying to get rid of the memory.
"Don't worry, there aren't any soldiers here."
Nodding Willow joined Tara and they went inside. The place had several cans full of petrol which they took to the landrover.
"I saw some barrels round the back, maybe we can fill them up," Tara suggested.
They found four barrels. One had a crack in the top and had filled with rain water, another had rusted through in the bottom. The other two were both in good shape. Searching round the station they managed to find the petrol tank and a waste outlet.
Gazing at it Willow asked, "Now what?"
Tara got a syphon out of her pocket, "We often had to move petrol from one vehicle to another." Tara put one end of the pipe in the tank and the other in the barrel. Then by jiggling it up and down she was able to start the petrol flowing into the barrel. "Now we wait."
"So once the barrel's full, how are we going to get it to the landrover?"
Tara glanced down at the barrel, then looked up at Willow, an eyebrow arched. "Carefully."
Once it was almost full Tara shut off the flow. She moved the pipe to the other barrel and started that one filling. When she had done that she noticed Willow was gazing at the full barrel.
"I think I know how we're going to do it. You're right about being careful though."
When the second barrel was full Tara shut off the flow to that. "We're going to need a bucket."
"I'll get one." Willow ran into the shop. A short while later she came out with the bucket.
Tara took the hose out from the barrel and the tank, using the bucket to catch any spilled petrol. They then carefully tipped the first barrel on it's side and slowly it rolled to the car. Putting it the right way up and lifting together they were able to get it in the back. They then did the same with the other barrel.
"Well I think this should hold us out a while," Tara said as they set off back home.
Willow picked up a small log and placed it on the tree stump, glaring at it. "Don't worry. how hard can chopping up some wood be," Willow imitated herself, remembering her conversation with Tara that morning. Tara had been going to chop some wood up for the fire. It was getting colder and since the central heating ran off gas, she felt they'd need to stock up on wood. Willow had volunteered to do it, thinking it'd be easy. So far she hadn't had much luck.
Picking up the axe she faced the block of wood. Then raising the axe she swung it down with all her strength. The axe hit the block and this time cut into the wood, stopping halfway through it. Willow tried to pull the axe back out, but found it was stuck. "You have got to be kidding me." She yanked at the axe, but it wouldn't move. Putting her foot up on the stump Willow tugged with all her strength. The axe came out of the block, flying out of her hands. Willow looked up as it sailed upwards.
As Tara came round the corner she glanced down at the plants that were growing by the house.
Tara looked up to see Willow running towards her. A moment later she spotted the axe as it dropped onto the wood stump before falling on the floor.
"Willow what's going on? Are you okay?"
Willow nodded as she tried to catch her breath. "I never realised that chopping wood could be so dangerous."
"I think I'm going to be sore all over," Willow said as she lowered herself into the sofa.
Tara sat down next to her, "Poor thing, you're not used to manual labour are you?"
Willow pouted. "That's not the sympathetic response I was looking for."
"If the wind changes your face will freeze like that," Tara laughed.
"Hmmph. I think you're making fun of me, after I worked so hard helping you."
"Well if you like I could give you a massage."
"Really? You can?"
"Yes, it might help. Come on." Tara led Willow upstairs to her room. "You'll need to take your shirt off and lie down on the bed."
When Willow had down this Tara leant over her, moving her hands gently over Willow's body.
"That feels really good. Where did you learn to do this? I don't see you doing much massage on a farm."
"Work experience. I needed to do two weeks for my A levels. Somehow I ended up doing them at a massage parlour."
"Well it was time well spent," Willow mumbled.
Getting up Willow threw the curtains open, as she did every morning. She gaped at what she saw a moment. Turning away she quickly got dressed and ran downstairs. "Hey Tara, there's some kind of white stuff falling from the sky."
"It's called snow."
"Oh yeah. Hmm, snow in November, whatever next," Willow said as she joined Tara in the kitchen.
"It's a lot colder than it has been for a few years." Tara shrugged. "So much for global warming."
"Actually that's what's making it colder."
Tara gave Willow a confused look. "Global warming is making things colder?"
"Um, you see the ice caps are melting, which is putting fresh water into the oceans. That's stopping the Gulf Stream from working, so it gets colder."
"Oh, like in that film?"
"Yeah, exactly." Willow looked out at the snow fall a while. "It doesn't look heavy. We probably won't even get enough to make a decent snowman."
That night Tara ripped up an old paper and began putting pieces round the logs of wood. Getting a match from it's box she lit it and used it to light some of the pieces of paper. Tara watched as the fire got going, raising her hands in order to warm them. "The weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful, since we've no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow."
Standing, Tara saw Willow standing in the doorway, a small smile on her face. "How long have you been there?"
"You've got a lovely voice."
Tara blushed. "Not really."
Willow took a step into the room. "Yes, really."
Standing Tara said, "I was going to make some hot chocolate. Would you like some?"
A large grin formed on Willow's face as she said, "Yes please."
Several minutes later they were sitting on the sofa drinking the hot chocolate. Willow blew across the top before taking a sip.
"It's easy to forget," Tara said suddenly.
"Huh?" Willow asked.
"Sitting here in this room, with the fire burning, it's easy to forget what's going on. That the human race is on the edge of extinction."
"I understand, it's like it never happened."
Tara shook her head. "I keep wondering, why did we survive? So many people died, why were we spared?"
Willow took Tara's hand. "What you're feeling is natural. It's called..."
"Survivor guilt, I know. I know there wasn't any reason for us surviving, it was just chance. I don't know whether that makes it better or worse."
Willow stroked Tara's hand as they gazed into each other's eyes. She was filled with the desire to kiss her. Since she'd first seen Tara, Willow had been attracted to her. This wasn't surprising, Tara was a beautiful woman after all. Over the last few days, as she had gotten to know Tara, that attraction had grown. deepened into something more.
The light started to flicker.
Tara rose slightly. "I better check the generator."
Willow nodded, realising that the moment had passed.
As she went up to her room Willow glanced out the window. She saw the snow, that had only fallen a couple of days ago, was already disappearing. Turning back she noticed a picture of Tara with another woman, who she guessed was her mother. Looking at it she thought about how much she was growing to like Tara. She wondered how Xander and the others would take to her. Which was when it finally struck her. She wasn't going to be able to introduce her to them. In fact she wouldn't see them again. Sitting down on the bed Willow started crying.
"Willow," Tara said from the door way. "Are you okay?"
Willow quickly wiped her eyes with the palm of her hands. "Sure, I'm fine."
Coming into the room Tara pressed, "Willow what is it?"
"I was just thinking about my friends from the hospital. I mean I've known they were dead, but I guess it hadn't hit me till now. You know the reality of it."
Walking up to Willow, Tara hugged her. Willow rested her head on Tara's shoulder, revelling in being this close to her. Then, before she really knew what was happening, they were kissing. All Willow could think was how it was better than even she had imagined it. Then, all to soon, it was over.
"I'm sorry," Tara muttered, "I shouldn't have." She hurried from the room.
It took Willow a moment to work out what was going on. "Tara?" Going out in the hall she looked around for the other woman. Not seeing her Willow went to knock on Tara's door. "Tara please, I just want to talk to you."
After a while the door opened and Tara said, "Come in." As Willow entered Tara said, "I shouldn't have done that."
"Do you regret it?" Willow asked.
"Willow I'm sorry. I don't know what else I can say."
"I don't want you to be sorry it happened. I want you to be glad, because I am."
"You... You're serious?"
Rather than answering Willow leaned forward and kissed Tara. For a moment Willow was worried she had made a mistake, but then Tara began returning the kiss.
Pulling over Willow got out and went to sit on the embankment and began to think about the last month. It had been a difficult time for her, she had alternated between a feeling of peace at the quiet and tranquillity surrounding her, and one of loneliness at the absence of people. Willow knew that if it hadn't been for Tara she would have gone mad by now. All this time, even as her mood fluctuated one thing had remained constant, her feelings for Tara. No that was wrong, they had grown stronger every day. Willow's thoughts went back to the night before. She and Tara had celebrated their one month anniversary together.
Willow giggled as she and and Tara went into Tara's room. Spinning round Tara took Willow's face in her hands, kissing her deeply. In between kisses Willow gasped, "Oh god Tara, I love you." Willow bumped into the bed, falling backwards onto it, pulling Tara after her. Tara lifted herself up slightly and stared down at Willow, scanning her body slowly. "What?"
"I love you too," Tara said before leaning forward to kiss Willow.
Willow looked up. That had been a gunshot and it had sounded as though it had come from the farm. Jumping up she dived into the car.
Willow started the engine and slammed the accelerator down, struggling to go round a turning. Willow slowed down a little, knowing that she couldn't help Tara if she went off the road.
As Willow pulled up outside the farm she saw Tara coming out to meet her, a smile on her face. "Hey we've got visitors." Tara frowned, seeming to notice how upset Willow was, "What's wrong? Has something happened?"
"I heard gunshots, coming from here."
"Oh," Tara raised her hand to her mouth, looking embarrassed. "That was me." Tara led Willow inside as she explained, "I saw a car going past in the distance and I wanted to attract their attention. I couldn't think of anything else to do."
"It's a good thing that she did," And oldish man said. There were two young women with him. "Since we would have missed you both if she hadn't." Stepping forward he extended his hand. "I'm Rupert Giles. These are my god daughter Buffy Summers and her sister Dawn."
"So where have you been? We didn't think there was anyone else nearby."
"We're from a small settlement at Coggeshall?"
Willow and Tara exchanged a glance at this.
"Is something wrong?"
"It's just I went there a few weeks ago, from what I saw it didn't seem to be a very friendly place."
"Ah yes, shortly after the outbreak a group did take over intent on enslaving any survivors they found. Since they weren't strong in numbers they tried to use fear and intimidation to keep control."
"That'd explain the crucified body," Willow said.
"Quite." Giles took his glasses off and taking a hanky from his pocket began wiping them. "I believe they got the idea from a book by that Stephen King chap." Putting his glasses back on he went on, "It didn't help them though. In the end it was Buffy who lead the revolt." Giles sounded proud as he said this.
"You?" Tara said, then realising she'd spoken out loud she added, "Sorry, I didn't mean..."
"Buffy's stronger than she looks," Dawn said.
"Plus she's a hair puller," Buffy indicated her sister.
"So Tara tells us that you're a doctor," Giles said. "That will be useful, we've only got a nurse at the moment. I believe she worked at your hospital. She arrived a week or so ago with a sister."
"That sounds like Cecile," Willow said, relieved that the young nurse had survived the flu.
"Yes, that was her name. I'd say we've been lucky we haven't had any major accidents." Giles realised he'd been presumptuous. "That is if you do want to join us."
Tara glanced over at Willow, who nodded. "Yes we would. We've been managing okay but I'm not sure for how long."
"Good. We're also short of people with farming experience."
"Then Tara's your woman. She grew up on this farm."
"Excellent. So when will you be joining us?"
"There's some things we need to do here before we can leave," Tara said. "If you leave us directions we'll join you the day after tomorrow. Also we have a couple of horses..."
"Well that shouldn't be a problem. Actually I'm sure that they'll prove most useful. I'll start getting things set up for your arrival."
As they were driving back to the settlement Giles said, "Well they seemed like nice women."
"Yeah, though William's going to be disappointed," Dawn pointed out.
"Why should he care?" Buffy asked.
"Well now he won't be able to boast about being the only gay in the village."
"Wait, you mean they're lesbians?"
"Come on," Dawn said. "They were totally into each other. Giles?"
"It was rather obvious Buffy."
"Well, fine. Just call me Little Miss Oblivious."
"We already do," Dawn pointed out.
Willow walked in to Tara's room to find her sorting through a drawer. "Well I've finished packing," Willow said.
Pausing to turn round Tara said, "You didn't bring anything with you."
Willow grinned. "I guess that must be why I finished so quickly."
"Well since you have finished, could you go check on the horses?"
"Horses?" Willow looked shaken at this.
Tara's eyes widened as she remembered Willow mentioning having a phobia of horses. She just hadn't realised how strong it was. "Sorry. I'll tell you what. I'll check on the horses if you can finish off here."
Smiling Willow said, "Thanks."
They were ready to go by the next morning. Going to the trailer Tara stroked her horses noses, "I hope you like your new home girls."
Coming out Willow said, "Are you ready to go?"
As they got in the car Willow said, "I know it must be hard leaving your home."
Tara nodded. "I have a lot of memories of here, good and bad. But it's good to be leaving. It's like the last month has been a transition period. Now it's time for us to go on with our new lives."
Willow smiled in agreement. "Well I think as long as I live I'll be thanking my stars that I found you."
"That makes two of us."
Willow reached for the gear stick. As she did Tara reached over and put her hand on Willow's, giving it a slight squeeze. "Well on to our new lives."
It's the end of the world as we know it.