IT STARTED like a million other Mondays. Sleepy. Late for school. A vague bad mood hovering. There was nothing to suggest that something was about to happen that would change my life forever.
Then Mac leaned across my desk during registration. ‘Meet us by the bins at break,’ he said. ‘Got something to show you.’ The gleam in his eyes triggered a familiar shiver—one part excitement, one part dread.
My stomach was jumping by the time I arrived at the back of the school kitchens two hours later. The others were already there—gathered around an old maroon Adidas kit bag, all scuffed up and covered in graffiti.
‘You dragged me here for that?’
Tash rolled her eyes. ‘Look inside,’ she said, grinning in a way that made me suspect I was being set-up.
All eyes were on me, so I shrugged like this was no biggie, then crouched over the bag, my guts squirming like a sack of snakes.
Knowing Mac, there could be ANYTHING in here—a dead cat, stolen booze, a live rat perhaps . . .
I pulled back the zip, bracing myself not to react.
I’ll be honest—of all the possibilities scrolling through my mind, none of them prepared me for what was actually inside.
I swore. ‘Is that . . .?’
“Got it!” sighed Sandy, rolling her eyes before refocusing on the phone clutched in her hands. Her mother, sat in the driver’s seat, glanced in the rearview mirror. She didn’t believe Sandy had listened to a word she said. “Are you sure?”
Sandy was more concerned with learning more about the blossoming relationship between her classmates that was unfolding across social media. It had all the ingredients for an angry Ex to come charging in to make things even more interesting.
She glanced up when she realised the car had stopped. Her mother’s new electric car was spookily silent even at full speed, and it could even drive itself. They had parked in a rather empty car park at the foot of a bland-looking office block. Her mother quickly checked her hair in the visor mirror, before twisting around to look directly at Sandy.
Sandy put her phone down. “Yes. Don’t touch anything and lock the door as soon as you’re out. Relax, mum. Just go in and have a good interview. Good luck.”Her mother smiled and exited the car. Sandy deliberately raised her index finger and slowly pushed down on the door lock to emphasis she had done as asked. Then she gave a little wave and turned back to the drama on her mobile.
She wasn’t aware how long she’d been engrossed in the online argument before she glanced up to see she was moving. For a moment, Sandy thought her mother had returned.
But the driver’s seat was empty.
A flashing message on the car’s display screen read: AUTO-PILOT ENGAGED. DESTINATION SET.
Sandy felt her heart pound in her chest. The car was driving itself… and it was kidnapping her…
The cabin lights are dimmed down, and the slow drone of the jumbo jet’s engines reverberates through the cabin like a drowsy swarm of bees. In seat 42A next to his dozing parents, Sam scrolled through images of his family’s recent holiday. Smiling and laughing faces flit across the screen of his iPad, encouraged by the gentle swipe of his finger.
Even though it was on flight mode, the icon for an incoming email catches his attention. ‘SAM. FOR YOUR EYES ONLY’, appears in the subject bar. His curious and sometimes reckless nature gets the better of him, and he taps on the message –
‘HI Sam. My name is Alias 3. I live in the 26th century. You need to know that the future of the world hangs in the balance. If something isn’t done soon, we’ll both cease to exist. How I found you doesn’t matter right now. I need you to trust me, and I need you to do something. Something important. Something brave. Something dangerous. Just reply ‘OK’ and I’ll send you the details, but do it quick, I’m being watched – and so are you!’
Sam looked up and warily scanned the cabin. His head buzzed with possibilities. 1) It’s a joke. 2) He’s asleep and dreaming. 3) He has to save the world.
CRASH! I clung to side of the cliff, and watched as a ball of fire the
size of a bus hurtled past me. It bounced down the mountainside as if
it were no more than a pebble before exploding into white-hot
fragments below us.
“If you were wondering if the volcano is active,” said Ellie,
scrambling up to the next ledge, “then that should have given you a
“It’s not safe!” I said, trembling. “We must be mad to come up here.”
“There’s no turning back. The entrance to the Temple of Sorrows is so
close. We can’t give up now.”
Ellie had a determined frown on her face. There was no arguing with her.
“I just hope that treasure map you found was right,” I muttered,
carefully edging along the ledge behind her. “And I hope that this
legendary temple isn’t full of lava, rather than gold!”
“We’ll soon see,” she replied, excitedly. “Look!”
Carved into the rock was a huge door, flanked by massive columns. That
wasn’t all: the door was guarded…
It was hot, so hot that every breath Riyad took felt like an effort. Sweat dripped into his eyes, and he scowled. Weren’t eyebrows supposed to protect you from sweat? He rubbed his arm over his forehead but it made barely any difference: within seconds the sweat was pouring into his eyes again. He crouched down on the bracken and reached for his water bottle. There was only an inch or so left. How long had he been out here? It couldn’t be more than an hour or so. Riyad groaned. He should have rationed his water. Or brought more with him. Or stayed by the wreckage of the plane.
Too late now. He couldn’t find his way back to the plane if he’d wanted to. Every single direction looked identical. Huge green leaves, vines, tree trunks so tall they surely touched the sky. And a constant buzzing and hissing of things in the undergrowth; things he couldn’t see but which could definitely see him…
The one thing they never tell you about zombies is how inflammable we are. Being undead, our blood doesn’t flow, and our skin doesn’t exude any oils or gunk; it means you don’t get spots, but the expenditure on moisturiser is huge. We don’t actually decay, because decay is a process, and we are in suspension, frozen in the moment of our death for all time. We don’t age, we don’t rot, but our bodily moisture evaporates and we suffer constantly from dehydration. You can always tell the zombie in a supermarket because of the pile-up of Evian in the trolley and the tubes of aloe vera lotion and shea butter. We don’t bother with the anti-wrinkle stuff but we favour factor 50 sunscreen winter and summer and we’re suckers for any cream described as ‘nourishing’. Ludicrous really; we persistently believe that our skin will do the job which our digestive system can no longer perform. The living snap up anti-ageing creams even though science confirms they don’t work and we’re just as gullible. Being undead may make you immortal – after a fashion – but it doesn’t make you any smarter.
Mostly, the dryness thing isn’t a serious problem. We don’t have open fires in the home, obviously, and we aren’t likely to join jolly groups around a campfire outdoors. (Zombie boy scouts are extremely rare.) The biggest hazard of the year is Bonfire Night. On the fifth of November, sensible zombies stay indoors, out of range of sparklers, bangers and blazing torches.
Of course, I’ve never been sensible.