“What do you call this?” I entered my apartment to find Matty, Ben, Luca and Georgie were all in sleeping bags, while Tobi was settled on the sofa.
“We’re having a sleepover,” Matty explained.
“Did I give you permission to have one?” I asked sternly. I was tired and irritable after listening to those survivors.
“No, but you weren’t around to ask,” Matty whined like a five-year-old, “Besides Tobi was keeping an eye on us,”
“Hmm,” I bit off my comment about Tobi not being old enough, “Fine, but not too much noise and no mess,”
“Yes, Dad,” Matty grunted as I noticed a bowl of popcorn and some bottles of pop. Where the hell did they get them from? I shook my head and left them to it. I returned to my room and got myself ready for bed. I almost fell into the double bed and revelled in the soft mattress, we were definitely comfortable here. I lie on my bed staring up at the ceiling, my thoughts turning to the events of this evening and listening to the survivors. I was just beginning to doze off when the phone rang startling me. I reached blindly for the bedside table and picked it up.
“Hello,” I responded groggily.
“Sorry if I woke you, but it’s Kelly,” I came awake in an instant.
“What’s wrong? Is everyone OK?”
“Tommy had a nightmare and he keeps calling out for his daddy,” she explained.
“All right, I’ll be over in five minutes,” I put the phone down and pulled on a pair of shorts and a tee shirt. I was just passing the living area when the door opened; Matty emerged wearing just shorts and his hair a mess.
“What’s going on?” he yawned.
“One of the little ones are having a nightmare,”
“Can’t Kelly sort them out?”
“Nope, now go back to sleep,”
“Have you seen Tobi?” he asked.
“I think I heard the toilet flush,” I responded as a sleepy looking Tobi emerged. I said goodbye to the pair and made my way across to the other apartment. The door was already open a tad. I pushed through and already I could hear sobbing.
“I want my daddy,” I had thought they were too young to understand what was going on, thinking this was all some sort of adventure, but I think I might have been wrong.
“Daddy can’t be with you right now, Sweetie,” I heard Kelly say and followed her voice into the first bedroom. It was cramped where we had put two single beds in there. The light was on and little Kelly was watching her brother while older Kelly was trying to soothe him.
“Alex,” Tommy cried and launched himself into my arms. I looked at older Kelly over his shoulder as he sobbed his little heart out into my shoulder. Stroking his head, I murmured words of reassurance. I traced patterns on his back to calm him down, it has worked in the past and it seemed to be working now. Kelly got up and moved to the other side so I could settle onto the bed with little Tommy still in my arms.
“What’s the matter, little buddy?” I asked him, rocking him back and forward a little bit.
“I had a bad dream,” he sobbed, but he was beginning to slow down now.
“What did I tell you about bad dreams?”
“They aren’t real, just imaginary like Grey, my imaginary friend,”
“Exactly buddy, you’ve got it in one,”
“But I wish my daddy was here,”
“I know little man, but he’s had to go away for a little and you’ve had to come down here to be safe,”
“Will we ever see mommy and daddy again?” he asked looking up at me.
“Of course we will honey,” I reassured him.
“Thanks, Dad, I love you,” he said sleepily. I think I felt my heart twinge a little; I would love to be the father of a little boy or girl like Tommy. As he dropped off to sleep I slowly put him down on his bed and covered him up with his covers. I kissed little Kelly good night and switched the light off as I went out. Only the glow of a small nightlight remained as I pulled the door up. I followed Kelly into the front room.
“He should be all right now; he rarely has more than one nightmare a night,”
“Thanks, Alex, you’re such a lifesaver,”
“No problem, as I’ve said before, I used to babysit the little monsters so I know what their nighttime habits are,”
“Well you’re such a wonderful father figure,” she gushed and I began to see warning signs so stepped back towards the door.
“Thanks, right I’m going to head to bed,”
“You can always stay here the night,” she suggested.
“I think I’d like to return to my bed,” I told her and ran out of there like my tail was on fire. I know it’s the cowardly thing to do but I couldn’t help myself, she scared me.
“Merry Christmas, everyone,” I called out as some of the others began to emerge from their apartments wearing pyjamas and dressing gowns. They all came yawning but got excited as they saw the presents underneath the Christmas tree. Mac and I had gone down and retrieved all the presents last night while everyone was in bed.
“Woah, has Santa been?” little Tommy cried out as he spied the presents.
“I told you he would find you wherever you are,”
“There’s a present for everyone here; Big Tom, Larry, Nathan, you, and everyone,” he gushed excitedly going from one side of the huge tree to the other.
“Well you are going to have to wait just a while longer, we’re going to have breakfast first before we open presents,” I told him and heard a few of the young children groan. I caught my brothers’ eye and he frowned at me so I laughed. I herded them all into the canteen and got them settled down; Luca and Simon had been up for an hour or so already making a rather nice cooked breakfast.
“So what do you think Santa has bought you?” I grinned at Tobi.
“Hopefully something I can fire at you, you goon,”
“Your brother is so mean,” I pretended to pout, “at least my brother is a little sweetie,”
“Since when have you ever called me sweet? You must be after something,” Matty replied with a mouthful of bacon. Mac laughed at me while she delicately ate her own breakfast. I looked over to Kelly catching her eye and saw her blushing, the younger kids were almost rocking from side to side eager to get to the presents.
“If you do not settle down and eat nicely, I’ll make you wait until this evening to have the presents,” I told them loudly and they immediately settled down. Kelly gave me a nod of thanks and then looked down at her plate.
“What’s that all about?” Mac turned back to look at me.
“What’s what all about?” I asked her innocently.
“Kelly is blushing and doesn’t seem to want to make eye contact, did something happen last night?” she asked with a smirk.
“No, last week when I put Tommy to bed she come onto me and has been a bit embarrassed ever since,”
“She came on to you?” Tobi all but growled and then winced. I could hazard a guess that Mac had just kicked him under the table.
“Don’t get jealous now, honey,” I said jokingly and fluttered my eyelashes at him.
“Lexi has a girlfriend,” Matty chanted, behaving like the little kid he is.
“What about you? Don’t think I haven’t seen you trying to cosy up to little Izzy,”
“She’s too old for me,” he spluttered and his voice went up a few octaves.
“Well you seem to be hanging around her a lot,” I pointed out trying to embarrass him further. Tobi was outright laughing at the poor boy and Mac was trying to suppress her laughter.
“That’s because we’re friends,”
“Let’s see shall we, hey Izzy can I borrow you for a moment?” Matty flushed bright red and Mac’s eyes widened at my ultimate humiliation.
“Yeah, what can I do for you?” she asked coming over, looking from Matty to Mac and then me.
“I was wondering….” I paused for a moment as though thinking, “If you would be willing to inventorise the weapons in the two armouries,”
“I wouldn’t have to touch them, would I?” she screwed her nose up in disgust.
“Not a fan of weapons?”
“No, pen and paper are my forte, I love lists,”
“Well, you won’t have to touch them just help catalogue what we have and how many,”
“That’s cool,” she replied and moved back over to her seat.
“You are so evil!” Mac laughed at my brother’s face, which was now bright red.
“I know, but someone has to keep him on his toes,” I replied, joining in the laughter. We finished our breakfast in comfortable silence, and then I took the plates cleaning them up. When I returned there was no one left in the canteen, instead I followed the laughter and chatter out to the tree.
“Can we open our presents now, please?” Tommy stood in front of me with his eyes wide and looking like a puppy dog. I laughed out loud at him and gestured forward.
“Yes,” I put on fake exasperation, but Tommy embraced me around the middle and ran over to the tree. It seems he would be our first official present sorter. Everyone found a seat, be it on an actual seat, an arm of a seat or just the floor. Tommy went around checking the names and then would put the box in front of the person named. I was right; there were three boxes, generally a larger one and two smaller one.
After five minutes everyone had been sorted and Tommy had settled into place, the opening of the presents begun. Wrapping paper was going here, there and everywhere as the younger kids ripped into the presents. Looking over at Mac I saw her delicately taking the paper off and folding it up neatly. I decided on the big present first and followed Mac’s example, gently removing the paper without damaging it too much. I peeled away the silvery wrapping to reveal a box; it was a Gamestation HS, a handheld gaming device. They were not due to come out until next year. I put it aside and looked at the other two, one was a book on conspiracy theories and the other was several games for the HS.
“Oh wow!” I looked up as Tommy exclaimed, he had a large box on the floor with what appeared to be some kind of dinosaur. It looked big and remote controlled. I looked around at the others and Larry seemed to have a file of books that he was looking on with disgust.
“Something not to your liking?”
“Well I don’t generally read a lot,” he looked at me, then sneered “These are more for the fairies like you and Tobi,”
“You can get a lot of knowledge from books,” I sniggered, he was better but he still had his bouts of bullying.
“Well someone got my gifts wrong,” He pouted and turned away from me, so I looked over to Tobi, whose face had just lit up. He had just unwrapped a long thin box. Turns out it was a baseball bat. I watched with delight as he proceeded to unwrap the rest of his gifts, which included a baseball mitt and a book about baseball. It seems everyone had got a book of some sort.
“Since when have you liked baseball?” I frowned; sure I would have known if my best friend liked the American sport.
“Where have you been the last six months?” Mac looked at me incredulously, “He’s been obsessed with the sport for about three months, stays up to watch it on TV,”
“I support the Arizona Diamondbacks, they won the league three years in a row,” he enthused. Where have I been for the past three months?
“He was going to try for the little league next year.” I looked up at Mac to see she had what appeared to be old circuit boards in her hand.
“What’s little league?” I asked confused, I knew about baseball but not a lot.
“In the US they have a kids version of the baseball league for 4-16 year-olds, in the UK we have Coach, minor, major and senior leagues,” Tobi explained, “They usually have games between April and June, so I was going to hopefully play in the Majors next year, the under thirteens,”
“So have you been practising a lot?” I asked him curiously.
“I get fed up of him talking about it, if it’s not the incessant chatter about computers it’s about baseball,” Mac moaned, looking like she was going to pull her hair out.
“So geeky and sporty, that’s a bit of a combination,” I joked with a massive grin on my face.
“I’m not a geek, you are; Mr I-Believe-In-Aliens,” he shot back.
“You’re going there?” I asked challenging him. He stood up and looked at me, his eyes lit up with mischief. He stepped over and slowly made his way so he was in front of me, challenging me. The others all looked up from their presents to see what was happening.
“You. Are. A. Geek.” He punctuated each word with a poke to my chest. I gave him a casual grin and suddenly, he didn’t look so sure of himself. He went to step back, but I was too quick for him and grabbed him.
“I think this one needs to be taught a lesson,” I told the others and immediately set to tickling him until he had tears running down his face, begging for mercy, “Are you sorry?”
“Please let me go, I’ll be your servant forever,” He begged so I moved away as the others giggled at him.
“Because I am your benevolent Master, I will let you go,” I told him and stood up looking at everyone. All the kids were now playing with their toys so I told Tobi, “I reckon everyone is just about done, so maybe we can go down to the arcade and watch a film,”
“Can we watch a Disney classic?” He asked excitedly.
“You are such a child sometimes,” I told him as I laughed.
“Right then Matty and I have a bit of a Christmas tradition, after we’ve opened our presents we watch a film so we’re going to watch a Disney classic,” I gave Tobi a look as I got a cheer from some of the younger ones, “But first let’s get cleared up and then we can go down the Entertainment room,”
Nothing but moans when they heard that, but Mac cajoled and bullied them into clearing up. With everyone helping it took less than half an hour. Many of them grabbed their toys and presents to take with them. I made sure I had a radio clipped to my belt and followed the larger group down when I felt a hand on my arm. I looked at Noah and slowed down a bit. I stopped in the doorway and then I noticed Noah was looking up. I followed his gaze and found myself under some mistletoe. We looked at each other and I knew I would have to take the initiative.
I stepped forward and touched his arms, then closed my eyes as I lowered my face and our mouths met. First, it was tentative, but then his arms encircled mine and he pulled me closer. After a few moments, he stepped back.
“Erm, that’s not what I wanted, but, that was erm nice,” He was breathing heavy.
“I enjoyed it too,” I admitted, noticing his stud in his ear was sparkling with the stair lights.
“I didn’t know you were gay,” He said as we started going down the stairs.
“Not many people do, so what’s up?”
“I had an idea for when we go out,” he said.
“Really? What’s that then?” I asked, thinking his dad’s background might help us a little.
“I think those that are going out need to be trained on silent weapons, not guns,” I looked at him like he was crazy.
“We’ll have no proper defence!”
“We will, but think of this way. None of us has had real training on guns, we’re not Americans. I know you’ve had a little experience with handguns, but you know our laws regarding weapons,”
“I know, I still don’t like the fact we have to have a bright orange muzzle on my airsoft gun and the laws have been in force for nearly two decades,” I moaned.
“Once they started cracking down on guns, it was going to be hard,” Noah soothed, “So to have any experience on handguns is amazing.”
“So what are you suggesting?” I asked curiously.
“Well I told you in the meeting, I think if there are bows and knives, maybe spears if we can find them they’ll work best,” he suggested, “We don’t want to give ourselves away with guns now,”
“Do you think it’s worth you and I have a rifle?” I asked curiously, wanting to know his opinion.
“You’re in charge here, so that’s your decision but maybe it’s worth some of us having firepower,” Noah thought about it, “Most Brit’s won’t have heard guns and it can be a scary deterrent,”
“Bows it is,” I grinned at him, “We’re gonna go medieval,”
“Have we got any bows?” he asked.
“I think there were one or two bows in the armoury, let’s go take a look,” I suggested and pulled my radio out, “Mac, are you there?”
“Where are you?” She asked, with a tone of puzzlement in her voice.
“I’m just taking Noah down to the armoury, get the film set up and we will back soon,” I told her.
“No problem, see you in a bit,” I quickly took him down the steps until we reached the first floor, both of us discussing ideas about going outside when we entered the first floor. He followed me through the storeroom and I opened the Armoury door for him.
“Wow, we could arm a small army with this,” He remarked looking around the large room.
“Funny you should say that I’ve heard that from others,” I laughed as he took a look at guns he would never have seen in real life, “Do you think it’s better for us to use quieter weapons?”
“As I said earlier, we’re not yanks, we don’t get trained on guns from a young age and it’s certainly harder than it looks,”
“I have not mentioned it to the others, but there are things out there,” I told tentatively.
“What do you mean things?” he turned to look at me.
“Well, I’m not sure if you were told but I was attacked by this guy who was psychotic while on the camp trip, apparently people are turning into Zombies, the government think it’s a virus released by the Aliens,”
“Zombies don’t exist,” he scoffed.
“But then we did not believe aliens existed, but here we are stuck underneath a mountain waiting out an attack of epic proportions,” I returned.
“I think silent weapons are still the way to go,” he concluded and walked over to the five bows we have on the wall, “Even better as they won’t draw in these ‘zombies’,”
“I see what you mean, so now I need to put together a recon team,” I spoke pacing up and down, “You and I will go out on one team to search for food, but we need to gather some horses so Larry needs to go out,”
“You need to keep Mac and Nate here at least, to secure the base,”
“I agree, what about taking Tom out?” I asked his opinion.
“Well he’s the only decent engineer here so it might be worth keeping him behind, what about sending Amanda out with Larry?” He gave me a sidelong look as I locked the doors to the armoury and started making our way back upstairs.
“While Larry has got better, Amanda seems to be causing problems still,” I told him, not letting him know I suspect her of being our saboteur.
“Well she’s probably the best option, I heard she was a pretty good runner and is good at orienteering,” he replied lightly, I looked at him with interest. I wonder where he had heard that I’ve read it in her file but he had not been at the school long enough to know them yet.
“Sounds like a plan anyhow, we’ll start looking at training people after the New Year,” I suggested as we got to the Arcade, “I’ve just got to go grab some things from my apartment, but I’ll catch up with everyone shortly,”
“Cool,” Noah pushed through the door to the Arcade and I continued upstairs lost in my own thoughts. I had just turned the corner onto a flat bit when I found someone lying face down on the stairs. Blood seemed to be pooled around near the head, shocked I ran over and tried to feel the pulse like I saw in the old movies. There was a shallow rhythm, but my hands now were slippery from blood and his red hair was matted and dark with blood. I scrambled backwards from Nathan and fumbled for my radio.