Everyone had thought the virus would be the thing that would wipe out mankind. Besides, it did kill millions of people and bring the whole world to almost a stand-still. That was why it was needed so badly. The vaccine, that is. Everyone was asking for it. Begging, even. That way, they could control the virus and everyone could go back to work. They didn’t expect this to happen. You’re probably wondering what ‘this’ is. Due to the fact that so many people needed the vaccine, the government must have put too much pressure on scientists because they made some pretty big errors. It was later revealed that they cut corners when it came to safeguarding the vaccine and making sure it was safe for the entire population. For starters, they skipped the drug trials and went straight to injecting it into the masses. Then they used fraudulent research to argue that they had, in fact, did test the product. But everyone knew that was a lie. I’m sure they meant it with well intentions. They probably thought that the worst that would happen to someone was that they would get sick with the virus that the vaccine was meant to protect against. No, that’s not just what happened. No one knows why but the vaccine caused mutations in the brain that caused what you would refer to them as a ‘zombie’. Pretty dramatic, I know.
All of the people who weren’t affected by the vaccine were called ‘the immune’ and were moved into a specific area called ‘the safe zone’. Basically, this kept out all unwanted forces and made sure that who was left was safe. The job of keeping zombies out of the safe zone was down to ‘the protectors’; a group of young volunteers that create a ring around the area and fight off the zombies. Many of them join up on their 18th birthdays and die before their 19th. A lot of parents are hesitant to allow their children to join such a dangerous mission but they know it is vital for everyone’s survival. The training is gruelling and many recruits die before they even make it out of the academy.
So, I guess that brings us up to the main plot of this story; the training. Let me paint the picture for you; it was a bright sunny day, there was birds tweeting and a friendly cockerel singing its morning song. Actually, that’s a lie. The safe zone was under an airtight dome that was designed to protect against the deadly virus that was carried in the air. Because of this, no sun light got in and the only way none of us got rickets or scurvy was because of the UV lamps they put everywhere. So, I guess, it’s a dark and grey day much like any other in this day and age. Also, there’s no peaceful birds or friendly cockerel in this snow globe hellhole. But these are the finer details we don’t need to focus on. We should be focussing on our main characters of this post-apocalyptic masterpiece. Lydia; your typical teenage girl, she loves any thing pink or sparkly. Now I know what you’re probably thinking; why on earth would she sign up for something like this? Two words; a boy. James ; said ‘boy’ in question, a poetic soul who only signed up to protect those he loves from those he fears most. Beth; what you expect your post-apocalyptic heroine to be; tough, strong, brave and certainly no pink or sparkles or glitter in sight. I would go off and list everyone who would make an appearance in this story but there’s too many to name and you’re probably bored already so I’ll just get on with it.
“I can’t believe someone like you would even sign up for this.” Beth remarked towards Lydia, eyeing her up judgingly.
“Nor can I.” Lydia squealed in excitement. I don’t think she really understands what she’s signed up to yet. This display of emotion caused Beth to let out a loud scoff to portray her disapproval. The first thing that they had to do when they signed up for training is to shave their heads. This was a very important rule of the protectors; all soldiers, whether male or female, must have their hair bald as to avoid distraction on the field and to also avoid vanity and disobedience. Lydia was proud of her hair. Besides, she has spent years growing it and was happy with the blonde locks that almost reached her hips. That was why, when they pulled out the clippers, she let out a loud sob. When she felt her prized possession fall lifelessly to the floor, her sobs grew louder and more pained with every stroke of the clippers taking off more and more hair. When they were done, she was handed a mirror. She couldn’t recognise herself; she looked like a soldier. She wasn’t sure whether she liked this new look or not but it wasn’t like she had a choice. James was also someone who prided himself on having nice hair. However, unlike Lydia, he wasn’t a sobbing mess and held himself with dignity. Beth, already having a shaved head, got to skip out on this task and went straight to the training ring.
Training is gruelling. Well it has to be, what they’re going up against is a very real and a very dangerous threat.
“I don’t think I can do anymore.” Lydia could barely speak for her lungs were burning. The group had just had to run the entirety of the safe zone. Beth ran alongside the girly girl, judging her lack of stamina for this run. James was separated from his friends and was put into the male’s group who had to run farther, if you can believe that’s possible. Not many people finish the run. Those who fail get asked to leave the academy. It was a simple system; there was 5 activities, if you were unable to complete a task, you didn’t make it on to the next task. It may seem harsh but it was important for people’s survival. These zombies aren’t like the ones you see on TV, they’re stronger and faster. Hell, they’re even stronger and faster than the average human. The entire run took almost the entirety of the day for even the fastest runners. At sundown was when Beth had finished. She prided herself on her fast running and immense stamina so it was obvious that she would be the one to finish first out of the women. She was shocked, however, to see Lydia stumble to the finish line 45 minutes later.
“Wow, I didn’t think you had it in you. I’m impressed.” Beth chuckled as she watched the feminine girl crumble to the ground in exhaustion. I think we’re all surprised that Lydia managed to complete the run. I mean, she hasn’t done a day of exercise since gym class in high school. But alas, she did it and she moves onto the next round.
This was how it was for the rest of the training; Beth manages to complete each of the activities with ease due to preparing for this for her entire life and Lydia barely scraping by and surprising everyone with her uncharacteristic determination and willpower.
“You must really like this boy.” Beth joked before they started the third task. Lydia didn’t reply, she was too busy preparing herself for the next task; a mental skill test. Yep, that’s right, friend. It’s a written exam. I think we all would prefer to fight off robotic zombie simulation than sit a GCSE maths paper. Well, I know I would. This was something Lydia knew she had in the bag and had an advantage over Beth on. Beth spent her whole life training for the physical portion of t test. While Lydia on the other hand, was academically very skilled. She’s like a post-apocalyptic Elle Woods. So, in this scenario, it was Lydia to breeze her way through and Beth to scrape her way through by the skin of her teeth. Oh, how the turn tables.
The rest of the training is fairly the same; Beth excelling in the physical portions and Lydia excelling in the mental portions. The next notable part of this story is their graduation from the academy. Amazingly, and much to my surprise, all three of our main characters made it through the training. Who would have guessed the characters that we’re following in this story made it? Anyway, the graduation is a hugely prestigious honour for not only those who are graduation but that person’s family also. It’s likely the last time that they get to see that person as they’ll probably be ripped apart by zombies within a week. Don’t look at me like that, that’s what normally happens. Lydia’s family didn’t show up as they didn’t approve of her joining The Protectors and haven’t spoken to her since. While she did feel disappointed as this obvious display of abandonment, she wasn’t surprised. What’s the good ol’ saying? Disappointed, but not surprised. Anyway, that happened. They ate and drank the finest food they could find. Good thing too because its probably going to be the last good meal they get to eat. They had a merry little sing-song and a bit of a boogie. Good thing too because it’s probably going to be the last bit of fun they’re going to have.
Now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for; our fully-trained soldiers fighting some zombies. Can someone say ‘squad goals’? No? Ok then. No amount of training can prepare them completely for what they are about to face. Zombies don’t look like how you expect them to. They’re not half decayed or rotting. In fact, they look rather normal. They act rather normal at times, too. That’s why so many people die doing this job. Not because the zombies are stronger or faster than them but because they are greeted with the face of a small child, crying because she lost her teddy bear or an old man, hobbling around looking for a newspaper. They looked and spoke like normal people. Except they weren’t, they were prone to extreme violence and could and would rip you limb from limb if you turned your back on them for too long. The bus journey to the outside was tense, no one saying anything, no one knowing what to say even if they did want to fill the fearful silence. When they got out, the sun was blinding. None of these kids had seen genuine sunlight. Already a week spot.
“It’s beautiful.” Lydia exclaimed, pointing to the lush greenery and the small fluffy animals. She felt herself tear up a bit at the sight and clung onto James’ arm to stabilise herself, she never expected to be presented with such beauty. James’ also was amazed, gasping in awe and wrapping his arms around the small girl. This gentle moment of tranquillity was cut short when they saw the first group of zombies approaching. They were dressed like tourists and were asking for directions on how to get into the safe zone. When one of the soldiers went to deliver directions to a confused old lady, she pulled his head clean off his neck in one savage pull, his body falling lifelessly to the ground. Reality dawned on the group then. They finally realised what they were in for. James’ untangled his arms from around Lydia, gently kissing her forehead as a good luck and, more likely than not, a sorrowful farewell before pulling out a gun and running towards a group of them. I don’t know what his plan was but it was obvious that he failed when each of the four zombies grabbed one of his limbs and pulled, effortlessly ripping the limb from his body. He fell to the ground screaming. He was still alive, thank goodness, but he wouldn’t be for long unless someone helped him. Then again, I don’t think it’s possible to help him. I mean, all of his limbs are somewhere in the woods about three miles from where they were. It would have made more sense for everyone to just leave him be and focus on keeping themselves safe but there was no telling that to Lydia who was already taking off towards her fallen lover, shooting everything in her path.
“What can I do?” Lydia asked, her voice was shaky, she didn’t know if it was possible to save him but if she could, then she would.
“You can’t, sweetheart, I’m done for.” James’ voice was weak, he was bleeding out. He didn’t have much time left.
“No, you cant be.” Her soft sniffles broke the dying boy’s heart, he didn’t want the last memory of him to be sad.
“Hey, none of that now, come on.” If he still had his arms, he would have wiped the tears from her face but he couldn’t. That was all he was able to say before his words faded out into nothing. In the end, no amount of training can prepare you for what happens out here.