Mods versus Rockers
By Greg Gwyther
The second story in an Undead Trilogy.
Mods versus Rockers versus… Zombies!!
Saturday 9th October. Morning.
Lily Chamberlain beamed widely at the young man with the heavenly eyes. She couldn’t believe it! This Ace Face, the singer from her favourite group was chatting her up. He was just so smooth, from his mad blonde barnet down to his zoot suit.
‘But I do have a boyfriend, Roger – he sings too: George…although I want to hold your hand!’
‘I don’t mind other guys dancing with my girl.’
‘Really?’ she said.
He continued, ‘that’s fine ‘cos I know them all pretty well.’
They both stood and moved to the dancefloor, but in the crowd she lost him. Lily knew she had to find him anyway, anyhow, anywhere he could be. Her friends were all there dancing and the music was getting louder and unbelievably, she saw that just ahead of her stood her Mum and Dad! But they were… young. Her Mum looked like she did in the old photos and her Dad was in his smart RAF uniform. Smiling at her he said:
‘Do you know this geezer, Lily?’
A Face in the crowd: It was Roger with those eyes! But his hair? It was long and curly like a girl’s or rather a cavalier in a painting. He wasn’t wearing a shirt or jacket, just this… top thingy with tassles all over it, like a cowboy or an Indian, showing his bare chest and torso.
She smiled and he smiled back, winked at her and raised his hand and made the ‘V for Victory’ sign, like Churchill had.
Lily tried to walk over to him, but her feet were stuck in mud, she saw, glancing down and then the music reached a crescendo that there was no set steps for. Her eyes snapped open. It was a bus going past in the road. A dream. A bloody strange dream! Wake up, girl, it’s Saturday! Busy day!
Just over an hour later Lily was at the bus stop a few doors down from her house. Nice fried breakfast courtesy of Mum, big hug and ‘take care, princess’ from her Dad. She tousled her younger brother’s hair on the way out and he jokingly went to do the same to her – their childhood game. Her forefinger (with white nailpaint) raised, her mock glare, shaking her head, eyes wide until they both giggled and stuck their tongues out at each other.
Well, if she was a princess she didn’t fit into any fairytale image of one. Her hair was jet black and in a huge lacquered bouffant with a fringe, her make up bold and her clothes… well, she said fitted, her Mum and Aunty Betty said tight. Her skirt was short although her white leather mac was longer. Lily Chamberlain was nineteen and a Mod.
‘That’s what they call us,’ she thought, ‘Mods, ‘cos we’re modern and sharp. We’re right now. We’ve got lovely clothes, great music and we’re enjoying all that freedom our parents fought for – yeah! Not a princess; I work hard for my money in that office. Typing, filing… dictation, telephones, sorting the mail. Dodging wandering hands.’ Nonetheless here came her knight in shining armour on his trusty steed. Not George, the dreamy scouse fella from The Beatles, although they didn’t look dissimilar. Her George was more cockney, in a dapper Italian suit and his large American army surplus parka coat, pulling up to her astride a beautiful electric blue Lambretta Scooter; tastefully adorned with front lamps and mirrors and a rear ariel flying a pennant of – the cross of St George, what else? Smiling, he quipped:
‘Hop on ducky – room for one on top!’
She gave him a kiss, after-shave smell lingering and fixed her small travel bag on a rack with elasticated grips. He was a nice fella this one, not all rough and ready and stinking of fags and booze, although he liked a sup of a weekend and was quite a charmer.
They’d had it off a few times. (Lor! Don’t let Mum and Dad know, even if it is 1965!)
He was… yeah… nice.
They sped off through the early October suburban streets. It wasn’t great weather being wintry and overcast, but it was dry and folks were about. They turned heads, returned waves, smiling. They were heading south crossing the Thames to meet up with the others and Jenny was bringing some grub. Probably Brenda would have some cakes seeing as she worked in Lyons. That’s us, thought Lily: Mods! Always zipping along – we have lunch on the go! Who needs pills? We’re riding on the best uppers in town: youth and freedom.
‘Course, a speedy blue scooter helps!
The English Channel was an extremely busy waterway and seafarers navigated it with care and precision at any time and showed extra concentration and caution when there was low visibility, as there was at present; which was why Sid Newman couldn’t quite believe that he was seeing the tanker looming out of the fog, obviously off course and about to collide with Verity on whose bow he stood.
‘Hard to Port!’ he bellowed to the helmsman.
The lugger was small and responded fast, it cut a tight arc and he saw the larger vessel glide by with only a few feet to spare, ploughing on totally out of control. He climbed to the cramped bridge. The captain was ordering a crewman to radio the English and French coastguard. He turned to Newman:
‘Did you get a look – see owt?’
‘Lights on, no crew, sir. Name of Dodo, and stern says she’s out of Lisbon.’
The captain decided to board as there was a hazard to shipping – the crew must be incapacitated and need help. Dodo was long, but low and Verity pulled alongside; Sid found himself easily able to join his two crewmates leaping aboard.
A disgusting, nausea-inducing stench hit them as they approached the first of four storage tanks. A pool of foul, thick, red bubbling liquid had formed at its base.
‘It’s leaking,’ observed a crewman, ‘faulty valve look.’
Sid backed away.
‘Must be toxic – some sort of industrial waste residue they’re transporting…Fuck! Don’t go near it – maybe the crew came into contact with it and are ill.’
‘What all of them? Including the engine room boys?’ queried the other.
They found no one on the bridge and could get no response from the engine room to halt the ship. So Sid and another crewman headed for the engine room. As they neared the connecting door, a shape sprang at Sid – a man, but with horribly greyish skin, bulging blank eyes and gnashing teeth, which bit into his mate’s hand as he instinctively moved to block the lunge. He shreiked and swore as the unbelievably powerful jaws tore two of his fingers off…
Sid was momentarily frozen – the one thing they hadn’t expected was to be attacked! His mate fell and the apparition swung its head in his direction, blood and gristle dribbling from its maw.
Some Mods & Some Rockers.
On the outskirts of London George pulled into a Shell garage to fill up. There was a small café adjacent to it.
‘Grab us some tea, eh Lily?’
Lily noticed two bikes amongst the cars and caravans that were parked. Not scooters, motorcycles. Big black and red machines.
‘Velocet,’ she mouthed.
Now, her uncle Len used to ride one of them…those…all wrapped up in Dad’s RAF flying jacket, with goggles on, too, she just about remembered.
As the café proprietor brewed up tow mugs of tea Lily saw in the mirrored tiles that behind her, seated at a table, was a lad about her age: swept back brownish hair, peering over his own raised mug straight at her bottom. Another came out of the loo and she clocked his gear: Black riding leathers, a white scarf, toothy grin. She heard them mumbling between themselves and saw a hand come out to pinch her bum. Lily whirled round and the lad froze – caught in mid reach. He blushed, staring at her. She raised her forefinger and glared, shaking her head. Little boys. The new arrival raised his hands in mock surrender and spoke:
‘Blame me, luv. Ricky ‘ere does whatever I suggest.’
Quick as a flash she replied,
‘Suggest to ‘Ricky ‘ere’ that he keeps his bleedin’ hands to himself.’
Giving the merest hint of a twitch of a smile, Lily poked her tongue out and walked off.
Seconds later she turned back to pick up her teas from the counter. The two lads exploded with laughter and went back to their chatter.
George sipped his tea and queried her slight smile.
‘Just an episode with some friendly natives – all jaw jaw, no war war!’
George put his arm around her, guessing.
‘You got to watch yourself, Lily. I know you’re a brain box with all yer O Levels, but you’re a right looker, too. You could be a model with that… er…them…I mean…’
‘Thank you Georgie. I haven’t forgotten. I’ve got the money saved up and I’ll get my pictures done and sent off next month.’
‘Get me a set eh?’
‘You’ve seen more than I’ll be showing! It’s fashion I want to do – classy stuff.’
‘Next stop Paris or Milan? Actually, next stop five miles down the road, meeting everyone else. Let’s move it.’
Sid Newman kicked the attacker in the stomach and it staggered back into the engine room. He swung the heavy metal door at it, thanking god it opened outwards from the engine room. It connected with the thing’s head and it dropped. He had no time to think – he could hear running feet from inside and a low growling. He stooped to help his crewmate and half carried him up the deck.
‘Christ!’ said the other crewman.
‘Run! Get back over! They’re after us! They’re coming!’
They got to the rail then saw the concerned, then horrified faces of the Verity crewmen – as they saw first the state of the injured man and then the pursuers emerging from below deck – lurching and staggering, clawing ahead. Just as they were about to jump back over, the injured crewman raised his slumped head and gave an unnatural growl as he bit into Newman’s cheek – now he screamed and punched the man full in the face and he toppled backwards over the rail into the sea.
There was a lot of laughter on the grass verge by the roundabout where Jack’s van was parked. The big blue Bedford’s doors were all open and the tranny was blaring out. First, She Loves You then Hard Day’s Night. The Mods danced to U.S. Soul and R‘n’B but live groups were great too. They’d all been to see a new one: The Who, last month in town. Another favourite, Satisfaction, came on and Jenny and Declan were dancing together whilst Vic and George were clowning around pretending to be Jagger. Then: ‘Hey, hey, you, you, get offa my cloud!’ then back to the Fab Four I Feel Fine. And they did.
Brenda popped the last of the little cakes into her mouth, stood up, pulling her shortish hound’s tooth skirt down, pointing.
‘Here comes Belle!’
A pure white Vespa scooter halted, the rider dismounted and bumped it onto the verge alongside the others.
‘Ok, we can get a move on now that Belle’s turned up,’ said Jack climbing into his van.
‘Give us a minute then!’ said the rider.
Belinda Clarke pulled her peaked cream crash helmet off revealing her hennaed bob. She opened a satchel she had attached to the scooter’s seat behind her and produced a tartan Timothy White’s thermos flask. She drank some tea and smiled at her friends.
‘Mum insisted I took this. Glad she did, too.’
Last summer she’d ridden down to the coast on the Bank Holiday weekend and dazzled one and all with her sharp white clobber and Ace Face dancing, so they’d nicknamed her ‘Brighton Belle’.
‘Is that ‘cos you go like a train, then?!’ a suitor had enquired, who ended up with his pint over his head.
But they were all eager to go. George and Lily lead off, Belle fell in behind them, Declan on his own pillarbox red Lambretta after her, then the van with Jack driving, Brenda and Jenny beside him. Vic was in the back with the gear. In more ways than one.
Jack’s van held a drumkit, guitar cases, a public address system and black amplifiers.
The Expressos were on the road!
George sang, Jack was on bass, Declan on guitar, his Irish brogue coming out when he sang back-up, and thicker when he announced songs he’d written. Vic was drummer but no one knew he kept allsorts in his bass drum; and they weren’t liquorice…
They also had travelling bags stowed in there and some crates of beer. Jack had painted TARDIS on the driver’s door of the blue van, in white, for his own good reasons.
In the front, Jenny linked arms with the slightly plump Brenda, saying
‘This is a right laugh, isn’t it? We had to do something seeing as we didn’t go to Brighton this year.’
‘Well, where we’re off to might not be Brighton in August, but it’s the seaside and we’re going to be playing – thanks to me uncle Ernest letting us onto the pier,’ he chuckled.
Brenda said, ‘So he’s the caretaker and he’s got all the keys for you to pick up. We can have a party, play for the locals. The kids are alright down there, too, you said?’
‘Yep,’ said Jack, ‘I mean, Brighton’s so cool, but we don’t want to be around any trouble, do we? You saw the papers: it’s motorcycle gangs going there too and the place is crawling with coppers.’
‘Well I’m not scared of any of them,’ said Brenda, opening a bag of mint humbugs, ‘but me dad and mum took us all off on this family holiday to Spain. Scorching it was – lovely. The Spanish are a bit like the Eyeties. Lots of nice grub and booze.’
Jenny pointed ahead to George turning off to the coast road.
‘We should be there by, say, four o’clock,’ said Jack.
Jenny started singing Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside and the others joined in.
The creature that had been Sid Newman was insanely scrabbling at the small door trying to get onto the bridge of the Verity which was moving at its top speed towards the southern coast of England. The horror of it was that he’d known he was becoming something else; felt it invading his body, creeping death coursing through his veins. Now all it knew was that it had to get at the meat in the small room in front of it.
The attackers from the Dodo had flung themselves after the escaping Verity men; some carouselling into the sea as the two ships parted, too slowly. A few landed on the deck and tore into the confused crew. Only the captain and two engineers had moved fast enough, he locking himself on the bridge, they in the engine room. Now they were desperate to reach land and the authorities, their original course abandoned. Unable to use the radio in a separate cubicle, the captain was heading for the nearest place he could find.
Edward Hall was doing his hair. Sitting astride his beloved BSA 750, combing back his Brylcreemed quiff, which he wore longer at the back and neatly trimmed sideburns: checking it in the motorcycle’s Iron Cross mirrors. His black leather riding jacket was draped across the petrol tank, his booted feet rested on chrome exhausts. He glanced up as Fiona sauntered over from the other bikes further up the layby and the way she moved in her own snug leathers meant he had to shift position slightly – Fiona was a doll – his squeeze. The girl was twenty with long platinum blonde hair hanging freely down her back and wore heavy make up and she carried two bottles of Double Diamond beer.
‘Here you go, Eddie, down the hatch, then we can be off. Can’t wait for a paddle!’
‘Sure, Baby, sure. Watch out I don’t carry you in and dunk you, even this time of year!’
Fiona knew he was strong enough to carry her and her pal Vera who was riding pillion with Catherine on this run. Solid muscle under that close-fitting white t-shirt, ‘cos he was on the building sites all day, so he got built up, too. Cor! Her Eddie – the leader of the pack – strong and not too silent although he went all pensive on occasions. Like now; glugging his ale and back to doing his hair. She wondered what he was thinking.
Eddie was thinking he’d actually done alright organising this run, making not going down to the coast in August seem not so bad. They’d all been last year and got chased here, there and everywhere by increasingly large herds of scooter riders. Those buggers just… swarmed…so many of them now. It suited Eddie to be in the minority, though. In a pack, yes, but a pack of loners. He knew they were carrying on the tradition of the original Teddy Boys; leather and boots replacing drapes and creepers – Rock ‘n’ Roll will never die. Mind you, Catherine had gone! But she was wild anyway. She wore her dark hair in two plaits and had her own Norton 500 and she could handle it as well. He didn’t think the Mods knew what to make of her, nobody did… but that didn’t stop the coppers hassling her endlessly. Yeah – Catherine ‘Wheels’ Williams – and there she was, pulling on her black helmet with a skull and crossbones on the side, matching the one on her leather jacket, ready to ride and ready to rock, like a suburban Apache in blue jeans! She gave him the thumbs up as Vera got on behind her also in denim and leather.
John and Ricky were revving up, chucking their beer bottles away, although they each had a couple of crates lashed to their saddles. Fiona mounted up behind Eddie, he pointed to a small slip-road and shouted above the engines,
‘It’s ten minutes down to the seaside – we’ll be there by three o’clock,’
He thought, the light’s already dimming, darker still because it was so overcast, better hurry it up. But then, they always did.
And the four powerful machines roared off.
Funny how it all works out ok, considered Eddie…
A few months ago, late spring, he was lazing on a Sunday afternoon at home, content after a good weekend pack run to Boxhill. There was some toff on the telly news blathering on about trouble at Margate with ‘uncontrolable youths’ and ‘little Caesars’. He sneered as he always did at uncomprehending squares, but his father got up from his armchair and stood over him in front of the droning tv set.
‘Eddie, were you planning on any seaside excursions for August Bank Holiday, then? You and your mates, Fiona?’
He looked up, ‘We went last year, so-‘
His father broke in, ‘You nearly got yerselves done over; Brenda at Lyons told me. Those Mod boys was it? In fact, you caught a black eye off one, not from an accident at work.’
‘Lucky punch! We ain’t running scared from those poncey bugg-‘
‘Not in front of your mother, Edward, please.’
Mrs Hall plonked a cup of tea and some biscuits down by her son and smoothed his hair, which he secretly still loved her to do.
She said, ‘You’re a good boy, Eddie – you work bloody hard. We know you love that motorbike and have fun with your friends. We want you to. But we don’t want you in trouble.’
His father continued, ‘It doesn’t mean you’re running or scared if you try to avoid trouble, son. Listen, instead of your big August Bank Holiday long weekend to Brighton, why don’t you all go on a few inland runs like Boxhill? Then we could fit in a long weekend at Billy Butlin’s, eh? Bit of snooker and darts for you and me – some slap up dinners for the three of us. Let those mugs scrap on the beaches if they want to, not my idea of fun – is it yours? What if Fiona got roughed up?’
Eddie grudgingly admitted his dad was thinking of what was for the best. He looked up.
‘Dad, if you’d been in the Diplomatic Corps instead of the Infantry, the bleed – the war would never have happened! But it is a laugh to ride to the beach…’
The young man immediately regretted the casual remarks. How could he forget his father had been twenty years of age; the same as him, when the tides of history had swept him and his mates towards the D-Day Landings and his mum had hidden, terrified, from Hitler’s bombs down the Underground before that? No, perhaps scrapping on beaches wasn’t much fun and discretion was the better part of valour. Mr Hall had continued:
‘Listen, Eddie, I know of a quiet little seaside town you can do a trip down to. Here, Vi, get our AA road atlas out, will you, love? I’ll show yer, son. I was stationed there throughout most of 1943 – they stuck me and one other bloke in this pill box on the front there, with rifles and bayonets and five rounds each – all ready to stop Adolf’s boys trying to invade!! But there was a good pub in the town as I remember, a pier, too, with a dancehall at the end of it. Although you couldn’t get on it in those days. We never saw any action there, thankfully, but we did all get drunk with the Home Guard after they’d put some Jerry parachutists in the bag.’
His eyes were seeing days gone by and he smiled.
Eddie was brought back to 1965:
Fiona laughed, ‘I’m gonna double your score on the shooting range easily – if it’s open!’ mounting up behind him. She could, too.
The Verity had left the fog behind but the light was dim now. Through the nightmarish forest of splayed arms and twisted faces that surrounded his small haven the Captain saw the small town hoving into view. It seemed to be set slightly back from the sea, a longish stretch of coast in front of it, with a pier and just around the headland a smaller cove which the vessel was heading for.
A few minutes later Verity ran aground in the cove its screw throwing up sand and stones. The figures on deck were momentarily flung forward, some dropping into the sea or catapulting onto the beach. The Captain threw the door open and tried to get ashore. He succeeded but was brought down. What used to be Newman had shot over the railing on impact – its legs had snapped, but as the man passed it powered across the beach using its arms and grabbed, biting, soon joined by others. They feasted and soon only bones and sinew remained. The things shambled aimlessly on the sandy shore until the thrumming engine cut out. Presently, a couple of motor cars climbed the modest incline into the town… heads turned at the sound and the pallid, bloodstained creatures moved in that direction, following.
The scooters and van pulled up in the glowering late afternoon at the gates to the pier. They briefly paused at a small cottage back along the coast road to collect the big bunch of keys left by Jack’s uncle Ernest as arranged between them on the telephone two weeks ago. Jack had explained:
‘He’s left them in a plastic bag, behind the gnomes on the rockery in the back garden.’
‘Don’t we get to meet him then?’ asked Jenny
‘He’s off on holiday in Majorca,’ said Jack, pronouncing the ‘J’ like in ‘jelly’.
Now here they were. The small concrete promenade on the seafront had a few beach huts, a café and a little pavilion where the deckchairs and windbreaks were stored- all locked up now, but with the keys they could all sleep in the beach huts later. Belle looked around and nudged Brenda,
‘Not much going on is there? We haven’t seen a living soul!’
Brenda replied, ‘but we haven’t been through the main town, so Jack’s going to take the van up along the High Street. He’s got some copied hand bills that Lily did in her office- look.’
She took a piece of A5 paper from her handbag and passed it to Belle, it proclaimed:
TONITE! LIVE! 8pm
At the Pier Grande Ballroom
Walmington on Sea
Playing all the hits and their own
Secretly, Belle thought that the chances of finding any life in the town were slimmer than Twiggy, but she tried to be ever the optimist.
‘Well done Lily! Good luck Jack!’
They turned to the gates and the pier beyond. It was long pier, several hundred yards but there wasn’t much to it. An elaborate Victorian structure which must be the Grande Ballroom, thought Declan. There were a few tarpaulin-covered shapes visible between the ballroom and the end of the pier. He said, ‘That’s fairground type things, sure enough.’
‘What the butler saw!’ laughed Jenny.
Only Vic was quiet – his hands shoved into his Parka pockets, frowning. Jack climbed into his van waving.
‘You lot start the party, I’ll be back later followed by the slavering horde!’
‘Eh?’ said George.
‘Our adoring fans, mate! Byee!’
He sped off.
‘He’s keen, isn’t he?’ said Brenda, popping a mint humbug into her mouth.
‘He’s off to see The Doctor,’ smiled Lily.
‘Which doctor?’ frowned Brenda, ‘what’s up with him then, Lily?’
‘No, Doctor Who. On Telly.’
‘The kids’ programme? He’s blinkin’ eighteen years old!’
Lily took George’s arm, laughing, ‘He loves it! Been watching it since he was sixteen. He told me when I took those handbills round to him last week. Said he had to find a the Radio Rentals shop with a goggle box on in the window by 5.15, ‘cos Doctor Who’s on and it’s the Daleks again and they’ve not been on since June. That’s what TARDIS means on his van – it’s the Doctor’s space ship. Or time machine, or something…’
Declan was shaking his head, Brenda giggling around the humbug. Lily continued:
‘Look, he’s not nutty, he’s happy! Happy Jack – that’s him, with space robots, not pills!’
George jangled the bunch of keys, ‘That’d make a good song title – look!!’ George exclaimed, pointing.
The iron gates to the pier were already slightly open; there was no padlock or chain. The little paying kiosk was shuttered. Belle shivered.
‘This place was supposed to be deserted for the winter. What if someone’s in there…tramps or… or…’
The girl shrieked as strong hands clasped her around the waist, pulling at her. She felt hot breath on her ear and teeth brushed her neck –
‘Or Count Dracula to be sure, me darlin’, ready to feast on your blood!’
Then laughter. She slapped Declan across the head as he howled like a wolf, searching for the moon through now scudding clouds.
‘You bloody… git! An Irish Dracula?!! Piss off! Right, come on, this pier’s long enough for a burn, let’s zip up there and arrive in style.’
George and Lily threw the gates wide and he revved the Lambretta as she climbed on. Belle took Jenny and Declan took Brenda.
‘I’ll walk,’ shrugged Vic.
The Lambretta’s and Vespa tore up the pier and went round and round in a tight circle, red, white and blue in the space just in front of the entrance to the Grande Ballroom as the boys whooped loudly. Once they’d stopped, the returning silence seemed deafening, strange…
George strode to the door with the keys then stopped.
‘It’s open too,’ he half-whispered.
‘It’s been forced, with a crowbar, probably’ offered Declan, crouching to see that the lock was broken, the surrounding wood shattered, ‘are we goin’ in, George?’ he peered up in the gloom at his friend, his voice low.
‘Unless you’re afraid of leprechauns, yes. Lily, can you chuck us the torch out of my bag?’
Jack Reed was living up to his nickname. He was happy. He’d found the small Radio Rentals shop just before it closed at 5pm. Parking the van, he’d asked the bloke inside if he could watch a programme – just the one – only on for about twenty, twenty-five minutes! ‘Please!’
‘Course you can, son,’ said the shopkeeper, who was very chatty and affable, ‘fancy a cup of tea and a digestive? What do you want to see? One lump or two?’
‘Doctor Who – my favourite – it’s on the BBC.’
‘Thought you’d be more into dances and parties. What’s it called nowadays, Beatlemania? Look at you – all dressed to kill. Meeting a girl are you?’
Jack smiled, ‘this is Dalekmania! Look that’s the right channel, it’s coming on! Thanks very much!’
The man had turned on and tuned in a Bush television set and popped to a room behind the counter. As he pottered about and the kettle went on the strange theme music filled the shop. Jack leaned on the counter like he was propping up the bar in some swish, trendy Mod spot, and saw:
Mission To The Unknown…
Written by Terry Nation…
Yes! Get in there!
Mods and … who…or what else?!
They’d found no switches as they entered the building and George and Declan crept in follwed by Lily, Belle, Brenda and Jenny who all held hands. It was pitch black except for the small circle of light from the torch picking out the way in. It smelt slightly musty. They got to the small box office – George froze! Faces! Looking out at them! Pressed up to the glass! Staring eyes wide!!
‘Who are you…who goes there?!’ he croaked, remembering war films.
‘It’s our reflections, you twit!’ growled Declan, ‘unless vampires have their hair done at Luigi’s and coloured and set at Madame Shirley’s!’
George swallowed hard and moved on.
‘Bloody hell - this door’s been forced too!’ he said, coming to the entrance to the ballroom itself. Jenny piped up:
‘We could go back… but what if they’re behind us? Then I’m first!’
‘What if who are behind us?’ hissed Brenda, crunching another humbug.
‘Vampires,’ said Declan.
Belle called to George:
‘Look, if you lot are actually going to play a concert I here tonight, we have to go in! If there are tramps in there we can shove ‘em out!’
George nodded and he noticed come beer bottles on the floor by the box office, left here from summer, he mused. He hefted one and passed another to Declan.
‘It’s empty,’ he complained.
‘It’s for a cudgel,’ grunted George and pushed one of the doors to enter the ballroom.
They crept into darkness, feeling the larger size of the space around them. George fumbled to his left for switches… nothing? He had an ominous feeling his hand would touch someone stood there. The light from the torch was lost except on the floor directly ahead. They all moved inside a few paces, slowly. Lily grabbed Declan’s hand, breathing-
‘I can hear something creaking!’
‘Yeah – the floorboards - it’s us!’
‘I can still hear it!’ she said.
It was true: there was a steady creaking sound ahead of them – something slithered – was that heavy breathing?! A low mumbling reached them – if it was words, they couldn’t be made out… then a metallic clinking noise from slightly ahead and above them.
‘Someone’s in here with us!’ groaned Jenny.
‘Or something!’ cried Brenda, then ‘For Christ’sake find the lightswitches!’
George’s torchbeam swept up across the floorboards towards the source of the noises – suddenly, horribly, it picked out the legs of a tall dark figure only yards away then illuminated a stark skull-like face, glaring!!
‘Shit!’ shouted George.
Someone started shouting then the six of them cannoned into each other as they stumbled back to the door and everything exploded into white light. George at first saw Brighton Belle with her hand on the lightswitches on the opposite side to where he’d felt for them. She was breathing quickly, her eyes squinting in the sudden glare. Then he realised that the others were looking past him at something behind him. He slowly turned.
On the raised stage at the other end of the longish dance floor, stood a broad shouldered, tough looking lad in black leathers. A heavy chain dangled from his right hand. Coming towards George from behind the stage and along the bar to his left were two more, similarly dressed. The one on the stage stepped down and swaggered towards George who now noticed that coming forward from behind the bar was a tallish girl with panda make-up and another strange looking girl with plaits, who wore a leather riding jacket covered with metal badges. Yet another girl was hovering still behind the bar. His eyes clicked back to the one with the chain as he spoke:
‘Who the fuck are you then? What are you doing here? We were here first. You can sling yer hook right now.’
He stopped right in front of George, but he didn’t step back – he started to speak but one of the others interrupted. He could smell beer on their breath.
‘Eddie – they ain’t the coppers. Look at ‘em.’
‘I reckon you’re right Johnny. Poncey Mods is what this lot are, an’ crowding in on us as usual!’ he sneered.
George gathered himself and felt Declan come to stand by his side, bristling. So he said:
‘You’re trespassing. My mate’s uncle’s the caretaker, and we’ve got the keys, so why don’t you sling yer own hook?’
The blonde girl had come to stand with the three lads, as had the one with the plaits. The blonde said quietly,
‘Eddie, we could ride into the town and go to the pub. I’ve got some money. How about I thrash you at pinball, eh?’
She smiled at him, but he was staring at George and Declan, reddening, tensing.
‘Look! They’ve come in here waving bottles about – ready to start something, just like in Brighton last year.’
Declan raised his voice, ‘Us start somethin’ fella? What’s that chain you have there for then?’
‘Crikey, a Mick as well – a Mick Mod huh? Listen, Paddy – this is not for starting something, it’s for finishing it! You wanna try something? Weve ridden a long way to have ourselves a rave-up – all pleasant like – away from flash buggers like you,’ he sneered at George and Declan’s smart suits under their Parka coats, ‘now you turn up – we heard your racket when you drove up, then you’re creeping about in here like the Law!’
Belle’s voice was strained but clear, ‘We found the gates and doors forced, we thought you were tramps or … or …’
‘Or vampires!’ said Brenda.
The blonde, Fiona, looked downwards quickly, grinning, but Lily saw her do so and stifled a nervous giggle. Her pulse was racing, she was rooted to the spot but she felt like when she’d been at Auntie Doris’s funeral last year: everyone so solemn and then the old vicar had accidentally let out a fart and the whole church burst out laughing as the tension broke. But now Eddie was speaking again:
‘So what? Yeah, I jemmied the gates open and Johnny booted the doors in. So you ain’t coppers and you don’t own this place – ‘
George cut him off, ‘We’re in a group. We’re playing a concert here tonight; we’ve got more people on the way – loads more so you’d better clear off now!’
Johnny turned to him, ‘A group? What group?’
‘We’re The Expressos.’
Johnny burst out laughing, ‘You can’t call a group after a bloody cup of coffee! Listen, me and Ricky ‘ere are in a group – a proper rock ‘n’ roll band. We’re The Thunderbolts.’
‘You can’t be calling a group after the bloody weather!’
And George shouted:
‘Yeah! And we’re playing here and you’re not! And you’re not welcome – we don’t want any greasy Rockers in here!’
His words hung in the air like the echo of a gunshot in a Western.
Eddie jabbed a finger onto George’s chest:
‘So who’s gonna sling us out? Huh?!’
George’s fingers tightened around the neck of the beer bottle, his nostrils flared.
‘I am,’ said the Face.
‘You and whose army, Flash ‘Arry? There’s me, Johnny and Ricky and only you and Val Doonican here. More of us for once.’
A voice rang out behind Eddie from the stage:
‘I reckon I even the odds a bit, don’t I toerag?’
It was Vic. He’d taken his Parka off at some point and stood there in Fred Perry and Levi’s. He gripped a broken wooden chair leg in his right hand, he was red-faced and sweating. He stepped down and stood by Fiona. Vera, the girl still behind the bar let out a gasp – the girl with the plaits spoke:
‘Oh Christ,’ said Catherine, ‘look, why don’t we all just cool it, eh? Enough’s enough.’
But Vic raised the chair leg swaying slightly.
‘Enough? I’m ready to get started right now. Are you with me?’ He glared at George and Declan, ‘Come on, we’re gonna beat these greaseballs right up. Right now.’
George stared at him.
Declan murmured, ‘he has shoved you, George – they can’t just push Ace Faces like you about, we haveta protect the girls too.’
George took a step towards Eddie…
Lily Chamberlain’s heart was pounding; her mouth was dry. She stared at the tableau: Jenny and Brenda were still clutching each other’s hands, Belle was frozen by the door, frowning, her mouth open. The girl behind the bar had backed right up, the one with the plaits stood her ground but looked miserable and scared at the same time. The three leather-jacketed tearaways were crowded together and now she recognised two of them as the jokers from the café earlier on, but no one was laughing now and that seemed years ago. Their leader, this Eddie, was pumping himself up for a rumble, swinging the chain. They were surrounded by the enraged Mods – Vic on the stage and George and Declan with their bottles.
Lily’s eyes drifted to the other Rocker girl. She also wore leathers but they looked somehow feminine on her – like a slinky second skin. Even in that moment Lily realised that she looked strangely stylish for all that her gear was practical. She’d not seemed rough, although confident; but Lily could not read the expression on her face now at all. Then she realised that the Rocker girl was looking straight at her and their eyes met and locked.
Lily Chamberlain suddenly walked past Declan and George, through the three bikers they faced and slipped between Vic and the blonde Rocker girl and said, in a continuous stream verging on babbling:
‘’Scuse me I hope you don’t mind me saying but I really like your make up it’s just like Cathy McGowan’s from Ready, Steady, Go! On the telly. Television.’
There was a heartbeat’s silence and everyone was looking at Lily. The other girl said:
‘Cathy McGowan? The Queen of the Mods? Yeah, thanks! She’s cool isn’t she? A real doll.’
Eddie stepped closer to Fiona.
‘What do you know about all that bloody poncey -’
She cut in, ‘I watch anything me Dad and Mum don’t like, Eddie – you know that. It’s rebellious.’
She glanced at Lily.
‘D’you want me to show you how I do it?’
‘Yes! Yeah! Yes please, I would – it’s cool, hep…happening … really nice. I’m Lily Chamberlain is your hair naturally that colour?’
‘Course it is,’ fibbed Fiona.
‘Ooh, you lucky cow! I dye mine – I’m a brunette usually, what’s your name?’
‘Fiona Barton. Come on then, Lily.’
They linked arms and Lily followed her off, white leather Mac and black leather jacket.
‘Where the f - where are you going, Fiona?’ called Eddie, and George took a step after him:
‘Yeah, what are you doing Lily?!’
She answered turning her head, eyes wide:
‘Just to do this make-up George! Back in two ticks, ok? Will you wait for me?’
‘Popping to the Ladies, George – girls’ talk. It’s a free country you know, isn’t that right, Eddie?! Tell you what, how about cracking me open another Double Diamond – see you in a mo’!’
They disappeared and all the others just stared after them in utter silence. Suddenly Brighton Belle declared:
‘Bloody hell, if there’s any more of those Double Diamond’s going I could murder one. How’s about it mate?’ she said to a dumbstruck Eddie, ‘please?’
In the Ladies toilet, in front of a dusty and cracked mirror, Fiona produced her make up from an inside jacket pocket and set to work on Lily; who was glad to be away from the crowd outside even if it was freezing in here and she spied spiders in the corners.
‘That bloke Eddie’s your fella then?’ she said, ‘Things were getting well… he was… is…wanting a scrap,’ she added hastily, ‘they all are. Lads can be like that.’
Fiona said: ‘But they won’t fight while we’re in here together, will they? You’re dead clever Lily Chamberlain. Now keep still…’
After a minute Fiona added, ‘Eddie’s the Leader of the Pack, but he’s not usually like that, nor are Johnny and Ricky – it’s when they all get together isn’t it? Is that why you started chattering away to me? Anyway, your George and that Irish bloke were waving – well, had bottles ready and that bloke who came in the back way is Jacob’s.’
‘Eh?’ said Lily.
‘Crackers – Jacob’s Cream Crackers. Crackers, crazy.’
‘George is usually really sweet – he’s lovely to me – it’s just him and Declan have always been close like brothers, now they’re in their group. And the other lad: Victor, he spent a year in Reform School but he came out more of a tearaway – he’s got no parents – he went nicking. George works hard on the railways, he goes all over. He spends loads on his clothes and his scooter – he does look nice, doesn’t he?’
‘Well, smart, yeah, if you like that. But yeah, he is good looking Lily!’
‘Not just smart, like a businessman – he’s sharp – he’s a Face! Up to date! Always.’
Fiona paused, then finished her cosmetic task with a flourish.
‘That’s where us Rockers are different, though, we don’t change every five minutes like the weather, it’s so important to keep Rock ‘n’ Roll alive – it’ll never die. Some sounds just come and go. Not being nasty.’
Lily blinked at herself in the mirror thinking with her huge black bouffant hair and now her big round shaded eyes and eyebrows she looked like someone off of Happy Jack’s favourite: Doctor Who. A real space-age girl!
‘Thanks Fiona, I really like that! Hey listen: Now, I like all the new fab groups but The Beatles used to play Rock ‘n’ Roll up in Liverpool and abroad, I read. Also, guess what?! Sometimes The Expressos warm up at rehearsals with Rock ‘n’ Roll songs! The drummer, Jack had been played some of his uncle Ernest’s Rock ‘n’ Roll 45s on family visits. He got them to ‘cos he said ‘it’s rhythmically solid’ – gets the group to play together better, to begin with. They do all the fab tunes too, even The Who’s new one – we love them – now what you said just then; I think with The Who, they are so good they’ll be around for…ooh another five years!!’
‘Listen Lily, I may be a Rocker but I like The Who – that singer is so…’
Lily grabbed her hand and did an excited little dance.
‘I know! Roger! I had a dream about him!!’
They both giggled then stopped.
‘What’s going to happen, they won’t wait too long – we’ve just delayed the trouble,’ said Fiona, her angular face set in a frown. Lily frowned too, then looked Fiona right in the eye.
‘I know what we’ll do…’
In the main part of the Grande Ballroom the Mods and Rockers were still staring at each other. Eddie Hall had silently walked over to one of the crates of ale they’d brought in, picked a bottle out, walked over and handed it to Brighton Belle. She might be one of these snooty Mods (and she looked a sight with all her white get-up and red dyed hair – like a bleedin’ Swan Vestas match!), but she was still a girl and had asked politely. And thanked him. ‘Sides, Fiona was off with another of them – the black-haired bird with the big… mouth. Nobody had said anything more although Ricky had then sat down on the edge of the stage. The bruiser Mod standing on it glared at him, trembling and ruddy faced although Eddie saw the one called George look up at him and almost imperceptibly shake his head.
They’d been gone ten minutes.
‘When Jack gets here… with the others… we can start setting our equipment up.’
Immediately the wiry Johnny countered with:
‘Look, spud, we’ve told you. We were here first. I don’t wanna hear no poncey bunch of posers wailin’, so why don’t you just -’
Then Brighton Belle shouted above him in a shrill voice:
‘Here’s Lily and her friend back!’
Lily and Fiona walked back to the middle of the dancefloor arm in arm.
‘Hi Georgie! Do you like the make-up Fiona’s done on me?!’
George stared at them. She had on the Rocker bird’s leather biker jacket. The blonde now had on Lily’s chic white leather Mac, dazzling over her tight leather black leather jeans. He stammered to Lily:
‘What… are you… wearing?’
‘A jacket! Pretty much fits me!’
‘But why… that?’
‘It’s something different isn’t it? Makes a change! I like it!’
A voice piped up, the Rocker girl with the Red Indian hair-do (Catherine, Fiona had said) was walking over.
‘I think you look great in it.’
Johnny stood up and pointed at Fiona who was smiling and preening like a model on a catwalk in the Mac.
‘I hardly ever seen you in anything but black Fiona! I mean, you could wear anything even a dress – I’ve seen you in one. But you’d freeze in that on the Beesa, haring along like Eddie does!’
‘But I’m not on a bike, Johnny – I’m on a dancefloor, it’s Saturday night and I wanna dance. I wanna see George and Declan and Vic and Jack’s group do their concert!’ she skipped over like a child to an open-mouthed George and said, ‘a little bird told me you know some great Rock ‘n’ Roll songs – will you play them if I shout for them? Please?!’
George looked like a beached fish, his mouth opening and closing, blinking.
‘I… well… we don’t… those are just…’
Declan leaned into him, ‘You did say we have to play to the audience we’ve got, Georgie me lad…’
George looked around.
Brighton Belle had wandered over to the small bar and was cheekily asking the shy-looking Rocker girl, Vera, still standing nervously behind it, to grab them a double Gilbey’s each. Catherine ‘Wheels’ Williams had slipped out of her bulky leather jacket and lent it to Brenda to try on, whilst accepting a mint humbug.
‘Ooh, ta, I love ‘em. They give you deathbreath!’ she said.
Ricky was now showing Jenny how good he was at doing The Twist …‘for when them Mods started their wailing…’
Eddie considered. Then he walked a couple of paces back over to George and Declan:
‘Looks like we ain’t having a punch-up after all.’
George and Declan put the Double Diamond bottles down, George declaring:
‘I’d rather have a full one. We’ve got some more booze in the van when Jack gets back, too. There’s Guiness, Watney’s Red Barrel.
‘Cheers then!’ said Declan, ‘I’ll raise the wrist to an armistice an’ if there’s one of the many things the Irish are good at it’s drinking the English under the table, fellas!’
Johnny flashed his toothy grin:
‘Well, isn’t this just bleedin’ democracy in action, eh?!’
Jack was smiling, still thinking about the Doctor Who epsiode; no Doctor, but loads of Daleks! Exterminate! What would happen next?! And he could play the bassline from the theme tune… Right – to business. He set off along the High Street in the dark. He wanted to pop into the pub, the church hall and the youth club to distribute the promotional handbills that Lily had copied for the concert later this evening.
He could hear a juke box in the pub – it was loud. He thought he might stop for a half. He sang along: ‘…please don’t bother trying to find her, she’s not there…’
Then, unbelievably, the world went mad. A crowd of people came rushing out of the pub shouting and screaming. Pursuing them were others – they were attacking them, clawing, biting. People fell; those that did attracted several attackers. They were…eating them! Now there were similar sounds of terror from out of houses – a policeman ran up to Jack who started to ask him what was going on, but saw he had a wound on his throat – a bite! The copper began to convulse and fell to his knees: his helmet falling off. Then he rose; his eyes bulging and reddened, his mouth in a snarl. He looked straight at Jack and hissed. At that very moment across the street, a scream came from the brightly lit Fine Fare supermarket and the window shattered outwards; two female shop assistants were grasping the manager and tearing at him with their teeth: Even as all three hit the pavement in a shower of glass and blood. The copper ran to the scene and joined in the feast.
Jack ran for his van, the handbills tossed aside. No! There were more attackers coming from the houses that end of the High Street – he was cut off! He ran past the Radio Rentals shop and shouted at the shopkeeper to lock up and lie low. Something grabbed him: a man in some sort of fisherman’s get-up… thick jersey and seaboots, but sopping wet. He pulled at Jack’s arm trying to bite him and Jack shrugged off his jacket, spun round and walloped him in the face, hard: one, two, three. The pallid, greyish faced man staggered back, nose broken, then lunged again. A gun shot cracked out and a large hole appeared in the side of the head and he fell. A middle-aged man in tweeds with a shotgun ran across the street.
‘Only thing that stops them lad! Got to put one here!’ he said, tapping his forehead.
‘Thanks Mister! For a mo’ there I thought I was gonna die before I got old!’
‘Major Thomas Smythe. Retired.’
They shook hands. Jack’s mind was racing, he looked around at the carnage and confusion, and knew he had to do something. And he knew what. He turned to the Major:
‘Anyone called the … police?’
‘No time lad – anyway, can’t rely on anyone these days,’ he said, indicating the manic form of the blood-soaked constable gnawing on an arm, ‘my duty is to even the score as I can.’
‘Ok, good luck. Er… could you… cover me?’
Jack sprinted for the telephone box on the corner, by the pub, dodging grabbing claws and snapping jaws… twice he was tumbled over, shoving and kicking until he jumped inside and pushed the door shut. Immediately faces and talons jammed on all three windowed sides trying to get at him. He patted at his lapelled waistcoat pockets and smiled thankfully; his wallet and keys were in here not in his vanished jacket! A success for style!
There was a directory; also a Yellow Pages. He eyed it and laughed aloud thinking what the fuck does this come under then?! But the number for the Grande Ballroom on the pier was in the directory. He had the coins ready and as the pips went he pushed them in and spoke to an incredulous George, issuing his warning and oulining his plan. Jack pushed the door open a crack and called to the Major, who was reloading:
He nodded and looked at Eddie Hall.
‘Right – it looks like we are having a punch-up after all.’
Eddie eyed the heavy chain he’d put over the back of a chair and George exclaimed:
‘No – I mean we – all of us. Us! Jack Reed, our bass player with the van – he’s on his way and he said there’s … trouble… in the town… murder! People, people bloody dead and… bloody eating other people. Dead people up and chasing people and eating them! They’re chasing him here!!’
There was a huge chaotic noise as everyone shouted ridicule, disbelief, screamed, shouted questions. Then suddenly, Vic shouted in a querulous voice:
‘All of you, shut up! Listen! It’s … it’s not a piss-take; Jack’s not winding us up,’
he coughed and swayed slightly, ‘when… when I decided to come in here the back way – after seeing the gates busted – just in case… I was hunting round for something to force a window. I saw their bikes,’ he pointed at the Rockers. Everyone saw blood drip from his arm! ‘Well, this bloke come up to me out of the darkness and just… went for me, rushed at me snarling,’ he stopped.
‘Well, what happened?’ said Ricky.
‘I fuckin’ done ‘im over, didn’t I? Thought he was one of you lot. But he wasn’t swinging at me, he was trying to fucking bite me! Didn’t say a word either – just sort of moaning and growling. Stupid twat. Even Rockers don’t bite ya…and he felt all wet – his clothes were soaking – crazy! He bit my arm, here, as I clobbered him, so I nutted him and he fucking went over the rail! Splash! Into the oggin!’
There was a livid bite-mark on his arm…
‘Christ!’ said Declan, ‘then he could be… dead.’
They all stared. Vic coughed. The Brenda said in a low voice:
‘He was already dead. A zombie. The walking dead that crave the flesh of the living.’
There was a heavy silence.
‘You’re a cheery little ray of sunshine aren’t you?’ snapped Ricky.
Indignantly she retorted, ‘It’s true. I read about zombies in me lunchbreak in the library. They’ve got them in Haiti. Now they’re here in England.’
‘Not vampires then?’ asked Jenny nervously.
‘No, they’re in Transylvania. These must be zombies.’
‘Not bloody Frankenstein or The Mummy then?’ said Ricky, a note of hysteria in his voice.
She frowned, ‘Actually, dimwit, Frankenstein’s not real; it’s a story by Mary Shelley in 1816. I don’t know about The Mummy.’
The ballroom doors crashed open and Brenda, Jenny and Brighton Belle screamed and ran! Ricky ducked and the others spun round!
It was Jack. Usually dapper in his tailored three-piece suit, he was dishevelled and it was missing the jacket, he was panting hard staring about wildly at his friends. He registered the Rockers, swallowed and shot out a shaking hand to Catherine Wheels who was nearest.
‘Hello, I’m Jack Reed.’
‘H… Happy Jack?’ she replied, ‘those bruises look nasty – I can put some Witchhazel on them – I’ve got a First Aid kit in me bike’s pannier. I’m in the Saint John’s Ambulance you know.’
She pointed at metal badge on her leather lapel.
‘No time! Listen, those things – ’
‘Zombies,’ said Brenda.
‘They follow sounds and chase people, especially people screaming… I drove my van round the town with the tranny up full and singing along – they seemed to really latch onto Ticket to Ride! Distracted‘em! Lots of folks got away: ran away, out of town, took the chance! But I also know how to kill them!’
Brenda hugged Jack and gave him a big kiss.
‘Ooh you are so lovely Jack – always thinking of others! Isn’t he though?!’
Catherine Wheels agreed, nodding solemnly.
‘That was really brave of you. Where are the zombies now?’
He turned to her.
‘I drove through the pier gates, pushed them closed and backed the van up to hold them, with the tranny still on blaring out!’ Ever the fanboy pedant he added, ‘they were intent on She Loves You – trying to get through the railings. Actually looked like a Beatles concert… but listen – trust me – do ‘em in the head and they go down and stay down!’
‘Then we’ve got them!’ said Catherine.
Ricky, trembling himself now, declared, ‘You mean they’ve got us if we’re stuck in here!’
‘But they can’t get in. Can they?’ piped up Vera on her third Gilbey’s.
Brighton Belle downed her own glass and smiled sadly at her NBFRDB (New Best Friend Rocker Drinking Buddy…)
‘Something tells me they will. They always get in…’
Catherine Wheels rounded on her,
‘That’s just what we want! ‘Cos we’ll be ready for those undead fucking sacks of shit and we’ll fucking well do ‘em in!’
Brenda clutched Jenny’s hand and said tightly, ‘Oh Lor’ this is serious…’
From the bar, Vera, glugging Gilbey’s from the bottle said:
‘Too right it is luv, Catherine never swears.’
Then she collapsed.
‘Look, Jack here says the townsfolk weren’t ready for what happened – got caught with their drawers down by the zombie onslaught. We will be ready – we lure ‘em up here, into the ballroom and pick ‘em off! Has anyone got any military experience? For example, I can fire a 2.2 rifle – my dad taught me. I have a proficiency badge from the Territorial Army range,’ she pointed at her lapel again.
Fiona ventured, ‘I’m pretty good with target shooting and Eddie’s not bad either.’
‘I can use a catapault,’ said Ricky.
Vick rasped from the stage, his eyes downcast:
‘I…I…built airfix models of two Spitfires and a Lancaster… and a Junkers Ju 77… Stuka…’
Jenny’s hand shot up:
‘My little brother’s got an Action Man!’
Johnny rolled his eyes:
‘Well we’re hardly the bleedin’ Desert Rats, are we?! But well done Napoleon with yer van,’ he nodded to Jack.
Catherine raised her voice, ‘We’ll make do! We’re British!’
The girl’s enthusiasm caught on. George clapped Declan on the shoulder:
‘She’s right! And we’ve got just the things too!’
‘What?’ asked his friend.
George shot back:
‘Jack’s tale has got me thinking – come with me!’
As he passed Eddie, George grabbed his elbow and pulled him over to the doors, beckoning to Johnny and Ricky.
‘We’ll be back, but we’ll have company…we’ll need… look, get the gory details from Happy Jack about what he saw in the town. And I don’t mean Doctor bleedin’ Who!!’
Minutes later George and Declan stared in horror at the horde of zombies straining to get at them through the pier gates. Some two hundred, with their blood-soaked torn clothes and matted, lank hair – their dead but staring eyes, their grey and greenish-tinged skin, with open, suppurating wounds; their drooling, snapping jaws and their outstretched arms thrust through the bars – hands twisted into graspin claws. A low moaning, guttural and harsh, came towards them, along with the sound of the radio still blaring… ‘She loves you, yeah yeah yeah!’… ‘Time, is on my side…’
‘Crikey that lot make Rockers look sharp!’ quipped Declan as he clambered aboard the van. George climbed into the driving seat of the faithful blue Bedford. He couldn’t actually – technically – drive, but…
‘How difficult can this really be?’ he murmured and turned the ignition, hit the accelerator. The TARDIS shot backwards fast, into the gates!!
‘Bloody hell! Jack left it in reverse!’
The gates flew outwards into the zombies, mashing faces and snapping limbs. Declan cheered as George now threw the van forwards towards the end of the pier. There, he swung round in a tight arc; just missing the parked red, white and blue scooters until the back doors faced the entrance to the ballroom and they jumped out and began to haul the entire contents inside with help from all the others.
Ten minutes later the stumbling, shambolic but relentless crowd of zombies swarmed over the scooters, around the empty van and through the open ballroom doors. A single sound was drawing them on in their quest for living flesh to feast on. A metronomic, thudding bass drum: two beats, two beats, from within the darkened ballroom interior.
They poured onto the dancefloor and suddenly the stage lights came on; multi-couloured, illuminating four figures onstage in front of them…
‘Alright you scabby excuse for an audience, we’re The Expressos from London town! One, two, one, two, three, four!’ shouted George and they launched into a snappy, deafeningly loud version of You Really Got Me with George belting out ‘Ya got me so I dunno what I’m doin’ – oh yeeeaaahhhh!’ Happy Jack pummelled his bass guitar, sounding like a Vulcan bomber coming in to attack; Declan was grinding out the chords on guitar and Vic was a whirlwind of twirling drumsticks – flailing his arms enough to make Keith Moon proud!
The sound and light totally disorientated the zombies who turned this way and that, reaching out and clawing the air and each other. At the precise moment they began their second number: Love Me Do the attack began too! First from stage left…
Eddie Hall laid into a line of zombies wielding his heavy chain like a knight in leather armour; each swing crushing a skull from on top or caving in a face in a spurt of blood and brains. Following him ran Johnny and Ricky with broken Double Diamond bottles, the jagged spikes of glass spearing into eye sockets squelching and piercing brains, bodies falling. Johnny kicked out his heavy motorcycle boot smashing a knee-cap; the cadaver fell and he crunched its head with his other boot. Repeat! Ricky shouted in alarm, razor sharp teeth closed around his forearm but his leather jacket wasn’t punctured and he shoved a gore-covered broken bottle into the dead face.
‘This enough of a rumble for yer?!’ screamed Eddie.
Another set of jaws closed around his elbow, tightly and he shrugged out of the jacket rounding on the attacker, pulping its head from the side.
From the other side of the stage, sat on the end of the bar, was Fiona Barton still in the white leather Mac, legs crossed cool as a cucumber. She lifted one of the air rifles they’d detached from the small array of amusements just beyond the rear of the Grande Ballroom. As Victor bashed out the introduction to Please Please Me she fired: the pellet boring through the eye and into the brain of a lurching corpse. It dropped fast! Just as fast, Catherine Wheels passed her up another loaded rifle which cracked again. Repeat! Through the eyeballs!
Eddie and his Rockers twisted and shouted tearing into the zombies! Fiona’s air rifles cycled between her and Catherine, loading, each shot felling a zombie. As The Expressos culminated one of their own songs Scootie Cutie, George raised his arms and gushed:
‘Thank you ladies and gents!’ realising the absurdity of the theatricality.
Vic shouted from behind his drums, ‘George! I… this is gonna be my… last song…’
‘Don’t be daft! We’re knockin’ ‘em dead out there, mate!’
Vic’s eyes were red, his skin was now mottled and grey – he spoke again but his voice was thick:
‘One… last … number…been popping these…’ he crammed a dozen Purple Hearts into his slackening mouth, ‘it’s all over now…’
Jack began, ‘No, we don’t do that one until the end of the set, Vic.’
‘George, Declan, Jack… finish the show for me…ok? Look after my drums… but…’
He pointed to the ravenous throng on the dancefloor, still being steadily depleted by Fiona’s sniping, ‘I don’t wanna be walking around… like that…’
There was nothing more to say. Declan launched into All Day and All of the Night. George got through the first verse and whilst he sang ‘girl, I want to be with you all of the time’ he clocked Vic.
Vic had turned.
They had a zombie on drums: A zombie on amphetamines with bloodlust. But he kept on playing at a frantic tempo until the song finished. Eddie saw, raised his fist towards the stage and said:
‘Now that’s Rock ‘n’ Roll.’
With no music blasting out, the zombies began to focus and move faster. Johnny shouted to Eddie:
‘Hold ‘em!’ and he shoved Ricky towards the stage, the two of them dodging zombie talons, and all the while Fiona chalking up more kills. Vic was starting to demolish the drumkit, no longer his, as he was no longer human - even more like Moon the Loon! He was consumed by a lust for flesh and was trying to bite the band. Johnny leapt on stage and shouted to George:
‘You gotta keep playing! Otherwise we’re Pedigree Chum, chum! Get ‘im off and Ricky can sit in – he’s the drummer in The Thunderbolts – he’s crackin’!’
With only nods and glances Declan and Jack gripped their guitars by the necks, raised them up high and took turns to bring them down on Vic’s head, his brains and pieces of skull splattering the snare and toms.
‘Blimey – Townsend would love this!!’ opined George, shoving a set list into Ricky’s hand who said:
‘I gotta get into the groove daddyo,’ his eyes staring and manic, grabbing Vic’s sticks.
‘Let’s do Something Else,’ said George.
‘We better had, and fast,’ replied Declan.
‘I mean the song you twit!’ snapped the singer and Ricky nodded, plonking himself onto the vacated drumstool and spinning, then clicking the sticks to count them into…
‘Well look at that – across the street!’
As they tore through the classic and then ripped into Rock Around the Clock, Fiona and Eddie tore through and ripped into the newly befuddled zombies again with rifle, chain and bottle. George shouted to Johnny:
‘So what do you do in your group, then?’
‘I’m the singer.’
George thrust the microphone at him and grinned, ‘well, Johnny, be good!’ and he was.
They went through the Chuck Berry boogie and Johnny screamed, ‘Yeah! We’re The Expressbolts – you wanna rock an’ roll some more?!’
As they crashed through adopted Beatles anthems Twist and Shout and I Saw Her Standing There, he spied George who had joined Eddie on the dancefloor using the broken chairleg to shatter skulls and pierce eyeballs, to rip brains apart, smiling grimly.
Undead eyes stared at the stage straining to see in the glare of the lights – undead ears picked up the high volume and undead legs ran or stumbled towards the noise as dead arms reached out to clutch and gaping mouths snapped, ready to rip flesh and feast. But the undead were dispatched mercilessly and constantly to the sound of the Stones groover It’s All Over Now. And then the concert was. The band darted off stage and was followed by George and Eddie, retreating. Fiona nimbly jumped to the floor from the bar. The lights were out but she knew where to head for.
In a blur a hideous talon grabbed her arm and whirled her round – chomping jaws looming at her face! She reacted in terror and felt along the bar… she smashed the bottle of Gilbey’s gin on the bar, the last few drops spraying everywhere, and slashed the zombie’s throat open so that blackened blood splashed across her vividly showing up on the white Mac.
‘Blimey – Lily’s gonna kill me!’ she breathed, ‘but you’re bloody not!’
She screamed at the grasping corpse and screwed the jagged bottle end into its face, puncturing the left eye deeply and it fell back. She fled, others already groping for her.
All the doors leading out of the back of the Grande Ballroom were now open and the twenty or so zombies left standing moved through them – attracted by another sound now. They emerged, moaning, into more dazzling lights. The small area at the end of the pier held a few fairground type attractions as Vic had said. But now the tarpaulins were off and the juice was on! A roundabout whirled – golden and painted horses bobbing up and down as they circled, gay organ music, brassy and rythmic.
Astride the wooden steeds sat three Mod girls: Lily, Brighton Belle and Brenda and their shortish skirts exposed white flesh that drew the leering, crazed cadavers towards them quickly and eagerly. Meat!
A deafening roar came from the side of the end of the pier as Eddie’s 750 cc BSA and Catherine Wheels’ 500 cc black Norton (her pride and joy!) were kickstarted into thrumming life and their headlamps came on and picked out individual zombie faces – once townsfolk, now lurching, careening re-animated dead bodies. They turned to the sound…
Then from the other side Johnny and Ricky gunned their Velocets and as Eddie raised a fist the two sets of motorcycles roared forward and criss-crossed through the crowd of zombies and as they did so their riders brandished their makeshift weapons…Eddie had his chain, the others large, heavy spanners (from a toolbox bolted to the deck, to which Jack had produced the key, grinning with anticipation). They swung them with vicious and deadly accuracy, connecting with and splitting heads - gore splattering over the riders.
The reduced clump of slavering zombies remained standing and still clawed towards the roundabout which now stopped. Eddie Hall steered his BSA 750 straight at one of the stragglers – the town butcher when he was alive, actually and it ploughed into the body; the momentum felling it and pushing it forwards so the front tyre jammed the face against the metal railings of the pier. Eddie revved and the head burst upwards in a shower of blood, brains and skull fragments, white bone catching the coloured lights. Pretty! He didn’t pause but leaped off his throbbing machine, laid it down and grabbed the hammer from the ‘Try Your Strength’ stand, bringing it down towards another head.
‘Try this you slimy fucker!’ he yelled and with a crunch the skull shattered. Repeat!
On the roundabout Brighton Belle held a Ronson lighter and Brenda narrowed her eyes, curious.
‘Where did you get that from? You don’t smoke do you?’
Belle smiled, ‘No, but I keep it in me bedroom so me mum will think I do! She actually tidies the place looking for cigarettes that aren’t there!’
The flame shot up – a signal – and Jenny quickly dodged between the horses from behind the roundabout, her arms full of Double Diamond bottles. She gave one to each girl and Belle lit the pieces of material potruding from them.
Before the concert, Johnny syphoned some petrol out of the bikes’ tanks and filled the bottles. Jenny smiled apologetically at him and unwound the white cotton scarf from around his neck and attacked it with her nail-scissors; stuffing makeshift fuses into the bottlenecks. For some reason (probably the notion of impending death at the jaws of a mobile corpse, preying on their teenage minds) as their eyes met, they leaned forward over their small arsenal of Molotov Cocktails and had a lovely long snog, like they were in the back row of the Odeon. Well, it was Saturday night, zombies or not! Isn’t that sweet?
Ok, wind forward again!
Each girl flung her bottle straight at the group of zombies. Three hit the deck at their feet and broke, igniting, flames catching at their clothing, engulfing them. Brighton Belle’s bottle impacted with the leading zombie’s head, shattering with the force of her throw and there was a ‘whump!’ as it exploded, flames dancing round it like a lit Christmas pudding – the hair burning, the eyeballs sizzling until the brain roasted and it pitched forward. Lily Chamberlain hugged Brighton Belle tightly and said:
‘Oh Belinda! That was just so… so… you really are such an Ace Face!’
The four Mod girls stared at the flames as the undead died, like it was some nightmarish Guy Fawkes Night party. They could see other figures through the acrid smoke in a semicircle… other Mods… and Rockers, but all standing together. There were George and Declan – their arms around each other, with Happy Jack still smiling – good old Expressos! Good show! Lily raised her hand to wave at George but he was staring down at his feet, lost in thought. Next to them was Ricky and that cheeky Johnny… starting to look themselves again after the horror and violence; grinning daftly at each other. The toughie Rocker chick Catherine Wheels was still on her big, black bike gripping the throttle, the engine still purring as if she was ready to roll somewhere: Anywhere.
Then she saw her friend Fiona Barton – they both waved at each other, smiling. She saw her point at the gore-streaked white Mac then make a palms-up shrugging ‘sorry!’ gesture and giggle. Lily giggled too and pointed at the biker jacket she still wore and smugly turned the collar up, raised her chin and stuck her tongue out. Fiona turned to nudge Eddie to clock her daft friend, but Lily saw he was turned away, his head cocked, listening. She then heard a weird wailing sound approaching over the crackling of the blaze.
‘Oh bloody hell! What on Earth now?’ she said to Jenny.
‘Vampires,’ Brenda said, ‘must be.’
Then all of a sudden the decking in front of them finally burned through and collapsed splashing into the sea below; along with the pile of roasted corpses, the ‘Try Your Strength’ stall and the ‘What the Butler saw’ machine.
Now they all realised it was the sirens of Police cars. They could picture the coppers drawing up at the pier gates seeing the bodies strewn there: Running up the pier past the overturned scooters and the Bedford van. Then advancing into the now deserted Grande Ballroom and seeing the heaps of destroyed zombies – the Expressos’ equipment still set up – amplifiers and guitars now silent, stage lights blank. Like the undead before them they’d see the lights form the end of the pier attractions and investigate.
George looked up and saw a crowd of Policemen – maybe fifteen or so, all with truncheons drawn. They were led by a tall, slightly greying man in his early forties, in a peaked uniform cap with a silver badge. He addressed them:
‘I’m Chief Inspector Pike.’
‘Evenin’ all!’ shouted Johnny.
The Policeman frowned at him.
‘You. What’s your name?’
Johnny chuckled, ‘I ain’t tellin’ you, Pike!’
‘Now look here - ’
Fiona moved forward and looked up at him:
‘May I explain please, officer? We’re so glad you’re here – there’s been a spot of bother you see.’
He looked at the gaping hole in the decking and the whisps of smoke curling up from its edge. He saw the huddled forms of corpses littered around and registered that this rather attractive young lady smiling at him was in fact covered in blood and seemed to have a small piece of someone’s brain stuck in her hair. He spluttered:
‘This town has had its fair share of bother in the past, Miss – but it’s been quiet for a good twenty years or so. Now…this!’
He eyed them all; the other girls having come over from the roundabout.
‘Blinkin’ tearaways aren’t you? Rockers-’ he sniffed, ‘aren’t you?’
‘We are,’ said Declan, ‘they’re Mods,’ nodding sideways.
‘Right enough,’ said Ricky, ‘we are the Mods!’
A black leather-clad girl with pigtails protruding from a black crash helmet with a skull and crossbones on it approached out of the shadow of the ballroom building, pushing a motorcycle:
She walked up to Lily and put her finger on her nose.
‘She’s sort of half and half since he bit her,’ she pointed at Ricky, who piped up:
‘Yeah – now she’s a Mocker. Very, very anti-social they are!’
Just as Lily thought she wouldn’t be able to contain her laughter any longer and might actually wee herself, Fiona spoke again.
‘Sorry about my friends, but it’s been one of those days. Could… could we tell you exactly what’s been going on?’
And Brighton Belle said, ‘Blimey – how about inside where we can have a drink then?’
The Policeman eyed her sternly, ‘I don’t think that’d be right and proper Miss, given your age.’
But they were escorted inside by the blue-uniformed Policemen, still glancing warily around them at the carnage.
‘Let’s start at the very beginning then,’ he said to Johnny, who put his arm around the copper’s waist and told him in a conspiratorial whisper:
‘Ok – but it was vampires…’
Chief Inspector Pike turned to him and said with disdain, ‘You stupid boy!’
Now, have a breather and relax, because the danger to our young heroes is over and they can now – OR IS IT?!
Standing at the bar Brighton Belle smugly and drunkenly raised a bottle of Guinness to the policeman to whom she’d just given her details and account. They’d all done the same: Told the truth. Even about poor Vic. He’d had no one. No parents; family disowned him and now he was … gone. She felt quite tearful but happy and tipsy simultaneously. Then she became aware of a low moaning – she stiffened and saw that Brenda was gripping the arm of the policeman who was interviewing her and pointing past her.
‘Belinda! Look out!’
A hand came down on Belle’s elbow – tightening – a terrible sound…
The copper raised his truncheon to smash down on the head of the figure that was emerging, dragging its wretched way up, tugging at her arm, foul breath reeking… of … gin?!!?! She whirled and saw:
‘Ohhh… Christ…my head!’ said the suffering Rocker chick – her make up smeared, dribbling slightly, eyes reddened. She suddenly, in a moment of clarity saw and took in the scene that confronted her. The bodies, the police…
‘Did I miss something… oh Gawd – giz a drink.’
She grabbed Belle’s Guinness, finished the bottle and gently put it back on the bar. Then she gently collapsed once more.
Sunday Lunchtime of the Dead
They were all sat in the back garden of the town pub. All except Vic of course. It was a bright day – better than yesterday. Of course.
They’d all ridden into the town in police Black Marias that had been summoned, and drunk copious amounts of hot, sweet tea and eaten a Ploughman’s lunch each – at 2 am. Then they’d all tumbled into the beds in the upstairs rooms upstairs. Lily fell into a deep sleep in George’s arms – Fiona was with Eddie. Everyone else shared, boys with girls, Mods with Rockers. Tonight, no one cared.
Blearily, Lily had woken alone to the smell of frying eggs and bacon.
No. She’d padded downstairs in someone’s dressing gown and a pair of fluffy slippers that were far too big for her, to find Fiona in the kitchen, smiling.
‘Wakey wakey, rise and shine.’
‘Show a leg the morning’s fine,’ completed Lily.
Then they’d ferried fry-ups out to the others, in the garden, who were now slowly coming back from the dead. George passed Eddie a bottle of Heinz tomato sauceand watched him cover his plate with it.
‘Thanks. Hey, you look pretty sharp this morning – that a brand new fashion then – vest and dressing gown?’ said Eddie.
George replied, ‘You know me – always neat, like a Face has go to be. Brenda got up early and has been washing all our … er … dirty clobber out. Says it’s going to be dry in a couple of hours. Don’t think we’ll be wearing any of it after getting back to London, though, what with the stains… Your leather jackets and the leather trousers just needed sponging down, she reckons.’
Declan sauntered out of the pub and picked up a plate and said, munching on a sausage:
‘The coppers have just rung up. They’ve got all the folks who escaped safe and sound in a couple of big hotels along the coast there. They’re interviewing them. That Pike fella just told me the searched the village for stray zombies and they found a few, so he took their heads off with a Tommy gun! Said he had it lying around for years. Just like a gangster, he said. Imagine that! We’re free to go wherever we like. They’re gonna contact Vic’s relatives.’
There was a brief silence. Happy Jack stood up:
‘Listen, why don’t we all go back to London together, eh? In a convoy – triumphant, like?’
Johnny answered him, ‘I’ll ride with you and that spaceship van of yours. We can stop off at a great transport café we know for some tea on the way – all the gangs stop there on runs.’
George laughed, ‘You trying to get us lynched – we pull up on scooters there…?’
Eddie said, ‘No one’s gonna touch you. You’re with us. We’re a gang now.’
Ricky put his feet up on the central table. Force of habit even though he was wearing only socks. He said:
‘Not only that, but I’m your drummer for as long as you need me. I bloody loved that show! You should come and see The Thunderbolts play – we should play together!’
Brighton Belle slurped her mug of tea, ‘I’ll go in your Rocker café, but I don’t want my arse pinched by any tearaway. Not unless he’s cute, that is! But, listen, we go to this place near us at weekends – it’s a coffee bar upstairs and they have music on downstairs – it’s dead easy to take booze in, too. Next Saturday – why don’t we all go? We can have a proper dance.’
George said, ‘You’d be with us. Our guests.’
They all agreed. Lily and Fiona winked at each other.
Late that afternoon, they all walked together down to the pier. It was just dark. There were no bodies at the gates. There were two policemen there and two soldiers. One of the soldiers nodded to them – not much older than them, it seemed, and pointed. Parked along the front were three stylish scooters: Red, white and blue. George’s pennant was still fluttering in the slight breeze on the blue one. There was a trusty blue Bedford van, full of things to make a loud noise with and four sturdy, big motorcycles, all ready to go for the ton up. They pulled away together, although as she mounted her iron horse, Catherine Williams (with Vera as pillion) gave the thumbs up to Belinda Clarke and said:
‘We’ll know where we are next Saturday.’
And she roared off.
The Expressos / The Expressbolts Set List:
You Really Got Me
Love Me Do
Please Please Me
All Day & All Of The Night
Rock Around The Clock
Johnnie B Goode
Twist And Shout
I Saw Her Standing There
It’s All Over Now
The Catskills. New York State. USA.
Sunday 17th August 1969
Four women from England stood, in a state, in a State, in the ‘States. They’d had a Happening. They were blown away. Drained. Full. Happy!
Lily Chamberlain spoke first, linking arms with Fiona Barton:
‘I almost can’t believe that just happened! We saw them… here!’
‘We did, Lily, we did!’ replied her friend.
They hugged. They hugged their friends. So many hugs now, but these were extra special. Catherine Williams was reliving the show they’d just seen – going over the songs, the clothes, the crowd still all around them, swarming.
‘That was my best gig ever! Everyone’s been brilliant but that was … brillianter!’
Belinda Clarke thought her face would split in two, she was smiling so much:
‘See me! Feel me! Touch me! Heal me! Oh wow! Listening to you la la la la la! Ladies and Gentlemen… The Who!!! Lily, remember when we saw them first at that small club… and now here at the biggest thing ever in the whole wide world?!!’ Lily beamed at the ecstatic Belinda:
‘It feels so right being here - ’ said Lily, ‘almost like I knew I’d be here. Do you remember when we were on the… pier?’
Belinda simply nodded. Both of their faces were momentarily solemn. No need to elaborate…
‘ – my dream I told you about – with Roger in it! I was here, then, like he was guiding me through everything to here, to see them play!’
They were all arm in arm, vaguely making their way to try to find somewhere giving away or selling food and drink. Lily thought of Belinda’s camper van, totally covered in painted psychedelic designs and slogans, parked… somewhere. Might as well be on the moon! The moon…
Her thoughts raced! Only a few weeks ago they’d seen three men leave for the moon! Necks craned in the sunshine with thousands of others, they’d stood and laughed and cried as a giant white rocket shot skywards on a pillar of flame with such a deafening roar! What a gig! Going to the bloody moon – God, was there anything people couldn’t do if they put their minds to it?! Her thoughts wandered further back through their journey. They’d all kept in touch and it had come down to the four of them vowing to stick together and do something amazing in an amazing decade. Ideas and plans flew around, so they worked and saved and saved and saved and saved some more. Lily’s modelling hadn’t taken her around the world, but she’d put the modest but regular cheques away; and pictures of Lily appeared in magazines.
Everything was changing, mixing things up, blurring divisions and they’d wanted to surf on that huge wave of possibilities. They’d sailed across the ocean over Christmas last year and got work, found digs, made friends and started travelling across this changing nation that was a continent wide. They’d done so much together, stayed so close while they were yet so young.
Lily remembered family life back in the UK, too, and missed her family very much. She smiled and thought of George. He’d never really got over her and she’d never quite forgotten him. He had his own family now and she’d see hers again one day. But not just yet!
And now here they were, the same but different: Mods? Rockers? Hippies? Whatever next? Belinda was looking really psychedelic with her now long hair still bright red and her cream and gold flared trouser suit.
‘Belle’ Bottoms! Ha ha!
Catherine looked much the same – hair in Red Indian plaits and she painted her face with their tribal designs. Freaky! Fun! Her skull and crossbones leather jacket was even more lived-in.
Fiona was all tassles and beads and bangles in a flowing skirt. All the Heads here just loved her. ‘Lady Fiona from England.’ She played along.
Lily herself was a brunette again, with her hair as long as Fiona’s, but with her fringe and dressed in clothes that she designed and customised herself. Patchwork and random, but the style and the lines were still sharp and angular – individual. Down the length of each jacket arm and trouser leg were sewn red, white and blue roundels. Once a Mod…?!
They walked and skipped and jigged through the teeming mass of humanity, not really caring too much where they ended up, as the sun rose. Fiona said:
‘Wherever you go, there you are.’
Catherine added, ‘Sometimes a rainbow is better than a pot of gold. I think that’s saying of the Cherokee peoples.’
Lily smiled and said, ‘Fiona, how much are you going to just totally freak out when Hendrix comes on?!’
Then she stopped abruptly.
Something had changed, shifted – the crowd up ahead was now pushing largely in one direction – theirs. People were moving towards them, actually shoving: those nearest simply confused and pushed from behind. But beyond them…
They heard distant shouts and screams, a rising tumult of noise mixed with something more guttural and sharp.
A man cannoned into Fiona - his eyes wide!
‘Pardon me, but you’d better run, ladies, less you wanna get eaten up!’
He pulled at Fiona’s wrist but Catherine put the flat of her hand on his bare chest. He was tall and black with a large afro hairdo. He wore black high heeled boots and tight, then flared leather trousers, a black shirt with the arms cut off. He had on black necklaces and large silver earrings shaped like the spades in a deck of cards. Catherine said to him:
‘What do you mean?’
‘Please,’ he looked back quickly then, ‘bad trouble. We thought it was a freakshow first, like theatre… but it ain’t! They’re biting everyone – chowin’ down on… flesh! There ain’t no cops to stop ‘em here! We gotta go, man!’
The women looked at each other; truth dawning as sure as dawn had broken along with Pete Townsend’s guitar.
‘Shit!’ said Lily.
‘Bollocks!’ said Fiona.
‘Not again!’ said Belle.
‘Just like on the pier,’ Lily declared, ‘which means that there’s going to be more and more of them! The Woodstock Nation… of the Dead!’
The young man was staring at each of them in turn, bewildered.
‘What you talkin’ about, lady?!’ he demanded of Lily.
She said, ‘I can’t explain.’
‘Try very hard, please,’ he shot back.
‘Ok. They’re zombies. They eat human flesh and whoever they bite, but don’t devour turns into another one. Rather quickly usually. I’m talkin’ ‘bout re-animation!’
Catherine nodded, ‘Remember the rumours of bad acid going around? Whatever it is, it’s turned them!’
The man retorted, ‘Bad acid, man – that’s it – it’s gotta be. The government have pushed it in here! Some new weapon to use in ‘Nam and they’re tryin’ it out on us!’
Catherine shrugged, ‘We can theorise, but we have to mobilise!’
The man nodded and said, ‘Hoodoo Voodoo people! They gonna make a cheeseburger meal of this place, man.’
Fiona nodded in turn, ‘Half a million loved-up peaceniks and none of ‘em has ever been anywhere near a proper rumble! That’ll be the U.S. screwed: Then the whole world. And no Hendrix gig! This has to end. Now,’ her face was set grimly.
Belle put her hand on Fiona’s shoulder and said:
‘But we have been near a proper rumble: the pier,’ hauling her old satchel round and delving into it. The man drew close to them and introduced himself as ‘Dr Funkenstein’. He squinted at the satchel, which had a large red, white and blue roundel on it and said, in a low voice near to Belle’s ear,
‘What you got in there, baby?’
Belle produced four bottles of Blue Nun wine, ‘I was saving these for after Hendrix, but needs must, girls and boy! Neck ‘em!’
They quickly slurped the booze down with people streaming and screaming past them and each friend broke a bottle against the hubcap of an abandoned farm trailer and turned to face an approaching group of thirty or so mindless, slavering zombie hippies!
Catherine quickly took Dr Funkenstein aside as her three friends charged at the throng – brains were speared through eye-sockets as she asked,
‘Any chance of you getting some assistance organised or are you going to let us Brits save the day and show you Yanks how it’s done all on our own?!’
‘Reckon I can round up some brothers dam’ quick!’ he grinned and ran.
She called after him, ‘Lovely, bring your auntie, too!’ and joined the others, ramming her jagged weapon up through a grasping ghoul’s throat as she overheard Lily Chamberlain saying,
‘I’m just about ready for the 1970s!!’