Video shop owner, serial killer and self-confessed film fanatic, Han Whitman was used to death. He had introduced quite a few to it, but even Han was somewhat perturbed by the dead rising.
Was it bad form to rise again after being killed? Han thought so. Downright bloody rude too. He prided himself in politeness and reliability. He was always polite to his victims and as reliable as clockwork at killing them. So this … this was just bad form …
“We’re here,” Han said after driving through the small shopping centre of the Northumberland coastal town of Seahouses. Shopping ‘centre’ might’ve been a slight exaggeration; it was essentially one street filled with chip shops, arcades and gift shops.
The sign read, Seafield Caravan Park.
“Oh, you really know how to treat a girl,” Cara said with smile.
Han gave a sideways glance of feigned annoyance. Feigned, of course, as in the six months they had been dating he had been unable to get even remotely annoyed at her for one second. Even when the demands of the relationship clashed with the old serial killing malarkey. Bless her. And for a copper (yes, old mother irony does play a cheeky hand), she was bloody hot. More than a little likeness to Uma Thurman.
This was actually their second trip to Seahouses and Cara knew damn fine that the caravan park was very nice and that it had a well-equipped spa and gym.
Han pulled up to the site office and jumped out of the Jeep Cherokee, leaving the engine idling.
The office was bright and airy and the mid-morning sunshine was pouring in through the expansive windows. No one about though.
“Hello? Anyone about? We’re checking in to one of your holiday vans.” He turned around and looked back at Cara waiting in the car. She mouthed, what? to him and his response was a shrug. He turned back to the desk to find an old woman now standing behind it. Surprised, Han said, “Hi … erm, checking in.”
The old woman seemed to stare through him for a time and then abruptly burst into a rattling cough that sounded like a cancer-ridden vagrant being strangled by a schizophrenic cat.
She finished by swallowing hard, which conjured images of a cantankerous curse-wielding gypsy from a certain Sam Raimi film. With an off-white handkerchief covering her mouth, she said, “Sorry, dear. There’s been a horrible bug going round this week – seems like the whole town’s got it.”
Han drove through the site to their designated van, passing rows of new and gleaming vans set in perfectly manicured lawns. There were plenty of parked cars outside most of them, but very few people about. Strange for an unusually hot bank holiday weekend.
After unpacking, they took a stroll down the beach. They passed a young couple playing with a baby near the water’s edge. Dad was making a little sandcastle which the baby kept smashing with a plastic spade, causing both parents to giggle at one another.
Jesus, Han thought.
“Might be us one day,” Cara said, nodding towards the happy little family.
Han’s first response would normally be, I’ll kill you if you get pregnant, but that seemed inappropriate, given his hobby. He had no intention of killing Cara, whether pregnant or not. Although, it wasn’t out of the question to run for the hills if she got up the duff. Instead, he muttered, “Hmm.”
Cara laughed. “I’m winding you up, man. I’m just getting started in my career. I’m not looking to mess with that – or my figure, for that matter. Not for at least another five years or so.”
They approached an old man who was standing in the middle of the beach with a dog lead in his hand and a blank expression.
Cara glanced quizzically at Han.
“You okay, mate?” Han offered.
The man continued to stare into the middle distance in the direction of the dunes, seemingly oblivious to their presence.
“I said …”
Cara cut him off. “Leave it,” she whispered.
As they left the man behind, Cara glanced back. He still hadn’t moved. “Maybe he’s upset – lost a loved one recently or something. I’ve seen it before.”
When they walked back along the beach half an hour later the old man was gone. They continued into Seahouses and, after a wander around some of the gift shops, found a small pub called The Olde Ship Inn.
A couple of burly blokes were stood at the bar, chatting to the barman, but the place was otherwise empty.
“What can I get ya?” the young barman asked with a friendly smile.
“Guinness and a …”
“Kronenbourg,” Cara finished for him.
“Do they come any other way?” Cara asked.
“Hell no,” he said and smiled. “My kinda people.”
As the barman poured the drinks, Han said, “Bit dead for a bank holiday, isn’t it?”
He nodded absently. “Seems like most of the town is down with this bug – playing havoc with trade.”
As is sometimes the way with impromptu pub visits, Han and Cara ended up spending the whole afternoon and most of the evening there. They had a good craic on with the barman and the only two other customers. That was until one of the customers broke out into a coughing fit and unceremoniously hurled the contents of his stomach onto the wood floor.
A little pissed, they swaggered arm in arm back to the caravan as the night was drawing in.
Somewhere over the other side of the town they heard shouting and breaking glass.
“Shall I go and arrest ‘em?” Cara asked and found the idea most amusing.
“I’m sure local plod can handle it,” Han said, giving her a squeeze.
They broke open a bottle of Jack Daniels and caned a good portion of it before Cara fell asleep in the middle of a game of Poker.
Han gently carried her to the snug bedroom, undressed her and then pulled the covers over. He then walked back into the lounge and poured himself another shot. As he sipped it, a smile played across his lips. He was a little tipsy, but still perfectly capable. How about a spontaneous slaying, eh? He was on holiday, after all.
“Why the hell not,” he said to himself. He wrote a quick note saying that he had gone for a walk along the beach, just in case Cara woke up and then collected his trusty combat knife from the hidden compartment in the boot.
It was a warm night, so he didn’t bother with a jacket. He knew where the CCTV cameras were in Seahouses, so he’d just stay away from those areas. Too hot to wear a balaclava. And so passé.
He strolled through the caravan site, hoping for a spot of inspiration. It was all quiet, so he took a narrow lane lined on both sides by tall hedgerows and headed back towards the beach.
The crunch of boots on gravel was the only noise. He was nearing the end of the lane when a figure appeared at the bottom where it opened out into a large car park.
Do we have a winner? Han thought, hopeful. He kept his pace steady and quickly closed the gap, not wanting to miss a possible opportunity.
The person – a thickset man in a shabby overcoat – remained standing at the end of the lane, unmoving.
Maybe he’s a would-be mugger? Han mused. Wouldn’t that be a hoot! “You got a light, mate?” Han asked as he grew closer still.
The man remained silent and motionless.
As Han reached within stabbing distance, the Moon slipped out from behind a cloud and illuminated the man’s face.
The man was missing an ear and most of a cheek and one eye was hanging by the optic nerve out of a gaping maw that used to be the socket. It has to be said that this was not exactly what Han had been expecting. The man’s clothes were ripped and caked in blood and his face had the waxy pallor of a dead man (yes, he’d seen plenty of those in his time to know). So, it was doubly surprising when the creature decided to lunge at him with cold outstretched hands, one of which was gripping a dog lead.
“Wo-ah!” Han uttered, stepping back quickly and drawing the knife from behind his back. “Still not found your dog, I see. Mate, I was going to kill you for – let’s say shits and giggles – but it looks like someone beat me to it.”
The creature emitted a low moan that had a lonely desperation to it. It advanced on him in a slow shambling way.
Han stepped back to keep the distance between them. “Beat me to it?” he repeated. “Who do I think I am? Simon Pegg?”
It kept coming, a viscose slime drooling out of the corner of its gaping mouth.
“This is a joke, right? I know it’s not Halloween, but, I don’t know, is there some kind of Seahouses tradition of dressing up like the Undead on bank holidays? If there is, you should be aiming it at the Goths – they love that sort of thing.” Shaking his head, he added, “You’re rambling when you should be rambling the hell out of here.”
He had backed up nearly to the entrance back into the site.
“Okay, I’m going to erm … kill you … I hope.” With that, Han slashed at the creature’s throat. The jugular opened up like a whore’s legs, but only a small amount of congealed blood oozed out of the opening. It kept coming.
“Okay, I guess I was kind of expecting that. We’ve all seen the movies.” As an afterthought, he said, “Christ, at least you’re the Romero kind and not the 28 Days Later sort.”
He hacked at the outstretched hands and saw several severed fingers plop onto the gravel. It still kept coming.
“Oh, fuck this.” Han leapt at it and drove the knife deep into the gaping eye socket. After twisting it several times it stopped thrashing and fell to the ground … dead … again.
Breathing hard, Han stood over the corpse, unaware that the knife was dripping gore onto his boots. After a moment, he nodded and said, “Okay … okay, I erm … I can see where this is going. I think I’ve stumbled on to the wrong film set here. This isn’t my usual role. What happened to a sensible crime thriller?” He was rambling again, but to be fair, he felt he was handling things rather well so far.
Somewhere behind him in the caravan site he heard a crash followed by a scream.
Cara. “Shit!” As he turned to run into the site a hand grasped his throat and a woman fell into him, sending him staggering into the hedgerow. Icy fingers sunk into the flesh of his neck and a stinking dead mouth descended as if preparing to kiss him.
Shoving her back, he said, “Not in this life, pet. It’ll put me right in the doghouse with Cara.”
She came at him again, snarling and scratching. Han grabbed her by the bedraggled hair and proceeded to saw her head clean from its neck. It didn’t take too much effort – Han kept a very sharp blade.
The body stopped moving, but the head had other ideas. Its mouth continued to snap at him and the eyes rolled feverishly. “Head’s up, bitch,” he said and kicked it into the hedge.
He was off and running into the caravan site. Two people – living ones – sprinted past him. Behind them were half a dozen creatures lumbering towards them.
Han shouted after them, “Guys, you’re only tiring yourselves out! Take your time! That’s the kind of rookie error they make in the films!” Shaking his head, he headed at a more sustainable pace towards their van.
He past close to one creature and punched it across the jaw, sending it reeling. He could see their van up ahead with a creature clawing at the door. He hadn’t locked it. Bugger!
The door opened and the creature stumbled inside. Han finally broke into a sprint. He reached the door in time to see the creature disappearing into the bedroom.
“Cara!” Han yelled as he rushed inside. “Wake up! Wake the fuck up!”
The creature fell onto the bed and clawed at Cara’s sleeping form. The weight of the creature on the bed was finally stirring her.
“Cara!” Han grabbed its muddied shoe and dragged it away from Cara’s face as its jaws snapped shut an inch from her tender cheek. It struggled in his grasp, catching her hair in an extended hand and tearing a handful out as Han wrenched it backwards.
Cara cried out and finally woke up. “For fuck’s sake! What the fuck are you doing?”
Gasping with exertion, Han managed, “Cara, get the fuck up!”
Cara’s eyes adjusted to the scene. She screamed, but then police training immediately kicked in (it might not have so quickly if she’d fully realised what it was that was attacking her). She untangled its hand from her hair and swiftly twisted it and snapped the wrist. She jumped free, crashing into the fitted wardrobe then fumbled around in the dark for clothes. “What the hell’s going on?”
Han pulled the creature off the bed and stamped on its head repeatedly until it caved in.
Cara stopped with one arm inside a blouse. “Han! What the fuck did you just do? You fucking killed him!” Tears streamed down her horrified face.
Han glanced up. “Darling, you’re not grasping the situation. You’ve just been rudely awoken, so I can’t say I blame you. That thing was already dead.”
Cara yanked the blouse on and pulled on a pair of jeans, shouting, “What the fuck are you talking about? I know you’re the fucking film freak and all, but that shit is sick!”
“I haven’t got time to argue with you! We’re leaving right now.”
“We can’t leave the scene of a crime! Are you insane? I’ve got to report this!”
“Okay, the easiest way we can do this is to show you. Put your fucking shoes on first though.”
Han led Cara out onto the caravan’s decking as she fumbled for her mobile phone.
One of the nearby vans was in flames. A people carrier sped past with two creatures hanging on to the rear bumper. Several creatures were shambling around and, further down towards the site office, several more were huddled over a shrieking form. They were biting and tearing at the poor woman’s flesh. The air was suddenly filled with screams and the crackling and popping of the burning caravan.
Cara let the phone fall limply to her side.
“Can I assume you’re up to speed on current events?” Han asked, eying several creatures that were now heading their way.
“I’ll take that as a yes. Okay, shall we make a move, hon? Time to check out.”
They piled into the Jeep as more creatures gravitated towards them from all directions. As Han sat in the driver seat, he grabbed the steering wheel then said, “Bugger.”
“What now?” Cara snapped.
“I left the keys in the caravan.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Cara yelled, hysteria stretching her vocal cords to breaking point.
Han smiled. “Of course. What do you take me for?”
Cara glared at him and managed a weak groan.
Han fired up the engine (it started immediately – we’re trying to avoid clichés here!). Another mistake people make in these situations is to screech away at top speed, careening into things and inevitably crashing like the stupid cannon fodder they are. Han wasn’t stupid. He pulled off the grass carefully, three-pointed and drove at a gentle pace back towards the main gates.
“Move it, for fuck’s sake!” Cara screamed, finally back in the game.
“Have you seen any horror films at all?” Han asked, incredulous.
She opened her mouth to speak, but shut it again. A creature thumped into the side of the Jeep, causing her to shrink away.
Han slowly picked his way through the creatures and around the dismembered woman in the middle of the road and then out onto the main street.
Seahouses was aflame and in utter disarray. Living and … not quite so living fought and ran in all directions.
Han turned left and headed away from the town, speeding up a little once on the B1340 coastal route.
Cara was mute, staring ahead.
After a time, Han finally said, “I think we’ll try Bamburgh next time, eh?”
* Read more about Han Whitman in Rod’s Sinema novels.