This is my homework based on the key words "Times Square and June". I got sidetracked by the geography of New York (which I still haven't got right) so the story is nothing like I planned. It is product of reading WWZ too many times and not having an original thought in my head.
I stepped out of the helicopter and it hit me, that familiar smell of death and decay. I’ve stopped wondering how long it will stay in the air. I no longer feel the need to wretch. My stomach gave a little flutter, not at the smell, but at the realisation that after almost a year of living in hell my body has accepted it as normal. I feel more fear by this notion than I felt during my entire time at Brooklyn.
I was in charge of the Brooklyn Bridge for six months. I was there when the evacuation began and I was there to oversee the first recon team ventured into Manhattan. I was also the one to give the order to close the Bridge.
We had kept the Bridge open for the first few weeks and the public shuffled their way through, slowly but surely. The medical teams were filtering out the Infected with the dogs picking out the rest. I am proud that not one of the Infected got through on my watch.
Thousands were saved at Brooklyn but we should have saved more. Someone made the decision to blow up the rest of the bridges and fill in the Lincoln Tunnel in an attempt to streamline the flow of refugees. It was never announced who made this decision. There was no glory with it so it’s hardly surprising that it was brushed under the carpet.
My team did their job and they did it well. It was those idiots on the Washington Bridge that let a few of the Infected across. In fairness the Infected were quickly put down but they got lucky and a major catastrophe was diverted. It was only then that the policy of Zero Tolerance was introduced. This was the day when someone sitting in an office surrounded by armed guards said a big fuck you to Manhattan.
No more people got off the Island, at least, no one got off it from my Bridge.
Chaos followed as the civilians tried to force their way through the blockade but we held our ground. I will admit that I gave the order on several occasions for shots to be fired. The crowds needed to be dispersed and quickly. A mass gathering of people increased the odds of the infection spreading.
The clever few sensed this and moved on. I hope they found another way out. I know there were boats charging a small fortune to take people across the river. I hinted as much to those who would listen. The cost would have quadrupled when the Navy were given orders to sink any boats assisting escapees.
Thanks to the media my face is now forever associated with closing the Brooklyn Bridge. I am hated for it but at least I never used the circumstances to make a profit – I was merely following orders. I did what I had to do, at least this is what I tell myself when I wake up in the night. This always happens on the rare occasions when I manage to sleep.
I can still see the faces of each and every soul who cursed death upon me for not letting them across the Bridge. Mothers wailed and fathers held their children up in the air to give me a better view of those I helped to sentenced to death…. merely following orders. If I keep repeating it I am bound to start believing it.
There was one man who tried to cross the Bridge just as the evacuation order had been issued. This was before the crowds arrived. He had his dog with him – an old, grey mongrel with three legs. Animals weren’t allowed across the Bridge and he refused to leave his dog. He was the only person who turned back with their pet. I know he smiled at the dog before he turned away. The dog’s name was Toby. I saw his name on his dirty gold collar. I can’t remember what the man looked like.
Three weeks was all it took for the angry and betrayed faces of the condemned to slowly transform into a hoard of the Infected. The barrier was strong and was never going to be breached. I allowed my team to take their time picking off the Infected. I knew that they were worried about friendly fire and I thought this approach would ease their stress.
It only took about a week before the smell became unbearable. I led by example and lit the first fire. It got rid of the bodies and killing any Infected who were on fire removed the human element even further. No one ever said anything but I knew they thanked me for it.
Fifty of us held the Bridge for the five months it was shut. I didn’t lose a man. This went unnoticed by the world as once again everyone’s attention was on the Washington Bridge where one fuck up followed after another. In the end they just blew up the Bridge and transferred everyone to Yonkers.
I can’t imagine that many people in South Manhattan made it as far as the Park but they didn’t stand a chance if they made it to the bloodbath that was Yonkers. We got off lightly compared to that shit storm yet it was hailed as a success.
Nevertheless here I stand in the middle of Times Square on 1st June one hundred and eighty days after I started my post at Brooklyn. The Square was once one of the world’s most recognisable sights but now it is a dilapidated and broken down cemetery where those who managed to ride out the past six months in hiding were herded.
Luckily for the survivors it seems that the relief teams have been quickly put in place and they appear to be getting looked after well. It is some small consolation I suppose. I am sure they will make a small fortune appearing on chat shows once they have been given the all clear. I don’t mean this it’s just the lack of sleep talking.
The population of Manhattan once boasted over four million now only a few thousand remain. It took weeks to gather up the survivors. Unfortunately for all the advances in technology infrared couldn’t differentiate between humans and the Infected. Clearing the streets was a slow task but I don’t blame the survivors from hiding from us. I wouldn’t have trusted me either.
With the south being completely clear Times Square became the official centre point for the relief stations. A line across 57th Street signified the end of the green zone. The line was drawn very hastily so I’m glad it isn’t my signature authorising this decision.
I have been told that as a reward for my heroics at Brooklyn I am to be charged with overseeing the clear out in Central Park. I think this is code for me being the most expendable.
My team followed me out of the helicopter and started to stock up on supplies for our journey through the overgrown wilderness of the Park. I reached out to take the checklist from Jones, my second in command, and became very aware of the burning sensation in my left arm.
I've had no contact with any of the Infected so I see no cause for alarm. I cut it on some glass when reaching down for my backpack before getting onto the helicopter. I managed to avoid injury for six months yet it’s a small shard of glass that gets me hour before I left the Bridge. If I thought for one second that I was about to become one of the Infected I would pull the trigger without hesitation. I would never risk my putting anyone in danger.
Jones is now looking at my arm so I stretch dramatically and motion that we are ready to head out. I lead the charge as we walk through Times Square nodding in acknowledgement at the survivors. I allow my team their moment of fame as we trudge up 7th Avenue. It’s the very least they deserve.
I give myself a shake. I don’t mean to feel so bitter but I just need to sleep. I am proud of what we have achieved. The sight in Times Square shows that humanity can endure even the most unthinkable horrors. These people are the real heroes.
The burning pain is getting worse. I will put a proper dressing on it once we get the entrance to the Park. I turn back to take one final look at Times Square. My arm? It’s nothing to worry about at all. I will keep repeating this until I believe it.