AN: I've just realised that i started this story ten years ago this month, so in honour of that I think it deserves a little update.
From the writings of Dr James Hampton - Professor of History at Cambridge University - Project Lead of the National Historical Reclamation Effort.
Date :10th May 2012
Its an honour to be part of the Reclamation Effort . Reclaiming our history. The lost works of art, sculpteres, documents. So much of it was lost in the chaos of the first 28 days. The University of Cambridge, in partnership with the British governments Department of Culture has been tasked with the national effort to reclaim those lost treasures. As an institution we are incredibly lucky to even still exist, despite Cambridge being the ground zero for Rage, some of the faculty and students managed to barricade some of the campuses and hold out right through the epidemic. We can safety say that despite everything, the University of Cambridge managed to maintain our impressive record of being the third longest continuous university in operation at 800 years strong (Oxford didn't make it). That sense of history helped us stay together and keep fighting during the worst of times. Over 700 staff and students made it through the early days together.
Our helicopter flew in low over what had once been Manchester. The steel beams of Old Stafford Stadium jutted into the cold morning sky, blackened in parts and rusted in others. That stadium had burned during the first outbreak ten years ago. It burned alongside the rest of the city. The flames had started during the armys chaotic attempt to break out from the besieged city. The fire brigade could not fight the flames for the water supply was long gone. This was my hometown. My wife lived here with me and had planned to move to Cambridge with me where I'd just been offered a position in the History department. We had tried for children but it just wasn't to happen.
Emily. My wife. She had been on the phone all morning on that first day. I told her to stay in Manchester and not to get the train to Cambridge. The trains were cancelled an hour later. I silently thanked the lord at that. The phone went dead like all the phones across Cambridge that day , and I never heard from her again. To this day I still do not know what happened to her, but I know she's among ashes of the Manchester wasteland, floating in the air in the early morning breeze. How rather morbid I suppose.
I'm writing this as I go, for no other reason than to keep myself occupied in any down time we get. It's good to keep a record.
It brings a lump to my throat to look at this city. Most of it is rubble and burned out homes. I walk down Talbot Road. Weeds grow in the cracks in the road and vegetation has long since overtaken the burnt out cars. I'm careful to avoid the bones. No shortage of those. The stadium was a refugee camp for 20,000 people at one point. Very few escaped the flames, and those who did died in the stampede outside the stadium. Was Emily among them? Was it peaceful when she went? I do not want to know in all honesty.
The stadium was a bust it turned out. We had hoped to secure the trophies from the Manchester United Trophy Room. This wasn't an official part of our mission. We had already completed that and picked up some damaged but still surviving artifacts from the Manchester Museum earlier as well as the Science and Industry Museum. No, this was purely personal for me. My dad used to take me to the games and I really hoped something had survived of this once glorious clubs history. The stadium was ashes , but there was something glinting under a piece of wood. I pulled it up and dusted it off. A tear came go my eye. The 1968 European Cup. A bit before my time but my dad was there to watch them lift it. The only thing to survive in what was left of the Trophy Room. I loaded it into the RAF Chinook that was essentially our glorified removal van. We had a lynx for our teams personal transport.
I looked northwards. The flames had been held at the Manchester Canal. Our home had been across there. I politely ask the team to wait whilst I make my way across. The canal is filthy from all the muck and God knows what shit has fallen Into it over the years. The buildings on the other side are (mostly) still standing. Ten years of total human neglect have led to vines snaking their way up the old homes and shops. It looks not unlike Chernobyl. There are bones on the bridge I cross , along with long rusted SA-80 rifles and grime covered helmets. The army held here. They fought and lost but by God they fought like hell judging by the piles of bones that didn't have helmets on them.
It was a short walk to our old home. Nothing fancy, just a two bedroom house. Emily's Ford Focus is still in the driveway. It's blue paint is long rusted. I walk up to the front door and lift up a stone in front of the door. The spare key is still there. There's a struggle with the lock but it does eventually budge. The house is silent, but in my mind I can still hear the Coronation Street theme on the television, I can smell her making bacon and eggs. I smiled to myself. The house is dusty. Emily would never have tolerated that. Oh no, she was a clean freak. There's an old copy of the Manchester Evening Times on the living room table. Its badly faded but the words "All is Lost" can be made out.
I make my way upstairs to our room and push the door open. The curtains are closed , but there's enough light to see what I need to see. There's a skelton on our bed, lying atop the covers. A faded photo lies in its hand. One of our wedding photos. On the bedside table is an empty wine bottle and box of sleeping bills.
I have my answer. She went peacefully. I bury her in the back garden and made my way back to the choppers.
Some closure at last.