Northern Ireland, 23rd November 2006
The pale sun hung over Stormont, like an old rusted coin. A light wind swept along the long tree lined avenue running all the way up to the parliament building itself. The road was empty. Security had been allowing no traffic inside, not even reporters. Only pedestrians were permitted to walk the grounds today. It was a turning point in the history of devolution. Sinn Fein and the DUP had claimed the middle ground from the moderate parties for the first time in history. Now they were faced with the question of if they could, or would work together. Today both parties were due to nominate their candidates for power sharing. They would announce their choices for who would be First and Deputy First ministers; the joint and most senior office of the NI Executive. Throughout the country was fear and consternation of how it all might play out. Devolution itself might crumble as it had done many times before. But nobody could have foreseen what events would actually take place.
A hooded figure passed by the dramatic statue of Edward Carson to the right of the iconic parliament building of Stormont. He began to climb the steps, his sports bag jostling on his back. Michael Stone pulled down his hood and gazed back at the statue, giving it a little nod. Michael Stone- the infamous Loyalist killer, released almost a decade before, following The Good Friday Agreement. His bulky frame jogged heavily up the steps and he swung his bag around and unzipped it quickly. Inside were pipe bombs, a Glock pistol and a knife. There was also a spray can. He plucked this out and began graffitiing one of the huge white pillars with red spray.
“Sinn Fein: IRA Murderers,” he wrote.
He threw the can away, pulled out his Glock from the bag and burst through the front doors. As a tall male security guard reached for his own gun, Stone cracked him across the face with his own weapon.
“No Surrender!” he cried. His gruff voice reverberated around the grand entrance hall. It was predominantly white and gold with a marbled floor, pillars and a high ceiling, with intricate plaster work across the ceiling. Ahead was the majestic stair-case leading to the parliament itself. Then he hit the guard again.
On the other side of the door was Susan Porter, another parliament security guard. She moved swiftly, side-stepping around Stone and her fallen comrade. She was unarmed, but in a skilled and smooth movement she plucked the gun from Stone’s hand and stuffed it into her black trousers. Stone was stunned as she pulled his left arm up his back and forced him to the ground. He gave a little moan as he hit the hard floor and she pressed a knee into his back.
“Get off of me, stupid bloody woman!”
The first security lay stunned on the ground as another ran towards them from the doorway. He clocked Stone, his face already aghast. There was a distant noise from beyond, a low rumbling sound.
“What, who?” said Susan, twisting around.
“I don’t know,” said the pale faced man, drawing his own weapon, “They’re not with… him, I don’t think.” His face was pale, a look of terror etched deeply.
“Call for back up,” Susan said urgently, as Stone writhed beneath her, still giving off, cursing her.
“That’s just it… it is the back up.”
Just then two more security guards scrambled through the entrance. They were dressed in the same black trousers and white shirts. But their faces had a green tinge, their heads hanging to the sides, their eyes silk white. They groaned, a guttural, unhuman noise. The first leaped at the man, crashing with him to the ground. The guard screamed as the zombie overpowered him, savagely clawing at his face. Then he sank his ragged teeth into his neck. The man screamed again as the life was chewed from him.
“John!” Susan shouted, letting go of Stone and jumping to her feet.
The second Zombie dived wildly for Stone, clawing and climbing up his feet and legs.
“Get the fuck off me!” Stone shouted, his face against the floor, trying to scramble free.
The zombie sunk its teeth into his leg.
“Ahhhh!” Stone cried out.
The zombie released the bloodied flesh and pulled itself up higher. Stone fought back, but couldn’t stop the huge jaws from sinking into his neck.
Now on her feet, Susan pulled out the gun, clicked off the safety and aimed at the first zombie.
“Get the fuck off of him!” she ordered, training the gun on the still feasting zombie. There was little left of her colleague John’s throat. A pool of blood spilled out across the white tiles. The zombie swung around, its face soaked with scarlet blood and dripping flesh. It rose up, bones making an unnatural crunching sound as it moved. Then it leaped at her. She squeezed off two rounds into its head and it fell to the ground, still. The gun fire echoed around the huge hallway.
“Leave him!” she shouted to the second zombie, feeding hungrily on the now dead Stone. It turned its head, the hideous face staring right at her. It growled. She aimed and fired a bullet into the centre of its head. It fell upon Stone, both now laying still.
“Jesus,” she said, wiping the gun across her brow, pushing the stray blonde locks away. Susan crossed to the first guard, checking for a pulse. He was dead too. She backed away from the carnage and broke into a jog towards the staircase. As she hurried up halfway, a crowd of MLA’s ran out onto the landing above.
“Good, God almighty!” The voice was deep and commanding, with something approaching a whistle at the edges. The eighty year old still had a considerable stature and a commanding presence.
A leaner fifty five year old ran up beside him and scowled as he too viewed the horrific scene below.
“Jesus, fuck,” he declared in a sharp, Derry accent.
The older man turned to him, his thick lips curled at the edges. He peered over his large glasses at him, “Language, McGuinness,” he scolded.
McGuinness rolled his eyes. “That’s one of your friends,” McGuinness said, jabbing a finger towards Stone’s still bleeding body.
“He’s no friend of mine,” Paisley replied haughtily. “What in God’s green earth is going on here?” he demanded of Susan as she reached the top of the stairs.
“Sir, I don’t know what to tell you,” she said breathily, “Michael Stone made some sort of half arsed attack on parliament, but there’s something much worse. Something terrible.”
All at once a fresh growl could be heard from below. Then Stone and the dead security guard rose to their feet, swaying, groaning; their eyes white, their teeth sharp.
“Zombies,” said Gerry Adams in a low voice, walking slowly up to the group, rubbing a hand through his thick black beard.
“God save us all,” said Paisley as the two zombies began climbing the stair-case.
Susan pulled out a fresh clip and began reloading the Glock. “Gentleman, please use anything you can as a weapon. Stone had pipe bombs in his bag, I’ll take these two out if one of you wants to make a run for them.”
Peter Robinson also joined the group from the crowd of politicians standing stunned behind. His long face was grey and gaunt.
“Adams, do you have any experience of bombs?” Robinson asked sourly, raising an eyebrow.
“Just your wife Peter, Iris is a sex bomb,” Adams replied pushing past him. Then turning to Susan he said, “Cover me and I’ll go grab them.”
“Good,” she said, aiming at Zombie Stone. She plunged a round just wide of him, shattering plaster from the rail of the staircase. He began to run clumsily up the steps, growling loudly.
Most of the politicians backed away. Some were now running back towards the chambers. “A Popish Plot if I ever I saw one,” said Sammy Wilson under his breath, running away from the landing.
Susan took aim again, this time blowing away half of Stone’s face. He tumbled back down the staircase, scuttling Zombie John under him.
McGuinness and Gerry Kelly sidled up beside Gerry Adams. “We’re with you Ger,” said Kelly, his beady eyes locking with Adams.
Paisley strode up to the trio.
“Hope I’m not interrupting a Provo war council here, I’m going to the offices, there must be something we can use as weapons there,” he announced in his dusky whistle, “And we can phone the police from there.”
“As long as the peelers know who they’re meant to be shooting at,” Kelly said wryly.
Zombie John had righted himself and was climbing the stairs once again. Susan skipped down a few steps and took aim. The gun jammed and the zombie began to grab at her, attempting to pull her down with him. Adams and Kelly dived in and they all began to wrestle with him, while trying to evade his snapping jaw. Suddenly the door to the left flew open, accompanied by shouts and screams. A mix of politicians and zombies flooded the landing, running in all directions. A zombie, formerly Jeffrey Donaldson launched itself at Paisley. The big man just managed to hold him at bay. Then half of Zombie Donaldson’s head exploded. Behind him was McGuinness holding a fire extinguisher aloft. He crashed it down again on its head, cracking it like a nut; blood gushing everywhere. Paisley stared at McGuinness wide eyed, blood dripping off the edges of the already red extinguisher, redder now.
“Thank you, Martin,” he said solemnly.
McGuinness gave a shrug. “Maybe Jeffrey wanted to re-join the UUP.” He patted Paisley on his broad shoulder, “C’mon, lets go find us some weapons.”
They weaved through the hysteria of zombies and politicians fighting one another.
“Dad, Dad, let me help,” called Ian Paisley Junior from across the hall, catching up to them.
“Don’t be stupid Junior,” Paisley said sternly, “Go and hide somewhere,” he said marching on past.
“Or take another holiday,” said McGuinness with a wink, brushing by him.
They jogged past the entrance to the chambers. The interior parliament, wood panelled, with rich blue fabric was now splashed all over with blood, guts and the dead and dying. Heads down, they moved swiftly on past. Paisley kept up well with McGuinness, considering his age. The immediate stretch of corridor was empty, but a groaning noise could be heard from somewhere beyond. There was a row of wooden chairs with blue cushions outside one office. McGuinness picked one up and smashed it off the floor with two heavy blows.
“Lord God man, that may be how you do things in the Bogside, this is Her Majesty’s parliament,” Paisley scolded.
Just then a zombie wearing a police uniform rushed around the corner towards them. McGuinness ran, lifted up a chair leg above his head and swung it into the zombie’s face with a crack. Then he swung again, plunging it into its eye socket. It fell to the ground. He turned to Paisley.
“Her Majesty can have it back later if she wants to.”
They pressed on around the corner and Paisley fumbled in his pockets for his bunch of keys, before letting them into his office. Just then, Edwin Poots staggered along the hall, groaning.
“There’s another one,” said McGuinness, raising the chair leg.
Paisley put a hand urgently on his arm. “No, don’t- Poots always looks like that.”
“Keep going Edwin, help’s on its way,” Paisley called out gruffly.
Poots nodded, his face ashen, stumbling away along the hall.
“Ahh, they we are now,” said Paisley with a broad smile, marching across the office. There was a curved sabre sword mounted on the wall. He strained, letting out a wheeze and a whistle as he plucked it from the wall. “It was my father’s,” he said proudly, unsheathing it and throwing the cover down onto the floor. He gave a few flourishes, it making a whooshing noise as it cut through the air. “1956- a Gold medal from East Belfast Fencing Association,” he said with a little smile curling on his thick lips.
“We didn’t have many fencing clubs in Derry,” McGuinness said dryly.
“I suppose not. C’mon then,” Paisley said leading the way into battle. McGuinness followed, chair leg in hand.
“C’mon and we’ll swing by my office next, I need to get something” he said.
Two zombies approached noisily from the bend in the corridor, both dressed in police uniforms.
“God, I’d rather the B-Specials,” said McGuinness under his breath.
Paisley set his eyes on the enemy, a smile still playing on his face. “Ahh, alright then,” he said, years dropping from him as he broke into a stride. He swung the sword, slicing through the first zombie’s chest, then he brought the sword down into its head before ripping the blade free again. Blood splashed through the air. It fell down dead.
Then Paisley feinted to the side, more nimbly than should be possible at his age and sliced through the second zombie’s head, decapitating it with one strike. Blood speckled Paisley’s face and he wiped it away with the sleeve of his free arm. He turned to McGuinness, with a childish grin, as if looking for approval.
“Not bad old man,” McGuinness said, his own mouth slipping into a smile he couldn’t hope to stop, “Let’s get going, Ian.”
They hurried down the hallway, around the corner and into McGuinness’s own office. He quickly crossed the room to a low bookcase. McGuinness grabbed its contents and threw books and files scattering across the floor. Then he braised himself and lifted the bookcase by its side before dragging it away from the wall. He cracked the wood panelling behind with his elbow, then pulled a loose plank away. He reached in and when his hands reappeared, they were holding a Tommy gun. He spun around, wielded it across his chest, clicking the ammo chamber open and shut on the huge sub-machine gun.
“I thought you’d never had one of those things,” Paisley boomed, with a half smirk.
McGuinness shrugged and led them back through the doorway. Paisley wiped his sabre clean with his bloodied sleeve. Then they moved out into the hall together, heading back the way they had come.
Paisley patted the younger man on the back, “Let’s get this thing done, Martin.”
Simon Maltman is the author of novels, novellas and short stories, released with various publishers. An Amazon Bestseller from Northern Ireland he writes a range of crime fiction thrillers. A regular guest at festivals and events, he is the tour guide for Belfast Noir, and also a well known book reviewer for the likes of UTV and online journals. An established ‘Ulster Noir’ author, he also writes American-set high concept thrillers.