The Fallen

The fifth terrifying part of Charlie Higson's bestselling Enemy series. The Enemy is closer than you think . . .
First the sickness rotted the adults' minds. Then their bodies. Now they stalk the streets, hunting human flesh.
The Holloway crew are survivors. They've fought their way across London and made it to the Natural History Museum alive - just. But the fight will never end while the Enemy lives, unless there's another way. . .
The kids at the museum are looking for a cure. All they need are medical supplies. To get them means a journey down unknown roads. Roads where not only crazed, hungry sickos hide in the shadows.
SUDDENLY IT'S NOT SO CLEAR WHO - OR WHAT - THEY'RE FIGHTING.

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1. Chapter 1

Laughter filled the street. Laughter and singing. Maxie was laughing too, though she wasn’t really sure why. She was filled with a wild, mindless joy. Here she was, out in the cool fresh air, marching through the streets of London with the surviving Holloway kids. It reminded her of Halloween when she’d been younger. That slightly hysterical feeling of escape, the normal rules broken, the streets being owned by children.

Only tonight the monsters were real.

No matter. They would destroy all monsters. 

They’d just chased off a group of sickos. Sent them running. Maxie felt invincible. She was floating on air. There was a sort of magic about it. The energy of the other kids was combining into a powerful force. They were so much more than a gang. They were an army. 

They’d escaped from the palace. Got away from that creepy loser, David. After being shut away in the sick-bay for so long with Blue, the last half-hour had been mental, totally unreal, a mad film she’d watched on late-night TV while fighting to stay awake. There had been chaos in the palace. People running through the dark corridors, distant shouts, gunfire . . .  At one point she’d seen one of David’s captive royal family. The last surviving members from the old days. An old woman wearing a tiara and a tattered silver dress, her face covered in boils. 

The kids stomped down the middle of the road and their voices bounced off the high walls of the buildings, chasing away their nightmares. Taunting the grown-ups who hid in the darkness.

She turned to smile at the girl next to her. They’d rescued her from an attack near Green Park tube. She’d been badly cut up and had a bandage round her head. Maxie saw that she was crying.

‘Are you all right?’ Maxie put her arm round her.

‘Yeah, yeah, I’m fine.’

‘Only you’re crying.’

‘Am I?’ The girl wiped her bruised and swollen face, sniffed and laughed through her tears. ‘I’m only crying cos I’m happy.’

‘Then we should all be crying.’

‘Maybe.’ The girl held on to her. ‘Thank you, Maxie.’

‘So have you got a name, bandage-head?’

‘I’m Brooke.’

‘Cool. Pleased to meet you, Brooke.’

It was Brooke who had told them about the Natural History Museum, how there was a group of kids living there. How it was safe and well organized.

And that was where they were headed in the middle of the night.

Maxie could feel Brooke’s ribs through her clothing. She hadn’t seen the girl eat anything in all the time they’d shared a room. She was running on adrenalin and guts. Maxie worried that if she squeezed her too tight she’d snap in two.

Brooke was about her own age and height. Hard to know what she might look like when her face healed. Right now it was a mess of scabs and yellow and purple bruising, and Maxie hated to think what might be under that bandage.

Just so long as Brooke led them safely to the museum the poor girl could rest up and get well, then Maxie could find out all about her, what she’d been doing when she was attacked, who she’d lost, why she’d lain so long in bed without moving or speaking.

Probably not a happy story, let’s face it. There weren’t too many happy stories in the world any more. Except maybe this one . . .

‘Escape from the Palace of Terror, starring the Holloway Crew.’

Maxie looked around. They hadn’t all made it. They’d lost a few along the way since leaving north London, good friends, including the boy she’d loved, but there were still enough of them.

They were all around her, in a comforting knot.

Lewis, his Afro unmistakable in the darkness, was out on the left flank with his fighters; Big Mick was out on the other. Ollie was at the rear as usual, he and his skirmishers watching their backs. Clever Ollie with his red hair and his slingshot, the guy who had masterminded their escape plan. 

Achilleus, the best fighter of them all, was walking stiffly just in front of Maxie and Brooke. Achilleus had been hurt pretty badly in the fight at the palace with Just John and one side of his head was taped up. He was leaning on someone for support. A stocky little kid with fuzzy hair who was new to Maxie. He was younger than Achilleus, and carried a golf-bag full of weapons. He looked like he was finding it hard work, but wasn’t the complaining type. Wanted to show how hard he was. He and Brooke weren’t the only newcomers; they’d also picked up a big-nosed guy called Andy, one of David’s palace guards who’d defected and helped them escape. 

In the centre of the group were the non-fighters – among them, big, no-nonsense Whitney, Ben and Bernie, the emo engineers, and Maeve, who acted as their doctor. They were looking after the younger kids, Blu-Tack Bill, Monkey-Boy and Ella, who were fussing over their little Alsatian puppy, Godzilla.

It felt good to be with her friends. The world had turned cold and cruel, and friendship helped keep them warm. It was more important now than ever to help each other and work together.

But the best thing was Blue, the leader of the Morrisons gang, who had a lot more going for him than Maxie had ever imagined. He was walking on Maxie’s left. Quiet and watchful. She’d been scared of Blue for ages. Had thought he was a typical tough guy. Cold and hard and stupid. The alpha male who had fought his way to the top and kept his place with violence. But she’d found, in the time they’d been locked up together at the palace, that it was all a front, and behind that front he was warm and funny and smart. There wasn’t a lot of good stuff in the world any more. Bad things did rather kick everything else into the gutter. Finding Blue, though, had almost made it all worthwhile.

Almost . . . 

‘There it is.’

Maxie looked to where Brooke was pointing. She’d been a couple of times to the museum, once with her mum and dad a few years ago, and once with her school, but she couldn’t remember it being this big. Back then, though, she hadn’t been thinking of living in it. It seemed to fill half the street, with tall, churchlike towers at both ends and another pair in the middle where the main entrance was. And then she shivered. There was something about this place. Something she didn’t like.

A wide strip of garden, set behind iron railings, separated the museum from the road and a small gatehouse guarded the entrance. The gatehouse appeared deserted, the door hanging open.

‘Something’s not right,’ said Brooke and Maxie felt her heart beat faster. It was late, probably well after midnight, and she hadn’t thought about being tired before, but now weariness flooded her body and her bones felt suddenly heavy. She hadn’t reckoned on having to deal with any more trouble tonight.

‘What is it?’

‘There should be someone at the gates,’ said Brooke, looking around distractedly. ‘There’s always someone here. Guarding them. At least two kids. This ain’t right.’

Blue rattled the gates. They were firmly locked. Maxie looked over at the museum building. There was candlelight flickering in the windows.

‘How do we get in?’ she asked, but before Brooke could reply Blue ran back along the pavement to where the railings were lower, climbed on to a bench and vaulted over to the other side. The rest of the kids followed him and they ran up a wide, curving ramp towards the two sets of big double doors at the entrance.

‘They’re open!’ someone shouted and Maxie watched as a group of kids pushed one of the doors back.

She forced her way to the front and found Blue. They exchanged looks. She took a deep breath.

‘What you waiting for?’ Blue asked and Maxie went in.

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