THE YOUNG SURVIVORS: AND THEN THERE WERE FIVE

This is actually a spin-of of the BBC series Survivors about a flu epidemic which almost totally wipes out the human race. Only a handful of people manage to survive it. This story centres on a small group of children in rural England (or what is left of it) who have apparent immunity to the flu bug. The leader of this group is a 12 year old boy named Simon Tanner. He is the oldest and therefore the strongest and also the smartest so the other kids accept him as the one in charge without ever challenging him. He is something of a father figure to the rest of them.

Then there is 11 year old Amanda Hopkins who is the only girl in the group. Next we have 9 year old Tommy Wilson and finally 6 year old Joe Blake. Presently just four of them and they all lived in a small bunglow in the Midlands. This had been vacated by the owners when they had gone off for the weekend at the time of the flu outbreak. They had gone off and never returned. Simon had managed to pry open one of the side windows and they had all gotten in that way.

There was enough food in the place for several weeks but they still had to go out and look for more. Simon had caught some fish in the local lake and once killed a rabbit with a snare he had set up. All the animals seemed unaffected by the fatal illness so there was no chance of being contaminated. All of them knew that in the cities like Manchester, Birmingham and London there were patches of civilisation here and there.

Out here in the sticks there was hardly another soul for miles. They had spotted a couple of adults walking through the nearby forest one time and they made a point of not being seen by them. They did not want any grown ups in their group, they would be fine without them. The elders, as they called them , were the ones responsible for all of this so they were not to be trusted, not any more. A new order comprising of people their own age was needed. Any future for mankind was in their hands now.

There was no gas or electricity of course so they had to boil potatoes or meat in a saucepan over the coal fireplace. There was a good supply of coal here and also several candles which they used sparingly during the night. The water supply in this area had not yet been turned off so they could wash and have cold bathes and there was enough sanitation for the time being. They were not sure how long this would last but they were just grateful to have it all.

Simon had no trouble with Amanda who always followed his orders without question but he sometimes had to be strict and often harsh with the younger boys if they wondered off or played up when it was time for bed. He'd had to yell at them, sometimes he'd forcefully dragged them to the dinner table and one or two times he'd had to put Joe across his knee and spank him if he took too much of the food. This was the way his own father had punished him. He would always say he was sorry for being a little mean to them but it was only because he cared about them and they must all follow his rules for their own good.

On this particular day he and Amanda were out looking for more food. It was a sunny pleasant morning. The younger children had stayed behind in the house and Simon had told them not to leave it while he was gone. They all hadn't really known each other that long but Simon thought of them as his family now. They were all he had now and he prayed he would never lose any of them.

As they wondered through the dense forest Amanda spotted something lying behind one of the trees. As they came closer they saw that it was a boy aged about 11 years old who was dressed in schoolboy shorts and white shirt. He lay very still. They both knelt down beside him and then Amanda could see that he looked familiar.

"I used to see this boy on the way to school!" she told Simon. "He went to one of the nearby schools. I think his name is Anton and he's German." Her 12 year old companion put his hand to the other boy's face. It was so cold! There was no sign of life at all. Amanda said what they were both thinking. "He's dead isn't he!"

Simon nodded his head in the affirmative. "Poor kid! Well, we can't leave him here. We should bury him. We'll take him to the cemetery next to this wood. Give me a hand, can you!" If it had been an adult they had found there they would not even have taken the trouble to bury him but this boy was one of their own and should be buried decently.

Between them they hauled the lifeless child to an upright position and then Simon slung over his shoulder in a fireman's lift. They made their way slowly in the direction of the village cemetery which was to be Anton's final resting place. Amanda took the lead and Simon followed carrying the motionless boy. The girl could suddenly hear a sound from behind her and she turned around and stopped. She implored Simon, "Put him down! He's not dead. I could hear him make a sound."

Simon wasn't sure that he had but he lowered the boy down to the damp ground and then sat him against a tree. He and Amanda knelt down beside him for several minutes until he began to awaken. He eyes slowly opened and he looked at the other children quizzically. He thought he recognised the girl but the boy was clearly a stranger to him. He muttered something in German.

It was Amanda who spoke first. "You know me don't you, Anton. I used to see you on the school bus. Come on, speak English! I know that you can speak very good English. This is my friend Simon."

Now that they had been introduced Simon enquired of Anton, "How long have you been out here like this?" The German boy replied that he wasn't sure. He remembered coming out into the forest one Saturday and that was all. He must have gone into a coma and nobody had found him until now. He said that he was so weak and hungry.

"Come back to our place, mate!" Simon said this in a gentle tone. "We'll give you some food. Then you can have a bath and I'll put you to bed."

Anton replied, "Who are you, my father! Besides I might not want to go with you."

"I don't think you have any choice!" The English boy advised him. "You can't survive on your own so I think we're stuck with each other. Now stop being silly and let us help you."

"I can't walk I'm so weak!" Anton let his new companions know.

Simon smiled. "That's all right. I'll carry you. I'm strong enough. Put your arms around my neck." So Anton did so and Simon picked the other boy up and cradled him in his arms. Young Anton had been through so much he soon just drifted off to sleep. He hung limply in Simon's arms.

Amanda asked him, "You all right! Want me to help?"

To this he replied, "He doesn't weigh that much he's so run down. Now let's take him home." So the 12 year old leader of the small group followed behind Amanda with his sleeping burden. They had a new addition to their number now it seemed. By the time they arrived back at the small building which was now their home Anton had become quite heavy and Simon's arms felt like lead weights. He carried him inside and, with Amanda's assistance, undressed him and placed him into the bath tub. After his bath he dressed him in pyjamas and put him on the large sofa in the main room and placed a blanket over him. He slept soundly that night.

The following morning Anton was given a good breakfast of chicken and vegetables and orange juice. He was so hungry he just gulped in all into his mouth. Then the other children heard his tragic story. He had seen both of his parents contract the flu virus and he had looked after them as best he could until it claimed them. Before he died his father had told him to look for somebody who would care for him.

The flu had not affected him right away. He had left the house where he'd lived and went off to find others who were lucky enough to survive it. Out in the forest he was struck with the deadly flu bug and it had almost but not quite finished him off. Simon realised he had been in the same near death state all of them had been when they'd come down with it. Anton thanked Simon and the rest of them for being so kind to him.

"That's all right, Anton!" The eldest boy told him. "We all have to look after one another now. If you want to stay with us you have comply with our rules and always do as I tell you. Otherwise you have to go, understand!" Anton nodded that he did. "Good. I'm sorry we all lost our parents but all the other grown ups can just die as far as I'm concerned. They never looked after the planet as they should have. They all got too ambitious and greedy and now we've all paid the price. It's up to us to rebuild the world again. It will take many years but I think we were spared for that purpose. We won't make the same mistakes they did."

Anton was impressed at how wise and clever Simon was for his age. He was delighted to be a part of this little group and he found himself wondering how many more kids were out there on their own, deprived of their parents love, lost and lonely? How many more would become members off this special little club?