The Hunted


By Charlie Higson

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The sickness struck everyone sixteen and older. First it twisted their minds; next it ravaged their bodies. Now the sickos roam the streets, crazed and hungry for young flesh.

Ella’s friends had told her that the country would be safer than the city. They were wrong. Now they’re dead and Ella’s all alone–alone, that is, except for her silent rescuer, Scarface. But she doesn’t even know if he’s a kid or a grown-up.

Back in London, Ed is determined to find Ella and keep his promise to Small Sam that he will reunite sister and brother. But getting out of town has never been more dangerous. It seems that every sicko in the country is coming from all directions, almost as if they’re being summoned to the capital. Will anything be able to stop the invading horde?


Books by Charlie Higson



Blood Fever

Double or Die

Hurricane Gold

By Royal Command

SilverFin: The Graphic Novel


The Enemy

The Dead

The Fear

The Sacrifice

The Fallen

The Hunted

Copyright © 2015 by Charlie Higson
Cover photos © 2015 by and
Cover illustration by Puffin

First published in Great Britain in 2014 by the Penguin Group.

All rights reserved. Published by Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For information address Hyperion, 125 West End Avenue, New York, New York 10023.

ISBN 978-1-4847-1945-9


For my brothers, Andrew, Barney, and Dan


His teeth sank into the boy’s neck and he felt a warm spurt of blood fill his mouth. A deep calm came over him. The chattering in his head fell silent. The fidgeting and twitching in his arms and legs stopped. The deep itch dulled. He felt like he was plugged into the universe, or as if the universe was plugged into him. As he drank, he looked up at the stars. They seemed to spell out a message for him, if only he could read it. He squinted and strained, his brain throbbing in his hot head. What were they trying to tell him? No good. No good. He closed his eyes and concentrated on the blood. It tasted like life, clearing out all the poison inside him, cleaning his tubes and guts, lighting up a million stars within his brain. He shuddered with pleasure.

The boy was still moving, feebly trying to break away from his grip, but Saint George was holding him tight. When he’d drunk his fill, he’d give him to the others. They were sitting in a circle around him, waiting. The closest were the ones who’d been with him from the start. His lieutenants. And behind them, in circle after circle, the others, spreading out, filling the park. Sitting there, quietly waiting, their faces lit by moonlight. And out past them, all around, working their way through the city streets…his army was hunting. Maybe that’s what the stars were showing him. The sky was a map and each star was one of his people. He was at the center, the brightest star of all. And they were all connected, in a circle of light, so that he was out there hunting with his people, and they were feeding with him now.

They’d only found this one child so far tonight, but there would be more. Each night it took longer as they emptied the nearby streets and had to search farther and wider.

He was always the first to feed. Sometimes only drinking the blood; sometimes tearing off the flesh. The blood was the best part. The blood was electricity, driving his brain and body, blowing away the darkness and the fog. And with the blood came the memories. Flooding into his thoughts. His life up there in the stars, and in the jungle, traveling across the sea, searching for a new home and finding it inside this body.

This body.

This man.

Greg…Greg Thorne. Of Greg’s Organic Gaff.

Meat is life.

He was Greg. He had to hold on to the memory. It was like waking from a beautiful dream and feeling it slip away from you. He’d been a butcher. With a son. A boy. His own boy. What was his name…?

His boy?

No good. Not coming.

He was Greg, though. He remembered that. He’d worked with animals. Cutting them up, chopping through the fat and the muscle, the tendons, skinning and deboning. Eviscerating. Yes, he remembered it well. Pictured the carcasses hanging from the hooks in the freezer at the back of his shop. Cows, sheep, pigs, chickens, children. Animals and children…Was that right? Had he always butchered children? Or had life been different then? That was the problem with the blood. For a few brief moments everything would be clear, lit up, written in the stars. He could read the messages. And then the clouds would come down, the mist and fog and shadows, and he would be so bloody hungry and the rage would take him. There could never be enough children to feed his hunger.

Already the images were fading. He’d known his name. He’d remembered a place. Knives and hooks and skin…

Cold. A cold place.

His head ached with the thinking. What was he to do?

He loosened his bite and looked down at the boy in his arms. The boy looked back at him. His eyes were sad. Blinking. His body trembled. Like a little bird. A chicken before you break its neck.

“Liam?” Greg smiled at him. “We should get home,” he said. “Or we’ll miss the game. The Arsenal are playing.”

He closed his eyes. He could hear the cheering. The hard, tight thud of boot on ball. The halftime whistle…

His team was going to win. It was an away game next. They would have to travel. Meet the opposition. He was captain. He was general. He was king. He was a saint. Saint George, and he would slay the dragon.

First he needed his army. He had to wait. There were more of them coming, more of the others, more glinting stars, a universe of them, all moving toward him. He could hear them out there, calling to him, telling him to wait. From everywhere they came, and when they’d all arrived, when he was strong enough, when he was unstoppable, he would move on.

Move on to where they were. The enemy. The fast ones. The young ones. They had to be herded up like sheep, penned in like chickens. And when they were ready they would take his sickness from him; the host would move on and live inside them.

He felt the boy struggle and he opened his eyes.

Until the time was right, they were just like this boy. Just meat.

He snapped his neck and threw the boy to the others, who leapt up and tore into him.

This boy was nothing, but there were others who were dangerous, and those they had to kill. The shining ones. The ones who wouldn’t take the sickness, the ones whose blood was strong. And, strongest of all, the bright little one, the little twinkling star. Twinkle, twinkle…

He had the power of light, that one did. He was made of light. He had to be destroyed. And all the others like him. Not as powerful as him, but dangerous all the same.

The stars had told Saint George this.

That was their true message.

He knew what he had to do.

To make the ripest children ready to take the host.

To kill the rest.

To kill the bright little star.

He’d seen him that time. At the Arsenal. The stars hadn’t given him his orders then, though. He’d let him slip away. If only he’d known the small boy was a nasty little dragon.

It wouldn’t happen again. He was Saint George and he would slay the dragon. That was how it worked, wasn’t it? He knew the story. He was a hero, a patron saint. He was England. This country was his. His people were marching toward him from all corners. He would take his throne.

But first he had to destroy the dragon.

He would butcher him like a piece of meat; a long pig, that’s all he was: cutlets, chops, ribs, and chitterlings. He would make sausages out of him, ham, because in the end he was nothing more than a side of pork….

No, smaller than that.

He was just a lamb.

A leg of lamb.


He would slaughter the lamb.

Everyone at the Natural History Museum was gathered in the Hall of Gods, an area that had big white statues lining both sides and an escalator at the back rising up through a weird, rusted metal globe. Ed had hoped that the meeting would be somewhere quiet and he could have talked to just one or two key people. Instead he had to face rows and rows of them, all sitting there, staring up at him and picking their noses like he was giving a talk at a school assembly.

That was how it was with Justin, though. He was in charge here and had his way of doing things, and you couldn’t argue him out of it. Ed supposed there was a reason behind it all. These kids, like all kids, were bored most of the time. There was work to be done growing food, or scavenging for it; you could read books, or talk to your mates, but that was about it. No football, no computer games, no TV or music. Meetings like this gave the kids something to occupy their minds and fill up their conversations.

Ed had known Justin at school. A few of the boys from Rowhurst had ended up at the museum. Chris Marker and Kwanele, Wiki and Jibber-Jabber. And it was Justin who had gotten them all safely there. He’d been pretty unmemorable before, a nerdy wimp, not the type of boy Ed used to hang out with. Ed had been into sports, mostly. But it turned out there was a lot more to Justin than Ed had ever imagined. He’d learned a hell of a lot since the disease had hit. Like how you needed all sorts of skills to survive. Brains being a very important one.

Justin was still fussy and nerdy, but he had authority. The kids respected him and he seemed to be able to control them. Something that Ed was utterly failing to do. Even the more streetwise kids from Holloway had sat there obediently through Justin’s bit. He’d gone through some tedious stuff about tasks for the next day and menus and cleaning duties, and there’d been hardly a squeak out of them.

Even a scarred troublemaker named Achilleus had stayed fairly quiet, only occasionally whispering something to the two boys who sat giggling on either side of him. One younger kid and one of the Twisted Kids, as they called themselves. Ed had thought that Wormwood, the intelligent adult he’d brought here with him, was strange, but the Twisted Kids were off the scale. This one’s name was Skinner, which was appropriate, as he had folds of loose skin all over his body.

As soon as Ed had opened his mouth, though, everything had fallen apart. Achilleus kept making snarky comments, and he was now lounging in his seat, yawning theatrically. The other kids had just started talking to each other, not loudly, but they were making enough noise to set up a steady, distracting buzz, so that Ed had lost all confidence in his speech—if you could call it a speech, which, unfortunately, Justin did when he’d introduced him.

Ed hadn’t been ready for this and had stumbled along, talking about how Sam was searching for his sister, Ella. How Ella had left that morning and Sam had missed her by only a few hours and how Ed needed to go after her. He’d rambled on for about five minutes before he’d run out of things to say. What was there to say? He needed their help on a dangerous and probably pointless expedition. He hardly believed in it himself, so how could he make anyone else buy into it? If he’d been in the audience, he would have ignored his stupid speech as well.

It was time to finish up. He’d done his best.

“So anyway…” he said, gazing out across the rows of kids, some looking at him, some chatting with their friends, some bored, some staring at the ceiling. “That’s it, really. I’m going off to find Ella—you know, tell her that Sam’s alive, and, hopefully, bring her back. And if anyone wants to come along and help me, then, er, I guess, see me afterward….”

See me afterward…? Had he really said see me afterward? That’s what teachers used to say. “If you want to come on the school trip to the theater, see me afterward….”

“What if she don’t wanna come back?” said a hefty black girl. Ed thought she was one of the kids who had recently arrived from Holloway with Ella.

“She’ll want to see Sam,” Ed replied. “I mean, wasn’t that the main reason she left? Because there was nothing here for her except bad memories?”

“Whitney’s right,” said another of the Holloway crew. “What if Ella’s got a better thing going on out there?”

Ed noticed a commotion near the front and then saw Sam jumping out of his chair.

He didn’t need this now.

“What do you mean, ‘bring her back’ here to me?” Sam shouted. “I’m going with you.”

“I’ll talk to you afterward, Sam. Not now, okay?”

“There’s nothing to talk about. I’m going with you.”

“No, you’re not.” Ed tried to sound firm, like there was no argument. “Too dangerous,” he added. “What if we got attacked on the way and you got killed? What then? This whole thing would have been a big waste of time.”

“You’re totally selling this, Two-Face,” said Achilleus. “Sounds like a real picnic. I’ll bring the cupcakes.”

“Yeah, and maybe some macaroons,” said the small boy next to him, who had a strong Irish accent.

“I never said it was going to be easy,” Ed protested, holding Achilleus’s stare. “That’s why I need fighters, and only fighters. If we’re a small but solid team we’ll be fine. I mean, I’m told you’re the best fighter here.”

“Yeah.” Achilleus nodded. “You heard right. No one can touch me.”

“You’d be really useful, mate.”

“I ain’t your mate.”


“I saved this place,” said Achilleus. “I saved everyone’s ass. Is what I do. Only I don’t never seem to get no reward for it. So I’m sitting tight, thanks all the same.”

“We been out there once already,” said the little Irish kid.

“Yeah,” said Achilleus. “And I ain’t going again, mate. Not on a suicide mission. I mean, you don’t even know where she’s gone, do you?”

“I’ll find her.”

“You’ll probably find her body, yeah. It’s sicko central out there. They probably already eating her.”

“Achilleus!” A girl in a leather jacket had stood up and was yelling at him. This was Maxie, one of the leaders of the Holloway crew.

“Ella’s one of us,” she said. Achilleus just smirked. “Sam is one of us. You keep your thoughts to yourself from now on. Have some respect.”


“What about you?” Ed said to Maxie.

“What about me?”

“As you say, Ella was one of yours. You gonna come with me?”

“No way,” said the hard-looking black kid next to her. He was the other leader of the Holloway kids, Blue. “I done my bit out that way, and me and Max is sticking together from now on. We need to be here with our people.”

“I don’t get it.” Ed put out his hands in a hopeless gesture. “Is anybody going to help me, or what?”

“Why should we listen to you?” called out a girl Ed didn’t recognize. “You’re the one who brought a sicko here. Brought a grown-up into our home. Made him a nice comfy room. When we’d just spent ages clearing them all out. Why should we trust you?”

There were shouts of agreement from around the room. And then someone stood up. Ed was pleased to see a familiar face. A friend’s face. It was Finn, a big lad from the Tower, the only survivor from DogNut’s expedition.

“Ed’s all right,” he said. “I’d trust him more than any other kid I know.”

“You going with him, then?” said Achilleus, and he snickered.

“You know I’m not,” said Finn, and he raised his right arm, which had a bandage around it. “I can’t do anything until my arm’s properly healed.”

“Yeah, good excuse.”

“It’s not an excuse.”

“It’s all right!” Ed shouted. “Leave it.”

Finn had already come to see him and explained that the wound in his arm was still causing him problems. A shame. Finn had been one of the best fighters at the Tower.

“As I say,” Ed went on limply, “anyone who wants to help, come and find me. It’s gonna take me a few days to get everything ready.”

He stepped down from the speaking platform, glad it was over. As he tried to get away, Sam came running over and tugged at his sleeve.

“I am coming, Ed,” he said, almost shouting. “She’s my sister.”

“You are not,” Ed snapped. “And if you say one more thing about it to me, I’m not going either. Okay?” He had lost it and come across much heavier than he’d intended, but it did the trick. Sam let go of him. Shut his mouth and looked at the floor. His weird little friend, the Kid, came over to him.

“I told you,” the Kid said to Sam. “Don’t push your luck up a hill. It might roll down the other side. We made it here against the odds and ends. Let’s count our blessings and our blisters. Leave the hard stuff to the experts now, eh?”

Sam looked at Ed, tears in his eyes.

“She’s not dead, is she?”


“And you will find her?”

“I will.”

Ed hoped he sounded more certain to Sam than he actually felt.

Ella wasn’t dead. That was the first thing she thought when she woke up.

Not dead. Alive. Not dead.

And the second thing she thought was, Why not?

Why aren’t I dead?

She was lying on her back, in long grass, looking up at the stars. They were a mess. She’d never been able to make out any constellations. She couldn’t see any pictures there, just a lot of random dots.

So why wasn’t she dead?

She closed her eyes. Felt for any pain. There was none. Only a slight tiny soreness in one wrist. It was more like the memory of pain than an actual feeling. Someone must have held on to her by the wrist, pulled her. She couldn’t remember that. The last thing was…

Ella opened her eyes in panic.

The grown-up. The ugly one with the chewed face. Where was he? She was too scared to move anything except her eyes. She rolled them around, trying to see where she was.

“It’s all right.”

She turned toward the voice without thinking. There was someone next to her. Lying on the ground. She recognized the voice. It was Monkey-Boy.

“Are you alive?” Ella asked.

“Yes…but it hurts.” Monkey-Boy said this very quietly, and he sounded sad. “Are you hurt?” he added.

“I don’t think so.” Ella thought of mentioning her wrist, but decided not to. It really wasn’t important.

Monkey-Boy was just a dark shape on the ground. There was a faint line of starlight across his cheek. The last time she’d seen him, the grown-up had been holding him and they were still inside the hotel. Nothing made any sense to her. How had they gotten out here? Ella wasn’t sure she wanted to know. She was quite enjoying just lying there not hurting. Not knowing. In the dark.

“He saved us,” said Monkey-Boy.


“The grown-up.”

“What? You mean the one with the mashed-up face?”

“Yes. He wasn’t with the other ones.” Monkey-Boy’s voice sounded croaky, wobbly, weak. “He attacked them. He saved us.”

“Why?” Ella asked and immediately wished she hadn’t. The grown-up had probably captured her and Monkey-Boy to keep them both for himself. Like a lone wolf fighting off other wolves to get to a killed deer or something.

And now she heard herself asking the question she never wanted answered.

“What happened?”

“I woke up,” said Monkey-Boy, and now Ella could hear that his voice was all wheezy and bubbly as well, like he needed to clear his throat. All full of phlegm.

“And then what?”

“I needed a wee. I was desperate. I didn’t want to make any noise. Maeve and Robbie had told us to keep quiet, and stay hidden.”

“You needed a wee?”

“Yes, I was bursting. It was horrible. I didn’t want to wet the bed, because you and Maeve were sleeping in it. I was embarrassed.”

Ella wished yesterday had never happened. She wished she’d never left London and all her other friends. Maeve had promised her, though. She’d been so sure. That she’d take them to a better place, in the countryside, with fresh air and fresh food and no grown-ups. A new life. They’d only gotten as far as a hotel on an island in the river. Monkey Island. That had felt right, a place for the boy who loved to climb, for the Monkey-Boy.

They’d found a room and settled down for the night. Just the four of them. Her and Monkey-Boy and Maeve and Robbie. Robbie, who couldn’t even walk properly because of his wounded leg. What chance did they have? Stupid. Stupid. You needed an army.

Ella fought to stop herself from crying.

“I thought I was going to explode,” Monkey-Boy went on. “Lying there in the bed for hour after hour. I couldn’t sleep. In the end I got up and tried to find the door for the bathroom. It’s what you call an ensuite. It means that—”

“I know what ‘ensuite’ means,” Ella snapped. “It means you have a bathroom right next to your bedroom. I’m not dumb.”

“Sure. Okay. Sorry. I thought I had the right door. Maybe I did and they were hiding in the bathroom, or maybe I opened the door to the corridor by accident and they were waiting out there.”


“The grown-ups. They were waiting. Quiet in the dark. They came in quickly. I don’t know how many. Quickly and quietly. I couldn’t make a sound, or shout for help. They were real clever; one of them smothered my face in his stomach. It really stank. I thought I’d be sick. I did wee myself then. And he dragged me away. Up the corridor. He hurt me. He bit me. And two more grown-ups came out with Maeve. She was already dead. I couldn’t watch what they did to her. I went all unconscious. I don’t know how long for, but he did worse things to me when I was asleep.

“And then the other grown-up arrived. The one whose face is all scarred. There was a fight and he easily beat the one who hurt me. He killed him. I saw him. He was ferocious. With knives and everything. He cut him to pieces and then he picked me up, and he was carrying me away when you came running down the corridor with more grown-ups behind you. Scarface tried to help you, but you fainted and you banged your head. And then he had to fight the new grown-ups. He didn’t waste any time. No way. He killed them quicker than you can imagine, and he brought us here. I don’t know what he’s going to do. He comes and goes.”

“Where is he now?”

“He went back inside the hotel, I think. For more killing.”

“And where are we?”

“Just on the grass, near some trees, by the river. You can see the hotel over there.”

Ella looked over and saw the big square black shape of the building against the stars. Her eyes were getting used to the light and she was seeing more and more. All the time wishing she was still asleep, where she was safe. Eyes closed. In the dark.

“What will he do when he comes back?” she said.

“I don’t know. He just sits there. Like he’s keeping watch.”

“He’s going to do something bad to us,” said Ella. “We have to get away from here. We have to run away.”

“I can’t,” said Monkey-Boy, and now Ella could see that his face was all shiny and wet. He was crying.

“What’s the matter?” she asked.

“I can’t move,” said Monkey-Boy. “It hurts too much.”

“Where does it hurt?”

“All over. I’m bleeding a lot.”


“I don’t know. It feels bad. I feel bad. All hot and cold and shivery. I’ve got pins and needles in my fingers and my feet.”

Well, that doesn’t sound too bad, thought Ella, and she shuffled closer to him. It was cold out here. That was why he was shivering. She was shivering too, her teeth clacking together. Her body shaking. Or maybe she was just scared.

“Let me see,” she said, squinting in the dark, kneeling over him, her shoulders hunched, as if she were expecting something to swoop down out of the sky and attack her.

“I can’t hardly see,” she said and touched Monkey-Boy’s sweater. It was soaking wet. Sticky. She held her hand to her face. It looked like it was covered in black ink. Ella knew, though, that if there was more light it would look red, not black.



    "Lord of the Flies with zombies...tons of nail-biting action."
    Rick Riordan

    "The Enemy grabs you by the throat . . . and bites off your ear. It's kids versus zombies and no one is playing nice. The action--and boy, is there action--takes us through a London transformed by the unexplained illness that has turned every adult into a shuffling, drooling, kid-crunching machine. Bonus: zombie royals. Sheer fun."
    Michael Grant, author of the Gone series

    Top Shelf Fiction for Middle Grade Readers

    "...the action is of the first order-Higson writes with a firestorm velocity that inspires to the sweeping reach of Stephen King's The Stand."ALA Booklist

    "With giant firestorms, rampaging hordes and continual life-and-death scenarios...Higson delivers an action-packed summer read."—Kirkus Reviews

    "The third book in Higson's terrifying zombie series will continue to enthrall horror fans."

    "Death, religion, friendship, survival, power, politics, and fear are explored throughout this installment. The storylines run full speed ahead in this horrifying page-turner. The solid writing is, at times, brilliant . . .The unanswered questions will prime readers for the next in the series."

On Sale
Jun 7, 2016
Page Count
480 pages

Charlie Higson

About the Author

Charlie Higson is an acclaimed comedy writer, producer, actor, and genuine James Bond aficionado. He is the author of the adult thrillers Full Whack and King of the Ants the internationally best-selling Young Bond series: SilverFin, Blood Fever, Double or Die, Hurricane Gold, and By Royal Command and seven books in the Enemy series.Charlie is a fan of zombie movies and believes that we shouldn’t try to prevent young people from experiencing fear, because it helps prepare them for later life. He lives in London. Follow him on Twitter at:

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