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Hand One Is Dealt
A zombie book with a new twist as to how it happened.
A microbe from the far reaches of the galaxy crash lands on Earth silently, rapidly infecting the planet's insects. Taking control of the insects, it uses them to transfer itself into the animal population, as well as a number of humans.
Everyday activities on the planet come to a halt, as the virus takes control of everyone it can, spreading itself around and taking over. In the microbe's last stand, those humans who died from infection come back as hungry zombies, ready to rule the world.
This is the story of those who tried to survive, and those who did survive.
When it began, nobody was around to see it. Even if someone had been around to see it, they wouldn’t have noticed it. What it was, was so small and yet so massively huge at the same time.
The fact though, that nobody was around to see it, didn’t mean that nobody would see it. In fact, almost everybody, every one of the seven billion people on Earth would eventually get to see just what this was. And it wouldn’t take long. In just a couple of days, the world’s population would be decimated, brought down to its knees with a blow that could have no resolve, no remorse, no hang up on the fact that it would get everyone and there was nothing in the world that could stop it.
What went down, in some backwoods in the northeastern portion of Calgary, was so small it could only be seen with a microscope. A microbe, one that came from parts unknown, floated down to Earth and landed on a tick. It absorbed itself into the tick and became one with the tick. And then the tick became ill.
Because it was a tick didn’t mean much to the microbe. The microbe quickly went to work, reprogramming the internal structure of the tick with a virus that would make the tick wish it could kill itself. Tick’s didn’t normally think these types of things, and even then this tick couldn’t think it either. But it wished it could. It wished it could think, so that the option of thinking of killing itself could be there. Ticks couldn’t wish, either.
The tick grew so disgustingly sick that it would seem death were right around the corner to relieve the stress and hardships of the tick, with its newfound illness. And to some extent, that time was right around the corner. But it was far enough away that the tick would have plenty of time to do enough damage for the microbe, who was now in complete control.
The tick jumped his long jumps from branch to branch, tree to tree. It observed things below, checking in on every possible chance to get a meal. And the microbe watched through the ticks eyes.
The tick finally found itself a dinner on a passing squirrel, to which it leapt onto and buried itself deep into the squirrels fur, until it touched skin. Then the tick sank his sucker into the squirrels flesh and began to drink and feed. It would be here that the tick would also offer up its own gift for the squirrel, in exchange for the squirrels tasty blood. The tick would deposit a sample of the microbe into the squirrel.
After it was done feeding, the tick would leave the squirrel and find itself a place to sit and relax and enjoy being fat with its meal. The squirrel would move on, now infected. And now that it was infected, it would become hungry, as the microbe inside of it would expand and begin rewiring the squirrel from the inside, just as it had in the tick. The squirrel would feel the need to feed the microbe, rather, to pass the microbe along to something else.
That squirrel moved on to find herself a bear. And when she found that bear, she snuck up behind it and bit it on the foot. The bear reacted accordingly and spun around to see what the hell had just happened, only to find nothing. It smelled as if something had been there, but nothing could be seen. The bear could only roar in anger, and then turn to run away.
The job had been done.
That microbe had come to do one thing, and one thing only. The first step has been a success. It will now move on, multiply, transfer itself, and grow. It would become things that it didn’t even know it could become. Because it was new here, and the conditions here on this planet were far different than most of the others its kind had ever seen. These were the perfect conditions to discover just what it could become.
For this microbe, though, it was not alone. It was one of millions, maybe billions that had come unto this Earth, and they all had the same wants, the same desires, the same mission.
In short time, millions of insects all over the world were becoming ill with this terrible sickness. And they were all out of control, mindless zombies to the microbe who rewired it and took charge.
This is a story of that microbe.
Fall in upstate New York was a site to be seen. Tourism put the rest of the State on stand still while people shuffled in and out trying to get a good look at the autumn leaves. The locals hated it, the local businesses loved it. This year, it would appear as if everything were the norm.
At a camp ground, the Rosenberg family were on vacation from Minnesota, not just to partake in the sites, but to visit with relatives.
The camping was always a part of their yearly ritual. They would come into New York, camp out for a couple of days, and then move on to Bangor, Maine where they would meet with family and visit for a couple of days, and then they’d go home and enjoy the rest of their lives until the following year when they’d pack up and do it all again.
Life was basically pretty good for the Rosenberg’s, until Thursday morning when Greg, the father of the family, woke up early to get breakfast on the hot plate and coffee on the fire.
The sun was just coming up from the east, casting a beautiful orange glow over their campsite and the surrounding woods. Greg had just placed the coffee pot on the freshly stoked fire and sat down in his favorite lawn chair to warm himself up. After he’d have his first cup of coffee, his wife would get up and join him for another. Then he would move to the gas burner and begin making bacon and eggs.
But before his wife, Martha awoke, Greg heard something crack behind him. Naturally, it didn’t bother him because he knew he was in the woods and he knew that there were going to be animals scurrying about, starting their day looking for their breakfast. Just to be on the safe side, however, Greg decided he better have a look. Who knows, it could be something big and fierce, something that he might have to get away from his camper to keep his family safe.
Greg turned his head to the side to peer behind him. While he saw nothing, he knew that the view he had wasn’t the best, so he stood from his chair, coffee in hand, and he walked around to the back of the camper.
Another beautiful morning, he thought to himself, as he looked at the tree line just behind his camper and at the radiance of the sunlight coming through.
There it was again, another crack of a stick, being snapped in two by the weight of something standing on it.
Greg looked, but he could not see anything. This was good. Whatever it might be would have to be small, and small is nothing to worry about.
Greg walked back around the camper to his favorite lawn chair and once again sat down to enjoy his coffee. He would hear the rustling of foliage behind him and he would think nothing of it, except that the noise he was hearing was the only thing that he had to set his attention on. He liked that, he was camping and he was with nature. To hear it in its natural state inside this State Park was neat.
Just then he heard a cough.
Greg pulled his coffee mug down from his lips and swivelled his head around again and had another peer. Again he didn’t see anything because the view wasn’t that great. So again he stood. This time, he could see a raccoon standing a few yards away from him.
The sight of the raccoon made Greg smile. It was a beautiful creature, fully grown and very fat. It was obvious he was getting ready for winter. But then, the raccoon coughed again.
Greg’s smile decreased a bit and he looked more intently at the raccoon, in the light that was available to him.
The raccoon was swaying a bit, and when it coughed, it didn’t really cough. It seemed to moan after the cough, almost as if it were revving up its engines, or clearing its throat.
It had been facing Greg, but Greg noticed that the raccoon didn’t seem to notice him. It turned slightly, away from Greg, and began walking again along the tree line that sectioned off Greg’s camping area. As it moved, slowly, it was swaying, almost stumbling. The first thought in Greg’s mind was that the animal was rabid.
He watched as the animal walked further away from him. It what seemed to be an eternity was only a minute, the raccoon had only managed a couple of feet in distance, but that was enough for Greg.
Greg turned and took three quick steps towards the camper door, stepping as lightly as he could. With the smell of coffee in the air, he didn’t want to be near a rabid raccoon when it decided it wanted to have a cup.
Greg moved inside and searched silently for his cell phone. Checking the status, he found that he only had one bar of reception, but it was enough for a phone call.
Calling the main desk in the main office at the camp ground, he informed them of the rabid raccoon. They said they would send someone right away, and just a few minutes later, a pick-up truck showed up and a man got out carrying what looked like a pellet gun. Greg went out to meet him.
“Good morning, did you call about a rabid raccoon?” said the man who got out of the truck.
“Yes, good morning,” answered Greg, “I’ve never seen a rabid animal up close, but this one looks sick and that was the first thing I thought of.”
“Do you know where it is now?” asked the man from the truck.
“Yeah, I’ve been keeping an eye on it from inside since I called. It should be just over here.” Greg motioned past the fire and lead the man from the truck that way. “He was just over here a minute ago.”
They walked slowly towards the tree line, keeping their eyes peeled. Once they got to the tree line, they stopped and searched the area the best they could, while staying several feet away from the trees.
“I don’t hear anything, do you?” asked Greg.
Greg, still holding his coffee, began to walk again along the tree line, away from his camper. Suddenly he stopped. “I think I heard it.”
The man from the truck walked towards Greg slowly, trying to remain as quiet as possible. And then he heard it too, a shuffling in the brush that surrounded the base of the trees.
The man raised his gun and remained as calm as he could. It was still early and even he had just gotten out of bed recently, so he wasn’t awake enough to really be nervous.
Greg stepped back from the tree line to distance himself even more. Inside the camper, his family was now awake and watching the events from the safety of their camper. His wife and son and daughter.
Just then, there was a ruffle in the woods just as Greg felt a mosquito bite him on the back of the neck. He swatted at it with his free hand and the man from the truck, seeing the jerking motion in his peripheral after hearing the noise from the woods was caught off guard and he fired into the woods blindly. The shot was loud and sudden enough that it scared Greg, who tossed his coffee mug into the air behind him and yelled, while his family screamed from inside the camper.
After that moment was over, the heavy breathing began. Greg looked at the man from the truck and smiled, who in turn smiled back. They shared a laugh. Inside the camper, Greg could hear his daughter laughing at her daddy’s reaction.
“Damn, I thought mosquitos were done for the year,” said Greg, who could feel his heart racing inside his chest.
The man from the truck snapped open his rifle and began inserting another tranquilizer dart into it, also with a racing heart. He was wide awake now. “Mosquito? I saw you move and heard the noise and my finger got jumpy.” He laughed.
“Yeah, well I guess I need a new cup of coffee. Want some? I have plenty.”
“Sure, just as soon as we get this raccoon.”
“Hell, that might have scared him off.”
“Not if he’s rabid.”
And then they heard the raccoon, hissing his rejection at the shot taken at him, followed by another clearing of his throat.
“That doesn’t sound rabid, but it doesn’t sound good either,” said the man from the truck, who raised the rifle again and took aim at the tree line.
Suddenly, the raccoon emerged from the trees and was facing the men. It stood and swayed back and forth, but it wasn’t foaming at the mouth.
“Wow, it looks like this guy found himself some shine,” the man from the truck said as he took aim.
The raccoon looked at the man, bared its teeth and screamed at him for pointing his gun at him. For bothering him when all he wanted to do was his own thing.
Just then the raccoon began running at full speed, right for Greg, which caught them both off guard. The man from the truck fired his dart and missed completely. Greg screamed and began running wildly away from the raccoon, who wasn’t swaying anymore but was quick and agile. Greg found that the raccoon wasn’t keeping up with him in any way, though, and it was easy, albeit it was still a work out, to keep away from this raccoon.
Quickly, the man from the truck slid another dart into his gun, closed it and took aim. The raccoon tripped and slid face first on the ground. The man from the truck pulled the trigger and the sick raccoon let out a squeal. And then it went motionless.
Greg turned and faced the man from the truck, panting. He then shot a look to the raccoon, who was now completely motionless. “Is it dead?”
“No, it shouldn’t be,” replied the man from the truck. “Just taking a little nap for a while is all.”
Greg nodded and went back to his cabin, where he entered and hugged his family.
The man from the truck went to his truck and pulled out a metal cage to haul the raccoon away in. His only concern now was finding out if there were any other animals in the area that might also be carrying disease.
For now, he would get the raccoon back to the office where he would arrange for it to be transported to a lab where it could be tested for all known disease, especially rabies. Later, he would have to arrange for the camp grounds to be on guard, maybe even evacuated, while a search for other sick animals would have to be performed.
As the man from the truck sat at his desk filling out papers on what had occurred, he heard sirens. They were growing louder. It wasn’t a big surprise to the man, who regularly heard sirens passing by the campgrounds, which were settled right alongside a major highway from town to town.
Instead of the sirens growing quieter as whatever emergency vehicle passed by on their way to the next town or hospital for whatever reason they were called for, this time the sirens stopped. The man looked up from the paper work on his desk and out of the window to see an ambulance pulling into the campground, lights flashing, but now quiet. It was followed by an SUV that also had lights flashing.
The man stood and went outside to meet with them. The passenger in the ambulance had his window down. “Hi, we’re looking for lot 32A.”
“I was just there, what’s wrong?”
“Apparently there’s a very sick man there, we have to run him to County.”
The man ran over to the ambulance and jumped in, while the passenger moved between the two front seats and knelt down, holding onto both seats for support. The man who had just jumped in pointed the way.
“I’m Ranger Tim Clark, I was just down there on a rabid raccoon call. Picked him up, although he didn’t look to be rabid. He was definitely sick though. We’re sending him off today to be checked out.”
“So this man at 32A has rabies?”
“He shouldn’t. The animal didn’t bite him while I was there, and he hadn’t been bitten yet when I arrived, unless he lied to me and hid it very well.”
The ambulance pulled up to the camper and Greg’s wife, Martha, was standing outside with her arms wrapped around herself and she was crying. The paramedics and Tim Clark got out, heading to the woman.
“What’s wrong ma’am?” asked the first paramedic.
Martha motioned to the Ranger. “My husband came inside after he got that raccoon out of here. He gave us all a hug and then we talked about making breakfast. He left the camper to get the hot plate ready and he fell over, vomiting.” She broke into tears again.
The men ran around to the front of the camper, only spotting a rather large pile of vomit on the ground. They heard moaning coming from inside the camper, so they entered and found Greg on his bed, sweating horribly. The kids were sitting on the opposite side of the camper, crying and holding each other.
As the paramedics got to work on the man, taking his vitals, Tim Clark stayed outside with Martha. “It’ll be okay, the medics will take him to County where he’ll get the best care around. If you like, you can go with them. I’ll take the kids up to the office and keep them company for a while, get them something to eat, and bring them up to the hospital once you’ve settled in.”
Martha nodded and held herself tighter, giving in to a few more tears.
The medics slowly came out of the camper, holding Greg up for support. He was walking on his own, but barely.
“We’ll test for rabies and get him to the ER for some blood work. Ma’am, you can come with us if you like.”
Martha nodded and followed the men to the back of the ambulance, where they placed Greg on the stretcher in the back and hooked him up to an I.V. for fluids.
Once Greg was settled in, Martha hurried back to the camper with Tim and introduced him to the kids. “This is Ranger Tim, he helped us just a little bit ago, remember?”
The kids nodded.
“Good, he’s going to take you up to the office for some breakfast and then he’ll bring you to the hospital to see daddy, okay?”
They nodded again.
“I’m going to go with daddy to make sure he’s okay.” She nodded to the kids. They returned it. She hugged them and told them she loved them and their daddy loved them. They all cried.
As they all left the camper, Martha jumped into the ambulance and after they got turned around, they sped off towards the hospital.
Ranger Tim walked with the kids back to the office, which wasn’t but about a hundred yards from their camp site. He made them breakfast.
A short while later in North College Hill, OH, a small city just north of Cincinnati, a man was mowing his grass. It was a regular fall day, and most of the leaves on the giant oak tree in his front yard had already fallen, which was one reason he was mowing his grass. Chop them up and bag them in one fell swoop. It’s better than raking he’d argue.
He made a pass through his front yard and felt the bag on the mower getting full again. After completing the pass, he turned the mower off and began wheeling it to his back yard where his compost pile was.
The breeze came through, blowing more leaves around his, and everybody else’s yards. It also dropped the temperature just below brisk levels, and Mark Ronalds shivered a little. “Damn it’s getting cold.”
As he got to the compost pile, he unattached the bag from the back of the mower and carried it to the compost, flipping it upside down and releasing its contents onto the pile. The breeze blew again and Mark shivered once more, this time dropping the bag onto the pile. As he bent to pick it up he muttered, “Should’ve wore pants.” He had gone out to mow in his typical summer mowing gear, t-shirt and shorts.
Mark picked up the bag, finished emptying it out, and carried it back to the mower. As he was attaching it, a blue jay flew down to him and landed on his right shoulder. Mark jumped. “What the fuck?” As he jumped, the bird didn’t fly away, rather, it began pecking him in the neck, drawing a pool of blood instantly.
“Fuck!” Mark yelled, as he began swatting at the bird with his hands, dropping the bag on the ground in the process.
The bird flew up off of his shoulder, but didn’t fly away, instead dive bombing him from several feet away one time after another. It was hit or miss, but it was still connecting every other jab with his beak, bringing a stabbing pain where ever it hit. Mark tripped over himself swatting at the bird, but eventually he got to his feet and ran to his house, slamming the door behind him. The bird flew into the window on the door a few times, squawking and pecking at the window, before it flew away. Breathing heavily, Mark watched through the window as it flew away. It wasn’t flying in a straight line like it should, but bobbing around in the air, almost like a butterfly.
When he could no longer see the bird, he suddenly remembered the pain in his neck and reached for it with his hand to apply pressure. “Fuck,” he said to himself.
“Honey, what’s wrong?” his wife Jen asked as she walked into the kitchen. She saw the blood running down his shirt and her jaw dropped. “What happened? Oh my God!”
“It’s okay, but I’m gonna go to the hospital. You stay here and I’ll call when I find out what’s going on.”
“What the hell happened?”
“Damn bird attacked me.”
Their son, sixteen-year-old Mike walked into the kitchen to get a pop from the fridge. “Wow dad, what happened?”
“A bird attacked him outside,” replied Jen.
“Damn, nature gone wild.” He grabbed his soda and headed to the living room.
Jen turned to Mark. “Call me as soon as you can.”
“I will.” Mark had gathered the car keys and a rag to hold on his neck. After briefly checking outside for the bird and seeing nothing, Mark opened the door and ran out to the car.
Jen closed the door and watched her husband back out of the driveway. She walked into the living room and said to her son, “How about we just stay inside until your dad gets back, okay?”
“Yeah,” replied Mike. “I hate birds anyway.”
About twenty minutes away in Downtown Cincinnati, the Center For Disease Control was busy getting calls from all over, with reports of people being poisoned, falling sick, unknown substances, unknown illnesses, rabid animals and hospitals being filled to capacity.
Agent Donning had just finished another call. “Sir, it looks like we’re not the only city dealing with this right now. Should we call some sort of national emergency?”
Donning’s superior, Agent Forester nodded. “It sounds serious, but until we have some sort of real proof of what’s going on we can’t really call anything. We’ll see what the heads are going to do first. We’ve been in contact with them all day.”
“I hope we find something soon, the media is already beginning to have a field day with it.” Donning flipped through his list of contacts in his book and picked up the phone.
The news had, in fact, been all over the story. The reports were coming in from everywhere and not only was it making local news, the national news was already covering stories from all over the world.
In Mammoth Caves, Kentucky, Barry Meyer and Steve Wilkins sat on the banks of the Green River and watched their lines. They had been fishing all morning and hadn’t bothered to read the papers or watch any TV when they got up early that morning. News didn’t travel too fast around this area, and these men had no idea what they were fishing for.
“You think we’ll catch one of them sixty pounders?” Barry asked Steve, popping a wad of chewing tobacco into his cheek.
“Ayup. I can see it clear as day. Big ol’ sixty pounder, floppin’ around on my pole.”
“We still talkin’ about fishin’?” Barry said, as he smacked Steve’s arm with the back of his hand. They both laughed.
“Hey, I think I could use a cold one. You ready?” Steve asked, standing.
“Is it eight thirty yet?”
“Hell yeah I’m ready!” Barry smiled, and spat out a dollop of black spit.
Steve laughed and went to the truck to get two cans of the Beast out of his cooler. As he dug around in the cooler, Barry yelled up to him, “Hey, turn on the radio! Get us some tunes! That’ll bring them bastards outta the river!”
Steve found two cans of beer and shoved them in his pockets while he fished around for his keys. He walked to the driver side of the truck and opened the door. Shoving the key in the ignition, he turned on the radio. Messing with it for a moment, he finally got a station to come in, only it was talk radio.
“Damn, hey Barry, this talkin’ shit is all I can find right now. We ain’t got no reception out here.”
“No shit,” Barry exclaimed. “Well don’t that suck the tits off a badger.”
Just before Steve turned it off, he caught a bit of what the lady on the radio was saying. She was telling of the current events of the world and the chaos that was happening everywhere.
“Hey, you get lost tryin’ to find some beer?” said Barry as he walked up to the truck. “Turn that shit off and give me a fuckin’ beer!”
“Hey man, this lady on the radio just got done sayin’ how the world is all caught up in some sort of disease shit. Said people are dying everywhere.”
“What? That lady said that?” If there was anything that Barry was afraid of, it was major diseases. He grew up hearing about the chicken pox and the measles, so he was used to those. But when he heard anything about mad cow disease, or swine flu, he broke out in a cold sweat. He was terrified to get sick with some illness that would make him suffer to his death. Mention HIV and he’d faint. He refused to have sex for three years after he first heard of that.
“Yeah, listen.” Steve turned up the radio and they both listened as the woman described all that anybody knew. It was a virus, it was contagious, as far as they knew, just like the flu was.
The reporter also told of the nuclear reactor going up in Norway, the hospital shut downs that had affected most of the area where she was reporting, and the general chaos that was happening everywhere else.
Both of the men listened silently, jaws loose, ears open. Suddenly, Barry began sweating. “I can’t do this Steve, I can’t do this...”
Steve looked at him and noticed Barry was looking at his own hand, and it was shaking terribly. “Now listen Barry, you just gotta calm down. The lady said there ain’t nothing that can be done about it anyway. Why worry if you ain’t gotta?”
“This shit ain’t funny man!” Barry screamed, hysterical. He moved around to the bed of the truck and sat down on the dropped tailgate, both of his hands clutching the edge of the gate while he breathed heavily, wide-eyed.
“Look man, I know it sucks, but all we gotta do is just watch out for some renegade chipmunks and we’ll be okay.” Steve pulled the cans of beer out of his pockets, opened one and handed it to Barry, who took it with a shaky hand.
“Now it would probably be best to get our stuff and get back in the truck and hang out in there for a long, long time.” Steve swallowed hard and opened his own can, looking around as if lost. He didn’t know what to do. But that sounded good. Get in the truck and lock the doors. No animals could get them that way, right? They could outlast whatever this thing was and be home free.
“Listen, you go ahead and get in the truck and I’ll pack up. Okay? We’ll just drive back toward the house and stop by Old Man Jerry’s place. We’ll park in that big ol’ back field he’s got and we’ll have the perfect view all around us so that we can see if anything’s gettin’ near. Okay? And if anything does get near, we’ll just pull out our shotgun’s and blow ‘em away. They ain’t gettin’ us, okay?”
Barry never did take a drink of his beer, nor did he ever look at Steve. He understood what he had been told, and he had gotten off of the tail gate and begun moving towards the passenger door. But inside he felt like he was already dead.
Steve turned and walked down to the bank where their fishing gear had been set when they first got there. Nothing much had been changed. Steve would have to reel in the lines on the two poles and fold up the lawn chairs, but other than that everything was basically read to go.
As he began reeling in the first line, he saw something move out of the corner of his eye. He continued to reel, but he turned his head to look. He saw the second line was tight and the pole was bent. They had a bite.
“Oh damn...” said Steve, as he sat his pole down and began reeling in the other, fighting with the fish on the other end, who was fighting for dear life.
One minute turned into five and he was still having difficulty with the fish. He knew the Green River was a deep river and it had many large fish swimming in it. A few records had been set on this river. Steve realized he was probably not going to catch the fish, and he also realized that while he was trying to catch the fish, something else might catch him.
This thought got his nerves jittery, and he decided he’d rather be short a fishing pole than be short his life. So he tossed the pole down and gathered up the rest of their stuff, packed it into the bed of the truck and got in the driver’s seat. Starting the truck, he put it into drive and they took off, heading towards Old Man Jerry’s place.
One incident that didn’t get much attention, like many of the first incidents to happen, was the one with Greg Rosenberg. After he arrived at the hospital, the doctors rushed him into a room where they began drawing blood and giving him oxygen and more fluids. His wife stood outside of the room and watched through a window. It wasn’t quite safe to go in yet.
Greg began to shake on the bed and the nurses had to lay across him to get him to stay still while other nurses strapped him to the bed.
Outside the room, Martha watched and could only cry as she could just barely hear the words being said inside. The one that really brought her down was when one of the nurses suggested something about an ice bath, because he was really burning up. Martha felt alone and more scared than she had ever been in her life. She couldn’t even tell when her cell phone was ringing. She just kept both watery eyes on her husband, as he shook and convulsed on the bed.
On the other end of the phone, Ranger Tim hoped and prayed that everything would be okay. Mostly because he didn’t know what to tell the kids, who were just behind him at his own desk eating a plate of pancakes. This time when he got the voice mail, he just hung up. Four calls and no answer; this wasn’t good.
Greg’s eyes rolled in the back of his head and his body arched forwards making a bridge. Even with the weight of the nurses, he remained in that position for a few moments before he crashed back down on the bed and he straight lined.
The doctors rushed to him as the nurses ripped off his gown. They placed the paddles on his chest and shocked him, his body lurching forward. Nothing.
Martha held her breath.
Again they shocked him, his body lurching forward. Still the line made no movements.
Martha felt her legs growing weak.
The doctors tried again and still nothing. Setting the paddles down, the doctor began to hammer on Greg’s chest with his closed fist while a second doctor pulled a needle out of a drawer, removed the cap and handed it to the first doctor, who shoved it down into Greg’s chest.
Martha gasped and began to cry as she watched the meter come back to life. One beep, two beeps...
It flat lined again. The doctors went back to the paddle and shocked Greg three more times, but nothing worked. When the commotion in the room settled, Martha collapsed, sobbing hysterically. She shouted “Why?” a few times with no answer. There was none that anybody could give her. Her husband was one of the first casualties of something nobody would ever get to understand.
Back at the Ronalds house, Mike had been flipping through channels when he passed by CNN. They were in the middle of a story about a man being attacked by a skunk, only the skunk never sprayed him, it only attacked with its claws and teeth.
“Check this out mom,” he said, as he turned up the volume. His mother came in from the kitchen where she had been cleaning up the spots of blood on the floor left by her husband.
“Nobody has said yet if the skunk had rabies or not, but the man is said to be in critical condition. And this isn’t the only report of someone being attacked by an animal. Even in Ghana, reports of animals and insects attacking not only people, but other animals, is drawing the attention of their government, and our own. Checking in with us now...”
“Wow, dad was attacked by a bird... what’s going on with nature?” Mike asked his mom, dumbfounded.
“I don’t know honey,” Jen said to her son, also dumbfounded. She walked over to him and took the remote and began flipping through channels until she came to her local news, which was already reporting on a breaking story.
“...car crash on West Galbraith Road at Pippin has all lanes shut down on Pippin, and all traffic is being diverted up Galbraith to Colerain. Police say a man in a red Ford Focus ran through the light and crashed into two other cars.”
Jen and Mike looked at one another in shock. Mark was the driver of the red Ford Focus.
“The accident caused a six car pile up. Luckily, nobody was hurt, but police say the man who caused the wreck is in critical condition, apparently from injuries that happened before the crash. He is being rushed to the hospital now. If you’re planning on going that way, please be advised that...”
“Mom, what the hell is going on?”
Jen stared off blankly, her worst nightmare was coming true. Almost in a trance, she forced the blank words out, “Don’t cuss honey.”
“Mom?” Mike stood, and grabbed his mom by the shoulder.
Jen looked at him and color slowly began coming back to her face. “We have to get to the hospital.”
The two ran out of the house and got into her car which was parked on the street. She knew another way to the hospital to stay out of the traffic caused by the wreck.
On their way they were witness to several bad accidents, some that had happened and some that took place right in front of them. Jen decided it might be best just to show up in one piece, so she forgot all about the laws and began driving anyway she had to, to stay out of trouble. Twice she was run off the road because of an accident happening right in front of her. Luckily she made it around the wreckage and back onto the road with no problems.
When she had turned onto North Bend from Simpson, she watched as a group of dogs staggered quickly out into the street and three of them were run over by a car speeding down North Bend. The dogs’ bodies rolled and flopped around under the car as it passed over them, and then lay in the street motionless afterward.
They finally made it to the hospital and when they asked a nurse what room Mark was in, the nurse gave them the bad news. Mark had arrived at the hospital DOA. What they couldn’t figure out was what had made him sick enough that he would die from the time the paramedics picked him up in the ambulance to when he arrived at the hospital literally four minutes later.
The answers Jen were giving to them weren’t making any sense, other than maybe he had died from loss of blood from where the bird had been pecking on his neck. That still didn’t explain his symptoms.
None of it made much sense. Nobody had any answers and even when Ranger Tim would get a call from the lab where the raccoon was sent, he wouldn’t be given any answers. The lab concluded that the raccoon was not rabid, but it was sick. Only they couldn’t identify what it was that had made it sick. They speculated that the virus the raccoon had must be from another planet, because it was unlike anything they had ever seen. They didn’t know how right they were.
Later still, when the blood sample from the raccoon would be used to match up with other locals who were getting sick, they would find that the virus they had discovered but never saw before, was coming up in every case.
At Heights Elementary School in Alamogordo, New Mexico, Bethany and Felicia had just gotten through their first part of the day. Bethany was getting the kids together to take them out for recess when Felicia had stopped by her room.
“We’re ready if you are,” Felicia, the school’s other kindergarten teacher said, referring to the mutual recess the two classes shared.
“Yeah, we’re ready.” Bethany had gotten the kids bundled up in their fall gear, their coats and hats were on, although the temperature outside was still warm enough that they could do without. The school insisted, just to keep the temptation of illness out of the school. Parents seemed to get crazy if they heard their kids went outside without their coats.
“I only have one problem. Little Joseph Strong isn’t feeling well, so I’m gonna have to stay behind with him until his parents get here to pick him up. Can you handle both classes?”
Bethany nodded. “Yeah, I can handle them both.” She was used to it, especially come winter time. Kids were always getting sick and the two were habitually trading the recess duty to one another so that they could take care of sick kids. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the school’s nurse hadn’t been let go due to budget cuts, which nobody really understood why the nurse would be one of the first to go.
Felicia went back to her room and lead her kids outside to the playground, meeting them up with the kids from Bethany’s class. Bethany nodded to Felicia, who in turn went back to her room to watch over Joseph.
“You feeling okay?” asked Felicia to Joseph again, who sat at his desk, looking half dead.
“No. I want to go home.”
“You will be honey, just as soon as your mom gets here.”
“Be a tough little boy, I know you can. You’ll be just fine.”
Joseph leaned his head into his hand, his arm elbowed on the desk. Felicia shook her head slightly at the boy, who looked to be pretty miserable.
She sat at her own desk and began looking over the art that her class had just turned in. She was ready to give them all 3’s, which was standard.
Outside, Bethany was having a standard day, again, dealing with the kids, who were all pretty easy to take care of. She was thankful for that, as was Felicia, both of them remembering last year’s class of kids who were always out of control.
On the far side of the playground, a group of kids were all huddled up in a circle around something that she couldn’t see, and they were all making a ruckus. She headed over to see what was going on.
Just before getting to them, the group of them scattered screaming, some crying. All were smacking at themselves. One took his coat off and threw it to the ground. Bethany picked up her speed and once she finally got to the kids, she noticed on the arms of Johnny Robins, the kid who took off his coat, that he was covered in ants.
“Damn” she said to herself, just before getting to the boy. “Let me help you. Everybody, take off your coats!” The kids all began stripping themselves of their coats, revealing ants all over their bodies. Bethany swiped at Johnny’s arms, trying to help rid the boy of the ants.
The other kids tossed their coats down, all crying, and continued to swipe at their arms and legs. They were all sprouting red bumps on their arms and necks where the ants were biting.
“Felicia!” Bethany shouted. She continued swiping at the ants, trying to rid the kids of them. “Felicia!” she shouted again, this time getting the attention of the other teacher.
Felicia ran outside to Bethany, who was in a panic. “What’s going on?” she asked bewildered at the sight.
“Ants! Everywhere! They must have found a hill and they all got them everywhere!” Bethany was frantic, trying to rid the poor kid of these nasty biting ants.
Felicia joined in the fight, which neither seemed to be winning. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”
“Me either,” agreed Bethany. “What the hell do we do?”
“Well, we could send them to the nurse,” Felicia said, “if we had one.”
“I’m gonna call emergency, have them send some EMT’s out.” Bethany reached in her pants pocket and pulled out her cell phone, dialing 911.
Inside the school, Joseph fell asleep at his desk, sweating and pale. His mother would never show up, which nobody would notice. She was on her way from work when somebody had smashed into her car and caused both to be sent to the hospital. Luckily for Joseph’s mom, she wasn’t infected. The other driver was, though, and wouldn’t make it to the hospital in time for anything, not that anything could have been done. Joseph’s mom, however, would be fine for now. But she wouldn’t make it to the school to pick up her son.
Outside, Bethany put her phone away. “They’re on their way. Said they had an emergency about a mile away with a car wreck and they had an extra ambulance that, as it turns out, they didn’t need at the wreck.”
“I thought I heard sirens earlier.” Felicia smacked ants off of another kids arms.
“The dispatcher said the two in the wreck were Pete Sanford and Jill Strong, should we have to notify any kids.”
Felicia stopped swiping Suzie’s arm. “Jill Strong? That’s Joseph’s mom. Crap!”
“As soon as I can I’ll call the hospital to see how she’s doing. Damn, I have to check on him.” She turned and headed back into the school to check on Joseph.
Outside, Bethany heard sirens headed her way. “Okay kids, let’s go up to the parking lot. The doctors are going to take care of you.”
Those kids who had not been bitten by the ants were told to go back into the school and wait for their teacher.
Felicia walked into her room and noticed Joseph was asleep, but fine. She turned and went to the office where she found the secretary typing up something. She was always typing.
“Donna, I’m gonna need some help down here. The kids were on recess and they got attacked by ants. They’re all bit up. I have a sick kid in my room who needs supervision and the rest are outside about to be helped by some EMT’s who I think just showed up.”
Donna, the Principal’s secretary, looked up from her computer. “Oh my, let me just save this and I’ll be down.”
As Donna moved her mouse around to save the document she had been working on, Felicia went back to her room to find most of her class was back in the room, taking their coats off. “Okay everybody, let’s just get situated and we’ll finish our recess in here. Just like it’s raining out.”
The kids offered her no problem, like normal. She then left the room and went next door to Bethany’s class, which was also almost full of students taking their coats off. She gave them the same message and got them in their seats with toys or books that they were allowed to pick out. They knew the routine..
Donna showed up with the Principal and they each took a room, allowing Felicia to head outside with Bethany and the EMT’s who were already swabbing things on the kids’ arms.
One kid, Timothy Bostwick, who had been seen first and was all dressed up in whatever medicine the EMT put on his arm, was standing by himself just a few yards away from the ambulance in the parking lot. He grabbed his stomach and doubled over, throwing up all over the ground. He began to cry.
Felicia turned to see him, her eyes growing out of shock. “Oh no, Timmy, let’s get you over here to the EMT’s again.” She put her arm around him and lead him to the ambulance. Just then, more of the kids began doubling over and throwing up, some of them falling over, others sitting down, all crying.
“What the hell is going on here?” Bethany said to herself, shocked.
“It would make sense for one or two to have a reaction like that to all of the bites they got, but for all of them to have that reaction...” said the first EMT, Dan, “I mean, it’s not like it couldn’t happen, but it probably shouldn’t be happening. Something else might be wrong.”
Felicia froze when she heard the other kids throwing up. Timothy slowly walked away from her crying, still holding his stomach.
Bethany looked at Dan, “Felicia there has a student in her room who’s sick, maybe he passed something along to them.”
Felicia shook her head. “He’s not throwing up. If he was sick before they were, shouldn’t he have thrown up already?”
The EMT’s called in to the hospital and made accommodations for the kids, ten in total, to be seen for their symptoms. Felicia added one more. “Joseph, I’ll go get him. I’m pretty sure you just took his mom to the hospital because of that accident up the road.” The EMT nodded and told their dispatch about the new kid while Felicia ran to her room to get Joseph.
Thankfully, the population of Alamogordo wasn’t too large, and the hospital wasn’t having much difficulty with the recent outbreak of sick people, although the doctors and nurses were all left dumbfounded when they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with the patients. They were also finding out that their patients were passing on quickly, which was a surprise.
In neighboring towns and cities, the hospitals were filling, as they were beginning to all over. In Alamogordo, Joseph was going to be okay. Discovering that he had a mild case of the flu, the doctors had him fixed up and in a room with his mother, who wasn’t doing too bad herself. A few cuts and bruises with just one broken finger, she would be okay. All around them, though, they both heard the chaos of the hospital trying to deal with the other patients. They would be in their room together for a while before they were checked on again. Those patients not dealing with this new illness would be forgotten about for quite some time. Aside from boredom, though, they wouldn’t really need anything else, other than wanting to know when they’d be released.
Back at the school, things went back to normal, with classes resuming and kids being taught. They wouldn’t experience anything problematic until later when school let out and a lot of parents weren’t showing up to pick up their kids.
Don Springfield had just come in from his car with a bag of groceries. His dogs had followed him in to his Beattyville, Kentucky house. They were excited, as usual, to see their master had come home to see them.
“Okay, okay, settle down you damn dogs.” Don set the bag of groceries on the kitchen table and began taking things out of it and putting them away. The dogs swarmed around him, wagging their tales. Two ran off into the living room, chasing each other and playing around. The other three hung out in the kitchen.
“Alright, fine!” he said, with a smile. He reached into his pocket and pulled out five treats he had picked up from Sandy at the grocery store in town, who loved his dogs and always made sure he left with a treat for each.
His dogs began barking, tails wagging even harder. The two from the living room rushed in to take their place in line, although there was no line, they all pushed and shoved their way to Don to get their fix.
Tossing a treat in the air, one of his bloodhounds jumped up and caught it in his mouth and ran off to eat it alone. Don did the same with each treat, and each dog feasted for just a moment on a tasty snack.
Now with the kitchen to himself, Don finished putting away his groceries while shaking his head. “Damn dogs.” He loved his dogs and always pretended to have issues with them, knowing full well that those dogs ran his life. He wouldn’t have it any other way. He was good to them because they were good for him.
After his wife had passed away two years ago from cancer, he had nothing else in his life but his dogs, and he wanted nothing else but them. They were his life. He had no kids and figured even though he was still young enough, only in his mid forties, he would probably never marry again or have any kids. So his dogs were all he had.
He didn’t mind so much. There weren’t a lot of prospects in the sleepy mountain town of Beattyville, which was a small town that didn’t have a large population at all. It was considered a tourist spot, but even then they didn’t get a whole lot of tourists. The locals liked it that way, other than those who owned businesses in town. The less people, the better. That’s why they lived there, it was quiet.
Don got himself a can of Coke from the fridge and went into the living room to have a seat and watch a little TV before heading out to mow his yard.
Just as he sat down, his dogs all stood in the middle of the living room and stared at him, wagging their tales.
“Come on, I just sat down.”
Wag, wag, wag.
“Really? You were just outside.”
Wag, wag, wag.
“Ugh, fine. Damn dogs.” Don stood and walked over to the front door and opened it, the dogs all rushed outside barking. “Must be a fire somewhere.”
He shut the door and returned to his seat. The Price Is Right was just coming on, and he almost never missed it. He wasn’t so much a fan of Drew, but he was much better than some others they could’ve got to replace Bob Barker when he retired, so Don figured.
Just before the Showcase Showdown, Don was asleep in his chair. His dogs were still out sniffing around in the woods, which they loved to do. They got into more things together out there and they wouldn’t have it any other way. They were hunting dogs by nature, and that’s what they did best.
Don was used to hearing them barking or howling outside, off in the distance, so when they did it this time he didn’t even budge. He only continued to sleep.
The dogs had chased a squirrel up a tree and were barking at it. Their barks told the squirrel they only wanted to play, but the squirrel knew better. It effortlessly jumped from branch to branch, tree to tree. Within no time at all, it was long gone and the dogs had already forgotten about it and had rushed off to find something else to get into.
At a diner in Eaton, Ohio called Eaton’s Eatin’, Sally had just finished serving her last table and was counting her money, getting ready to call her early morning shift quits and head home for some cleaning and rest.
Max, the cook on duty for the breakfast and lunch shift was also ready to head home just as soon as his replacement came in. “You need a ride Sal?”
“No honey, I’m walking. I only live two blocks away.”
“I know, just thought I’d be nice.”
Sally laughed and looked at Max smiling. “Yeah, I know.”
Max had been trying to get in her pants since he started working there almost a year prior. She still hadn’t thrown him a bone and had no reason to. She didn’t find him attractive, and she wasn’t lonely. She preferred to be on her own.
“Well, the offer is there if you ever need it.”
“Okay.” She didn’t look up this time, only continued to count her money.
“I guess I’ll just go home and watch the paint dry.”
“Oh, did you paint something?”
Max thought for a moment. “Uh, well, no...”
“Well why don’t you just watch the grass grow? I know you got some grass to look at don’t ya?” Sally finished putting the money she owed to the diner in the register and placed her tips in her wallet.
“Yeah, I guess I could...” Max began and then stopped as Sally began walking toward the main door to the diner. “Hey, wait up.”
Max ran to catch her. Sally sighed and stopped just short of the door.
“I know I bother you, but I’d really like to take you out sometime.” He seemed to be honest enough and he was a good guy. Sally did like him, just not romantically. She was content with having noone.
“Listen, you’re great. I’m just not one for relationships and all of the shit they bring about. You’re a nice guy, go meet yourself someone else. Someone who’ll treat you good and someone you can treat good. Someone who likes to watch paint dry like you do.”
Max smiled at her. “You’re funny. And we ain’t gotta go steady or nothing, but would it kill you to maybe go see a movie with me or get something to eat with me or something?”
“One day honey, I’m sure I’ll have no paint of my own to look at and I’ll accept. One day.” She continued to the door and opened it.
Trish, the other waitress who was there through dinner passed by Max. “I think something’s burning.”
“Shit,” Max said as he ran back to the kitchen.
Sally was walking down Main Street, as she did every day after work. She was completely at peace, the weather was settling into its fall progression and the leaves everywhere were turning fabulous colors. It wasn’t quite cold enough yet to piss her off, but it wasn’t ninety degrees with a hundred percent humidity like it had been most of the past summer. It was a great day.
Even though she loved being single and having the single life, she was also taken by the fact that someone wanted to date her so bad that he’d go crazy for a year trying to get her out on one. It was flattering.
Yes, today everything was great. She saw all of her favorite Thursday customers and a couple of new ones, folks passing through on vacation or visiting family. Eaton was a popular stop for those traveling north to Toledo or south to Cincinnati and beyond. Those who didn’t want to bother with the main highways like I-75 or I-71, but would rather deal with the much more scenic, albeit slower route of SR 127. Especially in the fall when the leaves were all turning so pretty.
As she walked, Sally thought about how everyone seemed to love traveling out of State to go see leaves change colors on the east coast. She thought of how it didn’t make sense to her when there were so many of them right there in Ohio.
That was okay with her, she understood how the east coast hated the tourism the changing of the seasons brought and she felt that if things were the same in Eaton, she’d be pissed too. The few travelers they saw in Eaton were enough for her.
Besides, they got enough of their own tourism when their local fairgrounds held their annual Preble County Fair. The one they had earlier in the year was great, as it usually did, and Sally had a blast, as she usually did. Riding the festival rides and drinking all the beer her tickets would get her, followed by all of the tasty festival eats she could shove down her throat. It was the only time she ever ate or drank that way. Most of her neighbors would be the same. The festival was their happening every year.
But now, it was just peaceful. Hardly no traffic on the roads, quite a few walking down the street with her, who all waved or said hi as she passed them.
Sally passed by Jerry’s Garage and had a wave with Jerry and continued to Franklin Street where she turned and headed down to her house. It was a little place, but more than enough for her and her tabby, Precious. It was home.
She unlocked the door and was met inside by Precious, who rubbed up against her legs and purred.
“Hey baby, how are you?” Sally said as she set her keys and purse down on the little table by the front door and picked up her cat, holding her in her arms and rubbing noses with her. “Come on, let’s go outside and enjoy the air.”
She carried Precious outside with her and they sat on the steps to the tiny porch the house had, enjoying the day. Precious fussed a little in her arms, so she placed the cat on the steps who stood there for a minute, checking out the scenery before slowly making her way down the steps and into the yard where she smelled around. Her tail was almost perfectly straight up in the air with the tip of it bent just a little. It would flicker here and there, being the only fast-moving thing on the tabby, who was very laid back.
Sally watched her cat for a moment and then looked up to see her neighbors taking in bags from their car to the house. She would wave, and they would wave back.
Sally’s phone rang so she stood and went inside to answer it. While on the phone, she heard her cat outside hissing, which was startling. She knew right away she shouldn’t have heard it inside. The cat must be hissing loud.
Setting the phone down, she ran to the screen door and looked out. Precious was face to face with a rabbit. Sally shook her head and went back to the phone.
Outside, the cat had reared back and her ears had laid down on her head. She wasn’t so thrilled about the rabbit. The rabbit, on the other hand, was standing its own ground. Something was wrong with it, the cat might have been thinking. No rabbit has ever stood its ground to Precious.
The rabbit also had laid its ears down and it never took its eyes from the cat, who was a little too cocky, in the rabbits opinion.
Precious wasn’t having any of the attitude by the rabbit and moved in for a swipe with her paw. Unfortunately for her, Sally had her claws removed when she was younger, so she didn’t have anything to really show she meant business other than her teeth, which she would use as a last resort if she had to.
The rabbit didn’t budge when the paw came at it. It only reared itself up and bared its own teeth. Very much out of the ordinary for a rabbit, Precious might have thought. She hissed again at the rabbit and began slowly backing away. Apparently, this rabbit meant business.
Sally finished her conversation with her mother and hung up the phone. She headed back to the door and looked out. Precious and the rabbit were rolling around on the ground in her yard.
“Precious, no! Bad cat!” She ran outside to pull the two apart. Halfway down the steps, the two finally split and a bloodied Precious took off, faster than Sally had ever seen her run, even when she was playing and had all of that bottled up energy. The bloody rabbit was laying on its side but stood, having difficulty doing so.
Sally couldn’t imagine anything else happening in her sleepy little town after that summer from the year before when that thing, that monster had been running around town sucking down everybody’s skin... ripping it right off of them and eating it... she couldn’t think about it anymore. She had enough of it when it happened. But now this? What else could possibly go wrong? Wasn’t anything normal anymore?
When the rabbit made it to its feet, it walked without purpose, without a destination set, it just walked as if it were lost. And it was swaying, like it were drunk.
Sally stood on the steps, eyes fixed on the rabbit. What the hell is going on here? Sally thought to herself.
She went back inside and called the diner.
“Eaton’s Eatin’, this is Trish, how may I help you?”
“Hey Trish, it’s Sal, is it possible for an animal to be rabid without foaming at the mouth?”
“Hey Sal, uh, I don’t know. Let me get Max, I got to run this food to a table.”
After a brief moment, Max picked up the phone. “Hey Sally, how are you?”
“Max, I got a rabbit in my yard that just attacked my cat. It looks sick but it’s not foaming at the mouth. Could it be rabid?”
“It attacked your cat? I don’t think rabbits do that.”
“Well it did. What should I do?”
“Call the vet.”
“Great, thanks Max.” Sally hung up the phone and walked into the kitchen. On her fridge was a magnet from her local vet where she had always taken Precious. It had the number to the office on it. She dialed and spoke with the lady who answered.
“Well, you should definitely bring your cat in, we’ll have to check her out Miss Russell.”
“I’ll have to go see if I can find her, but she took off after the fight, and the rabbit just hung around in the yard.”
“That does sound strange and it could be possible for the rabbit to be rabid. I’ll call to have someone come and get the rabbit. See if you can find your cat and make sure to be careful around both.”
Sally agreed and hung up the phone. She went to her room and got out of her waitress uniform and put a pair of jeans on and her jacket. She found some gloves and put those on as well. Heading outside, she noticed the rabbit was still in the yard. The rabbit noticed her and stopped walking, although it appeared the rabbit had been walking in circles.
“Precious kitty, come here to mommy,” she called out. Keeping an eye on the rabbit, she looked around for her cat, under bushes, behind the garbage cans on the side of her house. She made her way to the back of the house and looked under the back porch, which was just a landing like the front porch was. Precious was there, laying down in a ball of fur, ears laid back.
“Hey kitten, you okay?” Sally moved closer to her cat. Precious hissed at her, so Sally backed up. “Now is that any way to talk to your mother? Come on, I’m going to take you to the vet so they can check you out honey.”
Again, she took another step closer to the cat who hissed again and then like a bolt sprinted out from under the porch and ran away.
“Dammit.” Sally stood there, unable to see where her cat had gone. She walked back around to the front of the house and walked up the steps to the porch, sitting down on the top step and watching the rabbit.
All over the world, insects were coming out from everywhere and they were swarming everything. Animals were being attacked by large numbers of fleas and ticks and even by those insects that normally didn’t bother animals at all. These animals were also coming out of the wood work, swarming all over cities and suburbs, locating those people or other animals who were not sick yet and making them sick.
The microbe inside of all of them had one mission, and that was to multiply, not to feed. In some instances where the infected carrier would be hungry, it would eat more than it was told to by the microbe, and the microbe didn’t care. As long as it was passing itself and variations of itself on to new carriers, it didn’t mind what its own carrier did, even though it was almost completely in control of its host.
At the zoo’s, the animals were all going insane, trying their damnedest to break loose and feed on those around them, peering at them through their own cages and thick glass walls. Some of the animals, such as a group of Bengal Tigers in the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens did get loose when an employee had gone in to feed them and hadn’t latched the door all the way behind him. Instead of just biting him a few times and getting him infected, they ate him completely. It was feeding time, after all.
Pet stores were also seeing issues with the pets they had in their stores, although for the most part those animals were going to take a little longer to become infected since they weren’t outside or subjected to insects much, if at all.
So far, the microbe’s mission was a success. Infect insects, the easiest thing for it to infect upon arrival to the planet and then on to animals. A lot of the people in the world were being attacked by insects, but when the animals started attacking too, things were getting out of hand.
On Highway I-94 twenty miles southwest of Miles City, Montana, Caroline Jones was driving home with her three kids from Bozeman, Montana where they had been visiting her parents when word first broke about the disease. She had her radio on the entire trip, listening to the outrageous news.
Her kids were all young and were fast asleep on the four hour trip. Caroline had already spoken to her husband, who was at home waiting for their arrival, but it had been an hour since then and now she couldn’t get any reception on her phone.
As she made her way to the top of a slow rise, she had come face to face with a pile up on the highway. Typically, there wasn’t very much traffic here, but lucky her, it was there now.
Caroline did see some smoke rising from one of the accidents that had taken place up ahead, but all she could see from the back end of the pile up were a bunch of cars parked, and not wrecked.
She slowed to a stop behind the cars and looked around. From what she could see, there was no movement anywhere. There were no cops around to help with the situation, and there were no ambulances to help anybody who might be hurt.
This didn’t make sense to her, but she knew that it had to be from the illness going around, the one the news was now calling The Quick Death, because of how fast it would kill a victim.
She decided getting home was now her only priority and that whatever laws there might be to keep her from driving off road had gone out the window when the disease hit the planet.
Caroline turned the wheel and drove her car off the road and onto the ground separating the west and east bound lanes of traffic. She carefully and slowly maneuvered her car around the traffic blockade and she kept an eye on the cars, most of them abandoned, the rest filled with the lifeless bodies of their owners.
The sight made her sick and she quickly looked away, hoping the bouncing of the car didn’t wake her kids. She didn’t want them to see this.
The pile up seemed to be made up of about twenty cars, which was her best estimation. Three at the head of the pack were involved in a collision, which was probably the big reason for the pile up, aside from The Quick Death.
She neared the open road and began driving towards it. Just as she got to the pavement, she heard a pop and realized one of her tires had blown. So much for off-roading in a Prius.
Caroline drove the car up onto the pavement and stopped. Looking around, she didn’t see any sort of wildlife around, not even a bird in the sky. This was good, because the tire had to be changed. She parked the car and took off her seat belt.
“Mommy,” came a little tired voice from the back seat. It was her middle daughter, Alicia, who had just turned six years old.
“Yes baby,” Caroline answered, as gently as possible.
“Are we home?”
“No honey, go back to sleep. Mommy’s going to get outside of the car for just a minute, but she’ll be back, okay?”
Caroline looked in her rear view mirror and watched her daughter fall back to sleep, and then she got out of the car, quietly shutting the door, but not latching it.
Carefully looking around, especially at the wreck just behind her, Caroline was trying to keep tabs on any movement, which for the moment there was none.
She popped the hatch, opened it quietly and searched for her jack and spare tire.
Off of the coast of Florida, just near Clearwater, Simone and her newly tagged fiancé were swimming in the Gulf, enjoying the warmer weather and a nice trip away from home. Greg had not only planned on asking Simone to marry him, he had also planned an engagement honeymoon. She had been so taken by his entire proposal that she blurted “Florida!” before answering his marriage question and now the two of them joke about how she only married him for Florida.
They had been swimming in the beautiful crystal clear waters the day before but on this day they had decided to not only swim, but do a little scuba diving.
They had joined a scuba class and rode the boat with the twenty or so people, including instructors, out into the Gulf about a mile to go diving.
Since the weather had been so nice, most of those going diving opted to not wear a diving suit, rather, to just go in their regular swim wear. Simone had been the same way, while Greg decided he might never get to wear a diving suit again so he’d try it on. Plus, he pointed out, it made his abs look great. On the other hand, as Simone pointed out, it made his beer gut look less gutty. And then he would point out that it didn’t matter what she said because he knew she’d be gone after the trip anyway. Then they both laughed after she smacked him.
The diving instructor once again showed everybody how to put their oxygen tanks on and how to read the dial that showed just how much oxygen was left in their tank at any given time, even though they most likely wouldn’t be out long enough to use an entire tank, but that it’s never a bad time to start a good habit.
One by one the class dove into the water, sitting down on the side of the boat and falling backwards into the water. Once in, they were all given a guided tour of the different ocean creatures and coral.
Simone and her soon-to-be were having the time of their lives. They enjoyed petting some of the bigger fish as they slowly swam by and reveled at the beautiful clarity of the water they were immersed in.
Just about fifteen minutes into the dive, one of the members of the group noticed a school of hogfish swimming their way. Waving to his wife to point it out, a couple of the other divers took notice, and it was hard not to.
The hogfish were all relatively large, with all but a couple being two and a half to three feet in length. The bigger ones were weighing around twenty pounds. Their orange skin shining brightly in the sun-drenched waters.
The two instructors, Tracy and Josh were delighted, but curious at the same time. The hogfish weren’t this friendly normally, most fish weren’t. They watched as the hogfish swam into the group and began flocking to the divers, bumping into them with their mouths.
The people who were being nudged began flailing their arms at the fish, not to hit them but to shoo them away. Every one of the fish had flocked to someone and was nudging at them.
Suddenly a large sea turtle swam up from the bottom of the ocean floor, right to Josh, who was watching the hogfish and took a chunk out of the diver’s leg with its powerful beak. The instructor screamed inside his mask and began flailing around in the water. Tracy turned to notice what had happened and saw the dark red cloud of blood expanding outward from her comrades leg. This was not good in shark infested waters.
She grabbed Josh and began to swim him to the surface and to get him onto the boat. A few divers in the class noticed and also began swimming towards the boat.
Just as suddenly as they had come, the hogfish turned and swam away, some of them leaving the school and chasing after other fish. Only a couple of those being nudged, like Simone and Greg, noticed this but thought nothing of it, and then they too headed for the surface.
The water splashed into the air when the two instructors surfaced, but they were quite a bit from the boat and Tracy was already getting wore out from carrying Josh to the surface, so she waved for the boat and once the driver, Alex saw her waving, began moving the boat closer.
As the other divers reached surface, the boat had drawn as close as it was going to come, as Alex didn’t want to hit any of the divers or float over someone who had yet to reach the surface.
Alex helped the two on board and got a good look of the wound on Josh’s leg. “Holy shit, that don’t look good.”
He turned to his radio and called in to the shore to let them know what had happened, even though he was light with the details.
As the class of divers were climbing onto the boat, several loud bangs rocked the aluminum roof. Everyone began looking around but seeing nothing, until a seagull dropped off of the roof into the ocean, dead with a broken neck.
Still out in the water, Simone looked up into the sky and saw more coming towards them. “Hurry, get on the boat! There’s more coming!”
This new flock of seagulls battered the top of the boat again, only this time managed to swoop under it and it flew right through the boat, just barely missing Alex, who ducked a little too late but was passed by anyway.
“What the fuck is going on?” Greg asked, but Simone couldn’t answer. She was in shock like everybody else.
On the boat, Tracy was telling Alex about the hogfish and how they were nudging everybody.
“They weren’t nudging us,” said one of the divers, lifting his arm to reveal several red spots, fully equipped with teeth marks and little spots of blood. “They were biting us.”
Tracy had no response. Nothing was making any sort of sense.
Josh was laying on the floor of the boat, bleeding profusely. Alex took note and grabbed the small medic kit that stayed on board at all times, and pulled from it a roll of gauze. “There ain’t nothing else in here we can use, but this should stop the bleeding enough to save him.” He handed it to Tracy who unwound about a foot of it and began to wrap it tightly around Josh’s leg, hopeful to stop most of the blood flow to the wound on his calf.
With everybody on board, Alex shoved the control forward and the boat quickly made its way to shore, with medics on hand waiting for them.
Over the Pacific Ocean, a jet was headed towards LAX from Japan. It had been a long flight, but everything had gone well. The flight would be landing on time and the pilot, Ernest Brown was ready for the vacation that he had coming to him just after this flight. He called in to the airport to find out when his place for landing was and to inform them that he was just ten minutes away. The return message he got wasn’t so great.
By stroke of luck, nobody on the flight had heard anything about what was going on. The reason for this was because almost everybody on board had been asleep since the trouble began. Of those who weren’t asleep, they weren’t using their phones or their laptops to get online and read the news. They were relaxing, eating a meal, listening to some sort of mp3 player or watching the current in-flight movie, which was Bio-Dome.
The pilot looked at his co-pilot after they got the message from LAX. “Are they serious?”
“Yeah, sounds like something out of a zombie movie. Has George Romero gone off the deep end?” Shawn Rollins, the co-pilot was laughing about it.
While Ernest joined him in a laugh, he wasn’t so sure. “How do I relay this message to the passengers? ‘We will be landing shortly, please don’t get a virus and die.’”
Shawn laughed again and shook his head. “I don’t know, but you’ll have to make that message soon. We’re close.”
Ernest sighed. “Yeah, I know.” He picked up his CB and pressed the button on the side. “Ladies and gentlemen this is your Captain speaking, we are nearing the United States of America and the city of Los Angeles. Due to a problem in the general area, we have been told to move on to another airport to land. I understand how this might affect you and your trip, and I sincerely apologize. I will update you as soon as I can with what is going on.”
Ernest hung up the CB and sighed.
Shawn looked at him. “Where are we going? We have to land somewhere.”
“I have no clue. Maybe a small airstrip, if we can contact one, which we need to start doing now. Not only do we need to land safe, but we need to land soon. We’re almost out of fuel.”
Friday morning in Carson City, Nevada, a man was standing on the corner of Musser and Curry Streets waiting for the light to change, like the several other people standing with him, so they could safely cross the street. This man in particular, Phillip Jackson, was new to the city and was on his way to the bank two blocks down the street for his first day on the job. He had transferred from Des Moines, Iowa to take a higher paying position, and today was his meet and greet, so to speak. Monday would be his official starting day, but today was his day to make a good first impression.
The light changed and the sign across the street told him and the rest of the group to walk, so they did. Upon crossing the street, Phillip looked to the other side of the street he was walking down and noticed a man staggering up the street, heading in the opposite direction. The man was clutching his stomach with both hands and he looked pale.
Phillip didn’t want to stare, but he felt that somebody should keep an eye on this man in case he collapses on the street. It would only be fair for that guy to get the appropriate care he needed and Phillip didn’t want bad karma on him in a new city with a new job in his hands.
As he looked away to keep a moderate eye on the sidewalk just ahead of him so that he didn’t stumble upon any unseen obstacles, one of the men walking behind him said to the guy he was with, “Hey, that guy over there must be on the tonic.”
The other guy laughed along with the first guy and Phillip looked around at the sick man and saw that he had stopped walking and was now even more doubled over, and he was puking.
Phillip stopped walking and said “somebody should help that guy” and began walking across the street, pulling his cell phone out of his pocket as he did so.
Why not help him? Maybe he was a drunk who had a few too much and is just now calling it a night, at 7:30 in the morning. Maybe he’s on something and needs to go to a clinic for a detox. But maybe he’s really in some trouble and needs someone to help. Phillip thought the latter, considering the man looked professional and clean, other than the vomiting in public.
After the 911 operator spoke with Phillip about the situation and finally figured out just where he was (luckily Phillip was still near the intersection he had just crossed and could read the signs), they said they would send an ambulance as fast as possible. It just so happened that this particular call would be the first one of the day for Carson City, so it was no problem getting to the man in time to help, if they could.
Phillip placed his cell phone back into his pocket and leaned down to the man who was now kneeling. “Hey, you okay? I just called for an ambulance. What’s going on?”
The man had begun shaking and was now sweating heavily. He fell over next to the building there and Phillip grabbed his arm, helping him to sit firmly on the ground with his back up against the wall.
“I don’t know,” the man said trembling and gasping for air, “it just hit me, bad. I ain’t never been sick like this before.”
He began to say “I’m sorry” but only got as far as “I’m so” before turning his head to the side and vomiting again on the sidewalk.
Phillip looked away and stood. That’s when he realized the other two men, who looked to be about the same age as Phillip, in their early thirties, and an older woman probably in her mid forties, were also standing there.
Phillip looked at the two men and asked, “I heard you say he was on the tonic back there and laugh. What did you mean by that?” He fully expected them to be thinking the same thing that he himself had initially thought. That the man was just drunk and late getting home.
The first man asked, “Haven’t you ever heard of the tonic?”
Phillip shook his head. “No, is that a local thing? I’m new here, just moved two days ago. What is it?”
The two men looked at each other and the one looked back at Phillip and explained, “Yeah, it’s local folklore, kind of a bedtime fairy tale that parents tell their kids when they’re young, like all of the Grimm stuff. It’s about a tonic that would make you sick. I’m not sure the entire story because I haven’t heard it since I was a young kid, but it’s supposed to teach you to not over indulge or it could be bad for you. Something like that.”
The second man nodded. “Yeah, so if you ever notice someone sick or getting sick you just say they must’ve had or drank the tonic. It’s just a saying now.”
The man on the ground moaned loudly, squeezing his stomach tighter with his hands and grimacing. In the distance they could hear the roaring cry of emergency sirens growing louder.
Phillip knelt down again and put his hand on the man’s arm. “You gonna make it? Be strong man, help is on the way.”
The woman who had been standing there spoke up, smiling. “Shame on you for not remembering your bedtime stories!” She was trying to lighten the mood a little, but it wasn’t working. “Apparently a while back there was a man selling tonic and it made the people sick and you could tell they were sick because they would vomit.”
The man on the ground interrupted her with his shaking voice. “I didn’t have any tonic today. Heh.” He smiled and it was almost encouraging, although it seemed to pain him to do it.
The group laughed with him though. At least he tried.
The ambulance pulled up and the medics jumped out. They got the man onto a stretcher and the man began to shake. One of the medics held the man’s arms down while the other pushed the stretcher towards the opened back of the ambulance.
The group on the sidewalk watched them place the man in the back, and, just before they shut the doors one of the paramedics could be heard saying “he doesn’t have a pulse.”
A moment later the ambulance drove away, lights flashing, but no sirens screaming.
The second man broke their silence. “I remember that now. After you vomit, you die.”
The woman nodded slowly. “Yeah, that’s the story.”
Phillip looked at his watch. “Well, I hope that guy’s okay, but I have to get to work. Take care everybody, it was nice to meet you, I guess.”
Phillip shrugged and began walking towards the bank where he now worked. The lady crossed back to the other side, where they had all previously been, but Phillip stayed on the side he was on. That was the side the bank was on.
One of the two men said, from behind Phillip, “Excuse me, sir.”
Phillip almost jumped. He hadn’t realized the two men were following him. He stopped and turned around.
The first one said, “I remembered the rest of it as well.”
“After the people vomited and died, they’d come back to life.” The man looked at the other and then back at Phillip. The second man only nodded, as he finally remembered it as well. “They were like zombies or something. They’d attack the other living people and if they didn’t eat them completely, they’d turn them into zombies like they were. Typical zombie rules.”
Phillip raised his brows and silently said “Ah.” He then turned and began walking towards the bank again, with the other two following.
“Yeah, no wonder I didn’t remember it. That’s pretty horrible.” The first said.
The second responded, “No kidding. Zombies. What they wouldn’t tell children before bedtime back then.”
The three men laughed. As they reached the bank, Phillip opened the door and began walking in. Without thinking about it, he held the door open for the other two who also followed him in.
The second man stopped and asked Phillip, “This is your work?”
Phillip nodded and then realized he was holding the door for them and smiled. “You too? Today’s my first day.”
The other two laughed and said they worked there as well, welcoming Phillip to their bank. They each introduced themselves, and Phillip learned their names, Brad and Tony.
The day was starting off well for Phillip, for the most part.