DISCLAIMER: I know some of this won’t make much sense or will seem scatterbrained. I’m aiming to clean it up before I do anything else with it, but I can’t seem to write anything coherent anymore, so I’m leaving it as is for now. Please forgive the work in progress.
“Mia Sprague, please. It’s urgent,” the male voice said with a quavering voice.
“May I ask what this is about, sir? Dr. Sprague is very busy,” the middle-aged nurse said, keeping her voice steady despite her rising heart rate. She had gotten three calls like this so far today, and the nurse before her had gotten two.
“I have visual information about someone who seems to be displaying some kind of sickness, his skin is getting really thin and he doesn’t see it yet but there’s a patch on the back of his neck that’s starting to peel off the muscle,” the voice answered frantically.
“I’ll have her come to the phone right away, sir. Are you calling on a cell phone?”
“Okay, sir, please bring this man to our hospital right away; Dr. Sprague will want to see his symptoms. Please do not let him come in close contact with anyone. Do you understand? Do not allow him to get close to anyone, and do not let him breathe on you or touch you.”
“Yes ma’am, we’re on our way right now. I called you right after we started driving. Will Dr. Sprague see us soon?”
“She’ll make time for you, sir. We need to deal with this. I shouldn’t tell you this, but your friend is one of several coming in with those symptoms. It seems to be becoming a problem. Don’t tell anyone though, alright? We don’t want to cause a panic.”
“You got it, ma’am. I appreciate your help, and we’ll be there soon.”
“Be careful, sir. Here’s Dr. Sprague.”
Eleven patients with the same symptoms in two days. And I still haven’t been able to create a vaccine. And there’s no telling how many people those eleven people infected. We’re about to have an epidemic on our hands, and maybe even a pandemic, Dr. Sprague thought as she sat at her desk with her office door locked. There wasn’t much she could do while she waited for the lab techs to duplicate the three new batches of the vaccine she was going to try.
There was a knock on her door. “Come in,” she said.
The nurse walked up to her desk and hung her head. “Dr. Sprague, three of our patients have passed away.”
The doctor immediately sprang up out of her chair and said, “Get the live patients out of that room!”
The nurse’s eyes went round with fear and both women ran to the quarantine sector, yelling to the nurses right outside the room to take the live patients to the other quarantine room directly across the hall. As the nurses did what they were told, the doctor watched the dead patients, looking for any kind of movement. She wasn’t even sure there would be any movement, but with how little they knew about this virus, anything was possible.
The nurses came back to stand with the doctor when the other patients were safely in the other room, wide-eyed.
“Did any of you touch any of them or vice versa?” Dr. Sprague asked.
The nurses shook their heads, but one of them spoke. “When I was taking vitals earlier, one of them sneezed– I couldn’t tell which one– and I’m afraid I’m going to get the virus.”
“Did you have your hazard suit on?”
The nurse nodded, but his eyes were still filled with worry.
“If you had your hazard suit on the right way, you don’t have anything to worry about.”
“But I’ve been feeling really itchy and I noticed a patch of skin on my belly that’s really dry and it’s starting to peel.”
The other nurses took several steps away, covering their mouths and noses with the lapels of their scrubs. The doctor closed her eyes and dipped her head, as if she was praying. “And you haven’t said anything before now.”
The nurse shook his head.
“And you’ve been around all of us with symptoms like them,” the doctor said, gesturing toward the patients in the quarantine room.
The nurse closed his eyes and hung his head. That was enough for the doctor.
“Well, everyone, we’ve now all been exposed. And with how we have to move around here, the rest of the people in the hospital have also been exposed. I’m putting the entire hospital on lockdown. All of you, stay away from other people now. Don’t go to the break rooms or anything, in case others haven’t been exposed.”
Dr. Sprague placed the lapel of her jacket over her nose and mouth and picked up the phone on the corner to call the head of the department. Soon after she hung up, the head of the department spoke over the PA, “Attention all medical staff, patients and everyone within the hospital, due to unforseen circumstances, the hospital must be placed on lockdown until further notice. No one is allowed to leave the building and no one is allowed to enter. We’re sorry for any inconvenience. The police have been called to act as enforcement of the lockdown and will be strategically posted outside the building, so do not be alarmed. Thank you.”
Dr. Sprague was impressed with her supervisor’s calm demeanor, but she knew better than to believe that the calm was anything but a mask to protect everyone from panic. They were going to have a huge problem on their hands, and with the recent history of how quickly this virus was spreading and affecting people, it wasn’t going to take long.
There were five of them left in the house. The monsters outside had gotten hold of the other four. Z-day had arrived a few months ago — zombies were everywhere outside. They walked into and out of the unlocked houses in the area, knowing that they smelled the live meat in the one house that was locked, but they couldn’t reach it. The five left had seen what those monsters did when they found someone that wasn’t dead like them. It was horrifying, but they hadn’t been able to take their eyes away from the gruesome sight. The dead people grabbed the live one and tore him to pieces, shoving the raw muscle into their mouths like animals.
The five left – Jerry Myers, Claudia Goodman and her twin sister Cynthia, Michael Monroe, and Logan Fisher – had enough ammunition to take care of the ones in the area. Michael and Logan had been United States Marine snipers, so they took extermination duty and the trips to get more ammunition and gasoline for the cars. Jerry and Cynthia took care of finding food, shooting down birds with a bow and arrows they found in one of the neighborhood houses and ravaging stores for what was left. They had to go farther and farther to find food now, but the sounds of Michael’s and Logan’s gunshots drew zombies from miles around to exterminate close to their house, so trips weren’t too dangerous anymore. Claudia spent most of her time sitting in the corner of the master bedroom’s small walk-in closet crying.
Jerry had been a personal trainer for several years, but before that he had been in a gang until a rival gang member threatened his mother. He was jumped out, and led a productive life. Cynthia was an office professional who worked for a company who sold alcohol. Claudia went from minimum wage job to minimum wage job because she got bored or because the job wasn’t good enough for her. With the exception of the twin sisters, none of the nine had known each other before the zombie outbreak. They had all been wandering looking for food and had found each other little by little. As they traveled, they found the house they claimed unlocked and stocked with several weeks’ worth of food and water. It was a roomy four bedroom house, and they made it work even with nine people. On a mission to find food, four of the nine had been attacked, just three blocks away from the house. Logan had seen them coming from his post on the roof and advised the others to help while he took well-aimed shots, but the four in the house hadn’t heard Logan’s warning, and didn’t make it to help the four who were on their way back.
Logan finished exterminating the monsters in the area and went into the house to tell the others what happened. They were shocked and felt guilty about not helping, but there wasn’t much they could do after it happened. They walked the few blocks to gather the food and back to the house to have a few moments of silence. They settled into a routine and assigned the duties of extermination and hunting, and Claudia had been assigned the task of keeping the house tidy, but she frequently disregarded her task.
The three men were getting tired of Claudia’s uselessness. She had become a waste of food and space. Jerry proposed using her as bait to draw in more zombies to kill, but Cynthia would have none of that. Logan proposed Cynthia shut her mouth and realize that in times like this, either one contributes or becomes bait, but Cynthia ignored him. Michael kept his mouth shut, but as soon as Cynthia wasn’t paying attention, he told the other men that he agreed with Jerry’s proposal.
One night after Cynthia had fallen asleep, the men were keeping watch and Claudia wandered outside into the backyard to relieve herself.
She walked up behind Logan and whispered, “Cover me, okay? I’m just going around the corner. Make sure they don’t get near me, okay? But don’t look at me peeing!”
“How am I supposed to watch that they don’t get near you if I’m not looking in your direction?” Logan said dryly and stared at her.
She just stood there and blinked at him.
“Go on, then. We’ll cover you.” He finally whispered, nodding at the other guys.
Claudia let out a relieved sigh and disappeared into the darkness.
“I’m about tired of her bullshit. This ends tonight,” Jerry pronounced, stalking into the darkness after Claudia.
Logan and Michael stared blankly into the inky void and heard Claudia gasp. Immediately after that, they heard a loud snap, like someone had broken a tree branch. They got up and went to see what happened. Jerry had redressed Claudia and thrown her over his shoulders in a fireman’s carry.
He scaled the exterior gate, coming to the high fence that separated the backyard from the street. Carefully, he lifted her limp body off his shoulders and set her up on the wall. He set her feet between his own on the top of the wall, leaning her body first against his own and then attempting to stand her up straight. He leaned her back and let go of her.
Her body fell and there was another snap as it landed on its back. The scene looked just like Claudia had jumped, or rather simply let herself fall backward from the top of the wall.
Jerry noticed the two other men coming up behind him. “She didn’t say anything. Just came out here like she was gonna take a leak and we didn’t’ hear anything but that crack. Right fellas?” he asked, raising his eyebrows and nodding his head to convince the men that the story would work.
Michael just shook his head in disbelief as he walked back to his chair in the middle of the backyard. Logan nodded, letting out what seemed to Jerry to be a sigh of relief. Jerry let himself drop from the wall, landing on his feet. He walked over to the house, coming to the window of the bedroom Cynthia slept in.
“Cynthia!” he yelled. “Cynthia, wake up, come outside!”
In a few seconds, Cynthia flew out the back door, hair sticking up everywhere, clothes wrinkled and off-center from sleep. “What? What happened?”
Jerry paused, looking at the guys. He took a breath to gather his thoughts and told her the story.
Cynthia’s mouth fell open and her legs gave out, and she crumpled to her knees on the damp grass. Michael went to her, placing her between his legs so he could cuddle her and keep her warm and comfort her all at the same time. For a few moments, the four sat in silence.