Apocalypse origins, p.2
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       Apocalypse Origins, p.2

           R.A. Neely
 

  ***

  Greg washed his hands again. This was the fourth time but he still saw traces of blood. He looked in the mirror and saw the same face he viewed every day. Shouldn't there be some sign of his ordeal? He'd just killed a man. Yes, it was self-defense but surely there should be some sign of distress.

  He wasn't upset. In fact, he felt...satisfaction. Yes, that was it. Satisfaction that he had kept Carol and himself safe. If he was upset at all it was more because he wasn't bothered. Greg finished washing his hands and sighed. He'd have to deal with his feelings later. He left the bathroom and saw Carol sitting at her desk. She shook her head.

  "Can't get through," she said. “I’ve been trying for the last few minutes but no luck so far.”

  Greg had wanted to report this to the police right away but maybe it couldn’t be helped. He sighed. "I guess we keep trying." Greg wasn't really worried about getting in trouble. This was clearly self-defense. Maybe he'd feel differently if Carol hadn't been there. 

  Greg and Carol looked towards the front of the office as someone started pounding on the door. They went to investigate and saw a middle aged man in a disheveled suit beating on their glass door. He looked terrified and was breathing heavily as if he had been running from something. He was clearly in trouble.

  "We're closed for the day," Greg said. 

  "Please," the man begged, "you have to help me. Rick went crazy and started attacking people. Then they got up and starting going after people too!"

  That sounded just like what had happened with Mr. Ramsey. Was this the sickness they were talking about on the news? Did it make people aggressive? He said the people attacked got back up. Did he know how it spread? "Alright," Greg said, "I'll let you in." Greg spied movement down the hallway and saw a figure wandering around. It noticed the man's frantic beating of the door and let out a piercing howl.

  The man looked behind him and screamed. "It's one of them! You gotta let me in!"

  "You have to move," Greg said. "The door opens out." The creature started sprinting towards them, spittle flying from its mouth.  

  The man nodded quickly and stepped back. Greg unlocked the door and shoved it open. Grabbing the man by his jacket, he hurriedly pulled him into the room. He turned towards the door but Carol was already pulling it shut. She locked the door and stepped back just as the creature ran full speed into the door. There was a loud thump and the glass in the door shook, but held.

  Carol dropped the blind down and moved away from the door. She flinched as the infected hit the door again.

  "Greg, I don't know if the door is going to hold," she said nervously.

  "Alright. I'll get some furniture in front of it." He left the man who was currently on the floor curled up in the fetal position. The occasional whimper could be heard from him.

  There were two couches in their waiting area. The longer one could hold three or four while the second one was basically a love seat. Greg wasn't sure how to go about this. Their office door opened outward, so blocking the door wouldn't work.

  He maneuvered the long couch in front of the door and placed the shorter one on top of that, forming a t shape. They had to get out of here. The furniture would only slow that thing down for a few seconds at best. Greg walked over to the window and looked outside. The fire escape! He opened the window to get a closer look and frowned when he saw its condition.

  It was rusted all over. The bolts that attached it to the building looked as if they were ready to crumble to dust at the slightest breeze but it was the only way out if he didn't want to deal with that thing at the door. Greg remembered what the man had said about the people who had gotten attacked. He didn't know how many of those creatures were running around in the building. The fire escape was the best option. Another thump reminded him he only had a few moments to figure this out.

  He needed a weapon though. His eyes fell on Mr. Ramsey's body that they had covered with a table cloth. The knife was still over there. Greg walked over and pulled the sheet back. He grabbed the knife and spent a few moments wiping it clean on the table cloth then put it into his belt. "Carol," he said, "We need to take the fire escape."

  The sound of breaking glass drew his attention and Greg watched as the love seat was shoved to the floor. To his surprise, there were three of those things there. All the noise must have drawn their attention. Right now they were all trying to get through the door at once but Greg was sure they'd figure it out soon enough. "Go, Carol!"

  Carol ran for the window and quickly made her way outside. Greg heard the fire escape groan at the weight but it held. Hopefully it would hold up long enough for them all to get down. The creatures managed to sort themselves out and began scrambling over the couch, one by one. Greg ran forward and planted a kick in the first one's chest went sent it crashing into its friends. That bought him a few seconds to run to the window where the man they'd let in was making his way out onto the fire escape.

  He climbed through the window and started making his way down. Growls behind him told him the creatures were close on his heels. He made it down the first set of stairs when the fire escape started shaking. Looking up, he saw the creatures making their way outside. He heard the screech of metal and hoped the fire escape would last just a few more minutes. He took off, taking the stairs three at a time. He thought about jumping all the way down a flight but didn't want to fall with those creatures close behind.

  The fire escape groaned again and began pulling away from the building. It wasn't gonna hold! Greg saw that he'd made to the second floor and considered going through the window but the fire escape pulled free with a final screech before he could act on it. There was nothing he could do but hold on. He closed his eyes and held on tight. This was going to hurt. There was a sensation of free fall and Greg heard screaming and roaring but didn't know who it was. There was a loud crash that nearly shook Greg loose but he managed to hold on. Opening his eyes he saw that he wasn't on the ground.

  The top of the fire escape had hit the building next door. It was a good thing space was so hard to come by in the city. If the buildings had been further apart, the fire escape would have crashed to the ground. He wasn't sure if he'd be able to walk away from that. He looked up and only saw one creature remaining. The roaring must have been the others falling from the crash. Who made that scream then? Was Carol okay?

  "Carol?" He looked down but couldn't see much of the lower area of the fire escape.

  "Carol!?"

  "I'm okay," came her reply, "just a bit bruised."

  "Good," Greg said as he sighed in relief. "What happened? I heard a scream."

  "That was the other guy. He fell when we crashed against the other building."

  Greg shook his head. That was a shame. To survive the horror in the building only to fall...

  Movement at the end of the alley caught his eye. Two of those things were making their way towards them. The crash must have drawn their attention. Screaming for Carol probably hadn't helped either.

  "Carol," he began calmly, "you need to make your way back to top me.

  "Alright. I'm on my way."

  Good Greg thought. She didn't waste time asking why. He looked up. With those creatures down below their best bet was to try and get into the neighboring building. He'd just have to deal with the one creature left up top. He reached for the knife and was glad to feel the handle. He hadn't lost it.

  He started making his way up. He couldn't use the stairs with the fire escape leaning as it was. He had to use the railing as a make shift stair. He had to be careful. The gap in the railing was large enough that a misstep would see him joining that other man on the ground. Greg approached the creature and it immediately roared and lunged towards him. Unfortunately, it didn't have the wherewithal to pay attention to its footing and one leg fell through the gap in the railing. Greg quickly took advantage and stabbed the creature in the neck. He withdrew the knife and used a foot to send the creature crashing to the ground below.
He continued up the fire escape until he reached a window. It was locked so he launched a series of kicks to break the glass, careful not to cut himself. Once it broke, he used the knife to clear the remaining glass from the frame and slipped inside.

  He found himself in a storage room. There were various office supplies arranged on the shelves. Noise from outside alerted him to Carol's approach and he turned to the window and saw she had reached the end of the fire escape. He held out his hand and helped her navigate through the window. Screams from bellow reached their ears. Carol shook and Greg took her in his arms. The two creatures must have found the man from the office. Shame that he survived that fall only to be attacked by those things. Stepping back he looked at Carol.

  "You okay?" he asked.

  "Yea, I'm fine now that I'm out of that deathtrap." She sighed and used an arm to wipe sweat from her eyes.

  "Good. Sorry I didn't lend a hand. Had to deal with another one of those things so we could get in here."

  "That's fine. Look, I know I don't have a chance of surviving this craziness without you but I'm not completely helpless. I can keep up."

  "I'm not complaining," he said shaking his head, "and I don't think you're helpless."

  Carol smiled. Carol looked around the room. "So what's next? How are we gonna get out of here?"

  "First, I want to see if there's anything we can use in here. Anything we can use as a weapon. All I've got is this knife."

  Carol nodded and began looking at the shelves. There didn't appear to be much that would be of use. She saw pens, paper, staples, binder clips and so on. She was just about to give up when she noticed a mop sitting in the corner.

  "How about that mop?" she asked. "It's not much but better than nothing maybe."

  Greg walked over and looked at the mop. She was right. It wasn't much at all but they didn't really have anything else at hand. He supposed he could take that mop part off, that'd leave him with a staff of sorts. The mop was really fragile though, it wasn't designed to be used as weapon. Maybe he could get a few hits out of it before it broke.

  "It'll have to do," he said as he began removing the mop head. He had a sudden inspiration. The mop was nearly useless as a bludgeoning tool, but maybe he could make a serviceable spear out of it. "See if you can find some duct tape or something like that he said. I'll try and make a spear."

  "Okay," Carol replied. A few minutes later she found the desired item hiding at the bottom of a shelf. "Found some." 

  Greg took the knife and held the handle to end of the stick. "Take the tape and wrap it around. Make sure you get it really tight."

  Carol nodded and set to work. "How much tape should I use?"

  "A lot. I don't want to lose the knife when I use it."

  "Alright, how's that?"

  Greg tested the knife and it seemed pretty sturdy. It wouldn't last indefinitely, but it would give him some reach if he had to face any more of those things.

  "Not bad," he said. "Alright, time to get out of here. Stay close to me alright?"

  Carol nodded. "I'll be right behind you."

  Greg nodded and moved over to the door. He wasn't sure if any of those things were loose in this building so he turned the handle as quietly as he could and cracked the door. He took a moment to listen. He couldn't hear anything. Maybe no one was in the building. Only one way to find out though he supposed. Greg quietly opened the door and stepped out into the hallway. It was carpeted so that would muffle their footsteps. If anyone was hear they shouldn't be able to hear them coming. The closet they were in was situated at the end of a hallway. They could only go to the right. He looked back into the closet and motioned for Carol to follow him.

  He quietly made his way down the hallway, spear at the ready. The hallway opened up into a larger room. There were a number of cubicles which fortunately, only came up to his chest. He could easily see that the room was empty. Halfway down one wall Greg could see an elevator. Greg's hand was halfway to the button when Carol stopped him.

  "Wait," she whispered.

  Greg looked at her. "What's wrong?" he whispered back.

  "What if one of those things is downstairs?"

  Greg thought for a moment. She was right. If one of those things was downstairs it might be on them before they could get the doors closed again.

  "You're right," he responded, "let's look for the stairs."

  Crossing the room brought them to another hallway. Looking to his right, Greg saw several doors in that direction. Probably offices. To his left, he saw their goal. He approached the steel door and opened it as quietly as he could. He checked behind to make sure Carol was still with him, at her nod he started down the stairs. Greg paused at the first floor landing. It was probably fine but he didn't want to be surprised. He still couldn't hear anything though. Maybe the building was empty after all. He continued down the stairs and paused when he reached the door. Opening the door would reveal his position so he placed his ear to it and listened. Still nothing. He quietly turned the handle and opened the door.

  He walked down a short hallway and found himself in a lobby area. There was an information desk and a few comfortable looking chairs. The room was completely empty and Greg sighed a breath of relief. Sneaking through the building may have almost been as bad as if he'd had to fight his way through. The thought that one of those creatures could be around the next corner had kept him on edge the entire trip down.

  "Let's catch our breath," he said.

  Carol nodded and sat on one of the chairs. She let out a shaky breath. "That was intense. I just knew one of those things was lurking around."

  Greg nodded. "I felt the same way but it looks like we're okay for the moment." He glanced towards the exit. It was a set of glass double doors. He'd be able to see how things were outside and hopefully nothing would see him in the process. He approached the doors and looked around.

  The parking lot for the building was completely empty. Looks like no one made it in to work today. He looked towards his building and saw his car in the lot. A quick sprint could see them there. They'd probably have to deal with those two creatures from the alley though. He glanced at his spear. Hopefully it would be up to the task.

  He walked back to Carol. We're gonna make a run for my car."

  Carol nodded. "What about staying here though? No one else is here so we should be safe."

  Greg shook his head. "That works for the short term but not for the long haul. If one of those things breaks inside we'll be in the same boat all over again."

  He looked at the exit. "Even if we could barricade the door, what about food? We can't stay here forever, Carol."

  Carol sighed. "I know. Just...it would've been nice to be safe for a while."

  "I don't think we'll be safe here. Two of those things are probably still in that alley."

  "Alright," Carol said, "you're right."

  "I know this is a lot to deal with," Greg said, "I don't even know how I'm not going crazy right now. But we'll get through this."

  Carol nodded. "Okay. I'm ready when you are."

  Greg led her over to the door and fished in his pants pocket. "Here," he said taking out his keys.

  "I want you to run for my car and start it up. Think you can drive right now?"

  Carol nodded. She was scared out of her mind but she had no intention of dying. If Greg needed her to drive then that's what she'd do. "I'm fine. Just keep them away from me."

  Greg nodded. "I'll open the door and we're gonna run for the car. If those things show up I'll keep them busy."

  Carol nodded as she took the keys from Greg. She took a deep breath. "Okay, I'm ready."

  "Alright. On three. One, two, three." Greg pushed the door open and ran towards his car, Carol right on his heels. They heard roaring as they passed the alley. Greg glanced and saw two creatures looking up from the remains of the man from earlier. They immediately got up and started running after them.

  There was st
ill a little distance left, Greg wasn't sure if they'd make it in time. "Get to the car!" Greg stopped running and prepared to fight.

  The two creatures came barreling around the corner and headed towards him. Greg waited until there were nearly on him and struck with his spear, as he made contact he stepped to his left and put himself out of reach of the second creature. Before the first creature could recover, he struck again, scoring a hit on its side. He jumped back as the second creature swiped a blood covered hand at him. He responded with a jab towards his stomach but didn't get a solid hit.

  The first creature approached and swung at him again. Greg blocked with the staff but heard a crack. It wouldn't last much longer. Greg kicked it in its chest and sent it sprawling onto the ground. He turned to face the second creature and just managed to duck a swing at his head. He spun away from the creature and swung low with his staff. The creature landed on its back with a thud. Greg quickly approached and thrust the spear into its neck. The force of the blow caused the spear to break and Greg stumbled and fell to his knee.

  He looked over his shoulder and saw the first creature charging towards him. The creature leapt and Greg threw himself into a roll to get out of the way. The creature roared in frustration and took off towards him again. Greg scrambled back to his feet. The sound of an engine heading his way caught his attention. That must be Carol. That was good. He didn't need to finish this one off then. He waited until the creature started its leap and then dodged to the side. Before it could recover Greg ran forward and kicked it in the back, sending it crashing to the ground.

  Carol screeched to a halt behind him. He ran over to the car and got in. "Let's go!" he yelled. Carol sped out of the parking lot while the creature ran behind them, screaming its frustration.

  "Where are we going?" Carol asked as she turned out of the parking lot.

  "We'll head to my house," he replied. "I have weapons and a few supplies there. He pointed at turn coming up. "You can take that road right there. It'll take us to the expressway."

  Carol nodded and took the turn. "You know," she began with a grin, "there are easier ways of getting me to your place."

  Greg chuckled. There'd always been this tension between them but Greg had never wanted to act on it. He'd always felt it would be unethical since he was her employer. Though, if he was being really honest, he wasn't sure he'd be able to replace her. But, getting chased by crazed people that wanted to kill you had a way of putting things in perspective. Today showed him that life was short. Granted, right now maybe wasn't the best time to explore a relationship but when all this was over...

  "Well, I figured we'd skip the whole awkward first date and all."

  Carol smiled. "You could've warned me. I would've put on something nice."

  Greg deliberately gave her a once over. "That'll do. You won't be wearing it long."

  Carol chuckled again. "Is that so? What makes you think it'll be that easy?"

  "You're madly in love with me. You can't help yourself really. I am pretty amazing."

  Carol laughed aloud. "Really? Someone thinks pretty highly of themselves."

  Greg chuckled. It seemed a bit weird to be joking around given everything they'd been through this morning. But maybe that was just what they needed. She'd been so afraid back there. And who wouldn't be? He was scared himself. If not for his training in krav maga he probably wouldn't have survived. So maybe some laughter is just what they needed. He glanced at the clock on the dash. Nine thirty. All that they went through and only an hour and a half had passed since the day started.

  "There. Expressway entrance is right there."

  Carol nodded. She took the on ramp and merged with traffic. It was still pretty light which meant a lot of people were probably taking the warning to stay in their homes seriously. Fifteen minutes went by and Greg pointed out the exit that would take them to his house. They'd seen no signs of those creatures on the expressway. It was as if what happened at the office occurred in its own little world.

  A few side streets later and Carol was turning onto Greg's street. He pointed out his house and she pulled the car into the driveway. Greg hit the garage opener and Carol pulled the car into the garage. They got out of the car and Greg hit the button again to close the garage.

  Carol leaned against the car. "I didn't see anything on the way in. Are we safe here?"

  "For now I guess. Maybe it started downtown so it just hasn't spread this far yet. Probably just a matter of time though."

  Carol nodded.

  "Come on," Greg said, "let's get inside."

  Greg led the way inside and showed Carol to the living room. "Something to drink?" he asked?

  Carol nodded. "Sure. Maybe some food too. Running for your life leaves you famished. Great workout plan though. I'll finally get rid of those few pesky pounds if this keeps up."

  Greg chuckled as he headed towards the kitchen. Greg rummaged in the refrigerator a bit to see what he had on hand. "Beer, water, or iced tea?"

  "Water's fine," Carol replied.

  Greg filled to glasses with ice and filled them both with water from the tap. A beer would be great right now but this wasn't the time to get buzzed. He needed to keep a clear head if they were gonna survive all this. He didn't know how long they'd be safe here.

  He sat down on the couch next to her and handed her the glass. "Food wise I can do some sandwiches. Anything else and I'd need to cook."

  Carol nodded. "That's fine. I could eat a shoe right now."

  Greg chuckled again. "How about some roast beef instead? I mean you'd get more fiber from the shoe I guess but the beef will go down easier."

  Carol smiled back. "I guess that makes sense. Maybe for dessert?"

  Greg laughed as headed back towards the kitchen. He got all the necessary ingredients and set about making their food. They continued to make small talk and then returned to the living room after Greg was done making their sandwiches. They ate quickly, both of them being hungrier than they realized. 

  "Either that was good, or I was really hungry," Carol said.

  "Hey now," Greg said, "I make a mean sandwich."

  Carol smiled and nodded towards the t.v. "Want to see if they're saying anything new?"

  "That's a good idea," Greg said as he grabbed the remote. Turning the t.v. on they were just in time to catch a newscast from Shirley O'Hara. They sat in rapt attention as she related that they were actually facing an outbreak and the infected were very dangerous. 

  "Do you think that's true?" Carol asked. "What she said about the bite?"

  "Well, I guess we don't know without seeing it for ourselves but that makes sense. I fought with 

  Mr. Ramsey and I'm not infected. At least I hope not. If it was just casual contact we'd both be sick I think."

  "So what now? Do we just stay here and hope the government gets things under control?"

  Greg frowned in thought. "I'm not sure what we're gonna do long term just yet. In the short term, we'll head over to James's house after we rest a bit. I've got a bit a food stored away. Just in case of a tornado or something. We'll take what I've got and combine it with James and we should be okay for a while." Greg paused as he thought for a moment.

  "What's wrong?" Carol asked.

  "Just wondering about James. I think he had to work this morning so he would have been out in the middle of this."

  "Do you think he's okay?"

  "I hope so. But our rest just got canceled. If something did happen to him, I've gotta get over there and look after Laura and the kids."

  Carol nodded. "Alright. So what do we need to get going?"

  Greg smiled at her willingness to help. You'd think that just about anyone would be paralyzed from the craziness of the whole situation. But Carol had a good head on her shoulders. Shame it took something like this for him to realize it.

  "The food I've got is in the garage. There's a few cases of water and some can goods. Not a whole lot. I'd only bought enough for a few days."<
br />
  "Alright. I'll start loading the car."

  "We can take what's in the cabinets too. It's not as much as in the garage but every little bit will help if this goes on."

  "Do you think the government will get this under control?"

  "I hope the government will get things under control," Greg responded. "But let's plan in case they don't."

  "That makes sense," Carol replied. "So, I'll pack up the garage and the kitchen. What will you be doing?"

  "I'll get all my weapons together." At Carol's raised eyebrow he explained further. "James and I game a lot. We usually go to the E3 conference every year. We like to buy replicas of weapons from our favorite games. Some of them might actually be functional. He also drags me off to the gun range now and again so I've got a few handguns around."

  "Alright. I won't say that's nerdy ‘cause it'll actually come in handy," she said with a smile.

  Greg chuckled. "Who knew right?" Greg stood up. "Alright, let's get started. I want to get over to James's house as soon as we can."

  Carol nodded and headed for the kitchen. "You have boxes or something for the stuff in here?"

  "I have some of those canvas bangs underneath the sink."

  Carol nodded and set to work. Greg headed to his bedroom. He grabbed a gym bag he had lying around and put the two handguns he owned inside. He had the Glock 17 he’d learned to shoot with and a Glock 19 he'd purchased because James insisted it was better. He tossed in a holster and then looked around for the ammo After locating the box that went into the bag as well. After that, he changed in to a sturdy pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Next came a comfortable pair of hiking boots. Gym shoes would be more comfortable but he'd rather have the boots for the added protection. They had a steel toe so he could also use them offensively if needed.

  He threw a few changes of clothing into the bag. After a moment’s thought, he threw in a few pairs of jogging pants for Carol. They'd be big on her but would be better than nothing. Next, he examined the weapons he had around the house. He had a few swords he'd bought over the years. He had a katana, a gladius, and a few random swords inspired by video games. None of them proved to be serviceable however. Most of them were loose in the hilt and it felt like a solid hit might cause it to break. He didn't want to rely on these only to have them fail. 

  Just as he was about to give up on that, he realized he had something in the garage that might do the job. He quickly headed there and grabbed a machete off the wall. He gave it a few test swings and felt it should work. He'd bought it on a whim a year or two ago. He'd thought it be fun to use on the bushes in the backyard when his neighbors weren't looking. He placed the machete back into its sheathe and took a few minutes to attach it to his belt.  That done, he realized his guns were useless right now. They'd do him a whole lot of good if they ran into trouble on the way to James's house.

  He returned to his room and retrieved the Glock 19 and attached that to the other side of his belt. He then took a few minutes walking around the house too see anything else that might be of use. On a whim he fired up the PlayStation. He was pleased to see a message from James. He typed out a quick reply and turned it off. After that he took one last walk around the house. He wasn't sure if he'd be back. Yea, if the government showed up things might get back to normal but he thought it best to plan for the worst case scenario. He met Carol by the entrance to the garage.

  "Ready?" she asked.

  "Yea, I was just taking a second to look around. Don't know if I'll be back."

  Carol nodded in understanding. "Well at least you get one last look. I won't be able to see my place. My poor cat."

  "You have a cat?

  "Yea. I hope she's alright."

  Greg grimaced. He'd like to help but there was no way he was gonna fight his way through those things just for a cat. Carol smiled at the look on his face.

  "It's alright," she said. "I love that cat but I'm not about to risk my life for it. You ready to get out of here?"

  Greg nodded. "Yea, let's go."

  Carol nodded and they headed out the door.

   

   

  2 James: On Patrol, Emerald Falls, Illinois

   

  James Ruckley pointed down the street. "I think that guy might be one of them," he said. He'd pointed at a man trying to walk down the street. He was using the buildings he passed as support.

  His partner, Mark Jeffries slowed the car. "How can you be sure from here?"

  "We'll have to get closer to be sure but it's worth checking out."

  Jeffries nodded and pulled the car over to the curb. They were each wearing a hazmat suit complete with hood. They each put on a face mask that completely enclosed their face. Next came boots and gloves.

  "Alright, let's check this out," Jeffries said, his voice muffled by the facemask.

  James nodded and they both exited the vehicle. They slowly approached the man. Despite the suits, neither really wanted to be all that close to him. Who would've thought that this is how his day would be going. He'd arrived for his shift at six this morning only to hear a briefing that sounded like a plot for a bad zombie flick. The chief had told them that some mysterious illness had broken out around three that morning. The CDC was on site. They'd established a quarantine ward at the hospital and all officers were being tasked with rounding up any sick people that they saw.

  The major symptom appeared to be fever. That was apparently all that the CDC knew so far. After the chief's briefing, they'd been issued these suits and sent on their way. Hopefully the suits were doing their job. How could they be certain if they didn't even know what this illness was? James sighed and brought his attention back to the matter at hand. They were close enough to the man now that he should be able to hear them without them having to shout.

  "Excuse me, sir," James said.

  The man stopped walking and looked in their direction. He was sweating profusely. So much so that it looked as if someone had dumped a bucket of water over his head. That wasn't the most shocking feature though. The man had a pair of bloodshot eyes so red that they looked like something from a horror movie.

  "How are you feeling, sir?" Jeffries asked.

  "N-Not good," the man mumbled as he touched his throat. "Throat hurts. M-My head hurts too."

  James nodded. "Alright, sir. We'd like you to come with us. We'll take you to the hospital."

  The man nodded. "O-Okay. I think that's a good idea."

  They each took an arm and helped the man to their squad car. James helped the man get in back while Jeffries slid behind the wheel. Jeffries moved to take off his gloves but stopped when James shook his head. It probably wasn't a good idea to remove their gear with this guy in the car. They wouldn't want to expose themselves. Jeffries nodded and pulled onto the street.

  They made great time to the hospital as traffic was nearly nonexistent. Early this morning, the mayor had issued a statement strongly advising residents to remain in their homes for their own safety. The proclamation hadn't started a panic fortunately. The mayor had assured the populace that the illness was well in hand but clear streets would allow emergency responders to get to infected people quickly.

  They pulled up to the emergency room and immediately several people in gear similar to their came out to meet them with a stretcher. They quickly removed the man from the vehicle who appeared to have fallen asleep. They nodded their thanks and wheeled the man inside.

  "This is pretty crazy right?" Jeffries asked.

  "Definitely weird," James replied. "I just hopes these suits are doing their job."

  Jeffries nodded. "Think it's safe to take some of this off? Sucks driving like this."

  "Better not. No sense taking any risks."

  "You're right. Thing is just real uncomfortable."

  James nodded. Personally, a little discomfort didn't bother him. He had a wife and two children at home. He had no intention of taking any unnecessary risks with this illness, especially with no one knowing what it was.
No way would he risk exposing Laura and the kids. He thought of his family at home. It was about six forty five. Laura would normally be getting up around now to get the kids ready for school. Fortunately, all the schools were going to be closed. As part of his statement, the mayor had said that all public buildings would be closed today for safety. James was relieved at that. There was no way he would have been able to focus on the job today if he'd been worried about his family.

  "Let's head back out," James said.

  Jeffries nodded and put the car in gear. They made three more trips, each like the first. They'd find someone walking around looking confused. They'd be sweating enough to drown and each had the bloodshot eyes. They were fifteen minutes into their fifth trip when they got a call over the radio.

  "Attention all units. Attention all units. We've got reports of violent patients at the hospital. Please respond."

  "Car ninety one here," James said over the radio. "We're in route. E.ta. fifteen minutes."

  "Acknowledged ninety one."

  Jeffries turned the siren on and threw the car into a U-turn. He sped back towards the hospital as fast as he could safely drive and not lose control.

  "What do you think it is?" he asked.

  James shrugged. "Maybe some of those patients got a little violent. Those last two we dropped off looked really confused."

  "I hope not. I can't use any of my gear with these gloves."

  James nodded. The suits might protect them from the illness but it would be difficult if they needed to use any of their equipment. Jeffries turned a corner and the hospital came in view. Jeffries had made record time. It'd only taken about eight minutes to get back to the hospital.

  "Nice driving," James said.

  Jeffries shrugged. "No biggy. That is why I drive by the way, just saying."

  James chuckled but it soon died in his throat as Jeffries screeched to a halt in front of the hospital. People were running from the building screaming. Some of them looked to be injured. A woman had a hand to her neck, trying to stem the flow of blood as it seeped through her fingers. Another held her arm and James also so signs of blood on her. What's going on? They exited the vehicle and approached the nearest person.

  James grabbed their arm to stop their panicked flight. "What's going on?" he demanded.

  "The patients have gone crazy! They suddenly started attacking everyone!" she said breathlessly.

  "What do you mean they're attacking people?" Jeffries asked.

  "Just what I said," they replied. "Look at my arm. One of them bit me!" She moved her hand and they could see that someone had taken a chunk out of her bicep. It looked really nasty.

  "Shouldn't you get that looked at?" Jeffries asked. The woman looked at him as if he were stupid.

  "It's not safe in there! I could've died." With that, the woman ran off, following the crowd of people leaving the hospital.

  "We can't go in there without backup," James said. "Not if it's as bad as she was saying."

  Jeffries nodded. Neither of them liked the thought of standing by while people were in danger, but this looked really bad. They simply wouldn't be able to handle it with just the two of them. Fortunately, other officers started arriving. In a few minutes there were nearly a dozen of them.

  "Alright, that's more like it," Jeffries said. James and Jeffries waited until the other officers reached them and started heading inside. The mass exodus had died down. Anyone else inside would probably need their help getting out. The officers approached them and James gave them a summary of the situation.

  "We got a report that the patients are attacking people," James said. "Saw several people with nasty bite wounds so let's be careful. Several officers nodded and they all proceeded into the building.

  They didn't see anyone at first. Anyone that had been able to make it this far had been part of that group they ran into when they arrived. They walked down a hallway but all of them came to a stop when the sound of roaring reached their ears.

  "What the heck was that?" one of the officers asked.

  James shrugged. That couldn't have been a person could it? It sounded so animalistic. The officers resumed their walk and found themselves in the emergency room. The place was chaos. Workstations and stretchers were strewn everywhere. No sign of the infected though. This was likely the result of everyone's panicked flight from the building. Where was the quarantine ward? James looked around. Maybe they could follow the trail of destruction. Everyone was obviously running away from the patients. So maybe they could follow the signs of flight to the ward.

  James picked a hallway and started walking. There were various items tossed about. Some people must have fled from this direction. They passed a stairway and an elevator before they reached a set of double doors. James checked behind him to make sure the other officers were still with him and then pushed the doors open. He stepped into a scene from a horror movie.

  The room they stepped into had beds set in rows, each separated by a curtain, likely for privacy. Looking around, it seemed as if every surface was stained with blood. Blood on the floor, blood on the ceiling, blood on the walls. James could see a body just a few feet from the door. Approaching, he had to swallow hard to keep his breakfast down. The body looked like it had been mauled. The throat was ripped out and it looked like someone had bitten chunks out of the torso. The sound of retching behind him told James that some of his fellow officers hadn't been able to hold their food down.

  "What is this?" one officer asked.

  "It's crazy is what it is," another answered. "I didn't sign up for something like this."

  James looked at that officer and he stopped talking. "None of us signed up for this. But there still might be some survivors and we're their only hope of getting out here."

  The officer hung his head. "I know that. This though...this is crazy."

  James nodded. "We'll get through it. He looked at two officers. "You two head back out front so you can lead in anyone else that shows up. Don't want them wasting time like we did."

  The officers in question nodded and quickly made their way out of the room. James carefully made his way in, trying to avoid the blood on the floor. He found himself in the middle of the room and saw a sight that stopped him cold. There was a body a few feet from him. Someone was kneeled down next to it and they were pulling something from the body. James eyes widened when he saw that the figure was pulling something out of the stomach.

  "Freeze!" James shouted.                                                                                                                                                                            The creature looked over its shoulder, blood marring its mouth. It growled and stood to its feet.

  "I said freeze!" James repeated.

  With a sudden burst of movement, the creature charged towards him only to bet me by a prong striking its chest. Thousands of volts sent it crashing to the ground.

  "Take that you sick bastard," Jeffries said. He detached the wire from his taser and placed it in its holster. To their surprise, the creature started moving.

  What is this? Any normal man would still be recovering from the shock. Was this some kind of drug thing? PCP or something? That gave users high pain tolerance. How was it moving? The creature made it to its knees and howled. It was an animal sound, more akin to a wolf perhaps than something a human should be able to make.

  The officers’ eyes widened as there were answering howls sounding throughout the building. The sound of running feet reached their ears and James looked towards the end of the room. A lot of the answering howls were coming from that direction. There was another set of double doors there, each of them smeared with blood.

  The creature stood back to his feet and sprang forward, arms outstretched. A single shot rang out and the creature crumpled to the ground. James lowered his gun hand and sighed. He hadn’t wanted to do that, but he didn't see any other choice.
There didn't appear to be any reasoning with these...things. They didn't seem to be human anymore.

  James looked up as the sound of running feet came closer. "Shoot to kill," he said. James sighed at the look of horror on their faces.

  "Look quickly," he said pointing towards the creature he had shot. "Take a good look! Do you see anything human left? I don't know what this illness does but these things aren't human anymore. Look around," he said indicating the room at large.

  "Would a man do this?" He shook his head. "Even if they are still one of us, they mean to kill us. Can we let these things loose in the city?"

  At that, the officers’ looks of horror were slowly replaced with one of determination. They had to protect the city. They couldn't let these things out of the hospital. They'd go on a rampage.

  James nodded at the look of resolve on their faces. "Get ready. They're nearly here."

  The doors at the far end of the room burst open and dozens of the creatures charged into the room. Seeing the officers they howled and sprinted in their direction.

  "Fire!" James yelled. Shots rang out and several of the creatures immediately crumpled to the ground. Some of the creatures in back stumbled over their fellows but others managed to leap over the obstacle. More shots rang out and more of the creatures fell. James sighed as his gun clicked empty.

  James glanced behind him and saw the same for the officers behind him. They were all out of ammo. How many did they put down? He was fairly confident his shots had been kills. He frequently went to the range to hone his skill. He'd always felt that the best way he could use his gun was to shoot what he was aiming at. He wasn't sure about the other officers. He knew that a number of them trained just enough to pass their annual evaluation. Looking forward, he sighed as he saw the result of that attitude.

  Some of the creatures were getting back to their feet. They were wounded but they were somehow able to push past pain that would leave a normal man crippled on the ground. The creatures roared and charged the officers. James drew his asp and flicked his wrist to expand it.

  "Hand to hand. Get ready!" James’ krav maga training kicked in. He'd been in a few scrapes on the job. This was the first time he'd needed to fire his weapon at a live target but he had been in his share of fights. Normally he held himself back as his training made him a deadly opponent. Krav maga focused on ending the fight as quickly as possible. That wasn't something he could normally do on the job. But right now he knew, this was kill or be killed. If he didn't fight with everything he had, he wouldn't be seeing his family again.

  James met the first creature to reach him with a hard strike to the throat that put it back on the ground. It stopped moving. He sidestepped the next creature and managed a hit to the back of its knee that sent it to the ground. Moving quickly he finished it with a blow to the back of the head. Turning around he barely managed to block a blow with his asp. He responded with an elbow strike to the creature’s throat that had it gasping for breath. James put it out of its misery with a strike to the head.

  The next creature that reached James received a kick in the groin for its efforts. James smiled inwardly as it crumpled. They had high pain tolerance, but they still felt that. Two strikes to the back of its head stopped it from moving. Movement from behind caught James’s attention but he couldn't move in time. He turned only to be tackled to the ground. The creature struck at him but James managed to trap its arm with his against his body. With his other hand, he jabbed the creature in the eye. The gloves cushioned some of the blow but it was enough to make the creature howl in pain. A strike to the throat had the creature holding its throat and James was able to shove it off. Three quick punches knocked it unconscious.

  James looked about for his asp. He'd lost it when he'd been tackled. Seeing it he grabbed it and looked for another opponent. He sighed in relief when he saw they were done. He walked over to the creature he'd just knocked out and finished it off. He didn't want to fight it twice. Who knew how quickly it might have recovered?

  Looking around, James took stock. Of the ten officers that had started the fight, only four of them were still standing. They were all breathing heavily. James looked around in disgust. What was this thing? What could turn a man into a raving animal? James noticed a rip in his suit and checked the skin beneath. He sighed in relief as he found the skin unbroken. But the suit was now useless. He might as well lose it and get some mobility back. Some of the officers looked on him in shock as he started taking off his suit.

  "Suit got ripped," he explained. "Hopefully, it doesn't spread that easily."

  A few officers nodded and followed suit. All of them had suffered a rip of some sort. One of them cursed in disgust when he looked at his arm. One of the creatures had managed to bite him.

  "Look around," James said. "See if you can find some clean bandages and take care of that. The rest of you check for bites too."

  A few minutes passed in silence as the officers checked themselves for wounds. The sound of footsteps reached their ears and all of the officers tensed. James relaxed as he realized the steps were coming from the way they came in. That was their backup hopefully. A number of officers entered the room, the chief of police at head. The chief looked around the room in horror until his eyes found James.

  "What the hell happened here?" he demanded. He entered the room and glanced at some of the bodies. "Why did you shoot these people? Have you lost your mind?"

  "No, sir," James responded. "These people are crazed. They attacked as soon as they laid eyes on us. They've got high pain tolerance. Several of them that were shot got up and kept attacking. We didn't have a choice.

  The chief sighed as he saw the bodies of his officers on the floor. "Any survivors?"

  "Don't know, sir. Haven't been past this room."

  The chief nodded. "Alright then. We need to search for survivors." He looked around the room again. "I'm gonna get the mayor on the radio. We're gonna need National Guard or something to handle all this."

  The chief headed outside and the surviving officers took that time to rest. Only one of them had gotten bitten but they were all winded from their ordeal. James was grateful for all the intense training he'd been through with krav maga. Not just for the combat skills that had surely just saved his life, but also for the conditioning. He still had plenty of reserves left to see this through.

  The chief returned a few minutes later with a look of fury on his face. "We're on our own."

  "What do you mean, chief?" Jeffries asked.

  "National Guard won't be coming. They've been deployed to more 'critical' locations."

  "This isn't critical?" an officer asked.

  "Looks like this is happening all over, son," the chief said. "We're just not high enough on the totem pole. We'll have to make do. Let's check for survivors. Maybe we can contain this here in the hospital."

  Several officers nodded at that. They were angry. Their brothers had been killed by these things and they wanted payback. James wasn't so sure though. After what they'd just been through, maybe the best course of action was to retreat. If there were still a lot of those creatures left, they'd be facing another massacre. He looked at the chief's face and saw no argument on his part would make a difference. The chief could be stubborn at times and he looked to be pretty set on this course of action.

  James sighed. He had a moment where he seriously considered leaving. Going further seemed like suicide but he wouldn't abandon his brothers. He wouldn't be able to live with himself if they wound up getting themselves killed. He shook his head. Nothing for it. He hoped he'd be able to walk away when this was done.

  The officers headed through the doors and the end of the room and found themselves in another hallway. The hallway ended at a wide set of stairs that led into the upper levels. At the first landing, the chief called a halt.

  "I don't want to be here any longer than we need to be. We're gonna check each floor as quickly as we can. If we see any creatures, we put them down. Understand?"
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br />   The officers nodded but James sighed internally. This still felt like a really bad idea. They entered the second floor and James saw that it was the maternity ward. Fortunately, there was no sign of the creatures here. James didn't know what he would have done if they creatures had made it here. A search showed that the floor was completely empty. That was good. The people on this floor must have taken another exit from the building. James didn't remember seeing anyone with babies when he came in.

  The third floor showed signs of struggle but it looked to be empty. Maybe some of the creatures he had fought had come from this floor. The fourth floor turned out to be empty as well. One more floor and they could be done with this place. They found themselves exploring the fifth floor when one of the creatures suddenly appeared at the end of the hallway. Seeing them, he howled, alerting his fellows to their presence.

  Answering howls told them they were about to have a fight on their hands. "Back to the stairs!" the chief yelled.

  The officers turned around only to see there were creatures blocking their escape. "Alright. We've gotta fight," the chief said. "Let's put these bastards down!"

  An officer handed James a clip and he quickly reloaded his pistol. "Go for head shots if you can," he said. "They get up if they can still breathe."

  The creatures roared and charged towards the officers. James emptied his clip, trying to make every shot count. Twelve shots and ten fell to the ground. Other shots rang out and more creatures fell. Maybe they'd get through this okay.

  "Behind us!" someone yelled. Looking behind him, James saw that the creature that had spotted them had been joined by several others.

  This was bad. Surrounded like this, it probably wouldn't go well. Seeing their predicament, several officers bolted. Now the situation was even worse. Massed fire was their only hope of evening the odds for when the creatures reached them. They'd be slaughtered if they tried to stand and fight.

  "Fall back!" James yelled. At his shout, officers scattered in every direction. He took off down a hallway with Jeffries and the chief on his heels. He checked rooms as he passed by but every door he checked was locked. Maybe they could find a place to hide and sneak out later. They couldn't fight their way through this many. James finally found an unlocked door and ducked inside. He waited for Jeffries and the chief to enter and then shut the door. Looking around, he saw they were in someone's office. There was a large desk in the middle of the room with a laptop and a bookshelf filled with thick volumes.

  "Let's catch our breath," James said quietly.

  Jeffries and the chief nodded, no complaints there. Neither of them were in nearly the shape that James was in. If he wanted to take a break, it was fine by them. A few minutes later, James put his ear to the door. Nothing. Hopefully the coast was clear. James opened the door and quickly looked outside. None of the creatures were in sight. He motioned for the others to follow and stepped out into the hallway. He didn't want to go back the way they'd come, creatures were likely in that direction. They needed to find another way off this floor and out of the building. An elevator perhaps? Not the regular ones. Those were too close to the stairs where they'd come up. Maybe a service elevator. He remembered when Laura had had the kids. They'd been part of a program that let them bypass the standard check. A nurse would come down and take Laura directly to the maternity ward. They'd used some sort of service elevator to do that. Hopefully he could find something like that.

  James walked cautiously down the hallway. He didn't want to be surprised by another one of those things. As he reached the end of the hallway, he heard someone running to his left. Looking around the corner, he saw an officer running in his direction.

  "Run! They're behind me!" he yelled.

  James looked behind him and saw five creatures in pursuit. He took off after the officer and hoped that Jeffries and the chief were following. The officer went around a corner and James followed. Down the hall, James saw that some kind soul had left their door open.

  "Door on the left!" he shouted to the officer ahead.

  The officer heard and ran into the room, James and the others quickly entered behind them. James shut the door and locked it. He heard the creatures run by and sighed in relief. They'd managed to get in here without being seen.

  "Everyone okay?" he asked. "Anybody hurt?"

  "I'm good," Jeffries said.

  "I'm fine too," the chief said.

  The officer looked at his arm angrily. "One of those bastards got me before I could outrun them."

  James looked at the officer's arm and saw a bite mark. It looked like the creature's teeth had barely broken the skin. He should be fine.

  "How do you feel?" James asked.

  "He barely got me," the officer replied. "Still hurts like hell though."

  James glanced around the room. "Let's look around. Maybe we can wrap it up at least."

  A few minutes of searching turned up a handkerchief that they used to wrap around the wound. That task complete, they all decided to rest for a bit. James looked at his watch. Nine. They'd arrived at the hospital around eight. It was hard to believe they'd only been here an hour. It felt like ages.

  "Why don't we get some rest?" James said. "Hopefully we'll have better luck later."

  The others nodded their assent and they looked around the room. This office was a bit better appointed than the last one, at least in regards to their current needs. There was a small desk with two leather chairs in front of it. Along one wall there was a comfortable looking couch. They gave the couch to the officer while Jeffries and the chief took the chairs in front of the desk. James took the desk chair. He didn't think he was as comfortable as the others but it would do.
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