Apocalypse origins, p.3
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       Apocalypse Origins, p.3

           R.A. Neely
 

  ***

  The sound of someone moaning woke James from his nap. Looking around the room he saw that it was the officer on the couch. James stood up and walked over to the officer. He was tossing and turning like he was having a nightmare but that wasn't what was concerning. He was sweating buckets. James tapped him on the shoulder but got no response. James pushed back an eyelid and sighed sadly when he saw solid red. He was infected. But how? They had all been running from those things and they weren't showing any signs. How did it spread? James looked over the officer and stopped when he laid eyes on his bandaged arm. The bite. Is that how it was spread? Had to be. That was the only difference between them right now. None of them were wearing suits at this point. If it was spread in some other way then they should all be sick right? James walked over and shook Jeffries and the chief awake.

  "We've got a problem," he said once he had their attention.

  "What's wrong?" the chief asked.

  James motioned towards the officer on the couch. "He's infected."

  "How do you know?" Jeffries asked.

  "Same symptoms," he responded, "fever and bloodshot eyes."

  "How?" the chief asked.

  James pointed to the officer's arm. "The bite I'm thinking. Other than that, we should all be sick."

  "Is he gonna turn into one of those things?" the chief asked.

  James nodded. "All of the people we dropped off this morning had the same symptoms. I don't know how long it'll take, but yea, he'll turn."

  The chief sighed. "I never should have given that order to look for survivors."

  "How could anyone know about this?" James replied. "And even if we did know, we probably would have come anyway. It's what we do."

  The chief nodded. "True. Can't help but feel it's my fault though. What do we do?"

  James sighed. "I see two options. The first is that we look for somewhere else to hide. 'Course we risk running into more of those creatures."

  "The second?" the chief asked.

  "We put him out of his misery," James said softly.

  "You mean kill him?" Jeffries asked.

  "He's already dead," James responded, "just a matter of time now."

  They all stood quietly as they processed this. It would be really risky to look for another hiding spot. But, could they do this? Kill a fellow officer? Yes, maybe he was as good as dead, but to kill him?

  "We've got a bigger problem," Jeffries said.

  "What's that?" the chief asked.

  Jeffries looked at James. "How many of those people running out of here were injured?"

  James's eyes widened as he realized the implication. "Oh man. Enough that it could be all over the city right now."

  Jeffries nodded. "If just a few of them went home the city is in trouble. They've turned or they're going to turn soon. Not sure how long it takes."

  James looked at the officer on the couch. He'd been bitten when they'd run in here. He looked at his watch. Ten thirty. So about an hour and a half had passed since they'd all went to sleep.

  "A couple of hours I guess," James said. At their look he shrugged. "We've been asleep for about an hour and a half. He was bit just before we ran into him."

  Jeffries nodded. "Okay. So how much time do we have?"

  James shook his head. "Doesn't matter. I've got to get out of here and get home."

  Jeffries looked at him and nodded. "Laura and your kids."

  James nodded. He hadn't been too worried before. Laura had a good head on her shoulders. She wouldn't have panicked when she heard the announcement the mayor had made earlier. Plus, he'd made sure that she was proficient with the weapons they had in the house. Laura didn't particularly enjoy guns but was practical enough to understand something could happen while James wasn't at home. It would be up to her to keep the kids safe. James was confident she could handle a burglar. But this? One of those things could be creeping around his house right now. He had to get home and make sure his family was safe.

  "Yea," James said, "I can't stay here."

  The chief nodded. He had family too. His daughter was off at college but he had a wife waiting for him. They had to go be with their families.

  "Let's go then," Jeffries said. Jeffries lived alone, the consummate bachelor. But there was no way he was gonna hide here while the others escaped from this place.

  Jeffries looked at the officer again. "What do we do about him though?"

  "We put him out of his misery," the chief said. "If I get bit, I want one of you to do the same for me. I don't want to be one of those things."

  "How?" Jeffries asked. "I've got maybe three or four shots left and I'd rather save that for getting out of here."

  James was out of ammo himself. If they had to fight their way out he'd have to rely on his asp. He spotted a pillow on the floor. It must have fallen from the couch. He picked it up and sighed. He didn't want to do this but maybe it was for the best. The officer did look as if he was in a lot of pain.

  James approached the officer but stopped when he stood over him. Could be do this? Defending himself was one thing. But this? This just didn't feel right.

  "I can't do this," he said shaking his head.

  "I'll do it," the chief said as he approached. "It was my idea to keep going."

  The chief motioned for the pillow and moved to stand over the officer. James turned his back to the couch. Maybe this was necessary but that didn't mean he had to watch. He closed his eyes and waited for it to be over.

  "It's done," the chief said a few minutes later.

  James turned around and glanced at the couch. He had to admit that he did look peaceful now, as if he were asleep rather than dead. James nodded and headed for the door. It was time to get out of here.

  James slowly opened the door, listening for any sign of the creatures. He peeked into the hallway but didn't see anything. He motioned for the others to follow.

  Alright, they needed a service elevator. Hopefully they could make it the elevator without seeing any more of those...things. James cautiously walked down the hallway, alert for any sound of the creatures. Several minutes passed without incident until they reached a set of double doors. The doors had a square cut out which allowed James to look into the area beyond. Peering through, James saw some good news and some bad news.

  The hallway beyond had a desk, probably a nurse's station of some sort. Right next to the desk was a single elevator. That had to be the service elevator he'd been looking for. Unfortunately, there were several creatures there as well. They were several bodies on the floor and it looked as if the creatures had made a meal out of them. Maybe they'd been making their way for the elevator when they were caught. James hoped they would have better luck.

  James motioned for the group to head back the way they came. When he judged that they had enough distance from the doors, he motioned for them to stop.

  "I think I saw about six of those things past the doors," he said.

  "Do we need to go that way?" Jeffries asked.

  James nodded. "The service elevator is right there. We could try looking for another I guess but we'll probably have to end up fighting some of those things regardless."

  "Six you said?" the chief asked. At James's nod he continued, "I think it's better to deal with a smaller group."

  "What's the plan then?" Jeffries asked. "If we go in there and they do that howl thing, we'll be in trouble."

  James frowned in thought. "I'm thinking brute force. We go in, you shoot however many you can. Chief, you finish off whoever he puts down. I'll keep the others busy until you guys come give me a hand."

  Jeffries side. "That's a good as any other plan I guess." He removed the magazine from his weapon. "Four shots," he said as he slid it back in.

  James nodded. He led the way back to the door and looked back to see if they were ready. At their nodded he counted to three with his fingers. He shoved the doors open and Jeffries ran into the room. Four shots sounded out in quick succession. James and the chief
ran into the room. James ran for the elevator and hit the button. Behind him, he heard Jeffries and the chief attacking the creatures with their asps.

  A growl behind him alerted him to danger and he turned to see two creatures running towards him. He stepped behind the nurse's desk so they both couldn't reach him at once. James met the first creature with a solid blow to the head that sent it to the floor. The second creature tried to dive at him over the counter. James stepped to the side and it went sprawling to the floor. Two hard blows to the head stopped it from moving. James moved to finish off the second creature and checked to see how Jeffries and the chief were doing.

  They were breathing heavily but looked none the worse for wear.  Maybe they'd get out of this after all. James moved back to the elevator. There wasn't a floor indicator like you might see on a regular elevator. He had no way of knowing how close the elevator was. He sighed as the sound of running feet reached his ears. Looks like they weren't done yet.

  More creatures entered the room and they howled in unison on seeing them. That wasn't good. Even if they finished these off, more would be on the way. James rolled his shoulders to loosen up. Maybe this was it, but he would go down swinging. He joined Jeffries and the chief in the middle of the room.

  The creatures charged all at once. James thought of his family at home. He might never see them again if this went badly. He'd never see Laura's smile, or hear junior laugh as he told a lame joke from that little book he had. And Maddy, his little girl. Fury took his mind. These things were not going to stop him from getting home.

  James roared his defiance and ran forward to meet their charge. He hit a creature with his shoulder and sent it flying backwards. He ducked under a swing from another creature and countered with a blow to the head that put it down for good.

  Another creature charged towards and James stepped to the side. As the creature passed by he landed a solid hit to its head with his asp. The creature hit the ground and James followed through with a second hit, just in case.

  The chief screamed and James looked to see him go down beneath two of the creatures. He ran to help and quickly put the creatures down with hits to their head. They'd been so focused on the chief that they hadn't responded to his approach.

  He pushed the creatures away and saw that he was too late. The chief was dead, his throat ripped out. Maybe that was a mercy. At least he wouldn't become one of those things. James looked around, things looked clear for the moment. Jeffries was leaning against the nurse's station, breathing heavily.

  "Was that that krav stuff you're always talking about?"

  "Yea," James replied.

  "Maybe I should've taken a few classes. I'm exhausted."

  James glanced at the chief's body. "This sucks. We're nearly out of here."

  Jeffries shrugged. "This whole day sucks." As if to add emphasis to his comment, they both heard a roar from somewhere nearby.

  "Time for round two," Jeffries said.

  James walked over to the elevator. "Why is this taking so long?"

  "It should be here soon. Probably hasn't been as long as it feels. Don't worry though, I'll draw them away."

  James turned towards Jeffries. "What are you talking about? We're both getting out of here."

  Jeffries shook his head as he held up his hand. "One of them got me."

  "Oh man. There's gotta be something we can do."

  "You know there isn't. It'll happen just like it did in the office. I'm not dying like that. If I have to die, I'll do it on my feet."

  James opened his mouth to say something but Jeffries shook his head.

  "There's nothing else to say, man. Now, say goodbye so I can go save your sorry hide."

  James chuckled despite the seriousness of the moment. "Arrogant till the last, huh?"

  Jeffries turned to leave and looked over his shoulder. "That's right. And make sure to tell everyone how I saved your life." Jeffries took a few steps then turned around.

  "If you and Laura have another kid, I expect you to name him after me."

  James chuckled and blinked back tears. "Yea, we'll do that."

  Jeffries nodded and took off down the hall, banging the walls with his asp. "Come and get it!" he yelled.

  James heard several roars in response. Looks like this will work. A ding behind him alerted him to the elevator's arrival. He stepped inside and hit the button for the ground floor. He'd make it home but one of his best friends had to die to make it happen. He sighed as he wiped tears away with his arm. He'd have to grieve later. Right now he had to make sure Laura and they kids were safe.

  The elevator reached the ground floor and James cautiously stepped out. It was quiet. Maybe any creatures down here had moved on. He made his way outside and saw more officers on the ground. He hoped some of them had made it. James reached his car and locked the door once he was inside. He grabbed the radio to see if anyone had made it out of there.

  "Officer Ruckley here. Anyone out there?"

  James waited a few minutes and tried again. Ten minutes later he hadn't gotten a response. He put the car in gear and headed home. He hoped there were survivors but he had to focus on his family now.

  James quickly saw evidence of people that escaped from the hospital. Several times he saw cars that had run off the road. Maybe the drivers had succumbed to the infection and lost control. James slowed down to get a closer look. He saw one car where the driver had run into a light post. It looked like they were slumped over the wheel. They must have died from the impact.

  Another car had the driver side door hanging open. James could see streaks of blood on the windows. He saw the top of a car seat and quickly looked away, he didn't need to see anymore.

  James picked up speed. He definitely needed to get home. The infection might be all over the city now. How far did people get before the fever took them?

  The rest of the drive was uneventful. James felt a sense of relief as he turned into his subdivision. There was no sign of the infection here. Cars were parked the way they should be and there were even some kids playing. It wouldn't last, but it meant that his family was probably okay. James turned onto his street and into his driveway. James exited the car and approached the house. So far so good. Now if only Laura and the kids were safe inside.

  He opened the front door and shut it behind him. He frowned as he looked around. All of the lights were off. That was unusual. Was something wrong with the power? He started walking down the hallway when the sound of a shotgun cocking made him freeze. 

  "Don't move," Laura said with steel in her voice.

  "It's me, Laura," James said quietly, not wanting to startle her.

  "James? Oh, God. I'm so sorry!” She stepped into the hallway and lowered the gun. 

  "It's alright," he said as he turned to face her. "What's with the lights?"

  "I heard a news cast from Shirley O'Hara. She said those infected people are violent. They were attacked at the station and what they showed made me think the shotgun was a good idea. I turned everything off so no one would notice us."

  James nodded. "That was good thinking. Where are the kids?"

  "In the basement. They wanted to go to a friend’s house with no school but I kept them home when they made that announcement about staying off the streets this morning."

  James nodded again. He knew he could count on Laura. He was glad he'd made sure she knew how to use all of the firearms he kept around the house. His nearly getting shot just now was proof that had been the right decision. If the infected had made their way here, James was confident Laura would have kept the kids safe. They walked into their living room and had seat on the couch.

  "That's great, Laura. I was so worried when I realized what was happening."

  Laura laid her head on his shoulder. "I was worried too. I didn't know what was happening out there." She sat up. "You're home early."

  James nodded. "It was pretty bad out there. We pretty much don't have a police force anymore. I don't know how many officers sur
vived. The chief is dead, Jeffries too."

  "What happened?" Laura asked with concern in her voice.

  James spent the next half hour relating the morning's events. He finished with how Jeffries had drawn off the creatures so he could get home to them. Laura put her arms around James, tears in her eyes. James let the tears flow. Now that he was home, it was safe to grieve for a time. Laura rubbed James on the back as she stood up.

  "I'd better check on the kids. Don't want them to get worried."

  James nodded. "Alright. I'll be down in a bit."

  Laura nodded and headed for the basement. James went to the bathroom to splash some water on his face. No need to worry the kids by them seeing him upset. James was about to head for the basement when another thought brought him up short. Greg. How was he doing with all of this? He couldn't contact him with the phones down so he had no way of checking on him. He couldn't leave the house, he had to make sure his family stayed safe. James headed for his PlayStation 4 and fired it up. The phones were down but maybe he could use the console to send a message. He typed out a quick message and hit send.

  "Hey man, how are you? Things are crazy. Get here ASAP."

  Hopefully Greg was okay and would get the message. If he was alright, James would feel more confident about this whole thing. He and Greg had been practicing krav maga together for years. He also dragged him down to the gun range whenever he could. That task complete, he headed to the basement to be with his family. He didn't know how they were gonna get through all this but he'd do whatever he needed to do to keep them safe.

   

   

   

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

   

   

   

  3 Shirley: WKJ Studios, Emerald Falls

   

   Shirley waited until she got the all clear signal and then sighed in frustration. She was absolutely disgusted with herself. That was hands down the worst interview she'd ever done in her career. She'd never been part of something that was so deliberately created to deceive her viewers. Promote a certain point of view? Sure. Conservative networks promoted their view while liberal networks promoted theirs. But this? This was outright lying. She got it. The powers that be wanted to prevent mass panic. If there were any chance of getting ahead of this thing, the last thing anyone needed was a bunch of idiots running around rioting and looting. Shirley stood and began walking towards her office. A few steps later her cameraman of five years, Jackson Barnes, met her with a cup of coffee.

  "Thanks, Jackson."

  Jackson nodded and headed off in the opposite direction. Shirley discreetly admired him for a few moments. Jackson was a handsome man. He had this deep voice that nearly made her shiver at times. But that was something she could never explore. She was a member of the city's elite. She'd reached her position through a combination of her stellar career and her engagement to the mayor's son.

&nb
sp; He was an up and coming lawyer who would one day follow in his father's footsteps. He was quite the catch. Keeping her position among the elite required that certain...expectations be met. Becoming involved with her ex-con cameraman simply wouldn't do. Even if he had a voice to make a woman go weak in the knees.

  Shirley reached her office and sat in her chair. With Jackson out of sight, her melancholy thoughts returned. The Pendleton interview. The truth of the matter was that they were dealing with an outbreak. The mayor knew this already. The interview was simply an attempt to prevent the populace from panicking.

  Being part of the city's elite made her privy to certain information. She knew that the city's police force couldn't deal with the outbreak. Help wasn't on the way because those assets were being mobilized to more critical locations. But, she would be safe. Shirley touched her pants pocket. There was an invitation inside about the size of an index card. It granted her access to a shelter in the city. It was stocked with enough items to support a group of people for weeks. So, she'd be safe, while the city burned around her.

  The guilt was eating her alive. Shirley was by no means an altruistic person. She'd done her fair share of lying, cheating, and backstabbing to get where she was. Not that she wasn't capable. She was one of the best. But getting there meant she'd sometimes had to create...opportunities for advancement. Her engagement to Jeremy was evidence of that fact. She held little love for him. He actually had a number of habits that irritated her to no end. But, he was nice enough. Life with him would be pleasant, if boring. The important thing though is that marriage to him would allow her to maintain her lifestyle. She wouldn't be on top forever. When that happened, Jeremy would take care of her. She'd give him a kid or two and help make his political career a success. Was that shallow? Maybe. Shirley preferred to think of herself as practical. She was used to a certain level of comfort. She was merely taking steps to ensure that comfort wasn't interrupted.

  So Shirley wouldn't say she normally cared about the plight of her fellow man. She did what she needed to survive and she assumed others did the same. This situation was completely different though. How could she sit safe while everyone else fought for survival? A knock on her door interrupted her thoughts. She looked up and saw Jackson standing at the door.

  "You alright?" he asked.

  "Yea, I'm fine," she replied with a slight smile.

  Jackson chuckled. "So staring at a computer monitor for fifteen minutes is fine?"

  Shirley glanced at the clock on her computer. He was right. Some fifteen minutes had passed since she'd sat down. "Just thinking."

  "What about? Must be important for you to be sitting there so long."

  Shirley thought. Maybe she couldn't do anything for the city but she could at least keep Jackson safe. They didn't spend time together outside of work but they'd been together for years. There was at least some mutual caring and respect.

  "Come in, and close the door."

  Jackson raised an eyebrow but complied. After sitting in the only other chair in the room, he looked at her expectantly.

  "So you know the interview earlier?"

  Jackson snorted. Of course he knew. He was her cameraman.

  "Okay, silly question. But the point is that the interview was basically the mayor trying to stop the populace from panicking."

  Jackson sat there unsurprised. Shirley frowned at him, "You don't looked surprised."

  Jackson shrugged. "Doesn't take half a brain to see that the doctor wasn't really saying anything. Plus, the questions you asked should've tipped off anyone paying attention."

  Shirley nodded. "Well what's really going on is that there is an outbreak. There's way more cases than what Pendleton admitted to."

  "How are they keeping all this quiet?"

  "The mayor asked them to."

  "How's that work?" he asked.

  "My understanding is that cities all across the country are doing it."

  Jackson nodded. "That makes sense. If they're gonna be able to stop this a panic is the last thing that they need."

  Shirley nodded. That was remarkably similar to her thoughts.

  "How do you know all this?"

  Shirley gestured, drawing attention to her diamond engagement ring.

  "Okay, that makes sense. So what happens now? This can't be what you've been sitting here staring about this whole time."

  "It's gonna get bad. I mean really bad. The police aren't going to be able to stop this. They simply don't have the bodies. So it's going to spread."

  "And once people realize they've been lied to..."

  "They'll riot. Add that to the outbreak and I don't know if our city will recover."

  "Alright, this is sad and all but it's not like you can control any of this."

  "The...infected are becoming violent in many cases."

  "Violent how?"

  "Some people have died."

  Jackson whistled. "Wow. How could you sit on that? That's like story of the year, easy."

  "I was told if I mentioned the extent of the crisis I'd be out a job." She paused. "Sitting here talking about it though, maybe that isn't such a big concern."

  Jackson nodded. "If it’s as bad as you say, getting out of the city probably isn't a bad idea."

  "Well it's happening everywhere. So where would you go?"

  Jackson shrugged. "I'll figure something out. I really appreciate you telling me all this Shirley."

  "Wait. I didn't tell you all this just for you to go fend for yourself. I want you to come with me."

  "Come with you where, Shirley?"

  "There's a shelter. It's stocked with food and supplies. I want you to come with me."

  Shirley watched as a calculating look entered Jackson's eyes. It passed quickly though. Maybe she had imagined it.

  "My invitation lets me bring my family."

  "I'm not your family, Shirley."

  "It doesn't matter. They've accounted for the space."

  Jackson shrugged. "Fair enough. I'll make my own way if they turn me away."

  "So, as far as why I've been sitting here. I feel like I should've said something during the interview. How many people are going to die thinking things will be fine in a few days?"

  "They did threaten your job."

  "Does that really matter if people are dying?"

  Jackson shrugged. "Maybe, maybe not. If this gets cleaned up, maybe you don't want to have bit the hand that feeds you."

  "What would you have done?"

  Jackson thought for a moment. "I don't know. But I think it comes down to doing whatever helps you look at yourself in the mirror."

  "Alright, so-," a series of screams interrupted her. Shirley's eyes widened in fight.

  Moving quickly, Jackson turned off the lights and pulled the blinds down. A second later he locked the door. He then moved the blind a fraction and peered out.

  "What's -," Jackson held a finger to his lips and responded in a low whisper. Shirley had to lean forward to hear him.

  "It isn't pretty. Looks like some of your sick people made their way up here." He looked at her. "What are we calling them by the way? Zombies? No that doesn't work. They're clearly still alive."

  Shirley matched her voice level to his. "Well they're sick, so infected I guess."

  Jackson nodded as he looked back out the window. "That works. Simple, efficient even. So the infected found their way up here and they're attacking people." A piercing scream punctuated Jackson's statement.

  Shirley jumped. She looked at Jackson. How was he taking this so calmly? He stood there watching this like he was watching a game on t.v. How is he not freaking out right now?

  "What's happening now?"

  "One just got bit. Looks like he got lucky."

  "How's that lucky?"

  "Well, after he got bit the infected shoved him and he hit his head. Looks like he's unconscious. The lucky part is the infected moved on to someone else."

  "How can you be so calm?" she asked.

&n
bsp; Jackson glanced at her before turning back to the window. "You know that I spent some time in jail?"

  "Yes," Shirley replied.

  "For now let's just say that jail taught me how to survive. Panicking isn't gonna help us get out of here."

  "How are we going to get out of here?" Strangely, she found herself drawing strength from Jackson. During their time working together, she was the one in charge. The roles were reversed now. Jackson was in charge here but it didn't bother her. She felt he would keep her safe.

  "For now we'll wait. Hopefully the infected will move on once they're done. Then we can head towards your shelter." He left the window and walked towards her.

  "Let's get on the floor," he said as he sat down. "Less chance of being seen that way."

  Shirley nodded and quickly complied. Seeing the fear in her eyes, Jackson tried to reassure her.

  "We'll be fine.  No reason to take unnecessary risks though."

  "Okay. What do we do while we're waiting?"

  "Sleep," Jackson replied. At her look he explained. "I don't know how hard it'll be to get to your shelter. Don't know when it'll be safe to rest again when we leave here. So for now, we sleep."

  I guess that makes sense Shirley thought. Shirley removed her suit jacket and made a pillow out of it. Jackson sat with his back against her desk and closed his eyes.

  "We'll sleep a few hours and then I'll see if the cost is clear."
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