Authors: Michel Savage
MN4 was a giant rock tumbling through deep space our astronomers affectionately named after an ancient Egyptian god of destruction.
Asteroid Apophis was the talk of the year that every government and scientific community on Earth was aware of, but its flyby in April 2029 was to be nothing more than a spectacular celestial event. However, as warring nations were locked in global conflict, our civilization was unprepared for the devastation that followed in its wake. Several years after governments fell and society dissolved a ragged pack of survivors stumble upon the buried truth that had led to the aftermath; leaving them to question themselves and their continued struggle to salvage what few splintered shards were left of our world that would forever define humanity's bitter legacy.
Titles by Michel Savage
The Grey Forest
Outlaws of Europa
Rebels of Alpha Prime
Hellbot • Battle Planet
Islands in the Sky
Shadow of the Sun
Veil of Shadows
This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to real people or events is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2012 by Michel Savage
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, without written permission from the Publisher.
The Grey Forest
P.O. Box 71494
Springfield, OR 97475
Cover art by Michel Savage
First Edition: Oct 2016
Printed in the United States of America
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I cannot confirm nor can I deny
that the accounts suggested herein are entirely true
Throughout human history, there have always been premonitions of Armageddon where mankind would meet its final demise. In the past millennia alone there have been countless wars, famines and plagues that have brought great suffering and tides of death across the globe. It is this realization of our own mortality that spurns those few among us with the strength of spirit who uphold the belief that we, as human beings, can better ourselves even in the darkest of times.
I would ask you to consider; what would mankind itself be if we failed to exercise a conscience or ethics which we use, in our own arrogance, as a gauge to define ourselves above all other creatures with whom with we share this world? Like a shattered mirror, in desperate times we strive to save what little is left of ourselves in every sliver and splintered shard. One could argue that the human soul is but a delicate shadow cast from our experiences and form etched by our emotions; and if we were ever compelled by harsh circumstance and forced to choose which fragments of ourselves we would keep and which principles we would choose to discard ...would you recognize the reflection left behind as your own.
It was a bright morning on the docks, one could feel there was a faint chill in the air and a light breeze seen by their bundled scarves and tell-tale wisps of hair dancing around the trio of girls that stood staring out upon the cold sea. A British ship with high masts that needled their way into the blue sky was moored at the pier, its brine stained hull sunk low in the waterline with a belly full of cargo. Several dark skinned men with colorful turbans hauled woven baskets filled with marvelous and mysterious spices while their comrades stacked ornamental rugs on worn wooden carts.
A few feet from the ships ramp stood several men, alight in a whirlwind of urgency; one pointing out at some distant object of interest on the far horizon. Burly men with sullied linen shirts dodged between the stacks of barrels lining the wharf as others of a more gaunt stature stood idly by, caring solely for the weight of their ivory handled cane or a golden pocket watch, each with their black sealskin top hats fashionably tilted askew. For some odd reason their style seemed irrational. I then began to wonder what type of wax the elderly man had used to sculpt his long handlebar mustache, or if that tiny golden box hanging from a fine gilded chain at his vest pocket was full of exotic snuff; a strange habit that had never made much sense to me.
I spied the gathering of the three young women at the edge of the pier. The girls each had a contrasting hue of hair, making me ponder if they were perhaps sisters or merely friends that shared an identical stature, as each one differed a shade in height. Their closeness revealed a sense of familiarity, as they seemed to lean together like three stones of the same pillar against the salty ocean wind that wove their curled locks into a shimmering tapestry.
Though I couldn't quite see their faces, I imagined that the tallest girl was eyeing the prim young gentleman at the very edge of the dock, although I could have mistaken the wandering of her gaze may have been drifting to the buff, clean shaven boy who struggled with thick ropes to secure a long passenger boat tethered below them. As her height did bare the air of maturity, the next youngest of them in line stood in the middle; whom I imagined had her eyes shut with her face turned up towards the morning sun as she deeply breathed in the sharp fragrance of the sand and salty sea. It must have delightfully tickled her mind to think of the strange and mysterious lands that lie beyond those distant stormy clouds that stood like sentinels at the very edge of the horizon of the rolling blue ocean.
Next to her was the youngest of the trio; brimming with the innocence of life and discovery, whose head was turned upward ever so slightly to a lone seagull soaring effortlessly above the shore. The lapping waves crashed with the raw force of nature, a lash of ecstasy disintegrating into a glitter of white foam upon the distant rocks; their resounding climax melting lazily back into the cold dreadful sea.
Time seemed to stop as thoughts raced through my head, wondering whom these people were, their names, their families and what their lives were like. I was curious to know if it was the expectations of their hopes and dreams that truly set them apart, or merely their capacity at playing the part of different castes; like actors in a play. Such as the two young men on the dock, for example; one whose calloused hands wiped the sweat from his sun burned brow as he labored at the direction of the other poised gentleman, whose perfumed handkerchief sat perched like a puffed rooster from his lapel pocket while a smug glare of arrogance glinted from his beady little eyes. It made me wonder what circumstances were at play that placed this odd pair in such two different worlds that made them so unequal that one was cursed to suffer for the other’s gain?
Likely, it was nothing more than the mere clink of silver coins or favored upbringing that changed their course to distance them so. With a hint of a smile, I wondered for such a brief moment; which of the two men would the older girl eventually choose to share her affections?
The saddest part of the poetic scene was the marring of a small grassy hill at the lower edge where the girls stood in their ash pale wool jackets and quilted shawls. There I could make out the tiniest of flowers in the purest white and yellows, swaying in the tender grass that all but dissolved into a mush of putrid streaks that fingered their way into the stain upon the shattered concrete wall. The tender brushstrokes of the fine painting of that sunny seaside day so long ago in time was now decayed and marred as it hung by a single rusted nail and exposed to untold years of wind and rain. I felt an ache as I was torn away from that brief moment of escape, and wrenched harshly back into the real world around me, my brain kicking and screaming in reluctance the entire way.
I looked down at my shivering fingers, which were so numb I could hardly feel them. The drip of water off my hair and down my face into my jacket reminded me I was soaked through and through. I was slowly losing it, and struggling with the fact I was likely suffering from hypothermia and becoming delusional as my vision faded in and out. I sat crouched with my back against the ruins of the cold concrete while staring out into the dark hollow of the shattered building around me towards the grey world beyond; now enveloped by a curtain of rain. For but a fleeting moment I lost touch with reality once again, wishing I could disappear into that marred and broken painting; to be anywhere but here and now.
Sunset was fast approaching and through the pelt of the heavy sleet, I could hear the Weepers approaching from behind. It was not surprising these diseased creatures would chase me this far beyond their nest; considering the rampant starvation that had engulfed nearly every society on the planet since the event. Survivors called the syndrome KRI, or "Cry" for short, the aggressive virus the scientist had titled the MN4-Kriotin Hemophilia disease was highly infectious. The pseudonym made a measure of sense because essentially anyone who became infected with it exhibited signs of severe depression in the final stage; their eyes would literally well up with tears of blood leaving stains of dark streaks streaming down their face. A shocking sight that became all too familiar.
The effects of the first stage actually varied from person to person, but virtually all victims would display signs of acute dementia that progressively worsened, but one interesting side effects was that the infected subjects became color blind for some reason; and their notable habit to converge into mobs and would hunt in packs. As much as people had fantasized the coming of some sort of zombie apocalypse through the recent decades, actually calling infected loved ones as the "undead" was regarded as highly offensive by most; though in untreated cases, the victims of the disease quickly reverted to an almost primitive state. For some unknown reason they would make sounds akin to shrieks and cries of anguish in their demented misery. Thus, among the general public, the term 'Weepers' to name anyone who became afflicted by the blight, had stuck.
In an imaginative twist, survivors took advantage of this token symptom of the infected being colorblind and posted specially stippled signs on buildings and roadways; like a type of secret code which could only be read in subtle colors. If by chance you were unfortunate to be naturally color blind, then you were pretty much shit-out-of-luck; but it was an effective protection from any of the infected who hadn't yet turned full feral.
For those who contracted the pathogen the loss of cognitive abilities usually varied wildly from case to case. The real problem centered around those who had succumbed to the contagion but were left intelligent enough to be dangerous. When the disease first broke out, the initial reports of dozens rapidly became hundreds, which soon escalated to thousands of people who were swiftly ferried off to quarantine camps overnight. The surge of infection rates seen by hospitals and disease centers quickly expanded into an epidemic that spiraled out of control.
In the end, it didn't much matter. Clinics were not certain if the virus had mutated to become airborne or if the bug was solely transmitted by physical means. Blood and mucus contact was a sure fire way to get infected, so the level of fear and propaganda created birthed a zombie craze which did have more than a superficial basis and caused entire cities to implode as our social infrastructure fell into complete chaos. In the panic that ensued, even healthy people were shooting one another out of fright. During the hysteria, untold millions of people blockaded themselves in their homes with their family members who had already been exposed to the virus. Beyond the plague, countless innocent lives were lost out of ignorance and suspicion
I was guessing it was now early April, 2036. I couldn't be sure since I hadn't seen a real calendar in years, just tried to keep track in my head after losing etches on scraps of paper that lost their purpose. I was always forgot how many days were in each month, counting leap years; but really, what the fuck did it matter anymore? Every day was a
'just stay alive'
holiday, though given, some days were better than most ...this was not one of them. It was this month back in 2029, I think it had actually been on Friday the 13th that the asteroid had hit, as if it was some sort of sick joke or freakish omen. In the aftermath that followed our so-called modern civilization had thoroughly shit itself, and done a mighty good job of it.
The clatter of a metal pipe rattled on the ground several yards away shook me from my cold-induced stupor. A wild human scream in the opposite direction informed me there was more than one Weeper in the immediate area and they were closing in on my location. The heavy rain was to my advantage since they could not possibly track by scent, and it would muffle any errant noise I might make. Still, it was freakish how fast the infected could move sometimes, but their defective vision made it far easier to hide in shadows.
Even sane, the human species can be pretty vicious, but take away all the inconveniences of exercising a conscience and you end up with a very nasty beast; and these monsters were hungry. At first, reports of cannibalism had been scoffed at, labeled as nothing more than crazy rants that all the zombie doomsayers had dreamt up while cowering in their crappy bug-out shelters. As it turned out, the first incidents were entirely true; started from a number of small townships which had been locked in isolation from its distant outlying communities. Due to a combination of martial law, blockades of all connecting access roads or any form of shipments to their trivial little backwater towns; had quickly run out of stored provisions. When food shipments that relied on our mass transit system had come to a screeching halt, people looted supermarkets and hoarded any available supplies they could get their grubby little hands on; but when those rations were gone, they turned to their cats, their dogs, their goldfish, and eventually on one another.
This was not lost on the infected victims who were once attended to only to find their caregivers had turned tail and left them entirely abandoned. One by one all the Medical and Health Care facilities were overwhelmed and pulled out their personnel in a hurried retreat as their quarantine camps became swamped with infected patients and were bursting at the seams. The military hierarchy lost all control as their soldiers deserted their posts, either responding to the needs of their own families, or out of despair as the stock of respirators and fancy anti-contagion suits dried up. Sadly enough, wearing a protective suit actually made you a target for those desperate for the gear itself. Many times soldiers would end up shooting civilians whom they were engaged to protect when confronted with a scared mob.
Those who had been infected with KRI for more than a few weeks frequently turned barbaric with hunger that ravaged their deranged minds, much like a small child would throw a tantrum, they didn't know right from wrong; their brains didn't work that way anymore. I had once stumbled upon a pack of weepers who were feeding on the remains of an elderly man even though his broken bag of soup cans lay scattered on the ground around them. They had forgotten what a can of food was, how to read or even how to open them, it was if somehow in their minds they had entirely lost who they were and only existed moment to moment in a primal state.
The weepers were dirty and wild, their eyes bloodshot with crusted streaks of dried blood caked upon their cheeks. I recall vividly how one of them dug out the old man’s eye and plopped it into his mouth, suckling the juices; I still shiver at that horrid thought that my mind refuses to forget. Apparently, weepers don't like the way each other smelled, which was thought to be a pheromone block by the pus that seeped from their eyes; the fact that they wouldn't attack one another was a compelling test that theory. They were just poor sick people who had misplaced all sense of their humanity, and in a way, you could not help but feel sorry for them. Those survivors who claimed they didn't feel any touch of sympathy had already lost their humanity on a whole different level entirely.
I crouched there, drenched in the shivering rain as the weepers approached. Realizing I didn't have many options at the moment, and that if I was going to survive another day I would have to move now! Hiding was only optional if you had the high ground. The problem with being hunted by Weepers was that they could go pretty much anywhere you could. One benefit was that their night vision was much worse, but the approaching dusk would only slow them down.
Just hours before I had taken shelter from the approaching storm in an old farmhouse far over the hill. The woods here were thick and I always made an effort to avoid the open roads whenever I could. It was a once picturesque cottage with a tall barn, its faded red paint peeling from the rotting wood. Nearby an old farm truck sat in disrepair, its wheel wells had grown over with tall grass and its true color uncertain as it was covered with a patina of rust from top to bottom. Several windows on the bare wood hovel had been shattered and my wary ears detected nothing but silence from within. In all respects, the property seemed to have been abandoned for years.