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Authors: V.A. Brandon

The Collapse - Beginning

BOOK: The Collapse - Beginning
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part one: beginning


V.A. Brandon

Copyright © 2013 by V.A. Brandon

No part of this book may be used or reproduced without express written permission from the author except in the case of brief excerpts embodied in published reviews.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Story Description:

Amy and Justin sit down to eat breakfast on a Monday morning when they hear radio reports of a massacre at a nearby mall. Their concern turns to horror once they turn on the news and see a live coverage of people eating dead bodies.

When the chaos spreads to their street, they and a few neighbors barricade themselves in Justin’s apartment. They are trapped inside, tempers are rising, and food is running out. To survive, they must venture outside. But not all will make it.




Chapter 1


The alarm clock next to Amy’s head startled her from a fitful sleep as it played a mechanical version of “Morning Mood” from Edvard Grieg’s
Peer Gynt
. With a loud groan, she reached over and turned it off. It was seven-thirty. She rubbed her eyes and blinked at the ceiling-to-glass window a few feet away, taking note of the sunny weather. Today was going to be another perfect day for the beach.

She pushed her feet into a pair of fluffy slippers and dragged herself to the kitchen. The smell of freshly brewed coffee and scrambled eggs awaited her, and she shuffled toward the island counter, eyes on the food.

“You look like death warmed over,” Justin said, smiling over his cup of coffee.

“Can’t talk. Must eat. Now.” Amy seated herself and bent down to shovel the eggs into her gaping mouth. She reached for the coffee and took a swallow, then winced as the hot liquid washed the eggs down her throat.

“Take it easy. You’re acting like you haven’t eaten in days.” Justin frowned as he buttered a slice of toast. “So, what are your plans for today?”

Justin was Amy’s ex-boyfriend. Two years ago, they had dated for six months, then decided that they were better suited as friends. Three months ago, he had flown halfway across the country to enroll in a graduate program. Amy had missed him terribly, so she had quit her sales assistant position, emptied out her savings account to buy a ticket, and flown out to visit him. And now here she was, crashing at Justin’s apartment, unemployed and penniless.

“I don’t know. I thought I might head out to the beach,” she mumbled as she chewed.

“You went to the beach yesterday. And the day before,” Justin reprimanded. “Today’s Monday. A
day. There’s no need to announce to the world that you’re a bum.”

“They might think I’m an entrepreneur if I take my laptop with me,” she said defensively.

He rolled his eyes. “Do me a favor and turn on the radio, would you? I want to hear the news.”

It was the usual: traffic jams, a politician caught red-handed with his mistress at a swanky hotel, a B-list actor set to star in a survivor-type reality show. Amy yawned, bored. Now that she was here, she had her doubts. Maybe quitting her job hadn’t been such a great idea. At the time, it had seemed like the right thing to do. She was a college graduate, after all! She couldn’t spend her entire life stocking new bag arrivals, a fake smile frozen on her face every time a customer waltzed in through the open doors.

Yes, she told herself, quitting had been the right thing to do. She would use the time here to look for proper jobs, and crash at Justin’s place for a bit longer. She was sure he wouldn’t mind too much. After all, it wasn’t like he was hurting financially. The guy had a fat bank account, courtesy of his doting grandmother. A great beauty even in her forties, she had remarried and divorced a wealthy older man. Savvy when it came to business, but hopelessly naïve when it came to love, the man had stupidly promised not to draw up a prenuptial agreement. And it had cost him dearly. After the divorce, Justin’s grandmother had ended up with a pretty sum of thirty million dollars.

“We interrupt this broadcast to go live to Central Creek Mall. Pete, can you tell us what’s happening? We heard that there was a massacre. How many casualties?”

“Central Creek Mall?” Amy wondered aloud. “That’s only ten minutes away from here.”

Sounds of background screams and panting breaths came on air. The reporter was running.
“Diane, no one is sure, but early reports have said up to twenty people are dead, with more than a hundred grievously injured.”

“Turn up the volume,” Justin said quietly, and Amy complied. She couldn’t believe what her ears were hearing.

“Does anyone know who the culprit is? Is it a single person acting alone, or an organized attack by a group?”

The reporter seemed to be running out of breath.
“We don’t know yet,”
he wheezed.
“But everyone is running, and there’s chaos everywhere. I can see blood, and some people are lying on the ground. They look dead.”

The female reporter pressed on.
“Can you stop to interview someone? Maybe a security guard or a police officer?”
There was silence on the other end.
“Pete, are you there? Can you hear me?”

“Oh, my God! This can’t be real. This can’t be happening.”
Sounds of a struggle ensued.
“Get off me! No, please don’t! Argh! Arrggghh –”

The line went dead.

“Pete! Can you hear me? Pete!”
The female reporter breathed heavily, rattling sounds filling the air. Once she’d calmed down, she intoned mechanically, “It seems we have been disconnected. Please stay tuned for further updates as we bring you the latest news from SBC News.” Immediately after, the soothing voice of Michael Bublé crooned through the airwaves, and Justin turned the radio off, his expression grim.

“What’s going on?” Amy asked. “What do you think happened to that reporter?”

“Let’s find out,” he answered, and he padded over to the large LCD screen prominently displayed in his living room and turned it on, switching channels on the remote control until it reached a scene of chaos.

Amy silently came up behind Justin and looked over his shoulder. Words escaped her as she stared at the unspeakable horror displayed across the wide screen. The camera’s bird’s eye-view was shaky as it circled above the mall, but there was no doubt as to what the viewers were seeing.

There were people eating other people

The reporter in the helicopter was shouting.
“As you can see, there are countless dead bodies everywhere, and it appears that some people are actually
Even the police have been overcome by the mass hysteria spreading across the mall.”

The screen split into two sections, and a male announcer in a smart suit and tie appeared on the right.
“Are any efforts being made to quarantine the area?”

Justin flipped to another channel. Carnage filled the screen. He flipped to another. This time, a serious-looking man with graying hair sat before them, his posture authoritative as he listened to the announcer’s questions. On the bottom of the screen read: Luke McCallum, MD, MPH, Rosenberg School of Public Health.

“Earlier reports seemed to indicate that a suspicious-looking man broke a small vial and threw it on someone minutes before the chaos spread. Do you have any theories on what was inside that vial?”

“Right now, everything is speculation, but it seems to have been some type of virulent, unknown virus, judging by the rapid rate the symptoms are spreading.”

Amy tilted her head, listening. “Justin, do you hear that?”

Justin turned off the TV and stood still. Several seconds later, he said, “I can hear faint screams.”

Both went and stood before the window, gazing down at the street below. From their fourth-story vantage point, they could see sections of the highway, cars cramped bumper to bumper. Tiny forms of people could be seen abandoning their cars to run through the narrow gaps. Amy and Justin pressed their faces against the glass as the screams grew louder and hysterical people ran past the buildings. They were being chased by bloodied men and women, whose speed remained unhindered despite their jerky movements. One poor fellow who’d probably been on his way to work tripped and fell down hard on the pavement. As one, the mindless horde descended upon him, their clawing arms tearing into his clothes. Amy thought she saw something long and slimy being flung into the air, and she quickly shut her eyes, feeling the room spin at an alarming angle.

The chaos had reached them.


Chapter 2


“Sit down. Put your head between your knees and take deep breaths.”

Amy heard Justin moving around in the kitchen. Seconds later, he returned with a glass of water. She lifted her head to give him a weak smile, then drank the water in greedy gulps, trying hard not to think about what she had just seen. None of it made sense. It was pure madness.

The phone suddenly rang, causing them to jump. Justin immediately went over to pick it up.

“Hi, Nanna. Yes, I’m fine. I haven’t gone to my classes yet.” He fell silent as he listened to his grandmother speak, then spoke again in a reassuring tone. “Amy and I are just going to stay in the apartment. We’ll be fine. Don’t worry.”

After another exchange of we’ll-be-fine’s and I-love-you’s, he hung up the phone, looking worried.

“Is she all right?” Amy asked.

Justin nodded slowly. “Yeah, I think so. But I could hear screams in the background.”

“Well, she
watching the news right now,” she replied, trying to sound reasonable.

“Yeah, that’s probably it.” But Justin still looked worried.

They sat there, lost in their own thoughts and fears. What was happening? What was this virus, and why was it causing people to become mindless cannibals? And why was it spreading so fast?

Fidgeting, Amy stood up and closed the curtains, a poor attempt to shut off the world outside. The apartment turned dark at once.

Justin abruptly stood up and walked to the door.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Amy whispered fiercely.

“I want to check on the neighbors,” he said. “They might know more about what’s going on.” And before she could stop him, he quickly stepped out and closed the door.

Dread filled Amy as she stared at the empty spot where Justin had stood a second ago. What if he didn’t come back? How could he leave her alone like this? She tried to hold her tears back, but they flowed down her cheeks in hot streaks. Angrily, she wiped them away and went to the kitchen.

Impulsively, she began yanking open the cabinet doors, and felt some relief when she saw cans of soup, frankfurters, and spaghetti stocked neatly next to the packaged ramen. It seemed Justin was still living on a college student’s diet. This gave her an idea. She would separate the perishables from the non-perishables and take out all the food in the fridge that were past or nearing their expiration dates. If they couldn’t go outside, they would need to ration their food until they could. Grateful that there was something to do, Amy hurried to the fridge and began sorting through the eggs, fresh vegetables, fruits, and dairy products.

By the time she was done, Justin was still not back yet.
, she suddenly thought.
We’ll need water
. She went to the bathroom and filled the tub and sink to the brim. Next, she pulled out all the buckets and basins she could find and filled them as well. A small part of her felt ridiculous. She was behaving as if she were preparing for a war.

There was nothing ridiculous about what you saw outside that window
, she thought. It was better to be safe than sorry. With renewed determination, Amy filled several water bottles and placed them in the fridge. Just as she sat back down on the sofa, dull thuds sounded behind the door, followed by an exchange of fierce whispers.

A scream pierced the hallway, and Justin and several other people came rushing into the apartment.

“Lock the door!” an elderly woman begged, and Justin hurried to comply. The scream changed into a gurgling noise as nails clawed desperately at the wall. Sounds of ripping clothes and other things Amy didn’t want to know about filled her ears, and she clapped her hands over them in anguish.

Please, go away

Rapid, uneven footsteps shuffled across the hallway. It sounded like there was more than one person. The thin gap beneath the door suddenly turned dark, and remained that way for what seemed like an eternity.

Something was blocking the hallway light from filtering in through the gap.

A loud
pounded on the door, and everyone jumped, startled. It sounded like someone had thrown himself bodily against the thick wood. The thud came again and again, a frenzied attack to knock the door down.

And then, it was over. The mindless attacker shuffled down the hallway, and quiet descended upon them once again. Yellow light from the hallway beamed through the thin gap below the door. Everyone stood there, practically holding their breaths. Once they were certain they were safe, Justin indicated that they should follow him to his study. They tiptoed behind him and entered the spacious room, settling down on the sofa or leaning against the wall. Amy sat down on Justin’s leather chair and stared at the guests he had brought with him.

In total, there were five people: the elderly woman who had spoken earlier; a young Asian couple; an older man in his forties; and a kid who looked like he was nine or ten years old. And right at his feet was . . . a dog. A silky terrier with black fur and brown paws. This meant there were seven people in the apartment, plus a dog. There wasn’t enough food and water for them all. That much Amy knew.

Justin cast a harried glance over the new people. “Everyone, this is Amy, a close friend who’s been staying with me for the past few days.” He turned to Amy. “This is Ms. Wentworth, Mr. and Mrs. Park, that guy over there is Patrick, and the boy is Benson. He’s nine years old.” After a pregnant pause, he added, “And the dog is Walter. He belongs to Benson.”

Murmured greetings were exchanged, smiles strained and tremulous. Justin closed the door to his study and leaned against the desk, rubbing his face tiredly.

“Did you find out anything else?” Amy asked when silence fell across the room.

“Afraid not,” Justin replied, looking helpless.

“I spoke to my brother on the phone earlier,” Patrick chipped in. “It sounded like his neighborhood was affected, too.”

The boy named Benson fidgeted. “Can I go back to my apartment now? Dad said he’d only be gone for a minute. He’s going to be so mad when he finds out I’m not there.”

Ms. Wentworth, her neck and fingers clad in cheap jewelry, bent forward to comfort the boy. “No, he won’t be mad. Did he say where he was going?”

Benson’s bottom lip trembled. “He said he was going downstairs to see what all the noise was about.” Tears spilled over his lower lashes. “My dad’s okay, isn’t he?”

“I’m sure he is,” Ms. Wentworth replied, her expression firm. “But I want you and Walter to wait for him here, where it’s safe. Will you do that?”

Benson nodded. “Okay,” he whispered.

He had no choice, as the infected were in the hallway.

All of them were trapped inside the apartment.


BOOK: The Collapse - Beginning
7.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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