Authors: Vincent S. Tobia
THE DEAD DIVIDE US
by Vincent S. Tobia
Copyright 2015 Vincent S. Tobia
The following is a work of fiction. All of the names, places, events, characters, and establishments are created by the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead or infected, is purely coincidental.
Editor: Terri King
Cover Design: Aidan Chewings at Acrylic Fox
For more information on Vincent S. Tobia's work visit the author web page.
This edition is dedicated to the love of my life, Chelsea. You have changed everything for me, in the very best ways possible.
Robert Landry never watched the morning news. He didn’t consider himself a morning person; not by any means. It could be Robert’s love for late night television and six packs of beer that drove him to this daily a.m. conclusion. Nevertheless, Robert’s cell phone had been constantly vibrating since six o’clock; even before the cold late morning January sunrise. It rattled on his nightstand with a vicious tone; again and again nagging him to break the blissful ignorance known as sleep. He had let that sucker go to voice mail at least dozen times before he picked it up, hung over and angry.
“What?” Robert yelled into the cell phone.
“Rob, Jesus Christ! Are you okay?” a voice yelled back.
Robert quickly tried to recall the events of the previous evening. He suddenly had the terrible idea in his head that he might have done something wrong. Something he didn’t even remember. Being blackout drunk will do that to you. All he could remember was sitting in front of his television in his one bedroom apartment, casually drinking beer, and watching reruns of
. Robert always found something oddly comforting about that show. Although he never specifically realized this himself, the old show
gave him an image of simpler times, something Robert would greatly miss in the coming days. After the
two hour block ended, Robert threw on an old copy of David Cronenberg’s
and switched over to Jack Daniels as his drink of choice. The rest was history.
Robert shifted in his bed and swung around to sit up. His head cracked under the weight of a killer hangover, an 8.9 on the Richter scale of headaches. Bad, but he’d had worse.
“Paul?” Robert now heard himself saying.
Realizing after he spoke, perhaps his mouth was moving faster than his brain at this point, that he was talking to his brother Paul. His older brother lived near Seattle, Washington with his wife, Ruth, and two kids -a far cry from Robert’s pillbox apartment in Colton, Pennsylvania, just outside of Scranton, where the two of them had been brought up.
“What’s wrong man?” Robert asked.
“I know it’s early there, but it’s even earlier here. You gotta turn on your television. Something’s happened,” Paul said, alarmed.
Robert glanced over at his clock. 6:14 now. He didn’t even have to be up until 8:30. His job at the chemical warehouse didn’t start til 9:30. If he went right back to sleep now he’d get another two hours of sleep. With that extra amount of sleep his hangover might be reduced to nothing, maybe just a measly 5.0 on the headache scale. Robert’s dark bedroom was starting to let in the faintest amount of early morning light. Dust could be seen dancing in the dim rays, flowing in and around the bedroom curtains.
“What do you mean something’s happened?” Robert heard himself say, again his mind drifting away.
“It’s on the news in New York City. It looks serious,” Paul said back, sounding now like he was preoccupied himself.
Was Paul watching TV? Something happened, right? On TV?
For the first time since waking up Robert fully opened his eyes and his consciousness
became fully active. He was now concerned about his brother’s insistent request. Something bad was happening in New York City on the television. Seattle is a whole three hours behind Eastern Standard Time, meaning it was 3:14 in the morning where Paul was. Robert wondered what in God’s name Paul would be doing up at three in the fucking morning. Calling him on the phone no less! This had to be serious.
“Okay, okay what exactly are we talking about here?” Robert asked as he stood up quickly. His stomach turned and he thought about vomiting for a millisecond, but thankfully didn’t; instead, he marched out of his bedroom and into the living room. Robert had to flick on the tall lamp sitting next to his couch just to see anything. The large curtains in his living room still displayed darkness behind them. The television remote sat on the coffee table next to eight empty beer bottles, Pabst Blue Ribbon of course, and a bottle of Jack Daniels with maybe two good swigs left in it. The dank room reeked of stale liquor. The cap was off of the Jack bottle causing the unmistakable aroma of Tennessee’s finest to invade Robert's senses. He gagged a little as he sat down and turned on the television.
“It’s like the people…something’s making them different,” Paul said.
As Robert heard that, his television faded into a dim glow. He didn’t have to switch over to CNN or MSNBC for the news. The emergency alert system had already taken over every single channel.
“We got the emergency station here Paul. What’s going on?” Robert replied, now fully alarmed and very confused.
“You’ve got to be kidding me! It’s worse than we thought…if you are already on the emergency channel systems…goddamn,” Paul said, astounded.
Just then, a scrolling text appeared at the bottom of Robert’s television in front of the EBS logo. It was a list of about a dozen police departments and fire companies from within a fifteen mile radius. All of these locations were listed underneath an underlined header called “Military Protection Safe Points.”
“It’s telling me about military protection places; what the fuck is happening? Is this war or something?” Robert hollered back to his brother over the phone.
“Rob, listen. I’ll tell you what we’re hearing here. The news is loaded with buzz right now. My neighbor came over here twenty minutes ago and rang our door bell until I woke up just to tell us the news. Our whole neighborhood is actually up right now watching the news. It’s really weird. But listen, for you Rob, I don’t think it is a good idea for you to be yelling right now. And you should probably turn off any lights you may have on too,” Paul said in a voice that scared Robert more than he would have liked. In fact, Paul’s unusual request frightened the hell out of Robert.
Why turn off the lights? Who was watching?
Robert turned off the lamp next to him. He felt an eerie chill run up through his entire body as he sat alone in only the glow of his television. He looked at his large living room windows that were blocked by the dark curtains. Robert could sense something was terribly wrong outside right now and he definitely did
want to look beyond those curtains. You couldn’t pay him to at this point.
“Alright, I’ll be quiet. So, what is this? War, right?” Robert said softly.
“Not exactly, Rob. They are showing reports of what looks like mass hysteria. They say people in New York and most of New England are attacking each other. Rob, they are even killing each other,” Paul said, solemnly.
“What? Killing each other? That’s ridiculous. Why?” Robert said back.
He noticed a few more locations were added to the protection zone list on his television. One of them was a fire company only four blocks away from his apartment.
“I know it sounds crazy, but yeah, some reporters have said there have been casualties. They don’t know why exactly, but it seems like everyone is agreeing that it’s catching on like a virus or a disease. There is a possibility it might spread west,” Paul said.
Robert looked around again, feeling colder than ever. He looked at the front door that led out into his apartment complex hallway. Robert lived on the second floor of a house that was turned into three apartments, his being the smallest of the three. Looking at the door he realized that he hadn’t locked it the night before, forgetting to in his drunken stupor. Robert got up quickly and silently glided over to the door and locked it tight.
“Paul, do you think it will reach PA?” Robert asked, still quiet.
“I don’t know for sure; it looks like it could. They are saying the first report was a little after nine o’clock last night,” Paul said gravely.
Nine o’clock last night?
Robert was still reasonably sober at that point.
hadn’t even started yet. Robert briefly thought about how when all this new found excitement ended he’d like to spend another evening with the Cunningham's, Fonzie, and a bottle of whiskey, but the persistent logo now fixed on his television screen threatened to endanger that simple want. Robert found himself thinking that it’s remarkable how little it takes to make people happy and complacent; you don’t even realize how much you enjoy the little things in life until disaster strikes. Robert couldn’t help but think about the morning of September 11
“Rob, there is something else,” Paul said, sounding serious yet off-putting in some way.
“Yeah?” Robert said.
“These sick people, well some reports said…they are biting other people,” Paul said slowly.
“What? You gotta be fucking kidding me?” Robert said, now loud, forgetting about trying to be quiet.
“Shhh!! Be quiet!! I’m serious man!” Paul said back quickly and concerned.
Robert lifted his free hand up to the back of his head and scratched at his already messy brown hair. People
people? This is like something out of Robert’s collection of sci-fi or horror. Could it be biological weaponry? Robert quickly then realized his feet were getting cold on the hardwood floor so he moved back over to the couch which was located over a fluffy area rug.
“You’ve got to get to Mom and Dad’s. Make sure they’re okay,” Paul said.
“Of course, I was just about to say that,” Robert responded.
Back when Paul and Robert were old enough to leave the house and live life on their own, Rita and Thomas Landry sold their small bungalow house in West Colton and moved out into the country. They bought a modest farmhouse using the sale of their previous home and some money Aunt Sherry had left Thomas when she died two years prior. Paul, being the oldest son, was first to move out. After completing his college major in graphic design, he moved with his bride to be, Ruth, across the entire country to Seattle, Washington where he landed a dream job at Nintendo of America. Robert though, had taken the less ambitious route and attended one semester of community college. He dropped all of his courses before the end of that semester and worked at Sonny’s gas station in Colton until he got a job in the warehouse district of Scranton. Robert always figured he was better suited doing physical work opposed to crunching the big numbers. Or any numbers really. Seriously, math was a no-go for Robert.
“Paul, you think I should bring Mom and Dad to one of these military safe points?” Robert asked.
“Absolutely. But listen, you gotta be careful. If you see trouble, go the other way. They are saying there’s still a good chance this won’t spread. Pennsylvania might not even be affected,” Paul said back.
Robert hoped they could contain this and it would blow over within a day even though he still didn’t really
believe it anyway. “How are you guys doing? What are you going to do?” Robert asked his brother.
“We’re fine. Waiting to see what happens and if it spreads more or not. The kids are scared. Listen, don’t worry about us,” Paul said.
Robert was suddenly wishing he had moved west too and hadn’t ended up staying in the two horse town of Colton.
“Oh and Rob, keep your cell phone on you. We need to communicate,” Paul instructed.
“Okay, yeah of course,” Robert replied.
“You should see the news stations here, I don’t trust them Rob. It seems like they are holding something back. Different things are being reported here and there. It‘s odd as hell, to say the least,” Paul said, gravely upset. What Paul meant to say was that the news was shining bright through a grip of paranoia.
Robert turned off his television; it just kept repeating the same EBS crap anyway. He knew he would have to take his parents to the Colton Fire Company, which was only four blocks away from his own house... but he’d have to travel six miles out into the country to pick up his parents first.
“I’ll be in touch. If you hear any big news, you call me okay?” Robert said.
“Will do, man. I’m going to call Mom and Dad to tell them you're coming,” Paul said.
“Thanks, talk to you soon,” Robert said. With that, he hung up. Robert looked at his cell phone display, almost a full battery; that was the first good thing to happen to him today. Robert looked again toward his shaded windows; more light was breaking through. He would have to go outside and face life sooner or later.
It was when Robert decided to head from the living room into the bedroom for a quick change of clothes and to grab his truck keys that he heard a bump from behind him. Robert stood perfectly still, thinking he hadn’t heard the sound at all, until he heard it again. He whirled around in his now shady, yet still fairly dark living room. The kitchen led into the living room with no divider and it was there that he saw someone standing in the middle of kitchen of his own home: a dark shadow with a blue face.
“Who’s there?” Robert screamed in fear, his voice cracking frantically.
Robert felt the strength in his legs disappear. He might as well have been one of those floating in mid air genies just hanging around, sitting on a cloud. How on earth could someone have been standing in his kitchen this whole time while he watched the EBS on the television and talked to his brother Paul? Or better yet, how the fuck did someone get into his apartment in the first place?