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Authors: The Vocabulariast

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This Rotten World (Book 1) (12 page)

BOOK: This Rotten World (Book 1)
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Chapter 30: Molly

 

Molly
stared at the door to her cell. She had never imagined that she would wind up
here, quarantined in the hospital that she had worked at for two years. She
held her hand up in front of her, admiring the rough edges between her thumb
and forefinger. The bleeding had stopped, and what was left was a bite-shaped
wound with blackish-reddish edges. For a second, it looked like the overcooked
inside of a marionberry pie. The bite didn't concern her as much as the heat
that her body was putting out. The radiating red streaks that were inching
their way up her arm from the bite wound were also somewhat concerning.

But, more
than that, Molly simply wanted to eat. She banged on the door with her good
arm. She pressed her face to the tiny square window, unbreakable glass
reinforced by wire, and yelled, "Can I get some food in here?"

As had been
the case for the previous hour, there was no answer. She pressed her face to
the glass some more, angling her head to try and peer up and down the hallway
as far as she could. To the left, she heard a door open. As two men in
biohazard suits wheeled a gurney down the hallway, she completely ignored the
bloody sheets and yelled at the men, "I'm starving! Pease bring me some
food."

They didn't
even bother to look at her. Either they couldn't hear her, or they didn't care.
As she backed away from the window, she saw sweat from her forehead run down
the glass. She plopped on the bed, and began rocking back and forth, her knees
drawn up to her chest, her hair plastered to her head, and visions of people
who weren't actually there dancing in her eyes.

She saw her
grandfather, long dead, fiddling with an old black and white TV in the corner.
"Put on the game," she said.

Her
grandfather turned around to face her, only his face was rotten and blood
dripped from his mouth as he smiled and said, "What game?"

Her
grandfather melted away. She waved goodbye to him as she leaned back on the
bed. Her body began convulsing, and Molly's eyes rolled up in the back of her
head. She bit the tip of her tongue off, and then she was still. All that was left
was the hunger.

Chapter 31:
Observation

 

Joan
watched Molly die from a monitor in her own cell. They called them rooms to
patients, but they were obviously just cells. The cameras in her own cell
allowed her to watch the patients without endangering the rest of the medical
staff. She hated that she had to trick Clara and Molly into entering into
quarantine, but if what she suspected was happening was happening, then it was
obviously the lesser of the two evils. The other option was to let possibly infected
people go out into the world and continue infecting other people.

Thoughts
rolled around in Joan's head, piles of doubts and worst-case scenarios flitted
about the edge of her rational mind. How widespread was it? What if she was
wrong about everything? What if there had actually been some way to save Molly?

She didn't
feel any different than she had this morning. She wasn't covered in sweat as
Molly had been, but she had been in close enough contact with the infected to be
a risk. The question was, "How long would she be a risk for?"

Her heart
skipped a beat when she saw Molly convulsing. She had been a good nurse. Her
bedside manner left a little to be desired, but she didn't deserve anything
that was happening to her. Joan looked at her watch and paged the security
guards.

The
intercom in her cell was another perk that the usual quarantine patients didn't
have. There was a knock at her door, and she pressed the button on the intercom
to allow her to speak to the guards in the hallway. "The patient in room
231...," she hesitated as guilt gnawed at her conscience, "Molly,
isn't doing too well. I need you guys to check her vitals."

"Can
do," the guard in the hallway said. She didn't know him. No one knew any
of the quarantine staff, except for the hospital director. It was protocol. The
last thing you wanted was to have an infectious disease get out because so and
so used to go drinking with this person, or that person was married to this
person, and what would he tell his wife if something terrible happened? It was
the hard reality, but the men used for this work were cold, scientific and
completely impassionate about anything. When she had first suspected an
epidemic of some sort of new disease at play, she had initiated the quarantine
protocols even though she knew very well that this would mean being confined in
a cell for an undetermined period of time. She was free to move about the
quarantine wing, but she would not be leaving until she was sure she was fine.

But if what
she thought was going on was going on, there was no place in the world that she
would rather be right now than behind a locked door in a secure facility with a
nice reinforced steel door to keep any sort of infection far away. Sure, there
was a chance that the disease was airborne, but she didn't think that it was
much of one. The old lady in the E.R. didn't have a scratch on her, but had
merely been complaining of dehydration and illness. Her now dead husband had
said that she had been sick for about a week, and he hadn't shown any signs of
infection after being in close contact with her.

Of course,
there was no way of knowing the gestation period of this particular bug. Was it
a strain of flu or something completely new, a random mutation that struck the
jackpot with a new brand of twisted lethality?

The men in
the biohazard suits entered the room. The taller of the two checked Molly's
vitals, while the smaller man held a submachine gun aimed at Molly. After
checking her blood pressure, temperature, and pulse, the tall security guard looked
up at the camera in the corner of the room and made a slashing gesture across
his throat.

Joan was
prepared for this, but she still felt a rush of blood to her face as she
couldn't help but feel that some part of Molly's death was her fault. She hid
her face behind her hands in an effort to keep from crying. When she pulled
them away, the soldiers had left.

Joan stared
at the screen, waiting for nothing to happen. She didn't know what she was
doing. Waiting for her own body to start sweating? Waiting for Molly to
miraculously spring to life?

She began
again, examining all of the information that she had available to her. So far
she had established, through conjecture and a limited amount of observation,
that some sort of contagion was running around the city. The infection could be
spread by a very weak airborne pathogen or by a seemingly more virile version
of the pathogen that either lived in the victim's saliva or blood.

So she
waited. What was that saying? You couldn't prove a negative? She wished the
saying wasn't true. Joan checked in on Clara, who was in another cell. Numerous
others had been quarantined as well, including the bitten security guards,
numerous patients, and Miles the orderly who had initially pulled Clara's
boyfriend off of Molly. These were the ones that were likely to develop the
infection, along with herself.

Clara sat
at the edge of her bed, her head in her hands. Things hadn't changed much. Joan
almost felt a pang of remorse at her treatment of the woman. She had liked her
well-enough, but when it came to the safety of patients in her hospital,
nothing could be left to chance. Joan didn't have a lot of women friends; hell,
she didn't have a lot of friends period. It's hard to keep friends when you
have a fucked up schedule and a sense of duty that won't quit, but she had
liked Clara right from the start.

If there
was a chance that she could get Clara out of quarantine, then she would make it
happen... although, she wasn't likely to like what she saw. Joan switched the
camera's feed over to show Courtney's cell. He was still bound to the bed, his
arms and legs struggling to free himself. She switched the channel again. Sick
guards. Again. The crazy old lady bound to the bed. Again. More sick guards.

She cycled
through all of the cameras and came back to Molly's room. This time a tear did
come to her eye, but it had barely formed before it was forgotten.

"What
the fuck?" The words tumbled from her mouth unbidden as Molly sat up and
began banging on the door to her cell. Joan put her hand to her head to make
sure she didn't have a fever. Either she was infected and hallucinating, or
Molly had just risen from the dead.

Chapter 32: Boot Camp

 

Zeke didn't
fight the cops as he was led into the station. There was no point in it, and
honestly, he doubted the cops would believe a word he said after having heard
the EMT's side of the story. The cops hadn't said more than a few words to him
anyway. From the ever-present chatter on the radio of the police car, Zeke
understood that it was kind of a busy night. He didn't realize how busy until
he was shoved through the tall double-doors of the police station.

The place
appeared to be a madhouse. Officers were rushing around the room. Benches were
lined with people in various states of injury and dishevelment. A large bald
man erupted from the back area, and began yelling at the cops who were
escorting him, "Where the hell have you been? All hell is breaking loose
out there, and you two are out for a joyride!" The cop made to answer the
man, who Zeke assumed was the police chief, but he just rumbled right on over
them, "Stow that man, and get your ass to the briefing room. We've got a
lot of shit going down, and we don't have time to observe the formalities.
Someone will take care of him."

One of the
cops led Zeke to an open spot on a bench. Zeke plopped down, as the cops
handcuffed one of his arms to a brass bar that was set into the concrete wall
with heavy steel bolts. Without even saying goodbye, the two cops hustled out
of sight and into a group of offices. All that was left were two officers doing
booking and desk duty and a whole lot of people chained to a wall.

Zeke didn't
like being treated the way he was being treated. Looking down the bench, he
didn't think anyone else did either. All he wanted was to get booked, get a
cot, and get some winks, because the way shit was going down, he didn't know
how much longer it would be safe to sleep anywhere.

He rubbed
his eyes with his free hand, and wished that this was the old days when a
person could smoke anywhere they wanted to. He'd probably be issued a citation
and be forced to put it out if he lit one up now. Oh well, they could bill his
ass.

Zeke
watched as the two officers at the desk tried to book an obviously drunk man at
the main desk. One man was standing behind the prisoner, a man in a
reddish-brown leather jacket, whose swaying was making it rather difficult for
the two cops to get his fingerprints.

"Hold
him still, Phillips," yelled the red-faced desk clerk.

Phillips, the
booking clerk wrapped his arms around the prisoner in an effort to keep him
from swaying all over the place, "God this guy smells like shit. Hurry up,
will ya, Dan?"

Zeke pulled
his pack of cigarettes from his pocket. He held them out to the man sitting
next to him, a black man with a worried face and an air of shock about him. The
only response from the man was a slow nod of his head as he declined. Zeke
shrugged his shoulders as if to say, "Suit yourself," and then he
pulled a smoke from the pack. In one smooth motion, he pulled his lighter from
his pocket lit the cigarette, and leaned back against the wall. He would have
let out a nice long, "Aaahhh," but the sensation was too good to
waste on words.

The smoke
billowed into the air hanging there like the soul of a dead man. He got two
full, relaxed puffs out before the desk clerk noticed.

"Hey,
what the hell do you think you're doing?" Dan yelled, his face looking
like an undercooked sausage ready to burst.

Zeke waved
at the man, and took another puff. The desk clerk re-focused on the task at
hand, but Zeke heard him mutter something about a "goddamn zoo" and
"not making enough to deal with this shit." He ashed on the tile
floor with his free hand, when the black man next to him spoke up.

"It's
all going down, man."

Zeke blew
smoke out of his nostrils and ignored the man, but he kept speaking anyway.
"This is it. This is the end."

Dan swore
loudly as the drunk man knocked the ink pad off of the desk and onto the
ground.

"What
the hell are you talking about?" Zeke responded.

"Shit
ain't right, man. The dead be up and walkin' around out there. These cops think
it's some sort of game, but the shit is going down."

Zeke's
first inclination was to tell the man that he was nuts. His second inclination
was to start thinking of a way out of the police station. His third inclination
popped into his head suddenly... about as soon as he saw the drunken man take a
bite out of the clerk who had temporarily relaxed his grip on his ward to pick
up the inkpad.

All chatter
on the bench ceased as each one of the waiting men and women on the bench
watched Dan pull his asp baton free and begin beating on the drunken man. The
booking clerk, Phillips, screamed and thrashed, but the man didn't let go. With
a scream, Phillips tore his arm away from the drunken man, but he was missing a
good sized chunk of forearm. Dan moved his considerable girth around the desk
and crushed the drunken man's leg with the baton. He fell to the ground, but
still reached out for the clerk.

Just then
there was another scream; this time, it was from the bench.

The black
man next to Zeke leaned forward, obscuring Zeke's view, but the screaming and
shouting intensified as one by one the men chained up on the wall saw what was
happening. For a brief second, everyone aligned properly and Zeke saw a woman
chomping on another man's throat at the far end of the bench. Blood sprayed the
wall behind him, soaking into the gray concrete, as the woman gnawed on his
flesh. She was as far away as she could possibly be, but Zeke immediately felt
his instincts take over.

He stood
up, and spun around. As awkward as it was, he was still able to put quite a bit
of force into his first kick. The force of the kick jarred his chained up wrist
and made the brass bar he was handcuffed to vibrate violently. Without looking
at the other men on the bench, he yelled, "Help me!"

The black
man to his right understood immediately, and he began to kick frantically at
the brass rail as well. It was bolted into thick concrete walls. The chances of
it breaking free of the wall were slim to none, but if enough of them worked on
it, maybe they could all get out.

Zeke's
wrist was numb. He took a deep breath and looked around the room for anything
that might help. That's when he noticed that the desk clerk and the booking
clerk were both lying on the ground, bite wounds covered their body, and the drunken
man was still there, severely damaged, but feeding steadily, almost at a
leisurely pace.

At the end
of the bench, another round of screaming went up as the man who had long since
died from his massive neck wound had sat up and was currently trying to get at
the man that was cuffed next to him. The would-be victim was kicking as hard as
he could, but the dead man clearly had no fear of his feeble and awkward kicks.
Zeke imagined himself dead, chained to the railing for the rest of eternity
with a bunch of other dead folks.

The thought
allowed him to find energy reserves that he hadn't felt in years, not since
basic training a lifetime ago. His mind wandered as he beat on the bar with the
heel of his boot; the screaming of the men next to him was different, but all
too familiar as well. He could hear the desperation in their screams, the
exhaustion. These were the times that men were made of.

 

****

 

The sun
beat down upon him. Drool dripped from his mouth. He was too tired to even keep
his mouth closed. He was sucking wind through a throat that was raw, and his
lungs burned with exertion. He was sure he was a beautiful sight.

Each
shovelful of sand seemed to weigh a thousand pounds now. The blisters on his
hands were pink where the layers of skin had been rubbed off. He could hear the
grunts of the men next to him, all lined up in a row, and making the same
pointless hole that he was. This is what happened when a man lost his sidearm
on the beach during an exercise. Hopelessly lost in the sand, the drill
sergeant decided that maybe it had gotten buried in all of the commotion.

He could
hear his fellow soldiers grunting, panting, and retching all around him. In one
case, he could hear crying. However, he was so deep in his hole that he
couldn't actually see anyone. At this point, every shovelful of sand that was
lifted over his head fell into a pile, and half of it drifted back into his
hole. Sweat stung his eyes, and he thought about stopping to wipe his face with
his arms, but he had already heard one recruit get dressed down for a
"lack of proper shoveling form" when he had stopped to wipe the sweat
from his brow.

His mind
wandered, lost in the rhythm and the pain. Nerve endings fired his mind into
oblivion, and when he could no longer see sunlight in the hole that he had dug
due to the angle of the sun, the drill sergeant appeared at the edge of the
hole and smiled down at him. "You lost something, sweetheart." The
drill sergeant tossed his sidearm into the pit, and Zeke's head hung low. The
drill sergeant disappeared from the precipice, but he could hear him as he
walked away, shouting to the rest of the recruits.

"Fill
'em in, dirtbags. It looks like Rogers finally found his weapon. How it got so
deep is a mystery for the ages, right up there with Easter Island and The
Bermuda Triangle."

For a
second, Zeke thought about just staying in the pit he had dug. It was only a
five second hesitation, but it felt like an eternity. Then, after tossing the
shovel up top, he climbed out of the pit using his blistered hands and
noodle-like arms. He could feel the stares of the other men as he emerged from
his hole. He never misplaced his sidearm again... and he had never been as
exhausted as he was that day.

 

****

 

Until
today. The bar's bolts rattled in the concrete, but there were fewer people
kicking now. He had stopped briefly, to survey the situation behind him. Cops
were trying to subdue the drunken man, the desk officer, and the booking
officer. They had no trouble beating up on the drunken man, but trying to
wrangle their own men seemed to be something of a task. Three of the seven people
on the bench were dead now... kind of.

None of the
police seemed to give two shits about them, even though the black man had been
yelling for help for the last ten minutes. There were only three cops visible
in the station, and this alone told Zeke how bad things had become. By now,
with all of the things that he had seen and witnessed, the entire police force
should be up and running. His black friend had been right; the shit was most
definitely going down.

The fourth
man on the bench was kicking at the man next to him, fending off his clumsy
attacks, but he wasn't long for the world. He was old, overweight, and out of
breath, and you could see each shove become slightly weaker than the last. Zeke
kicked the bar again. Concrete dust tumbled to the ground, and he could see the
bolts wiggle in their moorings.

He looked
over his shoulder. The three cops, the chief and the two that had brought him
in, were covered in bites, but they seemed to have the situation mostly under
control. The bites were not good, and at this point, all he wanted to do was
break the bar and run out the front door like a madman. When his black friend
turned to yell at them, Zeke shushed him, "Don't even bother. They're dead
already."

The man's
eyes showed his understanding, and he redoubled his efforts, kicking at the bar
furiously. The bolt on his side was loose, but was it loose enough? Zeke
squatted down and indicated for his black friend to do the same. They sat down
on the floor, their legs in the air, their arms wrapped awkwardly around the
brass bar. With their legs they pushed against the wall, pulling on the bar
with their arms. The concrete on Zeke's side cracked, and the bolt came loose.
His black friend wasn't so lucky.

The bolt
caught against the concrete, waving around loosely, but showing no signs of
coming free. Zeke removed the loose bolt from the bar, and with a little
painful maneuvering, managed to slip his handcuff past the square nub of metal
where the bolt had secured it to the wall. His blood dropped to the floor, but
he was able to slip the handcuff off the bar. He was free.

His friend
looked at him, pleading in his eyes. Zeke felt the cold in his heart, the empty
place where a lifetime of service had burned out everything that he had once
been. He turned to leave while the cops were still busy with their friends.

He could
hear his friend kicking as he slipped out the front door.

BOOK: This Rotten World (Book 1)
5.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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