Read This Rotten World (Book 1) Online

Authors: The Vocabulariast

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This Rotten World (Book 1) (21 page)

BOOK: This Rotten World (Book 1)
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Chapter 47: I'd Like
to Make  a Collect Call to Armageddon

 

The
monitors glowed with a spectral blue light as shambling humans wandered in and
out of frame. Joan and Clara were doomed. Of that they both agreed. Clara might
be a feisty woman and Joan might be a doctor with a spine fashioned out of
steel, but together they weren’t enough to conquer the sheer number of infected
humans in the hospital quarantine ward alone.

Clara had
ceased being angry long ago. She still wanted to sock Joan across the jaw every
now and then, but the hopelessness of their situation was becoming clearer and
clearer. Their only protection was a thick door secured by a keypad and some
heavy-duty steel locks. Of course, this same door was also keeping them from
the things that they needed, namely food and water.

She doubted
that the designers of this office had envisioned a scenario where the entire
hospital would fall so quickly. “There’s no way they would need their own water
or food supply,” someone had likely said at one of the production meetings.
Schmucks.

All they
had was a phone, their one lifeline to the outside world… and no one was
answering. The police emergency line was either busy or it sent out a stock
recording that told Joan to hang up and try again.

The idea of
waiting in the room and starving to death was unnerving Joan, and Clara wasn’t
far behind her. They hadn’t talked for a while, so Clara had to clear her
throat when she spoke. “We can’t just sit here.”

Joan didn’t
say anything. She just stared at the glare of the monitors, cycling through
room after room, watching her former patients wander around, looking for
something to eat.\

“Did you
hear me? We can’t just sit here,” she repeated.

“What do
you want me to do?” she said in a blunt voice. “The police aren’t answering,
and if you think we’re going to make it through that mass of people, then
you’re dreaming.”

Clara
groaned in frustration, “There has to be something that we can do.”

Joan was
silent, apparently lost in thought. “There is one thing,” she said. Clara
waited patiently, even though she wanted to shake the answer out of the woman.
“We could notify the CDC.”

“What good
is that going to do?” Clara asked.

“Maybe
nothing for us, but we might be able to help other people.”

Clara threw
her hands up in frustration, “Well, make the call. Someone ought to have a
chance to live at least.”

Joan
flipped through a binder labeled “Emergency Scenario” and pulled out a
laminated sheet of paper with a phone number on it. She grabbed the phone and
began dialing the number, then she waited as the other end rang.

“Speaker,” Clara
prompted. Joan did as she was asked and turned on the speakerphone.

“Hello, you
have reached the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention emergency
information line. Please stay on the line.” The voice was robotic and not at
all comforting, but it was better than the elevator music that began playing
after its brief message.

It sounded
like a flute solo version of Twisted Sister’s "We’re Not Going to Take It."
For a second, as she watched the monitors in front of her, the infected’s
movements synced up perfectly with the music, turning the entire scene into a
macabre music video, their bloody bodies moving in time to some twisted waltz.

“Who the
hell picks the music for these things? Do they just pick a song off of a list?”
Clara whined. She was tempted to tell Joan to simply hang up the phone. It
wasn't worth the torture. Just before she was about to grab the phone out of
Joan's hand and rip it out of the wall, she heard a voice over the phone.

"Hello,"
the voice said. "Is anybody there?"

"Yes,
we're here," Joan said hastily, a fevered part of her terrified by the
prospect that the man would just hang up and they'd never be able to get
through again. "We have an emergency."

"What
type of emergency?"

"We're
not sure if it's viral or bacteriological."

"Mmm-hmm,
tell me more," the man said. They heard the sounds of typing over the
speakerphone.

"As
far as we can tell, we're in the middle of some sort of epidemic. Whatever
illness these people have, it causes them to crave human flesh. They don't
speak; there's no cognition whatsoever, they're just hungry," Joan's words
were an avalanche, tumbling from her mouth. The finer points of the infection
were forgotten among the more horrendous aspects of the illness.

"And
how is the illness spread?" asked the man on the other end of the phone in
his matter-of-fact voice. He sounded like a '50s news reporter. Clara imagined
him sitting at a desk with a cigarette burning in an ashtray, the glow of an
ancient computer monitor reflecting off of his thick, black plastic eyeglasses.

Joan
thought for a second, and then said, "I'm not 100% on this one, but I know
that bites seem to spread the disease. Earlier I saw a woman who was
manifesting signs of some sort of illness, cold-like, but more intense, 15
minutes later she had become one of them. Also, I know this is going to sound
crazy, but it seems as if the dead are coming back to life."

The man's
complete lack of shock sent a chill through Clara's spine. Something wasn't
right here. He wasn't incredulous, and he seemed to take everything they said
as fact. That wasn't right. "Where are you now, Joan?"

"I'm
locked inside the quarantine wing of Legacy Emanuel in Portland, Oregon."

"And
are you experiencing any sort of symptoms?" the voice asked.

"I
don't think so, and neither is my friend," she reported back.

Clara
wanted to yell at Joan for assuming that they were friends, but when the only
other living person that you know of is a voice on a phone thousands of miles
away, you kind of bite your tongue.

Keys
clacked as the voice typed in more information, "Well, folks, I hate to
break the news to you, but you're not the only ones in this position. We've had
reports of this illness all over the United States, and we have reports from
other countries as well. This is not strictly a U.S. event. This is a world
event."

"What
do you mean a world event?" Clara asked.

"I
mean that things are bad all over. We're doing what we can, but right now, we
know about as much as you two do about this disease."

"What
are we supposed to do?" Joan asked.

"My
advice to you is to sit still, and wait for the military to roll in. The
country will be under martial law soon. I have it on good authority that the
National Guard is being mobilized. Things should be under control in no time at
all. In the meantime, keep yourselves safe, keep from being bit, and if you
have to try and kill one of these things, try and damage the brain. It seems to
be the only way to stop them. Good luck, ladies."

With that,
the voice on the phone hung up, and it was all over. Joan and Clara looked at
each other, both thinking the same thing. "We're fucked."

Chapter 48: Move Over
Rover, the Army is Taking Over

 

General Burt
Hicks hated the sound of helicopters. He hoped that whoever invented the damn
things had been shot. The noise level combined with the ever-present buffeting
of wind from the rotors made you feel like you were in some sort of medieval
torture device. When they landed on the second tallest building in Portland, The
General couldn't get off the chopper fast enough.

He was
greeted on top of the building by the usual fanfare, some suited men and women
who didn't know their assholes from their elbows, and a handful of soldiers...
only this time they weren't wearing their full dress uniforms. His soldiers
were now decked out in their finest functional battledress. Grayish-green
fatigues with digital camouflage and weapons with enough punch to rip a man in
half... The General would have loved the sight if they had been mobilized for
some other purpose. But in just a matter of hours, those weapons would be
turned upon the average American citizen.

But that's
why he had five stars, because he was the man that you could call when things
got ugly. General Hicks had never been accused of having a personality, and he
wasn't about to start now. The fate of the country, maybe even the entire world
was at stake here. If some citizens had to die, well, then some citizens had to
die.

The
National Guard had been mobilized around midnight the night before. Things were
moving slowly on the operation, and they were severely understaffed. Many
soldiers hadn't reported in, and it was clear to see why as he was flying in.
The city seemed like a warzone. Even on the outskirts of the town, he saw signs
of the destruction, but as they neared the city, the smoke and fire had been
impossible to miss.

"Good
afternoon, General," saluted one of the suited women.

"Spare
me the pleasantries. What's the sitrep?" he snapped, ready to begin the
sordid task of bringing this bucking bitch of a city down to the ground.

"Casualties
are high. The disease seems to be spreading at an exponential rate. We received
the first reports about ten days ago, but last night it erupted into a
full-scale epidemic. All roads out of the city are clogged with traffic or
hordes of infected. At this point, we estimate 25% of the population has been
infected, 15% of that within the last day."

"Do
you have any good news?"

The woman's
smile was pinched as she said, "The high is supposed to be 80 degrees with
about ten percent humidity."

The General
looked at the woman. "Is that supposed to be a joke?"

"No,
sir. It was the only good piece of news that I could come up with off the top
of my head."

The General
stopped walking and looked the woman in the eye as he spoke, "The next
time someone asks you if there's any good news, you say, 'I'm still alive.'
That's the best news anyone can possibly have. If you're able to think and
breathe, well, you've always got good news in your back pocket. Now let's get
our asses on the news."

 

****

 

Around the
city, handfuls of people watched as the grizzled man with the wrinkled face,
the gray buzz cut, and the chest full of commendations spoke on the news.

"At
this time, Portland is now under martial law. Those who feel ill need to put a
white flag on their door. We will get to you eventually. Stay in your houses.
Avoid contact with others. Curfew is at 5 o'clock. Anyone caught looting, or
engaged in other uncivil activities, will be shot on sight.

"We
are in a state of emergency. We need your help to keep this disease from
spreading outside of the city. Stay in your house. Do not attempt to leave the
city. All vehicles will be stopped... one way or another. This is for your
safety, so help us do our job, and we can all get back to normal within a few
days hopefully."

The General
disappeared, and a newswoman came on the air. Her eyes were red, and it looked
like she had been crying. A number flashed across the screen and citizens were
urged to call the number if they had an emergency.

Those that
tried to call soon found the number just as busy and useless as 911. Throughout
the city, gunshots could be heard as helicopters buzzed through the sky. Things
were not looking good in Portland.

 

****

 

The General
walked through the corridors of the news station, until he came to the room
that had been set up as his forward command. He sat at the desk and began going
through the maps. Known activity for the infected was marked on the first map,
collected from unanswered police calls, satellite imagery, and their own
soldiers' observations. He was disheartened by what he saw. It was all over the
city. There wasn't a single area of more than a few blocks that didn't seem to
be touched.

He flipped
the page and saw another map; this one slightly larger. The outlying areas had
experienced the same sort of growth. Things weren't going south. They had gone
south before the call was even put in.

The General
flipped another page... this time he had a map of the entire United States. He
didn't even bother flipping to the next map, the one of the entire world.

Instead,
The General stood looking out the floor to ceiling window on the 35th floor of
the second tallest building in Portland. The tallest building was on fire,
burning from the ground up it looked like.

He stood
with his hands behind his back, trying to put together a plan that would get
this country back in order, a plan that would keep the dead in the ground.

Someone
knocked on the door. "Enter," he called. He hoped the eggheads were
having better luck coming up with a solution than he was.

It was a
soldier, a young sort, not the sort of dull-eyed veteran he was used to
ordering around. He could almost smell the kid's unease as he stood there. He
turned away from the majestic view of burning Portland and said,
"Speak."

"Sir,
we just received notification that the President and the rest of the cabinet
have been moved underground. Things in D.C. have escalated." The soldiers
eyes became impossibly wide.

Fucking
part-timers. What was it now? The General turned to see what had the kid so
spooked. As he spun around, he had time to glimpse a helicopter spinning out of
control, infected civilians and soldiers hanging off of the skids. The pilot
was fighting the bird, and it was spinning directly towards them. The General
had time to wish for a cigarette before the main rotor hit the thick glass of
the skyscraper.

The room
erupted in a shower of deadly glass shards, one of which went right through The
General's mid-section. He didn't even have time to fall as the helicopter
disintegrated and then erupted, spewing fire all over the 35th floor of the
second tallest building in Portland.

Much of the
wreckage of the helicopter fell to the ground. Throughout the city, dead,
unfocusing eyes turned their attention to the explosion of the skyscraper. They
watched the flames with impassive faces, their feet moving at a methodical pace
towards the place where the latest sign of prey had come from.

All around
the city, the living hid in their houses, peering out the windows, waiting for
the dead to come calling.

BOOK: This Rotten World (Book 1)
12.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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