Read This Rotten World (Book 1) Online

Authors: The Vocabulariast

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This Rotten World (Book 1) (9 page)

BOOK: This Rotten World (Book 1)
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Chapter 23: Check-In
Time

 

Clara sat
in a hospital room, lost in thought. She was thinking of ways to un-see the
things that she had seen. Short of a lobotomy, she wasn't coming up with any
ideas.

The door to
the room swung open, and a frazzled looking nurse walked into the room.
Immediately, Clara popped to her feet and then sank back down into the chair in
pain. Her ankle had swollen to twice its size. The nurse saw her pain and began
examining her ankle.

"Where's
Courtney?" she asked as the nurse, a pretty young blonde, began testing
out the flexibility of her ankle.

"Is
that the man they had to strap down?" she asked.

She nodded
her head and hissed through her teeth as the nurse tested her ankle a little
too liberally.

"They've
got him up in observation."

"Can I
see him," Clara asked.

The nurse
looked up at her, obviously wondering how much she should tell her. "I
don't think that's such a good idea."

Clara
couldn't believe what she was hearing. "Are you going to let me see him or
not?"

The nurse
looked at her apologetically and said, "That's not really up to me."

"Well
then who the fuck is it up to? I'd like to talk to them right now."

The nurse
gently let Clara's foot back onto the ground and said, "It looks like you
have a high ankle sprain, but we'll probably want to get some X-rays just to be
sure."

She didn't
know why she did it, but Clara slapped the woman across the face and pulled her
closer by her shirt. "I don't give a damn about my ankle. I want to know
what's happening with my man. Now either you're going to tell me, or you're
going to be a very unhappy person."

The nurse's
already big eyes became even wider. Someone at the entrance to the room cleared
their throat. "That won't be necessary." It was the doctor who had
taken charge in the E.R. Dark bags had appeared under her eyes, and her hair,
despite being bound in a ponytail, seemed to have a mind of its own. She stood
there looking at her, her hands in her pockets.

There was
something of her mother in the woman, and for a second, she was slightly
embarrassed of her behavior. She let go of the nurse, and she backed away,
thankful that she still had all of her teeth. At least that's what Clara hoped
she was feeling.

"How
is he?" Clara asked the doctor.

The doctor
pursed her thin lips and said, "Not very good."

"What
does that mean? Why won't anyone give me a straight answer?"

The doctor
walked across the room and sat down on the wheeled examination stool.  She
pulled the rubber band from her hair and let her brown locks dangle free before
gathering it up with her hands and putting the rubber band back in place.
"It's complicated. Your husband seems to have some sort of
infection."

Clara shook
her head and ignored the husband comment. "What sort of infection?"

The doctor
looked out the room's window before answering. "That's the complicated
part. We're not sure what type of infection it is. He's burning up, and we're
pumping enough antibiotics through him to cure the plague, but he's not
responding. There's no cognition there whatsoever."

Clara sat
back in her chair and let the doctor's words sink in. As far as she could tell,
there was no sign of hope. "Can I see him at least?"

The doctor
looked at her and thought for a second. "Normally, I would say it was a
bad idea, but maybe you can get him to respond to you."

The doctor
stood up and began to walk out of the room. Clara attempted to stand, but her
ankle wouldn't allow it. The doctor moved to help her by putting her arm under
her shoulder. "We've got to get that checked out."

"After,"
Clara muttered, "after."

With her
arm slung over the doctor's shoulder, they limped through the hospital. As she
took in the chaotic state of the hospital, Clara couldn't help but sense that
there was an air of discomfort permeating the entire place. Everyone seemed to
be in motion, grave looks and pensively chewed lips were everywhere.

The doctor,
Joan she had said her name was, didn't say anything, but Clara could feel the
tension in her shoulders. Something was not right. When Clara commented on it,
Joan merely brushed her off, but she could see the unease in the corner of her
mouth, as if she almost wanted to say something but didn't quite know what to
say.

They
boarded an elevator, and Joan punched the button for the sixth floor. They
waited in silence as the door slid shut. When the doors opened again, they
began their ponderous approach. Armed security guards lined the hallways, and
it appeared they were doing everything by the numbers. A white sign with red
letters in the hallway read, "Quarantine Wing."

They
weren't kidding when they said that he had some sort of infection. "What
do you know about this infection?" she asked as they hobbled towards the
checkpoint.

Joan gave
her the truth. "We know next to nothing about the infection, but we do
know that antibiotics seem to be ineffective. The victims lose cognition, and
as you saw before, seem to be driven to consume human flesh. It's a nightmare.
I suspect that the disease began as some sort of airborne virus, like the flu,
but your husband presents an entirely different sort of scenario."

"How
so?" Clara grunted as her ankle sent pain up her leg.

"Well,
according to your report, your husband was never sick, and he contracted the
infection from some sort of bite. If this disease continues unchecked, and we
don't find a cure, we're in for a very bad time."

As they
approached the main desk on the floor, an armed security guard stepped in front
of them and blocked their passage. Joan showed her I.D. badge, and the man
scanned it with a portable scanner. "Dr. Winston," the man said in
greeting, then looked pointedly at Clara.

"Don't
worry, she's with me." The man stepped to the side and let them pass. It
was all very serious business, and the hair on the back of Clara's neck stood
up for a second. What Clara had just told her was too much, the possibilities too
bleak. Where was her ray of sunshine peaking through the clouds? He was in a
room somewhere, not exhibiting cognition as the good doctor had just told her.

They walked
past several closed doors. Through the tiny square window in one, she saw the
nurse Molly banging on the door from the inside with her bandaged hand. She was
no longer wearing her nurse garb. Instead, she had become one of the patients.
Sweat stood out on her brow, and when she saw Clara, she let loose a barrage of
profanities that kept Clara from being able to make eye contact with her.

"Is
she going to be ok?" Clara asked.

Joan looked
at her, a wan smile on her face. "We'll find out soon enough." They
walked towards another room. This room had a giant observation window, and she
could see Courtney strapped to a gurney, his head whipping from side to side,
looking for something. His eyes were red-rimmed and his teeth were clenched.

Joan held
her card up to a security scanner, and a light on the door handled blinked green.
She heard the bolt of the door unlock, and then she turned the door handle.
They stepped inside, and Courtney's eyes fixed on them. For a second he was
quiet, and then he began thrashing furiously at his bonds. His hands wriggled
and clawed at them, which would have been comical if he didn't have the stench
of uncontained violence and rage about him.

Clara took
one look into Courtney's eyes, and it felt as if a rock had dropped into the
pit of her stomach. She didn't know what to do.

Joan looked
at her and said, "Talk to him."

Clara
lifted her arm off of Joan's shoulder and hobbled over to Courtney. She looked
into his once beautiful brown eyes and said, "Courtney? Can you hear
me?"

His only
response was a low growl. His eyes focused on her, and for a second she saw a
glimmer of recognition, but it disappeared quicker than a dream, and then he
was trying to get at her, straining the straps that held him down.

"Courtney.
It's me Clara. Give me some sort of sign that you can hear me." There was
no sign, just more growling and straining.

Joan put a
hand on her shoulder, and reality hit home for Clara. She didn't want to do it,
but tears escaped from her eyes. Joan put her shoulder under Clara's arm and
guided her into another room, away from the sight of the man that would have
one day been her husband.

Clara made
her way to the bed in the room and lay there sobbing. She didn't know how long
she had cried for, but when she was done and ready to leave, she discovered
that Joan had gone, and the door was locked. Her sadness became rage, and as
she banged on the door, she could hear the nurse Molly down the hallway echoing
her sentiment.

Chapter 24: Roasted
Goat

 

Old Han
cursed the day that he had hired Dustin. He should have known better once he
saw that ridiculous tattoo on the man's forearm. Tattoos meant poor decisions.
Poor decisions meant less profits. But what else did one expect from a lazy
American who could only find work slinging drinks at a bar? He had no pride.
None of them did. Now he stood there in front of his bar, soaking up blood from
the green carpet with a mop bucket that looked like it had never actually been
clean at any point in its existence. Who could say if it ever had? He had
bought it used for 2 dollars when he had first opened the bar.

He looked
around the bar and silently cursed it. The keys on his key ring jangled as he
furiously attacked the carpet, grunting and muttering under his breath. He
would have to call in that other lazy American and try to fill in Dustin's
shift. The fury that flooded through his veins drove him to spit on his own
floor.

"Stupid
fucking American. Motherfuck to him. Motherfuck to all of them." With a
swift whisk of the dirty mop, he wiped away all signs of his anger. The green
carpet was stained. He could live with that. What he couldn't live with was the
thought of having to hire another lowlife scumbag off the street to serve beer
to the people that came into his bar.

He had
never seen such a disgusting lot of people. Oddly enough, as much as he hated
them all, he would rather be cleaning the floor of The Sleazy Goat than sharing
the bed with his shrew of a wife. It was her fault that they were stuck in this
lazy country in the first place. If he had it all to do over again, he would
have talked her into going to France. But no, she had wanted to come to
America. They could be in Paris right now, drinking wine and looking at the
Eiffel Tower. But, no... they were in Portland, Oregon... America, land of the
lazy, home of the idiotic.

Within two
years, his wife had assimilated to the point of being unrecognizable. With
America had come her freedom. No longer was she the meek little housewife he
had married in China. Instead, she was another lazy American, as evidenced by
the fact that she had gained fifty pounds since they were first married.

While he
built up The Sleazy Goat into a steady income, she loafed around on her ass,
eating fast food and watching soap operas. The only thing she had ever
contributed to their marriage was a quick spread of the legs, something which
he increasingly cared less and less about. The hand was quicker, less messy, and
didn't smell like onion rings and expensive perfumes.

He dunked
the mop into the bucket a little too vigorously, spilling blood-soaked water
all over the floor. Another round of cursing flew from his mouth. It was the
only form of English that he was good at, and even then, he was only barely
comprehensible. He began mopping again.

He was
wringing out the mop when the door opened and a couple of ragged-looking people
walked in. Their clothes were dirty, and they had a blank stare on their face.
It must have been 3:30 in the morning. Stupid Americans. He would be even
richer if the government would just allow them to drink for 24 hours. He had
heard that's how it was in Las Vegas. People drinking nonstop, throwing their
money and their lives away. At least they had a life to throw away.

The unhappy
thought crawled across his mind, tendrils of depression lacing through his
brain. He took it out on his would-be customers, as he always did.

"Bar
closed. Come back tomorrow."

Instead of
turning around, they shuffled drunkenly into the main part of the bar, staring
at him blankly.

"You
fucking deaf? Bar closed. You already drunk? Fuck off." Now that they had
inched closer, Old Han adjusted his glasses and saw that there was something
wrong with his new customers. The woman on the left was limping badly, and
crusted blood had dried to her leg. She wore a dirty grey bathrobe that looked
like it had recently taken a dip in a mud puddle. The man behind her was
balding and one of his ears was hanging from the side of his head.

"Get
the fuck out. You leave now. I call cops!" They continued to plod towards
him. Old Han pulled the mop from the bucket, set it on the floor and broke it in
half with one quick kick. Armed with the sharp end of the now broken mop, he
advanced on the customers. He swung at the woman, hitting her in the ribs. She
didn't make so much as a sound. She merely reached for him clumsily. Old Han
stuck out his foot and shoved the woman down with his free hand. She tumbled to
the ground without grace, her bathrobe flying open and exposing her nudity.

The man
behind her was now upon him. He was big, especially when standing next to the
five-foot-six Han. His meaty paws grasped for Han, and he stepped to the side,
jumped in the air and dealt him a stinging blow to the side of the head with
the mop handle. It did no good. The man's ear fell to the ground.

Old Han's
heart raced in his chest. He delivered blow after blow to the tall man. His
face rained blood on the already stained floor, but still he came. Han cursed
loudly throughout the process, and when the lady finally got to her feet, he
found himself trapped between the two. Instinct kicked in and he flipped the
broken broom handle in his hand so that he could use it as a spear. He leapt at
the tall man, driving the broom handle into the fleshy part of his throat and
straight into his brain. The man fell to the ground. Han spun around and gave
the woman a short but powerful kick in the kneecap. Her leg buckled and she
fell to the side. There was no scream of pain, just mindless progression. Han
was about to pull the mop handle free and finish her off when the door to the
bar opened and two more lazy Americans tottered in.

They moved
quicker than the others, and Old Han found himself trapped. He had needlessly
boarded up all of the back exits and windows years ago after he  had nearly
lost his liquor license thanks to the youths that loved to sneak into his bar
and drink beer. It kept the minors out, but it was also keeping him in.

As he was
pondering the situation, he felt the woman wrap her clammy hand around his
ankle. He could feel the chill of her claw through the cloth of his pants. He
stomped on her wrist, breaking the bone and freeing himself from her grip. Fear
took hold of him, and he dove over the bar, looking for some way to put room
between himself and his attackers.

"What
do you want?" he yelled. One of the men began walking behind the bar. He
grabbed a bottle of liquor and tossed it at the man. It clunked off of him
harmlessly, so he grabbed another and continued the process. After three errant
tosses, he finally hit the man in the head. He stumbled for a second, blinded
by the alcohol and glass stuck in his face. The other man, dressed in a bright
puffy vest, climbed awkwardly over the bar. Old Han pulled another bottle off
the shelf and brought it crashing down over the man's head. Alcohol and glass
sprayed everywhere. Without thinking, Han reached into his pocket and pulled
out the only American possession he had ever appreciated, a silver-plated Zippo
lighter featuring a half-naked redhead with her back turned in a seductive
pose. She looked over her shoulder as if she were simply waiting for someone to
come and take her on the spot. He opened the lighter, struck the flint wheel,
and touched the flame to the man's face. The alcohol immediately caught on
fire, and for the first time, it seemed as if the creature actually reacted.

It flailed
on the bar, trying to put itself out in vain and spreading the fire throughout
the bar at the same time. Old Han looked at the other man, covered in alcohol
with glass sticking out of his face. The glint in his eye was not one of
insanity, but cold calculated simplicity. Though he loved the lighter, he
tossed it at the man, who immediately went up in flames. As the burning man
behind the bar flailed around, lighting even more things on fire, Old Han took
his chance and vaulted over the bar. The movement went unnoticed by the two
men, as their eyes had turned into dried up raisins within moments of the
flames hitting their face. Old Han ran from the bar laughing.

He stood
out front watching the flames. Adrenaline surged through his body. The flames
grew to the point where he could see them through the windows of the bar. When
he felt satisfied that the fire could not be put out, only then did he reach
into his pocket and pulled out an ancient cell phone. He dialed 911, secretly
hoping that they wouldn't answer. Even better... the line was busy. As the fire
roared and crackled, he could hear exploding liquor bottles inside. This was
the break he had been waiting for. For years, he had thought of torching his
own bar, but he was never quite sure that he could get away with it. Now it was
done.

Old Han had
dutifully paid his insurance for years. Even when the place had fallen into
disrepair and the money had stopped coming in, he had always made sure to keep
the insurance policy up to date. He had a million dollars coming his way if he
played things right. He cackled in the night as the glass windows on the front
door cracked amid the heat of the conflagration.

Now he just
had to get a divorce and life would be perfect. For the first time in decades,
Old Han was truly happy.

BOOK: This Rotten World (Book 1)
5.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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