Tuesday, March 15, 2016
RABID: PART ONE
Genre: Horror (Zombies)
By Daniel Skye
PART ONE: Z DAY
Remember all that sudden panic back in 2012? Don’t ask me what all the fuss was about. Something to do with the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar. Oh, I remember what it was now.
The Mayan civilization had accurately predicted the end of the world. Wait, is that correct? I think I’ve got the story all screwed up.
Okay, I’ve got it this time. December 21, 2012 marked the end of a cycle in the Mesoamerican calendar, a cycle that lasted over five thousand years.
It was theorized that this date marked an era of change, transition. Some people chose to take this as a grim sign of things to come. The Internet certainly contributed to this factor. Word spread from one paranoid conspiracy theorist to the next. Of course, it led to nothing but speculation and conjecture. But it still got people’s attention.
Next thing you know, every Cheeto-eating blogger and their mother were talking about the end of the world. It was nothing more than a bunch of wild theories and Internet hyperbole. But with everyone bouncing their eschatological theories back and forth, people actually started buying into it. They began to fear the end was nigh.
Hell, they even made a movie about it. Leave it to Hollywood to capitalize and find a way to profit off genuine fear. And when December 21, 2012 came and went, everyone who bought into all those wild theories were overwhelmed with relief.
If Mayans truly intended to predict the end of the world, they were off by approximately one year.
The world didn’t end in 2012. Our expiration date came on Friday, September 13, 2013.
And it didn’t end with planes falling from the sky or the ground crumbling beneath our feet. It wasn’t nuclear war that did us in. Our planet wasn’t sucked into a black hole. We didn’t collide with the planet Nibiru.
No one could have anticipated this disaster. Our end came at the hands of a pernicious plague; a plague of a synthetic origin. It was a global catastrophe. The virus–both airborne and blood borne–was released into the atmosphere, triggering a series of events that led to the collapse of civilization.
Those that died…well, let’s just say they didn’t stay dead for long. Events escalated precipitously. The military was called in to contain the situation. But the virus was spreading at an exponential rate. We were all infected. We all carried it. There was no containing it, no controlling it. This was the dawn of the apocalypse.
And the world went out with a whisper instead of a bang.
* * *
Friday, September 13, 2013.
Merrick, New York
Jackson Creed was bored out of his skull. He craved action, excitement. Any distraction or diversion would have appeased him, so long as it alleviated the banality of reality.
A grease fire. A surprise visit from the health inspector. An unruly customer complaining about an undercooked or overcooked steak. He wished for anything that would snap him out of this funk.
Working as a short-order cook paid the bills, but it didn’t provide Jax the jolt of adrenaline he needed. Jax was a thrill seeker. He had served his time in the military, and when they shipped him home, Jax was lost. He had no guidance, no sense of purpose. He still hadn’t found his true calling. But he knew he wasn’t put on this earth to slave over a hot grill all day in his chef whites.
Jax, who was busy daydreaming about a better life as he flipped burgers on the grill, snapped out of it when he heard an unmistakable sound.
The screams were distant and brief, but it was enough to gain his attention. The screams were followed by police sirens, which were followed by more ear-piercing screams. And suddenly, Jax wasn’t the least bit bored.
* * *
Manhattan, New York.
“SLATER!” Francis Laymon screamed across the room. “IN MY OFFICE, A-SAP!”
Ryan Slater sighed as he slid his chair out from under his desk. The walk to Laymon’s office was twenty steps, but to Slater, it felt like the death march that a condemned prisoner takes before his execution.
“Yes, Mr. Laymon?” Ryan asked, poking his head into Laymon’s office. He hated calling him Mr. Laymon. He was a cop for ten years. Worked vice, homicide. Now he was taking orders from a gruff prick like Francis Laymon.
“You’ve heard about what’s going on in Long Island?”
“Yes, sir. Twenty-four dead, seventy-three ill. They’re saying it’s some kind of super-virus.”
“That’s right. And I need you out there covering the story.”
“I thought that was Johnson’s assignment.”
“Yeah well, Johnson came down with a bad case of dysentery. He’s not going anywhere for the next few days unless he glues his ass cheeks shut.”
“With all due respect, sir, I have a ton of assignments to finish here. And there are plenty of people in this office who are far more qualified than I am.”
“I don’t want to hear your troubles, Slater. I’ve got one kid in college, a daughter who needs braces, and a brother-in-law suffering from boantrophy.”
“Boantrophy. He thinks he’s a fucking cow. Just walks around on all fours, eating grass all day long.”
“At least he hasn’t tried milking himself,” Ryan quipped.
“He actually has,” Laymon assured him. “It’s not a pretty sight. Now what the hell are you still doing here? Shouldn’t you be on a bus or a train to Long Island? Chop-chop. I’m not paying you to dick around all day. I could pay my brother-in-law for that. You want that? You want to be replaced by a guy who thinks he’s a fucking cow?”
“No, sir,” Ryan said through gritted teeth. “I’ll get right on it.”
* * *
Wantagh, New York
Brenda Barker was sitting in some pretentious café, sipping on a foam latte when duty called and she sprang into action. An elderly gentleman had collapsed outside on the pavement and Brenda rushed to his aid. He was sprawled out on the sidewalk, clutching at his chest.
The barista was phoning 911 for an ambulance as several patrons gathered outside to witness Brenda’s heroic actions. Brenda was a registered nurse and she’d seen plenty of heart attack victims in her line of work. Unfortunately, on this occasion, her intervention was futile. The heart attack proved to be fatal and in less than a minute, Brenda could not find a pulse.
What alarmed her most was the fact that the old man had only been dead a few seconds, and he was already cold to the touch. She’d never encountered it before in her seven year career. In the distance, she heard the wail of the ambulance sirens.
She glanced down the road, then back down at the old man on the pavement. His eyes snapped open and she gasped, took a few steps back. The old man sat up as Brenda and the other café patrons stood aghast. There was not a hint of recollection in his eyes.
The old man remembered nothing. Not his name, not where he was from. He didn’t know who these people were, nor did he recall collapsing on the sidewalk. None of his memories remained.
His brain was operating on pure instinct. And that instinct was telling him to feed.
* * *
Baldwin, New York
Ira Schillinger was too busy drowning his sorrows in bourbon to turn on the news. If he had, he would’ve known what was going on out there. But Schillinger relished his buzz, and basked in blissful ignorance.
Besides, saving the world was not his top priority. Ira, a former construction worker, couldn’t even save his own job. Hence the daily liquid breakfasts and the two-pack-a-day habit.
He showed up to work one day, half in the bag, and foreman canned his ass on the spot. Not even the union could save his job.
Now he was working as a private detective. It wasn’t his first choice, but he needed a job and his uncle ran an agency. He helped Ira get his license and put him straight to work. When he wasn’t out working private cases, spying on cheating housewives or disloyal husbands, he drank.
And Ira didn’t work too many cases. Few people were hiring private investigators in 2013. So with all that spare time, he drank like a wild frat boy on spring break. No comfort in the world could help Ira resist the temptation to imbibe.
The ground shook as he heard an explosion emanate in the distance. The explosion was accompanied by a cacophony of sirens–car alarms, ambulance sirens, police sirens, fire department sirens coming from every direction.
Ira dropped his bottle, grabbed his coat, and took off.
* * *
Evan Larson was surrounded on all sides. So he did the only logical thing he could think of. He blew up a car–his own car. A brand new, fresh off the lot Ford Mustang.
Truth be told, it wasn’t really his. He was just “borrowing” it for the time being. Still he hated to part with it. It pained him to see it go up in flames the way it did. Evan had found a handkerchief in the center console with the monogram L.M. embroidered on it, which Evan assumed was the initials of the vehicle’s rightful owner.
Evan had removed the gas cap and stuffed the handkerchief deep inside, soaking it in gasoline. He pulled it out, and stuffed it back in halfway. Using his lighter, he lit one end of the handkerchief and ran as if he was going for the Olympic gold.
One block up, he heard the explosion and stopped in his tracks for a moment. He turned back and saw the flames, saw the black pillars of smoke rising up to the air. Bodies were scattered in the street, but Evan felt not a shred of remorse. These people weren’t human. Not anymore.
Three blocks up, he bumped shoulders with Ira Schillinger. “Did you hear something?” Ira asked. “Sounded like an explosion.”
“That was me,” Evan said. “I blew up my car.”
“Did I miss something? What the hell is going on around here?”
Evan summed up the entire situation with one word: “Zombies.”
“Nuff said. Let’s get the hell out of dodge. I’d ask if you have a car, but…”
“Funny,” Evan muttered, and they both started running in the same direction.
* * *
Ira Schillinger and Evan Larson caught the next train out of Baldwin. And they made a new friend while they were waiting on the platform. Lance Mathis.
“Where you heading?” Lance had inquired once they had boarded the train to Penn Station.
“Anywhere but here,” Evan said.
“We should try and get out of New York as soon as possible,” Ira said. “Before it spreads.”
“I’d drive us out of New York if I could, but some asshole blew up my car,” Lance said. Evan chucked nervously.
“I hate to burst your bubble,” another commuter said from across the aisle. “But it’s already spread. It’s all over the radio, the TV. It’s all their talking about it.”
“It’s happening all over America?” Ira asked.
“Buddy, it’s happening all over the world.”
They were nearly thrown from their seats as the brakes screeched and the train reached a sudden stop. Then it gained momentum again, this time traveling in reverse.
“Um, I don’t think this is the way to the city,” Evan said.
“Are we going in reverse?” Lance asked.
“It appears so.”
In moments, the conductors voice came over the loudspeakers. “Ladies and gentlemen, I apologize for the inconvenience. But by orders of the military, New York City is now under quarantine. No one gets in and no one goes out without proper clearance. At this time, all citizens of Nassau County have been ordered to relocate to Sunrise Mall. This order is mandatory by the federal government. Our next stop is Massapequa.”
* * *
Massapequa, New York.
Sunrise Mall was a refuge from the maelstrom. It offered food, shelter, medical supplies, and other vast amenities.
Mac and TK were on the first floor, staring at this sea of humanity. Hundreds, if not thousands, filled all three floors of the mall.
“This place is definitely over capacity,” TK quipped. “If a fire broke out right now, we’d all be toast.”
“Don’t even joke like that,” Mac chided.
“Do you think George Romero ever figured zombies would be all the rage in 2013?” TK asked.
“I’d guess not,” Mac said. “But then again, who knew films like Hostel and Saw would make as much money as they did? That’s the gamble with horror films and TV shows. You take a risk and hope it pays off.”
“I blame that Walking Dead show for all of this. And all those posers who watch it. I was into zombies way before zombies were cool.”
“Zombies honestly scare the shit out of me,” Mac confessed.
“Yeah. They have no memory. And that’s the scariest part of all. Not even knowing who are, not being in control of your actions.”
“I think it’d be kind of cool to be a zombie.”
“You would think that. Let’s just change the subject.”
“Oh, I’ve got a good one. Who’d win a fight: Wolverine from X-Men, or Superman?”
“Hmm…that is a good one. The man of steel versus the man of adamantium steel. That’d be a battle for the ages.”
“My money is on Wolverine.”
“No way. Superman would take him in a heartbeat.”
“Na-ah, Wolverine would slaughter him.”
Their esoteric debate was interrupted by Allison Shane, who asked if either of them had a light. TK and Mac were not smokers, but at that moment, they’d wished they were. Allison was a thin young woman with a pale complexion and blue streaks in her jet-black hair. She sported a number of horror-related tattoos, including the number 237 tattooed on her left wrist and Freddy Krueger’s glove tattooed on one shoulder.
Allison wandered past them in search of a fellow smoker, and Mac and TK couldn’t help but trail after her. This girl was a goddess to avid nerds like Mac and TK. And since they were all stuck under the same roof, it couldn’t hurt to try making new friends.
Allison Shane found Jackson Creed standing near one of the side entrances, smoking a Newport. The doors were all locked for their protection, and military personnel had set up camp all around the mall.
“Is this the smokers lounge?” she asked.
“I guess it is,” he shrugged.
“Got a light?”
“Anything for you, little missy,” he smiled and lit her cigarette with his zippo. “What’s your name?”
She took a drag and said, “Allison Shane. But everyone calls me Alice.”
“Allison Shane. I like that. Sounds like Alice in Chains.”
“Yeah, my dad was a big Layne Staley fan. What’s your name?”
“Jackson Creed. But everyone calls me Jax.”
Mac and TK caught up to Allison and after some hesitation, TK spoke first. “Hey. We never got the chance to properly introduce ourselves. This is Mac. He’s a perpetual fountain of random factoids and useless information.”
“And this is TK,” Mac said. “He’s a comic book nerd with a zombie fetish.”
“I don’t have a fetish. I just think zombies are cool.”
Alice laughed it off. “I’m Allison Shane, but you can call me Alice. And this is Jax Creed.”
“Well, Jackson. But please, call me Jax. You boys smoke?”
“Not really the type,” Mac said.
“Is this the smokers lounge?” Ira Schillinger asked as he, Evan Larson, and Lance Mathis approached and Ira took out his pack of Marlboros.
“It appears so,” Jax said.
Lance had been following Ira and Evan since the train. But Lance had grown increasingly cold ever since Ira had properly introduced himself.
They all took turns introducing themselves and once they are all acquainted, Ira spoke. “Things are getting ugly out there. We may need to stick together and formulate a strategy. If things fall apart, if the military can’t contain the situation, it’s every man and woman for themselves.”
“Listen to this guy,” Lance said, rolling his eyes. “He thinks he’s in charge all of a sudden.”
Ira turned to face Lance. “You’ve got a problem with me?”
“No problems. I just don’t like taking orders from a Jew,” Lance said, exposing his true colors.
“And I don’t like taking orders from a parolee,” Ira said. “I saw your tattoos on the train. I know jailhouse ink when I see it.”
“Are you speaking from personal experience?” Lance asked. They were face to face, chest to chest now. Ira balled up his fists, ready to take the first swing.
“Hey, cool your jets,” Jax said. “He’s right. We’re going to need to stick together on this one. It’s all a matter of survival. If we watch each other’s backs, we can make it out of this mess alive.”
Two military officers approached the side entrance, escorting an older man. One of the officers unlocked the doors and the other office rushed the man inside, locking the doors behind him.
“Who are you?” Jax asked.
“Ryan Slater. I was sent to Long Island to cover a story.”
“Well, buddy, I think you found yourself the story of the century,” Jax chuckled. “Make yourself at home. I have a feeling we might be here for a while.”
To Be Continued With Part Two: FROM AUTUMN TO ASHES