Friday, January 10, 2020
By Randy Romero
The jet was all fueled up and ready to go by the time we arrived at the airport. Private security rushed us on board and the pilot was already taking off before we even got a chance to fasten our seat belts.
It was just the four of us. Mom, dad, Tara, and myself. Six if you count the pilot and copilot. And seven if you count Gary, dad’s head of personal security. The guy was a brick wall of muscle, but with very little going on upstairs. He was a mindless grinning bulldog that obeyed every command without inquiry. Wherever my father traveled, Gary wasn’t far behind.
I’m not trying to brag, but before all this occurred, my dad was a big name in Hollywood. Everyone in the film industry knew the name Terry Watts. He had produced over two dozen films, all major hits at the box office. He had his hand in everything from horror movies to superhero films. And with the money he had, he could easily afford things like private security and his own luxury jet.
The jet was spacious, with a huge flat-screen TV, Dolby surround sound system, Blu-ray player, a fully stocked bar. Any other day I would have sat back and enjoyed the trip. But this wasn’t a vacation.
It was an evacuation.
We didn’t even have time to pack our things. We left all our possessions behind as my dad prepared a hasty exit for the four of us.
Dad was a film producer. Mom was a professional alcoholic. They went together like bleach and ammonia. God only knows what kept them together for so many years. Tara was a blogger. And I was a fifteen-year-old slacker coasting through high school. I didn’t have money or fame like my dad. No dreams or aspirations. I wasn’t popular like Tara. I didn’t even have a hundred friends on Instagram.
I stared out the window as we ascended to the clouds. The higher we got, the more things went out of focus. It was like staring through a blurry telescope lens. The people looked like ants down there. Mindless, vicious ants attacking the weaker ants of the colony. Ripping and clawing and tearing them apart.
When the plane steadied and we were in the air, my mom got up and took off her fur coat and I caught my sister glaring at her. Tara was a vegan, which also meant she was anti-fur. If I had a nickel for every time they clashed over her wearing fur, I would’ve had enough money for my own private jet.
On any other day, Tara would’ve commented on her choice of wardrobe and her insensitivity. But given the circumstances, she let it slide.
Mom poured a glass of champagne from the bar and drank calmly. I didn’t understand how she could be so calm about the situation. It was quite unnerving. But maybe it was her way of coping with the grim events that were unfolding below.
On the ground, all hell was breaking loose. The virus was spreading at an exponential rate.
According to all the breaking reports on my cell phone, there were three confirmed stages of the virus. First you get sick. Then you die. Then you come back to life.
I was glued to my phone. Videos popped up left and right on social media. Live footage of the undead roaming through the streets and ravaging the living.
One video showed Hollywood Boulevard as a sea of abandoned cars. Even the freeway had been abandoned as evidenced in another video that was filmed by a stranded motorist. In Northern California, it appeared that the undead outnumbered the living.
It was like watching a horror movie unfold in real life. Dad produced a zombie film back in 2012. I remember visiting the set and watching the makeup process. The fake blood, the rubber and latex, the prosthetics. But none of that prepared me for a real life zombie apocalypse.
In between blogging and checking her Twitter account for updates, Tara sent me a text.
“How are you holding up Eric?” she asked. She could have just asked me out loud, but this was Tara’s preferred method of communication. At least she cared enough to ask me. We were only two years apart and we had always been close.
“All things considered, I’m doing okay,” I text her back.
I kept going through my phone, looking for updates. I needed answers. Was it isolated to California, or was it happening across the country? Around the globe? Was this an epidemic?
Gary approached my father. “Sir, I’m getting reports of–”
The flash of light nearly blinded us all. The jet shook violently and dipped down. The sky was red and a thick pillar of mushroom shaped smoke nearly touched the clouds. Down below, all that remained of Los Angeles was a smoking crater in the earth. As far as we could tell, the entire state of California had been wiped off the map.
The jet plummeted through the sky as the pilot struggled to regain control. Just when I thought it was all over, the jet stabilized and the pilot resumed control. We breathed a sigh of relief as the jet ascended again.
“That’s what I was trying to tell you, sir,” Gary said. “This was some kind of contingency plan to stop the virus from spreading. I just got word on my phone before the bomb was dropped.”
“Dear God…” my dad whispered.
He rushed to the cockpit, where the copilot was frantically trying to reach anyone via the radio.
“We’ve lost all contact with Arizona. New Mexico too,” the copilot told him. “There’s no telling how far the virus has spread. There’s no telling what states are left.”
My phone pinged with updates. News about the bombing, and about how far the virus had spread. Every state was infected. Nowhere was safe.
We flew above the clouds, hurdling towards an undecided future.