"It was a dream, it had to be. This is all a bad dream." For some reason that's the only thing that kept echoing in my mind.....just a bad dream. The ability to cling to the hope that no matter how horrific the scene was or how quickly my heart thudded in my chest, that soon I would wake up and be safe again. But as the 5.56 round exploded through the chamber and into head of the man in front of me, I knew it wasn't a dream and we would never be safe again.
The harsh knock woke me as I tried to blink away the early morning confusion. A constant rat tat tat like the sound of a hammer pounding through the door and into my mind caused my body to almost shrivel within itself. My eyes turned to the clock which flashed an angry 5:30 am eliciting an annoyed groan to escape from my lips, "Really? It's my day off." Stumbling over an unfolded pile of laundry, I cracked open the door just enough to get a visual of the intruder without exposing much of myself to the hallway light. My eyes focused on the calculating hazel irises shielded by stylish glasses, "Morning Jade."
"Why are you here, Katie? I just went to sleep three hours ago." I complained resting my head against the door frame. She sighed, "Just got word from the desk. We have a recall, get your stuff and head out." The news caused me to hit my head against the doorway softly, "Please don't tell me we have another DUI. I don't feel like doing PT again for some moron's mistakes." Grumbling to myself, I slipped my legs through the desert-colored pants and pulled down the matching shirt and blouse, before grabbing my gear and following her.
"What's this about?" I asked as the freezing Nebraska wind curled around me, not at all helping my darkening mood. She shrugged and unlocked the door to her massive beast of a truck while I hopped in and pressed my hands to the heater in a desperate attempt for warmth. The drive to the squadron was silent, both of us not at all pleased to be at work on one of our precious days off. The morning sun had barely peeked over the horizon, waking the quiet base from it's comfortable sleep. My eyes rested single airman raising the flags on the parade grounds, saluting each as he did in respectful memory of those who died before us.
When we arrived at the squadron and piled into the conference room, I listened to the fog of complaints and rumors that settled over at least eighty cops.
"Why are we here?"
"Dude, I'm still drunk from last night."
"Do you think we're in trouble for something?"
When a hand found my shoulder, I didn't have to look to know it was my Chris. His smooth baritone chuckled at my face, "Hey tiger, bet you're happy to be here, huh?" If I had the energy to glare I would have, but instead I settled for resting my head on his well-toned shoulder while Katie smiled at our familiarity. I found myself wanting to drift back into comforted sleep until a loud voice that unmistakably belonged to a wiry youth known as Thompson rang out, "Come on guys, don't be so down! Maybe the colonel wanted to give us a free keger or something?"
There was a laugh that went through the group until the previously mentioned colonel made his way up the stairs to the podium, "Good morning defenders."
We cried out, "Good morning, sir!" in unison as we waited for him to explain why we were summoned. Maybe it was the early time or possibly we were in more trouble than I thought, but when I saw the normally kind eyes of our commander filled with with such serverity, a cold chill ran through me as he cleared his throat, "Brothers and sisters, I stand in front of you with some very sombering information. I'm sure some of you have seen the news, but most of you were either asleep or on post, so be advised, what I'm about to tell you is very real. It won't be long before the public finds out and once they do, it will be of the up most importance that we try to keep calm amongst ourselves and our families."
"Are we being attacked?" I whispered to Chris. His normally bright gold eyes darkned a bit when he took my hand and waited. Thoughts of prior terroist attacks flashed through our minds as the commander inhaled, "A disease has developed in South America, no one knows why, but there is rumor that it originated from a lab in Brazil infecting the local populas and spreading quickly. Already it has consumed Central America and is spreading up through Mexico. It won't be long before it reaches the States. The border patrol has been issued a kill on sight order."
"Kill on sight?"
"What the hell?"
The whispers murmered around causing the commander to raise his hands, "I know that sounds extreme, but when I show you what the symptoms of the disease are, it is possible you will agree with the president's order. Be advised, this is very graphic." He turned and clicked on the projector which showed the figure of a Spanish woman reporting with a panicked look on her lovely face. The subtitles ran quickly below her and we all struggled to keep up with them, "The disease is everywhere! It's taken the major cities and is running through at an alarming speed.The subjects seem to show no signs of pain or any present thought other than the need for food. Families, friends, everyone is being attacked and infected!"
There was a scream behind her as the shaky camera whirled around in time to catch the cat like leap of a teenage girl with dark hair. Before he hit the ground, the deranged teen was ontop of him, raising her head up and digging her teeth into his throat like a wild animal.The camera man gasped while she fed hungrily from him; the sounds of tearing and the gurgling of blood filled the sound system while the screams from what we assumed to be the news caster echoed not far off.
The camera rolled over just enough to barely catch the form of the girl as she stood. Her dark hair hung matted, blood dripping down her seemingly yellow shirt which appeared stained as if the unfortunate man was not her first kill. She screamed and stumbled out of the screen with no apparent direction to her movements. We watched in horror as the dead camera man laid silently on the ground, surrounded in a pool of wet crimson.
There was a quiet over the room of hardened cops as we waited for the tape to end. So when the surely dead man's leg twitched, a girl two rows behind me screamed loudly, "What the hell?!"
"He was dead wasn't he? He had to be!"
But to our horrified amazement, the seemingly deceased camera man slowly rose to his feet and began to walk towards the camera, his legs moving sluggishly. It was at this time that the commander paused the tape, exposing his face to us, "So you see, this is what we're dealing with. This is the enemy now and until we find a way to cure it, we all have to work together to survive. I'm going to post a vast majority of you around the perimeter of the base and the rest will try to keep panic to a mininmum. The public will rush to us for protection, but that does not mean we lapse our security. I will try and provide you with more information when I have it. All we know is that the disease seems to be spread orally and it's victims don't stop once they've been killed. It's as if their bodies just keep moving even when all thought processes have been terminated.This is real, God help us, it's very real. Dismissed."
No one was able to move for a few moments. The heavy realization fell on us as Chris's hand tightened around mine. I felt my eyes returning to the screen where the dead man's frozen face glared at me, blood seeping from his eyes and mouth, "God help us....."