Chapter 1: Outbreak

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 372

PROLOG

LOG ENTRY

DAY 364

January 12th, 2015

They say that on a clear day you can see forever… that if you looked hard enough you could even see tomorrow. I guess we haven’t had too many clear days since nobody saw this coming. But if you could see tomorrow why would you want to see it? I mean if you did happen to see something that you didn’t like, what then? Would you waste away waiting for that fateful day to finally arrive? Or would you try to change the fates minds? Even though it would be useless to try since you can’t change tomorrow… you can’t change the cards you were dealt.

Legend has it we once considered all animals as brothers and the earth looked at as a mother. We worked endlessly trying to not endanger the land in fear of hurting our chance for survival. And over time we began to see it was far cheaper to disregard these thoughts and focus on our own individual prosperity... Once we gave thanks for being born and now we expect it and want so much more than what that first breath has to offer.

I remember a saying the Buddhist monks had – ‘No Blame, No Praise, Just is.’ And I know that’s how the animal world views it as well… but for how long? How long can one turn their cheek before they try to take back a world stolen?

Life has always been such a fragile process with living and dying going hand in hand… moving close to each other as they rubbed shoulders… like lovers walking side by side in the distance. And now that we’re at the end we can only look back to see what went wrong.

I think we could have seen our own future even on a cloudy day… and we could have changed our future if we wanted to… but now it’s too late…

CHAPTER ONE

OUTBREAK

DAY 1

The T.V. sits directly in front of the front door to the apartment, perfect for watching from most if not all directions. The place isn’t that big but when you’re single it doesn’t have to be that big. The coffee table sits right in front of the three seater couch and for a touch of class has a single candle in the middle. With the kitchen having an open area for the bar stools he could simply cook, eat and wash dishes without missing a minute of screen time. Johnny sits in front of the T.V. clicking through all the channels, even passing up the ones he likes. Wondering where the day went, or rather where the night went since he’s been doing the graveyard shift. But it doesn’t matter what he thinks since he can’t focus on anything other than the constant clicking. Usually, when he gets into a rut like this he just has to remember what they told him on orientation day and recall all the motivated words that were flying around the base, that every job, no matter how small it may look winds up being a big job in the end. Sure, he isn’t a scientist or on the medical team but guarding the gates is just as important.

The clock on the cable box flashes eight am and it tells him he should be getting ready to go to bed, the same thing it told him yesterday and the day before that. But he doesn’t, and he only stares at the flashing light wondering where the time keeps going. He can’t shake the feeling that he’s in some sort of time loop, stuck forever to relive the prior day. And then he thinks this must be how the first explorers most have felt as they crossed the ocean being forced to see the same blue sea under the same blue sky, day in and day out. It must have driven them mad. As they see just a copy of a copy spitting out of the machine each day until you can start making out the little defects of the copies bringing to realization that it’s just crap after all.

His head starts tilting down as the heaviness of his eye lids starts to take over and he doesn’t notice that he’s yawned for the umpt time. Gravity is slowly pulling him down and, unconsciously, starts sliding ever so slowly. His eyes still focused on the T.V. as his mind’s eye now focused on the pillow.

The day was long, especially with the mandatory meeting he had to attend so he could report that all was clear on his watch, but guess that’s the small price to pay for being a team lead. Sure they spotted a homeless man here and there but that was it, nothing to write home to mom about. Besides that nothing much happens but the waiting. The entire base sits and waits, praying nothing happens yet at the same time wishing for the worst to happen. Preparing is one thing, and the base scores high on that, but it’s the waiting that is driving everybody crazy as they follow the same routine day in day out.

Every now and then his thoughts do get the best of him as he wonders why he joined up with this group of waiters when he should be out there living, and when the shit hits the fans just going out in a blaze of glory. But then he remembers one important thing – he doesn’t want to die. Sure, we all die, but being prepared for something that you know is bound to happen is what keeps him at the base. Located in the heart of Atlanta, the base is designed to secure them from any hostilities that may come about.

Why be the lamb that’s led to the slaughter house when you can be the lion sitting on a mountain. Guess he figures he’s in the right place since the organization was created to handle anything Pandora’s Box throws at them.

So he keeps clicking, and sure, he could drift off to sleep dreaming a nuclear war has started and how he would be fighting and scavenging throughout the city, but he doesn’t, only concentrating on something to see, even if it’s just the T.V. flipping through all the channels.

And as his head hits the pillow he finally stops clicking the remote as sleep finally overtakes him and wins.

#

This is not a drill, repeat. This is not a drill…’

“I’m awake, I’m awake!” Johnny startled awake, practically jumps off the couch. He reaches for his alarm clock but he’s better off reaching for the moon since it’s in the bedroom. The sirens are going off and what he can make out from where he sits is that the strobe lights in the hallway are going off as well. Scrambles off the couch he heads for the door, almost forgetting that he’s not dressed. One thing about sleeping in the living room is that you usually wake up the way you’ve fallen asleep, fully clothed, but not Johnny. These past few nights has seen him change out of his uniform in the living room and just plopping onto the sofa only to wake up like he didn’t even close his eyes. Dreams have long gone extinct for him, even before he joined the group. And before that he can only remember the nightmares so why even try? So now, he sits in front of his T.V. and tries to think of simple thoughts, and when he wakes he’s still holding onto that thought as if it wasn’t worth dreaming about.

He heads for his room, not even sure what time it is but it doesn’t matter, he knows what he needs to do and he knows he can’t do it in his boxers. He reaches for the hallway lights but that’s useless as they’re over powered by the strobe lights that are now going on throughout his apartment. One thing for sure is you know you can’t miss an alarm, be it real or a drill.

He fumbles through his uniforms and starts throwing one on, grabs his boots and belt and that’s it, the rest can wait till he gets to the guard shack. As he passes the living room he sees the kitchen and thinks for a minute that breakfast, or lunch would be good right about now, but he can’t afford the luxury. A bath will also have to wait until he has more time and as he opens the door he can hear it, the commotion of his neighbors as they too begin to wonder if this is a real or a fake drill. It doesn’t matter though, an alarm is an alarm and it means everybody has to ante up.

“Johnny… what’s going on?”

He looks straight ahead to his goal of the lobby as he continues stumbling down the hall fighting with his boots. He doesn’t even have to turn to see who it is, he knows its old man Abraham from 22B. He takes a minute to grab hold of the shoe strings and then looks over to the old man hoping that he has already gone back inside his room, which everything but his head actually is, but it doesn’t matter. Who really can follow simple commands? Even if you’re scared of heights you’ll still look down if somebody tells you not to?

“All I can tell you is it’s not a drill and you need to stay inside until further directed.” He hollers back at the old man and can see that even though they all know how secure they are, they are all still scared as sheep.

And they are secure, the security levels they have are top notch, especially the residential decks. But it doesn’t matter, once an alarm starts people panic, and he figures that’s probably the main reason the lady on the security loop keeps repeating to stay in doors. Keep the panic at bay before it can spread.

He heads for the stairs, the elevators would be faster, but he’d had to deal with more residents worried and he doesn’t have time for that. He would like to bump into somebody and ask the time, but that is another luxury that’ll have to wait since it will be followed with questions. Besides it’s not important what time it is, but when you are suddenly awoken from the dead everything gets turned around. Up becomes down, left becomes right, and good thoughts can suddenly turn into bad ideas.

He heads down the stairs, taking two steps at a time as he times the turns so he can reach out and grab the handles swinging him around to the next level of steps. He knows his team will be at their post and he doesn’t want to keep anybody waiting. Four flights of stairs would take an average person several minutes but he does it in a minute flat.

He sees the exit and slams through the door, not worried about what’s on the other end. And then he feels it, that this is it – this is the real thing they’ve been waiting for. It’s something we’re all born with, that instinct telling you something is wrong. Call it whatever you want, and most people disregard it, but he knows he’s feeling it right now. He reaches the loading dock and can see that the sun is almost straight up so he knows he hasn’t overslept into the night. One thing about pulling graveyard is making your body believe it’s natural to live in the dark. It takes time and with effort you can pull it off, but if you happen to see the sun you can’t help but brighten up a bit as your body remembers what’s right and realizes you were lying.

The message being played continues, and he’s pretty sure the entire group has heard it, even Ms. Wilson in 18C, who’s probably been hard of hearing since the late nineties. He jumps down the dock and heads for the East Gate, his gate, which should already be covered by first shift. He passes the West Gate and before he can sneak by, he hears his name being called. It’s one thing to attempt to play it off but when the man that’s screaming you’re name is six foot five and pushing two hundred fifty pounds, it doesn’t help to pretend you didn’t hear him, especially when you’re the only one who isn’t turning around wondering who he’s screaming at. It’s just a dead give away.

“Thomas! What’s taking so long?” The voice says again, and as Johnny turns to look for Oakley he catches sight of him directing his men and securing his gate.

“Traffic!” Johnny yells back, and rather wait for the big smile, he keeps hauling butt towards his Gate. Sure, if the Head of Security was to see the camera’s now it would look like Oakley is one step ahead of him, and in most cases that would be right, but it doesn’t help Johnny that his shift feels like it was over hours ago and Oakley’s probably just started.

Oakley has been here as long as Johnny has, brought in his wife and kids where Johnny came running solo. At first look you would figure the man was simply picked for his intimidating looks but one conversation with the man and you knew it was for his brain more than anything – the physical part was just a bonus.

One thing about the building complex is that it’s relatively small with just two main buildings separated by a nice size central quad, but with all the security fences it takes time getting from one end to the next. As he reaches the east quad he can make out the gate and can see everything is under control as Corporal Olsen has all the men on the current shift spaced out and directing the other shifts into their positions as they show up. “Corporal!” Johnny barks as he approaches behind him. “What’s the word?”

“Sir, all men are accounted for and positioned. Command hasn’t said anything else other than sit tight and wait for the unaccounted members to arrive back.”

Johnny looks out to the street and then looks at the guard shack noticing all the weapons are gone except one, his. He walks to the shack to continue dressing and he can’t help but turn around to take another look out to the streets again and feels a sudden urge to see what’s all the commotion about. He can hear the sirens from the local police and ambulances, but it doesn’t sound out of the normal. Being located in the downtown area means you often hear police sirens going off. He enters the shack and grabs a vest, and a side arm as he checks it for ammo. Grabs a couple of clips for that as well as for his AR-15 assault rifle and places them on the clip holders of his vest. He puts on his throat mic and ear piece and walks out to join the Corporal.

“Damn I miss it.” He says as he looks up to the sky.

“What’s that sir?”

“Corporal!” Johnny barks ignoring the question, as he continues walking towards the gates.

“Yes Sir.” Olsen fires back as he joins in step, the rest of the guards don’t flinch from covering their positions.

He knows what he needs to do, and more importantly knows what he’s not supposed to do, but one thing he was never good at was drowning out the voices in his head, those voices that most times lead to making the wrong choices. He continues his pause as he looks out to the street. Nothing really to see there, and that is the problem, the street is dead with abandoned buildings. Some owned by the organization he’s apart of, but most that have long been abandoned by past companies who couldn’t turn a profit.

He sees Olsen staring back, waiting for word from his lieutenant and then the decision is made in his head and like that, he lets it slip out into the wind.

“Hold down the fort. I’m going to recon the area. Be back in fifteen.”

Without waiting for a reply he heads out to the street. He can hear what sounds like concern coming from Olsen as he thinks for a minute how funny it is to be able to drown out real voices but not his own. He heads left for the main street, and he moves with caution, the rifle pointing down but ready to be sprung up in case anything happens. The sirens coming from the main street can be heard and he figures he can at least help some people out before it gets out of control. Besides, what’s the worst that can happen?

He joined up for the same reasons as the rest. Because they all figured that something bad was coming down the pipeline and at least they would be apart of something that was prepared for it. Some thought it would be a major world war that would knock us into the stone age, others thought that it would be the magnetic poles switching causing all hell, and a small group, like Johnny, figured it would just be something simple like an attack that would cause mass rioting and spread to fires that would eventually knock out communication and power. But that would be about it as the states would clean up the streets and pick themselves up like they always seem to do. Sure the fear would quickly turn friends into enemies and neighbors into competitors. But after the smoke cleared all would be forgiven. And when you think about it, this would seem like the most likely event to take place, after all we are living above our means and rely too much on electricity, so when the power goes out, the food will spoil, the houses will go dark, and since we aren’t prepared madness will soon follow. I guess with the lights off we won’t have to see just how ugly we can get.

And the Atlanta base is prepared for anything, floods, outages, fires, epidemic, invasion and even a civil war if that was to happen. It even comes with its own power supply, water filtration system and has enough food to keep it going for months, if rationed correctly. And if it happens to be a major crisis, once the fires die down and the smoke clears, they’ll be able to head to the compound. Located in Nebraska and built to withstand all of the above fears, it comes with fields and fields of crops and farms of animals to keep the compound going for as long as there are people to run it.

Johnny reaches the corner and now can hear it, the commotion is louder than first thought, and as he looks back in the direction of the base he realizes that the alarm system must have been drowning out the streets. He tries to figure what could have the streets lit up with all the cops and ambulances lights, and thinks it could possibly be an attack. For a split second he decides to turn around, but doesn’t as he continues down the street, picking up the pace. Too bad he hears more than one voice in his head.

“Corporal, report!” He says as he holds down the mic on his throat, not taking his finger off the trigger.

“Sir, nothing further from command and still waiting members to come in.” Johnny continues down the street, heading for the next block to turn on. Being tucked away has its advantages except when you want a quick look at the main street. He stops a moment to get his bearings but all he hears is commotion surrounding him, the sirens are going off and he can smell smoke, brakes and rubber. As he nears the cross streets he sees a car fly across the intersection and slam into a corner store, erupting in flames. His instinct is to jump into action, but he knows the passengers are done for. He sees a parked car on his side of the street and heads for cover kneeling down behind it so he can figure out who the bad guys are. The street is a pile up, something out of a movie with cars turned over on their sides, wrecked and some on top of others. Bodies are crushed under some and stuck between others as he notices the stop lights are all flashing, probably due to another car possibly taking out the block.

“Son of a bitch.” He whispers to himself as he slides his goggles down from his forehead. His gun still drawn, he searches the streets looking for the cause but only sees more car wrecks and more people lying down. Some are stuck in shock as they attempt to make sense of it all as they continue walking in circles. He notices to his right, several car wrecks down, a crash victim on the ground while another sits over them. At first he figures the one hovering is assisting the victim but as he continues looking it reminds him more of a mugging, and as he’s about to head over he hears the screeches of another out of control car. He turns just in time to see it heading towards the parked car he’s behind and jumps out of the way before the impact can be felt.

He hits the ground and rolls, thanking God he protected his head enough to not be knocked out. He stares up, and through the dust he can make out the sun. His ears are ringing but it doesn’t matter since he can only feel the thumping of his heart through them. He looks to his right and can see a body, probably the driver from the car as she’s now lying several feet from him. Blood draining into a lake all around her limp body and he wonders, what that last thought was before the impact. Wondering if those eyes accepted death as they saw the parked car coming closer to impact or if they wanted to live no matter what? Acceptance is a bitch, but it’s a necessity as well. Animals have it most of all and it’s a great defense mechanism as you can only go so long before your body wants to give up. Sure, you want to live and your first thought might be that you’ll run and run until you make it, but when you start feeling that pain in your chest, like your lungs are being squeezed by the claws of death itself. That painful feeling when you start realizing that if you take one more step, let alone one more breath, that you are going to die. That’s when you come to the realization that maybe it’s not too bad of a thing after all if you just stop and let nature take its course. Luckily for Johnny he doesn’t have to run, he just has to get up and start walking back to the base. Why run when he has a gun?

He blinks, and although he doesn’t have to since he’s wearing goggles, he needs to get the picture of the dead person out of his eyes if only for a second. He blinks again and then he can hear more than just sirens, he can make out screams. He manages to get up on his right arm as he uses his left hand to hold out his rifle, making sure to keep it pointing straight ahead. Rising to his knees he looks around his area, making sure that whatever is making people scream and wreck isn’t anywhere close to him. He gets himself up and takes another look over to the body that looked like he was being mugged and doesn’t know what to think as the mugging looks more like lunch. The guy above the man is chomping on the arm and before it notices it has a peeping tom, Johnny is turned and heading down the street. If one thing about training taught him anything it’s to not look long. Just gather what you can and fit in the missing pieces later on.

He double times his steps, making sure to turn around every ten steps or so to see if he’s being followed. His brain continues to drift to questions and each time it does he bites his cheek to bring him back. He’s not trained to think, just report and he doesn’t care why things happen, just that they’re happing and he doesn’t want them to happen to him. He sees the corner where the first car wrecked into the store and hears more screams, but now they are followed by howls. He passes a homeless guy that he would see from time to time standing at the corner who is now laying there, dead. Still carrying his signs but now they are crushed by an impact. People used to laugh at him and it would drive Johnny crazy that they would laugh at somebody that didn’t bother anybody. Each day he would stand there at the corner, not asking for money, but just trying to give his message. The sign in the front said ‘the end was near’ and the sign on the back read ‘save yourself’. From what Johnny can make out, he was thrown a distance since the nearest car facing his direction is about twenty feet away.

He passes him, doesn’t even bother checking vitals, besides what can he do for the man anyway? After all, maybe he wanted this? Maybe he saw the commotion going on and figured he was right after all. Maybe he saw the car coming and instead of moving away he decided to inch closer. After all, anybody that thinks the end is coming wouldn’t be crazy enough to want to stay around and watch it go up in flames, especially if he saw what Johnny saw. All he can think about now is that the man got the last laugh as the car sent him flying to his final resting place.

Johnny clears the middle of the street and decides he should make a run for it, whatever is driving people insane has probably brought people to the doorsteps of the base and he doesn’t want to be caught on the wrong side. He clears the next street and can see the coast is clear, and he can make out his men on the other side of the gate. He smiles, he never thought he would smile seeing such a modern day prison, but he knows it’s for their benefit. From this side of the gate he knows nothing can break their way into it. He sees the Corporal and makes eye contact, turns around one more time just to make sure nothing’s creeping behind him and enters the gates to guns drawn.

“Hold your position!” He hears loud and clear, and he looks up to make eye contact with Captain Meadows standing near the guard shack.

“Drop your guns now Lieutenant!” The captain hollers at him through his hazmat mask. “Drop them now.”

Johnny does as he’s told, noticing his men are now in full hazmat gear and pointing their guns at him.

“Yes Sir.” Johnny says back, knowing this command cannot be taking lightly. The rifle is placed directly in front of him on the ground and he pulls out his side arm with his opposite arm and places it next to the rifle then bringing both hands behind his neck.

“Take him to the brig.” Meadows barks at Olsen as the corporal points at two men and like clockwork they move closer to Johnny, still with guns pointing. He can feel the heat rising in his cheeks and can feel his stomach knotting up, and for what? He thinks as he can’t find an answer, and then he realizes just how funny it is that the voices get quiet in situations like this.

“You fucked up Lieutenant.” Meadows yells as he follows the men escorting him. “Corporal!” Meadows shouts back. “Seal us up and await further orders. The whole base is under lockdown. We are in the middle of an outbreak so everybody’s at full alert.”

Johnny hears the Captain and almost comes to a complete stop – an outbreak? He begins to turn the corner of the building and as he looks over his shoulder he sees the gates closing behind him. He looks past the gates and can see the smoke rising from the streets and can still hear the sounds of the chaos. And as the road barriers rise from the ground, he knows the answer he’s waiting for won’t hide its ugly face for long.


Submitted: February 09, 2012

© Copyright 2020 Luis Torres. All rights reserved.

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