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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
A strange and deadly virus is sweeping the globe. Everyone is worried about it. Neil, like everyone, is terrified.

Submitted: March 06, 2020

A A A | A A A

Submitted: March 06, 2020



Neil Donovan sighed as he switched his morning alarm off. How could it be that he was more tired than when he’d gone to bed the night before? He shook his head and threw off the duvet. Still half-asleep he headed for the bathroom. Yawning and stretching in the harsh pale light, he reached and turned on the shower. Moments later the water temperature was luke-warm. That would have to do. Better than other mornings. He was half-way through showering when the temperature dropped to freezing. He gasped and hurriedly washed the soap from his body. As he knotted the towel around his waist, he wondered if everyone in his tower block was getting as annoyed as he was with things.

Ten minutes later he left the flat, grumpily slamming the door behind him. He pressed the button to call the lift. He waited for the lift to arrive. And waited. And waited. He was just wondering if the lifts were broken again when a voice called from the stairwell.

‘They’re not working, mate.’ called a man in dark blue overalls.

‘Brill.’ Neil replied.

The guy shrugged and continued down the stairs. Neil followed and started the trudge down seventeen flights of stairs.

By the time he arrived at the train station he was sweating and red faced. He dashed onto the busy platform. That the platform was still full of commuters, all as tired and miserable as him, meant that the 8:11 train had not yet arrived. He checked the time, just gone twenty past eight. If he got a move on he just might make it. He pushed his way through the waiting throng. He found a spot near the platform edge, and like everyone else, he took out his mobile phone and, killed the time until the train finally arrived.

Ten minutes later he bustled his way onto the carriage. He was carried along by the crowd. There was a beeping sound and the doors closed. As the train slid out of the station, he saw disgruntled would-be passengers still standing on the platform. They made phone calls to their bosses to explain that there hadn’t been room on the train and that they’d have to wait for the next departure.

The packed train rocked and swayed and clacked along towards the city centre. Hardly anyone spoke, all eyes glued to their mobile phones.

On his way out of the station a couple walked by in the opposite direction. They were deep in conversation, faces serious. He caught one word of their chatter as they past by. The word meant nothing to him. Konig.

He arrived at the office with minutes to spare. He rushed through the doors and across the starkly-lit open plan office. He passed the rows of desks, computer monitors glowing. He joined his department at the far end of the floor. The rest of his twenty-strong department were already at their desks, typing away on the computer keyboards.

Neil took his seat and logged onto the computer. He sighed as he saw the amount of unread messages in his inbox. He had hundreds of emails to get through.

He was deciding whether to get stuck into his mails or make a cup of tea first, when he heard his workmates talking. There was that word again. Koning.

‘Sorry,’ he interrupted, ‘what are you talking about?’

‘You mean  you haven’t heard?’ asked Anna, a woman in her thirties, concern on her face.

‘No, what’s up?’

‘There’s been an outbreak of a deadly virus in the Middle East.’


‘They’re calling it the Konig virus. It’s apparently killed hundreds so far.’

‘I just hope they manage to contain it.’ someone added.

Ignoring his increasing number of emails, he clicked onto the internet. At the typing of the first letter, the search engine suggested he was searching for the Konig virus. He clicked go. His screen was full of the latest reports about the virus. He scrolled down and read of how the deadly virus was rapidly spreading out across the United Arab Emirates. The world metical authorities and governments were all concerned that the virus would contaminate every country. Many of the reports compared this outbreak to other viruses in the past. This one, this Konig, they said, was going to be bad.

That evening as Neil and his colleagues got stuck into two hours overtime, all talk in the office was of the virus. One woman with dark hair and a thick Scottish accent, explained how she had been planning a trip to Dubai for her husband’s birthday. Everyone agreed that she should hold on before booking anything.


One night the following week on the train home from the office, he heard more news on the virus. As the busy, late train, rocked away from the city centre, people talked to complete strangers about the latest news. Apparently cases of the Konig virus had been reported in Spain and France. Mainland Europe was on high-alert.

As soon as he arrived home to his small flat, he flicked on the television and went straight to the news channel. In bold red letters the words Konig Virus Latest ran along the bottom of the screen. The reporters were live outside the hospitals in Spain and France. They spoke from outside the places where those affected were being treated. The British government had issued a statement saying all non-essential travel to Europe should be cancelled. As the days passed and gathered into weeks, more and more cases were reported all across Europe in almost all countries.

Neil kept up with what was happening on the news and social media. At work, also, news and gossip went round. It was all everyone was talking about.

The count of those infected and those who had died, increased at an apocalyptic rate. Neil tried not to panic and reminded himself that news reports tended to sensationalise things. Sure, the situation was bad, but was it quite as bad as they said? He tried to keep a level head and ignore those he knew who seemed to be revelling in the drama of the situation. It seemed to him that the talk and gossip was as infectious as the virus itself. It was all that people spoke of, posted about. Panic quickly gripped the entire nation. Neil was sure it would be the same across the world. The killer virus was being compared to the Spanish flu epidemic of a century ago.

With sickening inevitability, a month later, word went round of the first case of the virus in the UK. Panic and concern grew into terror and fear. The bulletins over-dramatized the news and the terrified public lapped it up.

Days later his entire office building was engulfed with the news that seventy-seven people in Yorkshire had tested positive for the virus. They were said to be very poorly. Experts predicted more cases on these shores, and many deaths would follow.

The Government assured the public that they were doing all they could to limit the spread of this terrible disease and had put the country on high alert. The sick were quarantined. They were being kept in a secure hospital wing.

The next few days went by and the number of cases increased. The news reporters gathered outside the compound in Yorkshire as the new cases were shepherded through the gates in minibuses. The drivers of the buses work white suits and face masks. The reporters used words like pandemic. Footage was also broadcast of people in white bio-hazard suits coming in and out of the compound. Neil felt sick. This whole thing suddenly seemed so very real. On screen right there was the frontline of the virus that was spreading across the globe and the UK.

Over the next few weeks reports came in that more and more people across the UK were confirmed to have the virus. The number of people infected was reported to be in the thousands and just over two hundred people were believed to have died. The reporters mentioned that compounds were popping up across the country to combat the virus. Each bulletin ended with the comment that the situation was only expected to get worse.

All music concerts and sports events were cancelled until after the emergency had past. There were calls of outrage on Merseyside as their football club had been riding high at the top of the league. They complained it was a conspiracy, to which everyone else pointed out that every day the numbers of the sick and dying was rising.

Neil struggled to recall a time before the Konig virus. It was part of the grim daily reality. Local news reported that there were infected people in the Manchester area. Manchester? He gasped. That was where he lived. It seemed like it was just a matter of time until Neil or somebody he knew was struck down by the virus. All over social media government warnings declared that if you suspected you had the virus, you were to self-quarantine to avoid infecting others.

As the days went by the number of infected, and those who had died increased so quickly. By the time the total was reported and word went round, it had already far exceeded the amount. The government confirmed that the number of people infected was in the tens of thousands and the number of deaths was about to hit one thousand.

Neil had to admit he, like everyone he knew, was scared. The general public were in utter terror. On the train to work these days everyone wore a mask. At the office conversations were hushed and groups kept small. It didn’t seem wise to start gathering in larger groups of people. That would have only increased the risk of catching the virus. He worked double overtime shifts at the office, mostly in silence. His mind like everyone else’s was on the virus. There was a compound in Warrington, seven miles from where he lived. He found that equally terrifying and reassuring.

One morning on the train to work the person next to him coughed. He turned and stared in horror. They were not wearing a mask. He was wearing a mask but still, he may have caught something. Panic gripped him. How could she be so irresponsible. Everyone wore masks these days. Not to wear a mask and to have a cough seemed like drinking a crate of beer and getting behind the wheel of a car. At the next stop Neil pushed his way off the train. It was two stops early but he had to get away from her. He swore over and over, heart pounding in his chest. Still in the grip of panic, he called a taxi to take him the rest of the way to work.

He tried to forget about the incident and concentrate on the work he had to get through. He didn’t mention what had happened to his colleagues. They would be as equally as terrified as he was. And it could all be for nothing. She may not have had the virus, and even if she did have, she may not have passed it onto him. He could be panicking over nothing.

When he woke the next morning he felt lousy. He was aching all over and felt so hot despite it being cold in the room. He knew the room would be cold, as the central heating in the apartment block never worked right. And yet his face and the back of his neck was lined with sweat. Should he call in sick? There was so much work to do, though. Then he remembered the incident on the train. The Konig virus. He felt sick.

He called the office and explained what happened and how he had woken up the next morning feeling ill.

‘Do not come to the office.’ said his manager. ‘Whatever you do, do not come in.’

Before Neil could respond, the line went dead.

Were they right? Had he contracted the deadly virus sweeping the UK? He then dialled his doctors surgery.

‘Welcome to Doctor Black and Partners. How can I help?’ the receptionist said in a disinterested voice.

‘Hello, yes, erm, I’m not feeling well. Someone coughed on the train next to me yesterday and I’m now feeling poorly.’

‘Oh my goodness.’ She said. ‘How exactly are you feeling?’

Neil reeled off his symptoms, hoping that she would respond saying he had a cold and nothing more.

‘You need to self-quarantine. Stay home until you feel better.’

‘But, what if I get really ill? What if it is the virus?’

‘Stay home.’

‘Should I go to A&E? To the hospital?’

‘And affect others? Absolutely not. Stay home.’

‘But, I need help.’ He pleaded.

‘They will not see you. It is for the best if you stay home.’

‘I could die!’

‘Stay home so nobody else catches the virus. Stay home!’

Again the line went dead. Neil was wracked by a coughing fit that hurt his chest. He tried to think straight. The health service had basically told him to stay at home until he either got better or he died. He couldn’t believe this was happening. Was he really supposed to stay indoors and perish? He was tempted to call his friends and family, but again, he didn’t really want to infect them. What about the compounds he’d heard off on the news? Would he end up there at some point? But how? There were no emergency services keeping an eye on him.

He had to do something. He couldn’t just lie in his bedroom and wait for the end. He wrapped himself in a dressing gown and grabbed his car keys. He knew exactly where the compound in Warrington was. He would go there and explain that he, too, was afflicted with the virus. They would treat him with the rest of the patients, and he hoped, would be one of the lucky few to survive. If not, then at least he would be looked after, and not be dying alone.

He drove quickly and carelessly. If he was dying what did it matter if he crashed his car. The streets were almost a blur as he sped along.

He turned off a roundabout and wound down an A road. There it was. The compound looked like a cross between an industrial estate and a prison. Wire fences ran around the perimeter with gated barriers at the front. He could see low square buildings inside. It reminded him a little of an army barracks. Neil pulled up beside the gate. He tugged his dressing gown up around his ears and got out of the car. By the gate there was an intercom. He pressed the buzzer and waited.

A second later a voice crackled across the small speaker.


‘Hello, I need your help. I have the virus. Please let me in. I want you to treat me.’

‘Go away. You are not authorised.’

‘Please. I am sick.’

‘Authorised entry only.’

‘I think I have the virus.’

‘Then consult your doctor.’ Snapped the voice.

‘They wont see me.’

Neil waited, shivering in the breeze. No reply.

He climbed back in his car. He started coughing, the action hurting his chest and his aching body. He caught his reflection in the rear-view mirror. He looked awful. He looked every inch the dying man. He should be in hospital being tended to. If only he could get them to see him, then they’d see how poorly he was. He drove away from the gate. Further down the road, along the compound fence. He came to a stop. He stared at the wire fencing. What option did he have?

He walked slowly upto the fence. He looked around. There was nobody there. The road stretched away in each direction. This place was far out in the middle of nowhere. Maybe that’s why they chose this location. Maybe they had to keep the really sick away from the cities and towns. He nodded to himself. And started to climb the fence.

Once on the other side he walked quickly to the nearest building. It was a low concrete building that was reminiscent of a holiday camp he’d visited as a child. The sign next to the double doors said Sick Bay. As he pushed through the doors he went over what he would say. He would tell them he was sick and demand that the health workers treat him. Surely, they wouldn’t send him away once they’d check him out. He charged along the hallway and into the main room.

He stopped and stared. This was the last thing he was expecting.

The sickbay was empty. It was a large rectangular room and it was empty. No beds, no medical equipment. No nurses. Nothing. An empty room. He scratched his head in confusion.

‘What’s going on?’ He called out, despite being alone.

He heard footsteps along the hallway. A man in a suit appeared in the doorway behind him. Without speaking he walked calmly, slowly up to Neil. He had the smug air of a politician. Maybe that’s what he was.

‘I’m sick. I need treatment.’ Neil said.

‘If you go home and self quarantine-‘

‘I can’t! I’ve got the virus. Take me to the working sick bay.’

‘I’m afraid that’s not possible.’

‘The sick bay!’ Neil yelled.

‘There is no sick bay.’ the man replied.

‘What about those with the virus? What have you done with the patients?’

‘There are no patients because there is no virus.’

‘Don’t lie to me! Don’t you watch the news? People are ill and dying.’

‘Do you know anyone who is ill? Can you name a single person?’


‘Anyone who has died? Name one.’

‘I can’t.’

The man smiled.

‘So it’s all a lie?’

He nodded.’

But I don’t understand. Why? Who is doing this?’

‘It is the governments. They are controlling the story. It is carefully unfolding daily like the plot of a television soap opera.’

‘But why?’

‘People were disgruntled with life in general. The poor healthcare, low wages, what we’re doing to the planet. Not to mention the animal rights lot. The public was getting more and more worked up. Do you remember the protests and marches every weekend?’

Neil nodded. It did seem that until recently everyone was protesting about something.

‘We tried sending the riot police in but that only caused even more outrage. What we needed was a reason for people to stay home, an excuse for gatherings to be banned. This bogus virus also served as a distraction from the issues that troubled people. Instead of complaining about the appalling rail network or the hours they worked for a pittance, they were more worried about the passengers on the train, and that their colleagues had the disease.’

‘What happens now? What are you going to do with me?’

‘We can’t let you leave. You know too much. This is the end of the line for you, I’m afraid.’

‘You can’t do that.’ Neil backed away, hands raised.

‘I am merely jesting. You are, of course, free to go.’ The man smiled.

‘I’ll tell people. I will go to the press.’

‘Feel free. Nobody will believe you. You will be labelled as one of the many conspiracy theory nuts that people poke fun at. Nobody actually believes them. Why not take to social media too?’

Neil turned and walked away. He got back in his car and drove away, his head spinning with it all. There was no virus. It had all been an elaborate hoax by the government to stop people focusing on how much the powers that be were letting them down. It did make sense.

He headed through town. The streets were so quiet. People were staying indoors because of the outbreak. One woman walked along, dragging a shopping trolley. If he could get somebody to listen to him, maybe he could do something about it.

He wound his window down and called out to the woman.

‘Excuse me?’ he called out.

The woman screamed that he was infected and rushed away down the street, pulling the trolley behind her. He swore, and drove on. He turned on the radio. The broadcast was an important announcement. The UK would be on high alert for the foreseeable future. Stay safe.


© Copyright 2020 CTPlatt. All rights reserved.

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