Beyond Death: Origins, Book 1

BOOK: Beyond Death: Origins, Book 1
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Beyond Death
Origins

Silas Cooper

 

 

 

www.silascooper.com

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission from the author/publisher.

 

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Copyright © 2014 Silas Cooper

 

Chapter One

The sun had warmed his shoulders, but still a chill snaked down Chase’s back. He crouched behind a parked car. His back rested on the dusty metal as he stopped to take a breath. A second later, he rolled to the taillight and looked to his right. No sign of life or them. He shook his head. The cookie-cutter houses in shades of grey or beige appeared to be a ghost town. He’d learned that they could appear and attack fast. The young ones moved like athletes. A tad wobbly at first, but as fast and as strong as his forty-year-old body.

He ignored the sense of loss weighing him down. He missed his old life. But there was no time for that when just the wind could make a guy jump. Even the eerie silence made his breathing heavy. The quiet set him on edge. A stray piece of paper, a damned receipt, hit his foot. He practically jump out of his skin.

“You can do this,” he grumbled.

With that pep talk, he rounded the trunk. His hand gripped the fender for support. He looked to his left. More middle-class houses and cars. He couldn’t see anything that could hurt him. Not yet at least.

“Nothing! Now, get the job down,” he reprimanded his trembling hand.

Standing, he did a fast sweep of his surroundings again before he left the protection of the Hyundai.  He ran across the well-manicured lawn of the house behind him. Up on the porch, he scanned again then tried the door.

“Of course they would lock the blessed place up before they were forced to evacuate,” he yelled to no one. “Just let there be medical supplies inside.”

Not a praying man, he wondered who he’d spoken too. Lord forbid one of them heard him. His already tight fists clenched harder. He lifted his foot and slammed it into the door.

“Well, that was quiet,” he mumbled under his breath.

The door hadn’t moved an inch. He turned back to the road and took a defensive pose. A quick but thorough scan showed no movement. Turning back, he put another ninja move on the door. His boot hit closer to the knob this time. He got nothing for his efforts but the sting in his foot. After taking in his surroundings, he went back to the yard and crept around the house. With his back sliding along the siding, he flashed to the past. He’d moved the same along many a mortar-damaged wall with sand stinging his eyes. A few blinks remedied those crappy memories. As he crouched again, he scanned the backyard through the slats in the picket fence.

If even one human had been present, the neighborhood wouldn’t have been so scary. Today, however, it held the potential to become a nightmare. It was the unhuman he feared.  Inching the latch, he continued his assessment. He walked into the unlocked yard in a matter of minutes rather than seconds. The latch back into place, he sighed but kept moving. His instinct now to walk and scan, he made his way to the deck at the back of the house. He glared at the composite decking. It stood the test of time, but who cared. Time wasn’t a friend anymore. Moving cautiously through this new world pissed him off. He needed to forage for medical supplies that they’d needed yesterday.

Breaking into a run up the steps, he used the anger in him. Old military tactics now served him well.  Not slowing down, he jump-kicked the backdoor. A slice of pain shot through his hip. The door didn’t even dent. Multi-tasking as urgency increased, he whipped off his shirt. He did another scan of the yard. With the material of his t-shirt wrapped around his hand, he punched through glass. Then, he clearing an area big enough to stick his arm through.

That accomplished, he strained to unlock the door and let himself in. He shut the door with as much gentleness as he could muster in his rush. A changing light on an alarm panel caught his eye. He let a string of expletives fly. With thirty seconds before the alarm went off and altered them to his presence, he flew to the hall closet. The door hinges protested the violence with which he opened the door. Shirt still on his hand, he ripped the wires from the battery backup. On a mission, he ticked the seconds off in his mind as he ran to the kitchen.

Chair and small metal saucepan in hand, he raced back to the door.

“Eleven. Ten. Nine. Eight.” he counted.

The sound of his own voice didn’t calm him. Rather, it did the opposite. He climbed onto the chair to the count of seven and swung the pan on the count of six.

“Five. Four. Three. Two,” he spat as he hit the box.

Thing seemed to be made of indestructible steel rather than some sort of plastic. The alarm rang out. The ache in his head began to pound. He swung the saucepan at the blinking box two more times before he silenced it.

“Shit,” he yelled as he jumped from the chair.

He threw the pan. Luckily, it hit the carpet with a thud. Chase took off. He made tiny sprints through the house. Going from window to window in each room, he looked for movement outside. After fighting with the heavy drape in the living room, he saw nothing. He sighed. His heart beat painfully in his chest. His breath burned his lungs. He bent at the waist. Hands on his thighs, he tried to catch his breath. He remembered the days when he could work through military training courses with ease. He hadn’t let himself go, but that was over twenty years ago. As the adrenaline started to decline in his body, he took a minute to compose himself.

When his vision started to blur, he righted himself and slid down the wall. The curtain swaying stuck to the sheen of sweat on his skin. His unfamiliar surrounding weren’t homey or inviting but rather a set for a how to decorate your house type show. He rolled his eyes as his mind flashed between the many places he’d lived. None had ever looked like this he thought with gratitude, a rare occurrence these days.

Shaking his head, he remembered his mission. Wanting one more minute until his breakfast stopped threatening to show again, he frowned. He pushed the curtain to the side. When his head hit the window, movement caught his eye. He sprung to his feet and grappled with the stupid drape again. In between two houses across the street, a swarm of decaying flesh appeared. Still the newly dead, they moved fast. At least he knew the front of the house was closed up.

Moving out of the window, he leaned against the wall. His eyes shut tightly for a moment. Yet, as the now familiar sounds of their fast but barely-balanced footsteps spurred him on, he grabbed for the air to begin his frantic search for medical supplies. However, the wretched, guttural groans brought him back to when this all started.

Chapter Two

Dr. Ken Benton looked through the glass window of his office. He could see the rush of activity at the nurse’s station. This day was like no other on an isolation ward. A nurse hung up a phone and made a beeline for him. He swallowed down a sigh. He couldn’t take another shred of bad news. Bad news always followed a nurse slamming down a phone in a rush to get to his offices. He circled his head to loosen the stiff muscles in his neck. Doing so made him more aware of his sweaty ear against the receiver. The nature of the call had been too sensitive for the intercom.

“Sorry to interrupt, Dr. Benton,” the nurse whispered as her rounded body filled the doorway.  “But, it’s rather urgent.”

“Give me a minute,” he said to the nurse with his hand over the mouthpiece.

He looked down to hide his eye-roll. Everything in this understaffed hospital was urgent. People were dying from highly contagious diseases. Right now, five college students barely clung to life.

He apologized to his caller. “Can I interrupt you a moment? I have a pressing matter at my door.”

He didn’t wait for her reply before he pressed the phone against his chest.

“What is it?” he snapped then sighed. He’d honestly attempted not to.

“We have another student from Boston University with full-blown meningitis symptoms. Again, brought on fast and strong. One day.”

“Thank you. You did the right thing bringing it to my attention, but I’m already talking to the Physician’s Assistant at the university now.”

With a nod, the nurse moved on.

After a quick swipe of his ear on his shoulder, he got back to the endless phone call.

“Are you still there,” he asked.

He faked politeness as he cradled the receiver between his ear and shoulder. Taking a second, he cracked his knuckles. He wiggled his fingers after, then shook them out. The PA on the line had grown rather testy.

“Do I have to state again, for a doctor no less, that meningitis has a one in five chance in those who survive it of causing brain damage and neurological disorders even with prompt treatment?” the woman snapped.

He imagined her face was red by this time. He’d never know this calm, down-to-earth PA from the university health center to act like this. Her bedside manner, usually imperturbable, had left the building today. He’d never know her to be condescending or so much as sarcastic.

“Obviously you don’t, and I’m a bit tired of your tone. What’s gotten into you?”

“The fact that this isn’t alarming you. These cases here have all had full-blown symptoms from sudden high fever, persistent headache with sensitivity to lights, vomiting, stiff neck, and joint pain. With extreme lethargy, when we can get them to wake up, they seem confused and disoriented,” she countered.

“Thank you for the recap of medical school,” he spat.

As she rattled on, repeated herself, he watched the frantic movements of this sealed ward.  As call buttons rang out in a continuous rhythm, nurses flew in and out of rooms. Doctors looked at charts. Even with only five patients so far, all Boston University students, he’d called in doctors for second and third opinions. He knew his limitations. He couldn’t figure this one all out.

It happened.

Outside the locked double door of the ward, family and friends gathered. All visitation had been suspended. When he’d gone through earlier to consult with another doctor on another floor, they’d charged him. Their swollen, red eyes starred him down. Their shaky voices pleaded with him. One could’ve thought them sick too. Concern and worry were a hell of a thing. He wanted to put his own daughter in a bubble until this outbreak could be contained, but since she was ten years away from attending college, his wife would think him a tad overprotective.

“My concern is about the onset of symptoms in all of them. Roommates and friends aren’t talking about feeling poorly for days and thinking their friends had the flu. Instead, they’re saying they woke up with a headache and by nightfall had full-blown symptoms.”

“Yes, full-blown. So you’ve said. I am taking this seriously. Send over the student so we can admit him to a private room. I’ll alert the CDC since this is six patients.” He’d spoken firmly, holding back his rising anger.

“That’s all I wanted you to say,” she said.

“Then you should have said that in the first place. I thought it a given,” he sighed.

“My apologies Dr. Benton. It’s been a long week.”

“Accepted.”

The PA paused. Perfect timing for him to witness a nurse and a doctor crash into each other. The full tray the nurse held flew into the air and then hit the ground. The clanging rang through the sterile environment. Thankfully, the doctor caught the nurse. Not to be rude, but he’d gotten lucky. That one took care of herself, so she didn’t outweigh him. The bad news was that the multiple files he’d held had gone flying. His laptop crashed to the floor. He swore he heard the screen shatter.

“But I wanted you to say it before I told you that I already called them. The CDC,” she murmured. In a more normal tone, except for a high pitch of anxiety, she confessed, “They should be there any minute now.”

“Okay,” he stuttered the word.

Chaos grew outside his window.  The impact of her confession only added to her confession.

“Well then, I better go. Try to get some rest if possible, Susan.”

“Thanks for the sentiment, Ken, but I don’t see it happening anytime soon.”

After hanging up the phone, he made his way around the mess. As he gave a brief apology for not helping, a man from the Centers for Disease Control, Massachusetts Branch, burst through the door. Two men in military uniforms followed. The Chief Operating Officer of the hospital had walked in last.

The military presence set off warning signals. The CDC obviously knew more about this outbreak than he did. He guessed there were more cases widespread, but still, why military? These students appeared to be close to death. No one would be fighting back. He really needed to find more time to be able to watch the news.

“Hi, I’m Dr. Benton,” he said as he met the entourage at the door.

With a shake of his hand, the CDC guy offered, “Hi. Call me David.”

“Nice to meet you. Would you like to come into my office?  I’ll get you up to speed,” Ken offered.

“Not necessary. It’s you who needs to be brought up to speed. Which is your worst patient? I’m assuming it’s the one who was brought in first.”

David had spoken loudly. With his chin held high, he looked down his nose at Dr. Benton.

Squaring his shoulders, the doctor simply stated in a flat tone, “Room 504.”

“Just you follow,” David barked out his order as he pointed at Dr. Benton. “Men, guard the doors. Let no one in. Understand?”

Benton shot a look of what-the-hell to the Chief Officer of the hospital. They’d left him in the hall. He got nothing but a shrug back from the man before the door closed. David hadn’t even had the compassion to shut the door quietly. Glancing at the patient, it hadn’t made a bit of difference. The student slept. Her vitals remained weak.

“You need to know that we are not dealing with any normal strain of meningitis. Yours are not the only cases. We’ve been able to keep the worst of it out of the news as to not incite a panic. So just listen to my instructions.”

Before David could mouth his next word, the monitors beeped. The student in the bed started to convulse. Benton moved to hold the patient down. Mr. Big and Mighty CDC guy stopped him.

“What the hell?” Ken exclaimed.

The hairs on his neck prickled. His body moved into position to fight.

“Move!”

Behind him he heard nurses yelling. The military men blocked their way in. A few barked orders later; it fell silent. Turning back to his patient, he saw David pull a small knife from a holster on his leg.

“Kill her,” he demanded.

“What? No! Are you insane? Move! She’s going to fall off the bed. She needs medical attention. My attention,” Dr. Benton yelled with his fists up in front of him.

“She needs to die,” David commanded.

Benton wondered if this guy had been military prior to being in the CDC. David grabbed an examination glove from a box on the counter by the sink.

“You have on scrubs that can be thrown away. Put on this glove and kill her,” David instructed.

David had raised his voice, so the military guys came in the door. One took the glove, slipped it on, and then accepted the knife. The other grabbed Dr. Benton. He tried to lunge toward his patient anyway. Struggling, he moved from side to side as much as he could. The guy had an unyielding grasp on him. The veins in his head felt ready to explode. His stomach heaved. The one with the knife pushed the seizing patient’s head to the side. Dr. Benton screamed as the blade slammed into the base of the young girl’s skull.

She flat lined. David moved to the machine. He pressed the button to silence it. The military man with blood on his gloved hand stepped to the door. He braced his body against it. Dr. Benton fell limp in the other guy’s grasp.

“That was someone’s daughter! You want to explain to the parents how she died? Murdered by her own government!”

The doctor found himself moved to a chair on the wall opposite the bed. He managed to throw the man’s hands off him as his body plopped down. The chair’s metal feet broke the silence with a shrill chirp.

“You need to do this for each of the patients here along with any others who come in with symptoms of meningitis. This isn’t a normal strain. It’s mutated somehow. We don’t have much research on it yet, but they don’t recover. There’s a one hundred percent death rate. Only, they don’t stay dead. You have to sever the spinal cord at the base of the skull. This way they just die. They don’t suffer, and they don’t awake again only to have to be killed again. Do you understand what I’m instructing you to do?” David drawled.

The guy sauntered over to where Benton sat. They stared each other down. Benton’s fists clenched to the point of pain. His eyes misted despite the heat of his anger. Punching the CDC would land him in jail or worse. Then he’d be no good to anyone.

“I do understand, you ass. But, I won’t do it. I will not kill any patient. I took an oath. You should be familiar. If they awake again, I don’t see a downside,” Benton argued.

“Listen, Doctor!” David raised his voice. “You will do as I say. I outrank you here. I’m the government.”

Dr. Benton stood up. He brought himself face to face with this arrogant bastard.

“No, you listen. You can’t outrank someone when you’re asking them to break the law. I’ll have your job. I’ll have you in jail. I’ll have him in jail too,” he threatened, pointing to the guy at the door. “We don’t KILL!”

A shuffling of feet could be heard in the hall. The military guy had removed his bloody glove and deposited the murder weapon into the waste can. Then, he opened the door and squeezed out. Benton heard his commands to his staff.

“We do this to save other lives. This must be wiped out completely. These people suffer more once they wake back up, as you call it. They turn violent, you righteous dick. There’s more here at stake than your Hippocratic oath,” David challenged.

In each other’s faces now, the military guy left in the room stood inches from their standoff. Each man turned though at a sound on the bed. Past the two bodies blocking him, Benton watched as the student’s arm twitched. It then went into a mini-seizure of its own.

“Shit, you missed,” David growled.

The military man left grabbed for another rubber glove and then pulled another covered knife from a pocket on his uniform. Before he could get his glove all the way on, the student sat straight up. Benton’s mouth fell open. His brain scrambled for a possible explanation. The student raised her arm. Her contorted fingers, still shaking, she took a swipe at the guy. Lucky for the military man, he had good instincts. He avoided the hand completely.

Dr. Benton stepped around David. To his experienced eye, too much blood had soaked into the sheets for this girl to ever move again. He swallowed down bile, a reaction he hadn’t had to blood since his days at medical school. Although the blood wasn’t the true issue. The true issue hung out there in the suspension of disbelief.

The military guy, now gloved, slammed the small girl back down onto the bed. A horrid moan came from somewhere deep inside her. He swallowed an errant sob. The military man forced her head to the side again. This time he stabbed relentlessly. Each time the blade entered flesh, he turned it slightly. He’d almost severed the head by the time he finished. The cries of the dead girl had died away. The sound of metal on bone replaced them. His teeth hurt as if someone had raked their nails down a chalkboard.

“Enough,” commanded David.

The sound of his voice made Benton jump. He grappled for the wall. His own breaths sounded odd. The air kicked on, chilling the cold sweat that covered his skin.

“We will leave the necessary knives as well as instructions for the next doctor in charge.”

“I’m the head doctor on this floor.”

“Not anymore.”

“What?”

“Cuff him,” he said to the military man, “he’s coming with us.”

BOOK: Beyond Death: Origins, Book 1
13.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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