Authors: Michael McCarthy
Tags: #Dystopian | Infected
Michael Francis McCarthy
Adapted from the Motion
Michael Francis McCarthy
Writers Guild of America, West
Copyright © 2016 -
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted
in any form or by any other means, electronic or mechanical, including
photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system,
without prior written permission from the author.
NOTE: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are
used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead,
businesses, events, or locales, without satirical intent, is entirely
coincidental, except in cases where it is not.
Humans have much
now than we did five hundred years ago. Which is
probably a good thing, as our species history has proven time and time again
that a larger brain does not make one smarter; it simply makes one more capable
of denying certain inevitable facts.
Some say it was our ancestors’ big brains
with their unique ability to deny even the most obvious of truths that got us
where we are today.
The New Dark Age.
It has been a little over five hundred
years since the collapse of industrialized society, and while many things have
changed, most things have stayed the same. The strong still prey upon the weak.
The wicked still outnumber the righteous.
We live today like our forefathers did
after the light of Rome had been extinguished. This new Dark Age, like the
last, finds mankind once again battling a plague.
It may be hard today to imagine a device
once existed capable of accessing all of the world’s libraries and knowledge at
the push of the button, but a mere five hundred years ago, that world did
At the dawn of the twenty-first century,
the average fifteen-year-old carried with them in their pocket a phone with more
computing capability than was on board the spacecraft that carried man on the
first voyage to the moon.
But like most things of that bygone era,
the ability to access the wealth of the world’s knowledge was simply wasted. Wasted
on a generation that would bury their heads into their devices not to learn or
share knowledge, but rather to share photos of their lunch.
Wasted on a generation that was taught to
consume rather than create.
Wasted on a species whose own arrogance and
vanity prevented them from seeing their true place in the world…
as a part of
life on the planet
, not the pinnacle of it.
Hindsight is always twenty-twenty, but it’s
not like we didn’t have plenty of warnings along the way.
Even from the very start, mankind was
unable to follow even the simplest of instructions;
‘Then the LORD God placed the man in the
Garden of Eden to cultivate it and guard it.’ – Genesis 2:8
‘…to cultivate it and guard it. ‘
The only plausible defense we might have as
a species is that there may have been some sort of misunderstanding in translation.
At the dawn of the twenty-first century,
the world was engaged in such self-absorbed behavior that the natural planet
was suddenly seeing extinction rates between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than
the natural extinction rate…and hardly a single person noticed.
The Garden was dying.
If the low estimate of the number of
species alive on the planet was true, that there were at one point maybe 100
million different species all co-existing with us on our planet - then this
means that somewhere around the year 2012, humans were responsible for anywhere
from 27 to 273 different species becoming EXTINCT on our planet EACH DAY.
And unlike the mass extinction events of
geological history, the current extinction event is one for which a single
species – ours – was mostly, if not wholly responsible.
By the year 2012, the food chain was collapsing
and yet no one seemed to care. The two major debates of the era were if life
started before or after birth and if two people who loved each other could get
married - not what was going on with the health of the rivers or the oceans
they flowed into.
In what they ironically called their
developed world - they actually made it a point to shit into their own water
supply. Clearly that was not using their bigger brains to full capacity.
In fairness, the few who were aware of the
crisis the planet was in were powerless to do anything about it anyway. The
planet had already had enough.
We know that in the end mankind pumped
pharmaceuticals into their bodies and sprayed vast amounts of petrochemicals on
their food at astonishing rates. They allowed, even encouraged, biotechnology
companies to create terminal seeds that were genetically engineered so that
crops grown from them would produce sterile or no seeds at all. No more
collecting and storing seeds. No more replanting without additional purchase.
It might have made sense from a
capitalistic point of view, but not a natural one. Companies created and sold genetically
modified seeds whose natural ability to pass life ended with the season.
It was a world in which seedless watermelon
was all the fashion. (Like that one didn’t come back to bite humanity on the
So it should be no great surprise then that
in a geological blink of an eye, our big-brained ancestors poisoned the planet
not only for themselves, but also for every living thing that was to come
Every living thing, except one.
One thing seems to do quite well in this
new world. But then again, that one thing isn’t technically alive.
They used to say God created man in his image.
They don’t say that as much anymore…
The interval between the decay of the old and
the formation and establishment of the new constitutes a period of transition,
which must always necessarily be one of uncertainty, confusion, error, and wild
and fierce fanaticism.
John C. Calhoun
In spite of everything, I still believe that
people are really good at heart.
In spite of everything, I still believe…
throughout the story have been given a *star before their names, alerting you
to the fact that these people will soon be facing the ultimate Darwinian test
of strength and wiliness. Those with stars before their names fail their particular
test, and the reader should not become too attached to them.
All this happened, more or less…
A little over five hundred years ago…
on a Tuesday.
When it first opened, the graveyard’s
secluded location on the banks of the South Platte River made it a popular
choice for the city’s wealthiest families. The surrounding lush greenery made
for a mini oasis where they could visit their loved ones’ final resting place
in peace, blocking out some of the noise of the growing city of Denver just upstream.
The railroad changed all that, like it
changed so many things in the West. The opening of the Burlington Northern
Railroad in the 1890s spurred heavy industrial growth in the neighborhood, and
many of the wealthiest families chose to have their loved ones exhumed and
Still, some prominent families continued to
be interred there, and the graveyard serves as the final resting place for
hundreds of local historical figures.
But long gone are the lush green trees and
Long gone was any semblance of seclusion.
Trees and pastures were gradually replaced
by train tracks, industrial smokestacks, warehouses, gas stations, and the
various petro-chemical industrial complexes set up along the river to support
the oil refinery that had been built there. The only things green dotting the
landscape now were the several large industrial marijuana grow operations that
were guarded by high chain-link fences topped with razor wire to supply
Denver’s booming legalized marijuana industry.
*Cooper drove with purpose.
It was hot inside his chemical suit, but
that was needed for protection. He had some very deadly cargo in the back of
his bright red VW van and something even more dangerous to pick up. Quite
frankly, Cooper was a little surprised that he had not been pulled over yet. He
was driving a candy apple red 1971 VW Bus while wearing a bright yellow
chemical exposure suit with full head hood.
Even though he knew the police tended to
mind their own business in this neighborhood, Cooper was prepared if for some
reason they decided today would be any different. But he didn’t want it to come
to that. Not today.
The bus puttered along, not exactly fast,
but not exactly slow. It was hot for an early spring day, and the chemsuit was
fogging up so bad that it was a good thing Cooper knew exactly where he was
going. This was his last trip, and he was going to end all of this. Hopefully
it would be the last time.
Cooper was tired.
Tired of it all.
It was time for the nuclear option.
It was time to end it all.
The mausoleum was closest to the river, and
no doubt a prime location back in 1867. But, when the railroad came, it was
also closest to the new tracks, and was one of the first to be abandoned when the
high and mighty made their exodus from Riverside. An empty mausoleum in a dying
and decrepit cemetery, the perfect base camp if he was the villain in a movie.
Cooper chuckled to himself.
No chance of them ever making a movie about
Still, he let his mind drift as he wondered
who they might cast to play him. It would need to be someone with range of
No, too suave.
Perhaps Harrison Ford.
No, too obvious.
Cooper dismissed those thoughts as he
parked his bus close the entrance and made his way to the mausoleum door. It
was secured with a custom lock, almost space age in appearance. If someone
bothered to look, it would be very out of place in the cemetery… if someone
bothered to look.
The gate down into the crypt was still
secure. Cooper expected no less, but was relieved none the same. Grave robbers
were not his concern, but rather any local juvenile delinquent who might
stumble upon his stash and cause problems. It had happened before, and was the
reason behind the space age lock.
A few years back Cooper had come to
re-supply and instead had to deal with the bodies of two ‘urban explorers.’ He
remembered seeing a story about the pair going missing sometime back on the
local news. None of their friends knew exactly where they were exploring, and
the city was making a big deal of searching the sewers. Good thing they didn’t
start their search in the cemetery. The kids had busted the old lock on the
crypt door, gone inside to explore, and of course opened the lid on one of his
drums. One of them even stuck his head down inside the barrel.
It wasn’t his fault, and he had to bear
none of the guilt.
What kind of person sticks their head into
a half-full fifty-five gallon steel chemical drum labeled “U.S. AIR FORCE” and
takes a deep breath anyway? Especially one that is well hidden and locked deep
inside of a 150 year old crypt?
Those stupid kids got exactly what they
It was a landmark day because that was the
day Cooper realized he was getting old. It was a lot harder dragging their
bodies down to the river for dismemberment than he remembered dragging bodies
to be. And these kids weren’t even fat. What if one of those fat teenagers
found his way inside the crypt? What would he do then?
But more importantly, that was the day when
Cooper understood the problem.
Up until then, he had been attacking it all
This was a cancer.
It wasn’t going to go away without drastic
The gene pool needed some chlorine.
Cooper had actually reached that conclusion
once before, many years earlier while in this very same cemetery, but he lacked
the ability at the time to do anything about it.
Now he had the ability and the time, all
the time in the world, and Cooper knew what he had to do.
And he didn’t have any other choice really.
How could he let that innocent child grow up in a world like this? How could he
let any child grow up in a world like this? No, it simple had to be done.
Cooper was in the middle of loading the
last barrel of the chemical weapon into the back of his van when it occurred to
him that he should say goodbye. This would be his last trip to the cemetery
ever. He has to say goodbye.
Cooper looked around and saw what he needed
by the river. As he walked down to the water, his mind drifted back to what it
must have been like long time ago. Even before the cemetery. Cooper smiled as
he imagined some children from some long forgotten tribe playing in the water,
racing their little reed boats down the river. Over there, by the reed boat,
what was that?
Cooper strained to see what it was.
Was it some sort of tadpole?
It was a used condom.
Back to reality.
Then the condom turned into a tadpole and
Cooper hoped that his age was not causing
his mind to slip, then he smiled. It was probably just the weed. He had smoked
some particularly good herb that morning in anticipation of coming to the
cemetery to help with his anxiety. The mausoleum was a great storage spot for
his more particularly nasty concoctions, but he dreaded coming here. It wasn’t
because death bothered him either. Death was part of life. Death was simply
part of the natural cycle of things. One must die so that others may live.
Coming here made him feel guilty.
When he was here, all he could think about
were his friends back in Vietnam. It was like they spoke to him inside his
head, and not whispers, but more like hundreds of friends all shouting out for
his attention all at once.
People often speak of the courage by which
men die, but more rarely do they ever speak of the courage by which men live. Cooper
was one such man. A man who had seen so much in his life so far that it almost
But life is unfair.
And Cooper knew that more than most.
Cooper closed and locked the mausoleum back
up, then got into his bus and drove to another part of the cemetery, a more
rundown and dilapidated part. The low rent district where the State dumps the
remains of the unwanted dead. Potter’s field.
It was also the part of the cemetery where
his friends were buried.
As Cooper walked, he recognized many names.
This one small area of the graveyard boasted the highest concentration of Medal
of Honor recipients of any cemetery in the state. At least they had stones, he
thought to himself, which was more than most of the people buried in this
section had. The plots also had a very nice view of the railroad tracks, and a
few lucky ones even got to overlook the petro-chemical refinery across the
Cooper carried the sunflowers he had just
picked down by the river with him into the field of uniform white stones. There
were hundreds of them, all identical, all standing at full attention. It used
to be an impressive sight, but now, with nothing but dirt and dead grass, it
was even sadder than normal.
The cemetery had millions of dollars in a
trust fund set up to water and maintain the grounds; however, they claimed that
recent economic events made it such that the interest earned that year on the
trust had been less than half of the cemetery’s annual water bill.
Cooper wasn’t sure if it was financial
mismanagement, general incompetence, or worse, and a large part of him didn’t
want to know.
Cooper walked directly to the grave.
He had been here many times, and recently
so had many others, ever since the tombstone, and the story of the man buried
under it, had been featured in the story line of a local indie zombie movie of
some notoriety a few years back. Ever since the film’s release, the grave had
become a mini-tourist attraction of sorts. Cooper had never actually seen
anyone there, but they left evidence of their presence from time to time, such
as stuffed animals, flowers, rocks, and one time, a large bottle of Jack
At first it bothered Cooper. The grave was
a place that he had learned to come to reflect upon all of life’s atrocities. It
was a place of solitude, not a place to litter with stuffed animals, balloons
and other crap made in China. With time, however, Cooper began to realize that
the more people knew about Silas Soule, then maybe, just maybe, there was hope
for this new generation after all.
Maybe this generation could learn a lesson
from Silas even if the previous generation could not.
Maybe hope wasn’t lost after all…maybe
there was a way out of this mess altogether that didn’t have to mean the end of
That was before Cooper found the kid with
his head stuck in his chemical barrel.