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Authors: Rich Goldhaber

Survivors

BOOK: Survivors
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Survivors
Rich Goldhaber

This is a work of fiction by the author. All of
the names, places, characters, and other elements
of this written material are the products of the author’s imagination, are fictitious, and should not be
considered as real or true. Any similarity to actual
events, locations, organizations, or persons, living
or dead, is entirely coincidental.

All rights to this work are reserved. No part
of this book may be used or reproduced in any
manner whatsoever without the written permission
of the author, except in the case of brief quotations
as part of critical articles and reviews.

Copyright © 2015 Rich Goldhaber
ISBN- 13: 978-15116918669
ISBN- 10: 1516918665
Acknowledgements

Once again the usual suspects have helped to improve the quality of this literary work in many
ways. They deserve special recognition.

Kathleen and Lu Wolf have made a number of
helpful suggestions. Their feedback is always on
point and greatly appreciated.

Miriam and Luis Blanco’s insightful comments
have added to the accuracy of this novel.
Don Tendick, as always, gives great feedback.

Jeanne Goldhaber, my chief editor and constant
companion, has continued to live up to her reputation.

Also by Rich Goldhaber
The Lawson Series
The 26
th
of June
Succession Plan
Vector
Stolen Treasure
Risky Behavior
The Four Roses
Other novels
The Cure
The Proof
These novels can be purchased at
Amazon.com
or
Barnesandnoble.com
Visit Rich Goldhaber’s website at
richgoldhaber.com
Part One
Chapter 1
Naples, Florida

I sat on the bench overlooking the small
lake in the back of our home just staring down at
the fresh graves of the two people in the world that
I loved the most. I had buried Gloria, my wife of
fourteen years, in the dress I had given her for a
recent birthday. She had said the bright colors reminded her of the flowers in the garden she loved
to tend.

When Sarah had died two days after Gloria,
I had carried her frail body outside and dug a grave
next to her mother. At eleven years old, she had
outgrown the need for dolls, but before covering
her with dirt, I had placed a beloved teddy bear
into her beautiful little hands and kissed her forehead.

I had buried my daughter with no help from
my neighbors. Everyone else had already died. My
body shook with grief with every shovelful of earth
I had placed reverently in her shallow grave, and
when it was over, I had collapsed onto the ground
and prayed for my own death.

That was two weeks ago, and I was still
grieving. I had witnessed so much horror in the
last two months. It was hard to imagine I could
shed any more tears, but I did. I cried in solitude
as I looked down at their buried remains and
mourned their loss. I cried for their lost souls; I
cried for their lives cut so short; I cried for the loss
of all my friends; I cried for their unfulfilled hopes;
and most of all, I cried for the unknown fate awaiting me.

I took a long drink from a half-full bottle of
bourbon and drew comfort from the alcohol as it
burned my lungs. How long before I would die?
Who was left to bury me? Was I one of those lucky
ones the CDC said were somehow immune to the
ravages of the pandemic? Lucky ones! Gloria and
Sarah were the lucky ones. They no longer had a
care in the world.

I looked out at the small lake and the road
behind it winding through our upscale gated community. Sitting on this bench for the last two
weeks, I had not seen a single car drive by or any
other sign of human life. Mother Nature, however,
was ignoring the catastrophe enveloping the planet. The birds still soared in the air, and the fish
still jumped in the water. I had even seen a deer
drinking from the far end of the lake the day before; lots of life, but not a single living person to be
seen. The airlines had long since stopped flying,
and in fact I hadn’t seen a plane in the sky in almost three weeks. Was I the last living person on
earth, and if I was, why would I want to live?

I looked down at my family’s graves and focused on the fresh dirt covering their bodies. Gloria
wouldn’t want such a barren final resting place. I
found two potted geranium plants from inside our
lanai and transplanted them as headstones. Gloria, I thought, would want their graves marked
with symbols of life, not death.

It was four weeks since the last government
voice spoke to the nation. The Secretary of Housing
and Urban Development, I forget his name, spoke
from someplace in Washington. He was twelfth in
the line of succession to the presidency. He said it
would be the last broadcast from the Federal Government. Thankfully, the man never tried to paint
some rosy picture; it was time to tell the truth. For
unknown reasons, only a very few people would
survive. The disease had struck all alike: rich or
poor, young or old; black or white; and every country in the civilized world had received the same
death sentence. There was no miracle cure, because there just hadn’t been time to develop one.

The guy had talked about the bodies piled
up in the streets of the large cities. Instead of offering guidance to those able to listen to the broadcast, he had just wished everyone good luck and
offered prayers for our safety, and then he closed
out the broadcast with those now seemingly ridiculous words,
and may God bless the United States of
America
. I didn’t believe God had done much blessing of the United States of America or for any other
place on the planet for that matter.

I thought back to the beginning. It started
out in New York City with a single case of Ebola.
Some monkey in Africa had bitten a man returning
from a safari. We all thought it would play out like
other Ebola outbreaks in the past. The CDC
changed its mind four weeks later as the number
of patients suddenly skyrocketed to several thousand. Their experts said it was a mutated strain of
Ebola they had never seen before. It was highly
contagious, and unlike previous forms of the disease, this virus could be transmitted through the
air. They warned people to stay in isolation, not to
venture outside their homes unless absolutely necessary, but it was already too late. The pandemic
was out of control now; the tipping point had been
reached; too many people had already become infected and were contagious, and the mutated viral
disease spread like a tsunami throughout the entire world.

Many people fled the cities, trying to reach
areas far away from civilization, but it was too late.
They had already been infected with the virus, and
they all died in isolation, their bodies feasted upon
by a variety of wild creatures.

A few days after the dire CDC warning, vital
services and infrastructure began to breakdown.
There was no longer a morning paper, garbage
piled up at the curb, and the local stores were
closed. One week later the power went down. It
was back up a day later and then failed for the final time a week afterward. I guess there just
weren’t any workers left who knew how or were
willing to risk their lives repairing the system. One
day later the water pressure dropped to zero.

I managed to talk to my only sister before
the cellphones stopped working. Mom and Dad had
been one of the early ones to die. Uncle Ben and
Aunt Minnie followed soon after, and my sister said
her entire family was just now showing symptoms.
We cried together, and when I hung up, I cried
some more.

The hospitals were overwhelmed, and then
the medical staff became infected and died. Almost
every day someone in our neighborhood passed
away, and the rest of us helped bury them in their
backyards. Empty coffins no longer existed, and
burial in a cemetery was impossible.

My best friend and next-door neighbor lost
his wife and three kids, and I helped bury them all.
He dug an extra grave for himself, and then as the
first visible signs of the disease showed, he shot
himself in the head while lying in his pre-dug
tomb.

The pathology of the disease was horrific:
high fever, followed by hemorrhaging of every internal organ, and finally a delusional mind bordering on total madness.

Gloria woke up one morning with a fever.
We hoped it was just the flu, but we both knew
better. A day later Sarah joined Gloria, and both
had temperatures of 104 degrees. Even at her
young age, Sarah knew she would die. By now, we
were all experts on how this disease would run its
course.

Two days later they were both coughing up
blood and bleeding from every orifice in their bodies. I tried to help, but all I could do was clean up
the mess and try to encourage them to eat or drink
something. Both, however, refused food or water.

Their conditions deteriorated rapidly over
the next week, and they were unable to get out of
bed. I tried to be of support, and I prayed to God to
relieve their suffering.

Gloria and Sarah began to hallucinate; they
mumbled to imaginary people in words I couldn’t
understand. The last hours of their lives were the
worst: shrieking sounds of despair, complete loss
of bowel and bladder control, and finally a peaceful
coma. I sensed Gloria’s final moments of life. I
can’t explain how I knew the end had arrived, but
somehow I knew.

Everyone who’s ever lost a loved one knows
when death is imminent there’s a sense of personal
guilt, things you desperately wanted to tell the person before they passed on, but somehow the words
or the opportunities were never there. Sort of like a
necessary cleansing of the soul prevented from ever taking place.

It was certainly the same for me. It wasn’t
about missed birthdays when I was out of town on
business or forgotten anniversaries. It was much
more basic. For me the guilt was all about how I
had taken our love for granted. Why hadn’t I told
her how much I loved her more often? The words I
love you were so easy to say when she lay in her
pre-death coma and so hard to express when she
was healthy.

I had held her hand in mine; I spoke to her
as never before. “Honey I loved you the first time
we met at that party over at the fraternity house.
You were wearing black shorts and a white top;
and then I hit on you with this stupid line
don’t I
know you
? Then you looked at me and with a
straight face answered,
I think I saw your picture on
the post office wall
. God, I have no idea why you
went out with me, but for me it was love at first
sight. I miss you so much, and I’ve never told you
how much I love you. I’ve said the words, but I
loved you more than words could express.”

Gloria’s body suddenly became very rigid,
and she passed onto the next life.

How does a person deal with these types of
deaths? When does a person see so much suffering
they are no longer able to show grief? I remember
seeing some pictures of the people in concentration
camps taken at the end of World War II, and those
people looked like they could no longer feel emotion.

The CDC predicted only one in onethousand would live. That meant the U.S. population would be reduced to about 320,000, and from
what the authorities said, they would be spread
out across the land. The survivors living in the
country on farms might be okay, but the people in
the cities would be hurting as soon as the food ran
out.

I had read in the paper the population in
Collier County was about 365,000 with about
20,000 living in Naples. So where were the people?
As if to answer my rhetorical question I heard a car
horn blaring. The sound obliterated the tranquility
of my silent vigil. At first I thought a car alarm was
going off, but then I realized all of my neighbor’s
cars were parked in their garages, and this sound
was coming from the street in front of my house.

I picked up my bottle of bourbon and
walked around the side of the house to the front
yard. A car was parked in the center of the street,
and a woman was leaning on the horn. As I approached, she saw me and jumped out of the car.
She was attractive and young, maybe in her early
twenties. She had an athlete’s body, lean but muscular, and long black hair tied in a ponytail. Her
facial features were defined by her captivating large
brown eyes. Without thinking of her own safety,
she ran up to me and wrapped her arms around
my neck.

We both stood there in the silent street. I
had the bottle of bourbon in my hand, and she
wouldn’t let go. If someone had a camera it would
have made a comical almost pathetic picture. I
hadn’t seen another living person for almost two
weeks, and I just wanted to give up and die; and
she seemed happy to finally see another human
and appeared eager to get on with life.

She finally stepped back and said, “I’m Jessie Bolden. I live on the other side of Livingston
Road. I haven’t seen anyone in over a week.”

“I’m Jim Reed, and the last living person I
saw was my daughter, and she died two weeks
ago.”

Jessie and I left her car in the center of the
street. Who would complain? “Let’s sit out on the
lanai. There’s no air–conditioning, and it’s more
comfortable out there.”

Jessie saw the two graves and asked, “Your
family?”
I nodded my head in agreement.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “I lost my parents and
younger brother. I’ve got nobody now. I listened to
the last radio broadcast. I guess there’re only a few
of us left.”

“Can I get you something to drink?” I
asked.

Jessie looked down at the bottle in my hand
and asked for some juice. I walked back inside the
house and found one of those rectangular cardboard containers with a straw attached. Sarah had
loved them. I brought a container of appleraspberry out to Jessie who thanked me.

We moved to a table with an umbrella and
sat down in the shade. I took a swig from my bottle
as she opened her juice container. “You have to
stop drinking that stuff. I know you’re mourning,
and I know how you feel. I’ve lost my whole family
too, but we have to get on with our lives.”

I looked into my bottle of bourbon searching for hope and finally set it down on the table.
Jessie picked it up, walked over to a planter, and
poured what was left in the bottle into the dirt. The
flowers didn’t seem to object.

I thought about what she had just done.
Gloria would have done the same thing if she was
still alive. “How old are you Jessie?”
“Twenty-one.”

“You seem much older.”

Jessie looked at my two graves and with
flushed cheeks and tears in her eyes said, “I grew
up when my little brother died in my arms.”

She then broke down and started to cry.
She buried her head in her hands, and her whole
body shook as she completely lost it. She looked
up at me. “It was the way they all died,” she said,
“The bleeding from the eyes and nose and mouth;
but the worst was at the end. Everyone just went
completely mad. My father asked me to end his life.
He told me to get his gun from the closet and
begged me to kill him, but I couldn’t do it. Back
about three weeks ago, I heard gunshots every
couple of hours. People preferred a quick death
once they showed symptoms, but I just couldn’t
bring myself to kill my own father.”

She broke into tears again, and I got out of
my chair and held her arms in my hand. I began
crying as well. Jessie stood up and wrapped her
arms around my chest. We stood there together;
both crying for the loved ones we had both lost and
out of fear for what unknown future lay before us.

BOOK: Survivors
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