Authors: Iain Rob Wright
TODAY THE WORLD GOT SICK...
The Peeling is a series of novellas set in a world
ravaged by a deadly plague. Each book follows the individual story of one of
the survivors of this horrible new existence. They can be enjoyed as standalone
tales or as part of a larger, overall narrative.
BOOK 1: Jeremy's Choice
Being a security guard at a news station meant
Jeremy found out about the peeling before anybody else. But that didn't prevent
the deadly, unknown virus from infecting his wife. After years of neglect,
unfaithfulness, and lies, is it finally time for Jeremy to do right by the
woman he loves? Or is it too late?
- Also includes the following short story:
-- The Peeling Of Samuel Lloyd Collins
This novella was written using
the UK dictionary. Certain spellings may vary in other English speaking
The Never Stop News Studio
seemed cramped and small with all the bodies currently occupying it. The
typical skeleton crew of six or seven had swelled to at least four times that
amount in the last few hours as people crammed in front of the station’s news
desk while its two young reporters prepared to go live with the evening’s story.
The overcrowding had made Jeremy’s job a lot more difficult.
was a security guard for Never Stop News, responsible for keeping out anyone
not invited to be there. With the news studio and its roaming reporters
providing live content twenty-four hours a day there was always a risk that some
anarchic member of the public with a grudge and a message would try to sneak in
front of the cameras to interrupt the feed. With current events, and the
public being as frightened as they were, the risk of a security breach had
skyrocketed. People wanted answers, and when people wanted answers they
came after the Government first and the journalists a close second. With
so many people filling up the claustrophobic studio, it was extremely difficult
for Jeremy to keep his eye on everybody. It was even harder to keep his
mind on them with what was happening in the world.
was just one more hour to go before Jeremy was relieved by the night guard –
just one more hour. But he couldn’t deny that he dreaded staying even one
longer. Bad things were happening, starting almost a full
week ago, and the situation didn’t seem to be getting any better. He
didn’t want to be here anymore; didn’t want to hear another bloody thing about
studio was silent and the lights went down as the countdown till live
began. The network was currently running a pre-recorded football report
on its dedicated satellite channel and on its website, but it would turn back
to the two co-anchors in less than seven-seconds.
guys,” one of the production assistants said. “You’re on in three…two…”
Lane, one of the anchors, cleared her throat and said, “Good evening, guys. My
name is Sarah Lane and I’m here to give you all the latest news. Things
are still pretty bad in the UK right now, but rest assured me and Tom will be
bringing you all of the facts for the next few hours. So get yourself a
nice hot cuppa and snuggle up on that sofa as Never Stop News will be looking
after you tonight.”
still struggled to accept such a casual approach to the news. Sarah and
Tom were only mid-twenties and were allowed to dress and talk as such.
Never Stop News’s whole premise was to provide the day’s events with a
laid-back and youthful approach. Their slogan was:
All the news.
None of the old.
Jeremy found it even more surprising that such
an approach had been successful.
Stop’s hip approach to the news had gained them a younger audience unattainable
to the traditional networks. It had even started to eat into the more
mature demographics as well. It seemed that people were tired of the
stuffiness of days gone by and were happy to get the news from a bunch of
bubbly youngsters. As a consequence, the Never Stop News Corporation was
one of the fastest growing media companies in the world. Jeremy imagined
that the lovely Sarah Lane had at least a small part in that success. Her
shapely legs and curved figure, always on display beneath the glass news desk,
were a constant feature of trashy celeb magazines.
equally attractive, and immaculately-groomed, Tom Connors, took the lead from
Sarah and got started with the programme. “I’m Tom Connors and, as we’ve
been reporting all week, the current crisis in the UK and – we’ve now been told
– many other parts of the world, has escalated to devastating levels. It
has been reported that upwards of four-million people have been affected so far
and that number has continued to rise hour-by hour. With no end to the
situation in sight, there is a fear that the current number of casualties is
just a small percentage of what will turn out to be the final number.”
Lane took over again. “While both Private and Public sectors are working
tirelessly to find both a cause and a solution, it is clear that the world is
suffering under what can only be described as – a global plague
Commonly referred to as
the unknown virus has spread throughout
our nation and others with a virulence never before seen, making even the Spanish
flu epidemic seem tame. Affecting the young and old alike, there is
currently no clear vector for contraction. Government officials admit to
knowing nothing about its origin and very little about its pathology. As
previously stated, all members of the public are advised to remain inside their
homes and avoid all contact with anyone besides their immediate family.
The military have been permitted to use force where necessary to ensure the
spread of the infection is contained.”
swallowed back a mouthful of stomach acid. His reflux had gotten bad the
last few days and his pills were at home. If he had a job anyplace else,
he would have left by now, but the news reports were a national requirement
while the crisis lasted and, as such, so too was the safety of its
messengers. Jeremy’s security job, in many ways, was a matter of national
security. Pity for England he was just a middle-aged slob with bad acid.
fifty-two, Jeremy’s limbs were stiffer than they used to be and his arthritic
bones ached more often than not. He was certainly willing to take a stand
against anyone looking for trouble, but he couldn’t claim truthfully that he
was the best man for the job. Most days he just hung around in the
doorway, half asleep, from nine in the morning till six at night. Then he went
home to his wife – unless he had somewhere else to be. That was why all
of these people in the studio right now were such a thorn in his side; they
forced him to concentrate and stay focused despite his weary mind’s desire to
shut off. Most of the people didn’t even need to be there – they were
just clerks and office assistants from other floors and departments – but no
one wanted to leave while news was still coming through. Everyone wanted to
know more about the disease
in case it got
fear and panic was almost palpable and Jeremy could sense it hanging over the
dimly-lit room like a soiled blanket of poisonous air.
have little fresh news to report from official sources,” Tom told the audience
at home. “We will be turning the air over to you – the public. For
the next two hours we want to hear from
, Great Britain. We
want you to tell us what you’ve seen, and what are your thoughts are about the
peeling? Do you have it? Does someone you love have it? Is
there any advice you can give to help others out there? We want to hear
from you now.”
didn’t know what they expected to get from the public that they didn’t know
already. It was well-documented that the disease started with a tingling
sensation in the hands and feet – sometimes the nose and ears – before moving
on to a streaming cold and flu-like symptoms. After a day-or-so of runny
nostrils and messy sneezing, the virus really started its magic. Jeremy
shuddered to think about what The Peeling did to a human body then.
we have our first caller,” Sarah reported. “We have Keith on
line-1. Hello, Keith.”
Sarah. Hiya, Tom. I just want to say that you’ve been a constant
comfort during these last few days. I don’t have any family and not being
able to leave the house has been really hard on me.”
been hard on a lot of people,” Tom said. “But right now the only way to
stay safe is to lock yourself away.”
you have the peeling, Keith?” Sarah asked in her typical caring manner. Jeremy
couldn’t help but notice that the young girl didn’t seem as calm as she usually
was a pause on the other end of the line, followed by a muffled sound that
could only have been sobbing. Eventually, Keith came back on the line.
“Yes…I have it. I’ve had it three days…since Wednesday.”
really sorry to hear that, mate,” Tom said. “It’s truly terrible what
this virus is doing to people. Absolutely horrifying.” The reporter
took a deep breath and suddenly seemed very tired, as though he’d dropped a
mask that had been hiding his true face all along. Jeremy sympathised
from over by the studio’s door. Tom wasn’t much more than a lad, really,
and he had suddenly found himself responsible for consoling an entire nation.
sat forward on her chair and clasped her hands together on top of the
desk. “Keith? If it’s not too hard for you, could you tell our
viewers what it’s been like since you got ill? Could you tell us about
another short pause, Keith replied that he would. “I got home from work
at about six on the night – I’m a mig-welder. Anyway, Man U were playing
Chelsea, and I wanted to see them get their arses hammered by the blues, so I
got some beers in and plonked myself down in front of the telly. I was
happy, you know?”
know,” Sarah confirmed.
I’d been feeling a bit under-the-weather all day and my nose had been running
like a tap. I thought it was just a cold. I mean, no one really knew
what was going on then – it was all just rumours.” Keith seemed to lose
his voice then to a croaking onslaught of tears.
“Just go on when you’re ready, Keith,” Sarah told the man. “We’re here
okay…anyway,” Keith gathered himself. “I was sat watching the game – that
mug, Rooney, had just put one in the back of the net – and I couldn’t help but
scratch at my feet the whole time. Was a bit like pins and needles, but
no matter how much I itched or walked around the living room it just wouldn’t
go away. Thankfully it got a little better after a couple beers and I
managed to ignore it.”
happened next?” asked Tom, filling a brief moment of dead air.
I fell asleep on the sofa. Do most evenings if I have a drink. I
woke up later in the middle of the night. I knew it was late because the
shopping channel had come on, selling their usual junk – some kind of steam
cleaner, I think. So I sit there for a few minutes, trying to wake up a
bit so I can get up and go to bed, but, as soon as I lean forward to stand up,
I feel this sharp stab of pain.”
rubbed at his eyes in the doorway. He’d heard enough reports to know where
this was heading.
look down at my feet,” said Keith, fighting back sobs, “and I can hardly…I can
hardly believe what I’m seeing.”
feet, they were…oh God…they were like raw steak. They had no skin.
I could see all the gristle and bone and blood. They looked like
those anatomical dummy things they have in school, you know? Anyway, like
a fool I grab down at them, like I needed to make sure my eyes weren’t still
half-asleep and seeing nonsense. When I touched my feet it was bloody
agony. I almost passed out it was so bad. Worst pain I’d ever
felt…but I would give anything to feel that way now – it was heaven compared to
the blinding pain that was to come. The skin from my ankles started
peeling away next, blistering up and peppering the floor like dandruff.
Then it kept going, moving further and further up my legs. Then it….then
it…” Keith finally allowed himself to sob openly after minutes of
fighting it back. “My dick is gone! It fell onto the carpet like a