Authors: Edward Crae
There was nothing else. No pictures on the wall, no flowers in the window, and no curtains. Just Venetian blinds; perfectly dusted, and in one piece. Dan couldn’t remember the last time he saw a set of blinds that weren’t cracked or missing a few slats.
Must be new, he reasoned.
He backed out, turning to go to the next door. This one was closed. He pressed his ear against it to listen for any sounds coming from the other side. There was only the occasional dripping of a faucet, or something similar. He decided to check the last room instead. He turned around as he passed into the living room, just to check the opposite corner.
There was a telephone stand, with a corded phone that was off the hook. The receiver was lying face up on the floor. A small notepad sat next to the base, with a fancy pen sitting on top of it. Curious, he crept over to look. There was writing on the top sheet of paper.
Call Jake at AAA
Take Chivas to Mom’s birthday party
Who was it for? He wondered. Why leave a phone message for yourself? Mmmm, Chivas; the best scotch there was. Did he have some around?
He turned, seeing the other bedroom was open. He passed by the ugly couch, glancing at it to make sure there was no one on it. The TV was too far away from it, at least six feet. What kind of guy has his TV that far away? No guy, that’s who. There was no coffee table. No other furniture at all, actually. Just a couch, the phone stand, a single lamp, and the TV.
Steve obviously didn’t spend much time here.
Dan approached the bedroom door, fully expecting Steve to be lying there on the bed. He wasn’t. The bed was made, though, with hospital corners and not a single fucking wrinkle on the fancy quilt that covered it. Or was it a duvet? Probably. Whatever.
There was only the bed, an end table with a modern art bullshit alarm clock, and a dresser. There was a watch, some keys, and a wallet sitting on top of it. He didn’t remember seeing Steve’s car. But then, maybe Jake at AAA had it.
He walked out of the bedroom, loathing the thought of going into what could only be the bathroom. It was the only logical thing that could be behind the closed door. Steve had to shit sometime, right? Unless he was a fucking robot. Dan didn’t doubt it. Nobody mows their lawn every day, unless they were the spawn of some genius roboticist.
Dan placed his hand on the door. He wasn’t sure why. Maybe he would feel some physic impression or metaphysical vibration. Or maybe he just too chicken shit to open it. Yeah, that was it.
Bok bok bok.
He reached down to turn the handle, pushing the door open and stepping back to point the shotgun ahead of him. And there was Steve.
Steve sat on shitter, his pants down, his arms hanging at his side, and his head leaned back against the wall. He was pale, a greenish-gray color. He was motionless, but a gurgling sound came from his throat.
“Steve?” Dan said. “You okay, buddy?”
Steve gurgled again. Dan crept forward, the shotgun aimed right at Steve’s chest. If he had to pull the trigger, he preferred not to be splattered with brains.
“Steve,” he said again.
Steve shuddered, startling Dan. He backed away as Steve’s head began to raise. Reddish drool ran from his lips as his face became upright. He is eyes were bloodshot and dull, like an animal’s.
“You don’t look so good, man,” Dan said.
Steve suddenly shot forward, his clawed fingers swiping at the empty air as a blood-curdling growl escaped his withered lips. The shot gun discharged in Dan’s hands, splattering Steve’s face into a bloody pulp, and throwing him back against the toilet tank. Dan stared wide-eyed as his body slid off the seat and onto the floor.
It had happened so fast. Dan wasn’t sure whether he had meant to pull the trigger, or it was just instinct. Either way, he had blown off Steve’s head—most of it, anyway—and now the guy was dead dead dead.
Dan stood motionless as his heart thumped erratically. It skipped a few beats, pounding almost painfully in his chest. He realized he had stopped breathing, and lowered the shotgun as he stepped back, gulping in air as he drowned in shock.
” he screamed. “
He dropped the shotgun, stumbling over to the couch as a lump rose in his throat. Though he tried to swallow it away, it kept forcing its way up.
Yep, he thought. Here it comes.
He puked buckets. His arms were wrapped around his midsection as he retched and gagged. The puddle that splattered on the floor was mostly beer and bile. He stood with his hands on his knees as he caught his breath, moaning with each exhale.
“Jesus Christ!” he muttered.
He looked back at the doorway, seeing Steve’s feet poking through it. The shotgun was laying a foot away, ready to be picked up, and seemingly unaffected by the event.
Heartless piece of inanimate shit.
“What the fuck is happening?”
Dan grabbed the shotgun, avoiding the sight of Steve’s corpse. He kicked the lifeless legs away enough to pull the door closed. Then, he thought better of it. Steve had a medicine cabinet…
He pushed the door open again, sliding in facing the mirror above the sink. It was a large cabinet, with a simple handle of chrome-plated plastic. He pulled it open.
Steve was a pill popper, apparently. The cabinet was loaded with all sorts of shit. There was a shaving kit near the sink, so Dan grabbed it, dumped out its contents, and knocked every single medicine bottle into it, zipping it up.
I’ll sort through it later, he thought.
He quickly exited the bathroom, pulling the door shut behind him. He went to Steve’s bedroom and began pulling out the dresser drawers, digging through their contents eagerly. Nothing but clothes. Then he remembered the nightstand.
He pulled it open, seeing the shiny, black handgun laying right on top. He grabbed it, inspecting it like an expert. Glock 19
Three boxes of 9mm rounds. Beautiful.
He stuffed the handgun in his belt, putting the ammo in his front pockets.
“Kitchen,” he said out loud.
He raced to the kitchen, pulling open the cabinets. They were lined with canned foods, ramen noodles, boxes of pasta; the usual. Steve’s backpack hung by the door, empty and unzipped. Dan grabbed it and began filling it with everything that would fit. By the time it was full, it was heavy as shit. But that was okay; he was just going back across the street.
There was one last cabinet to open, he saw, one that was above the fridge. His eyes widened as he saw that it was full of liquor; scotch, vodka, and rum. Six bottles in all, mostly full and inviting. He grabbed them all, stuffing them into what little space was left in the backpack. Then, he opened the fridge.
There was a box of baking soda, and some leftover noodles in a plastic bowl; uncovered.
He slammed it shut, taking one last look at the kitchen, and went back outside. The fog was almost completely settled, leaving only a thin layer of orange blowing lazily across the ground. It was getting dark though, and he carefully walked down the driveway, wary of anyone or anything that may be around.
There was still a deafening silence, even more so than usual. There were no birds chirping; not even the insects that usually came out at dusk. Shrugging, he dashed across the street, his newly plundered items in tow.
It was a good score, beside the fact that he had blown his neighbor’s head off. That realization suddenly occurred to him. He had killed two people today. Two people that were previously full of life; with jobs—maybe—families and friends.
Two people that would never see the light of day again.
Somehow, it didn’t affect Dan as much as he thought it would.
Xanax. Antibiotics—two of them. Tylenol with codeine. Narco. Prednisone. Some blood pressure medicine. A bottle of pink pills with the label worn off. Finally, Viagra.
Pretty good score. The antibiotics would definitely be useful. Everything would, except for the Viagra. There would probably not be much use for a rock hard boner. Never really was. But the biggest score was the booze. If he wanted to, Dan could drink himself to oblivion, not even giving a shit about what the hell was happening.
When he woke up this morning, everything was normal—as normal as it ever was. He woke up with the shakes, killed his last bottle of vodka, and ended up going into town to get more. He didn’t even get more. That was the thing. But despite not even buying more booze as planned, he ended up killing two people and witnessing the end of the world. That’s what it looked like anyway.
What a fucking day.
He went into the kitchen and grabbed a rocks glass, pouring himself a hefty portion of scotch. He popped two of the Vicodin he got from Jerry, and went back to the couch, laying the shotgun across his lap. Now came the waiting game. It would take a few minutes for the pills to kick in, but he had the scotch; the dry, unrefreshing, yet exhilarating liquid that made his mouth pucker.
At least it was
The good stuff. The
Good as peroxide. He hated scotch, but it was classy and slow sipping. Times like this required a nice, slow buzz to keep him calm without knocking him out. The scotch would calm his nerves, and the Vicodin would keep him busy floating in the ether.
The ether was good; better than whatever the hell was going on right now. He switched the TV on, seeing nothing but snow on most of the channels. The satellite dish must be acting up again; or maybe the satellites themselves. Frustrated, he switched over to antenna mode, going to the local networks. They were still up and running, and a grave-looking newscaster sat in silence on the screen. He recognized the guy; Gary something.
Finally, the man spoke, his odd expression never changing.
“There is no word yet on the cause of the worldwide panic. Sources report that millions of people across the globe have fallen prey to an unknown pathogen, possibly related to the recent passing of the Wormwood comet. The CDC says that their facilities are working on discovering what, exactly, this pathogen could be, but there is nothing definitive as of yet.
The President has announced his intention to keep the peace around the country, and state authorities have been advised to deploy National Guard troops to protect unaffected citizens from the raving masses of the infected.
There appear to be three possible outcomes following exposure. Within only a few hours of the event, perhaps a billion or so people immediately died. Millions of others fell violently ill and have turned to attacking passersby, committing acts of violence and even cannibalism. Those who are unaffected are advised to remain indoors, or seek out National Guard troops to be escorted to quarantined areas.
Most large metropolitan areas are being zoned off, and citizens are encouraged to travel to the nearest quarantine areas. They are clearly marked, and guarded by troops. If you are too far from these areas, you are advised to remain in your homes and barricade any entries.
We will keep you updated as information is revealed. In the meantime, God bless us all on this darkest of days. This is Gary Selby signing off for now.”
“Selby,” Dan said. “That’s it.”
The Vicodin was starting to kick in just as the newscast switched to live video from traffic helicopters in the area. Bloomington was a mess. The streets were lined with bodies; thousands of them. Other random people were frantically running around, looting stores, fending off loonies, or even crashing cars into the marauding strays that stumbled around.
There were several military vehicles roaming the streets, firing large guns at attacking crazies that mobbed them. Soldiers were outside some of them, firing their weapons at the stumbling citizens; obviously putting them out of their misery. Dan’s heart thumped. It was like watching a movie; a zombie apocalypse movie.
“Jesus Christ,” he exclaimed. “What the fuck…”
It crossed his mind that whatever was happening, he must be immune for some reason. He had not felt sick, other than the shakes. But Jerry and his ugly wife were sick. The kid in the liquor store was sick, but the Indian guy wasn’t. Steve was… well, Steve had no head now.
There was a scratch at the sliding glass door in back. Dan jumped up, shotgun in hand, glaring at the darkness beyond the glass. Slowly, he approached, squinting to sharpen his vision. He realized what a safety hazard the glass door was. He had two of them. Jesus, he would have to barricade them.
The scratching was down low, and Dan reached out to flick on the deck light with one hand, while pointing the shotgun at the door with the other. A small cat was outside, scratching the door in a futile attempt to dig through the glass. It was a calico cat; black with gold flecks and a little white beard. Its eyes were wide and pleading, and it stopped scratching as soon as it saw him.
Should he let it in? The poor thing was probably starving and terrified. Who the hell wouldn’t be? Then again, it could be infected. It would be crazy and feral, and might attack him. But,
cats were crazy, and they
But something in the cat’s eyes told him that it just wanted to come in out of the cold apocalyptic world and curl up in front of the fireplace.
The fireplace. Shit. He was getting low on wood. He’d have to chop some tomorrow.
“If I let you in,” he said. “You gotta promise not to be a dick.”
The cat meowed… probably. He couldn’t hear it. But it still had that pleading look on its face. He unlocked the door and slid it open. The cat dropped down to all fours, sniffing the warm air that wafted from inside.
“Come on, stupid. In or out. Make up your fucking mind.”
and the cat stepped inside. Dan slid the door closed behind it, smiling down at the cat as it looked up at him with those golden cat eyes. “I bet you’re hungry,” he said.
A little can of tuna goes a long way. The cat eagerly awaited the bowl as Dan scraped the tuna into it. When he set it down on the floor, it was gone in less than a minute. The cat then swaggered into the living room, sniffing around and exploring its new home.
“Well, cop a squat, guy,” he said, returning to his place on the couch.
There was more footage on the screen. A countrywide map showed areas in red where the chaos was rampant. There was quite a lot of red. It was centered around most of the metropolitan areas; Chicago, NYC, Indianapolis, etc. He wondered how the hell the National Guard was going to maintain control.
The screen then displayed a worldwide map with mostly the same information. There were massive splotches of red, surrounded by tiny little unmarked areas where the population was obviously low. It seemed like whatever had happened; most of the world had been affected. Only the far northern regions of Russia were still safe, but there were very few people there anyway.
The map disappeared, replaced by more footage of the streets of the major cities around the world. Chicago was a chaotic mess; looking like a riot was going on. Buildings were burning, bodies lined the streets, and hordes of raving mad lunatics chased speeding cars and pedestrians down the clogged lanes. Dan could only shake his head in disbelief.
“It’s all over, kitty,” he said, stroking the cat’s head as it purred in oblivion. “It’s just you and me. You want some pills?”
He didn’t sleep that night. He sat in front of his window watching the gravel road. He knew nobody would ever come stumbling down it. He was probably pretty safe in that respect. But if the normal people got desperate, and ran out of food and water, they would no doubt go seeking out empty houses for shelter and supplies.
He would have to barricade his windows and doors.
Soon, he would run out of food. When the power finally went out—which it would, eventually—he would be out of water. The well pump worked on electricity. He could possibly rig up some kind of hand pump, but that was unlikely. He wasn’t skilled enough to figure it out, and the internet was likely down anyway. Maybe he could use the old water heater in the garage as a water storage unit. The tank inside was still good; the electrical portions were what was shot.
Tomorrow would be a good day to hook it up, after gathering some wood, of course. There were also various, random boards in the garage. They would be perfect for boarding up the house. There were two sliding glass doors leading out to the deck that could be easily breached. All anyone had to do was break the glass and walk right in; or stumble, as it were.
Dan suddenly got paranoid thinking about it. He got up and went to the kitchen door that opened to the covered part of the deck. The grill was there, with three tanks of propane. This part was kind of separate from the rest of the tiny deck; separate enough to close off maybe. If he could cover and reinforce the railings around it and build a gate here, that should do it. He could even use the steps that led down into the yard to build with. Obviously there would be no need to ever use them anymore. He could get outside through the other three doors in the house.
The front door.
He never used it. He could completely block it off. The mailman would probably never show up again. But there were storm windows in there, too; pointless glass-covered holes that were there only for the sunlight. There were three along the left side, and two just to the left of the door. They would be more difficult to cover.
Quickly, Dan stuffed the pistol in his belt and went to the garage. He had more building materials than he had thought. Though most of it was crap, it was still useful for barricading purposes. There was a stack of five sheets of OSB leaning against the wall, a bundle of eight foot studs, and loads of short decking scraps. One sheet of OSB could be used for blocking the window if he cut it in half lengthwise. He could completely secure the mudroom that way, leaving him a nice little cave to keep watch on the street.
It would make more sense to just block off the door that led out there, but he liked the idea of having that little room as a small lookout post. Smiling, he went to the tool bench and grabbed his circular saw. He set up a couple saw horses that he had never used, placing a sheet of OSB on top. Using a board, he drew a line straight down the center, approximately matching the height of the windows. He should leave a few inches at the bottom to see through, he supposed.
The saw cut through the OSB easily—albeit very loudly. The board collapsed in half as he finished, clanking onto the concrete in two (almost) equal halves. He stacked them up and carried them into the house, setting them by the front door. He went back out to grab his drill and an extension cord, a box of screws, and a few three foot long studs for good measure.
OSB wasn’t the sturdiest stuff in the world, but it should do the trick. It’s not like the loonies were a horde of little Bruce Lees running around karate chopping shit. It should do. He lifted the half sheet up, setting the corner on the window sill, judging the length. It was perfect. It covered the windows with about three inches to spare along the bottom.
He drove in a screw at the top corner, and then fastened it all along the top. On the bottom, he screwed the short studs to the wall, overlapping the OSB high enough to hold the bottom in place. Then, he lifted the remaining sheet over the front windows, securing it the same way. The end of the board covered the door, which would provide a little bit more security.
Or maybe not.
The storm door opened outward.
he thought. He went back out to the garage, bundling a few of the decking scraps and some more studs. He screwed the decking in front of the door horizontally, bracing them with the leftover studs. He left about an inch between them to see out of—and poke his .308 or shotgun through. When he was finished, he stepped back to admire his work.
“Nice,” he said. Behind him, the cat purred. “What do you think, kitty?”
The cat sniffed the air, meowed, and went back into the house.
It looked good; tight and secure. Who cares how pretty it was?
Suddenly, his cell phone rang. It was one in the morning; who the hell would be calling?
“Hello?” he said.
It was Drew; his friend in Martinsville.
“What’s up, Drew?”
“What the fuck is going on man? Are you okay?”
“Shit is crazy here. I just now got free. The National Guard is all over the place. They’ve been detaining people left and right. I snuck away about an hour ago and I’m just outside town. I can’t get home.”