“’Tis now the very witching time of night, When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out Contagion to this world” ontagion to this world” Shakespeare
It started as a decent day, a few fluffy clouds in the azure sky. A mostly clear road unrolling under the wheels of his rig, and a good looking woman in the sleeper apartment.
Neil felt good, he had his rig a Kenworth w900L with a 230 ICT sleeper that was also his home now. When he had seen the interior of the sleeper, with its wood floors, custom bathroom and shower, stove, fridge, decorative lighting and furniture he had put down the money right then and there. All in all he was driving a truck with a 386 inch wheel base a real monster and home on wheels.
Yes his life was good, work was good, and the sex was good, he had nothing to complain about except for insurance and fuel prices, but that was part of the life he had adopted.
“got a roadblock on I-40 looks like some TSA ass hats and Highway patrol” Neil groaned at the message over the CB. Every time he went through a road block he was given shit for the weapons in his Rig, well it was his home, and home is where you kept guns and your porn. Add in the TSA and he wanted to just kick some ass.
“trouble?” Lori asked poking her head out of the doorway.
“No, just another stupid roadblock.” He said, seeing his early delivery bonus vanishing from the delay. “ The state must need money, this is fourth one Ive heard about this morning. Get the paperwork out Hun, hopefully they wont keep us for too long.”
State Highway departments were the natural predator to truckers, since they were easy to spot, easier to pull over and generally safer to deal with than an Irate sixty five year old woman with a .45 in her purse and fresh out of her meds.
Spotting the flares, and the line vehicles, he slowed already annoyed seeing the bonus vanish with each minute that passed. Four trucks were already on the side, being climbed over by TSA.
And of course, there was an officer waving at him to pull over, Lord give me patience, or strike them dead, which ever works for you. Neil prayed a ghost of a smile flitting across his face.
He pulled over and shut down, gathered his paperwork, and when directed he and Lori climbed from the rig.
They couldn’t have picked a better cop to contrast with Neil, the man was Six foot three maybe, skinny with sharp features. Neil was five nine, and built like a gorilla with a line backers shoulders and thick legs. Stout was the word that came to most peoples minds, but with his shirt off, Power lifter came to mind.
He had been cursed or blessed depending on how you looked at with a thick body, after years of exercising he had learned he would never look like the athletic type but would always look like the proverbial bull in the china shop. All thick limbed and rolling muscle. His sandy blond hair had a red tinge to it in bright sunlight, and the rest of the hair on his body was bright red to pale blond. He had joked often over the years, that god had just used left over parts to put him together.
He passed the paperwork to the officer who looked over it, asking a few questions mostly about the weapons in his rig. He gave the usual response about living in his rig more bored than anything answered the usual questions and ignored the TSA who were nothing but glorified rent a cops in his book.
They went over his rig with a fine toothcomb, but found nothing in the contraband or safety issue departments. He hated drugs and kept his Rig in excellent shape. Finally he was allowed to leave and it was just possible he could make his delivery early enough to get that bonus.
The truck stop one of those massive national chains, was filled with trucks of all sizes and even ten Tractor Rvs that were all part of an Owners club. Neil pulled in determined to enjoy his three days off and do a little relaxing with Lori.
He fueled up then moved to the back of the lot near the tree line. To save fuel, he flipped the sleeper power over to the silent run generator he had installed last winter and shut his truck down. The generator could run for 24 hours on a full load, longer depending on what he used. .
They showered and changed clothes then climbed out of the rig into the cool summer night. “ do you miss living in a real house or apartment”he asked her as they walked across the huge lot between the idling trucks.
“no, I love waking up in a different city or town every other day or so, Ive seen more in the last three months than I did in my entire life before that.” She said.
“Good just checking some people cant really deal with it.” He said
“why do you love it so much” she asked, he remained silent for a moment images of blowing sand, dying men and explosions flickered through his mind. “after my last job, I found I couldn’t really settle down in one spot. And I really wanted was to see the US, keep moving a new sight everyday. I could have just bought a custom RV, but I decided to start trucking to give me cash while I wondered around the country.”
He didn’t mention he really didn’t need the money but he was to young to just sit back and drain his account, which would leave him crap when he was finally old enough to retire by then he might actually own a house to go live in.
The interior of the place was huge and well lit, the store side was filled with what you would expect to find in a convenience store, but it also held electronics, movies, Cds, clothes. Back in the corner were the showers and changing room as well as the bathrooms and the recently added gym.
“lets get a movie to watch before we head back to the truck” Lori said as they walked into restaurant which looked like any other medium priced family Restaurant with light stained paneling, recessed and decorative lighting, the tables were spacious and clean, it was nothing like the greasy spoons that had been the staple of trucking life back in the 70’s and 80’s.
Dinner itself was pretty good better than the outback as far as Neil was concerned. He finished off his plate and moved it aside, only to hear his name. “Neil Drake, your looking good” Sue Ellis said as she stopped at the table. She was pretty but solid from hard work, and somehow managed to retain her curves, the man with her was another Trucker, Curt Stevens who did long hauls like Neil. Sue did some long hauls, but mostly she stayed in State. Like Niel and Curtis she lived in her rig for both convenience and because she got along better with Truckers than the car drivers of the world.
“hey Sue, Curtis. How have you been” he asked politely. He and Sue had hooked up a couple of times after they had first met, before he had started long hauling. He introduced Lori and invited them to sit.
“no we don’t want to interrupt but lets get together tomorrow we can BBq or something” Sue said knowing the other woman didn’t want her sitting with them. Sue smiled sweetly and Led Curtis across the room to another table.
He and Lori sat there talking for a little longer, then with growing anticipation for the festivities soon to come, he paid the bill and the headed outside stopping long enough to buy two new released movies then headed for the rig.
Around midnight as he lay tangled with Lori in the bed, he thought he heard shouting outside. “what is it” Lori asked hearing the commotion herself.
“not sure” he replied, as he climbed out of bed and pulled on his pant and a Tshirt, then slipped on his boots. He rose and climbed into the cab, and looked outside, but saw nothing. The shouting had grown louder though, and it sounded like it was coming from the store.
“ See anything” Lori asked,
“No, but I’m going to check around the truck, lock the doors and say inside while I’m out.” He said as he grabbed his keys then clipped his pistol to the waist band of his jeans.
He opened the door, and could plainly hear the shouting, then tires peeling. He climbed down and walked slowly around his rig, but saw nothing. The door to the rig beside his opened and the driver climbed out a flash light in his hand.
“you have any idea what’s going on” Neil asked, seeing the driver walk around the front of his rig.
“I caught something on the Cb about a nut job attacking some woman and chewing into her arm and bit three other people who pulled him off.” The Driver said, as he shone the light in Neils face.
“do you mind, Id like to be able to see just in case” Neil said.
“sorry, nice rig by the way, must have set you back a fair penny”
“yeah” Neil said then used the standard lie “owe a lot so the bank owns her, but I love it.”
“I bet, my credit sucks to bad to ever get a custom rig like that.”
Neils head snapped around hearing a shotgun boom up front. “ Damn.” He said as he took a step towards the store. But by then he heard sirens in the distance.
All over the truck stop lights were coming on and drivers were coming outside to see what was going on.
“Neil, whats going on out there”Lori called down, having rolled down the window in the cab.
“not sure, Im going to take a look, the cops are here” he said seeing three cars and an ambulance entering the parking lot lights flashing.
He walked quickly across the parking area and around to the front of the store where he saw a Volt that had struck a parked car and came to a top, its drivers door stood open and a dropped purse lay beside the door.
The Highway patrol officers were securing the scene moving the crowd of men and women back while the paramedics were moving to check out the wounded and the dead.
A woman’s body dressed in shorts and tee shirt lay in a spreading pool of blood, her arm chewed down to the bone. a man sat nearby holding a wadded up shirt against his chest trying to stop the bleeding. Two other men all wounded sat along the front of the store, blood dripping from ragged bite marks on their arms.
A second woman sat slumped against a pole, her head tilted down, her shirt ragged from a shotgun blast was soaked in blood. Her skin was a waxy looking dead white with a blue tinge to it.
Two of the paramedics moved amongst the wounded men, while two others were checking the two dead women. While one of the troopers questioned a burly guy with a shotgun who looked shaken, and was talking animatedly to the Trooper.
“hey she is still alive” someone called out, Neil turned his attention back to the woman who lay in a pool of blood, her body was twitching.
one of the paramedics knelt beside her lifting an arm he took her pulse a confused look flashed across his face. “ no pulse,” He told his partner, just loud enough that Neil could hear him.
Neil was as surprised as the paramedic, when the womans eyes snapped open. To Neil from where he was standing her eyes looked cloudy dead really. Like the eyes of every corpse he had ever seen.
Before the paramedic could react she seized his arm her head daring forward. Teeth closed with a snap with a wrench of her head she tore a hunk of meat out of the paramedic who shouted in pain and fear as he tore away and scrambled through the blood to get away. The scene turned into chaos once more people were shouting, some raced away heading for their rigs or personal vehicles. Most just backed up almost transfixed at the carnage they were suddenly witness too.
A highway patrolman just as shocked as the rest, drew his pistol and only training kept him standing there to shout “do not move, hands in the air.” He was barely a man, Neil thought calmly; his mind ticking coolly and precisely as it slid back into old channels he had hoped would vanish with time, but apparently two years wasn’t enough time.
The woman, who was as pale as a ghost climbed to her feet and staggered after the paramedic, hands outstretched, her mouth yawing open. “I said don’t move” the officer shouted again. Either the woman couldn’t hear him or didn’t care, she wanted that paramedic Neil thought refusing to involve himself.
At moment a second officer, older than the first stepped up, a taser in his hand, he pulled the trigger, sending to darts right into the woman’s side she danced and jerked for a second then fell over twitching.
The second the charge was spent she started climbing back to her feet. “shoot the bitch” the bleeding paramedic shouted as she came at him again bloody hands reaching for the fresh bleeding meat she craved.
Out of the corner of his eyes, Neil saw the man that had been holding a shirt over his chest slump over, his chest rising and falling quickly as if he struggled for breath, and then he stopped breathing, his skin turning pale as the blood drained from it. He started twitching, unnoticed by all by Neil.
His mind put it together, the first woman had attacked the second woman, ripping into her savagely, when those men had tried to pull her off she had bitten many of them, before someone had shot her with a shotgun. Now the first victim was up and attacking someone, and.. his thoughts trailed off as he saw the man lift his head, his eyes the same cloudy dead eyes as the woman. The man climbed to his feet, . “watch out, he has it too” Neil shouted and pointed trying to alert those nearby to the danger.
The woman trying to get at the paramedic had appeared dead, right down to the lack of a pulse, Neil had seen the man stop breathing, they had the eyes of the dead, and none of it made no sense but what ever it was, was transmitted by bite.
The young THP officer finally overcame what ever fear had made him hesitate, he fired once, then again, the crazed woman jerking with each hit, she turned towards him, taking a step as the third bullet punched into her chest, knocking her back a step.
All around them people were streaming away from the crazies and the gunfire, shouts of alarm filled the arm. A man screamed in pain as the infected man leaped on him taking him to the ground. Neil stood there, not wanting to get involved, but coudnt leave either, stuck in a moral quandary that he knew the answer to .
“what the fuck,” the Officer said, staring at the woman he had shot who should be dead, the older Officer was running for his car, whether to escape or for some other reason Neil didn’t know.
Neil saw Sue charge out of the crowd of panicked people a determined look on her face, “get back” The young officer shouted at Sue, who carried a pipe in her hands, the same pipe she had used on a Biker once in Tucson, and in a bar fight in Kansas city.
“Hey” Sue called out and whistled loudly. The crazed woman’s head cranked around then the rest of her followed as she lunged for Sue, who finally got a good look at the crazy bitch with the dead eyes.
Sue swung like Mickey Mantle going for a home run, the pipe connected with ribs, and the sound of breaking bone filled the air. The crazed woman staggered but didn’t go down, she still hadn’t made a sound and that was disturbing as hell to Neil. That and the smell that was starting to fill the air, somewhere between rotted meat and Feces, with a little vomit mixed in. Foul was a good description but inadequate really.
The Officer was still shouting at Sue to stop, to get away. Sue took a step back avoiding the bloody grasping hands. “Screw you bitch” Sue shouted as she cocked the pipe back and then swung with all her strength.
This time it connect with the side of the other woman’s head with a sickening crack, the woman fell over and lay still, dismayed Sue stepped back, “ Oh my god I think I killed her.” she said then finally noticed the screaming man who was fighting to get free of his attacker who was ripping chunks out of his arms and shoulders.
The young THP officer, unable to deal with what he was seeing bolted for his car, even as Neil stepped forward shoving panicked people out of the way and grabbed the crazed cannibal by the neck and ripped him off the dying man, almost casually he tossed the asshole five feet to land on his face. The cannibal, still not uttering a single sound, climbed to his feet and dove for another man who not so nimbly avoided him.
Neil looked down in surprise as hand grasped his ankle, the man the cannibal had been attacking was now on his side, head moving towards Neils calf. Neil ripped free of the hand and leaped out of the way of the snapping teeth.
More gunshots rang out, and then a shotgun boomed. Neil didn’t see who was shooting or their targets he didn’t care at the moment, his eyes were fixed on the dead man, that’s what he looked like at any rate, the man he had tried to save was crawling after him on all fours blood still dripping from his wounds.
Screw the cops, he thought as he drew his side arm, the moment it left the holster he was running on pure training and muscle memory, he dropped into a combat stance pistol leveled and braced. He sighted and fired twice then paused a heartbeat before firing twice more. The man collapsed to the ground, the two shots to the head had finished him. Neil pivoted and saw the cannibal tearing into another man blood was spraying, there were three bullet hole in his back and what looked like a hole from a shotgun.
Neil fired again two and two, just as before, hoping he didn’t miss and hit any one else. The cannibal landed face first, or would have if he still had a face the two rounds to the head had pretty much removed it when exiting.
He heard the shot gun boom again, and saw a mostly headless corpse fall to the pavement. A quick look showed him a THP officer with a shot gun moving in. another officer was wrestling with a fourth man, somehow managing not to be bitten. The older cop with the shotgun stepped up and butt stroked the struggling man, who kept snapping his teeth and twisting his head around trying to reach the officer who held him.
Finally the officer smashed the butt of his shotgun with all his strength into the mans head and something cracked. The infected man finally went limp and the officer holding him let got letting the corpse fall to the ground. .
Neil holstered his pistol and stepped out of the pool of blood he was standing in, relieved to hear more sirens in the distance quickly drawing closer.
“I am not even going to ask if you have permit for that thing” the Officer with the shot gun said, looking at the bodies then at Neil.
“I do” Neil replied, feeling the old familiar after combat shakes setting in.
“Vet?” the officer asked.
“yeah,” Neil replied.
“thought so, thanks mind hanging around till we have this cleared up. just in case someone else goes nuts and attacks.”
“I.. sure no problem even though Im not a cop, ” Neil said.
“great, thanks, at this point I don’t care that your not a Cop, this is eighth call like this in an hour, I’ll take any help I can get, and you stayed cool during the whole thing, which is more than I can say for some” The officer said, looking towards the cruiser where the young THP officer sat watching.
Neil looked around and saw Sue standing near the doors of the store, the pipe still held loosely in her hand, Curtis stood beside her his arm around her shoulders talking quietly to her.
Rigs were pulling out of the truck stop, horns blowing, cars were streaming out past them some jumping the curbs. It was a mad house. There had to be more going on than just this to send so many people fleeing. What was it the officer had said Eight calls in an hour like this. God that was insane he thought as decided to go into the store where a Tv was usually on playing the News.
He walked quickly the store saying nothing to Sue and Curtis as he passed them heading inside. It seemed so normal inside under the bright lights surrounded by all the normal things of life that it was bizarre. But the large group of people some tourists who had been passing through and truckers gathered around the Flat screen Tv over the snack bar watching the news was not normal and he felt his stomach lurch with worry.
On the large screen footage was running that looked like Moscow he thought, then nodded as he saw the familiar image of the Kremlin with Tanks and personnel carriers rolling past. “President Putin is urging Russians to remain calm and indoors, away from the infected who are roaming the streets, he assures them the military will soon regain control of the streets. But the rioting seems to be growing worse in the districts to the east, where the Russians had deployed a motorized Rifle regiment with whom contact has been lost.”
He watched as footage taken from a helicopter that showed out of control fires raging along a street filled with soviet era cement block buildings. A crowd of what might be a couple of thousand were moving down the road, the camera zoomed in, and showed men, women and even children, staggering and lurching down the street. “this is what is being seen all over Moscow, the infected have spread through the city, they have attacked passengers using the Subway. They have been seen in and around hospitals. And oh my god theres fighter planes coming” the report said sitting safely in the helicopter. The camera came up in time to show three Russian fighter bombers screaming over the block dropping their pay loads, fires bloomed along the block, two buildings collapsed and one leaned dangerously to one side. .
“Holy shit” someone muttered as three more planes followed the first flight.
The Camera shook and swayed as the Shockwaves rolled over the chopper and then cut back to the studio.
“The violence that has swept across Asia and Europe is continuing to rise,” The man behind the desk said his face drawn. “We go live to Bryan Jenner” he said. The screen filled with the haggard face of a once handsome man behind him the coliseum reared up into the sky. “the Chinese have sealed off Beijing in a ring of tanks and soldiers and has reportedly started carpet bombing the city. In Rome thousands, believing the world is coming to an end have gathered in the square outside St. Peters joining the pope in prayer for the souls of the world.” he sounded scared and under massive strain. Neil thought. “we have reports coming in of similar attacks occurring in the US……”
Stunned Neil stepped outside to escape the News, what ever was happening in Europe and Asia appeared to be happening here too. Pulling out his cell phone he dialed a number.
Monty sighed and rubbed his eyes, the reports just kept coming in, what had started as a few sporadic reports off odd attacks in different places around the world had become a flood, the US had shown little interest till a report had come in about a horde of homeless in New York city boarding a subway train and slaughtering every one on board. Then reports out of Boston, los Angeles, Houston, Philly had come in, none had been as bad as New York at least not at first.
Then reports of the bite victims starting to exhibit the same symptoms as rioters had started to come across the wire, a Hospital in NYC had been overrun and at the moment the police were sitting on the news and had managed seal the infected inside, but that wasn’t going to last, the violence was growing in NYC faster than anywhere else in the US.
He suspected that was due to the large homeless population who had probably been the first to be infected, and as little attention was given to the homeless no one had noticed till a huge number of them had been infected which was what had led to the subway attack, where four hundred men and women had been half devoured and infected, joining the homeless horde to sweep out of the subway into Times square.
“this can not be happening” he said aloud, ignoring the rest of the staff who stared at him for a second then went back to their work.
He flipped to the next report just as his cell phone rang, picking up his phone he saw the caller Id, Neil Drake, for two years Neil had pretty much vanished into the truckers world, with out a single call and now the world was falling apart he calls.
“Neil,” he said answering. He listened for a moment “hang on let me write this down.” He said opening a blank file and pulling his keyboard out. “ go ahead”
he listened intently holding the phone to his ear with his shoulder.
Finally Neil finished and Monty leaned back in his chair his tension levels almost through the roof. “listen me Neil, I owe you big, for this and for saving my ass in the Sandbox. So listen close, you need to get as far from population centers as you can. I’m going to send you a GPS coordinate, and you go there. Its, well it’s a place that was supposed to be used for COG, its finished and partially stocked but before it could become operational it was cut from the budget.” He paused as Neil asked him a question looking around the room, Sylvia his assistant was looking at him in shock technically he was breaking the law with what he was about to reveal and she knew it.
“it can hold four or five hundred people, according to the plan and it’s a hundred miles from your location. Stick to the back roads as much as possible, I suspect come sunrise the interstates are going to be packed with people trying to find some place safe”
Monty made a notation on the information Neil had given him nodding as he listened to his old friend. “good luck to you to Neil, and Cover your Ass Soldier its Tango uniform all over.”
Monty hung up and quickly typed in the coordinates and sent them to Neil, then looked at Sylvia. She was in her early twenties and a rising star in the Agency with a young daughter and devoted husband. “ I think you should go get your family and get out of D.C. I don’t need any aide and there is not much you can do here, hell there’s not much any of us can do but sit here and read the reports of how the world is ending.”
“I cant Monty, my place is here maybe something will come up and we can turn this around.” She said levely but he could see the fear for her family in her eyes.
Te hell with this he thought Im going to break the damn rules all the way tonight. He nodded slowly respecting her decision. “ I want every one here to one by one go down and check weapons out of the armory, those of you with family and want to be with them, should go home as soon as you are armed. It wont be held against you.” He said then pointed to Sylvia “ your first get a weapon and get back here we have a lot to do if we are going to turn this around.” It was a false hope and he knew it.
As soon as she had left the secured room he picked up a phone and called a friend of his. “ Hey, listen I don’t have long, and Im going to ask you do something that’s against the rules but I don’t care, I want you to gather your teams and send them to the address’s Im going to send you via Email I want you to pick up the people at those addresses and bring them to Mount Kindle. I know but these people and yours deserve to have their family’s safe and secure while we fight this Cole, so get moving. I have a bunch of calls to make to warn people and do my real job too. Thanks Cole. God bless buddy.” Monty said then hung up.
“Marco, I want you to get the emergency contact list info for every one here, Im sending you an email address, forward a copy to that address then pick six people and start calling immediate family, tell them to pack light, take only essentials and that includes food too. They are to wait, vehicles will be arriving with in the next two hours to pick them up and take them to safety.” Monty said into the silence that had descended over the room.
“You realize Monty, what your doing is illegal and a breach of national security.” Dani Ngyun said. “Kindle may have been defunded and not on the list for use but its still classified and your acting outside of our orders.”
“Classified, stocked and minimally staffed and at this point I don’t care what might happen to me later, I think there is much more to worry about tonight than what might happen to me for trying to save your families and loved ones.” Monty said. “now get back to work we still have a nation to try and save.”
“Sir, the Chinese just Nuked Beijing” A staffer reported his face pale. There was a stunned silence around the room
Monty picked up his office phone and punched in a code. “This is Monty Davidson, based on the current information I recommend activation of Case Diamond.” He said then hung up.
Neil placed his phone back in his pocket, stunned did not describe what he felt, Monty wasn’t an alarmist, and his position placed him with information that would probably scare the hell out of the population on any day, so if he said things were bad, they were worse.
The officers working the scene here were looking uneasy, and many were carrying their shotguns or even M-4’s. two more ambulances had arrived to take the wounded to the nearest Hospital and the paramedics looked worried as they went about their jobs.
“You okay” Curtis asked seeing Neil just standing there staring at the blood.
“No, no Im not.” Neil said making his decision. “ I want you to listen to me okay, we need to get out of here, away from cities, and large towns, and I know exactly where we can go. Talk to any drivers you know that you can trust, especially if they have a fuel tanker with diesel in it. We have a hundred miles to cover before sunrise and we need to stay off the interstates as much as possible.”
Sue looked uneasy and surprised, she had never see Neil like this, or heard the authoritive tone in his voice before. He sounded like a military officer, confident in himself and assured people would follow his orders.
“Sue, get it together this is worse a lot worse and you can hear it on the news as we drive, we need to hurry” he said pulling out his credit card, “ I need you to help me buy as much food and water as we can, I’m maxing out my card you might want to do the same”
“If I max out my card I wont be able to pay it back Neil,” she protested, “in case you didn’t realize it Neil, I just killed that woman.” Sue said angrily.
“Sue, she had been shot three times, she wasn’t going to stop. You might not have meant to do it, but you did and you saved lives yours included. And do you notice those cops giving a damn. They haven’t even taken a single statement, look at them, they are scared shitless, and this isn’t happening just here at the truck stop, what ever this is its happening around the world on much larger scale.”
She stared at the Highway patrol officers, and finally saw what neil had seen. He was right they didn’t seem to care about what she had done, or the fact that Neil had shot two men down. Neil was right, they hadn’t take a single statement, they should have at least talked to her and Neil about the part they played, taken them down to their station and questioned them more. But they hadn’t and they didn’t seem to want to they only seemed to want to finish here and get the hell out .
She had never been weak, never, her childhood had taught her that, but she had never killed any one before. No matter how much she had wanted to kill her stepfather. But this, she wanted to throw up at the thought of what she had done.
“honestly Sue, I don’t think we are going to have to pay it back, ever” Neil said suddenly looking towards the interstate where a line of Cop cars screamed by sirens wailing as they headed east. She felt her heart lurch at the sight of all the cop cars god it must be bad out there tonight. “okay tell me what to do, but if you are wrong your paying off my credit card and my lawyers”
Neil smiled, he actually smiled, “Sue if I’m wrong, Ill pay it all and be your sex slave for a year”
“Make it two years sexy man and Im in” Sue said making herself smile knowing that later she would lose it when she was alone and had to face what she had done..
Twenty minutes later they had cases of water and as much food as they could buy out front. Sue waited beside their purchases, while Neil ran and got his truck fending off questions from Lori who was freaking out at over how long he had been gone and the things she had been hearing on the radio and reading on the net.
He got the rig started and pulled around to the front of the store and parked in front of the doors. While Sue ran to bring her Rig up Neil started loading. i sat in the passenger seat staring at the blood and the bodies that were being loaded into a van by some men from the coroners office.
Sue wasn’t alone when she returned, four other trucks pulled in behind her, and led by curtis they all went into the store and began buying everything they could get to the counters.
“Guess they believed” Sue said as Neil passed a case of water up to here.
“Not hard once you turn on the news” Neil remarked.
It took almost an hour to load all the rigs, while they were loading, rigs were filling up their tanks. Neil wanted to shout with Joy at the sight of the Tanker rig that pulled up. All told nine Rigs, were coming along, all but two of the drivers had dumped their loads. Of the two who didn’t one was pulling a refrigerated trailer filled with food stuffs, the other was the fuel tanker.
at the last moment, the Semi RVs’ pulled up and two men got out. One was balding out of shape man around sixty, the other was maybe fifty in semi decent shape and wore a cap that read “Veteran of Desert Storm.”
“You the guy in Charge” the Vet asked Neil who was watching the kids he could see in the RV.s
“Wouldn’t say I’m in charge. What do you need” Neil asked knowing what the man was about to say.
“We heard some of the drivers talking saying you had a safe place to go. We want to go with you. We have our families with us. And food, some of us have weapons. Anthony is a heart doctor, his wife is a nurse, most of us can be really useful.” The man said.
“I don’t know that its safe, all I know is a friend of mine in the Government told me to go there and that it might be safe.” Five hundred people monty had said. these folks have food with them, so that’s not an issue. And a doctor and nurse not many would be this lucky. Neil knew he didn’t have time to waste and if he said no they would probably just try and follow. He couldn’t blame them either not when they had kids they were trying to keep safe he would do the same thing. But how many should I take, how many should I tell, if the word starts getting passed around there was no telling how many people might leave where it might safe to get out on the road where it damn sure wasn’t, and die.
“ I am betting that you all have some kind of GPS system” he asked, the kids had made his decision for him. They nodded. “then write this down,” seeing both men patting pockets he continued while they looked for something to write on. “ we aren’t going to wait, so get your vehicles fueled up and try to catch up with us “ he said. one of them finally had a pen and piece of paper in hand and Neil read off the GPS coordinates and then told them the Cb channel to use to contact him. “don’t spread that around the place we are going has limited space.” Neil said, “ Stay off the interstates as much as possible, use the back roads. Also stop at every open store and buy food and water. don’t try to save cash just spend it all. For as long as the stores are open. Which may not be much longer” Neil added. The men shook his hand the older guy almost in tears then he almost ran back to their vehicles to share the news. The Vet headed inside to buy a CB and other items. There wasn’t much left food or drink wise inside the truckers had gotten almost all of it.
He got the drivers together gave each of them the GPS coordinates, just in case something happened to him, he wanted to make sure all of them stood a chance of getting there. God Im going to miss the road he thought as he turned and headed for his Rig and Lori.
Pete Hollister shook his head as yet another call for assistance came over the radio, in fifteen years of being in the Highway patrol he had never seen a night like this and it was getting worse come sunrise it was going to get really bad as people tried to get to work, and there was nothing he could do to change that. Some people would hear the news and think it was just hype another stupid overblown story by the media and would try to get to work regardless, some wouldn’t listen to the news at all. .
Some of those folks would be attacked in their yards trying to get to their cars or trying to get back into their homes. Others would be attacked at work, or when they stopped to fuel up and the numbers of the infected would grow with each bite, and if the wilder stories were to be believed, with each death. God knew how many of the infected were already out there, he had heard a report that New York City was under Martial law and those guards were being overwhelmed and all that in just the course of several hours.
Someone had to convince the Governor that using the EBS and sending squad cars into neighborhoods to warn people was the best, possibly the only way to save as many as possible and cut down on the number of infected.
His thoughts cut off as he saw one of the ambulances ahead of him began to weave around, leaving its lane. It suddenly veered back into its lane slamming into a passenger car that went out of control and crashed through a guard and rail flipping over. The Ambulance sped up and swerved again striking the Ambulance ahead of it, it wheels cut sharply and flipped onto its side sliding into the oncoming traffic.
The other ambulance out of control slammed into the guardrail, sparks flying then it broke through before smashing into a stand of trees. Pete hit his brakes, and came to a screeching stop, then activated his lights out of habit. Behind him, Tim Mears did the same. “Great the only back up I have is the one guy that lost it back at the truck stop.” Pete muttered “just great.”
He radioed in a report but go no response. The oncoming traffic slowed as people tried to see what was going on, when Pete climbed out shotgun in hand, they sped up eager to put distance between themselves and what ever was about to happen.
“Mears quit gawking and get your ass over here” Pete shouted at the younger officer who had gotten out but was standing there staring at the ambulance on its side. Where a bloody hand was pawing at the window set in the ambulances rear door.
Mears shook himself and joined Pete pistol in his hand. “Breath Mears, you can do this, you have to do this, or you might not survive today.”
Mears nodded swallowing hard but stayed beside Pete as he approached the ambulance on its side. At Pete’s signal Mears stopped ten feet from the ambulance. “I’m going to open the door, when they start crawling we are going to shoot them.”
“But they are sick, we can’t just gun them down.” Mears protested.
“How hard was it to restrain the ones back a the truck stop, every one that gets bit becomes one, what ever in the hell they are. And you’ve heard the calls, theres no help coming and no more ambulances. We cant just leave them here to attack people we have to do this Mears.”
Mears nodded shakily nothing in his life or training had prepared him for this, hell Pete hadn’t been trained for this, but one thing he had learned in his time with Uncle Sugars Step children was sometimes there were hard choices to be made and you couldn’t run away from them or people died. This was one of those times.
He moved up slowly, each footfall like a hammer on his nerves, he really didn’t want to do this. God he didn’t want to do this. He reached the back of the ambulance, there were more hands now beating on the blood smeared windows. Faces pressed against the glass off and on and dead looking eyes fixed on him, as their teeth snapped together in anticipation of ripping and tearing into him. He didn’t know how long he actually stood there staring at the horror, but finally he shook himself and reached out grasping the door handle
Lights flashed and air horns blew as rig after rig pulled out onto the highway. Neil wondered if the Veteran in the RV would get the CB hooked up and get his entire group on the road in time to catch up. well he had done what he could for the man whose group would either catch up or not.
Lori was in the sleeper apartment surfing the net for news, and had the TV playing CNN.
from what Neil was hearing the situation was getting worse not better, reading between the lines, it was far worse than was being reported on. There was little out of knoxille yet, but that would change as soon as the morning radio shows came on and the local Tv Stations got into the swing.
What ever this was, it was out of control and spreading like wildfire, he still couldn’t shake what had happened back there, the paramedic had said the woman had no pulse, and he had seen the wounded man stop breathing, he had seen to many dead people in his life and that man and woman had been dead. But it wasn’t possible, was it? He asked himself. Something had changed in the world, he could feel it now. Something that walked out there in the darkness, something old, older than the world something that hungered for humanity he hoped he was going nuts, maybe, hopefully it was his imagination but he didn’t think it was. Let me be wrong Neil prayed. Please let me be wrong.
It was 0400 hours and if they didn’t hurry they wouldn’t reach their turn off before commuter traffic started filling I 40. he was already seeing trucks and cars filled with boxes and luggage, there were so many of them he didn’t think that several hundred people were moving at the same time, taking the same road.
Up ahead he saw the flashing lights of police cars and what looked like an over turned ambulance, he slowed not wanting to be pulled over, behind him the rest of the convoy slowed as well. Suddenly a bloody man stumbled out from behind the ambulance and staggered towards the rig, Neil slammed on the brakes but he was to close and the man vanished under the rig. “Oh fuck” he moaned as he started to come to a stop, only to see a highway patrol officer race towards his rig and leap up on the step beside the drivers door.
“Go, get the hell out of here” The officer shouted beating on the door, as several more people covered in blood appeared.
Neil slammed the pedal down and the rig lurched forward the cop almost losing his grip on both the entry bar and the shot gun in his hands. He double shifted and the rig pulled away. The last thing he saw was a second officer appear in his side mirror, dragging a leg as he stepped out into the path of one of the rigs behind him. Neil looked away.
Two miles later he stopped in the middle of the interstate, and allowed the officer to climb inside. As soon as the man was inside and settled in the passenger seat, Neil recognized him. “You okay?” He asked as he got the rig rolling again.
“I’m alive and I wasn’t bitten. So I think that describes okay at this point. I’m Pete Hollister, I think we can forget the badge now” Pete said.
“Neil Drake. What the hell happened back there” Neil asked.
“hell, is what exactly what happened” Pete said. “one of the ambulances went out of control, taking out a second ambulance and a car, I couldn’t get back up out here, or even more ambulances. So I was going to deal with the infected the only way I knew how. I had Mears, the younger Officer you saw back at the truck stop as back up, the other two cars were too far ahead and were escorting the remaining three ambulances. Got the door open, and we started shooting. What I didn’t know was some one in the other wrecked ambulance lived just long enough to open the door and try to escape, letting out the infected inside that ambulance. We were to busy putting down the ones we knew about, when one of the infected came up behind Mears and tore into his leg, I guess she severed an artery, he bled out fast. Two other motorists stopped I guess they were curious or wanted to help I don’t know, all I do know is they got out and died, when you showed up the infected were busy attacking them just long enough for me to live.” Pete said.
“ man that is screwed up” Neil said not sure what to say. “why were you heading out this way, I would have thought you would have headed to Knoxville.”
“ WE were told to take the infected to Dandridge, things are starting to get out of control in Knoxville. They thought Dandridge would be safer.” Pete said, shaking his head. “its going straight to hell out there, and the politicians are to busy trying to cover their asses and make it look like its under control to keep people from panicking, and all they are really doing is sending people off to work and school to be attacked and become infected and when the numbers reach a certain point, its over, we wont be able to stop it after that, assuming we haven’t reached that point yet. I hope you have a plan because I don’t think any place is safe now.”
. “I have a plan, but it I don’t know if its safe or not” Neil said and explained as much as he was willing to when he finished he nodded his head towards the entrance to the sleeper. “we have a long way to go, so unless you want to get dropped off somewhere close, Id suggest you go back there get a shower and try to relax.
“No, I don’t think I have anywhere I need to be. But a Shower, this thing has a shower.” Pete exclaimed suddenly all to aware of the blood, fore and dirt that covered him.
“ Yes a shower and a good looking woman, but the woman is my girlfriend unless she wants to dump me.” Neil said trying to joke but it came out flat.
“You’ve done better than I have, I haven’t had a lot of time for women thanks to my job. story of a lot of Officers so I’m told.” Pete said rising and climbing into the back.
“Damn I never knew these things could be so nice” Pete exclaimed from the sleeper.
Neil grinned for a moment but it faded, there wasn’t a lot to be happy about when the world looked like it was dying around you. He watched the road, as they entered Dandridge, occasionally seeing staggering men and women along the road., traffic was already building up, and they had another twenty minutes before they reached the back road they needed.. in the back he heard the radio, the early morning news and talk shows were just kicking off.
“ this is the Bill and Pat show, Pat here, wake up Knoxville. We have urgent news and you folks probably want to get up, get some coffee and pay attention. It seems over night a situation has risen in our fair city and is grown to the point that the police are asking for National Guard help, and Knoxville is not alone either reports are coming in from all over the state and across the world. The police Departments in our listening area are asking commuters to be cautious when heading to work if you stop and get out of your vehicle for any reason, be aware of your surroundings and if approached by any strangers get in your vehicles and leave. We can assure you this is a serious problem Bill was attacked and bitten on his way to work this morning at his local gas station. He should be joining us shortly to tell us about his experience…”
“ this 100.3FM your Talk and news station, at 5 am this morning, reports reached our Desk that a nuclear weapon was detonated over Beijing China, the Chinese Government has yet to respond to these reports, but some sources speaking off the record, have reported that Beijing being wracked by violence and rioting since the early morning deployed the weapon in order to Regain control. In other news, there are reports mostly on the web that New York City and Detroit suffered massive riots and violence last night and its still continuing at least according to the tweets and face book postings. Also this just in National Guard units have been spotted in both cities, but authorities have yet to verify or deny this sightings…..”
“Im here in Vatican city where rioters have entered the square, I don’t know how long I can stay here, but they are killing every one. Blood is every where, there are rumors that the swiss guard have taken the pope away to a secure location but I cant verify that story. All I can say is God Bless every one, stay safe and avoid Vatican city and Rome, its lost to the infected.”
“preliminary reports out of LA are that the rioting that sprang up over night have been contained and are under control. The Mayor has announced he will speak to the public shortly when he has the full report but urges the Citizens of LA to remain calm and continue to be the voice of compassion and reason during this time of crisis.”
“….. I say to you brothers, that the day of reckoning is upon us, the minions of Satan have been unleashed and that Finally Armageddon has begun. Soon the rapture will sweep us away to sit with the lord, while the sinners, and the Homosexuals are wiped from the world ……..”
“Chip, I can only say that claims of the end of the world are exaggerated at best, the religious right are ignoring their own dogma to leap at yet another chance to claim the end of days are upon us, yet where is the Anti Christ? where is the rebuilt temple on the mount? Nothing in Revelation has come to pass its hogwash, what ever this is it has a normal logical source and the CDC and other scientists will figure it out…”
“Hello…My name is Jimmy, I’m ten, I live in Maryville and I came to work with my dad this morning, he works here at this radio station. Sick Men came and my dad locked me in here where all the microphones are, I think every one is dead outside, some one please come save me, I don’t want to die…”