A World Reborn: The First Outbreak

BOOK: A World Reborn: The First Outbreak
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A World Reborn:

The First Outbreak

By Chris Thompson

 

 

Text Copyright © 2016
Chris Thompson

 

The cover picture is a public domain image downloaded and
made available by
https://pixabay.com/
under
a Creative Commons license of CC0, allowing free modification and usage for
commercial purposes of any and all images. No endorsement, however, is given by
the original photographer for this derivative, nor the website itself.

 

The following is a work of fiction; no likenesses to
persons, living or dead, or events is intended or inferred. The subject matter
is suitable for mature audiences, and features scenes of violence, adult
language and horror. If you do not enjoy such content, or find it offensive,
then do not read any further. Reader discretion is advised.

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

 

Melissa turned over on the recliner she was
occupying. She’d been out toasting under the sun for about an hour and was
almost ready to get up and leave, but not for a few more minutes. She grabbed
the ponytail she had put her blonde hair in, flipped it so it wasn’t on her back
and carried on tanning. It felt nice to be able to relax, she thought, especially
after the last couple of weeks... well, the last few months really.

“Can I help you with anything, ma’am?” A
male voice inquired. Melissa turned and peered up at him, lifting up her
sunglasses to see him better; the sunlight hit her blue eyes and made her
wince, but she was able to see him more clearly after a moment.

“No, thank you.” She replied politely. The
man was an employee, wearing the white shirt and khaki pants that seemed to be
the uniform for those who worked around the pool. He was handsome, tall, dark featured
and definitely Latino, and he smiled at her when she spoke.

“Ah, you are English. It is a pleasure to
meet you.” He told her. She smiled back at him and nodded.

“You too.” Melissa answered civilly,
dropping her sunglasses back down over her eyes. She wasn’t in the mood for
socialising and while she didn’t want to be rude, she hoped he would just
continue about his duties. Unfortunately, he didn’t.

“Since I started working here,” he said,
“I’ve met a great many people of different nationalities. I’d say that’s the
best part of the job: meeting different types of people.” He continued. His
English was heavily accented, but he had little difficulty making himself
understood.

“I imagine it would be.” Melissa responded
courteously.

“Are you vacationing alone, if you don’t
mind my asking?”

The question stung Melissa, and she decided,
as he was clearly interested in a little conversation, she would change the
topic.

“What’s your name?” Melissa asked him,
rising up on to her forearms.

“Roberto Nunes, ma’am.”

“Well, Roberto, I’m Melissa. Melissa
Jones.” She informed him, extending her hand. He shook it and sat on the edge
of the recliner beside her. As most of the other guests had started to leave to
get ready for dinner, it wasn’t too busy and it seemed Roberto had decided to
pass the time in a more social way.

“How long have you been working here,
Roberto?”

“I work here for a few months now. My
uncle, he’s the manager of the pool staff and he helped me to get the job.”

“How nice.”

“Yes, it is. I get to work with my sister
and my uncle here at the hotel, which makes it more fun, you know?”

“Your sister works here with you?” Melissa
asked.

“In a way; Maria, my sister, she works in
housekeeping. Despite us being in different parts of the hotel, our paths cross
during the day, and we meet up for lunch.”

“Fair enough.” Melissa commented. “Well,
Roberto, I’m going to go inside and get ready to go out for dinner.” She
concluded as she turned over and started to get out of the lounger, slipping
her feet into her sandals.

“Have a pleasant evening, ma’am, and if you
need anything when you’re at the pool, please ask.” He told her, smiling
warmly. Melissa nodded, rose to her feet and waved before turning to walk away.
She crossed around the perimeter of the nearby swimming pool, weaving between
occupied loungers and couples dipping their toes in the water, making her way
across the sand coloured stone tiles until she reached the archway that led to
the path back to the hotel. She continued on, following the signs indicating
the way back from the pool complex or as the management had called it, ‘The Outdoor
Relaxation and Swimming Centre’. It was large, with four pools, some hot tubs,
a bar and a cafe. Usually it was bustling with a throng of people; due to the
lateness of the day, however, it had died down somewhat.

A few minutes later, Melissa was on the
hotel path; an avenue of palm trees and knee high hedges. A couple of cut away
paths led to the grassy areas contained within, which were surrounded by fences
on the outer perimeter to prevent non guests from using the facilities. As she
passed by she saw some people were using the grassy spaces for picnics,
families mostly. Thinking about families made Melissa’s heart sting, but she
pushed the thought away. She wasn’t going to think about her cheating, almost
husband. She’d come here to get away from him and his secretary, amongst other
things, and wasn’t about to allow him to invade her thoughts and spoil her
vacation in Las Vegas; which should have been their honeymoon, she thought
bitterly, unable to prevent that thought from getting through.

Melissa followed the stone path, looking up
at the towering hotel in front of her; fifty-two floors of five star service,
at least, according to the brochure. Melissa didn’t have a great deal of
experience with hotels, but so far, the food was great, the pool was nice and
the staff had been pleasant enough. The room she was staying in was luxurious
and gave a wonderful view of the Las Vegas Strip and the other casino hotels in
the area. She’d never been to Las Vegas before, but she had come to realize it
was beautiful in its own way, a very artificial and constructed way granted,
but at this point in her life, Melissa needed some beauty in whatever form it
came. Things had been dark for her after she discovered her fiancé had betrayed
her trust, but in truth, things had already been dark for Melissa. Sometimes
she wondered if her attitude problems hadn’t caused him to betray her. A part
of her realized she had probably driven him away.  She had been damaged by her
time in Africa, and although she could understand his duplicity, well, almost,
she couldn’t forgive him. Nonetheless, she recognised that the cold, harsher
exterior she had shown to the world since her return was a drastic change from
the light-hearted person she had been when she went there on assignment, when
they had parted with the promise of marriage when she returned.

For the first couple of months back in
England, she’d turned to drink. Not to an excessive level, but more than she
had in the past; what was once a drink before bed to help her sleep turned into
two, then three. She had managed to keep herself from becoming dependent on
drink, but when her fiancé told her of his betrayal and she subsequently kicked
him out of her apartment, she’d started to fall into the bottle. Her work had
begun to suffer and that became a problem for her editor. Melissa worked as a
journalist for an online only news service, and although she was allowed to
work from home these days, she was required to meet him at least once a week in
person. She’d turned up one day nursing a hangover, and so he’d given her a
choice: take a vacation and clear her head, or find a new job. It sounded
harsh, but Melissa knew he cared a lot. She took a hard look at the road she
was going down and decided to turn her life around, to prevent her descent into
alcoholism and to try to get back on track. Therefore, the solution was
somewhat simple: she had the plane tickets and hotel reservation she’d planned
to use for their honeymoon, a surprise that she’d not had the opportunity to
spring, and decided to make that her vacation. She’d been staying at The Seraph
Hotel and Casino for about a week, and although she still felt pain from her
recent break-up, alongside the darkness that haunted her from that harrowing
period in Africa, it was starting to affect her a little less. She certainly
drank less, at the very least.

Melissa entered the final stretch of the
long avenue that connected the pool complex to the hotel. It was wide, and a
bit livelier than the places she’d passed so far, with a half dozen
restaurants, cafes and bars spread roughly evenly along the path. There were
also stores, spas and places that Melissa wasn’t entirely sure what they were.
She padded along the polished stone floor, reaching the series of big, double
glass doors which separated the hotel proper from the avenue she’d just
traversed from the exterior of the hotel complex. A greeter who worked for the
hotel opened the door and smiled at Melissa as she entered the hotel; Melissa
thanked him politely and half-smiled in return. Her skin felt warm and radiant
after coming in from toasting in the sun, and the ground floor of the hotel -
the casino and entertainment part really - felt cool by comparison. She crossed
over the plush, rich brown ‘Welcome’ mat, also emblazed with the hotel name,
and onto the polished, tan stone floor which was essentially the main path
around the ground floor. She looked over her surroundings, double-checking her
bearings before making a move. Essentially, most places on the ground floor
could be reached by following the long, curved passage from the exit to the
outdoor area, where Melissa currently was, to where it terminated at the
entrance lobby for the hotel and casino. Melissa began to follow the
passageway, idly noting the theatre on her right, which was promoting some kind
of magic show for that evening, while on her left was a huge sports bar, which
seemed packed at that moment. No doubt the patrons within were taking full
advantage of the advertised twenty five big screen televisions to watch and
gamble on the sport of their choice. As she turned to follow the leftward curve
of the passageway she observed a large planter, containing a fake plant of some
sort, as there was no daylight for real ones, and a door just beyond the
theatre marked ‘Staff Only’ which, apparently, could only be opened with a key
card.  A moment later her footsteps faltered and, as had happened previously on
her way in from the pool complex, she came to a halt to stare in awe at the
huge scale of the casino. She had been a guest for several days now but had yet
to grow so accustomed to it she could pass without stopping to take in the
extraordinary sight. The many arched entrances on her right - that reached up
to the second floor - stretched for some considerable distance, beyond the
Grand Staircases, one on either side, before the arches swept right and
continued on along a wide, side passage. A spacious, brightly lit, square hallway
followed which housed the banks of elevators for the north side of the hotel
tower, three on each side, with a door  opposite the entrance which had a sign
indicating ‘Stairs’. Across from this was an identical hallway, where the
elevators to the south side of the hotel tower were located, at the far end of
which was a second door giving access to stairs. The west elevators and stairs
went roughly up the middle of the hotel tower, to allow easier access to the
more central rooms in the wide hotel tower block. At the furthermost end on the
casino side were a scattering of cafes, bars and stores; the foremost offering
a variety of menus from Chinese to Mexican which attracted not only the hotel
guests, but tourists from other hotels.

Although the flashing lights of the slot
machines with their distinctive lively tunes sometimes appealed to her, Melissa
hadn’t actually been inside the casino. She saw literally thousands of people
milling around, either inside, going in or coming out; more than a few of the
latter looking unhappy. Looking around, she found it incredible that so many people
were contained in what could almost be considered a separate building, as it
extended out all around the massive hotel tower. There was even a second floor,
which housed even more restaurants, bars and stores; the latter selling
everything from clothing, to sportswear to gifts and toys exclusive to the
hotel, with smaller gambling venues slotted here and there. It was like a city
within the city of Las Vegas. The only downside, Melissa supposed, was that if
you were on the third floor, where the guest rooms began, your view was
somewhat lacking as you could see the jutting out rooftop of the casino
building, but those from about the eighth floor up obviously had a better view.

Other than that, there were the Grand
Staircases, which were both stately and opulent and owned a pair of intricately
designed, gold handrails that swept up each side of the sets of stairs. They
each led to the upper floor of the casino building, curving out then sweeping
round as they rose, one to the north side and one to the south. They were
linked on the second floor by a wide walkway, a ‘bridge’ some people called it,
which allowed guests a view of the ground floor from behind twin gold railings,
and also made it possible to traverse from the
north side to the south
side and vice versa. In addition
to the Grand Staircases were
a number of emergency stairways, discreetly located behind doors, though all
were clearly indicated. Near to where she had stopped to gaze at the casino,
was the acrylic glass walled, gold edged enclosure of ‘The Money Pit’, which
made Melissa wrinkle her nose in distaste. It was a not very unique game show
that ran every few hours or so. A bunch of people bought a raffle ticket and
the ones who won were invited inside. Once in, huge fans started spinning
beneath the metallic grilled floor, which caused prize coupons to flutter all
around them. Participants had sixty seconds to collect as many as they could,
mostly cheap prize tickets for the gift shop, but also coupons for meals at
restaurants and, much less commonly, small amounts of money. It was reminiscent
of a television show Melissa remembered from her youth; a little harmless fun,
for those interested in that kind of thing, but Melissa found it a little
degrading. People watched and laughed, some even applauded, as the ‘lucky’
participants scurried around, jostling each other in a good-natured way to try
to secure more prizes. After a contemptuous look in its direction, followed by
an ‘each to their own’ shrug, Melissa continued on, passing a short row of
planters containing more fake plants, until she reached the hallway for access
to the south  side of the hotel tower;  beyond which was the widening
passageway leading to the magnificently appointed lobby, with its long,
mahogany reception desk, which had gold lettering proclaiming the name of the
hotel along its front, and a whole host of carefully arranged, dark leather
seating, some of which circled around the impressive floor to ceiling pillars.
There were also a few heavy wooden tables covered in magazines and newspapers
of the day.
Above the passageway, behind a railing and imitating its curve,
one could look up through the gap to the second floor, to those stores
surrounding the wide walkway or, from the second floor, peer down at those
traversing the path to the lobby.
Melissa didn’t continue
towards the lobby, and instead turned into the hallway, approached an elevator
and pressed the call button. After waiting patiently, she was rewarded by its
arrival. She stepped aside to let out a family with a stroller and an older
couple, and then she entered.

BOOK: A World Reborn: The First Outbreak
11.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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