Authors: Emily Owenn McIntyre
And This Too
A Modern Fable
by Emily McIntyre
Dedicated to the love of my life for helping me find the light at the end of the tunnel.
A dramatic tune brought Channel Five news back from the commercial break.
we turn to Missy Roulette for the local news. Missy?
“Thanks Matt. The biggest story tonight is the sudden flu epidemic.”
One particular viewer noted that if you looked closely enough, you could see the young news anchor’s hands shaking.
“Some of the symptoms are high fever, vomiting and…”
the news anchor paused, fanning herself with her notes and swallowing hard before continuing on
, “Uhm…headache and hard time concentrating. If you see these symptoms in any of your friends or family members, lock them in a room and do not come into further contact with them. They may have fallen prey to the deadliest strain of flu in history.”
Harley Monroe watched in awe as the news anchor’s fanning became increasingly frantic and wondered why no one was calling her on it.
“The virus is not air borne; it festers in,”
Missy gulped again
, “Imported meats. Many fast food restaurants have been ordered to shut down because of their imported meat.”
Harley was glued to the TV as Missy Roulette, the buxom news anchor slammed her notes on the desk and paled.
“Sweet Jesus! Is the effing A/C broken again?”
She exclaimed moments before ripping her blouse off.
“Get some damn fans in here!”
She reached behind her, possibly about to remove her bra, but then she stopped, her hands dropped to her sides and she fell forward onto the desk. There was a loud thud as her forehead smacked against the mahogany wood. She lay unmoving for a few moments before sitting straight up. Missy Roulette, with her golden blonde hair sticking to the sweat on her deadpan face, threw up all over the prop desk and her notes. The vomit was dark black, like fresh asphalt, and it just kept coming and coming. Sneering in disgust, Harley couldn't look away, hoping that the flow would stop.
She waited for the cameras to turn off, but they didn’t.
Who cared if she was puking all over the set, she was topless
. All sarcasm aside, Harley knew that the situation was like a horrifying train wreck: distastefully eye catching.
someone from behind the scenes said in a quivering mock calm
, “Are you okay?”
The once beautiful and classy news anchor finally stopped barfing and looked up at the camera. The flesh around her eyes was tinted green, her lips purple and chapped. You could see the intricate web of delicate, blue veins through her skin. With an ear-shattering screech she pounced over the desk. The camera tipped over and conveniently landed on the sight of the “lovely” Missy Roulette ripping the flesh off a screaming camera man. The transmission cut to a “Technical Difficulties” banner, but it was too late
Harley jumped up from her position on the bed where she had sat, enchanted by the terrifying transmission. She thrust her fist into the air and victoriously cried, “Yes! Zombie apocalypse! I’m not insane.”
Somewhere in Texas
Lucy Montoya sighed and rolled her eyes as she tossed the schedule back on the counter and headed out the front door. People were sick and dying; there was a nationwide epidemic; the country was falling apart, and she was scheduled to work five late-night swing shifts at the Pump'n'Gulp.
"It's bullshit," Lucy muttered as she reached her car, "I've worked every fuckin' holiday and now, as the gates of hell break open, I get to work until midnight."
Lucy grabbed her purse, locked the wanna-be sports car, and went back inside. She grumbled as she counted-in her till. If she could have carried a gun, she would have; but all she had in her pocket was a knife. The blade was sharp enough to do considerable damage to an assailant, but Lucy wished she had a handgun instead. Although, if she'd had a gun she'd probably shoot more people than necessary.
"God I hate this job," she moaned, slamming her drawer shut and moving her "Lane Closed" sign.
As Lucy helped annoying customer after annoying customer, all she could think about was what her friend, Shannon, had told her a few weeks previous,
"My friend, Isabelle’s dad works at a hospital, he's seen the victims of this so called 'flu'. Izzy said that her dad told her that once they're sick, they're done for," Shannon tapped her temple with her index and middle fingers, her Georgia Thin cigarette dangling from her lips, "Eliminate the brain, is what Izzy said he said. Once they're sick, drooling black pus and shit, they're gone and you've got to shoot, stab, or smash and bash those fuckers in the head." Shannon puffed on her Georgia Thin and furrowed her brow, "Hospitals won't be able to contain them for too long and all the pigs are too busy trying to figure out how to get their dicks out of their asses to do anything ...That job of yours worries me, Luce."
Lucy shook the memory from her head as she grabbed a pack of cigarettes. "Do you have your ID?"
"Do you have your ID?"
"I'm 35 years old."
"I'm sorry, I need your ID."
"This is ridiculous."
"I'm just doing my job ma'am."
"What's your name?"
Lucy sighed and replied, "Lucy."
"Your manager will be hearing about this."
Technically, there was no manager. Alfred had stopped coming to work like a sensible family man when the plague began to spread. Shawna, the 22 year old assist, had tried to step in but, she was sort of in over her head.
"She'll be here tomorrow between 8 and 5. Can I help you with anything else?"
"Go fuck yourself bitch."
"Have a great day, ma'am." Lucy called after the bleach-blonde bag of leather.
The store was suddenly empty, as usual the customer-clusters came in spurts, and most busy days were like roller coasters with super crazy highs and really mellow lows.
Matt, a greasy-haired, four-eyed, high-school drop out with a bad habit of staring at Lucy when he thought she wasn't looking muttered something about going to the bathroom. Lucy groaned, grabbed a few cartons of cigarettes and began mindlessly stocking them above her till.
"Eliminate the brain," she mumbled to a pack of Caramel Lights. "Eliminate the brain."
After her conversation with Shannon, Lucy began practicing her aim throwing the cheap, gas station knife that she carried in her pocket, but she was better at stabbing.
"Eliminate the brain."
"Hey," Matt snorted, startling Lucy out of her train of thought, "check out pump 5."
There was a large, expensive SUV parked at pump 5 with a teenaged, brunette, Barbie girl trying to figure out what it means to pre-pay.
"And brain-dead," Lucy snorted before going to the intercom system, pressing the number "5" and a button that read "Talk". "Pump 5, we are a pre-pay station, come pay inside or swipe your card at the pump."
"I like- did swipe it, and like, I guess it's not reading my card."
"So come inside and we'll take care of you."
Lucy pressed the "Std by" button before the bubble gummer could say anything else.
"Why do hot girls have to be so lame?”
Lucy shrugged, almost taking offense at Matt’s comment. "Some..." Lucy paused for a moment, tasting her response before spitting it out, "most girls are like pastries, Matt, hot and flaky."
Matt half chuckled half snorted. Lucy was watching the mini-skirt clad, heel wearing, bosom bearing chick as she made her way through the lot.
"I thought girls only dressed like that in the movies you watch when your mom's not around," Lucy snorted.
Matt was too enrapt by the urban gazelle to notice the insult.
Lucy watched as something, someone, darted from the employee parking. His pants torn, hair matted and arms flailing haphazardly around above his head. The clerk's eyes widened and she reacted without thinking. Matt could only watch in awe as Lucy bounded out the door and across the parking lot. As the girl noticed her surroundings and began to scream, Lucy pounced and stabbed the man in the back of the head.
The man's skull was mushy and took Lucy by surprise. Black goo oozed onto her hand as she ripped the knife out of the decay. Lucy watched, amused as the body hit the ground and zombie juice splattered the girl's high heels.
"Oh my god! Like, what in the hell
Lucy shrugged and wiped her knife off on her shirt.
Harley Monroe had always been a believer. She had grown up preparing for the day that the world would end, praying that a vampire would whisk her away so she could terrorize those who had pissed her off, and waiting to be contacted by aliens. She had already prepared two knapsacks full of non-perishables, one with clothes, and another full of nothing but weaponry and ammo. After loading the two five gallon gas tanks into the back of her Volvo, she grabbed her cat, Pixel, and left Ivana’s Port before she could witness any of the awful carnage that was sure to come.
Somewhere in an underground room in Washington, D.C.
The President of the United States of America sat at the head of the conference table.
“You mean to tell me,” he said calmly with his hands folded neatly on the table top, “That our nation is experiencing a Code 3 outbreak?”
“Yes Mr. President,” remarked a military general, staring at the president's hands. “All of Ivana’s Port, Oregon has gone off the grid. Overnight.”
The President pounded his fist on the table, causing the general and the rest of the people sitting around the table to jump slightly.
“Yes, Mr. President,” said the general. “We sent some troops to prepare the local police, and tried to pass off the outbreak as a strain of flu. But all of them… All of them Mr. President, are either dead or else they’ve lost the signal and are unresponsive. It’s too late to evacuate.”
The President folded his hands and touched both index fingers to his pursed lips. “Well, what about media coverage, please tell me that this is ‘hush-hush’.”
“Well. Mr. President,” The general stammered, “The anchor on Oregon's channel five news, Uhm…she changed on live TV…so anyone watching witnessed the gruesome event.”
“By God!” The President murmured, falling back slightly in his chair, “I never thought that things would get this out of hand.”
A female PR broke the ensuing awkward silence by saying, “It’s not just Oregon, Mr. President. The biggest cities and most state capitals in all fifty states have had out breaks. Ivana’s Port is the only one, however, where our fire power has been devoured.”
“I’m sorry to say, Mr. President,” she replied meekly, “But this scale of an outbreak is too big to cover up, especially now that it's been broadcast.”
The president lowered his hands back down to the table.
“This session is dismissed,” he mumbled.
Most of the members got up and began to file out of the room.
The general stood up and exclaimed, “But, Mr. President, we need to make a plan of action.”
“Not now, general.”
“But, Mr. President.”
The general left with his tail between his legs. As soon as the room had emptied, the President let out a sob and put his head on the table.
“I want my mommy,” he whispered dejectedly.
Somewhere in Arizona.
Lying on the table with his eyes closed, no one would know that Daniel was absorbing the conversation going on in the other room. The walls weren't incredibly soundproof inside the establishment because it was a basic, walk-in, clinic that dealt with the people who couldn't afford to go to the doctors that had flat screens in the waiting room.
"I don't know what to tell you, Mrs. Hernandez, I've never seen anything like it."
"But my son, h'e is very seek, no?"
"Yes, he is."
"So h'elp h'im, you are a doctor, do your yhob."
The woman's thick Spanish accent broke Daniel's heart.
"I'm sorry, Mrs. Hernandez. Give him some aspirin and flu medication, hopefully the fever will go down, and the symptoms will subside."
"You are the devil," the woman spat at the doctor.
"If you don't like my opinion, go to a different doctor, or a hospital."
It was easy for the doctor to say, Daniel thought, Mrs. Hernandez probably had a few more kids at home and a "yhob" somewhere paying her minimum wage. Daniel imagined that the young sounding woman with a mysterious Latina sexiness about her probably worked as a housekeeper in a large hotel while her husband slaved away on various construction sites.
"Ches, I will take my son to the h'ospital, even though you're supposed to h'elp me h'ere. Eef this ees a flu, why are none of my other children seek? Why aren't I seek? Why is my husband not seek? Everybody een my house should be seek, but Alejandro ees the only one." There was the pause of a woman gathering her belongings, "You are no doctor. You are a leetle boy weeth a play set handing out peels instead of h'elping."
Daniel was impressed with the woman. It wasn't often that he heard his own opinions being voiced so coherently. And now that she'd left, all he had to do was wait for the test results in silence.
The door to exam room four opened.
"Okay Daniel, let's talk blood."
Daniel strained to sit up.
"Your white blood count is way high."
"I do have a fever of 102.4, doc; there's something wrong with me, that's why I'm here."
"Yes, but all your test results came back negative."
"I can't eat."
The doctor flipped a couple of pages, reviewing the results. "It's all negative."
"What should I do? I can't sleep, can't eat... can’t function. You're telling me there's nothing wrong?"
"I'll prescribe you some nausea medication. Other than that, take some flu and cold capsules; you'll be fine. The fever will subside, and you’ll feel better."
Daniel was furious; it was the same diagnosis he'd just listened to.
"Fuck off," he said, leaving the exam room.
Dr. Craft sighed, took his glasses off and pinched the bridge of his nose. The more patients who came in sick with this elusive "flu", the more he began to hate his job. Dr. Craft didn't know how to handle the situation; he just knew what would happen when they left the office. The fever would get suddenly higher, and then they'd collapse into a brief coma after which the victim would vomit up their guts and begin to devour their friends.
Dr. Craft closed his eyes and dejectedly sighed, "I wonder what would happen if I didn't show up for work tomorrow."
Somewhere west of Ivana’s Port.
“Fuck!” Harley roared, infuriated at her deteriorating car, turning the keys in a futile attempt to restart it.
She was stranded in a world with no means to help her and somehow failed to admit that her ’83 station wagon was on its last leg. Harley grabbed her semi-automatic rifle from the passenger’s seat before tucking the handgun that had been lying on the dash board in her waistband. Pixel had crawled into the perpetually open glove box to take a nap.
Harley left with an ever worsening feeling of dread. She needed a large car with the keys still in it and a full tank of gas. That wouldn’t be hard considering that the road leading to the highway was littered with abandoned cars. Harley swallowed her fright and peeked into the first hatchback she found.
Full tank, keys in the ignition
, she surveyed the interior,
. Harley opened the door and hopped in, turning the keys before revving the engine.
Not a smart move. The reanimated walkers in the area were immediately alerted of her succulent presence. Harley sped back to her Volvo, which, despite its obvious flaws was indeed made of steel and would have been the perfect car for the eventual battle against the undead. She loaded the newer sport-utility style Cadillac with her gear and her cat.
Just as she locked herself in the car, the first couple of zombies shuffled from out of the distance and into reality. Harley rolled the window down and turned the car off. Using the semi-automatic rifle she blew holes in the first couple of walkers’ heads. More of them slouched into view, lethargically and steadily limping towards the car. A few better placed rounds and the zombies, one by one dropped to the ground.
Harley grinned as she realized that all of her planning was not in vain, because every head shot missed was a bullet wasted. Twelve more ghouls lurched toward the car, and the adrenaline rush guided more bullets to more plague infected brains.
Her heart played a high BPM victory song against her aching ribcage. She took a deep breath to steady her shaking frame, and paused to see if more of them were coming. However, the world was silent again. She started the car before rolling up the window.
As Harley sidled towards the highway on-ramp, trying to avoid drawing any more attention to herself, silent tears began to stream down the girl's round cheeks. The full weight of the situation had finally begun to overwhelm her.
This is it,
to go find my loved ones, flee the city and never come back. Fifteen walkers?! Oh Lord! What the hell is going on? What have I done? God, what have I done.
The sound of bullets leaving her rifle and the thought of all the deteriorated brain matter that had spattered to the ground ricocheted through her brain. The tears continued to spill down her face as she drove.
Once the road had made the transformation from Main Street to barren highway, Harley had collected her head enough to ease into the posted speed limit.
Pixel crawled onto Harley’s lap. The girl couldn't help but smile at the warmth and love emanating from the kitten, so she reached down and stroked the purring fluff ball.
Somewhere in Montana
Imogene Reed sat with her back against the wall. Everyone around her was bobbing up and down, responding to the screaming cheerleaders. The Hawks were having a perfect season, despite their synchronized illness, and now it was the student body’s job to rev up the Hawks for their homecoming game.
The cheerleaders would yell, “Lemme see your Hawk spirit!”
Then, the enthusiastic masses would reply, “What’s that you say?”
Then the cheerleaders would do a funky move and the masses would mirror it. The display made Imogene’s head hurt. The sound of thousands of pairs of feet stomping on the bleachers kept waking her up.
When everyone sat back down, the football coach stood in the middle of the gym and cheered, “Tonight we’re gonna tear it up!”
The brain dead crowd whooped in response.
“Gonna pulverize the Panthers!”
“And maintain our winning streak!”
“So come on down here and lend these Hawks your spirit!”
The students poured out of the bleachers, formed a puddle on the floor and circled up around the football team. In ripples, the pool of students bobbed up and down while hollering, “We’re number one! We’re number one!”
Imogene stood on the outside of the disgusting ritual. Suddenly, over the stomping and yelling, there was a disturbing sound. One of the football players had thrown up in the middle of the huddle. Soon all of them were vomiting a black sludge. The bouncing stopped as the whole team let out a murderous, uniform screech.
Chaos enveloped the high school as the quarter back pounced on the coach and tore into his flesh. The linebacker simultaneously began perusing a cheerleader. Teachers were panicking. Screams echoed throughout the gym.