Authors: Bret Wellman
Tags: #Horror | Dystopian | Vampires
“Your point, Doctor?” Smith nudged.
“How would you react?”
Joe groaned as his eyes struggled to adjust to the sunlight streaming through his bedroom window. He usually beat the sun up in the morning. He didn’t normally get hangovers, but it was looking like today was going to be the exception. Whenever he went to the bar with Keith it usually ended up this way, especially since he didn’t drink as much anymore.
The dog had kept him up all night with its barking; finally stopping right around the time Joe was about to get up and do something about it. That was good for the dog because if Joe reached the front door it wasn’t going to be pleasant.
He glanced out the back window as he fried his morning eggs. The corn was a little over waist high.
Ahead of schedule
, he thought.
It was his fault for planting so early.
He thought about his livestock as he stood there. He would probably want to sell a few of his cows before the harvest season came. His time would be spread thin enough as it was. He simply wouldn’t have time to milk all of them and bring in the harvest.
Sure he could hire a little help, but he liked his one-man operation. Keep it simple and work hard. As long as the bills got paid he would keep doing things the way he was doing them.
Joe took a big whiff of his freshly brewed coffee before pouring it into a mug. The scent filled his nose and woke him up. He took it without sugar and sat down to eat his eggs. It was too bad the morning paper hadn’t arrived yet. It was one of the downfalls of living way out in the country.
As he sat there eating, he glanced up at the clock. It was just passed six.
“Damn dog,” he mumbled.
When he was done he washed, dried and put away every dish he’d dirtied. After that, he slipped on his old red ball cap and headed out to milk the cows.
He was feeling pretty good when he opened the front door of the one-story farmhouse. The sun was shining, the summer air was fresh, and it was looking to be an easy day. Then he saw the blood.
It was everywhere.
There was specks of it dotting the grass at the edge of the corn field and coagulated on the stalks of corn. A smear of it ran across the bark of the big oak tree that overshadowed his driveway. There was a trail of it caked through the grass, leading to the dog house. The chain he had hooked his yellow lab Beau to the night before was there, Beau was not. His fur was mixed with the excessive amount of blood all around the dog house and covering the chain.
Joe stared out at the scene for about a minute, sipping his coffee and thinking. When he was done, he went back into the house and grabbed his 12-gauge shotgun from under the bed.
He checked on his chickens first. They were safe inside the henhouse. The rooster, on the other hand, lay limp under the fence post. Its skull had been crushed.
It wasn’t until he made sure the rest of the animals were safe that he followed the trail of blood.
He started at the edge of the cornfield, inspecting the stalks as he worked his way to where the blood was more concentrated. It was smeared from the bottom to about a foot high. It made a trail inward.
Joe spotted a piece of yellow fur and cursed under his breath.
What the hell happened?
He began tromping down the path, paying no mind to the corn stalks he was destroying under his heavy boots. If his dog was out there he was going to find it and put down any animal that got in his way.
He was waist deep in a sea of green, with only the rows providing him with a narrow line of sight.
The blood began to thin the farther he got into the field. It crossed over two rows and he almost lost it for a minute. He picked it up again after about twenty feet and continued to follow it until the end.
He found Beau’s leg first. It had been ripped off at the thigh, the fur peeled back. He found the body next. The dog was torn open from its neck all the way down to its tail. Something had dragged it with its intestines trailing behind. The head was missing.
Joe stood over the dog’s body a moment, chewing over his thoughts. When he was done, he picked up every piece of Beau and carried him to the back yard. His clothes were stained red by the time he reached it.
He grabbed a shovel from his tool shed and spent the next hour digging a grave. He buried Beau right in the center of the yard. He used his tractor to haul a large stone and placed it down at the head.
With the dirty work done, he changed his clothes, leaving the bloody ones in the sink.
He sighed, any trace of the good mood he had woken up with was gone.
The cows would be getting angry soon, they really needed to be milked. He would head out there soon, but first he had to make a phone call.
He only had a house line and that phone still used a cord. He wouldn’t be able to walk very far with it so he sat down at the kitchen table.
After dialing the number he wanted, he waited while it rang on the other end.
“Hello?” came the shaky voice of an old lady.
“Yes? Joe is that you?”
Joe smiled, picturing his neighbor’s face. She was a sweet lady who lived less than a mile away. The edges of their farms actually ran against each other on one side. She and her husband had been good friends with his parents and in a lot of ways, reminded him of them. He had known them all his life.
“Is Charlie there?” he asked.
“He is, but I’m afraid he’s fallen ill. Is it important?”
“No, go ahead and let him rest. Is he okay?”
“Oh don’t you worry about him. Caught a cold is all. No matter how hard I try and make him rest, he refuses to stay in bed. He’s a stubborn donkey of a man. I just don’t need him having another excuse for getting up.”
“Who is it?” Joe heard Charlie call.
“Get back to bed. It’s no one.”
Joe thought of the cows again and felt a little guilty. “Mrs. Finnegan?” he said. “I have to go, can you let Charlie know we've got a pack of Coyotes running around? And he should make sure all the animals are locked up at night.”
“Yes dear, I’ll be sure to pass that along.”
“Okay, you take care of yourself now.”
“Will do. Bye.”
Joe hung up the phone and got up to go relieve the cows of their milk.
Just as he had suspected, there wasn't a cow in the barn that was happy with their udders being stretched all morning. Joe grabbed a bucket and went to work, starting near the door and moving inward. It was hard work for the average man, but Joe had worked up wrist strength over the years. He was able to power through and began making up for lost time.
He was just finished up with five of the twenty cows when he saw a shadow fall across the door.
“You know they got machines for that now.”
Joe looked up to see Charlie Finnegan walking over with his hands in his pockets. The man was as white as a ghost. He was wearing the large black glasses he had gotten from the optometrists that did nothing to help his cause. He normally looked old, but now he looked ancient. Joe felt worried for him.
“Now how the hell did you slip past Rose?” asked Joe.
“You younger generations let your women push you around. It wasn't like that back in my day.”
Joe stopped milking and looked at him.
“She thinks I’m out back lying in the hammock.”
Joe shook his head and laughed. “She’s gonna kill you when she finds out.”
“Let’s hope she doesn’t.”
Joe couldn’t believe the old man. His wife wasn’t someone to be crossed. If he got caught he would probably have to bring her flowers every day for the next year, that or risk her wrath.
“You been to the doctor yet?” Joe asked.
“Ah, I don’t need to spend the better part of a fortune to have an over-educated kid tell me I have a cold.”
“You make a fine point,” said Joe, turning back to the cow.
“So what’s the deal with these coyotes Rose was telling me about? Your front yard looks like the shower from that movie, Psycho.”
“Damn things killed my dog.”
“Sorry to hear that. Beau was a good dog.”
“Yea,” said Joe. “The strange thing is I didn’t even hear it when it happened.”
“They must’ve got him quick then. That’s a good thing, he didn’t suffer.”
Charlie grabbed a bucket and pulled a stool up to one of the cows.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?
Charlie rubbed his hand against the cow’s side. “It’s torture letting these cows sit here without being milked. Just look in her eyes and you’ll see how much pain she's in.”
“You’d think a man as sick as you would know when to rest,
“Sweating this thing out Joey, that’s the trick.”
“Fine, but if you die and I’m the one who has to tell Rose, I’ll kill you,” said Joe.
Charlie smiled. “You have yourself a deal.”
Charlie went pretty slowly while Joe kept an eye on him the entire time. It took a little under a half hour to finish the rest of the cows. By the end of it, Charlie was breathing heavy.
Joe had him sit on the porch while he fetched a couple glasses of ice water. Charlie sat there and rested his head against the railing. Sweat beaded across his forehead.
“Laying down is starting to sound like a pretty good idea,” said Charlie after taking a sip of ice water.
“I bet it does,” said Joe.
“That sun is burning me. I didn’t know it was going to be so hot today.”
“It isn’t,” said Joe. “It’s only seventy. You should probably have Rose check your temperature when you get back.”
“Yea that’s probably a good idea.” He sounded drained.
“You need me to give you a lift?” Asked Joe, eyeing his red GMC truck.
“Nah, I’ll just rest here a minute. I should be fine.”
Joe eyed the old man as he moved further onto the porch and into the shade. He moved like a man that belonged in a hospital. When he was sure he wasn’t about to die, Joe grabbed the hose and began spraying down all the gore on his front lawn.
The blood mixed with the water, fading to a light pink. It ran in pools and mixed with the scent of the grass. Joe did his best to get all of it that was in the yard. He held his thumb over the nozzle to get the spray far enough to reach the edge of the corn.
It wouldn’t make up for the death of his dog, but at least he wouldn’t have to stare at the constant red reminder anymore.
He had a good portion of it sprayed when he spotted a police cruiser coming up the driveway. It was a newer model; one of the three new police cruisers the county bought the year before. Joe didn’t know what was so wrong with the old cars, but that was beside the point.
“This should be interesting,” he said.
“Hide the moonshine,” croaked Charlie.
The cruiser pulled up next to the truck and Sheriff Brooks stepped out. His wide brimmed hat hid everything above his mustache in shadow.
“What brings you all the way out here, Sheriff?” asked Joe.
“A little disturbance in town. You mind if we talk about it?”
Joe killed the hose. “I’m listening.”
“A lot of people are upset,” said the officer.
“Brooks, you asshole,” said Charlie. “Quit dicking with us and tell us what's going on.”
Sheriff Brooks did a double take at Charlie; he must have been seeing the same thing as Joe. Right then he had to be taking in Charlie’s frail figure and sickly complexion. He appeared to try and shake the image out of his mind before going on. “Old lady Greer woke up this morning to find somebody stuck the head of a dog on the fence in her front yard. It was a yellow lab. That led me to think about the only three people I know who own yellow labs. So far today I’ve already checked on two of them.” The sheriff placed both hands on his hips. “Where’s your dog Joe?”
Joe glanced around at all the blood he still had to spray. The trail was still there, but faint, running directly underneath the sheriff.
“You’re standing on him.”
Joe could feel anger churning in his throat. Coyotes didn’t kill dogs to impale their heads on fences, people did.
“What if you’d gotten hurt?”
Sarah rolled her eyes and silently cursed her brother for ratting her out.
Why can’t the little idiot keep his mouth shut…
“It was fine mom.”
“It wasn’t fine, and don’t you roll your eyes at me!”
“I don’t see what the big deal is, no one got hurt.”
“You don’t see what the big deal is?” she gaped at her with incredulity. “Ten years ago a boy broke his neck jumping off that bridge. Is that what you want, to break your neck? To make it so we have to feed you through a tube and change your diaper for the rest of your life? What were you thinking?”
“It’s not like that Mom. I thought it’d be fun.”
“Fun? There’s nothing fun about risking your life.”
Sarah shot a scathing glance at her brother who was sitting across from her at the table. To his credit, he looked ashamed for getting her in trouble. He mouthed the word “sorry” for the millionth time.
At that moment she could have punched him and knocked those stupid glasses right off his head.
“Don’t you dare take this out on him.”
“I’m sorry,” Sarah pleaded. “I didn’t think-“
“You didn’t think, that’s exactly what happened. You just wait until your father gets home.”
Sarah ran her hands across her face, pulling down on the skin. “Can I go to my room now?”
“Fine,” said her mom.
Sarah was out of her chair and heading towards her room before her mother could take it back.
“And don’t think I forgot about you,” she heard her mom saying to her brother as she left.
Her room was painted with a pattern of light and dark pinks that criss crossed in lines across the walls. Her comforter and pillows matched, while her dressers were painted black. It was a cozy little space where she always kept the shades drawn.
As she entered it this time, she locked the door behind her and did a belly flop on the bed. It was soft; the sheets puffed out around her. Now that she was alone, she took every emotion she’d been suppressing for the last twenty minutes and screamed them into a pillow. Her situation felt a little better after that.
She couldn’t understand what was wrong with her family.
How could they take something so little and inconsequential and turn it into such a big thing?
She contemplated the question for a while, just staring at the white ceiling. Eventually she pulled out her phone and went on Facebook.
She scrolled for a bit and was shocked to find one of her old classmates had died. Almost every other post was about him. She didn’t know the guy personally, but they’d shared a few classes together.
After doing a little investigating, she found he had gotten what appeared to be a cold at first. His symptoms continued to worsen until they had to rush him to the hospital. His heart stopped on the way.
It can happen so fast,
Life is so precious.
For the first time since jumping off the bridge, the thought crossed her mind that it might not have been the best idea. All the mournful posts could have just as easily been about her.
After a few minutes of scrolling, she spotted an article that snagged her attention. It was entitled, “New Disease”. She thought of her classmate and clicked the box. The link opened a new tab where she found the full article.
New Disease Discovered On The East Coast!
The United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a warning as of Tuesday, July 5th. An unidentified disease has appeared along the northern regions of the east coast and is spreading at an alarming rate. Cases have been seen from North Carolina all the way up into Canada.
The first recorded victims of the disease showed up on the 2nd. Their numbers have skyrocketed in the following days. Some estimates claim that the number of infected has multiplied since the initial outbreak. More cases are appearing daily.
Even more alarming is the 100% mortality rate. Not one person out of all the recorded cases has survived. This fact alone has garnered more attention than any other.
Officials are struggling to control the situation as the victim’s bodies disappear shortly after death. It has been rumored that proactive groups are responsible destroying the bodies in an attempt to stop further spreading of the disease. So far the act has only succeeded in preventing further study.
The president is set to make a speech on this issue. You can watch it live on channel four at 7:00pm/6:00pm central.
Until further notice, take extra precautions as you go about your daily schedule. Use hand sanitizer regularly and avoid heavily populated areas.
All public events in eastern coastal states have been postponed.
There was another article being shared that seemed pretty ridiculous. This one was mostly rumor and hearsay. The theory behind it was that some form of mutant rabies was making its way onto the stage. This new form of rabies was causing never before seen effects in humans. There was no proof of this of course because the article didn’t even cite any references. There wasn’t so much as a single diagnosed patient either. Most of the article made her roll her eyes. She wasn’t even sure why she read it.
Sarah’s phone went off. She closed her laptop when she saw it was her friend Caitlin. Whenever this girl called, she always demanded full attention. After a moment’s hesitation, Sarah slid her thumb to the right to answer.
“Hey,” she said.
When Caitlin’s voice came through she sounded excited. “Tell me you don’t have any plans for the next few days?”
“I don’t have plans.”
“Good! We’re going on a road trip!”
“Come on Sarah, you didn’t think we were just going to sit around all summer did you?”
Sarah shrugged even though she knew no one could see her. “I don’t know, I guess I didn’t think about it.”
“Well think about it girl!”
“Where are we going?”
“Okay, so you remember my cousin Beth? She got accepted to a school in New York. She moved into her apartment in Manhattan last weekend.”
“So we’re going to the city?”
“Doesn’t that sound great? But I didn’t want to go straight there, I figured we could cut the drive in half and spend the night at a hotel with a pool.”
“But it’s only a four and a half hour drive?” said Sarah.
“So, we’ll be leaving on Thursday. That way we can still leave tomorrow and make it by the weekend.”
Sarah thought about it, and the trip sounded fine to her. “Just one thing though.”
Caitlin sighed. “What is it?”
“I think I’m grounded.”
“Grounded, what are you twelve?”
“Sometimes I think so.”
“What?” This made Sarah sit up.
“You’re eighteen years old, legally an adult. What are they gonna do about it?”
“Um I don’t know, maybe lock me in the basement for the rest of my life.”
There was a knock at her bedroom door and jiggling of the door handle.
“Sarah?” came her dad’s voice.
“Gotta go,” she said, hanging up the phone.
“Open the door.”
She practically ran to the door to open it. About half way she stepped on a hairpin and had to limp the rest of the journey.
Her dad was a whole head’s length taller than her. He looked a lot like her brother only manlier and more confident.
She flung herself against his chest and wrapped her arms around him. “Oh how I’ve missed you Father.”
“Yea yea, we both know you’re in trouble,” he said.
She peered up at him with one closed eye. “How bad is it?”
“According to your mother, whom I love dearly and stand behind in all things, you messed up pretty good.”
“I’m not finished. You know that bridge you jumped off of, the one that could have killed you? When I was your age I jumped off it too.” He winked down at her. “Now how am I supposed to yell at someone for doing something I did myself?”
“You can’t?” Sarah asked, hopeful.
“I can pretend to, so do me a favor and whip up some tears to go show your mom.”
It wasn’t a very hard task. She had been fearing this moment before her dad walked into the room. The tears were already waiting on standby.
“Well you don’t have to look that convincing,” he said, a big smile spreading across his face.
With rising horror, Sarah realized she couldn’t stop the full on cry from erupting from her.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“You should be,” said her dad, glancing back in the direction his wife would hear.
“I didn’t think it was a big deal.” She sniffed and hated the nasally sound. “I really didn’t.”
“And what do you think now?” asked her dad, amused.
“It was stupid, people die every day. I shouldn’t do things that increase my chances of becoming one of them.”
“Then it sounds like my work here is done.” He turned to leave.
“Wait,” said Sarah.
“You have something else to confess?”
“Caitlin wants me to go on a road trip with her. We’d be going to visit her cousin in New York. Can I go?”
Her dad shrugged. “I don’t see why not. Let’s give it a few hours before we tell your mother though.”
Sarah fought back the sniffles as her dad walked away. She wiped her eyes on her sleeve and cursed herself for falling apart.
As soon as she had pulled herself back together, she called Caitlin back.
“You sure you want to do this?” Sarah asked.
“Are you crying?”
“Don’t lie to me Sarah.”
“I’m fine, do you want to go on the road trip or not?”
“Hell yes I do. Did you get permission to go?”
“I just did.”
“Sweet, make sure you’re packed. I’ll be there in the afternoon tomorrow.”
“Wait,” said Sarah. “I just read an article about a new sickness that’s spreading. Do you really think it’s a good time to head into the city?”
“Oh my gosh Sarah, they say the same thing every year. It’s fine.”
“You’re probably right. See you in a few.”
“Tomorrow, be ready.” Caitlin hung up.
Sarah stood up and began packing her clothes, forgetting all about the article she’d just read. Her thoughts shifted to things related only to the good time she was going to have.
It would be the first trip she ever took like this: a landmark occasion. First she would take this trip and meet new people, and then she would come home and prepare for her next adventure. Her goal would be to spend the least amount of time home as possible. When the summer was over, she would leave for college and that would be that. The days when her mother ran her life were numbered and it all started with this trip.
The thought made her happy.