Authors: Jacqueline Druga
Tags: #Post-Apocalyptic | Dystopian
By Jacqueline Druga
Copyright 2016 by Jacqueline Druga
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any person or persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Thank you to Kira R., Paula Gibson and Shona M for all your help.
Cover Art by Christian Bentulan
In one of five cryo labs, eight people wake from stasis. One of which is the president of the United States. They are the only ones out of a hundred who survive. They recall very little and have no idea how they got there. All they know is that they are in a lab and a clock on a door appears to be counting down.
Little by little their memories return and they recall all being in the same place at the time of the explosion. The president informs them that in order to cull population a virus was being released. Those in stasis were given an antidote and chosen to be preserved so they could ensure the continuity of mankind. Each poses a unique skill or ability. They were in one of five labs in the US. Their families were also to be given a vaccine. Originally they were to be sleeping for seven months, but things went awry and someone hit the rest button.
After the clock on the door countdowns, and an elevator opens, they ascend into a barren world. The president disappears and the seven others decide to split up, look for their families, find out what has happened and meet at a designated place. They travel by way of a solar buggy.
The length of time that they have been frozen is at first an unsolvable mystery. Some cities are buried by trees, others look completely normal.
They learn that not only have they been asleep for thirty years, but the virus was seasonal and every year it wiped out more and more of the population. No cure. No stopping it.
The government, in order to protect those who survive, construct a walled city where only those immune could reside. The city is called, Salvation. For fifteen years two million have lived there while the rest of the world wasted away.
Nora and Jason paired off because both of their families lived in the Midwest. Nora, a comedic entertainer by trade is a mother of two and married. Her capture and stasis was a case of mistaken identity. She wasn’t supposed to be there and they believed her to be someone else. Jason is a television preacher and famous. He is also a married musician with a baby.
They discover an empty world and that Nashville was ground zero. Jason learns that his wife had remarried, but she and the baby died in a later wave of the virus. His home and housing plan had been a survivor camp for some time. When they make it to Nora’s home in Cleveland, it been is long since over abandoned and grown over. She learns her oldest daughter died, but her husband and youngest daughter were alive and well and living in Salvation.
Meredith is a professor of theology, no spouse, no children. John is a famous novelist. It was at his award ceremony that everyone was taken into stasis. He is a father and husband. Grant is an unmarried musician. The three of them join up to search because all of them live in the North East.
En route they pass the remains of an aid station. There they gather information about the virus. They never are able to reach their families, because the entire northeast is a nuclear wasteland. The outcome of a war that broke out during the virus.
While in the wasteland, the trio encounters a violent group called the Wreckers. Offspring of those who lived in a radiated land. The wreckers are violent and slightly mutated. While John is sleeping, Grant and Meredith are snatched from their campsite by Wreckers. John wakes to hear Meredith screaming and he grabs a gun. He chases the screams and discovered that Grant has been murdered and Meredith was being violently raped. In an attempt to save her, John manages to kill several Wreckers, but not before they overcome him. He is sodomized and beaten.
He and Meredith awake in a home. An older man named Rusty found them on the road and brought them home to help. He tells them the story of the virus, Salvation and the Wreckers.
Malcolm is a computer genius and inventor. He fixed the solar buggies. At the time that he was taken to Stasis he was running a new security camera at John’s award. Amy is a solar weather expert, a mother and wife.
Both he and she head west to their respective homes. Not long into the journey, they run across a mentally unstable woman who kills Amy. Malcolm is forced to make the long journey alone. He needs to find his wife and children. Especially his oldest son, whom he fought with the day he disappeared. On his way, while moving a road block, Malcolm cuts his arm. The cut becomes infected and he increasingly grows ill. Eventually, Malcolm makes it to his home. It is in perfect condition, the large property is a farm.
He goes inside and there he find his oldest son Trey, who is the sole survivor of the family. Trey is older than Malcolm. He is glad to see his father and tells him all about what has happened and how many years have gone by. Trey tells his father that he works for Salvation and will take him there to get help.
There wasn’t much reason to stay. Rather, there was no way to stay at her house. Aside from the fact that it was dangerous, there was nothing left except that letter.
Her husband Rick had taken anything of sentimental value. She wondered though if the last of her clothing and items were thrown away years before. After all, the date of the letter was fifteen years after she was placed into cryogenic preservation.
That was the date Salvation opened. Rick and Lilly, her youngest, had been accepted and gone there.
Problem was, Nora and Jason had no clue how many more years had passed.
“It’s apparently more,” Jason said with his thick southern accent. “I mean, if they just left, how did it get so overgrown?”
“Your place wasn’t.” Nora said.
“Not like this. Then again, it looked like my housing plan was a compound, survival place, or something.”
“So … my home, my town was abandoned longer than yours, and so far nothing was abandoned as far as Nashville?”
“We have to meet the others in Champagne. We have some time. Feel like looking for answers now that we found them out about our families?”
“Maybe the answers will tell us where Salvation is.”
“That would help. Who knows maybe the others know more than we do.”
Nora hoped that was a possibility. All those who survived the stasis process, split up to find information about their families. Each going different ways. All of them agreeing to meet in a small town in Illinois, three weeks from the date they left the center.
Nora and Jason found out about their families. With so much time passing, hope was fading fast.
They traveled by means of solar buggy, courtesy of a long gone NASA and their new technically brilliant friend, Malcolm who got the buggies moving. They had enough juice to keep going, or they could stay put.
Nora and Jason’s focus was on finding out about their families. They didn’t take into consideration much else. Now that their goal had been achieved they realized how uncertain the world was.
They needed a plan and a safe place to stay. While the sun was still bright in the sky they headed south back to Jason’s old home in Kentucky.
John was six hundred miles away from the place he called home, and thirty years removed. That was how long he and the others had been in preservation. From the time he woke up until he learned the truth every piece of the puzzle added more mystery. At first it was a mere seven months. Seven months for the deliberately released virus to claim the percentage of population it needed to, in order to help preserve life. Unless of course, like the message said, things went awry, in that case a reset button was used.
The problem was when they reset the project they didn’t attach a length of time.
Involuntarily placed into a project called ‘Genesis’ they woke at Marshall Space Center in Redstone Arsenal, Alabama to a barren world. The farther they walked from the base, the worse it grew. More and more vacant and overgrown. As if Marshal was one of the last places remaining.
There were nine out of a hundred that survived the cryo process. The president was one of them and he, last John knew, took an easy way out and rushed back to the lab to be part of decontamination and burned alive.
At least John thought. Of course, John was a writer by trade and his mind kept slipping to the fact that the president went somewhere else because he knew something they didn’t.
The remaining eight divided into three groups, each heading toward their home destination. Malcolm, a brilliant tech man, headed west with the weather woman, Amy. Jason, the preacher went north with party crasher, Nora. John headed east with Meredith, who was a professor, and Grant.
Grant was the youngest, a musician who was scared of a lot of things, but John didn’t listen to him. He chalked it up to Grant’s paranoia. He should have listened. They were attacked by post nuclear war mentally deranged humans, and Grant lost his life.
Rusty, an older survivor who helped them called the savage people Wreckers.
John hoped the others were having better luck finding their families and staying safe. Hoping they all kept true to their word, he and Meredith, after they healed some, would head out to meet them at the Champaign location.
Until he was well enough he humbly accepted Rusty’s invitation to stay at his home.
The single story dwelling was open planned. Walls removed probably to allow an easy flow of the heat from the huge potbelly stove in the center of the room. Draperies served as walls, blocking off the sleeping areas for privacy. The main portion of the simple home had a table, kitchen area, and workbench.
Rusty didn’t show any signs of starvation from the post nuclear and virus ravaged world. He had done quite well, he boasted. At sixty-four, he was strong, fit, and wise. He wasn’t granted access to the walled city known as Salvation so he made the best of his situation.
He told John he lost his wife to the virus on year eight.
Like the normal flu, the virus came annually, wiping out more and more of the population.
His son still carried his baby name of Scooter.
“There never seemed a reason to stop calling him anything else,” Rusty said.
The father son pair lived in a rural community filled with people who didn’t have a reason to travel west. Taking over abandoned homes they used the decades to grow.
Homes were close enough to meet the neighborly need, but far enough from each other to add a sense of privacy and seclusion.
They had drifted backwards living much like the early settlers, or as Rusty put it, “Little House on the Prairie era.”
He didn’t expect John to know what that was.
If he counted the years in stasis, John was seventy-six years old.
At that moment, he felt it.
Emotionally he was crushed and physically bruised more than he wanted to admit. The ambush by the Wreckers had taken its toll.
He watched Grant die and saw Meredith violently beaten and gang raped. He tried to help. He shot several of the Wreckers, but in the end he lost.
John was impressed and proud of Meredith’s fortitude. She looked horrible, but spoke and moved about naturally. While he himself couldn’t budge an inch without excruciating pain shooting from his legs to his abdomen.
Though he didn’t remember, John was certain by the pain he felt, like Meredith, he had been sodomized.
After waking he was able to speak to Rusty and Meredith, but dozed often. He was unable to keep conscious very long because of his head injury.
Before sundown, Scooter had summoned the local doctor, or medicine woman. She suggested that John not move much for several days and consume liquids that were gentle on his digestive system. She suspected he didn’t suffer internal damage, but his lower digestive tract needed to heal.
By evening he held his breath and bore the pain long enough so he could be moved to the back area of the house.
He dined on the broth of duck soup, fed to him by Meredith.
“You’re too kind,” he said to her.
“You’re my oldest friend in this world.”
“We’ve known each other what?” John smiled. “Thirty years?”
Meredith placed the spoon of broth in his mouth.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I am so sorry this has happened to you.”
“I’m sorry this happened to you, too.”
“Talk about a rude awakening.”
“We’ll get through this John,” She held out the spoon. “Open up.”
The broth was tasty, perhaps a little salty, but he enjoyed it. “Once I’m well we’ll head out to find the buggy then off to our meeting place. Rusty said the Wreckers don’t see well during the day and I’m guessing even if they found where we hid it, they wouldn’t know what to do with it.”
“Do you think the others are okay?”
“I hope so.”
“John, we have time before we have to meet the others. We were spared and saved. This world has definitely changed. Are you up to seeing how much?”
“A little post apocalypse sightseeing?” he asked.
“Yes. Aside from my curiosity I think we need to know as much as we can about what happened to this world.” John replied.
Meredith lifted the spoon then dropped it back into the cup.
“What is it?” John asked.
“John … they had a reason to save us. Do you think that reason is no longer valid in this world?”
“They had a grand purpose in mind for us. Things are different now, but I believe we still will serve a grand purpose in this new world,” he said. “We just have to figure out what it is.”
Malcolm Lowe had always been told he was a pup He always looked young. The truth was he had looked thirty years old since he took his driver’s test. The officer giving the exam didn’t believe he was only sixteen. Then after that, Malcolm didn’t age. He never got carded … ever. He just failed to age. Even Nora and the others in the reservation tank of the Genesis project didn’t believe he was pushing forty.
Although Malcolm considered himself a young father it was even more true as he looked upon his oldest son who was pushing fifty.
Despite the physical age difference and appearance, Malcolm still saw Trey as his son.
A son he was grateful to find. It was rather easy. He had one goal and that was to get home. In a world turned upside down, overgrown, and barricaded off, Malcolm’s home was unscathed and kept up. He believed for sure it had new owners. Then again, Malcolm didn’t know how long he had been gone. Just that it had been years.
The only surviving member of his family was his oldest son. He not only maintained the home, but was also a source of production of food for a place called Salvation. A place Malcolm would soon see.
He didn’t want to go. He promised the others he would meet them. But Malcolm was injured en route to his home and the injury caused an infection that wasn’t far from taking his life.
Trey hid the solar buggy in the barn, stating they were only going to Salvation long enough for Malcolm to get well. He didn’t want to lose the buggy and that was a possibility once entering Salvation. He also raced three miles away to the neighboring farm to get the ID card from the farmer who lived there.
Just in case they asked for ID.
Rarely did they do that and if they did, Malcolm hadn’t been cleared. Then again, Trey planned on explaining to them about his father. It was an unbelievable tale, and a miracle.
Hopefully Salvation would see it as that.
Salvation ran more like a Socialist society than a Democracy.
Malcolm found their means of transportation interesting. Having always been infatuated with classic cars, Malcolm found the new vehicle to be a boxed shorter version of the classic El Camino. It was a very basic bland ride.
How did they still have transportation?
“Oh, gas stopped right away,” Trey told him on the drive. “Not long after the outbreak and war we depleted gas supplies. There was a lot of violence around gasoline, I remember that. I was lucky, I grew food, and it was a bit more valuable. We moved to horses for a long time. Then when the virus took a breather, or went into remission, science started developing a new means of travel.”
“Why did they never go solar?” Malcolm asked. “I mean, they had the technology.”
“I think it was easier to make new models or convert old ones,” Trey replied. “But not everyone had a vehicle. Essential services and food workers were vital so I was fortunate. The farm was deemed essential in the early days. Still is for that matter. We supply a lot of corn.”
“How many people live in Salvation?”
“Millions. Hard to say. It took a while but they’re pretty self-sustaining. It occupies four states. But don’t get me wrong there are still a lot of farms that deliver to Salvation. So we aren’t protected, nor vital. If we stopped delivering they would just go on without us.”
“I saw one person my entire journey here,” Malcolm said. “Are they all dead, or in Salvation?’
“They’re out there. Just a lot less and spread out,” Trey told him. “Salvation let people in that were immune. Then they closed the gate.”
“Gate?” Malcolm chuckled. “You make it sound like there’s only one.”
“Yeah, there is only one. I mean, there could be more. But only one real way in. I heard it said that if you find the wall coming from the east you could follow it for days and never find the entrance.”
“Is it really a wall?” Malcolm shook his head. “I’m sorry for all these questions.”
“No, it’s all right. It’s really a wall. It took a decade to build.”
“What’s outside of it?’
“I don’t know what’s west of the entrance or east, but I know it’s a graveyard from the front.”
Malcolm thought perhaps Trey was speaking metaphorically, as if before the wall was a dead world.