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Tears enveloped the man’s eyes as he sat alone in his dark bedroom, dripping down onto the bicycle he had made from spare parts. He tightly held a soft but dirty blue blanket tightly up against his chest. It had an elephant sewn on each side. A tear dropped onto a card sitting on the bicycle seat that read:
Happy 10th Birthday Tommy
He wept silently in the dark room not wanting anyone outside to hear. He had medium length messy brown hair, a scruffy beard and athletic physique. There was a loud knock at the door followed by it swiftly being open by a large man, not necessarily muscular or fat but large, bald with a thick brown beard who said with a thick Russian accent:
“Jacob, we have problem.”
Jacob quickly got a hold of himself wiping the tears from his eyes, beard, and face.
“What is it?” said Jacob trying to hide his sorrow. The Russian stepped into the room and turned on the lights.
“You okay?” said the Russian.
“I’m fine Victor.” Jacob quickly stood up, hiding the birthday card and blanket in his trench coat pocket.
“What’s the problem?” said Jacob.
“You need to shave friend.”
“Well you need a damn English lesson, now what’s the problem?”
“It’s Trisha, she’s got it.”
“Did she leave the perimeter?”
“Yesterday, she went gathering.”
“Is she in quarantine?”
“Did you ask how it happened?”
“Of course, she doesn’t answer.”
“Probably couldn’t understand your damn accent.”
“What is your problem? Why attitude?”
“I don’t like being interrupted, especially to bad news.”
“What, you working on that bike? I knocked.”
“Did I say come in?”
“Well, no. But this is urgent.”
“Alright let’s go. But in my country we wait till someone says ‘come in,’ remember that next time.”
Jacob stormed out of the room, Victor closely behind, into the gloomy isolated colony they had established over the past several years. It was an abandoned Twinkies warehouse, sadly no Twinkies. They took down all the logos so they wouldn’t have the thought of missing that luxury. It was a secure location. All the doors were barricaded tightly with chains or welding, no one in or out, only to occasional scavenging parties for supplies, food, and water from a nearby stream. For energy the town had a lot of wind so they built a windmill on top of the factory. There was only the issue of morality and lack of food. Jacob and Victor walked pass the vast amount of tents the fifty colonists set up for privacy. They all stood and sat around mindlessly with zero expression on their face, very hungry and very bored.
“This place is more depressing than a funeral.” said Victor.
“Depends on whose funeral.” said Jacob clenching the blanket in his pocket.
“True, so what up with the bike?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah. Just a project I’ve been working on.”
“Just to keep myself busy, god you’re nosy, they train to be this invasive in the Spetnaz?”
“No, but they did teach me how to kill a man with my thumb. Keep up the attitude and I’ll show you.”
“Ooh, I’m shaking in my boots.”
“What is wrong with you? You’ve been acting like a woman when she does the bleeding.”
“It’s called menstruating smart one.”
“I’m going to start calling you Olga.”
“The woman in your country must be butt ugly to be having that name.”
They reached the upstairs office where they quarantined the sick. A man stood guard with a shot gun in his hand.
“How is she Jim?” said Jacob.
“Not good. I’d say about an hour before phase three.” said Jim.
“Okay, we have to get in there now before she gets delusional. Victor I’ll do the talking. Keep your gun ready in case she gets aggressive.”
“I don’t know if I can do It.” said Victor.
“Now’s not the time to be soft Victor. We gotta do what we gotta do.”
Jacob and Victor put on their face masks; Jacob leading the way into the room, Victor closes behind with an M9 ready. The room was dark; they flipped the switch to see Trisha shivering in a corner of the room chained to a wall. Her eyes were bloodshot and she was sweating and coughing up blood, the second phase.
“Hello Trisha.” said Jacob.
“You’re here to kill me, aren’t you?” said Trisha staring back and forth between the gun in Victors hand and Jacob.
“Just a precaution, I need to know what infected you.”
Trish lifted her wrist to show an inflamed bite mark on her wrist that she had been hiding before.
“A dog.” She said.
“Where is the dog?”
“This is it?”
“Trisha, stay with me. Where is the-“
“I’m going to die.” She began crying.
“Trisha, where’s the dog?
“Nicolas, my sweet Nick, why’d you have to go?”
“That guy looks like he needs a ride, pull over Nick.”
“She’s delusional.” said Victor.
“It’s all my fault we shouldn’t of picked him up, or Nick would still be here.”
“Shit.” Jacob grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her saying:
“Snap out of it Trisha, Where’s the dog!”
Trisha paused; they couldn’t tell whether her mind was on the whereabouts of the dog or the memory of her husband.
“Park Avenue, Clemens Butchery.”
“Alright” Jacob let go of her and stood up. “Victor, do it.” Trisha began crying hysterically.
“Just like that?” said Victor. Jacob nodded.
“She isn’t some cow! Show some sympathy!” Jacob grabbed the gun out of Victors hands, walked to Trisha pointed it at her head and said:
“I’m sorry Trisha.” And fired two bullets into her head, blood splattered on the wall and oozed to the floor from her lifeless corpse to Jacobs feet. He turned and handed the gun back to Victor.
“There. I showed my condolences and did her a favor. It had to be done or others would have had to die.”
“It was still very cold-hearted.”
“Feel free to share while we walk to the butchers.”
“We’re going after the dog?”
“You got it.’
They walked out of the room. Jim stood with a grim look on his face, as did most of the colonists that heard.
“Clean her up Jim.” said Jacob taking off his face mask. Jim nodded and left.
“Why are we going after the mutt?”
“So it doesn’t infect future patrols, we wanna kill this disease don’t we? And we could really blow off some steam.”
“Seems you blew enough steam on Trisha.”
“You know it needed to be done.”
“With such cruelty.”
“In case you haven’t noticed, we live in a cruel world.”
They were stopped on their way to armory by a nine year old colonist named Steven. He had blue eyes and dirty blonde hair along with dirty clothes and yet seemed happy as could be.
“Is Trisha okay?” asked Steven.
“Uh, um, she decided to leave?” said Jacob.
“Steven, she was very sick. You know why we’re here right? To hide from the sickness out there. Trisha had to leave for everyone’s safety.”
“Oh alright, I understand.” Steven ran off to go play.
“Cute kid.” said Victor.
Jacob and Victor made their way to the armory. An office room filled with cabinets stocked with weapons they acquired over the years; pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, a couple snipers and an RPG. Jacob grabbed an M9 and a pump action shot gun found in a police vehicle. Victor grabbed one of the M4’s acquired from one of the American soldiers who were trying to rally there people for government experiments on the disease. The soldiers obviously didn’t succeed. Victor also grabbed the machete he brought when he first came to be a part of the colony.
They walked to the main entrance, a truck loading dock secured by many locked chains. Only Jacob had the keys to unlock everything in the factory. As he unlocked the chains to leave with Victor everyone started wondering where they were going. Jacob shouted:
“Jim you’re in charge!”
“You got it!” said Jim carrying a body bag and mop into the quarantine room.
Jacob and Victor put on their sun glasses, face masks and hoods as they walked out into the gloomy apocalyptic afternoon. Smoke covered the sky from burnt down buildings and cars. Those completely infected had the strong urge of burning things. There were scattered cars and trash blowing along the streets. Jacob and Victor checked they’re perimeter before proceeding, once they agreed it was clear they began their walk. They refrained from using cars so they wouldn’t attract attention.
This global disaster occurred seven years ago, caused by a chemical thought to cure cancer. But six months after the dosage people became very sick. Phase one, increase in temperature and coughing. Phase two, bloodshot eyes, sweating, and coughing up blood. Phase three, delusion, people start seeing things from their past that caused them pain. Finally phase four, extreme aggression and hostility. Theorized that the aggression is caused by painful flash backs of phase three that drove them insane. Those infected did whatever they could to harm others, including biting. Whoever was bitten inherited the disease but instead of six months before complete transformation was given approximately twenty four hours. At the start a third of the world’s population was given the chemical. Within three years half of the rest of the world was either killed or infected. Governments began abducting those thought to have the disease and were experimented on killing thousands more. Then people began killing each other out of their own self induced rage and paranoia. It is unknown how many people are left in the world. Trust doesn’t come easy now days, Jacob and Victor truly only show trust towards each other and have taken it upon themselves to lead those people in the warehouse.
“I think we should go West.” said Victor.
“This place is dead. We have nothing to gain here. Out west we can start farm life, get endless supply of food, and lots of land for expansion.”
“Sounds good, but do you ever think to yourself, what’s the point? Why keep moving on?”
“We’ve been given a great opportunity Jacob. To live, survive, and grow. The best way to fight this is to keep moving on. Don’t lose hope friend. I know the reason for going after this dog is bull s***, I know you have something going on, don’t take this as a suicide mission.”
Jacob clenched the blue blanket in his coat pocket, trying to find the hope to move on but he just couldn’t. Maybe this west thing will work? Jacob thought. He didn’t have the will to actually kill himself. He would leave to fate and the dog. An aluminum trash can tipped over behind them making a loud bang. They turned around quickly ready to shoot whoever or whatever caused it. Nothing was there; a gust of wind blew past them rolling the trash can on.
“Must have been the wind.” said Victor.
“Yeah,” Jacob turned the other way.
“What is this?” said Victor. Jacob turned around to see Victor holding the blue blanket. Jacob accidently pulled it out of his pocket when he reached for the guns trigger. Jacob quickly took it from his hands and said:
“What is it?”
“A lost hope.” Jacob kept walking wanting to drop the subject. Victor respected that and said nothing else.
An hour later of walking they reach Park Avenue. The street was barren and trashed just like the rest of the city. They could see Clemens less than a hundred yards down the street. They brought their weapons into a ready firing position. They cautiously walked towards their target building ready to shoot at the rabid dog. They get to the front of the store the windows were broken into and it was very dark. Victor had a flash light attached to his gun. He lit up the room to the horrific sight of blood stained walls and a half eaten rotting corpse on the ground. Victor stepped in first, Jacob close behind. They stepped in front of the body to get a better look. His right arm was nearly chewed off, his stomach eaten in to with the intestines scattered across the floor, and his throat was bitten into most likely the initial striking kill. The fly’s fluttered about his body laying there maggots to feed. The body left an atrocious smell in the room that nearly made them gag.
“Isn’t that Henry?” asked Victor. Jacob nodded after he recognized his face. He had gone missing after the last scavenge. Trisha hadn’t mentioned anything about him.
There was no dog in the room. Victor flashed the light around the room to double check. They saw an open door behind the counter to the right. They slowly made their way behind the counter beside the door. Victor led the count with his fingers. One, two, three, they aimed their weapons through the door to see an empty hall way. They noticed the freezer to the left was wide open. The quietly made their way to the freezer, they could hear the chewing and ripping of flesh and growling. Victor led the count, their hearts racing a thousand times their normal pace.
One, two, three, they aimed their weapons through the door to see not one, but a pack of wolves, not dogs. The flashlight drew their attention away from the butchered meat they were eating. The hounds charged towards them Victor began firing taking out three or four, Jacob shot one directly in the face with his shot gun. There were too many, Jacob and Victor ran for the door they came in at the end of the hallway. Running as fast as they can they get through, Victor tried to close and lock the door but it was too late. One of the wolves came crashing through knocking Jacob over the counter next to Henry’s dead body. The wolf landed on top of Jacob biting down on his forearm. Jacob let out a cry for help but could not be heard over Victor’s relentless firing of his weapon, taking down the hounds one by one. He ran out of bullets and there was one dog that he grazed in the shoulder running towards him. It jumped for the initial kill to Victor’s throat but he was quick to back hand the dog over the counter. Victor reached for his machete hopped over the counter and finished the dog with a slash to the head. He turned to Jacob and his struggle. Jacob had broken free from the dogs bite just in time for Victor to not see he was bitten. Victor ran over and slashed the dog across the waist knocking it across the room to the wall leaving it lifeless on the floor. Jacob quickly got up ripped a piece of clothe from his jacket and wrapped his wound.
“Are you alright?” asked Victor out of breathe.
“Yeah, thank you.” Jacob was also having trouble breathing.
“It seems God has other plans for you other than death.”
“Yeah I guess so.” Jacob looked at his wound.
“Just a scratch I’ll be fine.”
“Good. Let’s get the hell out of here.”
Victor went back for his weapon, Jacob picked up his and they were quickly out the door.
“Blow enough steam?” asked Victor jokingly. They laughed and began their walk back to the warehouse.
They arrive an hour later just as it was getting dark. They looked beat and battle worn. The colonists looked at them with concern and disappointment because they had not brought back food or supplies. They dropped their weapons off at the armory and went their separate ways to their rooms. As soon as Jacob closed the door behind him and locked it he began coughing and was later feeling hot as he lied down. He held his blue blanket tightly in his hands for comfort.
He woke up late the next morning drenched in his own sweat, he coughed and blood flew to the ground. He walked to a mirror he had hung in his room and could see his eyes were extremely red. He was sure he had the disease now. He thought of how he should handle this. Should I tell them? Should I just leave? Or should I just end my own life, save them the trouble of having to do it? He walked over to his pillow and reached for the pistol that was under it. He starred at it for an hour deciding if he had the balls to go through with it as he coughed up more blood. He looked at the bike he had made for his son’s birthday. He thought long and hard of the situation. He brought the pistol to his mouth, took a few deep breaths and thought of what he was leaving behind and what he was regaining. With one last breath he pulled the trigger, the gun didn’t fire. He checked the magazine the bullets seemed full. The gun had a misfire. Could this be a sign? Jacob thought. There was a knock on his door. Jacob quickly put the gun back under his pillow, wiped the blood off the floor and put on his sun glasses.
“Come in.” said Jacob. Victor came in with a chess board.
“Thought we could play a game and relax for a bit.”
“Sure I’m open to play.” Jacob held in his coughs. Victor laid the board over a table in the room and began setting up the pieces. Victor was white Jacob black. Victor made the first move with his knight. And then he began speaking:
“Have you given any thought about us going west?”
“Not really why?” Jacob moved the pawn in front of his king two spaces forward.
“I feel really sure about this.”
“We don’t know what’s out there.”
“I think it’s worth the risk. We’re miserable here, people are starving, and we have to find everything we eat. Out west we can grow our food and have lots of land to expand and create a stable community.”
“Seems reasonable, what if it’s just like this place? Barren, burnt to the ground, if we leave we risk leaving the safety of this place.”
“I just have a gut feeling about it.”
They continued their conversation of moving west while they played their game. Jacob had won; they reset the pieces and decided to play again. Hours passed and Jacob continued to hide his symptoms not knowing what to do. He couldn’t face Victor’s heartbreak of having to kill his best friend, but he didn’t want to risk Victor’s safety. Victor was close to checkmate, Jacob could see it. He accomplished it within a few moves.
“Good job Tommy.” said Jacob. Victor looked at him in confusion.
Jacob began to get flashes of him playing with his son in checkers; he had let him win and congratulated him.
“Who’s Tommy?” asked Victor.
“Oh sorry, I’m not thinking straight. Let’s play again.”
Victor reset the pieces while Jacob was having more flashes. He could see his wife in bed having the same symptoms he was having being very sick. She was coughing up blood and had a very high fever. At the time he didn’t know what caused it, but it had been the chemical she took to cure her cancer. He brought Tommy up to see his mom, try to comfort her. After an hour she started getting angry, began shouting things that didn’t make sense about her father. She out of know where hit Jacob in the jaw knocking him to the ground. Then she ran for the closet. When Jacob stood up his wife had returned with his gun he had hidden. She aimed it at both of them.
“Babe put down the gun!” Jacob shouted and stood up knocking over the game.
“What’s wrong? What gun?” Victor was very confused.
Jacob could see his wife aiming the weapon back and forth between him and his son sitting on the bed. Tommy began crying. She got nervous from his crying and screamed for him to stop. Her finger slipped and shot the gun at Tommy killing him.
Jacob ran towards his wife she fired at him. He could feel the wound in his shoulder she had left. He struck her took the weapon and shot her twice in the chest. He snapped back to reality to see Victor lying on the ground dead with many bullets fired into his chest. He had his gun from his pillow in his hand. He thought he was fighting off his wife but it was actually Victor. Jacob fell to his knees and began crying. He thought of his son, how he never got to say good-bye to him or let him know that he loves him. His whole life was shattered before his eyes and now it’s happened again. He looked at his weapon checked for more bullets to end his own but there wasn’t any. He had to get out of there before he would harm anyone else. He grabbed his coat and blue blanket, walked over to Victor’s body and said:
“Good-bye Victor, thank you for everything. You’ve shined a new light in my life, It should be me lying on the ground, not you.” A tear came to his eye. ‘I’ll see you on the other side.”
Jacob walked out of his room eyes full of tears. He quickly regained himself to be presentable to the colonists. He walked through them quickly wanting to get out of there. He made it through the crowd and began unlocking the gate. As he opened it little Steven came up.
“Where are you going Jacob?”
“I have to go, here, give these keys to Jim. Tell him he’s in charge.”
“You’re leaving us?”
“I have to.”
“Well, good-bye Jacob.”
Instead of Jacob he thought he heard daddy. He turned towards Steven and could see Tommy’s face, his brown hair blue eyes just like his dad, and his mother’s nose and smile. The tears came up again. He put one hand on Stevens shoulder and said:
“Good-bye Tommy. I’ll see you soon.”