ZOMBIECLYPSE BOOK ONE
Copyright © 2012 by Alex Rosaria
This e-book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer's imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author.
He lay in bed for a long while, staring at the ceiling. Slowly, it dawned on him that it was Monday. God, why did he set the alarm to go off so early? Why had he set it anyway? Of all days, today was the day it would have been great if he had overslept and missed school. He shook his head, grunted, and sat up straight. His eyes still fuzzy, he looked for the clock. It had landed near the front leg of the bed. He put it back on the nightstand. It was just past six.
No, oversleeping wouldn‘t have kept him from school. Mom knew he had a test today. She would have kicked him out of bed and lectured him about not slacking off because it was his senior year. Heck, he didn‘t even know what he wanted do after he graduated. He should figure that out first, before worrying about grades. Not that his grades were that bad, thank you very much, for his unduly efforts the previous year.
With his father on a business trip, his ten-year-old sister, Ginny, still snoring on her bed, and his mother usually waking up at around seven, he had the bathroom to himself. Nice, dry, and clean, not so much after he was done showering. At seven, mom would come downstairs to make his breakfast and after breakfast she would go upstairs to get Ginny ready for school. That one had more trouble waking up than him. If you allowed her to sleep in, Ginny would sleep all day and the next one. Both their parents were punctual beings, so he wasn‘t sure where she got it from. His mom had a biological clock that went off at exactly the same time every day without fail. It beat waking up scared shitless by a ringing alarm clock.
At six thirty, Ralph sat at the kitchen table freshly showered, wearing jeans and a black long sleeve shirt. He was reading a comic book. Sure, he should be studying for his history exam, but why bother studying now? He hadn‘t done anything in the days leading up to the exam. Cramming just before having to leave for school would amount to nothing.
Mom had been sneezing last night. She had probably picked up the much-talked-about flu. Was it even flu season? He wasn‘t sure if his mom would be able to drive him to school today. He had not heard her wake up. He might have to go on his bike. Or maybe he should ditch classes today. There was no sense taking a test you knew you were going to fail. It was too bad that he couldn‘t ditch this exam; the school administration would tell his parents and probably fail him on the test, making it more difficult for him to graduate on time. With everything going on, like not knowing what to do after graduation, he really didn‘t want to also have to deal with grades and stuff. Life was already difficult. His second semester didn‘t need any drama. He sighed and grabbed his history book. It was a thick book, a very thick book, one without many pictures. He should read a chapter, then maybe he could manage a grade better than an F, and he might get a second chance if he tried hard enough.
He heard stumbling on the stairs. He glanced at the clock. Five minutes before seven. She did it again. Even having a cold did not stop her from waking up on time. He doubted that even death would stop her. She came downstairs, coughing.
“Good morning,” he called out.
His mother lumbered up to him. “Not much good this morning. I see you got up early.”
She looked pale. Strands of long black hair were plastered to her forehead and cheeks. Thick cushion grooves etched her face and a swatch of black was smudged under her eyes. She looked like crap.
“You look nice, Mom.”
She plopped down in the chair opposite to him.
“Finally you decide to study?” She pointed at his comic next to his history book. Her voice was raspy.
“You don‘t look so good.”
She smiled. Her smile was like sunshine in bad weather. It made everything look better than it was; it made her radiate in a way that he could not help but smile back. He loved how his mother could smile and laugh despite obviously feeling like crap.
“But Ralphie, didn‘t you say I looked nice just a moment ago?”
He hated to be called Ralphie. He only tolerated it when she called him that. “I lied.”
“Not nice lying to your sick mother.”
She laughed. A burst of coughing cut her laugh short. He ran to the sink and brought her a glass of water. Worried, he watched her take the glass from him. He had never seen his mother ill; she always seemed to be healthy even when they all were down with something. She never got sick. So, to see her with a cold this bad was a little disconcerting.
“Seriously, are you feeling all right? I‘ll stay home if you need me to; it‘s not a problem, really it‘s not.”
It wasn‘t only so that he could skip his test that he offered to stay home; it genuinely worried him the state she was in. Maybe it would be better if she rested instead of driving him to school.
She swallowed the water in one go, put the glass on the table, and looked up at him with tired eyes. “It‘s just a cold.”
“And in no way are you going to get a free pass on that history exam of yours.”
She saw right through him not wanting to take that test, but she did look awfully pale. “It‘s not about that at all. I want you to take a day off and rest. I could call the school and tell them that I‘ll be late and I can take Ginny to school for you. My test is this afternoon; I won‘t miss it if that is what you are worried about.”
“No need to take Ginny to school today. She is staying in with me.” She sighed. “I shouldn‘t have kissed her goodnight. Now, she has whatever I caught.” She touched his cheek with the tip of her fingers and tapped. “You‘re a good boy. Don‘t fret; it‘s just a cold. There is no reason for you to go out of your way and bicycle to school. I‘ll drive you.”
She raised a hand, stopping him from saying anything. “Really, it‘s just in and out the car for me, not that big a deal. You just try to get some studying done before going to school. You only got fifteen minutes left; make the best of it.”
She left him sitting at the table and waggled to the kitchen to make a quick breakfast for them. He looked guiltily at her as she went to work on the bread and tea, wishing she would only let him take care of things just for today.
Stubborn as she was, she wouldn‘t even let him get out of taking this exam even when he needed to. Knowing her, nothing he said or did would convince her otherwise. It would likely take her being bedridden before she allowed him to take care of her. Mothers. However, that was the way they were, all caring and self sacrificing. He shook his head while he opened his history book and leafed through it. The words swam in front of him. He closed the book and shoved it aside.
“I‘m going to look in on Ginny.”
Before his mom could react and call him back to keep studying, he flew up the stairs. Ginny‘s room was next to his. He was about to open the door when he remembered that she now liked her privacy. It wasn‘t strange, considering she was growing up into a little woman. He knocked.
“Ginny, it‘s me, your favorite brother.”
A faint grunt was all the answer he got. He took that as a yes and entered her room. Her four walls were plastered with goofy looking guys and snappy looking girls. Stars from whatever kids‘ shows played now days on television. Not his thing, by far not his thing.
Ginny held her bed sheet to her chin. Snot ran from her nose. She turned her head toward him. She wiped her nose with the back of her hand and rubbed it off against her bed linen. Ralph made a mental note not to sit on the bed. At least she looked better than mom did, not pale, no dark patches under her eyes, only a runny nose. Was she trying to skip school and succeeding where he failed?
“Hey, sis, how are you feeling?”
“I guess I‘m all right. I‘m allowed to stay home today and sleep in.”
She quickly shut her eyes and started snoring hard. He poked her side and tickled her. She giggled, pushing herself away. “Stop, stop, Ralph, I can‘t take it anymore.”
He kept at it until she started begging and choking on her laughter. She tried pushing him off. Her face started turning tomato red and she sneezed. As droplets hit his face, he recoiled. “Eeuw, that‘s gross.”
So much for staying bug free. He was all over her, tickling her and forgetting that her bed and she were a germ-infested war zone. These germs were now marching inside him, preparing to kick his ass. Maybe he could stay home now, seeing as how he was sure that he would be ill by the end of the day. Nah, with his luck, it would linger and he‘d get sick late Friday—just in time to spoil his weekend.
“Now I‘m going to get ill, you little meanie.”
“Serves you right, harassing your poor, little, sick sister.”
“You are not little; you‘re growing like a tree. I saw your piggy bank too; that thing is bursting with dough. You are an overgrown rich kid.”
She slapped his shoulder. “You‘re so mean.”
He rubbed her hair. “No, I‘m not. I love my little sis.”
She looked wide-eyed at him. He was not known to voice how he felt very well. If he thought about it, this was the first time he had said he loved her in a long time. He always thought it was obvious. He liked being around her. How many big brothers bothered with their sisters? He didn‘t know any that did.
“Aahh, Ralph.” She got teary eyed. “I love you too.”
Okay, now it was getting uncomfortable. Too mushy for him. He remembered why he preferred to keep things to himself. Seeing her under her bed sheet like that, all fragile, I love you just slipped out. He did love his sister, his mother, and his dad, who he didn‘t see that often. They would go hunting this fall, and just like last time, he hoped it would be a blast.
Ginny pulled the sheets away and got out of bed. “I‘m going to tell mom.”
She ran for the door. He grabbed her before she could run away. “Oh no you won‘t.”
“Yes I will,” she said mockingly.
“Ah come on, don‘t.”
She was still pulling to get free. There was not much strength behind the pulls. She was a strong girl; it must have been the bug that weakened her. She really should rest. He grabbed and turned her around. All play left him; concern shadowed his brow.
“Sis, please go back to bed. You‘re not well.”
“You don‘t have to worry about me. Mom said it is just a cold.”
“Still, humor me and get some rest. Tomorrow we‘ll play again.”
She nodded and hopped back into bed.
From below, he heard his mother yelling for him to come down. Breakfast was ready. Before he left, Ginny grabbed his hand.
He looked at her. He knew why she was thanking him, but he just couldn‘t say it again.
“See you later, sis.”
He left without telling her one last time that he loved her.
The sun barely broke away from the horizon, and the morning dew was cool. She wouldn‘t be doing a lot of sweating as long she took it easy and didn‘t try to make it to her destination within an hour. It was nice weather for walking, but not so much for jogging.
Sarah had asked her mother if she could stay and take care of her baby brother while she went to look for a job. Things had been hard since her mother got laid off from her job in administration at an accounting firm. Every bill that came went directly into the shredder. Her mother didn‘t like to be confronted with the fact she couldn‘t pay them. Sarah feared the day when the collectors would come to collect, and they would take the house and kick them to the curb.
Would Jake still like her if she was homeless, eating out of trashcans whenever her stomach ached for food? She giggled. He would have a fit. How would he be able to be seen with a beggar for a girlfriend? She wondered, not for the first time, if he really loved her. He had told her he did not so long ago when they had skipped class together to go to a motel room just outside the city.
It had been different since then. He stopped making an effort to be nice to her, and it was difficult to keep the peace between him and Lilly, her best friend. He behaved like he owned her. She didn‘t like that feeling. She hated it. She hated it when her mom‘s boyfriends, who thought she should be grateful that there was finally a man in home, did it. It didn‘t matter how short their stay was. Just because they felt they were the man, didn‘t mean she had to respect them.
It was also why she would never again ask Jake to drive her to school. The one time she did, he sat, all puffed up, behind the steering wheel and was all over her that day at school like he was her provider. The big shot jock, who had the prettiest girl in town. She smiled. Sure, he could say things about her beauty. Overtly exaggerated in her opinion, but she didn‘t mind the flattery at all. She liked the attention she got being with him. At school, at least, she was someone. She was as complacent to his behavior as he was.
No, it was not him who had changed after they had sex; it was her. She had been thinking a little too much about it all. Nothing really changed after they did it. He was still the same guy, and she… her thoughts trailed off as she saw a line of yellow buses pass by. It kept going for about a minute. She had never seen so many at the same time. All were old school buses like the one she rode in elementary school. She used to take one to school every day, before she outgrew buses.
As far she knew there were no events in town. Although, she had not been keeping tabs on things. In between babysitting her brother while her mom was out on a date with her new boyfriend and studying for her history test, she had done little more this weekend. Her mom had come back late Sunday with the sniffles and kissed her and her brother before going to sleep. It was gross; sick people were gross, spreading their germs and infecting people. Her mother must have caught it from her boyfriend. Too much lip-locking must have gone on that day and too little staying away from that creep. They were always creeps. Her mother always picked the worst, as if she did her best not to pick a guy like her father. It was as if she didn‘t want to be reminded what a good man he was. He wasn‘t the best father, but he tried, honestly tried, and he was taken away before he had the chance to get it right. What he lacked in social skills, he made up for with an abundance of goodwill. Goodwill cut short in a car crash.
The crash didn‘t kill him; it was his goodwill that did. He died, all for some woman he didn‘t know. A woman he failed to save anyway. He wasted his life for nothing and left his family behind without support. The woman had run a red light and hit his car from the side. Her car rolled and ended up on its side. He tried to get her out. Gasoline had leaked out, a spark must have lit a fire, and an explosion followed. And now, her mother dated outgoing, selfish pricks. Yesterday, it was a prick that gave her a bug that she passed on to little Benny with a well-intended goodnight kiss. And what about her following in her mother‘s footsteps dating Jake?
Sarah sighed. Too much trouble. She would have rather stayed home. Her heart had broken when she heard Benny cough and hack. His whole chest heaved and his body twisted with each cough. A baby shouldn‘t be ill. He should enjoy life, be spoiled. Benny was the only good that came from her mother‘s life after the death of her father. And Benny was the only thing that made her home life bearable.
St. Mark‘s wasn‘t far now. Glancing back in the direction she had come from, she contemplated turning around and forgoing her history test, Jake, and school. She just wanted to spend time with her mother and brother. How often did she have a chance to really spend time with them together? Life lately was either her with Benny or her mother with Benny. There was always something else going on.
She lowered her head and kept plodding on. It would only cause an argument if she skipped school, and she needed good grades to get a scholarship and make something of her life. Not that she knew what that something would be. Sarah had looked into economics, but with the recession, it seemed all these great economic minds knew was how to throw more money into a bottomless pit. It really made her question if that was a viable career path. She liked history, but didn‘t think there were that many job opportunities. Only a few got the great jobs, but most historians ended up being history teachers, and teaching was not her thing. Her last option would be to join the Army. Maybe she would find some order living a disciplined life.
What would Jake think about that? She laughed, drawing a weird look from an older man hobbling by. Her wearing combat fatigues. Imagine that. So not how Jake pictured her. All he wanted was for her to be a high school version of a Stepford wife. Guns, dirt, and blood were not part of that picture. She imagined how he would lecture her about how it wasn‘t a woman‘s job to defend the country. Men should do it. Boys, he meant, for the only old soldiers she met were veterans or the recruiters going from school to school. Those she saw parading around were young ones, not much older than her. Boys in men‘s clothing. Why shouldn‘t a woman defend her country if she wanted to?
She sighed. Her mother would not agree and she wouldn‘t turn eighteen until way after graduation. She was expected to choose a profession by then and commit to it. No adventure for her anytime soon; maybe it was for the best. What did babes know about war anyway? Politics never interested her, but she knew that it was the politicians who sent young people war. Maybe, just maybe, it was best she waited to make such a decision and kept it as a backup plan if everything else failed.
St. Mark‘s High School rose up above the roofs ahead of her. A two-story building with a flat roof. The building was cross shaped. It must have been a convent or some something. She had been going there forever and never bothered to learn its history. All she needed to know about that building was that it contained adults whose job was to put ideas in their heads for them to learn like they were facts. Then, you had the teens with their raging hormones having difficulty swallowing the stuff being taught, while dealing with the many social issues in their lives. Very frustrating. A mess, a real mess, she was glad it would soon be over. The only good things she had going at school were dating Jake and the popularity that came with that and her best friend, Lilly. Too bad those two didn‘t mesh well.
Entering the yard, she noticed two yellow buses parked in front of the entrance. Men in hazmat suits were unloading boxes and carrying them inside the school. As she went up the steps, she took a passing glance at the boxes. It had Army stamped all over. What was going on? In the main hall, she looked up. In front of the principal‘s office—up the main stairs and in the right wing of the building—the principal was talking to a hazmat guy, clearly agitated.
Sarah signaled a junior descending the stairs. “What‘s going on here?”
“Haven‘t you heard?” the boy said.
She hadn‘t heard anything out of the ordinary—not that if something had happened she would have noticed with the kind of weekend she had. She relied on her mother to pass her information. After all, it was she who had spent the weekend outside in the world while Sarah babysat and studied. Had something really big happened, her mom would have told her. But apparently mom had something else keeping her occupied last weekend. That and the sniffles.
“No, I haven‘t heard anything.”
The teen pulled his fist in front of his mouth and coughed. “I…I…need to go to the head nurse. It‘s what they told us to do; any signs of the cold we need to report in.”
He shrugged. “Something about the flu; I don‘t really know.”
Sarah watched him bounce away. He was pretty energetic for a sick boy. Her first class started within an hour. She had ample time to hang around before she had to go up to the classroom. Monday was the day she agreed with Lilly that they would come early to chat about their weekend. Girls alone having girl time. However, Jake found out about it and now sometimes he would show up uninvited. So far, Lilly tolerated it, though there had been talk about choosing another day.
Going through the open twin doors to her left, she walked past the school nurse‘s office. The junior stood in a long line waiting to see the Mrs. Evergreen. Another teen joined the line behind him and more were coming. She turned to the left and kept walking until she reached the tiny break room.
Last year, an eager class president made a petition for a bigger break room. Many thought it was a great idea and signed the petition. The principal, however, did not share the enthusiasm and answered along the lines of, School is to study. not to loiter in free time. Sarah was happy with the decision, which was the first time she had ever agreed with the principal, sort of. She didn‘t mind the room being less than spacious. Because it was small, it was not often used. She enjoyed having it to herself most of the time. The few times Jake had been with her, he had chased away the underclassmen. That one wasn‘t big on sharing; it was a dick move really, but she wasn‘t complaining. What did that make her? A female dick? A cunt? Or simply an asshole enabler.
Tommy, a fat kid in her class, sat in the corner reading a book. Well too bad, they would not have the room to themselves. Lilly sat in the other corner fiddling with her fingers in her lap. She looked up as she heard Sarah enter. Her already big eyes widened slightly as she ran up to her.
“Have you heard?” Lilly asked. There had been a lot of gossip going around school. Sarah shook her head. “They are gathering everyone who is sick and sending them home, keeping them quarantined inside their houses.”
“Don‘t you know? It‘s been all over the news. The flu. My dad, my sisters, my neighbors, almost everyone has it.”
No wonder fewer students had been coming in. Instead, it had been busy with men covered from head to toe in white suits, walking in and out carrying boxes.
“Yes, but why a quarantine?”
“They‘re trying to stop it from spreading.”
“But it‘s just the flu; it happens every year.”
“I watched the news this morning. Some guy was being interviewed who said it was some kind of super flu that will infect everybody and probably bring society crashing down.”
“Like they said would happen with the piggy flu? Come on, how bad can it be? They yell and scream doom every year, yet we are still here, breathing and well, at school.”
Lilly sat down, her hands folded in her lap. “I…I…guess I‘m overreacting again.”
“Yes you are, but you‘ll soon see that everything will turn out fine.” Sarah sat beside her friend. “So how was your weekend?”
They shared their weekends. Lilly had a more engaging one, making Sarah wonder if she had time to study for the history exam. It was fun just passing time together, taking their mind off today‘s test, boys, and the flu.
Jake walked in. “Coach canceled the game. Something about the flu, not being able to field enough man power. Jeez, if I need to, I could field the game by myself.” He waited in front of them, expecting something and oblivious he had interrupted their conversation. “Aren‘t you going to move aside? Make some space so I can sit.”
Before Lilly could scoot over, he pressed between them, sat down, and put his arm around Sarah, who plucked it from her shoulder.
“Come on, don‘t be cold like that? Too much of that going on around here already. With kids coughing their lungs up everywhere I go.”
She smirked. “Lilly told me all about that. There is some pandemic going on. People are screaming that the world is going to end, just like they did when we had the swine flu.”
“Yeah, I saw the soldiers near the nurse‘s office.”
Soldiers? What were they doing at a school? And in peacetime? She remembered the Army boxes. Of course they were soldiers. National Guard, she guessed. They really were treating it as if it were an emergency. Maybe she had dismissed the severity of it too soon.
“Were they armed?”
“Yeah, they were, else I wouldn‘t have recognize them.” Jake looked around the room for the first time since entering. He glared at Tommy, who was still sitting in the corner. “I‘ll kill that guy.” He strode toward Tom, who flinched away. “How many times have I told you to scram when I‘m in here? I don‘t want no smelly fatso asshole stinking up the place.”
Tommy‘s face flushed red. He didn‘t move. Would it be today that he finally made a stand? Sarah rooted for him. She didn‘t know Tom that well. Sure, they shared classes together, but she was not expected to associate with the likes of him. The in crowd would not have deemed it cool. She had seen what happened when someone went against the crowd. Tom had a friend, Ralph, who was not bad looking—quite the opposite. Ralph stuck by him no matter what and he had been ostracized for it. Life in high school would have been much easier for him had he not befriended Tommy. It was kind of stupid.
She glanced at Lilly who was biting her lower lip. What if Lilly was fat and obnoxiously smelly, would she stop being friends with her? She wanted to think she wouldn‘t, but she wasn‘t so sure. The feeling of being wanted and being popular filled a hole in her that had been empty for so long.
Jake shoved Tommy. It would be great if he stood up and punched Jake in the face. He didn‘t though. Instead, he whined to be left alone and that the space was for everybody, including him. Jake grabbed him by the collar and dragged him out.
Lilly stood up and yelled, “Stop! You are hurting him.”
Jake pushed Tommy when he tried to come back in. “You better leave or I‘ll fucking kill you, fat ass.”
“Stop it,” Lilly said.
Jake grabbed her arm and pushed her out next to Tommy.
“Stay with your boyfriend and leave us alone.”
“He‘s not my boyfriend.”
Tom wheeled around and left.
“Look. He‘s running, wiggling his fat ass. You better hurry after him before he starts bawling like a fat baby.”
Sarah stomped past Jake and grabbed Lilly by the hand. She glared at him. “Jerk!”
They left him behind with his mouth partly open, staring at them.
“You shouldn‘t have,” Lilly said.
“What kind of friend would I be if I didn‘t?”
She wanted to be the kind of friend that stood up for her friends. She had grown tired of being seen as a superficial bimbo, which was how she had been acting the last few years. High school was at its end and she wanted a clean slate to start with, to be different. She wanted to fill that hole with something else. She just wanted to be herself, or try at least. The whole world would open up for her soon, and she planned to embrace it.
“Really, you shouldn‘t do this, Mom. I‘m okay with going alone.” And ditching school.
Leaving for school had actually raised his anxiety about taking the test. He was going to fail it, and that was very bad, F-size bad. And he had no way out. He wanted to save face. Get out of it. And beside his selfish reasons, he felt—no, he knew—that his mother wasn‘t all right. He should take care of her. Her face was pale, her nose ran, and she kept having these coughing fits.
“No, you don‘t, mister smarty pants.”
God, she knew how to bring it and make him feel small. He was eighteen already.
“I‘m going make sure to drop you off at school and watch you go inside. You‘re a smart kid; I know you‘re going to ace that test.”
He glanced at her. She was smiling. There was no way she really believed that; she must be delirious if she did. She must have seen doubt on his face because she said, “You‘ll do all right; don‘t worry about the test.”
She drove out of the carport and onto the street.
“I‘m not worried about the stupid test. I‘m worried about you and Ginny.”
“Just a cold. Nothing to worry about.” She flashed him a smile. “I‘ll go and take myself and Ginny to see Doctor Morris. Hope that makes you feel better.”
Their physician, old doctor Morris. How many times did they visit him? Once or twice a year? And to hear what? That they needed bed rest for two weeks? Only when an illness persisted did they ever go back for a checkup. It was clear to him what he should do if he wanted an easy job after graduation. Though, as easy of a job as it would be, it wasn‘t easy to study for. He quickly dropped that thought. No, he didn‘t really know what he should do with his life after graduating. He would postpone thinking about it until the second semester. His stomach knotted. Second semester was almost upon him, less than a month away.
It had gotten quiet in the car while his mother focused on driving. Sweat trickled down from her forehead. With her sight fixed on the road, she paid little attention to anything else. It probably took all the strength she had to do it. He feared she was downplaying her illness for his sake. Common cold, she said. He believed whatever it was it was closer to the common flu.
Ralph fiddled with the radio dial. Some newscaster was on every channel reporting the same thing. He didn‘t want to listen to the blaring of some overinflated radioman; he wanted some sweet pop music. The newest Rhianna hit would be cool. Now that was a woman he would like to date. He wouldn‘t mind that she was older than him. But wasn‘t she going out with that Canadian, that Bieber guy? He was younger. Nah, daydreaming never amounted to anything. He would rather have Sarah pay attention to him. Another daydream. He stood as much chance getting Sarah to give him the time of day as having Rhianna propose to him.
No music at all, only the same newscaster. Weird. There was always some sort of music on at least one channel, and still if by chance you wouldn‘t, you sure would not have the same newscaster on every frequency.
“Don‘t change it.” The car swerved a little when she said that.
The newscaster blasted over the speakers.
They say this flu is much worse than the swine flu during the 2009 epidemic. Already the World Health Organization wants to declare a pandemic and quarantine everybody. Other scientists have said it‘s being exaggerated. Economic leaders said that a quarantine would create too much turmoil over too little. Yeah, like human life is worth less than financial gain. Wall Street may think it is, but I bet a fortune that it is not to you, my listener, you who must be wondering right now if it‘s the smart thing to be taking your kids to school. The scientists and Wall Street are not the only ones pondering this flu. We have the conspiracy theorists; they claim the government is using the common flu to scare us into thinking it‘s worse than it really is so we run scared and get a vaccine shot. All for the big, bad corporations mega profits. At least these conspiracy terrorist are not the looniest of the bunch, though they are a close second. The first spot for that goes to… What are they called again? Apocalyptic? Whatever they are called, they are saying…wait for it…that this flu is a hundred times worse than the bird flu, that after it‘s over no living human will walk the Earth. What is it? A pandemic, a hoax, a conspiracy, or the apocalypse. To dispel doubt and panic, our station and yours truly, John Murray…
“The hack,” mom said.
….have been selected by the government in collaboration with WHO‘s spokeswoman Rita Lee to answer the many questions you may have.
A woman‘s voice replaced the too-smooth-to-be-any-good baritone of the newscaster, radio jock, or whoever he was. Ralph did not know any of these people, but apparently his mother did, and she did not have a high opinion of the man based on the way she sneered.
I‘m Doctor Rita Lee, spokeswoman for the World Health Organization. The first thing I have to say is to counter these preposterous claims that this flu is some doomsday virus. What other crazy theory will we have next, someone claiming the dead will walk?
The doctor snickered, which sounded more like a crazy lady losing it than someone trying to rebuff an absurd theory. He couldn‘t really blame her for feeling a bit lost with the situation. Lately, people have been making the craziest stuff up to get attention, or for the fun of it. He hated listening to this nonsense instead of music, but his mother was listening attentively. God, she was going to make him take a vaccine if they convince her that something bad was going on.
So, Doctor, what about these conspiracy theorists‘ claim that it‘s all to fill some fat cat‘s pockets?
Since when have they ever been right? They are barely saner than the doomsayers. Do you really believe the government would risk our health, which they have sworn to protect, for some scam to get money for some corporate donor? No, of course not! These are good people; they are at the helm to serve the people. And we, as a world organization, help these governments, foreign and domestic, to deal with situations that can have an adverse effect on our health. We are a nonprofit organization and we do not profit on making people sick; we cure people as best we can.
“Pleaseeeee,” mom said.
Doctor, can you tell us what is really going on?
It‘s a new strain of the flu. Our current vaccine doesn‘t work on it. As far we know, we have no reason to not believe that it‘s as harmful as the common flu.
Why then the call for a worldwide quarantine?
Because what many don‘t realize is that the common flu has about thirty thousand fatalities around the world each year.
We don‘t have a quarantine in those cases, so why now?
Indeed, we don‘t have them, because the cure in those cases could be worse than the flu. We don‘t see the fatalities we could get from a quarantine as easily as from the flu. At six, almost seven billion people worldwide, a worldwide quarantine would have consequences and could also lead to the death of many.
What changed with this flu?
It‘s new, never been seen before. Almost no one has any defense against it, but for those who are naturally resistant and those who are immune.
Ralph‘s mother coughed. “Guess I‘m not immune.”
She radiated a smile at him. “But maybe you are.”
He couldn‘t help but to smile at her. She would not even give him a get out of jail free card with this pandemic looming over them.
We calculated that about 4 percent are resistant and have a chance of not getting infected. The other 95 percent, if they get in contact with this virus, will get ill. We can‘t afford to have 95 percent of the population ill; we need a quarantine to ride out this virus.
“So maybe you‘re not immune after all.”
So maybe that get-out-of-jail-free card was still in the running. Ralph saw a way for him to get out of taking the test. A plan formed in the back of his head. He hoped his mother would swallow this shit on the radio. He decided to side with the conspiracy theorist; well partly, it was just a common cold and not necessarily preplanned by the government. He doubted the government would do anything like that; the current president was way too cool. He would never harm his country.
How many would die if we don‘t quarantine?
One in ten thousand.
Doesn‘t sound that bad doctor.
That‘s about six hundred thousand by the flu alone, and many more caused by people being too sick to be able to care for themselves and others. What a lot of people don‘t know is that neglect kills.
That‘s horrible! So what‘s keeping the government from doing something?
A quarantine is not enacted on a moment‘s notice. It needs planning and the people should be informed in advance. We don‘t want them to panic. Panic also causes deaths.
Again the nervous laughter.
What time frame do you suspect…?
“Watch out, Mom,” Ralph yelled, panic in his voice. “Brake!”
The car swerved as his mother stepped on the brakes. The car jerked to a stop in the intersection. They flung forward; their seat belts pulled them back hard. Two yellow school buses raced by at speeds he had never seen them move at before. They show no sign of stopping or even slowing down. Had they not stopped in time, their car would have been flattened.
“God damn them,” mom said.
His mother turned off the radio as the doctor and the radio host were discussing the economic consequences of a quarantine. “I didn‘t see them coming! What has gotten into these drivers? Oh God, we could have been dead! Oh praise, God saved us!”
Ralph didn‘t know about that. It was his timely warning and not God who had saved them. But he dared not say that to his mother; she would point out it was God that gave him eyes to see the oncoming hazard and God‘s hand that grabbed his face and pointed it at the oncoming buses. It was boredom that led him to yawn and look out the window. Chance saved them, chance, not God.
He had not seen these yellow school buses since elementary school. The city drivers now rode these new ones with low floors so disabled kids could easily get on them. Well, whatever, he was just glad they were still alive and well.
A car stopped behind them and honked. His mother jumped in her seat and then drove on, but before she did, she carefully looked both ways to make sure no other maniacs were driving on the road. As they continued to their destination, he heard the sound of helicopters in the air. He turned in his seat. Far away, he saw one. A black spot hung in the air among the clouds like a drop of paint forgotten by an artist on a lush painting. Odd occurrences kept adding up. Maybe something was going on, like the flu scare. Governments liked their emergencies. The politicians got their time in front of the camera and got to feel all self important. He was too young to be bothered by politics; maybe next year in college he would give it some thought. Whatever it was—flu or not—it would pass like every other crisis. He had his own crisis to contend with: his afternoon history test.
About the Author
Alex Rosaria is a writer, who loves writing horror and sci-fi stories, though when creativity demands it he likes to branch out to other genres. He‘s also the author of:
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