By Dwayne MacInnes
"Damn it!" screamed Brady as he slammed the phone back into the cradle. He had been trying for the past five days to contact his parents. But all the phone lines were busy and there hadn't been an open line since the quarantine. Without the phone line he couldn't even check his email.
The TV had been playing nonstop since the hospital incident in Marysville eight days ago. The news had been constantly reporting a strange and growing number of gruesome murders by an insane mob. The latest speculation was that a terrorist organization had poison the water supply with some sort of waterborne disease that was causing its victims to go insane. The governor had called out the National Guard to help control the panic and take control of the situation. So far to no avail.
Marysville, Seattle, and even Tacoma have been quarantined. The Bremerton naval base had been evacuated. It was reminiscent of the last days before the fall of Saigon. People were trying everything to get out of the cities. The president had called up federal troops to enforce the quarantine. There had been a no fly zone instated and any aircraft that violated it was instantly shot down. Oregon and Vancouver had their borders closed down so no one could get in or out. Any ship or boat that tried to leave the coast or Puget Sound was instantly destroyed by the navy and coast guard. There would be no rescue attempts.
During the State of the Union on the previous night, the president declared the western half of the state of Washington off limits in order to try and contain the growing and seemingly incurable disease. Martial law was in full force now. All the passes in the Cascades had troops manning the blockades with orders to shoot anyone attempting to cross them.
Brady kept thinking to himself that this couldn't be happening. Not here. Not in the United States. The whole thing was happening too fast. Everything looked to be out of control.
"The governor still encourages people to lock themselves into their homes and to stay off the streets. Troops of the National Guard and the army are sweeping through the streets to clean out the diseased mob that seems to have taken over many neighborhoods. Hazmat teams are investigating the cause of the sickness and so far they have no ideas as to source or even if there is a clue to the cure. Once again please stay in your homes. If you have any personal weapons have them at hand incase the mobs start to move into your neighborhood. But once again stay in your house and do not try to confront the mobs on your own if it can be avoided."
The reporter sitting at the desk had obviously not slept in a long time. His hair was in disarray and he hadn't shaved for awhile either. His shirt's top button was undone and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
"There have been several calls to the station stating that these people are not alive. This of course, is not a substantiated rumor. But the one piece of advice that is being offered is to shoot them in the head. It appears that only head damaged will kill these diseased people.
"Remember do not try to leave the city. All people approaching the checkpoints will be shot. We are still under quaran..."
Just then the room in the cabin went completely black. It was about 11:30 p.m. when the power went out. The sudden darkness and complete silence started to work on Brady's imagination. He found himself starting to hyperventilate. Calm down, calm down. Brady told himself.
He slowly walked to the closet where he knew an oil camp lamp was stored. Brady thought for sure he could hear the sounds of someone walking around outside. What was that outside the window? "Calm down you are letting your imagination get the better of you," Brady told himself.
Brady made it to the closet and a couple of minutes of rummaging around he found the lamp and some matches. As the lamp flickered to life and the darkness evaporated so did the imaginary sounds. "I now know why man invented fire," Brady thought.
He did a quick inventory of his food stores and supplies. Brady still had plenty of food and oil for the lamp. The water could be obtained from the old pump in the back. A thing better left for the day light.
"Wait a minute!" yelled Brady, "Grandpa always had his shotgun up here." Brady rummaged around the various closets in the cabin. He found the old 12 gauge Remington in the master bedroom's closet along with a box shells. "Thank God, it was buckshot instead of bird or I'd only annoy the suckers if they ever made it this far. Let's see... it can hold five shells if I remember right," thought Brady.
Brady used to do some hunting with his grandfather when he was still alive. But Brady hadn't even held a gun in a good seven years. He sure hoped that he could still shoot as straight as he used to. The gun was quickly loaded and Brady carried it and the lamp back to his bedroom where he crawled into bed and fell into a fitful sleep.
It was the third day after the loss of power that Brady had a dream full of thunder with the earth shaking about him. Suddenly Brady woke up. That wasn't thunder! It was the sound of engines, large aircraft engines and so many of them that the cabin was shaking as if in a moderate earthquake. It was only 1:47 a.m. according Brady's watch. The sound soon receded to the west. Brady tried to turn on the light only to remember that the power was off. He was awake now but there wasn't anything he could do. The TV was out and the laptop only had the power stored in its battery. Brady tried the phone only to find out that it too was still out of commission. Brady found his portable radio and turned it on. All it picked up was static. There hadn't been anything found on AM or FM since the power loss. It was obvious this was a complete blackout.
This was total isolation. Brady felt truly alone for the first time in his life. He was quite content in being a loner and getting away from people for weeks at time wasn't new to him. But to be totally cut off from civilization against his will was not something he was used to. Brady turned off his radio and the lamp and fell asleep on the couch.
He couldn't have been asleep long when the sound of thunder started crashing down from the west. Brady ran out of the cabin not even thinking of taking his shotgun. Off to the west Brady could see that the skyline above the trees was lit up. It was as if the sun was starting to dawn in the west. The thunder still rained down in the west, northwest, and even the southwest. Brady watched until the real sun rose in the east. But the thunder still came rolling up the mountainside. This continued until about seven in the morning.
Brady stood transfixed, he hadn't moved for hours. He just watched the skyline not comprehending what was going on. Then it hit him. They were bombing the cities. "Mom, Dad... NO!" screamed Brady.
Brady ran into the cabin barely aware what he was doing. Brady emptied out his backpack and started stuffing it with boxes of food, and water bottles. The radio, lamp, the box of matches and some spare oil was also crammed into the pack. He grabbed the shotgun and his jacket and ran out to his motorcycle. He put on his helmet and jumped onto the bike and sped off down the dirt road.
The dirt road down the mountainside was empty which was not surprising. Most people were still in the cities. Brady drove like a mad man. He pushed the bike to the limits of his ability to control it. When he hit the main road Brady pushed the bike even further. He had never driven so fast. Nor was he really aware as to the speed. All that consumed his thoughts were that his mother and father were stuck in Seattle. Probably at home if it hadn't been bombed. With that thought Brady looked up and noticed the entire horizon to the west was filled with smoke.
A gas station was just a few miles further down the road and Brady desperately needed gas. He only had a quarter of a tank and that would barely get him to the outskirts of Seattle. As the bike sped down the road Brady realized that he hadn't seen a single person. Certainly he should have passed someone either going to or from the west.
The gas station was soon on the horizon. Brady started to slow down as he approached the station. He pulled up to the pumps and stopped the bike. Brady laid the shotgun against the bike as he lifted the pump and put it into the tank. He tried to insert his credit card but the machine wouldn't work. Then Brady remembered that all the power and phone lines were out. There was no way for him to get any gas short of stealing it from another vehicle. Brady quickly looked around. Damn! Not a car to be seen. He threw the pump handle to the ground, grabbed his shotgun and retied it on the back of his bike. Then Brady jumped back on his bike and sped off hoping that he'd have enough gas to make to the checkpoint at least.
It didn't even occur to him until he was miles down road that he had not even see anyone at the gas station. Or for that matter at the speed he'd been driving there wasn't even a law enforcement officer trying to pull him over. He was making good time. It could only be about 10:00 in the morning. The cloud of smoke was growing ever closer as Brady raced on.
It started to rain again and Brady had to slow down. It would do him no good to crash his bike and break his leg. The delay was agonizing. As the rain poured down even harder Brady had to slow down even further. It soon became so bad that he had to pull off to the side of the road to find shelter. Brady pulled his bike under some sheltering trees to wait out the storm. Real lightning and thunder started crashing all around him.
The wait was insufferable. Brady finally broke down as he waited. He started sobbing and sat down at the base of a tree. Brady knew that he shouldn't take shelter under a tree during a thunder storm, but he didn't care. All he could think of was for the first time in his life he realized how much he really did love his mother and father.
"Please God, let them be all right. I'll make something of myself I promise. I'll take things seriously from now on." Brady prayed.
Two hours passed before the storm finally abated. By that time Brady had finally come to grips with himself. He slowly remounted the bike and resumed his trek. Driving now more slowly Brady started thinking things out more thoroughly. He knew he had to somehow get past the checkpoints. He didn't know how. Maybe they'd let him in even if they wouldn't let him out. But he would cross that bridge when he came to it.
As the sunlight started to recede Brady realized that even despite the violent storm the horizon was still lit from the burning of the cities. Even now as the motorcycle slowly approached the suburbs he still hadn't passed a single person. Hell, he hadn't even seen a real person since he went up to the cabin.
The last of the light showed that there was a major road block on the road ahead. Brady stopped his bike. He dismounted grabbed his pack and shotgun and slowly approached the jumble of vehicles. Brady noticed that there were a medley of military vehicles blocking off all the entrances and exits from the suburban community.
"Hello?" called out Brady. "Is there anyone out there?" Only silence returned his question. Brady continued walking toward the vehicles.
He noticed that there was a tank, some HumVees, and a Bradley fighting vehicle stretched across the road. "This is strange," thought Brady. "There should be someone out here to man the checkpoint."
That's when Brady noticed a man sleeping behind a HumVee. Brady approached the man, noticed that he was a soldier and shook him. The man was drenched. He should have changed his clothes after the storm thought Brady. The man was still just lying there. Brady shook him again a little harder.
"Excuse me, sir?"
Brady shook him a third time and when he didn't respond he turned him over. That's when Brady realized the soldier was dead. The stiff body rolled over and the dead eyes stared straight up. Brady jumped back and fell onto the side of the road. As he looked past the roadblock Brady noticed miles of vehicles. They stretched endlessly down the road. The blood colored sky bathed the landscape and revealed the countless bodies stiffly lying among the vehicles. In the last couple of minutes before the sun exited the horizon for the night, Brady saw movement.
Brady just sat there stunned. His mind was overwhelmed. He couldn't think of anything. Not even to scream. He just watched as a body slowly picked itself up from the human debris spread out in front of him. The man stiffly stood up and jumbled over towards Brady. Then another body stood up and started approaching.
"Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God," was all Brady could get his brain wrapped around. "This wasn't right."
Then the stench hit him. The wind must have changed direction blowing the reek of death towards him. Brady started to gag. The smoke from the burning city started to blow into his eyes. The bodies silhouetted against the burning cities approached closer. Brady just sat there with his eyes watering. The shambling diseased bodies slowly and stiffly approached arms outstretched.
The closest reeking man was only an arms distant from Brady. Then Brady closed his eyes. That was all he could will his body to do. The man's hands started to tighten around his leg. My God he has a strong grip. "This is it," thought Brady.
BLAM! BLAM! The night air exploded with the sound of the gunshots. Brady opened his eyes to witness the head of the man grabbing his leg was blasted apart. The hand released his leg. The shots brought Brady to his senses. He stood up in time to see the second man's head jerk back as another shot echoed in the night.
As the second body fell lifeless to the road a small person ran up behind Brady. Brady took a quick glance as he jerked back in surprise at the leather clad person with a riot helmet and a smoking automatic pistol that appeared to be pink in the soft glow of the burning city.
"Come on", called a female voice "let's get out of here!"
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