*Editor’s Note: This is the first of four chapters from a local writer. It is a tale of certain horrors and desperation, but nonetheless one of intrigue and survivalist pride. These installments will guide the reader’s spookiness through the month of October right to the Halloween grand finale.
(nome de plume)
My name is Emily Haze. I was eight-years-old when the first outbreak of infection started. I lived in an ordinary house in Denver, Colorado. My father, Thaddeus Haze, was in the Air Force while my mother, Eleanor, stayed with my brother, sister and me.
One day, when father was home on leave watching the big pay-per-view boxing match with my brother, and mother was cooking in the kitchen while my sister Nicole and I were dancing in my room to the maxed-out radio, everything seemed perfect.
We didn’t have a care in the world back then. We weren’t aware of the storm to come. That’s when the infected came knocking at our door.
It started as a triumph. Scientists discovered a protein which could stop and even reverse Alzheimer’s disease. Thousands of patients were cured and sent back into the world as new people. The protein not only repaired the brain but repaired the skin, eyes, and hearing of patients, as well. People were, understandably, thrilled with a second chance at life. Eventually, the scientists’ miracle work stretched its usefulness.
First experimenting on patients who were pronounced brain dead. When that didn’t work they moved to actual corpses. One successful attempt turned into a deadly pandemic, creating monsters who were once human, now craving human blood and flesh to satiate the virus. Passing through bite wounds, the scourge moved rapidly. An infection is always fatal, but not right away; the Infected’s skin turns gray and ashy; hair begins falling from the scalp; movements become slow and jerky; sight and hearing already improved from the protein’s first dose became stronger in virulence.
The more they fed, the more dangerous they became.
My family and I made it out of Denver alive, moving first from hiking to hitch hiking and then finally to just hotwiring cars. We headed toward Los Angeles, CA, where the emergency radio broadcast said was safe. Having used the rubble of demolished roads and buildings, the military and other survivors had managed to build a wall around a less populated area of the city. The wall itself was a haphazard placement of large blocks of cement reaching ten-feet in height and about three miles all the way around. A haphazard setup to begin with, the wall was at least stable enough to walk upon.
We were checked for infections by soldiers and when given the clear, we were allowed in. All children were sent to school which trained hand-to-hand combat, weapons handling, as well as how to spot and recognize infected individuals.
The adults were taught gun control and first aid, then made to take shifts guarding us. The shifts consisted of supply runs, walking along the wall killing any infected who came close, sleeping, resting, and various maintenance around the compound.
We were lucky enough to have generators providing us with light, warm water, and easily cooked meals. With millions dead due to the infection, there were a lot of supplies to go around for the small families within the compound.
There weren’t many families, and most of the people living here were by themselves. We still managed to thrive despite the conditions, eventually naming our community “The Haven”. We managed to survive here for several years. Hell, we’d done so well we figured the infection had died off.
When supply runners ventured out, they’d bring back more and more food, drinks, medicines, and other necessities we now knew as luxuries. The runners would come back with stories of bodies of infected scattered about the city, and those that were still alive were too starved to move. But even with such a seemingly positive outlook, the General and his Council, the gentlemen in charge of the Haven, deemed it unsafe for anyone but runners to venture out, and even then only in close distances.
We thought the infection itself had died off. I had just turned 13 when it came back. While those outside the wall had by now fallen away, those who had been cured were inside the walls. When they began to pass from old age the protein still in their bodies awoke from hibernation minutes after death, bringing the infection back to life.
The curse was no longer outside and contained, but inside the walls of our Haven turning everything into chaos. My sister and I were in class when the sirens sounded, followed quickly by my father and Michael bursting into the room.
The compound’s evacuation zone wasn’t far away, but with all the chaos it took us about ten minutes to reach it. Michael and I made it out together, but we lost father, mother, and Nicole in the crowd of people. We were taken to the Channel Islands off the coast of California. Even with all my fear, I knew my family would protect me. Little did I know that the horrors I had lived through would become the object of people’s entertainment.