Fight to survive a post.., p.1
Fight to Survive: A Post-Apocalyptic Thriller (After the Outbreak Book 1), page 1
Fight to Survive
A Post-Apocalyptic Thriller - After the Outbreak book 1
Copyright © 2017 by Dave Bowman
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This book was previously published under the title After the Outbreak.
About the Author
September 9 - Twelve days after the outbreak
Nick positioned himself out of sight, pointing the barrel of his rifle out the open window.
He knew they were out there somewhere, and he knew they were armed. They had been spying on Nick and the others, studying the property and its defenses. The moon had just dipped below the mountains in the distance, and the light was low in the meadow and surrounding forest. But his eyes had adjusted to the darkness. He scanned the meadow and the tree line beyond it, waiting for any movement outside in the dark night. He was ready.
He wouldn’t let them take what he had worked so hard to build. He would defend his home and the people he cared about, fighting with everything he had. He would channel all the rage, fear and desperation of the past few days into his rifle.
In the silent house, he could hear the ragged, anxious breathing of the others. The air was thick with tension and fear. He worked to calm his own breathing as the moments slowly passed in anticipation.
He saw a figure emerge from the shadows of the woods, moving quickly and stealthily. Before he could aim, a movement from behind him, from within the house, momentarily distracted him.
“Get down!” he urged, but before he could finish the words, the crack of a gunshot filled the night air like thunder.
Nick Redmond was having a very strange day.
Almost none of his workers had shown up to the construction site in northern El Paso, Texas. There were a couple of guys there, but they were so confused and disoriented that it was unsafe for them to be working. Their color looked bad, too. He sent them home, shaking his head. It had to be a bad bug to have rendered so many healthy men weak as kittens.
It must be that virus going around. He knew it was rough, but he hadn’t known it was this bad.
While he was taking care of some paperwork alone at the site, his phone beeped. His wife Kaitlyn had texted him. School had been canceled for their ten-year-old son Owen. Since Kaitlyn was at work, she had asked her mother to go pick up their son and keep him at her parents' house. Nick imagined Owen was happy to have the day off from school. Nick smiled to himself, recalling how the child would jump for joy at every snow day.
After a couple of hours, Nick ran out of things to do at the site without the workers, and he left. He had some projects of his own to work on at home, and he could use the day off to make progress on them.
Stopping at the corner store for a six pack, he gaped at the chaotic scene. Cars filled the parking lot, but inside the store the pandemonium was much worse. In fact, it chilled him to the bone.
People swarmed the crowded shop, their arms loaded down with food, bottled water, and toilet paper. Customers were panicked and scared as they pushed each other and fought for items on the shelf. But the most striking thing was the way all these people looked.
Everyone’s skin had taken on an unnatural shade of gray, the skin around their eyes was black, and their eyes were wide and bulging.
Nick backed up, his hand on the door as he got one last look before exiting. He decided he could go without beer today.
He climbed back in his truck, the scene still haunting him. That’s not just some little bug going around, he thought. That’s serious.
His mind immediately flashed to the hunting lodge. Several years ago, he and his brother had inherited a hunting lodge 350 miles north of his home in El Paso. Nick and Kaitlyn had been planning to move their little family to the comfortable house in northern New Mexico next year. Their dream was to escape the city and create a homestead in the mountains – the wild, high-altitude land they loved. Nick's brother Tim and his family would join them eventually, and they would build a second house for the two families.
The only thing holding Nick and Kaitlyn back was reaching their goal of a certain amount of savings to provide a buffer while they moved toward a self-sufficient homestead.
But maybe it was time to go sooner than they’d planned. This bug, this Hosta virus as they were calling it, seemed to be much more serious than anyone had anticipated. Nick wasn’t sure if the virus was fatal or not, but he didn’t want to keep his family around long enough to find out.
He drove along the highway access road, but didn't enter the on ramp. The highway was backed up. It looked like several accidents were blocking traffic. People were driving erratically. In fact, just a few blocks away, he saw a car swerve off the road and crash into a light pole, as if the driver had just lost all control.
He passed by a supermarket on his way home. It was even busier than the corner store, and the parking lot was pure chaos. Cars swerving, people pushing carts loaded down with bottled water and packaged foods. Weak, sick people stumbling around in various stages of illness and confusion. He thought he saw only a few people that looked like they could still be healthy, but it was hard to tell from a distance.
He was glad he didn't need anything from the store. There was enough at home for now, and there was plenty more waiting for them at the lodge in New Mexico.
The closer he got to his house, the more convinced he became that leaving El Paso was the right thing to do. At the very least, they needed to flee the city and take refuge where there was less risk of catching the virus. They could return when things had settled down. He was sure Kaitlyn would agree with him – maybe she was already thinking the same thing.
He was resolute as he neared his home. Once inside, he’d call Kaitlyn and finalize the plans. She could leave work early and pick up Owen on the way home. In the meantime, he could start getting everything ready and they would be on the road in a couple of hours, arriving at the lodge before dark.
He pulled into the driveway and clicked the garage door open. He was surprised to see Kaitlyn’s car parked there already, but he figured that the office where she worked must have closed for the day.
“Kaitlyn!” he called into the silent house as he walked through the door from the garage.
Kaitlyn was in bed, her eyes shut and a pained expression on her face. She opened her eyes to see him, and Nick immediately saw terror in her gaze. His stomach tightened as their eyes met.
Her skin had taken on the same sickly shade of gray he had seen in the workers and the people at the store.
He was too late.
Liz Murphy stumbled down the narrow steps that descended from her second-floor studio apartment to her car in the parking lot, yawning and nearly dropping her phone as she tried to stuff it in her purse. Like most mornings, she was only awake enough to slip into her car and get herself into auto pilot to drive downtown to her job as a barista.
Ironically, she didn't drink coffee. Never had. It made her nervous. But she liked the smell of it, and a job was hard to find in her city, so she didn't mind working in a coffee shop. The early mornings were the worst, though.
It was a warm day, and she rode with the windows down to enjoy the fresh air. Though she hated dragging herself out of bed at this hour, she had to admit that there was something nice about being out and about while most people were still asleep.
Except that today, the streets were even more empty than usual. Liz saw just a few cars out on the highway, a fact that only dimly registered in her groggy brain. Must be some bank holiday or other, she thought.
Since she had graduated from college last year and started juggling service industry jobs, she couldn't keep up with the days off everyone else seemed to have. She had to work nearly every holiday and weekend, so she often lost track of the rest of the world and their schedules.
She pulled into the parking lot behind the coffee shop, parking her old Honda Civic next to Frank's truck. She noticed Madison's car wasn't in its usual place, which was odd. Liz figured it was the first time she had beat her go-getter co-worker to work.
The fresh air had revived her a little, and she felt awake and ready to face another day of serving fancy drinks to customers.
She pushed open the heavy back door and went to clock in at the shift computer, but she noticed it wasn't on. She knew her control freak boss wouldn't want her to turn it on herself, as if she were incapable of powering on a computer. So she went to knock on his office door.
"Frank?" she called.
"Come in," he said after a moment's pause.
"The shift computer's not on," Liz began impatiently, but Frank gestured at her to be quiet.
"Frank," she repeated, annoyed.
He pointed at the TV his eyes were glued to, then held his finger to his lips to indicate she shouldn't speak.
Liz sighed. If she was at work, she wanted to be compensated for her time. Instead of wasting minutes watching TV in Frank's office, she should be clocking in for her shift and getting started on the day’s tasks. But when she heard the urgency in the TV newscaster's voice, she began to pay attention.
"Albuquerque public schools have all been closed until further notice. Mayor Sykes says this is purely a precautionary measure until health workers can control spread of the virus. There have only been isolated cases of the Hosta virus, but local officials are working around the clock to contain its spread. Mayor Sykes urges citizens to remain calm."
But the newscaster didn’t seem very calm, with her shaky voice and disheveled hairstyle. The report abruptly ended, and her image was quickly replaced by an advertisement. Frank turned the television off without a word.
"They're making such a big deal out of this virus," Liz said after a moment of uncomfortable silence.
Frank sat still, looking down at his hands. Liz stared at his back, waiting for his response, hoping he'd agree with her.
"I mean, closing all the schools? Isn't that a little extreme?"
But she knew she was wrong as she spoke the words. She'd heard talk of this virus for a few days and had seen some disturbing images of sick people in other cities. Like most unpleasant things, she had tried to ignore the Hosta virus, but that was becoming harder to do.
She had to admit she had been a little out of the loop with current events – especially since yesterday had been her day off, and she had spent it disconnected from the outside world.
To be honest, she had been feeling a little down lately, a little disillusioned with how her life hadn’t turned out the way she had planned since graduation. So she had spent her day off sleeping late, reading, and watching movies. She hadn’t even left her apartment, called a friend, or looked at her email or social media.
"It's a serious illness," Frank said quietly, bringing her back to the present. "They have to stop its spread."
"But just a few people have it here in Albuquerque," Liz said, clinging to the hope that the fear was unfounded. "Only a few isolated cases. They just said so on the news."
"They're lying," Frank said.
He swiveled around in his chair, and for the first time Liz could see his face clearly. She gasped to look at him.
His skin had developed an unnatural shade of gray, and his eyes were rimmed in dark circles.
"Wow, Frank, are you OK?"
"I woke up feeling a little off today. Let's hope it's just allergies."
"Yeah, it’s probably all the pollen out now," Liz said, not at all convinced, and feeling fear grip her stomach.
"By the way, where's Madison?"
"Called in sick," Frank said flatly.
"Oh," Liz breathed.
"I'm closing the shop today," Frank said, and pushed himself to his feet. He stumbled, then caught himself.
"You sure you're OK?" Liz asked again.
"Yeah, I'll be fine. Gonna go sleep this off at home," Frank muttered. "And that's where you should be: home."
"OK." Liz nodded. Suddenly she wanted to follow his advice and leave the darkened coffee shop immediately.
"Take home the baked goods from the case," Frank said. "The bakery didn't deliver today, but there's a bunch of day-old muffins and bagels."
"I have food in my apartment, Frank," Liz protested.
"Just take it. And grab a case of bottled water while you're at it."
Liz started to argue, but something made her think better of it, and she moved to the front of the store to gather up the items. There were a lot of baked goods; the shop must not have had many customers the day before.
"Thanks Frank," she said, making her way back to the rear exit. "I'll pay you back for this stuff."
"Don't worry about it, Liz," he said, waiting for her to exit the building as he locked the door behind her. "You just lay low for a few days while this whole thing blows over."
She nodded, stashing the things in her car.
"Good luck," he said, his voice sounding a little weak as he staggered to his truck.
Liz avoided the highway and took the more direct route since there was so little traffic today. There were just a few cars out, and most of the businesses were closed.
She decided to stop by her best friend Sarah’s house. Liz hadn’t heard from her in a couple of days, and she wanted to make sure she wasn’t sick with whatever was going around. Sarah was never one to ask for help when she needed it, and her husband Victor was away on a business trip that week.
Sarah’s car was parked out in front of her two-bedroom home, but there was no answer at the door. After receiving no response to the text messages she sent to her friend, she used the spare key Sarah had given her to let herself in.
“Sarah?” Liz called through the quiet home.
“I’m in here,” her friend called from the bedroom weakly.
Liz found Sarah lying in bed, looking miserable. As Liz approached, she saw the gray tint to her skin. A chill ran down her spine.
“Hey, how are you feeling?”
She managed a weak smile. “I’ve been better.”
Liz could feel the heat coming off her friend as she took her hand. She was on fire.
“No,” Sarah protested. “I won’t go there. I’m not going to die in a hospital.”
“Who said anything about dying?” Liz asked. “You need medicine.”
“No, I’m staying right here,” she insisted.
Sarah had always been stubborn about seeing doctors.
“Besides,” she said, propping herself up on a pillow. “Victor’s coming home tonight. I’ll be OK when he gets here.”
“What about his conference?” Liz asked.
“Canceled. Everyone’s sick in Dallas. His flight lands this afternoon.”
Liz gulped. Things must be really bad if Victor was coming home. It meant his company would lose a lot of money.
“I’m scared, Liz,” Sarah said. “This flu is crazy. I feel terrible, and everyone I know is getting sick.”
She paused and looked up at Liz.
“Everyone except you.”
Liz squeezed Sarah’s hand. “It’s going to be OK,” she said, trying to stay optimistic. The truth was, her friend looked terrible.
She tried her best to make Sarah comfortable, offering her food and drink. Sarah only wanted a few sips of water, then fell asleep.
Grabbing Sarah’s phone, Liz texted and called Victor and Sarah’s family in Silver City. No one picked up or responded. She called every hospital in town. Half of them told her the same thing: they were at capacity and could accept no new patients. The other half didn’t answer the phone.
by Dave Bowman / Adventure / Survival have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes