The Zombie Plague Book One
Created by Dell Sweet
PUBLISHED BY: Geo Dell and independAntwriters Publishing
The Zombie Plague Book One
Additional Copyrights 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2015, 2017 Wendell Sweet All rights reserved
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This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living persons places, situations or events is purely coincidental.
This novel is Copyright © 2010 – 2013 George Dell & independAntwriters Publishing and all rights to this work have been reserved by Wendell Sweet. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission.
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More Is More
~ March 16th ~
Mike sat quietly on a small pile of brick outside of the cave entrance and watched the sun come up. Forty-three hours from sunrise to sunrise. It made no sense at all, at least not to him.
The air was warm, not warming, but warm, and a heavy haze hung on the horizon where the sun was beginning to rise. Northwest still, but it didn’t seem as far to the west as it had been just a few days before.
We need something to track that, he thought. And then, maybe not. After all, what good would it do to know if it was a little more to the East or the West or whatever?
His thoughts were broken by a soft step beside him. He turned as Candace came up beside him carrying two mugs of hot coffee. She handed him one of the mugs and then settled beside him.
“Thank you,” Mike said. She smiled back and then blew lightly at the hot coffee in her mug. Steam lifted off the rim of the cup as she did.
“How long?” She asked finally, and then took a small sip.
“Forty-three… Give or take a few minutes.” He kissed her lightly on one cheek.
“What was that for?” She asked with a smile.
“Because I wanted to,” Mike told her. He blew on his own coffee and then took a small sip.
“You okay?” she asked in a more serious tone. Her eyes met his.
“Yeah. It… I don’t think it’s sunk in yet.” She nodded.
“It’s like,” he continued, “when my parents were killed. I knew it. I accepted it as well as I could, but there was really no time to process it… or, maybe I refused to process it. Anyway, it was years later before I ever really dealt with it. That’s what this reminds me of. Someday, once this all settles down, we’ll process it. Until then, I think we’re just on cruise control.”
“What was it?” She asked softly.
“Car accident. It was fast… for them anyway.” He seemed sad thinking about it.
“My mother died a few years ago. My dad right after her. They were older when they had me. Hard life… Bad genes. Heart attacks for both of them,” she finished quietly.
“I’m sorry,” Mike said. “It must have been hard.”
Candace nodded. “So I know about the taking the time to process it later thing. I don’t think I’ve dealt with all of it yet. And this,” She lifted her eyes and swept them across the sky, the river, the rocks, the road that ran past the cave and the cliffs that rose on the other side of the river. Her eyes settled on the sunrise. “This isn’t over by a long shot. Who knows how or when it will end? I guess we’ll deal with what we can and keep the rest moving, you know?”
“Yeah. They were just kids though… even Lydia,” Mike said.
Candace nodded. “But they weren’t sweet little innocent kids. I’ve seen gang bangers all of my life. I grew up with that. It’s really a way of life. Sometimes, for some kids, it’s the only way of life there is. I ran myself for a while.” She frowned.
“All I’m saying is, they weren’t sweet little innocent kids. And, believe me, nothing you could’ve said, had you been there, would’ve changed anything. Believe me. I tried to talk to one of them. No good. And the other one I shot didn’t even bother to try talking.”
Mike nodded, took an experimental sip from his mug, then a longer satisfying drink. “I see it,” he said. “This city has a lot of drugtrade what with the base so close by. I’ve never been in a gang or knew what one was really about until I was introduced to that life in Rochester as a kid. When I came back here, I saw more and more of it. Now it’s everywhere you look.” He seemed startled for a moment. “Was… Was everywhere you looked,” he added thoughtfully.
“There is still good in the world. This didn’t just take the good people and leave the bad,” Candace said. She took another long sip from her coffee. Her eyes met Mike’s own; he leaned over and kissed her lips softly. She smiled and took the coffee mug from his hands, set it down, took his hands and pulled him to his feet.
“Come on,” she said and kissed him once more. Mike kissed her back and pulled her body closer to him. His hands encircled her waist and rested on her hips. Her tongue probed gently as her own hands found the back of his head. She drew back, giggled and then pulled him toward the river and the screening growth of trees and bushes farther down the road.
March sixteenth, Mike thought, would always be remembered as the day that didn’t quite happen. The sun never really rose. A half light lit the sky for the next forty-two hours, but the sun itself never made an appearance through the thick, black clouds that blocked off the sky from horizon to horizon, dark and moving swiftly across the skies.
The sun seemed to creep around the perimeter of the horizon from the West where it first appeared, to the East where it finally sank, setting the sky on fire with it’s pink-red light only to fade away without ever actually rising.
The air became warmer throughout the day, and what little snow remained melted away. Everyone noticed a queasy feeling in their stomachs, and a few commented on feeling something similar a few weeks back right after the first earthquakes had hit.
As the day wore on, a fine gray ash began to fall from the skies. The skies grew even darker as the ash fell down faster, like dirty snow.
After several hours, the landscape around the cave looked as though everything was covered with a thick coat of dust. Everyone fashioned cloths around their mouths to avoid breathing in the thick haze of ash.
The ash was followed by a slow dirty rain that turned the piles of ash into a slushy, runny kind of mud, and just before the sun finally fell in the East, the rain began to fall harder, the air turned cold, then colder still, and lightening began to stab at the gray and sullen skies above the cave.
Everyone huddled around the fire in the cave, talking very little. They shared a meal of canned beef stew and crackers. The stew was hot and drove away the cold that had returned, but it did nothing to lift their spirits.
Bob offered to take the first watch, Mike volunteered for the next and Tom offered to take it from there if the sun wasn’t up.
Mike held Candace in his arms and drifted off to sleep, thinking about what the day might mean and what the morning down by the river with her had been like.
Tom ~ March 16th
I’ve never kept anything like this in my entire life. I don’t know why I am, really, because when the rest go I’ll be staying.
I can’t even give a good reason for staying, except that there’s shelter here, and I know there are other people here as well.
I know that all the others are going. They’ll follow Mike. What can I say or do about that?
I feel so responsible about what happened to Lydia. She was just a kid. A kid, Jesus. I can’t really think rationally about it. I can’t deal with it. I can’t believe how fast and how deep my feelings went. I’ve heard about things like that, but I had never experienced something like that before Lydia. I’ve heard that can happen in relationships that are formed in situations like this. Crisis… What else could be like this? Nothing. Anyway, I didn’t believe it could work like that, but it did.
I thought she would be here with me. They could go, she would be here. I could deal with that. This has almost made me cave in and say yes to going. But I can’t do it. Something inside of me won’t let me do it. It’s not that I don’t respect Mike, or like him. I was a little jealous, maybe still am, a little. I had a thing for Candace, and I still do. That’s another reason I can’t go. I would end up hating him. Her too. But, it’s not really any of that. I have to run my own railroad. That’s all. Very lame. Probably very dangerous in this new world as well.
Maybe I can change. I’m open to that. What I’m really hopeful for is other people. When the other four leave, I don’t want to be alone. I spent the first few days of this alone. I didn’t like that. I don’t want to go back to that.
How do you develop such deep feelings for someone so fast? Right now I’m trying to get past that. I guess what I need to do is freeze everything else out for now.
I don’t know what to say about how I felt about Candace, or how I still feel. And I can’t explain how I could feel that way about her and still feel the way I did about Lydia. Am I kidding myself? Was Candace just temptation and Lydia the real thing? No. That’s hard to say, but true. I would have walked away from Lydia for Candace in a heartbeat. That makes me feel even worse about things. Even so, I loved her… Love her.
As far as this journal goes, I can’t share it. I don’t think I can write deep, personal things about myself and then share them with anyone. I never could… I won’t begin now. But I can write them here. I can see where this can help me to work through things, help me deal with this. This can bring me through this, just writing it out. So I’ll do it for that reason, and no other.
~ March 17th ~
The storm kept up through the longer than usual night. Twelve hours into the night the first quaking of the Earth shook the ground. Everyone was up at the same time. They stood outside in the cold, pouring rain just moments later, huddled under a blue plastic tarp while the lightening split the sky and the ground continued to shake and tremble.
Everyone was sick. Every movement seemed exaggerated, uncoordinated. Between the tremors and the sickness it was nearly impossible to remain standing, but Mike, Tom and Bob held the outer edges while Candace knelt in the center holding Janet Dove who seemed to be having a harder time with the lightheadedness and the sickness than anyone else.
The first large Earthquake came a few hours later. Some sounds were off in the distance, the sounds of buildings collapsing. Other sounds were closer and came to them over the sounds of the storm, wood snapping and cracking, brick and concrete, already loosened by the previous quakes, crashing to the ground, the Earth itself trembling and moving.
The three men finally gave up the fight to remain upright and sank to the ground with Candace and Jan, all of them huddled close together in the cold rain, hanging on as best they could to the moving ground beneath them.
The night dragged on. Aftershocks came and went. It was hard to tell which were the main shocks and which were the aftershocks. The lightheadedness and queasy stomachs became intolerable, yet they had no choice but to endure the sickness. The cold rain continued to fall.
Occasionally someone would thrust an arm out into the light of a lightening flash to catch a glimpse of the time, but somewhere in the night the wind up watches even stopped working. The second hands seemed to shake and shudder back and forth. Not actually ticking the time away any longer.
Mike watched as the Suburban began to shake and skitter sideways during one of the Earthquakes. It caught the unprotected edge of the road and then crashed through the brushy trees that fronted the cliffs and skated off the edge into the river below. Shortly after that, the sounds of destruction in the distance began to taper off.
Sometime later on, the sun appeared about to rise once again. A dull, pink glow lit up the horizon in the North, but for the second day in a row, the sun itself never rose. Once again, the light seemed to skate around the very edge of the horizon and then disappeared back into blackness. Shortly after that, Bob told everyone that his watch seemed to be working once again. Everyone quickly checked their own watches to find them working as well.
Twenty five hours into the darkness something changed.
It came on slowly, but eventually they all noticed that the lightheadedness was abating. The queasiness was letting up as well. No one felt like jumping up and running around, but after so many hours living with the sickness, it felt good to have it going in the other direction. Janet slipped in to a light sleep in spite of the relentless, cold rain.
Everyone was soaked, but the tarp did provide some protection. Shortly after the strange sickness had passed, another series of Earthquakes, or aftershocks, hit. Not as strong as any of the ones that had come before, but one of them caused some nearby damage they could only hear. Something, it sounded like part of the cliff side close down by the river, split away. The sound came to them clearly, and the roar of the rushing Black increased in intensity for several minutes before it slipped back into its previous roar. Buildings continued to crash in the distance, lightening stabbed at the rain flooded ground and the small, tired group huddled beneath the tarp, sleeping when they could.
“What if the sun never comes back up?” Bob whispered.
Mike glanced at his own watch during a brief flash of lightening, thirty hours had passed. Not counting however long the watches had not been working.
“It will,” Candace whispered.
“Yeah,” Tom echoed tiredly.
When the sun finally did rise, it rose from the South and slowly made its way across the sky on a ponderous course that saw it slipping back down into the horizon several times and then seeming to hang dead in the sky for long periods of time.
The rains stopped, the temperatures began to rise rapidly and soon the tarp was discarded. Steam began to rise from the wet asphalt and the roadside vegetation surrounding the cave. Mike found himself looking around as everyone else was.
A large section of the bank that had held the old road was gone, and the Black’s waters churned muddy brown, coming closer to the upper roadway where the cave stood.
All three vehicles were gone. Over the edge, and presumably washed away, Mike thought. The sun continued on its unsteady, drunken course, seeming to be desperately angling for a sinking somewhere in the northwest, but it was hard to tell. A few minutes later, it once again stopped and seemed to hang in the sky, a huge, swollen, yellow-red orb shimmering in the hazy sky.
“We should eat, or at least drink something,” Candace said.
“No way. I can’t even think of food,” Tom said.
“I know. Me too, but we’ll get dehydrated, possibly already are, and that’s very dangerous. I’m going to see how the cave is… Get some bottled water, maybe some of those energy bars. Did anyone think to bring a flashlight with them?” she finished.
Everyone shook their heads. Candace stood on shaky legs, and the dizziness returned quickly. She squatted down to the ground as everyone else struggled to their feet and also sank back down to the ground. She took several deep breaths and then stood again, slowly, taking deep breaths as she did.
“It’s okay,” she told the others with a shaky lopsided smile, “Just do it slowly.”
The men made it back to their feet, standing, shaking, but Janet remained sitting, her head in her hands. Bob sank back down and circled her shoulders with one arm, pulling her to his chest.
“I’ll wait here with Jan,” he said quietly.
The others nodded and headed slowly to the cave entrance.
Mike noticed as they walked that if they had come this far out onto the asphalt, but to the right or the left of where they had ridden out the night, they would have ended up in the river sometime during the night. Tom and Candace were also looking over the destruction on either side of the cave entrance. Their eyes met briefly, acknowledging the apparent, and then turned to examine the entrance to the cave.
A few loose chunks of stone lay upon the ground, but the pile of loose brick seemed none the worse for the long night, seeming to Mike to be in the same place they had been. Not one brick had tumbled from the pile. How could that be, he asked himself. Tom voiced his thoughts.
“Those bricks look untouched,” he said it softly like such a thing could not possibly be true.
“I noticed that too,” Mike said aloud. Candace simply nodded, passed the pile by and stepped into the dark mouth of the cave.
Within a short time she located a box of matches, and lighting small little sticks of flame, found her way to one of the big heavy duty flashlights where it had rolled to a stop among a stack of canned goods that had shifted and toppled over from one of the wooden pallets.
Other than a very small amount of stone that had separated from the back wall, and a few more toppled piles of stored goods, the cave looked good.
“What do you think, Mike?” Tom asked.
It was one of the few things Tom had asked Mike’s opinion about, and it surprised him.
“I think if it was going to come down, it would’ve already,” Mike assured him. Candace nodded her head in agreement.
The lightheadedness was still with them as they moved about the shadowy interior. Candace set about building a small fire while Tom and Mike went out to help Bob bring Janet back into the cave.
Candace passed out bottled water and energy bars once everyone was back inside, and their stomachs seemed to settle down, but the water only woke the queasiness back up, and no one wanted to try the energy bars. They remained untouched.
Tom wandered back outside the cave, rested his head against the coolness of the stone that fronted the cave, and watched the sun in the sky. It described a crazy course across the sky and did not seem to pick up speed and become more stable as it headed for the Northeast.
Eventually Mike and Candace wandered out with coffee, bringing a cup for Tom. He sipped at it cautiously, but his stomach seemed to accept it better than it had the water earlier, and it did help to clear his head.
“Bob’s with Janet. They’re both sleeping,” Candace said between sips of coffee. She looked up at the sun where it seemed to hang in the sky.
“It’s reversed,” Tom said. “Going backwards; or nearly backwards.”
Mike and Candace both nodded.
“Maybe this is it,” Mike said. Tom raised his eyebrows at him.
“It, as in maybe it’s done and finally about to start rotating in one direction. You know, stay that way.”
“Maybe that situation will straighten out the magnetic poles,” Candace said thoughtfully. “Maybe electronics, circuits, will work again.”
“Is that what it was,” Mike asked?
“Maybe,” Tom said.
“I don’t pretend to know,” Candace said. “Only the Earth wasn’t spinning right, or at all for a while, and none of the electronic stuff worked. Maybe now it will.”
“Yeah. Yeah. But even after it started back up again nothing worked. At least not when we tried it,” Tom said.
“Did we?” Candace asked.
Tom looked puzzled.
“Hey, you know what? She’s right. We didn’t really check again. We just assumed it wouldn’t work. At least I didn’t check. I assumed it wouldn’t work. I mean it didn’t, why would it?” Mike asked. “Did you guys think the same thing?”
“I did,” Tom agreed “First day or two, but not after.”
Candace nodded in agreement. “If that’s what caused it, the Earth not really rotating, maybe it will work now. Or, maybe it’s something else,” she finished.
“That dust or ash,” Mike said. “I’ve never seen volcanic ash, but I’ve read about it, and it seems that’s what it was.”
“Yeah, I thought that also,” Candace said. “Really, if there weren’t volcanoes going off somewhere, I’d wonder. All this Earthquake activity, volcanoes just make sense. Wherever it happened, it worked its way here on the air and was dumped on us.”
They looked around at the nearly dry asphalt. Small areas steamed as the moisture made its way back into the air. Mike noticed that both Candace and Tom’s shirts were soaked through with sweat. His was no different.
“Yeah,” Tom agreed. “Getting hot.” Mike and Candace both shrugged. Who knows, the gestures said.
They all leaned back against the sun warmed stone, sipping at their coffee, watching the bloated sun stagger across the sky.
It was Candace who first noticed the small group walking across the steaming pavement towards them. Her gun seemed to magically appear in her right hand. Lying alongside her thigh, just out of sight.
Mike and Tom were nearly as quick getting their own guns into their hands, but not nearly as subtle.
“That’s close enough right there,” Tom said.
No one spoke for a moment. The two groups of people appraised one another carefully in the silence.
The group was small, four women, and two men. One of the men was no more than a boy, Mike though, but, after the shootout with the kids a few days prior, no one was about to take any kid lightly.
“We saw you from way back,” one of the women said. She pushed sweaty brown hair from her eyes as she spoke. “If we meant trouble…” She let the implication hang in the air.
As she finished, Candace raised her weapon from her side to let the group know she had also seen them, and had been ready for them. They smiled uneasily at one another. The woman held out her hands, and the others in the group did the same.
“We don’t want a problem,” she said softly. “I’m thinking you are part of the group that took care of those kids from the north side the other day. We heard it.”
“If you could hear it, why didn’t you join in to help us?” Tom challenged.
“Good question,” Mike echoed softly.
The woman who had spoken first nodded. “We have two guns between us. One’s a twenty-two rifle, the other is a Three Eighty which we only have eight bullets for. We didn’t realize how things were going to go bad so fast,” she looked up at the sky where the sun continued its curving, staggering climb. She looked back at Mike. “We just want to talk for now.”
Candace got to her feet, holstered her gun and walked towards the small group.
“Candace,” she said, holding out her hand.
“Patty,” The young dark haired woman answered. She turned to the others behind her. “Sandy, Nell, Tim, Lilly and,” she pointed to a young dark skinned man who was standing slightly back and apart, “That’s my man, Ronnie.”
As she finished the introductions, Bob and Janet came to the cave opening. Candace made the same introductions ending with Mike and making it clear he was also not available.
As her eyes caught Mike’s, he seemed slightly amused by it. As she turned around, she poked her tongue out slightly at him and made a silly face as she walked towards him, inviting the others to sit down.
“Does that make me your bitch,” Mike whispered as she sat back down next to him.
“Ha, ha,” she whispered back. “…Bitch,” she giggled, but she didn’t allow the giggle to pass her lips. Mike stifled a laugh, but a smile rose to his face. He turned to the small group.
“We’ve got water inside, maybe some more coffee made, bottled soda.”
“Some coffee would be nice,” Patty said and smiled gratefully. Mike left for two cups of coffee and some bottled water as everyone began to sit down. The party had been traveling with backpacks and gear, and it came off now, making a small pile as they sat down. When Mike returned just a few minutes later, the silence still held. He handed out the water and coffee and sat back down next to Candace. All eyes turned to him. He glanced over at Tom, but Tom seemed to be studying the small patch of asphalt at his feet. Mike found his voice.
“So…” He let the question hang, picked up his still warm coffee and took a reassuring sip.
Patty seemed to hesitate, so the girl she’d identified as Lilly spoke up. She flipped loose blond curls away from her face before she spoke.
“We want to join you,” she said finally in a quiet yet firm voice.
Patty, whose hands had been clasped tightly together, parted them and raised them to her shoulders palms up in a ‘there you go’ gesture.
Candace was amazed at how much Lilly looked like Lydia. She even sounded like her. It must be that age, Candace said to herself. Everyone acts alike. She looked over at Tom to see if he had noticed, but his eyes were already locked on the young woman. Patty continued.
“We’ve been living in a collapsed apartment building over off State Street. We couldn’t find anything better. Now that’s come the rest of the way down. To be honest, we’re afraid to go into any of the buildings. There’s a lumber shed over there, just a roof really. We spent most of last night under that trying to stay out of most of the weather. Not much to it. We figured we could get out quick enough if it came down.” She took a deep breath. “That’s where we’re at,” she finished.
When the girl finished speaking, Candace’s head was bowed as if in thought. She raised her head, met Patty’s eyes, and then the others one by one. She let her eyes wander around their own group. One by one they all nodded. Everyone on this side was for it; it was easy enough to see. Tom’s eyes were still on Lilly, so it was clear what his feelings were.
“You are welcome here,” Candace said. A small chorus of welcome from the others echoed her own words. “There’s plenty of space here, and in a few months most of us will be leaving, so there will be more room after that.”
The small group of newcomers all seemed to heave a sigh of relief at the same time. Nervous laughter followed, and smiles lit up their faces.
Candace stood along with the others and motioned towards the mouth of the cave. “It isn’t much,” she said and laughed. “But it’s home.” The group picked up their gear and backpacks and followed her inside.
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