Tag Archives: disease

Settlers. Short Story.

Sandra pulled the door open, she ignored the squawking voice of the secretary to her left as she barged into the office, President Grayson was sitting behind his large desk, framed by a larger window that looked out over the valley, the green lie framing him perfectly. He looked up from his work, startled from thought, his pen freezing mid-stroke. “Sandra, what’s-” before he could finish his question she slammed down the basket of vegetables, the top of it was covered by strands of wheat, their golden colour was spotted with dark red and black spots. “It’s spreading. It’s still spreading and you’re doing nothing about it.”
His receptionist was standing near the door, “I’m so sorry President Grayson, I tried to tell Minister Williams that you were busy.”
“That’s OK Amanda, I have some time to meet with her, thank you.”
Amanda left the room, closing the door quietly behind herself.
She grabbed the wheat and slammed it onto the table, then she started pulling fruits from the basket, apples, pears, carrots one after the other and each had those same red black spots. “We’ve been trying everything to keep this stuff under control and nothing works.”
Grayson sighed and put the pen down, “I know. We’re looking into it and working as fast as we can but we’re not set up for this kind of research or development, not yet. There will be an announcement about it today. I am well aware of how bad the problem is, look.”
He gestured at the window behind him, they were standing at the highest point in the valley, Sandra stepped around the desk and looked out, she felt her stomach drop, first at the height then at what she saw. She put her hand to her mouth, she could see the infection from up here, the dark stains against the green of the trees and the gold of the wheat.
“It isn’t just you and your farm, it’s the whole valley. Hell, probably the whole planet.”
She turned to him, face pale, “How? I thought this kind of thing was tested for”
he shrugged, “The planet was seeded about twenty years ago, since then everything has been growing without problem. All the tests showed it as perfect. We don’t know what this is or why it’s spreading. It isn’t like any fungal or bacterial infection we know of on Earth. They may have similar colourings but they act in a completely alien manner, its spreading pattern is unlike anything we’ve seen before, it spreads against prevailing winds, it spreads to fields miles away. Tonight we are introducing a new measure, any crops found to be infected will need to be destroyed, it’s the only chance we have for stopping its spread, conventional methods just aren’t working.”
Sandra stumbled from the window and sat down heavily, “How fast does it spread? It only started appearing in the last week or so.”
President Grayson shook his head,, “It was first discovered two and a half weeks ago, Elena Jacobson found it in her strawberries and it has spread like wildfire since.”
“What if we can’t stop this?”
“Well, we’ll still have the animals so that should keep us going until we can get to the bottom of this. I’ve sent a distress call to Earth, it should arrive in a year. We just need to survive two years and we’ll have a solution.”
“I don’t know if we’ve got that long. I’ve heard rumours that Jensen’s cattle showed some signs of the infection. I went to go check but he denied it, I just thought it was rumours but what if it isn’t?”
“Jesus.”
“If this has spread to the animals then we don’t have two years.”
President Grayson shook his head, “Tonight I’ll announce the introduction of rationing. I’m also calling for people to can and store any fruit, vegetables or meat they can. The more we can stockpile before the rot gets to it the better.”
Sandra looked at him for a moment, “Do you think we can survive this?”
“What choice do we have?”
“How did something like this happen? Why didn’t it show up on any tests?”
The President laughed, “Do you know how expensive this mission was? Sending humans to a habitable planet? They sent out machines to test the atmosphere, to test the ground, they planted seeds and once they confirmed they were growing and growing well that was all they needed to know. Everything else would be learned on the fly. Those tests looked for anything that might immediately endanger human life, that was all. Hell, on the other side of this world there’s a species that look similar to wolves, only they’re the size of elephants. This was simply the safest spot for humans to build up a community and build up our defences. We weren’t given the supplies or equipment to deal with this kind of threat.”
“Well why not? Shouldn’t that be the first thing to be sent with us?”
“The more advanced equipment is to come with the second wave in ten years, once we’ve tamed this place a little, we’re just here to clean the house and turn the heating on.”
“How could they have missed this?”
“It could be a long life cycle, like the Cicada’s back home. Sure it’s poisonous to us, but maybe it isn’t poisonous to the local inhabitants. I’ve already been sending out foraging missions, we’re still testing to see if they’re edible but that’s a slow process, it wasn’t to start until the next wave and we won’t fully know if it’s safe or not until someone eats it. Even then what kind of problems could it bring down the road? Disease? Cancer?”
Sandra sat back in her chair, “What will we do? What the hell can we do?”
The president shook his head, “We can hope, we can try to survive. Nature has a way of balancing itself on earth, perhaps the same is true for here. Maybe the infection will stop on its own or we’ll stumble on a solution. We’re not out of options yet. I’ve already sent for help, it will take a while to arrive, but it will arrive. We have safe drinking water, we still have food supplies, there are still plenty of earth native plants in the area that are uninfected. We do have a fighting chance, no matter how hopeless it might seem.”
The buzz of the intercom startled them both, “President Grayson, you’re three o’clock has arrived.”
“Thank you Amanda, I’m just finishing up here.” he released the button, “I’m sorry Sandra, but I can’t miss this meeting, I should be done around four if you would like to wait. I’m going to announce this to the Ministers at five, then to the rest of the settlers at seven tonight.”
“No, I have some things I need to check on now. I’m going to go see where else it has spread to.”
President Grayson nodded, not bothering to point out he already had people do that. Sandra was stressed and when she was stressed she needed to keep herself busy.
Sandra stood, as did President Grayson, as she reached toward his hand her eyes moved past him to the valley below. It had only been a short while she had last looked out but it seemed as if the rot had spread even further. She felt a wave of nausea building at the back of her throat.
She left the office, already planning where she would go next. President Grayson glanced out the window, he tried to put a brave face on it for Sandra as he would for everyone else, but from what he’d been told so far it wasn’t looking good for anyone. He pulled his eyes from the large spots of blight in the green of the valley, he could feel the tightness in his chest and a small squirming snake of anxiety constantly moving inside his stomach. His next appointment walked in, “please for the love of God tell me you’ve good news.”
The man glanced down at the ground, “nothing particularly promising yet but we’re exploring some new avenues that we think could be effective in-” it would all be in the report later, he knew Kevin, knew by him that they had nothing. He nodded at all the right places, pretending that Kevin’s fake jocularity was working, that he truly believed they would be saved and still that snake writhed in his stomach.

From the Skies Above. Flash Fiction.

Nick sneezed, he pulled his hands away from his face and froze. Hundreds of little black dots covered the palms of his hands, he was infected. He had three days left, four if he was unlucky. He stood for a moment, just staring at his hands before a loud crash from outside startled him, he went to the downstairs bathroom and turned on the taps, there he washed his hands again and again, scrubbing at them with a nail brush until they were bright red and stinging underneath the spray of the warm water. He knew it wouldn’t make a difference, it was already inside him, but he couldn’t stand the thought of that black stuff on his skin. He left the bathroom and went to the kitchen, stumbling one or twice on the way. He sat down at the small wooden table and stared into the distance. Was this really how it was going to end for him? Alone in his house, unable to breath, to move. He got up from the table and filled the kettle, he needed something to calm his nerves, first he’d have a cup of tea, then he’d figure out a game plan. He still had the same food supplies as before, but well, now at least they wouldn’t have to be stretched as far.

Nick sipped his coffee, it was black, the milk had gone off the day before. The shops had been closed shortly after the first signs of sickness appeared and Nick hadn’t been outside since, not with the mandatory quarantine. No one was allowed outside their property and anyone seen doing so would be arrested or shot on sight if they appeared sick in any way. Nick had been lucky, he’d gone shopping only the day before it all started, he’d seen plenty of stories on the news of people going outside looking for food only to find a military patrol instead.

It had all started innocuously enough a week before, when there was a meteor shower, everyone had been outside watching, it had been billed as a once in a lifetime event and they weren’t wrong. What looked like millions of stars shooting across sky, visible despite the light pollution of the city. They had all stood outside, staring upwards completely unaware of what was raining down on them. Nick coughed, more black specks were on his hands, as he looked at them he felt tired, drained. The frantic urge to wash it away was gone as were all thoughts of a plan, there was nothing to do now but wait and hope that he’d be the first to survive.

Close to Salvation. Short Story.

Larry gazed up at the sun above him, he licked his dry, cracked lips with his thick, heavy tongue. It had been so long since he had last had a drink, almost two days now at this point. Yesterday he had come across an old dirty bucket that had been filled with rain water, he had been tempted but the algae that covered the surface and the tiny wriggling things had put him off. Now he would give anything for a single sip of that water. He had been foolish to think he could survive out here, what did he know about the wilderness? The closest he had ever been to nature had been sitting out in his parents back garden on a nice day. Hell he hadn’t even been to the beach in years. He had been safe where he was, he’d still have water and food, though that would have run out in other few days anyway. In the distance he could hear the rev of an engine, his heart beat faster and he quickly broke into a shuffling run, he needed to get somewhere safe, some kind of shelter, before they spotted him. Even at full strength he wouldn’t be able to take them. He didn’t know exactly who they were but he didn’t need to, he had already seen what their kind did. The strong survive, the weak perish, that was their motto. He’d seen them run down an old man, he watched from his apartment balcony as the old man had struggled to get away, watched as they gave him a head start, then all took after him at once. The old man made it another five, maybe ten feet before they caught up with him. He didn’t want to see what happened next but he couldn’t look away and as he watched they beat the old man to death before tearing him limb from limb. At least Larry hoped he was dead at that point.

He had always thought that at the core of it people were good, that if there was any kind of mass disaster people would group together, try to help one another out. He was wrong. Or maybe the sickness just took all the decent people. He had watched as they broke into stores, sometimes they didn’t even take anything, they just broke the windows because the whim had struck them. He had seen them going into apartment buildings, making their way up through the floors. Sometimes they’d come out with someone, sometimes kicking and screaming, other times unconscious. He knew it was only a matter of time until they did a sweep of his building and if that happened where could he hide? His apartment was small and minimalistic in decoration, white floors, white walls, smooth clean lines everywhere. The day he saw the old man was the day he left. He packed a bag for himself, stuffed it with food and bottled water, then at night he snuck out, moving through the city slowly, listening to every sound and praying it wasn’t one of the gangs. He had made it out easily enough and then he’d just kept going, he didn’t have any place in mind or any real plan. It seemed like an adventure and, like all adventures, it was just supposed to work out for him. He was supposed to come across lakes and rivers as he needed them, perhaps a friendly farm house or two that had managed to survive or avoid the sickness. Perhaps he’d find a small town, a group of people trying to claw their way back from the apocalypse, people who wanted civilisation, peace.

He was going to die out here, in the middle of nowhere, all alone. His throat was dry and felt as though it was sticking to itself, what little saliva he could gather was thick, more like mucous than spit. He had stopped sweating sometime ago, he knew that was a bad sign but he couldn’t remember why. His brain was slow and fuzzy and the only thing he could really focus on was the constant, screaming thirst.

Larry lay on the ground, he couldn’t go any further, he had collapsed a few minutes before, ahead of him he could see the shimmer of a lake, could hear the waves lapping against the shore. Slowly, painfully he reached out and grabbed a handful of grass and he began to crawl. The progress was slow and each movement took more and more out of him. He had kept his head down and just focused on moving forward, he looked up again and saw that the lake appeared no closer, he let out a low moan, he couldn’t do it, he couldn’t go any further. He was going to die here, alone and so tantalisingly close to his salvation. No. He wouldn’t die here, he couldn’t. This wasn’t going to be the end of him. He started moving forward again.

Larry lay on the warm ground, his breathing came in low, laboured gasps. The water was so close, maybe a fifty feet, but he had nothing left to give. He reached out and tried to pull himself forward, he didn’t move. He reached out again, trying to adjust his grip. He tried to pull again but he felt the clump of grass sliding through his fingers. There was a sick, steady throb in the back of his head. The water of the lake gently lapped against the shore, a cloud rolled across the sun sending cooling shadows across the land, somewhere a bird called out, Larry let out one last gasp, then he lay still

Daily Dose. Flash Fiction

Thomas took a swig from the bottle, then grimaced as he felt the burning heat of it move down his throat before blooming in his stomach. He gasped, then took another drink. He started coughing, beads of sweat began to coat his face. He paused for a moment, gasping for air, there was still half the bottle left. He took a slow breath through clenched teeth, then closing his eyes he swung his head back and downed the rest of the bottle in a few gulps. His stomach clenched painfully, causing him to double over. He collapsed forward and lay on the ground, gasping and groaning as the medicine burned its way through him. His arms and legs started to jerk and twitch, he let out a gasp of pain as his muscles tensed and then relaxed. He lay where he was, breathing heavily, waiting for the tremors to pass. When it was over he got shakily to his feet and stumbled to a nearby chair, he sat down, his entire body felt impossibly heavy, every movement seemed monumental. As time passed he began to get some of his energy back, when he was feeling able he grabbed his glass of water from the small table nearby and took a small sip. He drank his water slowly, knowing from previous experience that drinking too quickly meant throwing it all up.

His finger tips started to tingle, gently at first but it quickly grew in intensity, he felt the burning heat move slowly up his arms, then down his chest. Thomas gritted his teeth, it felt like his entire body was on fire. Finally the burning started to fade. His skin felt sensitive and raw, like he had been rubbed all over with fine sandpaper. Gingerly he shifted in the chair, letting out a hiss of pain as his clothes moved over his body.

A few minutes later there was a gentle knock on the door, “Can I come in?”
“Sure.” His voice was weak, even to his own ears, Samantha opened the door, “Do you need anything?”
“No, I’m fine thank you.”
“Did it work?”
He nodded, “Yeah, it did.”
“Good.” Samantha turned and left the room, closing the door behind herself. The question was just a formality, it was clear from his bright red skin and sweat stained clothes it had worked. The treatment helped keep everything at bay, the pain, the gnawing hunger, but it wouldn’t work forever, someday, maybe soon, maybe twenty years from now, he would drink the medicine and nothing would happen. It was a day he both feared and welcomed, it would mean the end of his suffering, no one with active disease was permitted to live, it was safer and kinder to put him down. He remembered the days before, when he would go out with friends, drinking and clubbing, even just going for walks. It all seemed to long ago, and so unfair that one simple mistake had cost him almost everything. They had been standing outside a nightclub, waiting to get in when a drunk girl staggered out, she was stumbling as she went, he didn’t see how it happened but she tripped and fell forward, he had caught her, more out of instinct than any real desire to help. She had smiled up at him and slurred out a thanks. Then she had coughed, it didn’t seem like that heavy of a coughing fit, nothing remarkable or dangerous. He righted her and she continued on, he turned to his friends who were looking at him in horror. His face was covered in a fine misting of blood. It was the last time he had seen any of them without thick glass between them. He never found out who the girl was, though there were numerous attempts to track her down and quarantine her. Fifteen people were infected that night and he was the last one still living.

The Outbreak. Flash Fiction.

Ugh. So Tired. Been pretty wrecked the last while, and have had some cramping and stuff, which isn’t exactly fun. I’ve a doctors appointment in a few weeks, so gonna find out what’ll be happening then. In the mean time I’ve to basically avoid most fresh fruit and veg, but I can have pretty much any junk food I want so silver lining and all that!

Yay Crohn’s.

____________________________________________________________

Dennis stared straight ahead as he walked with slow, steady steps. Occasionally someone would call out to him as he bumped into them, but he didn’t pause or look around. His eyes were slightly unfocused and glazed, his face slack, rain began to fall from the sky, cold heavy drops. Dennis kept walking, not bothering to use the umbrella gripped loosely in his hand. The route was familiar to him, the same one he took home every day and he passed by it all without seeing it.

When he reached his building he entered the door code and continued to the lifts, water dripped from his drenched clothes, leaving small puddles on the tile floor. When the doors opened he stepped inside and pressed the button to the top floor. He rode the elevator in silence, the only noise was his steady breathing. The doors opened and he stepped out into the hall, he turned to the left and opened the door to the stairwell. It didn’t take him long to climb the steps.

The air was cold on the roof and the wind tugged at his clothes. The rain had stopped. Thin grey hairs started to sprout from his skin, each one detached from his skin and caught on the breeze, floating freely. Dennis stepped up onto the edge of the roof and without a pause, stepped off. He didn’t scream as he fell. The thin grey hairs came in larger and larger numbers, a thick cloud of it trailing him.

His body hit the ground with a sickening thud, nearby a woman started screaming. The grey hairs continued to grow, covering his entire body. The woman’s screams started coughing, a few others on the street started coughing too.

Later that night Jennifer sat in her apartment, sipping a glass of wine with still shaking hands. She had told the police everything she had seen and after questioning her for a little bit they had finally let her leave. John was already on his way over, though she hadn’t told him what happened yet. It didn’t seem like something you could say over the phone, even now she wasn’t sure how to bring it up to him. “My day was fine, by the way I saw a guy splattered on the pavement” Didn’t exactly roll off the tongue and then there was that weird thing with the grey stuff that seemed to be coming off his body. The police didn’t say much about that, it seemed like they didn’t know what it was themselves. Jennifer’s head jerked to the side, then she stood and still holding her wine glass, she went towards the door.

Jennifer stood on the ledge of the roof, glass of wine still held in one hand. Thin grey hairs began to appear across her skin, her eyes were glazed, her face slack. A gust of wind caused her to rock back and forth slightly, a cloud of the hairs blew into the night. Jennifer took one step forward and then she was falling.

John yawned as he approached the building, he’d had a stressful day in work, Jacob, his boss, was being a complete dick as usual. He was looking forward to a few drinks and maybe a Chinese, it had been a while since they’d gotten take away rather than cooking. John jumped as he heard a heavy thud to his left, he turned and stared at Jennifer’s body, his eyes widened slightly, his heart was beating heavily, the sound of rushing blood drowned out all other noises, he could feel the vomit rising in the back of his throat, behind him there was another thud, then another.

Working for the Cure. Flash Fiction.

Joanna hated the way they looked at her as she passed the cages. All pleading eyes and begging gasps. She couldn’t help them, even if she wanted to. They were doomed the moment they became ill. Letting them out now would do nothing but help spread the disease. At least here they would be part of a cure, even if they weren’t exactly willing participants. She did what she always did, she looked forward and didn’t allow herself to even glance at anyone in the cages. That was a bad idea, especially since there was a chance she’d see someone she knew again. That was always the worst, listening to someone screaming your name as you just continued walking, trying not to run back, to offer comfort. She had to remember that they weren’t people, not anymore. They were just sacks of disease that would wander around and infect everyone else. They needed to keep themselves detached, removed. It was the only way.

Joanna was in the lunchroom when they came, the men in their thick uniforms. They stormed into the room, yelling and screaming, waving their guns around. Joanna didn’t wait, she dropped to the ground, hands on her head. She didn’t know who they were here for, but she didn’t want to be another casualty. She couldn’t see who they were after, but she could hear him. Benny, shrieking and screaming how he wasn’t sick, there was some kind of mistake. Joanna felt a chill move down her body. He had the vaccine, they all had. They thought the vaccine would keep them safer than those who hadn’t gotten it. Sure, there was a risk, there always was but it was supposed to keep them safe. Only the direct line staff, world officials and those rich enough to afford it had it. If it didn’t work, or if the virus had mutated. Joanna closed her eyes, trying to block out the screams.

As quickly as it began it was over. The large double doors boomed shut blocking out the shouting. Someone was helping her up, she didn’t get a chance to see who it was before they moved onto the next person. The room was filled with quiet and nervous muttering.

Joanna took a deep breath in the hopes it would steady her hands, but nothing was working. She was on edge, had been for a while. Probably since Benny had been taken from the cafeteria. No one had seen him after that, not even in the cages which is where he was supposed to go. Rumours spread quickly, despite managements attempts to quash them. Was he removed for being in someone’s way? Was he actually sick? Was he bribing someone? Was he just outright killed? Joanna made sure to keep a bit of extra distance between her and the cages, now she walked directly down the centre, making sure not to stray too close to either side. It was hard to look at them and remember that they weren’t really people now. The cages were cleaned out once a day but it didn’t seem to be enough. The entire room had the stink of unwashed bodies and waste and it was only getting worse. Some of the more spirited prisoners had taken to throwing bodily fluids at passerby. Though it was seldom, everyone knew the punishment for it. Hung from meat hooks above the cages so everyone could watch as they died in agony. It was a cruel solution, but Joanna had to admit it was effective.

Joanna sat in her office, head in her hands. She couldn’t keep doing this. She didn’t care what they said, they were still people, inside and out. They were frightened, terrified people. She had seen what the disease did, watched as it took away mental faculties one by one until they were nothing but a drooling, shambling mess. But that was at the end stages only. Before that they were still themselves. She had heard whispers from her co-workers, that they had been doing their own tests, that the disease wasn’t as bad in the early stages as they were saying. There was even a rumour that not everyone in the cages actually had it. It made a sick sort of sense, once you were in the cages that was it, you were done. No one would let you out, no one would listen as you claimed you weren’t sick. That’s what they all said after all. You could take out almost any number of people in a time like this, when everyone was panicked and not thinking clearly. Who would notice? Who would know?

Joanna sat into her car and after a moment started driving. As she left the facility she realised she would never be back. She couldn’t do it. She thought she could, she thought she was doing the right thing, helping the sick get better, helping find a cure before this damned disease wiped out everything and everyone. But she couldn’t. She could see them, every time she closed her eyes, emaciated bodies covered in filth, their wide, shining eyes, still hopeful. The stink of them clung to her now, she couldn’t escape it, it seemed to have settled into her skin, her clothes, she knew it would follow her for the rest of her life, she would never be able to forget it.

Double Life. Flash Fiction.

Sandra took a sip of her coffee, it was going to be a long, boring day. Everything had been running as expected and while she couldn’t complain about it, it certainly made things extremely dull. In the first few months it was all fascinating, but the excitement it all held had faded. She took another drink and ran through the list of things she needed to check before she could go, then she started planning her evening. Todd was working late so it was her turn to cook dinner, she’d stop off at the shops and pick up a few things. Gracie was with the sitter, Thomas was at his friends and was staying the night. That made things a little simpler for dinner. Thomas was the picky one. Maybe she’d pick up some treats and they could watch a movie together. It had been a while since they had done something like that.

Sandra’s watch started beeping, she sighed and turned off the alarm, time for her rounds. She grabbed a pen and the clipboard and went into the first room. There she checked over vitals and scribbled down notes. Patient was still unresponsive, the parasites were progressing normally. This patient was being fed intravenously, to see how long they would survive, she checked the bag of nutrients and made a note on the clipboard.

In the next room the patient was emaciated, bones jutting outwards, skin that seemed paper thin. This one wasn’t being fed. She had lasted much longer than any of them had expected, Sandra thought that she would die in the next few days. At this point it way just waiting to see what would kill her first, starvation or the parasite.

She went through several more rooms, noting things down and checking them over. When that was done she went back to her office. Sandra sat at the computer and started to type up a few observations.

The parasites were designed to be simple and effective. The person would become infected through contaminated food or water, then the parasite would make its was through their system. In a week the victim would be excreting parasitic larva that would infect others. In the second week they would slip into a coma, then, depending on their level of care, they would die within a few days to a few months. Antiparasitics would kill the parasite, but in its death it would release poisonous chemicals that would also kill the host.

It was so simple, so elegant. Release it into the town or city you want to clear, then wait a few weeks. If you need the land you could send in people in biohazard suits to sterilise the area. The parasite itself couldn’t survive for very long outside the human body. 48 hours had been the longest in absolute perfect conditions, so after a few days even contaminated sources would be clear. Their current testing was to see how long the parasite would continue to live in the host, after the host had died, and what conditions allowed for a longer or shorter life span.

Sandra got into the her car and started the engine, already running through what she needed to pick up at the shops. She was looking forward to a night with her family, perhaps she’d get some baking done too, if there was enough time before the movie.

Trapped. Short Story.

Tom sat at his desk, there was no point in running, no real point in leaving at all. Already he was feeling sleepy. That was how it was supposed to start, wasn’t it? Others around him were moving towards the door, some were yelling, but most were calm. That wasn’t right at all. Everyone should have been screaming, running, trampling one another. No, they were just kidding themselves. They were already dead. Tom knew better, so why would he stress himself out? Right now the thing to do was sit tight and hope for the best. Maybe one or two would survive. He wasn’t sure if the buildings protocols kicked in properly, everything should have shut down. Lifts, doors, everything. Though of course something somewhere had probably screwed up. He looked at the message again. He wondered when it was written and how long it was before they sent it. Would have been easy, after all the phones were down and who knew how long ago that happened. They probably gave themselves a few minutes to get everything secured before sending it out. The message was brief and to the point.

“There has been a containment breach on level 5, it has entered the air vents. Building security has been activated. Please wait at your desk until a quarantine has been put in place and medical personnel can be dispatched to your area.”

Tom knew there were no medical personnel coming. There wouldn’t be a quarantine. The entire building was the quarantine. No one was getting out until everyone else was dead and the incubation period had passed. Even at that any one who survived would probably die soon after anyway. Contract some disease from the rotting bodies or starve to death. How long would someone be able to survive on vending machine food? That seems like something he should have known.

Tom took a moment to gather his energy and stood, then he stumbled towards the window, he leaned against it and looked down. There were no flashing lights, no emergency services, no news crews. Not yet at least. People were streaming past the building, unaware of what was going on. There was no sign of people leaving the building though, that was reassuring. Sure, he might die but Alice and Gina would be safe. They’d get a good payout from the company and from his life insurance. They’d be all right. They’d make it. It would be nice to talk to them, but the phone system was down. His breath started to fog up the glass until he couldn’t see anything anymore. He moved his head back, his forehead was slightly sore from the pressure and the cold of the window. He had his own phone with him. Tom checked his pockets, patting them down, but it wasn’t there. Did he put it in his bag? He turned back to his desk, people were still crowding around the lifts and the door to the stairs, only one or two were still banging, it was slow though, rhythmic. Others had sat on the ground, tired from their brief panic. A few people seemed to have barricaded themselves into the small kitchen. He wasn’t sure if they were sick or not, maybe they were just optimistic about their chances. Tom went to his desk, a short walk that felt far, far too long. When he got there he sat down into his chair and let out a sigh of relief. He was supposed to be doing something. He wanted to get something from here. Phone. He looked around for his bag, then spotted it under his desk. He dragged it out and opened it, it took him a moment to find his phone, when he did he turned it on. No signal. None at all. He tried to ring anyway, just in case, but it didn’t work. They must be jamming the signal.

Someone started retching, the noise was quickly covered by screams and shouts as people tried to scramble away. The sickly sour stench of vomit quickly started to fill the room. Tom wasn’t feeling sick yet, but he knew he would be soon. Others started throwing up, one or two collapsing. He couldn’t see much of those who had remained sitting, they were blocked out by the partitions between the desks. Maybe they were already dead. If they were it was quite lucky. The chances of survival were slim. Tom would prefer to be one of the ones taken out early rather than suffer for a few hours. Vomiting, cramps, shooting pains, fevers, swelling. It wasn’t pretty.

Tom was sick. He was certain of it now. Sweat was coating his body, he had stripped out of his suit entirely, down to his underwear. He was cycling between too hot and too cold. Around him people were lying on the ground, no one cared that he was almost naked. He didn’t care either. There were more important things to worry about. He had a bottle of water in his bag, now it was almost empty. He had been sipping it steadily. He knew once the water was gone he wouldn’t be able to get more. The kitchen was still blocked off despite attempts to get in, there was a water fountain but it was on the other side of the room and Tom wasn’t sure he’d be able to make it that far. He hadn’t soiled himself yet, but he knew it was only a matter of time. He thought he heard some sirens a short while ago, but they might have just been passing by. It was still early enough, no one would be missed for another few hours. By the stage the story broke and people started turning up most of them would probably be dead. He had tried to write a note, there was no guarantee it would actually make it to anyone, but he had tried. It hadn’t gone very well. Eventually he had just decided on writing that he loved them both on his phone and sent the message to the outbox. It would hold its charge for a while, it wasn’t a fancy smart phone or anything, once it went outside it would send. He thought it would make it that long. He didn’t think they’d give any personal effects back. They’d probably just incinerate everything.

Tom lay his head on his desk, he was too tired, far too tired to keep his head up. It was hard to stay awake, very hard. He wanted to surrender to the darkness but he was afraid that if he did he wouldn’t wake up. No one was really making much noise anymore. Occasionally there was a small moan from somewhere. He took a deep breath then allowed his eyes to close. He thought of Alice and Gina, he wanted his family to be the last thing he thought of. He released his breath and the darkness closed in.

The Spiral. Short Story.

Hope everyone had a good weekend, mine was fairly relaxing. A friend came over and we just chilled and watched movies. Was pretty good, watched some old ones, and a few I’d never seen before. All in all was an enjoyable weekend.

 

On with the show!

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Hayley watched as the Spiral grew closer, she moved to the window, ignoring the tour guide for the moment, she rested her hands on the bar, the Spiral was so much bigger than she had expected, sure she had seen pictures, but they didn’t convey the sheer size of it, how imposing it was, how it dominated the skyline for miles around.

 

“The Spiral was originally placed on the plateau as both a defensive system and as an artistic choice. The plateau was, as you may have already guessed, originally flat, but the designers of the city carved into the rock itself to send it spiralling into the sky. As you can see each tier has a clear and wonderful view of the surrounding area. There were five ways to get to the city itself, four roads lead to four gates which were all easily sealed and almost impossible to break down and the fifth entrance was via the air. Of course, this isolation had its benefits but ultimately, as we now know, it was its downfall. When the plans were announced there was quite the furore, it was the largest project of its kind ever created, not just a city, but a city that would quite literally, leave its mark forever. The city itself grew to house just over twenty two million inhabitants. Many famous people of the time bought houses or holiday homes here, there were actors, artists, writers and poets. The rich and famous owned the top three tiers of the Spiral, as those were the most expensive dwellings. Travel between the tiers was an easy affair, there is a large road that follows the spiral upwards, as well as stairs, elevators and lifts that operated between each of the levels. Many of the businesses occupied lowest part of the Spiral as they housed the so called skyscrapers which were built right into the rock itself. The workers would enter the building from the top and work their way downwards to their various offices. If you look to your left, you’ll be able to see their glittering facades. Despite the lack of maintenance, they have held up remarkably well. As we move closer we will spiral upwards, following a path similar to what visitors would have followed almost fifty years ago, of course we will not be leaving the vehicle, the area around it is still classed as hazardous and may be classed that way for some time. It is still a crime to enter the Spiral itself and that shows no signs of changing”

Hayley stepped away from the glass and joined the group that was crowded around the tour guide, there was no great push for space as the vehicle had floor to ceiling windows that circled the entire perimeter. The ride itself was smooth and almost silent.

“Reports conflict on exactly what occurred on that day, but we do know that the Spiral went into complete and utter containment, the doors sealed and anyone trying to exit or enter were stopped with deadly force by the city’s automated defence system, which has since be deactivated. Of the twenty two million inhabitants, just ten survived and of those, only three were sane. The other seven were housed in mental institutions and have been there since. The identity of the ten was carefully concealed for fear that they would be targeted for attacks by extremist groups or by families of those who died inside. Experts speculated at the time that it was a virus burning its way through the helpless community and later, that was proved to be correct, it was a disease that was previously unknown to scientists. Though of course there were many theories including attack from terrorist groups and an attempt to secede from the state. The disease itself was carried by a rare species of bats that had made the plateau their home perhaps thousands of years before. During construction efforts were made to protect the bats, though of course, they have since been exterminated so as the eliminate the danger of the disease itself. We do not know the exact specifics of the disease, however we know from reading the transcripts of the survivors that it was not a pleasant experience for either the sick, or those who had not yet contracted the disease.”

Hayley shuddered, she remembered the stories. She had been told them when she was twelve. Her father had been one of the three survivors that had been sane. He had told her what happened one night when he was drunk. He had told her it hadn’t just been a virus. It was something else, something that controlled people, made them different, empty. They had tried to take over the plateau but the others had fought. Those infected were ruthless. Her father had been fifteen at the time. The last he saw of the infected were when they breached the top tier defences, his father managed to get him to a panic room, his mother had already been infected and, as the door closed, he saw them fighting. Saw his father stab his mother, saw his mother clawing at his fathers face. He didn’t know what happened, he was trapped for almost two weeks, down to barely any supplies when the automatic system allowed him to exit. He was found by army grunts a few hours later. He was kept in quarantine for almost a year before they decided to let him or any of the others go.
The vehicle circled the Spiral, moving slowly upwards, Hayley could see spots of damaged that weren’t caused by the passage of time, marks of explosions littered the bottom tiers, the top ones appeared to be relatively undamaged. As they continued upwards the tour guide pointed out various buildings and their uses, statues and who they depicted. Hayley listened to none of that. She watched as a group of startled birds took off. Her father had never known what had caused the so called virus, no one did, it was why the Spiral was still off limits, for fear that it could infect anyone who entered. Occasionally explorers or plunderers would try to enter, but they never came back. They’d disappear either into the depths or they’d be captured upon exiting. Something glinted in the distance, she squinted trying to see better. The vehicle was bringing them slowly closer and finally she was able to make it out. It was a lift, sparkling in the afternoon light, moving slowly upwards, she held her breath as it reached the top of one of the spirals and waited. The vehicle circled around, nothing left the lift and as far as she could see, there was nothing in it. She let out a slow breath, it was probably just misfiring of old systems. She shivered, her father had told her that had it not be contained, the world would not have survived it.

 

Finally they had reached the top tiers, she studied the luxurious houses, the empty or now swamp like pools. They had come here for safety, but instead they found death. So many people, just gone. She looked at her companions, they didn’t seem to grasp the situation, the severity of what had occurred, they looked greedy, like vultures waiting for the next grisly tidbit. She shuddered and moved away from the glass. She didn’t want to watch it anymore. She took a seat in the centre of the vehicle, hands clasped around the drink she had bought. It was the first time she had been out here, the first time she had seen the Spiral in person. She took a sip of her drink, she would come back out here again sometime. Maybe even hire a personal tour. She had the money after all. She looked around at the people again. Next time she’d definitely do it privately. People took pictures, chatted and laughed quietly while they circled a the mass grave that the Spiral had become.

The Wasting. Short Story.

It was called Bensons Disease, or more colloquially, The Wastings. A person just seemed to give up on life. Bodily matters no longer mattered, those afflicted couldn’t eat, could barely move. They would lie in bed, barely breathing until they eventually just wasted away. Some said it was a terrible way to go, others said it seemed peaceful, neither of the arguments mattered to her, it wasn’t like she could change the fact that she had it. She had always tried to make the best of things, but lately, it was hard to care. It wasn’t a painful disease and for that, she was thankful. She never liked pain, could never deal with it. It wasn’t nice, it wasn’t awful, it was just nothing. All she seemed to want to do was sleep. When she thought about it, really thought, she hated what she had become. She used to enjoy sports and being outside, but now she could barely summon the energy to sit up.

The doctors didn’t know how she had contracted the disease, she hadn’t been in any of the dangerous zones, she hadn’t even come close to them. No one she knew had contracted the disease and there were no other cases in her area. Doctors seemed to be worried that it was now something that was airborne, she said she didn’t know how she had gotten it, all she knew was that she had it. That was what was important to her, that and treatment. Treatment itself was simple, it was more palliative care than anything else. There was nothing that they could do. They had tried tube feedings when the patient would no longer eat, they tried pumping fluids in through IV’s, but the body seemed to stop taking sustenance, no matter what they did the patient always wasted away. No medications seemed to work on the disease, nothing would slow its progress, it continued its slow steady destruction of the body, no matter what was done.

She lay in bed, the TV playing in the background, she paid no attention to it, attention required effort. Instead, she slipped into her own thoughts. That was always the easiest thing to do, she could forget about her body failing, forget about the numbness. Sometimes she thought she should feel worried, she was dying, but it was impossible for her to really care. She had seen people like her on the streets, lying there silently, wasting away. How pitiful they had seemed then, she remembered how she had scurried past, trying to breathe shallowly. Oh it certainly wasn’t airborne, but those with Wastings didn’t wash and the smell could become overwhelming. This was in the early days of the disease, when no one knew much about it. People would just stop on the street, sit down and never get up again. They were mostly ignored by those around them, occasionally the government would make a big show of rounding them all up and putting them into “treatment.” She and others had suspected that treatment was just a fancy word for disposal. There was no treatment, everyone knew that. They didn’t even know how it was passed on from person to person. Of course now they knew it was strictly fluids, which in itself was reassuring, until it was revealed that it could survive outside of the body for up to seventy two hours and a person was infectious before they started showing symptoms. She herself was out of the infective stage, that lasted for the first week, she was on her second, she might just survive her third, but the fourth was always death. She didn’t want to think of what she’d look like then, all emaciated. Closed casket funerals were always the case with Wastings. No one wanted to see their loved ones like that. She wondered if she’d tell Jack, her husband, what really happened, how she actually got it. The authorities could never know, but maybe Jack could. She’d never tell him, but it was nice to muse on it. At least she could believe she might if she considered it.

She had fallen into the work accidentally, being a courier for less than savoury people. She could pass through the areas without any real questions and she was never asked for her travel card. It was perfect, no one was tracking her movements. The greatest part of it all, at least to her mind, was that she carried luxury items through, so if she was stopped they’d just think she was some stupid woman, unaware of the dangerous of carrying what she had. Her thing was mostly make up, it didn’t pay amazingly well,  but well enough to make it worth it. Johnny had insinuated many times she’d make more money if she would start carrying drugs, medications and other kinds, but she refused. Drugs were the only thing she wouldn’t take across. That was a dangerous world, she knew what they could do to someone. She stayed away from that entirely, always afraid that medication would turn into a few drugs here or there until finally she was carrying them all. She knew Johnny, knew what he was like. If he could get her addicted he would. If she was an addict she’d do anything he wanted.

It had been fun too, there was no denying that. Getting to go on shopping sprees to buy all the stuff, trying it out, even crossing through the borders was fun.  She had met many people through it, going into their house to sell the items, that was always a little unnerving, the only thing stopping anyone robbing her was the knowledge that she was one of Johnny’s girls. If she was robbed the area would no longer be traded with. She was sure that was just a bluff, but so far no one had called it. She thought that it was in one of those houses that she had contracted Wastings. There wasn’t much hygiene in some of the areas, nothing against them, they were nice people, but they couldn’t afford to waste water on bathing, they needed it to stay alive. She had sold things like baby formula there, the good stuff, not the questionable powders they had available. She had always tried to sell it to them as cheaply as possible, Johnny wasn’t a big fan of it, but she took the hit, not him. Glasses were reused there, only rinsed if they were used for something other than water. One of the people must have been sick, the glasses must have been mixed up. She had no one to blame but herself though. Johnny always told her not to eat or drink anything in the other areas, it was rule number one. They had given her a glass of moonshine, to celebrate, one of the woman had given birth and she couldn’t think of a polite way to decline. She was stupid. She could have pretended to sip, coughed and made a face or something, instead she steeled herself and downed the entire thing in one go, like everyone else. It hit her fast, but not as hard as she had expected and by the time she made it back to the border it had worn off. Jack was the lucky one. They had lived separately for a while, having some problems. He moved out and their only contact was on the phone. She had rang him after she was diagnosed. The disease was insidious, for the first weeks there were no symptoms, it was detectable through tests, but there was no obvious change to the person. Then the infection stage passed and the symptoms set in. When Jack heard what was wrong with her he moved back in, taking care of her. She knew he just felt guilty, but she didn’t mind. She didn’t want to die alone.

The TV was too loud, it was hurting her ears. She looked at the remote, trying to will herself to pick it up but she couldn’t, instead, she closed her eyes and let sleep take her again.