First chapter of my upcoming zombie book The Abiding Dead. Comments welcome.
During the year of 2012, scientists in a secret test site in the Nevada desert devised a way to alter the chromosomes of animals and human beings. In doing so, they found a way to slow and reduce the effects of cancer, maybe even cure it. The humans used in these tests were convicts sentenced to death, illegally taken from prisons within the area. Those who were condemned to death were taken to a science and research facility located underground in the site codenamed: Area 51, and became test subjects for the scientists working there. After doing so they were allowed their own rule in the area. The scientists, given their new rights and unlimited salary, began their own section in Area 51, away from the weapon’s and aeronautics facility.
This new base, now codenamed Area Z, was used to perfect the cancer cure. This cure was injected through the blood stream, to hold the cancer cells in place before replication, causing them to die. During this process of tests on different cancer cells, one subject had been injected with an animal cancer. Though showing no effect they decided to have the convict cured. However, this cancer had a countermeasure. If the animal’s cancer cells in the human’s body became contained for a number of 2 hours without replicating, it began to die. After depleting, it released an unknown bacterial virus that rapidly spread through the cancer cure’s cells and began to infect other blood cells with the virus they codenamed Z-Virus. The infected cells, currently dying, caused the host to go into deep shock and unconsciousness. After the virus reached the heart the subject shutdown completely. After the death of the host, the infected cells within the organism began to reanimate, causing further spread of this new virus. After the virus reached the brain, the host itself began to reanimate—turning it into zombie.
After discovering what potential hazard this caused, the scientist’s at Area Z took all of the infected convicts and executed them. Unknowing that once the host was dead the cells would spread faster; they dumped the bodies in large waste containers, and sent them off to be burned at a chemical waste center. Their bodies, now reanimating inside the containers, were shipped to the new nearby town of Midway. It was there the infection spread, turning the town’s inhabitants into flesh-hungry murderous undead. It wasn’t long before it spread to other nearby cities.
Distress calls were sent from the infected cities, however, none were received. Computers and radio jammers at Area Z neutralized and intercepted all distress calls. To ensure that there wouldn’t be a national panic, the HAZMAT team at Area 51 and Area Z took the control of this outbreak into their own hands. They started to quarantine all of the cities nearby and completely annihilate the Z virus. But the virus seemed to have spread too quickly across the state. Small towns and cities were the first added to the cause. With no warning or military help, they were easily overrun.
Humanity was prepared for such an outbreak, and all possibilities of an apocalypse. Man knew how to defeat zombies, but they did not know how to defeat the sickness that was released. Nobody was ready for a rabies outbreak—the effects killing, and the virus bringing them back. As of December 20th of 2012, only days before the end of time in the Mayan Calendar, the virus spread to one of Nevada’s major cities: Las Vegas. The City of Riches soon became the City of the Dead.
CHAPTER I—Living our Lives
December 6th, 2012—two weeks before the Vegas Massacre
University of Texas, San Antonio
“Damn it.” John cursed under his breath. He threw his remaining cards down in loss. His luck finally timed out at the end of this college year. A straight with Queen High against four kings and an Ace was probably the best Ray had all year. Irony crept down the back of John’s spine as he counted the chips on the table. An arm reached across and took two handfuls of chips.
“Bout time,” his friend Ray spoke. He smiled and giggled with his semi-white teeth showing.
That cheeky jerk, John thought, always teasing as if he had planned the whole thing out.
It wasn’t the first time either. Last week he tried to hook John up with the Deans daughter without knowing the connection. After a few days the Dean had already been close to expelling him. Things haven’t been the same since then, which was, in his mind, kind of dumb. Reputation was a big thing at this university. If you didn’t have rep you weren’t getting anywhere. John had the rotten luck of being blessed with good luck. He had cheated failure and death more times than any of those crazy magicians on TV. Just yesterday he had barely dodged a car that that sped straight into a pole not even 5 feet from him.
He stacked up all the cards and began to shuffle them. He wasn’t going down that easy.
“Best two out of three?” John asked.
“Nah man, I gotta go see Shelby. You know man, the lady calls.”
So does a mercy killing, John joked in his head. As much as he didn’t like trying to make fun things out of something terrible, he may have gotten a few laughs out of it but it sickened him in his stomach that other’s found it funny. He always had random negative thoughts about things in his head. Now it was more serious. John blessed himself and silently spoke amen.
A cold wind rolled in and blew the long hair stretching over John’s brow. The cold front had been lasting since the day of thanksgiving and his new leather jacket and white long-sleeved shirt barely kept him warm. His other friends thought he looked like some character from an old 80’s show, like the Fonz.
One single card slipped out of Ray’s hand and flew away in the breeze. John really didn’t care much since it was only one out of the twenty packs of cards he had stashed in his attic.
Ray placed the poker chips back into their proper container, and then placed the container into his backpack.
“Thanks for bringing the cards man; I really needed the rush today.”
How the hell do you get a rush out of playing poker? He’d be better off playing Call of Duty 5.
“Don’t mention it. Do me a favor and tell Shelby and her sister I said hi.”
“Sure thing; Hey are you going to the game on Saturday?” Ray questioned.
“Sorry bro, I’m going to Vegas to see my grandparent’s. They need help setting up some Christmas decorations.”
“Decorations? In a nowhere little town like Midway?”
“Yea I know, but afterwards we’re going to a big party in Vegas” John replied promptly. He winced and stuffed the cards into his backpack.
John ignited the engine to his El Camino. It rumbled with a gratifying roar. This baby was almost 40 years old and could run like the new Camaro’s. He switched it in gear and drove off campus.
This place was great, nothing could be better than the University of Texas, even after it went under renovations in 2010. But finally, a break from all of its amazing wonder, he was finally heading to the home he grew up in. After about 30 minutes of lucky-no-red-lights he arrived at home—8722 Parkview. He parked ‘Él’ in the garage then hefted up his bulging backpack from the truck bed and headed inside.
John’s House 5:00pm
John closed the door behind him, and there was a soothing smell of cinnamon that crept up his nose. The place was too quiet. Normally there would be a lot of movement when a trip was planned. His mother would normally be packing and going back and forth through rooms. His father, however, would be recording football games on the TV and copying them onto an HDDVD, or making some snacks for the trip. And his 18 year old sister, Andy, would be in her room talking on the phone with friends and putting make-up on. This time was way too different. John dropped his backpack on the ground and walked towards his parent’s bedroom. The door was left wide open but there was nobody inside.
Where the hell is everyone?
John rounded the hallway corner that led to the stairway. He kicked off his shoes before stepping on the clean carpeted stairs. Behind him there was a small thump. John turned around in a heartbeat to see what had caused it. There was a small rubber ball bouncing against the wall. A dark shadow chased it and grabbed it, causing it to start bouncing again.
Callie the 2 year old calico cat was playing with the catnip filled rubber bouncy ball. Wherever it went it made a ruckus; wherever the cat followed, there was her dark shadow that scared the darn wits out of everyone. John turned back around and faced the stairs.
There was a loud screech and a gruesome face dropped down from the loft overhead. John felt the smallest shiver go down his back. He put on an angry grin, then grabbed and pulled the things face off. Underneath the rubbery mask was his young sister, Andy.
“You damn monkey.” John said angrily.
“Oh come on, I almost had you that time. How come you don’t get scared as easily any more?” She questioned in return. Her face started to turn red seeing as she was hanging upside down with nothing but her legs to hold her up.
“There is no such thing as monsters. Even if I did believe in those kinds of things I still wouldn’t be scared.”
“What about that entire zombie collection in your room?”
“I just like the idea; those books and films are all fictional, I highly doubt that something like that would ever happen.” John hesitated for a moment to see his sisters face turn purple. He couldn’t help be laugh a little.
Andy tried to raise her self up, but she had been hanging for so long that she couldn’t get her leg muscles to move to well.
“A little help,” she said with a croak “would be nice.”
John stopped at his bedroom door and turned around.
“Don’t tell me you can’t get up after all that gymnastic stuff you do.”
“Pl-Please!” she exclaimed.
John scuttled to the loft and grabbed her feet. He started to pull her in then reconsidered. He dashed back down the stairs and grabbed her hanging arms instead. He pulled as hard as he could and yanked her off the top of the stairs. She fell, with a little help she had landed on her feet, safe as a cat.
“Where is everyone anyway?” John asked as his sister regained her balance. The redness left her face and she slowly responded.
“I think they went to the grocery store for some drinks and some of dad’s pills.”
“Dad takes pills now?”
“Yea, the doctor’s said it will slow the lung cancer thing.”
John felt that sickness in his stomach again as he tried to abolish the vision of living without a father. The ache subsided and he walked back up the stairs. The smell of cinnamon was gone as his nose adapted to the change of smell in the house.
“You know I’m not going with you guys right?” Andy reminded.
“Yea, I know. But what I don’t know is why.”
“Come on hermano, you know I have a job—being 18 and all.”
“Well I do to, but that doesn’t mean I’m staying home—being 22 and all.”
Andy giggled under her breath and jolted upstairs into her room. She was probably trying to plan a house party while John and his parents are gone.
Damn that little brat.
John’s room was illuminated by the sunlight trying to make its way through blinds on his window. There was a large luggage bag along with some electronic belongings laid out across John’s bed. He moved the iPod and the large black bag down to the end of the soft mattress.
John immediately jumped backwards landing on his soft Tempurpedic mattress with a feather comforter. His long brown hair cushioned the back of his head and fell back behind his ears. John closed his eyes and let out a sigh.
Just one more month of this shit and I’ll be home free.
John’s room was littered with junk. On the wall furthest from his bed he had an entire bookshelf worth of horror novels and movies. Almost all of them featured his ideal version of a good horror fiction: zombies. Entire sets and series of comics and novels made for the soul purpose of entertaining zombie fans everywhere. Atop of the movie shelf there was a small figure of the main character from Army of Darkness. His hand was made of metal and connected to it was a small chainsaw that he had used to slaughter the undead threat in the film. The remake was just as good as the decades old movie that his father just happened to save.
Aside from that were three signature movie cases. George A. Romero’s signature was on his 4 year old film Diary of the Dead just before he died. S.D. Perry’s picture of her with the Nemesis from Resident evil was most likely John’s favorite. And the third was of larger stature, it had signatures of stars that starred in almost every zombie movie dating back to the 1980’s. John used to marvel those famous writers and Directors, especially Max Brooks’ World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide. And then there was the one poster next to the bookshelf advertising the upcoming film: 28 Months Later.
His friends at school were sometimes crept out about his obsession with the idea of zombies. Although zombies were not real, it didn’t stop John from being prepared.
Outside—30 minutes later
“Which car are we taking, Madre?” John questioned as he lugged his bag outside.
“We’ll take the minivan this time,” she replied quickly.
“Aw come on. That bulky thing? What’s wrong with dad’s truck?”
“He left it at your uncle’s house in Edinburgh. Plus this one has better gas mileage.”
Damn, she got me there. What if—
“Can I take my El Camino?” John questioned.
“Hell no!” John’s father replied from behind him. Arturo Guerrero: the tallest Mexican in the state. His loud response sent another shiver down John’s spine. He’d been scared enough for one day, and he wasn’t in the position to argue. His father’s tall figure had no shadow under the darkness of the garage. He was slightly portly but also very strong in the arms. He had slicked brown hair with a receding hairline. As for his clothes; the classic Mexican worker: a blue t-shirt with long dark-blue jeans and cowboy boots. It sort of reminded John of how he dressed on the trips to his uncle’s ranch.
“Alright, fine with me,” John lied. “I’m going to go take it over to the Bass Pro Shop so that Mr. DeLeone can take it to get the new bumper installed. Pick me up in an hour.” John dashed to his car to ensure he wouldn’t have to be stopped before he left. In a matter of seconds he was already speeding down the road.
Bass Pro Shop (Outdoor World), The Rim
John pulled into the staff parking lot behind the bass pro shop. The El Camino rumbled for two seconds before finally turning off. John opened up the glove compartment and took out his ID badge. Yep John worked here. Not even a few months ago the place went under renovations in the back by installing a small motel for the shooting tournaments they held here, so that nobody had to drive all the way back home. Of course John hadn’t met any real competition at the events. Yet he stood proudly in front of his three year streak trophies. Sure the motel had small rooms; the bathroom was only half the size of the bedroom, complete with a shower and an automatic flush toilet.
John pinned the badge to the top of his shirt pocket and walked in through the back door. He unhooked the keys from the small key rack against the wall. They rattled against each other as he tried to find the key to the elevator. After a few times he found it and unlocked the large door. The elevator immediately rose to the second floor without the push of a button. His weight shifted downward due to the gained speed, and then up as it stopped. There was a satisfying bell and the two stainless steel doors parted.
The place was covered with wall to wall accessories for hunting, camping, fishing, and all that other outdoor mumbo jumbo. John calmly walked to his counter and clipped the key ring to his belt. Above him read the sign--Hunting.
Mr. Ramirez was on his immediate right advertising a new rifle that had just shipped in. Unfortunately the man that was looking at it declined and left.
The old coot needs to get better at this someday.
“Hey there Johnny! When’d you get here?” Mr. DeLeone spoke. He was a large man with an Italian accent, only he’s from New York. John had asked him about the Italian American Mafia but Mr. DeLeone claimed he had no connection.
“Just now Donny, and for the love of god stop calling me Johnny”
Donny laughed. “Still up to your long random rhymes I see.”
“No, listen I need you to take my car over to the mechanic and get the carburetor fixed. Look for a guy named Earl, he should get it done, he owes me.”
“Sure no problem, the guy is a friend of mine. So you got yourself a girl yet?”
“Nah man, that isn’t really your business. I’m working on it.”
“You’re grandmother, god bless her soul, would be turning over in her grave to see you without a wife.” He said. John couldn’t help but wonder. Donny DeLeone had been good friends with his grandma on his mother’s side of the family. After she had divorced before John was even born, she became good friends with him, and afterwards so did John.
“Yea, I’ve heard that before. One of these day’s Donny. Some girl just might be able to put me back on track—hell five bucks says she’ll find me before I find her.” John sighed with depression of the thought.
“Come on kid. Here, I got just the thing to cheer you up.” He pulled open a drawer and hefted a heavy box onto the counter. “Check out the new hardware that just came in from the fellas up north.”
In the box was blued stainless steel 8 inch barreled Taurus Raging Bull Model 500. John had read about them in hunting magazines and had never seen one up close. Luckily nobody else had come up to the counter since the last customer, so nobody would be eyeballing this piece of work. Mr. DeLeone hefted it out of its package with a cloth then placed it on the counter behind them. In the package also contained seven 6 round .50 caliber packets that were all looped together, making it easier to reload without having to put one bullet in at a time. John knew his guns, and he definitely knew what they were capable of.
“May I introduce—”
“I know what it is Donny.” John interrupted. John realized he was holding his breath and exhaled.
“Want to try it out?” Mr. DeLeone requested.
A moment went by and John was already in the firing range. The weight of the Raging Bull pulled at his wrist muscles. He shifted the muscles in his arms in a firing position. Luckily he had some safety goggles and earphones to block out the sound.
He pulled the hammer back and aimed at the wooden bear that was only 9 yards away. The sound of thunder was even heard through the ear protection as the bullet left the barrel and slammed into the wood. The kick had knocked back John’s hand a bit and it numbed his wrist muscles. John exhaled after holding his breath during the shot. He took the glasses off and squinted to see what was left of the wooden bear. The base of the head itself was 6 inches thick worth of wood, and left a 4 inch wide hole. Splinters of wood littered the ground along with the picture fragment of the bear. Not even a second went by and the rest of the frame fell backward. It must have been held up by the head before he shot it to splinters.
“The pressure it sends could pop someone’s eardrums.” Mr. DeLeone added at the last second. John bit his lower lip and clicked the safety to on. John felt around for the button that released the cylinder—nothing there. John turned the gun on its side and pondered as to how to release the cylinder. A large hand reached out and clicked forward a hatch on the top of the weapon. The cylinder along with everything in front of it flipped forward, hanging by a hinge. John winced and took a close look at the back of the bullet shells.
“Fifty-five Caliber? I’ve never seen these in my life—hell I don’t even see a difference.” John said.
“Yea well um, they’re custom, they ain’t even in the market yet. A friend of mine works up at university—he’s the one who put those in there.” John reattached the barrel and handed it back to Donny. John stared at the digital wrist watch on his left wrist.
6:30 pm Pickup Time