[Friend and fellow blogger Emmie Mears is having another one of her flash fiction competitions, so I thought, what better time to flesh out an idea that's been knocking around in my head for a couple of days? I get to satisfy my urge to write without being committed to a full-length novel or story...yet. Her contest isn't quite open for submissions yet, but I just couldn't wait to get a little feedback on this post. Hoping it fits neatly enough into the dystopian/horror sub-genre... Who knows, maybe I'll be able to expand upon it at a later date. *See notes related to story's particular plot at the end of the post.]
Omega-E spreads fast, but there is about a month from the identification of patient zero to the time when the dead start to outnumber the living. The CDC and the government try to manage the numbers, with mass cremations to control the spread of the disease and to keep the corpses from piling up. Americans are pissed. Until their fear trumps the need to mourn and bury their dead. The situation declines fast and martial law is declared, but it’s a token gesture, with soldiers stationed only where there are valuable resources the government deems “in need of protection.” In most of the cities and suburbs, there is no law anymore.
This makes gathering supplies a lot easier, but also a lot more dangerous. There are other dangers besides contamination. Looters, psychos. The marines guarding the supplies will shoot to kill with the slightest provocation. But the worst, other people like us, people whose desperate minds have turned black with panic. Sometimes you can actually see the madness, flapping around, like a bird with a broken wing, behind their too-bright eyes.
And then there are the Infected. Like zombies, only worse. They’re sick, shambling…and bleeding copiously. Omega-E is almost entirely hemorrhagic. Makes the cases of Ebola in Africa look like a head cold. The Omega virus dies more quickly outside of the body than it’s African predecessor, so chances of surface contamination are lower, but once infected…there is no recovery. The only upside is that incubation for Omega-E is brief, the tell-tale rashes, fevers, and vomiting appearing within 24 hours of contamination, with death only a few days later. This makes the Infected pretty easy to identify.
It also makes them very dangerous. Almost up until their last breath, usually dragged laboriously through lungs filled with blood, they are aware… and terrified. If the uninfected have a panic-bird behind their eyes, the Infected are infested with whole flocks. Like drowning victims, they’ll drag down anyone who chances close enough.
It’s easy to stay inside for the first week or so. As the pandemic ramps up, we make pilgrimages to the store and start setting supplies back. But eventually we’ll need to go out there again. We have a little girl. Even if we could live on next to nothing, she couldn’t. And although the electricity and water remain on for the moment, there’s no telling how long it will last.
I heard a rumor about the government instituting rolling blackouts to manage the power supply and “ensure continuity of service” for everyone. The pretenses are breaking down. Pretty soon they won’t even bother to lie to us.
We need a plan. A few more trips out for supplies. Right before dawn seems to be quietest. The pharmacy. The grocery. Guns if we can find them. And then we’ll go out into the country, or maybe the woods. Somewhere there are no people, where we can wait this thing out. It has to end sometime, right? Right…?
*Due to the word count constraints imposed by Emmie, I didn’t get to delve too deeply into my desired plot concept. It may seem like “just another”
zombie story, but what I really wanted to explore was how a couple like myself and my hubby would get along with our toddler in the midst of a pandemic crisis. See, in horror films, you don’t often see many really young children portrayed and my guess is that it’s due to the “logistics” of trying to survive when you have to care for someone who not only completely dependent on you for their well-being, but also not yet cognitively developed enough to realize the necessity of basic evasive and survival skills. For instance, how do you keep a frightened two year old quiet so you can hide from a passing zombie horde? I want to follow a couple with no special skills (no ex-green berets or weapons experts here) as they endeavor to survive and protect what is dearest them, and I want to do it without taking the easy way out and “killing off” any characters that could be seen as a hindrance or potential “baggage” to the flow of normal horror stories/ films.