The following is an excerpt from Book One of The Reanimates: The Complex
The day that the virus hit critical threshold was much like the day before…in the beginning. I had worked the last night shift at the hospital on the cardiac unit, and the night itself didn’t stand out that much, though the ER was hopping like the Fourth of July. Had I not known better, I’d have guessed it was a full moon, a notorious omen for hospital staff.
The hospital where I worked was in a small town—small for Southern California, anyway. It was the only hospital for 25 miles around, so it made sense to make it a trauma center. And that night it was on fire: throughout the night, trauma codes kept being announced over the PA, one or two an hour. The staff in the cardiac unit mused over what could be going on out there in the world that could elicit this sudden spike in traumas, but no one knew of any reason. It wasn’t a holiday. It wasn’t a weekend. It was a Tuesday. Just any old Tuesday in the end of May.
The drive home was fairly quiet. Traffic was light; the usual activity of a weekday morning wasn’t there. The roads were light. I figured that since the schools had let out for summer break the day before that maybe the neighbors were taking a day off. I wondered if that also might explain why the trauma count was so high. Yeah, that probably was it. The high schoolers must have had a party that had gotten out of hand. I chuckled to myself as I pulled my truck into the carport. I should have realized that last night.
I lived in a gated apartment complex. I loved it there. I loved the grounds of the complex. I loved the neighbors. I especially loved the trees. There were many, and so tall, that they gave the community a sense of quiet that was essential to life in Southern California. I glanced over the courtyard to see that the neighbor kids had left their bikes out on the common grounds. Again. How they had managed to not get those bikes stolen was beyond me. The sidewalk had been decorated with colorful chalk; scattered patches had been washed away by the sprinklers.
I walked up the stairs to my front door and began to plan out what I was going to do that day, with sleep being high on my to do list. I emptied my pockets as I closed the door behind me and walked down the hall. I stuck my head into my ten-year-old son’s bedroom. Drew’s room was chaos now that he was on break. It made me happy to find him sprawled out across the bed, sound asleep, although how such a little person can take up so much area is beyond me. My husband, Trent, was sleeping in the next room, enjoying his day off. Trent had often commented on how he loved working for a small cabinet shop because he could make his own hours, a definite plus when kiddo went off track for his break, since his school was of the year round variety.
I had envy issues. People got sick regardless of what my son’s school schedule was, or what holiday it was. I couldn’t just close the hospital to suit me.
I went to the living room and fired up the laptop to check the message forums. My favorite forums are for Kindle fans. Yeah, I was ‘that geek.’ I loved to read and I loved electronic things and, as it turned out, I was not alone in my obsession. I found the general chat thread and was surprised to see that there had been over 200 new posts in the 12 hours that I was at work. I must have missed out on some flame war. When I started reading the posts, people kept talking about how they couldn’t believe the news stories. Posts continued on about being scared.
What had I missed?
Posts about the news scared me. Being totally unaware of what was going on when a huge event happened gave me a sinking feeling in the gut. It made me recall 9/11, when the attacks occurred. I was at home that day, and we didn’t have internet or TV. I found out that the world was ending when my mother-in-law called me and broke the news over my prepaid cell phone.
I stared at the television screen, still turned off, for a bit. If I didn’t turn it on then whatever it was that was scaring my internet friends was not real yet. The remote control sat on the coffee table, taunting me. I finally reached over, picked it up, and pushed the power button. When the screen came to life, the newscaster looked as though she was frightened by the story she had to tell us. She went on about how surreal the situation was and how never in a million years did she think this was a real thing. Pretty much she said a whole lot of nothing.
I started flipping through the channels, looking for someone to say something useful. I finally landed on a channel that gave a smattering of statements that seemed to cross over one another. A virus of unknown origin has struck with certain fatality. Transmission of the virus is unknown. The origin of this virus is unknown. Hospitals are overrun. I leaned closer in to pay more attention. Again, it’s the geek in me: anything weird and medical drew me in, just like the electronic things did. I wondered if the H1N1 flu that had the country in a panic a few months ago had experienced some sort of weird mutation. Finally, on some news channel, the reporter who was shuffling papers about said that the Centers for Disease Control had released a press release:
It is believed at this point that a virus is responsible for the deaths of at least 10% of the population. Symptoms include a sudden onset febrile condition that is not manageable by traditional cooling measures. The fever results in a seizure that appears at this time to precede death. The infected individual then ceases to exhibit signs of life. Cardiac and neurological monitoring show no activity. Following death the infected individual appears to reanimate. Monitoring continues to show no cardiac activity, despite the fact that this patient is once again moving. Minimal neurological activity resumes. Infected individuals are nonverbal and are extremely violent. Extreme caution around the infected is advised. Citizens are urged to remain their homes at this time.
My head swam. I couldn’t believe that they said reanimate. You can reanimate a frog with electricity once it dies. Reanimating. Wow. It was just such a weird thing for them to say. Reanimating wasn’t a real thing; it is not a thing a disease is capable of doing. That’s the premise behind every zombie story. They reanimated.
Oh. My. God. That was exactly what they were saying, wasn’t it? The patient died. It was after they died that they came back, without a heartbeat, moving and violent. They were talking about real-life zombies.
I sat unmoving. Even though I faced the television, I couldn’t see it. All I could see was my son sprawled across the bed. All I could see was walking towards Trent on our wedding day. How would I tell them that the zombie apocalypse was actually happening? How could I destroy the world as they knew it?
I walked softly down the hall into the pitch dark of the master bedroom. It didn’t often occur to me how dark it gets in there with the extra window coverings I had up to block out the sun. Night shifters like me tend to have a cave for a room. That morning it hit me how truly dark it got. I climbed into my side of the king-sized bed and just laid there. What was I supposed say? I put my hand on my husband’s arm and he stirred.
Trent pried open his eyes. He smiled when he realized it was me. We’d been married for thirteen years and every time I woke him up when I got home, he gave me a smile. Every morning it looked like he was happy to see me.
“Hey,” he said, still groggy. “How was work?”
Work. Wasn’t that a lifetime ago?
“It was fine.” Gulp. “There’s something going on with the news. I’m gonna turn it on.”
He rubbed his crystal blue eyes and stared at me confused. He reached for his glasses and I fumbled for the remote. I hit the power button and as the older CRT television screen warmed up, the audio kicked in well before the video feed. We heard the reporter go on about the release issued by the CDC. The reporter kept on talking about the biggest part of the story: the reanimation. My husband gaped at me.
“Did I have a brain melt just now? Did she say death then reanimation? I seriously must not be all the way awake.”
Just as my lips started to make words, the CRT screen lit up and his head whipped to the screen. The anchor woman said they were going live to the CDC in Washington DC