10-13-09 – Microterrors

They just keep coming, more and more of them, arriving alone or in clumps, dazed and staring as they’re brought inside. It’s hard not to look at their faces; you see something incredible there, a fleeting look of disbelief as they step inside from the cold. It’s hard to find a minute to get away and write. Collin and Finn insist that every single newcomer is checked for bites, for scratches, for any signs of carrying the danger in here. So far everyone has checked out fine. I can’t imagine having to turn anyone away, to tell them no, I’m sorry, you’re not allowed to be safe.

But Ted thinks that’s what has to happen now. He’s taken the day off today. He’s been sitting in our tent all afternoon scribbling calculations down in a notebook, making grunting noises of frustration, and erasing furiously before beginning again. It’s difficult to find the old Ted in the new. I know why he’s become this way – he needed a distraction, an activity to through himself into. Holly, her life, her death, is still terribly near for him. The detailed work of helping people, of suturing wounds and taking down symptoms has saved him in a way, saved him from a long, lonely road traveled in total misery.

I know he didn’t want to tell me, but he’s so obviously nervous about something… And so I had to ask. Now I wish I hadn’t.

“It could be anything. We don’t have the equipment to find out where it’s come from or whether it’s just an isolated case…”

“What are you talking about?” I ask. Outside the tent I can hear Evan and Mikey chasing Dapper. Their laughter pierces through the incoherent bustling of the villagers. I scoot closer to Ted, trying to catch a glance at his notebook. He pulls the pages toward his body, hiding them.

“It was just William, that janitor, and we thought it might just be because he’s old… But now there’s someone else, and I’m sure tomorrow it will be another case and then another,” he says, his brows meeting at the perfect center of his forehead. He shakes his moppy head around, sighing deeply through clenched teeth. “The vomiting, the diarrhea… I think it might be Giardia, something in the water. That would explain it.”

“The water? There’s something wrong with our water?”

“Think about it,” he says, “The sanitation is getting worse. The more people we pack in here the easier it is for something contagious to spread. And if just one person, just one, gets in and they’re infected, really infected…”

“That’s impossible,” I snap, “I’ve been helping them check. We won’t let anyone slip by.”

“What if it’s an animal? What if you can’t stop them?” he asks. He looks at me then, his dark eyes wide and glossy. I know what he’s thinking: It only took a rodent to kill Holly.

“It won’t happen, Ted. What happened to Holly… It was… It wasn’t our fault. It was a fluke. There’s no one here like Zack. No one would put us in danger,” I say, touching his knee. He doesn’t flinch, but I can feel his expression icing over.

“It wasn’t Zack,” he says after a long pause.

“What? Of course it was. Who else would’ve left the window open like that?”

“Me. I did.”

I pull my hand away from him and I feel his eyes sweeping my face. I had always just assumed Zack had opened that window, that he had hoped for something bad to happen. But I suppose it could’ve just been an accident, a careless mistake. I reach for Ted’s hand and he let’s me take it. We sit in silence for a moment, not out of reverence, but because I can’t think of one damn thing to say.

“Are you okay?” I finally ask.

“Yes,” he says. “I’d be a lot better if you would just move on.”

Me? What are you talking about?” This conversation isn’t supposed to be about me. I don’t want him to sneak out of this, to turn his back on confronting what I’m sure is an unmanageable burden. He smiles down at his notebook, avoiding my eyes.

“Zack. It wasn’t your fault. We can trust the people here, Allison.”

“I know that.”

“No, I don’t think you do, because if you did, your damn boyfriend wouldn’t come and ask me for permission to see you.”

“He – my – what?”

“Collin stopped me last night on the way back to the tent,” Ted says, still avoiding my eyes. It’s a good thing he is, otherwise I’d burn them right out of their sockets. “He asked if we were… You know, together.”

“Oh my god.”

“Yeah. I told him we weren’t. I hope that was the right thing to say.”

“Of course it was, it’s true, isn’t it?”

“Stop holding back, Allison,” Ted murmurs, shutting his notebook and shrugging away from me. He gets to his feet and stops before leaving. “Stick close to him for our sake. There might come a time when this place isn’t safe and when that time comes I want him on our side.”

I watch him leave, my mouth flapping like a flag in the wind. “Did it ever occur to you that I don’t like him that way!?” I shout after him, but he’s gone.

“Like who?”

An unruly blonde head pops into the tent. It’s Evan, his pale eyes dancing. He looks and acts so much like his father it’s almost like talking to a weird, miniature adult.

“None of your beeswax, Evan, that’s who,” I say, grabbing him around the middle as I leave the tent. He squeals, flailing as I tip him upside down and spin, turning him into an airplane. Mikey watches with his hand resting on Dapper’s head, his disapproving grimace firmly in place. I let Evan land and the twirls a little, his balance shot. Then he collapses in a fit of giggles, prey for Dapper to lick and sniff.

“Where’s your dad?” I ask, anxious to be out of sight. If I don’t keep my mind busy I’ll start thinking about Collin. I should be more upset, but it really doesn’t surprise me at this point; Ted is right, I have been holding out.

“He’s in the basement. Mom says you guys found a gym,” Mikey replies.

“Thanks. Go easy on Dapper.”

I keep a low profile, sticking to the far side of the arena, as far away from the line check for incoming survivors as possible. Collin is over there and that’s a conversation that can wait. On the way I see Corie sitting in a circle with the Wives. They’re sewing, or knitting, or quilting or whatever it is they do all day. She looks strange, too pretty and spry to be sitting in their group. Her head is slightly bowed, her dark hair an unbroken sheet tumbling to one side. She doesn’t see me. She doesn’t see me looking at her sad, far-away eyes.

I find Ned down in the bowels of the arena. We’re not allowed to hook up the treadmills to the generators but there are benches and weights and plenty of ways to get in shape. Ned is teaching me to lift weights. It feels good to put energy toward something tangible, something I can see and feel in the tension of my muscles. I’m woefully out of shape and Ned is merciless, putting me through the army training he experienced years ago. He’s an avid squash player and rowed crew for his university. It’s embarrassing to discover that a thirty-something dad is in better shape than me but I take the jibes on the chin and let it drive me forward.

Ned is in the middle of a set of push-ups and cries out like he’s been stabbed when he finishes and rolls onto his side. I throw him a towel and he manages to catch it before it hits his face.

“Thanks,” he says, dabbing at his forehead and neck. “Done upstairs?”

“If I have to smell one more rank arm pit or inspect another funky-ass foot I’m going to give up on life.”

“Ha ha!” he says, laughing just like that, in short, breathy spurts. His eyes dance as he sits up, groaning like a creaky old corpse. “Shouldn’t it be colder in here? I’m dying.”

“It’s not cold anywhere,” I say, sitting down on a bench. The ceiling is low in here and everything echoes despite the thickly padded floor. The machines and equipment are brand new and well-maintained, funded, no doubt, by very generous donors to the university. I wonder where those athletes are now and shudder to think of the expansive locker rooms. “There’s so many people now, it’s like the god damn rain forest up there.”

“Yeah, but rain forests are supposed to be that way – you know, muggy because they’re jungles, not because of too many bodies,” he says, grimacing just like his son. “What’s the matter?”

“Hm?”

“You just… I don’t know, your face sorta fell when I said that.”

“Oh,” I say, scratching idly at my shoulder. I’m not sure I can play this one off or concoct a suitable lie. “Ted’s being an ass, freaking me out, that’s all.”

“Yeah?”

“He says we’re getting too cramped and that it’s dangerous. He thinks maybe the water might be contaminated.”

“We’ve been boiling everything on a hot plate,” Ned says, resting his elbows on his knees. His legs are covered in dense, curly brown hairs.

“Yeah, so have we, but not everyone is that careful.”

“Well, we could expand to other parts of the building, or other buildings altogether. There are plenty of options,” he says. “But you’re not convinced?”

“What if someone gets in? One of them.”

“But we’re checking everyone.”

“I know that, Ned, but still… It’s just… It’s not full-proof, ya know?”

“Listen,” he says, getting to his feet, his long legs unfolding. “You have to stop thinking like that, okay? I’ve been to some pretty low states of mind in the past few weeks, and you just can’t allow yourself to get that way. You’re stronger than this. I know you are.”

“Right. You’ve known me all of, what, three days?”

“That doesn’t matter. You can tell, you just have to. There’s no time for bull shitting around anymore. You just have to look at someone and decide: I can trust you or I can’t,” he says, coming to sit next to me on the bench. His sleeves are soaking wet and he smells faintly of salt and baby powder.

“Yeah? I’m not really so good at making those snap decisions.”

“Well I am, idiot, and I say this: You have to stop looking at the dark side. There are positives here. We have food, we have a roof over our heads and weapons and we have us, okay? You and me. We’re not people who give up. We’re fighters,” he says. “I can train you. We can train together, and if the day comes when we have to fight here, right upstairs, we’ll do it and we’ll be okay.”

“Why do you put up with me?” I ask, laughing. “I’m a shit head. I promise I’ll do better.”

“Good,” he says, getting to his feet. “Just boil that damn water and leave no funky toenail unturned.”

We work out. We train. It feels good to train, to feel like a soldier, like I’m working toward something. I know tomorrow my body is going to hate me for this, that every single joint and muscle will cry out in agony and frustration, but I won’t stop. Tonight I’ll talk to Collin and I won’t hold back. I’ll stop turning him away, I’ll stop feeling so fucking… Congested.

Before the work out is through I’m puking in a garbage can, my wrists shaking as I try to get back up on my wobbling legs. I look like total hell and I feel like I’m about to pass out on Ned’s shoulder at any second but it’s good. It feels good.

I won’t let Ted get to me. I don’t care if he’s worried – there are people here doing their very best to make sure we’re safe and I’m one of them. If I have to check and double check every motherfucker coming through the doors I will, and if I have to go around and boil everyone’s water for them, I will. This place is a good place, too good to give up.

13 Responses to “10-13-09 – Microterrors”

  1. Able to….tap into terrible wireless net….router keeps cycling……crambling messages……..oing alright…..process slower than initi……impossible to tell…..noises in the dark, creatures….cannot proceed until deemed absolutely safe……not a fighter….lways miss high….not a nerds world anymore….be weeded out……eventually…..Hope remains…..even when I do not….wolves….hunting…..for what we don’t know……search…..find the den where we belong…..wayward people….so far from home……no home lef………..

    • allisonhewitt Says:

      Please check in again when you reach a stable connection. Hope certainly remains, in the nerdy and the strong alike. Use what you have, your mind, and I’m sure you’ll make it to safety again. Safe travels, friend.

  2. See if you can fix your rss feed. With the troubles, we don’t all have the luxury of always on internet connections

    • allisonhewitt Says:

      Ted is a science nerd but he’s useless when it comes to computers. Neither of us can figure out how to fix the RSS and now it’s just us banging on the laptop with sticks, hooting about fire and cave. Do you think if I began adding things to the posts section as well as pages, that might help?

      • I’m thinking the issue might be concealing/not using the date field on posts. FWIW, you should be able to put whatever date you want in the field, but without it, wordpress isn’t smart enough to put things in the calendar/rss feed

  3. Sorry it’s been so long. Yesterday… god, it was only yesterday…

    Things got bad, someone came to the door to our “safe room” which turns out to just be a security office in the water treatment plant where I used to work. He was alive, unless of course They can actually speak. Given the groaning and sputtering we hear from down the hall… I doubt it.

    He looked fine, no scratches or bites, no bleeding, no blood.

    All but one of the others, besides myself and … him… left to scout for survivors and supplies.

    Three hours later, he turned his head, well… it’s head, to look right at me. He lunged, and in that split second I saw that… look in his eyes. It’s… It’s eyes.

    I’m not entirely sure what happened next instant, but immediately following that, one of my former co-workers was on the ground with that… that THING on top of him. Blood was gushing from his already “missing-way-too-much” neck. Not entirely sure what part of me clicked… Fred… the guy under the … was trying to scream. I pulled out the 9mm I had scavenged from one of the dead security guards and…

    *BANG BANG*

    Sudden silence. No screaming, no gurgling. The only sound was the steady dripping of Fred’s blood and the ringing in my ears.

    The others haven’t come back yet… it’s been almost 20 hours.

    Suddenly, you’re all I have. You, Allison, and the others you write about and the others that write. Not sure what I’ll do now, but the bright side is… Fred never became one of them. Which is about as much as I could really hope for if one of them had bitten me. I’ve checked every part of my body… no bites or cuts… I got lucky I guess. If that’s what you call it.

    Allison, don’t doubt Ted. He’s very likely right. I’ve been working here in the water treatment plant in Aurora as a maintenance technician for six months. Boiling only gets rid of 97% of the germs and bacteria. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you much more than that, this facility is an incredibly complex machine and I only know a small portion of it. I’ll see if I can find some text on it or something.

  4. Scotsman Says:

    I fear that these “creatures” will be the least of our worries. This thing appears to be global and has struck with terrifying speed and ferocity, once our supplies run out, and they will run out, we will be facing a much deadlier enemy…. each other.

    My group has retreated to a small uninhabited island off the Scottish coast where for the time being we are safe. We have accumulated enough supplies through looting to last us for maybe 6-8 months before we are in serious trouble. We have managed to secure some weapons and are reasonably safe in the assumption that those deadites can’t swim but we still mount a 24 hour watch just in case. Several times on our raiding trips to the mainland we have encountered an aggresive group of humans who only seem to see the rest of us as competitors, these clashes have already resulted in th edeath of 2 of my guys and I worry that our outpost will be discovered.

    This truly is a return to the dark ages and the petty kingdoms after the fall of Rome. Civilization is dead. Survival is all. I only hope that there is an Arthur to unite us and lead us back from the brink.

    Good luck to you all and may we only meet as friends and not rivals.

    Scotsman

    P.S I am ex RAF myself so I know you are in good hands with Collin……. just don’t get trapped in that University too long, the cities are nothing but a death sentence.

  5. To all survivors in the San Francisco Bay Area, if you able to read this, you must NOT head towards the peninsula or any major cities! Most of the metropolitan areas are overrun and unsafe. Please remain in your shelters until your local police or National Guard assist you. Beware of looting gangs, and under all circumstances, DO NOT open your shelters until you can confirm that an induvidual of authority is present, they will openly identify themselves. If you are in need of medical attention, do not leave your shelters for a nearby hospital or convenience store and communicate to emergency crews through short-hand radio if possible. Seal all reasonable entryways such as windows and glass doors with objects to obstruct view to the inside of your shelter. If you are in immediate danger, you must head towards the nearest military reserve or police station. If you own a firearm, please DO NOT open fire upon induviduals until you are sure you are in mortal danger. Please remain safe and calm and prepare for immediate departure from your shelter when you encounter the proper authorities. There are emergency crews and safety zones throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, so we repeat, seek or remain in your shelters until help arrives. Keep your radios and televisions tuned to local stations for regular emergency broadcasts.

    • Andrew N Says:

      It’s Andrew again and just checking in. I sailed past the San Francisco Bay area and things don’t look good. I can’t find a place to dock without getting overrun. Anyone have any tips?

      I’m running low on food, and I’m contemplating fishing. I know it should be a last resort as I have no idea of the fish are infected either. I’ve figured out how to distill salt water into regular water though; so that should help me for a few days.

      Allison, publishing your story as posts would be better than posting as pages. That way, your posts will be in order and your RSS feed will be working properly. This’ll allow us to catch up as to your events when our internet connection is spotty and we need to quickly see what’s been updated. Previously being a dot-commer has it’s advantages.

      • allisonhewitt Says:

        Currently working on double-posting – using pages and then also putting them as posts for you RSS’ers. I hope this solves the problem and redeems me in the eyes of you tech-savvy folk.

        edit: On second thought I’m just going to post the updates in both spots from now on. Too many new arrivals to check, too many empty mouths to feed.

  6. Please… does ANYONE have any information on reversing this? My son was infected and I’ve… well… he’s safe. He can’t hurt anyone else but I know he’s suffering. He’s just so delusional and angry; he never says a word just deep growls when I come close to him. But I’m sure this isn’t permanent. It just can’t be.

    Can someone please offer any advise??? I’m posting this anywhere I can find help.

    • Ed down The Winchester Says:

      Probably best just to bash his head in to be honest mate….. they tend to be a bit “bitey” otherwise… I find a Cricket bat or a shovel works best. Actually that sounds a bit harsh….. If you were in London I could’ve bashed his head in for you if it helped. But you’re not, so it won’t. Just remember, he isn’t your son anymore so play it safe and remove the head or destroy the brains.

      Good luck

      Let us know how the filicide goes

      Ed

  7. Watch out.
    Dogs can be carriers
    but not display signs of infection.

    I found out the hard way. Be careful.

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