They say it happened suddenly and on the surface, it did. “The Scourge” caught humanity by surprise—an unexpected whip that lashed the weak, took out the sick and punished the strong.
First Sergeant Bob Johnson ripped the plastic wrap off the pink notebook imprinted in silver with a picture of The Empire State Building. He’d found it in an abandoned gift shop before making the 102-story walk up the stairs to the top of the tallest building.
Now, he placed the notebook on the table that overlooked a once bustling city and sat in a chair. His movement unsettled months-old dust motes that danced in the golden sunlight streaming through the broken windows. The sharp edges of the once pristine plate glass clung to the edges of the steel frames, jagged boundaries that hung at the brink. The wind whistled and whispered painful reminders of the breaking of humanity and marked the end of the fight for Johnson. Ironically, the apocalypse had created golden afternoons that resembled early evening—a portrait photographer’s paradise, only without beauty.
The 1,224-foot lonely walk up those stairs had given Johnson time to reflect and finalize the feelings that had brought him here, thoughts he’d had for too long. He pulled the matching pink Empire State Building pen out of the spiral of the notepad and wrote:
“We the people of the United State are no more. For too long, modern politics divided this once great nation. Take your pick. Republican or Democratic, religious, non-religious, and everything in between, they fractured our society. If there is one thing history has taught us, it is divide, then conquer.
Billions of dollars spent making the people choose sides, pitting Americans against each other, blinding them to what was really going on behind the curtain. And for what—one more vote? I almost feel bad for the last politicians of America. How could they have known the damage they were doing with all the rhetoric they spewed, the power they lusted for? No one figured the secessionists would have the courage or the resources to pull it off, so no harm, no foul, right? They figured there was enough big money to keep them in line. America was the greatest super power in the world, or so we deluded ourselves into thinking. Surely, they could police their own.
Maybe they didn’t even try, but it doesn’t matter. No one could have prepared us for this, a virus that ripped through our nation in a matter of weeks. It pulled our entire infrastructure apart in a few days. An entire country without power, gas, water, and everything else we’ve grown to depend on. Even the satellites are failing now. The greatest enemy we’ve ever known wanders our earth multiplying faster than anyone could have imagined.
It doesn’t surprise me, however, that we were so unprepared. Everyone had become greedy with their own power. And then when it did strike from out of nowhere, did they really think the citizens would unite under the big red, white, and blue after all their smoke and mirrors? Trust me, some of us tried and most of us died trying to unite and bring our nation back to its former greatness.”
With a heavy sigh, Johnson leaned back in his chair. Then he shook his head and continued, “It turns out when you remove the 24/7 blinders of news cycles spreading terror and chaos, social media outlets, things that normally keep citizens content on their couches…those same beliefs that were fed to them to garner their vote would eventually rise up and bite us all. No more bread and circuses because there is no more bread and the circus is hell.
They started as safe zones, bases built to protect the innocent from the infected that roamed freely. At first there were only four, and believe me, you were lucky if you made it to one. It didn’t matter which one because people will do anything for protection, let alone medicine, food, and shelter. The safe zones offered you a life, a chance to start over, to pick up the pieces of whatever remained.
Absolute power, who would have ever dreamed of such a thing in the United States? Once the people in charge realized the power they possessed, a new set of rules were made. New rules and the people had no choice! Follow the rules or leave, and good luck on your thousand mile walk through millions of infected to the next safe zone.
There were four major sections: The South in what used to be Savannah; The Midwest outside of old Colorado Springs; The West, a refuge on Coronado Island; and last, but not least, DC, where they tried to pull them all back together. Each section developed their own belief systems, the so called “proper” way to govern. It’s pretty easy to guess which sections went in which direction and why they had no desire to reunite.
I haven’t been to The West or the Midwest and if the rumors are true, they are zombie free and flourishing. I don’t buy it, though. What glitters isn’t always gold. From what I understand, The West ended up under socialist rule while the Midwest remained moderately liberal and are currently working the hardest to find a cure. They honestly believe they can end this curse, and who knows? Maybe they can.
DC, though…what a joke! All I can say is corruption breeds corruption. I give them an “A” for effort, but they are stuck in their ways and still won’t admit they’re the problem. Grown men fighting over a seat at the head of the table for what used to be one of the world’s super powers, all in the hopes of being the one that would bring the United States back to its former glory. No one cares about that anymore.
The South, where I ended up with my family, was a ruthless place to live. Being native New Yorkers, we were on vacation in Florida when the outbreak hit. I was grateful we were able to make it to Savannah’s safe zone. My wife, Rebecca and our nineteen-year-old son, Mike made it with me. We lost our daughter during the long journey to Savannah.”
Teardrops stained the paper with heavy, ink-blurred circles as, for the first time in months, Johnson allowed himself to cry. “Not being from The South,” he continued, “I didn’t share a lot of their values, but I didn’t care. We had our own room, a safe place to sleep, and food. They even managed to get a small amount of power back on in some locations. I never thought we’d be so happy to see a light bulb turn on, even for just an hour a night.
My family’s differing values quickly came out when we boycotted the sickening state-sanctioned games. Poor men fighting other poor men to the death, mostly men of color or other minority status, with the winner’s family getting a house of their own. We could not fathom the terrible waste of talent and health. To kill a perfectly healthy uninfected good man who had a family of his own, to make so many orphans! God knows, we didn’t need any more orphans.
One night while I was on watch, my son caught section security cops raping my wife. He was killed for trying to stop them. I was called off sentry duty only to find them both dead, my family murdered. The ultimate torture.”
Johnson’s sobs were so severe he had to stop writing, catch his breath and clear his eyes. He was tired, lonely, and ready to be done with war; weary of the agony. With ragged breath and shaking hands, he continued his lament. “The South was barbaric like that, always finding new forms of torture for those who refused to conform. I was knocked out and when I woke up, I was in some random town with my dead family next to me. I contemplated taking my life at that point, just lying down next to them in eternal sleep, but realized that doing so meant giving in to the tyranny. I couldn’t let his treachery win! I was still a man—if only on principle—a man with values of my own and a man with purpose!
I buried my beloved son and beautiful wife and decided to try and find my brother and his family here in New York. It was a complete wasteland from Savannah to New York, aside from DC, which I avoided. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you, but then again, if you’re reading this, you probably already know.
If a cure is found, don’t make the same mistakes we made.
First Sergeant Robert S. Johnson, US Army”
Johnson calmly smoothed out his letter and looked up at the wall where there were over a thousand letters and photographs fastened with nails or other sharp objects. He found a somewhat empty spot, held the letter steady to the wall, and stabbed his pocket knife through it. He turned and walked through the broken window and out onto the ledge. He looked down at the empty city below as a gust of wind whipped at his shirt and hair. The beaten soldier closed his eyes and stretched out his arms. Embracing the golden light, he took his last flight into the great unknown.
* * * * *
The stench of frozen flesh is in the air! Welcome to the Winter of Zombie Blog Tour 2015, with 40+ of the best zombie authors spreading the disease in the month of November.
Stop by the event page on Facebook so you don’t miss an interview, guest post or teaser…and pick up some great swag as well!
Giveaways galore from most of the authors as well as interaction with them!