He had no name. He simply was.
Once a mechanic, he was now but a part of The Pack. His filthy, bloody, torn coveralls had a patch on the chest that read Jay. A tattoo of an anchor peeked out of a rip in the right sleeve.
Movement across the street caught his eye. Jay shrieked and grunted, then pointed. The others in The Pack understood the meaning.
Another pack had entered their territory. He knew they were not of The Pack. Their cries and hoots were different.
Once, food had been plentiful, but as the easier food was caught and eaten—the two- and four-legged ones, the flying ones—food got scarcer, until the packs began to starve. They soon eyed one another. The hunger gnawing at them was incessant. It had to be quenched.
Now The Pack, twenty-three strong, gave chase. Some raced left, some right, and some straight ahead. They would leave few openings through which the prey could escape. Ahead, three more members of The Pack waited for the prey to be driven toward them.
They closed the trap. The Pack pounced on the seven interlopers. Bloodstained teeth ripped into flesh, tore open arteries, cracked bones.
This food fought back with ferocity. Two of The Pack died along with the interlopers.
That made nine foods to eat.
The Pack slept with full bellies that night.
* * * *
March 2033 (fourteen months earlier).
The end of the world had begun with a neither a bang nor a whimper, but with pain.
March 23 began like so many other days, with Lao Tse reaching for a sack of rice to throw onto the back of his cart.
He yanked his hand back and sucked the drop of blood from the back of his finger.
“Damn it!” Must have been a thorn, or a sharp twig.
The wild gerbil that nipped him darted unseen into the nearby reeds. The wound didn’t hurt much after a few minutes, so Lao Tse thought no more of it.
Two days later, while selling his produce in the town marketplace, he developed a headache during lunch, followed by a sore throat, and then a cough. By 4 pm, he coughed almost nonstop and his head throbbed to the rhythm of his pulse. Lao decided to call it a day, but by then he had transmitted this new mutation of the Tibetan Hemorrhagic Fever virus to several other merchants.
The next day, his symptoms progressed to vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
“Papa,” his daughter, Mei, insisted, “you have to go to the hospital!”
“No, no, I’ll be fine. I just need to rest a little more.”
“You’re not fine! Look at you. You’re feverish, sweating, your eyes are bloodshot, and your hands are clammy. No more arguments—we’re going. Get your clothes on.”
“No, really, I’m fi—” A prolonged coughing fit cut off the rest of the sentence. When he finished, it took him several minutes to catch his breath. “Maybe you’re right,” he finally conceded. He wheezed as he spoke.
Mei rushed him to the nearest emergency room in Lhasa. Upon arrival at the Lhasa People’s Hospital, the admitting nurse directed them to “Have a seat over there and fill out this form.”
In the twenty-two minutes before he was examined—coughing and sneezing the entire time—Lao infected eleven people in the waiting room. All received treatment for the injuries or illnesses that had brought them there and then left the hospital before they became symptomatic. Four traveled to other towns and spread the contagion further.
Lao’s condition worsened and he passed out during the examination.
“Nurse!” the doctor called out. “Admit this man for observation.”
Overnight Lao Tse began bleeding from his eyes, nose, ears, and rectum. Patient Zero died two days later.
By the time doctors had diagnosed hemorrhagic fever, quarantined the hospital, and notified the Tibetan government and the World Health Organization (WHO) it was already too late.
* * * *
CNN Headline News, April 4, 2033:
“Tibetan virus escapes China; thousands infected throughout East Asia. WHO warns neighboring countries to take precautions.”
Der Spiegel International (English), April 10, 2033:
“Germany closes borders to travelers from East Asia.”
USA Today, April 14, 2033:
“Virus immune to vaccines”
Paris Match headline (translated), April 25, 2033:
“112 MILLION BELIEVED INFECTED”
Chicago Tribune, April 26, 2033:
“President McKinnon dead! Marshal Law declared!”
Daily Record and Sunday Mail (Scotland), May 2, 2033:
“Parliament Abandoned; UK in Crisis”
Pravda headline (English), June 29, 2033:
“2.5 billion believed dead”
The Rio Times (English), July 17, 2033:
“Brazil Government Collapses”
Sydney Morning Herald, August 23, 2033:
“6 billion dead. Will anyone survive?”
miamiherald.com feature article, September 19, 2033:
This pandemic is like nothing mankind has ever experienced. Approximately eighty-two percent of the human race—more than eight billion people—died within the first six months.
Of the remaining eighteen percent of humanity nearly all suffered through lesser symptoms, including intense fever that resulted in significant brain trauma. Scientists say the damage occurs primarily to the frontal lobe—the part of the brain that controls the higher brain functions—and especially the cerebral cortex.
These victims don’t die, yet they also are no longer quite human. Instead, they become ravening feral hordes, hunting for living things to eat: snakes raccoons, people—each other. It doesn’t matter. As long as it has a heartbeat, these “zombies”—for want of a better term—pursue and eat it. However they are not the shuffling, undead automatons of horror fiction. They are something else entirely. They are living, breathing creatures, cunning and fast—too fast.
The estimated remaining eight-tenths of one percent of humanity—fewer than eight million individuals worldwide—seem to be immune to the virus. However, with the collapse of all governments and military we stand little chance of surviving long-term against nearly a billion zombies.
God help us all.
* * * *
On May 19, 2034, fourteen months after the plague struck, a Drahtch invasion fleet entered Earth orbit.
Aliens Versus Zombies is available on Amazon in 13 countries: http://smarturl.it/AliensVersusZombies.
To find out more about this and my other novels, go to my website at http://markterencechapman-author.com or my Amazon profile at http://www.amazon.com/Mark-Terence-Chapman/e/B001KD533U. Twitter: @MarkTerenceChap