REMEMBER! New readers start from Chapter I “The Hall”
Chapter III “Immunity, Rob’s Story”
Rob was tired, it was late on Saturday night and he was just heading home from work at the milk processing plant and driving west along the usually deserted narrow country road.
Tonight there were groups of teens at some of the clearings used by the loggers along side roads that offered a little privacy from the passing traffic and far enough away from the nearest homestead to go unnoticed.
The youths would gather here just after dark to get their fires going, partying into the early hours and drinking too much. The worst part and what did them in with the locals was the rubbish they left. For some reason no one had ever taught them that throwing cans, bottles, mattresses, and god knows what else in a fire, did not make it disappear.
The cops could deal with that, it wasn’t his job, but he was worried the fools would set fire to the bush again. He decided to drive straight home, he was tired and he needed a drink. He didn’t drink a lot but it was Saturday, his wife had left him the week before and he had damned well earned that double hit of Johnny Walker. He could almost taste the subtle oak flavour from the seven year aging process and then there was that rather pleasant burning sensation as it warmed its way down to his stomach. He would sleep well tonight, he thought.
The weather was getting wild, the road was wet and as he rounded the corner he noticed the safety rail damaged. He had not noticed it on the way to work and he was almost certain he saw light coming from the ditch behind the corner. Rob noticed things, it used to be his job and when he drove he was constantly scanning the road for any changes. His tool box was full of tools he had seen on the road and picked up. He never hit pot holes, his driving was just too precise.
“Could be nothing, but what if someone was trapped down there?” He knew he had to go back, just in case, “Bloody drunken idiots” he thought to himself as he swung his Rodeo around.
He parked his car near the corner, on a wider stretch of road to avoid some other drunken idiot running into his car. He grabbed his mag light from the bracket on the door and walked toward the corner.
It was the kind of dark that you would not see your hand in front of your face without a torch and it was also beginning to rain more heavily making visibility even more difficult. As he approached the corner he noticed the skid marks leading into the bush from beyond to the railing. His steps became more urgent now.
“Shit!” He said to himself as he looked over the edge and saw the small sedan on it’s side sitting quietly amongst the mist and under-story foliage. It was propped up against a tree with the roof collapsed almost to the top of the seat, which caused him to doubt if anyone had survived. As he climbed down the steep embankment, he reached for his phone and began to dial tripple zero. The signal was just to weak and it rang once and broke up. Rob pocketed the phone and leaned over the smashed out drivers window, which, because of the slope, was about level with his chest. He saw a young woman of about twenty four slumped at an uncomfortable angle over the centre console, her head leaning back so she seemed to be looking directly past Rob. He could not tell if she were alive or not, she certainly wasn’t moving.
“Hello, are you okay miss?” No answer. “Damn! He reached in and rested his hand on her neck looking for a pulse. “Nothing” he said to himself, then he felt something as he moved his hand on her neck, there was a weak pulse, but too weak to sustain life for long, she would die soon if he did not free her. She was in a coma, he had seen this a dozen times during his life in the special forces. Someone who was shot up pretty bad and had lost too much blood would shut down, almost into a kind of “standby” mode and they would usually slump into a coma. Thing is here, he could see no excessive bleeding, just a few cuts and bruises.
Rob worked furiously to get the door of the car open, but it would not budge. He would have to cut the seat belt and somehow drag her up and out and hope this did not finish her off. He really needed help but there were no happy scenarios in this case, she would be dead long before even the nearest help arrived, he had to try.
He opened his pen knife and cut the seat belt and punctured the airbag first. Then he laid across the doors and reached in and got a firm hold of her under her arms, clasping his fingers together for maximum grip and began to lift. He had raised her so her chin was level with door opening. The idea was to then grab her belt and kind of lay her face down across the doors to reduce her actual weight while he got her lower half out.
That idea never eventuated. Rob, at forty five years was still feeling good, he should, he worked out at the gym in town a few days a week, rode his mountain bike for twenty kilometers each day and worked like a bear on his farm digging holes building and repairing everything he owned. He lifted the girl easily and as he reached down and grabbed her belt her body tensed suddenly, startling him. Rob’s face was now literally inches away from hers and he thought he heard her whisper something.
“Bloody wind,” he thought as he looked into her eyes. He wished he hadn’t, for what he heard was not her whispering but the last breath of air escaping her dead lungs. Suddenly her whole body stiffened and he felt the weight vanish as she screamed and lashed out at him with her hands. He immediately released his grip and jumped off the car. The last he saw of her was her face full of hate and anger and a type of lust for a fight you see in the eyes of a cornered predator, her jaw was fully open and, she was, to his horror, attempting to bite him.
Rob’s quick reflexes allowed him to escape and jump safely out of the way and as he did he spun around and trained the torch on the door of the car. The girl was violently attempting to exit the car banging her shoulders against the sides of the door as she attempted to attack him again.
“Fuck you bitch” he said under his breath as he hurried back up the embankment, stepped over the rail and onto the road. He would ring the cops and they could deal with this crazy bitch, he thought. The rain was getting heavier now as the storm got closer. He was brushing down his clothes, and opening the driver,s door when she hit him with the force of a freight train from behind, slamming him against the car and pulling hard on his longish blonde hair. He really did not want to hit this girl but when she bit his arm she crossed the line. He swung around quickly hitting her hard in the stomach in a move designed not to cause too much damage, just to slow her down. She took the punch, normally enough to take down a drunk one hundred killogram biker in a pub brawl, in her stride, hardly flinching, except she also vomited quite violently straight into Robs face. Rob, now genuinely shocked, hit her another three times with all the force he could muster and still she came at him, arms swinging madly and teeth bared like a growling alley cat under attack.
“What the fuck was that shit?” he said out loud to himself. It was no vomit he had ever seen, even in his wildest drinking days. The stench, fuck the stench of it was overpowering, a mix of bile, faeces and long dead animal. Looking at his hand as he wiped the crap off his face and neck, he noticed there was also quite a lot of blood mixed with her last meal.
The forth punch hit her on the side of the chin breaking her jaw and taking most of the skin off his knuckles. Her head spun to the side and she turned back on the attack again. He now had the knife in his hand and the next time she lunged he slasher her across the stomach with the small sharp blade as he punched her with his other hand in the neck. This would usually kill a normal person let alone a fifty kilogram teenage girl. She just smiled a kind of sick “you can’t hurt me with that” grin and came at him again with even more determined force. She seemed unstoppable and the worst kind of opponent, one with no fear of personal injury, pain or death.
This time he braced himself against the car and kicked her hard enough between the stomach and her chest to send her backwards and she hit the ground hard on her backside, sliding back in the mud. As she scrambled back to her feet, Rob jumped into the driver’s seat, turned the key, which he had left in the ignition and gunned the motor and dropped the clutch. The back wheels spun in the gravel for a few seconds, sending debris into the air before the tires gained traction allowing the car to speed off. He kept his eyes on the rear view mirror, watching the girl now back on her feet chasing after the car, her features wildly distorted in the glow of his tail lights.
“Fucking hell, what just happened?” he said to himself shaking his head and changing up into sixth gear. He had reached one hundred and twenty before he let off the accelerator, settling at a steady ninety, “don’t want to end up like the crazy bitch crashed in some ditch” he said to himself. The bite on his arm was starting to really hurt now and he thought he should visit the hospital but for now he just wanted to get home, have a drink and go to bed.
He pulled into his driveway just on eleven pm and cut the engine just short of the car port coasting to a stop in neutral. It was a game he played to try and stop as close to the end of the car port as he could without using the engine or the brakes. Tonight he was way off course, but he had a bloody good excuse.
The door was open and Rob went straight to the bathroom where he poured Hydrogen Peroxide onto the wound. It was only a scratch really, the Peroxide bubbling over his arm, it felt better now, it always did when he did this. He wiped it clean with some gauze cloth, and wondered why it was not bleeding that much. Looking closer he thought he saw something moving in there so he poured more peroxide over it and that seemed to settle it down and it looked normal again. He scooped a generous amount of Ichthammol ointment into the wound, dressed it with a guaze pad and a couple of adhesive plaster strips.
He switched on the surround system and pressed play on the media player, which was set to randomly play one of the hundreds of mostly seventies songs. Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd began to play as he poured a half a tumbler full of scotch over ice, which was still crackling from the warm liquid when he took the first gulp and sighed, falling heavily onto the couch.
He felt like shit warmed up when he woke some hours later, from the most surreal dream he could remember. The clock on the wall now indicated it was five o’clock. That can’t be right, he thought to himself, it was after twelve when he got home. Suddenly he realized it was almost daylight outside and he was having trouble focusing his eyes whenever he looked into the first rays of light coming in the window behind him.
In the dream, Rob had chased Morgan, his German Sheppard companion, throughout the house as it cowered away from him squealing and barking as though it didn’t know who he was and was terrified. He was desperately hungry and it seemed he was attempting to eat his best friend. Eventually he cornered the dog and pounced, breaking the dog’s spine and front leg as he landed heavily. Violently he began to actually eat his own dog. This is when he woke.
He got up and walked, still not quite conscious, to the bathroom where for the first time in his life he screamed out loud in a high pitched voice, that sounded like some of the young recruits he had seen on the battlefield who had turned to useless jabbering idiots when under sustained fire. Rob was covered in blood from head to toe, his face was covered in blood, what looked like hair and pieces of skin on his clothes. His hair was matted with dried blood. He would have to cut it all again. Who, or what’s blood he did not want to know.
As he became fully conscious, he walked out of the bathroom and saw the blood streaked all over the kitchen floor. Pieces of his dog were everywhere, on the benches, the walls, just everywhere. Rob began to shake violently. “gotta pull yourself together mate, now! And that’s an order” he shouted as he returned to the bathroom, undressed and turned on the shower. It took about twenty minutes to get all the blood off himself, then slowly and methodically he dressed and shaved. Looking in the mirror he looked fine. “What the hell had happened?” he thought, “Who, or what, had done such a sick thing to Morgan”.
After popping a combination of ultra strong vitamins and eating his traditional large fruit salad breakfast and yoghurt, topped with nuts and honey, he drank a litre of filtered water and headed off for his regular morning dump. What came out of him both frightened and alarmed him to the depths of his soul. His faeces, contained blood, bone fragments, and balls of hair, the same hair that used to grow all over his dog.
He showered and scrubbed himself from head to toe, put on some fresh clothes and cleaned the kitchen ready for breakfast. Had he actually done that to Morgan? “couldn’t be, it just couldn’t be me” he thought, then the missing pieces of his dream came back to him and he fell to the floor vomiting up his breakfast and more blood. He had to get to the hospital and quick, something was badly wrong here, badly wrong.
Rob looked at the clock radio and the date looked wrong it said Monday six thirty PM. Could that be right? Had he been out for two days? He remembered driving home and the girl from the car and instinctively looked at his bitten arm. The gauze was gone and the wound was healing well. He had to find out what was happening to him.
He was just getting into the car fighting off the kind of headache that makes everything a blur and suddenly he felt dizzy and began to loose consciousness again, “no, I can’t let this happen again, he thought as he used every ounce of strength and military training to fight the urge to feint. Rob got to the bathroom and popped another two whole grams of vitamin C in liquid form, plus a couple of tabs of amphetamine he had got from his doctor for his ADHD, that had never left him since his school days. It worked for now but he was hungry, ravenously hungry and although, for the last ten years a strict vegetarian and health freak, he craved meat, any meat. He knew he had to fight it and he knew he had the strength to do it.
During the torturous training, both to be selected and to continue to stay in the Australian special forces, he had to have almost super human determination, endurance and self discipline that eclipsed most human usual needs. He was well known in the forces for having the rare ability to endure incredible pain and both physical and mental stress for days, or weeks if he had to.
It had kept him alive once, when his entire patrol had perished or succumbed to madness, fear and sickness. They had been on patrol in the mountains of Afghanistan when they were ambushed and outnumbered, by Taliban fighters. He had managed to escape the massacre when the last man had been hit by shrapnel from a rocket propelled grenade, by crawling into a crevasse not much bigger than his body. He had gone deep underground, pursued by one of the smaller Talibs who he managed to kill by kicking his head repeatedly as he attempted to stab him from behind. This had effectively ended any hope of escape the same way he had come as none of the other Talibs would venture down for his body and knew they would wait weeks if they had to for him to come out. He was regretful but also thanked the gods they had not thought a little more strategically and just rolled in a frag grenade, instead of sending this boy in after him.
He had had to wriggle on further into the cave, at one point through forty centimeters of stagnate water until he found a place big enough to sit up and assess the situation. He was in there for six days alone in the dark, the stench of the dead Talib stinging his nostrils and having to drink the foul stagnate water to survive. On top of this he got dysentery from the water. Eventually he found a way out by crawling another few kilometers, getting stuck for an entire day at one point, getting free only by ripping the clothes and a fair amount of his flesh from his back and shoulders, before he found an exit at midnight on the sixth day.
It took him ten more days to get back to his base on foot, traveling only by night and living off small animals and insects. The others at the base almost shot him coming back in. They could not believe he had survived and had the embarrassing but pleasant duty of contacting his family back home for a second time and apologising for informing them he had died in an ambush. By the time he left the forces he had become somewhat of a legend in his own time. This he thought, should be a walk in the park.
Whatever this thing was, he knew his body had the capacity to fight it. The bite on his arm even began to heal by the third day. Since the day he found Morgan, he had not slept and he was worried what would happen when the amphetamines ran out. He had to resupply and soon, his life and god knows how many other lives may depend on it. He knew he would need help, some one would need to lock him up so he could sleep and not kill a human this time. He dialled the number of his friend Peter, an ex policeman mate who now lived at the old police station just out of town.
Peter would be able to lock him in one of the old cells, one he was not using as a wine cellar, for the night until he could work out his next move.
Peter answered immediately, his voice at a whisper and fearful, “hello”
“Peter, its me Rob, listen, I need some help”
“Mate we all need some help, have you seen the news?”
“Don’t have a telly, what are they saying?”
“They reckon, there is some kind of virus going around that puts you in a coma within an hour, then it somehow resuscitates its host who becomes violent and bent on killing,”
“Adds up,” he said before telling Peter all that had happened during the last few days and offered to drive over.
“Be really careful, these crazy infected people are everywhere now and they seem to be learning and getting more cunning. Stay away from anywhere dark, even the bush, drive straight here then straight up to the garage door. I’ll watch for you and open it up. There seems to be a lot less of them in the daylight, I think direct sunlight hurts their eyes”. Peter went on to tell him what he had seen in the night and even over the phone it chilled him just a little. Rob was not going to tell Peter about the bite and Morgan until he was safely inside the house.
Peter was about to let one of his best friends, one of the growing number of infected killers into his home without knowing all the facts.