Unrest, page 1part #1 of Unrest Series
ALSO BY NATHANIEL REED
The Pit in the Woods
The Depths of the Hollow
Seasons of Evil
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Copyright © 2016 by Nathaniel Reed
All rights reserved. Published in the United States.
Unrest- 1st edition
Summary: A typical day at school becomes a fight for survival when a group of college students find themselves under attack by something that is turning fellow students into zombies. But getting out of school is just the beginning. The road to safety is a long and painful one that could cost them and their loved ones dearly.
Cover photography by: Ulises Mazorra
Photo manipulation and textures by: Allison Bonato
Printed in the United States of America
For Ms. Wells.
Your love, support, and friendship
have meant the world to me. I’m still learning by your example.
It’s time, my children
When the waves rise high
When the waters run deep
When the clock strikes midnight
You’ll feel the mark of Zero Hour
And you’ll never be the same again.
- Lisa Mangum
A finite world can support only a finite population
population growth must eventually equal zero.
- Garrett Hardin
Robert Walker coughed into his sleeve. He’d felt light headed ever since he boarded the airplane back to the states. Now at the Atlanta Airport, waiting on his connecting flight to Vermont he was also sweating profusely and feeling weak. No wonder. The flight from India was seventeen and a half hours, but he’d made this trip before and longer ones still. It was a matter of business. And he rarely got sick. But he admitted he was overweight, out of shape, and his diet of coffee and donuts in the morning and fast food for lunch the last two years was lacking. He loosened his tie and unbuttoned the top two buttons on his shirt. It felt as if he were coming down with some kind of flu. He coughed again into the crook of his elbow and when he pulled his arm away the sleeve was stained with blood.
“What the hell?” he muttered.
People who were several seats away looked up and decided to move further away from him. The next moment he noticed a group of six approaching from across the terminal in full Hazmat suits. Covered head to toe he couldn’t tell if they were women or men. One of them was holding a sheet of paper, looking at it, and then at him, as if comparing. Pointing in his direction, an ominous voice from behind the plastic face mask said, “That’s him!” Robert shook his head, unaware he was doing so. He rose to get up, and felt dizzy, so he plopped back down onto the seat.
“Sir,” the man behind the mask who had pointed him out said, “We need you to come with us, please, as quickly as possible.”
“Who are you?” he asked, shaking.
“We’re from the CDC,” a woman said. “We have reason to believe you’ve contracted a dangerous virus, and we need to get you away from the public, ASAP. We’ve been instructed to use force if necessary.”
“Instructed?” Robert asked, “Instructed by whom?”
Robert acquiesced. “Okay, okay.” He got up shakily, the six CDC affiliates following closely behind.
“Everyone, please back away, for your own protection!” the woman spoke again, her voice loud and booming in the terminal.
They guided him outside, into a waiting van.
Another man spoke as they drove off. “We know you’re scared, and we’re going to explain everything.”
“Explain what? What is it you think I have? How did you know where to find me?”
“We received a call from Mumbai. You were at a cow farm there, and were in contact with several of the cows.”
“Well yes,” Robert said, “I work for GrandHill Dairy Farms. We employ workers from several countries for our Worldline of dairy products. We sell milk from India, Colombia, South Africa...”
“Did you come in contact with any of the cows?”
“Yes, I was petting and feeding them...” His eyes glazed over.
“A Mr. Patel contacted us late last night around five a.m. which would be three thirty in the afternoon their time,” the man said, trying to look at a watch that was hidden behind layers of protective
gear, “Roughly three hours ago. One of their cows became violently ill about an hour after you left.”
“What are you saying? They looked fine when I left.”
“We don’t think you gave them anything. Don’t misunderstand us. The cow died. I won’t describe what it went through before it did, but let’s just say that it was not- sane. We think it was infected with a type of BSE- Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy.”
Robert Walker’s eyes glazed over.
“Mad Cow Disease,” he said, “In layman’s terms.”
“Dear God! I’m going to go nuts?! I’m going to die?!”
No one wanted to speak on that issue at the moment. The man that had pointed him out at the terminal spoke up from the driver’s seat. “Now the thing that concerns us most is how odd this case is, and what it might mean for you and for others. Now in India they hold cows as sacred. They don’t eat them.”
“So?” Robert said.
“So, Mad Cow Disease is normally transferred from cow to human by ingestion, specifically ingestion of the cow’s brain or spinal cord, where the disease originates. It’s caused by abnormal proteins in the brain. Infection from cows to humans is rare, and in your case the rarest, because there is no way you were having a cow brain beef patty in India. Which tells me that this is a particularly new, virulent strain that was likely transferred through other methods. You said you were petting and feeding them, so possibly blood or saliva. It can be trans-mitted through broken skin. Do you have any open cuts or sores?”
“No,” Robert Walker said, shaking his head as
much at the question as the entirely unbelievable string of events.
“The other thing that concerns me is how quickly the cow went from the onset of the disease to death. Normally this type of disease takes weeks, or months- not hours- to deteriorate the brain and result in death.”
“You’re telling me I have only hours to live?!” Robert cried.
“We don’t know. The version of the disease we know affects humans more slowly. It can last six months, causing loss of movement, dementia, psychotic behavior, eventually leading to death. But we’re dealing with something completely new and unheard of.”
“Is Mr. Patel all right?” he said, suddenly realizing his business partner might have also been affected. “Were any of the others infected?”
“Mr. Patel is fine. He assured me he rarely feeds the cows himself, and hasn’t done so in months. As for several of his workers...”
“What?” Robert urged, “What?!”
“Three of them went stark raving mad, and attacked his family. They were shot. And for safety reasons, they were set on fire.”
Despite the few breathing holes in the 8’ by 8’ Plexiglas case and a tube circulating fresh air Robert Walker felt worse than any ordinary prisoner. It was claustrophobic to say the least. But his method of incarceration at least made the agents of the CDC feel safe enough to remove their protective gear.
He paced about the cube, scratching himself. His flesh felt i
“Well,” Stuart, the man who had pointed him out at the airport said, “While we have determined that you have contracted some form of vcJD...”
“English please,” Robert said.
“Sorry, it’s the human version of Mad Cow. It stands for Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, named after the ones who discovered the disease. What’s strange about yours is this strain not only affects the brain but attacks the lymph nodes, the white and red blood cells, affecting the immune system, which explains your flu like symptoms. The scan we did of your brain shows that it has already progressed far beyond what we thought was possible at this stage.”
“YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT THE HELL YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT!” Robert screamed, spittle flying from his lips.
“Case in point,” Stuart said.
“There’s no point explaining,” Jillian replied. “He’s too far gone.”
“Wouldn’t you want to know what’s killing you?” Stuart asked.
“Not if I’m going to forget the next second,” she said.
Robert Walker slammed his head against the
plastic barrier, making both of them jump back. It left a large red spot. “I hate you! I hate all of you!”
“That’s understandable,” Stuart nodded. “Let’s stay clear of the Plexiglas,” he said to his associate, “in case any blood or saliva makes its way out.”
“Agreed,” Jillian said. The patient knocked his large frame against the case, shaking the plastic walls. “Um, how safe is this enclosure exactly?”
“Safe enough, I hope.”
Samir Charan (pronounced Chuh-run, he liked to correct people) stepped out of the apartment on his way to school, disturbed by the news coming out of Mumbai. Mad Cow Disease found on a dairy farm. He only knew this because his parents watched the news from back home, even though they had lived in the United States for over thirty years. They were still trying to find a nice Indian girl for him to marry, and they would be more than happy to pre-arrange it if they could, but that was not the American way. After high school he worked with his parents at their gas station and convenience store for ten years which basically paid for his college tuition after all the money he had saved up. Samir was twenty-eight, born here in Atlanta, Georgia, knowing only of his home country India what his family told him. And yet he led the International Studies group at his college. They were having a meeting this afternoon at three. It was a little past eleven now and he had two classes to attend before then.
Some of the same dense people that didn’t take the time to pronounce his name correctly invariably were the people that confused his darker skin and middle-eastern appearance with Arabs or Muslims,
and thus he became the brunt of a few unwelcome
jokes and labels like “rag-head,” even though he wore no turban or head covering of any kind, or “terrorist” by said ignoramuses. Fortunately those were few and far between, but it was part of the reason he was spurred to run the International Studies group, to counter misconceptions and open up a broader dialogue about different cultures.
Something about both the strangeness and the vagueness of the news story was troubling him as he got into his car and started the engine. They said some men were infected. But cows were sacred in India. They couldn’t have eaten the meat. It didn’t make sense. He had nearly forgotten about it by the time he got to class.
Marina Burkova was a twenty-one year old Russian exchange student. With her long dark straight hair that she wore in pigtails, her blue eyes and her curvy, lean physique she caught the attention of many men. The main feature that caught everyone’s interest was her large tattoo of two revolvers crisscrossing each other at the barrels across her ample chest. The downward X the barrels formed further amplified her cleavage as they descended to just above where her breasts separated. She nearly always wore some type of V-neck shirt or sweater, fully expecting men, and women, to look. Why else would she have gotten the tattoo where she did? She was proud of it. She loved guns, almost more than anything, except maybe for sex. She had close to twenty different types of firearms she’d purchased in the first eight months she’d been in the states, generally paid for by her waitressing job at Gilly’s Yacht Club, an upscale restaurant mostly catering to old white golfers and rich Republicans. She had a much larger collection back home. Marina left her cheating boyfriend behind in her mother country to pursue her dreams of higher education. When she learned of the exchange program she leapt at the chance, leaving family and friends behind. While some American kid was learning to speak Russian she was already practiced in the English language. She’d studied it for the last five years on her own in the hopes an opportunity like this might pop up. Other than a slight accent she spoke American English fluently, which was a plus when she entered the college. She wasn’t completely lost, and her language integration classes were a breeze. She only had four months left to the program and was trying to have them extend her stay so she could finish college in the states. She thought she might eventually like to live here.
It was over. After a few hours of ranting and raving and banging his head against the walls the patient simply collapsed and died. Stuart and Jillian along with several others put on their Hazmat gear and retrieved him from the Plexiglas case. They put him on the operating table where a doctor was waiting to perform an autopsy on the remains. Cutting into the skull with a bone saw and separating the pieces he exposed the brain. They found what they expected, what the X-ray had mostly shown, but it was much worse to see live, in the flesh, as it were. There were holes of every size in Robert Walker’s brain, reducing it to the consistency of a sponge, which was where the cow-contracted disease got its name- Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy. Before the doctor had a chance to detach the brain from its bone cradle, the corpse’s eyes sprang open and Robert Walker began to hack and cough roughly, a wet forceful cough that sprayed the doctor’s plastic face mask with blood and a black and yellow phlegm.
“What in the...?!” the doctor began. The corpse sat up on the table and grabbed his head between its two hands, clutching it in its powerful grip. The others screamed. It had a hold of his head gear. He began screaming hysterically, “Get it off me! Get it off me!” It latched onto him, ripping the headgear off. The four behind him backed away in shock as the body of Robert Walker lifted its face to the doctor’s, and bit into it, tearing his nose off between its teeth. It rose off the steel table, the blanket falling away, revealing Walker’s flabby naked form, and began to tear at the doctor in earnest. The four CDC members ran from the room and locked the door. They could see the doctor through the window in the door, on the floor underneath his attacker, being torn to shreds, ingested piece by piece as they looked on in horror.
Jomo Michuki had travelled from Kenya at the age of twelve with his entire family; this included his parents, two aunts and two uncles, and a brother and sister; seeking a better life. Jomo and his family had lived in a relatively poor neighborhood, but both his parents and their brothers and sisters worked hard to get them to America. They saved every bit they could for years until they could afford the plane tickets and several months rent in a U.S. apartment.
Often living day to day in their Kenyan town included hunting wild boar in the jungle with crude
weapons and relying on neighbors to pitch in with meals. There was a small farm where they got milk and eggs a short walking distance away that also sold vegetables and a butcher when they didn’t catch anything and they had money to purchase meat. Water was brought over from a local well two miles walk from where they lived in jugs. Each resident had to designate a family member each day to make that trek. Jomo didn’t mind because the walk gave him time to think. He had many ideas about life, and what living in other countries was like. He never imagined the bounty he would find in America. His parents regaled him with stories of life in the United States from books that were pas
He was nineteen years old now and excited to be joining a new set of friends this afternoon at study group to learn of other backgrounds.
Guadalupe Sandoval entered the auditorium for her psychology class. It was one of the few classes held in the two hundred seat theatre. There were roughly sixty students in that class. Mostly it was because students got along with the teacher, Mr. Woodward, and everyone wanted to get into his section of the course. Sadly, he was not present today, and there was a substitute teacher in his place. He took role call from a sheet with a list of the student’s names. Lupe (as friends called her) laughed when the sub butchered Samir’s name.
“Sam-ur Sharon?” he guessed.
Samir, seated two rows from the teacher, quickly corrected him, shaking his head with annoyance. “It’s pronounced Sam-eer Chu-run.”
“My apologies,” he said, not attempting to correct himself and quickly moving to the next name on the list. Aww, her poor friend. It was too late to get out of class now. She’d already taken a seat near the center, but since it was stadium seating it would be too obvious when she stood up and walked toward the exit. She hoped this sub wasn’t too boring. Otherwise she would probably fall asleep. This room was much dimmer than any of the classes as it was mostly used for presentations on the half circle stage and big screen. It sucked that her best friend Kamara, who called her everything from Lupe and Loopy, to Loop Loop and Fruit Loop (as terms of endearment, of course) wasn’t in this class with her, but she would be seeing her later on in the day. They had been friends since their first year of high school. They’d each taken a year of college before calling it quits, and eventually they both decided to go back. Guadalupe was twenty five (less than a year younger than her friend); a thin, short, Columbian girl with long wavy caramel hair and tan skin, who wore roomy dresses that came to her ankles with her open toed shoes, to add bulk and height to her frame. She was pretty in an understated sense. And she was friendly and nice enough to gain a few admirers.