Am13 outbreak shorts boo.., p.1
AM13 Outbreak Shorts (Book 3): Crackdown, page 1part #3 of AM13 Outbreak Shorts Series
#3 AM13 Outbreak Shorts
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Table of Contents
Holes pierce the young boy’s body, making him flinch and flail as he’s turned into a human pin cushion. I can hear the bullets leaving the gun, I can even smell the gunpowder wafting up my nose, but it isn’t until I glance across to Enrico, my best friend and police partner, and I spot his horrified face that I realize the one doing the shooting is me.
What the hell have I become?
For years I’ve followed the rules, ever since I turned things around I’ve done exactly as I’m supposed to. I’ve become the best version of Oliver Reed that I could ever be. So why now do I find myself aiming my gun at, and killing an innocent lad who can’t be more than a teenager?
Enrico’s face says it all, it tells me everything that I need to know, and all that I can’t accept. I’ve irrevocably changed...and not for the better.
I take a glance at the world around me, really drinking in the shit storm it’s turned into recently. Is what I’m doing worthwhile? Are any of us making a difference, or are we simply soldiers in a war that can never be won? I hope it’s worth something because I’m losing myself along the way. I’m not the man I used to be, not even close.
‘Marie?’ I think hopelessly to myself ‘I’m sorry for what I’ve become. I know I’ve never been good enough for you, and you always knew it too. If you saw me now would that just be confirmed for you? Would you be glad you left me in the way you did?’
Tears fill my eyes. I feel emotions that I’ve suppressed for years. I can’t cry here though, I’m an officer of the law, bound to be strong and protect. These are my duties, my instructions, I’ve been told what to do so that’s what I need to do. Nothing else matters.
No, nothing matters at all. It never has and it never will.
I feel the cool metal against my temple as I decisively hold the gun there. This is the only option I have left, there isn’t anything else I can do.
“Mate, what are you doing?” Enrico screams beside me, but I slide my eyes closed to block him out, to block the world out.
I have to do this. I hope one day he understands, there are just certain things that a man cannot come back from.
I count to three inside my mind. One...two...three. Then I do it, I pull the trigger and I end everything.
Suicide, I can’t believe it!
I shake my head into my hands, feeling totally shocked at myself. I can’t believe I actually held the gun to my head and I pulled the trigger. If there had been just one more bullet in that chamber I’d be dead now. It’s shocking to think about, it sends bolts of ice-cold terror right down to my heart.
“What’s going on with you, man?” Enrico asks me sadly while shaking his head. “You’re losing it, Oliver. I don’t want to see you crack. Not right now. You’ve always been so strong, If you want to tell me what’s going on then maybe I can help you.”
I don’t know how to answer that, I’m not sure when it all started going so wrong for me. I could say it’s when I aimed my gun at that boy, I could tell Enrico it’s when I pulled the trigger and ended the life of someone innocent, but if I’m totally truthful with myself it began so much longer ago. If I want to be truly honest, then I need to consider the moment my life took a different turn.
“Marie,” I whisper sadly through the gaps in my fingers. “It all stems back to Marie.”
Two and a half years ago, almost a lifetime when I think about what’s happened since, I found my girlfriend lying across her bathroom floor, lifeless and totally cold. The strangled expression on her face while she lay in a pool of blood and empty prescription drugs bottles still haunts me to this day, it makes me wonder if she actually meant to die or if she realized that it was a mistake halfway through.
I could never tell what was going through Marie’s mind, and that remained the case up until the day she left this world.
No one knows about this, it’s a part of my life that I prefer to keep secret because I don’t ever want to be judged on it, but Enrico has been told, I trust him with my life so I know he’ll understand me when I open up just a little bit.
“You can’t blame yourself forever,” Enrico does his best to reassure me with a pat on the shoulder. “It wasn’t your fault what happened.”
But it doesn’t matter what he says to me, I’ll always hold some responsibility. If I was a better person, if I wasn’t a mess back then, maybe Marie would’ve got the help she so desperately needed. Sure, she was an alcoholic and she dabbled in illegal drugs...I did too, it was how we met at a drug-fuelled party, but she never showed any signs of wanting to die. We’d just made a vow to one another that we’d change, that we’d put the life of petty crime behind us, we were supposed to be having a fresh start, it wasn’t supposed to end in such a horrific way.
“Plus, you need to think about how much you’ve done since then. You’ve gone on to help so many people.”
It wasn’t easy to start down the road of becoming a police officer when my imaginary resume didn’t have anything worthwhile written upon it, but somewhere within the fog of grief, I knew it was what I needed to do. I can’t remember what I did after I found Marie’s body, I don’t recall a funeral, the time immediately afterward is nothing more than a blur, but I can remember with absolute clarity that my life needed to go down a new path. I wanted to be an officer of the law.
I got my head down, I studied hard, I used everything inside of me to drive me towards my goal, and as soon as I achieved it, I felt good. I knew I was doing the right thing. The unpredictability kept me on my toes, it helped me never to get bored, I thought I would love my life forever.
Then the AM13 virus came along and changed absolutely everything. All over again. Only this time, not just for me. Everyone has been affected by this change.
“I’m just scared, Enrico,” I tell my best friend seriously. “I don’t know how much longer I can keep fighting this. I don’t know how much longer we can all keep battling this. One way or another, it has to end.”
The look Enrico gives me suggests that he’s thought of that too and that he doesn’t fancy our chances against the virus either.
Perfect, just brilliant.
The AM13 virus began as just another media scare being portrayed on the news. No one paid much attention, people barely even talked about it, I guess we all figured it would just blow over like all the different strains of flu, and that everyone would have forgotten about it within a month or so.
I certainly paid no attention to it, I was just trying to keep my head down and to get on with my job. Ever since I landed my position on the force, nothing else meant anything. I became an addict for my police work, it was a healthier way to work my personality.
This time, for some reason, the virus didn’t seem to vanish. The media scares grew fiercer and more intense with every passing day. Instead of everyone forgetting about the silly illness and moving onto something more important, everyone began discussing it as if it was something real and vital. Experts were on television discussing it, every newspaper printed about it on the front page, it began trending on every single social media channel possible. It became so common to see #AM13 online, it seemed like everyone had reverted from not talking about it at all, to being unable to speak of anything else.
Then it infiltrated my work, so I had to pay attention too.
The hospitals became so overrun, there was a lot of panic out on the streets which of course meant certain people behaved in a negative way; fighting, looting, that sort of thing. We had to be extra vigilant. We were also told to look out for people showing signs of the virus too, but I didn’t pay any attention to that. I wasn’t sure why the police were being told to search for anything who looked a bit flu-like, that felt like a waste of energy. Sure, the potential violent side effects, such as biting, fine, but anything else was below me.
Then I saw one for myself. My very first virus victim. I don’t remember what day it was or what I was even doing. All I know for sure is one minute everything seemed very normal, there wasn’t a scrap of anything weird in the air at all. I had no idea that my life was about to be turned upside down forever.
Then I saw her.
She had her back to me at first, the only thing that made me concerned about her was the matted blood in her hair. I wanted to help her, to save her from whatever trouble she found herself in. I called out to her, puffing out my chest, feeling brave and positive.
Until she span around.
The blood wasn’t just in her hair, it was everywhere; over her face, down her tee-shirt, dripping from her mouth. At first, I thought she was eating a steak, even after hearing the rumors about the infected eating other people, I didn’t immediately think that was what I was seeing. I mean what sort of person immediately jumps to that conclusion?
“Are you okay, miss?” I asked pointlessly, because obviously as I now know once people are infected they lose all of their brain function. Well, most of it. They can still move and eat. Eat humans, anyway. But they no longer listen or talk, they no longer emote. They don’t do anything that makes them human. They become a slave to their bodies needs only. Their new bodies needs.
I guess the term ‘zombie’ is the only thing that describes them well. I don’t like to think of them in that way because I think it makes them cartoon-like, but in the popular media, that’s the closest thing out there. The victims don’t die before they turn, it just slowly happens, and they go more of a gray color than green, but other than that it’s mostly still the same.
It’s horrible. A new, terrible world.
In all honesty, much as it still pains me to have Marie gone, I’m glad that she never had to face this world. It would have been much too hard for her. She was a beautiful, fragile, tortured soul that abused substances to handle the real world. This would have been far too much. It’s hard enough for me, as I proved to myself only yesterday.
If only things were handled differently, if only I had some control over what happened during all of this, then none of this would have happened.
In all honesty, it wasn’t too bad in the beginning. Our main job was to stop anyone getting into too much trouble, that was standard, just what we did anyway. The only extra duty was to take any sick people to the specialist medical facilities that had been set up specially to deal with the virus. That was good, it kept us busy, and we were all keen to stop the virus from spreading. Hearing that 35% of people could potentially die from the infection was pretty scary, none of us wanted that.
The specialist medical facilities seemed to be running much better than expected since they were set up in the middle of an emergency. The hospital staff seemed to have it very much under control, I didn’t ever see anything in those buildings that troubled me, it all looked as good as it could be. I thought we were working smoothly, all together like a finely-tuned machine, I presumed it would all be over before we knew it and it would soon be something long forgotten. Soon, the AM13 outbreak would be something we didn’t think of much anymore...
Then, the Lockdown began, not that many people listened to it at first. Everyone was supposed to stay indoors in quarantine to prevent the virus from getting worse, but no one really complied with the rules. We didn’t know how strict the rules were either, so we didn’t pay much attention. Not until the Chief came in and told us that we now had to crackdown on anyone outside. We had to insist people comply with the rules and remain indoors, on threat of death. It was so important that the rules were enforced, that nothing else mattered as much.
That was the moment I started to listen.
I thought I would never enforce the death rule though, it was just one of those empty things that we said to try and scare people into doing what we wanted. I would never have thought that I would be the man standing in front of a teenage boy, firing bullets into his heart.
But then I saw one.
More than one.
Lots of them everywhere, littering the streets.
I started seeing them more and more regularly. The infected. The grey skin, the white eyes, the blackened blood, the violent bloodlust temper...this virus started doing things to peoples bodies that were utterly inexplicable. People should die when they’re shot in the heart, in the chest. If a heart stops beating, the person should not live anymore. But that is what we started seeing, people with bullet holes in their hearts, still living. Only a gunshot straight into the brain of someone infected will kill them which is terrifying. It isn’t normal., it’s inhuman. It makes me see that anything is possible and that the foundation the world is built upon doesn’t mean anything anymore.
The impossible is more than possible.
I started to realize the danger and the threat that the virus really presents and I grew scared. So scared that I started to actually do as I was told. We were commanded that anyone spotted on the street was to be considered infected and killed. Murdered before they can be infected. Maybe it isn’t the worst rule. The vague information we have suggests that the virus is transferred through bites and doesn’t always show immediately. But once there’s a bite, there’s no turning back. Maybe the brutal rule is a way to put people out of their misery. After all, I wouldn’t want to end up like that.
Luckily I didn’t see anyone that didn’t fit the bill for a while, so I could tell myself that everything we were doing was okay. I didn’t even have to think about it, I could just tell myself smugly inside that I had it under control. I thought the police were the good guys, that we didn’t do a single thing wrong. Being good is the only thing I want for myself after my past and losing Marie, but now...now everything is topsy-turvy again.
Ever since I killed the teenage boy and I tried to kill myself.
I don’t know much who I am anymore, or what I’m supposed to do. Nothing feels right and I’m scared that I’m losing myself again. I honestly don’t know if there’s any way back from this.
That boy...I wonder what happened to his family. I tap my pen aimlessly against my chin as I think. I don’t want to think about that boy anymore. In an ideal world, I wish I could just forget about him so that I could carry on with my life, but I can’t. Every single time I let my mind wander it’s all about him. He’s consuming me, killing me slowly. His body, the blood, the unmistakable stench of death...it’s all too much.
“Come on, mate,” Enrico says with a weak smile as he stands at the end of my desk staring down at me a little bit like I’m something from a zoo. I can see his gaze flicker towards the bottle of extra strong painkillers that are sitting there, the ones that I was supposed to stop taking years ago, but he doe
“The hospital?” I ask, the fog in my brain clouding over. “Really?”
“No, that facility they set up for the infected.”
I want to give out a spiteful laugh at that remark. After what I’ve seen recently I don’t think any specialist facility will be having much success in solving all of this. The infected are inhuman, they’re unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. I don’t think there’s any point trying to cure it because it’s utterly ridiculous. I could argue this point with Enrico, I could tell him that I cannot be bothered to over to what is effectively a morgue, but I don’t. I don’t think I have the emotional energy to argue. I’ll just take it on the chin now and keep it all inside.
“Yeah sure,” I sigh while pushing myself into a standing position. Every inch of my body feels achy and weary, it’s as if I’ve been in a boxing ring or something. “Whatever we’ve got to do.”
Enrico lets me stew in my misery on the drive over. I can’t stand to look at the disgusting state of the world anymore so I slide my eyes closed as he drives. Maybe I even fall asleep, I’m not quite sure. It’s probably a good thing if I do since I haven’t slept well for ages. I can’t remember the last time I climbed into bed and I simply fell to sleep without any issues. It was long before all of this started anyway, and it’s only got worse since I became a murdering son of a bitch.
It isn’t until the car comes to a stop and I snap my eyes back open again that Enrico says anything to me. “Sorry for dragging you along on this trip,” he says regretfully. “I just thought that you could use a bit of time away from the station. You look...you look like you’re struggling at the moment.” He turns in his seat to look at me with sheer concern in his eyes. “You know there is always someone to talk to if you need to. I’m always here.”
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