Vanier’s Blueprint: A Zombie Tale

The end of Coffin Hop is nigh so I shall leave you with one last little morsel of Zombie goodness. The following is a short story of mine that has never been published so your eyes are the first to devour it. When you’re all done, leave me a comment and let me know what I think. It could win you a digital copy of Days with the Undead: Book One. If you haven’t been reading or commenting during the Coffin Hop, why the heck not? Each day, I’m giving away a digital copy of my novel and at the end of the 8 days of Coffin Hop, I’m giving one grand prize winner from all of the commenters an autographed copy of Days with the Undead: Book One along with an autographed copy of Women of the Living Dead. So without further ado…

Vanier’s Blueprint: A Zombie Tale

© 2012 Julianne Snow

June 30.

The day before Canada Day. I was in my tidy, sun-filled kitchen prepping my famous pasta salad for the familial festivities the following day. As I stirred the mixture of al dente macaroni, cubes of summer vegetables, herbs, and creamy salad dressing, my attention drifted to the news being broadcast on the television in the next room.

As my mind fought to comprehend what I was actually hearing, I continued to stir the salad in disbelief. It wasn’t until I heard the screams of the eyewitness video that the large wooden spoon clattered against the rim of the glass bowl.

As I stumbled into the living room, my eyes found the television’s screen. The sight that awaited me was horrendous – like something you’d see in a Hollywood blockbuster. The news station had the clip on a continuous loop, stuck in a horrifying replay mode. I saw the same four minutes and thirty-four seconds over and over and over again. It was like an accident scene you couldn’t look away from…

The video was shaky at times and showed the slow but steady approach of a foreign freight vessel on a collision course with the waterfront of Lake Ontario close to the Redpath refinery. Within the first minute of the footage, the vessel appeared to make what looked like a soft nudge against the edge of the metal and concrete of Queen’s Quay. The resulting gash that opened up the darkly coloured exterior of the vessel just above the waterline was proof that the collision had been anything but gentle.

The crash itself was a disaster in the making; the sinking of the vessel would have meant the closure of Queen’s Quay for quite some time. We would have been lucky if that had been the only thing to happen.

As the vessel sat hooked upon the wharf, its dark surface emblazoned with what appeared to be characters from the Cyrillic alphabet, many rushed to see if they could assist anyone aboard before it sank. They were dwarfed against the sheer size of the vessel, but they went to help anyway – I’d like to say that it was the Canadian way, but in truth, when disaster strikes, heroes of all kinds come out of the woodwork.

Their valour was not rewarded in kind.

At approximately two and a half minutes into the shaky video, you could tell that something had gone awfully awry. The men and women who had run towards the ailing vessel were now running back toward the camera, their arms gesturing in what could only be understood as a warning; they sought refuge any place they could find it.

Hiding did them no good, as what poured forth from the rend in the belly of the beast was devastatingly unimaginable. Hundreds of bodies spilled from the ship like baby spiders hatching from their egg sacks. Each one of them in various stages of decomposition; each one of them looking for flesh to consume, a vector to spread their fatal cargo.

Shortly after, the panoramic view of the carnage was replaced by the hurried flashes of pavement rushing by as the videographer frantically fled the scene. A few short moments later, the loop restarted; images of the vessel floating listlessly on a collision course with the wharf filling the screen again.

I sat down, unable to comprehend what I was actually seeing. Was it a hoax? Someone’s sick idea of a joke? The news affiliate didn’t seem to think so and after checking all of the channels on my television, it was strikingly apparent that no one had anything other to report. In the back of my mind, I knew the video had been placed on a continuous loop so that the employees of the stations could flee. Of that I had no doubt.

I’m not sure how long I sat there, just staring at the loop as it replayed over and over again. I was dumbstruck. Sure, I’d seen all of the movies, played some of the video games, heck I’d even read a few apocalyptic books, but none of it had prepared me for seeing the stark cold reality of what was happening. Could I really believe what my eyes had just witnessed?

Getting up slowly, I made my way back into the kitchen. My refuge. The place where I worked out all of my issues while preparing my favourite dishes. With the spoon back in my hand, I stirred the pasta salad as my mind worked out the impossibility of what I have just seen.

The cathartic cyclical motion helped to slow my rapid pulse. I could feel the calmness wash over me and with it, came a level of resolve. There was no way that I was going to go down without a fight. Not sure that I could trust the reports I had seen on television, I decided to drive out to my parent’s house just outside of the city.

Rationalizing that I didn’t want to show up and look like an idiot, I packed a small bag and my pasta salad before leaving the house. There was no way in hell I was going to look like an idiot in front of my brother by showing up at my parent’s house in a panic over what was sure to be an elaborate hoax – I’d never hear the end of it.

Ever cautious, I took a quick look out each of my windows into the street below. Nothing looked amiss, so I figured it was safe to venture outside. Picking up my bag and the big white Corning Ware bowl, I strode purposefully to my front door.

With my hand on the doorknob ready to turn it, I stopped for a moment to take a deep breath. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, the video had really rattled me. Gathering the resolve to breach the barrier that my door represented, I wrenched the knob to the left and whipped open my door.

Fuck!

Sucking my breath deep into my lungs and dropping the bowl of pasta salad, I screamed as loud as I could and directly into the face of my older brother, Gavin. Honestly, I think I scared him more than he scared me. Had the situation been different, I’m sure I would have laughed and held both the moment and the scream over his head for years.

To find Gavin at my door threw me into a bit of a panic. He would not have come over unless something serious was going on; he hated my building, especially since his latest ex lived down the hall from me.

“Thank God you’re still here Vivienne!” He never called me Vivienne unless something was troubling him.

“I was just about to leave for Mom and Dad’s… What’s got you so riled?” I knew better than to tell him I’d already seen the footage. If it was a hoax, he’d do his best to make me believe it was true. At this point, I wasn’t prepared to show my hand.

“Did you see the footage? The boat that ran ashore at Queen’s Quay? Shit, that was fucked-up!”

“Yes, Gavin. I saw the footage, but you know things like that get faked all the time. Don’t tell me you’re scared of a few people in makeup?” As my false laughter faded away, I could tell that whatever Gavin had seen had scared the life out of him. The nervous knot I had successfully unravelled earlier was back and with it, a serious feeling of foreboding.

“Viv, we’ve got to get out the city while we still can. I’m dead serious…”

His plea was cut off by a shrill scream on the ground floor below us. Gavin used both of his hands to forcefully propel me backwards and further into my apartment, closing and locking the door behind us. Quickly traversing the length of my apartment, he drew back the curtains and peered outside, his face a mask of concern and fear.

His fear was contagious and I found myself wringing my hands in an effort to expel nervous energy.

“What do you see Gavin? Anything?”

Slowly turning from the window, his face changed from one of fear to one of laughter, his mirth barely contained behind his broad lips. “Geez, sis, you should have seen your face when that lady downstairs screamed! Best fifty bucks I ever spent!”

“You asshole! Are you telling me you paid someone to scare me? That’s low, even for you!”

“Aww. C’mon Viv, you know you would have tried the same thing if you’d thought of it first.” He came over and placed his muscular arms around me in a subtle apology. I couldn’t really fault him as he was right – if I’d thought of it first, I would have done the same thing.

“I’m heading out to Mom and Dad’s now, Gav. If you want a ride, you’re welcome to it. Otherwise, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow at the barbeque.”

As I turned to collect my things, I remembered the pasta salad that now covered the floor of my entrance way. Heading into the kitchen for a dustpan, I hesitated for a moment when I heard another scream. Turning around, noticing that Gavin had returned to the window, I asked aloud, “You got two screams for fifty dollars? How long were you planning on keeping the rouse up?”

“I only asked her to scream once…” With his forehead plastered up against the window, I saw the moment his body tensed. Not going to fall for it, again, I continued into the kitchen and retrieved the dustpan and brush from its place beside my refrigerator. Turning back, I could still see him watching the world outside.

“I’m not falling for it again Gavin, so you can drop the act.”

Kneeling to brush the ruined salad into the dustpan, I placed the bowl to the side as I keenly listened to any movement from my living room. There was no way I was going to let him get the drop on my again. Standing back up, I turned around to find Gavin still at the window. Thinking he was just hamming it up, I went over to stand beside him, my eyes focussing on the street below us.

Pandemonium. That’s really the only word I could use to describe the scene below us.

People were running in every direction. Some were even attacking others. In some areas the pavement was soaked in blood, while in others, it pooled around the bodies of those that had fallen. I hesitate even now to call them bodies as in only a few short moments, I knew they weren’t actually dead. How else could one explain corpses with limbs torn off and great gaping holes in their midsections actually getting back up to rejoin the fray of violence?

The contents of the dustpan dropped to the floor in a great wet flop that sent pieces of slimy pasta in every direction. My left hand found Gavin’s and we stood there, immobilized by the terror that had become the view from my window.

I’m not sure how long we stood there, staring out of the window, but in a moment of sudden clarity, one thought struck me. Without a shadow of a doubt, I knew we had to get out of the city. In the confines of the narrow streets, we’d be trapped and that was the last thing I wanted to be.

Squeezing Gavin’s hand, I pulled him away from the window and toward the door. With my keys in one hand, and the dustpan in the other, I raised onto my tiptoes to look through the peep-hole. Nothing – yet.

Looking back at Gavin, I could see that he was still a little dazed. Hoping that he was coherent, I shook him and spoke aloud, “Gav, we need to get out of here. Out of the city. Are you ready to get to my car?”

His eyes stayed limpid for moment and then, as if a switch flicked back on, he was alert again. Setting his shoulders in some sort of resolve, he nodded to me and I checked the peep-hole on last time.

The coast was still clear, at least for the moment. Opening the door to a world gone crazy, I pulled my brother through it and quietly stalked down the hall toward the stairwell. Fortunately for us, the stairwell led directly down into the enclosed underground garage beneath my building. We should be able to safely get to my car as long as the structure hadn’t been compromised.

Lady Luck was smiling down on us and we managed to get to my car without any incident. Not to say that specific events on our mad dash to get to the car hadn’t sparked a few heart-pounding seconds; especially when my neighbour from down the hall decided to retreat back to his apartment at the exact moment Gavin reached to open the door leading to the garage.

A short scream later, we had passed him and were making our way down the row of cars to my Prius. Okay, that’s maybe not the first car you’d want to be driving in a dangerous situation, but it did have its benefits. I knew that I could get to my parents without having to stop for gas – how many of you can say that you filled up the day before the Apocalypse?

Reaching the car seemed somewhat anticlimactic; we shared a nervous laugh before we decided what to do next. We agreed that a specific route was probably a bad idea; no telling what roads had been closed or what was clogged beyond movement. I lived closest to the Bathurst Street end of Little Italy, so it seemed best that we just head north for as long as we could.

Moment of truth – actually getting out of the garage and into the street. I was afraid, but I knew that in order to escape the city, I had no other choice but to leave the safety of the garage behind. Gavin looked over at me and gave me a look that screamed what are you waiting for? The silent slap in the face was all I needed.

I started the car, noting the near silent purr and threw it into gear. As I inched out of my parking space, I could see that there was no one else in the modestly sized enclosure. No other cars were moving or in the process of leaving. In fact, all the spots were occupied, letting me know that the building above me was full of my neighbours; all of them waiting out the storm. I couldn’t help but say a silent prayer for them, knowing in my heart that they’d already signed their own death certificates by staying.

Fluidly, I pressed the automatic garage door opener on my visor and waited until it was up just enough to squeak my car through. The noise of the mechanics hadn’t attracted any of the Zombies, yes by this point I had rationalized that we were dealing with the Undead, hopefully because the entrance to the garage was on the side of the building opposite the view from my front window. Knowing it would buy them only a little more time, I hit the button to send the door down again.

Traversing the streets was like driving through your worst nightmare. As a fan of horror movies, I admittedly got a thrill from being scared. But this was so very different. This was real, and the reality of the situation hit me full in the face the minute the first person ran across the road in front of my car, full of terror from what was chasing her. I don’t even think she saw me; her attention focused solely on trying to get away. She didn’t escape her pursuer, by the way.

Many of them didn’t. It was awful.

As I made my way toward Bathurst, travelling slower than the posted speed limit, I was struck by how quickly the situation had gotten out of hand. Only an hour before, I had been watching the footage in my living room, and now the streets of Toronto were beginning to look like a scene out of Dawn of the Dead; people running in every different direction with the undead chasing after them, cars strewn about the road, abandoned in favour of travelling on foot, and the bodies of those that simply did not make it – the ones that were lucky enough to never rise again.

The strident chime of my cellphone startled both Gavin and I. Forgetting that I had it tucked into my purse, it’s ringing unnerved me. Thinking that I didn’t want to pick it up only to be begged by a friend for salvation, I checked the display before connecting. My mother. Worse.

“Hi Mom. I really can’t-“

“Vivienne, please tell me you’re with Gavin? I can’t get him on the phone.”

“Yes, Mom, Gavin is with me. We’re on our way out the city so I really can’t talk at the moment.”

“Hand the phone to Gavin and concentrate on driving.”

“Hi Mom.” A pause followed as Gavin listened to our mother. “Yes Mom.”

More silence.

“Okay, Mom. I’ve got it.”

A longer pause.

“Yes Mom, I love you too. Tell Dad I love him.” A small pause, “Okay, I got it. Sheesh Mom. I’m not stupid you know.”

A smaller pause.

“Okay Mom, I’m hanging up. Bye!”

A small, short tone signalled that Gavin had disconnected from our mother. The funny thing about their conversation is that I know exactly what my mother was saying on the other end. Do this, don’t do that. It was always the same thing; parents never truly believe their children can survive without their guidance. We’d gotten this far hadn’t we?

“Mom says to head straight to the high school.”

“What?” I honestly hadn’t been expecting that.

“She said to go straight to the high school.”

“Yes, Gavin, I heard what you said, I just don’t understand why.”

“She said something about a failsafe plan from the Forties. If she thinks that some old bomb shelter in the basement of the high school is going to save us from what’s happening, I think she’s finally gone completely crazy!”

“The Forties? She actually said the Forties? Geez, they are really losing it up ther-”

A hand smacked up against the window next to my face and I screamed, involuntarily jerking the car to the right and scraping up the side of a Civic parked on the street. Glancing right for a moment, I could see that I had pinned a body to the Civic, grinding flesh into the paint of both cars as I inched forward. I slowed for a moment, debating on what to do. Did the hand belong to someone who needed help? What about the person that I had pinned? I looked left only to be rewarded with a grimacing face, stuck in the act of mastication, covered in blood and macerated tissue. The sight made me cower away, pressing my foot a little harder on the accelerator; the body to my right forgotten in my haste to escape.

Leaving the scene behind as a reminder of what we didn’t want to become, we slowly made our way out the city. It was a long drive up Bathurst, one that should not have taken us five and half hours, but given the state of the roads and the top speed at which I could drive, we were lucky to get out at all. We left the living and the dead behind us, but managed to bring some of the undead north with us, at least part of the way. They followed us because we were moving and only dropped off when they found an attainable, slower moving source of food. I felt like the Pied Piper of Death; the soft hum of my Prius the tune that carried them along. Thinking I would continually look into my rear view mirror and see the trailing horde, I glanced up to find the roadway behind me curiously empty of mobile corpses. Had they decided that chasing us was no longer worthy of their effort? As much as I was glad to see them go, there was something altogether unnerving about being rid of them.

With the loss of our followers came the relative clearing of the roads. This far north, there were fewer cars, and even fewer people. Had they seen the devastation in the city and moved themselves farther out of reach?

Nearing the state of exhaustion, I turned right onto Bloomington and was thankful that my parents were less than an hour away. I wasn’t sure how long it would take us to get into Uxbridge, but with the roads appearing to be less congested, I was confident it wouldn’t be too arduous a drive from here.

As we drove along, my brother kept an eye out for anything that may have slowed us down. It was dark by then, and if you’ve never been driving through a rural community at night, you cannot truly appreciate the depth of the darkness. There were times that we travelled underneath street lights where other roads transected the one we were on, but the dampened glow of their fixtures only penetrated so far.

We moved more quickly along the road. It was odd at first, to see the roads relatively devoid of cars and people, but I quickly chalked it up to people having the foresight to leave and not get caught up in the pandemonium. I also knew that the five and a half million people living in the most densely populated regions of the GTA would keep the Zombies busy for as long as they were still moving. That presented yet another threat, since many would attempt to leave the city if they could, bringing the hordes with them into the outlying areas.

In the distance, I could see the 404 as it stretched over Bloomington. I could see the illumination of the vehicles pointed north and the shadows of black that caused the headlights to flicker. Gridlock on the bridge under which I would have to pass. Was the flickering of the lights indicative of them?

The car slowed slightly in response to the subtle panic that was welling within my throat. Gavin grabbed my hand, a small reminder that we had a destination and that thankfully, I was not alone.

Setting my shoulders back into my seat, I accelerated with resolve. If the bridge was full of Zombies leaving the city, I certainly didn’t want to be a sitting duck for them. Approaching the bridge, you could make out the faintly jerky movements of the undead. They had followed the exodus of cars northward. It was hard to tell if they were actually finding victims or only terrorizing those still locked in their cars. With traffic at a complete standstill and the bodies of the dead walking alongside the cars, I was sure that the 404 would become a vehicular graveyard within a few days.

Once you ran out of gas on the highway, there was no way that you would be able to escape. Not with them waiting outside to consume you.

As we passed under the bridge, we could hear the desperate sound of horns. Didn’t they realize honking wasn’t going to help, that it would only draw the undead that were lingering around closer? Exiting on the other side, my brother and I both screamed as a heavy weight dropped onto the roof of my car, accompanied by a sickening crunch of bone. Not wanting to find out what it was, I accelerated quickly, hoping that the increase in speed would be enough to dislodge whatever had landed there.

As we neared the traffic light of the next crosscutting street, I knew that I would have to proceed with caution. There was no telling if any other cars would be careening up the road and I couldn’t risk a crash, especially not this close to the highway that was funneling the Zombies north.

I slowed down, hesitating more than stopping. Gavin and I frantically looked both ways for anything resembling a speeding vehicle. Not seeing anything coming from either direction, I shot my car forward and across each of the four asphalt lanes.

The inertia from the quick acceleration dislodged the passenger from the top of my car. In my rear view mirror, I could make out someone standing in the intersection, the haze from the lights above proving to us that the individual was not dead yet. Stopping my car, thinking to help them in any way that we could, I started to reverse. It was at that exact moment that a large, yellow SUV plowed them down, likely mistaking them for one of the Zombies, or past the point of caring who they hurt in their haste.

The guilt overwhelmed me for just a moment. Someone had risked their life to ask for help and what had I done? Nothing.

“There was nothing you could do Viv… You had no way of knowing that what dropped onto the car was still alive. You can’t beat yourself up over one death at this point, because if you did, you’d have to think of all the people we left behind in the city-”

“Okay that last part is not helping. Let’s just get to Mom and Dad. We can figure out what to do after that, deal?”

“Deal.”

The rest of the drive was uneventful. We saw few cars and those that we did see, were all heading north. I considered them the lucky ones, the ones that managed to get out. Of course we had no way of knowing if any of them had a plan other than to get out of the city or if they were travelling with anyone that had been infected. From what I had witnessed earlier, it didn’t take long for the infection to spread once you were bitten, but then what did I know?

As we neared the outskirts of Uxbridge, we could see that most of the town was bereft of people. There were some random cars filling up at one of the three service stations that we passed but other than that, it was a ghost town. Making our way deeper into town, we saw no one. Not even police cruisers patrolling the streets.

Turning onto Brock Street, Gavin glanced up at the façade of the town library. From the clock tower draped a fabric sign: Report to the High School Immediately.

“How are they going to fit all of the residents into the High School? That’s got to be twenty or twenty-one thousand people…”

“What are you talking about Gavin?”

“The sign. It says ‘Report to the High School’.”

“Seriously? What are Mom and Dad getting us into?”

As we continued up the street, we could see the bright lights over the treetops. Coming over the last hill, the sight before us was impressive.

Barriers as high as twenty feet had been erected all around the high school with lights that shone into the sky as well as onto the ground. Armed guards stood along the top of the walls, each of them watching a different direction. I parked my car on the street and Gavin and I both got out, our jaws slightly agape at the sight before us.

One of the guards had noticed our approach and trained his rifle on us. The action didn’t worry me; I knew that I was uninfected.

“Identify yourselves.”

“I’m Vivienne Wilson and this is my brother Gavin. Is that you Steve? Steve Grant?”

“Vivienne Wilson? I haven’t seen you since High School! How are you?”

“I’ve been better, to be perfectly honest… Is it possible for us to come in?”

“As long as you’re willing to undergo a complete physical examination, the answer to that question is yes.”

“Whatever it takes for you to let us inside, Steve.”

With that, the door built into the side of the imposing structure opened and two men came out, both of them carrying rifles aimed directly at us. Leading us inside, we were stopped in an area that was completely sealed off from the rest of the interior.

Ordered to undress, we did exactly what that. There were no privacy screens, but to be honest, I didn’t even care. I was more concerned about getting into the compound and finding my parents.

“They’re both clean. Unlock the inner door.”

After hastily putting our clothes back on, we entered the compound which hummed with activity. Gavin and I stared in awe as we saw what had become of our high school. The façade itself had been reinforced with steel plates and the second story roof was newly equipped with mounted machine guns, solar panels and the hint of glass enclosures. It was quite the change from my days of classes, band practice, and student government. Noticing that Steve had come down from his post along the wall, we walked over to where he stood.

“So what do you think of the changes?”

“It’s different, that’s for sure. Why are there all of these changes, these additions? When did all of this work happen, Steve?”

“Well, after the Mayor received the letter in 1945, the plans began shortly after. Most of what you see was implemented from the plans today.”

“Letter?”

“Yes, but we can get to all of that once I’ve shown you around. Let’s get to it.”

Steve led us in through the interior of the school and gave us the grand tour starting with main level. The front offices had been transformed into Command Central, complete with computers, television screens, telephones, short wave radios, and a radio telegraph machine for Morse code. Both Gavin and I stared in shock at the set up.

“Do either of you have any skill on a CB radio or know Morse code?”

We both shook our heads, unable to express ourselves in words. The cafeteria was next, then the Wood Shop where there were men and women hard at work creating all sorts of things. Each of the classrooms along the lower level had been transformed into different types of manufacturing areas. In one, there was a variety of different aged people putting together various types of bullets; in another, men and women stitched large bolts of cloth into what looked like clothing, blankets and other assorted items.

Climbing the stairs, I couldn’t help but wonder how they had gotten everything together in such a short period of time. It was only earlier in the day that the ship had crashed up against Queen’s Quay. “How did you get all of this together in such a short time span?”

“This has taken years, Vivienne. You’ll understand better when you’ve read the letter.”

The upstairs classrooms had been converted into bunk rooms while the science labs remained as classrooms. It was an awesome sight; my former high school had been transformed into a self-sustaining community. Everywhere we went, there were people; working, talking, being kids.

Next, Steve took us into the basement, showing us the biggest surprise of all. In the old part of the school, the part that had been built in 1923, the gymnasium had been located on the bottom level, and while we had been attending the school, the 76th Regiment of the Army Cadets had used the space for their meetings, drills, and storage. Only a select few knew what had been secretly taking place behind the large double doors set into the far wall.

Not only was it a stockpile of preserved goods, equipment, and every other supply you could possible think of, but there were also water filtration systems, generators, and batteries for storing solar power. The cavernous room stretched as far as the eye could see, with doors that led off like the spokes of a wheel in each direction.

“What’s behind all of the doors?”

Gavin asked the question as he looked around, his eyes as wide as saucers. Taking in the entire room was difficult; trying to wrap my head around the complexity of what we were being shown was harder. Steve’s reply floored us even more.

“Everything. A completely self-sustaining environment designed to allow the citizens of Uxbridge Township the ability to live underground for a lengthy period of time should the need arise. The plans for the compound started in the forties, just after the war and have continued to expand and diversify since then. It was built piece by piece and updated as new technologies became available. There are a number of other compounds like this that we know about; other communities that took the letter to heart as well.”

“What’s this letter you keep referring to?”

“There will be time for that in a moment, I think there are some people who would like to say hello first.”

With that, Gavin and I turned to see our parents, both of them aged beyond their years since we last saw them.

“Thank the Lord you both made it!”

My mother enveloped the two of us into a hug, while my dad hung back, never being the demonstrative type, even in a crisis. Breaking contact with my mother, I turned back to Steve.

“Okay, I want to know all about this letter. What did someone say that would have provoked such a response in Uxbridge of all places?”

“Oh, it’s not just Uxbridge. There’s a network of five hundred and forty-two compounds similar to this built in towns and municipalities across Canada; each one of them self-sustaining and ready for any number of disasters.”

“Five hundred and forty-two? Seriously? That must have been some letter…”

“It was. Are you ready to understand why this place exists?”

“Absolutely!”

Steve led us out of the stockpile and up the stairs into what had been the main entrance to the school for sixty years. The walls of the entrance had always paid homage to the men and women who lost their lives during the Second World War. I had looked at the bronze plaques many times, reading the names and wondering who they might have been, silently acknowledging the sacrifices they made. It was an austere section of the school and one that most students treated with respect.

As I looked at the wall of bronzed plaques, I could see that an addition to the lineup had recently been made. Etched in striking relief were these words:

TOP SECRET

August 23, 1945

With the defeat of the Axis powers, the declassification of TOP SECRET documents out of the Soviet Union has created a situation unlike any we have ever encountered. Scientists, at the behest of their government, sought to create a biological weapon that would sway the tides in favour of the Allied Forces. With that creation, came a very serious threat to mankind. The biological weapon that was created has proven to have grave consequences; a very serious and fatal threat to the very world we have been trying to protect. All samples have been destroyed but the lasting effect on the populace remains to be seen. One small town in the north of the Soviet Union was wiped out; eradicated in an effort to stem the sweeping sickness that would have taken root. The Russians could not have known what they were going to achieve and as a result, many had to die for the knowledge they attained.

We were lucky this time, but no one knows if the threat has been truly vanquished. With this missive, I beseech you all to take heed and protect yourselves against what could be a coming threat. The best advice that I can offer at this time is to prepare yourselves against an enemy that is heartless, tireless and quite frankly, dead. If this weapon were to be unleashed upon the world again, I fear that humanity will quickly fall and be eradicated.

Take heed, and maybe, just maybe, we will persevere.

Sincerely,

Georges Vanier, Canadian Ambassador to France

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