Once Rupert left them alone, the couple shared a long lingering hug. Carmen felt Doug’s muscles relax from the strain that had started only a few hours before, but knew there was still a lot of tension contracting his muscles.
Life hadn’t been easy for anyone since CuitCorp had released its newest vaccine. Meant to stop the resurgence of the Small Pox virus, it had mutated and single-handed decimated the world’s population.
But don’t think for a moment it happened overnight.
In the beginning everything was good. Small Pox was eradicated, again and the medical community breathed a collective sigh of relief—one more pandemic staved off. What they didn’t know, what they couldn’t have known, was that the vaccine would change years after it had helped to save the world. That it laid in wait, waiting for the right trigger to flip its switch.
People didn’t change at first, and it wasn’t like an apocalyptic cull where they died in droves while no one could figure out what was wrong.
It was meant to be calculated and deliberate. A way for a terrorist faction to lay waste to their enemies. But they hadn’t been prepared for Mother Nature’s twist.
The vaccine had been designed with a kill switch of sorts—something in its DNA that would allow it to turn back on and then slowly cause the death of the people whose tissues it infected. Painfully.
They hadn’t even gotten the chance to flip the switch. Mother Nature did it for them and with a very different outcome than the one they’d imagined. Some died fairly quickly, the new virus taking only a few months to kill them. They were the lucky ones. They didn’t come back.
Others weren’t so lucky. Newly mutated strains now living inside their hosts killed faster—better—but with a staggering difference. The virus didn’t want to die, it didn’t want to wallow in a dead host. So it figured out how to increase its longevity a hundredfold.
If it kept the host moving, it could propagate itself without the looming worry of its own death.
And that was the birth of the monsters that now roamed the streets in increasing numbers. The living were sorely outnumbered and those who’d never received the vaccine were among the minority.
Some tried to end it early, tried to save the world from what they would become and it was valiant, altruistic. Many more simply sat down and waited to die, knowing there was nothing they could do, nothing they wanted to do.
The world had been brought to its knees and while the scientists worked hard to stop the tide, it was too little too late… The day of reckoning was upon them.
“Do you think they’ll let us stay?” Doug asked, small slivers of fear leaching into his voice.
“I don’t know honey,” Carmen said as she rubbed is back, soothing him like she used to with Katy. The memory stung her, bringing hot tears to her eyes, her hand stopping mid-swirl. “I have a feeling they’re pretty tight here and probably not open to newcomers. But at least we’ve got a place to stay for the night. If they want us out, it’ll be easier to find somewhere new in the daylight. Let’s see if we can’t get some rest, okay?”
They lay down on the bed in the adjoining room, each of them trying to relax enough for sleep. The events of the past few hours had exhausted them, and within a few moments of their heads hitting the musty pillows, they were asleep.
And in their slumber, they didn’t hear as the door to the apartment swung silently open and the figure entered the room. It watched them for a while, noting the faces still etched with stress. Then it left as quietly as it came, leaving the door to the hallway partly open in welcome.
All rights reserved © 2014 Julianne Snow