Chapter One—In which a good man dies.
Report into the Infection of Jackson City
Location: MediPharm Inc. Production Plant, Jackson City, U.S.A
Plant Function: The manufacture, storage, distribution and disposal of several key components used by MediPharm Inc. These products are used in the medication, medical diagnostic equipment and the research and development departments of MediPharm. These products aid in the expansion of MediPharm Inc. The plant also serves a secondary purpose of storing the research of Doctor Jonathan Stone in a secure section near the southern loading bay of the plant.
Reporter: Edwin Smolts, Overall Chief of Security for MediPharm Inc.
Yesterday, the twenty second of August, Mr. George Goodwin, Chief Manager of the Jackson City Production Plant received a Priority One distress call from Michael Parsons, a Senior Shipment Manager at the aforementioned plant.
Mr Parsons was complaining of flu like symptoms, along with various other ailments that included "legs that felt like lead and then jelly," and "skin crawling with ants." It was determined that the research of Dr. Stone had leaked into the main facility following an explosion at said facility earlier that day. All other employees at the plant were placed under quarantine at the MediPharm run hospital, but were later discharged, having no symptoms. A recall of these employees is now underway. The main plant itself was sterilised in accordance with section Thirty-One-B of the storage code after several security personnel who went to accompany Mr. Parson's to the hospital failed to report to the waiting ambulance.
Edwin Joseph Smolts,
Chief of Security.
(Jackson City Production Plant—22nd August)
The rain fell in great, drenching sheets. It hammered on the roof of the production plant with a heavy drumming sound, giving Michael Parsons a headache. It didn't help that he had just worked an eighteen hour day trying to clear a backlog of shipments that was caused when the southern loading bay having gone up in flames due to a faulty gas pipe that had exploded the night before. He had come in at five o'clock that morning to find most of the staff were still in the hospital and that only one new guys was there to help him. It also didn't help that he was working with a GOD DAMN amateur, or that the amount of caffeine he had taken was giving him palpitations. Now, to top it all off, he was coming down with pains in his legs and a bad sweat, like the flu.
Michael was a "Senior Shipment Manager" with MediPharm Inc., which was just a fancy title for the most senior forklift driver at the company's largest production plant on the west coast. Now, as he stared at the twenty crates before him, he came to a decision. He would use his seniority and get the lazy prick he was working with to load them up—and maybe get him to hurry up with the load he was meant to have up here nearly half an hour ago. Picking up his walkie-talkie he barked:
"Brendan, get your scrawny butt down here."
"Brendan, I told you, get the hell down here."
Again, silence. Then, a noise that was part way between a cough and a gurgle broke the silence on the other end of the walkie-talkie.
"Brendan, you there?"
Back to the silence. If Michael remembered right, Brendan was down near the southern loading bay. Some of the stock down there was still salvageable. Looking at the waiting truck driver, Michael called out:
"Be back in ten, Larry. Just going to see what is taking this guy so long. Help yourself to the local tar."
Larry just nodded, and meandered over to the coffee machine in the small office hidden in a corner, pulling out a pack of cigarettes as he went.
Putting his foot down so that the ancient fork lift chugged towards the loading bay at its top speed, Michael started to curse under his breath. He was meant to be on holidays and spending time with his grandson- he wanted to get to know the boy. Also, it was his way of trying to make up with his daughter Lizzy. She had gotten pregnant at age fourteen, and Michael had not spoken to her for years, and had not acknowledged his grandson at all. He regretted it now. Call him selfish, but after his wife died and his son moved away, Michael realised what a moron he had been.
He was less than a minute away from the loading bay when he was hit with a wave of dizziness so bad; he nearly crashed into the metal guard rails that separated the narrow walk space for people on foot from the main thorough fair used by the forklifts. By the time Michael recovered from the dizziness, he was covered in a thin layer of sweat. The loading bay was in sight, and so was Brendan's forklift. It was parked just shy of the yellow tape the fire department had put up, a palate of labelled goods on the prongs, but Brendan was nowhere to be seen.
Getting slowly out of the cab of his own forklift, Michael's legs crumpled beneath him. He lay on his back, breathing heavily through his nose and sounding like an angry bull. Slowly, painfully, he rolled over and managed to get to his knees. Then he vomited—a great projectile of blood that splattered in a wide arch around him and dribbled down the front of his white coveralls. His head ached, and then Michael was hit with a sudden pain in his stomach, like a white hot knife had been jabbed into his gut. Michael did not know how long he lay on his side, but when he finally came to his senses, he could hear Larry's voice. It was far off and calling for him.
Gasping for breath, Michael got to his feet, and started to walk towards the other forklift. It was then he caught sight of Brendan. He was lying with his back against the front wheel of his forklift, right beneath the palate. He wasn't moving. The front of his overalls was drenched with blood. His skin had a grey tinge to it.
Michael coughed. Some more blood trickled from his mouth. Brendan stirred. Michael took no notice. Instead, he dragged his mobile phone from his pocket and dialled a number. His legs and arms felt like lead. He felt drunk. The world swam before his eyes and his balance was off.
After five rings someone answered Michaels call. Michael quickly explained the situation to the plant manager, and was told not to worry, that several of the plants employees had complained of exactly the same thing earlier on in the day and had now been discharged from hospital, and then the plant manager hung up, but not before he told Michael that he would ring the front security desk and get the guards on duty to call an ambulance and then come get him and Brendan. Michael didn't even have the energy to get pissed off with the way his boss acted. Instead, his head lolled back and he groaned.
He managed to stagger towards his forklift. There was a faint scuffling sound behind him, but Michael took no notice. The pipes were always having trouble, and with the explosion earlier on, there was bound to be some loose debris and pipe trouble. How had the company kept the factory open? He staggered towards the cab, and levered himself into the cab, and there was a smell in the air. A sickly sweet smell, like the deodorants his daughter once used. Michael had smelt it earlier, just after the explosion, but now it was stronger. It stuck to the inside of his mouth and throat, coating it, making Michael gag again. Whatever was wrong with him, he was getting worse.
He didn't remember the drive back to the loading bay, just Larry running towards him. He staggered out of the cab and Larry caught him. He was been held up by his armpits. He had no legs. He was just a torso in a stained overall. His thanks to Larry for holding him up was to vomit blood into his face. He dropped to his knees, and then toppled onto his back. Larry was backing away from him, blinded by the blood, and he didn't see Brendan waiting for him until his arms closed around him and his teeth sank into his neck.
The security guards had arrived by now, and were firing their weapons at Brendan, who did not seem affected by the gunfire. Larry falling, Brendan staggering towards the security guards, a searing pain behind his eyeballs, and then blackness engulfed Michael.
Seventeen year old Andrew Parsons climbed out of the swimming pool and sighed with contentment. He looked at the figure in the school pool and smiled. He felt happy. He could feel it- that this year the Jackson City High School Swimming Team was going to win again for the third year running. True, the school year had not officially started and they needed to hold tryouts, but Andrew was confident.
Andrew Parsons did not fit most people's image of a swimmer. They always assumed he was a football player, with his tall, broad frame and large muscles, but Andrew had always loved to swim, just as much as he loved rebuilding cars, riding motorcycles and listing to heavy metal music. He grabbed a towel, and started to dry his shaggy brown hair while he walked towards the changing rooms, his mind already planning ahead for tomorrow.
He was coming into the school and meeting the janitor and principle to plan for the upcoming open day the school was holding, and then his grandfather, Michael, was taking him out fishing. Andrew was nervous about that. It would be the first time in twelve years he would be spending time with his grandfather. If his mother had not asked him to do it, he would have said no. A voice brought him out of his thoughts. It looked like Carlos had dragged himself out of the pool. One wall of the swimming area was windows, and Andrew could make out his reflection- deep copper hair, dark brown eyes and a tan- staring back at him. He could also make out another figure approaching him.
"Hey Drew," said Carlos, looking like an innocent Latino elf with a six pack. His normally curly hair was plastered to his head. "Still worried about meeting your granddad?"
Andrew only nodded. His face was sullen. Carlos took his hand and intertwined their fingers, his eyes shining with concern.
"You'll be ok, man. It's not the end of the world if he doesn't show up," Carlos said softly. He studied Andrews's face, before leaning forward and kissing him softly.
The Jackson City Production Plant burned with great intensity, billowing black smoke high into the sky. Two figures stood on the road outside the perimeter fence stared at the building silently. Finally, the shorter of the two men spoke.
"There is a very high probability that the infection has reached the city."
"Inform Headquarters. Then being city wide quarantine. The Chief of Police is on our payroll, he won't argue if it means the money will keep coming."
Lying in a ditch beside the road, Larry the truck driver just managed to stop himself moaning in pain as the two figures started to move away. He had just made it out before the two figures had torched the place. He had grabbed the first aid kit out of his truck and hid in the drain. He checked his watch. Half eleven. He could make it back to the city within half an hour if he took the forest trail.
Authors note: This is a re-write of my earlier story The End! If you like, review, if not, a review will still be welcome. If you like me to continue, well, you know the drill.