While Chloe, Damian, and Charlie were winding down for the night, and sleeping, across the country, in a small little apartment, Mark Wassermann poured himself a glass of excellent scotch he would never be able to afford on his meager freelance writer salary.
Mark’s partner, Adam, had sent the large bottle of 30-year scotch, with a small note by way of apology for their fight the night previously.
For the lack of drinks, and for putting up with me,
I love you,
Hardly an overly sentimental note, but Mark knew it was quite the apology, considering how foolish the fight had been. Adam had been in town, and had promised Mark an evening of drinks at a new bar, rumored to be a pretty magical little place. Adam had insisted on stopping at a friend’s engagement party for a few drinks beforehand, “To save some money, pregame!”, Adam had said with a false youthfulness his stressful job would never allow him to actually say with sincerity. Still, Mark had gone along with it, and when the event planner informed the two that the mother of the groom had canceled the bar, and the only drinks available were the handful of bottles they had managed to rummage together from last minute arriving guests stopping by nearby stores: Mark had been angry.
This kind of predicament irritated him more than it should have, but he and Adam had been bickering about a story Mark desperately wanted to chase, so the fight had been coming anyways. Still, a foolish fight, even if it had been about the story, but a foolish fight they had endured enough times to know how it always played out.
Mark had a secret obsession with a vaguely conspiracy type story, an entire world really, and whenever a lead would crop up, he wanted to do the story. A frequent story of many writers in the field, but the problem that made it all worse, was Adam’s career. Adam was the lead anchor for a major network, always breaking the best stories, and was one of the few people let in on an actual big conspiracy type secret.
Adam and Mark had bonded over this secret, since so few people knew of it, but Adam could never help or even allow, when their jobs crossed over, Mark to break these stories. Mark ended up doing no small number of stories in magazines and papers, never about the in-depth material he had an entire locked room of research dedicated to. Because the conspiracy theory Mark was obsessed with wasn’t a theory, it was real. But he was locked out, by everyone, even his partner.
Mark made okay money as a freelance writer, barely affording a small two-bedroom apartment in a not horrible part of Queens, and living fairly okay, because he was a great writer. Mark was the writer you called when you needed a massive story, on a small deadline. Mark could not only find an interesting angle on the dullest of topics, but he could research those topics to a fine degree, and convey much of the information quickly, and in an entertaining way.
Mark was featured in many major publications, with a large portfolio covering a range of topics. Mark had done exhaustive essays on many branches of science, literature, music, technology, and it led to a great back collection of research on his many hard drives, which were also stored in his locked second bedroom. Mark had allowed Adam into the room, less than a handful of times, and Adam had been blown away by the comprehensive way Mark had pieced together the puzzle that Adam knew was so well hidden.
Mark had documented things that no one on the inside was aware of, things no one knew happened. Mark knew of things people “in the know” didn’t know, on his own, from his own research and investigative efforts, but still was never given the official access to even know the information was truthful, and that was at the core of Mark and Adam’s relationship. The thing the bonded the most over, also separated them, and sometimes, that came out in stupid fights about a lack of drinks at a budget friendly engagement party.
All of this, of course, made Mark all the more surprised when a beautiful wooden box arrived at the door, with a large bottle of 30-year scotch, complete with a set of glasses, scotch rocks, and a large package of Mark’s favorite loose leaf rolling tobacco for rolling his own cigarettes, since he was known to smoke when drinking.
Mark had received the gift earlier in the day, and had placed the scotch rocks in the freezer, but when he felt the cold air outside, opted for a neat scotch in one of the beautiful crystal glasses. Mark took a sip of the delicious scotch, letting the delicate smoky notes dance on his tongue to a symphony of oak inspired music.
Sighing, knowing that he had to forgive Adam, the scotch was simply that good, Mark removed one of his rolling papers and rolled up a cigarette. Mark snapped a picture of the scotch and cigarette, sending it to Adam, sans a message, so he would have it before he went on air for the late broadcast.
Mark left the news playing on his flat screen and walked outside to his small fire escape to smoke his cigarette and sip his scotch. Mark wondered idly if Adam would respond before his segment began in a few minutes, and watch the pretty girl they had recently employed for the weather, struggle through some rather large words that basically amounted to, “It’s going to be really damn cold,” and shivered as the cold front she spoke up moved in rapidly.
The cold front was shooting across the country, with snow expected in much of the country, and snow anticipated for areas that rarely saw it. Mark reached inside and grabbed his heavy black pea coat, the one he had thrown at the window the night before when fighting with Adam, and slid it on to fend off the cold wind. The scotch, after a few more sips, did the work Mark’s jacket wasn’t, and before long, Mark was warming up enough to enjoy his cigarette, and he lit it.
A plane flew overhead, and Mark eyed the plane, noncommercial flight, probably some rich person, flying west. Mark shrugged as his phone buzzed in his pocket, and with cold fingers, Mark removed his phone to see a message from Adam.
“One more apology coming, a good one.” The message said. This puzzled Mark, who was already fairly impressed with Adam’s admission of fault, and guilt ridden high class gift.
Another apology? Mark’s chest soared, wondering if maybe Adam was blowing off the news that evening to fly out to see him, but laughed at himself when he saw Adam’s exceptionally handsome face on his TV. Mark wondered what the apology would be while he watched Adam do a light-hearted introduction for the evening, introducing the evening’s agenda for the program. A few key speakers, one that Mark suspected was on the inside of the conspiracy, so he wondered if maybe that was the treat Adam was alluding to.
The program wore on, and Adam sipped his scotch, stepping back inside to turn up the TV so he could hear it from his balcony, and roll another cigarette, Mark watched as an olive skinned man with dark black hair, named Florence Simonton, spoke with Adam about the odd weather patterns that had been observed by satellite, but nothing that would help Mark prove Florence was involved, despite his feeling that he was, and the segment ended, giving way to another reported discussing some turmoil in some European country.
Mark’s phone buzzed again, a simple smiling face emoji from Adam. Mark sent him a message back, “I don’t know how you can improve on this buzz, but I am interested,” and looked out on the city. The cold wind was blowing through the alley of the buildings, the shiver shaking him. He thought about his friend, Elizabeth, and wondered how her patio plants would fare in this weather.
Elizabeth made healthy living writing, much like Mark, but writing about gardening, namely inside gardening. It baffled Mark, but he had to admit her writing was top notch, and he knew he would check her blog in a week to see how her plants were doing, and further still, Mark would end up learning something he didn’t know, something that always happened with Elizabeth’s writing. Mark held her in high regard because of this, and because she made as much as he did, on one topic, and was such an excellent writer. Elizabeth lived in a small apartment, no elevator like his building, but with a large fire escape for her garden, but was getting ready to move to Manhattan.
Mark’s phone started ringing, shaking his thoughts from his friend, and he saw Adam was calling.
“Hey” Mark answered.
“So, I will have another package delivered tomorrow. I hope it helps with the apology.” Adam said with a smile in his voice.
“More presents, I love it already. We should fight with me sober much more often.” Mark replied dryly.
“Well, the bottle I sent has a cork, so it can travel. I would suggest washing some clothes.” Informed Adam.
“Why?” Asked Mark, his brain switching on.
“I got a story for you, a great paying, long term assignment, which gets you on the shortlist for the credentials you want.”
Mark was silent for a moment, the blood pumping to his ears. Adam had never once even hinted at getting him credentials. He had explained that they were classified as need to know, so only when your stories involved hiding the truth, or, working with the government on the conspiracy, were you in the need to know group. Adam had it because some in the media were needed, if nothing else, to help keep the people of the world safe. Mark wanted it to at least know he wasn’t crazy, and also to hopefully blow the world wide open.
Adam knew all of this, and yet, here he was, telling Mark that he had a story that would get him on a shortlist for the credentials to be had full time. That’s a big story, and probably one that would involve a lot of time. Time, and as it appeared, travel.
“What’s…the story?” Asked Mark skeptically as he sipped the scotch.
“Well, that’s the thing. You have to agree to only give the story to a set group. Only the broadcast audience.”
“Color me intrigued. How credentialed do I get if I agree?” Asked Mark, who had always wondered how this would work.
“If you sign document that is arriving tomorrow, your contract, you will be handed a credential pass for the duration of the story, not to be revoked upon completion.”
“But if it is only for the duration of the story, why would I worry about revoking it at the end?”
Adam sighed. “Instead of ensuring you don’t leak, you are allowed to keep the information, and we will be willing to reconsider the privileges of your stories to allow you to keep the need to know status.”
Mark considered this information. Mark has always wanted those privileges. Mark knew if he had them he could access information he currently couldn’t, webpages he couldn’t access, books he couldn’t read…For Mark, the world had been one big library in which he could never get a restricted section pass for. Adam was now offering him the pass, but they both knew what that would mean.
“I won’t be able to tell the people the truth.” Mark said quietly.
“Actually,” Said Adam with a brighter voice. “Your job is to tell the complete truth, because you are the only contact with the outside world. Because of the nature of the mission, however, you can only report to the area we give you.”
Mark considered this, wondering what missing information he didn’t have, because the very nature of this sounded silly. You can’t just have a broadcast of information for one area, because even if you could target it in such an isolated way, people can always share the information. Mark was never one for “exposing” the truth, he merely wanted it out there, for others to find if they wanted it. After a moments consideration, Mark replied to Adam.
“Yeah, I’ll sign it. Send it.” Answered Mark.
“Good. This is going to be a tricky one, but I think you will…I think you will like it.” Said Adam with a noticeable degree of hesitation, before wishing Mark a goodnight and rushing back to the production offices to relay the message to his boss.
Mark thought about all of this, and finished his scotch, and poured another. The cold was picking up, but he smoked another cigarette before going inside. Following Adam’s advice, Mark starting scooping up his dirty laundry from around his apartment, and filled his hamper, before finally starting a load of laundry.
Embarrassingly, Mark realized all of his clothing was dirty, so Mark quickly found himself standing in a pile of laundry sorting out his most worn items to ensure his favorite clothes were at least clean by morning. Mark washed clothing most of the night, and finally fell asleep around dawn. It was a short three-hour nap before Mark heard the buzzer that notified him that his package had arrived. Bleary eyed, Mark opened his door and accepted the clipboard a delivery man was holding. First, Mark signed for the large box the man had, which Mark clumsily got into his apartment, and then he opened the heavy folder that held his contract.
“Two copies, bottom copy for you.” The guy told Mark who eyed the text quickly. Mark found the credentials page, dismissing pages of other crap, and after checking that the contentions of his privileges were the same as Adam had explained, he signed and accepted the large manila envelope from the man.
Mark closed the door behind him and grabbed a butcher knife from the kitchen to cut into the tape of the box. A beautiful, and quite large, deep royal blue suitcase greeted him first, and Mark removed the handsome suit case. He could tell it had things in it, but he also noticed plenty of smaller boxes and a black camera case.
Mark dug out the boxes, and opened the camera. Two small, very high quality cameras for video, and two small, but high quality, digital cameras. A sleek silver laptop joined these items, one of the cardboard boxes was filled with USB drives, another with cables, so Mark assumed much of the rest of the box was supporting tech stuff, so he opened the large suitcase.
Inside, Mark found a note from Adam, sealed, that said “For later” and Mark set it aside. Packages of Mark’s favorite socks, underwear, and undershirts, were neatly stacked, along with several warm clothing items, including gloves, a hat, and scarf, all black. A matching toiletries bag revealed a healthy assortment of his favorite products and travel tools, and even included a small first aid kit. A sleek moleskin journal was also inside the suitcase, prompting Mark to open the manila envelope that contained his copy of the contract, as well as some information on his story, which obviously involved travel.
The title page informed him of a small city out west called Flake City, a small, highly isolated town economically strong and supported by a powerful research and development company. The town of over 100,000 people was only really accessible by plane or by one bridge into the city, surrounded on three sides with water, and on the back part of the city, a massive mountain range that kept much of the city in the shade for most of the day.
Surprisingly, the town had grown, and even thrived, much in part to the jobs brought in by the large company. The large R&D company paid great wages and employed many in the city on a wide range of jobs, leading to many other industries, including food, retail, even arts. The city, it appeared, was very well isolated, which is why it was easy to isolate it when things were going wrong, which apparently, they were.
The city would be totally isolated by Government quarantine, by the time Mark arrived, however, Mark would be allowed closer to the city then anyone. Marks job was to inform the people of the city about the situation, and give them any information that could keep them alive.
The situation, Mark had trouble believing, and while he read the quickly composed document, he poured himself another scotch, his disbelief mounting.
Adam had texted him, giving him the number of his driver for the day, and wished him luck in his travels. Mark tossed several empty notebooks into his backpack and then grabbed his key to his second bedroom from his keychain. He would need a few of his own things, he thought, if he was right about his hunch regarding the story.
Flake City, it appeared, was already in a bit of a blackout, with all the intelligent content being blocked. What this meant was that no one in the city could do much more then view content, like watch videos, or see what was happening around the world, but with no ability to comment, or have their information sent out, at all, from the city.
Mark read and reread the information regarding his black out, shocked that the government was even able to do something so elegant, explaining that some people stayed inside and were safe merely because they were online messing around on video games or movies, despite no information being given. Mark continued to read as he gathered up his condensed notebooks of information, the ones he carried with him to keep all the info he felt most important with him, and grabbed his hard drives.
Mark had a system when he was leaving, to always have his major discoveries about the room contents, with him, and the backups in two separate safety deposit boxes no one was aware of, and one he told people about. The document he read explained that a “Flake City News” Channel had been set up for him online that would broadcast into the city, so residents could choose to watch if they wished. Mark laughed to himself at the very dark notion that he would still have to try and get an audience, even in a disaster zone.
Mark poured another glass even though he should have probably grabbed coffee, as he turned the page, rereading the information they did have from within the city.
A morgue doctor, Moria, had sent out a few reports to give them information, and that was to be Mark’s first assignment. Mark had a hard time believing the reports that he was reading, but wrote down the contact information for Moria, wondering how he could talk to someone who was in some isolated city, when his phone buzzed, notifying him that his driver would be arriving in twenty minutes.
Mark groaned, knowing he smelled less then pleasant, so he raced to his shower, cleaning himself as fast as he could, drying himself faster, and dressing in his hot from the dryer clothing. Mark toweled off his dark brown and graying hair, and had dressed in a pair of thick warm black pants and a heavy green sweater. Mark grabbed the remaining clothing he had from the dryer, folding a few key articles, and depositing them unceremoniously into his luggage.
Mark quickly packed the cameras away, and after finishing his suitcase, stacked it next to his camera bags, and turned his attention to the backup tech that had been sent in the package, all still in cardboard boxes. Mark was still packing his travel backpack, which he had tossed one of the digital camera packages into, along with a day’s worth of clothing, but he knew the contents contained in the many packages in the bottom of the large box would not fit into it, even if empty.
Mark finally remembered an old traveling trunk he had used in school when filming a documentary, and emptied out his old textbooks from it, checking it for wear and tear. After ensuring that the luggage was still travel friendly, quickly tossed the contents into it, adding a few more notebooks and office supplies from his desk, and slammed the lid shut.
The driver had informed him that they had been instructed to help him carry his luggage, so Mark poured another glass before stashing his scotch in his luggage, and smoked a cigarette in the open window leading to the fire escape while nursing his morning buzz and reading over Moria’s report.
The report was terrifying, and told the tale of a young morgue doctor who was having a terrible day. Moria happened to be well versed in viral outbreaks, but much of her background was missing from Mark’s file. Things had been bad for a while for Moria, who had been sending reports all day and night, being trained in infectious diseases and response, but it had been over 24 hours since her first report was sent.
F Class Sector had finally gotten involved when Moria sent an aggressively worded message complete with pictures and video files, that showed the bodies were coming back to life, but were noticeably not intelligent creatures who could benefit from help. Even that report, was aged 24 hours.
Mark was captivated by the information he was being given, and jumped when a knock came at the door, announcing the arrival of the driver. Mark kept his face in the page as he lifted his backpack up, and asked the skinny kid with dark hair if he would be able to carry the trunk.
“Yeah, no problem.” The kid said, quickly picking it, and one of the camera bags, and making his way to the car. Mark locked his door and followed, trying to continue reading Moria’s details of what she could see from the window.
Once downstairs, the kid placed all the bags in the trunk faster than Mark would have thought possible, and opened the back door behind the passenger seat for Mark to get in. The guy got into the passenger seat, after closing Marks door behind him, informing Mark that he was only a courier for carrying bags.
The driver was wearing an actual drivers cap, with hair tucked into it, a few strands of dark colored hair peaked out, looking nearly purple. As the car zoomed away from the curb, showing that when the media wanted to help a journalist, they sent the A-team of drivers. Mark returned to his file, grateful for a speedy driver who was effortlessly guiding them through the heavy traffic to the airport.
When Mark arrived at the airport, the courier got out of the car and helped unload the bags, while the driver ran inside and summoned a person to come help with the luggage. An attractive looking black man in a dark well-tailored suit approached them, greeting Mark simply, and carried much of the luggage towards the private jet tarmac area. Mark wanted so badly to look around, or at least take a moment to enjoy the highly VIP treatment he was getting, but Moria’s reports were far too fascinating to take his eyes from. The driver never returned, but Mark never noticed.
While his luggage was loaded and Mark was shuttled onto a private jet, he read about the many bodies all coming to life, he read about the many corpses Moria then saw walking in the streets, the fires that broke out, the corpses that attacked the firefighters, the sirens that, from Moria’s perspective, only made things worse.
“I needed food, so I should be glad.” Moria wrote. “when I came up here, I had my bag, with some leftovers, but I knew I couldn’t get home, not with what I could see from my window. Every time the sirens go off, more of the corpses take off towards the siren, so when one of the sirens sounded, I ran to the break room with my bag, and loaded it up with food. The break room doesn’t have a door with a lock, or a bathroom, so I knew I had to hole up in my office, so I loaded my bag with all the food I could find, I stole the first aid kit, and raced back to my office. A few of the corpses were out there, and they attacked me, one actually bit me. Obviously, I am morbid enough to be tracking my injuries, because if it is going to be zombies, we should know about it. Why else would it bite me right? Obviously, my scientific integrity, airs on the side of realism, but documenting whatever the illness is can’t be bad. Besides, what is realistic, really?”
Mark looked around for a flight attendant, and instead saw an empty plane. Mark stood up, setting his paper down, and looked towards the cockpit. He saw a slender female hand flick a few switches on the dash. He knocked on the frame of the cock pit door, and a young female with vividly colored hair turned around to face him.
“Oh! Hi!” She said brightly smiling at him.
“Hi. Uh, sorry, but, does this thing have drink service?”
The pilot laughed, and dug her hand into a messenger bag on the passenger seat. She removed a small bottle of a high-quality vodka.
“I know you want scotch, but I think four is good for now, don’t you?” She said with a wink handing him the bottle. “Mixers are in the back. I think some snacks too, the band left some last time.”
Mark accepted the small bottle, too stunned by this interaction and assessment to say anything back, but mostly grateful for a bar away from her entirely too perceptive eyes, in which he could get a snack. Mark grabbed his papers and made his way towards the back of the plane. A small booth with black vinyl benched decorated with red cherries, sat in the back of the plane. In a large basket, Mark found a healthy assortment of chips and granola bars, along with chocolate bars, crackers, cookies, nuts, and a stack of napkins and plastic cups. In a cabinet above the booth, Mark found a mini fridge tucked away, stocked with bottles of juice, water, and soda. Mark grabbed an orange juice, and a bag of chips, and continued to read bits of Moria’s accounts.
“Sirens have been going off all around town, and from my place up here I can watch the corpses follow the sounds. Interesting how accurately they follow the sound, as well as any human would. The crowds of corpses are bigger, and now there are ones I don’t recall having in the morgue. I wonder if the hospital is over run, I’ve sent messages over there, but haven’t heard anything. I don’t know who is reading these reports of mine, I only get a received receipt. I did, by the way, embed them with a read receipt, which notifies me if someone opens the document. Hoping someone opens this one. My wound is fine, bleeding stopped, no fever, or any other symptom, other than me being scared. A few corpses banged on my door for a bit when they saw me in the window of the door. I hid out of sight, and was really happy for the metal wire reinforcing these windows, which I always thought was very tacky, and eventually they got bored. They did stay during one siren, but that was when they saw me, the next one, a few minutes later, sent them running away. I keep sending out alerts to everyone that these corpses are following the sirens, the ambulances must be enduring certain hells, but they keep running the sirens. I don’t know how to help. Someone should be announcing this.”
Mark thought about this and jotted some notes in the margins of his papers, trying to make sense of his first broadcast he would be doing, he assumed, as soon as he landed, and read on to Moria’s next report.
“Well, my last read receipt came, meaning someone is opening these reports, even if nothing is happening yet. Sirens are still going off all over town, and I have had the horror of watching innocent people being ripped apart by a crowd of what had to be nearly 100 dead bodies that were walking around like evil demented versions of themselves. This is like a horror movie, and I really wish I could express to whoever is reading this, how horrifying it is…I mean, I work in a morgue, it’s not easy to gross me out, but this is madness. I can see smoke all over the city, and the fire trucks are sending their sirens all around town.”
“The corpses follow the sounds, and I’ve now seen two corpses who were wearing firemen’s uniforms. I’ve seen three paramedics. So many lab coats that I have to believe the hospital is over run. When I sneak looks outside, at least one or two corpses end up spotting me, and now there are a few out there, so I am staying away from my door. I barricaded it, but I’m scared. My wound is fine, and I don’t think I will have issue. The wounds I noticed from other corpses showed full necrosis of the skin surrounding the bites and claws. I think if there is a virus involved, some people may be immune, but I also know that I watched someone run away from a corpse, only a little wounded, and that same person is now an empty eyed corpse outside of my door.”
Mark thought about all of this, and wished the reports they had given him included things that were visual. This information was hard to believe without seeing it himself. Mark considered what his first report would be, realizing that as soon as he could be a broadcast into the city, he had to make the information count. Mark read on in the reports.
“It’s getting cold, and I’m glad I have a blanket and pillow in here.” Began Moria’s next report. “I am only getting receipts that say whoever is getting this, is opening these messages, so excuse me if I get a bit informal. Considering I have been sending these reports to every government agency on the listserv that we have, I would assume some one would have taken action, so I am sure I will be excused. The corpses, because I decided to refuse to use the Z word until someone else does, are still active. It’s dark now, and cold, mostly the corpses are outside, but as the temperatures go down, they seem to move towards shelter, so maybe there is some sense of self preservation. I am keeping the lights low, to not draw attention. I am on my laptop in the bathroom, so the computer doesn’t alert anything outside. I don’t know where I can retreat to, considering my bottom floor apartment has a huge row of windows, and I watched these corpses break windows in the building across the way. I can’t quite see the rest of the city from this angle, but I can see all the small businesses in the plaza next to the hospital, and the storefronts are all broken, the corpses are roaming freely. I noticed a corpse in a delivery uniform walk into the storefront that matched the uniform, so maybe they do follow similar habits?”
Mark thought about this girl, huddled in her office bathroom, typing this report, and wondered what kind of horrors she couldn’t bring herself to type out.
“I haven’t noticed them moving any slower with the cold, but it isn’t freezing so I can’t imagine it would hinder a corpse much. I hope I don’t have to wait out until its frozen to escape, because I don’t know where I would go. Have we set up shelters? Surely I am not the only one holed up somewhere, this is a city full of hearty people, big gun owning types, so I have to imagine there are other people who are alive and well, so I wonder where they all are, and I wish I could report that I knew where to go. The internet is still working, I guess? I have searched for news stories, and all our local channels are just displaying the weather. Nothing on the national level, I did send some messages to media pages, but no response. I can’t blame them, who the hell would believe this? I have a webcam on my laptop, so I may try and record stuff tomorrow, because I suppose that may be the best way to help whoever is receiving my reports to help us.”
Mark quickly returned to the cock pit to ask the pilot if he could text.
“Oh yeah, thanks so much for asking!” The pilot said cheerfully, and reached into her bag. She removed a paper wrapped sandwich. “Adam mentioned this was your favorite. Also, he forgot to pack an extra phone charger, so I thought you may need this.” The pilot handed him a hefty battery pack with a charging cable.
Mark thanked the pilot, wondering what had made Adam so suddenly attentive, and grabbed his phone to send him a message.
“I don’t know who I ask, but how do I get a hold of people inside? Moria, from the reports, how can I call her?” Mark texted to Adam, and returned to his booth in the back of the plane with his papers.
“Well, I don’t think anyone can possibly be sleeping, and people are definitely still alive, the sirens went off all night.” Began Moria’s next entry.
“I thought about sending another report after my last one, but here it is morning, well, dawn, and the sirens are still going off. A bunch of street lights were damaged, so I haven’t been able to see much since the automatic lights that were left switched off at midnight. As the sun comes up, I can still see plenty of corpses, but every time the sirens go off, they run for them. I have started to ignore the noise, as anyone who wanted to maintain their sanity would, but they don’t seem to be ignoring the sounds, I don’t know if they are unable to ignore them, or don’t want to, but they keep following the sounds. One ambulance drove through the plaza this way, and they just drove through the corpses, so they must know something is going on. Some people must still be working, trying to save lives, which must mean that not everyone becomes a walking corpse thing, I think, and that we still have survivors who need help.”
“The sun is up now, and some of the corpses are going to work, I guess? Not really, but it’s funny to watch. So, I watched someone from the stationary shop try and open a door. It couldn’t quite master pulling the door, so eventually it (Should I say it? It looked female, but who knows, does a corpse that’s walking have a gender?) Fine, She, finally she, the corpse, just got in through a window. But as she got in behind the counter, a fire truck drove through, and off she went. I wonder if she will come back?”
“The bagel shop is on fire apparently, I can see the smoke billowing out. It’s a shame the fire truck from earlier didn’t come back, because its burning fast. Corpses inside fled the flame, but the ones that caught on fire didn’t seem to register the fire being on them, they just kept wondering around until they completely burned to nothing, like the one that was stuck inside, or they walked until they stopped burning. Truly disgusting, the smell was vile.”
Mark felt his phone buzz, and checked it.
“I can get you that information, give me an hour.” Was Adam’s response.
“Did you read any of this? Hurry!” Mark responded, irritated with how casual Adam would be about this. Mark assumed Adam hadn’t read any of it, and waited for a response.
Mark took out a notebook and made some notes on what he had read thus far. He needed to have a game plan for the broadcast, and also for giving poor Moria, and anyone like her, some valuable information.
Possibly not everyone injured by them is turned
Internet is out- explain to them what’s going on
Ask them for information they have to get to other people- How can they get the information out? Can I set up a number they can call? Do I give them my number?
The sirens, and other noises attract them
They notice people too- and can break windows.
Seem to move at usual human speeds, running, walking, etc
Don’t know if they can be killed easily, but one did burn into nothing.
They seem to be driven by the motivation to…they want to kill.
Survivors need places to hide
Mark thought about his list. He had no idea what the cop situation would be like inside the city, so he quickly checked the city fact sheet that had been conveniently attached to his file, noting its very low crime rate, and that it did have an incredibly low violent crime rate, before continuing on in Moria’s reports.
“A lot less sirens now. They seem to go off very occasionally, either less calls, or they are learning to not use the sirens. They are only on briefly, so I don’t know what the paramedics are doing, or the doctors at the hospitals. Surely some are still alive at the hospital if the ambulance service is still going, right?”
“The last siren was a full hour ago, but I see smoke all over the city. I hope some firefighters are out there.”
“Without the sirens, the corpses seem to be wondering more, so I am trying to identify their motives. I saw another living person, they were injured terribly, I wanted so badly to help them, they were running from some corpses, and sadly, they ran into the plaza, and there are tons of the corpses here…I tried to get them to come this way, I could give them shelter and maybe help them, but they were over taken. It seems clear that the motivation of the corpses is to eat, or consume, the non-corpses. They don’t seem to be determined to kill, they bite on whatever is available, and the death is just clumsily done with humans eating humans. I hope someone answers soon, because watching this stuff is driving me nuts. I’m glad the power is still on, and I am grateful that while it is painfully obvious that none of my whistle blowing messages are getting out, at least we have online videos to watch. Currently catching up on some shows, so that’s something.”
Mark noticed he was coming to the end of Moria’s reports, and hoped she was still okay when he got her number.
“It’s night now, the smoke from the fires and lack of lights are making it very hard to see anything outside. I found some blankets, along with some sheets and stuff, I don’t know why the cleaning staff stashed a whole stack each of blankets and sheets in the bathroom cabinet, but I have been able to rig up a curtain. I wrote a message on some papers, taped them to the window, it says “We need help!” Because hell, what else can you say right? I can’t really offer help, so, it is what it is. Maybe the corpses can read, but I doubt it. The sheet over the door helped a lot, for me anyways. I know the doors here are pretty strong, but those corpses also seem pretty strong. Any information about how to destroy them if they do get in and try to eat me, would be great. If a we could at least get supplies, that would help. I’m running out of tea and instant coffee. Frankly, I’m amazed I had this much food in my office, and was overjoyed with my haul from the break room.”
Mark laughed, and wondered idly if he could get a drone to airdrop supplies to the roof of the building.
“Well, I realized I didn’t have many more distraction chances, and the halls had been cleared out from a building alarm that went off, so I snuck back to the break room. I cleared out the supplies, and grabbed a few other useful tools. There was a tool box, so I grabbed that, which came in handy later, and I emptied out the remaining supply of tea and coffees. Grabbed all the remaining drinks, and all the snacks. I’m sorry if someone needed it, but I’m afraid I may be in for the long haul. One of the supply closets was open, so I grabbed as many medical and cleaning supplies as I could, as well as a few boards of wood. I had nearly got everything from my haul, when the door at the end of the hallway caught my attention. I realized if I closed the doors, I may keep myself safer, so I shut them, and put some signs and other stuff in front, so I could maybe hear if anything broke through. One of the corpses was in the stairwell, and attacked me, but I had a piece of piping from the supply closet, and three swings to the head made it fall down the stairs. I didn’t stick around to see if it got up, so sorry for that lack of information, but if your life is in danger, hit it as many times as you need to, and run, for the sake of safety.”
The report continued, “So, I got back to my office, checked the bathroom and stuff to make sure nothing had gotten in, and did a little reorganizing of my office. I used a piece of heavy tarp to block the light, so I could still look out the window, and moved my desk against the door. Was able to get a piece of pipe under the door handle to secure it more. I know the windows in this building are all reinforced, and being on the 6th floor helps, but I wanted to keep attention from me, so I hung more tarp to keep light from escaping. Now, I’m cuddled up on my couch, with my little bed of hospital blankets, wondering if anyone is even reading this. It occurs to me that a computer could be auto opening these emails, so for all I know, no one is reading them at all. I hope someone is. I’m lonely.”
“I know you probably think, why is Moria lonely, she works at a morgue, but those are dead bodies, and sure, I talk to them, but they never try to eat my face, so they are much better company then these dead bodies, so yeah, I’m lonely.”
Mark chuckled darkly, and finished his screwdriver. His phone buzzed.
“They have to open the comm lines. Everyone in the city has blocked access, so they couldn’t get messages from you. They can eventually add your number to the numbers they can call inside the city, but for now, you need to be closer for them to patch you into the system. The guy is working on it now.”
Mark rolled his eyes, realizing that in the real world, even when innocent people were in the middle of a city-wide zombie apocalypse, some tech guy still had to set up the technology before business could progress.
“Now that the sirens are gone, I can say that one noise is very noticeable. The corpses seem to shriek. It’s like a scream, meets a growl or hiss. Certainly, not intelligent words…But also really scary. It helps me know if they are nearby, and so far, I haven’t had any on the floor since I closed the stairwell doors, but outside, it sounds like there are lots of the corpses gathering. I am trying to sleep, I’ll update in the morning, or if anything happens before then.”
Mark turned the page. One small entry, from a few hours earlier, probably printed before being slid into his packet of information. “Well, I can’t say I slept well, the screams of those corpses were pretty gross, and it gets very cold in this building apparently, and I don’t even know how to control the floors thermostat. I turned mine to heat, but it didn’t feel warm at any point. Maybe it’s the cold front, the only thing our news is telling us about. I did a quick peak outside, saw about fifty of the corpses. I’m going to have cookies for breakfast, and hope I hear from someone soon.”
Mark returned to the cockpit, to inquire about their arrival time.
“About an hour. There will be a car that takes you to a motel.”
“No, I need to go right to wherever I am broadcasting from.” Mark said, grabbing his phone, jabbing in Adam’s number once more.
Adam explained that there was a motel near the bridge into town, and they were arranging for Adam to use that as his fill in studio space. They had already blocked the bridge, to ensure the problem didn’t leave the city and destroy the country and world.
Mark, irritated by his inability to talk to any of the people inside the city, quickly jumped on social media, and tried several hash-tag searches, as well as people searches, to find people inside the city, or people who were talking about Flake City. By in large there was very little online discussion of Flake City, a concert here and there, art shows, some kids complaining about the “lameness” of their city. Someone saying the city was always dead, which felt ill timed, but overall, nothing had gotten into the public eye. Mark could tell, however, that some of the users had been on, but not posting anything, so he made note of who had been active on any of the various social media pages that were popular to try and reach out to any survivors, or establish an information network. Mark found Moria’s page, learning that she lived alone in a downstairs apartment that had a large long row of windows that made up one living room wall, she used it to have plants inside, so Mark could see from her moving in pictures, why she didn’t think it would be safe to retreat to. He noticed that she didn’t have many outside hobbies, she didn’t camp or anything, and apparently was one of the few people in the city who didn’t own a gun.
“Defenseless, locked up in the center of the outbreak.” Mark realized, looking at the map of the city. He found the hospital and used Moria’s descriptions of her office, upstairs from the hospital morgue. The hospital was probably where much of the problem was getting worse, not the actual ground zero of the research facility, and that left the highly unarmed Moria locked in her office. Thankfully, due to her own foolish bravery, she did have some food, and make shift weapons, with a decent barricade.
Mark noticed a few residents of the city had managed to send out tweets that hadn’t been blocked, he assumed due to their content being so mundane, but made a note to himself to see if someone had already found a loop hole in the system. Mark may have the desire to play along and keep his credentials, but he was still an excellent reporter who had chased the truth of the “F Class information” his whole life: If he could find all the answers, and a loop hole for the communication of that information, he wanted to know about it.
Before long, the pilot told him they were going to land soon, so he returned to his seat and looked out the window. He could see the mountain range that isolated the city from one side, smoke was coming from parts of the city just like Moria had mentioned. The water looked a toxic kind of green, and the pilot landed smoothly just outside the bridge, on a long stretch of concrete that had been cleared of any possibly traffic for miles. The pilot jumped up and slid open the main door, and released the ladder steps.
Mark gathered up his supplies, thanked the pilot, and made his way down the steps. Below, an SUV was open, and a younger guy was loading his luggage into the car. Mark grabbed the camera bag and dug out the camera, determined to get some footage immediately of the smoke coming from the city, wishing he had gotten a few shots on his phone, but he had been too distracted by the sight.
It was barely five minutes before the plane took off again, and the SUV, now loaded with his belongings, was ready to drive Mark wherever he wished to go. First, Mark had the driver, younger guy with a mop of sandy brown hair on top of a baby face, drive him to the barricade, where Mark, having powered up the camera, took some shots of the skyline and the smoke coming from it, before letting the camera capture the images of the barricaded bridge. He tried to zoom in, to discreetly show the explosives that had already been set on both sides of the bridge, but he needed to add another lens to get a proper, clear shot. Mark made a note to get a more utilitarian lens shipped in if he didn’t have one in his bag.
After spending some time capturing some footage of the city, Mark had the driver take him to the motel that was a few short minutes away. The small area outside of Flake City had been evacuated, and had the feeling of a ghost town. The communications director, an older man who simply went by the name Henry, was fast at work networking some computers for Mark, and running cable to the phones he had unpacked.
Mark found a folding table and set down his notebooks, and checked his phone. Adam had sent him a few messages with numbers, and Mark quickly jotted them all down before turning his attention to Henry, who asked where Mark wanted his primary land line placed.
Mark was told by Henry that he could email Moria’s email, so he sent a quick message.
“Hey, Moria, I have read the reports, I am outside the city- working on getting comms up so we can talk. Stay strong- I am reading your messages, and you can email me-
Mark read over his message, worried it was too informal, before finally hitting send, realizing that at this point, any message, would be a good message for the young woman in the office.
See you next week for Chapter Four!
Thanks for reading