Chloe woke up later in the morning then she imagined she would sleep, her clock telling her it was approaching eleven in the morning, she thought she could hear planes, and maybe one siren in the distance, which reminded her of the events of the day previously. With a jump, Chloe remembered she had guests, and they must be hungry, so she quickly got out of bed and grabbed her thick robe to ward off the chill that had set into her room. Chloe left her bedroom and was greeted to a warm room, and Damian and Charlie sitting at her small kitchen table, sipping coffee. Chloe greeted them both warmly and got her own cup of coffee while glancing at the TV. The weather report was still on, showing the cold front building. Occasionally, the weather would flash to national reports, showing the weird cold spell across the country.
“Any actual news?” asked Chloe sleepily as she blinked sleep from her eyes.
“Nothing much, although they did flash a political segment last night, nothing about anything, but more than weather.” Damian replied, speaking of Adam’s broadcast the night previously. Unbeknownst to the group, this broadcast had been part of the initial tests for the broadcast zone that Mark was about to utilize.
Charlie pointed at the TV, “I do think it is interesting that they keep showing us several different news channels, they are patching their different weather segments through, and it’s interesting to see how similar the weather is, I suppose, but really, why tell us “it’s cold” everywhere, we know it’s cold.”
Chloe laughed, grateful they had added logs to the fire, the chill from her room was finally leaving her, and the hot coffee helped.
“We were about to go outside, check things out from the patio, if you want to join?” Damian asked, gesturing to the door. Chloe belted her robe and found her thicker slippers, knowing from the only news they were getting that the weather was now holding strong in the low thirties, with gusts of cold wind blowing in to bring the rest of the cold front.
The three walked into the cold, grateful for the wall and mountain shielding some of the wind, and Damian and Charlie lit up cigarettes while Chloe opted for one of her vacation joints.
Charlie looked over the balcony, noticing a few of the people gone wrong things, mostly trying to get inside. Charlies heart fell with the realization that many of the creatures who had been there last night had probably sought refuge from the cold inside any buildings they could get into, including the one they were in, so many survivors from yesterday would be in a similar predicament of dangers on their doorsteps, possibly, in the case of ground level homes, in their homes.
Damian shuddered, realizing what Charlie was realizing, but stating it in a much more sobering way. “I can’t get home. And my family is probably dead, huh?” He said.
Chloe looked at him, unsure what to say.
“These things,” Damian said, watching one struggle to climb into a broken window down below, ignoring the cuts from glass. The blood wasn’t flowing properly, Damian knew that, so he figured they were probably some sort of sick dead human, and the same kind of creatures would have broken into his parents small one-story home, with long walls of windows, just like his apartment. Tons of buildings had beautiful rows of windows, plenty of houses and apartment buildings too. But Damien wasn’t thinking about the many buildings that were in the same predicament, that came later, no, in this moment, Damien was afraid his entire family were dead, or worse, one of these murderous zombie type things.
“They could have run, or gotten out of town?”
“They both work. My auntie was delivering tamales. I don’t know. I really…No one is answering their phones- and even with the delays that have been going on, eventually text messages go through.”
Charlie considered this. “Well, think about if they ran, and their phones died?”
Damian nodded. “I hope. My apartment is on the first floor, but if we get there, I have some supplies, it may help.”
“Help what though? We don’t have information, we don’t know what this is.” Chloe said, gesturing around. “How many people are trapped like we are? We have plenty of places that will be overran, we aren’t even in the heart of the city!”
Charlie looked at the TV. “I imagine we should keep an eye on that.”
“For the weather.” Asked Damian dryly. “They fed in other reports, whoever is in charge of broadcasting, put other stations in, that means they plan on putting more in, I imagine.” Explained Charlie.
Chloe and Damian both considered this, before realizing Charlie was probably right
“Military eh?” joked Damian as they walked back inside.
Charlie chuckled while Chloe poured some more coffee, dumped the pot, and made a fresh batch. “I suppose we need to figure out how long this will last, and if we need to get more supplies.” Chloe said, looking around the cluttered apartment.
“More supplies?” Asked Damian. “We are drowning in stuff as is. And we can search other apartments.”
“Yeah, but what happens when the power goes? How long will we be here? We have plenty of food now, but is this enough food, water, and wood, for an entire winter? What if the power goes and that fire is our only source of heat and power?” Asked Chloe, thinking now of some of the contents of the survival bag she had. Both of those manuals stressed the importance of knowing how long you would be without help, because that affected how you prepared in the first days of the emergency.
“It can take weeks for power to get turned back on after storms.” Damian said, remembering his own apartment taking two weeks, leading to him couch surfing on at his parents’ house, who had a fireplace and a small generator, after the large snowstorm last year.
Charlie thought about the mechanics of the building. They did have a generator, and they even had a few solar panels in storage, that with a bit of work, could probably power a handful of the apartments in the building, maybe, but they were downstairs, and Charlie wasn’t sure how to work the solar panels. The gas would last for a month or so, if they only used it for one apartment, and didn’t run much, maybe a bit longer, but if there were other people, or survivors that sought refuge in the upper levels, that would dwindle the supply.
Charlie thought about this for a moment while Chloe and Damian thought about the wood issue. Chloe had some maps, and the two were looking for good areas to get some pre-cut stuff, or cut down their own.
If survivors came, Charlie knew both of them would want to at least open up an apartment for them, which would take some of the power. More so, it would mean more mouths to feed, and more people to worry about making mistakes that could endanger them all. Charlie considered the ammunition stores they had, a healthy assortment, with more probably in the building, but if it would be a long winter…if they had to defend themselves from very hungry creatures, they could find themselves running low by the spring, or sooner, Damian was a great shot, same as Charlie, but the two of them had seen plenty of the creatures, and realized early that the sound of their guns brought more, so the guns, while useful in saving themselves, made the problem worse. Had it not been for sirens drawing their attention away, or a few key distractions Damian had thought of, the two would have been overran by zombies at least twice.
It would be worse in town, so even if the bridge was open, getting there would be suicide. “Over 100,000 people” Charlie kept muttering to himself. Charlie had seen too many faces of people he knew personally, trying to eat himself and Damian the day before, so now he wondered how many of the well over 100,000 people of Flake City were now in the same condition. So many of the residents that had stayed in town had been in that condition yesterday, Chloe and Charlie being two of the only remaining survivors of the building who hadn’t left for Thanksgiving.
“I don’t think we can get that far down, the street looked crowded, we should stick to the rooftops” Damian said, pulling Charlie from his thoughts.
“What did you say?” Asked Charlie.
“Well, they don’t seem to be mastering stairs too well, we noticed that, and the streets had bottom floor had plenty of those…creatures…” Damian considered this word before continuing, “Sick people…things, uh, well seems to me we should stick to the rooftops.”
Charlie thought of the roof, he knew he could get to a few of the buildings in the area from it, and looked at the map the two younger people were looking at.
“See, they have a fire wood pick up spot for people entering the park, right here,” Chloe said, pointing to a circle they had made. “So, it’s not far from here, as the bird flies, because of the really nice new park building they put in, the one the research facility bankrolled, so, if we use like, ladders or something, we can go across the buildings, we think, and only actually be on the ground to get the wood.” Chloe explained.
Charlie eyed the buildings she intended to use. A fairly brilliant trek, one that took them across a few apartment buildings, and a few retail shops. Charlie knew one of the stores, a mega mart that everyone in the park and mountain community had been against going so close to the park, would be a key place to cross the over to the firewood location, the irony of this amusing Charlie.
“We could get food and other supplies in that store. Probably has those things inside, but if we were careful, we could get some stuff we need.”
“How would we get off the roof and into the building?”
“They have an elevator, runs from the roof to the basement- it’s mostly used for trash, other utilities, since they don’t have a two-story store, it’s just storage upstairs, but there is a stairwell, and an elevator, we could get supplies and get them to the roof, just carry them all back.” Charlie explained, having picked up a healthy bit of side money helping install the electrics to the elevator shaft and locking doors.
“We should make a list then, and move fast, I don’t know how long until other people would beat us to it.” Damian thought of his tougher friends, who always carried guns, and lived in nice high rise places like Chloe, who would also be trying to get enough supplies to survive.
“How many people you think already have?” Asked Chloe.
“Depends how many are left.” Damian said, eyeing his phone. “I haven’t heard from anyone, so I can’t be sure.”
“So, how much prepping should we do then?” Asked Charlie of Chloe, who had pulled out a notebook and started jotting notes from her small internet search on her phone.
“Okay, well, we have this cold front moving in. That is a big concern. Exposure to the elements can kill, so we need wood. How many logs did you guys already burn this morning? Let’s use today to get an idea of a daily use of wood, plus some for cooking.”
“Stacked four to start it, added one an hour ago,” Reported Charlie after thinking.
“Six, I added one while you were in the shower.” Damian corrected.
“Okay, water?” Chloe said. “If the water goes, we will be in a mess.”
“We need containers, snow collection can help.” Charlie explained. “But we need more gear too- You are right, if the power goes out, we will be in a pickle. You can’t cook with your pots on a fire. We need cookware for that. And we need more first aid, I am guessing the hospital isn’t in good shape, and we couldn’t get to it safely anyways.”
Chloe looked at the map. “Actually, maybe we could. Not the hospital, but there is a shopping plaza next to it we could reach.”
Charlie felt himself smile, proud of her thinking, but scared of the thought of them going so far into the city. “We need to know the worse concentrations of them, and avoid those areas. I don’t know where this begin.”
Chloe took a pencil and begin marking key places they could get supplies from, while Damian looked on the sporting goods stores webpage to see if they usually kept a large supply of camping equipment on hand in the winter months, before they tried to scavenge supplies from it.
Charlie thought about other supplies they would need, and wondered if he could get them more gasoline for the generator. They would be able to find cars in the alley ways, probably, and could siphon gallons here and there, but Charlie knew if he could find a large truck with a large tank, he could fill it with gas and supplies, and drive it back, park it in an ally, and use a pulley system to get much of their supplies, and have a supply of gas for the generator that could add two to three weeks’ worth of time to the generator, if they didn’t use it much.
The three spent the rest of the morning sipping coffee and making plans to scavenge more supplies. The TV kept flickering different weather reports, each time giving them hope for a newscast of information that could help them know what they were up against, and how long they would be stuck. Around one, Chloe started marinating steaks for the evening for them, making a large stack of 6, because they had so many due to the clear out from the scavenging, and she began cooking up chicken in large batches for chicken salad sandwiches on the bread she had made yesterday. It was nearly two when the TV flickered, but instead of a pretty woman or flashy man telling them how cold it was, or how unheard of the cold was, a man sporting a day’s worth of stubble and slightly disheveled dark brown hair appeared on the screen. He looked unsure, and held a microphone uncertainly in his hand.
“Hi! I’m Mark Wassermann, and I’m here to give Flake City some news.” He said with a slight hesitation to his voice.
“I will have a report at five, available on TV, and also on our website, www.forflakecity.com . I will be addressing the current events that are relevant to you, My Flake City audience.” Mark paused for a moment. “Please, stay inside, stay safe, and await more information. I have received reports from the area, special thanks to Moria, in the morgue, for her dedication to the reporting she has done. We will be gathering as much information as we can for the epidemic inside the city…For now, I am able to tell you this:
First, Communications have been disabled, we are working on getting a line up for you to call. Second, these creatures, it seems, are most easily explained as…” Mark paused, unsure if he wanted to say the following words. “As once dead people, which are commonly called, zombies. I am in the process of collecting information for you, but, until then, please stay inside, stay wherever is safe. These zombies seem able to break into windows, so stay upstairs, blockade yourself into safety. We don’t know how to destroy them yet, as I mentioned, I am in the process of researching all of this, and we will set up a hotline for you to call to report information to others. You are not alone, Flake City, I am Mark Wassermann, and I am here, and you are not alone.”
With that, the camera flashed a logo of a large national news station, and returned to the weather reports.
Chloe looked to her friends, who looked back to her.
“Did he seriously?” Chloe asked, cocking her head, “Call them zombies? It’s one thing for us to do it, but he’s suppose to be the help on the outside.”
Damian laughed. “Yeah, he did. Wow.”
Charlie went to the balcony door, and opened it. “Hey, Zombies, you got a name now!” He yelled. A zombie screeched by way of response, prompting Charlie to shut the door. “And boy do we have some things to tell Mr. Mark Wassernames.”
Mark signed off of his first broadcast and turned off the camera. He had it set up with a button to shutter off the lens so he could approach it, finding out that all the gear he had been given had been in lieu of even one assistant to work the cameras, research the stories, do the broadcast…Mark was credentialed all right, but he was also alone.
Henry, his tech guy, had been hard at work setting up the internet, monitoring the signals, and getting the phone line hooked up, which meant he was unable to help Mark. Mark wondered about the phone, once up, who could man it? Worried, Mark rolled up the cables and tossed the pieces of gear back into the SUV, where it would drive him back to the Motel, which was acting as his office and studio space.
The motel was just outside of Flake City, a mile from the bridge, and was one of the businesses that had been shut down to ensure the quarantine of Flake City, so the owner had been glad to take a government check and get out of town. Mark eyed the kid driving the SUV, a mess of sandy blonde hair worn over a baby face. He was short pudgy, and frankly, Mark was surprised he had a license to drive. Mark wondered if he had enough credentials to help, and if some cash could bribe him.
“Most camera operators get paid upwards of 40 bucks an hour. More with experience.” The driver said.
“Excuse me?” Sputtered Mark.
“I work here, because I’m one of the telepaths of the F class. I also drive, and I was making the commanding officer uneasy, so they sent me out here to help you. You were wondering how much cash it would take to pay me to work your camera.”
Mark considered all of this, quietly noting how much of this statement confirmed his hunches about the humans involved in the F class stuff, but quietly filed this away in his mind. “So, is that how much it would take?”
“Well, I’m not a qualified camera operator, but I am pretty smart.” The kid said. “My name is Martin by the way.”
“Thanks, Martin. Honestly, I think the only requirement is being allowed to know about this stuff.”
“Perks of being a telepath. I have to have credentials, because I will always know.”
Mark considered this, and wished, for the tenth time that morning, that he had some time to dedicate to his F class studies, but sadly, Flake City needed him.
“Okay, well, I need help, so, if you can, I will gladly take it.”
“Sure. I am pretty good with editing, so I can put footage together, and hold the camera, should be enough to give you time to research. I know that’s your concern, and you must be good at research if you are the journalist they brought on for this.”
Mark cocked his head. “What kind of journalist did they need?”
Martin laughed. “Well, obviously, they needed someone who wouldn’t blow the cover of the story, which is the biggest reason no one wanted you, your obsession with F class. Thankfully, you want credentials so bad, here you are. They can’t afford to send anyone inside to research, but you get science stuff, and you like people, so you can work with whoever is alive in there. Sure, they want to contain the problem, and probably just leave those people to die, that’s how to mitigate the losses, but they do still feel bad, so they send you in to give you a chance to help them- keep them alive until a better solution presents itself.”
“You know more than that, don’t you?” Mark asked, realizing how much of that Martin would have gotten from driving around people and simply listening to their thoughts.
“Oh yeah. But I have higher credentials than you.” Quipped Martin with a boyish grin.
When Mark returned back to the motel, he found himself a room, different from the one that had been kindly set aside for him, never fully trusting the accommodations others make for you, and got to work.
First, he pulled out a few key pieces of his own tech, one that swept for any electronic monitoring bugs, and another that acted as a blocker for prying technology. After finding the two he expected, one in the light, one in the room phone, Mark found a disheartening camera in the bathroom he suspected had been placed by an employee, and another above the bed, and after disposing of them, was able to get to work. First, Mark pulled out the map Martin had grabbed him of Flake City, and he looked for the building Moria was in. The hospital was close to the research facility, but it seemed that it had been a secondary ground zero with so many people seeking care for injuries. Mark had a few reports from the facility that a few lab workers had sent before things went badly in the facility, and a few more from some kid who apparently had been trapped in the stairwell until the zombies overran the building and started spreading across the city.
Mark set up his laptop, and laid out the notebook he had been recording his notes in. A knock at his door alerted him to Martin, who had a cellphone for him. “Here, this is the number. We figured texts would be a good option, so we set up a mobile number, this is the information.”
“Let’s shoot a quick piece and get them the number!” Mark said grabbing his camera. Martin followed him to the courtyard, which had an okay background that Mark figured would be an okay backdrop for his quick report. Martin hoisted the camera onto his shoulder, grateful that they had purchased a relatively consumer friendly grade camera that still had great picture quality. Martin found the needed switches, and was quickly able to signal to Mark to record his message.
“Hi, I’m Mark Wasserman, bringing you news for Flake City. Please text, if possible, or call, the following number to report information regarding the Zombie Outbreak of Flake City. Any information we can get to other survivors may help. This is a mobile phone, please feel free to text, we will return your messages as soon as possible.” Mark repeated the number before adding, “You are not alone Flake City.”
Mark raced inside, Martin hot on his tracks, to upload the video and get it broadcasting. Martin worked quickly, and it was up within twenty minutes. Mark then sent a text to the number he had been given for Moria.
“Hey, Moria, I’m Mark Wassermann. We have a news broadcast, and a number (this one) for you to report to. I read your reports. You can also email me at MWassermann@knowbs.org
Mark quickly opened his notebook, but before his eyes found words on the page, his phone buzzed, signaling the response of Moria.
“So, I sent all those emails to all those government agencies, and I get a reporter.”
Mark laughed. “Yes, and I’m not even a main stream one.”
“Better than silence. What’s the webpage?”
Mark waited patiently for his phone to go off, assuming surely it would have been ringing off the hook. So far, however, nothing.
“How many people, on average, are in that city?” Asked Martin, knowing the answer.
“Over 100,000” responded Mark. Mark didn’t need to be a telepath like Martin to know why Martin was asking.
“Maybe they haven’t seen it yet. I’ll see if we can get that clip playing every 10 minutes instead of twenty.” Martin said quietly and left Mark in his room. Mark read began to read the horrifying reports from the lab, but between the horrifying descriptions of events, and overly science discussion about the virus they had used, Mark found his head aching long before it normally would. Mark rose from his desk and dug out the scotch he had packed away, and poured himself a glass. Adam had been quiet, busy at work like Mark, but on different stories. Mark wondered idly if Adam was dealing with some F class related materials, when his phone buzzed.
“Damian here, we have three survivors. They come with noise, but a few bullets in the head seem to stop them. They will kill you. Not everyone injured turns, two of us were bit and clawed by them, but are in perfect health. Some may be immune. How long will this go on?”
“Thanks for the report!” Mark typed, irritated by the false cheerfulness in his tone. “Are there any other things I should be aware of for other survivors?”
“Are there other survivors? How long until someone comes in to help us?” Damien pressed.
“At least one.” Mark responded, before finally adding, “I don’t know.”
Damian relayed this information the Charlie and Chloe, who exchanged glances at the TV. Both had entered the number into their phones as “Flake City Zombie hotline”, while Damian had texted it.
“That doesn’t tell us how long to not expect help.” Chloe said.
“I think it does.” Said Charlie grimly as his eyes fell to the darkening sky. “There will be snow. We need supplies faster than we know.”
“When should we go for supplies?” Asked Damian, wondering if they had to go tonight in the dark.
“Tonight, is too dangerous.” Chloe interjected. “You have never gone on the buildings, plenty of fires around town, it’s not smart to go at night. Plus, those zombies seem to seek shelter at night, more will be inside the sporting goods store.”
“She’s right.” Agreed Charlie begrudgingly.
“What’s your concern?” asked Damian quizzically.
“I wrapped some of the pipes, the ones up here, and my own…I left most of the downstairs ones for my work load this week. If it freezes, we will flood the downstairs.”
“What about us?” Chloe asked.
Charlie thought about the building. “With the way the pipes work, we will lose some water pressure, in fact, we will lose a large amount of pressure, but water will still flow, the main pipes are all wrapped, and we have three sets that feed upstairs.
“That many?” Asked Damian.
“Yeah, with the cold, the owner thought It would be better to have several sets, so you could always redirect to get utilities to some people. It’s an old building we have slowly updated to keep us safe…sometimes that means extra water mains. It’s the first luxury high-rise in Flake City, so the owner has to keep it running in a way that defies logic.”
“That’s great news though, right?” Said Damian, glad the hot showers could continue.
“Sure, but it also means we will have plenty of water that will flood the downstairs. If anyone is down there, they will have to run, and outside in the hallways down there are zombies. They will drown or be eaten if the pipes burst. No way for me to sort things out, move easily and fix problems as they occur.”
“But we don’t know that anyone is down there.” Chloe said. “Wouldn’t they have noticed you guys shooting at those things yesterday?” She asked.
“Would you have opened the door to that?” Asked Damian.
Fair enough. So, we should tell Mark to put out a broadcast to tell people the pipes may freeze.”
“The news normally does that though, doesn’t it?” Damian asked. “First freeze of the season, wrap your pipes and plants.” He said in a mock reporter tone.
“Sure, but they also aren’t giving you hot line numbers for a zombie apocalypse.” Chided Chloe.
Damian began drafting a text, advising Mark to put up a freezing warning notice, with an emphasis on breaking pipes and how hard it is to get a hotel room when you have a flooded home all whilst zombies are roaming the streets.
“I wonder who else is out there?” Chloe asked while Charlie gave Damian tips for people to wrap their own pipes while staying safe from zombies, to text to Mark.
Who else was alive and out there was a question that was on Moria’s mind too, as she watched the sun go down yet again in the plaza, her second full night in her makeshift safe room. Mark’s next broadcast was due to go on in ten minutes, and Moria had her eye on her small peep hole to her window, most of the zombies were inside, letting her feel a sense of safety as she eyed the dark plaza. The sun was setting rapidly, the mountains that kept the city in the shade accelerating the darkness of the night, and the many damaged light poles made it worse. Occasionally, a zombie would wonder from one building to another, but mostly, the plaza was pretty empty, making Moria think perhaps people had finally sheltered in place, making the zombies try and search for them as well.
Finally, Mark’s tired face came on the screen, and Moria saw the only person who seemed to know this was going on, outside of the city.
“Hi, I’m Mark Wasserman, and this is news for Flake City. We have some reports that gun shots to the head can stop the zombies, however, the noise of the guns brings more. It is ill advised to use a gun to defend yourself, unless you must. Be warned, loud noises like horns, sirens, gun shots, and loud music, have all been reported to draw the attention of zombies.”
Moria rolled her eyes, grateful this information was finally going out.
“We do not know how long you will be inside the city. The bridge has been barricaded to prevent the spread of this virus to the rest of the world. This is a measure that has been taken for the safety of those on the outside…” Mark paused, eyeing the camera, imagining he was looking into the eyes of any survivor in the city. “And frankly, without regard to the safety to those of you on the inside. But I care. So, lets figure out how to keep you safe.”
Moria smiled, finding herself liking this reporter guy who seemed as annoyed by the situation as she was.
“Tonight, the weather will drop below freezing- if you do not have wrapped pipes, you may find yourself with water issues, the least of which being a lack of water and toilets, the most of which involving flooding. If you are on a ground level, please make plans to evacuate to higher ground if the pipes break and water begins to fill your home. Zombies are able to break into windows, so you should be as high as possible with windows, doors, and stairs, all barricaded.” Mark stopped for a minute. “Make sure you take any supplies you may need if you have to evacuate. We don’t have places set up for survivors to be safe from zombies, so make sure you have whatever supplies you may need with you in case you must flee from the rising waters of a burst pipe.” Mark paused, wondering how much worse the situation would be in the city if it began to flood inside the homes that had managed to stay safe.
“Electricity can also go down, in freezing weather.” Mark began. “I have yet to hear from anyone from inside the Flake City Electric company, or from any of the workers who can help restore services. If you know how to help with this, please call my hot-line so we can try and help people be in connection with others to help. Remember, these are trying times when it is hard to be our best selves, which makes it that much more important to be our best selves. Glow sticks are safer then fire, make sure you have cleaned out your fire place before burning for heat.” Mark looked at his paper of notes. “Snow must be melted and purified before drinking, if your power goes out, you should minimize how often you open your fridge to keep food cold longer. If you have electric stoves and ovens, cook perishables now, save canned goods for if power goes out. If you have room for survivors, please call me so we can help people get safe.” Mark looked to his paper again. “we will be putting together another report, please, send us information.”
Mark thought for a moment, and then added. “This has been News for Flake City, I’m Mark Wassermann, and Flake City, you are not alone.”