Part Two-Southbound Nightmares

~~~

There was no official name for it yet, at least, nothing anyone was ready to claim ownership for. The Madness, as what was left of the staggering media generically called it, swept through Northeast Ohio in the early hours of Saturday morning, creating an insurmountable death toll that continued to rise. Men, women, even children (the madness did not discriminate) were infected at random.

As one survivor later described to a local news correspondent, who recounted his horrific escape from his wife of eleven years:

“…It was like she (Elizabeth) was gone; the woman I loved was stripped from her own body and this thing with pale and clammy skin, veins bursting to the surface all over her body, was all that remained. I tried to talk to her but she was unresponsive… My Elizabeth just sat there, staring off into God-knows-where. Then she just turned and looked at me with these horrible yellow eyes—I swear, she didn’t know me—and you could feel the hate behind those eyes right before she attacked… (A terrifying pause followed by tears). I knew she was already dead before I cracked her skull open with the lamp base. She had to be… right? I mean… she tried to tear my fucking throat out!”

There were numerous reports of similar instances spread out across Northeast Ohio with no discernible pattern or method of determining who could be affected, where it all started, or how. It was estimated that one out of every five people simply lost their minds and turned on the living.

Northeast Ohio county governments collapsed in the first few hours. Fortunately, there were enough uninfected personnel in law enforcement positions and the National Guard to fight back and maintain some illusion of control. Unfortunately, all available resources and manpower were re-routed to maintain and protect county leaders while the general population was left to fend for themselves.

When the order went out to ‘shoot on sight’ anyone showing signs of extreme aggression, many defenders were initially killed by these crazed citizens when it was discovered that nothing but direct head shots would bring them down. At one point, it was believed that what may be happening had similar effects to individuals high on PCP and adrenaline—unstoppable at first because these infected individuals seemed almost oblivious to pain.

By noon on Saturday, what was left of local governments were relocated to two nuclear power plants, designated ‘safe zones’. The infected were weeded out and terminated from among their ranks and command centers were finally established.

At 3:00 pm, it was decided by the county heads (the Ohio State Governor was already confirmed among the dead) to warn the public and clear the streets by activating the county emergency sirens, as well as the emergency broadcast system on both television and radio, in an attempt to urge citizens to return to their homes, since there was no longer any way to protect them until outside reinforcements could arrive. Citizens were encouraged to seek shelter, arm themselves, and stay clear of all public areas, especially the roadways, for they did not want a full-scale panic and massive traffic jams, which was exactly what happened.

All fears were eventually confirmed: what was happening in Ohio was happening everywhere.

The U.S. Government declared a nationwide State of Emergency across the country. The Department of Homeland Security issued the highest threat level possible, insisting that a nationwide outbreak of terrorism by numerous surfacing cell groups was the probable cause for the sudden rash of violence. No one at the top was buying into it of course, but they fed it to the people in an attempt to keep the streets clear, using fear to keep people in their homes. Martial Law was declared as well as a dusk-to-dawn curfew since it could not be easily determined who were infected among thousands of panicked people trying to flee to anywhere.

Behind the scenes, local governments had received additional but sketchy information from the Department of Defense (which quickly blacked out all cell phone communications as well as the internet without so much as a word of explanation) announcing that an unknown but highly infectious toxin had gone airborne and that no further outbreaks were being reported after the initial wave.

It was reported that there was a wild outbreak of animals as well as people attacks, and even some reports of animal-human hybrids which attacked only at night. Also, there were reports of heavily vandalized graveyards and hospitals that seemed to bear the blunt of the heaviest attacks. There were also fantastic reports of corpses walking the streets in large groups which were immediately dismissed as hysterical, fear-driven exaggerations.

Lastly, there was an alarming rate of… cannibalism reported.

~~~

At 1:00 pm on Saturday afternoon, Officer Samantha Petroskovich, perhaps the last remaining cop on the Eastlake Police Department, continued to monitor radio traffic while maintaining her vigilant watch of the lobby from the other side of the bullet-proof service window, which separated Sam from the twenty disoriented and disfigured individuals who moved aimlessly around the dark waiting area. They had been there for several hours now. First it had only been five, but they continued to trickle in. Samantha could just make out their shadowy forms through the glass as the afternoon sunlight poured in through the station’s front windows acting as a backlight for these ghostly silhouettes which roamed the lobby. So far she had evaded their notice and she intended to keep it that way.

The power had gone out at ten this morning, leaving only a few dim emergency lights, running off the station’s emergency generator. There were no lights working in the lobby, and frankly, Samantha was grateful for that.

She sat on a desk in the shadows of the service area, where she could safely remain hidden, but could still monitor their activity, especially their growing numbers. There was nothing to keep them out, since the front glass double doors had been completely shattered last night when Detective Ackers was attacked.

Ackers… For all she knew, he was still out there slowly dying, and there was nothing she could do about it. Just outside the station, the streets were crawling with blood-thirsty maniacs, more than she cared to count. Samantha forced the thoughts from her mind. She needed to keep her wits about her if she intended to stay alive.

Time to start acting like a fucking cop, not a scared little school girl, she thought, the anger once again rising to the surface of the volcano who had always been Samantha Petroskovich. She removed the spare magazine from her service belt and started to unload the 9mm ammo again. Then she reloaded it. This ritual of constantly unloading and reloading her spare magazine somehow helped tame that fiery temper she possessed, while giving her something to do to block out the fear. As she focused on those gold, hollow-point rounds, being mindful not to make any sounds that would betray her position, she thought back to last night and tried to piece together what the hell had happened between then and now.

~~~

Sam, as her co-workers called her, had been one of two dozen officers working third shift at the station when the first of the 9-1-1 calls began to flood the panel. At first, Sam was irritated, believing they were nothing more than the typical Saturday night pranksters who always forgot that all calls, which came through the switchboard, were traceable back to the point of origin (stupid kids). The calls were just too unbelievable. Reports of monsters roaming backyards to dead men walking Eastlake Cemetery as late night drivers called in on their cell phones.

One excitable teen, with a very convincing bit of acting, had called to say that his girlfriend attacked him while they were… well, you know… in the back of his Camaro. He’d said the girl’s skin had gone cold beneath him, as her body went limp and her eyes had closed. The imaginative young man had thought she’d died. For a few moments, she laid there, motionless, until her eye lids shot open revealing two monstrous yellow orbs. That was when she attacked him and bit his shoulder when she missed his throat. He’d said he managed to get out of the car and watched as his girlfriend went crazy in the back seat, flailing madly about and smashing her head repeatedly against the window in a crazed attempt to get out and reach him.

As the volume of similar calls had continued to come in, Sam became concerned and dispatched units to investigate various reports. Soon there were only five of them left at the station to handle the wildfire panic that flooded the phone lines.

One call that had come through was so disturbing that Sam was near tears when the line was suddenly disconnected. A little girl, Katie, maybe five years old, had dialed 9-1-1 when she heard her mommy and daddy fighting in their bedroom:

“Where are you now, Katie?” Sam had asked.
“I’m in the kitchen. Something’s wrong with Daddy.”
“Can you tell me what’s wrong, honey?”
“Daddy’s throwing stuff around. I think Mommy’s afraid.”
“Katie, I want you to put the phone down, but don’t hang up-”
”They’re coming! Mommy’s bleeding!”
“Katie, I want you to go to the front door, unlock it, and go outside, okay?”

Sam remembered hearing the commotion in the background as the little girl tried her best to answer Sam’s questions. Near the end, there had been a large crashing sound, followed by what Sam believed was the little girl’s mother screaming, “Run Katie! Run and hide as fast as you can!” The little girl had dropped the phone as Sam heard her scream, “Daddy, don’t hurt Mommy!” Then there was an eerie animal-like groan as both mother and daughter screamed and then Sam heard what sounded like they were being torn apart. Thankfully, the line went dead shortly after.

Calls from responding units had begun to come in. There was so much panic and fear in the officers’ voices. Some were calling in for medical assistance while others needed additional units for back up. There had been shots fired at numerous locations. Several units had failed to respond to their radios as Sam had tried to recall as many units as she could.

As of yet, no units had returned to the station.

To make matters worse, Officer John Leland had gone berserk and attacked Officer Gary Siles in the offices. By the time Sam and the others arrived, Leland had ripped Siles’s torso open and was sitting on his knees eating what looked like a human liver. That’s when Sam saw Leland’s yellow eyes.

He had turned to attack her. She’d reacted on impulse, drawn her gun, and shot Leland in the chest four times. The impact had knocked him on his back. As Sam lowered her gun, her face turning pale from what she’d just done, Rita Clark, the weekend bailiff, had approached Leland to check his vitals. Leland grabbed her by the hair and pulled her down before anyone could react. By the time Detective Steve Ackers had shot Leland in the head from behind, Leland had ripped out Rita’s throat with his teeth. She was dead before her body hit the floor.

And then Rita came back five minutes later. It was Sam that had to put her down with a single shot between a pair of dark-silver eyes. To Sam, Rita appeared demonic before she tried to attack her.

As a final precaution, Detective Ackers had walked over to the torn-up remains of Officer Gary Siles and shot him once in the head.

“What the fuck just happened?” Steve had asked, wiping Leland’s blood off his face.

Sam had tried to speak but nothing came out. She could still see Leland and Rita charging at them with those insane eyes.

From back in the cell block, a.k.a. the weekend drunk tank, the prisoners were shouting as something had let out a high-pitched scream.

The cell block consisted of one long hallway with ten holding cells, five on each side. Four were occupied at present. Two prisoners were being held on DUI charges, one for assaulting a police officer earlier in the evening at an infamous brawler bar over on Vine Street, and the last was a prisoner transfer, temporarily being held and awaiting space availability at a state penitentiary farther south.

Steve and Sam had entered the cell block, guns drawn. All the prisoners were being held in the cells at the end of the hall.

As they approached, the bar brawler had shouted, “Get over here and do your fucking jobs, pigs! That guy’s just killed him! Now he’s fucking eating him!”

From just across the brawler’s cell, one of the two DUI’s had reached through the bars of the neighboring cell, grabbed the other from behind in a head lock, and began eating the flesh off the top of his shaved head.

“Oh my God!” Detective Ackers whispered.

The prisoner, hearing the new voice, had turned its head, revealing a bloody mouth and those devilish yellow eyes. It then dropped its meal and charged for Ackers with incredible speed and ferocity, clawing at him through the bars.

Ackers had backed up against the brawler’s cell to avoid those ghastly looking arms. “Fuck me!” Ackers was unable to steady himself in time for a clear shot.

Sam had fired three rounds right into the monster’s head until it stopped moving.

“Fuck this shit. I gotta get out of here,” the brawler had whimpered from behind Steve. He’d reached around the bars and Steve’s neck with one arm, while reaching for the keys on Steve’s belt with the other.

“Back off!” Steve had yelled, trying to free himself from the prisoner, while guarding his gun.

Sam had immediately charged the cell, aiming her gun at the brawler’s temple. “Let go of him, you worthless piece of shit!” she’d shouted, the volcano erupting out of control. “I’m going to blow your brains all over that back wall!”

The brawler stopped moving, feeling the hot barrel burning the side of his head. He’d started sobbing after releasing the detective.

“That’s right, cry you fucking baby!” Sam had said with a devious smile.

“Sam!” Ackers had shouted, “Calm the fuck down and holster your side arm. Now!”

For a second, Sam had considered pulling the trigger, but took a deep breath and lowered the gun. She refused to holster it.

“I said, holster it, Sam. That’s an order. Now is not the time for your anger management issues. We’re in to some serious shit, if you haven’t noticed.”

Sam had finally holstered the Glock. “I wasn’t going to shoot him.”

“Bullshit,” Ackers finished, pushing the brawler away from the bars. The brawler fell to his knees and continued to sob.

From the last occupied cell, to Sam’s left, came laughter from the prisoner transfer. Frank Carmen sat in his bunk along the back wall, presently engaged in folding a paper crane from the torn page of an old magazine.

Frank was a brute of a man, with the physique of a lumberjack. His brown unkempt curly hair hung low over his dark eyes. His greasy smile was all teeth on an unshaven face. To Sam, he looked like the Cheshire Cat. “Should’ve shot him, cop bitch,” Frank said in a gruff, matter-of-fact voice. “I wouldn’t have hesitated.”

“Shut your face, prisoner. Can’t you see we have enough problems without your lip?” Ackers said.

Carmen ignored this. He’d looked up, locking eyes with Sam and said, “There’s going to be a lot more killing before the day’s done, cop bitch. I can smell that sort of thing, you know.”

“Call me that again, asshole, and I’ll prove you right,” Sam had hissed through the bars.

“Sam…” Ackers had cautioned. “Let’s get out of here and try to figure this shit out, alright?”

Sam had nodded and looked away from that smiling prick.

As they had exited the cell block, Carmen laughed at their backs, “Things are gonna get real ugly around here, I can smell that, too—just like I can smell the chicken-shit on both of you!”

Sam had tensed.

“Keep walking,” Ackers said as they had cleared the cell block. “Why do you let them rile you up like that?”

“We should just shoot those scumbags,” she’d mumbled. “They’re the only reason we can’t leave. No one would blame us… not now.”

Ackers had stopped and turned to her. “What did you just say, officer? Something about executing human beings we’re responsible for with the criminal intent to commit murder?”

Sam’s temper had always worked hand-in-hand with her mouth to get her into hot water. “Nothing… I’m just talking shit because I’m tired… forget what I said.”

But she’d meant every word.

~~~

Next Episode 8-2

Previous Episode 7-4

~~~

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~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 8-1: State of Emergency” Copyright © 2014, 2015 Scott Scherr. From the Novel “Don’t Feed The Dark, Book One: Southbound Nightmares”.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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Comments
  1. Anonymous says:

    hmmmm so are all of these, interconnected individual stories? or is there some sort of main character or that all these characters will all meet up or something of the sort??

    Like

    • sscherr says:

      Hello, to answer your question, they start off as individual stories and then a good majority of them meet up in Chapter 10. Others, you will meet after… and so on. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I hope you are enjoying the story so far.

      Like

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