November 30, 2014

Race for Safe Haven - Hope (NaNoWriMo update #8)

[Posted by Ted H]

Victory lap!


[Race for Safe Haven - Hope]

            Neither man said anything on the way out of the bar. They hustled to Rhett's car and climbed in, Rhett first tossing a backpack full of cash into the back and carefully placing a couple bags packed with liquor into the backseat. "How far is your house?" Rhett asked as he settled into the drivers seat. "About a ten minute drive from here," Chris said "You don't have to do this. It's out of your way, I can probably make my way home on foot and be alright."
            "Not open for discussion," Rhett said as he fired up the engine. Looking out towards the streets, both me noticed a growing number of the dead walking about. "It's getting worse out there?" Chris said. "Must've been real bad in the city," Rhett responded "Now they're trickling out."
            "Are you sure you want to-" Chris began but Rhett cut him off. "What did I just tell you?" The trip through the streets was looking to be perilous to anyone on foot. Rhett could barely drive down a street now without drawing the attention of an infected. "Man, this is going to get a lot worse before it gets better," Rhett said. Chris nodded. "If there was a time to get out of town, now would be it."
            "And go where?" Rhett asked.
            "That's the million dollar question. This next left," Chris said while pointing "Big building on the end of the street."
            Rhett drove up to an apartment complex with people milling about outside. Most of them readied weapons when they saw Rhett and Chris exit the car and walk over. "Not dead yet," Rhett said as he kept his hand on the pistol in his belt. Chris walked behind him, using the empty shotgun as a crutch. "Who is this guy, Chris?" one of the people asked. "He's cool," Chris said "I got into a car accident and he helped me out."
            The people nearby seemed satisfied with the answer and went back to their business. Most of them were packing cars up to leave in. Others were boarding up the first floor windows. Some were debating with each other over the next action; hunker down and defend their homes or escape to a shelter.
            They took an elevator to the third floor and walked down the hall to Chris's home. "Anna!" he yelled as he opened the door and rushed in. Inside was a blond woman pointing a handgun. Chris stopped at the sight of the woman. "That's not Anna?" Rhett asked as he pointed his own handgun.
            "Beth, what are you doing here?" Chris asked.
            "Who's this asshole?" Beth asked, gesturing to Rhett with her gun.
            "Where is Anna?" Chris asked, not concerned with introductions.
            "Chris?" a woman called from the back. Out ran a brunette with a pale look on her face. Chris ran to her. After a hug and kiss, Chris asked "Where's Marie?" Anna took Chris by the hand and led him into the back where his daughter was, leaving Beth and Rhett alone.
            "So..." Rhett said aloud, noting Beth still had her gun at the ready.
            "Why is he limping?" Beth asked.
            Rhett thought about it a moment, but decided that nothing good could come from lying about it. "He's bitten," he said "Probably infected. He's already started a fever."
            Beth said nothing and sighed. "He's never been good at taking bad news."
            "Well, he's had a chance to process it," Rhett said "It's only a matter of-"
            "His daughters infected," Beth said.
            "One of those things got in?"
            "No. She was up all last night puking and spiking a fever. Anna couldn't call him because he shuts his phone off at work. Usually forgets to turn it back on until he gets home. I didn't find out myself until I got here this morning."
            "Shit," Rhett said, wondering if bringing Chris home to  this was worth it.
            "Everyone's getting eaten alive out there," Beth said "We forget the infection spread long before things went south like this. How did he get bit?"
            "I wasn't there. I arrived after the fact. All he wanted was to go home for his wife and kid."
            "When my sister told me he hadn't come home yet, we feared the worst."
            "Too bad about the kid though."
            "It's not too late."
            Before Rhett could say anything, Chris emerged from the back. His shoulders sagged and he looked even more hopeless than before. "Pack your shit," Beth said "We're going to Albany."
            "There's got to be a closer shelter than that," Chris protested "We can't take Marie on that kind of trip, not the way she's feeling."
            "We're not going to a shelter," Beth said "My ex-husband called and told me to get to Albany. Something big is happening there, apart from the shelters. When I told him about Marie, he said to get there as soon as possible."
            Gunshots sounding outside caught Rhett's attention. Chris and Beth talked about Albany as Rhett went to the window to try and see what was going outside. He could hear shouting and another gunshot, but nothing else. A minivan speeding away crossed his view, but the commotion has ceased.
            "I'll go pull my car around," Beth said as she went into the kitchen to grab a box of supplies. "You can't go alone," Chris protested "Not after all the shooting outside. Those things must be here." Rhett waved him off. "I'll make sure she's fine," he said "Just stay with your family." Chris nodded as Beth walked through for the door. "Don't make me come back up here for you," she said and left.
            People outside were in a frenzy when Rhett and Beth exited. Several people were lugging a corpse into a pile of other corpses. "They're coming!" someone said to them as he ran by. "I parked in the back, come one," Beth said as they walked. Some people with guns were on high alert as they stood by others making hasty finishing touches on the first floor window barricades.
            "So what's the deal with your husband?" Rhett asked as they made their way for the parking lot.
            "EX," Beth said "We separated a year ago."
            "Not what I meant,"
            "He told me taking the infected to a shelter isn't the way to go. I don't know specifics, but I trust him."
            "And what does he know? How does he know anything?"
            "He works in the Governor's office. He's privy to certain information."
            "There a cure? Does he know how to get one? You said it wasn't too late for the girl."
            "I don't know. He just said make sure Marie gets to Albany before she gets any worse. If that's the best chance she has, then that's my play.
            They reached Beth's sedan just as another round of shooting and yelling began. "Once they get their shit loaded, there's only going to be so much room," Beth said as they climbed in "I don't see a reason why you should join the road trip."
            "I just wanted to make sure Chris got home," Rhett said "The little trip I had in mind when I left home today has become quite the ordeal."
            "Tell me about it," Beth said as Rhett began to cough, each one causing more and more pain in his head. He could feel his nose start to clog. "You alright?" Beth asked. "I'll be fine," Rhett said as Beth drove up to the front of the building. Rhett got out and watched as Chris and his family exited and headed for him.
            The sound of gunshots grew closer and more numerous as Rhett could begin to hear moaning. Anna climbed into the back and held Marie wrapped in a towel as Chris awkwardly loaded bags into the back seat. Afterwards he stood by the passenger door and looked to Rhett. "Maybe you should follow," Chris said "In your car. I know you have supplies."
            "Nah," Rhett said as he peeked Beth impatiently waiting "You guys are fine. I'll figure something out for myself."
            "Listen," Chris said as he leaned on the shotgun "You still have those shells?"
            "Still need just one?"
            Chris smiled as he looked away "No. Maybe I can use all of them."
            "You were so sure you were already dead," Rhett said as he dug out every shell from his pocket and handed them over "What makes Marie's fate different?"
            "It's not different," Chris said as he loaded the shotgun "But if there's a chance she can make it, then I'm willing to give her the chance I didn't want for myself."
            "It might be hopeless," Rhett said "The way the world is right now?"
            "Hope is all we have," Chris said as he closed the shotgun and placed it into Beth's car "You helped me realize that, even if it wasn't your intent.
            "I just wanted you to be able to say goodbye to your family."
            "And I found out I can't. Not while they still need me."
            Rhett smiled. "Take care, Chris," he said as he offered his hand. Chris smiled back as he shook hands. "You're still an asshole," he said "But maybe a better person than I first thought."
            With that, Chris climbed into the car and shut the door. Beth started to drive, but quickly stopped and rolled down Chris's window. "Hey!" she called to Rhett "If you change your mind or just happen to end up near Albany, look for Luke Harris."
            "Who the hell is that?" Rhett called.
            "My husband."
            "You mean Ex?"
            Beth smiled and winked as she started to drive away. Rhett saw them off then made his way for his car. Most of the people staying at the complex were inside now. The increased moaning and the decreased gunfire meant this area was about to be swarmed. Rhett jumped into his car and immediately drove off.

Race for Safe Haven - From 1-to-Completely, How Fucked are We? (NaNoWriMo update #7)

[Posted by Ted H]

Greetings once again from a little place I'd like to call: The Winner's Circle!

Winning once again! For the second time in a row! For the third time overall!

I've lost count of the hours of sleep I sacrificed to get here, potential productivity wasted for sitting in front of my laptop, all in the name of pounding out words on my way to 50k. But now that I'm here, sipping the sweet, sweet nectar of victory yet again, I have only one thing left to say:

Is it time for the 2015 competition yet?


[Race for Safe Haven - From 1-to-Completely, How Fucked are We?]

            Rhett found a remote and turned on the television. Local news was still unavailable and now one of the cable news channels was flashing a "technical difficulties, please stand by" graphic. The fate of the president was being called into question by the remaining channels. One claimed he was being evacuated with his family, another claimed a more dubious demise.
            Rhett left it on for Chris to watch in silence while he disappeared into the back to look for supplies. It had become obvious that this was going to be a long term situation, so he figured he should hold up with as much as he could scavenge. He also used a key he found in a desk to open the safe and helped himself to the money inside. "Just in case the world doesn't fall apart," he said to himself as he grabbed a backpack and filled it with money and other valuables lying around.
            "Rhett, come take a look at this!" Chris called, and Rhett was running back to the bar. Chris was facing the television and Rhett looked to the screen to see another shot of the CDC but with a different person talking this time. This was a tall man in a disheveled suit, flanked on both sides by the same men in suits. Rhett raised the volume on the television as the man talked.
            "We have a number of shelters setting up in every major city and a majority of rural areas across the country. We advise everyone seek refuge at a shelter no matter how safe, secure or well stocked their home residence or public location appears to be. If you are showing early symptoms of the Waterhouse-Friderichsen infection, we advise that you also seek refuge, for each location is equipped to accommodate you."
            "What is the cutoff for infected people?" a man in the audience broke in "How infected is too infected?"
            "If you are coherent and not trying to harm anyone," the speaker continued "And you comply with all orders and requests at the shelters, then you will be allowed refuge." Other people in the audience began to shout questions and it became impossible for the speaker to continue.
            "So on a scale from "1" to "completely", how fucked are we?" Chris asked, a sense of dread weighing on his voice. Rhett just blew air through his nose and shook his head. "You think one of these shelters are a good idea?" Chris said as Rhett began to rub his head. His cold meds were beginning to fail. "I ain't doing that shit," Rhett said "Sounds like a bad idea, herding everyone in one place with this sickness running rampant?"
            "I don't think they're gonna let infected people just walk in there, not with the amount of fear going around," Chris said as he eyed the shotgun sitting on the bar. "How many shells did you find for that gun?" he asked. "Just four. I don't think he kept much in the way of ammo here. Maybe at his house," Rhett said, not taking his eyes off the screen in case the commotion settled down and something relevant would be said.
            Chris picked the gun up and opened it. "That's okay. Can I just have one shell?" he asked. Rhett immediately looked away from the television and at Chris, who had a calm look to his as he patiently waited for a shell. "Why, Chris?" Rhett asked, being careful to pick his words.
            "I'm dead," Chris said calmly "What do you care when I finally end it. I don't want to be one of those things, and you don't want to have to deal with me when I turn."
            "I'm not killing you, Chris," Rhett said.
            "I'm not asking you to. Just give me a shell. I'll take care of the rest."
            "I give you a shell, I'm killing you. No dice."
            "Who are you to care now?" Chris yelled "I'm dead no matter what. I just want to go out on my terms. At least let me die with some dignity!"
            "Dignity?" Rhett yelled back "You're looking to off yourself all alone in a bar, surrounded by corpses! Where's the dignity, Chris?"
            Chris said nothing.
            "You want to kill yourself? Fine," Rhett continued "But not here, not this way."
            "What are you suggesting?"
            "Go home, see your family one last time. Don't just check out and leave them wondering what happened to you. Don't let them find out down the line you did this."
            "And let them see me like this? Infected and dying? Why would I put them through this?"
            "To say goodbye. To have your fucking dignified end."

November 27, 2014

Race for Safe Haven - The Assholes Inherit the Earth (NaNoWriMo update #6)

[Posted by Ted H]

Soooooooo damn close now. Just gotta power through a slow part, then things get exciting again and I can pound out the last several thousands of words for victory!
Also feel the itch to write something new for the protagonist from last years NaNoWriMo. Exciting, no?

Current status of my 2014 NaNoWriMo: 46,980 / 50,000 (3,020 words to go!)
Current pace has me writing my 50,000th word on November 29


[Race for Safe Haven - The Assholes Inherit the Earth]

            "So where were you when you first realized the world was going crazy?" Chris asked, wanting to change the subject."
            Rhett hesitated. "Rescuing cripple orphans from a fire," he eventually said.
            "C'mon," Chris said "Humor me. I told you my story."
            "Coming home from here," Rhett said "Knowing how the story would sound "I was pulled over and getting arrested for drunk driving when one of these things comes in and kills the cop."
            Chris gave a dismissive sigh as he looked away "I'm just trying to make conversation," he said "If you don't want to talk about it-"
            "This is his gun," Rhett said, holding up the pistol "I passed where it happened on the way back over here and raided his car for supplies. The handcuffs he used are at my house." Rhett didn't see the point in telling the truth, but it annoyed him that he did and Chris didn't believe him. Chris stared at him for a moment before saying "Wow..." and looking back away. Rhett went back to searching.
            Some time had passed and Rhett was finally able to dig up a cigar box where the shotgun shells were located. "You sneaky prick," he said "Hiding Remmy's shells like this."
            "Remmy," Chris said, breaking his silence "Was that the bartender?"
            "No," Rhett said with a pause "That's the name he gave his shotgun. I never did catch his name."
            "You knew his shotgun, but the man himself went unnamed?"
            "All the years I've been drinking here, it was never important. He never told me and I never asked."
            Chris started laughing, for reasons Rhett was sure he wouldn't like. "I don't believe this," Chris said "I leave the safety of my car because I think someone needed help, and I end up with a death sentence. John Doe the bartender gets killed because he dared to open the door to help me. A cop dies because he did his job at the wrong time with the wrong drunk. And then there's you." The last few words were said with disdain. Rhett stood up to be lever with Chris as he lectured.
            "All these good people are dying and people like you get to survive. Why did you even come here? Clearly you knew what was happening. So what, were you coming to check on the people who go nameless to you, or to get a free drink?"
            "Saved your ass, didn't I?" Rhett said.
            "With a gun you took from a dead man!" Chris cried out "I'll never get to hug my wife or kid again, but you get to walk out of all this and get drunk again tonight! Where's the fairness in this? The assholes inherit the earth!"
            Rhett was going to argue, but decided against it. Chris was pissed, but mostly at the bite on his leg. He reached under the bar and pulled out a bottle of whiskey. "Yeah, great idea," Chris said sarcastically "Get blitzed. It's why you're here, isn't it?" Rhett ignored him as he found a clean glass and poured, then handed it to Chris. "You're dying, I get it," he said "And maybe it's not fair that I'm not dying. But this is the world, and if it wasn't fair to begin with, it sure as hell isn't going to improve right now." Chris stared at him for a moment, anger burning in his eyes, then slowly took the glass.

November 21, 2014

Race for Save Haven - Bar Fight (NaNoWriMo update #5)

[Posted by Ted H]

"It's like Walking Dead, if that show had zombies in it" has become my elevator pitch for this novel...

Current status of my 2014 NaNoWriMo: 37,036 / 50,000 (12,964 words to go!)
Current pace has me writing my 50,000ths word on: November 29th

Joooooin us!


[Race for Safe Haven - Bar Fight]

            The next destination was the only one Rhett cared about; the bar. Instead of his usual spot in the back of the lot, Rhett parked right by the front in case he needed to get out in a hurry. He pulled out the handgun and ejected the magazine to count the bullets inside. "Thirteen," he said to himself after counting "Plus one in the chamber." He loaded the gun and got out of the car. As useless as he suspected the gun to be, losing track of how many bullets he had would be stupid in its own right.
            The bars front door was slightly ajar but otherwise everything seemed normal, so Rhett readied the gun low as he approached. He swung the door out of the way with his foot and peered inside, his eyes trying to adjust to the dark interior. He stuck close to the wall as he entered and took in the scene.
            The bar was trashed. Tables were overturned, broken glass was everywhere and large gunshot holes riddled the walls. Strewn about were four bodies, none of them breathing, all with some sort of gunshot damage to their head. "Oh my God," Rhett said as he cautiously approached the nearest body. They were lying on their back with their mouth open and full of something bloody, Rhett assuming it to be a chunk of someone else's flesh. There were chunks of flesh missing all over the body, something Rhett was getting tired of seeing.
            A bloody arm rose up from behind the bar and slammed down. Rhett jumped back and watched as a figure steadied itself on the bar as it rose up to regard him. "Aw man," Rhett said as he recognized the bartender from last night, now with several gaping wounds n his neck and chest, and the same dead eyes Rhett had seen in other victims.
            "Are you...okay?" Rhett asked, not sure if he should respect a reaction. None of the other people responded in any way besides murder, but Rhett felt that maybe a familiar face could connect to someone. The bartender opened his mouth and moaned as he reached over the bar to grab Rhett.
            "Please," Rhett said as he meekly held his gun out and aimed "Don't make me." The bartender ignored him as he dragged himself along the bar and found a way free so he could get to his next meal. "Just stay back!" Rhett screamed to the deaf ears. He waited as long as he dared before firing a warning shot high. The bartender didn't flinch as he continued his approach.
            "Your funeral," he said as he pulled the trigger and fired a shot into the bartenders stomach. He stumbled, but did not relent. Rhett fired into his chest to similarly fruitless results. Rhett retreated towards the wall, trying to create space, almost tripping over one of the dead bodies. "Fuck," he yelled as he steadied himself on his feet, glancing down at the body with a gunshot between the eyes.
            As soon as his back hit the wall, Rhett raised the gun and aimed. The bartender stumbled forward to make his move and Rhett pulled the trigger, blowing the top portion of the bartender's head off and dropping him immediately. Rhett let out a deep breath as he slid down the wall and sat on the ground. "Easy," he said as he tried to catch his breath.
            Some noise in the back room caught Rhett's ear and he immediately scrambled to get up and ready his gun. "Hello?" someone called out as they opened an employees only door and stuck their head out. Rhett aimed his weapon and said nothing as the man looked about and stopped at the sight of the gun.
            "Whoa, whoa!" he cried "Don't shoot, I'm a human!" Rhett lowered the gun and shook his head. "You're the first person to actually say something to me since last night," Rhett said as he walked towards the man. The man hobbled out and stopped with Rhett at one of the only tables not overturned. "How long were you back there?" Rhett asked.
            "A while," the man said "Names Chris."
            "Man, am I glad you're here," Chris said with a smile as he offered his hand to shake. He was middle aged and wearing dark pants and a dress shirt with rolled up sleeves and an unraveled tie draped around his shoulders. He had disheveled blond hair that stuck to his forehead from sweat and a beard that looked like it badly needed a trim. "You have a phone or something?" Chris asked "The line here's dead."
            Rhett shook hands and said "Sorry, left it at home." Chris shrugged "Ah well. I left mine in my car, which I'm sad to say isn't exactly around the block."
            "That sucks," Rhett said before asking "What the hell happened here, Chris?"
            "I wish I knew," Chris said as he placed his hands on his hips and forced a smile. " I leave my night shift and it's the end of the God damn world. Driving home, I see some guy wandering in the middle of the road, all bloody and stuff. I dial 9-1-1 but I can't get through. So I get out and ask the guy if he's alright, and he grabs me and tries to bite my face off. I struggle him off of me when I notice two more guys, all bloody too, and making their way for me.
            "I immediately go for my car.  I figure that W-F disease is making people crazy like the stories I heard about Mexico or somewhere. I never thought they were real until there it was trying to bite me in the nose. I try to drive away, but the problem is my window. See, my AC is busted and I roll my windows down when I drive, so before I could drive, I got these arms reaching in at me, faster than the window can roll up. I hit the gas, an arm grabs my ear and jerks me to the side, it all happened so fast, and I end up going right off the side of the road and into a ditch."
            "Bust up your car?" Rhett asked.
            "It's stuck in there is all," Chris said "Won't take much to get it out but I don't think AAA is answering calls today. So anyway, I haul ass out of there and come across this bar. I pound on the door and call for help, all while the three guys are moaning and crawling after me, and now there's a fourth joining in. Luckily the guy working here gets over in time to let me in, but not before the four crazies shove their way in too.
            "They literally bum rush to door, knocking the two of us down. Next thing I know the guy working here is pulling me up and shoving me towards the back room. He grabs a gun from behind the bar and yells for me to hide in the office and not to come out. He looked pretty bad, one of those things must have bit into his neck."
            Rhett looked down towards the bartender's body and saw the bite marks on the side of his neck. "I came out with a knife I found in back," Chris continued "I thought I could help after the shooting stopped. One of those things were still alive, though tangled in a bunch of chairs after being tossed onto a table. The guy screamed for me to get back where I was. He was in a bad way, looked like he was bleeding out from more bites. Too bad he died before he could kill that last crazy."
            "What?" Rhett asked as he turned to face Chris.
            "The guy was bleeding out," Chris said "Definitely a goner. I was afraid to come back out. I figured if the guy was still alive, he'd come get me, but he didn't. Few hours pass and I hear you shooting and here we are. thanks for killing that last asshole, by the way."
            "Which asshole?" Rhett asked. Chris arched an eyebrow as he glanced for a moment at the corpse Rhett had almost tripped over before. "He was dead when I got here," Rhett said. "Then who...?" Christ asked "Who were you shooting at?" Rhett motioned to the body of the bartender. "Why would you-" Chris began before Rhett cut him off "He was one of them."
            "No he wasn't," Chris said a look of exacerbation washing over him "He was...he...he was infected too?"
            "He wasn't sick," Rhett said, a knot forming in his stomach.
            "How do you know?"
            "I was here last night. He's the bartender. He was fine."
            "Maybe he had the early stages of the disease."
            "Then why would it turn his like this so fast?" Rhett asked as he looked back to the bites on the bartender.
            "But he died," Chris said "How can he turn crazy if he's dead?"
            Rhett walked to the body and looked at where he shot him. The stomach and chest shots were clean hits, fatal in most situations, but merely shrugged off here. He pondered all the injuries he observed to this point. "He was already dead," he said as he turned to Chris "They're all dead."
            "Bullshit," Chris said as he made a face.
            "Look at these injuries," Rhett said as he walked to each body in the bar, all of them with some fatal injury to the neck and face that a gun did not cause.
            "These people went crazy from the infection," Chris said "They didn't die and just get back up."
            "It's the infection," Rhett said "I think it does something to you."
            "And if your bartender guy here wasn't sick, then how did he get the infection and rise from the dead?"
            "...The bites," Rhett said after a pause "The bites transferred the infection."
            "No," Chris yelled as he began to pace "Gotta be another reason."
            "Well what other reason is there?"
            "Just..." Chris began but fell silent. He stopped pacing and sat down in a chair. "I was so careful," he said "I wasn't getting sick. I gave up things I loved and avoided certain friends I was afraid had the infection..." he trailed off as he looked up to Rhett. "I just wanted to help that guy in the street. I didn't know."
            "Were you bit?" Rhett asked as Chris pulled his pant leg up to reveal a bite mark on his calf, a small amount of blood oozing down into his sock. "When they rushed the door and knocked us down," Chris said, letting go and allowing the bite to be covered "One of them grabbed my leg and got me before the bar guy pulled me up."
            Rhett sighed as he walked over towards the bar. "I'm gonna die, aren't I?" Chris asked, his voice taking on a stressed tone. "Probably," Rhett said as he eyed the area behind the bar where the bartender originated, blood was pooled in the corner, suggesting where the tender had bled out and died. Nearby was a double barreled shotgun. Rhett grabbed a nearby rag and used it to pick the gun up with, taking care not to touch any of the blood on it. He opened it to reveal it still had one shell loaded.
            "He had to have some ammo somewhere," Rhett said to himself. "What do you mean "probably"?" Chris yelled.
            "How many people did you know survive this?"
            "Oh God..." Chris buried his head in his hands. Rhett ignored him and continued his search. He placed the shotgun on the bar and began digging through a cabinet. Chris eventually regained his composure and made for the bar, Rhett tossing things out from the cabinet at random in his search for ammo.

November 15, 2014

Race for Safe Haven - Return to the Scene (NaNoWriMo update #4)

[Posted by Ted H]

Halfway to happy hour!

As I check in, halfway done with the NaNoWriMo challenge at the halfway point in the month, I look seductively at next week, where Ill have 3 WHOLE DAYS where I don't work. Thanksgiving and black friday are going to be murderous, so using those 3 WHOLE DAYS OFF to finally get a big lead are gonna be vital.

Current status of my 2014 NaNoWriMo: 20,070 / 50,000 (24,930 words to go!)
Current pace has me writing my 50,000th word on: November 30th

Joooooin us!


[Race for Safe Haven - Return to the Scene]

            Before he did anything, though, Rhett decided he needed to lose the handcuffs. He sat down at the kitchen table where he had left a pile of papers. Out of the pile he pulled out a paperclip. "Doesn't look too hard," he said as he bent the paperclip a couple times and inserted it into the cuff lock. It took a few tries but he was able to pick it open and free his wrist. "Easy," he said triumphantly as he rubbed his wrist and walked away, leaving the handcuffs.
            He showered and changed, sobering up as best he could. His cold was defiantly beginning to weigh on him, but a few cold pills and another aspirin seemed to keep it at bay. He reasoned he'd have plenty of time to rest afterwards. He called up Jake again to leave another voicemail. "Me again, I'm gonna head out and investigate things. I wanna see if things are as bad as the TV says. If I don't call back today, then I'm dead."
            Rhett approached his front door and eyes the handgun lying nearby. He recalled how useless it seemed last night for the cop, doing nothing to stop the approach of the man who would devour him. He picked it up and ejected the magazine. "Nine millimeter rounds," he said to himself, disproving his comment last night that they were blanks. "How the hell was it so useless?" he asked, remembering the bullet hitting the other man where his heart would be.
            Despite his reservations on how useful it might be, Rhett popped the magazine back into the gun and placed it behind him under his belt. Better to have it anyway, he figured. He checked one last time through a window to confirm again the world outside his door was silent, then he opened the door and stepped out.
            There was no one waiting to kill him, but Rhett made sure to quickly walk to his car anyway. As he placed his hand to open the car door he stopped and listened. No sounds of shuffled feet or moaning could be heard. Rhett strained his ears though to hear anything. No birds, no other people, nothing. It was as if the entire world around him was dead, broken up by the occasional noise he would force through the otherwise quiet street. It made him uncomfortable. He hopped in his car and drove away.
            The drive out of his neighborhood was uneventful, but once on the open road, he noticed more than one wrecked vehicle on the sides of the road, usually with the driver side window smashed in and with blood on everything nearby. Occasionally he would see a person shuffling in the middle of the road, turning to see him drive up, and immediately raise their arms and grasp for the vehicle speeding by.
            Rhett soon came upon the spot where he was pulled over last night. The cop car remained, now dark and abandoned without a soul nearby. Rhett stopped his car and got out, pulling out the handgun just in case. It all seemed so different to him in the daylight as he was able to peer into the woods and see if anything was approaching. The large, red stain on the pavement indicating where the cop fell now sat empty. It looked like the body had been moved, though Rhett couldn't tell who or why would do it. The people last night were perfectly content to devour him in the middle of the street, and it wasn't like the cop was going to get up and move himself. "Where are all the bodies?" Rhett asked himself as he recalled that every scene of blood he passed to this point had no trace of a body anywhere.
            He approached the cop car, sitting quietly near all the blood. The door was unlocked as he stuck his head inside. He grabbed the radio receiver and pressed the button. "Hello?" he asked into it "Is anyone picking this up?" The radio sat silent, not even generating static. Rhett dropped it and looked around inside the car. The keys were in the ignition, but when Rhett tried, the engine wouldn't start.
            He reached over and opened the glove box. Inside were various papers and candy wrappers. Two pairs of gloves, one of them fingerless, and a pair of sunglasses were pulled out. Some digging brought out an empty magazine for the gun he took. No actual bullets or extra weapons were inside. Rhett took the gloves and magazine and exited the car. There was nothing of real use inside.
            He went around to the back and popped the trunk. Inside were various pieces of equipment and a locked metal case. "Nice," he said as he ran back to his car and pulled out a gym duffle bag and dumped out the contents. He took the empty bag back to the cop car, then checked around to make sure no one was approaching from any direction. The last thing he needed was one of those people getting the drop on him while he was raiding a dead cop, or worse, another cop catching him there and assuming he was responsible for the cops blood being all over the street.
            He pondered that thought a moment. Technically he was responsible; if the cop didn't pull him over last night, then he wouldn't have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. "I guess my drunk driving really did get someone killed," he said to himself, getting a chuckle out of it. He quickly snapped back into focus. Now was not a good time to be morbid. He began packing the duffle bag with equipment.
            Into the bag he stuffed the gloves and empty magazine along with a bunch of flares, a tactical vest and a first aid kit. He dragged out the metal case. It was locked and needed the proper four digit combination to open. Rhett figured he'd deal with that later and brought the case and bag over to his car. After loading up, he climbed back into the driver seat and drove off.

November 12, 2014

Race for Safe Haven - Oh God, Not Cable News! (NaNoWriMo update #3)

[Posted by Ted H]

I'd like to take a moment to talk about the Dawn of the Dead remake. One of my favorite opening sequences followed by the opening credits, where they got different people from different news style all trying to explain the zombie apocalypse. The only thing better than that was the bonus feature on the DVD where there's news coverage from zero hour to over a day into the zombie apocalypse. That was the shit.

Current status of my 2014 NaNoWriMo: 20,163 / 50,000 (29,837 words to go!)
Current pace has me writing my 50,000th word on: November 30

Joooooin us!


[Race for Safe Haven - Oh God, Not Cable News!]

            The next morning was quiet. Rhett woke up in his own bed without his shirt on. His head was throbbing from a mixture of his cold and his hangover. He wasn't sure of the time, but it was definitely into the afternoon. "Mission accomplished I guess," he said into his pillow, feeling a sense of relief, assuming what he experienced on his was home was just a horrible nightmare. "Never mixing Jager and the common cold ever again," he said as he moved his arm so he could rub his eyes but stopped dead at the painfully familiar sound of the handcuffs hanging off his wrist.
            "No," he whispered, as he sat up and tugged on the cuffs, making sure it wasn't a hallucination. He got up and made for the front door to see the dropped handgun from last night where he left it. He peeked out a front window to see if the people from last night found a way to follow him home. The outside world was still and silent. As thankful he was to see nothing, he also realized that there usually would be children running around and playing on a weekend day like this. The world outside right now was dead.
            Rhett made for his kitchen where a bottle of aspirin waited. After popping the pills and finding a bottle of water, he made for his television. He needed to know what the hell was happening. "Halloween came early, right?" he asked as he flipped through channels, each showing the same emergency broadcasting graphic, asking for people to wait for more information. "I'm going to have to turn to cable news, aren't I? Rhett asked as he changed channels.
            On screen was a press conference somewhere in Washington with a man in a suit answering questions at a podium. He had a stern look on his face and was talking directly and quick with all answers. Behind him stood a smaller man holding a packet of papers with a worried look on his face. The on screen graphic stated "Terror across the country: W-F patients escape and turn violent, death toll rising."
            "This is not just a national incident," the man at the podium stated "This is a global epidemic."
            "Is this similar with the alleged situation happing in Africa last week?" a reported asked.
            "If you're referring to the widespread rioting stemming from Nigeria down to South Africa, then yes. We will be dealing with it in similar fashion."
            "That wasn't the situation I was referring to," the reporter clarified "The reporting that people pronounced dead are-"
            "Those reports are inaccurate," the man interrupted "Next question."
            "What is the president's plan to deal with this rioting when the situation in Africa is not only still unresolved, but communications have gone dark and remained so in the affected countries," another reporter asked "And is it true that the European Union is also experiencing a similar outbreak?"
            "We have control of a wider pool of resources to effectively deal with this in a way that Africa cannot," the man said, pausing for a noticeable moment before continuing "And I cannot confirm or deny the status of Europe."
            There were mumbles among the reporters and hands for additional questions were raised. The man at the podium turned to the man behind him and whispered something before turning back around. "No more questions," he said before quickly turning to walk away, a roar or reporter questions tailing him as he walked. The man with the folders rushed to the microphone and tried to yell over the crowd. "The president plans to make a statement within the hour!"
            Rhett changed channels. On screen was a woman talking at the Center for Disease Control talking to her own pool of reporters. Flanking her on both sides were men is suits talking silently into radios. "They are not technically dead," the woman said, immediately catching Rhett's attention.
            "The disease does indeed impair organ function, in some cases entirely, but these people are still alive. We theorize that once inside the brain, after long periods of increased sensitivity to pain, the brain no longer recognizes any pain signal. This would explain all cases of gunshot wounds going unnoticed and all external injuries to be completely ignored."
            Someone in the crowd had come forward and screamed to be heard. "I saw someone shoot right through one of those things' neck, completely blowing the jugular away!" he yelled "That thing just kept going. How do you explain THAT?"
            "Right now we need to express the need for calm," the woman continued, ignoring the man. One of the men behind her stepped out of view and into the crowd, presumably to deal with the other man before he screamed something else. "While defiantly in need of help as soon as possible, these people are still carriers of the Waterhouse-Friderichsen infection and are extremely dangerous."
            Rhett changed channels again to three people having a debate. "There are people in the streets of St. Louis sweeping through the streets and shooting to kill anyone who are even showing the slightest symptoms, regardless of if that person is rioting or not," the man in the center said "They claim that this is what will keep the infection at bay. Does anyone agree with that?"
            These people need help," the man on the left said "Not a bullet in the brain. This can only worsen the infection because now people who do legitimately get sick won't come forward, making it harder to contain this epidemic. This is the wrong course of action."
            "The wrong course of action was herding them together to begin with," the man on the right said "We need a better treatment plan than just stashing them in our hospitals. St. Louis seems to have the only long term plan, as grotesque as it seems to be."
            "So you're saying you approve and endorse of what these people are doing?"
            "Don't put words in my mouth!"
            "Gentlemen, please!" the man in the middle tried to calm the other two down.
            Rhett flipped to a previous channel and dropped the remote. He pulled his phone out and went back to the front door. He peeked out to see the same empty street, wondering how bad things outside really were and trying to process everything he just watched. He checked his phone to see several missed calls all from the same number. There was only one person in the world who would think of Rhett if the world was falling apart: his roommate Jake.
            Jake had only left one voicemail message. "Yo man, if you ain't dead already, lemme know. Shit's gone fubar. Call me back."
            Jake had left a couple days ago to reluctantly go to a family reunion in Rochester. It was suppose to be ending today, but Rhett figured the apparent end of the world would give Jake a traffic problem. He dialed Jake's number and waited impatiently. The phone rang and rang, each passing second causing Rhett to slowly worry more. Eventually, his voicemail picked up.
            "Hey, this is Jake. I can't get to my phone right now cuz I'm busy...or dead. Who knows. Leave a message."
            Rhett rolled his eyes at the message. That wasn't cryptic or prophetic, it was the same message he used forever. "Hey, it's me," Rhett said "Not dead yet, how about you?" He ended the call and placed the phone down. He pondered his next move.
            The television was still playing footage of press conferences and people debating. None of them were showing firsthand accounts. Rhett remembered what he could of the previous night. Despite the hectic chaos he endured, he decided he needed to see if things were really as bad as they seemed on the news.

November 6, 2014

Race for Safe Haven - Routine Traffic Stop (NaNoWriMo update #2)

[Posted by Ted H]

Been starting off on a decent pace. Not surging ahead, but at least keeping ahead of the daily checkpoints. Today will prove to be an especially interesting day since I'll be working 12 hours. Gonna see if I can get any writing done during my lunch breaks. I don't wanna fall behind this year, even for a day....I don't even need food, right?


Also, my never ending eye for editing has already had me make changes and additions to the early going portion. It's now different that what I have posted. Hell, I'll probably make changes to the part I'm posting now once I'm done here. That's writing, go figure. I know my creative writing professor would scold me, Don't wast precious time revising when you should be pounding out now work and all that jazz.

Current status of my 2014 NaNoWriMo: 8,404 / 50,000 (41,596 words to go!)
Current pace has me writing my 50,000th word on: November 30

Joooooin us!


[Race for Safe Haven - Routine Traffic Stop]

            The rest of the night was an unclear blur as Rhett next found himself barely able to register the bartender announcing the last call. He glanced down to see an empty tall glass in his hand. He knew that it wasn't the original glass of liquor that was given to him earlier but he couldn't tell how many glasses he had downed during the night. All he knew was it was time to go. He patted his pocket and felt his keys. He apparently had been in good behavior for the bartender to not take his keys.
            He stood up, taking a moment to adjust. The bartender was on the other end of the bar. If Rhett was quick, he could duck out without the bartender seeing him. The bartender might try to stop him, but Rhett knew he could manage to drive home despite his condition. He didn't think he was that drunk. He stumbled into the door and disappeared into the night before the bartender could notice him. He left his credit card for his tab in there, but he wasn't planning on using it anytime soon. He probably wasn't going to use it again until the next time he drank anyway.
            The outside world was darker than Rhett expected, and he was still a bit dizzy from standing up. His stomach wasn't in such agreement anymore either with what felt like the gallon of alcohol he poured down his throat. He was feeling sick from the drinking, which sadly was his plan. He just needed to get home before he decided to throw up or pass out. He made his way to the back of the parking lot to where his car waited in the same spot he always parked it. That habit being the only reason he was able to find his car not only in the dark but also despite his drunk state. Every step he took made him more and more unsure of his ability to drive home, but every step made him feel more and more locked into his decision. Returning to the bar and requesting a cab at this point felt like defeat, and Rhett refused to be defeated.
            Rhett made it to his car, waiting beside a light that no longer functioned, and took a deep breath. He pulled his keys out and slowly went through each one until he found the one for the car. Every move and decision from here on out was slow and deliberate; such was the routine of driving home inebriated. The one difference this time was the cold that was threatening to take over providing a constant diversion in his head.
            "Okay," he said as he fired up the engine. Instinct was doing the bulk of his driving. He had driven back and forth from his house to the bar a thousand times by now. He could do it blind. All he had to consciously do was keep himself under the speed limit and look out for any bright lights heading in his direction. Easy.
            Once out of the parking lot and onto the open road, Rhett decided he needed music. He turned on the radio but there was a recording talking. He switched stations but the same voice played. "Seriously?" he said as he scanned through every station he could. He made a point to stay away from country and pop stations, but he was switching to even those in effort to find somewhere that was playing something else besides the recorded man.
            Going up and down through every station to no avail, Rhett finally gave up, a sense of defeat washing over he as he blindly reached for his CDs he kept in a compartment under his armrest. As he searched, he allowed himself to listen to what the recording was saying, feeling it might be important if it was preempting everything on the radio.
            "...Due to the escalation of the situation, the Onondaga county sheriff is mobilizing all available personnel, effective immediately. All off duty officers must report-"
            "What the hell?" Rhett said. Before he could listen for more, flashing red lights lit up behind him and his eyes darted to his rearview mirror. "Oh shit!" he yelled as he saw a police cruiser behind him. "Oh fuck, oh shit," he said as he pulled over near some woods and watched the cop park right behind him. Whatever was happening on the radio was no longer concerning as Rhett switched it off and began to wonder how he could possibly not go to jail now.
            Rhett waited as a cold sweat overtook him. He gripped the steering wheel and tried to will the alcohol out of his system. He figured he must have swerved or blew a stop sign while listening to the emergency broadcast. Part of him still wondered about what was going on, but the rest of him was more worried about the cop that was now approaching his car.
            He rolled his window down as the cop arrived, flashlight in one hand and his other on his holstered gun. "How ya doing tonight?" he asked. Rhett mumbled something in response, not daring to make eye contact as the cop illuminated his face with a flashlight. "Doing some drinking tonight?" he asked as he steadied the light on Rhett's face. "No sir," Rhett lied "Just feeling a bit under the weather. Trying to get home." Rhett focused on not slurring any words and hoped that the cop would be as scared of getting sick as the man from the bar was earlier. He could envision a scene where the cop becomes worried that Rhett has the W-F disease and sends him away, not wanting to risk infection.
            "Would you mind stepping out of the vehicle please?" the cop asked, undeterred by Rhett's claim to illness. Rhett slowly complied as he stepped out of his car and faced the cop. He immediately thought the cop would ask him to take a breathalyzer. He'd certainly fail, but he knew he had the right to reject the test, as much good as that would help.
            "Can't be that sick if you're out and about at this hour," the cop said "Where you coming from?"
            Rhett hesitated a moment to answer. "Work."
            "They let you work sick?"
            "I was fine, uh, earlier."
            "They send you home or did your shift let out?"
            Rhett was hesitating again looking for an answer when he noticed the grin on the cop's face; a cocksure grin that said everything Rhett didn't want to hear. He also noticed now that with each breath he let off a potent and unmistakable smell of liquor. The cop had no interest in where Rhett worked or whatever story he was trying to concoct. He was just fucking with him before the inevitable arrest.
            Rhett remained quiet while the cop waited with his grin. "I said, how was work today?" the cop asked, Rhett stayed silent. "You're right," he continued, noticing Rhett's annoyed expression "I don't think you were at work either. You want to try another story?" Rhett continued to glare and say nothing. He had no interest in entertaining the cop, which was starting to grate on the officer.
            "Fine then," the cops said, finally losing the grin "Step over to the front of your vehicle, put your hands on the hood and keep your legs spread." Rhett contemplated the idea of ignoring the order and firing off some quip about the cop wanting him to spread his legs, but he noticed he still had his hand on his holstered gun.
            Rhett slowly made his way to the front of his car and assumed the position. He decided to change the subject as the cop began patting him down. "Don't you have more important things to be doing right now?"
            "Oh, now you want to chat?" the cop said, ignoring the question.
            "The radio said you were being mobilized."
            "Still have to keep the peace elsewhere. Keep the streets safe from the drunks, for example."
            "What the hell is going on?"
            "Riot," the cop said after a pause "Apparently some infected are trying to bust out."
            "That doesn't make sense. Why would they try to escape? They're sick. And why would every cop in the city need to stop a single hospital riot."
            "It's not one hospital, it's every hospital....And some...some of the people escaped."
            "In the city?"
            The cop didn't say anything as he finished patting Rhett down.
            "Hey. What do you mean every hospital?"
            "I don't know," the cop said as Rhett heard the sound of handcuffs being taken out "And it doesn't matter for you anyway; You'll be in jail. Now put your hands on your head."
            Rhett did as asked and the cop grabbed his left arm and brought it behind his back and attached the first handcuff. Rhett sighed, closed his eyes and hung his head. Seemingly the only cop in the world not dealing with a riot, and he happened to be on the street Rhett drove home drunk on. The cop grabbed his other arm as Rhett picked his head up at the sound of a soft moan. "You hear something?" he asked, but didn't need a response as the cop let go of his arm to regard an approaching figure.
            "Ma'am, I need you to step back," the cop said. Rhett turned himself to better see. Slowly dragging herself towards the two men was a woman, concealed mostly by darkness and occasionally lit up by the cop car's flashing red lights. Her whole body swayed from side to side as she walked, both arms limp. "Is she alright?" Rhett asked.
            "Get back on the car!" the cop screamed at Rhett, causing him to immediately spin around and practically hug his car, the loose handcuff bouncing off the hood. The cop, worried that the woman might be injured, approached her cautiously. "Miss," he said as he pulled his flashlight back out "I'm a police officer. Are you alright?"
            The woman moaned again and shuffled herself at the cop at an increased pace. The cop shone the flashlight at her to light up a pale face with a slacked jaw. Her neck was red from a gaping neck wound that was still bleeding, albeit not as much as it should be, onto her dark T-shirt and jeans, causing the light to reflect off the heavy blood stains.
            "Oh shit," the cop said as he ran up to the woman, Rhett risking another peek as he turned his head to watch. "I just need you to lie down," the cop said as he reached out to her. The woman snapped her arm to meet the cop's hand and grabbed it, pull it close and bite into his wrist. The cop screamed and struggled to push the woman off of him while she tore flesh and refused to let go of his arm.
            Rhett was speechless as he watched, unaware of an approaching figure in the woods coming at him from behind. The cop managed to kick the woman off, not before she tore a chunk of flesh off of his arm. "Oh my God," he said as he looked at the damage. "Stay on the ground!" he shouted to the woman as she chewed of the flesh in her mouth, not at all satisfied and ready to get up for more. He pulled his gun out and pointed it at her.
            A stick snapping grabbed Rhett's attention as he turned to see a man exit the woods towards him. He had the same pale expression and blood smeared all over his mouth and chest. He stepped onto the street and reached for Rhett the same way the woman attacked the cop. "Oh fuck this," he said as he backed away towards the cop.
            "Get back on that car!" the cop screamed at him as he reeled around and pointed his weapon at Rhett, barely noticing the new man stumble into view. "Shoot it!" Rhett cried as he ducked. "Freeze!" the cop yelled at the man, summoning all the authority he could while aiming with his right arm and trying to ignore the throbbing pain in his left. The pale man paid no heed to him and continued to approach him and Rhett.
            "I said FREEZE!" the cop screamed. The man now turned away from Rhett and went straight for the cop, undeterred. The cop squeezed off a shot, striking the man squarely in the chest. He stumbled back momentarily, then continued forward as if nothing happened. "The fuck you shooting blanks for?" Rhett yelled. The cop didn't hear him as he marveled at the man with a bullet in his chest walking along as if nothing happened. "Must be some kind of drug?" he wondered.
            "Behind you!" Rhett yelled as the cop turned to see the woman reaching for him. He raised his right arm to defend himself as she grabbed it as big into him, causing him to drop his gun. While fighting her off, the man closed the distance to him and bit into his defenseless neck. He collapsed under the weight of the two assailants, giving them easier access to their meal. He fought and flailed as hard as he could, but he soon found it hard to breathe as blood began to pool in his throat. Soon after, he struggled no more.
            "Oh fuck," Rhett said, frozen in terror as he watched two people devour another. He glanced in the direction the woman came from and saw two more figures moving in similar fashion, heading directly for the flashing lights of the cop car. He could also hear movements in the nearby woods. He glanced near the scene of carnage to see the cop's dropped handgun. Without thinking, he quickly made for it and scooped it up, the stray handcuff hanging off his wrist dragging on the street pavement, alerting the woman to his presence as she turned to him.
            For a moment she stared at him and Rhett got a good look at her eyes. The normally white sclera was dark, Rhett was unsure of the exact color, but she looked at him with a lost gaze yet undeniably focused. Rhett pointed the gun at her in case she made an attempt at him. She looked at him a beat longer before turning back to her meal. She had no intention on attacking Rhett when an easier meal was lying before her.
            Rhett backed away, trying to ignore the wet sounds of flesh being torn or organs being pulled out. There was nothing he could do for the cop, at least not anymore. More of these people were coming, and not all of them would ignore Rhett. The moaning he heard in the dark also suggested there were more out there, more than the ones he was already accounting for. He had no intention on being the next meal. He fumbled his keys out and broke for his car. Once in the car he looked back to the cop's body and the approaching figures, now joined by three more slow moving people, all in some way injured and bloody. He fired up the engine and drove away as fast as his car would allow.
            The rest of his journey home was thankfully uneventful. Once in his driveway though, he slowly opened his car door and pointed the pistol out. He quickly ducked out and closed the door and waited. What he remember from those people was they had no intention of stealth; if they wanted to get at someone, they went straight at you and weren't quiet about it.
            After waiting for what he felt like long enough, Rhett quietly made his way to the front door and unlocked it. After closing it and locking it back up, he collapsed to the ground with his back on the door. "Holy shit...holy shit...holy shit..." he repeated to himself as he dropped the gun and held his head in his hands. He dared not turn any lights on or make any effort to call attention to his house. He didn't understand what was happening and he didn't care to know. He just wanted this nightmare he was in to end.

November 2, 2014

Race for Safe Haven - Bar Banter (NaNoWriMo update #1)

[Posted by Ted H]

And They're underway!

13 of the first 15 days this month have me working, including the entire opening week. What's NaNoWriMo without my life giving me the challenge?

This opening bit is zombie free. Figure I need to introduce our protagonist before we bury him in the undead.....

...This story has nooooooothing to do with the ebola crisis *cough*

Current status of my 2014 NaNoWriMo: 3,415 / 50,000 (46,585 words to go!)
Current pace has me writing my 50,000th word on: November 30

Jooooooin us!


[Race for Safe Haven - Bar Banter]

            "We interrupt this program to bring you a special report."
            The television went from the warning graphic to the scene of a man behind a news desk. Before the man opened his mouth, the boos and hissing from everyone at the bar drowned out all sound from the television. Peanut shells and crumpled napkins were tossed at the screen and yells to change the channel were sounding off. The bartender fumbled for the remote to ease the suddenly angry mob.
            It wasn't that the program being interrupted was of any particular interest to anyone; most of the patrons were ignoring the television anyway. It was the fact that the special report was going to talk about the same tired news story that no one wanted to hear about anymore. Validation to that fact was granted as a familiar graphic was shown behind the newsman as he talked, still inaudible to the irate crowd as the bartender finally pointed the remote to the screen and changed the channel. A west coast baseball game appeared and the bar was content once more, most of them turning away from the television and returning to whatever they were occupying themselves with before the special report invaded their attention.
            The special report that everyone wanted to ignore was about the disease that originated overseas but found its way to America. The media dubbed it "The W-F epidemic" named for something few people cared to pay attention to. All that was relevant was that in the third world where this disease originated, it was proving to be a serious situation. When it spread to places like America, it was wrote off as something that could be managed with superior health care. When that proved to be wrong, drastic measures were taken and anyone infected reported to quarantine. Fatalities were rare, but the general population braced for the eventuality. In the meantime, people just wanted to go about their business and not have to be forced to endure any more reporting on the matter.
            Rhett sat at his usual spot at the bar, one hand on a beer and the other supporting his head as he felt a headache starting. A patron sitting next to him turned around from watching the television and looked to Rhett. "I swear," he started regardless if Rhett wanted the conversation or not "I swear not a day goes by where I can watch a minute of TV without someone cramming down my throat this...this," he paused as he mentally groped for a word. "Sickness...disease...epidemic..."
            "Infection," Rhett said with his eyes closed, trying to will the oncoming headache away "Let's just call it that." The headache cared not for what Rhett wanted. "Nah," the man to his left said "Epidemic is better. That's what the news calls it. This thing is everywhere."
            "Whatever," Rhett mumbled.
            "I heard about this quarantine people enter," the man continued "And they apparently get an information blackout. No TV, no radio, no internet. Nothing. I think it's wrong that us healthy people gotta hear about this epidemic more than the people sick with it have to."
            "They got to live with it though," a man to Rhett's right chimed in "I think that qualifies as hearing about it more often."
            "No," the man on the left said unable to be swayed from his original position.
            "They're dead," a woman on the right side of Rhett said "My boyfriend's brother works at one of the hospitals in Miami treating these people. He says they're putting down all W-F patients."
            "My neighbor visited her sister in quarantine yesterday," the man on the right said "Nobody's killing anyone."
            "It's the only way to stop it," the woman said "Kill the ones already infected, save the healthy people while there's still time."
            "That's just not true," the man on the left said.
            "The conditions are deplorable, I know that," the man on the right said "Not enough space for all the sick people. The underestimated the number of infections over here."
            "So what's to say they don't euthanize a few hopeless cases here and there to free up some room?" the woman asked.
            "I know there are some protests over these conditions," the man on the left said "And I heard some people are starting to lash out inside there, but nothing fatal is going on."
            "People ARE dying from this!" the woman said feeling like that would invalidate any argument against her."
            "In Africa, yeah," the man on the right said "This is America. No one's dying here."
            "Guy in California died," the man on the left said.
            "One guy," the other man said "Out of how many?"
            "The African death tolls are exaggerated," yet another man decided to enter the conversation "They said some of the early deaths were inaccurately reported."
            "Yeah, I remember that," the man on the right said "Like they magically came back to life?"
            "I thought no one wanted to hear about this shit?" Rhett said aloud as everyone quieted down to regard him as he closed his eyes tight and tried to ride out the early part of his headache.
            "You don't look too good," the man on the right announced. "Oh God, he's infected!" the man on the left shouted as he jumped back. The entire bar soon grew quiet as Rhett suddenly found there was distance between him and everyone else.
            "Now you want to call it an infection?" Rhett said as he found the sudden silence somewhat preferable for his headache. "Calm down," the bartender announced as he made his way over "What's going on?"
            "What's going on?" the man on the left repeated the question as he pointed to Rhett "I think this guy is sick  and I don't want to catch this thing."
            "Idiots," Rhett said as he popped an eye open to regard the man "It's a cold. Happens all the time. It's not this God damn plague."
            "Liar!" the man on the left said.
            "I have a headache and my sinuses are getting clogged," Rhett snapped "This time tomorrow I'll be puking and sneezing all over the place."
            "Puking...nausea...that's a symptom!" the man said.
            "Stop being hysterical," Rhett said as he turned to regard the bartender "A little backup?"
            The bartender calmly took Rhett's empty glass. "This so-called infected guy, Rhett, has been coming here for as long as I've been tending this bar. Every year bout this time he gets the same damn cold and I don't see him for about a week because of it."
            "Still..." the man on the left said, not convinced. "Do you have a fever?" the bartender asked Rhett. Rhett shook his head. "No matter what other symptom is present, there's always a fever." Other people in the bar began to go about their own business again, sure that Rhett wasn't sick in any meaningful way. "Are you sure...about the fever?" the man asked. "Just because you don't want to watch these reports on it doesn't mean other people ignore them. They talk about that symptom all the time," the bartender said.
            Rhett was no longer the center of attention. In fact, most people gave him distance. "Why are you here, Rhett?" the bartender asked after dealing with a few other patrons. "I have a plan," Rhett said with a smirk "You said it yourself, every damn year I get this cold. Tomorrow It'll be hitting me all the way. I'm gonna drown myself in alcohol before that happens."
            "You think that'll cure you or something?" the bartender asked with an arched eyebrow. "Nah," Rhett said "But it might take the edge off." The bartender smiled and shook his head. "Another beer?" he asked.
            "Nah. Hit me with something harder," Rhett said "Jagermeister."
            "Red bull in it?"
            "Straight. I need to take my medicine."
            The bartender laughed as he disappeared and came back with a tall glass of dark liquid, more than Rhett was used to getting. "Holy shit," he responded. "Just making sure you get the right dosage," the bartender said. "You should be a doctor," Rhett said as he took the glass and took a large gulp, scrunching his face as he swallowed.