“Michael! Michael, shit, get back in here!”
Michael hurried back into the living room after hearing the panic in his brother’s voice. Jon gestured to the TV, which was currently showing the scene of a massacre.
“It started early this morning, when three patients broke out of their rooms and started attacking other patients and doctors. The entire hospital is now under lockdown.”
The camera zoomed in on the entrance to a familiar emergency room and Michael’s heart dropped.
There was Emma, shambling about out front. Bloody bandages were hanging loosely from her shoulder as she continued to walk in mindless circle, her head hanging limp on her shoulder with her blonde hair all clumped up with dirt and blood. She finally lolled her head up to show her face, her jaw hanging loosely, eyes glazed over and leaking pus. She began to limp towards the camera and the feed cut to the news station.
“This is one of many scenes where hospitals have been overcome by people suffering by the mysterious virus that is spreading across the nation. Experts are still stumped on its origins, but it’s important that unless it’s an emergency, keep travel to a minimum, avoid any high traffic areas, and if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms: bloodshot eyes, high fever, disorientation, blood in feces, urine or vomit, or you’ve been exposed to someone who has experienced these symptoms, please head to your local hospital immediately. And now for-”
Jon flicked the TV off and snorted. “Gee, call hospitals a kill zone and then tell anyone if they’re getting sick head to one. Got a feeling lots of people aren’t going to be so eager to go now even if they are becoming the walking dead.”
“These zombie jokes were a lot funnier when they weren’t beating down the door,” Michael dragged his hands down his face. “I have got to get home.”
Jon quietly shook his head. “I don’t think you’ll be able to make it far. Everyone else has the same idea and it’s crowded as hell. What’s your boss thinking?”
“He said forget the client, watch my ass,” Michael opened his phone, “Christ, I’m trying to get on a flight out of here but it’s just not happening. You don’t still have your motorcycle, do you?”
“Sorry, sold it for rent when I was unemployed a few months back.” Jon sat down on the couch and Barley hopped up next to him with a whine. “Hey buddy, guess I got a new dog.”
Michael glanced up at the German Shepherd. “You don’t actually have to keep him, you know that, right?”
“Fuck that.” Jon ruffled Barley’s ears. “I mean, it was basically her dying wish, right? Have someone take care of her dog?”
Michael sighed. “You’re not wrong. Might be good, having a dog right now.” He got up. “I’m gonna call my wife. Keep her in the loop.”
Jon watched him as he walked into the bedroom and shut the door behind him before he looked back at Barley. “I’ve never been more thankful to be a free man,” He said.
Barley quietly ‘wuffed’ before he jumped off the couch and trotted over to the door, sitting down on his haunches and giving a more powerful bark that only meant one thing.
“Maybe not so free anymore, fine, let’s take you out.”
Michael couldn’t sleep.
Sure, during the phone call he’d lied and said the news was blowing things way out of proportion, that it wasn’t nearly that bad over here. But it’d been just a week since the outbreak began and things already felt out of control.
Zombies. Something that existed only in the movies Jon showed him when they were kids. They kept him up back then too. But zombies weren’t real. This was… it had to be something else, right?
Groaning, Michael sat up and flicked on the TV. Why bother sleeping when sleeping just wasn’t going to happen?
“– the tides seem to be finally turning. People who’ve been infected with this plague are being quarantined en masse with the experts saying a cure is just around the corner.”
That was a relief, Michael thought with a sigh.
“Taking precautions is still a nec… necessity, I’m sorry, I’m getting told to… switch to our people out on the interstate. To you, Roger?”
The clean news room with the prim news lady flickered away to one of the biggest highways out of the city with a ragged man standing in front of the camera. Cars were lined up bumper to bumper, with very little progress being made.
“Thanks, uh… well, for everyone who chose to stay home, you made the right choice.”
The camera panned over to see several people, all with rotting skin and an unsteady gate, banging on car’s windows, desperate to get inside to the screaming passengers inside.
“Cops are already on the way, but it’s tough to get out this far. Jesus, they’re everywhere. I don’t want to be out here, we’re packing up. We’re going, I can’t f—— do this anymore.”
The screen flickered and for a brief frame Michael saw a black rose flash over the screen before it returned back to the newscast.
“… The hell was that? Did you just see that? Did someone just try to hack the broadcast?”
They moved so smoothly Michael at first thought they were just going to pass on by. Two men, both with black hoods pulled up over their heads, walked behind and in front of the news caster.
The one in front pulled a blue spray bottle from his sleeve and proceeded to spray a dark liquid into the news caster’s face. The man coughed and stumbled back, only to get another spritz to the face.
“What the hell?!”
The first hooded man turned to look at the camera and Michael felt the hair on his neck stand right up. He wasn’t one of the infected, but the eerie calmness of his expression as he strode up to the camera and proceeded to spray whoever was holding it with the bottle in his hand was just all sorts of wrong.
The screen flickered as Michael assumed the broadcasters were trying to switch back to the safety and comfort of the news room, but they were back on the dark crowded highway no more than a moment later, where the camera was scooped off the ground and panned over the camera man and the newscaster. Both were coughing and trying to wipe the gunk off their face, only succeeding in smearing it further over the features. The news caster looked up, eyes filled with fear as he attempted to crawl away.
The camera panned away and returned to the highway. There was now dozens of dark hooded figures, all walking alongside the cars. One tapped on the window and the foolish person inside rolled it down by an inch. Just an inch, and the hooded figure took out another small bottle from his sleeve and sprayed it inside. The next person was smart enough to keep the windows rolled up, but the figures at his car just pulled a small baton from their waist and smashed the window.
It was so efficient, how they all went from car to car to expose the people inside to… just what was in those bottles?! A man darted from his minivan, ignoring how his wife was screaming at him to come back, but he only got a few yards away before he fell on his face. The new cameraman leisurely jogged up to the downed man, one of those rotting fucks had grabbed onto the runner’s ankle and pulled him to the ground. Said rotting fuck was now chewing on the man’s calf while he wailed in agony. The camera zoomed in real close to the gorey mess the man’s leg was becoming before it once again went back to the highway. More people were running, fleeing for their lives, but several were stopped by hooded figures or more zombies.
The screen finally went dark and Michael was left alone in the living room, a cold chill down his spine.
Just what the hell was going on here?