THE RISE : PART ONE
By Adam Owen
Chapter One: Life Imitates Death
John had been sleeping outside in the woods for almost a year now and
the world had been going to hell for almost twice that time.
Waking, he realized it was Saturday. After a routine search for twigs
and thicker John piled his findings into a makeshift tee pee. From his
pocket he found some scraps of paper he had found floating on the breeze of
the last empty town he passed through. Wadded, he carefully navigated the
paper inside the little soon to be blazing structure. His fingers began to
shiver as the warmth from sleeping bled away. He put his hands into his
jeans pockets and curled his shoulders inward. Thought wrapped in thick
flannel layers the morning always carried a case of the shivers. In his
pockets he found a book of matches barely damp from his body's perspiration,
pulling them out and making hands naked again to the cold John attended the
starting of his fire. Remembering back to the summers of his youth, the
standing in front of the giant ocean that had been his father's swimming
pool. John would stand in front of it for what seemed like hours and stare.
He would ponder the swells the waves made or the shapes of light that danced
across the surface. He would ponder an ever-pressing question... "Do I get
in? Do I let the shock of cold overwhelm me or do I sit here and watch and
Far beyond those thoughts John made quicker decisions now. "Do I stand
here comfortable and a little chilly or do I put up with a moment or two of
freezing cold to get to a place where I am warm again?" The latter was the
The match seemed to sink into the carbon of burning paper and
fell into the unseen. Within moments the familiar corona of
the fire bathed over John in a simple but wonderful sensation.
The smoke of burning pinewood was sweet and fragrant mixed with
harsh and earthy. Eyes closed John breathed deeply while mornings
chill left the premises. When the fire became coals John reached
into his back pack and produced a can of... something. In his
wanderings through deserted towns he found many of the wrappers
of canned goods to be gone. Rats. The rats had eaten what could
be eaten and probably had yellow dye #5 shits for a week. To
his luck the can turned out to be peeled whole potatoes. John
found a long skinny stick to skewer the potatoes on and dangle
over the fire. The potatoes were stewed and good to eat as is
but he needed something warm and cooked in his belly and by
god he was going to have it. Sitting on a smoothed over tree
stump John ate his potatoes, they were a bit too charred, smokey
and still a little cool on the inside, all this aside their
flavor was wonderful. Swallowing the last piece, John could feel
his stomach thank him as it curled around inside of him. Looking
deeply into the burning embers John saw the million glowing
specs of light inside shadowy black carbon. The random shapes
mixed with the light reminded him of the city at night. It could
have been any of its average nights or its last night when he
watched it burning to the ground. Life imitates death imitates
Two years ago Scientists in the centers for disease control discovered a
virus they dubbed The Lazarus Strain. The virus did three things to humans:
Nothing, muscle and joint irritation, or death. The people on whom the virus
had no effect comprised about fifty percent of the population, the people
with minor irritations, twenty percent and the fatal cases the remaining
thirty. Originally the disease was called "The Fact 40" virus, for reasons
John had never knew, and it was a widespread panic sort of epidemic. When
thirty percent of the world's population falls away it is referred to a
plague or epidemic. Those who died did so quietly and painlessly with no
symptoms whatsoever. Aside from their passing no connection was ever made
to those who fell to the virus. Were a geneticist to scrutinize the inner
workings of their cells, connections could be made. Sadly everything
happened so fast that anything preemptive was never acted upon. Simply put
those who would have died did. The other symptom was the muscular aching.
John pondered this detail as he felt a small tide of pain sweep through him.
The pain was nothing he couldn't handle, subtle an insignificant given the
time it took up once maybe twice a day. John had in fact gotten used to the
pain, as had many others of the twenty percent. Eventually given what
happened in the year that followed John felt blessed by the pain.
About one month after the burying of the deceased "the fact 40" became
known as "the Lazarus". The passing of a month seemed significant to
astronomers because of the lunar cycle and to chemists and biologists as a
gestation period. In reality the passing of one month was the approximate
time it took break ones self free of a casket and dig ones self free from
six feet of dirt.
Before everything fell apart John had been a white collar working
inside a small prison like cubicle. His one-eyed computer monitor had
stared back at him as he keyed in numbers for forty hours a week. He could
still remember the infectious silence breaking in his office when people
began to run toward the media department. The Media department was the only
place in the office with wall-to-wall televisions. Images of staggering
masses filled the screens. At first glance you appeared to be looking at
just another crowd scene. People were overlapping people and slowly milling
amongst themselves. As the camera focused it became readily apparent what
was wrong. The face of a fiercely professional woman filled the screen,
anchorwoman Maria Santoya. She began quoting details about burial
procedures followed in the preceding month. Autopsies, it seemed, were
rarely performed. The dead were put coldly into the earth without any fluid
injections or medical stitches or anything else that could impair them
should they choose to stand up and walk again.
The thirty percent lost to Fact 40 were now up and walking around. The
dead were alive. Death imitates life. There was no suspense or build up to
what followed the rise, the zombies, as the TV was quick to reference them,
were too true to their reputations in film and pulp comics. The dead were
consuming the living.
John kicked some stones over top of the dying embers. Morning was
firmly planted and the sun was making its way into the sky. John picked up
the empty can, scrounged the ground for some fairly sharp small rocks and
dropped them clanging inside. From his backpack John produced a large
coffee can packed with a black powder easily mistaken for what its outside
advertised. John scooped into the potato can and then firmly packed down
putting the larger can away he produced a much smaller one filled with tiny
crystals that looked like rock candy.
And finally sealed the can back off with its own lid then wrapped it in a
piece of torn denim, also removed from his bag. He was no chemist, but he
knew this would make a big explosion when thrown with enough force.
Concealed in his backpack but easy to access John packed his belongings and
moved on. The morning's hike through a vertical maze set a minor cramp to
his legs, a pain only about half as bad as the symptom of the twenty
Immunity to the virus turned out to be a bad thing. Staying
true to the genre in horror or more specifically staying true
to biological attributes of infection and contagion, anyone
bit would become. That wasn't exactly true though, the people
who suffered from the minor aches and pains were immune to bites
and scratches from the zombies. Further study of these people
showed that when they died, reanimation did not occur. The last
days of the city, John had been bitten only once and it was
enough to make him keep his guard up at all times. Just because
he could survive a bite didn't mean he was open to the idea.
He had been looting a store after the general order came to
evacuate the cities and most citizens had. One of the creatures
bit deep into his fingers when he reached down into a dark area
that he had seen a can of food roll into. The pain was instant
and overwhelming. Human nature tells us to recoil and quickly
as John did. His hand flooded over with blood from the three
deep wounds on his three central digits of his right hand. He
gritted his teeth, staggered back and fell hard backwards. Lucky
for him a roll of toilet tissue sat still neatly rolled up within
reaching distance of his wounded hand. As he covered his wounds
he could see the once man staggering up and out of the shadows
in a slow forced fashion that was half animated and half gravity.
John didn't have his handmade grenades then; all he had as a
weapon were his wits. Standing John postured himself defensively
holding his backpack in front of him as a shield. There wasn't
any need to attach ones self to food or possessions and John
could survive without his backpack, could easily replace it.
The dead thing lurched at him and John pushed it back using
his pack. The dead thing grabbed it and worked it away from
one of John's hands and let go. The pack, free of the creatures
grasp and still held in part by John, swung down striking John
in the leg. In a flash of idea, John swung the bag twice and
brought it crashing down on the creature's head. The dead thing
swayed for a moment then fell to the ground immobile.
John reached his hand out to clear away low hanging branches. Sharp pain
jolted John for a moment. The hand with the spared three fingers had found
the thorns on the branch and the thorns had found the blood in his hand.
The pain was more of an annoyance than anything else; John rubbed his hand
on his pant leg and kept on. Fingers were carefully landed between thorns
as John pressed on. After miles of hiking through thick woods, John saw
light ahead of him and this usually meant a clearing. The hot of the day
was creeping up on him and soon he could smell warming tar and a distant
echo of exhaust. John was coming to a road.
The solid pavement of road was a treat. Soft ground and uneven terrain
tended to be murder on your ankles and you never made good time that way.
The fact that he had no destination or timetable didn't occur to John.
Moving seemed the ideal thing to do right now. The road was a rural two-lane
type. The center stripe was worn away and had most likely been long before
everything else fell apart. Ahead of him the road rose to a hill and
obscured his view. Atop the road's hill John saw something. The something
locked in his gaze was a battered old car.
-- END --
You can e-mail Adam Owen at email@example.com
and visit Adam's website at Greenpiece.net.
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