Infection / Destruction / Hope

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5foot2

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Reply with quote  #1 
I very much enjoyed Zack's books and I was saddened to hear of his passing. I hope his family is spending more time smiling about his life than morning his passing.

I've never had much interest in writing and besides class assignments way back in high school, I've never tried writing any kind of fiction. The fan stories on this site have inspired me to give it a shot though, and I'm finding the exercise enjoyable.

I figured it would be good to stick with things and places I know, so my fictional world is set along the coast of Maine.

Like I just said, I've never done this before. I'm completely green, I honestly want suggestions on how it could be improved, on structure that doesn't work or any other areas I'm making mistakes.

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Ten months. This new world is ten months old today, and here we sit, a little speck of the old DNA floating around in this new festering, rotten, primordial soup. Ten months ago today the Morningstar strain began its new life. It broke out of the land that had contained it for god knows how long and spread across the world creating... creating what? Hell? I’m not sure what to call it. Calling it a new way of life is a little to ironic, but it’s something new, that’s for sure. A re-ordering of the food chain is certainly part of it. No doubt about that. Anyone who’s still drawing breath into uninfected lungs knows that by now. Those sucking breath into infected lungs know it as an absolute fact.

Still, I wonder if there’s any place that’s not been consumed by the virus. Perhaps some of the Islands in the South Pacific have been untouched. Maybe even Fiji. I once spent 2 weeks in Fiji with a girl I’d only know for a few days. What a fantastic carefree time that was. I’ve got to say, the thought of riding out the end of humanity on the beaches of Fiji sounds even better after the winter we’ve just been through. It’s been a brutal winter here in Maine. Most years being on the coast dampens winter compared to the mainland, but not this year. Late November through the end of March was filled with bitter cold and relentless snow storms. The winter weather combined with the new realities of life after Morningstar has seen our numbers drop from the original 116 survivors to just 75. It’ll be 76 in a few weeks. Jennifer Raymond’s due date is fast approaching and for some on the island the expected newborn is seen as a ray of hope. Personally the idea of bringing a new life into this world, one that’s so vulnerable and completely dependent on others for survival terrifies me.

 

Home for our group is a 90 acre oasis called Little Swift Island, just off the coast of Downeast Maine. Little Swift Island is the little brother to Great Swift Island. The Swift islands are just two out of the thousands of islands that dot Maine’s coast. There are a dozen homes on Little Swift with the bulk of the Swift Islands population of 213 year round residents living on Great Swift. Our summer guests would add 40 or so people at any given time during the warmer months.

 

Life on the Swift Islands was exactly what you’d expect it to be. It was a picturesque coastal Maine fishing village. At the North West end of Little Swift you’d find the hustle and bustle of the harbor with its fleet of lobster boats. Alongside the wharf there was the Harris marina and machine shop and a short distance up the shore you’d find Peggy Smiths General Store and the parking lot where people wait for the ferry that ran 4 times a day in the summer.

 

Great Swift was only a few hundred feet away from its little brother, connected by a single lane wooden bridge that passed over a tidal channel. At about the center of the ¾ mile long tear-dropped shaped island, you would find a small cluster of buildings that constituted the Village center. Those buildings included the Ella B. Swift elementary school, a Baptist church, the hardware store that Harland Hale would open up when he wasn’t out hauling traps and a larger municipal building that housed the Swift Volunteer Fire Dept. and the offices for the village clerk and the Swift Board of Selectmen.


Fishing was the primary livelihood on the islands and most everyone else worked at either supporting the fleet or caring for kids and keeping house. Life was pretty traditional on the Swift Islands for the year round residents. The men spent their days working hard and the women took care of the more domestic tasks. I didn’t fit into that template. I was single and I sat in front of a computer all day writing software. The people here didn’t know what to make of me when I first came to live on the Island.

 

I’ve been living on Little Swift for the last few years now, staying at my family home on the hillside above the marina. My family has deep roots on Swift but until I moved back none of us had lived on the island for more than a week or two at a time. Not since my grandfather left the island in the late 40’s with his young family after finding work in Bangor. My family was a permanent fixture on the Swift Islands for more than a hundred and fifty years, but being gone just one generation I’m now classified as being “From Away”. There’s also an underlying thread of jealousy I sense from some year round island folks. It’s all pretty stupid and it’s not like I had any say in the whole sequence of events anyway. My family worked hard and did well in life. While in high school my father managed to earn an academic scholarship to U-Maine and by working hard he earned a law degree after that. In less than a generation my family made the huge step from being solidly blue collar to wearing the whitest of white collars. The quiet life on Swift had little appeal to Dad as anything but an occasional vacation spot.  He even tried to sell the place once but my mother who was from Boston absolutely loved Swift and forbid him from putting it up for sale. Little did she know that putting her foot down all those years ago would someday save my life. Well, at least extend it a bit.

 

Like the rest of the world, the people on Swift watched in horror as the news reports poured in last summer, and it didn’t take all that long for the virus to find it’s was up here. I suspect someone from New York or Boston brought it with them when they decided to head north to a summer home after things started to get ugly. We started hearing about infections down in Portland around mid September, by the first of October the virus was in Ellsworth and the reports from Bangor were unbelievable. The stories about the infected that had died, getting up and attacking people. I scoffed at the idea. It was all too surreal.

 

Our own nightmare started quietly on October 4th, the last day of ferry service. I was on the mainland at the grocery loading up on whatever was left on the shelves when the virus snuck onto Swift. In September after the reports of infections in Portland, the Village Selectman had held a Town meeting. After four hours of debate it was decided we would all stock up as best we could and if the virus got close we’d run the ferry to the pier on Little Swift, tie it up and just keep to ourselves until the Government got things under control. It was a good plan. We’re almost a quarter mile away from the mainland and according to the reports; the virus was only transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids. The weak link in the plan was that no one thought about checking the people coming over on the ferry. Looking back, I can’t believe we didn’t think to do it. It was such an obvious oversight and it cost us all so much.

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While I was buying dusty cans of creamed corn and stewed tomatoes at the grocery on the mainland, Gordon Dixon, the ferry boat Captain (and my closest neighbor) failed to notice Kim Strassel in the back seat of her parent’s car. Kevin and Karen Strassel had been on the island all summer. Their daughter had been working in New Hampshire at a summer camp. How Kim got to the ferry terminal on the mainland and how or when she was infected are unknowns. What we do know is that she was the source of the outbreak that started at the southeast end of Great Swift. There were others who brought people onto the island without mentioning it to anyone, both summer people and year round residents. I don’t think many infected actually made it onto the islands, two maybe three, but it was enough to nearly wipe us out and it all happened so fast once it started.

 

 

As best we’ve been able to piece together, Kim and her parents stopped at Peggy’s General store to gas up their car and buy some groceries. Kim was visibly sick and coughing, but with everyone in such a rush to stock up and get settled in to wait for some kind of Government rescue, no one gave her a second look. Based on the timing of events, we’re pretty sure she spread the virus around to some of the unwitting shoppers. Then those people went home and spread it to their families and some neighbors. At this point on the Islands the virus was traveling through the population like any other virus, slowly growing stronger, slowly extending its reach.

 

 

We’re not sure when Kim turned and killed her family but judging by the mess that was left it must have happened shortly after she arrived. The Strassel’s always kept to themselves while they were on the Island, so it wasn’t until a week after the last ferry tied up to the pier at Little Swift that the postal carrier stopped by their home to deliver a few letters. Angie Bloom, Swift Island’s mail carrier had grown board just sitting at home. In truth we all had, things seemed pretty normal on the islands at this point. Angie decided to sort and deliver the last bag of mail brought over from the mainland. There wasn’t much to deliver and she was close to finishing up when she stopped at the Strassel’s early in the afternoon. I was with Bobby Jordan, the island Constable, when the report of the attack on Angie came into his office. The color drained from his face as he held the phone up to his ear. As he hung up the phone I tried to speak and ask him what was going on, but my voice cracked and I could barely manage to make any sound. I was terrified that the worst was happening. Still pale but with a calm firm voice Bobby told me the virus was on the Island and that Angie had been attacked. He asked me to join him to take notes as he talked with Angie. I happened to have a digital voice recorder with me so I used that to record what she said. Here is the transcript of Angie’s recounting of the attack.

 

“Jesus Bobby, I’m a mess. My hand has gone numb and my arm is killing me. These scratches itch like crazy.

 

When will the ambulance be here Bobby? Well it damn well better be on the way! I feel like shit.


Yes, damn it! I can tell you what happened! Stop asking me!

 

Well. I was sick and tired of sitting on my ass at home, so I decided to make my mail run. There wasn’t much to deliver but I figured it would get me out of the house. I started my route out on the south bay road because it’s so nice out that way…

 

Christ Bobby, you really are being an ass today! Fine! I’ll get right to when that bitch Kim Strassel attacked me.

 

I stopped by the Strassel place just before 1:00. I’d been after them to fix their damn mailbox at the top of their driveway all summer but Kevin doesn’t know which end of the hammer you used to hit the nail with, the useless bastard. He should have just hired one of the kids on the Island to fix it. To damn cheap I’d guess. I’d given up on him fixing the mailbox a few weeks ago and was just driving the mail down to the house and leaving it on the front step.

 

When I pulled up today nothing seemed out of place. The lawn was a bit long and Karen’s vegetable garden needed some weeding but none of us have been tending to those kind of chores lately. When I stepped out of the truck I did notice a bad odor but I figured a deer had been killed close by and the coyotes had left enough to cause a stink. The side door to the kitchen was open a crack so I walked up the steps and pushed it open. I had meant to call out a hello and maybe bring up the mailbox issue to Kevin if he was home, but the wave of stench was so bad I was knocked back by it. A moment later I started retching. I didn’t even have time to turn and vomit into the bushes. I did it right there on my damn feet. The smell from the house was just awful.

 

I was still bent over vomiting when I heard a vicious, savage growl. I looked up just in time to see little Kim running across the kitchen towards me. She was bloody from the face to her waist and looked like a rabid dog. When she hit me it knocked the wind out of me. I was up against the railing of the stairs gasping for breath trying to push her off of me. She was making the most horrible sounds and she was clawing at me and trying to bite me. I kept trying to push her away but she was so strong and I was having trouble fighting her off. She finally managed to get hold of my arm and started to bite my hand and fingers. I started to panic and tried to hit and kick her. I guess I slipped on my vomit, but as I fell, my arm pit landed on the railing just as Kim jumped on top of me. I really thought I was done for but the old railing couldn’t take the weight of two people and broke. We both tumbled into that little garden where Karen keeps those metal sculptures she likes so much. When I got to my feet I saw that Kim had fallen onto a long spike of metal. It went through her back and was sticking out of her belly. She was still screeching at me. I was out of my mind with fear, Bobby. I ran back to my car and raced home. I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t until I got home and calmed down a bit that I realized how badly hurt I was. Mrs. Alford from next door must have heard me race into the dooryard. She came over to check on my and then called you Bobby.

 

Oh Bobby. I’m scared. That Strassel girl was infected with the virus wasn’t she?


Oh my God! I’m going to die! Oh my God, I’m going to become like her.

 

How can I calm down Bobby! HOW!”

 

Angie was distraught and becoming more and more uncontrollable right up until the medics arrived and gave her a sedative.  They dressed her wounds and put her into bed. Bobby insisted they restrain her to the bed but Mrs. Alford wouldn’t allow it. Finally relenting Bobby decided to head over to the Strassel house. Since I rode with him I made the trip out there with him.

 

We had the windows down in Bobby’s old truck, and before we were half way down their long driveway the smell of death was overwhelming. As we pulled around the last cluster of pines into the dooryard I could make out the form of what I assumed was Kim Strassel laying on her back with a foot long shaft of metal protruding from her belly.  I wasn’t prepared for what I saw next. Kim pushed herself up almost to the top of the shaft, turned her head towards up and let out a bone chilling moan. She looked horrible, almost like she was dead, but the dead can’t move and this girl was struggling to get off the shaft that she was impaled on..

 

I jumped out of the truck and started rushing over to the girl to help her. I only made a few steps before I heard the gunshot. In truth I felt the gunshot more than I heard it. The concussion of the blast and the shock wave as the bullet passed close to my head made time move in half speed. Then time suddenly reset to normal as I saw the bullet impact Kim’s head, rendering most of it into fine mist and particulate matter. I was dumbstruck and fell over as I turned to look at the source of the gun shot. Standing there ten feet behind me was Bobby with a big revolver in his right hand looking as calm as he ever has. I screamed at him “What have you done!”. He didn’t answer me. He just walked over to Kim’s body and looked it over being very careful to not touch any of the bloody mess. I was furious. How could he kill that poor injured girl? He murdered her in cold blood. I got to my feet and stormed over to Bobby, but before I could say a word I got a good look at the remains of Kim Strassel.

 

She was dead, she had to be. I’m not talking about death from the gun shot, I mean dead before Bobby shot her. Her flesh was grey, like a pork chop that had gone bad, and the wound in her belly was not something a person could survive without immediate medical care. She was covered in dried crusty filth, and some fingernails were torn from the ends of her fingers. She had an old festered wound on her forearm that looked like something had taken a bite out of her. As I walked up Bobby turned around and pushed me back before I could step into the bloody mess. I looked him in the eye and said, “Bobby. What's going on here?”. He just said “Morningstar.”. All at once everything became clear to me, I was able to focus and the memories of all the news report of the summer ran through my head. “Dear God, Bobby. How did it get on the Island?” I asked him, but before he could answer me his cell phone range. It was Mrs. Alford.

5foot2

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Reply with quote  #4 
That's all I've got so far. I have a basic outline down with some ideas of certain events that lead us to the end. I'll try and post something every few days.

I'd really like some constructive criticism. I have a thick skin, so be brutally honest.

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Reply with quote  #5 
I like it so far, to tell you the truth I spent all summer in Bar Harbor Maine and wanted to write a story like yours about being off one of the little islands.

I like your writing, keep it.

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For a first attempt, it was very good. Let's see more...

This Post was edited and last section removed. I think my complaint was unfair after re-reading story.

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Doc-T, I missed the complaint. What were you thinking? I'm busy for the rest of the week, but I'm hoping to get some more down this weekend.

I feel like I need to put some more meat on the bones on my narrators family and maybe his place on the island.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by DocT
For a first attempt, it was very good. Let's see more...

This Post was edited and last section removed. I think my complaint was unfair after re-reading story.


At first, I thought the very long statement of the incident by Angie was too long for quotes. Editors seem to hate very long quotes.

However, you did say it was a recounting of a transcript, so maybe my complaint was unwarranted.  If you ever publish this story, then you can worry about that section.

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Reply with quote  #9 

Wow! Very, very good. You have a flair for prose. One thing I found a bit akward was where Angie is apparently answering questions asked by the sheriff but you only show her answers and not the sheriffs questions. It was a bit hard to follow. I think having both portions of the conversation is preferable. Just my humble two bits. Still, its good. I hope to see some more.


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This is what I've put down this afternoon. It doesn't end at a logical point, it's just what I've had time to write down.


Mrs. Alford is yelling. I can hear her clearly even though the phone is pressed against Bobby’s ear. Bobby asks her where Angie is and a moment later if Mrs. Alford is injured. Bobby then says “Just a small bite?”. He says it with his hand over his face and a hint of painful irony in his voice. He then tells her that he will be right there.

 

I ask Bobby if we should go inside and check on Kevin and Karen. He turns and looks at me, angry with black empty eyes and says, “Take a deep breath. Draw it in through your nose. What do you think we’ll find in there?” Feeling stupid, like I haven’t felt since my grandfather scolded me as a child I just lowered my head and followed him to the truck.

 

Neither of us spoke on the ride to Angie’s. We pulled off the side of the road in front of Angie's and walk up to the house, but before we’re halfway up driveway we could hear Angie’s guttural roaring and screaming coming from inside. Mrs. Alford meets us at the front door. She’s crying, and has been for some time. She’s telling Bobby she’s sorry, she should have let the medics restrain Angie. Bobby quiets her down, telling her it’s not her fault while he holds her with both his arms wrapped around her. I notice then that he’s also crying. He’s holding Mrs. Alford’s hands tenderly while he looks at the bite marks on her arm. They aren’t deep, but a few teeth broke the skin and she’s bleeding. Bobby stands up wiping his eyes and says to her “Dottie, you stay here, I’m going to go around back and look in through the back window and see what I can do about Angie.” As he walks by me he asks me to talk to her and try and calm her down.

 

Mrs. Alford and I sit down in the front room and I ask her what happened after we left. “Well." She says, "Angie was calm and laying down in the back bedroom.” She paused for a moment when she heard the back door swing open as Bobby stepped out. “He’ll be fine.” I tell her, “Please. Tell me what happened”. She dabbed her eyes with the sleeves of her shirt and said, “She was still making some noise, more and more as time went by. At one point I heard her scream out a bit”. Again she paused, but this time only to take a breath. “I decided to check on her after I heard the scream. When I walked in she was soaking wet and shaking a bit. She opened her eyes and moaned when she saw me. I told her I was going to call the medics back.” After pausing for a few moments to reflect, Mrs. Alford continued. “She looked up at me with wild eyes and using a voice I’d never heard come out of Angie’s mouth and said the most horrible thing. She said, ”Get the fuck out of my house you old bitch. Get out or I’m going to tear you to pieces.”. I was completely shocked, but it was so unlike Angie that I assumed it was the fever. I stepped out of the bedroom to get a cold wash cloth to put on her forehead. When I stepped into doorway to enter her room I saw she wasn’t in the bed. I was halfway through the doorway when she attacked me from behind the door. She had me by my arm and was biting at me but her weight was against the door pinning my arm between the door and door frame. I managed to pull my arm out of her grip and the door latched shut.” Mrs. Alford was weeping again, and my attempts at comforting her were not helping. Mrs. Alford looked up and said “She was like a wild animal. Like she was possessed!”

 

Before I could say anything to comfort her, the blast from Bobby’s revolver caused us both to jump in our seats. I actually stood up and knocked my chair over. Mrs. Alford then realized what had just happened, dropped her head into her hands and started to weep uncontrollably. I looked up and saw Bobby walk into the house from the back door. He still had the revolver in his hand and as he got closer to us he raise the gun, pointing it at the back of Mrs. Alford’s head. His eyes weren’t black or empty now, they were full of tears, and he wore the face of man bearing a sadness that was overwhelming him. His hand began to tremble and then his arm dropped to his side as if all the strength ran out of his body. He spoke in a wavery voice telling Mrs. Alford, “Dottie. I want you to go back to your house and lock all the doors and windows. Do not make any noise and leave the lights off.”. She looked up, tears still streaming down her face and nodded her head as she got up and walk out of the house.

 

Bobby walked out of the house moments later. I was following him and as we got settled in the truck I said, “She’s infected isn’t she?”  He nodded his head and a tear rolled down his cheek. “Shooting her might have been the kindest thing to do” I said more to myself than to Bobby. More tears ran down his face and his voice cracked as he spoke. He told me, “Dottie and my mother where best friends, since they were little girls. Growing up I spent as much time with my Aunt Dottie as I did with my mother. She was safety, and love and happiness to me as a little boy. I just couldn’t do it, even if it would spare her the torment of the virus. I just couldn’t do it.”  Bobby took a deep breath, let it out and started the truck. While we were driving he said we need to get back to his office to get the word out about the infection being on Swift, that we needed to get the healthy away from the infected or the Islands would be overrun.

 

We raced around the last corner that lead onto Main Street and the scene that poured in through the windshield was like something out of a bad horror movie. There were four or five crazed blood covered infected people beating on the doors to the church and another 3 across the street attacking a women lying on the sidewalk. I could see people in the windows of the church shouting at us, pleading for help I think. Bobby stopped and got out of the truck and started shooting at the group attacking the women killing all three of them. Before he could go over and check on the woman, the noise of the gun fire had caused all the infected at the church to turn around. Once they saw us they let out an animal like scream and came running towards us. Bobby quickly jumped back in the truck and we raced off up the street with the infected chasing us. As we passed the school I called out, “Bobby. Look. Up on the right.”, while I pointed at the group of 4 teenage boys running away from an infected. I think the infected was Mrs. Anderson, the fourth grade teacher. The boys we all fast runners, but somehow the 40+ year old school teacher was catching up to them. As we got closer I yelled out to them to jump in the back. Bobby timed it perfectly slowing down to about 10mph as the kids jumped into the bed of the truck. We raced off and in the rear view mirror I could see Mrs. Anderson still running after us, screaming with a crazed look in her eyes. As we pull out of the Village center we see a grown man and a girl running out of a house with an old woman of at least 75 chasing them. The old woman was obviously infected and had blood all around her mouth and she was moving so quickly for her age. Bobby slowed the truck down, trying to give the people running time to jump into the back. I call out to them to hurry. Running hard they manage to get a grip on the side of the truck and tumble into the bed. The old woman manages to get one hand onto the tailgate as Bobby drives away. She hangs on for a hundred feet or so then loses her grip and tumbles to a stop. In the mirror I see her bloody body stand up and start running after us. “Bobby! I think we should head for Little Swift!” I tell him as I try to calm down and think about what to do, “We can block the bridge and if things get really bad we can launch the ferry and get off the Island.” Bobby shakes his head and says, “Little Swift may end up being our Alamo, but if we don’t hang onto these Islands we’ll have no where to go, even if we can get on the ferry without the infected getting to us”.

 

As we raced the last half mile towards the bridge I noticed other vehicles were doing he same thing. There were a couple of cars in front of us and another far behind that I had caught a glimpse of before we rounded the bend heading to the bridge. On the other side of the bridge people had started gathering, and a truck was racing towards us. The truck came to a stop in front of us. Bobby stood on the brakes and his truck came to a skidding stop in a cloud of dust. There were two men in the truck who I think where cousins of Bobby. The driver asked Bobby what was going on. As soon as Bobby got the words “Morningstar infection” out of his mouth the driver of the truck took off, stirring up the gravel road lifting more dust into the air. Bobby yelled for them to stop, but they were already speeding towards the Village presumable going after their families.



5foot2

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Reply with quote  #11 
Bah! I should have read through that a few times before I posted. I could have cleaned things up a bit.
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Reply with quote  #12 
Quote:
Originally Posted by 5foot2
Bah! I should have read through that a few times before I posted. I could have cleaned things up a bit.


Agreed. MORE Paragraph breaks would have been nice, since it helps the reader follow the story easier. Besides, don't feel pressured to release a scene or portion until you are comfortable with the result.

Perfect
it does not have to be either, so no multiple re-writes.

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Reply with quote  #13 
Last night after I posted this I grabbed Plague if the Dead to check on the exact date Morningstar started making it's way across America. Boy did I miss the mark when I guessed at it for this story. Perhaps I had the time line from the second book in my head, but whatever the reason I made a huge error.
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