This story is by Miguel A. Zamora and was part of our 2018 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Screams jarred me awake.
I ran to the guest room where Ashley, my niece was staying. She was on the floor crying, so I took her in my arms and held her.
“Calm down, Ashley, you’re safe,” I assured her.
“They’re trying to…get in,” she said between sobs. “I hear them…clawing at…the walls…they’re going to…get me…like they got…Mom and Dad…”
“I won’t let anything happen to you. You’re safe here.”
Her cries subsided as she let the comfort of my embrace calm her. When she fell asleep, I put her back in bed, kissed her forehead and closed the door.
Kayla, my wife, had been watching.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t give you kids,” she said, “you would’ve been a great dad.”
“Kids or not, I have you, and that’s enough for me,” I said as I kissed her lips.
“Ashley said she could hear them. Hear who?” Kayla asked.
“I don’t know. She’s still too traumatized to tell us what happened. But she’s safe here,” I said.
Just then, my phone rang. It was Matt, my former boss, and colleague. I reported to him when I was head of the Rapid Response Team for ten years. We worked closely with the W.H.O. and the UN, usually responding to major outbreaks, anywhere in the world. I’d met Kayla there. She was a UN Investigator.
I put the call on FaceTime.
“What can I do for you, Matt?”
“I need a report,” he said. “I know you’re following this thing.”.
“Kayla and I think it’s a bioweapon.”
“Shit,” Matt said. “How bad?”
“Level 12,” I said.
Matt stared into the phone a moment, then said, “World ender…”
“Expected casualties?” He asked
“Hell, if I know. Kayla and I only know enough to get us in trouble. This was my brother thing, not mine.”
“You do have his protégé there with you,” Matt said.
“Angel, about your brother, it was no accident. He was killed,” Matt said.
“I’m sending you the file and video,” he said.
“Angel, I’m sorry. Your brother was a good man,” he said.
I hung up and opened my e-mail and I viewed the files and video. I took a deep breath and wiped my face dry.
“Kayla,” I said, “It’s time to go back in.”
She studied my face for a clue. “Why now?” She asked.
“The Core had my brother killed. They tried to kill Ashley because of what they found. You need to prep our gear. We’re meeting this head-on.”
I needed to talk to Ashley and met her in my office. I handed her the file to look at.
“This is part of mine and dad’s work but not all of it,” Ashley said.
“I need you to see something and you’re not going to like it.”
Ashely started the video. She cried when the car crashed down the hill. Then her parents were dragged out of the car by three crazies and ripped them apart. She paused the video.
“Uncle! You see that tattoo on that man’s hand taking the video?” she asked.
“I know him. He’s head of security for Mr. Romero,” she said.
“He runs a lab that handles the world’s deadliest viruses,” she said.
“Matt can find him.”
I left the office and met Kayla in the kitchen.
“Yes, love,” she said.
We saw Ashley with file folders in her hands.
“Can you make some coffee? I need you all to take a seat,” Ashely said.
“Sure,” Kayla said.
We sat at the table as Ashely laid out all the papers on the table.
She cleared her throat, “This is an enhanced version of the Reaper virus. No cure exists. Someone stole it in transport to the CDC, then enhanced it.”
“I estimate 43% of the world’s population will die. But before they do, they’ll be running amok out there. The virus transforms the mental state of the infected. In other words, they become zombie-like,” she said.
“Crazy, mindless, killers,” she said.
“What about a cure?” Kayla asked.
“Dad was close but, some of his research is missing,” Ashely said. “I just need time.”
I walked into the hall and Face Timed Matt and said, “According to Ashely, this outbreak is an enhanced version of the Reaper virus. Ashley needs time and a lab.”
“My lab and whatever else she needs it’s hers,” Matt said. “I can have a helicopter there in two hours,” he said.
“We’ll be ready.”
I hung up the phone.
When I got to the kitchen Ashley was cycling through papers. I stood and watched. She was like a machine.
“I think I got it, dad had it right but, I won’t know till I can get to a lab,” Ashely said.
“Matt has a lab,” I told her,” and he’s prepping it now. He’ll look after you as we go hunting.”
“No matter how this ends,” I said, “we’re making the world right.”
Two hours later we were on the roof. We could see the house was surrounded by crazies clawing at the walls. The helicopter arrived, and we climbed in.
Matt met us when we landed.
“Ashley this is Matt, I wish I could stay, but we’re off.”
Ashley gave me a hug, then followed Matt inside. My team got in the chopper and we lifted off.
“You all been briefed?”
In unison, “Hooyah!”
“Into the fray, we go… on a monster hunt!”
We exited the chopper at the LZ, 2 klicks east of the Facility. Ten minutes later we cut through the fence and made our way to the back door of the facility. We breached the door and met resistance. We pushed them back with overwhelming firepower until they were all dead. No quarter on this day.
On the second floor, we were pinned down, taking fire from both sides. I caught a glimpse of Romero and his man Hunter. Romero headed toward the roof as Hunter went down the hall.
“Kayla, take Chance and get him!”
We provided cover fire as the two of them chased after Romero.
“Cover me!” I yell as I took off after Hunter.
Hunter fired wildly on the run. He dropped his empty gun as he entered a lab. I reloaded my rifle then entered.
The rifle was knocked out of my hands when he hit it with a fire extinguisher. I connect with an elbow to his jaw creating separation. I looked around and saw holding pens filled with the infected. Hunter pulled out a straight razor knife and slashed at me. He cut me across the ribs. I pulled out my karambit knife and smile. He swiped at me again and I cut him on his forearm causing him to drop the razor. He lunged at me. I ducked to my knee and cut the tendons on the back of his ankle. Hunter toppled to the ground screaming. I picked up my M4A1 rifle and walked to the door.
I snarled at the maniacal piece of crap and said, “You killed my brother.”
He started to laugh.
A raucous, ‘I got you, in your face’ kind of laugh.
And he just. Wouldn’t. Stop.
I shot out the glass panes to the cells and the crazies swarmed Hunter. His laughter turned to shrieks, to screams, then to gurgles, as the crazies ripped out his throat.
“Not laughing now, are you?”
I wasn’t sure if he heard me. They’d eaten his ears already.
I exited and secured the door. I turned as Webb and Lexie ran up. We looked up as we heard roto blades flying overhead.
“We’re good let’s go.”
We heard gunfire as we exited. Chance had laid cover fire as the crazies had advanced toward the helicopter. We bolted toward the bird and climb in and lifted off. Two missiles were shot from the bird blowing up the facility.
Romero was seated cuffed and bleeding. He sat there with an arrogant look to him. Even though his expensive suit was torn and bloody.
Kayla had her back from me. She wouldn’t face me.
“Matt called… we have a cure!” she said.
“That’s great… what’s wrong?” She shook her head.
“Look at me.” She turned her hair covered her face. I pushed her hair over her ear. She had a large gash over her left eyebrow.
“He resisted… and I have broken ribs,” she said
Romero smirked. I glared at him and took a breath.
I moved in front of him.
“Let me help you.”
I straightened his collar fixed his tie and dusted him off. I grinned and head-butted him in the face. I broke his nose. I grabbed him behind the neck and threw him out of the helicopter.
“No quarter this day.”
Evelyn Murphy says
Shades of Koonz. This story is a little fragmented. At first you think that Ashley is a child, and then you realize she is an adult. You are left to figure out a lot on your own, it’s presented as it really is. 2 stars