Day 34

 They handcuff me and place me in a cold shower. (Why waste hot water on me). I can smell the chemicals in the water and all I can think about is that everything they do to me they are doing to Connor. I stand there naked and loath them for what they are doing to us. We are not lab rats and I don’t care if the world has gone to hell, immune or not, we should have our rights. But I guess peoples rights have always been expendable.

They march me back to my room and I think I see a glimpse of Connors room down the long hall. There is a single light about one hundred feet down shining from the top of the door. Once in they un-hangcuff me and tell me to sit.

“What are you doing?” I ask as Doctor Grant comes in.

“I’m sorry, Aaron, but I am not allowed to discuss these experiments with anyone. Just know that you are helping us and this country greatly, and should be proud.”

“To hell with this country,” I spit.

“If you say so, but regardless you’re going to have to cooperate. All of you are. Now lay down.” I do as I am told. There is no sense in fighting as it will only make things worse for me, and possibly even Connor. Once I have laid down they connect an IV drip to my left arm. Doctor Grant pulls out a tube, similar to a syringe but with not needle, and screws it onto a connection on the IV’s tube. He then slowly squeezes a light yellow liquid into my arm. It is warm and feels as though I am being pressed into a hot tub.

“What is this?” I ask, hoping for some kinda of answer.

“I’m sorry. I can’t say. However, it’s going to take some time for this to get through your system, so we will be starting the first treatment this evening. Get some rest. We’ll be bringing you a bit extra to eat. It will help to cope with some of the side effects that may come from this.

“Wait,” I say as he stands. “How do you know I am immune?”

“Blood samples, of course.”

“So, you know what the zombie infection is caused by?”

“I’m sorry, Aaron, but I cannot tell you any more.”

I wait to ask the last question, but finally do, feeling desperate, “My son . . . is he OK? I mean, is he sad?”

“I think he is coping with everything fine.”

“That’s not an answer,” I say.

“Yes it is.”

Doctor grant did not come in that evening, but some lab assistant without a name tag. He was quick and efficient. Coming in, injecting me with another liquid. This time clear. And then leaving once again. I lay on the bed, hoping that Connor was OK and that Dawn and Seeley were somewhere safe with Charlotte. I think of Chad and Josh, but can only focus on Connor. I know, or hope, that he is feeling what I am feeling. That the medicine or drugs they give us are not painful. I hope that he is sleeping. That he has escaped this prison through his dreams. And I hope he dreams of times before all of this started. Dreams of playing at home with his Mom, and then running out on the lawn as I pull up on my bike after work. Of helping me in the house and then playing with me, or eating a snack. Simple things that now mean more than any other memory could.

I do not sleep. I break into a sweat some time during the night and have sever chills causing my body to shake constantly. I can feel my body growing exhausted but still I shake and sweat. And I want to kill them. I want to hurt them because I know that Connor is going through the same thing and there is no one there to hold him. But I will soon. One way or another.

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Day 33

 I dream again of the man I killed. Of Crystal and Clive. And of death. When I wake up it is dark in my room. My head and hand are both in pain, and in looking at my hand it is wrapped in a cast and there is a bandage on my head. I can feel it. I am still strapped to the table and can barely move. I look at the ceiling and see the large tiles that are in so many offices. I wonder if I can open them up, and maybe escape. I then consider the two men that come in: the guard and Doctor Grant. He wasn’t holding a syringe when he last came in, but still had it when he put me under. He must have it in his pocket. The guard would, however, be more difficult. I consider getting him with the syringe and then taking care of the doctor.

I think on escape and my family and what I can do to get us out of here. The prospect seems overwhelming. Where are they? How would I get them out? How would we get out of here? Wherever here is. I can feel my rage building up. I struggle against the restraints and like clock work, a minute later two men come in, one gives me a shot and they leave. They last thing I think before passing out being, they have camera’s in here.

When I wake again the lights are on. There is a man . . . Doctor Grant . . . standing by me, pulling another needle from an IV, probably something to wake me up.

“Good morning,” he says, “I have some good news for you.”

I wait but do not speak. He looks pleased. Not malicious, but happy with himself and the news that he is going to give, and for the first time, I understand that he may only be doing this for scientific purposes. However, the guard, I can tell, does not care about me, or anyone else, for that matter. He is ordered to keep me in here, he will keep me in here, even if it means breaking my fingers or hitting me with the butt of his rifle.

“We have released some of your family. Your wife, Dawn. She was kind enough to give us her name, and yours, Aaron. We also released Seeley and Charlotte.” He stops and I wait for him to say Connors name, but he doesn’t mention it, and so I do.

“What about Connor, or my brothers?”

“Well,” he starts, looking towards the guard, “we still need you four. Because of your immunity.”

“Connor is immune, but Seeley isn’t?”

“Well, you see, It seems to be genetic from what we can tell, and from some general tests We can see that Connor for the gene, but Seeley didn’t.”

I wait and think about this. So it is genetic. “Can’t you just take some of our blood?”

“Well certainly we will. But I want to study what your blood does to you when the infection is introduced into your blood stream. I need to induce you with different samples to see the reaction time. The live samples in your body will give us direct test results that we can then duplicate in a lab setting.

“Now, I’m going to unstrap you to make you more comfortable.”

The guard walks over and unlatched the straps that pressed my body down. I sit up and try to stay calm. They are going to inject Connor with the infection. They are going to run tests on my son. I tell myself over and over that I need to stay calm. They’ll just restrain me if I do anything irrational. And so I need a plan. I need to get out of here.

“Can I see my son?”

“That’s the other good news,” he says, and he again nods to the guard. “This is only a visit, mind you, but you can see him to help comfort him, or whatever.” I look at him and then the door. The guard, I notice goes to the right to get him. That’s something.

It takes two minutes for him to return. One minute there, one minute back. Connor is lead into the door and upon seeing me he runs to me and wraps his arms around me. I am crying as I hold him. I don’t ever want to let go of him. And, even in their generosity in letting me see him, I loath them more, because in a few minutes they are going to take him back.

“Listen, buddy,” I say, still holding him, whispering into his ear. “Do you know what brave is?” He nods. “You’re going to have to be brave, OK?”

“I want you.”

“I know, I want you too. But I can’t right now. But I want you, Connor.”

“Rock me, please. Can, I stay with you?”

I am trying to hold in my tears but can’t. “You can’t stay yet. You have to be brave.” I start rocking him back and forth.

“I’m sorry, but we need to take him back.”

“No,” I say, looking up at Doctor Grant, “Please, just a bit longer.”

“I’m sorry.” He reaches out to grab Connor.

I hold him tight and whisper in his ear. “I will save you. OK? I will save you, Connor. I love you! I love you so much.” They are taking him from me.

“I love you, Daddy,” he says and then they grab him from under the arms and he starts to cry and scream.

“No!” I yell. “Please! Let him stay with me. We’ll cooperate. Please!” They keep going. I run towards the guard but another stops me, holding me back.

“Connor!” He looks at me, “Connor, I love you!” They close the door.

I am sobbing on the floor. Screaming. “He’s only two! I want my son back, damn you! He is only two!”

I scream until my voice gives out and then I bang my fists on the door but there is no answer. I don’t know when, but I get tired and collapse on the floor. Still awake I think of what he must be going through. Maybe, as he may not understand it, he is OK. He’ll cry for a bit, but then, all he will feel is loneliness. But I can only hope, he remembers what I said. That I love him, and that I am going to save him. This keeps me going, motivates me.

I will escape, and I will save him, and I will save my brothers.

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Day 32

 I wake up in a bright room. The walls are white and tiled. They match the floor. There is a hospital bed, sink, toilet, and a tray with a glass of water and a cup with a pill in it. My clothes have been changed and I am in a hospital gown and pants. There is a single white door with a small window at the top. I move my legs off of the bed and stand. Immediately my knees give out and I collapse.

“Take the pill.” a voice sounds over a speaker. I look at it, grab the cup and throw it at the door.

“Where are my boys!” I demand, but there is no response. “Where the hell is my family! I want to see my family!” They do not respond and so I grab the tray and throw it as hard as I can at the window on the door. Nothing happens, and the momentum from the throw causes me to fall off of the bed.

“Let me out!” I yell again. “Let me out! We just wanted to get to Utah!” There is a click and the door opens. A guard comes in, a gas mask on his face and he is covered head to toe in what looks like a white bio-suit. There is a gun in his hands. Another man comes in in the same garb, but instead of gun, he holds a syringe.

“Hello.” He says through the mask. “What is your name?”

I don’t say anything, but rather look at the man with the gun. I can see his eyes through the mask and stare at them.

“Please,” the man with the syringe says again, “we are here to help you.”

“Help me? By kidnapping me and my wife and kids. By taking my family? How the hell do you think you are helping me?” I look at his name tag. It says Dr. Grant. “Listen, Doctor Grant, I don’t know why you have me here, but I need to find my family. And so unless you’re planning on releasing me now I am not going to cooperate.”

“Oh, you will cooperate, but first we need to make sure you are not infected.” He nods to the man that laid me down and he walks over, grabs my shoulders and pushes me down on the bed. The other sticks the needle into my arm quickly and within three seconds I am out.

I wake up again and it feels like the same day. I think I’ve been out for a few hours, at least that is what my body feels like. I ache. There is an IV in me and I rip it out, ignoring the sting from doing so. I try to stand again and this time find that I can put weight on my legs. I make my way over to the door and try to look out of the window. There is a hall, while like this room and it stretches both ways.

“Hey!” I yell, trying to get someones attention. “Where is my family! Where are my kids! What have you done to them!” There is no answer and no body comes to the door. I continue screaming, throwing what little I can in the room. I want to kill someone. For the first time in my life any moral sense is left behind and I want to break out and kill someone for taking my kids from me. Images of them doing experiments on them fly through my head. Of them locked in rooms similar to mine. Alone, without their Mommy or Dad. I start to cry as I think these things and sit on the bed wiping the tears away.

The door opens again. They are not in bio-suits, but the guard in all black, still holding his rifle, ready to shoot me if needs be. Doctor Grant is wearing a lab coat and has a clip board.

“Sleep well?” he says. I do not respond. “Well. Turns out that you are not infected. None of you are.” At least I know they’re alive. I’m not sure why I’d think differently, but I can tell I’m not thinking straight. “However, we are still curious how it is that you are not infected.”

“Just got lucky, I guess,” I say, knowing they would never buy that.

“Got lucky is an understatement. You’ve been bit. Twice in the same spot if I’m not mistaken. And so I ask you again, how are you not infected.”

“I don’t know,” and truth be told, I don’t know. I have only been guessing.

“It looks like you and your brothers are immune to this infection. And in turn, your children could very well be immune.”

“If you so much as touch my children . . .” I am standing up, moving towards this man when I am hit hard on the head with the but of the guards rifle. I stagger back to the bed and lean back on it. It is hard to see.

“We’ll see you again tomorrow,” he says and they start to walk out. Getting all of the strength I have I stand and move towards the open door and get my hand in before it closes. I can feel at least two of my fingers break, and the two that I had suspected broken before snapped. I scream out in pain but do not move my hand. I scramble to the door and feel another sharp pain as the guard maliciously slams the door again.

“Please!” I yell, “Let me see me wife! Let me see my kids.” I feel hands on my arms and I am lifted. I am screaming but they are restraining me, putting straps over my body after laying me on the bed. I see Doctor Grant and he pulls out a syringe. Like I said, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

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Day 31

 We only stay one night at Chad’s house. The following morning we load up all of their dry goods and leave. Chad never looked back as we pulled out but looked down at the storage, or towards the front of the car. I think a part of him accepted it, or accepted something. I can’t imagine what he is feeling, but if I was to guess I would say recognition that they are not here. Because here is Hell, and there is no way around it. I think of my kids and having to grow up in a world like this; a world where they could die at any moment and I feel my heart drop. I know Chad misses his family more than anything I could ever imagine, but at least they are not in constant fear, and at least he is not in constant fear for them. I can see that he knows they are happy.

We make our way north. Having to avoid the Sierra’s and the lines and lines of cars we had walked through weeks before. As we drive I look at Josh, still sitting in the front seat. He has a beard. His face is dirty and his clothes worn. He is not the same man he was at the beginning of the year, when all of this had never existed. Not in our minds anyway. He had just passed his Chemistry class. I think it was probably the hardest class he’d ever taken. And this coming from someone who enjoys differential equations. I was so happy for him. He was home from school and Dawn and I as well as the kids would visit him and my parents regularly. We talked about the coming semester. I worked too much and I see that now. But at the time it seemed important, and maybe it was. Maybe that is what was important then, in another life time, but now, driving with my family, (Charlotte needs to be included in that), there is nothing else. Nothing but survival and looking for those we love. How can someone make a life for themselves in a world like this. I am not sure it can happen.

And so now, all we do is drive. Drive north into Oregon and then Idaho. And then back down to Utah, and to Heber City, to where Dawn’s family should be. And hope that nothing along the way stops us.

Charlotte drove through the night, after we blew the tire she was more careful in avoiding zombies. In the morning I took over. Josh had a map and directed me to the Interstate. There were cars parked on the road at places, but we could avoid them. Charlotte had gotten up to Oregon through the night and now I head east, into Idaho. It is cold and there are less and less cars on the road. And finally, we get to a point where there are no cars on either side of the road. For the first time we are alone. there is nothing but trees and road. And soon, even the trees end. They are burned. Burned completely down. We all look at the blackened landscape as it rolls by the windows.

For miles this continues. No cars, no trees where there should be trees and where there should be cars. We near Boise and I can see tree’s again in the distance, near where Boise would start, and there, on the road, blocking any traffic is a barricade. From the sides of the barricade is a fence, at least twenty feet high with barbed wire stretching along the top. On the fence are signs warning of high voltage. And, walking towards us is a man, with a gun.

Several run after him and as I pull to a stop there are at least ten guards aiming their guns at us. I roll down the window.

“What the hell is this?” comes the mans gruff voice from behind a gas mask.

I look at him blankly. “We, uh . . . we’re trying to get to Utah.”

“Utah!? Utah has been over run. There’s no one in Utah for you.”

“My family is there,” my wife says from the back.

“Listen,” he says looking back at here, “I’m sorry. I really am, but no one is there. It would be impossible. It is impossible that you are here.” I look at him suspiciously, and I look at Josh to my right. He looks uneasy. The man motions to the others and they rush the vehicle. I slam on the gas, but they have me out of the Hummer before I can pick up any speed. It rolls to a stop as they pull the others out.

“No!” I yell, “Let go of my kids!” I punch the man in the face and the mask comes loose. He scrambles for it and I kick him. I run over to the man holding both of my kids who are screaming and fighting to get down and pull his pistol from his side, shooting him quickly in the knee. He falls with my kids but I am able to grab Seeley. Connor tumbles with him and I quickly grab him. Dawn is being contained but I can see that Charlotte is fighting off her guard. There are more people running towards us.

“Charlotte!” I yell, “My wife!” She runs to her and shoots the man holding her, killing him. My eyes widen as his form crumples to the ground, bringing my wife with him. Charlotte helps her up and I run towards her.

“We need to go.” But it is too late. The other men have arrived and are surrounding us, their guns aimed at each of us.

“GET ON YOUR KNEES!” Someone yells from behind me, annunciating each word. I look at the guns but do not get down. “We will kill you if you do not cooperate. You and your damn kids!” I slowly drop to my knees. I can feel his footsteps behind me and then, with a sharp pain all goes black.

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Day 30

 The dreams returned again, and I, again, did not sleep that night. I simply lay there, my eyes getting heavy. But as soon as I start to doze I see the man die. I am tired and my head is pounding, but all I can see is death.

Josh runs into the entrance startling us while we sat and ate. We look up quickly. I had placed my hand on the hilt of my machete and I notice Chad does the same with the gun behind him. Josh runs over to where we are, stopping just before running into us. It is nearly noon and we had all sat down to eat lunch. Seeley has taken a liking to Chad and so sits on his lap while he feeds him spoon-fulls of rice, but even Seeley is now looking up at Josh with curiosity.

“That large group of zombies that over ran the tent are in the city.” I look at Dawn and her eyes are wide. I am sure mine are too. “They’re close and we could only just make it here. We were held down in a gas station, hiding, for most of the night while they passed. We got here as soon as we could.” he pauses and puts his hand over his mouth. There are hundreds. Like they’re . . . like they’re migrating or something.”

“That’s what I thought that morning at the camp,” I say, but quickly change the subject. “All of our stuff is packed. Lets load it up quickly and get out of here.”

“Why is it . . .” Josh ignores the question for now.

We quickly pack up everything, Charlotte has her gas mask on and Dawn and the boys do as well. She is fighting Seeley with his, but they are on. They each wait in the Hummer while Josh, Chad and I load up our supplies. The gas cans are filled and on the roof of the vehicle. He stack our supplies in such a way that someone can sit in the back with the weapons and food and Chad decides to sit back there, on a cooler Josh and Charlotte had brought back. We had filled it with cans of beans and rice and other vegetables and fruit, all in cans. Josh sat up front with Charlotte driving, and Dawn and I sat with our boys between us.

Charlotte quickly goes north on Hwy 1, trying to get to Hwy 20 that can take us back to Sacramento and back to Chad’s house. There are some zombies on the road. Only a few, but enough to make it harder to avoid them. Charlotte swerves the car back and forth over the road, but the farther north we get the more there are. It is obvious they’ve already passed by Fort Bragg. I can see the turn to get onto Hwy 20, but there are a lot of zombies in our way. They see us and more are starting to come onto the road. Charlotte speeds up and we hit one of them with the left front side of the car. Blood sprays on Charlotte’s side window and some of mine. Josh has his window open and is firing at oncoming zombies. We bounce over those that have fallen.

There are a lot now and Josh is back inside. Many grab onto the Hummer and hang on as we speed down the road and make a turn onto Hwy 20. There are still more, for several yards, walking across the highway, now turning towards us. Charlotte swerves off of the road onto the dirt and into a parking lot, mowing down bushes as she does so. There are less in the parking lot and so swerves around one, clipping a parked car, and then hitting it anyway. There is a dirt field just after the parking lot and she drives onto it, speeding as fast as the Hummer will go. If she hits an upright at this speed we will flip over.

There are still several on the road as we get back onto it and Charlotte hits one, sucking it under the Hummer. There is a loud bang and the right hand side begins to lower dramatically.

“Shit!” Charlotte says as she grabs a gun nearby. Josh opens his door and swings around firing.

“Dawn,” I say loudly over the gun fire. “Get down and if they get to close lock all of the doors. She nods and puts the boys on the floor of the car. Chad and I get out at the same time. I throw my bag on, so I have access to my machete, and pull my M21 in front of me. There are only a few left near us. I fire several rounds and hit two of them in the head.

“Chad!” Josh yells. Get the tire changed. He turns to the rear and takes off the tire that is connected to the rear door. It takes him some time and we stand around him as he does so. Firing occasionally. Josh and I follow him around the car as Charlotte stays on the other side.

“There is a bone stuck in the tire,” Chad says. amazed. “Like a rib or something.” I look back, and sure enough, there is a large bone sticking out of the rubber. He gets the tire off quickly. I fire several shots but miss the zombie that is about one hundred feet away. I miss and wish I still had the CZ 750. They are moving closer and I fire again. Dropping most I aim at. Charlotte yells for help and Josh runs over to the other side of the car.

“I really enjoy,” I say, and then fire a round, “how anytime we want to go anywhere, or stay anywhere, or do anything, we have to fight these guys off. I mean, seriously . . .”

“Well, think about it. Every person that was infected and died, which is probably most people, got turned,” he strained on that word, turning the tire iron to tighten on of the last bolts, “and so, we basically have to fight against all of humanity.”

Truth be told. I had never though about it that way. “Think about how it spreads,” Chad continues, “If it is airborne then that would explain how it happened so quickly. And most people wouldn’t have time to,” I fire several rounds and miss what he says. “or anything, and so I would guess that most of the population is gone.”

“We’re now the one percent,” I say in with some dark sense of humor. Chad laughs and tightens the last bolt.

“Yeah,” he says, “I guess so.” He stands up and yells, “Lets go!”

We each make our way into the car shut the doors and drive off. Leaving the zombies behind to migrate south or move wherever they have been moving to.

We make it to Chad’s house a little after sunset. The ride was uneventful for the remainder of the ride and I found that curious. We had to drive through Sacramento, where I know there are a lot of zombies but none are in sight and none are on the highway. I hate not knowing so many things. Are there many survivors? Did the disease hit everywhere in the US? In the world? Is there work being done on a cure?

We are flying blind.

Chad’s house is as we left it. Rear door busted out, but nothing stolen. His note is still painted on the wall. He wanders around it for an hour, shinning his flashlight on different objects. I watch him for a bit with Dawn standing next to me. He grabs a photo of all three of them and takes it out of its frame, folds it and places it in his jacket pocket.

Soon, we each turn in. Chad allows Dawn and me the master bedroom and bed to help hold us and our two kids. They are out in a manner of minutes and Dawn and I are soon to follow.

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