Day 35

 What little sleep I did get, I dreamed of the man I had killed, of Crystal, and of Doctor Grant.

He brought in my son in his arms. He was dead. He then dragged in Josh and Chad. He laid Connor down, but it wasn’t Connor. It was a fake. I knew that. And soon they started waking up. Moaning and groaning. Crystal was suddenly there too, and that man. They started moving towards me and all I could do was apologize. I kept saying, ‘I’m sorry, please forgive me,’ but it didn’t matter. They were hungry.

When I wake up there are technicians, all wearing masks holding me down. “Where is my son!” I scream, but there is no answer. Soon Doctor Grant comes in and pulls the syringe from his right lab coat pocket and puts the needle into my IV. I feel sleepy but still fight clumsily. My words are slurring and I mumble and within a few seconds I am still and asleep.

The next time I wake I am alone. There is a patch on my right arm, just above the cast they had placed there because of my broken fingers. I don’t know what it is from. I still have my IV drip and the bag looks full. Someone must have recently changed it. I walk over to the toilet and relieve myself, finishing up just as Doctor Grant walks in with the same guard who scowls at me.

“You’re doing well,” he says, but is all to aware that I don’t know what I am doing well at. “So is your son and brothers. There are more tests to run, of course, but I just thought I’d let you know that this immunity is quite the powerful thing.”

“When can we go?”

“Go?” He seems genuinely surprised. “Why . . . I don’t think I know. Not for some time.”

“Not for some . . . time?” I say each word slowly, emphasizing the last. “No!” I lose it. ” We will be released today! You’ve done tests on us, easily waving our rights away. No. I think you’re done today.”

“You’ve already told us your feelings on this country,” the guard says suddenly, “and so as far as I can see, you’re not even a citizen, and if I decide that you are to stay here until we are done. You will stay here until we are done.”

I get up but he hits me hard in the stomach with his rifles butt. I sit down holding my stomach. Doctor Grant raises his hand and shakes his head at the guard who reluctantly backs off.

“This is very important, Aaron.” Your family are the only ones we know of who are immune to this disease. We need to—” he pauses briefly, “we need to test the immune responses.” He pulls out another injection and screws it to the IV connection injecting me with something else.

“Lay down and relax,” he says. “Just remember, this is for a greater good.”

It is twenty minutes after the injection when I start to feel the burning. It starts in my legs—my thighs—and moves up my body. It grows until my body is shaking and burning. My hands are clinched tightly at the sides of the bed. It is growing and becoming more and more unbearable but all I can think about is Connor, likely going through the same thing. I could kill them, and if they came in, I think I would. I start screaming from the pain and from my anguish at the thought of them torturing Connor.

The door opens and the guard walks in, followed by Doctor Grant.

“I have something to help,” he says, “It should dull the pain, but we need you awake.”

I act fast. Faster than I thought possible. I swing off of the bed and kick the guard hard in the face. I hold the hand containing the syringe with the pain killer and reach into Doctor Grants right lab pocket, grab the needle and throw him back. The guard is getting up as I uncap the tranquilizer they had been using on me and I jab the needle into his neck, squeezing the liquid quickly into his neck. He gasps and falls instantly to the floor. I grab the syringe that the doctor had been holding, which had fallen to the bed and place it in a large pocket in the pants they’d given me.

I am shaking, but I see Doctor grant move towards the door. I grab him and throw him on the bed. A vial of blood falls to his side, onto the mattress. I grab it and look at it. It has Josh’s name on it.

“You are so eager to study this disease,” I say, looking from the vial to him. I smash the glass against his arm and it breaks, the blood running over his arm. There are some glass shards sticking from his skin. “Now you have the chance.” His eyes are wide with terror and unbelief which conform my theory. We are immune, but we are still carriers.

I grab the rifle the guard had and take off his belt as well, which has a pistol and taser. The doctor seems to be in shock and is not moving on the bed. I leave him. I look out the small window and am not able to see a guard near my door. I am shaking violently still, and I ignore the pain from whatever they had given me. I grab both the doctors and guards key cards and I open the door a crack and look one way. Nothing. I look the other and there is still nothing. I can hear commotion down the hall and realize it is coming from Connors room. I pull out the taser and run down the hallway until I get to the first door with a light on.

I can hear him. Connor is crying uncontrollably. I at first had thought that someone was in there with him, but I do not hear anyone. Doctor Grant was probably going to go to him next. I swipe the key card and the door opens. There, on the floor is Connor. He is crying loudly. It is obvious that he is in pain. I go to the IV connect, stab in the syringe I’d grabbed from the doctor and push in the liquid. But only half of it. Seconds later Connor relaxes.

“Buddy!” I say, getting on my knees and scooping him up. “Are you OK?” He shakes his head. His eyes still closed. I hold him tight. “It’s all over. I am going to get you out of here.” The taser is put away and, holding Connor with one arm—my right arm—I swing the rifle around on its strap and hold it up with my left. “Alright buddy, I got ya. Be very quiet, OK?” He nods and I leave the room, awkwardly swiping the card to get out.

There is still no one in the halls and I assume no one, as of this moment, is watching the cameras. It must have been just that guard if it’s late. I have no idea where Chad and Josh are and so I continue down the hall. Listening for them. The hall turns to the left. I stop before the turn and peak around. There is one guard walking down the hallway.

“Connor,” I whisper, “I need to leave you hear for just a sec. I need to make it safe down there.

“No, Daddy. I want to stay with you!” he says loudly, and I am sure the guard heard him. I can hear footsteps moving our was quickly. I hold Connor close to me and pull out the taser.

I watch for the first sign of the guard. Checking over the taser gun making sure it is unlocked and will fire. The moment I see his gun barrel I turn the corner, pulling the trigger. It hits him in the head and he convulses violently before dropping. Connor had been looking the other way which I was glad of. I Move the guards body towards the wall and run down the hallway and silently as I can. There is another door with a light on and I can hear the bed shaking. I swipe the card and go in.

Josh is in the fetal position, panting as though he’d ran for miles. Upon seeing me and Connor he slowly sits up and hugs us.

“Thank you,” he says, crying and I hug him back. I give him the rifle after he is able to stand. He’s still shaky like I am.

“Listen,” he says, “I’ll go find Chad. You stay here with Connor and we’ll come back for you. ” I agree and give him a key card. He leaves and I sit holding Connor. I don’t ever want to let him go. I can feel him crying softly and I rub his back, under his shirt just like he use to have me do when I sang to him at night. I start singing his favorite song, New Slang, by the Shins. He’d sing some of the words with me in another life. I then sing the “rainbow song”, or Somewhere, Over the Rainbow. I cry a bit when I start, but regain myself. I am starting to shake badly again and I can feel the pain that the adrenaline had suppressed coming back. I try to put on a brave face for Connor, but it difficult. He holds me tighter.

Josh comes back with Chad twenty minutes later. I was surprised it took so long, but after their explanation I understood. Josh had gotten Chad out, and they decided to scout the way out. The facility was not officially governmental. The Hummer was parked in a parking lot just out side of the building. It is night, and so a skeleton crew is working which they said they “took care of.” I don’t care what that means anymore.

“So, this isn’t government run?”

“No, not at all. I think the building was some sort of low level laboratory. They have minimal surveillance and crew. I get the impression that they’ve quarantined this city on their own and do only some of their tests . . . experiments . . . here.” Josh looks at Chad who is still shaking from pain. “We found our clothes in some lockers a little ways down, and then we can grab the Hummer. No one should get in our way.”

“Well,” Chad says, in response, “now that you said that . . .” I try to laugh, but can’t.

Chad walks out of the room and is shot through the head. His body crumples to the ground. Dead and lifeless. I can hear Josh screaming, running out with the rifle and firing down the hall. He is screaming at someone. A murderer, who killed our brother. I pull out my pistol and run out of the room. I see him standing at the end of the hall, a hole through his head—the guard who I had drugged—falling down dead. Killed by Josh. I turn and look at Chad. There is a pool of blood around his head that is spreading. Connor tries to turn and look but I hold him so he is facing the other way.

“Don’t look, Connor. There’s nothing there.” I fall on my knees as Josh runs over, going to his knees as well and bringing him up to his chest, sobbing. I am too, and I fight to not let Connor see the bloody mess.

“What . . .” Josh says through sobs, “what do we do with the body?” I look around desperately and shouting comes from around the corner behind us.

“We need to go,” I say, getting Connor over my shoulders.

“No, we need to stay!” Josh spins around and points the gun.

“Think about this Josh! Think about what you’re doing. I need you to help get us out. Please! I need to get Connor out.” He lowers the rifle for a brief second before putting it back up. Finally he stands and turns towards us. He bends down and pulls Chad’s wedding ring off of his finger.

“I love you,” he says and he walks off.

Before I follow I bend down and say the same, adding, “be with your family. You were the best big brother I could of had.” I then run after Josh, following him out, forgetting about our clothes they’d stripped from us. He gets in the drivers seat of the Hummer and finds the keys in the center tray. He starts the car and speeds off. There is a shot from behind us and I hear it hit the rear of the car, but no one is hurt. The sky is dark and wet and we are alone, driving through a silent city, running from death and pain and memories. Each of us still in pain, and still silently crying for our lost brother.

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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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