The New Normal

Part 4 of Event Zero.

You can check out part 1, part 2, and part 3 before this if you like.

Yuri Hrab sighed as he parked the sedan between a rusted Nissan pickup with the flatbed torn off and a neon-blue Humvee with little gold daggers hanging from the mirror.

It’s going to be one of those days.

The row-houses that weren’t boarded up or burnt out looked like they wanted to be left alone. The concrete stairs were chipped from neglect and bullets. Bars covered windows on each floor. Doors were made of metal.

Hrab checked the address again on his glasses.

Four young men were sitting on the stoop. Their pants were baggy enough to conceal shotguns if they wanted to stick them in there. There was a near empty 40 ounce bottle of beer on the lower step. The smell of marijuana from the previous night still clung to their jackets. It was 9:00 am.

He adjusted his glasses on his nose, the surreptitious motion activated a basic thermal imaging system and general health scan. It wasn’t a 100% solution, especially in the daylight, but it gave a high confidence result. He finished adjusting and turned the scan off. To outsiders it would have looked like the reflection from the sun.

“Gentlemen, good morning.”

The presumptive leader of the group puffed up and offered a “What the fuck do you want?” that was weekend by the previous night’s efforts at having a good time.

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Call Me Lazarus

It’s that time of year again. Time for a rather horrific story.

Part three of “Event Zero.”

Part One – Event Zero

Part Two – Shadow of the Valley

>ERC Document - “Event Alexandria”
>pp. 114-117
>Filed 05-11-2025
>ERCD 1001
>Current security status: Classified
>These pages of document 1001 are a record of files 
>from the harddrive of Alexander Vick, shortly after the
>Alexandria Event. Dates given are the timestamps of 
>the recovered files.

>View Log:
>Jocelyn Kramer, M.D., Ph.D, Center for Disease Control
>Col. Albert Hammer, Air Force, Department of Defense
>Capt. Elizabeth Friendly, M.D., Walter Reed - Bethesda Naval
>[REDACTED]
>[REDACTED]
>[REDACTED]
>Yuri Hrab, Special Agent, Event Research Commission

 
2024-06-14 11:58 pm

All I know is what I hear on the tv. All about the dead rising from the graves. Just like in the good book. And all those movies.

There’s a graveyard next to my house. It’s old and small. About a dozen graves in all. The last body in there is the old woman who sold the house to me. The first one was from the civil war.

House has been here a long time. The wood on the floor, especially on the back stairs, is warped and creaks like my old Chevy when Dolly jumps in the flatbed.

I don’t spook easy, but there are times at night when the stairs settle on their own. Charlotte sleeps through it, but it always wakes me and Dolly up. Half the time I got the .45 in my hand before my eyes are all the way open.

Dolly just curls back up at the foot of the bed and goes back to sleep.

It’s not like anyone is going to sneak up on the house like some sort of ninja. I ain’t paranoid. And if someone drives up the gravel Dolly would hear it when it started a quarter mile away.

It’s one of those nights. The staircase is in rare form. I actually got up and checked it out, half expecting a visitor from one of those graves.

Couldn’t get back to sleep. The doc told me I should write shit down when I get this way. Since Anne passed… well I do my best. But I started to get pissed real easy, and I almost hit Charlene.

Hardest decision I ever made, but I went in and talked to a therapist. But For Charlene I’d do anything. She’s all I have left, and if anything happened to her…

Hell, I didn’t even talk to a shrink after Iraq. Didn’t seem much of a point. I did what I did and I’m proud to have been a soldier. If it wasn’t for a half-inch piece of metal that sliced up my leg real good I might still be out there.

Shrink says business is booming since the dead started coming back. I told her, “no shit, Sherlock.” But I seen enough dead already, some I made that way myself. It wouldn’t bother me to convince those bone bags they made a mistake coming back.

That’s what I thought. Until I realized I have a dozen dead bodies in my back yard.

Doc says the dreams are related to Iraq, but I don’t buy it. I think it’s just stress. I mean, who could blame me, I’m alone with Charlene out here. Girls need their moms, and she ain’t got one now.

She seems well adjusted enough, considering. Got good grades, lots of friends. She says that helps.

I ask her what she thinks of this whole zombie thing. If she’s bible believing and knows about the End Times.

She just rolls her eyes like I’m talking about some movie. And maybe she’s right to do that. I can’t say the good book has been a lot of comfort recently. In a way, it’s just the opposite. If this really is the end, I’m not sure I want to know it.

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Shadow of the Valley

Here it is, the sequel to “Event Zero.”  I messed around with some tenses in the middle- I indented the paragraphs to make them a little more clear.  I might go back and change it later.

PDF to come.

“Tunguska.”

The word sounded alien in her own voice, amplified though the helmet mic. The muffled thumping of the helicopter blades could still pierce the level 2’s.

“What, Rogers?” Latrec glanced at Rogers out of the corner of his eye before returning his attention to the window.

Rogers never looked away from the ground. “In 1908, a comet hit the Siberian plain. It knocked down trees for miles, snapping them off at the trunk, laying them out flat.” She nodded out the window. “Looked kind of like that.”

The desert yellow was eclipsed by rows of dessicated bodies. They radiated out from a central rock, like a withered and brittle petals of a flower in the baking sun.

Latrec said, “Death Valley indeed.” He gritted his teeth. “How many do you think are out there?”

Rogers glanced up at the other two black helicopters and their two military escort choppers, napalm at the ready. She looked back at the flower. “Thousands.” She licked the fillings on her back teeth with the tip of her tongue. “Thousands.”

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Event Zero

SFWG Contest WinnerThis is a story that won a speculative fiction contest for the Short Fiction Writer’s Guild.  I am primarily a writer of novel-length fiction, but I threw this together for another contest, and it turns out it was a better fit for the SFWG.

You can also download a PDF version of the story if you prefer.

Document 0-1191a
Declassified, January 1, 2029
This document was found on Jan 15 2022. Although its veracity has has yet to be definitively proven, it is considered authentic. It it the only known document of its kind. The dates line up with the beginning of Event Zero.
Some text was reconstructed from context or further investigation. Some text could not be deciphered.
 

 

According to the calendar, the date is June 22. I suppose I should specify, 2016, in case someone actually finds this notepad.

My name is Michael Van Dorn. I am a research scientist at USAMRIID.

And I think I may be patient zero.

At first I couldn’t believe anyone here could be working on something so insane. Despite what the conspiracy theorists might suggest, we’re the good guys. Sure, we have bacteria and viruses here that would give your unborn grandchildren nightmares― Ebola Zaire, Smallpox, Bas-Congo, Uri’s Plague, but they were here for research. We don’t weaponize anything.
That’s why I think it must be an accident. The closest thing I can think of that might cause something like this would be [REDACTED]. The combination of [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] could, in theory, account for the symptoms I’m observing. Observing, I might add, from the apparent safety of the isolation chamber.

Dr. [REDACTED] would be the only one who would be capable of this kind of thing. If I can find him, I’ll try to get some answers.

Two weeks ago I fell ill. My body failed me. I collapsed. They thought I was comatose. I wasn’t. I was “locked in.” I was aware of everything around me, yet unable to move.

They put me in here as a precaution, but I’m sure they knew that whatever had caused my condition was already out, already in the wild.

For a week, while on an IV and massive doses of anti-biotics and anti-virals, nothing happened. But they worried. I could see it through the reflections of their level 3 hazmat visors when they came to check my levels. No― not worried― terrified. They knew something, or had learned something in the interim, that scared the everloving shit out of them.
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