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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Event Zero in SFWG anthology

My short story “Event Zero” is featured in the new Short Fiction Writers Guild anthology volume 2.  The Anthology is called “Zero Plus Seven” in honor of my story.  I haven’t read the other entries yet, so I can’t yet vouch for the anthology, but it’s kinda cool regardless.

On the Amazon link if you click on the preview, you actually see my whole story, which is funny.  I freely gave Event Zero to the SFWG for their anthology, and I hope that it helps them raise funds.

If anyone’s interested, I actually do have a sequel to Event Zero, called “Shadow of the Valley,” also available here on my site.


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.


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 is on Smashwords

Event Zero cover art

Event Zero cover art

Event Zero is now available from Smashwords, if you want it on your mobile device. I can’t say the formatting is perfect though. This is still a test of electronic publishing.

The cover art was made by Dan Swensen. His original artwork for it was a lot more bold and would probably have looked better for a small picture. However, I wanted it to look more like a report, since it was only about 2600 words long.

If I novelize the thing, I’ll probably use his first image he sent me, as it’s more appropriate for a longer story. I don’t want to oversell this thing, it’s just a quick short story!

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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