It’s Friday, which means I should be publishing a fiction excerpt today. Except that I don’t have internet access on this plane, so I will have to write something from scratch… Please keep in mind that it’s completely off the cuff and unedited.
It is widely believed that patient zero was a housewife from Kansas City, Kansas. It was important to note that it was Kansas City, Kansas and not Kansas City, Missouri. Missouri didn’t want any part of this particular chapter of history.
No one knew how she got sick. It was just a cold, a little thing that every mom struggles through and keeps on going. There are carpool schedules to keep and soccer practices to attend, cookies to bake for the PTA bake sale. She just kept going because she was a mom and that’s what you do. She never knew that the virus was mutating inside her, never would have guessed that those bake sale cookies would infect half the elementary school with what turned out to be the deadliest plague in centuries.
In a matter of weeks, Kansas City became a ghost town. It spread out from there, from the heartland of America, and no one saw it coming.
5 years later
Zoe Carmichael hitched her bag up onto her shoulder. It contained a few salvageable bits of her life before and a few things she’d need for the road, a blanket, a waterproof tarp, a knife, rope, protein bars, the water purifier from her little brothers’ Cub scout mess kit. She had a ride as far as Nashville, but then she’d be on her own. She was heading for the east coast, to her aunt’s place in Virginia. Mass transit was pretty much non-existent, but a lot of people had converted their cars to biofuel, so distance traveling was still possible and not quite like they predicted in all the zombie apocalypse movies.
The plague had killed slowly, bringing people together to help one another. In the beginning, they hadn’t realized that they were all doomed. They thought they’d get better. They didn’t know that only 2% of the population was gifted with natural immunity to the pathogen and that they would be the only survivors.
Though of course there were those who took advantage of the weakness of others, looters and whatnot, for the most part, people had been surprisingly kind. Those that survived felt so relieved and so lucky to be spared, that they dedicated themselves to helping those who weren’t as fortunate. If you were immune, you helped. If you weren’t, you were going to die no matter what you did so there was no point in fighting.
Zoe had cared for her mom and brother, expecting to get sick at any moment. But she never did. So when they died, she moved on to help at the hospital, caring for those she could and praying for those she couldn’t.
She never would have considered herself a religious person before, still didn’t, truth be told, but there had been comfort to be found in believing that there was some greater plan behind the death and grief and endless suffering. Now that the infection had finally become dormant, with no new cases reported in over a year, people had begun to relax and try to return to some semblance of “normal” life….