Chapter 1. Archenemies From The Start
God damn, I miss him, could really use his help right now. I can only wonder how his wife feels. Hell, I can only imagine how he feels right now, and I know the son of a bitch is alive. He’d purposely stay alive just to piss off these bloody infected.
I can’t wait to work by his side again. My brother and I were commonly mistaken as twins; truth is John is 12 months older than me to the day.
Shit hit the fan a week ago. Well, more like diarrhoea hit the turbine…
I came up to visit his clan up in North Queensland, after spending the last year in mining raking in the cash with every bit of overtime I could. You’d think this would be the point I’d say, “Fat lot of good that did me”, but to be honest, thank the gods I saved it all up.
Let’s start from the beginning…
I was on night shift working in some god forsaken hell-hole, when I got a message from my brother and a forwarded message from the sister-in-law. “Code Z. Code red. Code: get the fuck home now!”
I never actually thought this text would be sent, sure we had some family related ones, but damn, a promise is a promise. “On my way now” they knew how long it’d take to get to North Queensland. I turned the radio in my Terex 4400 dump truck from USB mode to tuner and put it on national am frequency news radio.
Nothing but the same news as this morning; Rugby league wins and losses, little Aussie sporting champion makes international standards, meteor hit the ocean somewhere, the weather and some advice on railway crossings.
Hell… Even if my brother was kidding, his wife surely wouldn’t risk my career and life. John was over seas for some survival meet up with a few friends, all tickets paid by submitting some article to a site. Lucky bastard.
Not so lucky now, I wonder what the hell is wrong. I hope he is okay. I hope the kids and Jo are okay.
I radioed into the mining office telling them there was an emergency at home. A year of no sickies or any days off works to my advantage. They don’t even question me, they just told me to pack up and do what I need to do.
“Two days drive.” I mumbled to myself. “Wonder if James wants to share the driving, get out of here for a bit while he is on light duties.” James was a close mate and worked on my opposite shift. There was nothing wrong with him now. Just had heat stroke a few days ago and the bosses said to him to “either take a few weeks off or sit in the office doing paperwork and filing.” He had nowhere to go so he chose filing.
He wasn’t happy I woke him up at 3 in the morning, though happy to get out of camp and away from the mine. He was pre packed as usual, ready for the next job or his next holiday. He was the systems analyser for the electric dump trucks. To be honest, if it was electronic or electrical, he was the man to see.
Me? I’m just a dumb miner.
We hit the road straight away, pulling up at the nearest service station to get gas. I bought a carton of energy drinks, a few natural bars and what was left of the commercial jerky on the counter stand. James got three bottles of whisky, a few bottles of water and whatever else he could balance in his arms was M&M’s.
The attendant didn’t even flinch. This was considerably less than what most miners bought on the way in or out of hell hole central.
As the sun rose over the horizon, we got started on the conversation of cars. Mostly about my piece of shit vehicle.
“Fine next town we get me a work vehicle.” I concluded and sure as shit we pulled into a rural Toyota and I bought myself a brand new dual cab Hilux with extended tray back, bullbar tow ball, free air and a mounted side toolbox. It’s good to have money.
By that night the news had changed to something much different people around the world were dying. The president of America was dead. The Queen was missing. Australia on high alert, State of the Nation.
I checked the time at 7pm as we passed through the outskirts of Brisbane I decided to stock up my new Ute.
Bunning’s was first, the hardware warehouse. Tools, tarps, ropes, hoses, seeds and a car decor sticker. James decided to get a couple of hatchets, a large axe, couple of 15 litre fire extinguishers, turpentine, and mosquito coils.
“Hate mosquitoes” he said in his half yank, half Aussie accent. “What the hell you want with the rest of that?” I questioned.
“I got a feeling”… His feelings were usually right. Last time we did a trip he told me to buy two extra spare tyres, a roll of plumbers tape and some key rings. We needed them. Gut instinct has my respect.
We stopped into an auto warehouse and got some neon spotlights, some in car accessories run from the lighter socket, like a kettle, multi adapter charger, 500,000 candlelight hand-held spotlights. We also got jumper leads, camping solar chargers and a Wako fridge/freezer for the whisky… and food.
When we got to the food store it was a scene to be seen. People everywhere with full shopping trolleys. Jo would have bought food already and John had stocks up for numerous reasons.
I walked past all the food and went straight to the household goods section. Grabbed a hand full of alfoil, cling wrap, zip lock bags and a few packets of skewers. I moved on to the battery aisle and grabbed what little was left along with numerous torches and sealed containers. I even managed to get a picnic set. Heading down the medical and baby section, I threw a few battery operated electric razors, plain razors, tubes of toothpaste, toothbrushes and 30 or so different antiseptics. A couple of boxes of band aids and a full row of children’s fish oil candy and vitamins.
When I walked down the baby section I got weird glances as I piled boxes of disposable nappies and baby wipes.
I could barely see over the shopping trolley as I turned into the checkout aisle and on queue James pulls in behind me loaded up on half a trolley full of coffee, sugar and salt. The other half was just jars of pasta sauces and pasta. In the toddler seat of the trolley he had chocolate.
“Coffee? Chocolate? Dude, this is why I love you.”
Just as we paid and were walking out the door we heard screams from inside as the doors closed shut and as people ran to the front of the display window they were squashed by the crowd behind them. You could see blood splatter work its way to the front; you could see cans and jars being flung towards one direction trying to stop whatever was coming at them.
Whatever it was, it had reached us already and we were not sticking around to find out exactly what it was. We practically threw everything in the back and drove over the curb and hit the main highway. As we drove James kept an eye out behind us “Sean… Floor it.” the moment he finished the sentence I hit the pedal to the metal.
“What the fuck is it James!?” I screamed as I rounded a bend. “Shit Chief, I am right next to you! I don’t know we have hundreds of cars behind us and one by one they are swerving off the road and crashing… I can see a black puff, in and out of the cars… I think… Like Night crawler from X-men… Shit dude it’s getting closer…”
“I can’t go any bloody faster mate and I am in front!”
“30 vehicles left Chief!”
“Fuck it!” I turned off the next route I could and drove until I hit a small town. Pulled up to the servo, filled up the car and went inside to pay for the fuel to find a zombie behind the counter. “What the fuck? God dammit John, this shit ain’t suppose to be real” I knew my brother couldn’t hear me, but it helped.
He was trying to make his way to me, unable to figure out the mesh that covered the bench to ceiling, wall to wall or the fact that there was a door right next to him. I flipped him the bird and grabbed a handful of whatever confectionary was at the counter and got the hell out. Where there is one there is another, I walked out towards the car to see a “black puff” appear next to James and a bloke appeared right next to him.
James held up a screwdriver he had on the dash in defence as the bloke swung at him and it went straight through his hand like a half done crucifixion. An ear-splitting scream rang out, and the puff appeared again and the bloke was gone. James grabbed the set of screwdrivers off the floor in front of his seat and opened the case. He looked to me and then looked behind me.
I spun around flinging the confectionary towards a young lady. She had blonde streaked, sandy brown hair; she wore a red bikini top under a white crocheted throw over shirt. Her bottoms were long, black, stretch type jeans showing the obvious perfect curves.
“G’day, need a lift?” yeah… I was smooth…
“Hi Sean. I’m Emily, I’ve come to make a deal with you.” she peered over my shoulder “… and James if he doesn’t stab Richard again.”
James was already out of the car holding the two largest screwdrivers like a pair of daggers and stood behind me. I looked back over my shoulder at him, winked and looked back to Emily. “Let’s hear it”
“I need some more smart men to run a group for me. James will be a good start for that.” She was eyeing him up and down like he was a meal, like she would actually rip his head off and chew his brain. “But you…” now I was looked at differently, seductively, it pissed me off. I wasn’t in the mood for a root right then. “… Could be a perfect lieutenant. We could work together, you and me. We could run this country. I watched you, ahead of the rest; you pick the things no-one else did in that shop back there. You turned off the highway and fuelled up thinking you had enough time with the amount of cars left driving behind you. You wasted no time when you saw the clerk behind the counter.” Emily motioned towards the servo, did one of those annoying “pause in speech” effects and purposely took a deep breath to make me notice her chest rise and fall. I still wasn’t in the mood. “What do you say?”
“Let me mull it over a cigarette with me mate first.” I turned to James, his eyes fixated on Emily. “Whaddya reckon mate? Wanna run a country?”
James just stood there, looking very relaxed with the two screwdrivers held tight in his hand. “Ahh, shit…” I thought to myself.
“Sure he does, isn’t that right James” Emily spoke with a different voice, a more penetrating voice. I felt a tingle, I could feel her presence. I could feel James mind screaming at me. I could feel Richard inside the servo looking through the window. I felt wrong.
James turned to me, mild panic in his eyes. “Sure I do, that’s right Emily” he said drone like, with a forced twitch. I knew he was in there, but I knew he couldn’t control himself. “How and why the hell does this have to happen to us?” I thought.
I turned back towards Emily, lighting a cigarette and blocked her view of James. I placed the lighter in my back pocket and I heard a sigh of relief from behind and a plastic handle place in my back pocket and a point in my back. “Well, the offer sounds good. What about transportation? Medical benefits? Remuneration?”
“This isn’t a game Sean.” She said sternly. She suddenly put on a look and her voice changed again “Sean, this is what you want. This is what you need. I am what you need to survive.”
“You have serious problems Emily, this isn’t fucking Star Wars.” I knew I was in trouble, but the smart ass in me couldn’t resist.
“RICHARD! He’s not listening!” Screamed Emily and a puff from the window happened and just as the puff beside me appeared James swung his arm fast as it started to form and as Richard materialized drove the screwdriver deep inside Richards other hand as he blocked it from hitting his head.
“You can not be serious.” Richard sighed. “Your gonna learn who your master is James” he snarled and with that he bit deep into James’ shoulder. I could hear the bone crunch and flesh rip.
Emily ‘puffed’ back towards the service station, and glanced over at Richard, holding James up like a rag doll. She smiled ear to ear and raised her head to look at me; she was a demoness considering her options.
I may be able to think quickly, but I knew this was something I couldn’t handle. This is one fight I was going to lose. I could only think of two options, stab the bitch or run like a bitch.