Authors: Madeleine Roux
Tags: #Fiction, #Horror, #Science Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic
The New University of Northern Colorado
10 South Sherman Street
Liberty Village, CO 80701
August 3, 2108
The Witt-Burroughs Press
University of Independence
1640 Johnson Avenue NW
Independence, NY 12404
Dear Dr. Burroughs:
Let me first express my sincerest admiration for your continued interest in our humble university. Your devotion to high academic standards and the rebuilding of our great nation is to be commended. Secondly, allow me to direct your attention to a certain individual whom you may wish to add to your new book.
A colleague of mine mentioned that you are interested in publishing a collection of biographical essays of important personages from The Outbreak. Allow me to put forward a candidate for this exciting new venture of yours. How appropriate to commemorate the 100th anniversary of The Outbreak with an assemblage of inspiring stories dedicated to the memory of those brave souls to whom we are most deeply indebted. The individual I speak of is not widely known. In fact, I can say with some certainty that you will have never heard of this woman. I am, however, equally certain that you will quickly discover that her story is one that many of us can relate to. I feel that she, through her bravery and sacrifice, deserves a spot in your collection.
I can promise that this woman is held in the highest regard among our small community. Before her sad passing she was recognized as one of the foremost leaders and innovators in the state. While she is not as famous or recognized as individuals such as Simon Forrest, architect of the memorable Victory Gardens, nor as gifted or prominent as our current poet laureate Shana Lane, I feel strongly that Allison Hewitt deserves a place among the pantheon you wish to create. Her struggle, painstakingly catalogued during the very worst of The Outbreak, is a snapshot of the horrific danger and destruction caused by The Infected.
It has been my personal privilege and honor to re-create the record she left behind. We know now that she was taking advantage of SafetyNet—or SNet as it’s more commonly referred to—the military’s emergency, nationwide Internet service. As I’m sure you know, SNet allowed many of our armed servicemen and -women to organize, meet, and eventually turn the tide against The Infected.
I have only recently learned from my father’s journals that Ms. Hewitt kept an online record of her journey during The Outbreak. Many hours of research were required to re-create Ms. Hewitt’s adventures as the Web provider hosting her story had long ago taken down the blog to conserve space. Only through constant petitioning and many frustrating hours did I succeed in gaining access to these lost pages. I have, to the best of my knowledge, collected every one of Ms. Hewitt’s postings and I have attached them for your perusal. I’m perfectly aware that including the entirety of Ms. Hewitt’s story would be impossible, but I implore you to consider an abbreviated version of her story for your collection. Let her stand as a symbol of the public’s struggle, to give a face to the faceless masses, and to endure as an example of the dear cost of survival. Her story, I think, is worth remembering too.
September 18, 2009—Heart of Darkness
They are coming.
They are coming and I don’t think we will ever get out. If you’re reading this, please call the police. Call them now; call the cops if there are any cops left to call. Tell them to come find me. I can’t promise we will be here tomorrow or the day after, or the day after that, but tell them to rescue us before it’s too late. Tell them to try.
If they ask for a name, tell them my name is Allison Hewitt, and tell them that I’m trapped. Allison Hewitt and five other missing souls are holding out in the break room of Brooks & Peabody at the corner of Langdon and Park. We are all in relatively good health. Most important: none of us are infected.
If they ask what exactly you mean by all that, tell them this: on the evening of September 15, 2009, just before closing time, the Brooks & Peabody shop on Langdon and Park was attacked by the infected. I don’t know what else to call them. The infected? The damned? I guess I’m not sure if it’s a virus or disease, but I know it spreads and I know the kind of destruction it brings.
Our phones don’t work, not the landlines or the fax, and our cell phones began running out of batteries yesterday. No one thought to bring a charger to work or to keep one in the break room. Phil, my manager, swears there’s a charger in the stockroom around back but that’s all the way across the store from here and none of us are brave enough to try for it. I think eventually we’ll become desperate and have to go out into the store. The food in here won’t last forever and I never thought I’d be so sick of beef jerky. The only electricity we have comes from the emergency generators that Phil bought last year when the flooding was getting bad and everyone was worried about losing power during the end-of-school sale. I don’t know where the wireless is coming from—it’s something called SNet. I’d never used it before. It could be coming from the little row of apartments that sit on top of the store. Maybe someone is alive up there; maybe they’re trying to contact you too.
We’re living behind a solid, safe door. The lock is industrial grade. The safes are housed back here and the doors are very heavy and reinforced. It was the logical place to hide—no windows, a refrigerator with some food, and most of all
the very heavy reinforced doors.
I can’t stress that enough, how much we rely on that door, how that one, metal door has come to symbolize, over only a matter of days, survival.
If there are no windows and only one door, you might ask, how do we know they are coming?
We know because of the security cameras. They must run on the emergency backup generators because they still work, and the one and only monitor to view the feed is in the safe room. The safe room is just off of the larger area with the table and chairs and refrigerator. Sometimes when I can’t sleep I go sit in that room (it’s not locked anymore, I don’t think money will mean much now and none of us has even tried to steal any of it) and watch the monitor. Thank you, Brooks & Peabody, for installing those cameras. Those cameras allow us to see almost the whole store. The picture is black and white and not very clear, but I can see them, and I watch them scrape around the store, winding through the bookcases, passing the Mystery and Science Fiction sections, lumbering by the reading lights and bookmarks. They will not leave, not even after everyone in the store is gone or dead or becoming
one of them
What are they looking for?
What do they want?
Sometimes I see them disappear out of frame and I know they’re just outside the break-room door, moaning at the barrier, thumping their heads and their rotten fists against the steel. It’s unfair, I begin to think, because the others are trying to sleep. What do they want? Do they think we’ll answer the knocking and thudding? Do they even have the capacity to think, or is it something else making them claw at the door?
One of the other grad students in my apartment complex had a greyhound. His name was Joey. Joey was the nicest dog I think I’ve ever met. He was rescued from a racing track, from the kind of place dogs don’t ever want to be, where they’re abused and treated like objects. You can drive a car around a track day and night and it won’t complain; greyhounds are the same way. They don’t complain, not ever, they just look at you with those big, bottomless eyes and beg you to be nice, to show a little mercy if it’s convenient. Joey didn’t seem like the kind of animal that could hurt even an injured fly, but one day he bolted past me out the lobby door. I don’t think there was even a foot of space but he just zipped right outside and into the yard. He had mauled a rabbit before I could even get his name out twice. He was so fast, so efficient, so completely unlike the couch potato Joey I had come to know.
It wasn’t Joey that killed that rabbit, not really, it was his instinct, his prey drive.
That’s what waits outside our door, insane with hunger, driven forward not by intelligence or understanding but a blind, consuming need for what we have …
I’m trying to stay extremely calm. I hope I’m doing an okay job. In a weird way, it helps to write about it, to talk about it. Somehow that makes it less real. Now it’s just a story I’m writing for you, a tale I’m spinning, and not a cold, vicious reality underpinning everything I do and say and think. It’s nice for a change, to do something I want … And I think that’s what I miss the most: making choices.
There aren’t any choices to make anymore, just survival, just what needs to get done. Soon we’ll have to go outside that door to get food. There are some bigger refrigerators and a dozen or so bags of potato chips out by the registers. We’ll need to get to those soon. We don’t have a choice. I didn’t choose to be trapped with these people, these coworkers and strangers that I never wanted to know beyond their connection to a part-time job. I didn’t choose to be taken away from my mom, the only family I have left. She’s already sick and now I won’t even get to be there at the end …
I was studying to be someone but that’s over now. Now it’s just these people I don’t really know and the constant, crippling fear and the drive of the infected. I understand it, I suppose; I understand the reason those things groan and shuffle around outside the door, and the reason Joey murdered that rabbit. It’s in our blood, in our hearts, the hunger, the ambition, the out-and-out need to survive. I just wanted to work here, to make a little cash, and now, suddenly, I will die here.
Maybe I’ll write again. At least it’s some small comfort to look forward to. I should close my laptop and get some sleep. I should stop staring at the glowing screen but it’s hypnotizing and I can’t look away. But I’ll force myself to go to bed, to close my eyes and cover my ears.
They are coming.
They are coming and I don’t think we will ever get out.
September 18, 2009 at 11:03 am
the city is overrun. chicago gone too. get out of the city, get out as fast as you can.
September 18, 2009 at 12:08 pm
Overrun? You mean for good? How did you get out? Tell us if you find somewhere safe.
Luis Wu says:
September 18, 2009 at 1:36 pm
You still out there?
We have been checking on your blog silently so far. Can’t disclose our location—sorry—as there are some marauding survivors about in our area. Take good care. Are you using SNet? That’s the only network that seems to be up. Hope you manage to keep your head above the water.