How the zombie apocalypse started – 8

Atlanta, USA

Jetlag could be a real kick in the guts, and it was another reason Paul hated to fly.

The thing was, the headache and body aches weren’t the result of disjointed circadian rhythms.

Sitting at his desk in his office in the heart of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Paul realised it had been a mistake to come to work. He felt awful, his symptoms having become progressively worse as the day progressed. When he’d turned up for work, he’d been suffering from mild chills, but now it felt like his whole body was rejecting itself.

Paul had made it through the President’s early morning visit, a chore he’d needed to attend to. Despite not voting for the man, Paul found that he had liked the President, which surprised him. The confident man who had shaken his hand warmly was not the same individual he kept seeing ripped to pieces on the evening news. Fortunately, Paul had remembered to wipe his hand before touching flesh, to mop up the sweat that kept breaking out on his skin.

It didn’t stop the leader of the free world from becoming infected, of course.

Paul popped some more Ibuprofen, and he found swallowing difficult even with the water he tried to wash the tablets down with. His throat was becoming a raging firestorm, and his sinuses were filling with thick mucus, making it difficult to breathe. With Paul, the virus had taken it upon itself to primarily attack the lungs, and if Paul had survived another day, he would have likely drowned on his own bodily fluids.

But his body had different ideas and was about to fail him in a spectacular fashion.

Paul was an orphan, and so didn’t know that his Father had passed along a genetic flaw. That flaw had resulted in a defect in his aorta to form, an aneurysm that had been slowly growing for the past few years. In a way, Paul was lucky and his aversion to exercise and his fondness for meditation had probably been the thing that had saved him up until now.

The virus was putting such a toll on his body, the flesh was moments away from failing.

It was when the direct message arrived on the CDC Intranet that he felt the twinge in his chest. With his body weakened, the aorta had chosen that moment to begin its final and epic failure. Paul read the memo, casually massaging the heartburn that had suddenly emerged in his chest. The message alarmed him. It was to inform him that there was a possible outbreak of an unknown virus in Bangkok and that occupational health services wanted to give him the once over.

Right there was why he didn’t like flying to weird and exotic locations.

Paul generally didn’t watch the news, but a sudden feeling of dread made him do an internet search on Bangkok. A host of articles and website links came up in the search engine, and just as he moved his mouse pointer to click on one, the aneurysm ripped.

There was a sudden tearing sensation that seemed to spear his abdomen from front to back. The pain shot into the back of his legs and a wave of dizziness hit him. Losing control, Paul vomited all over his desk.

Desperately he reached for his phone to call for help, but so quickly did he start to bleed internally that he failed in his attempt to save himself. The aorta is the biggest artery in the body, and Paul’s had a tear in his as long as his index finger. The loss of blood pressure caused his heart to beat faster, but that only sent more blood to where it wasn’t supposed to go. Eighty per cent of ruptured aneurysms are fatal, and Paul wasn’t going to be the exception to that rule.

He blacked out and slid from his chair, landing under his desk. He had insisted on white porcelain tiles for his office, and blood now trickled from his mouth as the life force left him.

A minute later, when the remnants of his brain reset, Paul(Z) pulled itself to its feet, blissfully free of the agony that had pierced the living Paul. The heart was no longer needed and rested silently in his chest, the aneurysm now forgotten. There was another discomfort there now, and it rapidly grew as the hunger took over what Paul had become. Saliva poured from its mouth, a mechanism to help spread the virus through bites, the enzymes present making the virus more virulent.

The manufactured virus basically turned what was left of the human body after death into a walking delivery system for itself.

Paul(Z) tried to walk forward but kept hitting the desk it had spent so many years sitting behind. It couldn’t understand why it wasn’t able to make progress, and it increased the force enough to move the thick antique oak desk aside.

As the desk moved, Paul(Z) slid past, reaching the door to the office. Again, it found it had difficulty passing the barrier, the door opening inward, and Paul(Z) began to pound on the door, to the great surprise of several people in the corridor outside. The bones in one of its hands shattered, but it didn’t care, the thin plywood of the internal door starting to yield. With one mighty punch, its fist went clean through, the bloodied stump now sticking out the other side, the broken fingers clawing at the air. It could sense the people outside and it wanted them.

Somebody screamed, the sound sweat nectar to its zombie ears. Pushing its arm through further, it bent at the elbow, allowing it the leverage to now pull against the structure of the door. The door latch held, but a large part of the door itself didn’t, coming away and sending the zombie sprawling backwards. Paul(Z) lost its balance and fell on its backside, where it flailed uselessly. This would almost have been comical if not for the lethal nature the zombie now represented. Although it couldn’t see them, it could sense the faces that cautiously peered in through the newly created hole.

“Paul,” a female voice enquired.

Paul(Z) had no preference for male or female flesh. It did not discriminate in its desire to tear the life out of humankind. There was a shocked scream as someone saw Paul(Z)’s eyes for the first time, and the zombie climbed back upright. With a single step, it attacked the door again, those outside taking flight, not knowing what true threat Paul represented.

Leave it for security to deal with, was the panicked consensus.

Paul(Z)’s hand fell on the door handle and some residual muscle memory caused the zombie to turn it, allowing it to pull the door inwards. Swaying out into the corridor, it turned right, just as two security guards appeared in the corridor behind it. They approached tentatively, not really believing the information they had been told.

Then they saw the state of the office door.

“Dr Jones,” the elder security guard asked, stepping up to put a hand on the zombie’s shoulder. From the rear, there were no real signs that the man who would never become head of the CDC was dead. The guard moved closer, the head of Dr Jones tipping slightly to the side as if considering something.

“Dr Jones, are you alright?”

With a blur of motion, Paul(Z) turned and attacked the guard, biting into his chin. Ripping the skin and muscle away, it pushed the guard over to get to the second, younger man. This one backed up, removing a sidearm from his holster. The second guard pointed the gun at the advancing zombie, his hands shaking as the monstrosity gained ground on him.

“Stop, or I’ll shoot,” the second guard almost begged. His older colleague was writhing in agony on the floor, blood pumping from a severed facial artery. The zombie didn’t listen and was long since passed caring. Terrified, the second guard fired, the bullet hitting the zombie in the stomach.

Paul(Z) actually stopped and appeared to look down at itself. It seemed to ponder the wound, and then, with a shiver, it launched itself at the man who had shot it. The second bullet merely grazed its ribs and then the gun was swiped to the floor as Paul(Z) began to assault the man with its already bloodied fists. Bones cracked, teeth were loosened and, as the second guard fell to the floor, his hands up in a feeble and ineffective attempt to defend himself. Those hands became Paul(Z)’s next meal.

Paul(Z) punched the second guard so hard in the face that it broke its wrist. It was a killing blow, and the virus was unable to infect the part of the brain it needed in time, sparing the guard from resurrecting. Paul(Z) still took a bite out of the man, ripping open the uniform so it could attack the chest. With so many having fled for the time being, Paul(Z) took a moment to actually fulfil its primary desire, swallowing the tissue it ripped from the corpse.

Unfortunately, its hunger remained undented and the stomach soon filled. Then the oesophagus became blocked, the muscles there losing their function. Still the zombie bit and chewed, the meat dripping from between its teeth.

The older guard died slowly, blood loss taking him, only for the virus to bring him back as well. By the time more security arrived on the scene, there were two zombies engaged in a furious and muscle tearing feast without any form of satiation.

That was how the virus first presented in the USA, but by then it had already spread to multiple cities in multiple states.

The end always has a beginning.

 

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