How the zombia apocalypse started – 2

Hong Kong

Some had called it the Spanish Flu, and when it hit in 1918 it killed nearly fifty million people, three per cent of the world’s then population. At the time, it was devastating, killing more than were slaughtered on the fields of France, Belgium and the Eastern Front. Stricken by malnutrition, the soldiers brought it home with them, spreading it throughout a world that lacked any kind of understanding of how to deal with it. The virus eventually infected almost half a billion people, and that was in a time where it took over a week to cross the Atlantic. It was nothing compared to what was coming.

“I’m really not looking forward to this,” Charles Gilmore said. At the age of twenty-seven, he had decided to take a year out from work and travel the world. Sat on the Hong Kong airport train, it had suddenly hit him that he was about to have to return to the real world and start working again.

As one of the top android platform App designers in California, he was certain that he would have no problem walking into employment upon his return. Worst case scenario, Charles could just work for himself, which might actually be preferable. So skilled was he that he was already a millionaire to the great delight of his mother who now lived in a house in the suburbs he had paid for. All she demanded of him now was that he settle down and furnish her with several grandchildren. Like he even had the inclination for that shit!

Charles had no intention of providing her with that particular luxury any time soon. The very idea of having children filled him with dread. It was utterly abhorrent to him for he enjoyed his liberty too much. Whilst he wasn’t averse to settling down, there would be no little pink screaming things resulting from such a union.

“You can’t be a bum all your life,” Claire Stewart responded teasingly. Her head was resting on his shoulder, and he turned to look at her. Her blond hair cascaded down his arm and he suddenly felt astounded at how lucky he was in life. Every door had just seemed to open for him, and he couldn’t actually remember a time he had needed to struggle for anything.

It was such a shame he would be dead in five days.

“Did I ever tell you how gorgeous you are?” She snuggled up to him and snaked an arm around his back.

“Yes,” Claire said, “but tell me again.” Her other hand casually snaked into his lap. An elderly lady across from them looked on disapprovingly, only the eyes visible behind the mandatory surgical mask that so many on Hong Kong island seemed to wear. It wouldn’t save the old woman from what was coming. Only a full hazmat suit offered any kind of protection.

“Careful, you’ll give me the horn,” Charles said playfully.

“Ooh, that would be terrible.” She didn’t move her hand.

The whistle-stop tour had officially been organised to get away from everything, to de-stress and see what the rest of the world had to offer. A five-week vacation planned months in advance. Charles had another reason though. As much as the idea filled him with nervous doubt, he had wanted to propose to Claire.

She apparently shared his desire to avoid a life of nappies, broken sleep and regurgitated milk.

He had organised it all in secret, the venue the timing, everything. And like most things in his blessed life, his plans had gone off without a hitch. On an almost deserted beach on one of the lesser-known Fijian islands, he had bent on one knee and offered her a ring that would cost most people a year’s wage. As the gentle breeze had caressed the palm trees bordering the almost abandoned beach, Claire, through tear-filled eyes, had said yes.

To Charles, she was the perfect woman, the icing on the cake being that she was born infertile. To Claire, the fact that he seemed so understanding when he raised the issue of her inability to raise children seemed like a blessing. His absolute aversion to anything below the age of eighteen was one of the few items of his personality that he hadn’t shared with her.

The wedding plans were already made. Unfortunately, the marriage would never happen. Both Charles and Claire were infected with the virus, having picked it up at Bangkok. Their joint world tour had involved many cities and nearly a dozen flights, Hong Kong being their last destination after returning to the Thai capital from four days in Phuket.

It was perhaps just bad luck that the night before his flight, Charles had insisted on stopping into one of the dozens of stores surrounding his hotel to grab an ice cream, the craving brought on by the stifling heat. But there, behind the counter, almost mesmerised by the dullness of her job, a woman called Anong had accepted the money he offered and returned to him his change. He had, for the briefest of moments, considered telling her to keep the coins, but she hadn’t even smiled at him which was unusual for Thailand.

So, he had accepted the money, never trusting electronic payments in a foreign country. It wouldn’t have mattered, the ice cream wrapper she had handled and the mandatory plastic bag it was placed in were all contaminated with deaths own creation. Stepping outside into the heat of the night, Charles had hugged his now betrothed and had shared the frozen delicacy with her. By the time they got back to their hotel room, they were both irreversibly infected.

Their flight from Bangkok to Hong Kong had directly infected one hundred and seventeen people. They would be the first carriers to transfer the virus to the once former British protectorate, and there it would spread to the Chinese mainland.

One billion hapless souls ready to accept the gift of death.

Not just death, but resurrection and carnage.

Claire would also have a role to play in the pantomime of the damned that was about to unfold. They were only staying in Hong Kong for two days, and soon they would be returning to the good old US of A. And although they would not be the first infected to enter the United States, Claire would bring it to the heart of the California state Capitol, home to the California state legislator.

This was how the virus infected the world. Just as the happy couple had, hundreds of people flew out of Bangkok airport, taking the plague with them. Each aeroplane became a breeding ground, each airport a site of contagion.

Humanity never really stood a chance.

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