“What is the point of living, when you’ve lost the will to live?” The television sets scattered around the restaurant floods the area with the same news. There is some new strain of virus going around killing people. It’s no joke, this strain doesn’t just affect the elderly, it doesn’t care what gender you are, nor does it skip you if you voted for the popular candidate. Age doesn’t excuse you, once you have this new “bug,” you rapidly decline. Joe looks up from his crawfish and alligator fajitas, to watch a medical expert give their report on this new “super-virus.”
“We ask that everyone please stay in your house. Wash your hands, practice good hygiene, and if you must cough, cover your mouth. Disinfectants such as Lysol, baby wipes and other tools can be used to fight this infectious disease.” The waitress brings Joe’s check and he points at the television. “She forgot bleach.” The waitress giggles, and Joe carries his check to the cashier. While standing in line behind an elderly couple, he listens to them discuss the virus. “Well, if you don’t believe me hon, ask the young man behind us.” A small, elderly lady turns and smiles at Joe. “Son, do you think this is the beginning of the end?” Joe shrugs and grins.
“You mean the end of time? I’m sure, I am not the one to ask that question to, ma’am. It does seem, humanity may have run its course though.” She nods her head and turns around to her husband. Using her elbow, she nudges her husband in the ribs. “He doesn’t know anything either.”
Joe pays for his meal and walks out to his truck. “Is it as bad as people are saying? Everyone is panicking, and they seem to be losing their minds over this thing.” As he pulls out of the parking lot an ambulance races by, narrowly missing his truck. Sirens blaring, two cop cars follow right behind it. Joe pulls out of the parking lot and drives down to the marina where his boat waits for him. “Hiya, Joe. How are things?”
“Not too bad, Matt. Do me a favor will ya? Put my truck back in storage, I am going down to my cabin and won’t be back for some time.” Matt slaps Joe on the back and chuckles. “You going to hide from this virus?” Joe laughs. “Nah man, it ain’t no thing. I’m going to do some fishing. My goal is to rest and relax.” He walks down to the boat launch and gets into his small aluminum boat and pulls on the cord of his outboard motor. The engine rumbles to life and he eases out into the river until he gets past the “no-wake zone.” Joe twists the handle and the engine responds. The miles pass quickly, and Joe can see his cabin in the distance. The cabin stands on stilts, less than 100 yards from the river. Joe cuts the engine and glides up to his pier and hops out. He ties off the boat and starts up the stairs which leads to his porch. As the sun sets in the western horizon, the sky turns blood red and foreboding.
In the dark cabin, Joe lights a few lanterns and the soft glow of the lamps trim the edge off the darkness. Joe owns one thousand acres along the river, out here there is only him and the creatures. For food, Joe hunts and fishes, on occasion, he traps small game. In his “normal” life, Joe is a writer. However, here in the woods is where Joe excels. His survival skills are pushed to the limit, and there is no tv, internet, and no convenience. “If I get infected with this disease, no one else will catch it. I am on my own out here.” He dims his lanterns and dozes off in his recliner.
Bright rays of sunshine filter into the house through the blinds in the living room. Joe stretches and yawns. Standing, he walks out onto his porch. The river flows gently by, and he wiggles his toes. “I love it out here. No virus, no humanity, just me and the critters.” There is no cell reception here at the cabin, instead, Joe turns on a short-wave radio. Only static fills the air waves. “Better check in with Matt and let him know I made it.” The call sign for the marina is Mike-X-ray, Joe presses the mic. “Mike-X-ray this is Kilo-1, how you copy, over?” No sound emits from the radio. “I say again, Mike-X-ray, how you copy?” Again, white noise is the only sound coming from the radio. “Eh, it might be sunspots. I’ll try again later.” Joe grabs his tackle box and heads down to the pier.
Sitting in the hot sun, Joe burns easily through his shirt. The fish are biting, and he quickly stocks up on catfish, bream, perch and the occasional turtle. Joe takes his haul back up to the cabin and starts the cleaning process. He keeps out three filets for dinner, puts the rest in bags and puts them in the deep freeze. After taking a shower Joe sits back in the recliner. There is no television, Xbox or tablet, so to pass the time, he pulls out Robinson Crusoe and begins to read. As his eyes get heavy, Joe decides to try the marina one more time before bed.
“Mike-X-ray this is Kilo-1, how do you copy?” There is a squawk on the other end, and a voice breaks the silence.
Then there is only silence. Joe presses the hand mic and again hails the marina. “Mike-X-ray, this Kilo-1. Please respond, your last transmission came in broken.” Silence is his only answer. Joe turns and walks swiftly into his bedroom. Reaching under the bed, Joe pulls out a large chest. He flips the lid open and pulls out an NBC contamination suit, and a M40 gas mask with extra filters. On the bed he sets a Tarsus 9mm equipped with a silencer, and a 5.56 rifle with a red dot scope and suppressor. Joe gets in the shower and washes his body clean of any germs and contaminates which may be lodged in his pores. Drying off, he dresses and then dons the contamination suit and mask. The 9mm is shoved into a hip holster, and the 5.56 is carried on a three-point sling to free his arms for use, while maintaining control of his weapon.
Loading into the boat, Joe cranks the engine and heads up toward town. As Joe makes his way toward Withering Falls, his mind keeps making up scenarios he may confront upon his arrival. “It could be nothing. Then I show up like I am armed for Armageddon. That would be embarrassing.” However, in the back of Joe’s mind, he knows this is not a fluke. Joe can make out the marina in the twilight, and he cuts the power off and coasts in toward the pier. Slowing down, Joe picks up a fiberglass paddle and finishes the journey manually. The boat bumps against the pier and Joe disembarks, paddle in hand. Tying off the boat, Joe takes the 9mm into his right hand, and a small tactical flashlight in his left. Quietly, Joe creeps down the pier, bodies litter the ground. Stepping over the bodies, taking great care to not disturb them, Joe makes his way to the office.
“Oh dear, Lord.” Matt lies on the floor, his thin body shot to pieces. Brass litters the ground and the hand mic has been ripped from the radio. “This is 5.56 ammo, NATO rounds. This is military or at a minimum, police action. Why did they kill Matt?” Outside the office, a noise startles Joe. Moving through the shadows, Joe looks quickly out the glass opening. “Nothing. It must have been the wind coming off the water.” Before heading out, Joe looks around the office for any clue as to what caused such extreme measures to be taken. A leaflet, stained by Matt’s blood, is protruding from under his corpse. The leaflet invites the citizens to a town hall meeting to discuss the virus and possible precautions that could be taken to combat the disease. “Obviously, someone’s cure was to blow away the town. It’s time to leave.” Joe cracks the office door open and creeps backs down the pier toward his boat. As he steps over the last body, a wet, clammy hand grasps his ankle. Joe turns and fires two rounds center mass. The gun shots sound like cannon fire over the open bay and in the distance, floodlights wash over the shoreline.
“We have survivors, FIRE!” Joe hurls himself into the icy waters of the Tennessee River as his world explodes into gunfire.