Well, it has been a fun and crazy couple of months! Things are coming along nicely with the book launch for The Hunted. (If you haven't joined theThunderclap and entered for the signed paperback of The Hunters, please do!)
And now I am sharing a sneak peek at the infection story I worked on for NaNo WriMo.
Image from 28 Weeks Later
My name is Gabriel Llewellyn. If you are reading this, then I am probably dead. Or infected. Or maybe I dropped it while fleeing the infected. I suppose it's hard to say. I hope it is the latter.
You may wonder, in the nightmare our world has become, why I bother writing this at all. My idealistic self believes that one day humanity will overcome this dark period in our history. When we do, this will be a record of the events. So much has been lost already, we cannot lose this too. My practical self hopes this will help me to survive. I am not exactly survivalist material and if it weren’t for a few key people, I would have fallen with Atlanta.
But if I write down everything I hear and learn, then I will have something to refer to and when those people who helped me so far tire, or leave, or become infected... these notes will help me survive.
If someone finds this notebook then perhaps it will help you survive.
Before my world came crashing to an end, I was a writer. Maybe this is just me clinging to a small piece of something seemingly normal. Whatever the reason, or perhaps for all of these reasons, I will write what I’ve learned. I will tell my story.
Where were you when the infected caught up to your world, chewed it up, and changed the landscape forever?
I was at a writer’s conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Yup, we were the first city hit. I’ve heard from other survivors that reports went out the next day telling the world that Atlanta, New York, and DC were hit. Others have said Louisville, KY, New Orleans, Salt Lake City, Ut and even Los Angeles have fallen to the infected according to reports before the news stations went down. There were rumors of a bio-attack.
I don’t really know for sure what happened to the rest of the world. All I can tell you is what happened in Atlanta and what I have seen since.
I was at a convention before Atlanta fell. I had been trapped in the hotel for three days and was getting a bit cagey. I typically loved conventions, Because every evening after the last panel or workshop, a group of us would hit the town for “networking”. A nice way of saying we would get drunk and bitch while enjoying the city we found ourselves in.
But not this time. There was some bio conference going on at our hotel as well, and it had brought out a ton of protesters en masse. A couple of riots had broken out the first day, and one of our conference speakers had been attacked entering the hotel. The gossip mill suggested that he had been mistaken for some famous geneticist.
After that, access to the hotel was through police escort only, and all guests were being strongly cautioned to remain in the hotel for the duration of their stay. In other words: you walk out the door and we aren’t responsible for your safety.
My wild weekend of boozing and babes was in a serious choke-hold. By eight every evening the hotel bar was overcrowded and there was no hope of getting the bartenders' attention, let alone a lady’s.
A change in strategy was in order. I headed to the bar at five and found the conditions much more amenable. There were a handful of groups who probably came directly from a conference meeting and were continuing discussions, but there were also quite a few individuals scattered about. I slipped up to the bar and ordered a glass of Merlot. As I waited, I surreptitiously scanned the single ladies.
The majority were sitting at the bar, a stool between them even as they leaned over and chatted to one another. The universal signal: I might be here with her, but there is a good chance I will leave with you.
An attractive incongruity caught my attention. She was seated alone at a table. Tall and curvaceous, with miles of leg teasingly covered by thick black tights. I hoped her sweater dress was as short as it looked.
I wanted to approach, but the signals were mixed. She was seated alone at a four-top, but she kept scanning the room. Either she was waiting for someone, or she was an observer. Only one drink on the table. After ten minutes, I figured why not?
Whatever her story, she was not interested, but I didn’t take the hint. Eventually she left, probably to get rid of me. That was the first time I met Cassandra Dane. Fortunately for me, it wouldn’t be my last.
I’d like to say that after that lovely lady left me high and dry, I managed to snag another, but after two hours the bar was packed and I had struck out once again. I couldn’t get the bartenders’ attention and decided that I was blearily drunk enough and should give up the night.
Stumbling into the lobby toward the elevators, I could hear the protesters. I glanced toward the lobby doors and saw them pressed up against the outside windows, the hotel security guards leaning on the glass walls just inside. At my glance, several of the protesters banged on the glass, pointing and gesticulating angrily. Great, I had given them a face for their rage. The wrong face, but they didn’t know or seem to care.
By the time I made it to my room on the fifth floor, I was feeling pretty shitty. The elevator had my stomach doing loop-ta-loops, my head was aching, and there was a funky taste in the back of my mouth. Stumbling through the door, I grabbed a bottle of water from the mini fridge and popped some pain killers. My room had a really nice balcony with a great view of the city streets. I thought some cool air might help, so I headed out there.
The mob of protesters was going strong, with people standing on vehicles and waving homemade signs. No vehicles could get down the road. I couldn’t read the signs from up above, but I could hear the crowd chanting. The words weren’t clear, but the anger and violence was.
Thousands of seething, angry people were crushed together in the street below. It created an intense sense of foreboding. Sighing, I went back in and flopped on the bed. Despite having closed the balcony door, I could still hear the crowd below. I flipped the TV on and found re-runs of Andy Griffith. Andy’s gentle Southern twang as he imparted some words of wisdom to Opie lulled me off to sleep.
I awoke suddenly, but couldn’t place what had awoken me. The tv was playing some sort of infomercial. I fumbled for the remote turning the tv down and noting that it was 2 am. As the volume went down, another noise took it’s place. There was screaming and yelling in the hallway. My spine was rigid with alarm, even as I stumbled out of bed half-awake. Looking through the peephole, I tried to see something through the fisheye warping. I managed to see a few people running by the door, but couldn’t see what was creating the panic. The commotion seemed to be coming from by the elevators.
A chill ran up my spine and I locked the chain, trying once again to get a view out the hole. No dice. Opening the door as far as the chain would allow, I tried to peek out. There wasn’t enough room to see that far down the hall, but the sounds of what was unmistakably a fight echoed into my room. My blood ran cold as I thought of the thousands of angry protesters slamming into the window as I walked by earlier that night. Sliding the door closed, it was stopped by a security guard from downstairs slamming into it and slumping to the ground, blocking the door from closing.
I recoiled in surprise. The man was covered in blood, a wide gash across his brow oozed into his eyes. The man turned his eyes to me and they were filled with absolute terror. “Help!” he gasped, reaching up to me.
I tried to force the door close, but his full weight was upon it. “I gotta undo the chain,” I pleaded, but he didn’t seem to understand. Bloody hands grabbed his shoulders. As the body was pulled from in front of the door, it slammed shut. I fumbled with the lock, but a howl of pain and terror froze me in place. Snapping the chain back into place, I stuck my eye to the eye hole again. A mass of bodies was flailing about and it was hard to tell what was happening. It looked like the security guard was taking a pretty bad beating. I ran to the hotel phone to call the lobby, but there was only a strange hissing at the other end.
Fumbling for my cell phone, I dialed 911, but only got a busy signal!
Something slammed into my door and I jumped. Another thump. Slinking up to the door, I looked out the peephole and stifled a scream as I realized that there was a man trying to look in. Biting my knuckles, I forced down the hysteria that was embroiling within me and slid against the wall. What in God’s name was happening,, I wondered?
Trying to steel myself, I looked through the hole again. The man had moved toward the middle of the hall. His back was to me and he was staring at something on the ground. Because of the whirl of the glass I couldn’t really tell what it was, but based on the color, I suspected that I didn’t want to know. I tried to call 911 again and wilted at the pre-recorded message “All lines are busy. Please try your call again later.”
Suddenly the door reverberated, knocking me forward and I dropped the phone. I couldn’t help the yelp that escaped. A steady pounding began and grew in volume and intensity. The door reverberated with several strikes, and I put my eye to the eye hole again.
Cold horror trickled down my back. There were at least seven people outside my door, all slamming into one another, and into the door. They were splattered in blood and looked… strange. The one in front of the door, raised his head as he charged and I realized that he had a chunk of bloody raw flesh hanging from his mouth.
I won’t deny, I was in full-on hysterics at this point. Backing away from the door, I tripped over the couch, tumbled into the seat and slammed my head against the wall. I could see the door trembling and sagging further with each strike and I knew it was only a matter of time before they made it through.
Frantically I scanned the room for some form of escape. The bathroom door and the balcony were the only doors in the room. Given that we were on the fifth floor, I wrote off the balcony and bolted for the bathroom.
There were no windows, and the vents were too small to fit more than an arm through. Being trapped in here would be worse than being trapped in the room. I spun out of the bathroom, and froze as a giant crack echoed through the small space. I could see gaps of light coming through the door. I needed a weapon! The closest potential weapon was a standing lamp. Grabbing for it, I thanked God that it wasn’t attached to the floor. Still, the thing was awkward. I figured the weighted base was my best defense, most certainly able to bludgeon someone.
I took a step back and tested a swing. It was heavy and unwieldy. Another large crack from the door had me stumbling backward. I found myself pressed against the balcony window. Staring avidly, I realized that the top hinge was almost completely ripped from the wall, the middle hinge was only holding by a thread. I had no idea what I would do once they got through. I doubted that they would come at me one at a time like they did in the old Kung-fu movies.
The lock on the door seemed to be holding. Perhaps that would slow them down? Maybe I should be closer to the door, so I could take them out as they forced through. A quick rap on the glass behind me caused my heart to explode. I whipped about in terror, and the lamp slammed into the wall. The reverberation caused me to drop the lamp.
Staring in at me was Cassandra, the woman from the bar. She had changed and was wearing a pair of black yoga pants and a form fitting black hoodie. Gesturing, it was clear she wanted me to come outside. Where had she come from?