A Writing Update

To all my writer friends doing NaNoWriMo—KEEP GOING! YOU CAN DO IT!

The Watchtower Series: Omens and Portends (Book Five)

How is this for a new title; THE PROPHECIES OF MORTALS. I came up with the new title last week. Still not sure yet and I may come up with something else.

Finished chapter last week and steadily working on chapter seven. I think this story is going to be the longest one I’ve written so far. I’m up to 30k and still have at least another six chapter. At first I thought I’d have ten more, but I’ve combined a few. Still, the first draft isn’t complete so I really have no idea the length. It would be great to get this book, and THE SAINTS OF BELVEDERE ROAD out early in 2014.

I’m finding some interesting side-plots as well as things for the rest of the books, including a more solid plot for the second stand-alone novel. So many twists and turns, and yes there will be some character deaths. Right now, I have it pegged at four.

 

The Hallowell Island Series: The Possession of Mercy Moreau

Another couple more chapters and this revision will be done! I’m really excited about it too. I’d like to have the whole thing done by the end of this month then start edits and what not in December, and start sending out the query letter in January. I’ve been looking at some Indie publishers and have a nice variety to submit too. Some seem perfect placement, but time will tell.

I’ve been working on the outline for the second book. I want to try something different with it. Instead of it being a ‘good girl’ why not have her a bad girl. She’s going to be at least ten years younger than the love interest, but they’ve both done time in prison so there’s that bond. Plus, I have a real good reason for her to hook up with _____ (No, not giving you his name, :P).

 

Steampunk Series: Arlington Creed and the Case of the Marinated Mariner (For Anthology)

Just as I predicted, I’ve gone over the 10k mark. I’ve decided to write several of the first draft of this series before I do anything with it. I need to get a feel for the length of the stories. Right now, this one could come in under 20k, but the next could be more. If that’s the case and all the rest of the stories are novel length, it would serve me well to put the first free and have the rest paid, like I’m doing for THE WATCHTOWER series.

 

NEW PROJECT ALERT!!!

I came up with two stand-alone novel ideas over Hallowe’en. I don’t know why, but these too just jumped out at me. I’ve jotted down a rough outline and plot for the first; a supernatural/paranormal horror/mystery called DOWN FINNEGAN’S HOLLOW, and the second, well it’s still rough. Very rough. I don’t even have a working title for it yet. I’ve got about 2k done on the first chapter of HOLLOW and I pulled THE CARRIERS from rotation to work on it.

I might work THE CARRIERS over the weekends. I need to think more about how this whole thing will work out, plus it’s nice to work on a story I know doesn’t have sequel.

 

Are you doing NaNo this year? If so, how do you like it so far?

The Carriers; Part Eight

David hid in the large spirea bush next to the garage. He could hear shouts and screams coming from somewhere down the street, but he didn’t want to leave the safety of his hiding spot. Not while they were out. The gang didn’t come around often, but when they did, it was a good idea not to get in their way.

He stayed hidden until he was sure the shouts were moving away, and then carefully checked the street. He never thought he’d have to skulk through the village. At least, not in the day time. He hurried across and down the street. It wasn’t that much farther to the market. A quick trip there and back. Maybe he’d stop by and see Beth. He hadn’t seen her outside for a couple of days. A sick feeling filled his stomach. He hoped she was all right.

Papers and garbage blew down the main road as David crept around the corner of the grocery store, keeping a careful eye out for the gang. There were metal covers over the front windows and pressboard in place of glass for the door. A small view slot was cut out near the top. David knocked on the wood and a pair of eyes suddenly appeared in the slot. The hard glare softened when David smiled.

The door opened and a middle-aged man stood on the other side. “How are you today, David?”

David quickly went inside. “Not too bad, Mr. Bainbridge. How are things here?”

The man motioned toward the young woman at the far end of the store. “Tiffany and I decided to stay.” He leaned back against the wall. “Try to keep some normalcy going.”

“I don’t have much money—”

“Don’t worry about that, but I ask that you only take what you really need. I have no idea when any food deliveries will show up, so we need to ration as much as we can.”

David nodded and picked up a red shopping basket. Several of the overhead lights flickered as he made his way down the nearest aisle. There wasn’t much left on most of the shelves. Anything perishable was gone a long time ago, but there were still cans of food. Stuff he actually liked. He picked up a can of pasta and put it in his basket. He reached for a second can, but hesitated. Right now, it was just him and his Mom and he had no idea when his Dad would be back again. Just like when he was deployed overseas. David sighed and moved down the aisle.

He made one pass down another aisle as someone knocked at the door. There was something comforting about not being the only person shopping. It meant there were more people who weren’t sick. More who were hoping all this would just go away.

“How are you tonight, Edna?”

“Not too bad, Howard.” Edna lived a few houses down from David, and was a few years older than his Mom. She carried a large bag over her shoulder and smiled when she saw David. “I thought I’d bring you some fresh veggies from the garden.” She put the bag down on the nearest checkout.

Tiffany and her father went through the bag.

“That’s awful nice of you,” Howard said. “Nice to see some fresh food.” He looked at his daughter. “Go put these on the produce shelf.”

Tiffany picked up an apple as she took the bag. Edna focused on David. “How are you doing, Davie? Heard anything from your father?”

“Not since yesterday,” David said, as he put his few items into a plastic bag.

She turned to Howard. “You know, we should be organizing. Trying to help out those who are sick. I’ve been going house to house around here, doing what I can, but I’m only one person.”

Howard rubbed his head. “I’m not sure how many aren’t sick. I don’t see anyone unless they come in here.” He glanced at his daughter. “And there’s no way in hell I’m leaving her alone to run this place.” He motioned to the boarded up windows. “Not after what those damn thugs did here.”

“That’s what I’m talking about!” Edna said. “We need to start some kind of neighbourhood watch. That would stop those creeps from destroying more property. Would you consider using this place as a meeting place? The store is in the perfect place. Right in the center of town.”

Howard nodded. “That I could do, but I’m not leaving the store.” He looked at David. “Would you mind going door to door? Finding out who’s all willing to help out?”

David smiled. “Yeah, I think I can do that.”

“Make sure to ask your mom, okay.”

He nodded and headed for the door. “Mind if I ask Beth if she wants to do it too?”

“Go ahead.” Edna said. “If you think she’ll do it.”

He checked the street before walking out of the building, suddenly feeling a little wary of what his mother would say. His dad told them to stay inside, and she was kinda leery about him going down to the store. David figured she’d freak when she found out what he volunteered to do.

He ran all the way back to his backyard and dropped the groceries on the back porch. He wanted to get down to Beth’s place before it got too dark. He didn’t hear the gang out. Hopefully they’d moved on to terrorize another neighbourhood. He picked up his bike and rode off toward Beth’s house.

Beth’s dad’s beat-up truck wasn’t in the driveway and the house look like on one was home. David looked around before walking up to the front door. He knocked quietly, and listened. No sound. He turned to leave and the front door opened. A young blond girl several years younger than Beth looked at him through the screen.

“What?”

“Is Beth here?”

Beth suddenly appeared at the door. “Hey, what’s up?”

“Hey. I wasn’t sure if you were here or not. You’re dad’s truck isn’t in the driveway.”

“Yeah, he left to get some food and stuff.” A sorrowful look washed over her face. “He hasn’t come back.”

David didn’t know what to say.

“What are you doing here?”

“Uh…I, they’re looking for volunteers to go door to door and check to see who’s sick and who isn’t. I said I’d do it and I thought you’d like too. Since, you know, you were helping out that old couple.”

“Sure, I’d love too.” She looked back at her sister. “You don’t mind looking after Mom, right?”

“No.”

“Good.” She turned to David. “When do you want to start?”

“Tomorrow?”

“Great. I’ll come by your place early.” A woman called out to Beth from somewhere inside the house. “I have to go. See you tomorrow.”

David smiled as she shut the door. All the way back to his yard all he could think about was spending the day with her. Sure, they would be checking their neighbours, but still. The whole day with Beth Young!

He picked up the grocery bag off the back porch and walked inside.

“Mom, I got some food.” No answer. “Mom?”

David walked into the living room and saw his mother passed out on the floor, her cell phone in her hand.

“MOM!” David rushed to her side. “Mom! Wake up!”

He picked up her cell and pressed a button. “Dad, you have to come home. Mom’s sick!”

 

***

 

Marcus sat on the floor of his CO’s office, staring at the unconscious face of his younger brother. Parts of Marcus’ body were numb from sitting on the hard surface for so long, but he couldn’t leave him alone. Alan wasn’t dead, but he’d been out cold for nearly a week now, with no signs of coming around. He got up and sat on a nearby chair, pulling the mask away from his face. No use in wearing that damn thing. Alan wore one and it didn’t protect him. He dropped his head in his hands. This wasn’t happening. Everything was going to hell, and he needed his brother by his side.

The door opened and his CO walked in. “Any change?”

Marcus rubbed his face. “No. Nothing.”

Col. Norris left the door open as he strolled back out, motioning Marcus to follow. “We need to talk to you.”

“We?”

Marcus followed his CO out into the hall. A young Asian man stood a few feet away. He was dressed in a doctor’s robe, but didn’t look like he was old enough to shave.

“This is Dr. Shane Quan. He’s been working at the General. Overseeing the patience there.”

The young man held out his hand. “Good to meet you, Captain.”

Marcus stood but just looked at his hand. “You’ll excuse me if I don’t shake your hand. Considering the situation, less skin-to-skin contact is best.”

The young man nodded and stepped back.

Marcus looked at his CO. “So what did you need to talk to me about?”

“I’ve been talking to the good doctor here, and he seems to be under the impression that the worst may be over.”

Marcus looked at him skeptical. “How do you figure that?”

“We’ve had very few patience come to the hospital in the last forty-eight hours.” Dr. Quan was fidgety. “We could be seeing the begging of a reduction of the infection within the population.”

A slight twinge of excitement stirred in Marcus. “How will we know for sure?”

“Probably not for a while longer.”

“Probably? Don’t you know for sure?”

“I’m sorry sir, I wish I could say for sure if and when, but—”

“But? Don’t give me excuses. I’ve been left in charge of a ghost town that’s quickly running out of supplies, not to mention the infrastructure is going to hell and you can’t tell me when or if this is going to get better?”

Norris put his hand on Marcus’ shoulder. “Now calm down, he’s doing the best he can.”

“Well he better do better. I’m not sure how much longer I can keep what little peace there is.”

“Then you might not like what else he has to say.”

Marcus faced the young man. “What else do I need to know?”

Quan glanced nervously back and forth between the two men. Colonel Norris nodded.

Quan swallowed. “People are beginning to die. Not many and it seems to be restricted to the very elderly and very sick.”

Marcus rubbed his face. “How many so far?”

“Several nursing homes resemble mortuaries. With whole families sick, there’s no one left to claim the dead. The staff are overwhelmed as it is with the residence who are still alive. Having to pull them away to bury the dead…”

“We’ve had a few deaths here as well,” Norris said. “All elderly.”

“Apparently their frail bodies can’t fight off the infection even with medication.”

“What do you want from me?”

“Is there any way you can find people to bury the dead?”

“From where?” Marcus said. I have a grand total of fifteen people running all the utilities for the entire city. There’s less than a skeleton crew for a police force that has to double as the fire department.” He looked at Norris. “What about here?”

Norris shook his head. “I don’t have anyone to spare either.”

“What about civilian volunteers?” Quan asked.

“They’re stretched to the limit there too,” Marcus said. “The few who aren’t sick are looking after the ones that are, or trying to keep things going where they are. I don’t think they can pull someone off to bury the dead.”

“Well they may have to. I don’t need to tell you what can happen if we leave dead bodies lying around in the streets.”

Marcus’ cell ran. He turned away as he spoke into it. “Davie, can this wait….” A chill ran through him as his son’s frantic voice rang out from the other end.

“Dad, you have to come home. Mom’s sick!”

 

The Carriers; Part Eight

© 2013 Dark Conteur Collection of Works

The Carriers; Part Seven

 

A car horn blared as Captain Marcus Miles directed traffic at the intersection of Queen and Ontario. At the corner, a tan-coloured car sat crinkled under the concrete traffic light post, the driver’s side door wide open. The lone occupant was still slumped over the steering wheel; his head partially through the windshield. A blanket covered most of the body, but one blood soaked arm was still visible.

 

Marcus tried to keep his mind on what he was doing, but it was hard. Things were going from bad to worse faster than he thought. There were remains of unattended accidents all over the city, and this wasn’t the first dead body he’d seen left out in the open. Paramedics were scarce, either sick themselves or refusing to work, and he had a bad feeling it wouldn’t be the last body he’d see in the street.

 

He didn’t want to be here. He should be back at base doing…something! Something other than standing in the middle of a street directing a dwindling stream of cars past an accident site. Half the base staff was out sick and his CO was working with a skeleton crew. Less than a skeleton crew. He needed to be there, not here. He looked at the body in the car. No, this wasn’t right. As much as he wanted to leave, he couldn’t abandon the accident. This had been a person. He deserved something more than rotting away in the remains of his car.

 

He pulled the white surgical mask down past his mouth. It was too hot to be wearing that damn thing. He didn’t need it out here anyway. He hadn’t seen anyone walking the streets in almost two hours. People were staying home. Not that he could blame them. As much as duty poked at him to be at the base, he’d rather be at home with his wife and son. Louise was frightened. He could hear it in her voice when he spoke to her on the phone the other night. When he told her he wouldn’t be home. Not just yet.

 

Dammit! He should be with his family!

 

An OPP cruiser pulled up along the side of the street. The driver didn’t look like he’d been out of the Academy any more than a year.

 

Marcus pulled the mask up over his face. “Please tell me you’re here to relieve me.”

 

The young officer got out.  “Sorry sir, no. I’m just here to relaying a message from city Council. They want you at City Hall.”

 

“When?”

 

“Now.”

 

“When is the township crew getting here to fix this light?”

 

The young officer shook his head. “Not sure. From what I heard, most of them are sick. Not sure when anything’s going to get fixed.”

 

Marcus looked over at the crumpled car. “Anyone coming to get him?”

 

The young officer shook his head. “I’ve radioed in a few times, but no one can give me anything definite.”

 

Marcus exhaled. “Great.” He looked back at the accident. “We can’t leave him there. The body will start to rot and decompose.”

 

“I’m not sure what we can do?” The young officer placed his own mask over his face. “The hospitals are so full they cleared out the morgue to accompany the sick.”

 

“What about the mortuaries?”

 

“None of them are open. No staff.”

 

“Well we can’t just leave him here.”

 

“Sir, go. I’ll stay with him.”

 

“Are you sure?”

 

“Yeah, I’ll keep radioing in and try to get someone out here to collect him.”

 

Marcus put his hand on the young man’s shoulder. “Thank you officer…”

 

“Daly. Henry Daly”

 

“Officer Daly.” He gripped his shoulder tight. “Thank you. When I’m done at City Hall, I’ll see what I can do for him too.”

 

The young officer nodded as Marcus walked toward the Jeep parked in front of the old police station. He drove up Queen a few blocks. Bags of garbage lined the street. Most were ripped open and their contents spilled onto the road. There were a few people out, masks over their faces, but judging by their clothing, they probably didn’t have a home to go to before all this started. Marcus cursed softly as he drove past some of the downtown stores. Windows were smashed in and the display cases emptied. It didn’t take long for the criminal element to take over. It was close to three weeks since all this started. He wondered where the humanity had gone.

 

There was a small group of people standing on the steps of the old limestone building. Marcus didn’t see the mayor at all. He parked the jeep and got out.

 

“Are you the folks who wanted to see me?”

 

A short, balding middle aged man stepped forward. “Are you Captain Miles?”

 

Marcus walked up a couple steps. None of them looked very healthy. He put his mask over his face. “Yes.”

 

“I’m James Atwell. Deputy Mayor for the city.”

 

“Where’s the mayor?”

 

“Sick.”

 

“You don’t look too good yourself.”

 

“I’m not. As a matter of fact none of us are. That’s why I sent for you.” Atwell stepped down.

 

Marcus did too.

 

“The sickness is spreading faster and becoming more severe.” Atwell said. “We are all that’s left of all the employees in the building, and none of us can continue. We have to leave and focus on our recovery.”

 

Marcus nodded. “That would be best. What can I do to help?”

 

Atwell coughed into a handkerchief. “We need you to take over running the city. There’s no one left that’s qualified, and your base commander said you were one of their best.” Atwell looked past him. “Although, I’m not sure what all you can do. City services are all but decimated. Public works has a small staff and to say they’re overwhelmed is an understatement.” He looked at Marcus. “If they don’t find out what cause this and cure this…”

 

“I know.” Marcus didn’t want to think what might happen if they didn’t. “Look, don’t worry. You all go home and take care of yourself. I’ll get some people in here and we’ll try to keep things going for as long as we can, or until someone comes back to take over.”

 

Atwell nodded, and the group walked down the stairs.

 

“Anything important I should know about?”

 

“Plenty,” Atwell said. “But there’s not enough time to tell you everything.”

 

Marcus pulled his mask down. “Lovely.”

 

 

 

***

 

Captain Alan Myles ran his finger over the busted lock. Whoever broke into their weapons cache knew exactly what they were doing. He looked over his shoulder to the young solider standing a few feet away.

 

“When was this discovered?”

 

“Fifteen minutes ago, and I went right to the CO.”

 

“Do we know what was taken?”

 

“From the looks of it, automatic weapons and some ammo.”

 

Alan looked back into the ransacked room. “How much ammo?”

 

“Enough to keep them busy for at least a day.”

 

“Which means they’ll probably be back.” He shut the gate door. “We’re going to have to move all the weapons to a new location.”

 

The young soldier frowned. “All of it?”

 

“They had no problem getting in the first time,” Alan said as he walked past the solider. “And we don’t have the man-power to keep a guard on 24/7.”

 

“Any ideas as to where we should relocate it to?”

 

Alan stopped and faced him. “Find the largest military transport vehicles on base and load them up.” He turned and walked away. “We’ll park them closer to the main building. It’ll be easier to guard them.”

 

Stolen weapons. Great. That was all he needed. As if his day wasn’t bad enough now he had to worry about the fact there were military grade weapons on the street, and he knew whoever broke into a military base would have no qualms about using them. With the police department weakened and the military not far behind, Alan wasn’t sure how, or if they could get those weapons back. One thing he did know; them would be back.

 

He walked into the base commander’s office. Colonel Norris stood behind his desk with several sheets of paper in his hand.

 

“How bad is it?” he asked, not looking up.

 

“Bad enough,” Alan said. “A few weapons gone along with ammo. I’ve ordered all the remaining weapons and ammunition into military transports. We can keep a closer eye on them if this way.”

 

“Good idea.” He handed one of the sheets to Alan. “Look at his latest report. The CDC estimates this virus has infected over seventy percent of the global population.”

 

“Seriously?”

 

“That’s not the worse. They estimate a total infection within the next couple weeks.”

 

Alan read over the report. “How is that possible? Is it air-borne?”

 

Norris sat in his chair. “Who knows? That report came out three days ago. No-one’s heard anything from them since.”

 

“Sick?”

 

“Or worse.” Norris rubbed his face in frustration. “We’ve received reports from CFB Trenton that infected people are now lapsing into coma’s. Their base hospital is receiving comatose civilians and military personnel. Over-flow from the local hospitals.” He looked up at Alan. “We should prepare for the same response here.”

 

Alan blinked a few times. His head suddenly felt foggy and he had a hard time focusing. “Yes, sir.”

 

“Your brother is not stationed at City Hall. I suggest collaborating with him and whoever is in charge at the Dieu and Kingston General.”

 

Alan’s legs felt weak as dizziness set in. He lowered his head hoping the dizzy feeling would go away.

 

“Captain Myles. I something wrong?”

 

Alan looked up at his CO. A wave of heat raced through his body before he passed out.

 

 

 

The Carriers; Part Seven

 

© 2013 Dark Conteur Collection of Works

 

The Carriers; Part Six

The church bells echoed across the town as David sat on the lawn chair in his backyard. Still a few weeks to go before summer vacation and he was already bored out of his mind. It would be better if Robbie wasn’t sick, but there was nothing he could do about that.

The back door opened and his Mom stepped out. “Have you seen my bottle of aspirin?”

“Yeah.”

“Where?”

“In the bathroom.”

“I checked. They’re not there.”

“Then I don’t know where they are.”

She walked to the edge of the deck. “What’s wrong with you?”

“Nothing. Bored.”

“Why don’t you go see what Robbie is up to?”

“Cos I’m waiting for him to call.” He looked back at him. “He’s sick, remember, and I don’t wanna catch it.”

“It’s been a couple days since you went over. I’m sure he’s better by now.”

“I guess.”

He got up and walked to the edge of the yard. It’d been four days since he’d seen him last, and no word. He thought about going over, but the thought he might catch whatever his best friend had kept him away. No use in them both being sick.

The Wiseman house looked empty as he pulled up to the driveway on his bike. There was a car in the driveway, but something about the feel of the place wasn’t right. He looked in the windows first before knocking on the screen door.

Mr. Wiseman appeared behind the screen. He looked tired. “Hello, David. I’m afraid Robbie isn’t here. We had to take him to the hospital last night.”

“Really? Why?”

“He developed some kind of respiratory infection.”

“But I thought the doctor said he’d get better.”

“Sometimes these things happen.” Mr. Wiseman stepped out onto the porch. He was carrying a knapsack. “I was picking up some of his things. I’m headed back to the hospital now. I’ll tell him you stopped by.”

“Okay, thanks.”

Mr. Wiseman hurried past, got into his car and drove away. David took one last look at the house as he got back on his bike and headed home. Robbie was a tough kid. He never got sick. He hoped Dr. Hallowell was right.

His dad’s car was in the driveway when he rode up to his house. David dropped the bike just by the front steps and walked up to the back door. He heard his mother’s voice before he got to door.

“How long are you going to be?” she said, as David walked in.

“I’m not sure.” His dad walked out from the downstairs bathroom.

“Hey Dad, you’re home early.”

Marcus picked up a cup of coffee. “I wish I was. I’m just on my way back out again.” He took a sip from his cup. “We’ve got a lot of people sick so they’ve called in the reserves.”

David sat at the kitchen table. “Sick. Like with the flu?”

Marcus nodded. “Half the base is out.”

“I don’t like it,” Louise said. “So many people sick. It’s spreading too fast.” She looked at David. “How’s Robbie doing?”

“They took him to the hospital last night. Some kind of respiratory infection his dad said.”

Marcus messed up David’s hair. “Don’t worry, Robbie’s young and strong.”

David nodded, and brushed his hair with his fingers.

Marcus kissed Louise. “I’ll call you around supper.”

Louise grabbed him around the waist. “Be careful.”

Marcus opened the front door. “Don’t worry. This is going to blow over. It feels scary now, but remember SARS? Remember how everyone freaked over that?”

“This isn’t SARS, Alan. I’ve got a real bad feeling about this.”

Marcus shut the door. “Look, until the CDC puts out some kind of public warning, you shouldn’t be worried. Just you watch, in a month this’ll all be over.”

“I hope so.”

Marcus reached for Louise and embraced her again. “Trust me.” He kissed her gently on the forehead. “I’ll call you later.”

***

David sat at his computer desk, the blue hue from the screen the only light in his room. The web page for the browser game flashed with scenes from the videogame. He ran the curser over the page, highlighting the PLAY button. Robbie and him played this game. It wasn’t any fun playing without him, but he kinda wanted to pick up where they left off. He slumped back in his chair. No. That wasn’t fair. He could hold off until Robbie was back from the hospital.

He got up and looked out his bedroom window. Hardly anyone out. He didn’t blame them. He didn’t want to go out either. He knew he wasn’t sick, but what did he know? Someone else could be sick and what if he ran into them? No thanks. His bedroom was fine.

There was a quick knock at on his bedroom door and his Mom walked in.

“Can you do me a favour? Go down to the store and get me some aspirin, would ya?”

David slumped. “Do I have to?”

“Yeah. I can’t find the bottle we have here, and I have a migraine.”

He followed her down the stairs and to the front door.  She turned and handed him two twenty dollar bills.

David frowned. “I don’t think they’re going to be that expensive.”

“I want you to get a few other things while you’re there.”

“Like what?”

She shrugged and folded her arms across her chest. “Like stuff for the flu, if you can find any.” She rubbed her hand across her forehead. “Might be hard to find any after that newscast.”

David looked at her concerned. “Are you feeling okay?”

Louise smiled. “I’m fine. I just want to make sure we’re ready.” She paused for a moment. “In case something does happen, I have a feeling going to the hospital won’t be an option.”

The evening was quiet. Too quiet. David didn’t even hear any birds as he rode his bike along the side of the street toward the center of the village. Nights like tonight usually had kids playing out in their yards or on the street, elderly people out for walks and families sitting around eating bar-be-que. Not tonight. No since that news broadcast.

The parking lot at the grocery store had a few cars, which surprised him, but the store was practically empty, so the cars had to belong to staff. There was one lone person at the cash, and she wore a mask over her face, and didn’t say much as the cashier rang up her items.

“Hey, David,” Beth’s voice came from behind him. “Didn’t think I’d find you here.”

He smiled at her. “Yeah, my Mom wanted me to pick up some stuff.” He looked down at the contents in the wire basket. “You’re shopping too?”

“Oh, this isn’t for me. It’s for the Jespersens down the street from us. They’re elderly and can’t get out much so I thought I’d take some things.”

He headed down one of the aisle. “That’s really nice of you. Not many people would think of others in a crisis.” He winced inward. That made him sound like a dork!

Beth smiled and looked down at the basket. “Thanks.”

She followed him to the medicine aisle and stood back while he picked out a few things he figured they’d need. Just in case.

They walked to the cashier and unloaded their items.

The young girl shrugged. “This place is dead.”

“People don’t want to be out,” Beth said.

“Including the staff.” She rang up David’s items. “That’ll be $37.80. Just about everyone called in sick today. If I’d known it was gonna be like this, I would’ve too.”

Earnest Harmer stepped up behind Beth. “This is the Governments fault.” He dropped his basket of supplies on the check out. “Those meteorites were man-made. Probably by some terrorists tryin’ to make us all sick before they invade.”

Beth rolled her eyes and turned away. “Whatever.”

“Hey missy, don’t go rollin’ your eyes at me. You just wait. Once we’re all sick, those bastards will walk right in and take over. They’ll round up all the healthy people and put them in concentration camps, and start brainwashing us to their fanatical ways.”

“Whatever you say, Mr. Harmer.”

He wasn’t even looking at her now. “But they won’t get me. I’ve got the bunker shut down tight.” He rocked back and forth on his feet. “Anyone tries to get inside’ll find one hell of a surprise waitin’ for them.”

Tiffany rang up Beth’s items and they quickly left the store.

“I wish Mr. Harmer didn’t talk like that,” Beth said, as they walked along the main road. “People are freaked out enough as it is without hearing all his crap too.”

“He can’t help it,” David said. “Dad said there are people in the world who do nothing but think up crap like that and hope it happens.”

“That’s sick.”

Shouts echoed from somewhere up ahead as a group of young men rambled along the main road. They kicked at benches and trash cans, threw garbage around and shoved each other around.

David pulled on Beth’s shirt in. “Let’s go another way.”

Beth jogged ahead of him. “Quickly.”

They were half way up a side street when the gang came into sight. Beth ducked in behind a bush, and pulled David and his bike with her. They watched the gang cross the street and head for the grocery story. David’s face was inches from Beth. So close he could hear her erratic breathing.

He watched her tremble. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” she said. “I—” She caught herself. “I just got a weird feeling.”

They stepped out from the brush and headed up the street. The evening was even more quiet now than when he first went outside. He stole side glances of Beth every couple of feet. She didn’t look happy. His father’s words came back to him.

“Everything’s going to be okay. Remember SARS? Remember how everyone freaked out over that?”

“I don’t know, David. I have a feeling this could be worse.”

That didn’t work. He looked straight ahead.

Beth stopped at the gate of a white picket fence. “This is the Jespersens’s. I’ll just be a minute.”

She walked up to the wooden screen door and knocked. After a few moments she knocked again.

David leaned his bike against their fence and came up beside her. “Are you sure they’re home?”

“Why wouldn’t they be?”

He looked in through a side window. “There’s a light on but I don’t see anyone.”

“Maybe they’re busy,” Beth said and put the bag by the door. “I’ll just leave it here and come by later.”

“Do they have kids?”

“Yeah, in Kingston.”

“Maybe they went to visit them?”

Beth didn’t look convinced. “Maybe, but—”

Shouts from the gang echoed in the night.

David went to his bike. “Maybe we should get out of here.”

Beth followed. “Yeah.”

He motioned to her. “I’ll give you a ride back to your place.”

Beth climbed on to the seat of his bike. “Thanks.”

He struggled at first to get the bike going, but after a few churns on the peddles, the bike made better speed. The rode down the middle of the road toward the outskirts of town. For some strange reason, David couldn’t stop grinning.

The Carriers; Part Six

© 2013 Dark Conteur Collection of Works

The Carriers; Part Five

Alan Miles stretched out on the bench outside Base Command and let the afternoon sun warm his body. His lunch hour was just about up and the thought of going back inside sucked the life right out of him. His head hurt. He’d read report after report from the American’s about these ‘non-terrestrial objects’. Almost two dozen so far and had just about had his fill of cryptic content.

“Thought I’d find you out here.” Captain Marcus Miles strolled over to the bench and sat down. “Nothing like some fresh air to clear the mind.”

Alan snorted, looking up at his older brother. “Then why isn’t it working?”

Marcus sat back. “How the hell should I know?” He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. “What the hell is going on?”

“What d’ya mean?”

“You know what I mean.”

“The reports from Washington?”

“Yeah. What the hell’s going on down there? Who teaches these guys to be so cryptic? ”

Alan didn’t reply.

Marcus ran his fingers through his short hair. “I mean, ‘un-natural formation’? Is that their way of saying man-made?”

“I guess so. It allows them to suggest that maybe these meteorites aren’t what they appear to be.”

Marcus straightened up. “Yeah and stating they’re manufactured is one step below implying it was a direct attack by terrorists.”

“No one’s said anything about terrorists.”

“Not yet.”

“Look, can we talk about something else?”

Marcus nodded. “You and Mellissa still coming over for supper tonight?”

“Yeah, I guess. It’ll be good to do something other than listen to those damn news reports.”

“That bad?”

Alan snorted. “Melissa does nothing but watch CBC and CNN all day.” He shifted his position on the bench. “Do you know how much of that sani-gel we have? There are bottles of the stuff all over the apartment. I can’t touch her unless I’ve covered my hands in that crap.”

Marcus chuckled. “That’s a bit over-board.”

“Over-board isn’t the word I’d use.”

“To be honest, I can’t blame her. Look at how many are out on sick leave, and half the people in the village is sick.”

A grim look came over Alan. “Any dead?”

Marcus nodded. “Some of the older folks.” He looked at his brother. “What about here in the city?”

Alan shrugged. “A few of my neighbours are sick, but that’s about it, but then I don’t know everyone around me. Could be more.”

“Davy’s best friend is sick.”

“Is Davy okay?”

“Louise has been keeping an eye on him. So far he seems healthy.”

“Don’t worry. He’s a strong kid.” Alan playfully punched his older brother. “Takes after his uncle.”

 

***

 

The apartment building was quiet as Alan unlocked the glass front door. The smell of rotting garbage filled the lobby as a waste can overflowing with garbage sat in the corner of the room. Alan swore softly and walked toward the first floor hallway. This was getting ridiculous. He banged on the door marked SUPERINTENDENT.

“Who is it?” a raspy male voice said from the other side.

“Alan Miles. 2B. Have you smelled the shit out in the lobby? Don’t you think it’s time to do your job and clean it up?”

The sound of a chain rattled against the door and a small crack opened up in the doorway. The sweaty partial face of a middle aged man looked out at him. “Yeah..uh, sorry. I’ve been sick. I’ll get to that tomorrow.”

Alan’s anger subsided. “Sure. Whenever. Take care of yourself first.” He backed up from the entrance as the door slammed closed. Alan suddenly wished he had one of those bottles of sani-gel on him.

He walked to the elevator and reached for the UP button, but hesitated. He pulled the sleeve of his jacket down over his hand and pushed the button with a covered knuckle and did the same for the buttons inside. The ride up was quick, or maybe it was because he was lost in thought. So many people suddenly falling sick. Strange rocks landing all over the planet. What the hell was going on?

He opened the door to his apartment, and threw his keys down on the small table. “Hey babe, I’m home.” There was a pile of letters sitting neatly next to his keys. Alan picked them up and rummaged through them as he walked into the livingroom. “I’m going to take a quick shower before we head out to my brother’s.”

No answer.

“Babe?” He took a quick glance around the room. He could see just about the whole place from this spot. Except the bedroom. The apartment was too quiet. “Babe, you here?”

He hurried into their bedroom. Several drawers were open and their clothing content was removed.

“What the hell?”

A sheet of paper was taped to the mirror of the dresser.

Alan. My parent’s neighbours called me at work. Mom and Dad got sick and fell                             into a coma. I’m taking the first train to Ottawa. Call you when I get there.   

 

Alan lowered the note. “Shit.”

 

***

 

Marcus tugged on the pull-tab of his beer relaxed into the patio chair. It was the first chance in a few days he’d been able to just sit and relax. A part of him told him to enjoy it. He might not get another chance like this for a while.

“What time did Alan say he and Melissa were going to be here?” Louise asked, stepping out onto the back porch.

“Around seven.”

She nodded and walked over to the bar-be-que. “Did you want to cook, or should I?”

“No, I’ll do it.”

“Are you sure? I don’t mind? You’ve worked a lot of long hours and—”

Marcus smiled. “Really, I don’t mind doing the Bar-be-que tonight.”

She smiled and walked over to him. “I’m just glad you’re home.” She made herself comfortable in his lap. “I understand they need you on the base, but these extra shifts with you away is hard.” She bend her head down and gently kissed him on the lips.

“Yeah, but it makes the time we spend together so much better.”

He reached to tickle her around the waist and she slapped his hand away. He grabbed her and brought her closer to him, wrapping his arms around her waist as he kissed her deeply.

Alan’s voice was low. “Uh..I’m not intruding, am I?”

Louise pulled away from Marcus and quickly stood. “Yes, but that’s beside the point.”

Marcus frowned. “I thought you weren’t showing up until seven? And where’s Melissa?”

Alan stepped up to the porch. “Yeah, she had an emergency. Had to go to Ottawa.”

“I hope everything is all right.” Louise said.

“Yeah, just her parents. She’ll be back in a couple days.”

“Well we’ll have another bar-be-que when she gets back.” Louise tapped Marcus on the shoulder. “I go get the meat and you can start.”

Marcus nodded as Alan sat down at the glass patio table. “You wanna a beer?”

“Yeah, sure.”

Marcus stood.

“Wait. Sit down.”

“What’s wrong.”

“Just hang on a minute.”

Marcus sat back down. “Is something wrong with Melissa?”

Alan shook his head. “No, but remember we were talking about this illness?”

“Yeah. What about it?”

“New symptom.”

A sense of dread washed over Marcus. “What?”

“Coma. I talked to Melissa before I came over. Her parents were fine, healthy as a horse up until four days ago. Then they both came down with flu-like symptoms.”

Marcus narrowed his eyes. “Flu-like?”

“That’s what she said the doctors are calling it. It starts off like a cold or flu, then rapidly gets worse. She said that a lot of the cases they have in the hospitals up in Ottawa are falling into comas.”

Marcus stood. He wasn’t sure why, but sitting wasn’t something he wanted to do. “Why haven’t we heard anything on the news?”

“Maybe to keep people from panicking?”

He walked into the house and over to the fridge. This wasn’t right. He wasn’t a doctor or anything, but Davy had been sick enough times that he knew the chain of symptoms didn’t sound right. Worse, it didn’t feel right.

Alan followed him inside, but stayed by the back door. “We need to tell someone about this.”

Marcus faced him. “I have a feeling people already do.”

Louise came out into the kitchen. “You guys have to see this.”

They followed her into the living room and stood beside the couch. The television was on and tuned to CBC.

Louise reached over and took her husband’s hand. “The said the President was going to address the nation.”

Alan sat down on the couch. “What about?”

Louise shook her head.

Marcus held his breath as the image of the President of the United States appeared on the screen. He didn’t hear all the speech, but what he did was eloquent and said with heart-felt emotion.  As the last few words were spoken, Marcus knew this would be the start to something never seen before in human history. On this day a new word would be added to the lexicon of popular words;

‘Un-natural Pandemic’.

 

The Carriers; Part Five

© 2013 Dark Conteur Collection of Works

The Carriers; Part Four

The week was coming to an end. David dreaded the three days he would have to work at his part-time job. Sure, he liked the money, even if it wasn’t much. It kept him from mooching off his parents, which was good. There were times he didn’t really want to explain what he wanted the money. The only good thing about the weekend was the dance.

The gravel road shook his bike hard. Maybe he should start saving up for a car. A few more years and he’ll have his driver’s licence. Then he’ll have real freedom.

He pulled up to the only set of lights in the down and waited as the afternoon traffic passed. The new subdivision next to the golf course was full of retiree’s and they all seemed to head to the lone restaurant at the same time. He waved at his mother as she parked their car and walked toward him.

“Are you headed into work?” she said, as she pulled her dark hair back into a ponytail.

“Yeah, I thought if I went in early they’d let me leave early,” David said, and pulled his bike up onto the sidewalk.

She smiled at him. “Ah, that’s right. Tonight’s the dance.”

David nodded.

“Is Robbie going?”

“No. He’d rather sit at home and stare at that stupid rock he found.”

“Come on, he’s your friend, and that’s what he’s into.”

“Whatever.”

“Have you asked him to go?”

“Yeah, but he didn’t sound like he wanted too.”

“Have you spoken to him lately? Maybe he’s changed his mind?”

“No, his phone’s off and I’ve called a few times and left messages with his mom.”

“So why don’t you go over and talk to him face to face?”

“Yeah, maybe.”

His mother reached out and messed up his hair. “Well, whatever you do, just try to stay out of trouble.”

David gave her a wicked smile and pushed the bike pedal back “I make no promises.”

She shot him a stern look. “Be good.”

David got back on his bike and headed down one of the side streets. There was a fancy car parked out front of Robbie’s house, and Mr. Wiseman’s car was in the driveway.

The front door was open when David walked up the stairs. He knocked. At first, he wasn’t sure if anyone was home, but then heavy footsteps came down the stairs.

Mr. Wiseman had the same curly red hair as his son, just not a lot of it and just as skinny. He looked frustrated when he opened the screen door.

“Hey David. Rob can’t come out.”

A second man came down the stairs. Doctor Halloway volunteered at the Afterhours clinic on Main Street. He nodded at David when he saw him.

David looked up at Mr. Wiseman. “Is everything all right?”

“Oh sure. Rob just has the flu.”

Doctor Halloway stepped up to the front door. “It’s going around. This is the third case I’ve seen today.”

Mr. Wiseman stepped back from the door. “Thanks for the house call.”

“Not a problem. When your wife called and told me his symptoms, I figured it was this. Better to have him stay at home then come in and spread it around.” He looked at David. “How are you feeling?”

David shrugged. “Fine.”

The doctor stepped out onto the porch next to him. “No fever or chills? Appetite is good and all.”

David nodded. “Yeah.” He looked worried at Robbie’s father. “Do I have it?”

“If you did,” The doctor said. “You’d be showing symptoms by now, but you might be a carrier. Try to stay away from large groups of people.”

“I can’t.  I have to go to work.”

“Where do you work?”

“At the Food Market.”

“Then take precautions. Wash your hands often and try not to touch stuff.”

David nodded. “I’ll come back later and see how he’s doing.”

“No, you best stay away until he’s feeling better.” The doctor said. “You’re healthy and you need to stay that way.” He looked back at Mr. Wiseman. “I won’t be in the office for the rest of the day, but if you have any concerns call the Clinic. I’ve got a resident in there helping with the extra work load.”

Mr. Wiseman nodded. “Thanks.”

David nodded to Mr. Wiseman. “Tell Robbie to get well.”

“I will. I’ll have him call you when he’s better.”

David stepped down off the porch.  Robbie never got sick.

He jumped on his bike and headed toward Main Street. A group of people were gathered out on the sidewalk just down a side street. There ambulance was there and people were talking to each other and hugging. He saw Beth and rode up to her.

“What’s going on?”

She faced him and her eyes were bloodshot. “Mr. Pergin died.”

David was stunned. “No way? I just saw him a few days ago.”

“Me too,” she sniffed.

Dr. Halloway pulled up next to David and jumped out of his car. He ran past the groups of people and into the house. A few moments later, he walked out onto the porch looking defeated. The paramedics followed, gently guiding a gurney down the stairs.

“Doctor Halloway?” David said, as the older man came closer.

The doctor looked up. “Oh, hello again.” He looked back at the house. “Did you know the deceased?”

“Pretty much. Was he a patient of yours?”

“Yes, I was on my way over to see how he was doing?”

Beth frowned “He was sick?”

“He contracted this flu that’s going around.”

David’s eye went wide. “And he died from it?”

The doctor frowned. “Possibly.”

David thought about Robbie.

The doctor looked at the house and then at David. “Don’t worry, your friend is going to be fine. He’s a young man with a strong immune system. Mr. Pergin was elderly and had a serious heath issue.”

“But he died!”

“It doesn’t mean the same thing is going to happen to Robbie.”

Beth turned to David. “Robbie is sick?”

“Yeah, he’s got the flu.”

A worried look came over her and David wished he hadn’t said anything. “The doc’s right. Robbie’ll be fine.”

They were quiet as the paramedics guided the gurney past them and into the back of the ambulance. The street was quiet, not even the birds were making any sound.

“Do you still want to go to the dance tonight?”

Beth shrugged. “Yeah, I guess.”

David smiled. “Great. I gotta go to work, so I’ll see you there?”

She nodded. “Sure.”

David pulled his bike onto the road and peddled off. He’d have a great story to tell Robbie. Who knows, maybe Beth could find someone for him? They could all hang out together. David smiled. Yeah, this was going to be a great summer vacation.

 

The Carriers; Part Four

© 2013 Dark Conteur Collection of Works

The Carriers; Part Three

The traffic on Main Street was busy. David rode his bike along the side of the road and up a couple side streets. He hadn’t heard from Robbie in two days. Not since he found that rock by the creek. He doubted Robbie would even come out today. That guy was a nerd of the first order. His room was filled with geeky science stuff. David never understood it. Well, not in the same way as Robbie.

The Wiseman house was big and old. One of the first homes built in the area. David liked coming over just because it was so creepy. Even more so since Mr. Wiseman painted the whole thing a soft olive green. Now it looked like the house was ready to puke.

The gentle breeze moved the swinging chair on the porch and it creaked as David knocked on the wooden screen door. Small wind chimes rang out in the gentle wind, and he could hear kids playing in the neighbour’s backyard. The summer break was just starting and this year it was going to be great. He was old enough not to need a babysitter, which meant plenty of free time.

The inside door opened and the chubby face of Mrs. Wiseman appeared on the other side of the screen. Her eyes twinkled when she saw him.

“Good morning, David.” She opened the screen door half way. “How are you?”

“Good, Mrs. Wiseman. Is Robbie up?”

“Probably not. He hasn’t come downstairs for breakfast yet.” She opened the screen door wider. “You can go on up, get Lazybones out of bed.”

David stepped inside as she walked away. The house smelled good. It always did. Mrs. Wiseman didn’t have a job like his mom, so she was always baking or cooking something. How Robbie wasn’t three-hundred pounds was beyond him. The house was always clean too. Not one thing out of place.  It looked nice, but it was too clean. Like a museum. A scene frozen in time from one of those old television shows.

He turned right at the top of the stairs and knocked on the first door. “Hey, Robbie. You up?” This wasn’t like his friend. Robbie rose with the sun. He was one of those people that couldn’t sleep once it was light out.

No answer. David knocked on the door again. “Dude?” He opened the door a crack, just wide enough to get a look at one side of the bedroom. “Are you in here?” he pushed the door all the way open and stepped inside. Robbie’s bed was on the other side of the room, and the long lump in the middle stirred.

He kicked at the mattress. “Dude, get up.”

Robbie pulled the blanket back away from his head. His face was pink and sweaty, and strands of dark red hair were plastered to the side of his cheek. His eyes opened just a crack. “What are you doing here?”

“I thought we were gonna hang out today?”

“Yeah…we are?”

“Then get up.”

Robbie sat up and looked around. “What time is it?”

“Almost noon.”

Slowly the teen got out of bed. “Shit, seriously?”

“Yeah.”

“I was studying that meteorite last night.” He stumbled over to his desk where a small microscope was set up. “It’s really weird.”

“You’re not gonna sit inside all day and look at that thing, are you?”

Robbie slumped down into the desk chair. “I guess not.” He looked over at his friend. “So what’d you wanna do?”

David shrugged. “We could go hang out at the park.”

Robbie looked back at his microscope and touched the black rock next to it. “I guess.”

The meteorite looked more menacing than before. David turned and headed out of the room. “I’ll meet you outside.”

By the time they got to the park, Robbie was looking a little better. At least he didn’t look like he just got up. They dropped their bikes near the wood climbers and made their way to the top.

“You know,” Robbie said as he made himself comfortable on the top wooden tier. “If you ask her out, she might just say yes.”

David frowned. “What are you talking about?”

He motioned toward a small concession stand at the far end of the park. A teenage girl was paying for some ice cream.

David sunk down next to his friend. “Or she might say no.”

“You won’t know until you ask.”

David looked at him. “But what if-”

“What if, what if, what if. Can’t go through life always saying what if, my man.” He nudged him on the arm. “Now’s your chance. Here she comes.”

David didn’t move and his mouth went dry. What was he supposed to say to her? What if she turned him down? Or worse, what if she laughed at him?

The young girl flipped back her long brown hair. Her eyes lit up when she saw the boys on top of the climbers.

“Hey guys.” She took a lick from her cone. “What’s up?’

David shrugged. “Nothing.”

Robbie shook his head. “You’re pathetic.”

“What?”

Robbie stood up and climbed down. David followed.

Robbie gave a quick wave. “See ya, Beth.”

David frowned. “Where are you going?”

Robbie turned as he walked. “Home. I’m not feeling good.”

Beth turned to David. “Is he okay?”

“Probably hungry.” He glanced at her, but quickly looked away. “So, what are you doing?”

Beth walked to the climbers. “I’m supposed to help my Mom clean, but couldn’t do it anymore. It’s so boring!”

“I know, right?” David followed her. “It’s only gonna get dirty again.”

“And then you have to clean it again.”

“I know. It’s stupid.”

He kicked at the ground. “You wanna go do something?”

“Can’t. My mom only let me come out to get some ice cream. If I don’t get home, she’ll send Dad out to find me, and…”

“Yeah, I get it.”

“Sorry.”

David shrugged. “S’okay.”

She got up from the climbers and David followed. He walked beside her to the edge of the park and got his bike. Should he ask her to the dance? Would she turn him down? He picked at his handlebars as they walked up one of the side streets. He’d better make up his mind fast. Her home was just around the corner.

“Hey I was thinking if you’re not doing anything Friday did you want to go to the dance at the Firehall?” It came out so fast he couldn’t believe he’d said it.

Beth stopped. She looked shocked. That was a good sign. At least she didn’t look mad.

“Sure. I guess.”

David nodded and tried to keep his excitement from showing. “Cool.”

 

***

 

Captain Alan Miles hurried through the corridor and entered the Base Commander’s outer office. Whatever was up the commander’s craw, his phone call was less than pleasant. He gave a quick nod to the receptionist as he passed by.

“Still in a bad mood?”

“Like a pit-bull.”

Alan smiled. “And here you were complaining he was a bulldog.”

The receptionist smirked. “The bulldog I can handle.”

Alan knocked before quickly opening the door. Colonel Hank Norris sat behind his desk, the receiver of the phone against his ear. He motioned to Alan to come in and sit.

“Yes, sir. As soon as possible.” Norris let the receiver drop back on its hook. “That didn’t take long.”

Alan leaned back in his chair. “Considering the tone you used, I figured stopping off at the base Tim Horton’s wasn’t an option.”

Norris pinched the bridge of his nose. “I wish it was that simple.” He looked up at him. “Alan, we may be heading into a world of trouble.”

Alan frowned. It was rare for his C.O. to address him by his first name.  “What are you talking about?”

“That meteor shower a few nights back, I just got word from the N.D.Q.H. They’ve been talking to the P.M.O. who’s been talking to the White House, who’s been talking to NASA, who’s been talking to-”

“Spit it out, Hank.”

The Colonel leaned forward. “The American’s don’t think those were normal meteorites.”

The Carriers; Part Three

© 2013 Dark Conteur Collection of Works

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