He walks through the door and dons the white coat, hearing the mechanical release of air and heavy clank of the lock coming from the door behind him. Yawning, he rubs his tired eyes and looks around the lab. Empty.
That’s odd, he thinks. Simmons should be here. His assistant was on the late shift when he placed the frantic call to Keith McIntyre’s home in the wee hours of the morning. Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a machine! he chuckles to himself. Simmons’ name wasn’t even Jim, it was Rhys, but the heavyset man constantly smelled of jerky, earning him the nickname Slim Jim. McIntyre sniffs the air. Nothing – the smell of sterile cleanliness. Not even the hint of beefy body odor taints the room.
He begins to step further into the room, but stalls at the sound of the fixed-angle centrifuge clicking and whirring to life. Curiouser and curiouser, he thinks, though he was not as surprised by the sound as Alice was by her telescoping neck. Simmons must have it on a timer. But where is he? Upon closer inspection of the laboratory desk that is home to the centrifuge, he notices the transmission electron microscope (TEM) has also been used, and carelessly. Vials and syringes are scattered nearby, with no effort made toward cleanliness.
Dammit, Simmons, you slob. What happened last night?
As he assesses the damaged vials, he catches movement out of the corner of his eye, behind the second lab desk at the rear of the room. Cautiously he makes his way around the bulk of the microscope for a better view.
There! On the floor – a man’s shoe, black with the slip-proof tread. The exact type the entire staff is required to wear. He continues moving slowly, unsure of what to expect. A foot is in that shoe – still attached to the leg!
Simmons! He rushes to the prone man in a panic. McIntyre kneels on the floor, leaning over the bulky body, searching for signs of life. When he saw Rhys Simmons’ face, he recoils in horror.
The man’s face was contorted in agony, his mouth open in a silent scream, the tongue a blackish shade of aubergine. Sagging from the skull, his skin is albicant with gradient patches of gray. No breath issues from his mouth nor beat from his heart.
McIntyre doesn’t think, but jumps into action. He runs for the intercom to call for the medical team. The numbers of the digital clock overhead (5:12) blur from the tears welling up in his cerulean soul.
“This is Doctor Keith McIntyre, badge number five-oh-six-three-one-nine-oh. I have a medical emergency in the Infectious Disease Research and Containment Lab. Requesting immediate response. Subject is male, 30s, overweight, with no vitals. Lab is secure,” he rambles off in a single breath, a catch in his throat. A brusque response crackles back in his ear. Now, to wait.
Without thought, he quickly dresses his hands in latex to dispose of the broken, empty vials Simmons left on the table, presumably as he struggled for breath. He parks himself on a stool near the body to wait for the Response Team. As the minutes march slowly by, the doctor thinks, Simmons was a good man, a brilliant man with a bright future. If only he’d have been as smart about his health! He probably choked on his precious jerky.
Simmons’ leg twitches.
McIntyre shrieks and narrowly escapes falling off his perch. Righting himself with his heart pounding in his chest, he stares at the body, not trusting himself to blink lest the leg twitch again. All was still. He imagined it. McIntyre is running on a few hours of sleep and under stress.
Upon the arrival of the medics, his pulse regains its normal rhythm. He dares not take his eyes of the body of Rhys “Slim Jim” Simmons as it is loaded onto the gurney and carted away. I swear that leg moved, he thinks. I must be losing my mind. That final thought keeps his mouth from uttering the occurrence to the technicians.
Once the body was removed, he goes to the sink to splash water on his face and stop his hands from shaking. It occurs to him there is a reason he is at the lab so early. The panicked call from Rhys. Slowly he turns around and surveys the lab.
The centrifuge. It ran and finished its cycle during the commotion. What was Simmons running? He is halfway to the machine when something on the microscope’s digital monitor catches his attention. He stops to look closer at the screen. What is that? I’ve never seen a microorganism like that before. He tilts his head to the side, confused, trying to understand the data running sequentially to the image before him. It looks like recombinant DNA, but from what? They were not scheduled to work on recombination of DNA strands, only to test combinations of intravenous antibiotic and immunoglobulin treatments for necrotizing fasciitis. This strand of DNA looks more like rabies.
He stares. The broken vials, the data, the appearance of Simmons’ body. Slowly, he lifts his head as the possibilities dawn in his sleep-deprived brain. This is bad… He turned and runs toward the intercom, praying he isn’t too late.
Meanwhile, in another part of the country…
I woke with the dawn this morning. Spring is in full bloom! Thanks to the mild winter, I am able to start my planting on time this year. The ground has been tilled, the seeds planted, and the fences fixed. It’s April 4th and I already have plenty of veggies in the ground waiting to sprout. I get out and feed my seedlings, then do some yoga with the sun rising.
My husband thinks I’m crazy. After that fateful day in September, 2001, and the birth of our first child mere months after, I made it my mission to always be prepared. We may live in the city, but if you ignore the suburban traffic, you can almost imagine you are out on a large plot, away from everything, tending to the land. What do they call it? Ah yes. Urban Farming.
Thanks to the crops I’ve grown each year, we have a dedicated storage shed for all my canning efforts. The whole neighborhood could eat for a year just on that stockpile. Plus fresh crops for every season. What can I say? You don’t know what’s going to happen until it happens, so you might as well be prepared for everything. Even our dogs eat a diet more suited to their wild ancestors. You know… just in case.
Did I mention the livestock? Okay, so it’s not as impressive as it sounds, but we have a whole brood of hens roosting away. A pig or two. We had to get a special permit for them. Oh! And there’s the ducks that live around our pond. I guess they count. Plus the goats. Three of them – we call them the Billy Goats Gruff. I don’t know what we will call them when Autumn gives birth to her kid. Kid makes four.
Over the years, I’ve learned plenty and am proud to say that we are practically living off the grid, as they say. There’s no need to worry about running out of water – we have a system of rain barrels in place and a homemade filtration system, just in case. The solar panels on the roof and on the greenhouse are a huge help with energy and heating. We’re even the first on our block to implement a wind turbine to power our electricity. I’m not saying we don’t have our indulgences, like cable and the Internet, but as far as emergencies go, we are a fortress amid desolation.
After sending the kids off to school, doing some light cleaning, and having my morning yogurt and granola, I think I will treat myself to a little television. I just finished reading my latest book, so why not?
I flip on the TV and… well, nothing. There is nothing on. I change the channel a few times, but still, no programming came on. That’s weird. I do a cursory glance over all the cables and switches, turn both the TV and cable box off and on again, but still… a big goose egg. Really weird.
Suddenly a barrage of images fill the screen, each more horrible than the last. People with masks crowding the subway stations; aerial views of multitudes running terrified through the streets, chased by the living dead; a grotesque display of disease progression.
Over and over, it plays, then nothing. Oh no. It’s really happening! They said it was impossible… but who am I kidding? Even the word impossible says “I’m possible”. A zombie virus! What sick individual would think up something so… so… heinous? That short clip didn’t say… well, didn’t say anything, but also gave no indication of how or where it started. Figures. Adds to the mass hysteria and justifies the panic-ridden hordes. I’ve seen this movie…
There’s no time to plan, only for action. I go outside. So far our neighborhood seems untouched by this atrocity, but who’s to say there isn’t a Typhoid Mary roaming the streets as we speak? As soon as everyone is back at the homestead, we will go to ground. Now where did I put my CB radio?
Wearing a surgical mask I picked up during our last trip to the emergency room, I dig into our rainy day funds and go shopping. I realize that eventually the governing bodies will fall, the grids will fail, and it will become like the Hollywood propaganda we’ve been subjected to for years – thanks, Halperin brothers. I need to pick up a few things I don’t already have on hand.
I hit the drug store, the feed store, the local plant nursery, the home improvement warehouse, the sporting goods place, then lastly, the library and the bookstore. Once the grid goes down, we’ll need some form of entertainment. The guy at the sporting goods store obviously hasn’t seen the “news” because he looks at me funny when buy large amounts of ammo for The Big Guy’s guns and a wide array of knives in varying sizes. Amateur.
Then it’s back home to prepare for the arrival of my family. I organize my haul, store the feed, stock the seeds from the nursery, ready the stonework, and fill the empty spaces in the pantry, medicine cabinet, gun safe, and bookcases with as much as I can.
It’s after 5 o’clock in the evening when everyone is finally together. The kids remain calm after I give them the news (they’ve seen this movie, too) and The Big Guy looks downright excited. He’s no Daryl Dixon, but I’ll take him.
We run some drills until it’s too dark to see, then get some sleep.
This following morning, it seems as if nothing changed, but we have work to do. We batten down the windows, reinforce doorways, and set about creating defenses around the perimeter of our property with the haul from the warehouse.
The neighbors start coming out one by one and by the looks on their faces, they know. We discuss the sharing of resources, wish everyone good luck and good health, then retreat to our respective residences. We’ve done everything we can.
Remember: stay close, stay safe, and always aim for the head.
Now, we wait…
Reality Check: Face the facts. I can’t run away, I have a brown thumb, I don’t can, and I have never shot a gun. I have a panic attack, pop a bunch of Lorazepam, curl up in the fetal position, and wait to become zombie fodder. I remain in a drug-induced haze as The Big Guy takes over command.
For being such great readers, I have a special treat for you!
- 1 box Red Velvet cake mix
- Eggs + 1 more
- Milk, in place of the water
- Melted Butter, in place of oil – double the amount
- 3 cartons white cream cheese frosting
- Food dye – black, pink, green, red – I used Americolor Super Black, Electric Pink, Mint Green
Follow directions on box for preheating and time requirements.
Spoon some batter into a single cupcake section
Pour remaining batter into 2 round cake tins
Bake as directed – cupcake will be done quicker than cakes
Remove from oven and immediately set to cool on racks.
When cakes are cool to the touch, it’s time to frost – this is the fun part!
- Frosting carton #1: add black a little at a time to get a gray color. This will be the filling between the layers – do that first. Set aside leftovers for later.
- Frosting carton #2: add pink a little at a time. The Electric Pink is really bright – I should have gone with a softer pink. This will frost the top portion of the cake + top sides. Set aside leftovers for later.
- Frosting carton #3: add green a little at a time to get desired color. This will frost the bottom half + bottom sides. No leftovers needed.
- Before frosting anything, find where you will place the eye (cupcake). Use a paring knife, cut a hole the size of the bottom and scoop out enough cake for the cupcake to fit.
- Frost the two halves. Don’t worry about getting frosting in the “eye socket”.
- Frost cupcake with the plain white frosting and insert into pre-made hole.
- Take the leftover gray frosting and add more black dye until it’s black. This is for the X eye and mouth. I used a basket weave decorating tips for both.
- Take the leftover pink and add red (and maybe a little black, if needed) to create a “blood” look. This is for the detail between the green and pink halves and the creases of the brain. I used a small and medium size round decorating tip for those.
Have fun with it! I know I did.
Welcome to [the end of] a Secret Subject Swap. This week, 14 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts.
My Subject was: What would you do if the Zombie Apocalypse happens tomorrow?Submitted by: Impoverished Vegan (Thanks guys! It was so much fun!)
Baking In A Tornado
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Short story “How I Survive the Zombie Apocalypse” ©2014 by Robin Allen
All rights reserved. This story, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including recording, photocopying, offset, or by any information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the author, except by reviewers who may quote brief passages to be printed in a magazine or newspaper.
Cake inspired by this image.