Right Out Of Options

Doctor Peter Ericson had a grudge, and he was mad. In no time at all he had infected the world with an incurable disease that also spread like wildfire. Causing weird symptoms such as catatonia, it spread through skin to skin contact.
Over time the victims changed from catatonic statues to something else, something far less benign.
New chapters will be added weekly.

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6. Home Safe Home

While running for his house, James couldn’t get the image of his boss’s suffering out of his mind. Watching him, blood-soaked and writhing in pain on the grass while being ever-increasingly concealed under a mass of slugs and darting, blood-drinking earwigs was simply horrific. Fucking slugs, he cursed to himself, fucking slugs and bugs! The sound of the poor man whimpering in his final agonies would forever be etched in his consciousness, that and the grass all around simmering with the invisible march of an underground army of slimy gastropods. The surface rose and fell like a pan of simmering molasses as wave after wave slimed their way to the ample and vulnerable body.

His legs felt like jelly, nearly failing him at the last moment as he struggled to his front door. Fumbling for the keys, he unlocked the door and in an instant he was in the arms of Claire, his girlfriend. Her face was streaked with blackened tears, her make-up all over her face. She was a glorious sight to James; it meant that at least they would be together if the worst came to the worst.

“Get inside quick,” he urged as he slammed the door shut tight. He couldn’t stop shivering, cringing at the thought of the slimy little bastards around his feet, climbing…

Forcing himself to stop thinking like that he slumped against the wall with his eyes closed and struggled to bring his breathing under control, leaving Claire standing there staring at him, at the moment blissfully ignorant of what lay in wait outside.

James gathered his wits. He looked into her face, looking for signs that she was okay. Apart from mascara making her look like a sad panda she appeared unharmed. He hugged her again.

“You okay?” he asked, wondering about the mascara; it was obvious she’d been crying.

She hesitated, her head shaking slowly in confusion.

“I was going to ask you the same question. You look like you were chased by your own ghost. We need to get to my mum,” she blurted.

James cocked his head in surprise. This conversation wasn’t going in the direction he expected but at least it partly explained the panda face. Her mum was very capable of making her cry.

“I need a drink before I do anything,” he retorted. “What’s wrong with your mum?”

As they made their way to the kitchen, Claire replied.

“She called a little while ago but the line went dead. We were arguing. Something’s wrong at home, don’t know what.”

James bridled at her use of the word home; he could never convince her that this was her home now, not at her parents anymore.

“Have you heard anything of what’s going on outside?” James asked, pouring a large glass of red wine and taking a gulp. He never understood doctors’ reluctance at prescribing a good slug of booze to calm the nerves, it always worked for him.

“Like what?” Claire worked a night shift at Sainsburys, stacking shelves. She rarely watched the news, the TV being her definition of the ultimate waste of time, all that twenty four seven harping merely a pointless exercise in wasting electricity. “Look, I’ve not been up long and haven’t even turned the radio on yet. Is it anything to do with what you’re running from? Tell me.”

James was thinking about her mum having problems; taking a leap in logic, if she was in the same boat as George, well, he knew Claire would be inconsolable. That was the last thing he needed if he was to keep things under control, if that was even possible. It also meant that this thing was more widespread than he’d considered up to now. His mother-in-law-to-be lived in the heart of Kent, in a small village called Paddock Wood, about thirty miles away.

“First of all, what did your mother say?” he asked, working hard to keep his voice even.

“She didn’t say much, apart from the usual criticisms. Suddenly she changed, almost forgetting we were having words. But it wasn’t what she said so much as the tone of her voice. She sounded frightened. Just when I thought she was going to tell me she said someone was at the front door and rang off.”

“That doesn’t sound too bad,” James countered, surprised the call had made her cry. Maybe it was the preggers hormones, he thought. She had been more than a little sensitive since her sum of the parts became greater than one.

“Something just felt wrong,” she continued. “I can’t put my finger on it. I thought I heard a siren before the line went dead.” She hugged herself, as if picturing the worst possible scenario. Normally James would say gentle words, trying to dispel fear, but right now he was wound tight as a spring himself, so he was of no use to her. At least she had no idea about the Things outside.

“I would suggest we go down there, sort this out, but I don’t know how easy it would be to get to your mum’s just now.”

“What do you mean? You’re avoiding answering me.”

“Something is very wrong outside, I think we ought to stay put for now, it will be safer.”

“Tell me,” she insisted.

James sighed. Where to start? At the beginning, wherever that was.

“You know those creepy druggies that have been taking that zombie drug lately? Well, they aren’t.”

“Aren’t what?”

“Aren’t druggies. They are normal people.”

“Okay.” She sounded disbelieving.

“You,” he emphasised, “haven’t been up close and personal with them. I have. They have some sort of infection that seems to be highly contagious; you can get it simply by touching a person’s skin.”

Now he had Claire’s attention.

“Don’t worry, I haven’t touched them myself, but poor old Robby did. It affected him in seconds. One moment he was normal, the next he was just standing there, the blood drained from his face. He was frozen in place, just like the druggies you and I thought they were. Except, well, I don’t know. They just seemed to stand there, reminded me of mimes, street artists, you know those guys who spray paint themselves with metallic paint and pretend to be bronze statues.”

Claire nodded slightly. Good, he thought, she was listening.

“Anyway, George and I decided to get out of the Mall and I decided to come home. We’ve locked it up, so maybe we can go back there if we have to leave here for whatever reason. At least it’s secure.”

He paused before coming to the gross bit.

“That’s not the worst of it,” he added, deciding she needed to know the facts.

He looked into her eyes, the panda look making her appear vulnerable, almost like a little girl. Telling her about George would change her life forever, especially if her mum had shared his fate.

“Have you looked outside yet?” he asked, gently working up to it.

“Earlier, yes.” She sounded a little exasperated. “I saw loads of those druggie zombies standing around in the street. Are you telling me they were all infected?”

“Yes, but they seem to have moved off. That’s new to me; I didn’t think they could move.”

They’d been gone when he arrived home. There had only been a couple on the street. Could they really move? If so, were they cured, or was something else happening.

“George was with me when we set off from the Mall. He was going to come here; he has no-one else local he can be with.”

“Yes,” Claire began, her trepidation obvious.

“We made it all the way to this street when it happened,” James begun. He related the complete story, leaving nothing out. Claire’s face had drained of blood, her mouth ajar in shock.

Looking over her shoulder through the kitchen window and into their neat little garden James’ face went white as a sheet, his jaw slack.

Claire turned around and let out a shriek of terror.

 

Copyright © 2018 David Kingsley Roberts

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