Okay, it starts like this: a girl of about 25 is driving an old Honda Civic down the street in Varsity, which is a dead-end satellite town full of tall trees, white wooden houses and just a few zombies.
This girl is very beautiful but right now she’s not trying too hard because she’s got other things on her mind. So her hair is dark and straight, but it’s also messed up. Her face is china-white and round, but it’s smeared by tears and some dried blood. Her figure, if you could get a good look at it, is average height but athletic… it doesn’t look good hunched over the wheel of the Honda, clinging to it like the passenger of a sunken ship clings to a piece of driftwood as they swim through the ocean to some unseen island.
She checks on her passenger. No change there: he still looks like Carrie with a beard. His face is coated with half-dried blood. The top of his head looks like it’s peeling off. Actually it is peeling off. This is Caleb. He’s 32. He’s her boyfriend, and he’s been bitten.
He is staring straight ahead. A quick glance makes Tamara nervous. At any time, he might start turning. She doesn’t know enough about the infection. She only knows that she’s got to get him to a doctor.
“How are you, honey?”
“Still alive, I think,” he says with a determined smile. Then he grimaces and turns away. He’s in pain.
“That’s good to know,” she says. But it’s not good, not good at all. She’s swallowing tears because if he’s infected, she doesn’t know if there’s any cure.
She runs through a list of symptoms in her mind. When they saw the government warnings on TV, Tamara didn’t brush it off like some people might. Good reasoning told her then that to be safe, she should give complete attention to what the doctors were saying.
They said: “Watch out for the following symptoms in your friends, relatives and especially young ones. Fever or nausea. Diarrhea or vomiting. Severe visual hallucinations. Be especially wary of the following symptoms: a sensation of crawling on the skin, a sensation of unusual warmth in the belly, a sense of dislocation from arms or legs. These symptoms are particular signposts to the possibility of Epsilon Rex infection. If you suspect that a friend or relative is infected, seek medical attention at your nearest METMA Temporary Trauma Centre. If you think you might be infected, get a friend or relative to take you. Do not attempt to drive yourself.
“Above all: if you have been in direct contact with an infected individual, seek help immediately.” Those words in particluar rang in Tamara’s mind. What constitutes direct contact? A Wreck jumping up and biting into your skull? Pretty much.
When he got bitten, the others at the school ordered her in no uncertain terms to get him to a doctor. The nearest METMA centre was fifteen miles away, in Rounlin. She made a snap decision to go to the medical centre in Varsity first. Maybe a massive shot of antibiotics would do the trick, to stop it setting in… and what was a Temporary Trauma Centre anyway? There had been no such thing before a few weeks ago. What was METMA? Microbiological Emergency something Management the fuck.
The whole thing made her angry. She takes a deep breath. Partly, at least, her frustration comes from not knowing enough. Not knowing whether she’s doing is the right thing. She feels that they were walking a knife edge. If she fucks up just a little bit, it might make the difference between life and worse-than-death.
If Caleb is infected, he could die very quickly. She doesn’t want to lose him. She’s in love with that man. He’s a big man and strong, but he’s never used his strength against her or anyone. Still, she can feel the potential for fear creeping up on her. The Infected die. The dead turn into Wrecks. And Wrecks are a nightmare. Tamara would prefer to avoid the love of her life becoming her nightmare.