It all happened so quickly.
Two weeks ago they were both humble teachers in a quiet little school. The first stories were strange, because nobody knew what was causing it and it looked like the symptoms of some crazy drug. A video shot from a helicopter showed cops shooting two men as they seemed to wrestle or rape someone in the street. The strange part was when they were shot, they didn’t stop.
Most early stories came from further north, which prompted a few “experts” to say that it had thawed from the Arctic ice. Rumours spread: a biological mishap. The army were on it. Some village up north had been quarantined and carpet-bombed, anyone who remained alive was massacred. It was just gossip. Tamara and Caleb chose to disbelieve it.
At first it was all about how the government had it under control. METMA was there to deal with this kind of thing. But Christ, it was spreading. And so fast. The videos popped up and the rumours accellerated. Some guy had turned up at a hospital, insane, pleading for them to pump his stomach. He was covered in some sort of mucus. Then he went ballistic, trying to bite people. He couldn’t be sedated. Literally. No drug in any dosage could stop him. People were killed.
Finally he was strapped down, making noises like a horse apparently. But then the people he’d hurt got some kind of infection…
Rumours. It kills in a day. It turns you into a lunatic cannibal. It’s a government-enhanced form of rabies that escaped some facility in Nevada. You have to drink blood to survive. An old lady in some town was ripped in half by two of them. Sometimes they spontaneously combust or explode. Only water can harm them. Only fire can harm them. They’re dead but alive.
It got to Varsity two days ago. It hadn’t taken over the but small town was in lockdown. Everyone was quarantined in their homes. They had been told to keep low and stay quiet, especially if any Wrecks appeared on the lawn. Those who succumbed to the disease were wandering around and the sight of them would chill your soul. A real walking corpse, looking around for victims as it shuffled along the street.
When one of them appeared at the school, there was general chaos: screaming youngsters and teachers acting like shepherds on acid, sweating and wide-eyed as they waved to their little flock and got them into boxes and locked the doors.
They tried to stay low and quiet, but you can’t keep thirty kids from moving when some bloodstained maniac walks by right outside. They started pounding in the windows. The kids panicked. The windows caved. It was mayhem. Screaming and scrambling, desks falling over, glass shattering.
And Caleb, dear Caleb in the middle of it howling like something from a war movie as he split open some stranger’s head with a spade. He would have been fine, except that when he came into the room one of the kids was on the ground with a Wreck on top of him, tearing at his throat. Caleb’s protective instinct drove him mad. He went straight for it without seeing the second one. Tam couldn’t call to him loud enough over the cries of the kids.
The thing behind him grabbed his shoulders. He reared back and its open mouth latched onto the top of his head. It bit straight through with horrific strength and his scalp lifted off. It was just like peeling an orange. He had shouldered it off in an instant and spread its brain on the classroom floor. The screaming intensified. The first one was still moving. Caleb went at it like a psycho. Those kids, the ones who lived, would never be the same. When the dust a settled a ten-year-old was dead and Caleb needed immediate medical attention.
Tamara sighed. She was already wondering if there was something she could have done better. Back at the school, they were down two adults while a hundred hysterical children remained in quarantine with no answers and no sign of respite. It was like a fucking hostage situation without the terrorists. Mister Septo could hardly wield a shovel as well as Caleb — he was over sixty and half the size. All the rest of the teachers were women except Johan and he didn’t seem to be handling things well when she and Caleb were leaving. Septo had just proposed burning or dismembering the body of the boy.