What struck Sam the most about the bloodied and peeling bodies of the infected as they stumbled and piled in to her living room was the smell.
Putrid. Rotten flesh.
This was what Joey had transformed to. Her husband was brave enough to do the right thing.
For the first time, she felt ashamed of herself.
Such a coward.
She knew she would have kept her son tied to that bed, and attempt to act as if nothing had changed.
Joe recognized that right off.
Was she that pathetic of a human being?
No, just a grieving, idealistic mother.
“Sam!” Meg’s hysterical voice invaded her thoughts.
Sam quickly became aware of the older woman yanking at her shirt as she tried to get her to the back external door, but the snarling horde quickly approached them.
The oval-glass door suddenly flew opened and a man dressed in tan military fatigue rushed inside. With the automatic rifle in hand, he sprayed bullets through the pack as bodies scattered in all directions towards the front door.
“There’s a vehicle waiting.” He huffed. “Run!”
This time, Sam didn’t hesitate as she ran side by side with Meg through her backyard. In the center of it stood the wooden playground that Joe finished building a few weeks ago. Joey would have played happily on it come this Spring.
Sam forced herself to look away and focused on not slipping in the mud-snow slush. A military Humvee just yards away, its’ side door ajar.
Meg reached it first as she swung the door opened and scampered inside. Sam followed suit, and slammed the door shut.
“Where is he?” Meg whimpered as she pressed her face against the tinted glass.
Sam peered out of the nearest side window. “I don’t see him.”
The soldier dashed through the doorway of the house and sprinted across the yard, and seconds later, was in the driver’s seat and they were racing down the road.
Sam stared out of her window and watched as her house quickly disappeared from sight.
Will she ever see it again?
Deep down, Sam already knew the answer.
Sam opened her eyes and looked around.
Where was she?
Then she noticed she sat in the back seat of some kind of military vehicle. Meg was in the front with the soldier. They conversed in low voices.
Sam glanced out of the shaded glass and saw the black, starless sky. Everything covered in darkness.
The usual identifiable landmarks now in complete obscurity.
She must have fallen asleep.
“Hello? Looks who’s finally awake.” Meg’s voice cut through the shadows in the vehicle.
“Um, how long was I asleep?” Sam felt embarrassed
“Nearly an hour.”
“Oh.” She glanced back out of the window. “Where are we?”
“Approaching the town of Jay.” The man answered.
Jay? She never heard of that town before.
“We left the city, Sam.” As if Meg had sensed her confusion. “This young man is taking us to–what’s it called again, dearie?”
“Ebenezer Mountain Inn.” He replied.
Sam cocked her head to one side. “What’s there?”
“It’s a designated shelter.” The soldier said.
“And I’m told that they’ll have hot showers and food. Goodness, I sure need some of them both!” Meg breathed deeply. “Bless my bad manners, Sam. This is my youngest brother, Lance. Er, excuse me again, Lieutenant Lance Shirley.”
“Sis.” Lance replied.
“Don’t sis me!” Meg’s tone rose a pitch. “With our sister in quarantine who knows where now, and older brother, Jeff, still overseas, I deserve to be able to fuss over you if I want!”
“Of course.” Was all he said.
Sam wanted to ignore their bantering but that was difficult since they shared the same small space. She focused on the variety of shadowy forms out of the window. They must be traveling through the town of Jay now. No power here either.
Was the power out everywhere?
She must have said that out loud because Lieutenant Lance Shirley responded with an answer, “Not enough uninfected people to run the power grids. Those with generators are the fortunate ones…for now.”
Perhaps he would have other answers as well.
“Do we know what caused this, ah, outbreak?”
“Nothing definitive, ma’am.” He said. “There are theories though that it may have originated from Greenland.”
From Greenland of all places?
“Really? And not China or India?”
“It’s Sam, not ma’am, please.”
“Sorry, didn’t mean any disrespect…Sam.” He spoke slowly.
“Do I see lights up ahead?” Meg barged in.
Sam looked forward, past the pair in the front, and sure enough high up a hill lights shone through multiple windows.
Like a beacon in a world gone mad.
Lance turned off the highway and the Humvee rattled over the graveled driveway which snaked up the small mountain. They paused before the tree-height, iron-clad barred-fence to wait for the guardsman to open the gate and allow them to pass through.
The guardsman was dressed like Lance except he wore a tan camouflaged helmet. He carefully approached Lance’s opened window, and gave a nod when he identified who the driver was.
“Corporal. How’s it going?” Lance asked.
“Not good. The Colonel will update you once you arrive.”
With that, the Corporal waved them on.