Authors: P. Mark DeBryan
By P. Mark DeBryan
A Novel by P. Mark DeBryan
Copyright © 2015 P. Mark DeBryan
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in review, without permission in writing from the author. You may contact the author at
Cover by: Justin McCormick
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.
This book is dedicated to
my mother. She gave me a love of reading that has taken me on many adventures.
Welcome to my debut novel. For those of you who have come to this story after reading “In for a Dollar In for a Dime” you will want to start at Chapter 2, as the first chapter is what you just finished reading.
Author John O’Brien reached out to his fan base a while back and asked for submissions of short stories set in his
A New World
series. He picked four of the stories to publish with several of his own in
. Much to my surprise and excitement, my short story was one of those he selected. I had the pleasure of meeting John in Seattle, and he has permitted me to expand on that short story to create the novel you are about to read. Some minor changes were made to the short story “In for a Dollar-In for a Dime” to accommodate the full-length novel
. I would like to thank John for his mentorship and friendship, both of which mean more to me than he can ever know.
I wrote this book almost a year ago and have been working with my editor Sara Jones and many beta readers to polish it into the great American novel. Alas, you may find an error somewhere in it and I take full responsibility for that.
One other thing I would like to mention. Some of my beta readers pointed out that there are a lot of characters in this book. It is due to the fact that it is about a large extended family. I hope you can just roll with knowing that they were all examined and found to be necessary to the story. Enjoy, and please visit my website and look me up on Facebook.
The screaming finally stopped, but that didn’t make me feel any better about being jammed into a stinky janitorial closet. I continued to listen to those damn things banging around out in the passenger cabin, whatever they were. It seemed like the power to the ferry had been cut off and we were drifting—there was no vibration from the engines, none of the hum associated with being underway. It was the last ferry of the night, and as such, was nearly empty. There had been about ten or fifteen people in the seating area and snack bar when the crewman went nuts.
My name is Ryan Brant, and I’ve seen some violence in my fifty-four years, but nothing like what happened as I stepped off the stairs into the large passenger area. On the late-night rides, the lights are turned off in some sections to afford the luxury of semi-darkness to those who want to nap. At first, squinting through the dimmed lighting, I saw what I thought was just a fistfight and moved in to break it up. I am a big guy: 6´2˝, 290 pounds, and most people respect my size. Even at my age, the shenanigans stop when I make my presence known. I grabbed the guy on top by the back of his coveralls and pulled. He wasn’t that big, and I figured he would thank me once I disentangled him from the fight. As I yanked on him, I was impressed that he didn’t immediately lose his grip on the other guy.
Amidst the struggle, I caught a glance of the other guy and saw it wasn’t a guy at all; it was a woman, albeit a rather large woman. My anger rose and I put my weight into pulling this punk off her. All of a sudden, there was blood—lots of blood. I quickly looked for the source.
Did he have a knife?
For a split second, I heard my wife’s voice in my head. “
You had to make it your business, didn’t you? Couldn’t just turn around and go back to your car?”
My next thought was,
I’m too old for this shit.
I let go of the kid and took a step back to figure out the best course of action. Looking for his weapon and getting my bearings at the same time, I heard a scream from the dark corner to my left. Returning my attention to the melee before me, I almost lost my cookies. The kid was now gnawing on her. Her screams of terror and pain were the worst I’ve ever heard. He wasn’t just biting her—he was eating her!
Something deep in my mind clicked.
This is off-the-charts weird. This is not something you can deal with. Get to a safe place, hide, and reevaluate.
The only place I could see handy was the janitor’s closet.
I hadn’t been to the Pacific Northwest since Mom passed away in 2010. I was born in Everett, just north of Seattle… ten pounds two ounces, blue eyes, and a head full of blond hair that would eventually turn brownish. I have always been big boned, but that isn’t a bad thing. When I was just a year old, my parents packed up the seven of us kids and moved to central California. Every summer of my childhood, we would all pile into the station wagon and take a vacation back to our old homestead on Whidbey Island in Langley. I’d always considered it home. Even after I left my parents’ house at seventeen to join the Coast Guard, I would head back to the northwest to see the homestead and visit with family that had either gone back or never left. My dad died in the early 80s, and Mom ultimately moved from California to eastern Washington to live next to my sister Meg. From that time until my mom passed, I flew from West Virginia, where I now live, to Seattle to visit everyone living on the coast before heading over the Cascades to visit my mom and sister.
Our big family had spread out all across the country since then. We hadn’t been together as a group since the reunion we had on Whidbey back in 1996. We have an e-mail group that we all use to keep in touch with each other. My brother, Max, suggested it was time for us to meet up again before we started dying off. I am the youngest of the seven. My oldest sister, Barb, is sixteen years older, so the dying off thing was a real possibility, and, I suppose, inevitable. I’d gone to visit her last year in San Diego, but hadn’t seen any of the others for some time.
Max is my next-older brother who tormented me endlessly throughout childhood. I, of course, was a perfect angel and in no way deserved such treatment. We have since become much closer, and he’d worked hard at making up for being my nemesis in those early years. He was generous to a fault and actually paid the plane fare for my kids and me to go to the reunion in ’96. My son was only seven then, my daughter five. The wife does not like big crowds, especially big crowds of my relatives, so she didn’t go with us on that trip.
My kids are out of the house now, on their own and all grown up, so I was flying solo this time. A month before I left West Virginia, a flu virus broke out in South Africa. I kept an eye on it in the news, and as it spread, I started to wonder if I would end up having to cancel my trip. Three weeks before I was scheduled to fly out, the flu spread to Europe and the States. The government issued travel warnings and ordered the CDC to develop a vaccine. They were calling it
The South African Flu,
and although I was attentive, I wasn’t overly concerned. There had been so many pandemic scares in the last few years that turned out to be nothing. The Hong Kong flu, the avian flu, and the swine flu had all made their way to the US and never amounted to much. I decided I wasn’t going to call off my trip over it.
The day before I left, my brother called and said that some of the family decided not to come because of the flu scare. He was disappointed and somewhat pissed! He’d already paid for the house we would be staying in, and now he would be stuck with the entire bill. I told him not to sweat it. I would still be coming, and he and I would have a great time. I also assured him that I would cover at least half the cost of the house.
“I don’t care about the money,” he said, but the offer seemed to mollify him to a degree. “I’ll see you there. Call me if anything comes up.”
His flight was scheduled to arrive earlier than mine, so I told him we would meet at the rental house. There was no point in him sitting around the airport all day waiting for me to arrive.
As I made a break for the closet, I heard more screams coming from the other side of the ferry, issuing from what used to be a man, but was now a meal. Draped over his body was a woman, covered in his blood with a hateful look in her eyes, shoving handfuls of the man’s intestines into her mouth. She didn’t seem to notice me and I quickly darted into the closet. Now, sitting in the dark, I could hear what sounded like loud panting, a few withering moans, and one or two god-awful shrieks. I checked my cell phone for bars.
I berated myself silently. I never took it out of airplane mode! I reset it to active mode, cussing myself the entire time. I always checked my phone.
How could I have gone hours without turning it back on?
It began to search for a signal.
Damn it! No service!
I wasn’t going to be able to call the wife and calmly ask her what the hell was going on.
I checked to see if I could connect to the Wi-Fi that was listed on the printout when I purchased my ticket. My phone saw the network SID, but it was asking for a password. I dug around for the printout, finally locating it in my cargo pants’ lower front pocket. I turned my phone around and used the screen as a light to look for the password.
No, seriously, that was the password: “BINGO24,” all caps. I joined the network and waited to see what kind of signal I would get. It came up as an “excellent” connection, but the speed depended on what kind of bandwidth the system supported. I opened up my browser and I headed to AOL. AOL was my e-mail provider. I've had it since the beginning of the World Wide Web, back when you still had to pay for your e-mail and log on with a 56K landline modem. It usually had pretty good news feeds. I still had not put it together that my current dilemma was related to the South African flu.
I’d flown into SeaTac around ten o’clock that evening, and while the airport didn’t seem busy, there were a lot of guys in desert camo carrying M4 carbines around. Two people in lab coats and surgical masks stopped everyone as we got off the plane and asked where we had originated our travel. The couple in front of me said they had come from New York and were swiftly escorted by the gentlemen with the guns to another area to complete a “quick” health check.
I answered honestly that I’d come from West Virginia, had a layover in Dallas, and had no contact with anyone showing symptoms of the flu. They stared me down and asked why I was wearing a surgical mask and latex gloves. I was tempted to ask them why
were, but I told them I heard there was a bad flu bug going ’round and didn’t want to chance catching it while traveling. They asked me a few more questions and then directed me to the baggage claim area. The thing was, I wasn’t going to the baggage claim area. It was going to be a short trip and I only had my carry-on bag and my laptop in a backpack.
I’d considered checking a bag for one reason only. I could have brought my Smith & Wesson 9mm handgun. I have a conceal carry permit and almost always carried, but it was a hassle to check in at the counter with the weapon and go through the pat down at security, which came without fail because the girl at the front made the secret notation on your ticket that you had checked a firearm. So, for this trip, I decided not to carry my weapon. It would only enrage the liberals in my family anyhow, and besides, what could possibly happen… right?
I headed down the hall, then ducked out the terminal doors instead of continuing to the baggage claim area. I noticed there were two guardsmen, or DHS guys, or whatever they were, catching a smoke south of the exit, so I made a quick left toward the north part of the parking garage. I’d pre-booked my rental car, so I went straight to the garage, found the Enterprise self-check-in kiosk, swiped my credit card, signed the electronic form, and hit next. It hummed and buzzed and kicked out my keys and contract with the space number listed at the top. I walked down the line of cars and found my vehicle. My brother, Max, had no doubt rented a Corvette, Hummer, or something exotic. I, on the other hand, didn’t care what they gave me. I ended up with a Nissan Altima, a nice little car that I could fit into without too much discomfort. I opened the trunk and threw my bags in. Just then, there was a scream, but it didn’t sound human. It sounded more like a wounded animal.
I looked around.
Well, what the hell? I don’t have my piece and I am kind of in a hurry.
I jumped into the car and headed for the exit, feeling only slightly guilty for not checking out a situation where I may have helped. There was heavy security of some kind present, however, so I filed the guilt away. I continued toward the booth where normally there was someone waiting to examine the rental agreement and check out the car, but no one was in sight. The booth light was on and I heard music playing, but nobody was home. I was already late and in danger of missing the ferry to Whidbey. I threw the car into park, opened my door, and stepped up to the booth. Reaching in, I hit the lift gate button. I got back into the car and tore out of there like a real criminal. All I had to do then was catch the last ferry to the island. I checked the time. I was okay; I could still make it. I set the car’s GPS to the Mukilteo ferry terminal and merged onto the interstate.
I was feeling a bit claustrophobic in the closet. I took some deep breaths and concentrated on my iPhone. AOL had some deal with a news service, and that’s where the first news link sent me. The headline read “South African Flu—A Full-Blown Pandemic.” I scrolled to the body of the text and read on:
Reports today out of every major city in the US paint a grim picture. New York closed all transportation hubs at eight p.m. and the governor called the National Guard for help in quelling the spread of the infection. Los Angeles is suffering gridlock. The California Highway Patrol has been unable to open major freeways into or out of the city. Currently, the only method of travel is the surface streets. The governor of California has called for a dusk-to-dawn curfew.
Similar reports are coming in from all over the country. There are also reports of rioting, and that some of those infected with the South African Flu are becoming extremely violent and attacking anyone they see. If you have a family member with symptoms of the flu, monitor them closely and isolate them, or restrain them, in an effort to protect them and yourselves.
Whenever I travel, I usually tune out the rest of the world and focus on my destination and whatever book I am currently reading.
How could the situation have deteriorated so quickly?
I opened my e-mail, hoping to see something from my wife or kids. There was nothing from them; however, there was a message from Max. I opened it:
Hey Bro, the shit has hit the fan! I tried calling and texting you but you must still be in the air. Got my rental car and went back into the terminal to wait for Lisa. She wanted to surprise you, so I didn’t tell you she was coming. She texted me when she landed and told me to pick her up outside the baggage claim. She called a few minutes later in a panic saying that the military was holding them in the baggage claim area and wouldn’t let them leave! I beat feet to the loading zone and there were several troop carriers parked there, so I kept going and turned into the long-term parking lot. I stayed on the phone with her and told her to hold it together and that I would get her out of there. I am heading in now. I’ll let you know more later! Max