Authors: Sonny Collins
BEWARE THE NIGHT
(a Prairie Moon Novelette)
[email protected] by Sonny Collins
All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publishers or author, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review to be printed in a newspaper, magazine or journal.
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
From the short story collection THE BIG AND SMALL OF US ALL, a Prairie Moon Publication.
Dedicated to KWA
(the Kansas Writers Association)
George was just getting out of bed when the sirens went off. He grabbed a pair of jeans and a shirt from the floor and quickly dressed before heading into the living room. His parents were sitting motionless in front of the television.
“What’s happening? A tornado?”
His father motioned for him to hush. He moved around so he could see what they were watching. The news reports were like something out of a horror movie. A plague cloud was moving swiftly across the country. Millions of people were already dead with the death toll expected to rise much higher. Only about ten percent of the population seemed to be unaffected by this new virus that was killing people within mere minutes of acquiring it.
“We have to get out of here.” His father stammered.
“But where would we go?” George asked. “We can’t outrun a virus.”
His father turned to him with a look of sheer fear upon his face. “You missed the first part of this newscast. The dead are not staying dead. Whatever this disease is, it is turning people into zombies.”
“Don’t be crazy,” George smirked. “There are no such things as zombies. You sound more like my nerdy friends from school than a reasonable adult.”
His mother pointed to the screen. There were scenes of mass destruction as fallen bodies began to rise and attack healthy looking people. But George realized all of this was happening in the dark of night. It was only 7:30 in the morning.
“None of this is real. Don’t you get it, that is a scene from some movie or something. That can not be happening right now because it’s at night.”
“This all started last night,” his father explained. “The footage we are seeing was filmed then. The newscasters have now lost all contact with everyone back east. This plague is heading our way. We need to find a place to be safe from the zombies.”
“This is all to surreal to believe.”
His father gave him a hug around the shoulders. “Our best bet is to go where there are less people. I think we should head up into the mountains. We’ll load the car with provisions and get out of here.”
“But what about my friends from school?”
“I’m sure their parents are gathering them up and figuring out what to do right now. Time is of the essence. We need to pack and leave.”
George knew his parents were right. He ran to his room to gather up his backpack and load it with some clothes. Then he headed for the kitchen to help his mother load some boxes of food. As they put everything into the car, the sirens suddenly went silent.
“Could that mean it’s over?” George wondered aloud.
“Or it’s already here,” his father whispered.
“We could get more stuff in the car if I ride my cycle,” George pointed out. “I can easily follow behind you.”
His father thought about it a moment and then agreed. They quickly loaded the car down with as much food and clothing as it would hold. Opening the garage door, they were met by chaos. Everyone on the street was packing their vehicles and running around in panic. George realized his family was going to be one of the first to get out of the neighborhood as his parents got in the car and backed out. He put on his helmet and followed closely behind.
They had barely reached the edge of town when the sirens once again blared out loudly, but this time instead of a steady noise, it beeped on and off. George wondered what that could mean as he pulled up beside his parents.
“Why is the siren sounding different than before?”
His mother just pointed at the sky to the east of them. A bluish cloud was billowing in front of a massive storm. It was like nothing they had ever seen before. And there was no way to outrun it. The wind blew with almost hurricane force, pushing George and his cycle over against the car. He closed his eyes as wind whipped all around him with such power that he could no longer hold up the bike. He crashed to the pavement as an awful smell saturated the air. Hardly able to breath, George covered his head and prayed the storm would pass swiftly.
Almost ten minutes went by before the wind storm let up. George slowly got to his feet, glancing around at all the damage done to the trees. Broken limbs hung everywhere. He then turned back to his parents. His dead parents.
A scream erupted from his lips as he frantically opened the door and pulled his mother’s lifeless body from the car. He glanced over at his father, who was slouched over the steering wheel, and knew there was no hope for either of them. They were gone.
Nancy was the only one from her family that had survived the plague which had crossed the country a few days before and all but wiped out a few members of mankind. She still didn’t know exactly what had transpired, but she did know there was much danger in sticking around with the dead. That was why she’d headed up into the mountains, making her way to Heart Lake, the place her family had always spent their summers. It was a place she could feel safe.
“Hey girl! Do you have any fishing rods at your place?” the young man asked, bringing her back to harsh reality.
“Yeah. There are a couple in the closet,” she answered. “And by the way. My name is Nancy.”
“I’m sorry. I couldn’t remember.”
“Your name is George, right?”
The boy smiled for the first time since she’d met him. They had both arrived at the lake a few days before, each laying claim to the tourist cabins their families used to rent. Nancy figured her and George were about the same age, but the two had been cautious of each other and barely spoken. She was starting to think they might do better working together instead of apart. Yet, there was something about him that seemed distant, introverted. She wasn’t quite sure how to handle his lack of conversation and people skills.
“Are you getting along okay, Nancy?” It was the first time he’d shown any concern for her well-being.
Nancy smiled. “Not bad. How about you?”
“I did notice a lack of food at my cabin. Thought it might be a good idea to go fishing. We could share what I catch if you know how to cook it.”
This really made Nancy grin. “So you only need me for my fishing poles and my cooking skills. No thought about becoming friends?”
George looked mortified. “I’m so sorry. I honestly didn’t mean it to sound like that. I’ve been trying to work up the courage all morning to come over here and talk to you. I wasn’t sure if you wanted company or not?”
Nancy stepped down from the porch, motioning for him to approach. “Let’s be realistic. There is a very good chance that you and me are the only two people within hundreds of miles of this place. It would make a lot more sense for us to be friends and work together to make things easier than to avoid one another and do everything apart. Agreed?”
George still looked a bit puzzled. “But we can still keep our own cabins, right?”
Nancy couldn’t help but roll her eyes. “I’m not asking you to move in with me, dude. I’m just talking about becoming friends and neighbors as long as we are both stuck here.”
He smiled again, seemingly relieved that she wasn’t invading his personal space. “We can do that. So, do you like to fish?”
Finally. I normal conversation. She decided to keep it going and see if he’d open up a bit. “By the way. Which school do you go to? I don’t remember seeing you at mine. I go to Valley View.”
“That’s where I’ll go next year.” She now knew he was a year behind her in school, which meant he was probably fifteen.
“I have a feeling neither of us will be returning to class any time soon. If we want an education now, we’ll have to learn on our own. Sort of like home-schooling.”
He grew a bit sullen again. “What’s the point if we’re the only people left in the world?”
She figured she’d best perk him up fast. “Don’t be silly. If you and me made it through, there has to be others that have done the same. We are survivors. And not to change the subject, but didn’t you want to do something normal? Like go fishing?”
There was the hint of a smile again. “Yeah. I’d really like to do something fun. And it is nice to have someone to talk to. I was starting to go stir crazy in my cabin last night.”
“Then let’s forget about all our worries and go fishing.” She invited him to follow her inside. “And luckily the former residents of this place left plenty of fishing gear. There is a whole box of lures in here.” She opened the closet to reveal a treasure trove of rod and reels.
He grabbed one of the poles. “If only my dad had ever taken me fishing.”
Nancy realized he was a novice. “Don’t worry about that. I’m an old hand at this. My folks used to bring me up here every summer and we would spend most of the evenings fishing. And you are still in luck. I also know how to cook.”
George was once again in a good mood. “I can hardly wait to catch something. I’ve always wanted to fish, but my folks were more into photography when we came up here. They liked to take lots of pictures of flowers and trees.”
“Nothing wrong with that. I’m surprised we never ran into each other before.”
“I was never very social with the kids around here. Most of the time I stayed in the cabin and played video games.”
“you don’t know what you missed out on. There was always a volleyball game or horseshoes being played. And the evening campfires were a blast.”
“I’d be scared to make a fire now. It might bring the zombies.”
Nancy had nothing to say to that.
As the next several weeks passed and flowers began to bloom, George realized it would soon be summer. It had always been the one season he looked forward to the most because it meant no school. He had never really fit in with the other kids his age. George preferred the solitude of his own room and a television set. That had all changed with the virus. There now was nothing to watch. And the girl who lived a few cabins away was all he could think of. Nancy had become his first crush. He hoped she felt the same about him as he did her.
“Hey, Nancy. Want to go for a canoe ride?” He asked, seeing her on the porch of the cabin.
She waved a friendly wave. “Why not? We can also check out those houses across the lake and see if they have any food.”
George grinned. She wasn’t just pretty, she was practical as well. Ever since they had become friends they had raided the surrounding cabins for supplies. A lot of canned goods had accumulated in the pantry from this endeavor. But they had never ventured far from their side of the lake. He wasn’t sure if it was a fear of getting caught in the dark or a lack of courage on both their parts about searching for other survivors. Either way, they had stayed put in their idyllic group of cabins called Camp Heart.
Nancy came running up to him. “Now that the days are getting longer we don’t have to worry so much about doing things.”
George wasn’t sure were this conversation was going. “I still don’t want to take any chances on getting caught outside after dark. You know the zombies only come out at night.”
Nancy smirked a bit. “We have yet to see or hear a single zombie. And we have been here for well over a month. I keep telling you that I don’t think they will find us here in the mountains. We are safe.”
“I don’t know, Nancy. There could be some on the other side of the lake.”
“That is why we go in the daytime. And if I remember right, there is also a small store over there as well. We could get all sorts of good food. Aren’t you tired of fish?” She did have a point.
“Okay. But we’ll need a bigger boat than a canoe if we plan to bring a bunch of stuff back across.”
“Now you’re talking. Let’s grab one of those speed boats from over at the marina. I’ll bet we can find some keys in the main office.”
“My parents would be so upset if they knew I was looting cabins and stealing boats,” George laughed.
Nancy had a gleam in her eyes. “You would have probably explained it away by saying a girl led you astray.”
“They would have liked you a lot.”
“Let’s not start dwelling on all the what ifs. Right now we have a job to do.”
“Okay.” George knew she was changing the subject again. Nancy always seemed to have a knack of knowing when he was starting to get depressed or feeling down. But it was hard not to remember that his family was gone. At least he still had Nancy.
The two of them quickly made their way down to the docks. It wasn’t hard breaking a window and climbing in to the main office. Just as Nancy had suggested, there was a row of keys hanging from the wall that even showed which slip each boat was in. They grabbed a set and went down to the dock. The boat they had keys for was a real beauty. It even had a full tank of gas.
Nancy snatched the keys from George’s hand as they got in. “I’ll drive. No offense, but I’m pretty certain that anyone who never went fishing probably never did a lot of boating either.”
George grinned shyly, knowing she was right. “I do have my own motorcycle.”
“Still not the same as driving a boat.”
They glided across the water as George sat back and listened to the hum of the engine, feeling the spray on his face. He closed his eyes and dreamed of normal. And this did seem so normal. He opened his eyes and watched Nancy as she steered the boat over the lake, with the wind blowing her long hair. She glanced at him and smiled. That warm, friendly smile. He was so falling in love with her.