Authors: David K. Roberts
Tags: #Zombie Apocalypse
The Common Cold: A Zombie Chronicle
Book 2 of “The Common Cold: A Zombie
Written By David K Roberts
Copyright © 2013 David Kingsley Roberts
All rights reserved. No part of this
publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system,
or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical,
photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of
the author. Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this
publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.
This book is a work of fiction.
Names, characters, businesses, organisations, places, events, and incidents
either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is
Table of Contents:
“Goddam. Look down there,” exclaimed Captain Mike Simms as
he hovered his helicopter a thousand feet over Centennial Peaks Hospital in the
north-west of Denver, his job to keep the medevac Blackhawk on station ready to
respond to emergency calls. That morning he had been woken from a deep sleep by
an unexpected phone call from his superiors announcing an emergency alert, and
ordered to get his ass into the air ASAP; it had ruined his first sleep-in
since last he could remember. Now it was mid-afternoon and he and his crew were
exhausted; they’d never flown so many sick people from the various pickup
points to the few remaining local hospitals that still had available beds or
gurneys; yet still they were unsure what the mysterious illness was or what had
caused it. Of course the top brass at HQ were being unusually - not - closed-mouth
about it; what a fucking surprise, he grumbled to himself. All he knew was that
‘it’ was affecting people in peculiar ways; the patients he had been
transporting all morning consisted of both members of the public and the
military, and all had shown symptoms ranging from febrile to catatonic to downright
aggressive. None of it made any sense at all.
In addition to those suffering from unusual symptoms he had
also carried a number of injured people who appeared to be suffering serious
bite wounds; they weren’t any easier to explain away either, especially as they
weren’t even animal bites. People, bizarre as it sounded, were biting people. Mike
had heard about some weird drug that turned users into cannibals, literally ripping
chunks out of a person and eating the bloody flesh. Some bastard drug pusher
was in for a stiff sentence when he or she was apprehended. What appeared to be
developing down there was a perfect storm, a complete cluster-fuck. He loved
that expression, it said so much with so few words. Thanks, Clint.
When he’d arrived at the airfield he was surprised to find that
all of his regular flight crew were off sick, an occurrence unusual in itself. His
own head felt like someone was working a jack-hammer on the inside of his
forehead and he had been toying with the idea of crying off until he realised
that the lack of available flight crew made such a decision impossible, so he
would just have to suck it up instead.
As it turned out the terrible pain had only lasted the first
three long hours of his shift; now it was easing off a little. Must be one hell
of a cold virus, he thought. The guys he was flying with didn’t appear to be in
much better shape either, so they all took solace in the fact that they were suffering
together for the common good. They’d had to drop off the medic who’d made up
the fifth member of his crew; he’d passed out and was convulsing. Happily for
him they had just dropped off a couple of patients at the hospital and had been
able to leave him there in the staff’s capable hands, although they didn’t look
best pleased at receiving yet another patient. At least it hadn’t started snowing;
that would just make things a whole load more miserable.
Mike’s chopper was now on the ground, the latest trauma case
having been delivered and he was awaiting permission to take to the sky again
in search of more. So far today they had been able to land and pick up the
injured with little concern for their own well-being. The last three cycles had
seen them land in a fenced-in yard out the back of this particular hospital,
the last medical centre with any available beds in the north-west of Denver;
the other facilities closer in towards the town centre had been well and truly
overwhelmed, each one successively closing their doors to new admissions. God alone
knew what the authorities would do when this last one was full. They’d have to
start using the Mile High Stadium, no doubt.
At last taking to the air again, the helicopter hovered over
the hospital car park while Mike waited for the next rescue coordinates. From
their vantage point he and his crew, First Lieutenant Bill Mitchum, the
co-pilot, Warrant Officer (Air) Zoë Rivera and Sergeant Cliff Hinkley, watched
as people ran around wildly, ducking and weaving between cars, apparently in an
effort to evade capture as others chased and attacked. Where the hell were the
cops, he wondered, there wasn’t a flashing blue or red light to be seen anywhere.
As each person was brought down like a hapless gazelle by a pride of lions,
others would make their awkward way over to join in whatever it was they were
doing. From their height Mike couldn’t quite make out what that was exactly. It
world like a nature programme where
the lioness would bring down the prey and the lion would move in to take the
best bits, the rest of the pride gathering around waiting for their opportunity
to feast on the remains. Although that couldn’t possibly be right, could it? He
dismissed the notion as too absurd.
“Oh, Jesus!” a female voice came over the intercom as Zoë was
the first to realise what was really happening. “Mike, some of those bastards
are eating people.”
“Aw, come off it,” Bill interjected, his position in the
left hand seat not giving him the same unimpeded view as the Warrant Officer
who was peering down through the open starboard waist door.
“Look closer, dickhead!” she replied, irritably. Sometimes it
was easy for Bill to wind her up; not working with him very often, she had
never really had the chance to develop any sort of useful working relationship
with him. In fact she suspected he was a bit of a misogynist at heart; it was
clear he didn’t like the idea of women in the military, except maybe as a cook
Mike lowered the helicopter to about one hundred feet to get
a better look. A gasp came over the intercom at which Zoë smiled wryly. Bill
had finally seen the carnage unfolding below.
“Jesus!” he exclaimed. “Let’s get the fuck outa here, boss.”
Mike ignored him and peered more closely.
We can’t just leave these people to be ripped apart by these
crazies. Can you use the winch to help anyone below?”
“I can try,” Zoë replied without hesitation. “Just be ready
to ascend quickly when I signal.”
“Consider it done. Get harnessed up.”
Putting on her harness she secured the secondary passenger
loop to the line. She gave the thumbs up to the sergeant who reported back to
the cockpit. “We’re ready when you are, Captain.”
“Roger. I have identified a woman cornered over towards the
edge of the car park. You see her?”
“Affirmative, blue sweater and light grey pants.” The winch
was on the right hand side of the helicopter so she and the command pilot
shared pretty much the same view.
With small adjustments he descended to fifty feet and aligned
the helicopter over the desperate woman whose face blazed with a look of sheer
joy when she realised their intention. Zoë felt for her sidearm, touching it
like a talisman, before letting herself out into the downwash of the blades.
Slowly she descended. Looking around it appeared that there
was enough distance between her goal and the rabid crowd at the other side of
the car park for this to actually work; the retrieval should be easy. As her feet
touched the ground the desperate woman rushed over and without being bidden, grabbed
hold of the additional harness and put it over her head and wrapped her arms
around the straps – clearly she had watched too many rescue docudramas. Just as
well, as four of the faster crazies bound over to intercept them, not wanting
their prey to escape before they’d had a bite.
As one of the fast ones leapt upwards, its claw-like hands reaching
out to grab the woman’s foot, Zoë signalled furiously to be pulled up and out
of harm’s way. All three were raised off the ground like the links in a daisy
chain. The creature crawled up the terrified woman’s leg and bit viciously into
her calf muscle, causing her to scream in pain and terror.
Putting her legs around the panicking woman’s body to keep
her still, Zoë reached for her pistol and took careful aim at the demented
Two rounds later she saw blood and flesh puff out and
downwards as the bullets bit back and the beast tumbled towards the earth, by
this time a couple of hundred feet below.
Strong hands grabbed Zoë as Cliff hauled her and her hapless
survivor to safety.
“She’s been bitten. Tend to her, don’t worry about me, I’m
Cliff unclipped the harness and laid the woman down on a
spare stretcher, tearing the thin material of her pants to reveal the extent of
“It’s not good,” he shouted to Zoë, looking closely at the
wound. Grabbing some antiseptic wipes, he began to clean around the bite mark.
“At least there’s no arterial damage. I’ll give her a morphine shot to help
with the pain.”
dulcet tones came
over the intercom. “Guys, we’ve got another one for lifting out. Can you do
“Of course, give us a moment,” Cliff responded, strapping
the woman to the stretcher for her own safety.
He muttered something soothing to her and she ceased resisting,
finally laying back on the meagre pillow as the drug took hold and let her
drift off to rest.
Cliff set about winching Zoë down once more. This time her
target was a teenage lad, his face a mask of terror. Seeing the approaching
hostiles Zoë drew her pistol and fired at them, winging a couple and hitting
one dead centre of his chest, but it merely slowed their progress. At least one
of them should have been dead; they must be wearing some sort of body armour,
she suspected. The boy meanwhile crouched down out of sight behind a car anxiously
waiting for Zoë to touch down. This time, though, the fast cheetah-like
creatures were onto the game plan and were racing over to intercept them at the
landing point. As Zoë prepared to fire the boy leapt onto her before she hit
the ground, causing her to drop her sidearm.
“Damn it!” she exclaimed. “Hold on tight!” she shouted the
instruction over the roar of the helicopter’s engines as they leapt back into
the air, pulled aloft like a Marionette; thank God this pilot was certainly on
the ball, she thought gratefully, his time at Camp Leatherneck had clearly paid
One of the faster creatures grabbed hold of the boy’s boot, but
only managed to pull it free of his foot before falling back to the ground. After
a couple of minutes the winch brought the pair alongside the helicopter, at
which moment the boy grabbed for the door, desperate to get in and to safety.
A blinding white light filled Zoë’s vision and for a moment
she lost sight of the helicopter. In panic the boy struggled wildly, his eyes
closed tightly against the flash. With her own eyes closed she could feel him
thrashing around in a desperate attempt to save himself, and for a moment all
she could do was to hold onto him tightly and prevent him from falling to his
death. As the light struck the helicopter lurched sideways as the pilot
flinched in shock; the sudden movement intensified the boy’s efforts to escape
his precarious situation.
Eventually things stabilised and the two of them managed to
get their feet onto the floor of the cabin. With relief she turned to Cliff and
called out to him. “What the fuck was that?”
Before anyone had a chance to reply the blast wave hit the
aircraft hurling the pair back outside. The boy slipped from Zoë’s grasp and for
a moment he appeared suspended in mid-air as the helicopter began to fall with
him. The aircraft tilted dramatically and for the fleetest moment it looked
like he might crash back into the cabin and to safety but instead he appeared
to rise towards the blades. Zoë cried out and tried to grab him. Panic briefly registered
on his face before it abruptly disappeared in a spray of blood, bone and brain
as he connected with the blades. Zoë shrieked in horror as she was coated in sticky
red blood and felt small pieces of bone pepper her face and flying suit. As the
earthwards the tenacious sergeant
finally managed to pull her to safety inside the helicopter.
They held on for dear life as the pilots fought to bring the
machine back under control. With barely fifty feet to spare the aircraft
finally settled into a hover. Another second’s descent and they would have crashed
into the tarmac.
Over the next few milliseconds Zoë’s mind replayed the
struggle to save the boy and the inevitability of his pendulum swing into the
arc of the blades. The violence of his sudden demise made everything seem
unreal, like watching a movie.
Their sudden halt, so close to oblivion, at the hands of the
desperate pilots threw Zoë towards the woman she had saved, and she could only
watch, fascinated, as the bared teeth got bigger and bigger until she thought
down the eager, waiting throat.
Suddenly her progress was halted. The winch harness, still securing her flailing
body, brought her up short of final extinction. Sergeant Hinkley caught her
before she disappeared out the waist door again, possibly succumbing to the
same fate as the boy.
Sitting with her head in her hands, she was oblivious to
everything as Hinkley plugged her intercom back in and spoke softly to her
while trying to wipe some of the gore from her face.
“Zoë, you okay?” His hand was on her knee, squeezing gently.
Slowly her wits gathered and she sat up, looking around, seeing blood on the
tissues with which he had wiped her face.
“What the fuck just happened?” she asked, her brain still a
mess of jumbled images.
“I think something just got nuked. If I hadn’t been using my
sun visor, I think I’d have been blinded. As it is I think Bill will probably
have retinal burns. He was looking straight at it when it went off.”