Sal didn't think bout it much when the news reporter commented on the riots in New York City and around the globe. Riots seemed to be the norm these days. The bad thing was that the current riots were all violent, with police forces being completely overwhelmed. New York City had called out the National Guard to assist with the problem. She shook her head and wondered how bad things would get.
Turning off the TV, Sal decided to do something a little more productive. She had apples that needed picking and they wouldn't pick themselves. The day was warm for late September, so she opted to leave her coat inside. Looking at the trees, she realised she didn't have enough bushel baskets. She'd have to round up more.
As she placed her baskets in easy to reach locations for each tree, she noticed one of her neighbours walking by with her daughter, so she waved. The daughter was complaining about having to go to school.
"But Mommy, I don't feel good. I want to go home."
"You don't have a fever sweetie and no cough so you need to go to school. And yes, you have to take your test today. You studied for it."
Her mom had to take her hand and almost drag her along.
Sal felt sorry for the little girl. Going to school when you were sick was a real chore. Returning to her apples, she began to work up a sweat picking them and taking the baskets down into her basement. She'd be doing a lot of baking and canning. The neighbours would be happy. After taking the last basket down, Sal went to the kitchen and downed a big glass of water.
It was Tuesday. She smiled when she remembered that a new NCIS was on. She sat down with a bag of white cheddar popcorn and a Mike's Hard Lemonade just in time to watch the opening. Sal always enjoyed NCIS. She couldn't help but like Tony. He was totally the wrong man for her; Tim would be better. She sighed, some day she might find someone compatible enough to live with. But back to the show. They would be in for a challenge tonight. There was a dead man from the Ukraine along with a dead Navy officer.
Half way through the show, a special report interrupted the programming. It was the President. Sal couldn't believe her ears. He was instituting Martial Law. How could he do that? His announcement broke to various accounts of what was happening worldwide. At first she thought that they were just reporting on mass riots. Yet on closer inspection they weren't quite riots. Groups of people were attacking others, almost ripping them limb from limb. One segment showed police and National Guard completely overrun.
The reporter came back and it flipped over to an alert from the CDC. It was the director Tom, Freiden, MD.
"The following cities and their suburbs are under quarantine.
New York, Boston, Washington, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, Houston, Phoenix, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Seattle.
Occupants of these cities are to report to the closest FEMA camp which will be announced through your local Emergency Broadcast System. If you are not located in one of these cities, please remain in your homes. Only emergency service personnel and the military are allowed on the streets.
Avoid anyone who appears to be ill or who is exhibiting odd behaviour."
Sal thought that weird. She had never lived anywhere that had instituted martial law. Walton in the Catskills was fairly remote. Not as remote as some areas in the Adirondacks, but still. She thought it would be best to be ready to bug out if necessary. Sal was a competition shooter. Her specialty was .45 semi-auto. She was also good with a rifle and sporting clays with shotgun. Going to her gun safe first, she took out a colt .45. She loaded four clips and strapped on her holster. She wondered what else would be handy. Perhaps a high powered rifle. She picked out her .270 bolt action. It had a good scope. She put it in a case with five boxes of ammo then took the case and put it on the back seat of her Yukon in the garage. Going back upstairs she took her Remington 870 and put the deer barrel on it. It would be easier to wield with that barrel and would be more accurate with slugs. She took slugs, buckshot, and some number 6 shot as well.
She thought she could handle most problems with one of the three pieces. Going back out to the garage she put water, a pack tent, stove, rucksack, and sleeping bag in the back. Apples, canned goods, the Mountain House dehydrated food she had on hand would be handy too.
She went back into the house and looked out the kitchen window. A sheriff's vehicle was going down the road. No one else was out. Strange, as normally kids would be out playing. Sal grabbed her laptop and sat back down in front of the TV. Regular programming was back on so she decided to surf the net to see what she could find.
CNN and the BBC had video of the riots. Everything was taken from a distance so not much detail could be seen. Then she found a new report on MSNBC. Many of the major cities in Europe were panicked with most of them now burning. Another report showed video of a street preacher warning of the end times. She would have laughed if things weren't sounding so dire.
Locking the doors wasn't something done in a small town like Walton, but tonight she did. Things just seemed too strange. She took her shotgun and pistol upstairs with her. Changing into her pj's, she got ready for bed, having decided to read for a while. She wasn't ten pages into the book before she caught herself drifting off. With a big yawn she put the book down and turned off the light. It didn't take long to drift off to sleep.
Sal woke with a start. Reaching for her pistol as she awoke, she wondered what it was she had heard. She furtively got out of bed and went to the window. Peeking carefully out the curtains she listened. Gunfire. Here in Walton? That was not something that was at all normal.
She quickly dressed and went downstairs. She'd shower later. Checking the doors and windows everything appeared to be as she had left it the night before. A cooked breakfast would be nice, she thought, so she made herself some coffee, bacon and eggs. She made some toast and loaded the bacon and eggs onto it and ate it like a sandwich as she watched TV. The news was pretty much the same as the day before. More rioting, martial law established in the UK, France and Germany. Australia, Japan, and other areas in the Pacific had closed their borders. New Zealand had even sunk a ship trying to make port. All hands lost.
Sal wondered what the hell could really be going on.
When she was done eating she cleaned up quickly and went to her front door. She wondered if she should go out or not. The weather was so nice, and she didn't see anyone out so she decided she would chance it.
It was beautiful outside. But quiet. Way too quiet. She sat down on one of her porch chairs and watched the street. About ten minutes later she could hear a car. It was the Sheriff. He stopped in front of her house and got out. He walked only halfway across her yard and stopped.
"You shouldn't be out Sal."
"I'll be ok Jim. Don't like being cooped up. I heard gunfire earlier. What was up?"
"Had to put down some dogs. Rabies by the looks of it. But there was a whole pack of them. Queerest thing. Haven't had an outbreak in a long time. And then just single cases."
"Get them all?"
"Yeah, but not until Hank got bit. He's at the clinic now."
"Nah. Broke the skin though. Doc called in some meds for the rabies. He's being watched in the hospital."
"He should do fine then."
"Yep. Well, I should get going."
"Take care Jim, and I'll stay here at home."
Sal watched Jim get back in his cruiser and drive off. Staying at home did sound like a good idea. A little while later she decided to go back inside. She locked the door just in case and went back to her kitchen. She could start making apple sauce or pies, but she'd have to go to the store for a few things, so thought it best not to even get started on that.
She decided on watching the news again and turned on her TV. It was going to be a long day. The reports on the news networks seemed more dire than the day before. She channel hopped from station to station until she stopped on BBC America. The newscast was covering what looked like a battle on the north side of London. The military were shooting what looked like civilians.
"Turning now to David in Manchester we have a report on the conditions there. David? David? Yes, there he is. David, what are conditions in Manchester? Sidney, the condition has worsened since the report this morning. Like most major cities in the UK and on the continent, mass rioting is being met by military units. The police forces have been completely overrun and from what we are able to tell, police have been seen with the rioters. This is happening world-wide. How this will play out is anyone's guess. Wait!"
Sound cut off but the video feed was still there. Sal could tell the man was yelling out something and then people burst into the room and started attacking the reporting crew. The cameraman tried to record as much as possible but soon was overrun.
Sal was taken aback by the ferocity of the attack. They had such hate and rage in their eyes. And then the channel went dead. She switched to the next news channel that she could find. It was an American station.
"We will be going off the air shortly. The government is shutting down news feeds one by one. This isn't just rioting. It is something worse. The last report we had from the CDC said..."
Another channel dead. One by one the channels went out. Static. Just static. She was worried. What could be happening? And what would happen here. She had to find out what was going on. She grabbed her shotgun and went into the garage. Starting her Yukon, she decided she would head to the hospital. It felt like her garage door was taking forever to open. She pulled out quickly, pressing the button to re-close the door. It would only take a few minutes to get there. She drove quickly, above the speed limit, as no one was out on the roads. When she came to the bridge over the river, she could see a group of people on the middle of the bridge. It looked like they were beating someone laying on the ground with whatever they had in hand. They heard her engine and one yelled and pointed and they started running towards her. There were at least five of them. Like the ones she saw on TV, these seemed to be filled with rage. She recognised two of them. She slammed it into reverse and floored it, opening the distance between them. She stopped her vehicle in the middle of an intersection so she could see in all directions, opened the door, and stepped out with her shotgun. She loaded up buckshot and racked the slide, chambering a round. As the people ran towards her she put one more round in the magazine as she yelled out, "stop or I will shoot!"
They continued running forward in a pack. She aimed low at the one in the lead and pulled the trigger. He went down as she took his legs out from under him at maximum distance for the shotgun. She fired three more times knocking three more down. She threw the shotgun back in the truck and drew her pistol, taking the first one in the chest and the second in the head. The one she shot in the chest had staggered back but now started towards her again. She took careful aim and shot him again in the chest. On his left side. He staggered again, took two steps and then pitched over forward. The ones she had just shot in the legs were on their feet again and lumbering towards her. She couldn't believe they were still moving. She finished each of them with a shot to the head.
What the hell, she thought, as she reloaded her firearms. When she was ready she pressed on to the hospital. She pulled up at the ER and sat looking. She could see people inside but could not tell what they were doing and then someone burst out of the doors. It was the Sheriff. He had his service pistol out and when he saw Sal he waved her off. She rolled down her window and could hear him screaming, "Get away! Now!"
A group of people rushed out of the doors and took after him. He turned and emptied his pistol into the throng, dropping a few. But not enough. They caught him before he could reload and began ripping him apart.
Sal sat there mouth open. She didn't know what to do. When they finally saw her and started running in her direction she drove off as quickly as she could. She didn't know what to do and was in a panic. Suddenly, almost back to the house, she remembered that old man Caruthers had a short wave radio. She decided to go there first. She pulled into his drive as close to the house as she could. She grabbed her shotgun and ammo belt and ran up to his front door. She began pounding and yelling, "Mister Caruthers, let me in! Please let me in!"
She heard a voice from inside, "Who is it? I have a gun."
"It's Sally! Please let me in!"
She could hear him unlocking the door and it opened just a little. She could see he had some sort of firearm.
"It's me. Please let me in. Everything has gone to hell."
He opened the door and looked around before letting her inside. Locking the door he asked, "What in the blazes is going on?"
"I don't know but it's bad. I had to kill some people that tried to attack me. The Sheriff was killed at the hospital. I saw them ripping him apart."
The old man shook his head, "Guess it's the end times. Never thought Martha was right when she said that Jesus would come soon."
"I don't know about Jesus, but we're all going to need some major help soon. You still have the shortwave?"
"Yeah, I do."
"Fire it up. We need to find out what is going on."
The old man led her into a back room. It was full of electronics. He sat down and turned on a bunch of radio equipment. It didn't take long for him to contact someone. They were in New York City.
"What's going on out there?"
The man on the other end responded, "iI's bad. All we've been able to find out is that there is some airborne virus. Looks like it is incredibly virulent. A rabies variant. Takes at least two months to fully develop. Anyone infected transmits the disease for at least a month. No one seems to know where it came from, but it has spread worldwide. One source said it looks like one percent of the population is immune. At most. Of the ones that get it a few survive the virus. If you aren't immune, you become a raging maniac. Seems like the infected will ignore other fully infected but will attack anyone not in the rage. Heard something about pheromones or something. A few of us are holed up here at the top of a high-rise. We're waiting it out. The ones in the rage succumb in a couple of weeks."
"Damn," said Caruthers, "thanks for the info. And good luck. We're in the Catskills. Things aren't good here either."
The old man turned off his set, "This is bad. Wonder if we've got it"
If Sal felt worried before, she felt even worse now, "I don't know. No way to know."
"Well, let's get something to eat. Might as well hole up here. At least we're armed."
"Yeah. And it just isn't a head shot that will take them down. I killed at least one with a shot to the chest."
"Good. Not quite like the zombie shows."
The two went to his kitchen and started to cook. Then the power went out.
"Damn," he said, "Looks like we're eating cold food."
Sal didn't feel like eating. In fact the whole situation made her pretty angry. What the hell, she thought. I had a pretty good life. Was doing well on the shooting team I was on. Had a good income.
The more she thought the angrier she got. She thought she'd like to just beat someone, and then she stopped.
"What am I doing?" she muttered.
The old man looked at her and asked, "What do you mean?"
It was like she was watching herself from some place else. She drew her pistol and fired, killing him instantly.
She was so surprised she threw her pistol on the floor and stood up. She could feel herself screaming uncontrollably. But she couldn't stop herself. She wanted to kill.
Hurrying out the front door, she ran to the street. No one. NOT A SINGLE PERSON! She was livid. She tried to calm herself down but couldn't. Then she remembered. People at the hospital. She began to run again. She felt strong. Invincible. And so angry. It was their fault she was in this situation. She would show them!
She reached the bridge. A discarded baseball bat was there and she picked it up. Half way across the bridge she stopped. What little was left of her intellect forced her to stop. She could hear herself asking out loud, "What am I doing? What is happening to me? I can't. I just can't."
She walked to the rail. The water looked so inviting. It flowed beneath the bridge and seemed so inviting to part of her. The part deep inside that was trying to swim to the surface. Swim? Yes, she should go for a swim. She threw herself off the bridge into the water. She hit in a jumble of limbs and went below the surface. The shock forced her to draw in a deep breath. The little spark of her still there tried to let out a sound but she faded into the black.