Twelve days. That’s all it had taken for the Holschcomb-B virus to sweep across every continent on the globe. Future historians would call the two and a half years that followed, “The Desecration,” but for those of us who lived through it, it was just life. Within those first 12 days, every city on Earth had been violently overrun by H-B victims.
The virus had been airborne. No one knew for sure where it had come from—of course, there were rumors: the Russians made it in a lab and then unleashed it or maybe it was the Americans or maybe it had come from space or been unlocked from prehistoric Arctic ice. Nobody really knew and anyone who did was probably either dead or worse, dead-alive. That’s what H-B did to its victims. There was no “incubation” period like a normal influenza. You could be having an espresso and reading the Wall Street Journal at the local cafe, perhaps brushing a bit of fluff off the shoulder of your suit jacket one minute and the next minute dead in a pool of your own fluids—one blood vessel in the left eye ruptured. It was the same every time. What came next, of course, is what no one was prepared for.
By all accounts, the first wave of the epidemic had hit New York City, Paris, Beijing, Mumbai and Sydney simultaneously. Suddenly millions had just dropped dead all over the world, their lifeless bodies oozing blood from every orifice. Everyone who remained, we later learned, had either been immune or just plain lucky. The initial shock of what had happened to friends and loved ones all over the planet had only lasted five minutes—that’s approximately how long it takes for H-B to revive its host body. When the dead began to reanimate no one knew what was going on. Relief at the sudden, miraculous recovery of millions of people turned to pure, unadulterated horror.
In those first, few seconds, the living tried reasoning with them. But within hours, every city named in the initial outbreak was thrumming with rabid, sprinting, roaring hordes of reanimated cannibal monsters. Monsters with the faces of mothers, fathers, friends, co-workers.
Armies and national guard were quickly overrun. The dead far outnumbered the living. Moscow, London, Tokyo, Jerusalem, Atlanta and Los Angeles were all nuked. The rest of the Earth’s cities simply went dark.
The precious few who remained alive, really alive, around the globe hunkered down for the worst two and a half years of their lives. Those first six months had been the worst—at least for me. I was alone the whole time. Be me, a 22-year-old fifth-year engineering student. I was on my way home for fall break when traffic came to a standstill and the horde spilled out onto the freeway like Noah’s flood cracking-open people’s cars like clamshells and mauling people to death.
When I recall those first moments I can’t remember details. I can’t remember how I made it off the freeway. I can’t recall thinking that I should probably take my tool kit with me. Somehow I knew what was going on when I saw them spilling out onto the road. Somehow I managed to pack up exactly what I would need in those first dark days. I don’t know, when I think about it I am dumbstruck. Maybe in moments of extreme terror, some people can think more clearly than others. Maybe I had a guardian angel. I can’t explain it. Knowing everything I know now, I believe it was a miracle that I even made it off that freeway that day.
My first clear memory from that time starts in the woods. I hiked for an entire day running from every sound I heard. Eventually I made it to a house. “Compound” is the better word. It was a 30-acre white-tailed deer farm completely fenced in on all sides by 16-foot chain-linked fence. Luckily there wasn’t any razor wire. When I climbed over the fence I found four out-buildings and a main house. It was one of those places owned by an old Vietnam vet prepper hermit, full of tools, weapons, equipped with diesel generators, ATVs, MREs—the works. I found the old vet rabidly clambering up at me from inside a mechanic bay he had under one of the out-buildings. He must have been under there working on one of his vehicles when the epidemic hit. I kept him “alive” down there for about two weeks before I could finally bring myself to put him out of his misery. The old bastard growled and gnashed his rotten teeth at me with the energy of a rabid Robin Williams right up until I blew a hole through his brain with one of the pistols he’d kept in the house.
In those early times I didn’t even know if there were other living people out there in the world, much less what caused the zombie plague. So I did the only sensible thing: I burned the old bastard’s body.
For the first few days after the epidemic hit, television signals were still being broadcast. On the third day, when I saw that they had nuked Atlanta, I knew my parents were gone so after coming to terms with the fact that I was now alone in the world I realized that the compound was mine and I’d better get to work surviving.
I set to work putting the place into some semblance of order that made sense to me. After the first few zombies wandered onto the property and mauled three of my deer I realized I would have to start patrolling the perimeter every day to inspect the fence and ensure my security.
The old bastard who had owned the place before me had been an avid reader so I had quite the library of science fiction, murder mysteries and of course, survival books to read—and all the time in the world to read them.
I learned how to garden, hunt, butcher and preserve meat. The old bastard had even left me a hen house complete with hens and fresh eggs! I lived that way for about four months before I found the old bastard’s secret workshop beneath the pantry in the farm house.
I had seen the radio antenna on the back side of the property while inspecting the fence after the first zombie incursion but I didn’t put two and two together until the fourth month. I was walking around the house reading a book on making soap when I went into the pantry to grab a can of punjabi (a delicious calorie-dense Indian mush) to make a few meals with. I had some rabbit meat I’d snared that I wanted to mix it with. Anyway, since I was reading I absent-mindedly reached for the can and knocked it off the shelf. The hollow sound it made when it hit the floor instantly notified me that there was a space underneath.
I pulled back the rug and found a door, under which, was a ladder leading down into a small room packed with electronic equipment—none of which was on. I recognized the ham-radio equipment instantly. That’s where this story starts.