Estimated reading time — 33 minutes
“Baby, come on! We need to go!” Ryan yelled as he slammed the trunk of their Hyundai sedan.
“I’m coming!” Carla called from inside the house, appearing seconds later carrying a gym bag. “I just got some clothes for Kyle.”
She jogged down the steps to Ryan, and he took the bag from her, tossing it on the pile of other stuff on the back seat.
He turned to look at her, fear and trepidation in her eyes.
“Have we got everything?” he asked and put a hand on her shoulder.
“Everything on the list and a couple of extra things I thought of.” she replied, glancing up at the intersection as a siren screamed past. A bang in the distance made her jerk, and he squeezed her shoulder reassuringly.
He quickly ran up to the house and collected his rifle and ammunition from the table on which he had placed them earlier. Quickly locking the door behind him, he returned to the car and put the Remington on the backseat and threw a blanket over it.
Carla got in the passenger side and Ryan started up the car, backed out of the driveway and headed down the street.
“So when you spoke to him, you made sure he understood that he was to wait for us, right?” Ryan asked, as he slowed at the intersection, before turning right.
“Yes. He understood. He said Graham’s parents weren’t planning on going anywhere and that he was welcome to stay until we got there. But I haven’t been able to get hold of him or them since this morning. Network’s down or something. We should’ve gone straight away.”
Ryan glanced at her, a flash of annoyance running through him.
“We’ve been through this. We don’t really know what’s going on, or how long it’ll last. We can’t just blow out of here without some kind of plan. Look around you Carla, does it look like we’ll be able to stop at the grocery store for food and water and a chocolate?”
She looked as though she wanted to argue, but she slumped back into her seat and said nothing.
The streets were eerily quiet, but Ryan spotted people frantically packing cars, running up the street or speeding past in cars and on bikes.
Reaching another intersection, Ryan slammed on the brakes just in time as a fire truck flew past, sirens blaring.
He took a deep breath and then started forward again, heading to his son’s friend’s house, where he had spent the previous two nights.
The plan was simple. Pick Kyle up and get to Carla’s father’s house. He had a large house in Saxonwold – an up market suburb of Johannesburg where they would stay for a while, waiting for whatever this was to blow over – or to make another plan. Ryan’s older brother Matt stayed in Pretoria, and Ryan had tried to convince him to join them, but Matt had been stubborn. He had insisted that everything was under control and that panic wasn’t necessary. After arguing for a time, Ryan had finally relented and insisted that if he changed his mind they come and join them. He had also been unable to get hold of him since then.
He had seen the reports about children becoming violent – even killing. But so far the authorities had no real explanation. Carla maintained that it had something to do with the asteroid crashing in Texas, but she had always been a bit paranoid. And she loved her space stories way too much in his opinion.
It had been two days since the first big attack in an informal settlement close to the airport. That evening they had agreed that Kyle could spend a couple of nights at his friend’s house, as it was the weekend and the single attack had not concerned them too much. But the next day the attacks had been a consistently growing occurrence and each incident appeared to be getting closer to their area.
Finally, they had started hearing an inordinate amount of sirens and bangs – neither would just come out and say gunshots – and this had prompted Carla to suggest getting to a safer haven. She had argued that their single story house was right on the street in a heavily populated area. At first Ryan had balked. He had said she was overreacting, and that they were perfectly safe, but the next morning footage of children sprinting through the night, attacking every living thing in sight helped change his mind. The news had called it some kind of virus that only affected children, causing them to become extremely violent. They did not know if it was infectious, but all indications seemed to support that assumption. They could however, not guess as to how it was spreading or if it was curable. Adults remained unaffected.
They had phoned her father and he had urged them to hurry. Calling Kyle next, he had assured his mother that he was safe and that he would wait for them.
Carla had wanted to leave immediately, but Ryan had convinced her that they needed to be prepared. So they had made a list of supplies they thought they would need: water, food, clothes, medicine, flashlights. They basically packed everything they would take on a rugged outdoor camping trip – even tents. Soon they had run out of space however, and they had unpacked a lot of lesser essentials, eventually giving up on taking the tents too.
It had taken much longer than planned, and three hours later, when they were ready to leave, Carla was unable to reach her father or son by phone. The radio and TV still worked, giving updates on attacks and emergency numbers, and asking people to stay inside their homes.
“Ryan! Oh my god, oh my god, Ryan!”
Ryan looked to where Carla was pointing and slowed the car.
Three people had exited a house and were running toward them. They were followed by a group of about six teens, who slowly shambled after them. The last of the three was a middle aged man who seemed to be limping, and Ryan saw dark red stains on his shirt and pants.
“Help! Help us!” the first person shouted as the car slowed to a stop. It was a woman of about the same age as the limping man and she was hysterical.
Ryan hit a button and the doors of the car locked.
“What are you doing? We have to help them!” Carla cried and moved as if to unlock her door.
“Stop!” Ryan ordered. “We don’t know what the hell is going on here! What if it’s just a trick to get our car?”
Carla stopped mid movement and sat back.
“How can we be sure?”
“We can’t, but we have to assume the worst. We have other priorities right now. We have to go get our son.”
She seemed to accept this, but she didn’t look happy about it.
“Help, please! They attacked us!” the woman shrieked as Ryan slowly started forward again.
The woman banged on the windows and tried to pry open the doors. She was joined by the second in their group, a young man in his early twenties.
“Come on, man! Let us in!” he cried, tears of desperation streaming down his face.
Ryan picked up a little more speed, and at the same time the group of teens caught up to the injured man.
They pulled him to the ground, and Ryan watched transfixed as one of the teens sank his teeth into the man’s throat, ripping back in a slow, determined motion.
The other teens piled onto the man, biting where they could, or punching and kicking in the same slow, methodical way. They looked drunk or high. Dazed somehow, as if they were unaware of where they were and what they were doing.
The young man jumped onto the hood of the car, looking Ryan in the eyes.
“Let us in, man!” he screamed again. “Can’t you see what’s happening?”
Ryan only shook his head.
“Ryan!” Carla exclaimed through tears. “We have to help them!”
Ryan looked at her pleading face, the tears causing her face to shine. He slowed, and was about to stop when a gunshot shook the inside of the car. A hole appeared in the windscreen, and Ryan heard the round exiting through the back window.
The young man had drawn a pistol, and was now pointing it at Ryan.
“Stop the car!” he screamed.
Without thinking, Ryan floored the pedal and jerked the wheel to the side, even as another shot rang out. Carla screamed again, and Ryan jerked the car from side to side, keeping his foot mashed to the floor.
Finally the man lost his grip and tumbled off the side and Ryan straightened the car and kept the speed up until they had put three kilometres behind them.
Carla was sobbing softly in the seat next to him, and he tried to comfort her by putting his hand on her leg, but he kept his attention on the road.
What the fuck is going on? Is everyone going crazy? he thought angrily.
They saw more and more of the dazed children wandering the streets, and a few more people tried to wave them down for assistance or a lift.
Ryan kept going. They saw many cars, fully loaded with people and supplies heading in the direction of the highway and a few near misses with other vehicles eventually forced Ryan to slow down even more, lest they have an accident.
After what felt like hours, but was in reality only twenty minutes, they pulled into Graham’s street. Ryan realised he didn’t even know what his parent’s names were.
He slowed down to a crawl, slowly scanning the street and neighbouring houses. Except for a family hastily loading a mini bus three houses down, the street looked deserted.
Ryan’s eyes were drawn to the family busily packing their bus. The father and mother were running back and forth between the house, returning with boxes and bags, while their young daughter sat on the grass next to the bus. Ryan guessed her at about nine, and she hardly seemed to move. She sat cross legged and stared vacantly down the street, but as Ryan’s car passed, the girl’s head suddenly jerked up and she looked straight into Ryan’s eyes. They looked yellow, and a chill ran up Ryan’s spine. The girl’s face was expressionless, and it looked as if she was covered in sweat.
“The next one. With the black gate.” Carla said beside him and his attention was brought back to his driving.
As he pulled up to the house, he glanced in the rear view mirror, but the girl and her parents were gone. The bus was still parked outside, so they must’ve gone inside.
Carla got out of the car and he followed, nervously looking up and down the street. It was still empty.
Carla trotted through the gate and up to the front door and knocked sharply three times.
A few moments went by and then the door was opened by Graham’s father. His face flooded with relief.
“Kyle, your parents are here!” he called back into the house.
“Thank god. We didn’t want to wait any longer. We’ve decided on leaving as well. We couldn’t get hold of you, so you know… we assumed the worst.”
He nervously wrung his hands.
“My sister… she stays in Jeffrey’s Bay… small town. We’re leaving shortly. We figure as soon as we get out of the city it should get better. We hope.”
Kyle came running out of the house and embraced Carla. She crouched and looked him in the eyes. Ryan felt himself relax a bit. His son was safe.
“Are you ok?
“Yeah, mom, I’m ok.”
He hugged Ryan fiercely.
“Come on, buddy. Let’s go.”
They thanked Graham’s dad and headed over to the car.
Ryan turned the car around and headed in the direction of his father-in-law’s house, about a thirty minute drive on a normal day.
As they passed the house where the bus was still parked, they heard a scream and glass breaking. Ryan stopped and looked at the house.
“Dad, what are you doing?”
Ryan needed to see the girl again. He needed to see if she had changed into… whatever it was they were turning into.
“That bus is stocked to the max with supplies. I’m just going to check it out.”
“You’re going to steal it?” Carla asked, shocked.
“What? No! I’m just going to… check if they’re ok.”
Carla was about to protest, but Ryan spoke before she could.
“Get behind the wheel when I get out and leave the car running. Wait ten minutes, then go – no matter what.”
“No. Matter. What.” he repeated.
She opened her mouth then closed it again. She licked her lips.
He quickly reached back and took up his rifle. Taking a handful of rounds, he opened the door.
“Lock the doors.” he said and quickly got out. Standing next to the car he loaded his rifle. Slowly, he started forward.
He looked into the bus as he passed, and saw large containers of water, boxes of food and other supplies. He couldn’t see the keys.
Approaching the front door, he saw that it was open and he heard noises from inside. He heard a thud and then something fall and break.
Gently, he pushed the door open and raised his rifle. He took a step forward and then another, and moments later he was inside the house. There was ample natural light and he took another few steps when he heard a shuffling coming from a doorway ahead of him.
Taking a deep breath, he spun into the doorway with his rifle at the ready.
The girl was standing in the center of the living room. Her mother and father lay next to her, the father jerking sporadically. The amount of blood made Ryan nauseous, and a steady stream was still spurting from a wound in the man’s cheek. It looked like a bite mark.
Ryan fought to keep his stomach under control and he started shaking. He couldn’t tell if it was the nausea or the almost crippling fear he suddenly felt.
The girl stood motionless, looking down at the floor, blood dripping from her face and hair.
“What have you done?” Ryan whispered without realising he was going to and the girl looked up.
She started forward toward Ryan, her face still as expressionless as before and he pointed the rifle at her chest. Her eyes were a feral yellow, and her skin was very pale – gray, like ash. Ryan thought he saw thick, black veins running down from her neck.
“Stay back!” he cried, but the girl only trudged forward, as if she didn’t hear Ryan speak at all.
Ryan took a step back, and then another.
“Stay back, goddamnit! I will fire!”
He took another step back and his foot caught on something. He tumbled over backwards and landed flat on his ass, the rifle spilling from his hands. He had backed into another room and had tripped over more supplies waiting to be loaded.
The girl came a little faster now and she opened her mouth in a low, almost mournful groan. Ryan scrambled to where his rifle lay and scooped it up. Turning to face the girl again, she lunged forward and sunk her teeth into his forearm holding the rifle. He cried out in surprise and pain and ripped his arm back, shoving her back forcefully with his other hand. She stumbled back, falling over backwards. He was bleeding, but it wasn’t serious. Shock and horror almost engulfed him, his eyes wide and his mouth open. Looking up from his wound, he saw the girl getting up again and he realised he was trapped. The room had only one entrance.
He raised the rifle again, his hands now shaking so badly that he was almost unable to keep the rifle pointed at the girl’s chest.
“Please,” Ryan pleaded, choking up, his voice a whimper. “Please don’t make me do this.”
A scream from outside made the girl lift her head and turn. Ryan saw it as an opportunity and lunged forward, knocking the girl aside. He tore down the hallway and out of the house.
A woman was stumbling up the road, headed to where the car was parked. She was bleeding from a wound in her side and she was crying hysterically. Two young boys – twins – of about fourteen were shambling after her.
Ryan reached the car and ripped the door open. He waited for Carla to move to the passenger seat, then jumped inside and handed the rifle to Kyle.
“Ryan – what ha-”
“Kyle, the rifle is loaded, please take out the rounds.” Ryan said crisply, slammed the car into gear and took off down the street.
“Ryan? What happened?” Carla asked, unable to keep the panic out of her voice.
“It’s ok. It’s fine. Let’s just get to your dad.” And he could hear his voice shaking and cracking.
Carla put her hand on his leg and squeezed, and she looked at his bloody forearm questioningly. To her credit she said nothing.
They made it to her father’s house without anymore incidents. They saw more children shambling around, more people begging for help, more injured people and even a few car accidents. Emergency personnel were few and far in between and at the places they were, it was crowded beyond belief by people needing assistance.
They made it to Paul’s house a few hours before sundown, and the feeling of relief when the tall, thick, iron gate rolled shut behind them was immense.
The walls were high and thick, with spikes and electric fencing on top. The inside perimeter walls all had motion sensors in the ground and video camera’s covered almost every inch of the property. The house itself was not as secure, as large windows and glass doors made up most of the ground floor.
I guess the plan is to stop anyone before they get to the glass house, Ryan thought for the hundredth time.
Paul was very wealthy. He was a senior partner for a powerful law firm representing dozens of hugely successful companies. He also had a private pilot’s licence and was an avid hunter and firearm collector. Ryan loved going hunting with his father in law, because of his wide variety of weapons.
They might just come in handy sooner rather than later, Ryan thought as they unloaded the car.
Carla’s mother had died many years before from lung cancer, and since then Paul had enjoyed buying and learning exotic things to pass his free time. He was not the type of man who would marry again and when he wasn’t working, he was usually flying or hunting or diving.
When they had unloaded the car and were all inside the house, Carla cleaned and bandaged Ryan’s arm while he told her what had happened. Paul was busy setting Kyle up with the Xbox he had bought for when he came to visit. When he returned, Ryan told the story again. They were horrified and disbelieving, but the clearly human tooth marks on his arm were difficult to argue with. Paul activated the perimeter alarm system and switched the television in the kitchen to show the feeds of the security cameras.
“You think your security company would actually respond to the alarm with all the shit going on out there?” Ryan asked and nodded his head in the direction of the gate.
“I don’t know, but at least the system can warn us if we get an unwelcome visitor.”
Ryan nodded, hoping that it wouldn’t come to that.
Carla and Paul prepared a simple dinner of sandwiches and crackers as the sun set, but Ryan could not stomach even the lightest meal.
The scene with the girl kept replaying over and over again in his head. He would see the blood and become nauseous and then he would again see the girl slowly walking toward him and he would start to shake and break out in a cold sweat.
They were all huddled around the television watching the news, with a second smaller one set to the camera feeds.
The news was a collection of disturbing images: car accidents, mass attacks by children and police gunning people down. Most news channels were reporting that sources had confirmed that it was somehow linked to the asteroid. They were calling the asteroid Revelations. A press release was planned for later that evening out of the United States, which would disclose all the information they had on the virus.
“Ryan.” Carla whispered and he looked at her.
Kyle was asleep on her lap. She motioned for him to take him to the bedroom.
He got up and gently lifted him. He looked peaceful, and his sleep untroubled. Ryan was relieved that his son could sleep. He had been worried that he might have nightmares, given everything that had happened over the last couple of days. He took him down the hall and into the second guest bedroom and gently laid him down. He took off his shoes and pulled the covers over him. Switching off the light, he was about to close the door, when Kyle stopped him.
“Yeah, champ, I’m here.” He walked over to the bed and sat down.
“Are we going to be okay? You know, with everything that’s going on?”
Ryan sighed quietly. “Sure, buddy. I know it’s a little crazy right now, but it’ll get better soon, you’ll see. All this has just taken everyone by surprise. It’ll take a couple of days before they get a handle on everything. But for the time being, rest assured that we’re safe and sound.” Ryan smiled reassuringly in the light pouring in from the hallway, but Kyle did not look comforted.
“Why didn’t we help that woman? The one on Graham’s street. The crying one.”
Ryan didn’t respond immediately. He was unsure of how to proceed.
“Well, the thing is, like you’ve seen, things are a little crazy right now,” he started. “And not everyone out there is a good person, or is honest when they say they need help. Some people will try and take advantage of others that are trying to help, and you have to be careful who you try to help and who you accept help from.”
Kyle seemed to ponder this for a moment.
“But how can you be sure someone doesn’t really need help? How can you be sure we couldn’t help that lady?” he asked earnestly, his eyes welling up with tears.
“You can’t, buddy. Not really. These are decisions a person has to make for himself. I decided not to help, because I had you and your mom with me in the car, and I decided that I didn’t want to take the risk – that I didn’t want there to be even a small chance of either one of you getting hurt.”
Kyle thought for a moment longer and then seemed to give a small nod, as if he understood and accepted this explanation.
“Get some sleep, champ.” Ryan said and put his hand on Kyle’s forehead.
Kyle was burning up and his forehead was moist with sweat.
Alarm bells chimed in Ryan’s head.
“You feeling ok, buddy?” Ryan asked gently, pulling back the covers.
“Just a little hot and I’ve got a headache, but I’m okay.”
Ryan quickly got up and switched on the light.
“Stay here, I’ll go get you something for your headache.”
Ryan left the room and trotted to the kitchen. Carla followed him.
“He’s got a fever, just getting him something to help.”
“Is he okay?”
He didn’t answer. He opened the cabinet where Paul kept his medicine and pulled out three aspirin and poured some water.
He headed back to the room, dropping in the aspirin to dissolve.
Kyle was sitting upright in bed. He had taken off his shirt.
Ryan handed him the glass, and Kyle waited for it to dissolve completely before downing it.
He handed the glass back. “Thanks dad.”
“No problem, champ. Now get some sleep.”
Kyle lay back and Ryan pulled the covers over him.
He exited the room and switched off the light, pulling the door closed behind him.
Carla was waiting for him in the hallway.
“Is he okay?” she asked.
“I’m sure he’s fine. He drank the aspirin and he’s trying to get some sleep.”
Carla looked worried.
“Come on, baby. Sleep would do us some good too.”
They headed to their room, calling goodnight to Paul.
“Ryan! Ryan, wake up!”
Ryan opened his eyes and lifted his head, blinking into the light. Carla was standing next to him, her face contorted in barely controlled panic.
“What is it?” he mumbled, trying to come awake fully.
That did it. He sat up and shook his head.
“What about him?”
“His fever is worse and…” she trailed off.
He stood up. “What is it Carla?”
She motioned for him to follow her and he did.
Paul was sitting on Kyle’s bed and the light was on. He moved aside when he saw Ryan enter and he moved toward Kyle.
His son was soaked with sweat. Thin, black veins, were visible on his neck, running down to his shoulders, arms and torso.
“He’s unconscious. We can’t get him awake.” Paul said softly.
Ryan sat on the bed and leaned down to Kyle’s face. He muttered a quick prayer and then gently opened his son’s eye lids.
They were almost yellow – feral, like a cat’s.
He sat upright and sighed.
“This may be a pointless question, but did you try a doctor?” he asked.
Paul nodded. “I tried with my landline. Some of the emergency numbers ring, but no one answers.”
“What do we do?” Carla asked, her voice cracking.
Ryan didn’t answer and after a couple of moments Paul spoke. “We can only try to bring the fever down.”
They drew a bath of lukewarm water and gently submerged him in it for a couple of minutes. When it felt as if the fever let up, they took him out and dried him off, putting him under clean, dry covers again.
His breathing had become raspy, and the dark veins were becoming darker and thicker at an alarming rate.
All through that day, they watched over him, dabbing his head with a damp cloth and dipping him in a bath when they felt his fever spiked too high.
Kyle regained consciousness once during the late afternoon, but he stared blankly around the room, looking at each in turn as if he didn’t recognize them. His eyes were a deep yellow now, and his skin was pale. After clumsily trying to get up, but held down by Ryan, he drifted off again.
It was around eight o’clock that evening, when all three of them were forcing down some food and drink in the kitchen, that they heard a thud coming from down the hall.
They looked at each other for a moment, and then they hurried down the hall to Kyle’s room, Ryan in the lead. He burst into the room, and found Kyle standing on the opposite side of the bed, with his back to him.
A moment of relief burst through him, but then he noted how still his son stood and it was replaced by dread.
“Kyle? Champ?” Ryan ventured, taking a step into the room.
Kyle’s head snapped around, and Ryan recoiled. His face was contorted in anger and what Ryan thought was hate. His eyes were a deep, wild yellow and his skin was gray like ash. He noticed that the black veins criss-crossing his body looked like they had multiplied and were much darker and thicker.
“Kyle?” Carla asked behind Ryan, stepping into the room and around him.
Kyle lunged. He took one step, planted his other foot on the bed and flew at Carla. Ryan grabbed her by the waist instinctively and shoved her aside, and Kyle tackled him to the ground. He shot his hands up and grabbed Kyle by the chin to keep his mouth away from his face, the image of the bite mark on the dead man’s cheek flashing through his mind.
“Kyle, what are you doing?” Carla shrieked hysterically, but he paid her no mind. His teeth was gnashing as he tried to bite his father, saliva dripping from his mouth like a rabid dog. His arms flailed around him, as if he was unsure what to do with them, but a moment later he started hitting his father, landing fists and open palms against Ryan’s face and neck.
A moment later, Kyle floated into the air off of Ryan, flailing and screaming like a maddened ape. Paul had grabbed him by the waist and had lifted him off, but Kyle fought and resisted with such ferocity that he was battling to keep hold.
Ryan jumped to his feet. He stole a glance at Carla to make sure she was alright. “Get out of the room!” he yelled, but didn’t wait to see if she’d comply.
He started forward to try and assist Paul, but Kyle’s elbow connected Paul’s temple, causing a loud thud. Paul staggered back two steps and then Kyle was free. As soon as he hit the ground, he lunged at Ryan again, but his time Ryan was a little more prepared. He quickly moved low and to the side as his son attacked, and Kyle missed, landing harmlessly a few feet from the door. At first Ryan thought he would turn and attack again, but Kyle’s attention was drawn to Carla standing by the door, looking indecisive about staying or going.
Kyle flung himself forward with a high pitched scream and Carla’s eyes widened.
“Run!” Ryan yelled and Carla hesitated for an instant longer before taking off down the hall. Kyle followed and Ryan took off after him. As he rushed through the door of the room, he heard Paul follow.
“Carla, get to the garage!” Ryan yelled. The garage had a thick, sturdy door and he was sure if she could get through it she would be safe.
He saw Kyle ahead of him, running hunched over. He was extremely quick and he was gaining on Carla.
She wouldn’t make it.
“Carla, left!” he screamed, hoping she would understand that he meant for her to duck into the kitchen.
She had always mixed up her rights and lefts. When she gave directions to him in the car, she would say “Turn at the next one on my side” or “Your side”. He found it endearing and it was one of the many things he loved about her.
So when he said left, she went right – into the living room. The kitchen had a narrow doorway, and he had hoped Kyle would miss the exit, so to speak, and she would have had a few extra moments. But it was not to be.
The living room was a large open space, with comfortable couches and a large, glass coffee table. She ran around a couch, and was out of his sight as the wall obscured his view.
Kyle hardly slowed down. He changed direction and slammed his leg into the couch, causing him to fly forward, right into the coffee table. It shattered with a resounding crash. Ryan winced as Kyle went tumbling over the ground and broken glass, but Kyle had hardly come to a stop, before he was up again, looking around wildly.
“Kyle?” Ryan said, having come to a stop a few feet away. Kyle whipped around to face him and Ryan saw glass shards protruding from his arms and torso. A large piece had impaled his cheek and Ryan gasped, but it seemed as if Kyle hardly noticed, even as the blood streamed down his face.
Ryan was about to speak again, when Kyle opened his mouth and let loose a bloodcurdling shriek. The hair on Ryan’s arms stood on end, and he took a step back involuntarily.
Kyle lunged at him once more, and Ryan had a moment to think Well, shit, before his son tackled him to the ground for the second time that night.
This time he was too late to get his hands up, and Kyle sunk his teeth into his shoulder. Ryan screamed in pain and with all his strength he bucked and shoved and Kyle went flying. He fell against a couch, his head cracking against the wooden leg of the sofa, but it did not seem to slow him down. He was up in a flash, and was poised to lunge at Ryan again when a sofa cushion struck him in the face.
Kyle blinked, and turned to look at Carla, standing on the opposite side of the living room in front of an open door. Before Ryan could say or do anything Kyle charged his mother, but at the last second she fell down onto her stomach and he stumbled over her and through the open door. She quickly jumped up and pulled the large glass door shut and locked it.
She retreated deeper into the house as Kyle turned and ran at her, slamming into the glass door, causing it to shake in its frame.
Paul came to a stop next to Ryan, a pistol in his hands. Ryan looked at the pistol and then at Paul questioningly, but he avoided his gaze. Carla had reached Ryan’s side, and standing in line, they watched Kyle’s insanity. He kept running into the door, headfirst, until fresh blood gushed from his forehead.
Every time he struck the door, he gave a shrill cry, almost as if in frustration.
“What do we do?” Carla whimpered.
They stood in horrified silence, watching their son and grandson continuously run headfirst into a glass door.
Paul was the one who noticed the cracks first.
“The door’s not gonna hold.” he said quietly.
Ryan noticed the hairline cracks appearing around the impact zone. Frankly he was surprised the door hadn’t broken yet.
“Load the car.” Ryan said. Paul and Carla both looked at him, but said nothing.
“We have to get him help. We have to find a doctor, or … or someone.” He could hear the whine in his own voice, but he was powerless to do anything about it.
“A doctor? Haven’t you been paying attention to the news? No one knows what’s going on, or why this is happening, or how to stop it. A doctor won’t help.” Paul countered, actually sounding a bit angry.
“I don’t care, we need to get him to a doctor. Maybe a doctor can do something… anything!”
Paul sighed audibly. “How? How do you want to get him to a doctor? The streets are insane! You saw what is happening out there. And even if you get to a hospital or clinic, there’s no guarantee anyone will be there. And that’s assuming we can somehow get him in the car in the first pl-“
Ryan rounded on him, rage and grief boiling beneath the surface. His voice had taken on an ominous buzz. “What do you want me to say? What do you want me to do? Do you want me to abandon him? Do you want me to kill him? What? Tell me?”
Paul looked down. “That is not your son anymore.” He said quietly.
All the fight went out of Ryan and his shoulders sagged.
The door cracked audibly as Kyle ran into it again.
Kyle suddenly looked to his right, toward the gate, as if something there had grabbed his attention. Shrieking again, he ran out of sight.
Moments later, an alarm screamed shrilly through the quiet house.
“It’s the perimeter alarm. He must’ve set it off.” Paul said.
They moved toward a window looking out at the gate and they saw Kyle pausing. He turned back to the house, the alarm obviously recalling his attention back from what had drawn him first. A moment later Ryan thought he saw the large front gate shudder. Paul moved off to silence the alarm and a few seconds later it was quiet again. Ryan kept his eyes on the gate, even as Kyle slammed into a different door, trying to gain entry into the house.
The gate shuddered again and with the alarm now silent, Ryan could this time hear that something had slammed into it.
“What- what was that?” Carla asked softly.
No one answered.
Another thud. And then another.
The frequency increased, until a constant banging rattled the large gate. A moment later they saw what looked like a teen boy climbing over the gate – the spikes and electric fence having seemingly no affect. He tumbled over the gate, landing on his back. He tried to get up, but his legs appeared to have stopped working.
As they watched, they saw the gate swaying ominously, the rail holding it at the top, severely bent.
“Load the car.” Paul said. “Take only the most important stuff you can think of, we have to get out of here.”
No one moved for a second, until they saw two more clambering over the gate, this time landing on their feet and sprinting at the house.
Carla and Paul moved off toward the kitchen, but Ryan lingered at the window a moment longer. He feared for Kyle, even as he saw him running into the door again. The two newcomers paid Kyle no mind however and immediately joined him in ramming themselves into the door.
Ryan swallowed, looked down and then moved off. He firstly grabbed his rifle and ammunition and then his hiking pack. It was filled with emergency supplies and food and he jammed his ammunition inside.
Carla and Paul had already loaded several items into Paul’s Audi Q7, and Ryan ran back and forth a couple of times, loading more food and water.
Ryan was about to ask Paul about his weapons, when they heard the front gate crash down.
“Come on, we have to go!” Paul cried as he tossed in a final bag, filled with food.
As Carla clambered into the back seat, they heard the front door shatter. Ryan quickly shut the door connecting to the house and got into the passenger side.
“What about Kyle?” Carla asked from the backseat and Paul looked at Ryan.
“We have to leave him.” Paul said softly.
Ryan somehow knew he was right. That Kyle was no longer his son. That whatever he had become, could not be reasoned or bargained with. But it was almost impossible to accept. To know for sure that he couldn’t be helped. He wanted to run into the house. He wanted to find his son. To hug him and to comfort him. To take him with them and to promise him everything was going to be ok.
But that wasn’t going to happen. He knew it in his heart.
“We can’t just leave him here!” Carla said, her voice rising.
“What do you want to do, Butterball?” Paul asked gently. “You saw them, we can’t go after him they’d rip us apart. We wouldn’t stand a chance.”
“But that’s my son! Do you just expect me to leave him here?”
“We don’t have a choice.” Paul replied.
Ryan had been silent.
“Ryan! We can’t leave him here!” Carla pleaded.
He was silent for a moment longer.
“When the others that jumped over the gate got to him, they didn’t even look at him. They just attacked the door like he was doing. He’s one of them.”
“No.” Cara said firmly. “We have to go get him.”
“Did you bring any of your guns?” Ryan asked, ignoring Carla’s statement.
“No!” Carla said again, louder. “I won’t leave him here.”
“Just my pistol and my shotgun, I didn’t have time to get the rest.”
“Ammo?” Ryan asked.
“A lot.” Paul nodded.
“NO!” Carla screamed hysterically, grabbing Ryan’s seat and shaking it violently. She went for the door to get out, but Paul quickly locked them.
Carla was going berserk. She was banging on the windows and hitting the seats in front of her, shrieking maniacally.
“Chances are there’ll probably be some in the way when the garage door opens…” Ryan said, ignoring Carla. He left the fact that they might have to run some of them over, unsaid.
Paul nodded. “I know. I’ll get us out.”
Ryan stared at his father in law for a few moments.
“Where are we going?” Ryan asked.
“I think we need to get out of the city. We could take my plane to the farm.”
“Then let’s go.”
Paul started the SUV and pressed a button hanging from his keychain. Carla had subsided a little, but she was sobbing uncontrollably. As the door opened however, she quieted down.
The large wooden door rolled up, and as it rose, they saw dozens of children running erratically across the lawn.
Upon seeing the garage door opening and hearing the sound of the engine, a few sprinted toward them. Paul put the SUV in gear and started forward slowly, looking at the front door of his house as they moved.
The children’s attention inside the house was drawn to the moving vehicle and they came charging out.
“There’s too many, we need to go.” Ryan urged, but Paul did not increase his speed.
Two of the children came running from the front door, hunched over. It looks like they’re trying not to be seen. As if they’re lurking, Ryan thought randomly.
Two of the children slammed into the SUV, banging on the doors and windows.
“Go for fuck sake!” Ryan yelled, but still Paul crept along.
Kyle jumped onto the hood of the car and Carla screamed. Blood from his many cuts and wounds spattered onto the windscreen and he screamed crazily before slamming his head into the window. He did it again and again, screaming and shrieking constantly.
Paul had come to a stop, and appeared frozen – it all suddenly becoming too much for him.
“Daddy.” Carla said softly from the backseat. “Just go. Get us out of here. Please.”
This seemed to bring Paul back and after glancing at Carla, he gunned the engine. They shot forward and Kyle lost his balance, falling face first onto the windscreen. As they reached the street, they hit one or two of the crazed children, sending them flying. Paul jerked the wheel left. The SUV turned onto the street and Kyle tumbled off of the hood – and straight under the wheels of the large vehicle.
Carla shrieked and Ryan went cold. Paul’s face had become as white as a sheet. Looking out the back window, Ryan could see Kyle lying in the road, unmoving.
“Stop! We have to see if he’s ok!” Carla screamed, again trying to open the door. Neither Paul nor Ryan answered her, and Paul kept his foot flat on the pedal.
Francois Pienaar Airfield was n small airfield between Johannesburg and Pretoria. It was mainly used for training and for wealthy pilots to store their personal planes. Paul had bought his plane ten years before, and had stored it there ever since.
Reaching the airfield had been difficult, but easier than Ryan had expected.
The city had been in chaos. Crazed children were everywhere. People were driving recklessly to try and escape and time and again they had to swerve to avoid accidents and wreckage.
They had first tried the highway, but it had been completely deadlocked. The most disturbing of this had been the children running between the stationary cars on the highway, attacking cars and breaking windows, trying to get to the people inside. Paul had quickly driven over a low embankment to get to a secondary road and although the going was slow, they had at least been going.
Two hours and many U-turns because of dead ends later, they had reached the airfield.
It was located in a fairly empty area, with almost no businesses or houses close by.
Paul had parked beneath a large tree some distance from the gate, and using Ryan’s binoculars they had scouted out the airport. There had been some movement, but Ryan couldn’t see who – or what it was.
After waiting for half an hour, they had decided to attempt the escape.
“I haven’t flown in a while,” Paul said, as they approached the gate. “So I’ll have to do all the pre-flight checks before we can go.”
“Okay,” Ryan replied. “You do that while Carla loads the supplies. I’ll make sure no one bothers us.”
Paul nodded, but Carla had no reaction. She was slumped in her seat, her head resting against the window – a vacant expression on her face.
The gate was closed, but unlocked and Ryan quickly pushed it open and closed it again after Paul drove through. The security booth was empty, and Ryan saw no one else, except for a few cars and what looked like a small school bus. Ryan swallowed hard at the sight of the bus, but he saw no movement.
The small hangar where Paul’s plane was stored was one of the last in the row, but it was close to the runway.
Pulling up outside the hangar, Paul quickly went inside after unlocking the door.
Ryan opened the back door and looked at Carla.
“Baby, we have to go. We have to get out of here.”
She looked at him blankly, but didn’t respond. Ryan opened his mouth to speak again when his phone rang. He at first didn’t register what the sound was, having already become so used to the fact that cell phones hadn’t worked over the last few days.
He pulled it from his pocket – a habit of putting it there even when it hadn’t been working – and saw that it was his brother.
“Hello?” he said uncertainly.
“Ryan! Thank god! I’ve been trying to get hold of you for two days!” Matt sounded out of breath and scared.
“Matt? What’s going on? How did you get through?” he asked, concerned.
“I don’t know, maybe fewer people are trying to call as things go from bad to fucking terrible. I don’t know, but I need your help.”
“Where are you?”
“I’m at the Protea Hotel in Centurion. A couple of hours after I spoke to you, somebody tossed a petrol bomb through our window. I got everyone out safe and sound and headed to the hotel, but now we’re trapped. I went down this morning to get the car ready so we could get out of here, but somebody stole it. We can’t leave on foot!”
Ryan grunted in agreement. Matt had two young children, one hardly even a toddler.
Ryan thought for a moment. He looked at Carla, still staring blankly past him.
He turned and walked out of earshot of Carla.
“Ryan, you there?” Matt asked.
“I’m here. Okay, I’m going to get Carla and Paul on the plane and safely in the air – then I’ll come for you. Stay exactly where you are.”
Matt thanked him a hundred times. He gave him his room number and then hung up.
He walked back to the car just as Paul exited.
“Okay, we’ll be able to go in about half an hour.” He said, then ducked inside and started opening the hangar doors.
Ryan was about to try to talk to Carla again, when he heard a shriek behind him. He whirled around, and saw a single teen running straight at them.
“Carla, start loading the plane, now!” he yelled, and he was a little surprised to see her jump out, grab two bags and run to the plane. He quickly reached into the back and pulled out his rifle. Reaching into his pack which he had made sure was easily accessible he took out four rounds and loaded his rifle.
He raised the rifle and took aim, the teen about forty meters away. He held his breath and put his finger on the trigger. Hesitating for a second more, he steeled himself and squeezed the trigger.
As the teen fell, a thin red mist hanging in the air, Carla exited the building again. She looked over at where the teen lay and then stared at Ryan. She said nothing, but only grabbed more parcels to take to the plane.
Ryan ejected the spent cartridge, just as shrieks and screams erupted in the night air.
He took his ammunition and clambered onto the roof of the Audi. He crouched down onto one knee and waited.
About two-hundred meters away, a dozen children came tearing around the corner, bearing down on them. The youngest looked to be about Kyle’s age, and something tugged at Ryan’s heart.
He took a deep breath and lifted the rifle. He got the closest one in his sights, held his breath and squeezed the trigger. Ejecting the cartridge, he aimed at the one behind the one he had dropped. Breathe in, hold, squeeze, eject. Breathe in, hold, squeeze, eject. Reload. Again.
He found a disturbingly comfortable rhythm in the act of bringing down the crazed children, though some part of him still objected every time he pulled the trigger and one of them fell. Every time he squeezed the trigger however, that objection became less pronounced.
Breathe in, hold, squeeze, eject.
When he had killed the twelfth one, there seemed to be a lull. They had all come from the same area, which he thought was lucky. It gave him time to aim and shoot and reload.
He was reloading the rifle, when he heard another shriek. This time it was much closer.
A boy of about twelve tore around a building only twenty meters from Ryan. He lifted the rifle, surprised, and fired. The round slammed into the ground next to the boy’s feet and he kept coming.
Ejecting the spent cartridge, Ryan fired again, hitting the boy in the arm.
He kept coming.
Ryan ejected the round and was about to fire again when the boy jumped. He smashed against the SUV, his arms just reaching the roof of the vehicle and grabbed hold of Ryan’s ankle.
As the boy fell back, Ryan’s leg was pulled from underneath him and he fell too. He landed on his ass, and the rifle went clattering onto the ground. He felt a powerful tug as the boy pulled him from the roof and he landed on his back, the wind knocked out of him. He tried to suck in a breath, but the boy was on him. He managed to get his hand around the boy’s neck, keeping him from biting him, but seconds later the boy started raining punches and slaps down on him, just as Kyle had done.
Ryan was suddenly angry. No, not angry – furious.
Why was this happening? How did this happen? The world had gone to shit in less than a week and they didn’t even know why or how. His son was dead. His wife was more than likely mentally and emotionally broken. And nobody knew why.
He got a better grip around the boy’s neck and started squeezing – firmly at first, but then with all of his strength. The boy was still hitting him and screaming, but they came out as wheezes and the strength was fading from his blows.
Soon the boy went limp, but Ryan kept squeezing. He rolled the boy off of him easily, the boy’s eyes closed, but Ryan kept squeezing. He changed his position so that he was sitting on the boy’s chest, and he kept squeezing. He tried to squeeze the fear and pain of the last couple of days out of the boy. The uncertainty. The grief.
He squeezed until rough hands pulled him from the boy and he found that he was sobbing. Paul pulled him into a hug, and he transferred him into Carla’s embrace. Together they cried, sobbing at the loss of their world – of their son.
“The plane’s ready.” Paul said quietly behind them. They pulled apart. Neither had any idea how long they had held each other.
The three of them quickly loaded the rest of the supplies into the plane and Ryan loaded his pack with food and supplies when the others weren’t around.
“Ok, let’s get going.” Paul said and was about to climb into the pilot’s seat when Ryan spoke.
“I can’t go with you.”
Paul stopped. Carla had been tying her hair in a ponytail, but she froze.
“Matt got through to me. I don’t know how, but he did. He needs my help. He needs me to go get them.”
This was greeted by silence.
“No.” Carla said firmly. “Fuck, no. We’re not splitting up. That is not happening. I just lost my son, you are not leaving.”
Ryan stepped closer to her and reached for her, but she recoiled, slapping his hands away.
“No!” she cried.
“Baby, I have to. They’re trapped. They have no car and they can’t leave on foot. You saw yourself what it’s like out there. I have to.”
“No.” she said simply, tears streaming down her face. Paul said nothing and stared at the floor.
“We’ll go with you.” she said.
“No, it’s too dangerous. I need you to be safe. I need you to go with your dad. I need to know that you’re safe.”
“Then we’ll wait for you.” Carla said simply.
Ryan shook his head. “You can’t stay here. You don’t know who’ll come along – or what. You have to get out of here while you still can. I’ll go get Matt and Teresa and then we’ll drive up to the farm. We’ll meet you there.”
She shook her head again, but said nothing.
“The only thing that will make me feel better, that will keep me going – is knowing that you’re safe.”
He pulled her into an embrace, and this time she didn’t fight. “I’ll find Matt, and then we’ll meet you at your dad’s farm. Just go with him. Get there. Make it safe. It will be ok. I will find you. I will make it.”
He kissed her, long and deep and with all the love he felt for her. When he pulled back he nodded at Paul and he stepped forward, gently taking Carla’s arm. At his touch, she ripped her arm away, and threw her arms around Ryan.
“No!” she screamed.
Ryan took hold of her, gently putting his arms around her.
“Baby, I love you. Please don’t fight, I need you to be safe.” She struggled meekly, and Paul helped Ryan get him out of her embrace and into the plane. When she was inside and the door was closed, she slumped back weakly into her chair, staring at him through the window.
“Have you got food, water?” Paul asked.
“Yeah, I loaded my pack while you loaded the plane.”
“Be safe out there, son.” Paul said simply, and shook his hand.
“I will. Keep her safe.” Ryan said.
Paul nodded and clambered into the plane.
Minutes later, Ryan watched from the Audi as the plane took off and turned away, out of sight.
“So, what do you think?” Tim asked.
Ryan lowered the binoculars. The house looked quiet and still. Ryan could see no movement, but all of the pot plants were alive and he thought he saw the faintest wisp of smoke rising from the chimney.
“I’m not seeing any movement, but in my experience that doesn’t mean much.”
“So…” Tim said.
“Oh, we’re going. We are definitely going. I’ve been trying to get to this fucking farm for three years. Nothing’s stopping me now. It looks like it’s inhabited. Whether by my wife and her dad or someone else, I’m going to find out.”
He walked back to the Land Rover. He checked that the pistol was loaded and then stuffed in the back of his pants. Picking up the AK-47, he did the same and slung it over his shoulder.
“Stay with the car and keep watch. Check through the binoculars every now and then. If it’s safe, I’ll signal for you to come down.”
Tim nodded. “What if it’s not safe? What if something happens? What do I do?”
Ryan sighed. “If you don’t see or hear from me in an hour, I think it would be safe to assume that I’m dead. Then you’re on your own, buddy.”
Tim nodded again, but he looked as if he was about to throw up.
Ryan thought about comforting him and decided against it. He needed to become stronger if he was going to survive. Ryan had been surprised at how weak Tim was. Especially since he had been an EMT. He had gotten to know him fairly well in the time they had spent together, and he had realised that Tim was probably only alive because of his dead friend Jeremy.
“Chin up, Tim, you’ll figure it out.” Ryan smiled. It was a dry, humourless smile.
“And if you don’t, well… then it won’t matter for long.” Ryan winked at him and turned, starting down the low hill toward the farmhouse.
Credit: Pablo Dickens