Robert E. Lee Memorial Hospital
April 19, 2011-9:52 P.M.
Doctor Steve Zimmerman jerked his Mustang into the parking lot and cut off a blonde nurse in a Honda Civic to take the last space in the emergency employee’s lot. When she honked at him, he flipped her off without a glance.
This was his fourth straight week of working the ER night shift. The past month had been monotonous. Sure an occasional real patient came through the ER, but the majority was the dregs– drunks who got into bar fights or fell down stairs, drug overdoses, and every hypochondriac in the county. They all seemed to converge on his hospital and, more specifically, his shift like vultures to a fresh corpse. He didn’t spend all those years studying and working through his medical degree to waste his talents on trivial, meaningless cases.
Chuck, the night security officer, glanced up from his newspaper as Steve walked in. “Evenin’ Doc. How you doing tonight?”
Steve screwed on a tight smile, “OK I guess, just another night of dealing with idiot drunks and patients who think a runny nose is a 911 emergency.”
Chuck snickered and snapped his newspaper, “Yeah, we do get a lively crowd, but it pays the bills I guess.”
“Yeah, I suppose so,” Steve sighed as he scratched his name into the log. He turned and strode away from the desk, hoping to avoid further conversation.
“Have a good night, Doc,” Chuck called after him.
Without turning around, Steve mumbled, “Yeah,” and made his way through the lobby and into the ER.
The evening lived down to Steve’s expectations. He checked the log and found that there had been three patients in. A twelve-year-old boy who had broken his arm playing football, he’d been treated and released shortly before Steve’s arrival. The second was a frequent flier– tonight’s complaint was a mild fever with chills which she self-diagnosed as avian flu. The third was a man who had been brought in an hour or so before Steve’s arrival. He had apparently been mugged earlier in the evening and had suffered numerous minor injuries.
Susan Hamilton, night shift head nurse, approached Dr. Zimmerman. She was in her late thirties, with strawberry blonde hair and a figure that turned heads. She said in a heavy English accent, “Good evening Doctor Zimmerman, how are you feeling tonight?”
Steve scanned the charts again. “Why hasn’t the hypochondriac in room two been sent home yet? She was released almost an hour ago by Dr. West.”
Susan smiled, “She wants a second opinion before she leaves. She’s not convinced that Dr. West’s diagnosis is correct and insists she has avian flu. I told her she could wait for the next shift and they would have another look at her to confirm Dr. West’s diagnosis.”
“Why do these people waste my time? That woman has been in here four times this month and there’s not been a damn thing wrong with her. I’ve wasted enough time with her. Get her out of here.”
“I apologize Dr. Zimmerman. But she was quite insistent on a second opinion.”
Steve’s cheeks flushed, “I don’t care what she insists on. She has been diagnosed and released…”
Susan interrupted him, “I realize that, and I’ll thank you to mind your tone, I’m simply doing my job.”
“Not very well as far as I can see,” Steve snapped. “I’ll go have look at her and release her from care, again. If necessary, have the moron at the security desk drag her out of here, I’ve got better things to do.”
“Yes Doctor.” As Steve headed off to room two she added under her breath, “Arrogant little git!”
Susan opened the curtain to room seven where Mr. Garcia was sitting upright in the bed. He had been brought in earlier in the evening after being mugged.
“How are you feeling Mr. Garcia?” Susan asked.
“Dios mio, my arm hurts like a son of a bitch, and my head hurts so bad it feels like it’s going to explode,” he replied, gripping the bandage on his arm.
Susan smiled reassuringly, “I’ll get you something for your pain. The Doctor is with another patient. It shouldn’t be more than a few minutes.” She placed the blood-pressure cuff on his uninjured arm. After a few moments, results appeared on the display. She placed the digital thermometer in his ear. Susan noted the results of the tests in his chart. “Why don’t we take a look at that arm,” Susan said as she removed the bandage. She saw that lesions had begun to form around the wound and his face was flushed a darker red than when she came in. She smoothed the bandage back into place. She smiled at him again and said, “I’ll be back in a few moments.”
His breathing somewhat labored, he raised his head and managed a weak smile, “Gracias.”
Dr. Zimmerman was at the desk filling out paperwork when Susan approached him. Without looking up from his papers he sighed, “Yes, what is it now?”
“Doctor, Mr. Garcia in room seven is complaining of a serious headache and his arm is still hurting. Dr. West started him on Tylenol and antibiotics an hour ago. His temperature elevated–99.1 to 100.7. BP is also elevated. He’s flushed and lesions have formed around the bite on his arm.”
Her report sparked his interest, “What’s his BP?”
Susan glanced at the chart, “When he arrived–9:32 this evening–his BP was 127/89. Last reading was 142/110.”
“I’ll look in on him in a minute.”
“Good evening Mr. Garcia, I’m Doctor Zimmerman, Nurse Hamilton tells me you’re not feeling well.”
Mr. Garcia opened his eyes slowly and looked at the Doctor. Both eyes were fiery crimson and a tear drop of blood trickled down the left side of his face. His forehead was beaded with sweat. Mr. Garcia tried to catch his breath to speak; the only sound he made was an unintelligible croak. His breathing had become labored and erratic. Steve pressed the “Nurse Call” button on the man’s bedrail. Moments later, Susan walked through the curtain and asked, “Yes Doctor Zimm…” She stopped when she saw the patient’s condition.
Steve glared at her, “Step outside with me for a moment. Mr. Garcia, I’ll be right back.” Once out of earshot, Steve rounded on her, “What the hell is wrong with you? You didn’t say anything about the sclera or bleeding from the eyes—I would have expected even you to have noted. Not to mention the man can barely breathe.”
Susan flushed, not backing down; she looked right into Steve’s eyes and whispered, “Doctor, he wasn’t like that when I was taking vitals. Those symptoms must have manifested in the last few minutes.”
“I’m not interested in excuses. Get Doctor West in here. We need to run a full work up on this patient stat.”
Doctors West and Zimmerman and the entire night shift nursing staff bustled around Mr. Garcia. The room was filled with the stench of vomit and human waste, augmented by the unmistakable smell of decaying flesh. The lesions had spread and completely covered his arms, and were weeping thick yellow pus. His temperature reached 104.1 and his blood pressure was off the charts. The man was bleeding from the eyes, ears, and nose and was completely unresponsive to all attempts at communication.
The nurses checked and rechecked the patient’s vital signs while the doctors waited for blood test results from the lab. West had his suspicions about the etiology of these symptoms, but had never seen any disease manifest and accelerate at this rate. “Susan, would you please join us outside?” He motioned for Steve to follow.
“Certainly Doctor,” she said.
The three stepped into the hallway. Doctor West sighed and spoke very quietly, “I think we may be dealing with a form of hemorrhagic fever, like Ebola, but I’ve never seen it firsthand. Susan didn’t you spend some time in Africa a few years back? I thought I heard you mention Marburg outbreaks? Have you seen anything like this?”
“You’re asking her?” Steve whispered in exasperation. “She couldn’t even tell me in the beginning what was going on with the patient. . .”
“I’d like to hear from Nurse Hamilton, if you don’t mind,” Doctor West said.
Susan suppressed a grin and said, “I spent several months in the Congo in 1999. The World Health Organization was called out as well as the Red Cross–a massive outbreak of Marburg hemorrhagic fever at a village in the Orientale province. This patient shows many of the same symptoms. But his condition is worsening at a rate far faster than any I saw during my time in Africa. I’m at a loss.”
Dr. Zimmerman sneered, “She’s at a loss, what a surprise.”
Doctor West’s face hardened, “Doctor Zimmerman, I have had enough of your abusive attitude and insults. One more word out of you and I will see to it you are dismissed from your post. Is that clear?”
Steve gaped as if he had just been gut-punched, “I was only…”
“Do you understand?” Doctor West interrupted.
“Yes sir,” Steve muttered, looking at the floor.
Doctor West continued, “Susan, please go to the lab and find out about those blood tests? If this is a strain of hemorrhagic fever, protocol is for us to isolate the patient and alert the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. Doctor Zimmerman, call ICU and have them get a unit ready. Tell them the patient is to be quarantined immediately. All attending staff should observe level 4 protocols. I’ll get CDC on the line.”
“Yes sir,” they replied in unison and rushed off. Doctor West returned to room seven. Mr. Garcia’s condition had deteriorated. The bleeding from his eyes, ears, and nose had worsened; his breathing had become more labored than an asthmatic during a major attack. He thrashed around as he growled and snapped at the staff. Doctor West picked up the phone and dialed security, “Chuck, code postal room seven, stat!”
Chuck burst into the room, breathing heavily, “What’s the problem Doc?” Chuck panted.
“We need restraints–this patient is becoming violent. I have to sedate him, but I need him under control.”
“Yes sir,” Chuck left faster than he came in.
Mr. Garcia screamed; his eyes were wide open and completely red, blood flowed from every orifice and he was soaked with sweat. He thrashed violently and knocked over the I.V. stand next to his bed. As it fell, it pulled the tube from his arm.
Chuck returned with restraints in hand.
“Chuck, give me those. Put on a mask and gloves and hold this guy down, we’ve got to get him under control before he does any more harm to himself, or us.”
Chuck nodded and donned his protective gear. He grabbed Mr. Garcia’s arms and held them tightly to the gurney. The man thrashed and snapped at Chuck. “Hurry up Doc!” Mr. Garcia kicked and screamed like a madman, a wet gurgling noise accompanied the screams.
Once the restraints were in place, Chuck released his grip. He saw huge black bruises on the man’s arms where his hands had just been, they were oozing a yellow pus-like substance mixed with blood.
Doctor West ordered the nurses, “Atavan stat.” As Mr. Garcia continued to thrash in his restraints, the Doctor and Chuck held his arm while the nurse administered the sedative. Mr. Garcia slowed his thrashing, and became still. “Hook him back up and give him a Valium drip until we can figure out just what the hell is going on.” He left the room and returned to the nurse’s station. He punched up the emergency contacts and located the number for the CDC.
April 20, 2011-12:10 A.M.
Doctor West paged all night shift department heads to report to ER nurse station two. In seconds, beepers went off all over the hospital.
Doctor West stood and calmly addressed the department heads, “For those of you not aware, we have a patient in isolation right now exhibiting symptoms of what may be viral hemorrhagic fever. We’re waiting on blood tests to verify this diagnosis. I’ve alerted the CDC and briefed them on our patient. They’ll be sending a team as soon as possible and have advised instituting level four protocols, which I have already done.” With this remark, the staff began to whisper to one another, shifting nervously on their feet. After a moment, Doctor West continued, “As of now, no one is to leave the hospital under any circumstances until the CDC team arrives and assesses the situation. All incoming patients will be redirected to Fairfield Hospital. Security has locked down all exits to the building. These are all precautionary measures. The CDC team should be here within two hours.” The murmuring began again as many member of the staff stared at Doctor West, many appeared to be in a near state of shock. Doctor Zimmerman began, “Doctor West, what are we supposed to…”
Doctor West interrupted, “Doctor Zimmerman, would you please report to ICU/Isolation and ensure our patient is receiving aggressive antibiotic treatment and sedation? I’ll join you there shortly. Nurse Hamilton, I would like you there as well. Everyone else please report back to your departments and quietly inform your staff, we don’t want to cause a panic among the patients.”
Doctors Zimmerman and West stood by Mr. Garcia’s bed in the ICU/Isolation ward. Nurse Hamilton, on the other side of the bed shook her head in silence.
Doctor West spoke, “Time of death?”
Susan looked at her watch, “Just now. 12:37 A.M.”
Steve turned to Doctor West and asked, “How could he have died from a viral infection in what? Three hours? I don’t get it.”
Doctor West, shaking his head replied, “I don’t know, I’ve never even heard of a virus that kills this fast.”
Cheryl Chapman, one of the duty nurses knocked on the window and held a clipboard up, “I have the lab results.”
As Susan pulled the sheet over Mr. Garcia, Steve and Doctor West entered the adjoining negative flow scrub room, removed and disposed of their protective clothing, scrubbed up, and walked into the hallway.
Doctor West took the clipboard from Cheryl and scrutinized the results. As his eyes moved back and forth across the paper, they grew wide. “No trace of viral or bacteriological infections in the blood? Are you sure you brought me the right labs?”
“We need answers, not more questions,” Steve said, a tremor in his voice.
Doctor West handed the clipboard to Cheryl, “OK. Stay calm. The normal screenings wouldn’t necessarily turn up something like this.” He looked up at her, “Please take new blood samples from Mr. Garcia and prep them for CDC. Since I’ve contacted them, they’ll be interested in the results. “
“Yes sir, I’ll get right on it,” Cheryl stepped into the scrub room.
Doctor West turned to Steve, “Call the morgue and get a team up here to help you transport him downstairs and get him prepared for an autopsy. Let’s hope the CDC has a pathologist with them. Remember, level four protocols—we can’t have this thing spreading,” Doctor West turned and headed down the hall.
Steve donned his protective gear and entered the isolation room just as the Cheryl finished drawing blood.
With a disdainful glare at Cheryl he said, “Make sure you do it right this time.”
She tried to maintain a civil tone and was almost successful, “Yes Doctor Zimmerman, I’ll make sure it’s done correctly, again.” She placed the fresh vials of blood in the biohazard container, sealed it, and left the room.
Steve picked up the phone and dialed the extension for the morgue, “This is Doctor Zimmerman, I need a gurney and two men up in isolation. We have a subject in need of transport to autopsy.” After a short pause, “Just get up here, this is top priority.” He hung up. “Once, just once, I’d like to have people around me who are competent.” As he began to remove the patient’s restraints, the man twitched. Steve stepped back and watched the man for a few moments. He didn’t move again. Steve chalked it up to his imagination, and went back to removing the restraints. After freeing the patient’s arms, he turned and began on the leg straps. With his back turned on Mr. Garcia, Steve heard a low rasping moan. His heart skipped a beat at the noise, he heard moans like these before with deceased subjects, he quickly convinced himself it was simply a case of gas.
The man who had once been Mr. Garcia sprang upright in his bed, grabbing for the doctor. Steve turned on the spot, and barely escaped Garcia’s grasp. He clawed at Steve’s face as he fell forward, tearing through Steve’s protective mask and leaving three long scratches on his cheek. The man’s eyes were feral, there didn’t appear to be anything human left in them. He snarled and lunged at Steve again, his left leg still partially strapped, he toppled over the side. His leg twisted and broke with a wet snap and his head smashed into the tile floor, opening a gaping wound.
Garcia tried to rise, but still strapped to the table he kept falling. He lunged again at Steve and snapped like a wild dog. The leg strap gave way and he stood, unbalanced by the broken leg. Steve ran from the room screaming.
As he cleared the door, Steve slammed into the two men from the morgue knocking all three of them to the floor. The infected appeared in the doorway. Its eyes fixed on the men on the ground. It limped toward them, dragging its broken leg behind it. It dropped to its knees right on top of one of the orderlies and sank its teeth into the man’s bicep. The orderly shrieked and punched the infected’s head as it ripped away a large chunk of flesh. The other orderly sprang to his feet and grabbed the infected by the shoulders, pulling it away from the screaming man on the floor. The infected spun and sank its teeth into the orderly’s throat, savaging him, spattering blood on the walls and floor. He fell, choking as the infected continued to tear at him. His partner picked up a metal clipboard that had been on the gurney and smashed it into the infected’s head, tearing away a flap of the scalp and splattering blood on the wall; the infected turned and threw itself on him. Its teeth sank into the man’s neck. He shrieked as blood flowed like a river down from the gaping wound and held his hand out to Steve, “Get this guy the hell off of me…” he gurgled and gasped, spraying blood with his last exhalation. Steve wind-milled backward as the now-dead orderly sat up and began to move toward his former partner. Panic-stricken, Steve spun and ran down the hallway, ignoring the man’s screams.
Chuck stared out the ER lobby window at the scene unfolding in the parking lot. He counted as thirteen large army trucks pulled into the lot, from each of these, men in black suits and gas masks armed with rifles jumped out and took position around the front. With the new distraction of the armed soldiers, he lost count of the vehicles as they steadily flowed onto the access road and headed to the other side of the hospital. He went to the security desk and picked up the phone.
Doctor West listened as Chuck told him about the developing situation outside. Susan watched West intently. This wouldn’t be good news, but then, it seemed tonight wasn’t about good news. West nodded a few more times and then spoke, “Thanks Chuck, I’ll be there as soon as I can.” Doctor West hung up the phone, closed his eyes and lowered his head. The lines on his face seemed to deepen as he grimaced; he brushed his disheveled graying hair from his forehead with a sweaty hand and took a deep, slow breath. It seemed to Susan that he had aged ten years since the beginning of the shift.
Susan leaned in close to Doctor West, “What’s going on? I’m guessing it isn’t good news.”
Doctor West glanced around and lowered his voice, “It appears our CDC ‘guests’ have arrived.”
“Isn’t that a good thing? It means help is here.”
“Apparently it isn’t just a team of doctors. From what Chuck said it’s a full military convoy–a small army. They’ve surrounded the hospital.” He shook his head and grasped the edge of the counter. “I thought I was scared before, but now I’m terrified. These people know something we don’t, something really bad.”
“Perhaps it’s just a precaution?”
“That’s what worries me the most Susan.” He shook his head again, as though trying to dislodge something. “I’m not sure I want to know what precautions like this could be for.”
She patted his shoulder, “I’m not sure I want to know either. But the way I see it, knowing is better than not knowing.”
Doctor West cracked a weak smile, “I hope you’re right Susan, I really do. Page Doctor Zimmerman and tell him our guests have arrived and I’d like him to join me here in ER. I’m heading outside to speak with them.”
“Of course Doctor West, right away.” Susan picked up the phone as Doctor West went to the front entrance.
Steve huddled in the maintenance closet, terrified to make the slightest sound. In the hallway outside, chaos reigned. He could hear people screaming, furniture and glass breaking, and a constant low moaning punctuated by wet slurping noises. In the minutes since Garcia died and began to walk, most of the floor had become infected. All who died in the attacks got up almost immediately and began to kill. The situation had cascaded out of control. A loud crash–someone was flung against the door outside. The door shook in its frame as whoever it was kicked and thrashed against an attacker. Shrieks filled the air and a trickle of blood flowed underneath the door. Steve buried his head between his knees and said something he hoped resembled a prayer.
Doctor West stood in the ER lobby and looked out the large glass windows into the parking lot. At least one hundred men stood, knelt, and crouched about fifty feet from the front entrance. They were all heavily armed and dressed in protective clothing. The officer in charge barked out orders and directed his troops to take position behind makeshift barriers they had constructed. Doctor West waved his arms over his head, trying to get the leader’s attention. The officer looked his way, but did not return the wave and didn’t acknowledge the doctor.
“This doesn’t look good, Chuck,” said Doctor West. Chuck nodded, too nervous to speak. A few of the nurses and other hospital staff had also come to the lobby. They murmured and shuffled around nervously.
Doctor West picked up a house phone. He dialed nine for an outside line but instead of the expected three beeps and a dial tone, it was silent. He hung up and tried again, twice with no better luck. He then dialed the extension for the nurses’ station. After two rings he heard Susan’s voice on the other end. “Station two,” she said.
“Just checking to see if the internal system is still working. I can’t seem to get an outside line. Would you try from there? I want to talk the CDC.”
“Just a moment,” Susan said. After a pause she was back, “I’m sorry Doctor West, I can’t seem to get an outside line either.”
Doctor West took his cell phone from his pocket, flipped it open and frowned at the screen, “How about your cell phone?”
“No service,” she replies.
“Thanks. Please call me at the security desk when Doctor Zimmerman gets there.”
“Will do,” Susan replied.
Doctor West turned to Chuck, who had his cell phone in his hand. He looked at Doctor West and shook his head.
“This keeps getting better and better. I’m going out there to talk to them.”
“Do you think that’s a good idea Doc? They don’t look sociable.”
“I’m just going to talk to them. Everything will be fine. Unlock that door for me, will you?”Chuck nodded, fumbled with his keys and unlocked the latches. “Doc? Be careful, huh? I don’t feel good about this.”
Doctor West placed a reassuring hand on Chuck’s shoulder, “Don’t worry, it’ll be fine.”
He walked through the door and into the entry foyer of the hospital, wishing he felt as certain as his words. The moment he stepped outside, several bright lights flashed on and focused on him.
“Stop where you are, go back inside, now,” an amplified voice ordered. Against the bright lights, he couldn’t see the source. He saw dozens of red laser dots dancing on his chest as the soldiers aimed their rifles.
He raised his hands and said, “My name is Doctor West. I’m the senior member of the medical staff. I need to talk to whoever’s in charge.”
“Go back inside and stay there; the CDC team will be arriving shortly. You can speak with them when they do,” the voice responded.
“But…,” Doctor West began.
“You have ten seconds to return to the building. This is your last warning. Ten . . . nine. . .”
An icy hand clutched Doctor West’s heart. Whatever this disease was, these people had no intention of letting it escape the confines of the hospital. He walked slowly backwards, his hands still raised in the air. After passing through the entrance door he turned, his eyes wide and sweat flowed freely down his face, “Chuck, lock up please,” he sighed and collapsed into one of the hard lobby chairs.
In the cardio ward on four, a floor beneath the ICU/Isolation ward, Judy Michaels sat at the nurses’ station, completing paperwork on her patients. Sarah Turner, the other ward nurse walked up to the desk, “If I work too many more nights, my husband is going to get a girlfriend.”
Judy chuckled, “What do you mean going to? He’s a real catch.” She winked at Sarah.
“Ha ha, very funny.”
Someone slammed into the stairwell exit door and was now pounding on it, as if frantic to get in.
“What the hell was that?” Judy asked.
Sarah, shrugged, “Don’t know, better call security.” The pounding at the door continued. It was joined by more noise from the stairwell, as if several people were now banging at the door. They heard loud moans and grunts.
Judy dialed security. “Hello…Hello? Come on, pick up the damn phone… Chuck? We have a problem here in Cardio. Yeah. Several people are in the stairwell, pounding on the door and making a lot of noise. Can you send someone up?” As she listened to the guard’s response, the stairwell door sprang open and people came running out, some in hospital garb and others in patient gowns. Their eyes were red; most were covered with vicious wounds, as if they had been mauled by wild animals. One man’s throat was ripped open; another’s upper right arm was stripped down to the bone. Every one of them was covered in blood. Judy screamed and dropped the phone, staring at the infected, frozen to the spot. The infected zeroed in on the two nurses and charged them. Judy and Sarah screamed and tried to run, they were overtaken and torn to pieces. Eight of the infected walked away with an arm or a leg while the others tried to grab what they held. On the other end of the phone Chuck yelled, “Judy? Sarah? What’s happening? Judy!” Droning moans were the only answer.
Sarah’s head lay in the middle of the hall, her once beautiful face caked with her own blood. Her body had been torn to pieces and hauled away by the things that had killed her. Her eyes flicked open and began to scan the limits of her vision, looking for prey.
Doctor West called Susan over to the desk. “Chuck just got a call from Cardio, something’s happened to the nurses there.”
Susan’s eyes widened and her jaw hung slack for a moment, unable to voice her feelings. “What the hell is going on here?”
“I don’t know. Alert the department heads to lock down their sections until we get this under control. Chuck and another guard are checking out the problem on four. Have you seen Doctor Zimmerman?”
“No,” Susan looked over her shoulder, “I haven’t seen him since we left ICU.”
Chuck and Paul, the other night security guard, heard the pandemonium when they entered the stairwell. A few floors up, people screamed, furniture and equipment crashed against walls, glass shattered and rained to the floor. A nurse burst into the stairwell from the fifth floor, screaming. She ran down the stairs and tripped over her own feet. She tumbled down half the flight of steps and hit the landing. Chuck and Paul ran up the stairs. When they arrived on the landing, they saw her neck had been broken by the fall, and she had been covered in bite marks. Blood stained the white fabric of her uniform.
They heard several more crashes and shrieks coming from the door. They peered around the door frame and saw perhaps a dozen people, covered in gore, running through the halls. Chuck recognized several of them as hospital employees. The rest had been patients. He saw the man he had restrained earlier in the evening. He looked nothing like the man Chuck had seen barely an hour ago. His face, hands and limbs were swollen, his leg was horribly twisted and broken and there wasn’t an inch of the man’s body that wasn’t covered with sores and blood. Chuck looked at Paul, put his finger to his lips and motioned to head back down the stairs. Paul nodded agreement and followed Chuck’s lead. This was too much for them to handle alone. They crept down the stairs as the screams and moans continued on the fourth floor. The door on the third floor landing burst open, several more of the infected poured into the stairwell. Chuck and Paul drew their batons, “Get back, I…I don’t want to use this,” Chuck stuttered as he brandished the weapon. The infected paid no attention to the warning and rushed forward. Chuck brought his baton down on the first one’s head, caving in the skull. Paul screamed as he swung his baton wildly, hitting anything that moved in his direction. The infected on the fourth and fifth floors heard the cacophony and rushed into the narrow stairwell, leaving the guards nowhere to run. Chuck swung his club again and again, cracking the skulls of the infected, dropping them to the ground. He heard Paul scream and turned, one of the infected had dragged him to the ground and others jumped on top of him and sank their teeth into his flesh. “Paul!” Chuck yelled. Although Paul was only five or six feet away, it might as well have been miles. In the second it took for Chuck to turn and start for Paul, the infected had dragged Chuck to the ground as well.
Panicked phone calls had been pouring in to the nurses’ station for the last few minutes. People on every floor reported the same thing, infected attacking and killing everyone in their way. Doctor West and the other staff pushed desks, chairs and equipment in front of the stairwell doors in an attempt to barricade it. One of the infected reached its hand through the narrow opening of the closing door just as Doctor West was pushing a desk up against it. He managed to shove it back into the stairwell and secure the door before more arrived. The infected pounded on the stairwell door, trying to get in. There were dozens of them, moaning and pounding against the door. Doctor West turned to Susan and the two other nurses from the ER, “I have to go outside and try to get help.”
“They’ll shoot you on sight!” Susan protested.
“What choice do we have? We’ve got to do something.”
The nurses hesitated for a moment and Susan gave Doctor West a silent nod.
“Ok, follow me, move!”
They ran to the lobby. The spotlights shining in from outside were blinding.
“Get behind the security desk.” Doctor West panted as he ran for the front door. The doors didn’t move when he came near. They were locked. He pounded on the glass in terror and frustration, “Chuck’s got the damn keys!”
He picked up one of the hard wooden chairs from the lobby and slammed it into the glass; it cracked, but didn’t break. He slammed the chair into it again and again making a little more progress with each blow, small pieces of the chair splintering away each time. On the sixth try, the glass gave way and came free from the frame. He used the chair to push the glass out, dropped it and ran outside waving his arms frantically.
“Stop where you are and return to the building, this is your only warning. Repeat. Stop where you are and return to the building,” the voice boomed through a loudspeaker.
Doctor West continued to run; he waved franticly in the air, “Wait! Help us! Help us, damn you, something is loose in there and…” The chatter of automatic weapons fire filled the air, blood, tissue and bone erupted from Doctor West. He fell to the ground, dead before he landed.
Susan held her hands over her ears and screamed. She screamed so loud and so long that her throat seemed to catch fire. The other two nurses with her did the same. In a moment of silence, Susan heard the barricade in front of the stairwell give way, the sound of running feet filled the hallway leading to the lobby. They had broken through. Susan grabbed the hands of the other two nurses and ran to the restroom; she dragged them in with her. They slammed the door. Susan locked it and prayed it would hold. She pushed the two others into a stall and followed them. She locked it. They were all sobbing and gulping air. Susan deliberately slowed her breathing. “Quiet,” she said firmly. “If they don’t hear us, they may forget we’re here.” The pounding continued on the door. She heard shrieks, moans, and growls as the infected swarmed into the lobby. Suddenly the pounding stopped, even though the moaning was just as loud. It was getting softer by the moment.
The infected closest to the ER door ran through it and into the parking lot. Others followed closely. As they ran, the soldiers opened fire, hundreds of bullets ripped through the infected, tearing them to shreds. Pieces of them flew through the air, hitting the building and sidewalk like confetti at a parade. The gunfire continued and infected were ripped apart. Then, as quickly as it started, the gunfire stopped. Dozens of bodies lay on the ground, covered with bullet holes, other injuries and blood. Two soldiers with canisters that looked like fire extinguishers moved in and sprayed the entire area.
The sound of sporadic gunfire echoed through the hospital as the soldiers conducted clean and sweep operations for any remaining infected. The team of doctors from the CDC arrived and were debriefing and examining the nurses. Susan sat in the lobby, waiting for her turn.
A large man sat down in front of Susan, he wore the same black protective clothing as the other soldiers. “We’re going to need you to answer a few questions about tonight. After our doctors finish, please report back to me. My name is Colonel Ortiz. My men will know where to find me.” Without waiting for a response, he went back outside.
As she sat for a moment, breathing deeply after her encounter she felt a tear trickle down her cheek. She heard the sobs of a child and saw a small boy huddled in the corner under a green army blanket. She wiped away the tear with the back of her hand and went to sit beside him. Susan put her hand on his shoulder and said, “Hello, my name is Susan. What’s yours?”
The soldiers of second platoon cleared out the fourth floor. They checked each room for infected. Most of the stragglers had already been put down, but their orders were to sweep and clear the entire hospital.
The platoon sergeant led his men down the corridor past the isolation rooms. They checked each room before securing the door and moving to the next. They turned the corner and saw a body lying in the hallway outside a door marked “Maintenance”. The sergeant ordered two squad members to check the body out. One soldier kept his weapon trained on the body as the other used his foot to turn it over. The solider closest to the body retched and vomit splattered the inside of the mask, covering the lenses The body had been torn open, entrails splattered onto the floor, there were bite marks all over the body and its head had been crushed. “Get another body bag over here. Extreme caution with this one, he’s not exactly in good shape,” the sergeant ordered. Two more members of his team came and dragged the body away from the door. The sergeant heard a thump from inside the closet, he held up his hand, signaling his men to be quiet. He motioned for two of his men to take positions on opposite sides of the door. Once they were in place, he held up three fingers counting down. Once the count hit zero, the men threw the door open as the rest took aim. A man in a white lab coat was sprawled on the floor. His name badge read ‘Dr. S. Zimmerman M.D.’, the man was soaked with the blood that had poured under the door, and his face sported three long, deep scratches. His eyes, nose, and ears were bleeding. The sergeant raised his weapon and covered the Doctor. “Medic, give me a sit rep, now.”
The medic rushed into the closet and inserted a small probe into the man’s ear. It beeped and turned bright red after several seconds.
“Infected. Stage three.”
“Get a gurney over here,” the sergeant ordered. “Get this man strapped down and get him outta here. The Colonel wants a subject. Looks like this poor bastard just volunteered.”
Deadman’s Tome is a growing horror zine that publishes short stories and flash fiction whether it’s horror stories, ghost stories, monster stories, zombie invasions, bigfoot sightings, slasher sprees, bizarre dark fiction, classic horror literature or erotica. The darker the tale the better. If you enjoyed the story, or even if you didn’t, leave a comment below as it helps the authors.
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