My wife thought that I was absolutely nuts. The World Health Organization was warning people of the approaching virus. A strain of which experts weren’t sure how to combat. No antibodies had yet been discovered and it was spreading like a California wildfire.
After forty-seven years on the job, I finally got the opportunity to retire. I always had a dream to write the next great American novel, now I would have the time to do it. My wife however, thought differently. She was under the impression that as soon as I finished working, that we would travel the world. The virus had other ideas.
I have friends who hunt and fish, another one builds model railroad dioramas. I have one buddy who spends most of his days drinking and watching TV. I have always been a fan of books and movies that dealt with disasters. To occupy my spare time, I rebuilt our fruit cellar into a futuristic doomsday shelter, complete with solar power, a bathroom and enough supplies for two people to survive for a year. Never in a million years did I think I would ever use it; it was just a hobby.
With warnings from the CDC, the Center for Disease Control, and my desire to write my book, I proposed an experiment. We could retreat to my bunker, where I could write my book and we could escape the wrath of the virus. My wife threatened to call the men with the little white coats. If I was foolish enough to believe all of that nonsense, she said, then I was on my own and that she was going to pack her bags and go to her sister’s on the west coast. I kissed her good-bye and locked myself in.
Time passed rather quickly. My novel was going to be science fiction, about a virus that decimates the entire human species. I combined my writing with my ongoing research of re-watching DVDs of old 1950’s sci-fi movies for inspiration. My favorite being the original War of the Worlds. Taking down the Martians with the common cold was an awesome storyline.
I was so engrossed in my own universe that it was months before I connected to the internet to see what was going on in the real world. Needless to say, I was shocked at what was glaring back at me from the computer screen. The virus was real and infecting the entire world. There wasn’t a single country that hadn’t been affected by it and the latest news reports indicated that there was no decline in its transmission. The virus could not reach me, I felt safe.
I lost touch with the world around me when the internet went out. I didn’t understand why the connection failed because everything else was functioning properly in my bunker. I was aware of the fact that I should be exercising more, the food wasn’t the greatest but I still seemed to be putting on a little weight.
Several more months passed, I was getting the urge to open my door and venture outside. I missed sunshine. But I promised myself that I would complete the book before I left my room. In hindsight, I should have included a reflecting tube, extended outside, to channel sunlight into my domain.
Finally, the day arrived. The book was finished. It needed to be proofread, but that’s always better to be done by someone other than the author. It was time to print it and send it to the publisher. Now I could leave. I still had plenty of food, but my brain was convincing me that I could actually commit murder for a Big Mac and I knew that McDonalds was right down the street from Office Max. I was talking myself right into opening my door.
I actually had to put clothes on. Doing laundry wasn’t something that I had calculated for, and because it was climate controlled and I didn’t ever expect company, I never got dressed for over three hundred days. Going that long without a haircut or shaving, must have created quite the image as I emerged from my cocoon.
The house smelled kind of musty. The dust bunnies flew across the floor from the air movement of me walking. A strong odor was coming from the kitchen, upon opening the fridge I found the source. I almost puked. It was obvious that my wife wasn’t joking about going to her sister’s, and she never returned. Nevertheless, I went upstairs to shower and shave off my scraggly old beard. I also located the clippers that we used to use on the dog and cropped my hair close to my head. A change of clothes and my thumb drive, and I was ready to leave.
I grabbed the car keys from the rack and went to the garage. My lovely wife had taken my Mercedes and left me with her old Cobalt. The battery was dead and one of the tires was flat. If I was going to make it to Office Max, I was walking.
I walked out of the garage and looked toward the sky; there it was: the sun. I hadn’t seen it in almost a year; what a beautiful sight. After staring a little too long, I saw spots dance before my eyes. I began my trek towards downtown, sensing an eeriness around me. It was strangely quiet. The rustling of the leaves was all you could hear. I walked past Mr. Wilson’s house when I saw shoes lying near his door. The door was ajar and I stopped to investigate. The shoes were attached to Mr. Wilson, who was not only dead, but his body was badly decomposed. There was nothing to do but to continue on.
Cars weren’t running, all traffic was at a standstill. The streetlights continued to go through their routine, green to yellow to red. People were still in their cars but they appeared to all be dead. I went inside the Rite Aid on the corner, there were bodies in the aisleways, and the cashier was draped over the counter. They had all been dead for quite a while, they no longer smelled. When I got to Main Street, I could see dead people wherever I looked. I felt a chill go through me like I had never felt before. Was this the result of the virus? Everywhere I went, what I saw in front of my eyes, were the images that I had in my mind while I was writing. My book was coming to life. I desperately needed to find a live human being.
My eyes burned like they do on a hot summer day when sweat pours into them. Breathing became laborious. My chest felt like Hulk Hogan just body slammed me. My ears had a high-pitched ringing in them, and it was getting louder. Tears streamed down my face, stained with blood. I began to vomit profusely, collapsing to the ground in pain. I struggled for one last breath.