30 comments

Fiction Thriller Horror

“Don’t touch me. Keep your distance.” I’ve heard that everyday now for nine months. Doesn’t make things easy when you’re the town’s GP. First it was the fires, then it was the virus, everything has turned to shit in Maui after the president was reelected. Ok, he probably has nothing to do with it, but we need to blame someone, don't we?


I put on my PPE bunny suit and wait at the Kihei pier for the boat to arrive. 


“Second boat this month.” the Sergeant says. 


Locked and loaded,” I say, showing him my assault rifle and giving him a hint of a salute, even though military ranks no longer exist.


“Good stance, doc.”


Besides being able to hold a rifle, I’m here to do spotting. Being the town's GP, people think I'm the best person at detecting who has been infected. What I don’t tell those people is that the virus is invisible, and we don't have any medical supplies or way to detect it. And, since we’ve run out of insulin last month, I’ve lost much of the feeling in my fingers. And my toes? We've lost our connection weeks ago. One day at a time. I need to carry on. I have a duty to my patients. 


The boat nears the doct. The men onboard are pointing guns back at us. It makes sense, they are as suspicious of us as we are of them. They don’t know whether the virus has taken hold here.


They look nervous. That's a good sign. I hold my numb finger well away from the trigger of my AR-15. 


When the takeover began, it was easy to spot them. The freelancers. The first thing they lost was self-care. All they did was work. There spent no time looking in the mirror, all they wanted to do was to book billable hours. We normal people used to work eight hours a day, they could work twenty. But lately the GigGuru’s AI has injected more of a human touch into the virus, leaving just enough human instinct for them to fly under the radar, unless one is very, very discerning.


A man on the front of the incoming boat shouts, “Honolulu medical supply run! Captain Johnson from Tripler AMC.”


The Sergeant gives a proper military salute to the boat. “Sargent Jaworski.”


“Are we good to dock, Sergeant?” 


“All good here, Captain.” The Sergeant nods, and signals the others to tie up the incoming boat.


A moment later, Captain Johnson jumps off. I study his face closely. Well defined cheekbones. We’ve all on a starvation diet these days.


He notices my stare. “Hey. Chill out.We’re friendlies.”


I keep my distance. GigGuru’s virus is so large it doesn’t spread easily. It can’t travel through the air without its high molecular weight making it drop to the ground. How it infects people, no one is exactly sure.


Every story that changes history begins with a spark. An event so small and insignificant, no one noticed it at the time. Hitler giving his first speech on a corner in Vienna. The CIA attaching a missile to a drone in Afghanistan in 2002.


The AI apocalypse started with something even smaller. In 2020, GigGuru, a freelance company, sent health supplements to its workforce. They saw the programmers who received free Yerba Mate pills booked 12% more hours. The creatives who received Green Tea Extract had higher customer satisfaction scores. It worked so well GigGuru hired data scientists to expand their biohealth program. The scientists expanded the system to program to giving freelancers suggestions on how to receive ADHD prescriptions.


The next year, they requested their DNA samples.


**


“We’ve been vaccinated,” Captain Johnson says. “The military lab in Honolulu has come up with new tech. We’re here to bring it to you.”


The Captain holds out his hand for a handshake. I instinctively back off.


“Why didn’t you let us know about this over the radio?” the Sergeant asks.


“Operational secrecy.”


The Sergeant nods. Apparently this makes sense to him.


The Captain and his men haul crates of medical equipment off the boat. They take over our abandoned ice cream parlor at the end of the pier. Someone yanks the starting cord on the generator they brought. The lights turn on. They begin plugging in all the medical equipment. The rumble of the generator and the displays lighting up signals modern civilization, something we are all longing for.


I feel it's my duty to safeguard the best interest of my patients.


“What if GigGugu alters the virus?” I ask the Captain.


“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”


I look to the Sergeant for his opinion.


The Sergeant looks uneasy, but he defers to the Captain. The scale of the military presence in Honolulu is hundreds of times greater than ours. And, what do we have to lose?


“I’ll go first,” the Sergeant says. He leads from the front.


I stand back and him receive a series of medical checks. They take a vial out of a freezer box and give him an injection in the shoulder.


“Don’t feel a thing,” he says with a big grin. The one he gives us when we are all worried about something.


Everyone in our community receives their injection before me. I watch them closely for side effects. I can give aid if needed.


Finally, it's my turn and I sit down. Captain Johnson takes my blood pressure and oxygen levels with the jury-rigged equipment. I don’t recognize some of the machines that they’ve put together.


“Your blood pressure is running a bit high, but everything else is normal. How have you been feeling lately?”


“A little off, but hanging in there.” I feel my ribs poking out from my aloha shirt.


“Any symptoms?” he asks.


I stare at my toes. The ones I can't feel. It wouldn't help to complain about diabetes right now, so I say nothing. I’ll ask later if they have any insulin on Honolulu. “All good,” I say.


“This man is a great patient.” The Captain looks at all his equipment and winks at his crew in the room.


I stand up from my chair, and he gives me a hug. I want to shed a tear as I haven’t been hugged by anyone for years. I think of my daughter and how much I miss her. She’s in California, it's probably too late, but I think there’s still hope.


“Thank you for your service, Doctor,” the Captain says. He hugs me even tighter, his arms almost crushing me. Someone comes up close behind me. I feel a sting in my buttocks. “He’s the only one infected,” I hear him say, before everything goes dark.


September 02, 2023 03:54

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

30 comments

Howard Halsall
11:16 Sep 07, 2023

Hey Scott, That’s a powerful piece and the true horror is its plausibility. You have a skilful way of generating a foreboding atmosphere and building tension with details. The ending came as a surprise, but satisfying nonetheless. The moment of personal reflection and emotional release contrasted with the duplicitous Captain’s embrace was a stroke of genius. I look forward to reading more of your stories; you’ve set a high standard.

Reply

02:17 Sep 08, 2023

Thanks for reading Howard. I had the ending in mind when I started, but hadn't worked out how to foreshadow it subtly without giving it away. If I reworked this I think it could use another 500 words about what's been going on with the doctor lately.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Robert Egan
22:05 Sep 06, 2023

Really like the GigGuru idea and name, and the story put me deep in the post-apocalyptic setting (nice detail with Tripler AMC from Honolulu). Just one part, the portion that starts with "Every story that changes history..." and ends before the double asterisk, took me out of the story a bit because it came in the middle of the dialogue and that moment of possible tension when the Captain was first approaching. It could've been neat to have tried scattering some of those details into other parts of the story to see how they changed the f...

Reply

02:16 Sep 08, 2023

Thanks for reading Robert. And your feedback confirms something I know I do too often. Have too long of explanations in the middle of dialogue. It seems it shouldn't be more than a sentence or two really closely connected to the dialogue instead of a diversion.

Reply

Robert Egan
00:58 Sep 19, 2023

haha yeah, I know what you mean because I do the same😆 Sometimes, I try to include it when there's a natural lull in action, but then I'm worried that I just artificially slowed everything down while convincing myself it was natural to do so...

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Michał Przywara
21:39 Sep 06, 2023

Great setting, as others have said, and the premise of a zombie apocalypse driven by an AI apocalypse is fun :) Dreadful, of course, but fun. The ending is a shock, and very much an end. I now wonder if the diabetes was actually diabetes, or symptoms of the virus, and the doctor perhaps was in denial. Bittersweet too, ending it with a hug, but perhaps that's a merciful send-off. I enjoy subverting prompts, and this is a nice dark take :)

Reply

02:15 Sep 08, 2023

Thanks for reading Michal. Yes, that's what I was aiming at. That the people who were infected might not realize it, or they might be in denial about the symptoms. Wanted to build up to the horror of the ending.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Chris Miller
18:43 Sep 06, 2023

An interesting idea which is plausible enough to be really creepy. Thanks for sharing.

Reply

02:13 Sep 08, 2023

Thanks for reading Chris!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Martin Ross
17:49 Sep 06, 2023

Wow, Scott! The convergence of so many manmade and natural disasters accelerated by our stupidity — this would rock the screen! That last line, and the GigGuru detail is so chillingly plausible — again, Reedsy’s reigning corporate/industrial econo-thriller king! Great job as always!

Reply

02:13 Sep 08, 2023

Thanks so much Martin. I was sort of picturing this a tv scene when I was writing it. A boat load of people from Apocalypse Now crossed with The Walking Dead landing in a post apocalypse Maui. Thanks for the econo-thriller king title, had a laugh at that. Having a background in business, and seeing the chaotic way decisions are made in corporations, my mind tends toward these complicated corporate intrigue plots.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
15:15 Sep 06, 2023

Too scary because too likely a scenario Scott, stop it!!! Didnt see that ending coming...... Really great stuff!

Reply

16:03 Sep 06, 2023

Thx Derrick. I don't usually write horror and wanted to experiment with some new ideas. wish I had time to flesh this out a bit more. I remember you wrote the speed dating story, that was the scariest one I've seen here in a while! will checkout your new story.

Reply

Martin Ross
17:50 Sep 06, 2023

Dude, write MORE horror. You bring a great intelligence and originality to it!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Lily Finch
15:09 Sep 03, 2023

Scott, a very realistic world you created in this story. I thought the ending was superbly done. It reads like a future/sci-fi. But the fear is real. LF6

Reply

02:09 Sep 08, 2023

Thanks Lily. Glad my first attempt at horror had some fear factor.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Marty B
22:51 Sep 02, 2023

Oh too close to reality to be dystopian. this seems to be more historical fiction :( Great characters and a sorrowful ending. Thanks!

Reply

02:08 Sep 08, 2023

Thanks for reading Marty. AI is moving super fast right now. I don't have the time to work out all the details of how that virus works, just the idea that somebody who got it might not realize it themselves.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Mary Bendickson
18:50 Sep 02, 2023

Not a too far off future me fears.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Mary Bendickson
18:50 Sep 02, 2023

Not a too far off future me fears.

Reply

02:07 Sep 08, 2023

Thanks for reading Mary. Yeah with ChatGPT I wonder how soon it is before AI is really a threat.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
AnneMarie Miles
15:28 Sep 02, 2023

Wow, I actually felt like I was in the post-apocalyptic world! You created this world with such ease and conciseness. There was no excess of details and yet the grimness of this reality was clear. The ending came as a shock, though you did such a great job setting it up. Great story, Scott. And you've certainly unlocked a new fear for me, ha!

Reply

16:26 Sep 02, 2023

Thanks for reading! I felt it needed some more in the middle, but happy to hear it worked and the horror of.. "its me"... came through at the end.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Michelle Oliver
13:25 Sep 02, 2023

A very dystopian future. I like the way you snuck in more than one prompt this week. Clever. What an ending though.

Reply

02:07 Sep 08, 2023

Thx for reading and commenting. Sometimes I make it a challenge to include as many of the prompts as I can into a story. Wish I had a way to foreshadow that ending better, but I thought it might be too easy to give it away.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Delbert Griffith
11:49 Sep 02, 2023

Great little tale, Scott. Loved the world you created, and the ending was spectacular, my friend. You make it seem so effortless, writing devious tales of a dystopian future. I'm impressed, and a little jealous. LOL Nicely done, my friend. Nicely done indeed. Cheers!

Reply

12:18 Sep 02, 2023

Thanks Delbert, I feel I need to flesh out the middle on this one. Just felt someone needed to throw in a zombie virus into "the human touch" prompt. I had two full stories last week that went over well so I'm happy about that.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Delbert Griffith
11:49 Sep 02, 2023

Great little tale, Scott. Loved the world you created, and the ending was spectacular, my friend. You make it seem so effortless, writing devious tales of a dystopian future. I'm impressed, and a little jealous. LOL Nicely done, my friend. Nicely done indeed. Cheers!

Reply

Show 0 replies
03:56 Sep 02, 2023

A horror concept I had about an AI designed productivity virus/vaccine taking over the freelancer community, and then everyone else. Still working on the mid-section of the story.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Amanda Lieser
23:28 Sep 28, 2023

Hi Scott! Oh heavens! These past three stories have been so beautifully created. This one was bone chillingly plausible. I think your narrator was a great choice because I felt so confused and frightened with every line I read. You did a great job of creating a monster in the virus and my heart ached at those last lines. Nice work!!

Reply

Show 0 replies