The End: Story One
The Sickness

By: David K. Montoya

The near future...

These are the Chronicles of The End of the World. It all started fifteen years ago, in 2005, when a great sickness swept over the world. At first, it seemed to be just a new strain of the flu, but we soon learned that it was something more—something much more.

You see, the common flu would only stay in the human system for maybe a week, tops, but 'The Sickness', as it was to become known, it never seemed to go away. It just slowly ate you up, until there was nothing left. As crazy as it may sound, what started out as a mild illness, turned into an epidemic that swept the entire world and in just a few years, over 3 billion people had died.

But, what caused all of this suffering? Doctors said, at first, that it was dehydration that actually killed people, not the disease itself. Several days of intense vomiting and purging diarrhea killed off the young and the old rather quickly. We thought the worst was over, but, we were wrong. Initially, people thought it was the water that was making everyone sick. That somehow all of the world's oceans, lakes and rivers had become poisoned, polluted, to the point of no repair. So, almost everyone stopped drinking water. All that did was make it easier for The Sickness to kill off more people. If they couldn't replenish the lost fluid, dehydration set in quickly, and they were gone before we knew it.

Finally, after more than two years of people dropping like flies, a professor in Spain made a horrifying discovery. The Sickness wasn't in the water, but in the very air that we breath. But, by that time, it was too late for most people. There were less than a million of us left on the entire planet.

Ten more years have passed since then and those of us who actually survived The Sickness, well I guess we are immune. A while back, there was some genetic research done on some of the survivors and it seems that we all have an extra gene that makes us immune—the Immortal Gene, it's called.

Yeah, we lived through the greatest plague known to man, but now what do we do? Earth has become a Ghost Planet. There are just a few families, in a few cities, scattered all over the globe and supplies to keep those few of us alive are getting pretty scarce.

There's a rumor that in Montana, people are gathering, what few of us there are left, to start a new civilization—to start from scratch and rebuild our world. This new city is called HAVEN, for it would be a safe haven for all of mankind.

So, I did the only thing I could do. My children and I, we collected what little we had and headed out to find this city of dreams. The problem with this adventure was, the only way we could get there was to go straight though Corpseland.

Corpseland is where some of the Unlucky Survivors remained. See, not everyone who got The Sickness died. Those poor souls who lived through the illness, well, their bodies survived, but their minds didn't. The best way to describe them would simply be to call them Zombies.

No, not like in the movies. They aren't stiff–legged and don't eat your brains, at least not specifically. They have just lost most rational thought and have reverted to a primal state. That makes them very vicious and very dangerous—much like a pack of wild animals. And there are more of them than there are of us.

When the time comes and we have to make our way through that hell hole, we'll be lucky if we make it out of there with our lives. But first, we have to head into Airepseh, the neighboring town, for supplies that we'll need for the journey. We've just about cleaned everything out of this town during the past few years. We also have to meet up with my brother and our two sisters, as we are all going to Haven, together.

My brother, Richard, had traveled to Airepseh after the rest of his family passed from the sickness and discovered that our mother had also died. Our father, however, had survived, but had become one of the Unlucky Survivors. Tina and Rose (our sisters) had locked father in a room, hoping that he would eventually get well, but Richard knew better. He chained our father up and took him to the outskirts of Corpseland and released him into the town. There, he will wander aimlessly with the other Unlucky Survivors, until the end of his days.

#

The night before our little expedition was to leave for Haven, we all sat around the fire. The mood was one of hesitation and nervousness. The kids (they're not really kids—Michael is eighteen and Maria is fifteen, but they will always be my 'kids') hardly said five words all night. I tried to strike up a conversation, but they would have none of it. They just sat there, staring into the fire, as if they were watching some fantastic television show. Well, Michael remembered TV, a little, but by the time Maria was old enough to really pay attention, there wasn't much television any more. I asked both of them what they were thinking about, but they both said 'Nothing'. I wish I knew their thoughts. If I could read their minds, I would know what was troubling them and maybe I could have some answers for them.

After dinner, we all retired, but I couldn't sleep. My thoughts wandered. What would Haven be like? Would it be better there? Or would all of this be in vain? What if there was no Haven? What if it was all just a myth? Is it really necessary to take this risk, to risk my children for perhaps only a dream?

I have to go. We can't afford to stay here in Appleton any longer. There's nothing left here, really. It was a small town to begin with and everything has been used up that's useful, at all. Oh, we had managed to survive. We could grow fruit—that's what the city was famous for, after all, apples—and we had a few good crops of corn and melons, but the soil here isn't very good and the climate sucks. It's too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter to grow any decent crops and it's gotten too hard to maintain ourselves on just canned supplies, alone.

I guess that's what happens when you live in the desert. It's been good in some ways, though. The mountains have kept the Unlucky Survivors from getting too close, until recently. But, water is hard to come by and the supply of bottled water is just about gone. I was lucky enough to get quite a bit of it when this whole thing started. People stopped drinking it, so I was able to stock up and after everyone else was gone, well, there was plenty, for a while.

But, we're down to our last couple of drums of fresh water and we have a long way to go. With six people drinking a couple of liters a day, what we have won't last all that long. And, it seems the Unlucky Survivors have made it to the outskirts of Airepseh. It took them a long time to move up the hill and over the mountains, but in a few months, they will have overrun what's left of that town and will head this way. So, we have to move on, whether we like it or not.

#

The next morning, we loaded up the old SUV. Michael and Maria made one last sweep through the place, to make sure they had everything. I loaded the last two cans of gasoline on board and made sure the weapons were stored properly. We had a few guns, but the ammunition could not be replaced when what we had was gone, so we took as many edged weapons as we could lay our hands on—knives, axes, a couple of swords and makeshift spears. Those we could use over and over again and each of use carried a knife or two on our person at all times, while I wore a pistol at my hip and had a loaded shotgun next to the front seat.

We should have enough gas to get us out of California, at least, that is if we can get past the Unlucky ones. The kids came out and tossed a few more things in the back and we headed out. Again, the mood was somber. No one said a word as we left our home. I watched it fade away in the rear view mirror and I thought to myself, 'This is a new beginning, but I wonder what's in store for us?'

To be continued…

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