First let me say thanks to my volunteer editor KJ plotts for putting up with me...I know I can be a handful. :) This is a long story about some fairly dark subject matter so if that's not your thing I can completely understand that but you should think about another story then. Otherwise I hope you enjoy it and make sure to vote.
The Second Coming
Turning and turning in a widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the second Coming is at hand.
The second coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?
William Butler Yeats
Where to begin? That is a question that has perplexed me for sometime, even before the council asked me as the town's librarian to finally create a real history of those early years. It's been something that I've wanted to do for some time. To try to get it all down and in the right order while those of us who actually witnessed these events are s'til around to give their testimony.
I believe the council is right in wanting to do this, since if for no other reason than future generations will be born and live their lives and have no direct knowledge of or connection to the old world even if that connection was only through the memories of those of us who are s'til around who remember it. These future children will also have no knowledge of those dangerous and perilous first few years after the fall of the old world and they will need to know what happened and why.
These future generations will need to know not only about the successes we had that led to our thriving community today, but also about the sacrifices that were made necessary to ensure the survival of our group.
I must also find a way to tell them about our failures; we had so many for they too played a role in shaping who we are as a people today.
The effort that is underway already to more or less idolize the groups early leaders especially Kevin is only natural I suppose given what the human race has been through its only natural to want to have hero's, someone to look up too.
But s'til the unvarnished truth needs to be put down since the Kevin Thompson I knew certainly didn't intend for this growing settlement to be his legacy. I honestly don't think he wanted anything to do with any of this at first. In fact I'm sure he didn't. I was only a young girl at the time of course but like the rest of us I remember that I had to grow up fast and take on more responsibility than I would have ever thought I was capable of but I did it and Kevin told be once that he was proud of me and all my hard work.
I have often wondered if Kevin experienced the same sorts or doubts and uncertainties that I did. I guess we'll never know.
But Kevin did step up and do what had to be done to ensure the groups survival but did that make him a hero that so many would like to paint him as today? I don't know, perhaps its for history itself to decided these things, but I do know that he would have been the first to laugh at the very idea of him being some sort of larger than life figure. Perhaps to call a Kevin a reluctant hero would be closer to the truth. In any case it is now my responsibility to try to get our early history from the time of the fall of the old world to now as accurately as I can. I owe it not only to the future but also to the past to get it right. So I'm back to my original question of where to begin but I guess like any great story it needs to start like they did.
In the beginning......
It's not everyday that you get to see the beginning of the end of the world and everything you know right in front of you. So it could be understandable that Kevin Thompson didn't fully appreciate what the initial reports of the viral outbreak meant when he watched the news that first night.
Having just gotten home after another long day of sweating his ass off from driving a truck for a construction company in Lincoln, Nebraska, he'd made the nearly hour long drive home just in time on this warm May evening to flip on CNN and catch some actual news or at least as close as they ever got to it before the network went to hours of nothing more than talking heads.
But after a day at work he, like any good news junkie, just wanted to get his fix and not listen to hours of inane chatter from a group of people he considered having the combined IQ of a piece of cauliflower and a small piece at that.
However the attractive brunette on the screen with what could only be described as a truly impressive set of tits was rambling on about authorities in China quarantining a local village in response to what looked like another flare-up of the bird flu.
He'd heard this before just like everyone else that bothered to follow the news and most of these flare ups were either stamped out quickly or were just another false alarm to begin with so Kevin didn't pay much attention, after all he had his own problems to deal with.
The little blurb of a story was out of the news cycle for a few days ''til cases of apparently the same thing suddenly popped up in Southeast Asia and in Europe on the same day; that's when he at least first started to get worried. Apparently though he was about the only person that was worried since no one at work or even in the news seemed to be taking it all that seriously at least publicly.
That is 'til the first wave of infected people started to die on live TV, and die they did. That was when The World Health organization as well as the CDC started sounding the alarm in earnest. More and more of the so called experts started talking about the idea that this was in fact the big one that they had all been warning about.
Apparently this was the nightmare scenario that virologists the world over had been having so many sleepless nights about. A virus that spread person to person through the air like the flu, but unlike the regular flu which just makes most people that catch it feel like crap for a couple of days and then they get better, this bug ferociously attacks the body leading to almost certain death.
To make matters worse the disease seemed to be resistant to just about anything they could throw at it. So now all those enormous stockpiles of pills, which had been amassed at great expense by governments and individuals like, at the urging of the big drug conglomerates to protect the people, were now found to be all but useless against the very thing they were intended to work against.
So just at the moment then the human race needed modern medical science the most, medical science came to realize that the viruses and bacteria out in the world still had a lot to teach us about our place in the great scheme of things.
The New Plague, as it was quickly dubbed in the media, had already spread by this time of course and continued to spread with almost breath taking speed. With modern air travel people who either didn't realize how infectious they were or maybe they just didn't care continued to travel normally, the damn fools got on airplanes, busses, trains and other forms of mass transit where they spread a deadly pathogen to as many new victims as could be done. Of course the places they went had lots of people in them and simply by breathing and interacting with all these unsuspecting intervals the virus continued to spread.
The bug started appearing all over the world in the next week and of course global panic wasn't far behind.
From the scale of national governments to individual people everyone started to try to quarantine themselves, just like in the 13th and 14th centuries during the time of the black death when cities like London tried to wall themselves in to keep the disease out.
In the 21st century it worked about as well as it did then, the bug still found its way in, assuming it wasn't already there before they tried to stop it.
The number of cases globally exploded exponentially in the big mega cities around the world; hospitals that were already operating at near capacity on a normal day were completely overwhelmed with the sick and dying as well as all the people who just thought they were.
Just like people all over the world, Kevin got to watch the end of the world live on 24 hour television. In a space of a few days the story went from just hardly being mentioned at all to being all they talked about and humans, being the herd animals they were, panicked even more.
Kevin found it was amazing to watch it all play out even mesmerizing in an abstract sort of way. Seeing just how fast modern civilization could unravel like a cheap rug.
He kept going to work since he needed the money, but many of his co-workers didn't show up, not that he could really blame them. Then the first of them started to die, just one at first then another and another. With no one to replace them Kevin's company like most everything else soon ground to a halt and the owners told the workers that were left to just go home 'til it was all over.
Kevin figured they couldn't have kept going much longer anyway since it was getting harder to get fuel, spare parts, you name it as the transportation system infrastructure began to break down.
The various government agencies for the most part did their best to keep people calm, as well as keeping basic services like electrical power and the water on. They also organized the shipping of food and medicine to towns and cities all over the country. Other counties were doing the same, in the case of Beatrice, Nebraska, the local Wal-mart was chosen as the distribution point. It was one of the few sites in town that had enough refrigerated storage space for that much food, as well as its designed purpose being that it was intended to move large numbers of people in and out as quickly as possible which suited the authorities needs.
On top of that with its location being out away from town the military and police who were running the show thought they could more easily secure the area. This idea took on new importance when the supply convoys in different parts of the country started being attacked.
That was when martial law was finally declared. A curfew was announced and military units started appearing more frequently in town and just about everywhere else as well it seemed from what they were saying on TV, even with the new level of censorship that had been imposed.
Just who these people attacking the convoys were wasn't really clear but it looked like that with the implementation of rationing a black market had not surprisingly quickly sprung up and these same groups wanted whatever was in those trucks for themselves.
Now Kevin was no virologist but he didn't think it was a good idea for so many people to be crowded together at a single distribution point with an airborne virus on the loose. The problem was no one seemed to be able to come up with another way to get food to all the people that needed it any other way. It was finally decided that people were just going to have to risk it.
The government did have medics there all the time looking for anyone that might be sick and they found them too. More and more often, 'til a temporary clinic was set up in the parking lot to handle the growing number of sick people that were being pulled out of line; a temporary morgue was set up as well for the same reason.
Big military two and a half ton trucks could be heard rumbling through town everyday. Kevin had seen them himself, people in protective suits going door to door,kicking the doors in where necessary and pulling out the bodies of the dead and taking the sick but still living to the field hospitals they had set up.
Field hospitals now that was a good one, Kevin thought. There were so few doctors to go around by now that most were being operated by anyone that had any medical training at all. He'd heard that the bodies of the dead were being taken to mass graves that had been dug outside of town but he hadn't seen them and the news broad casts were forbidden under the rules of the state of emergency that had been declared from showing them or even talking about it all that much. It made sense he supposed but still the way it was going they were all going to end up there eventually. So what was the point?
Of course with all the camera phones out there someone finally managed to get close enough to get some pictures of what was going on and then posting them on the internet. It showed both troops and civilian contractors he supposed in full biohazard gear running bull dozers and backhoes digging long trenches then the trucks of all kinds would start showing up. They back up to the edge and would dump their load of bodies. It was clear from the video that it was human bodies; many were in black plastic body bags others were wrapped in sheets and still others were just wearing whatever they had on when they had died or had been found.
It wasn't long after that sight made it into the public consciences when the TV news broadcasts started going off the air. Kevin, sitting in his living room, couldn't help but wonder, was this how we were really going out?
Sitting in a very uncomfortable plastic chair and trying to doze in the staff break room which was one of the few areas of the hospital that hadn't been turned into wards for all the sick and dying people that had come in, Kelly Peterson couldn't help but think about how she had come to this point.
Being the child of mix race parents made her something of a novelty in her home town of Beatrice which was about as much of a corn fed white bread town as you would find just about anywhere but here in Lincoln she blended in much better, with it's larger population leading to a lot more ethnic diversity.
Her long black hair was currently pulled back into a pony tail for convenience sake and the dark bags under her honey colored eyes, a gift from her father, were showing the stress of the last few weeks.
Her mother Helen Peterson had wanted to be a doctor all of her life and both she and her family were ecstatic when she got a scholarship to the University of Nebraska to study medicine. She'd planned for everything that is everything except meeting Kelly's father. Walter Ucumba was an exchange student from West Africa. He had never been so far away from home and he had found the United States both fascinating as well as frightening. Experiencing the usual home sickness that many college students felt, Walter threw himself into his studies. That is 'til he met Kelly with her brown hair and blue eyes; she caught his attention right away. Walter hadn't come to the states to get into a relationship; he was here to work, to better himself. But Helen was just such a sweet person he couldn't help himself but to fall in love with her.
The day she met Walter was one of the greatest days of Helen's life, no matter how it ultimately turned out. She and Walter had an instant connection, soon they were inseparable and being college age kids, one thing led to another and Kelly found herself pregnant.
Walter was terrified at the prospect of fatherhood; he did love Kelly there wasn't any doubt about that but he also knew that he wasn't ready to get married to her or anyone else at this point in his life. Neither of them believed in abortion so that only left one option.
Helen dropped out of school and moved home. Her family had pretty much disowned her over her affair with not just a college boy but a black one at that. Only her grandmother and a couple close friends stood by her during these years and though times were hard she and her daughter got by.
Walter to his credit didn't abandon his unwanted family; he knew it was his responsibility to look after them and he did his best. He sent what money he could while he was still in school and once he had his degree, he sent more. He made sure that Helen and Kelly had everything that he could give them.
Helen knew though that she still wanted to work in medicine so after Kelly started school she went back to school herself and worked toward and earned a degree in nursing. Growing up and seeing how hard her mom worked and how much good she did, Kelly knew what she wanted to do with her life and followed her mom into nursing. Getting her Bachelors of Science she went to work as an RN in a hospital in Lincoln just weeks before the outbreak had started.
Being a young inexperienced nurse Kelly was just getting her feet on the ground when the news reports started about what was happening in China and the hospital received its first alert on what to keep an eye out for.
Unfortunately it didn't take long for the first cases to appear; just a couple that first day then more the next and more and more 'til there was an almost steady stream of people coming in, not only to her hospital but the only other major hospital in town as well as every clinic and doctor's office as well.
In all too short a time, every bed was full and they were lining people up in the halls, on the floor, in the waiting areas and any other space that was big enough to hold at least a couple of beds or even just a mattress on the floor or table and whatever equipment could be scrounged to help them. Ventilators in particular were desperately needed since as the disease progressed, it attacked the lungs causing them to fill with fluid, without a ventilator to help them breathe a person could literally drown in their own fluids.
But even with a ventilator the hospitals staff found with hard won but quickly acquired experience that it only prolonged the inevitable, none of the different drugs or high tech equipment they had seemed to help much. Very few people that got the virus recovered from it. Most lasted a few days to maybe a week if they were lucky or not depending on how you looked at it.
Quickly being over whelmed, they called for help and the military did send a couple of doctors to take over and as many medics as they could spare. It really didn't matter though, since it was like trying to hold back the ocean tide with a broom.
Unfortunately not only were the patients dying but the hospital staff started to die as well, some from the disease, some others from the increasingly lawless nature of the city she had until recently called home. There were just not enough soldiers and police to go around now. Many were sick or already dead themselves; others were trying to protect their own families. As their numbers dwindled however the gangs of people that had started to come together to survive started fighting among themselves staking their claims to what was left. Not unlike vultures, she thought grimly, picking away the meat of a mostly dead but still squirming animal.