Even being an all too green RN, Kelly soon found herself running a whole floor of sick and dying people since there just wasn't anyone else to do it. She only had one assistant near the end, Linda the teenage daughter of a patient that didn't make it. Kelly in all honesty had to admit that no matter what brought the younger woman there she for one was glad to have her. The girl did what she was told and learned fast.

Captain Sam Nichols, the army doctor supposedly in charge of the hospital, had to make his rounds to all the floors since he was the only actual doctor left. The others like the rest of the staff either trained personnel like Kelly or volunteers like Linda were themselves either dead or sick.

But some of them though did seem to just disappear; it was assumed by those that were left behind that these people had just run off to GGod knows where since with the situation being so bad outside no one in their right mind dared leave the hospital grounds anymore without a damn good reason; just going home was boarding on the suicidal. The volunteers, nurses, medics and anyone else that were left just stayed put, grabbing what food and sleep they could when they could then went back to work.

In one concession to the reality of the situation the military had allowed those working in the hospital to bring their surviving family members into the fortified grounds of the hospital. This deal had been worked out in an effort to keep the trained personnel at their posts but most of the family members at least the ones able too did what they could to help out. At least at first there had been plenty for them to do.

Kelly had no idea where the people would go when they would take off, since both from the news before it went off the air and from what she heard from the military, the virus was everywhere. It had reached every continent every city, and they were all pretty much in the same shape as they were here.

She knew the doctors of the CDC had sealed themselves into there labs and were working night and day on any idea they thought even had a slight chance of helping. The Army had turned the grounds of the facility into an armed camp to protect them. But even if they could find a treatment Kelly knew in her bones it was already way too late.

The remaining hospital staff did somehow manage to keep going like this for a couple of weeks 'til one day Captain Nichols finally told them that the supply convoys that had been running the medicine, food and fuel that kept the hospital functioning were being stopped simply because of the amount of man power to took to keep the system going just wasn't able to be maintained any longer.

When asked how they were going to keep the hospital functioning he simply told them they weren't.

The number of new cases had indeed dropped off to almost nothing in the last week, Kelly knew this to be true but whether it was because there weren't any new cases or if it was because they were just dying at home rather than risk coming here to die she didn't know.

Kelly and the rest of the assembled staff were told that there would be one last resupply and that would be it, hopefully. He added this would be enough to get them through the last of it but he didn't know.

Another sign the end was coming closer was when the power in the city went out and stayed out this time, there had been numerous blackouts ever since the outbreak had started but the powers that be had managed to keep at least basic services like electrical power functioning at least most of the time.

From talking to some of the troops guarding the grounds they seemed to think this was a good thing since it would reduce the risk of fire that could easily spread through the city without anyone to put it out. Kelly had asked then if they or someone would put it out but was told that as long as it stayed away from anything that was considered vital like the hospital they had no choice but to let it burn. She had seen a few columns of smoke from the hospital's upper floors already but so far the city had managed to avoid any large conflagration; other cities hadn't been so lucky or so she had been told.

So now with the electricity out the only thing they had left were the emergency generators. Captain Nichols also told her that the generators only had enough fuel to run for about 72 hours and that would be it.

So it was decision time at last. Kelly for her part though was honestly finding it harder and harder to be able to look at or even deal with any of the poor retched souls that were trapped this horrible place with her, but whether she was describing the patients or what was left of the hospital staff she honestly couldn't be sure anymore.

Knowing she needed to rest Kelly wandered into a staff break room for a short but much needed nap hoping it would clear her head.

When Linda came in to wake her after an hour just like she had been told, Kelly could see the haunted look in the exhausted women's face. Whether it was from seeing her own family dying right before her eyes and being powerless to do anything about it or maybe it was just from seeing so much death in general, Kelly didn't know, but if she'd taken a good look in the mirror Kelly would have certainly recognized the same expression on her own face.

Kelly had lost touch with her mom over a week earlier. At that time the older women had told her daughter she hadn't gotten sick but she had been working at the local hospital in Beatrice as a volunteer, even though she had been retired for a couple of years due to a bad heart. But with the worsening situation the hospital had finally closed down when it became clear that the few troops left couldn't protect it and most of the people inside were already dead; it seemed pointless to keep it open any longer. During their last conversation which had to be brief due to the fact that most of the land lines and cell towers weren't working and the few that were still operating were maintained for strictly official use, Kelly though had sweet talked a sergeant into letting her have a few minutes to make her call.

Helen had told her daughter that she wasn't feeling well but was sure it was just her heart giving her a hard time and not the plague. Her mom then asked her to come home, but Kelly had told her about what had been happening in Lincoln and didn't think it was safe to travel unless she absolutely had too. Helen had replied that she understood and would pray for her daughter and would be waiting for her when she had done all she could there.

Finally, now with the power about to die, the few surviving staff had a choice to make. Captain Nichols had informed them that the remaining troops were pulling out for Offutt air force base in Omaha. They had orders to take any survivors there, but the captain wouldn't force them to go. He knew most of them had family in area or least they did anyway. So he put the question to them. He and the remaining military personnel were going in the morning taking the patients that were left even if they really shouldn't be moved as well as much of the equipment and remaining supplies as they could and whoever wanted to go was welcome to join them.

Whoever didn't come with them he would wish well but he told them that for their own safety they really should get out of the hospital complex; the looting throughout the city had gotten worse as most if not all civil order had long since broken down.

Now he also recommended that for those that chose to stay they get out of the city if possible and try to hide out in the country side 'til the situation stabilized even though he really had no idea when that would be. He gave them 'til morning to decided what they wanted to do, if they did want to come with them then they should be ready to go when the survivor's convoy departed.

So as agreed first thing the next morning he assembled his few remaining troops some of whom were obviously sick. He got them and the surviving patients loaded onto his remaining trucks as well as a few civilian vehicles. They were able to commandeer and after asking one last time if anyone else wanted to come with them, they set out.

Kelly had asked Linda if she had wanted to go with them but the younger woman had said no. She had seen enough hospitals and all the death that lived there over the last few weeks and wanted no more to do with it. When Kelly had asked her what she was going to do Linda really didn't have an answer; the young woman had been living in an exhausted horror filled daze for so long she really didn't know what she was doing anymore.

Finally speaking up Linda told her that she still had some distant family here in town and they might have made it so she would seek them out. Kelly had wanted to tell her about the obvious dangers of a young woman going alone into what was left of the city, but she held her tongue. Linda knew as well as anyone what was likely to happen, she'd seen the gunshot wounds being suffered by the military guards and police being brought in not to mention what had been done to the women that had been caught out alone when searching for whatever they had been searching for.

Resigned to the way the world seemed to work now, Kelly finally wished her young friend well and having already had what would most likely be her last hot shower for who knows how long got into her beat up Mercury Tracer and headed for Beatrice. Her last sight of Linda was of the girl wearing hospital scrubs standing alone in the virtually empty parking lot seeming to be staring off in the distance at something only she could see.

Chapter 3

Hiding out in his house just like anyone else that wasn't already dead, Kevin wasn't sure what he was going to do. He couldn't stay here forever; sooner or later he'd have to go out for food. By this time the distribution system using the local Wal-Mart had broken down for good it seemed. He'd made that trip a couple of times and had somehow managed to not get sick though he couldn't have explained how he had managed that feat.

Kevin was still considering his options for what to do when he got a call he hadn't expected. He was in fact a little surprised that the phones even still worked.

The call had been from John Olson, a sort of friend of his. He'd worked with John a few years earlier and they had stayed in touch. John though was a strange one; he was sort of a survivalist type Kevin knew.

He had kept to himself as much as he could but he had warned Kevin repeatedly about being prepared for the end, either through war or some sort of natural disaster. Most people just figured he was a little crazy and didn't pay him much attention but Kevin had been at least somewhat interested and they'd talked about it.

While Kevin found that John might at least be a little paranoid he also seemed to know what he was talking about. He always refused to go into details but Kevin was sure that he had a plan.

Once, after they'd both had a little too much to drink, John had told him that if the end came he should be ready to protect himself since civil society would quickly fall apart and each of them would be on their own to come through any way they could. When he tried to question him about it he just refused to talk about it anymore but told Kevin not to come knocking at his door since even if he didn't want to he would defend what was his. Kevin believed him, so it was all the more surprising when John called him and asked him to come over as soon as he could telling him it was urgent.

While a simple drive across town hadn't been a life threatening proposition in the safe comfortable old world in this new one they were living in just about any action no matter how simple or basic had to be weighed for the potential risks.

Deciding it was worth it Kevin tried to drive along as inconspicuously as he could since he certainly didn't want to draw any unwanted attention to himself. He still heard gun shots and other signs of life from town so any kind of movement had to be considered dangerous but fortunately John's house, being one of a cluster of houses set just outside of town, wasn't too far away from his apartment.

At last arriving safely he pulled up and could see that everything at least looked calm. John not surprisingly had always been one to believe in home defense and had bars on all the windows of his Ranch style house. Kevin had been there a couple of times though he'd never been inside so he had known the way. Before he could knock on the steel reinforced fire door, he heard John inside asking him to step back from the door.

Backing off the steps the door opened and his friend stepped out, with one look from Kevin it was clear that John was sick, in fact he looked terrible. Asking about this John told him unnecessarily that he had the bug and that he didn't have much time left. Kevin told him that he'd take him to a doctor but John just shook his head telling him not to worry about it since they both knew by this point that there was little anyone could do about it.

John tossed a large briefcase to the ground and told Kevin to take it with him and that what was inside would explain everything. Then wishing him luck John turned and went back into the house.

Not knowing what else to do Kevin picked up the offered case and went home. Opening it he found a two way radio and was astonished to fine John's whole survival plan. It was all laid out there for him to read and implement. Everything from his secret weapons stash buried in the back yard, to plans for having enough food to last the first winter. It seemed his somewhat off base friend had thought of everything. Maybe he hadn't been as crazy as everyone had thought.

Following the instructions he called John everyday at the same time, each day his friend sounded worse and always refused all aid. Then the day came he couldn't reach him either by phone or radio. Just as he'd been told he tried for 4 more days before he went back to John's house using the spare key that John had told him would be there and found his friend in bed having succumbed just like everyone else it seemed.

Continuing to follow John's instructions he buried his friend in the back yard just like he'd asked after digging up the stash of automatic weapons he'd hidden there. He then put his friend's body into the hole and covered him over.

Once that grim duty was done Kevin spent some time looking things over around Johns house and found everything just the way it should be. Food supplies, weapons, ammo, extra clothing in various sizes, you name it.

John even had an independent power source; the house was powered by a hydrogen fuel cell system which got its fuel from water. He had solar cells providing electrical power for the electrolysis equipment that split up the water molecules releasing oxygen and hydrogen. The oxygen was a waste gas and was just released into the atmosphere while the hydrogen was stored in what looked like a series of four 500 gallon propane tanks.

John also had the foresight to convert his pickup truck to run on either hydrogen or gasoline with a flip of a switch. Kevin's benefactor who had been very thorough in his planning also left detailed information on how to convert other vehicles to run on hydrogen as well as needed maintenance of the system. Everything he would seem to need had been provided.

During this time he also started paying more attention to the outside world since not only was he curious about what has happening, but according to John he needed to wait for a while before going to the next step, but not too long. So Kevin spent the following days watching society complete its disintegration.

The sketchy news reports from all over the world were pretty much the same. Riots, war, as old enemies tried to inflict as much damage to each other as they could before their militaries were completely gone.

Various fundamentalist religious groups of every stripe under the sun had started out claiming it was the work of GGod, striking down his enemies. Well that story really didn't hold up when everyone, saint and sinner alike, had started to die; then they said it was God's judgment on humanity and they were all being punished, but no matter how loudly they preached they never forgot to ask for your money. Hearing all this Kevin could only laugh and shake his head at the stupidity of people. Here the world was coming to an end and they were either still at each other's throats or trying to cheat each other out of whatever they had left. Was that a fitting epitaph for humanity or what, he wondered to himself?

The electrical power had been going off and on for the last week or so as the few surviving workers struggled to keep the lights on. Phone service was equally spotty, but it was the power that really worried Kevin since he needed to make a withdrawal from the local supermarkets. Finally the day came and he decided that he'd waited long enough and knew he would have to take his chances with his resupply run.

Kevin still heard the sound of engines as well as occasional gun fire, not to mention smoke from what had to be house fires rising from town from time to time so he knew that there were other survivors out there and that they weren't exactly friendly. Still he needed to get this done and the sooner the better other wise the power might fail completely and most, if not all of the food left, could spoil or someone else might beat him to it.

If John had been clear about anything in his instructions, it was that the rules have now changed and the only law that counted now was survival. He had to be ready to do what he had to do to survive and if someone else got in his way he'd have to be ready to move them out of the way. Otherwise they would do the same to him.

Then over night the power quit apparently for good this time. With the main power out the clock was running he knew that grocery stores like Wal-Mart had their own generators to run the refrigeration systems so there food wouldn't spoil in the event of a power failure.

But the problem was Kevin didn't know how much fuel they might have or even if they were still even working. So time was now very much of the essence. He'd already moved what few personal processions he wanted to keep from his apartment to John's house since he doubted he'd ever go back there and was as ready as he could be.

Unfortunately with the power grid down for good any light showing after dark whether artificially generated or not would stand out like a signal flare calling all sorts of attention to anyone that happened to be around for miles. Fortunately for Kevin his benefactor had thought of this and had heavy curtains over all the windows, but even with that extra protection Kevin was smart enough not to have on any light after dark he didn't absolutely have too.

One thing that did surprise him about that first night was after dark he stepped outside to have a look around before he went to bed; not that he expected to get a lot of sleep but still he wanted to be vigilant.

Outside of this otherwise clear moonless night he did find something he hadn't expected. It was so dark. Oh sure he'd been outside in the country before of course in fact he'd lived around here all of his life but still this was an entirely new experience.

Like just about everyone in the western world that had grown up since the invention of electric lighting he was just use to seeing the glow in the sky at night from all the lights that were on from towns and even houses that might be many miles away but still managed to light up the horizon.

But now with the sudden absence of that light pollution, Kevin couldn't help himself but to simply stop right there in the doorway and just throw his head back and stare at the sky in wonder at all the stars he could see now. He had thought that since he'd lived in a rural environment for most of his life would have prepared him for this but boy was he wrong.

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bybeatriceguy© 6 comments/ 19313 views/ 8 favorites

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