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FREE TODAY!!! Isaac Race has already lost everyone close to him. He is about to lose a lot more. We all are. A mystery outbreak has swept North America…
Scott Medbury’s post-apocalyptic bestseller After Days: Affliction (The After Days Trilogy Book 1)

An Amazon bestseller in post-apocalyptic science fiction…


“Exceptional!…an exhilarating ride…brilliantly constructed and endlessly entertaining.”


After Days: Affliction (The After Days Trilogy Book 1)

by Scott Medbury

After Days: Affliction (The After Days Trilogy Book 1)
4.4 stars – 60 Reviews
Or FREE with Learn More
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled


Here’s the set-up:

Discover the harrowing dystopian trilogy destined to become an instant classic.

15 year old Isaac Race has already lost everyone close to him. He is about to lose a lot more. We all are. A mystery outbreak sweeps North America, it is chilling in both its speed and deadliness. The odd thing is though, it is only fatal to adults. Too late it becomes clear to authorities that the virus is man-made, a biological weapon, and that the United States is at war…a war it has already lost.

As his country is invaded and occupied by the Chinese army, Isaac must lead a ragtag group of survivors across three states in the depths of winter, avoiding not only the invaders, but also other dangers unleashed in a world suddenly deprived of adults and authority, to a safe haven that may not even exist.

Don’t Miss the Sequel! Sanctuary (The After Days Trilogy Book 2)


5-star Amazon reviews:

Skilled writing, nonstop action, and gritty characters come together in this white knuckle read.

Very good, fast paced, action packed read...”

Highly polished writing, flowing storyline with almost non stop action combined with in depth, highly believable characters – wonderful read...”

Click here to visit Scott Medbury’s BookGorilla Author Page


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Save 75% with a Kindle Countdown Deal and discover this harrowing post-apocalyptic sci-fi:
Sanctuary (The After Days Trilogy Book 2) by Scott Medbury

Sanctuary (The After Days Trilogy Book 2)

by Scott Medbury

Sanctuary (The After Days Trilogy Book 2)
4.3 stars – 24 Reviews
Kindle Price: 99 cents
On Sale! Everyday price: $3.99
Or FREE with Learn More
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled

Here’s the set-up:

Sequel to the #1 Amazon Bestseller AFTER DAYS

Discover the harrowing dystopian trilogy destined to become an instant classic.

Against the odds and despite the carnage of an unstoppable disease and relentless enemy, Isaac Race has delivered his group to safety… or has he?

Something is not quite right about the Drake Mountain Research facility and it has nothing to do with the black bags over their heads or the guns at their backs when they arrive. Rescued from the invading army, they should feel safe and secure, but all of them sense something is amiss. Their rescue has only raised more questions…why have they been separated from their friend Sonny? Why is there a military and Homeland Security presence in the facility? What is the head of the facility, Professor Leahy, working on and why is it so secret?

In Sanctuary, the gripping second novel of the After Days trilogy, Scott Medbury continues the enthralling tale of Isaac Race and his group of young survivors as they confront the end of America as we know it.


“It’s a gripping, fast paced adventure – the action doesn’t let up….ever!” – A. Cartwright CEO Ashton Publishing Group

For those who enjoy books with struggle, overcoming odds. Fans of The Woodland Series, Divergent, The Hunger Games likely will enjoy. 5 star Amazon review

Click here to visit Scott Medbury’s Amazon author page

And here, in the comfort of your own browser, is your free sample of Sanctuary:

KND Freebies: Chilling dystopian thriller AFTER DAYS is featured in today’s Free Kindle Nation Shorts excerpt

“Exceptional!…an exhilarating ride through the mystery and suspense…brilliantly constructed and endlessly entertaining.”

 A deadly outbreak sweeps North America — fatal only to adults. Too late it becomes clear that the virus is in fact man-made, a horrifying biological weapon…

Discover the harrowing dystopian trilogy destined to become an instant classic while Book I is just 99 cents!

4.7 stars – 7 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:

15-year-old Isaac Race has already lost everyone close to him. He is about to lose a lot more. We all are. A mystery outbreak sweeps North America, it is chilling in both its speed and deadliness. The odd thing is though, it is only fatal to adults. Too late it becomes clear to authorities that the virus is man-made, a biological weapon, and that the United States is at war…a war it has already lost.

As his country is invaded and occupied by the Chinese army, Isaac must lead a ragtag group of survivors across three states in the depths of winter, avoiding not only the invaders, but also other dangers unleashed in a world suddenly deprived of adults and authority, to a safe haven that may not even exist.

5-star praise for After Days:

Chilling depiction of a dystopian future!
“…The writing is superbly done, enough to keep the reader reeling from the action and suspense…”

Fantastic read!
“…a gripping, fast-paced adventure — it’s refreshing to see a guy as the main character in this genre…”

an excerpt from

After Days

by Scott Medbury


Copyright © 2014 by Scott Medbury and published here with his permission

Man is the cruelest animal.

― Friedrich Nietzsche







My name is Isaac Race.  I am 15 years old. My mother is dead. My father is dead. So is my sister, Rebecca. They were dead even before the infection. In fact everyone I ever loved or cared about is dead now. I can’t complain too much, the others have all lost everybody they ever loved too, all except Ben and Brooke, the twins. They have each other at least.

I guess I need to start at the beginning, before it all happened…before the shit hit the fan, as my last foster father used to say all the time. Yeah I said ‘last foster father’. I had two after my parents died. That’s where I’ll begin my story, just before the infection killed all the grown-ups…well, nearly all of them.

My Mom, Dad and kid sister were killed in a house fire when I was 13. I wasn’t at home that night; I had been staying at my best friend Tommy’s. It was a Saturday night. The cops and the social workers all told me how lucky I was that I hadn’t been there that night. I didn’t feel lucky. For a long time I kind of wished I had been home. Maybe I could have saved them…or if not, at least I would have died too and not been left with the awful empty feeling that is only now starting to fade after two years.

If I had died too, we would have been in Heaven together. Well that’s what I thought back then, when it first happened. I know there isn’t a Heaven now. There can’t be a Heaven without a God. I know there isn’t a God, because no God would let the Chinese do what they did to us. What they did to America.

Anyway, I don’t think about dying anymore. You kind of stop thinking about death when it could happen to you at any time. Just look at Sarah. She was the first one that Luke and I had found. She was a good kid, and only just beginning to come out of the shell that she had retreated into after ‘Hell Week’. That’s what Luke called the first week after it had all happened, but to me, every week since had been ‘Hell Week’. Dogs got her. It was a pack that had been stalking us for a few miles, they were hungry and mean. I’ll never forget her screams. We shot three of them and the rest fled, but not before they had nearly torn her arm off …we couldn’t stop the bleeding.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I need to go back to the beginning, when my world changed…two years before everybody else’s did too.


Dad hadn’t arrived to pick me up as he had promised at 10am on the Sunday morning. I called home at 1030 to see where he was but all I got was the shrill beep, beep, beep of a busy signal. Mr. Benson asked me what my dad’s cell number was, but I didn’t know. Mr. Benson said he was sure that my Dad wouldn’t be too much longer, so Tommy and I went to his room and played his X-Box while we waited. When two hours passed with no word, the Benson’s gave me some lunch before Tommy and his dad drove me home just after 1230.

I know it sounds weird, but I kind of knew that something wasn’t right. I had a funny feeling all that morning, a sense that something bad was going to happen. I didn’t know it then, but it had already happened. When Mr. Benson turned onto our street, I knew before I saw them that there would be fire trucks. I don’t know how, but I did. And sure enough there they were, impossibly red on that bright, sunny afternoon.

The place where my house had stood was a blackened pile of rubble; the remains of a rotten tooth in the perfect smile of big, neat houses that lined our street. Mr. Benson whispered “fuck”. Normally that would have cracked Tommy and me into hysterical laughter, but I think I was already in shock and even Tommy was stunned into silence for the first time since I had known him.

Mr. Benson was saying something to me when we pulled up but I didn’t hear him, I was out of the door before he’d even stopped the car. I saw Mr. Johnson our neighbor talking to a police officer and he yelled my name frantically when he saw me. He said something quickly to the officer, pointing to me before rushing at me. I took a step back but he caught me and pulled me to him in a tight hug. “Thank God you’re okay Isaac!”

That was when he began to sob. I felt his big gut moving up and down against me as his tears wet my cheek. We stood that way for a long time; I didn’t know what to say or how to escape his hug. He just kept crying and whispering how sorry he was about my family. Finally, I heard a man’s voice over his shoulder.

“Mr. Johnson…please, I’ll talk to the boy.”

I stumbled a little as the big man let me go. The police officer put a steadying hand on my shoulder and guided me to the fence that our place shared with Mr. Johnson’s. That day is still a blur but I remember looking back at the smoking mess that was my home, before the officer gently turned me away and faced me back towards the street. I saw Tommy standing there with his dad’s arm around his shoulder and for the first time, it hit me that I would never feel my dad’s arm around me again. I started to weep as the officer bent over me.

“I’m so sorry son. I want you to know that your mom and dad and sister wouldn’t have felt a thing. It looks like the fire started in the kitchen and they would have been sound asleep. The smoke going through the house meant that they didn’t wake up or feel pain.” He paused, as if unsure how to go on. “Now I need to know if you have family that we can notify and get you looked after. Grandparents or aunts and uncles? Anyone close by?”

I tried to man up, ashamed of my tears and the sobs escaping my throat. Funny what things seem important to a 13 year old when their world has just collapsed. I shook my head.

“There’s no one,” I sniveled. “All of my grandparents are dead, and I don’t have uncles or aunties.”

“It’s okay son, we’ll have someone take care of you. Here, come and sit in the patrol car for a minute.” The cop patted my shoulder and began walking to his cruiser, indicating I should follow. I paused, for a second I thought I could see my Dad in the crowd of people that watched from across the street. It was only a second before I realized it wasn’t him, just someone of the same height and build. That would happen a lot over the next few months. I would think I saw him or Mom or Rebecca at random times, only for the reality of my loss to hit me again and again.

When I didn’t follow immediately, the cop turned and reached for my hand. I absently shook him off and he shrugged, not unkindly, and led the way to his vehicle. I trailed him numbly and climbed into the front passenger seat when he opened the door. I looked around, my boy’s curiosity at being in a police car surfaced through the well of grief for a just a moment. I managed to stop crying and wiped my eyes as I listened to the cop make a call back to base. I could tell it was about me, but didn’t really absorb what was being said. After he signed off I saw Tommy’s dad come up to the driver’s door. He leaned over and whispered a few words in the officer’s ear before passing him a card. When he was done, he walked around the car to me with a serious look on his face, before placing a hand on my shoulder.

“Isaac, Tommy and I have to go. I have given the officer my details, they can call us anytime and so can you. Take it easy son, I know it doesn’t seem like it now, but everything will be…better in a few weeks.” He looked around. “Tommy, come say goodbye to Isaac.”

Tommy looked reluctant as he shuffled forward and offered me his hand. That summed up the weirdness of the whole day. We never shook hands; it was always high-fives and laying skin. Still seated, I took his hand awkwardly and shook it the way my grandfather had shown me before he died, “always shake hands with a strong grip, let ‘em know you’re in charge.”

“Seeya,” Tommy mumbled with his eyes down and stepped away. His dad looked at me one last time, pity in his eyes, before he put his arm around Tommy’s shoulders and led him away. I started to cry again, the familiar faces of my friend and his dad were now gone and only strangers, who all seemed to look at me with the same expression of pity, were left to deal with me, the world’s newest orphan. I never saw Tommy again.


I won’t bore you with what happened that afternoon and for the next few weeks, except to tell you that a social worker got there about an hour after the cop had made his call. Margaret (I don’t remember her last name) was about my Mom’s age, but with the horned rimmed glasses and frumpy clothes she wore, she looked much older. She was kind and somehow made me feel better as she drove me to the halfway house. She told me I would stay there until I was placed in a suitable foster home. I am not going to write about my family’s funeral, which happened a week and a half later. It’s enough to say that it was the worst day of my life…my old life anyway.

I was at the halfway house for three weeks before Margaret visited to tell me that a suitable home had been found. I went to live with a couple called the Pratchetts in a town about thirty miles away. Mr. and Mrs. Pratchett asked me to call them Randy and Jenny, but in a quiet moment Jenny said that I could call her Mom if I wanted to. I know now that she was only trying to be kind, but I found the suggestion insulting and insensitive, because even though my Mom was dead, she was still my Mom. But I didn’t even get angry. I ignored it. At that time, nothing seemed to matter.

Randy and Jenny were in their early thirties and didn’t have any kids of their own. At first they seemed okay. They had a nice big house and put me in a huge bedroom with its own flat screen TV and the latest PlayStation and a PC. Jenny had shown me the room with a flourish, but with my loss still raw I wasn’t able to do more than say thanks in a flat tone.

I know I was still grieving for my family at that stage, but from the start, there was something I didn’t like about Randy. He seemed too good and wholesome to be true, almost as if he was playing a part in a family movie. Still, it was hard to put my finger on exactly what it was about him that was bugging me.

One night, about a week after I had moved in, he confirmed the bad vibe I was getting from him and got drunk. I could tell instantly something was not right when I sat down at the table that night. He stumbled in from the living room. Jenny was unusually quiet and barely looked up from her plate as we began eating. No one had said a word when Randy placed his fork carefully on the plate and without warning, reached across the table and slapped Jenny right across the face as I was eating my mashed potato.

She started crying and screaming at him. I was shocked by the suddenness… the quick violence of it. I sat there with my mouth open and full of half chewed mash as he stood and slapped her again, harder this time across the other cheek with the back of his hand. She stopped screaming then and held her face in her hands, sobbing quietly. I was stunned. I had never seen anything like that happen between two adults and when he noticed me staring at him, he yelled at me too, flecks of spit flying off his lips.

“What are you looking at, you little shit?”

He glared at me, but I wasn’t scared. I think something was (and still is) broken inside me. I stared right back at him, not dropping my gaze from his crazed, bloodshot eyes. I guess it freaked him out. Randy eventually dropped his gaze and called me a bad name under his breath before kicking his chair over and stalking to the kitchen counter. Bullies are the same, no matter how old they are – stare them down and they back right off…most times anyway. He snatched up his keys and stormed through the door. I heard the front door slam a few seconds later, then the faint sound of the car starting. I put my hand on Jenny’s arm.

“It’s okay, he’s gone. Are you all right?”

She pulled her hands away and my heart went out to her. Livid pink marks stood out on her pale cheeks and her eyes were filled with pain. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just physical pain. She smiled bravely and grasped my hand.

“Look at you, you’re twice the man he is and you’re only thirteen. I’m so sorry you had to see that.”

“It’s okay…”

We ate the rest of our dinner in silence.

It was back to the halfway house for me the next day. I felt worried for Mrs. Pratchett…Jenny I mean, but she assured me she would be okay as Margaret my social worker took me away.

Margaret was apologetic. “I’m sorry Isaac, sometimes, even with all the background checks and interviews we do, the bad ones slip through the cracks.”


Nine days later, she took me to meet the Fosters. I didn’t have much of a sense of humor at that point or I might have found that funny. Fostered by the Fosters. Unlike the Pratchetts, I liked them both straight away. They were older than Randy and Jenny and had been fostering kids for a long time. Their last foster son had just turned nineteen and had left for college a month before. They had an empty house and were ready to take on a new kid that needed a break. Me.

I have to admit that as time went by my numbness turned to anger, anger at the world for taking my parents away. It shames me now, but some of that anger was taken out on the Fosters. I’d act out and get into trouble at home and at school. To their credit, they always accepted the place that I was in and worked hard to make sure that I knew that they’d be there for me. Even if I wasn’t ready to accept them yet. Slowly I started to come around, and by the end we were getting along really well, so much so that I was almost beginning to think that I had a found a new place to belong.

Alan Foster was a retired postal worker, and despite any rumors or jokes that you may have heard about postal workers and their anger issues, let me tell you that Alan was one of the most mild and patient men that I have ever met. He was silver haired and softly spoken, and what I remember best about him was his quiet strength. Eleanor had been a stay at home mom for a number of children going through the system and she had served that role admirably. Sometimes I still wonder if it hurt her, how few of us ever actually called her by that title…Mom. I know I never did, not when she could hear me at least.

I spent over a year and a half with the Fosters in a town called Fort Carter and I started at Fort Carter Junior High while I was still dealing with the death of my parents and the chasm that their loss had created inside of me. I had few friends at school. I kept to myself in the lunchroom and during breaks, and rarely spoke up in class unless I was called upon. The other kids thought I was weird, and to tell you the truth I think that most of the teachers did too. I ended up spending a lot of time in Mr. Jennings’s (the school counselor) office, with him trying to break into my shell and me resisting with all of my might. I had to admire his tenacity though; I think that he wanted to help me just as much as the Fosters did.

One of the few joys in my life was Kung Fu. I took it up at Alan’s insistence and it was the best thing I could have done. I took to it like a child takes to ice cream and before long I was going three nights a week. I attained my black belt within a year and even competed in the Rhode Island State Championships. Not only was it a good physical outlet for me, I look back now and see how much it did for my mental discipline.

All in all, things were good and getting better.


It was the middle of October when I first recall hearing that anything was amiss. I had helped Eleanor clear up the supper dishes and had wandered into the living room where Alan watched the news each evening. As I did so I noticed that a banner across the bottom of the screen was alerting the viewers of a special report.

“… and now some breaking news out of North Korea,” Sarah Mulligan, the Chanel Seven news co-anchor was saying. “Tom.”

“We are getting reports of a flu-like disease that is sweeping the nation of North Korea,” Tom Dallard said, taking over from his on air partner. “Preliminary reports suggest that as many as one million Koreans in the Pyongyang area have fallen ill with this mystery flu over the last few days. The North Korean government has closed their borders even tighter than they normally are and has remained silent on the issue of the disease. Experts here in the U.S. believe that thousands of people may be dead,” he paused looking at his notes and then off to one side before looking back to the camera. “We now take you live to a statement being given by Lloyd Ackerman, chief of public relations of the centers for disease control.”

“Jesus, help us all,” muttered Alan, as we watched the camera cut away to a shot of a tall man standing behind a podium bearing the circular CDC emblem. I didn’t have the heart to tell him what I thought of Jesus’ help. Instead I focused in on what Dr. Ackerman was saying.

“…isolationist policies make it hard for us to get accurate real time information on this outbreak; at the same time those policies seem to be containing the outbreak to North Korea itself. At this point all we know is that the disease appears to be a fast acting form of influenza. Symptoms develop rapidly after exposure and in many cases fatality occurs within a few days. Again, because of the nature of dealing with information from North Korea, we do not know the exact fatality rate, or the rate of infection. At this time we are coordinating with the FAA and the department of Homeland security to ensure that everybody flying into the United States from East Asia will be quarantined for twenty four hours after arrival to ensure that symptoms do not develop. We do not think that there is a clear and present danger to the people of the United States at this time, but when dealing with a disease such as this, the situation is always fluid and can change at any time. I’ll now take a few questions from the press.” He pointed to a reporter in the crowd in front of him.

“How bad is this going to get Doctor?”

“Well it certainly seems that there is a real mystery to this one. Flu season in South-East Asia had been relatively good this year, so it is worrying that it seemed to come out of the blue, hard and fast,” Ackerman replied. “Whether it turns out to be something less dangerous than originally thought, like the infamous Swine Flu, is unknowable at this time. While that outcome is something that we can all hope for, I think it would be wise to look at this as if it were the worst case scenario until proven otherwise…and if that is the case then yes, it is going to be bad. Possibly very bad.

Based on some of the reports coming out of North Korea we could be looking at something as virulent as the Spanish influenza. But as I said, that is pure conjecture at this time.” He motioned to call on another reporter but Alan switched off the television before the question came. I have often wondered if Dr. Ackerman lived long enough to realize just how much his ‘worst case scenario’ had underestimated the lethalness of the infection.

“Do you have any homework Isaac?” Alan asked from his recliner.

“No sir,” I replied. It was a lie, but a small one. I actually had a dozen math problems I needed to do for my algebra class, but I had that class in the afternoon and figured I’d just do them at lunch the next day. It’s not like I had any friends to hang out with during lunch time.

The next day the ‘Pyongyang Flu’, as they were calling the infection, was the talk of the school. There was the usual talk about how it was the end times coming. Bernie Bova, my lab partner in Physical Science, wouldn’t shut up about how it was a government conspiracy, and that the U. S. government had actually used a biological weapon against the North Koreans.

At the time, none of us knew how close to the truth he actually was, although he got the source of the attack wrong. That sort of talk went on for a few days, while news stories lingered on the evening news and in the papers, but then like all news stories that did not have a direct effect on the majority of Americans, they petered off.

It didn’t help that the North Korean government had virtually sealed off their country, not only the borders, but also all telecommunication, media and internet. The talk died down, and within a couple of weeks the hype around the Pyongyang flu died down, and if it was not forgotten, then at least it was no longer on the top of people’s minds. There was nothing besides regularly recycled stories and speculation on the 24 hour news channels. Going about my daily life, I heard no news about the infection for nearly two whole weeks.


On Halloween day the Chinese government announced that they were sending an expeditionary task force across the border into North Korea. Even communications from the government had ceased and the last statement by them of any sort had come a week before. Spy satellites had seen no movement of vehicles or people in nearly that long in Pyongyang, or any place else except for a few isolated villages where it appeared some farmers were still toiling in their fields. With this deafening silence hanging over North Korea, the Chinese had the support of the United Nations – everybody wanted to know what had transpired there.

I had never been much into candy, and besides, at nearly fifteen years of age, I felt that I was a little bit too old for trick or treating anyway, so I spent the evening at ‘home’, watching CNN’s live updates of the Chinese expedition. At first the Chinese were very forthcoming with what they were finding, even going so far as to release video footage to their own and western news outlets.

I had to suppress shudders watching the grainy video footage of Chinese soldiers marching through a wasteland. Something like ninety-six percent of the adult population had succumbed to the infection; children appeared to be unaffected. The reports showed them being rounded up by soldiers and transported to camps where the Chinese government assured everybody that they would be cared for until a long term solution could be found. No one in the scientific community could explain why children seemed to be immune to the infection, although there was some wild speculation.

While they were physically unaffected by the disease, being left alone without any sort of adult supervision had not been kind to them. The first group of children that were filmed seemed wild, almost feral, and I remember wondering how they could fall so far in such a short period of time. Watching them I was reminded of a book that I had read recently for school, Lord of the Flies, where a group of kids were shipwrecked on an island with no adults. Left to their own devices, with little chance of rescue, the children’s descent into savagery was quick and not at all pretty.

Within a day or so, the Chinese government’s willingness to share information clammed up. They occupied North Korea and declared it a quarantine zone. The Chinese President assured the world that their scientists were hard at work studying the disease and would reveal their findings when their study was complete.

For a few more days the Pyongyang flu and devastation of North Korea was on everybody’s minds, but then it slowly faded once more. Sure, there were the normal reactions to a horrendous tragedy; celebrities went on TV to try to raise money for Korean orphans, world leaders rattled sabers to try to get the Chinese government to release more information. Our president told the world that all our hopes and prayers were with the Korean people. But, once again, when it stopped being front and center, it faded from most people’s minds.

Aside from the usual conspiracy theories, nobody seriously suspected that the Pyongyang Flu was anything more than a terrible new plague that science would soon tame. Nobody suspected the truth, that the infection of North Korea was just a science experiment, a practice run. North Korea’s isolationist policies had made it the perfect petri dish, and soon enough the results of that experiment would be used to irrevocably swing the balance of power in the world.

Three days later I was in a dark mood as I sat in the school office during third period. It was my fifteenth birthday, but I wasn’t really in the mood to celebrate. I had my head bowed and was doing my best to ignore the world around me.

I was thinking about my parents and sister and the last birthday I had shared with them. It had seemed nothing special then, just my favorite home cooked meal and a simple chocolate cake, but now it was a precious memory. Funny how things change and become more significant, after the passing of time.

My thoughts drifted to the North Korean children and how millions of them had also had their parents ripped from them. The world was a shitty place.

I was faintly aware of somebody sitting down in the seat next to me, but kept my head buried in my hands. I didn’t feel up to making conversation.

“So whatcha here for?”

I sighed. Some people just can’t read body language. I thought about ignoring the question, but in the end I sat back in my chair and looked up to see a tall, red headed boy slouched in the plastic chair next to mine. I knew him, of course. Luke Merritt was my age and one of the more popular kids in my class, his fun personality more than making up for his freckles and gangly appearance.

“Don’t know,” I said with a shrug. “I got a note to come see Mr. Jennings. How about you?”

“I’m here to see Dan the Man,” he said, referring to Vice Principle Dan Haralson. ‘Dan the Man’ was his nick-name amongst the student body, earned by his easy-going, ‘cool’ attitude towards the kids. “Tyler Lane was bugging Sheri Denison in PE, and when he grabbed her boob, I felt I just had to step in, you know? I mean they’re so perfect that no-one with the IQ of a brick should ever be able to touch them…ever! Anyway, one swift kick to the nards later and here I am. Still, I’d rather be here waiting to see the Man than sitting with my swollen balls on ice at the nurse’s station.” I couldn’t help but notice his grin as he talked and I found myself smiling at the vivid picture he painted.

“You know Haralson’s going to give you detention at the very least. I know he’s pretty cool and all, but he’s tough on fighting,” I said. “He might even suspend you.”

“Totally worth it, man,” Luke replied. “A suspension isn’t going to stop me from helping out someone in trouble, besides, have you seen Sheri? Maybe she will want to thank me some time, if you know what I mean.” He nudged me with his elbow and winked and I smiled again. I felt myself starting to begrudgingly like Luke. It was hard not to. We might have talked more, but just then Mr. Jennings opened his door and called me into his office.

I felt my smile melt away as my distant self came back. I know now that it was a defense mechanism, something I put in place to be sure that I could never like anything or anyone enough to be hurt again when I lost them. I didn’t answer Luke when he said “see ya.”

The counselor’s office was small and cramped, a desk and two metal book shelves dominated the room and when the coat rack was taken into account, the only place for a visitor was on the hard plastic chair set in front of the desk.

“Have a seat, Isaac,” Mr. Jennings said, moving to his seat behind the desk and dropping into the black, cushioned chair that looked so much more comfortable than the one that he provided for students. “Miss Babette mentioned that you had been even more distant in class the last couple of days, so I thought I’d call you in here to see what’s troubling you.”

I glanced around the office, as I often did when called here. My eyes finally came to rest on a poster for an old movie that Mr. Jennings kept hanging on the back wall. I have never seen ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead’ but I have the vague feeling that it has to do with Shakespeare somehow, and I always wondered why he’d have that particular poster on his wall. I don’t know, maybe he just liked the movie.

“Well, Isaac?”

“No sir, nothing out of the ordinary,” I replied. There was no way I was going to mention it was my birthday. “I guess I’ve just been thinking about those poor kids in North Korea a lot this week is all. How they lost everyone.”

“At least they are still alive,” Mr. Jennings said. “So they are lucky in that regard.”

“Are they?”




The rest of November and the first part of December passed without incident, until school let out for winter break. Leaving Fort Carter Junior High the Friday before Christmas, I had no way of knowing that I’d never set foot in the school again. My time in a classroom was over, but it was not the end of my lessons. One thing that I have discovered since the infection is that you never stop learning.

When it happened, it happened real quick. The United States, the greatest nation on earth, functionally ceased to exist in less than a week. The first people started getting sick on Christmas day.

“Thanks, Alan, Eleanor, I love it!” holding the small remote controlled car in my hands, I felt almost happy, part of a real family for the first time since the fire. Most of the presents that they had given me were functional – a sweater, some woolen socks, a new backpack to carry my school books in, but the remote control electric car was the first real toy that I had gotten since my parents died. At fifteen I might have been a bit old for toys, but I was still glad to get it.

I raced the little car around the living room, and then jogged after it as it zoomed through the dining room and into the kitchen. The thought of playing had been absent from my mind for over a year and for just a brief moment, I felt almost like a normal kid again. Under my control the car zipped in a circuit of the kitchen and back through the dining room to the living room.

“Are you alright, Al?” Eleanor was saying as I reentered the room. “You’ve been coughing an awful lot this morning.”

“Just a bit of a tickle in the back of my throat,” Alan replied. “I’ll be fine.”

“Judith said there was a bug going around,” Eleanor said, shaking her head. “Let me get you some warm salt water to gargle, perhaps we can knock it out of you before it really sets up shop.”

“I hope so; I took a mega-dose of vitamin C this morning when I first noticed it.” Alan said. “You know how I hate being sick.”

“Doesn’t everybody hate being sick?” I asked earnestly. My question caused Alan to crack a smile, as warm as ever.

“Isaac, can you clean up the wrapping paper and put your gifts away?” Eleanor asked, before heading to the kitchen to fetch the salt water for Alan. “John and Amy should be here soon.”

John and Amy were two of the kids that they had fostered before me, John was in college now, down in Providence and Amy was living up in Boston. Both still had strong feelings for the Fosters though, and came to visit often on holidays. Amy even called them Mom and Dad. I had met both a few times before and they seemed like good people, just the sort of kids you’d expect to come out of a family life crafted by Alan and Eleanor.

I gathered up my gifts and took them to my room, where I dumped them in a pile on the bed. I had to admit to myself that I was looking forward to Christmas dinner. With John and Amy there, it would be almost like the family gatherings I remembered from before my grandparents had died. I went back to the living room to gather up the torn wrapping paper into a garbage bag. Eleanor was on the kitchen phone.

“Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that dear. I hope that you feel better soon… No, no, don’t worry about it, perhaps you can get up to visit before New Year’s… I’m sure that he’ll understand… get some rest and eat some soup, chicken noodle helps your body get over bugs… Love you too. Bye John.” She looked tired as she put the phone down but when she noticed me she perked up. I knew it was just a front.

“That was John,” she said. “He’s feeling a bit under the weather and won’t make it tonight. Amy texted my cell phone a half hour ago though, and she should be here any minute.”

I felt a small loss now that John wouldn’t be coming, I really liked him. From the little pieces of information that the Fosters had given me, I knew his struggles had been far rougher than mine before he had come to live with them. That he’d turned out to be such a good, well-adjusted person and had gone on to college was a testament to how great of parents the Fosters were. I looked out of the window and saw that snow had started to fall. It was the first snowfall of the year and the weatherman had not predicted it, but it looked like there was going to be a white Christmas in Fort Carter, Rhode Island after all.


I dutifully lowered my head and clasped my hands as Alan said grace. At that time in my life I was angry with God, but not completely ready to give up on the idea of his existence. The meal had been prepared with expectations that John would be there as well, so there was more than enough food to go around – ham, cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, pumpkin and apple pies for dessert. It was a veritable feast. Given the things I have eaten just to stay alive in the weeks since that day, I almost feel bad about taking that meal for granted.

The conversation around the dinner table was merry, with Alan, Eleanor and Amy all laughing and having a great time. At one point during the meal, I began to tune them out and focused on eating. My mood had taken a turn for the worse. Rather than making me feel better, being reminded of the family gatherings that I could so distinctly remember actually made me feel down. Amy seemed to notice.

“Why don’t you show me the presents you got after dinner?” she said. “Mom said that you got a new car? I’m jealous, they never got me a car.”

“It’s just a toy.” I mumbled. Amy was nice enough, but she was older than John, in her mid-twenties and always seemed more like a visiting adult than a potential sibling. I ate a few more bites but found that the food had begun to lose its taste. I could tell that one of my mopey moods (that’s what Eleanor called them) was about to hit me hard. Such bouts of depression had gotten fewer since I had been living with the Fosters but I had not completely left them behind.

“May I be excused,” I asked looking up at Alan.

“Sure, take your plate to the kitchen.” Alan said. “Don’t let yourself get too down in the dumps though, mister. Later this evening we are going to go caroling around the neighborhood.”

“Okay,” I got up and picked up my plate.

“Is he still that unhappy here?” I heard Amy quietly ask as I went into the kitchen. I did not hear the reply. We never did go caroling that night. When the time came, Alan was feeling much worse than he had been that morning and had developed a fever to go with his sore throat and cough. Amy was beginning to feel ill as well.

Before she left though, she came up to my room to look over my presents and chat in an attempt to cheer me up. It was nice of her and I appreciated it, but it was an awkward, stilted conversation. During a particularly long pause I told her with typical teenage bluntness, “You look terrible.”

She really did, there were dark circles under her eyes and every few minutes she would cough into her handkerchief. I remember being amazed that she had gone from being perfectly healthy two hours before to her obviously ill state so quickly. Her hand had fluttered to her throat. “Yes, I think I better get going.” She gave me a hug and left.


An urgent knocking on the door of my bedroom woke me the next morning. Checking the clock I saw that it was around six. The knock sounded again and I called out, “Yeah?”

“Isaac, Alan isn’t doing well this morning, I am going to drive him over to the United General,” Eleanor said through the door. “Are you going to be alright here by yourself for a while?”

“Yeah, sure,” I replied. I was old enough to look after myself for a few hours if need be. I thought about jumping up to go with them, but by the time I had decided to act on those thoughts I heard the car start up and back down the driveway. I got up anyway and wandered through the empty house. Some left-over ham and mashed potatoes provided a decent enough breakfast and I soon wandered into the living room to turn on the television. The channel it was tuned to was broadcasting a news report, so I switched it to another station, only to see the same news report. This must be big I thought, and settled in to watch.

I saw the familiar podium with the CDC emblem, and there was Dr. Ackerman walking up to it again. At first I thought that they might be replaying the press conference from before Halloween, but I realized this was new as soon as Ackerman started talking. A growing coldness developed in the pit of my stomach as he spoke.

“It has been confirmed that the infection, known as the Pyongyang Flu, is currently sweeping the eastern seaboard of the United States.” As he spoke, his face was as emotionless as a stone slab. “At this point it appears that the disease only affects those people approximately seventeen years and up. Or to be more exact, people that have past the growth stage where both the distal end of the humerus and the distal end of the tibia are fully fused. This generally happens between the ages of fifteen and seventeen, so people younger than that seem to be safe. We still do not know why this is.”

“What about adults?” One of the reporters shouted, briefly interrupting the press conference.

“Adults exposed to the virus have a high probability of contracting the disease. This seems to vary across phenotype or race, but at this juncture it is impossible to say whether people such as Native Americans are truly immune to the disease, or if it simply takes longer for them to succumb,” Ackerman held up his hands to quiet the growing murmuring among the reporters. “It is not my intention to cause a panic here. The CDC is getting ahead of this thing, and we should have the outbreak under control within a matter of days. The first case was reported yesterday, but not confirmed as Pyongyang Flu until this morning. From what we can tell so far, it spreads like a normal flu virus, so wash your hands, don’t sneeze on each other and…” Ackerman was interrupted by a man rushing up to the podium from off camera. The man quickly whispered something in Ackerman’s ear and passed him a sheet of paper. The CDC publicist’s face drained of all color as he absorbed the words and read what was on the paper before screwing it into a tight ball.

“What is it? What’s happening?” The same reporter from before shouted.

“CDC scientists have just confirmed that H3J2, the virus commonly known as the Pyongyang Flu, is, in fact, a man-made biological,” Ackerman said. I fancied that he had the same numb look on his face that I’d had when I had seen the smoking ruins of my home from the backseat of Mr. Benson’s car. “It appears to be airborne. At this time up to ninety percent of the population of the east coast is suffering from infection, and the infection…the weaponized virus… seems to be moving westward at a rate of over one hundred miles per hour. At this rate of progress every part of the continental United States will be affected within the next twenty-four hours. The CIA is now calling this a terrorist attack, although no one has yet claimed responsibility.”

All hell broke loose in the conference room. The microphone caught the sound of women and men crying as dozens of reporters rushed for the exits. The more hardened veterans clamored closer to Dr. Ackerman yelling more questions, while to the left of the podium I noticed the man who had delivered the awful message coughing into his hand.

Ackerman only answered one more question, a high pitched and panicked, “…what do we do!?”

“Stay in your homes…and pray to God…”

I switched off the television and went to the kitchen. Picking up the phone I dialed Eleanor’s cell number and waited impatiently as it went through to her voice mail. “Eleanor, I just saw on the news that the Pyongyang Flu has come to the country… they are saying that terrorists are spreading it around or something. Are you and Alan okay?” I managed to stammer out before the phone beeped again, ending the voice mail.

Not sure what else to do, I hung up and then immediately dialed the number for Margaret, the social worker that had placed me with the Fosters. Once again it rang through and I got a message saying that she would be out of the office until January second.

Hanging up the phone I went back to the fridge to cut off a bit more ham. I felt lost and alone. All I could think about was the grainy video of the feral children in North Korea and hoped that it wouldn’t get that bad here. Looking back now, I know that hope was nothing more than a child’s wishful thinking.


Eleanor and Alan returned early that afternoon. She had not been able to get him in to see a doctor at all; the emergency room had been swamped long before they had arrived. I helped her move Alan, by this point weak and delirious with fever, to their bedroom, where she laid him down and covered him with warm blankets.

“Run to the freezer and bring me the ice pack,” Eleanor said. “I’m worried that his head’s getting too hot.” When I returned with the ice pack she placed it in a pillow case and set it across Alan’s forehead. “Oh, Alan,” she whispered. “Please don’t leave me.”

She sat by his side for a while and then, after he’d fallen into a fitful sleep, she went to the living room to watch the news. If anything the news had gotten even more horrific since I had turned it off that morning and we learned that the Chinese government was now admitting responsibility for the attack and claiming all of North America by right of conquest. The other nations of the world were protesting mightily, but the threat to them was obvious and they appeared afraid to make any real moves to help America for fear of the H3J2 virus being turned on them as well.

Watching the sniffling and coughing reporters we did learn a bit about the virus though. The disease affected nearly all adults exposed who were not of ethnic Chinese origin and its fatality rate was a staggering ninety-six percent. Those few that did survive were generally left as vegetables, with permanent brain damage as a result of the prolonged, high fever that was associated with the infection. It seemed that the body could produce a previously unknown anti-body to fight the disease, but it only did so from a few specific locations, all of them yet to be fused areas of bones such as the tibia and the humerus. By about age sixteen though, all of those areas had fused, and the body became incapable of producing the specific antibodies.

Those who had been exposed to the infection at a young age would have the anti-bodies and be forever immune to the virus. Those who had not faced almost certain death. The professionalism and bravery of the reporters, reporting while sick, knowing that they were most likely going to be dead within the next few days, left an indescribable impression on me. I plan to fight with every last ounce of my being to stay alive, but I sincerely hope that when the time comes and I must face death, that I can do so with as much courage as those reporters did during Hell Week.

Alan died around midnight.


Eleanor lay down with him on the bed, her head on his shoulder while she cried. I stood and watched for a few minutes, then went to my room and sat on the bed, arms wrapped around my knees while I listened to her sobbing through the walls. It was happening again. I had finally started to feel like I belonged and now my new family was being torn away from me just as surely as my real family had been. If anything this was more painful because it was happening slowly…I knew what was going on but I was powerless to stop it. Eleanor was sick too, she was trying to hide it from me, and doing a pretty good job of it, but I had noticed. Within a day, two at most, I was going to be alone again.

An hour and a half later the sobbing stopped. At first I thought that she’d fallen asleep. But then I heard her in the closet. The closet of their bedroom backed onto the wall of my room, so I could hear her quite clearly as she rummaged around. It sounded like she was tearing the closet apart and I wondered what she was hunting for. Several minutes later the sounds stopped. A period of quiet followed, and then BOOM! I jumped and then wrapped my arms tighter around my legs.

The house fell into a deep silence as I sat on my bed with tears running down my face until the morning light was shining through my window. I wanted to go and check on Eleanor but knew what I would find, with the same certainty that I had known about the fire trucks almost two years earlier. I finally got up the courage to go into their bedroom. I found her slumped across Alan’s body. There was a red mist like spray on the walls and headboard of the bed where they lay, and Eleanor’s arm hung off the bed, limp and lifeless. Near her open hand, on the floor, there was a short barreled revolver.

I knew what she had done, but my mind refused to accept it. “Eleanor?” I asked, stepping forward into the room. “Eleanor… Mom?” There was no movement. Moving closer I could see the small perfectly round hole in her temple. A small amount of blood had leaked out of it and down the side of her neck, matting her shoulder length hair in a dark clump. I wanted to turn back, to run away, but I found myself stumbling forward instead, moving around to see Eleanor’s face. Her eyes were open and glazed.


I tried calling 911 of course, but there was no chance of getting through. I also tried calling John and Amy several times each, but only got busy signals. I went next door to the Moorcock house, they had always seemed like nice neighbors, but nobody answered the door. Finally, I decided I would just have to close up Alan and Eleanor in their bedroom for the time being and deal with them later. There were enough leftovers from Christmas dinner and canned food in the pantry to last me a solid two weeks. Although I hoped that it would not come to that.

The TV channels started disappearing that day, with most of them being completely off the air by New Year’s Eve. There were no fireworks. No big ball dropped in New York City. No one celebrated the turning of an era. America had fallen. It was on January first when the last news channel still on air reported that Chinese soldiers had begun landing on American soil.

The Chinese government had issued a statement welcoming the children of America as citizens of New China, and promising re-education and adoption into the new world order. But Tom Dallard, the last news anchor I ever saw doing a live broadcast, told stories of Chinese soldiers rounding up the children of New York and Atlantic City and forming them into work gangs to clear bodies. It was apparent that we were to be nothing but slaves to these new overlords.

Dallard was one of those few non-Chinese people that seemed immune to the infection, whether that was because of a genetic defect or because he had been exposed to a similar enough pathogen when he was younger, who can say? He kept on reporting to the last, alone in an empty studio, talking to the one camera that was focused on him. I was watching him at the end, as he spoke stoically over loud banging and the sound of breaking glass. It was distant but getting closer every second.

“…and so America…children of America, time is running out for me but know this. America is still the home of the brave and it can again be the land of the free. Where you can, band together, find places to hide from the invaders. Live to fight another day. Avenge your parents any way that you can…look out for each other.”

There was an even louder crash and Dallard flinched, somehow looking noble and brave even with the uncharacteristic three day growth and rumpled, unwashed clothes he wore.

“This is Tom Dallard signi…”

I sat there with my heart beating hard in my chest as two Chinese soldiers tackled Dallard from his chair before he could finish his sign off. One hit him viciously over the head with his rifle butt and then they bent over and dragged his unconscious figure out of view. For the second time in a few days I heard a loud gunshot, this one seeming to signify the end of the America I had known. I sat staring at the screen for a long time, a sick feeling in my gut. It was January third. Tom Dallard, in my mind, was the last great American hero, and he deserves to be remembered with the rest of them.


January third was also the day I realized that I was going to have to fight to survive, and to perhaps do things that no fifteen year old kid… no kid at all… should have to do. It was the day the first looters came to the neighborhood. It had been at least two days since I had seen anybody else in our street. This had not really surprised me because most of the people around the Fosters were older couples, their children already grown and gone.

I was flicking through the channels on the television trying to find anything at all when I heard the rumble of a car engine. I ran to the window and peered through a crack in the blinds. I saw a red Toyota pickup truck cruising slowly down the street. For a moment I thought about running out and waving them down, but something stopped me. I watched it through the blinds instead.

They went around the block twice before stopping in front of Judge Petersen’s house; it was across the street and two houses down. The doors opened and three people got out, two looked to be adults. One was obviously sick, stopping just after getting out of the driver’s side to lean across the hood coughing. The third figure was a boy, my age or maybe a year or two younger. I was shocked to see that all three had long guns clutched in their hands. I didn’t know that much about guns then, everything I knew about them came from television and movies, so I couldn’t tell if the guns they held were rifles or shotguns.

From where I crouched behind the blinds, I saw the sick man waving toward the Petersen house, prompting the other man and boy to walk up to the door. The boy tried the handle and when he found it locked, he stepped aside for the man who kicked it open with one strong kick. They went inside. Maybe ten minutes later they came back out each carrying a large black garbage bag, filled with whatever they had looted from the Petersen’s. They trotted back to the pickup and dropped the bags in the bed. The sick man pointed at the house next door to the Petersen residence and the other two went off again. They were getting closer.

A feeling of fear shot through me, what if they came to my house…? I didn’t know what they were looking for, money, jewelry, or just food and supplies, but given the fact that they were armed, I was worried about what they might do if they found me here. Just as worrying was the idea that if I somehow hid and they didn’t find me, what would I do if they took all the food? One thing I knew for certain was that I’d have a better chance against armed men if I was armed myself, so with gritted teeth I slipped away from the window and headed toward Alan and Eleanor’s bedroom.

It had been a week, and a smell like that of spoiling meat hit me as I opened the door. I tried not to look at my foster parents as I stood at the threshold of the darkened room. To say I was creeped out would be sugarcoating it and for a second, I almost turned around, armed looters or no armed looters.

In the end I took a deep breath and crossed the room. Still avoiding looking at my dead foster parents, I bent and reached out for the revolver on the floor. When my forearm brushed Eleanor’s cold, stiff fingers I squeaked in horror and snatched it up as I jumped away from the bed.

With my heart thumping I turned to leave the room when my eyes fell upon the open gun case sitting on the dresser. It was lined with foam cut out in the shape of the gun and had another rectangular cut out that contained a box marked Remington .38 SPECIAL.

I pulled out the box and opened it, it was full of extra bullets. Grateful, I slipped it into the pocket of my gray hooded sweatshirt before quickly exiting the bedroom and going back to the front window.


Although it had seemed like an eternity, my trip to the Fosters’ bedroom had been brief enough that the man and boy had not yet returned to the truck. I watched the sick man as he slumped against the front fender of the pickup, his body again wracked by coughs. I wondered vaguely how much longer he’d last, certainly not more than another day.

I know it might seem horrible, me thinking about the life of another person in such an abstract way, with no real sense of pity, but survivors adapt and one of the first things that seems to go is compassion. The way I looked at it, the previous couple of years had already stunted my empathy toward my fellow human beings, so maybe I already had a leg up on the other survivors.

The man and the boy returned to the truck and to my horror I saw the sick man point in my direction. Not at me of course, but at my home. The other man, I could see now, wasn’t a man at all, he was perhaps only a few years older than me, maybe sixteen or seventeen, but large for his age. He and the boy started across the snowy lawn toward the house. Time had run out; I had to make my decision.

I stuck the barrel of the revolver through the blinds in the direction of the truck and pulled the trigger. There was no time for hesitation or second thoughts. The handgun bucked in my hands so bad that I almost dropped it and the report was far louder than Hollywood had led me to believe, leaving my ears ringing. I expected the window in front of me to shatter out, but it didn’t, the bullet making nothing more than a jagged little hole as it passed through. I saw the sick man leaning against the fender jerk and grab at his thigh and scream.

I hadn’t been aiming at him, I hadn’t been aiming at anything in particular, but my round had hit him nonetheless. I saw him sliding to the road holding his leg, and then the world exploded.

The window I had just shot through shattered above me, the blast ripping through the blinds. Luckily the blinds themselves protected me from the majority of the flying glass. I dove for cover behind the sofa as another bang sounded and another large hole was blown through them. I thought about shooting back, but didn’t want to expose myself, so I just laid there watching the front door with the revolver at the ready. I heard the man I had shot screaming and calling to his partners.

Seconds passed slowly and then, with relief, I heard the truck start up. Keeping low, I crawled across the room to the other window. Half expecting to find myself looking down the barrel of a gun, I parted the blinds and peeked through.

The sick man had been loaded into the bed of the pickup and was sitting with his back to the rear wall of the cab, the younger boy back there with him. The older youth was in the driver’s seat, and the truck was pulling away. They had cut their losses and run. I hoped to never see it or them again. There I was hoping again with childlike naivety… sometimes even now I wonder if I’m ever going to learn.

The encounter prompted me to take stock of my situation. I had probably a week’s worth of canned goods left. The milk, eggs and other perishables from the refrigerator were gone, all except for half a bottle of Eleanor’s prune juice. I had never touched the stuff and didn’t plan on starting now, no matter how thirsty I got.

There was also a six pack of beers that Alan had bought to share with John on Christmas Day. I stayed away from beer too, not because I had any aversion to alcohol or anything, but because I found the taste disgusting, still do as a matter of fact. In any case, my mind needed to stay sharp and alert in case more looters came.

The danger presented by the looters had given me quite a wakeup call. So after a meal of tinned baked beans I did a Kung Fu workout, running through my old sparring drills and doing push-ups and sit ups. While I worked out I thought about my dwindling supplies and the prospect of them returning for revenge.

I seriously considered packing up what I could in the Fosters’ car and driving away right then, but two things stopped me – the first was a lack of a clear destination in mind, where would I go? I had some vague idea about going to Canada because at the time I didn’t know whether or not the infection had spread there. The second was that I didn’t really know how to drive.

The power went out sometime before dawn the next morning and I felt that the decision had been taken out of my hands. Whether or not I could drive, or had any place to go, it was clear that I couldn’t stay where I was.

I found the keys to Eleanor’s car in her purse on the kitchen counter and gathered some warm clothes, a couple of blankets and what food I had left and loaded it into the back seat of the Honda Accord. With the pistol and ammunition in my pockets I went out the front door without looking back. The remote control car, the last toy present that I ever received, was left sitting on the dresser in my bedroom.




Driving was not as difficult as I had thought it would be, although I am sure it helped that Eleanor’s Accord had an automatic transmission. All I had to do was move the shifter to D to get it to go forward, and R to get it to go backward. Steering took a bit of time to get used to, but the fact that there was no traffic (and probably wouldn’t ever be again), helped me to get the hang of it. I still didn’t have a clear idea of where I wanted to go, so I decided to head on over to Main Street.

Fort Carter is, or rather was, a small town between Providence and Woonsocket. Main Street is the only place that could be considered a business district. There were the customary diners, antique stores, bakeries and boutiques, along with city hall, the police and fire stations, a law office, a town history museum and a supermarket.

At the far end of Main Street, where it ended at a T junction with state highway 102, was the newest addition to the town, a Walmart. It had only opened up since I had been living with the Fosters. The United General Hospital, where Eleanor had tried to take Alan the day after Christmas, was located out of town, half way between Fort Carter and Mapleville, the neighboring town.

I decided to stop by the grocery store first, before heading to the Walmart to see what supplies I could scavenge. The town was dusted in a light snowfall and seemed deserted as I drove through the streets. It was surreal. Most homes did not have cars in the drive ways and I wondered where they were because the streets were mostly empty as well. When I got to the parking lot of Dave’s Marketplace I saw maybe a half dozen cars parked there, but it was still far fewer than I had expected. I noticed that the entire town seemed to have lost power, not just the neighborhood that the Fosters had lived in. None of the streetlights were working, and I was glad that there was no traffic to contend with.

Pulling up close to the doors of the marketplace, I got out of the car and walked over, only to be dismayed when the doors failed to hiss open like they normally did. For a moment I stood there perplexed, but then realized that without power the big sliding glass doors were nothing more than windows. I walked up and touched them, wondering if I could get my fingers between the panes and push it open by hand.

“Isaac… Isaac Race!”

The deep, strangely muffled voice ripping through the deathly silence caught me off guard and I jumped as I turned to locate the speaker, my hand plunging into the pocket of my sweatshirt to grasp the handle of my revolver. Standing at the corner of the building, a tall figure with a strange black face and huge eyes glared at me. It took me a second to realize that it was a gas mask and I took two hurried steps back, frantically trying to pull my gun as the figure stepped towards me.