Evolution z book 2 stage.., p.1
Evolution Z (Book 2): Stage Two, page 1
Translator: Frank Dietz
Editor: Pamela Bruce
Copyright © David Bourne
Cover design: Sarah Schmiemann
All rights reserved, including that of complete or partial reproduction in any form.
Author’s note: Geographical locations in this book are products of the author’s imagination and do not necessarily correspond with reality.
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For all people who believe in the truth of their dreams
Table of contents
A Safe Harbor
The Full Extent
A Little Bit of Normalcy
The Right Motivation
A First Encounter
The Conspiracy (I)
Signs of Life
The Conspiracy (II)
A Storm of Feelings
Big Game Hunting (I)
USS George Washington
The Conspiracy (III)
Big Game Hunting (II)
Ride of the Valkyrie
Set in our world after the rapid spread of an unknown and highly contagious virus, Stage Two is the second part in the Evolution Z series that continues this apocalyptic saga about those who fight for survival. In Stage One of the series, chaos suddenly and inexplicably erupts in several locations of the northeastern United States. It is in this dire situation that characters from various backgrounds are brought together: Commercial airline pilot Raymond “Ray” Thompson is a hardcore alcoholic who rarely sees his children after divorce Number Two from his second wife Melissa, and who generally leads a jaded, miserable existence. The only things that seem to cheer Ray up—with the exception of spending precious time with his children Tom and Eve— are his affairs with an attractive younger flight attendant named Cathy, and a bottomless bottle of good ol’ Jack Daniels.
On the day the outbreak occurs, Ray is the pilot in command of a Boeing 737 passenger plane en route from Portland, Maine to Washington, D. C. when an infected passenger randomly attacks others on board during the flight. This forces Ray to make a dramatic emergency landing on a lake in a remote Maine forest, during which many flight crew and passengers perish. Ray and Cathy, along with other crash survivors, manage to escape from the submerged wreck and are rescued by Chris Forster, a young man who owns a spacious vacation home near the lake. After this initial sense of relief, the survivors soon begin to anxiously question why no emergency crews have responded to the crash, and why both the cellular networks and the landlines seem to be no longer working.
It’s not very long before the crash survivors form different opinions on how to proceed from this point onward: Should they all stay in relative comfort at Chris’ home, or try to strike out on their own to the nearest town some miles away? After a major fight occurs between Ray and the muscular, aggressive truck driver Duke Powell, the survivors splinter into two groups—one of which sides with Duke and decides to make their way to the town, known as Muntly. Ray and Cathy, along with other crash survivors—Phil Brook, his children, and two severely injured men—choose to remain with Chris at his house. A primary reason for their decision is because the two injured men, Greg and Howard, are unable to be moved across long distances due to their injuries.
Ray and Chris drive to the small town of Muntly to look for additional supplies. While on their way there, they briefly manage to pick up an ominous, static-filled radio broadcast in which the U. S. Vice President announces that the entire country is in a state of emergency. Once both men reach their seemingly abandoned destination, they gather medication for Greg and Howard, which Chris takes back to his home, while Ray keeps watch at a PC that has a working internet connection. Unfortunately as he waits for Chris to return, his gnawing addiction gets the better of him, and Ray manages to locate his best friend in a bottle—Jack Daniels—and drinks himself into a stupor. He is completely unaware that a group of ravenous undead, or zombies, is steadily approaching the office of a supermarket where he is located.
A brawny lumberjack, Scott Gerber, who has been walking for hours and just happened to reach Muntly, shows up just in the nick of time and saves Ray. Scott left his home in Augusta after his parents were killed by a swarming horde of undead, and his wife Jane and his son Sam went missing. When Chris returns, Scott joins him and Ray. The three of them manage to contact Chris’ brother Gregory via email who—along with other survivors—has sought refuge at Fort Weeks Army Base. This news gives Scott and Ray some faint hope their families might be found there as well. After a group discussion back at Chris’ house, a specific goal takes shape: As soon as Greg and Howard are healthy enough to travel, the group will head out for Fort Weeks.
Another person desperately trying to reach Fort Weeks is a scrawny, 20-something medical student, Joshua “Josh” Pelletier, who is currently completing an internship at the Department of Pathology in an Augusta hospital. While he is working in the basement morgue during a routine autopsy, a corpse suddenly becomes reanimated and goes on the attack. After a brief but intense struggle with the undead man takes the life of Josh’s boss, Josh luckily manages to escape to the elevator and flees from the hospital. When he reaches his home after a harrowing getaway through a chaotic city, Josh realizes he completely forgot that his mother, as surgeon Dr. Margaret Pelletier, is still at the hospital. He becomes distraught about his unintentional callousness, but he nevertheless decides to make his way to Fort Weeks. Josh has a specific reason for wanting to do this: His father William Pelletier is stationed there and had earlier left him and his mother a note at their home strongly suggesting that they both should make their way to the base as soon as possible.
The evening before Ray’s group plans to depart for Fort Weeks, a menacing presence appears on the horizon: A large horde of groaning, moaning undead is swarming toward Chris’ house. The survivors defend themselves as best they can against the invaders until they are confronted by an unexpected challenge in the form of an alpha zombie. This much stronger, more agile undead creature jumps over the seven-foot high fence surrounding the house without any effort. In no time, the monster then springs up into the house’s second story and mauls to death the barely-recovered Greg and Howard. The worst is yet to happen f
Stage Two begins a few hours after the battle at Chris’ home.
Only when we accept
that our seemingly unlimited free will
is rooted in an illusion of our consciousness,
will we then humbly become the kind of human beings
of which you might say
that they have reached the highest possible level of earthly evolution.
A particularly bright moon shone in the clear, starlit night as the steady sound of the VW Multivan engine only occasionally varied due to the vehicle’s contact with a bump in the road. Captain Raymond Thompson sat dazed and silent in the back seat. Ice-cold air blew directly in his face though an open window, but Ray sat there without moving a muscle. Phil, who was driving the van, had stopped a few minutes ago to check on the injured Chris, who lay in the back beneath several heavy jackets—plus he also wanted to give his kids a chance to answer the call of nature. Chris seemed to struggle with breathing properly and was still unconscious, but his chest rose and sank in regular intervals.
Scott was sitting up front to the right of Phil. Fiona sat next to him in the middle of the bench, and he held little Robbie on his lap. Scott played “I spy with my little eye” with the two kids in order to detract them from the stressful events they had previously witnessed. Phil sometimes cast a grateful look at Scott as he was driving.
Ray placed his hands on his knees as he looked at the road, but his eyes seemed empty. In the darkness, he could make out some human silhouettes far away in the fields, and instantly knew exactly what was staggering and lurching around there: The undead— scores and scores of the undead.
In just a few short days, the world had rapidly gone straight to hell in the proverbial hand basket. Completely out of nowhere, a viral outbreak of incalculable dimensions had afflicted humanity, and one could only guess how many stricken people had already transformed into zombies.
The VW Multivan and its occupants passed what resembled an apocalyptic tableau of crashed cars—some were nothing more than burned-out shells, while others stood intact but empty by the side of the road. The absolute worst, though, were the vehicles whose doomed passengers had not managed to escape their fate. Some still sat inside their cars, now transformed into bloodthirsty monsters, but mentally incapable of either opening the doors or undoing their seatbelts. Their pathetic attempts to scratch open the windshields and side windows of their cars painted grotesque patterns of blood and skin fragments on the glass.
Ray averted his gaze and instead looked at his hands. Without any emotion, he noticed they were trembling. He had not had any alcohol in what seemed like forever, and he began to feel that strong, familiar desire for liquor slowly grow inside him. Sooner or later, Ray knew he would have to give in to this powerful urge. Right now, though, he remained numb from the still-fresh horror he had experienced. Whenever he closed his eyes he could vividly see Cathy’s radiant face, and with every breath he took, Ray instantly recalled her wonderful scent.
Cathy had been Ray’s lover, and she only died a couple of hours ago. Back at Chris’ house, when it was overrun by a horde of these undead creatures, she became the victim of an extraordinary kind of zombie—a type whose abilities far surpassed those of the other undead. This “jumper” not only moved in a quick, efficient and powerful manner, but the beast also seemed to exhibit a certain degree of planning and intelligence in his actions. To Ray, this particular creature appeared to be some sort of predatory leader lurking about, while the other shuffling, mindless undead seemed to be his followers.
What anguished Ray most was not that he and the remaining survivors had just recently lost their once safe haven. Nor was it that Chris was heavily injured and lying unconscious in the back of the van, and three members of their group, Cathy, Greg and Howard were all dead. No. The worst part of what had occurred was that Ray recognized the zombie they called the Jumper, and none of this tragedy would have happened if he had acted differently in Muntly.
Ray silently cursed himself as the anguish of his guilt pressed like barbed wire against his insides. To say he felt responsible for the catastrophe at Chris’ house would have been the understatement of the century. His thoughts turned back to his old life, which now seemed so far away in the past. He thought of his ex-wife Melissa and his two children, Eve and Tom. Did they make it? Where might they be? Would he ever see them again?
Ray was not sure how much pain an individual could endure before going utterly crazy. After his divorce from his first wife Debbie, his grandmother had told him everybody has to carry a burden in their life. From then on, whenever things were going badly for him, Ray tried to remember this simple idea, and it often helped him to go on. Ray was so glad his grandmother hadn’t lived to see the world turn into the abomination it was now. He suspected that even she would no longer be able to uphold her stoic attitude in light of all that had occurred and now Ray tried to remember the things that still made his life worth living.
Within his reach was a large army-style backpack in the cargo area. Ray was reminded about the liter bottles of Jack Daniels he had earlier stashed into this backpack when he was in Muntly. I would love to get really plastered right now so that I could just erase the memory of these past few days.
A sudden moan interrupted the lull inside the van and Ray’s gloomy thoughts. Chris was tossing and turning in his sleep, and his breath made a noticeable wheezing sound. Scrapes and bruises covered his face—the visible results of his fall from the second-story balcony of his house. Ray leaned over and touched his forehead. It was warm, but Chris didn’t appear to be feverish just yet. However, as far as he could surmise, Chris urgently needed medical attention, and Ray really hoped his new friend would be able to make it. Chris had saved his life more than once. Ray heard Phil and Scott talking to each other up front.
“How long do you think it’s going to take, Scott?” Phil asked.
“Just a sec, I have to look on the map.”
Scott rummaged in the glove compartment and pulled out a road atlas. He opened it up, while Robbie still sat on his lap. After looking at it carefully, he gave a satisfied nod.
“Right now we’re on Route 18. There’s still a few miles ahead us. If we keep driving at this speed and nothing unexpected happens, we should reach Fort Weeks by tomorrow evening.”
“That’s quite a ways off.” Phil seemed stressed.
“I won’t let anything happen to your kids, Phil, I promise you that.” Scott looked at him, full of determination.
Phil nodded. “Let’s try to take a break as soon as possible. We have to fill up the tank, plus the kids are totally exhausted. I’m bushed, too, and I think you and Ray could also use a short nap.”
Scott really wanted to reach Fort Weeks as soon as possible, driven by the hope he might find his wife and son there. He agreed with Phil, though. In these precarious times, they couldn’t afford doing anything stupid. Scott glanced at the map again.
“Looks like there’s a town twelve miles north of here, and it has the symbol for a gas station. Maybe we can fill up on gas there and get something to eat.”
“Okay, that’s a good idea,” Phil said.
Scott looked in the back. “Hey, Ray.”
Ray’s blank eyes stared back at him. “We’re going to take a break soon. The kids need some sleep, and Chris has to rest. Just so that you know.”
“Uh- mhmm.” That is the only answer they got from Ray. Afterwards, he once again fixed his stare into the distance, lost in thought.
A Safe Harbor
The soft, quiet strum of an acousti
Pancakes. I smell pancakes.
Josh blinked. The light was very bright. Home. A large window at the foot of his bed allowed the first subtle rays of the morning’s summer sun enter the bedroom, and even the thin white curtains could not keep out its warm glow. Josh was lying on his back and lazily stretched out his arms and legs. He peeked out the window before the sunlight dazzled him, and he once again closed his eyes with contentment. He had managed to catch a glimpse of the large oak, which now was in full bloom, in the garden. This perfect morning hinted to him that it would turn into a beautiful summer day.
Josh could hear noise coming from downstairs, recognizing the light clatter of dishes. Besides the clatter he heard short steps on the wooden floor and the creaking of the stairs. He kept his eyes closed and relished the moment. It should stay like this. Forever.
The door knob moved slowly and the door softly swung open.
Still trying to make as little noise as possible, she tiptoed into the room. She carried a tray with fresh pancakes and two cups of hot, black coffee—she knew that’s just how he liked his coffee.
A brilliant smile appeared on her face when Marie saw him lying so peacefully in bed, and she carefully placed the tray on a small stool next to it.
She took one of the cups from the tray and slowly crawled with her knees onto the bed toward Josh so that she could straddle him. Leaning forward, she then held the cup under his nose and whispered: “Hey, wake up, sleepy head, I made us pancakes and coffee.”
Josh still kept his eyes closed and savored every second of this delectable moment. Her naked legs against him felt so nice and warm. Then he opened his eyes and looked directly at her face, only scant inches away from his.
by David Bourne have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes