Authors: Emily Goodwin
The Contagium Trilogy
a novel by
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2012 Emily Goodwin
Edited 8/1/2012 by J. Corey
Cover art by SweetDreams
I would like to thank the many people who made this book possible by answering my many questions about ‘medically realistic’ zombies, survival skills, hunting, explosives, self defense skills, weapons and the workings of the military. Dad, thank you for helping me with ‘zombie target practice’ every weekend so I could learn how to shoot like Orissa. Thank you to everyone who supported and encouraged me to never stop writing and who read and reviewed this book. And finally, I’d like to thank my husband for always having faith in me.
To my husband,
Thank you for being my best friend and
believing in everything I do…as well as putting up with my weirdness.
I love you
Books by Emily Goodwin:
The Contagium Trilogy:
The Truth is Contagious
The Guardian Legacies Series:
Beyond the Sea
I shall set my face toward the infernal regions,
I shall raise up the dead, and they will eat the living,
I will make the dead outnumber the living!”
-The Epic of Gilgamesh
I stumbled my way up the worn, carpeted stairs of Aunt Jenny’s small apartment. It was one-thirty in the morning and I was drunk. My hand slipped off the doorknob more than once and, realizing it was locked, dropped my purse so I could dig through the jumbled mess for my keys. I finally fished them out from the bottom. I wobbled when I stood, teetering on tall, black heels. The door swung open just as I reached for the lock.
Orissa!” Aunt Jenny cried, her hand flying to her chest.
Sorry,” I mumbled.
It’s ok,” she breathed, looking relieved. “I just wasn’t expecting you so early. Well, early for you.” Echoes of muffled, angry voices floated down the hall. “They’ve been at it all night,” she sighed and ushered me in.
Did you wait up for me?” I asked, as I shakily removed my shoes.
Yes, well, no. I told you I wasn’t going to keep tabs. But I worry.”
I can take care of myself.”
Oh, yeah. And you can bail yourself out of jail.”
I glared at Aunt Jenny. “That was over a month ago. Can’t we drop it?”
Yes, sorry.” She shook her head. “You should have called me though. I would have picked you up.”
I shrugged. “Thanks. Maybe next time.” I tripped over the ottoman as I crossed the small living room.
Had enough?” she asked, with just a hint of laughter in her voice.
I,” I began, standing up straight, “was doing my part to stimulate the economy.” Well, I was doing my part to make sure others stimulated the economy. My money hadn’t paid for any of the liquor I had drunk.
I should have opened a bar,” Aunt Jenny joked. She gathered up her dishes from the coffee table. “Did you have fun at least?”
Yes. I rocked karaoke. And I got two numbers.”
I smiled and nodded.
Aunt Jenny just laughed and slightly shook her head. “So how come you came home early?”
There was a fight,” I blurted, my logic filter turned off due to overindulgence in alcohol. There were always fights in bars. But this fight was…different. I had just talked to him, the tall guy in the blue shirt, before he snapped. No one knew what caused it, but suddenly his hands wrapped around the bouncer’s throat. It took three guys to pull him off. Blue Shirt was sputtering, screaming, clawing; he even tried to bite the guy. I skipped out right as the police showed up. From the parking lot I watched them tase Blue Shirt to subdue him. “And my abs hurt,” I covered up, not wanting to discuss the fight.
Your abs hurt?” Aunt Jenny raised an eyebrow incredulously.
Yeah, I must have worked out too hard.” I put my hand over my right side. “I’m feeling kinda nauseous, so I’m gonna go to bed.”
Ok, night. Remember I work in the morning, so I’ll see you after, alright?”
Yup. Night.” I weaved my way to my tiny room. I stripped out of my clothes and collapsed onto the bed. Too tired to shower, I fell asleep, not waking until after ten the next morning. I was overcome with dizziness when I sat up. Thinking I just needed a big glass of water and some food, I forced myself out of bed. I didn’t make it to the kitchen. Instead, I detoured to the bathroom, doubled over and threw up. I hadn’t drunk
much, had I?
I feebly made it to the couch, my right side aching. “I’m never drinking again,” I told Finickus, Aunt Jenny’s fat, white cat. I turned the TV on, surfing through channels that were talking about the recent violent outbreaks or the Second Great Depression. I drifted in and out of sleep, not wanting to move or eat, until Aunt Jenny came home later that afternoon.
Are you alright, Orissa?” she asked when I declined a grilled cheese sandwich.
Yeah. I just don’t feel too great.”
She frowned, set her half eaten sandwich down and knelt next to the couch. She pressed her hand to my forehead and told me I had a fever. I shrugged, since drinking raises your temperature; it was no big deal. When she asked if my side still hurt and I said yes, her brow furrowed with worry.
What?” I asked, sitting up too fast.
I think you have appendicitis.”
No,” I immediately disagreed. “I just overdid it last night.”
She nodded and went back to her dinner. I tried to fall back asleep. The pain was getting worse and I felt sicker by the minute. An hour later, Aunt Jenny insisted I go get a blood test. I groaned, knowing she was probably right.
It didn’t take long to get to the hospital. I had yet to be on this side of town and was more than a little surprised at the amount of ‘out of business’ signs I saw on boarded up windows. I knew many were struggling in this Depression, but I was under the impression that bigger cities like Indy were doing ok.
I was wrong.
The hospital, however, was doing great. Smaller towns that couldn’t afford to keep their own hospitals going flocked here. The ER was so busy that I had to wait over an hour just to freaking get my blood drawn. Pissed, nauseous and tired, I refused to put on the stupid paper robe. My nurse was old and it didn’t take ESP to sense that she desperately wanted to retire. I wanted to tell her to get over herself and be thankful she at least has a job. Seeing the needles in her hand made me change my mind.
There’s no yes or no test,” she explained, when she came back with the results another hour later. “Your white blood cell count is high, so it is likely that you do need to have your appendix removed.”
Likely? You mean they could cut me open and realize I don’t need it out?”
Yes. That is possible. The surgeon will mostly likely remove it anyway.”
Lovely.” I didn’t have health insurance and I sure as hell didn’t want to pay for a surgery I might not need.
Put this on,” she said gruffly, tossing the ugly robe on my bed. I rolled my eyes but obliged, wanting to get this whole thing over with…I was in a lot of pain by now. I changed just in time for my crabby-ass nurse to retrieve me for surgery. I curiously looked around the hospital as she wheeled me down the hall. I made eye contact with a tall, dark haired man as he exited a room. I was instantly drawn to his big, blue eyes. He smiled politely at me, revealing perfect white teeth. I was so mesmerized by his beauty I barely noticed the green scrubs and lab coat he was wearing. If he was my doctor, surgery might not be so bad after all.
My mouth was dry. My head was fuzzy. I didn’t know why I was in so much pain or where I was. My eyes just wouldn’t open so I listened and heard nothing. Every breath took effort and I tried to call out for help. But no one came. It felt like hours passed before I drifted back to sleep. When I woke up the second time, a young, dark skinned nurse was adjusting my IV’s.
Good morning, Orissa!” she said brightly. “Surgery went well.”
Did I really need it out?” Damn it, even though I just woke up from surgery, money was still my main concern.
Yes. It was close to bursting,” she informed me.
Oh. Good, I guess.”
Your mom is waiting outside, do you want me to get her now?”
Petite, short brown hair…that’s not her?”
No. She’s my aunt. Yes, she can come in.”
Aunt Jenny came in with a vase full of flowers. I wanted to glare at her and tell her it was a waste of money but I only smiled, too weak to argue. She gushed over me for a bit, making sure everything was ok. She promised she’d be back after work even though I told her I’d be fine on my own. The hospital had cable, after all.
With the pain medication, the next four days spent in the hospital went by quickly. I caught a glimpse of the hot doctor again as I was leaving, making me wish I had come in my bar clothes rather than purple pajama pants. For the next five days, I did nothing but park my ass on the couch or in bed. Since no new shows were being aired anymore, I amused myself by watching reruns of
, flipping to the news stations during commercials.
I had nightmares about the broadcasts I had seen reporting a huge increase in unexplained deaths and small, and seemingly random, outbursts of violence across the country. Friends turned on friends and one witness described her attacker’s behaviors like those of Blue Shirt to the tee. It freaked me out and made me very glad I had insisted on taking martial arts lessons instead of ballet, like my mother wished.
A little over two weeks after my surgery I forced myself out of bed. I slowly cleaned the apartment. I even made banana bread out of the browning bananas that had been forgotten on top of the refrigerator. I had a follow up appointment at the hospital at two-thirty. I hadn’t dressed in anything but pajamas, done my hair, or worn makeup in the last two weeks. Deciding that putting effort in my appearance today would help cheer me up, I slipped into my favorite tight jeans, a midriff showing black cami with a brown leather jacket over top. I traded the heels I initially put on for a pair of flat, tall leather boots. Since it wasn’t that far, I decided I’d walk; halfway there I felt so drained I wasted my extra cash on a cab.
Feeling pissy from pain, I hastily got directions to where I needed to go. I hated elevators; I was always afraid of getting stuck. And the hospital was crowded—more crowded than normal. All I needed was to get trapped inside an overly stuffed box full of strangers. Despite my pain I took the stairs. Going slow, I was concentrating so hard on not acknowledging that I hurt I didn’t notice him. Blood ran down a gash on his cheek. Hands bound behind him in handcuffs, he head butted his police escort and madly dove down the stairs.
We collided. I desperately reached out for the railing—without success. He brought me down with him and, when we stopped tumbling, he crouched over me, drooling and growling. There were collective shouts of panic as people watched, gaping open-mouthed at the lunatic above me. The only items in my possession were my purse and a notebook. My purse was somewhere underneath me but the notebook was still clutched in my death grip. Not knowing what else to do, I slapped him across the face with the notebook, grimacing at the blood and drool that splattered its cover.