How far would you go to protect you children in the face of disaster? How many rules would you break? Would you risk your life?
This is the scenario that Joslin and Grant find themselves in when a meteor smashes into earth just outside their city limits, unleashing an air born disease pandemic that threatens to infect everyone, everywhere. In the frigid Colorado winter, without electricity or running water, the family faces the biggest obstacle they’ve ever encountered: survival.
I sit awake in the solitude of my basement, next to the wavering light of our last candle. The windows have been boarded tightly shut, blocking any trace of light. The small fire is our only source of heat. My children are asleep several feet away; it’s comforting knowing they’re safe, for now. In the silence of the night it’s easy to reminisce about the life we lived, not-so-long ago.
Things changed so rapidly. It feels like an eternity that we’ve been barricaded inside our house. I close my eyes to welcome sleep, but visions of the past three months play in my head like a marathon of madness. I open my eyes and glance down at the journal in my lap. To me it means the world; it’s our story of survival. The notebook’s open, and I stare down at the blank page. The only writing is the heading at the top – Day 94. My heart aches as I wonder how many more entries I’ll be able to make.
As time passes and diseased “morphs” begin to roam the streets, the gravity of the situation finally sinks in. Joslin and Grant must risk their lives by going outside of their barricaded house to search for food, all the while avoiding morphs and the army patrols that are instructed to kill anyone outside of their home. The entire world is collapsing around them and the only sense of security comes from the fact that they are still together as a family.
Grant hurried to move the furniture away from the door. I knew what he was about to do, but I didn’t want to see any of it. Starvation drives normally gentle people to the brink of madness. I tried to talk him out of it, saying that the dog looked very dangerous. I don’t think he even heard me. I was thankful that we’d made the kids go downstairs, and they wouldn’t see was going to happen. Grant grabbed a shovel that was next to the door, and jetted outside.
He cautiously approached the dog, and that’s when I turned away. I heard several loud thuds, and that was it. I should’ve stuck to my instincts and avoided the window, but I had to know what was happening. As I glanced outside, I saw Grant using the shovel to decapitate the animal. He grabbed the remains by the back legs, and drug the carcass over to our house. It created a trail of blood straight to our back door.
I looked back to where its head lay in the snow. Grant looked like he was about to vomit. He picked up the dog and carried it to the garage, where he dumped it roughly onto the floor. He sprinted to the back door and threw up outside. Once he regained his composure, we talked about the blood path. We decided it was best to try and cover the tracks, so it wasn’t so obvious we were in the house.
Grant went back out with the shovel, and started scraping clean snow over the blood trail. I paced back and forth in the house, wondering what I was going to do with the dog’s body. I’ve never butchered anything before.
Grant’s muffled voice caught my attention. I knew by the tone that something was wrong. I rushed to the window to see him fighting with a morph outside. The morph held the head of the dog in one hand, and Grant’s coat sleeve in the other. Grant lost his grip on the shovel and it lay several feet away. They struggled back and forth in the snow, and as I watched I forgot to breathe. Grant jabbed the morph twice in the face, and then gut-punched him once more.
He glanced in my direction and screamed, “Shut the door!”, before he picked up the shovel and ran. The morph stopped long enough to catch his breath, pick up the dog head again, and take off after Grant. Tears streamed down my face as I slammed the door and pushed the furniture back in front of it. I looked out the window again, but couldn’t see where they’d gone.
When Grant encounters the morph he knows that he’s been infected, and chooses to leave his family to fend for themselves. Joslin and the children are distraught without him. But several days later they’re faced with the unthinkable situation; Grant returns home in a delusional state, threatening to infect the entire family. It’s then that Joslin realizes in order to save her children, she must face Grant.
Shards of broken glass littered the floor of our bedroom. The wooden door was sturdy, but it had a large glass window in the top-half of the door. He’d shattered the window, and the dresser in front of the door shook with every swing of the ax. I pulled the home-made gas mask over my mouth and nose, and cautiously approached the door. The ax became embedded in the wood; he had a difficult time pulling it free. I was done trying to rationalize with this monster.
I crept along the bedroom wall with my back pressed flat, hiding my presence. He was still struggling to get the ax free. I never thought that he’d come back with an actual weapon. In every scenario I’d imagined, we were on equal fighting grounds. This changed my entire plan. As he wrenched the ax back and forth, I jumped up in front of the dresser and introduced my can of mace. Fluid shot out of the can through the broken window, landing squarely on his face. I heard the liquid sizzle as it came in contact with his skin.
He stopped, stunned, before unleashing a grueling scream. Tears threatened to escape my eyes, but I refused to feel guilty. He forgot about the ax and backed away from the door, tearing at his eyes with both hands. With a surge of determination I stood tall, and shouted as loudly as I could, “Go Away. I swear to God, I’ll kill you if you try coming back in.”
Wrong thing to say. His head jerked up and he looked the door, as if welcoming the challenge. That instant I knew one of us would die before this ended. He came at the door with new-found strength, and tore the ax away in one savage movement. I backed away, but didn’t retreat out of the bedroom. The weight of the wall against my back was the only thing keeping me standing. My knees shook and knocked together, but I refused back down. At this point, it’s him or me - and if it’s me, he’ll get the kids, too.
Joslin’s unwavering desire to protect her children drives the assault, as it becomes a battle of husband against wife in an ending that will shock you. You can also check out the original ending to the story on my website at www.dm-slate.com (which was too “depressing” for publication). Day 94 was released in December of 2009 by Eternal Press, and was voted the Best Sci-Fi/Futuristic Book of 2009 by the Love, Romance (and more) Café.