The Salesman

We’re working a crazy amount of hours over here, so the writing is going much slower than my normal pace… But it IS getting done slowly! Here’s another section from my upcoming book Origins of the Outbreak.

This is several sections after the last one I posted (to keep you interested and wondering what happened in between!). Also, please remember that I hardly ever edit anything until after I’m done with the first draft, so this is UNEDITED, and Facebook doesn’t allow italics to transfer over so the phone, radio and internal thoughts will be in italics in the final version.

Finally, there is some very rough language and blood and guts in this scene, so you’re forewarned!

The Businessman (5:27 p.m.)

Well, that’s it then, Darren thought to himself as he stared over the steering wheel. He’d finally given up on his marriage and told his wife that he wanted a divorce. Sarah’s drinking was out of control and it was a major strain on their relationship — hell, there wasn’t a relationship anymore, it was two people who lived under the same roof and fucked when some little device said that the woman was ovulating.

He wanted children, he really did, but he was past the point of wanting them with her. She was a disaster. Even before he stopped calling her, she’d be wasted by noon when he’d call from the office. There was no telling how early she got drunk these days since they didn’t ever talk. It was easier to avoid the fight and just not call.

The funny thing is that she said she still wanted children with him. She still confessed to loving him and promised that if they could just have kids, things would be different. They’d looked into adoption, but the costs were astronomical to a single-income family. That’s another thing that was maddening to him. She stayed at home and didn’t work. When they’d lived in Ohio, the couple had more money than they knew what to do with, but since moving to Texas, she’d gone on a few job interviews and then called it quits when she hit a little bit of adversity. Hell, even if she worked at the gas station and got out of the house while she brought in a little income, then Darren suspected that some of the tension would melt away. Being cooped up inside all day long was what did it, maybe the problem was this state.

He stared in a daze at the road as he thought about how messed up his life had become. They’d been totally happy in Ohio. They made love, not just had sex. They went on dates and had a great social life with several very good friends. Hell, they even used to be that couple that would hold hands as they walked through the mall together. What happened? How had it progressed to this so quickly? They were questions that he couldn’t answer, but he knew that he wanted to get back to that place with Sarah.

A tiny ache in his chest made him realize why the ancients had thought that emotions and love came from the heart. As he continued driving towards his house he shook his head slightly and thought, Maybe I’m being too hard on her. It’s not her fault that people down here don’t think women should be in a “man’s” job. I’d probably drink a lot too if I was faced with the same type of adversity.

Darren made up his mind to tell Sarah that he wanted to work things out. He’d spoken hastily in a moment of anger, maybe he didn’t really feel that way and he’d just let his emotions get the better of him. What if I ask to be transferred back to Ohio where our families are located? Would the company allow it? He held onto that thought for a moment and then decided that he didn’t care. My marriage is more important than some job.

The miles continued to disappear underneath his sedan’s tires as he neared his home. He was excited to have made this important decision and decided that he couldn’t wait to tell Sarah that he was going to do whatever he could to reclaim their marriage. He pushed a button on the dashboard that activated his cell phone via Bluetooth and a female British voice filled the cabin.

“Make a phone call on… Darren’s phone.”

“Call Sarah,” he replied.

“Calling… Sarah.”

The phone rang seven times and then her voicemail picked up. “Hi, this is Sarah. Leave a message and I want to talk to you I might call you back.” He frowned. She changed her voicemail in a drunken funk one day and refused to change it back, even though she still had job applications out to a few local companies.

Darren cleared his throat and said, “Hi, Sarah, it’s me. I wanted to call you and tell you that… Well, I just… Shit, I didn’t want to leave this in a message, but I just feel like I need to tell you and can’t wait. I was wrong this morning. I don’t want a divorce. I want to stay married to you. I love you, okay? I’m sorry that I said that. Look, I’ll be home in about five minutes and we can talk then.”

He pushed the call end button and concentrated on the road. When he actually paid attention to his surroundings, he realized that the northbound lanes of the highway were jammed with traffic and he was one of the only cars driving south. Normally at this time of day, the opposite was true. No one headed north towards Temple and everyone was headed towards their homes in the suburbs. What’s going on? Darren had been on a few sales calls today and he always listened to satellite radio so he wasn’t aware of any accidents or anything. Maybe that construction near the bridge was screwing things up again.

He took his exit off of the interstate. The back road would feed him into his neighborhood much faster than the main route through town. Normally, the road was quiet and serene, the only activity you’d see was a dust cloud over the trees where some farmer was tilling his land for planting in the spring or harvesting the crop at the end of the season. This day was different.

Cars sped by him at speeds well above the posted limit. A lot of cars. The few faces that he could make out looked terrified. What the hell? That was definitely not normal. He scanned through the radio stations, but not much came in until he found the country station from Waco.

“…We repeat, do not attempt to go to the town of Belton. Martial law has been declared by the governor and there’s word that the president is considering deploying troops from nearby Fort Hood. All we know at this point is that there has been some type of extremely contagious viral outbreak and you are not allowed to return to Belton. Shelters are being set up in Temple as we broadcast from the SoundEx Media building here in Waco. We repeat, do not attempt —”

Darren punched the off button. “Fuck that. It’s my home,” he told the silent radio and pushed the gas pedal down to speed up the sedan.

Not even thirty seconds later, he came to a military roadblock. Big Army trucks were parked in a vee across the road with the smaller, open point facing the inbound traffic. He could tell that the purpose was to funnel the outbound traffic through one point and not allow anyone in. He slowed down to just a few miles an hour and crept towards the checkpoint.

He didn’t see anyone, just the vehicles. He got to within twenty feet before he realized that the sides of the trucks were covered in blood. What the fuck? Where are the soldiers?

No one was attempting to leave through the barrier, so he drove carefully around the plastic barrier that was meant to further slow drivers down. Just as he cleared the front of the two vehicles and saw open road in front of him, the car was rocked by someone jumping into the side of it. Out of instinct, he stepped on the brake and came to a complete halt.

Soldiers surrounded his car and pressed their bloody faces against the windows trying to reach him. “Holy shit!” he screamed and pressed the gas pedal down. There were too many of them pressed against the front and sides of the sedan to get any type of traction.

Teeth made clacking sounds as they snapped against the windows and blood smeared across his window and the men and women pressed themselves tightly against his car. Darren had a moment to realize that these weren’t soldiers anymore, they were something completely different. The word zombie sprang to his mind as he remembered all the campy horror movies that he’d watched as a kid, only this time, it was real and in his face.

He checked his rearview mirror and nothing was behind him, so he shifted into reverse and backed up six feet. Then he shifted back into drive and slammed his foot down on the gas pedal. The BMW 550i’s 400 horsepower 4.4 liter V-8 engine roared to life and shot the luxury car forward into the group of creatures who had already recovered from his maneuver and were starting towards him once more. They went flying to the sides and one even hit the hood and rolled up over the roof, but he made it through. Thankfully, the car’s low profile had kept any of them from getting trapped under the axles and high-centering the sedan.

Darren pulled the lever beside the steering wheel to spray the windshield washer fluid and the wipers cleared away the gore that had been caked on the glass. “What the hell is happening?” he muttered over and over as he flew the last few miles toward his house. It was too much to process right now. He had a very logical, linear A-to-Z kind of mind, but somehow when he went to work this morning, the world had derailed from it’s normal pattern and everything went haywire.

Along the way, he saw wrecked vehicles and people running in the distance. To the south, smoke hung low over the center of town as fires of some kind burned away the historic buildings town there. The world had gone mad in the ten hours since he pulled out of his garage.

Finally, he pulled into his neighborhood. Minus a few people hastily throwing suitcases and things like that into their cars, it looked just like it always did. They’d purchased in this neighborhood because it was so quiet and the HOA ensured that everyone kept their lawns perfectly manicured to a published standard. The chaos that had taken hold only a mile away had seemed to skip this part of town — so far.

Darren wasn’t stupid. He knew that he only had a few minutes to get Sarah and some things together before things came crashing down here as well. You don’t have that level of destruction happening only five miles away without it spreading here as well.

He pulled into his driveway. Sarah’s car was still sitting were it had been this morning. Their garage only effectively held one car and since his was the more expensive of the two BMWs, they left hers outside unless there was going to be a hail storm. He cut the engine off and ran towards the entrance.

The front door was wide open.

The sales rep slowed down and stepped cautiously inside. The coat rack was tipped over on its side across the foyer and the light jackets that previously hung on the rack were scattered everywhere, including what looked like a trail of them heading around the corner towards the bedroom.

Darren closed the door behind him quietly and snuck across the dining room into the kitchen to get one of the big chopping knives that sat in a knife block on the counter. It slid soundlessly from the wood and felt heavy in his hand. The knife should be a really good defensive weapon if one of those things was in here. This is my home, he thought. And Sarah is my wife. He considered the situation in the neighborhood, it still seemed unscathed. God, I hope she’s just drunk and forgot to close the front door. He rationalized that she easily could have fell into the coat rack and gotten tangled in the jackets.

Armed with a weapon and secure in his belief that the area was still safe, he called out, “Sarah! Sarah, its Darren. Where are you?”

She didn’t answer so he made his way around the island to get out of the kitchen and started towards the the bedrooms. He didn’t really know what to do with the knife, but he’d seen enough movies to know that he should hold it low. Darren crept slowly towards their bedroom and had a vision of accidentally stabbing Sarah with the blade, so he changed the angle and pressed it against the pants of his suit to help control it.

He stopped just short of entering the bedroom. There were noises coming from inside. It sounded like someone breathing heavily and fabric moving against skin. He became incensed. The noises coming from his bedroom was definitely the noise of someone having sex. The heavy breathing, the soft moans, the rubbing of his wife’s skin against the sheets as some dude piled into her. That bitch was cheating on him.

He shoved hard against the door. “What the hell is going on?” he shouted. Whatever his mind had prepared him for was nothing like what he found. The nightstand lay overturned and the lamp shattered. Blood was splattered across the walls in a great big fan pattern originating from the bed. Besides the form of his wife writhing against the sheets, the room was empty. No man was in here, she was alone and in trouble.

He dropped the knife and ran towards the bed. He jerked to an abrupt halt on the carpet when he saw his once-lovely bride. Great patches of skin were missing on her face, her neck, her shirt was ripped open, exposing her breasts and a massive hole gaped wide where her intestines used to reside in her abdominal cavity.

Darren couldn’t help himself, he turned to the side and vomited on the floor. When he was finished, he turned back to Sarah once again. Her upper body moved wildly and she lifted her head to snap her teeth at him, but her entire lower half wasn’t moving. He stepped closer and saw pieces of white bone amongst the blood and discarded intestines. Whatever did this to her had ripped her spinal column and severed the cord, leaving her lower half useless.

He cried for a few minutes. He’d been on top of the world, expecting to come home to Sarah and working things out with her and now… He was alone. Utterly alone in the chaos. When he finally stopped crying he walked slowly over to where he’d dropped the knife and picked it up. If these things followed the same pattern as the zombies in the movies, destroying their brains would put an end to them.

Sarah — not Sarah! — continued to struggle to move towards him so she could eat him like she’d been eaten. “I’m sorry, honey. I love you. I’ll always love you,” he told the thing staring at him and plunged the knife into her eye. She continued to spasm for a moment, but eventually settled and stopped moving.

Darren stared around their bedroom for a moment and then rushed to get a suitcase. He’d done what needed to be done. His wife was in a better place now. Within minutes he had two suitcases crammed with clothing and he carried them to the door. He opened it and peered out cautiously. Everything seemed to be okay, so he hurried out and put the bags in the trunk of his sedan.

“I’ll need food,” he mumbled, still in shock of what he’d been through and what he had to do to Sarah. He jogged towards the house and closed the door carefully behind himself.

He packed canned food, boxed goods and bottled water into a few grocery bags and looked around the living room to see if there was anything that he wanted. On the fireplace mantle, a happy Sarah and Darren stared at him from their wedding picture. He grabbed that and then looped his fingers through the bags of food.

In his haste, he didn’t check the door before opening it. Standing right in the doorway was that big mother fucker from next door. Only it wasn’t him anymore. He lunged for Darren, who deftly moved backwards out of the way. He stumbled backwards to get out of the reach of the giant creature in front of him and tripped over the coat rack.

That was all the advantage that Mateo needed. Once he got his hands on Darren’s leg, there was no getting away. The poor soul would be with his beloved in minutes


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