Alright, just finished another section in Origins of the Outbreak. For those of you new to the page, I like to post pieces and parts of my work in progress – whatever that may be – for readers to stay interested since it can take a long time to write a complete novel.
Origins is a series of separate, but related stories about the slow spread of infection until it reaches a tipping point. This section that I’m going to post is near the end of day two, so there’s been a lot going on so far.
Again, as always, this is a totally unedited first draft. I try not to edit until the book is complete, otherwise I’d just end up poking at a chapter forever without actually finishing the book.
Finally, this is a book for adults. There is rough language and in this section, there are some scenes/situations inappropriate for readers who are underage.
The beat up Dodge Neon sped down the road and twin contrails of dust floated into the air behind the car as the tires disturbed the hard-packed gravel. Tonight was going to be the night that Taylor and Beth finally went all the way.
They’d dated for three months and had done everything else imaginable except take that final plunge, which would happen tonight. The two of them talked all week about what would happen. Beth was scared and eager at the same time. She wasn’t sure what doing it would feel like – her girlfriends all said that it hurts at first – but given the way that the other stuff made her feel, she thought that she’d enjoy herself.
She glanced over at her boyfriend as he struggled to keep the car on the road. “Taylor, slow down. Don’t worry, it’s gonna happen – unless we get in an accident!”
“Oh geez, you’re right, Bibi. I’m just really excited.”
Beth smiled at his nickname for her. “I know. Me too.”
She reached across the small console and placed a hand on his knee. “Eep!” he squealed and jerked the steering wheel, sending the front of the vehicle skidding to the left. He turned the wheel hard back towards the right, which only exacerbated the problem. The car rotated completely around and by the time Taylor was able to stop, the nose of the vehicle faced the direction that they’d just came from.
“Oh. My. God. Taylor!” Beth yelled and clutched her chest as her heart hammered against her breast. She felt like it was going to explode. “What the hell happened?”
The boy rotated the dial beside the steering column and the interior lights came on. “I’m sorry, you just startled me. I wasn’t expecting you to do that.”
Beth grinned at him in apology for her outburst. “I guess we’re okay, right? Nothing hurt… It was fun, wasn’t it?”
A smile spread sheepishly across his face and he replied, “Yeah, I don’t think I could do that again if I tried though!” She leaned over and kissed him, darting her tongue past his lips and gently touching his.
When she pulled back, her stomach was aflutter with excitement. She brushed her hand across the front of his pants and said, “Let’s not try that again though, okay?”
“Yeah, you’re right, babe,” he chuckled nervously and shifted the car into reverse. After completing a three-point turn, they were back on their way to the river.
Taylor told her that he’d found the perfect spot to go. He said that there was a dirt trail that ran along the river and opened out to a small clearing. That immediately sent up a red flag for her as she wondered how he knew about the spot. He’d promised her that he was a virgin, but knowing about a place to go parking had made her think that maybe he wasn’t telling the truth at first. But his church actually used the clearing to park their cars when they went to the river for a baptism. The explanation, combined with the fact that the first few times that they’d messed around, he’d ejaculated in less than a minute.
God, I hope it lasts longer than that! she thought. A small giggle escaped her lips and Taylor glanced over at her. She bit her lower lip and wondered for the thousandth time what it would feel like.
The car jiggled slightly as they drove over the single-lane bridge and then from the gravel road onto the dirt path beside the river. Beth had grown up in the tiny town of Holland, Texas and swam at all sorts of places along the river, but she didn’t recognize where Taylor was headed until they pulled into the clearing to park. She’d been here years ago when her cousin was in town. She’d been embarrassed to be seen in a bikini so Beth’s dad took them to a lesser-used part of the river.
The parking area looked like it would hold about thirty or forty cars, but the little Neon was all alone underneath the stars. Once Taylor put the car in park she opened her door and stepped out into the pressed down grass. It was still early enough in the summer that dew had accumulated, later in the year and it became too hot and dry. The cool wetness of the grass combined with the amazing view of the Milky Way above and the sounds of the crickets in the wood line to create the sensation that the evening was magical. “Wow, Taylor, do you see how many stars there are? You can’t ever see this many in town.”
He walked around the front of the car and leaned against the hood on her side of the car. “All the lights drown out the stars. Have you ever seen pictures of the sky from way out in the middle of nowhere, like hundreds of miles from any cities?”
Beth stepped closer and hopped up on the hood beside him. She lay back and relished the warmth of the engine on her shoulders. “This is nice,” she muttered.
Out of her periphery vision, she saw Taylor shift slightly. “Yeah, it is,” he replied. She could tell that he was looking back at her.
Am I supposed to play hard to get? she wondered. Her boyfriend placed a tentative hand on her thigh and then when she didn’t complain, he slid it up higher. She sat up quickly and came face-to-face with Taylor. He’d been leaning in over her so that she’d almost head-butted him. “Do you have a blanket or do we go inside the car or what?” she asked.
“I, uh… No, I don’t have a blanket. Aren’t we supposed to go in the back seat or something?”
She peered through the front windshield into the tiny back seat. How romantic, she said to herself sarcastically. “Maybe we should just recline the front seat or something. I don’t think there’s room for us back there.”
“I knew that I should have borrowed my mom’s van,” Taylor replied dejectedly.
“Um, no. I definitely don’t want my first time to be in the back of a minivan. Too bad you don’t have a blanket. It’s so gorgeous out.” The wheels started turning in her mind. She really didn’t want her first time to be in the back seat of a Neon either. This was one of the most important events in a young woman’s life. If she let this go down in her boyfriend’s crappy car, she’d probably regret it for the rest of her life. Or am I just scared and looking for an excuse?
“How romantic would it be for both of us to lose our virginity under the stars?” Beth continued. “Then our first night in college together and when we go on our honeymoon to an island somewhere, we could make love on the beach! Doesn’t that sound amazing? The stars could symbolize our firsts together.”
Taylor cleared his throat uncomfortably and mumbled, “Yeah, that’d be great, Bibi.”
She lay back down on the hood and stared at the stars above for a full minute while she thought. She loved Taylor madly, deeply. Her feelings for him were stronger than she’d ever had for any boy before. They were soul mates and she already knew that she wanted to marry him and have a family. She had no idea what kind of career that she wanted after college or what the future would hold, but she knew without a doubt that Taylor would be a central part of her future.
“Taylor, I love you,” she stated without taking her eyes away from God’s canvas above.
“Love you too, babe,” he replied automatically and parted her legs so he was between her knees staring down at her.
“No, I mean that I really love you. I want to be with you forever.”
He slid a hand up along the bare skin of her legs and then walked his fingers up over the material of her shorts towards her waistline. “Of course,” he said. “You and me. We’ve made all those plans together. We’re gonna stay together through thick and thin.”
His choice of words made her think about school that day. They’d been released early because of the problems in Belton. Holland was over twenty miles away, but the principle and the school board had decided that the risk was too great. Beth’s mom and Taylor’s dar were in the Texas National Guard — which is how they ended up spending so much time together — and they were both called up this morning to go and cordon off the town. Her mom was the company commander, so she knew that there was nothing to worry about all the way down in Holland.
“Do you think things are gonna turn out alright in Belton?” she asked.
“Oh, come on, Beth! I thought tonight was gonna be about us.”
She sat up, once more almost knocking into him. “It is about us, Taylor, but our parents are up there guarding all of Texas so you can get laid. Don’t you think we should at least acknowledge that fact?”
He huffed in frustration and replied, “Of course. I’m grateful for them, it’s just… It’s just that you don’t seem to want to go forward with what we had planned for tonight.”
She pushed him out from between her legs so she could stand up. “You think that I want to lose my virginity in the back seat of a car?” she asked and crossed her hands over her chest.
“No, of course not. But it’s starting to seem like you’re finding excuses now to not do it. First it was the blanket, then the back seat and now you want to talk about our parents!”
Her eyes glazed over with the beginning of tears that came from nowhere. “Why are you doing this, Taylor? Tonight was supposed to be special and you’re ruining it.”
“I…” he paused to reorganize his thoughts. “You’re right, I’m sorry. It’s frustrating, I’ve waited eighteen years for tonight and we had it planned out and it just seems like you’re having second thoughts — about me.”
Beth reached out and placed a hand on his upper arm. Taylor had always had self-esteem issues. She’d known him since they were toddlers and had become close friends with him through the years in the small town and the forced awkwardness of children at the social events that the National Guard armory held every month. She didn’t want her unwillingness to crush him. “Taylor, it’s not about you. Well, it is… It’s about us. But I mean, I’ve waited eighteen years for this too — and I don’t want our first time together to be in the Neon. I love you and I want to make love to you. I want to keep making love to you until we’re ninety —”
“Eww, gross!” he interrupted.
“Shut up!” she said. “I’m serious. I want to be with you forever.”
Taylor looked past her towards the river in the distance. “I have a towel in the trunk. We could lay that across the hood or on the ground.”
“I don’t know. What if we went somewhere and rented a hotel room?”
“What about everything you just said about the stars being magical?” he countered. “I like the idea of our first time being under the stars.”
Beth looked up at the beautiful scene above them. It * was * absolutely magical. Maybe he was right. They should just do it out here and it would be a memory that she could cherish forever. They had their whole lives to have sex in a bed. “Okay. Go get the towel. I’m ready to be with you and commit myself to you fully.”
Taylor stepped across the artificial boundary that she’d established a few minutes ago and kissed her. Then he jogged around to the driver’s side to pop the trunk and she leaned back against the hood once more. This was it. They were going to take that incredibly important next step in their relationship. It was time. After tonight, Beth would be an adult.
The car’s interior dome lights came on and then quickly extinguished as Taylor opened and closed the door to access the trunk latch. She thought about all the implications behind having sex for the first time. It was a big deal and she unconsciously patted the condom in her front pocket. Her best friend Maggie gave it to her after school today when she told her friends about her plans for the evening. Beth had no desire to be a teen mom, that was for sure.
She reached back and unhooked her bra, no sense in reliving the nightmarish pawing that he tended to visit upon her when he tried to release the clasps. She started to slide her arms through the straps and thought better of it. Instead, she simply shrugged out of her shirt entirely and the moonlight made the pale white skin almost glow in comparison to the tan lines on her breasts. She felt a little self-conscious at the fact that she was nude in the middle of the woods where anyone could see her, but decided that if some perv wanted to watch her get it on with her boyfriend, then there wasn’t anything that she could do about it.
The Neon rocked really hard for a moment and she glanced in the dim light back to where Taylor had gone. * What the hell is he doing back there?* she thought. * It better not be some smelly baseball towel that he had to dig out from under all of his gear!* Taylor played ball for the high school, although he wasn’t really that good. He was an okay fielder, but sucked at batting. His real strength — besides being normally romantic — was his brain. He already had an academic scholarship to the University of Texas at Austin and they’d move down after the summer was over.
Taylor made a strange noise and she stepped away from the car. “Hey Taylor, what’s going on?”
He didn’t answer so she walked slowly towards the back of the car. “Taylor, are you okay?”
She stepped around the back of the car and a man was hunched over Taylor. He lay on the ground and a dark fluid seeped from his neck. Beth screamed and the man looked up at her.
Blood ran from * her* mouth as she chewed on something. Somewhere in the back of her mind, it registered that she was looking at a woman wearing a white coat of some kind, but the thought quickly escaped her as she turned to run.
Beth ran shirtless towards the dirt path that led to the gravel road and the presumed safety of a house that they’d passed a little ways back. She’d almost made it out of the clearing when another figure stumbled from the wood line twenty feet in front of her. She stopped and looked behind her where the woman slowly walked towards her.
*Shit. Shit. Shit!* her mind screamed at her. The way ahead was cut off and the bitch that just killed Taylor was coming up from behind. She looked right towards the river and contemplated swimming across. The problem with that was the same as fleeing to the left, there was no telling how many more of them were in the woods.
She stood gasping for air, more from panic than the short sprint that she’d taken, and decided to go back to the car. She could get in and drive out of here. She ran towards her left like she was going to run into the trees and sure enough, both of the creatures changed course and followed in a straight line after her. She pulled up well away from the woods and waited until the two of them were closer, then she darted right between her two converging pursuers.
She ran to the Neon and jumped into the drivers seat. After she hit the automatic locks, she searched frantically for the keys. “Dammit, Taylor! Where are the keys?” she yelled in frustration. She opened the center console, looked on the floorboard, along the dash, but they were nowhere to be found. Then the sickening realization hit her. They were in Taylor’s pocket.
“Oh God. I can’t do that!” she moaned. The car rocked hard as first one zombie and then another slammed into the passenger side of the car and tried to get to her. A squeal of terror escaped her lips, but she cut it off quickly and steeled herself for what she needed to do. She’d seen plenty of horror movies and knew that if you stayed still for too long, they’d eventually get in.
She looked across at the two of them as they flailed uselessly against the glass. “Okay, they’re not trying to open the door, so that means they probably can’t,” she rationalized out loud. “You can do this, Beth. You can do this.”
She took a quick gulp of air and unlocked all the car doors. Then she got out of the car and jogged slowly around the front towards the middle of the clearing. The creatures stopped their assault on the Neon and turned to follow her. She backed slowly away, drawing them further from the car while she also kept an eye out for another one coming from the woods.
When they were near her once more, she sprinted around them in a wide arc and then headed straight for Taylor. She suppressed a sob when she saw his ruined body. The damn thing had decimated him quickly. Beth crammed her hand into his pocket and her fingers closed around the Taylor’s keyring. She slid her hand out of the pocket and started to run.
He reached out and grabbed her arm. She screamed in fright and tried to jerk her hand away, but he held firm. Taylor sat up and his head hung at a strange angle as he tried to pull her towards him. Beth kicked him as hard as she could in the chest and his torso slammed backwards into the ground and she went flying in the opposite direction.
The first two assholes stumbled out of the darkness and she scrambled along on her hands and knees. The rough grass slit her tender nipples open as her breasts dangled underneath her. “Ow fuck!” she cried as she finally gained enough momentum to stand upright and run once more.
She sprinted towards the far tree line again and turned to wait. Blood trickled down from the cuts and scrapes on her chest. Sweat from the humidity, physical exertion and fear dripped into the tiny abrasions and made them feel like they were worse than they really were. Beth cried softly to herself while she waited for her three attackers to make their way around the car towards her.
Taylor stumbled along at a much slower pace than the other two. His head rested almost on his shoulder. Beth guessed that the girl in the bakery coat must have broken his neck. That thought made her feel a little better since he likely died without too much pain. “Oh my God,” she muttered. “I can’t believe that this is happening.”
A soft moan from behind her made her whirl around as another zombie emerged from the wood line. * Stupid idiot!* she chastised herself. She’d forgotten to keep an eye out behind her. She edged quickly away towards the center of the field to wait.
The four creatures made their way towards her and when they were fifteen feet away, she darted straight towards the river and then circled back towards the car. She jumped in and started it. The illumination from the headlights temporarily blinded her, but she recovered and shifted into drive. She sped around the outside of the clearing, well away from the creatures and made her way onto the dirt road.
When she reached the gravel, she gunned the engine and the car fish-tailed. “Oh shit!” she screamed as it continued to rotate. She turned into the skid like her mother had taught her and gained control of it. Earlier, Taylor had panicked and turned the wheel in the opposite direction, and that’s why they almost wrecked.
The car came to a complete stop on the road and she eased the gas pedal down gently. It took off without any problems and the girl drove back towards town at a safe speed. She checked her phone for signal, but they’d been too far out to get anything. As she drove, she tried to process what had just happened, but it was just too much.
Zombies were real and they’d obviously gotten beyond the National Guard’s perimeter. Was her mother alright? What about her father, in town? Was he okay? Then the thought of Taylor’s battered, broken body lurching after her clutched her heart and she almost lost control of the car again. “Oh, Taylor,” she muttered once again.
He’d been the perfect man for her. Their family wouldn’t ever happen now. Hell, maybe the entire future wouldn’t happen now. She put the thoughts of her boyfriend aside. She had to go warn the police that the creatures were all the way out here. She’d mourn for Taylor — and possibly her mother — later. Part of being an adult was putting the needs of others before yourself. In this case, it was the needs of the entire country.
She had to let them know that they had to defend themselves.