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More on Zombies

One would think I have this sick fascination with Zombies, I honestly don’t. I just happened to write a short story about The Walking Dead and received a lot of nice comments from the piece. At that point I moved onto other things, but it seems like every time I turn around there is another new news piece regarding Zombies. Like the blog I posted Zombie Ants. Now this new one “The Zombie Autopsies”.

Actually, it is starting to make me feel like we are slowly being told that such a virus really does exist and that it may be released. . .

(Only kidding, I Hope!)

In "The Zombie Autopsies," Dr. Steven Schlozman imagines a virus that strips the brain down to its basest levels.

Hope You Enjoy the Article, it is a bit long and originally was posted on CNN.com

An airborne virus is rapidly turning people into zombies. Two-thirds of humanity has been wiped out. Scientists desperately look for a cure, even as their own brains deteriorate and the disease robs them of what we consider life.

Relax, it’s only fiction — at least, for now. This apocalyptic scenario frames the new novel “The Zombie Autopsies” by Dr. Steven Schlozman, a child psychiatrist who holds positions at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital/McLean Program in Child Psychiatry.

You might not expect someone with those credentials to take zombies seriously, but it turns out the undead are a great way to explore real-world health issues: why certain nasty diseases can destroy the brain, how global pandemics create chaos and fear, and what should be done about people infected with a highly contagious and incurable lethal illness.

“One of the things zombie novels do is they bring up all these existential concerns that happen in medicine all the time: How do you define what’s alive?” says Schlozman, who has been known to bounce between zombie fan conventions and academic meetings.

“When is it appropriate to say someone’s ‘as-good-as-dead,’ which is an awful, difficult decision?”

What a zombie virus would do to the brain

So maybe you’ve seen “Night of the Living Dead,” read “World War Z,” or can’t wait for the return of the AMC show “The Walking Dead,” but you probably don’t know what differentiates the brains of humans and zombies.

First things first: How does the zombie disease infect its victims? Many stories in the genre talk about biting, but Schlozman’s novel imagines a deliberately engineered virus whose particles can travel in the air and remain potent enough to jump from one person to another in a single sneeze.
Now, then, to the brain-eating. The zombie virus as Schlozman describes it basically gnaws the brain down to the amygdala, an almond-shaped structure responsible for the “fight or flight” response. The zombies always respond by fighting because another critical part of the brain, the ventromedial hypothalamus, which tells you when you’ve eaten enough, is broken.

The brain’s frontal lobes, responsible for problem-solving, are devoured by the virus, so zombies can’t make complex decisions. Impairment in the cerebellum means they can’t walk well, either. Also, these humanoids have an unexplained predilection for eating human flesh.

“The zombies in this book are stumbling, shambling, hungry as hell,” Schlozman said. “Basically they’re like drunk crocodiles; they’re not smart, they don’t know who you are or what you are.”

Why we love those rotting, hungry, putrid zombies

How a zombie virus would be made
So the bloodthirsty undead wander (or crawl) around spreading a lethal illness ominously called ataxic neurodegenerative satiety deficiency syndrome, or ANSD, for short.

“When something really terrifying comes along, especially in medicine or that has a medical feel to it, we always give it initials. That’s the way we distance ourselves from it,” Schlozman said.

The virus has several brain-destroying components, one of which is a “prion,” meaning a protein like the one that causes mad cow disease. In real life, prions twist when they are in an acidic environment and become dangerous, Schlozman said. How our own environment has changed to make prions infectious — getting from the soil to the cows in mad cow disease, for instance — is still a mystery.
Now here’s something to send chills up your spine: In Schlozman’s world, airborne prions can be infectious, meaning mad cow disease and similar nervous-system destroyers could theoretically spread just like the flu. Swiss and German researchers recently found that mice that had only one minute of exposure to aerosols containing prions died of mad cow disease, as reported in the journal PLoS Pathogens. A follow-up described in Journal of the American Medical Association showed the same for a related disease that’s only found in animals called scrapie. Of course, these are mice in artificially controlled conditions in a laboratory, and humans do not exhale prions, but it could have implications for safety practices nonetheless.

Like mad cow disease, the zombie disease Schlozman describes also progresses in acidic environments. In the book, a major corporation doles out implantable meters that infuse the body with chemicals to artificially lower acidity when it gets too high. But, sadly, when acidity is too low, that also induces symptoms that mimic the zombie virus, so it’s not a longterm solution. Everyone who gets exposed eventually succumbs, Schlozman said.

As for the unknown component of the zombie disease that would help slowly zombifying researchers in their quest for a cure, that’s up for the reader to figure out — and the clues are all in the book, Schlozman said.

How we’d fight back
You can’t ethically round up fellow survivors to kick some zombie butt unless the undead have technically died. And in Schlozman’s book, a group of religious leaders get together and decide that when people reach stage four of the disease, they are basically dead. That, of course, permits zombie “deanimation,” or killing.

The ‘zombie theology’ behind the walking dead
And how do you kill a zombie? Much of zombie fiction knocks out zombies through shots to the head. That, Schlozman said, is because the brain stem governs the most basic functioning: breathing and heartbeat.

A zombie-apocalypse disease like the one he describes probably wouldn’t evolve on its own in the real world, he said.

But, as we’ve seen, individual symptoms of zombies do correspond to real ailments. And if they all came together, the disease would be creepily efficient at claiming bodies, Schlozman said.
Bad news, folks: Even if people contracted a zombie virus through bites, the odds of our survival aren’t great.

A mathematician at the University of Ottawa named Robert Smith? (who uses the question mark to distinguish himself from other Robert Smiths, of course), has calculated that if one zombie were introduced to a city of 500,000 people, after about seven days, every human would either be dead or a zombie.

“We’re in big, big trouble if this ever happens,” Smith? said. “We can kill the zombies a bit, but we’re not very good at killing zombies fundamentally. What tends to happen is: The zombies just win, and the more they win, the more they keep winning” because the disease spreads so rapidly.
The best solution is a strategic attack, rather than an “every man for himself” defense scenario, he said. It would take knowledge and intelligence, neither of which zombies have, to prevail.

Why study zombies?
In his day job, Smith? models how real infectious diseases spread. But he’s already reaped benefits from his work on zombies. For instance, while many mathematical models only deal with one complicated aspect of a situation at a time, he tackled two — zombie infection and zombie-killing — when it came to speculating about outbreaks.

When it came time for modeling of real-world human papillomavirus (HPV), then, Smith? felt equipped to handle many facets of it at the same time, such as heterosexual and homosexual transmission of HPV.

“Knowing what we knew from zombies allowed us to actually take on these more complicated models without fear,” he said.

Studying zombies is also a great way to get young people excited about science. Smith?, who was on a zombie-science panel with Schlozman through the National Academy of Sciences’ Science and Entertainment Exchange in 2009, has also seen math-phobic people get interested in mathematics by reading about his work with zombies.

“There are insights that we gain from the movies, and from fiction, from fun popular culture stuff, that actually can really help us think about the way that science works, and also the way science is communicated,” he said.

And as to why people like reading about zombies and watching zombies so much, Schlozman points to the impersonal nature of things in our society, from waiting in line in the DMV to being placed on hold on a call with a health insurance company.

Think about all the situations in daily life where you sense a general lack of respect for humanity, and zombies make a little more sense.

“The zombies themselves represent a kind of commentary on modernity,” Schlozman says. “We’re increasingly disconnected. That might be the current appeal.”

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Posted by on April 26, 2011 in News Article, Sci-fi, Science

 

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Escape – Story

Hover Craft 1 drifted over the continent emitting a soft hum. Dion sat beside the window waiting for dawn, he was sure the sight would be incredible from this height. Seeing the sunrise was the only thing he had been looking forward to. A minute later the huge fireball poked its blazing crest above the distant mountain tops. Dion gazed at the climbing orb in awe, shading his lavender eyes in an attempt to see the golden chariots that guided its ascent.

The light was blinding, “how was anyone supposed to see chariots?” he thought. “If,” he contemplated silently, “that is, If, the chariot legend is true.” His world was full of lies.

The windows tinted themselves, making the inner pane reflective. He could see his ghost-like image in the glass. His pure white hair fell in layered waves to the center of his shoulder blades, the common style for men. Women wore their hair twisted in a long elegant braid, hanging like a rope to their ankles. But where the others were stocky and short, Dion was tall and slim with well-developed muscles. At twenty-one he had yet to find a Mating Couple, very uncommon for one of his great age.

Nineteen other men and twenty women of the same age filled the craft. In the front sat an old man in flowing black robes. The man’s eyes were red, darker than blood and much darker than the color of the sun as it faded in the evening sky. The pupil was green, like spring grass. Although old, his face was youthful. His features could have been chiseled from marble, so perfectly molded, yet so cold and distant. He was Alion, the ‘father’ for their small clan of forty people.

“Aren’t you excited, Dion?” Quest asked in a hushed whisper, risking the ire of Alion.  Casual communication was forbidden during their Holy flight across the world. Never before had Earth’s Children been allowed inside one of the majestic ships; only the Alion were permitted to fly.

“I am . . . I guess.”

“You guess? Dion, we are the very first humans to establish life in the New Land!”

“People lived there before. We are not the first.”

She folded her arms across her chest, looking at him in contempt. “That was before the Sundering.”

Almost majestically Alion suddenly appeared beside them, his penetrating eyes nailing them with dull fury. “Did I not express how important it is for silence? Why do my children disobey me?”

“Oh Alion, it is my fault. I am overjoyed with anticipation. I tried expressing my excitement to Dion, but I fear that he doesn’t share the same feelings. I would ask the Great Alion to move my seat.”

“At ease my precious child, you may take a seat up front with Devon.” Quest lightly brushed her lips against his gloved hand. Alion’s red eyes swivelled in Dion’s direction, blazing with barely controlled anger. “Dion, please accompany me to my cabin.”

“Yes, Alion.”

Once in the cabin Dion was directed to sit on a pale yellow mat while Alion sat in his polished marble chair. “Why can’t you understand and accept the way of life?”

“I did not say anything wrong. Quest said we are the first to inhabit this new land, but we are not, people were there before the Sundering.” He spoke bitterly, he hated that everyone just accepted whatever Alion said without question.

“What do you know of the Sundering? You are a mere child, you never saw the Sundering, you are naive and arrogant! Does not every Alion know what happened? We are older than the Sundering.  We witnessed what those barbaric humans did to the world! Why do you continue to dwell on them?”

Alion’s agitation showed.  His eyes turned so red they seemed to bathe the room in a crimson light. He never felt fear in the presence of Alion before, but he did now. For an instant he saw two Alions’ trying to occupy the same body. The fainter image resembled Alion but with worms crawling all over a gray skinned body. Dion shuddered, his lunch heaving to his throat. A second later everything appeared normal.

“Will you not answer my question?”

Dion cleared his throat, swallowing the acidic bile with a grimace. “It is true that I was not there, but I—” He bit his words off, realizing he almost mentioned the book he found.

“But?”

“But from the legends we hear, I guess I sometimes feel memories stirring. Almost like I was there.”

“I see,” Alion murmured and leaned forward, never braking eye contact. “You were always different. So tall and fair, strutting around thinking you are better than I,” his words dripped with sarcasm. “I am your Father.  You will obey me—always!” His gloved fist flashed out, knocking Dion to the floor. Alion’s eyes seemed to grow threateningly large and powerful.

Mystified, Dion watched the red expand and fill Alion’s eyes, in the back of his mind something tingled and tugged. It wasn’t an unpleasant feeling, but frightening as he felt himself losing his sense of self. A spasm shook him, and he felt something leave his mind.

Alion flinched, his eyes looking normal in size but large in rage. “You are to move your belongings into the rear of the ship and you will stay there until I decide what to do with you!” Yellow saliva flew from his dry lips. Dion watched hypnotically as the saliva bubbled on the floor. “Now!”

The air outside the cabin smelled sweet in comparison to Alion’s room. Divine, Dion’s blood-sister, escorted him to the hold without a word and locked him in. He was shocked to see Trinity sitting in the furthest corner of the small room with her forehead pressed against the window. “Hi.”

Trinity was thirty. That was old for someone to still be seen in public, he doubted if he would see her again once they landed. Dion always wondered where they went. They did not die for there was never a burial. They just vanished in the night, never to be seen again.

“Are you in trouble again, Dion? I am surprised Alion lets you live.” Trinity said. She kissed him on each cheek. “You must have done something very unpleasant to be locked in here with me.”

“Why are you locked up?”

She laughed. “Why, why, why? Now I know why you are in Holding. I should have known.  You should watch yourself, Dion. At my ancient age I’ve seen people killed for questioning the Holy Ones. It makes me wonder at Alion’s motives for keeping you in the clan.” She placed her hands on his shoulder. “You’re tense. Come, let me help you relax.” She pulled him over by a small wooden bed. She unwrapped his robe and pushed him down on his stomach. Her fingers worked magically at his knotted muscles.

Dion rolled over breathing heavy. The small Hold smelled of the sweet odor of sex, their bodies glistened with perspiration. He stood, stretched, and walked over to the small sink. After bathing he dressed in his informal green robe. Children were encouraged to share their essence often.  It pleased the spirits.

“I see you still do not believe in S’Neila, you have many more spots than the last time I saw  you.” Trinity said as she pushed herself upright.

His face burned in shame. S’Neila, their goddess, blessed each child with a large white patch of discolored skin on their left shoulder. Dion had discolored skin scattered all over his body, a sign of his dishonor for not putting his faith in S’Neila. In fact, another white patch appeared on his arm since his run-in with Alion.

“You should submit yourself. It is why you have no Mate Couples.”

“I will never put my faith in a lie. S’Neila is not a goddess.  She is a demon!”

The color drained from her face. She glanced at the door, “you should not say such things. It is death to voice such an opinion.”

“You don’t understand!” He shouted, “no one does. We were brought up believing a lie.  The legends are untrue.”

She frowned, “you were not there.”

“I wasn’t but this was.” He cried pulling out a large yellowed book from his travel pack. “This is the truth, Trinity. This book talks about the world before, a world of free choice, a world that doesn’t acknowledge Alions’ or S’Neilas’ anywhere!”

Her brown eyes opened wide with shock, “where did you get it? How can you read it?”

Dion noted the change in her expression, “I see no disgust in your eyes. You look as if you believe me, and yet, I’ve seen no growing white on your naked body.”

Ignoring him for a moment she peeked out of the small square window in the door, then washed and dressed in a robe of rainbow colors. She slipped gracefully into the chair across from him. “I will tell you all I know, but only after you explain that book to me.”

He caressed the worn cover, not sure where to begin. “Mother used to send me into the forest to collect herbs for her garden. One day I wasn’t paying attention traveled further than ever before.”

“It didn’t seem like I had walked far, but when I looked around I couldn’t find anything familiar.” He chuckled, “I became quite lost. First I headed in one direction, then another, and suddenly the oak forest ended. All around me were dense feather trees.”

“I pushed my way forward, tripped over a root and fell onto a hard flat stone that extended in one solid sheet in front of me. Lining this odd rock was Pre-Sundered houses and stores.  I heard stories about some buildings surviving the storms, but not so close to home! It probably remained untouched because of the feather trees, their tightly knitted leaves made a complete canopy over the entire village.”

He stood and paced the room like a caged tiger. “I suddenly realized how late it was and  ran all the way home, wondering if I should tell someone, but in my heart I didn’t trust Alion. When I got to our clan, I met a group of people who were ready to search for me, you were also there, Trinity. Do you remember?”

She nodded, her brown eyes filled with wonder.

Dion stepped up to the small window with his hands clasped behind his back. The sky from this altitude looked empty and barren. “Alion scolded me for upsetting the clan, and locked me in Holding for a month to teach me a lesson. By the end of my confinement he advised me not to walk so far in the future. I did though.  Every day I traveled to the small town.”

He turned away from the window. “Two months later I found a library. Our minds are more advance than the Ancient Humans.  I quickly learned their languages. A new world opened up right before my eyes and I had only skimmed the top!”

Trinity took his hands and clasped them tightly, “didn’t you get frightened by what you were reading? I mean the Ancient Humans killed, murdered, rapped. Great Waters, what gore you must have seen.”

“That’s where you’re wrong. I learned a lot about the Pre-Sundered world. Here, let me read you a passage:

Since our earliest ancestors man has been a wanderer. Every century man has made journeys’ exploring new regions, finding new ideas and learning new cultures. In the late twentieth century most journey men retired for lack of unexplored regions. We turned to the heavens, searched the planets and distant solar systems, wishing we could travel to those far off places. Finally, in this year of 2033, man has left Earth to begin a new home on Mars. But this year marks not only our settling on a distant planet but also our first contact with extraterrestrial beings. These space faring aliens claim they are from a far distant solar system and have been wandering aimlessly in space in search of other intelligent life-forms. But what do they really want? Although the creatures are very human-like, their eyes are red and glow with an eerie light. They also speak perfect English but many the words they say backward, perhaps it is just a speech impediment.  But why do they want to live among us? At this point we can only guess about their motives.

“What a strange language.” Trinity breathed, “I can almost visualize what they are saying, and that one word ‘alien’ sounds so much like Alion. May I see the print?” He handed her the book, she quickly scanned through pages, stopping at those which had pictures imprinted on them. “Now I will fulfill my promise. I do not believe in S’Neila either. I haven’t for many years. Do not interrupt me, I will explain about the spots.”

She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “In my teen-years Faith had her first baby. We both fell asleep early that night, but around high-moon I jerked out of sleep. Immediately I looked in the cradle.  It was empty! Outside a twig snapped and I hurried to the window to catch a glimpse of S’Neila’s spirit.”

“Instead I saw several black shadows, sneaking away. Naturally I followed them.” She tightened her grip on his hands and she swallowed. Her breath rushed in and out of her lungs as if she just jogged a mile. “An hour later they disappeared in a cave. I followed cautiously, for I could hear them whispering in a strange language and wasn’t sure if I would accidently bump into them. They entered a room and closed the door but not all the way. By now every bone in my body quivered like a rattlesnake’s tail, I have never known such overwhelming fear. My instincts told me to run, but I forced away my fear and managed to approach the door.”

Trinity buried her face in her hands, “Inside was hundreds of Alion along with our Ancient Brothers and Sisters! My mother was there too, hanging from chains. Alion laughed at something, a hideous, grating laugh that frightened me—then they changed.” She paused, visibly shaken, and took a sip of his water.

Her hands trembled as she placed the wooden cup on the table. “One minute they looked like us, then suddenly they were horrible monsters coated with white worms. Their smell was overwhelming, like the reek near an active volcano. They grew snouts and a yellow puss dripped from their teeth. A few Alions didn’t even have eyes! Slimy slug-like things crawled in and out of their empty eye sockets. I almost screamed! For a moment I thought I had for a woman did scream!”
“Great Waters help me, I pushed the door open and saw my mother withering from the chains. She was pregnant! The Alion-monsters clapped and chanted. Mother’s stomach swelled, retracted, and swelled again. I couldn’t take my eyes off her.  I couldn’t look away, Dion!”

“Trinity,” he interrupted hesitantly. “You don’t have to go on. I believe you.”

“I don’t want your belief! I want you to know what they are.” She leaped to her feet and flicked her long hair over her shoulder like a whip. “Like yourself, I have held these feelings in for so long, dying to tell someone and knowing that if I did I would end up like . . . like those people. You were correct when you said they were demons, but you have no idea how accurate you are.”

“Okay,” He said softly, “go on.”

“The Alions picked up the tempo of their chilling chant. Mother screamed as her stomach exploded. Yellow ooze seeped from her mouth, it was like acid, it ate away portions of her face. The blood, there was so much of it. Still, I stared at her, praying that she was alive. Praying to S’Neila! Can you imagine?”

“Anyway, something began to move inside her, it pushed away the remaining tissue and flopped onto the floor with a wet slopping sound. Worms completely covered its skin. Someone cut my mother loose, and the baby Alion began to lap up her blood. I felt like vomiting but something held me rooted in place. I guess I was too terrified to move.”

“One Alion left the room and returned with three recently vanished sisters. They were screaming and crying—not that it did them much good. One Alion ripped off their cloths and forced the girls to lie on some type of table. It took only one Alion to hold one girl down. The other Alion strapped her down and started some type of machine. These long silver needles came down and pierced her stomach. The women shook violently, almost as if they were freezing. Only then did the Alion stop forcing their needles into her. After the women were done, they did the same to the men! It was too much for me. I ran all the way home fearing with every step that an Alion would grab me.”

“The next season a group of us went to the King’s Holy Waters to fish. I noticed Alion never went by the water, wouldn’t even touch it! He told us that S’Neila put a curse on the water and any that touched it would die. On the fifth day I was collecting rocks while the others fished, and I spotted an unusual one in the water. The white gem seemed so elegant. Without thinking I unwrapped my hand, white spots covered it, including my finger nails, and plucked up the stone. Pain flared in my fingers. My flesh began to bubble and ooze a clear fluid. I quickly wiped my hand off and saw that all the spots were gone. Not just faded, but gone. Completely!”

“Before we left, I collected a bucket full, no one asked me what was inside because they were used to me collecting rocks. At home I bathed in the water, taking extreme caution to leave only my birth marking. I have the water with me, would you like to get rid of the worms that poison your soul?”

Dion nodded, unable to believe that water made it go away. “I never heard of the King’s Holy Waters. Where is this place?”

“Alion forbid us to go there a few years later when someone accidently slipped and fell in, but by then I had several buckets of the water stashed away. Anyway, the water is found deep inside Slender-Peak Mountain.”

“Where is this water?”

Trinity smiled. Under the bed she withdrew a tightly woven basket, “I was going to carry this with me everywhere I went in the New Land. If Alion even attempted to capture me outside the clan I was going to pour the water on him and see what would happen.”

“Why didn’t you do it before, when you first found out about their dislike for it?”

“Because too many of them were around, but now I only have one to contend with. Take off your robe, Dion.”

He stripped, standing naked in the center of The Hold with his eyes closed. Trinity walked completely around him, looking at the hundreds of white patches. They were not the same size or shape, some were small, some large, and scattered about sporadically. One spot surrounded his left nipple, another spot peeked out from under his arm, the nape of his neck, around his pubic hair and down both legs. She tugged a heavy wooden chair over to him and climbed on top. “It’s going to burn, try not to scream.” She dumped the water over him.

He tossed his head back, his lips shrinking back from his teeth, but he did not scream, although the cords in his neck popped out and throbbed. He looked down at his arms, the white patches were foaming, hot burning pain raced through his nerve endings, racing to his brain with urgent orders to move, scream, to do something!

Suddenly another pail of water washed over him, a sensation of coolness followed closely by a tingling sensation. It felt as if he jumped from a fire into a mound of icy snow. Looking down he saw his skin, a creamy olive color without one spot. Behind him someone gasped.

The cell door slammed open, Trinity and Dion jumped back, startled. Divine walked in, eyes wide with wonder as she looked at her brother’s skin. “How?” She choked out, barely able to breathe. “I-I heard what you were saying and was going to tell Alion, but after that,” she pointed at Dion, “there is no way I cannot believe. Forgetting what we were taught is difficult, but if you are right-” She trailed off, battling conflicting emotions. “What are we to do? Is it true that our children and elders are nothing but food?”

“Yes, Divine. This I swear to you as a fellow sister. I saw them with my own eyes.”

“What are we to do?” She repeated.

“I have an idea.” Dion said, “what is the scheduled landing time?”

“About sun down.” Divine said.

“This is what we’ll do . . . ”

Alion’s cabin looked much different now, than when Dion saw it a few hours ago. Alion disrupted the illusion shortly after his ‘son’ went into holding. Red light illuminated the room, green fog lazily floated on the floor. He felt comfortable sitting in his polished marble chair, altering his appearance to look human drained his energy, and the form was uncomfortable to maintain. If one of his ‘children’ saw him now, they would probably die of shock. His nails were long black razors, pearlescent worms crawled, wiggled and slithered across his creamy gray skin. The parasite although gruesome to look at, kept him alive.

His true name was Pleistocene or Pleist for short. Right now he was the anxious to arrive to the New Land, once known as the United States. Once established he would begin creating more of his kind. Trinity would finally fulfill her destiny. It would be a pleasure to fill her fragile body with the seeds of his flesh. His kind did not have sexual intercourse as humans did, but they did need to inject a host with the eggs from the parasite that kept him alive. The sensations he felt watching the injection process could almost be classified in human terms as an orgasm.

But now he had Dion to contend with. Both Dion and Trinity were products of a rare mixture between the two species. Their DNA was unlike anyone else. It was a fluke of nature, an accident. Pleist was warned long ago to execute the couple because they poised a danger to all Alions, but he refused, hoping that this strange twist in the DNA strand would be the right combination to create female Alions, known as Onails. Unfortunately, Onails perished before Pleist’s people could flee from their dying planet.

If even one survived when they reached earth things would be different, they could have used the humans for food until the weaker species died out. As it was, it took the Alions a year to find a way to impregnate a human female and in time they could impregnate the males as well. Still, only male Alions were born.

Pleistocene’s father had made a discovery four years later, exactly when the human’s discovered the Alions’ plot for taking over the world. It came as no surprise that the humans declared war. It was expected. The human’s thirst for blood however, was not expected.

For all of their preparations, the Alion never knew just how barbaric and bloodthirsty humans could be. If the Alion research the human’s past, they would have known. But when they found the planet, the earthlings were in a rare time of peace. They were gentle creatures and easily manipulated.

Pleist’s father was the first Alion slaughtered, and with him died any hope of creating Onails. It still amazed Pleist that a specially distilled solution proved to give the humans a tremendous advantage over them. As paradox would have it, the water was found in the Himalayas, and in those same waters were fish, fish that contained the right amount of chemicals for Alion longevity.

During the war the council decided their only salvation would be to kidnap human children and raise them on their ships in outer space while twenty of their kin remained below to begin World War Three.

They divided the human children into two groups, half for breeding, and half to breed on their own. Alion stole new born babies just after birth in hopes of having the babies grow to accept them in their natural form. It didn’t work, no matter how the humans were raised, the Alions otherworldly appearance repulsed them.

The Alion’s had no choice but to remain in their altered physical appearance whenever around the humans. However, they discovered that by implanting the children with worms—the same parasites on the Alion body—acted on the human brain making it easier for the Alions to use their advanced mental powers on them. It worked wonderfully until the birth of Dion and Trinity.

A shrill scream suddenly shattered his thoughts. For some inexplicable reason the scream sent an icy ripple of fear down his knobby spine. Altering shape, he stepped out of the cabin. Divine was running up the aisle, tears glistening like diamonds on her cheeks.

“Alion! Oh, Alion!” She collapsed by his feet, panting.

“What is it child?” Dion and Trinity appeared at the other end of the ship. “What are you doing out!” Pleist thundered. “Are you disobeying your Father?”

“Yes!” Dion shouted back bring a gasp of surprise from his brothers’ and sisters’. “You are not our father.  You are a stinking beast! You are an Alien!” Another gasp issued, Pleist glanced around in shock. How could it be possible that they knew the word? Somehow they were recalling the meaning of a word that was not spoken in more than a thousand years. Pleist ordered the parasite on Dion’s body to poison the boy’s brain.

Nothing happened.

“It won’t work, Alien!” Dion whipped off his robe bringing startled intakes of breath. His skin was clean, untainted.

“No!” Fear of the human’s natural killing instinct distracted him, making it difficult to concentrate on his altered shape.

“Look at him, look at him closely and you will see his other side, he’s evil. Can you feel cold waves of ultimate evil roll off him? CAN YOU SEE HIM?”

They did. Suddenly they could all see his true shape, but the shock was too great, not prepared for. Discarding his altered form, Pleist summoned his mental powers, he would kill them all and be damned!

The surprise was his. He had unintentionally discarded Divine from his mind, a mistake. He felt the water bite into his skin, his back began to hiss and bubble, Trinity and Dion rushed down the isle with slopping buckets. He lashed out, beheading three people sitting beside him. The buckets upturned, and Pleistocene watched God’s Holy Water funnel out.

There was no time for his brain to react, the water sloshed over him, biting into his skin with millions of microscopic teeth. The parasites exploded, squirting acid blood onto his skin. The pain was incredible. His skin melted away. Black blood pumped out of the wounds. Pleist screamed, tumbled to the side and landed on the laps of the people unfortunate enough to be sitting there. They began to scream as well. The parasites continued to explode, splashing them, eating away their skin, muscle and bone.

Divine picked up a sharp wooden sword, a shudder rippled through her as she thought of what she was about to do. She brought the sword down on his neck. Black blood flew in all directions.  The remaining parasites exploded, drenching everyone in a three-foot radius. The seats melted away, the hull began to burn. Electrical cables concealed in the floor erupted in blue flames.

The Hover Craft shuddered as an eight-foot section of the frame fell away. Pleist, Divine and eight passengers fell to the ocean below.

Dion quickly activated the gliding wings, saving them from plummeting to the ocean.

“Will we make landfall?” Trinity asked.

“I don’t know.” Gracefully the ship drifted closer to the water, “by dusk we will be very close to land, I can see it. Go treat everyone with the Holy Water. We will enter this land clean, untainted, untarnished.”

Trinity returned minutes later. The ocean seemed to rise to meet the ship, Dion held her in his arms, looking at the bright yellow orb of the setting sun. “Will we make it?” She asked.

“Yes. We will. The book I read mentioned something about a God. Our ancestors said he was all powerful, that he helped create the world. I will think of him when we land, and when we all reach the shore, we will search for an ancient town. Someday we will return to the east and free our kin from the S’Neila, the Aliens. We will have children and teach them, especially not to trust those who come from the heavens.”

“I love you,” she breathed and held him tight.

Hover Craft 1 crashed two hundred yards from Long Island, drenching the children in crystalline waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Dion thought of birth water, they would enter the land untainted and start again—and make it right. By God they would make it right!

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2011 in Fantasy, Sci-fi, Short Story

 

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Earth’s End – Story

Doomsday.

One word, yet filled with such dreadful power. Just speaking the word is enough to bring forth disturbing mental images. Perhaps I should circle that word, caging it in like a prison for that is exactly how I feel.
I am sitting at a school desk beside a window overlooking the street and a portion of New York’s Central Park. The world has settled since earlier, although the wind continues to howl against the window in frustration. I’m quite sure it would like to shatter the glass and send its sharp wedges into my skin. The candle I am using for light dances before me, the wind is so blowing hard that invisible currents have penetrated the window frame. The draft I feel caressing my skin is cold and damp and it frightens me. The blizzard started hours ago and shows no sign of stopping.

In the next room the teacher’s voices are a murmur sometimes raising in sudden bursts of anger, sometimes falling into a whisper. Images of the day stabbed at my mind. I look out the window at the darkness beyond that fragile piece of glass.

The fire alarm rang between classes and the crowded hallway became congested as teachers joined the flow of students. A prank, I thought because I did not smell smoke and knew that a scheduled fire drills only took place after students were safely inside their classrooms.

“At least we’ll get out of math class for twenty minutes,” my best friend Shane said as the two of us were shoved forward.

“Good, because I never got the chance to study last night.” He ran his fingers through his hair, paying special attention to the abnormal gray patch of hair toward the top back of his head. I never fully knew if Shane purposely messed up that portion so it stuck up, or if he tried to mentally rub the abnormality away.

“You would have aced the exam and you know it.” I said to Shane.

“Yeah, we both know I’m the smarter one.”

We were walking side by side in the center of the hallway.  A surge of seniors bulldozed me to one side of the hall and Shane to the other. They moved through the crowd like bulls among sheep. The resulting bottle-up shoved me up against a window, the other kids eddied around me. I stood on my toes but couldn’t find Shane, I searched heads to see if I could find a gray patch in the flowing sea of hair.

Mrs. Schroder leaped from room 313. “Up against the walls. Everyone, this is not a fire drill!” The fire alarm went dead in mid-ring. All around Manhattan, sirens were blaring. A dreadful silence settled among us.

“Everyone!” The teacher shouted. “The Government has issued a State of Emergency. We need all of you to line up against the walls and tuck your heads between your legs. This is not a drill. If you cannot find a spot I suggest you go into the nearest classroom.”

My mind screamed for me to run and hide, but my legs remained firmly cemented to the floor. I was paralyzed like a deer transfixed by the sudden glare of headlights as it watched a car speeding toward him, heart thumping furiously, mind pleading with the body to move. It was exactly how I felt. The skin beneath my watch began to grow uncomfortably warm, almost hot.

I turned away from the crowd and focused my eyes outside the dirty window, my blood solidified, every muscle locked, except my eyes, I could feel them growing wide.

It was the sky.

Something wicked was stirring up the atmosphere. Black clouds were boiling as they raced across the heavens, gobbling up the blue as they went. Sharp bright lines of lightning shot from these clouds like arrows of death. It was a dazzling display, mesmerizing the senses. An instant later, threads of grayish-black clouds passed beneath the sun, they were joined by denser clouds. I could see the sun as a silver glistening orb as if I was looking at it through a curtain of fog and then it too, was gone.

A sharp pain in my wrist brought my eyes down. The hairs on my arms stood straight up in the air. The watch seemed to be burning a hole into my wrist. The very air around us seemed to be charging up. People’s hair began to stand erect like weird statically charged balls. My wrist was burning so badly, I had to pull off the watch and tossed it aside. My skin was red where the metal of the watch rested. The hair on my arm immediately collapsed against my skin. Was this phenomenon related to the electrical storm in the sky?

The lights flickered, dimmed, snapped back on, then went out, leaving us in darkness. An iron vice of cold fear clamped around my heart. I have never seen darkness so complete, or so terrifying. All I could do was wait for the shock wave of intense heat to boil me alive. Waiting for death is not easy. Time passes too slowly.
I looked outside again. A red mass of smoldering matter was speeding toward us. It lifted buses into the air as if they weighed less than a cotton seed, it engulfed people. Everything in its path vanished. A woman was running away from this mass when a bolt of lightning sliced out of the air behind her. It made contact with the back of her neck she was thrown into the air, and as she flew I watched as her skin disintegrated, her bones turned to dust. Within two beats of my heart the woman was literally gone. Her empty clothes fell to the ground still smoldering.

Shoving myself away from the window, I dove for room 313. Just as I crashed onto the floor the window where I was standing exploded, driving sharp wedges of glass into the kids I left behind. The force of the wind lifted them into the air like dolls and pinned them against the brick wall. Lightning balls appeared suddenly and jagged bolts shot off in all directions, vaporizing all of those statically charged. The metal! The lightning was only striking those who were wearing metal.

Screams filled the air as I slammed the door closed with my heel and crawled across the room toward the closet. Behind me the door blew off its hinges, flew through the air end over end and smashed its exit through the north windows. The wind whipped around me, but it was not hot as I first assumed. Grabbing onto the leg of the teacher’s desk, I gasped as the desk slid across the room with me in tow. Then it was gone. Shaking in fear, I released the desk, taking deep slow breaths.

The emergency lights flickered on. I got unsteadily to my feet and looked around dumbfounded. Outside it was still dark. I stepped into the hallway and noted other kids were just getting to their feet. We all shared the same dazed expression. Some kids were touching themselves and the things around them as if they expected to wake from a bad dream.

Emergency lights bathed the hallway at even intervals, leaving sections of the hall in grim shadows. All the students who stood by the window were dead. My stomach felt loose and watery and I had the sudden urge to pee.

Further down the hall something caught my eye, a brown head of hair with a patch of pure gray. “No! Oh, God no.” I dashed forward, slipping on blood and tripping over bodies, and sank to my knees beside the head. I knew of only one person in the entire school who had a gray patch of hair, and yet I refused to believe it, hoping against hope that I was wrong. I rolled the bodies off the still figure below and felt tears sting my eyes.

Shane’s eyes were open and glazed, staring at something only he could see. Thrusting up from his chest was a large piece of twisted aluminum, torn loose from the window. Memories of the two of us coursed through my mind. Shane was my best friend, my only friend. He and I shared one thing, our intelligence, in a world filled with jealousy and hatred it was enough to forge us into a treasured friendship.

I don’t know how much time passed, probably not much, because only a few people staggered past me.

Mom! I’ve got to get home! What if . . . if—

I forced the thought away. Before leaving I pulled off my sweater, and draped it over Shane’s face. “I’ll come back for you.” Stumbling to my feet, I hurried down the hallway.

We stopped on the school’s steps. It was totally dark outside. A bitter cold wind rushed past us. I looked up into the murky black sky. The sun was gone!

It started snowing then and hasn’t stopped since. The temperature continues to drop. The end is near.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2011 in Sci-fi, Short Story

 

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The Walking Dead – Story

Death. It is not something you normally think about. Now that it is upon me, it is the only thing I can think of. I am not fully dead yet, I may have a few hours left.

It started two weeks ago when I came home from school and found Dad hastily packing his travel bag. “Hi, Dad. Are we going somewhere?”

“Hey, Aaron. I’m sorry but this trip there is only room for me and a small bag. I should be back on Friday.”

“Oh,” I loved traveling with Dad. He was a well-known anthropologist and worked for various organizations. We’ve been in some really awesome places together. “Where are you going?”

He was currently bent over his duffle bag, trying to snatch a sweater from the other side of the bed. “Antarctica.”

“What! No way! Dad, you gotta take me.”

He shoved the sweater into the bag and zipped it closed. “I can’t, son. This call came from high up.  They won’t allow it.”

“How high up?” I asked, dumping my school books onto the sofa.

“I just got off the phone with the Secretary of Defense five minutes ago. They are sending someone to take me to Suffolk County Air Force Base. I fly out immediately.”

“The United States Secretary of Defense? What does he want with an anthropologist?”

Dad rubbed the balding spot on the back of his head. I used to kid him that he rubbed his own hair away. If I still had tears left, I could cry now, I miss him terribly, and I miss that absentminded way he would scratch his scalp when he was dumfounded.

“Listen, Aaron.” He swallowed hard, then sat down and took my hand. “I have a bad feeling about this and even if I could take you I wouldn’t. I’ve received calls from friends, something bad is happening down there.”

I could see the worry in his faded blue eyes. “Like what?”

“What I know is a tremendous chunk of ice broke off a mountain side and exposed what was once a human settlement. They found human remains and evidence that this settlement was in the middle of an ancient tropical rain forest.”

I shook my head. “But that would mean this settlement was more than 40 million years old? Dad, the oldest human-like bones ever found were carbon dated to be about 3.2 million years old. A discovery like this would change everything!”

“Yes. That may be one reason why the government is keeping a lid on this. The other more serious reason is the original team sent there got sick and stopped reporting in.”

This put a whole new spin on the subject. An ancient virus, if it was able to withstand forty million years in deep freeze and still obliterate a team of scientists could possibly mean a new pandemic. “Why you? Why not the CDC?”

Dad gave me a grim smile. “The CDC is going. Actually Kipp will be with me.” Kipp was a good friend.  He worked in the CDC’s biocontainment lab on string viruses like Ebola. They must think it extremely dangerous if they were sending Kipp to set up a mobile containment lab. “Listen, Aaron. Make sure you keep the walkie-talkie active. If something goes wrong, I will send word to you. Will you be alright?”

I did not want him to see me worry or he would worry more. “Of course, I’ll be eighteen in two weeks. I’m an adult now, right?”

An Army Jeep pulled up the driveway. Dad gave me a crushing hug. “Love you, son.”

“Me too.”

Dad did not come home Friday. But the walkie-talkie came to life on Friday night. Dad and I took a standard set of old-fashioned units and modernized them. I was able to program the units to bounce off several satellites so we could talk or send messages anywhere in the world. These were not text messages, but encrypted data that printed out of the unit on thermal paper. He wrote that he loved me and followed that with all the data I needed to understand what was happening.

I am sorry, but it is becoming extremely hard for me to write. I can feel my muscles tightening up as something akin to rigor mortis sets in. But I am not dying as fast as the others. Take Mrs. Winston for example. She is shambling past my house as I write these words. Yesterday she was a hard-working woman raising three kids on her own. Today, her movements are jerky as if the very act causes her severe pain.

She now stops directly in front of my house and turns to face me. Her right eye is missing, along with a good chunk of her cheek. Can she smell me? I wonder. If I opened the door, I know she would, and then rush over to eat me. I use the word ‘rush’ loosely because the dead aren’t very fast.

You may be wondering how I got sick if I knew what was happening before the virus spread across the globe. It was really stupidity on my part. I only had enough food to last me three weeks. So engrossed in the news reporting the virus that I failed to prepare myself for survival. I could also blame it on my grief over losing dad, but it really boils down to stupidity.

Our community has it own small grocery store. I had noticed that the dead don’t travel as much around noontime, so I strapped a machete to my back and loaded dad’s shotgun. I made it to the store, filled my bags and was halfway home when they attacked.

Hmm. Not the right choice of words there. The dead don’t attack.  They cannot move fast enough for that. I dodged them easily and quickened my pace. Suddenly thirty of them crept out of the nearby woods and shrubs. They neatly cut off my path home. I turned to run, only to face more of them. They had me trapped!

My heart felt like a jackhammer it was thumping so hard as I whipped up the shotgun and pulled the trigger. The shot caught Jonathan Martin in the shoulder. It actually vaporized his arm, but it did not stop him. Nor did the wound bleed. But a thick syrupy puss-like substance did ooze from the wound.

I lost a moment of time in utter shock, then shot Kimberly Raye and Mark and others to no avail! They paused their forward march for the barest moment upon being wounded. I shot Adam Tripp in the face at point-blank range. Headless, the body advanced two steps and fell, spilling yellow gook onto my Reeboks.

Out of ammo I unsheathed the machete and started swinging madly. Unlike a living target the walking dead do not care about being wounded. They do not pause to consider other options. There is no thought process that takes place. They just keep advancing. Sweat pored off me as I frantically fought. Finally out of room to maneuver I dove low between two of the dead. It was during that dive that one of them scratched me although I felt nothing at the time.

The second I cleared their legs I leaped to my feet and ran for my life. I did not look back, not daring to fall victim a second time. Once inside the house I bolted the door and collapsed on the floor and for some unknown reason I began to laugh! Can you imagine? Facing thirty or so dead and then falling into galls of laughter. But my hysteria died with a hiccup when I saw the thin bleeding scratch on my arm!

It was nothing really, thinner than a paper cut and not as deep. Regardless I poured peroxide on the cut, then liberally applied iodine and anything else I could find.

The next day the wound was red and swollen. I remembered I had two bottles of antibiotics in the medicine cabinet that the doctor gave me when I had my wisdom teeth removed two months ago. I read the dose and doubled it! I made sure I followed a strict timetable so no pill was missed. Daily I washed the wound with sea salt and warm water, and made carbonic acid by combining baking soda and white vinegar into a thick paste and applying it.

It worked! “Praise God and all his angels!” I shouted when the cut noticeably shrunk in size and the swelling disappeared, leaving just a thin scabbed line on my arm. The next day I began to feel feverish. My flesh also seemed to change just enough for me to notice. It turned paler and molted.

On the twelfth day I took a razor blade to on of the largest knobs on my arm. I was not surprised to see yellow ooze flow from the wound, nevertheless, I cried as I wiped off the foul smelling goo.

Day thirteen I spend with the shotgun loaded and the cold barrel between my chapped lips. I could not take my life! I could not pull the trigger! Even knowing that I would turn into a monster. It was my mother that stopped me in the end. I remembered the day she died, the day the cancer won. The day she spoke about how sacred life was.

Day fourteen I write this in a spiral notebook that I am going to seal in a dozen bags and tape shut with several rolls of packaging tape. Once that is done, I will place this book in a stainless steel box with the hopes that maybe, one day, someone will find this and understand the danger. Included is a medical transcript of what dad sent to me.

Will it be enough? I hope so. I must go now, I fear my end is near.

See Amazing new discover: Zombie Ants, article on my blog

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2011 in Fantasy, Sci-fi, Short Story

 

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