The Pale Horse – Prologue

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The apocalypse began on a Tuesday.

In the heat and humidity of September in Mumbai, a small, white organism grew inside the walls of The Sahil Hotel on Behram Road. The walls were made to resist mold and most fungal growth, yet this persisted. It concentrated most heavily inside Room Two-Twenty-One which had gone unused and uncleaned for a week before being given to Joseph Patel, a business man out of New York in the United States. When he’d gotten the room, he complained that it smelled musty.

That morning, three cleaning women went in while he was out at a meeting and aired it out. They did not notice the spores that floated in the sunlight, mistaking them for dust. Laboring for nearly an hour, they managed to mask the smell that had offended Joseph Patel. When he returned that afternoon, the whole room smelled of lavender and pine and he slept soundly all night.

On the third morning of his stay, Joseph woke in the middle of the night with a headache and he felt like his sinuses was packed with cotton. He took an aspirin and went back to bed. He woke again before dawn and felt a cold coming on. Cursing his luck, he listed every person he met with this week and decided to lay the blame on Andil Vuschel, the salesman from Eramal. Andil had been sneezing through his entire presentation and didn’t cover his mouth once.

Joseph packed his bags and made an early start for the airport. Continue reading

The Pale Horse

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Three months ago a man got on a plane in India thinking he had a cold. What he carried inside of him was a disease that was highly infectious and resistant to most known forms of medication. Within weeks, the disease has spread across the globe and there is no cure.

The world calls it The Pale Horse.

For twenty year-old Meda Ahachik, her vacation should have been spent worrying about upcoming finals. Instead, the pandemic reaches the city of Baltimore, and Meda finds herself relying on the teachings of a family she’d left far behind.

Continue reading

Dark Winter – Part 14

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Once for the time you never came
One more time and one for history
Scream hallelujah, scream hallelujah
There’s just no easy way out
– Fit for Rivals, “Hallelujah”

Poveglia was the start of everything.

Katie sat on her cot with the files open in her lap. Her dad’s safe was right where he’d always kept it, hidden behind the freezer storage. The numbers were the same and it opened on the first try. Inside, she’d found hundreds of folders full of papers. She expected to find his financial records and house sale stuff along with what he’d told her to search for. She’d expected to spend hours rooting around, sifting through the data of their past. Maybe she’d find old photos too, ticket stubs when he’d taken her to see Finch in concert.

There was nothing in these files that connected him to her in any way. The entire safe was full of personnel and identity records, transfers from one unrecognizable series of numbers to another. Classified locations, she thought as she’d set them aside. She remembered her dad telling her about scrambled GPS coordinates he’d used as a Ranger.

“The normal person can’t remember more than seven digits easily,” he’d said once when they were camping high in the mountains. She’d been fifteen and complaining about math homework and how numbers were annoying and hard to remember. In the crackling firelight he’d laughed and held up all ten fingers. “So we’d just scramble random numbers, ten of them, for locations. Easiest encryption in the world.” Continue reading

Dark Winter – Part 9

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I feel wrong
I’m so human and flawed
I’ll break down even though I’m still strong
And time will make fools of us all
Build us up and then laughs when we fall
You pull me through
When I’m alone in the dark and the fear is my truth
– The Goo Goo Dolls, “All That You Are”

“You can’t go back out there!”

Lindsay grabbed Katie’s arm as she pulled out a box of ammunition from the supply closet. Shaking it off, Katie pried the metal box open and knelt to begin reloading her empty magazines. Have to go. Have to go. Taking too long. Hurry, Katie! She fumbled with a .22LR round and instead of snapping it into place, it slipped out of her hand and skittered across the floor to roll beneath the dresser. Her vision swam as she moved to reach for it and her eyes felt so heavy she could hardly keep them open.

“Get me a 5 Hour Energy,” she said, reaching her hand beneath the dresser to feel for the round. She could have just gotten another one from the box but wasting ammunition felt wrong. She had to get this one. It was very important to her for some reason. Continue reading

Dark Winter – Part 7

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Somebody shine a light
I’m frozen by the fear in me
Somebody make me feel alive
And shatter me
– Lindsey Stirling, “Shatter Me”

At first, there was only the flicker of burning fires and the smoke that wafted across the heat-cracked street. The sound of the dead came on a wind that felt too warm for the early December air. It came from dozens of throats, first as scattered moans and hisses, then slowly joining together to create a cacophony of sound. From the time Katie and her dad exited the shelter until she saw movement in the smoke, only a few heartbeats elapsed.

They came slowly, lurching through the smoke and into the dancing firelight. They were men and women, but Katie knew without even seeing their wounds that they were infected. It was something instinctive, a survival mechanism buried deep inside that told her these were predators and she was prey. Those feelings were quickly confirmed as they emerged onto the street. Some wore the body armor of the National Guard, guns still hanging from dead hands, while others were people she knew. Janet Athens had been her biology teacher in tenth grade. Now she stumbled into view with her jaw missing, a black tongue swinging in the cool air. Her dad made a signal with his hand towards her right, telling her to fall back into cover.

Katie kept low and hurried to a position further along the ruins of the school to her right. She ducked into deepest darkness she could find and took cover behind a two foot wall of rubble, covering her dad while he hurried to her. The group of infected was large, two dozen at least. The part of her brain that was still focused on her task made a quick scan for Lindsay’s mom, but didn’t see her. The other part, the one that was just seventeen and scared out of her mind, found herself shaking at the sight of them.

Focus, Katie. You can do this. Continue reading

The Space Cantina – Dark Winter Spotlight

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Dark Winter Spotlight on H1Z1.com

So the very kind and awesome Community Team for SOE’s H1Z1 ran a spotlight for Dark Winter today! I can’t tell you how amazing and awesome that is! I’m pretty humbled by it to be honest.

You can find the story here!

It also pushes me to make the best story I can. People are reading this story, and some are even enjoying it. For the first time, I have people waiting to reading stuff. That’s a very freaky thing. It’s an honor and a privilege to be able to bring entertainment to even one person every week. So for everyone out there reading Dark Winter every week, and even those who give it a look and decide it’s not for them, thank you.

I will do my best to give you an awesome story.

Behind the Name of Dark Winter

Dark Winter is a work of fiction. It’s Fan Fiction, actually, inspired by the H1Z1 Zombie Apocalypse game by Sony Online Entertainment. There’s been some speculation about the name and I thought I’d talk about it here.

The term “Dark Winter” comes from a mocked scenario by the US Government in 2001. It simulated a bioweapon attack on a major US city using a highly virulent form of Smallpox. The scenario has the outbreak occur on Black Friday at an international airport. Operation Dark Winter was run to determine our readiness in the event of such an attack. Sadly, our healthcare system was found woefully ill prepared for such an event. You can read about it online at Wikipedia or wherever you get your information. It’s a pretty fascinating read.

The upcoming game “The Division” also uses this scenario for the background to their game. I used the term “Dark Winter” here as more of a metaphor, though I did have the outbreak in Mount Hope occur on Black Friday.

History! Yay!

Anyway, thanks for reading everyone. I should have Part 7 ready later this week, barring hold ups. I’ve had kind of a busy week so it might not happen on Friday. We’ll see. If it doesn’t, I apologize and will instead post it as soon as I can. I don’t want to publish a half-assed story.

 

Dark Winter – Part 5

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O bhr bhuva sva
Tat savitur vareya
Bhargo devasya dhmahi
dhiyo yo na pracodayt
– Sanskrit, Gayatri Mantra

When she woke again, Katie was warm. It was the type of warmth that promoted turning off the alarm and sleeping until noon. A good, lazy Saturday morning, and when she finally got up, her dad would chide her for being lazy. They’d have a late breakfast of eggs and scrapple and orange juice on the cabin’s porch and let the sun warm her face and brown her skin. The birds would sing in the trees but beyond that, it would be so quiet. Peaceful.

Safe.

Safe from her mother. Safe from the kids at school who knew. Safe from the mothers who picked up their children instead of letting them ride on the bus with her. Here, no one bothered her. No one knew except Lindsay and they hadn’t even talked about it. Her dad knew, he had to know by now. Didn’t he?

She’d talk to him when they went fishing. They always fished in the early afternoon if he wasn’t teaching his survival classes. She loved those too. They taught people how to shoot, how to prepare, how to survive events like…

Like this. Continue reading