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The Infected City: Chapter 1


“Wind, there was always that wind, gusting through the tall buildings and howling.”, thought Jack as he gazed at the night sky that was illuminated by the city lights.  “No stars again.”, he thought as he tossed over in his bed. It was always something for Jack, he could never sleep. Born with sleep apnea, struggling with insomnia, he could never sleep.  The night skies were all that he knew. He was troubled and disoriented throughout the day, coping with his go nowhere job at Jareds Gas and Go seemed to be his life. But he never truly felt alive, a shell of a man.

“Bzzzz Bzzzz Bzzzz Bzzzz”, the alarm went off at 6 am, just as he set it.  Jack stirred from his bed, already dressed in his work clothes, his name pin uneven above his right pocket.  With a quick tap of his hand, the alarm turned off and Jack rose from his bed, stretching. Still with bags under his eyes, the dark circles that only someone who cannot sleep truly knows.  Was this just another day, was he actually asleep and dreaming this, always were those questions in his mind as he lamented the life he was given. The howls of the wind through the buildings brought a familiar satisfaction, this was the only sound he truly knew, and it was that sound that he knew he was awake.  He never dreamed of it, when he managed to sleep, that was something he simply didn’t worry about.

Dragging his feet , head hung, yawning and stretching on his way to his table for the cereal he didn’t finish the day before.  Spoon full of curdled milk and generic wheat bran cereal, he choked it back. Swallowed it down, that was the life he knew, bad food and no sleep.  An existence not befitting his intellect, but in this city that was the norm. Quickly finishing his rotten food and leaving none for tomorrow he left from his seat, and headed out the front door.  He grimaced as he reached his elevator, “Out of service again, oh come on.”, he proudly and loudly proclaimed. “Why can’t the apartment manager get this fixed already!”, he thought as he pushed open the door to the stairs of the 13th floor staircase.  Clambering down the stairs murmuring to himself about the wrongs he suffers every day living there, his go nowhere job, and his disdain for the life he leads today would if he had his way, be his last.

As he approached the first floor staircase he noticed a sign, “Door jammed, use garage exit instead”, it just ruined his already bad day.  Down another floor he had to proceed to exit, each step taken more full of dread then the last. As he entered into the parking garage he quickly surveyed his surroundings, he had been mugged in there before by the riff raff and local gangs that kept getting in.  T’s crew was always the gang and they loved Jack; some would say a little too much. All Jack could see was a few cars, flickering lights, and the exit to the street. Uneventfully Jack made it to the streets, just in time to catch his bus to work.

Jack’s normal morning banter with the bus driver was unusually quiet, giving off a haunting feeling, Jack knew he wasn’t the only one having a drab day.  “What is wrong Gus?”, said Jack to Gus the bus driver. “My Kid’s sick, had to take him to the hospital last night, Doctors don’t know what’s wrong, I wish I could be there with him but I cannot miss a day of work.  Simply cannot afford it.” Jack knew all too well the expenses of hospital visits having spent a majority of his life being poked and prodded before they discovered why he couldn’t sleep.

The bus rounded its first bend from the pickup, “Man that sucks Gus, I hope your kid gets better.”, chimed Jack, though he didn’t mean it, he hated life so much.  It was hard for him to relate to anyone who wanted to live, he just couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to exist and struggle the way that people did. “I really do hope he’s better, when your shift is done, I’ll bet you go home and find your boy happy and home safe and sound.”, Jack said as he rose from his seat.  

“Well, this is my stop, good luck Gus.”

“Yeah, have fun at work Jack.”

“You know I hate my job Gus.”

    Jack disembarked from the bus, straightened his name plate, and walked into work.  “Your late”, shrieked Tiffony, “I’ve been here all night, the least you could do is show up on time.”  “Sorry”, replied Jack. “The bus was late.” The bus wasn’t late though, Jack just didn’t care when he started work.  As she packed up her things from under the counter an ambulance rang past the Gas Station. “That’s been happening all morning, somethings going on, maybe they are training but they keep coming, every 30 minutes or so.”, she said to Jack as if it were nothing important. 

“Get used to it.”

“I will Tiffony, I will, you go home and have a great night sleep.”

“Don’t be sarcastic with me you prick, I know you.”

“Yeah yeah, get out of here before I stop being nice.”

“Eat me you troll”

    Tiffany smirked and blew him a kiss as she left, there was some serious sexual tension between them, so much so anyone in the room as them could taste it.  Jack had always wanted to have a piece of her, like any man would want a piece of the sweet nectar that is the juices he knew she had within her. And she knew he wanted it, she flaunted it too.  But only when Jack was around. The blown kiss though made Jack smile, guess the day wasn’t going to be nearly as bad as he thought.

    Drifting into the books on the small book rack by the register, Jack spent a majority of his day listening to the ambulances drive by, people paying for their gas, and reading his favourite books nobody would buy. Tacky old 1970’s horror novels, he chortled as he read them.  At times he was pleased, but mostly it just made him hate his go nowhere job even more. The night sky began to rear its head. Where was Jack’s relief, he began to wonder. He called Tiffony with no answer. He called again; still no answer. What was going on?

    The night sky now perched above his head as he gazed outside, no cars had been by in hours.  The bus hadn’t passed by, and there had been no customers. Why the sudden change, why was everything so different so abruptly.  He gave Tiffony another call.

    ‘Ring Ring.’

                            ‘Ring Ring.’

            ‘Ring Ring.’

            “Hello”, a female voice answered.

    “Yes is this Tiffany”, replied Jack.

            “No, Tiffany never made it home”, the voice responded.

    “I’m Jack, she was supposed to replace me hours ago.”

            “We haven’t seen her, we are concerned, you work at Jareds”

    “Yeah I work there”, Jack interrupted.  “If you haven’t seen her, I wonder..”

    Silence gripped the conversation as dead air filled the phone line.

    “Hello?”, Jack spoke into the phone.

    “Hello?  Are you still there?”, Jack wasn’t finding this amusing.

    Hanging up his phone Jack turned around and turned on the Radio Station.  Nothing but static, he changed from station to station, nothing. Nothing but static.  Jack started to panic, pacing back and forth, and looking outside, just in time to see the street lights falling dead in the night.  For the first time in a long time, Jack could see the stars above. “A brown out, that’s just what I need”, Jack said aloud as if someone could hear him.  “Time to do brown out procedures.”. Jack wandered around the store locking up all the doors and windows, closing the security shutters and powering down the gas pumps to prevent fire when the power comes back on.  

“Boy is this great, now I have to wait till morning” …

“Nobody coming to relieve me till morning, and no way I can read.”

Jack thought to himself for awhile as the night passed, then the thought hit him, why not go on the roof.  He loved the stars it would be a perfect way to spend the night. He went in the back room and climbed up the ladder to the exit to the roof.  Pushing the door open, all he could hear was the howling of the wind through the tall buildings, and all he could see, was the wonderful stars above, beautiful, glowing stars above.  Jack laid on the rooftop, just gazing into the heavens, and for the first time. He drifted off to sleep.

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