Authors: Martin Lamport
THE DOOMSDAY INFECTION
Copyright: Martin Lamport
The right of Martin Lamport to be identified as author of this Work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval system, copied in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise transmitted without written permission fro
m the author.The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
ere ain’t no crew, maybe it’s a ghost ship?” said Tasker.
“Come again?” asked Graves the wiry African-American Lieutenant.
“Sure, the seven seas are littered with ships that float off abandoned for whatever reason, and then turn up months, sometimes years later hundreds of miles off course.”
The utility boat belonging to the United States coast guard chugged at an even eighteen knots
, twenty miles off the Miami coast. “It sure looks abandoned,” the captain said watching the deserted cargo ship through field glasses. “There’s no movement.”
“It’s true,” said
Tasker warming to his theme. “What about HMS Resolute? That ship drifted crewless for some twelve hundred miles, and a couple of years ago a Russian ship being towed off Canada broke its chain and turned up years later off the coast of Ireland. This could be the same. A genuine ghost ship.”
This spooked the lieutenant. “What’re you on about - a ghost ship?”
“They’re called ghost ships,” said the captain. “Because they don’t belong anywhere; not because they are crewed by ghosts. This isn’t ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’.”
“Don’t you be so sure,” the Lieutenant said more to himself. He pushed the throttle forward, nudging the speed up to twenty-five knots.
“C’mon, guys, let’s do this properly,” the captain said. “Lieutenant, any change?”
ain’t budged a damned inch. Could they be scuba-diving?”
“They'd still leave someone up top.”
“Well, I think we’ve got probable cause,” the captain said. He picked up the radio handset and pressed the transmit button. He watched the cargo ship bob listlessly on an ocean as flat as a millpond, and spoke over the
tannoy. “This is the US coast guard . . . please acknowledge,” he paused, looked back through the field glasses and shook his head. “No sign of life. I guess it’s time to take a look.”
The forty-foot utility boat cut through the waves toward the rusty cargo ship. “This is the US coast guard - please acknowledge,” he persisted. “You are violating the US coastal waters. Prepare to be boarded, please acknowledge.” He waited for a response for a moment. “Lieutenant Graves, prepare to board.”
“Aye- aye, sir,” Graves flicked a swift salute and left the cabin.
“Hello...is anybody aboard?” Graves called out, boarding the abandoned craft, via an unsafe rusty ladder. He thought of the Coast Guard’s motto
– always ready - he sure as hell didn’t feel ready and felt even more uneasy about their unofficial motto,
you have to go out, but you don’t always have to come back.
The utter stillness of the cargo ship disturbed him greatly. He sensed something wrong. There was no sound of life, only the gentle creak of old timbers and water lapping against the vessel.
“We are the US Coast Guard, please show yourselves. . .” Graves said, entering the canteen, where half-eaten food was in evidence. He touched the steel coffee urn. “It’s still warm. Where the hell is everyone?”
“I told you, we’re on board a regular Marie Celeste,”
The lieutenant gulped and headed astern. He drew his Sig
Suer service weapon, pointed it to a door, and indicated for Seaman Tasker to open it while he covered him.
sker gulped again, yanked open the metal door and yelped in fright as a blackened corpse fell upon him flattening him onto the deck. “Jesus Christ!” he yelled from underneath the body. He slid and crawled from under the rotting carcass trying not to gag. “It stinks!” He glared back in horror at the darkened pus-covered remains of a young man. The darkened face had contorted in an agonized grimace. “What happened to him?”
Graves said, “You go topside.”
Tasker brushed himself down, clanged up the metal ladder to the next deck, and saw another corpse riddled with bulbous swellings. Lieutenant Graves joined him on the upper deck. He pointed with his handgun to the blackened corpse. “What the hell has happened?”
scratched his head. “There’s more bodies back there,” he said, pointing aft.
“They look as if they’ve been burned to death, yet there
ain’t been no fire,” said the lieutenant.
Tasker used his walkie-talkie and called the captain on the utility boat. “Looks like they’re all dead, captain. They look like illegal immigrants. They’re black -”
The lieutenant shot him a deadly glance.
“I mean African-American, well; I dunno if they’re American, oh, you know what I mean. Over.”
“Acknowledged,” said the captain. “We’ll tow it in. Keep searching. See if you can discover what caused their deaths.”
Lieutenant Graves patted down the body of a woman and rolled it over. Pus filled boils covered her face, some of which were still weeping. He recoiled in shock. “Shit.” He gawped wide-eyed at her remains. “What the hell is that on her face?”
Dunno, lieutenant,” Tasker replied.
“And what the hell is that smell?” He stood and gingerly worked his way through the vessel and stumbled across more of the dead. He pushed open the latrine door, to find a body dead on the toilet. “Sweet Jesus . . . he died on the can, that
ain’t right. How could he drop dead halfway through a -”
“Has he been shot?” ventured Seaman
“No. Does he look like he’s been shot?”
“Then what can kill so quickly? Do you think it’s gas?”
me,” Graves tried not to gag as he patted down the body and found packets of heroin, he glanced quickly at Tasker, who leaned against the bulkhead and wiped sweat from his brow distracted. Graves surreptitiously slipped a bag in his pocket, and then showed the rest of the haul to Tasker.
transmitted back to the Utility boat. “We got drugs, captain and loads more bodies.”
“Very good. Any cause of death?”
“Not a clue. No signs of gunfire.”
Lieutenant Graves sneezed so violently he almost lost his balance.
“Gesundheit,” Tasker said automatically.
Graves took the weight of a storage hatch and heaved it upright, then peered into the cargo hold below. The stench hit him immediately. He reeled back from the stink, turned and vomited.
Seaman Tasker approached the hatch tentatively and shone his flashlight down into the vast hold. “Holy shit!” he gasped. “There’s gotta be more than a hundred stiffs down there.” His beam flickered over the rotting corpses in various stages of decay. “Did they suffocate?”
Graves wiped his mouth on his sleeve, covered his nose and looked down into the cargo hold again. “It looks well ventilated,” he said with a shrug.
Lieutenant Graves moved on through the vessel, found the captain’s cabin and saw the body of an African-American dead, slumped across his desk, pen in hand as if he were half-way through writing a letter. He removed his cap in respect. He cautiously approached the body, flinched at the stench and tied his neckerchief over his mouth. Jesus, what IS that smell? That ain’t the normal smell of death. It’s ten times - no make that a hundred times worse, he thought.
He noticed a group photograph of the captain and his wife and kids. However, something was wrong with the picture. They smiled at the camera, nothing wrong with that. It was their faces that were wrong, or the skin color to be more precise. They were white - all white - including the captain.
“What the-?” He took a headshot photo of the captain from the wall and brought it in close to the corpse’s face. It was the captain all right. Identical, apart from the skin color. . .
He scratched his head dumb-founded, and then shrugged it off. He quickly frisked the captain’s cadaver, found his pocket book, checked the door as the boat creaked and listed slightly, and then slipped it into his jacket pocket, when a skinny, bony hand shot out and grabbed his wrist.
Tasker heard lieutenant Graves’s blood-curdling scream and ran towards the noise. He burst through the cabin door to find him gibbering in fear. He waddled backward on his butt dragging the corpse with him. The captain’s boney hand firmly clasped around his wrist.
Argh! Get it off! Get it off!” screamed Graves. The lieutenant attempted to peel the fingers from his wrist but his grip was too firm, then his blood ran cold as the captain’s eyes flipped open and his blood-shot eyes swiveled slowly towards him.
Petrified and chilled to the bone he scrambled backward, when the captain’s thin reedy voice pleaded. “Help...me...”
Just when Lieutenant Graves thought he couldn’t take any more, he gazed terrified as the captain’s skin tore open, ripping across his cheek bones exposing muscle and bone. The rotting, living, corpse screeched, a sound he would never forget. . . .
A sternutation – an involuntary respiratory convolution - otherwise known as a sneeze can expel up to forty thousand infectious droplets at any one time, travel at over one hundred miles an hour and cover a distance of thirty feet. This was particularly unfortunate for the other passengers on the early evening commute home upon the green-line Miami Metrorail heading northbound.
Lieutenant Graves sneezed loudly and violently over the other commuters who squashed together like sardines, rubbed up against total strangers.
“Gross,” said a young Hispanic girl with a purple streak in her hair. She cradled her young child and pushed further down the packed car.
Graves did not
register her comment, or seem to notice the other passengers crammed against him on the standing-room only metro-train. His head ached and his vision blurred. He wiped his sleeve across his nose and sniffed deeply. The passengers regard him with distain, unbeknown to them that they’d already breathed in the microscopic droplets of the deadly virus and would all be dead within the next twenty-four hours.
Graves shuddered. He was not sure if it was from a summer cold, or from remembering the rotted, living corpse whose skin had torn apart in front of his very eyes. Jesus and what about that sound? He shivered once more. His boss had tried to get him to stay behind, for further investigations as the team picked apart the co
rpse-ridden vessel, but he’d refused, it being a holiday weekend and all.
Turned out there were over two hundred immigrants crammed into the hold. They had captured a higher number once before, but it was still a good bust and a feather in his cap. The train pulled into the next metro station and even more folks squashed into the packed car making Graves sweat profusely. Without warning, he sneezed again, splattering the newest passengers.
A burly, bearded Hell’s Angel with ‘Death or Glory’ tattooed on one arm raged; “Cover your mouth, you goddamn nig -” He stopped himself short as he realized he was the only white person on board the train with the exception of the dyed blond teenager in a sailor’s uniform, and he was clearly a faggot, so he didn’t count.
Graves snarled back
. “Fuck you, bro – get outa my face, if you -” A violent tremble cut him short. The nearest passengers backed away. Lieutenant Graves’s eyes strained against the pain.
The dyed-blond sailor pointed hesitantly at Graves’s face and said in a quaking voice. “You’re bleeding, dude . . . from your eyes. . .” The sailor stepped back aghast as tears of blood rolled down Graves’s cheek.
Lieutenant Graves touched his face and was aghast to see blood on his fingers. “What the fuck?” He felt blood trickling from his nose, and wiped it on his sleeve.
The Hispanic girl shifted her tiny infant to her other arm. “You should see one doctor. There is hospital. At next stop. Has a free walk-in clinic.”
“I don’t need no free hospital. What are ya saying?”
“I meant no harm, sir. It’s near, I could take you?” She offered helpfully.
“I don’t want no charity – leave me the fuck alone.” He turned away into the armpit of the bearded biker. He recoiled from the odor. The Hell’s Angel glared daggers at him.
“Why don’t y’all -” He sneezed again covering t
he Hispanic girl and her child.
She turned away in disgust. She soothed her baby, stroked her head and covered her with the deadly bacteria. S
he pushed her way to the furthest end of the car.
again but this time caught most of the bacteria in his hand. “There. Y’all happy now?”
The train rumbled into
Overtown station. He maneuvered himself to the door, pulling himself forward using the handrail. The dyed blond sailor followed, touching the same spot on the handrail transferring the deadly disease onto his own hand. He pushed through the impatient crowd and sneezed loudly infecting each and every one of them.