"Ok, Ma'am??? I need you to calm down, alright?" I urgently shouted into the phone as I heard her losing her control again and getting hysterical on me. "I need you to speak clearly and give us an address. We'll send someone out to you as SOON as we possibly can, alright!"
She cried, "I don't...I don't have any way out of here. I don't understand what's happening..."
"I understand that you're scared. But we can't help you if you we can't find you. I need to know where you are." I said, hoping that the calmness of my voice would somehow get her to stop shaking long enough to give me a location.
After a few more sniffles and tears, she finally got up the nerve to say, "I'm at 957 West Belmont! Top floor!"
"Ok...Mary, was it?"
"Yes..." She whined, helplessly.
"Do you have a safe place to hide out for a little bit? We're doing all we can here at the station, but I want you to get to high ground and barricade yourself in a room, attic, or rooftop, as son as you hang up, ok? I need you to stay safe until we can get someone out to you." I said.
"PLEASE, hurry! I'm trapped! The whole city is falling apart! I had to close my windows! All I can hear outside is...screaming!" She sobbed.
"Ok, Mary, I need you to shut your windows and lock all of your doors. Stay inside! I'm logging you in right now as a priority case right now, and the moment we have an officer in your area, we'll send someone to retrieve you and bring you in. Ok?" I told her. "Until then, don't open the door for ANYBODY! I'm documenting your case, when our officers come knocking...the password will be 'arcade'! I repeat, the password is 'arcade'. Don't you open the door for anyone else."
"Ok. Ummm...ok. I'll be here."
"Say the password back to me for verification, Mary." I asked.
"That's right. You wait for the officer on the other side of the door to say 'arcade' before you open that door. You hear me? We're approaching a hostile riot situation and you can't trust anyone else. Not your neighbors, not your friends, no one on the street. We're doing all we can with the resources we have, but for right now...I need you to stay put and listen out for that password. Do you understand?"
"I understand." She whimpered.
"Ok. Get yourself locked up, and we'll be there soon."
"Thank you! Oh God, thank you!!!" She said.
I could already hear the symphony of screams coming through her windows before she hung up. I made sure to document the area that she was living in. The whole precinct was overrun with panicked calls and dire emergencies that had to be handled all at once. We were so overwhelmed that we didn't have enough cops to answer the phones, much less get a rescue team out to the people in need.
The whole thing started off as a few disconnected incidents of madness. More than what we were used to, but nothing so far beyond the imagination as to think that it could escalate into something like...this.
"Officer Logan!" Somebody called out to me from across the room. "We need you to take the call on line seven!" Our police chief was a competent one, but he hadn't been with us for very long. About eight months at the most. And nothing...I mean nothing...could have prepared him for something like this. Society itself was falling apart right before our very eyes, and none of us ever dreamed that the city would break down into a state of utter chaos so quickly.
Every officer that we had on duty was running around on a fear induced adrenaline high. The entire police station was a complete and utter MESS! But who had time to organize? It almost felt like the whole damn world was ending.
"Don't worry. I got it." Said a close friend of mine on the force. Officer Sanchez and I had a special camaraderie from day one, almost 9 years prior to this situation. As well as Officer Frye, who bonded with me personally when he found out that we both served our country well before getting into law enforcement.
Sanchez answered the next panicked call, and Frye put a hand on my shoulder as he saw me attempting to wipe the fatigue from my eyes. "You look worn out, man. How many hours has it been?" Frye asked.
"I can't even remember. Twelve. Fourteen, maybe." I said, feeling my knees start to buckle as I searched for a chair to rest in. "What the hell is going ON out there, Frye? This whole situation is SO surreal!"
"I wish I could tell you." He replied. "Whatever it is, though...it looks like it's going to get a hell of a lot worse before it gets better. We've got six different divisions trying to jump on this before it gets any further out of hand, but...to be honest with you, bruh? I'm starting to think that our bullshit efforts aren't going to be enough. I mean, do you SEE this shit? This is crazy!"
"Hello??? Hello???" Sanchez yelled into the phone, and then slammed it down on the receiver. "I lost him. I heard some breaking glass, and some hollering, and then I lost him. The last day or two has been INSANE, man! What the fuck is going ON out there???"
Frye said, "We can't keep this up. Not for much longer. I mean, are you hearing this shit right now? We can't keep this up for much longer."
Sanchez said, "No bullshit, people are treating this like some kind of an outbreak or something. I've never seen anything like it before."
Frye asked, "What, like a bad case of chicken pox or something?"
Sanchez answered, "WORSE! To be totally honest, some of the phone calls that I answered today??? They were saying that people were...eating one another! Like...actually devouring flesh!"
I saw Frye frown up and say, "Devour? Like...on some cannibal shit?"
"EXACTLY! It's the craziest shit I've ever heard!" Sanchez replied.
Reluctant to feed into the hysteria, I finally nodded my head and said, "I've been hearing a lot of the same thing. I thought it was just a few panicked ramblings at first...but all of the calls that I'm answering now seem to be giving the same details. Nearly identical reports of people assaulting their friends and neighbors and...'biting' into them the moment they get close enough. It's unreal."
"You think it's some kind of drug or something? Like that deal with the bath salts?" Sanchez asked.
"More like mass hysteria. Maybe a virus? Maybe a 'cult' of some sort? By the time we had enough reports to connect the events we had more incidents than we could possibly deal with. I mean, just look at this place. It's a madhouse." I said, almost drowned out by the sounds of constantly ringing phones on every desk and dashboard, people hurrying back and forth through the station, a growing army of scared citizens impatiently gathering into a cluster at the front desk, demanding answers. "This is getting out of hand. And fast."
Frye looked at us and said, "You know what I've been hearing around here, right? More than once."
"Don't you start with that again,man." Sanchez told him.
"They're saying it's a zombie outbreak. More and more, I'm hearing that word over and over again." Frye made a spooky face, widening his eyes as he leaned over to Sanchez and whispered, "Zombieeeeee...."
"Whatever. People in a panic don't ever know what they're talking about. Last week, somebody said there were an army of vampire teenagers partying underground! The week before THAT, some guy said he saw werewolves at his Bible camp! We just need to deal with the threat at hand and worry about horror flicks and monster movies later."
As I heard the voices of the crowd at the front desk getting louder, I felt that queasy stirring in the center of my gut. I've been under fire before overseas, and I know a downhill slide when I see it coming. This thing is going to geta LOT worse before it gets better.
I need to check on Spencer.
I grabbed my phone and started dialing the number. Frye asked me what I was doing. "I'm trying to get through to the hospital again. This is the third time, and I'm starting to get a seriously fucked up feeling about this." One ring, two rings...five...ten...twelve? "DAMMIT!!! Nobody's picking up!"
Sanchez said, "Calm down. I'm sure Spencer is ok. The hospital is probably just backed up with injuries and they're having problems of their own."
Frye wrinkled up his forehead and said, "You skeptics are the champions of optimism, you know that? Where do you get this stuff from?"
"It's called a rational mind and a sense of logic. If you want I can let you borrow some one of these days."
"Real funny, Sanchez. When are you going to hit the open mic at the comedy club, huh?"
Just at that very moment, the doors of the precinct burst open, and seven or eight of our best men came rushing inside, making sure to close and lock the doors behind them. A few of the officers had to be half carried for support. A few others...had to be dragged in, leaving grotesque swashes of blood behind in them in long streaks...as it appeared that large chunks had been bitten right out of them. It looked more like a shark attack than any civilian based riot.
One of the cops was screaming, "They wouldn't stop! THEY WOULDN'T STOP! They're everywhere! It's already too late!" And when he turned his head in my direction, it looked as if half of the left side of his face had been chewed off, a large piece of his lip dangled over his chin like an old shoelace, and part of his lower eyelid had been gnawed off, making one eye look much bigger than the other one. Almost as if it was ready to slide right out of the socket the moment he leaned his head forward. I never thought I'd be a witness to this type of horror ever again. Not since I came home.
Frye looked at Sanchez and asked, "So....you mind telling me where that fits into your rational mind and sense of logic?"
Sanchez gave him a middle finger, but I was instantly distracted as I hear the phone ringing in my pocket. I didn't recognize the number, but I was quick to pick it up anyway. "Hello?" I think I heard some heavy breathing, but had to plug up one of my ears and turn around to focus. "Hello? Hello?" It was then that I heard a light 'cough' on the other end and recognized it instantly. "Spencer? Spencer, where are you?"
"Dad...?" He sounded so weak. His voice shivering with fright.
"I'm HERE, Spencer! What's the matter? Where are you?"
"I'm...'cough cough'...I'm behind the nurse's desk."
Trying to block out the increasing noise behind me, I walked over to the window for more privacy. "The nurse's desk? What you doing behind the nurse's desk?"
"Dad...things got weird here. I don't know what to do!"
"What do you mean, 'things got weird'??? Talk to me!" What was going on? Why was my son not being taken care of in his hospital bed? Why was nobody answering the phone at the front desk?
"I don't KNOW!" He whimpered. "There's a lot of noise! People yelling! I tried to call the nurse but nobody came. People are running around on every floor. I don't understand what's happening." He coughed again, a few sniffles as he trembled from underneath the desk. "I'm scared, Dad!"
As I looked out of the window before me, I could see the downtown area of Chicago, noticing a few clouds of smoke in the distance. Fires, and panic, and police sirens trying to rush towards the high rise skyline in a feeble attempt to correct the situation. My 12 year old son felt SO far away from me at that moment. Even while hearing his voice on the phone.
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