David Wellington

Plague Zone

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1.

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

Tim gave the Portland Plague Zone a wide berth. What he was looking for wasn’t there.

He’d been walking so long his feet had stopped hurting, or rather that the pain didn’t occur to him much anymore. It was just there, a companion to the grittiness he felt on his skin and the dryness of his lips. He walked on the margin of Interstate Five, between the edge of the road and the guardrail, staying out of the road as much as possible so he didn’t have to spend all his time watching out for speeding vehicles. That had been a problem farther south. There wasn’t much traffic anymore, just the occasional military convoy thundering past, the soldiers waving to him out of their hatches, not even bothering to slow down to ask him who he was or where he was headed. Anyone traveling north had to be either crazy or authorized. The sick people the soldiers were looking for didn’t walk in straight lines, as a rule.

He kicked old picked-over suitcases out of his way. Avoided stepping on the trucker bombs—old drink bottles, bright plastic full of yellow urine. Nobody on this road wanted to stop even to relieve themselves. The weeds he trampled on were softer than the asphalt of the highway, so that was something.

According to the mile markers he was halfway to Olympia when he saw the bus coming. The road was on a slight incline, heading up over a hill so gently graded he was barely aware of the added exertion of walking uphill. The bus was coming directly toward him. It was moving fast, he thought, but it was hard to tell when he could only see it straight on. The rectangular sign above its windshield that should have listed its destination was blank.

It was coming right for him.

Tim had time to blink and to reach up and start to adjust the brim of his straw hat. Then his body took over, his reflexes, and he sprinted out into the road, across two lanes. Fast enough to avoid being smeared. The bus didn’t veer off, didn’t turn to track him. It plowed across the yellow dashed line, jumped as it left the road surface. There was a long, high-pitched squealing roar as it rubbed up against the guardrail. He heard a much lower roar as one of its tires exploded.

Time was breathing hard, shaking. The fear had come back, a fear he’d thought he was done with. The bus ground to a stop fifty feet behind him, rocked on its suspension. For a second everything stopped moving.

Then the doors at the front burst open and screaming people spilled out on the asphalt, grabbing at each other, shrieking, the men and the women with wide eyes, the kids looking terrified. They flowed out like blood from a wound, moving cautiously away from the bus as if they didn’t want to get too far away but just far enough. The driver came out last, a fat man in a blue shirt, and he waved at Tim with both arms, summoning him. Tim loped over, unsure what had happened, unsure what was going to be asked of him. He tried to talk but his voice was rusty after so many weeks alone, his throat too dry from the road. “Everybody okay?” he managed to creak out.

“Inside. In the back—one of them—” the driver stuttered.

“He just had a cold, it was the sniffles,” a woman in a rumpled business suit insisted. “Just a cold!”

Tim sensed what he was being asked to do, even if no one could seem to articulate it. He scratched at his stubble-coated chin and then climbed the steps into the bus. At first he was just happy to be inside, in the shade. The bus was air conditioned against the summer heat and it was some kind of mercy to be cool again. His eyes, long adjusted to the glare of sunlight on a pale road, could make out very little of the bus’s interior.

From far ahead of him, down the serried aisle, he heard a thump. Tim squinted until he could make out the rows of seats upholstered in green and red and orange. He could see piles of hand luggage tumbled out of overhead compartments, a tidal spill of food wrappers and newspapers lining the floor. At the far end of the bus stood a narrow plastic door that was rattling, someone pounding on it from behind.

“Crap,” Tim choked out. He dug his arm out of one strap of his pack. Started pulling at zippers. He’d never done this before. If the driver had given him specific instructions he would have refused, turned away and kept walking. Let the passengers deal with it as best they could.

No, he thought. He wouldn’t have done that. Even this late in the game he was still incapable of turning his back on people in need. But why him? What made them think he was the man for this job?

The narrow door crumpled on one side, pushed hard by someone who didn’t have the brainpower to work the simple lock. With one last heave it broke free and swung out hard, then bounced back. A pale hand grabbed its edge, forced it open again.

The man who staggered out of the bus lavatory wore an oxford cloth shirt with half its buttons undone. The cuffs of the sleeves hung loose as if he’d been trying to escape from his clothes when the change finally came. His head was almost bereft of hair, just a few clumps left sticking up at random angles like obscene horns. His skin was the color of rancid cream and a thin sheet of black drool leaked from his lower lip. His eyes were completely empty.

He wouldn’t have much brain left, Tim knew. The Russian Flu attacked your cerebral cortex first, drilling holes through your gray matter, turning it into a sponge so it could hold more germs. It irritated whatever was left, the medulla, making you clumsy, the amygdalas, putting you in a permanent state of fight-or-flight. The speech centers, the parietal lobe, the parts of the brain that let you read a good book or enjoy a fine wine, shut down altogether.

On stiff legs the man came toward Tim, moving as fast as he could, stumbling over the seats, getting tangled up in the garbage on the floor.

There was plenty of time for Tim to reach into his pack and take out his 22A. The pistol stank of oil, as it had ever since Tim had bought it from a pawnshop in San Francisco. Back when there had still been a San Francisco.

The sick man took another step, raised his arms with his fingers curled like claws.

Tim took the safety off, took a stance, aimed. Squeezed the trigger. The bullet went in through one side of the sick man’s forehead. The next one went through his eye. He fell down like he was going to take a very sudden nap.

It took a third one to put him completely out of his misery. The .22 caliber long rifle bullets in the gun were meant for target shooting or at best shooting small game. In the end, with enough shots, it didn’t matter.

52 Responses to “1.”

  1. Alex

    April 23rd, 2007 at 3:35 pm

    And away we go.

  2. Laura M

    April 23rd, 2007 at 3:56 pm

    Good times!!! I’ve so many questions!!! Why is Tim looking for just 1 ‘zombie’?? Can i call them zombies!? Your description of ‘Russian Flu’ seemed to suggest otherwise? Is Russian Flu something that the Government have put out there as an excuse for what’s going on???
    Oh happy days, im off to read again!!
    Welcome back Dave, welcome back!! = )

  3. Laura M

    April 23rd, 2007 at 3:57 pm

    Oh and i love the artwork on this novel, very cool.!!

  4. Adrian of Scotland

    April 23rd, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    David, Its great to be reading your work again and part one shows it was worth the wait. This guy isnt having much luck, out in the middle of nowhere and a bus with a zombie manages to stop exactly where he is. Im savouring this…going to read again.
    Excellent artwork as well.
    Regards
    Adrian

  5. Monsterboy

    April 23rd, 2007 at 6:10 pm

    w00t! Biological zombies this time!
    Do they eat flesh? DO THEY EAT FLESH?!!!

  6. Nate C

    April 23rd, 2007 at 6:11 pm

    Oh sweet purveyor of all that is entertaining! Glad to see you back, it was well worth the wait! I now have something to look forward to every week. What joy, what bliss.
    Nate

  7. alnjo

    April 23rd, 2007 at 6:16 pm

    thank you dave
    welcome back
    hello everyone
    time for another great read
    it makes the coming spring that much finer!!!

  8. ben

    April 23rd, 2007 at 6:20 pm

    jesus christ do i love zombies.
    thank you david.
    welcome back.

  9. iant23

    April 23rd, 2007 at 6:24 pm

    Thank you thank you thank you! I love looking forward to a new chapter of Zombie Goodness! Welcome back!!

  10. Carlos

    April 23rd, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    Zombies are back, oh yeah
    Here we go, nice to see everyone again ^^

  11. joe

    April 23rd, 2007 at 6:49 pm

    Good have another read to work on. Your stuff is always good.

  12. Jason

    April 23rd, 2007 at 7:21 pm

    Technically I don’t think you can call them “zombies” since it sounds like they are technically alive and no tougher to kill than anyone else. More of a zombie sub-genre: infection. You know, like how 28 Days Later wasn’t really about “zombies”.
    Yay! A new book by my favorite author. I’m very much looking forward to it!

  13. The Original MIke

    April 23rd, 2007 at 7:24 pm

    I like this one already but I can’t say why just yet.

  14. marbotty

    April 23rd, 2007 at 7:36 pm

    Hooray!

  15. Loktar

    April 23rd, 2007 at 7:37 pm

    Last time I came into one of these it was over halfway done so I didnt have to wait for the Chapters… oh how it sucks having to wait! Great job so far.

  16. arclyte

    April 23rd, 2007 at 7:42 pm

    Ah yes, the sweet savouring wait for the next chapter posting… how I remember it well.
    Dave is back! Yee ha! Always a good time when another story is starting… can’t wait to see where this road takes us.

  17. briangc

    April 23rd, 2007 at 8:06 pm

    Nice!
    Very descriptive chapter, I felt like I was there, as usual.
    Looking forward to M-W-F once again, as it should be.

  18. Dave (the Author)

    April 23rd, 2007 at 8:14 pm

    Thanks everybody, and welcome back.
    Are they really zombies? I’ll let you make up your own minds. I think they are–just as I thought the monsters in 28 Days Later were zombies.

  19. Curt

    April 23rd, 2007 at 8:50 pm

    At last, I’m getting in at the start of one of these! Good beginning, Dave. Looks like you’re revisiting the Monster themes–only with a touch more realism?

  20. Steve

    April 23rd, 2007 at 9:43 pm

    God, waiting for this is more exciting than waiting for PMOY :D Will always debate the “Zombies” of 28 Days later, but so far, off to a good, grissly start

  21. bagelgod

    April 23rd, 2007 at 9:46 pm

    Haha! Excellent. I love these zany roller coaster online books. I like the grittiness in this one; reminds me of an old west look at zombies. One filled with mustaches everywhere…
    Now I can only ask myself; where can I work Bannerman into this story…=P

  22. Donny D

    April 23rd, 2007 at 10:47 pm

    “In the end, with enough shots, it didn’t matter.”
    Nice line. I am so happy to be reading another Wellington Zombie novel. Cheers Dave!

  23. sakeini99

    April 23rd, 2007 at 11:54 pm

    Yeah!! He’s back and bringing the zombies! oh boy oh boy oh boy.

  24. Tyler L

    April 24th, 2007 at 12:24 am

    Good looking first chapter! I can tell this is going to rivet me for months!

  25. seeldee

    April 24th, 2007 at 1:03 am

    Just this morning I was thinking, “Isn’t it about time for a new DW online novel?” You can imagine how happy I was to find the email alert in my inbox tonight! Woo hoo!

  26. Ardenstone

    April 24th, 2007 at 1:25 am

    I’ll join the chorus: we’re happy you’re back. :)
    Also intrigued that it took three shots instead of the usual zombie-simplicity of “any damage to the head and they’re gone”. One suddenly becomes even more acutely aware of the number of bullets left in the clip.

  27. Nemesis0

    April 24th, 2007 at 2:15 am

    Amazing first chapter, can’t wait for what’s next.

  28. Scarecrow

    April 24th, 2007 at 3:10 am

    Hell yeah! That was a nice little surprise in my email inbox, I didn’t even know you were gonna be writing a new one!

  29. Anonymous

    April 24th, 2007 at 3:41 am

    :D DD

  30. jordan

    April 24th, 2007 at 4:22 am

    A new serial novel from Dave means that all is right in the world again. Once more, that early morning computer time on M-W-F is to be ruled by Wellington.
    Here’s to a great first chapter, Plague Zone, international Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day, and, of course, Dave (The Author).

  31. Chief

    April 24th, 2007 at 4:37 am

    David, it’s great to see you back again!! I know I haven’t posted more than one or two times, but I’ve been with you since Monster Island’s first couple of posts. Keep up the great work…this one already has me waiting for the next chapter, not that your other novels didn’t, but you know what I mean :)

  32. Rakie

    April 24th, 2007 at 8:54 am

    EEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!
    i can’t believe you didn’t tell us you were starting a new zombie story!! i am the happiest person ever right now. :D
    and i like this first chapter as well, i’m already looking forward to what happens next. Roll on wednesday! :D

  33. Si

    April 24th, 2007 at 9:04 am

    Welcome back Dave :) this is going to be good :D

  34. Zeina

    April 24th, 2007 at 9:42 am

    Hi, first time i post a comment, when i found this site and started reading all novels where finished and now i’m so excited to read every MTF.
    Thank you Dave great novels….

  35. Sunrise089

    April 24th, 2007 at 11:39 am

    Thanks for writing again Dave, now I finally have a reason to get out of bed three days a week :)
    Nice to see all the returning fans again, I always fear we’ll loose regulars since it’s hard to be notified of new entries (for me at least, I only got linked here from Scarecrow’s online journal). For the new folks – enjoy your first story posting from the begining, I’m sure it’ll be a fun ride.
    Finally – we should all be careful not to read too much into the zeds from one entry. Just because our character thinks its a “flu” doesn’t meen it is. As for the bullets, I don’t see it too out of the ordinary. The first shot didn’t hit the brain, and the second sent the zed basically out of commission. So not too much out of the ordinary. Anyways, I’m sure we’ll have a blast having all of our questions answered.

  36. john

    April 24th, 2007 at 1:04 pm

    huzzah fo zombies!!
    nice one dave! (you kept this one quiet didn’t you!)great surprise though! roll on wednesday…

  37. Linda

    April 24th, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    Wonderful surprise in my mailbox.
    Welcome back Dave and good luck with what I believe will be yet another winning novel.
    I can see, already, those talented juices flowing.
    Take care………

  38. Jeff

    April 24th, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    Once again, I’m hooked from the first chapter. Now I’m waiting, waiting, waiting for Wednesday so I can read chapter 2. Oh, the agony!
    BTW, when I first saw the title, I misread it as “Plaque Zone”. I though, “David went from Zombies, to Vampires, to Werewolves, to … to, Dental Hygenists? WTF?!” Then I re-read it. “Oh, Plague Zone”
    Thanks for posting another one, David. I’ve been a fan since Monster Island.

  39. Linda

    April 24th, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    It could work……….I mean, I’ve met some pretty damn scary dental hygenists in my days….armed with those evil little hooked tools….tearing flesh and plaque away without regard….exposing tender enamel to the open air….Agggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggh

  40. Joni

    April 24th, 2007 at 3:32 pm

    Wonderful…another great adventure……

  41. Leo Caesius

    April 24th, 2007 at 4:33 pm

    This is extremely exciting. I’ve read all the novels (and the amusing comments that attend each chapter) and am looking forward to the opportunity to watch this one unfold. Excellent work so far!

  42. briangc

    April 24th, 2007 at 4:37 pm

    Why did the guys on the bus expect Tim to do something about the zombie?
    Was there something about his appearance that would indicate he could “take care” of it?
    Or, were they just looking for help from someone or anyone they could find…?

  43. talorien

    April 24th, 2007 at 5:49 pm

    I have to echo what other folks are saying. Although I knew you would be back with another story, I never dreamed it would be more zombie greatness. I am truly excited about this. Can’t wait. Thanks Dave!

  44. raphael

    April 24th, 2007 at 6:46 pm

    just finished island and nation loved them. can’t wait for the next chapter.

  45. z0mb13

    April 24th, 2007 at 7:14 pm

    Excellent start!
    I truly hope this is a return to the awesomeness exhibited in the “Monster” series…
    I look forward to the week again…

  46. Reanimated

    April 24th, 2007 at 9:09 pm

    ZOMBIE AWESOMENESS!!!!Bring it on! Good stuff Dave. Can’t wait for more.

  47. Patrick

    April 25th, 2007 at 5:45 am

    Long live zombies…er…uh…you know what I mean :P

  48. Adrian of Scotland

    April 25th, 2007 at 12:12 pm

    Eh…Part 2? *shakes*

  49. Matilda

    April 25th, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    First post from me, but I’ve read all the other serials as well! Great to have you back and looking forward to the next part!

  50. elle

    April 27th, 2007 at 12:24 am

    Ooh! A new story! Cooool! WB Dave!

  51. Don

    April 27th, 2007 at 1:27 pm

    Dave….nice to have you back bud. I was just getting bored here at my desk and thought I would check your site and low and behold, HOORAH! A new and very tasty novel. Yum, Yum. Nice to see all the regulars back too.

  52. Anonymous

    April 30th, 2007 at 8:28 am

    Another novel? Sweet.
    Good to see you again, Dave.

New books

Pass Fail cover

Three new David Wellington eBooks are available now. These are full-length novels, and you can get all three for the price of a paperback:

Rivals: Sibling teen superheroes. Fight!

Pass/Fail: High school can be murder.

Plague Zone: Zombies!

Learn more about David's books and join in the discussion at the Hail Horrors Ning forum.

Table of Contents

Plague Zone is a serial novel by David Wellington. It was originally published online, starting with chapter one on April 23rd, 2007, also known as International Pixel-Stained Techno-Peasant Day (and the author's birthday, for that matter). For five months chapters were posted every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

The book is now complete, and can be read in its entirety at this site. To get started, please go to Chapter One, and meet Tim Kempfer, the toughest librarian in post-apocalypse Seattle.

Chapters

Latest News

See Dave at BEA, or Chat Live from the floor!

May 23rd 2013

Three new eBooks available now!

October 1st 2012

Book Giveaway on GoodReads!

April 6th 2012

32 FANGS available April 24, 2012!

April 3rd 2012