All That Remains

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An Unlikely Group

“Hey there, pretty lady,” the man said, his shadow falling over her and causing the cold roof to become infinitesimally cooler.

Amelia started and tried to scramble up, but remembered she’d removed her leg to be more comfortable.

She whipped around, her heart her throat and her live hand instantly going for her bag so she could pull out one of her knife prosthetics.

“Whoa, whoa, easy there!” the man said, raising his hands up defensively and taking a step back. “I just came up here to see how you were doing.”

“Jeremy!” Amelia shouted in a lowered voice, so anyone below wouldn’t be able to hear. “You scared me!”

Jeremy Atwell shook his head apologetically. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to. Like I said, I just came up to see how you were doing. Sam said you went up here to take a look.”

Jeremy was part of the team, along with Sam and a small handful of others. He squinted at Amelia through his wire-rimmed glasses, to block out the rising sun which had begun to hit metal and glass of the surrounding buildings with blinding ferocity. Jeremy still looked mostly like his former self, except didn’t wear suits anymore, of course, and instead was dress in a rumpled long sleeved shirt and similarly creased tan khaki pants. He no longer looked like an accountant, but an accountant on holiday. Except with the additions of a bullet proof vest and protective padding around arms and legs, with enough mobility to be able to run if necessary.

Amelia bristled at the interruption, more due to the fact that she was angry at herself than him. She had been unprepared for his arrival and hadn’t been in a position to really defend herself or run away if she really needed to, if it was one of them, instead of one of her team. She lowered her telescope and grabbed her prosthetic leg that lay on the ground beside her and deftly screwed it into the plate that was grafted to what was left. With the scrape of hard plastic against concrete she stood, ignoring Jeremy’s offered hand to help her up.

Jeremy moved to the edge of the roof, as close as he dared without being seen by anyone else out there in the wilderness of the city. If you couldn’t see them, they couldn’t see you as the saying went. Or at least you hoped that was the case. “Anything?” Jeremy asked.

Amelia shook her head. “Nope, nothing. Not yet anyway. Maybe it’s still a bit too early for them.” She looked up to the sky, at its clear robin-egg blue, looking for any sign of airships, their metal hulls glinting brilliant copper in the sun. You used to see them, of course, before the outbreak happened. Transport ships and passenger ships, so much more efficient than old-fashioned airplanes. They were larger, could carry more people and cargo more safely. They had even been designing one to go back into space. But that was before. It seemed that the creatures on the ground had put a stop to everything, including in the sky. She could vaguely recall hearing talk, when it all first started, of people taking refuge on airships, using them as floating islands, keeping survivors isolated from the chaos below on the ground. Amelia shook her head, sighed and turned away from the sky, empty of anything except the odd forlorn looking cloud, or small mangy pigeon. “The sun hasn’t really risen much yet so it might still be too early for any activity,” she added.

Jeremy nodded. “You’re probably right. Have you noticed any other survivors from up here?”

“You mean besides the last group that we saw on the building next door before they continued on their way ?” Amelia asked, her tone becoming slightly sarcastic. She was tired and stiff, and grumpy. She didn’t wait for Jeremy to reply. “No, no other survivors. Haven’t seen any really since the mass evacuation.”

Jeremy shook his head. “You’d think it’d be safer to stay in the cities. More resources, more places to hide, take refuge.”

“More people in one area means more risk of contracting the virus,” Amelia added. “People were smart to leave.”

Jeremy turned his dark eyes to Amelia’s. “Why didn’t you leave too?”

She shrugged. She didn’t really know, exactly, but it seemed like her new self, post-accident, part material, part flesh, was an advantage to fighting the infected people. She could hit them and kick them with her prosthetics with no worry that she would get bitten or cut, as long as she kept the flesh and bone part of her away from their teeth and nails.

The virus hit all of a sudden, and spread quickly, almost as fast as the Ebola outbreak of 2014, Amelia had thought when news of it had flown around the world like wildfire. She remembered the Ebola scare as if it were just yesterday, instead of almost eleven years ago.

On the other hand, this virus seemed like it had been around for years, instead of just the last year and a half. It was almost impossible to wrap your head around how quickly everything went from normal to chaos to unrecognizable. It was so fast that scientists hadn’t even had time to give the virus a name, other than its scientific one, a string of letters and numbers that didn’t mean much of anything to anyone. And Amelia supposed that the scientists that had isolated it in the lab, after they’d got the first cases of it in hospitals, weren’t even around now to care. They were probably among the first wave of victims, and probably still around somewhere, skulking in the dark alleyways and abandoned offices, waiting for prey to stumble across their paths before attacking and tearing into them with teeth and nails not made to do those sorts of things.

The virus switched off the humanity of a person and turned on their primitive, animal instincts. It made them only aware of two things: hunting and survival. And for some reason, it also slowed them down when it was cold, like cold blooded reptiles.

Which was the only way Amelia and her band of survivors, and any other ragtag groups of people who still managed to stay alive, had managed to survive this long. Like lizards, the infected slowed down at night, and during the winter, only becoming active during full daytime when the temperature rose. It was then they were most dangerous. It was like they needed their batteries recharged, and weren’t as much of a threat.

Of course, in warmer climates, they were always at full beast mode, which made countries like Africa pretty much a no-go zone. The warmer southern states, where it never fell below freezing were also mostly overrun by infected, who turned on survivors, and then on themselves, once their uninfected food source ran dry.

The military had been called in, and Martial law declared after about two months, when there were no signs of the virus abating, and instead reports of the number of infected was increasing rapidly. The victims of the virus at first were locked up – in anything – prisons, cages in zoos, anywhere to keep them away from the general population.

Amelia moved as close to the edge as she dared and looked down. The sun had begun to spread its fingers across the city, penetrating the shadowed streets. She saw movement down below them, the strange smooth gait of a person turned animal, stalking and hunting prey. The Werewolf virus people had started to call it much later, once descriptions of the symptoms of the virus hit the news and social media

She looked at Jeremy. He had a rifle slung across him. It looked incongruous, an accountant with slightly balding dark hair and a bit on the chubby side clutching a rifle and wearing makeshift armour. She reached into her bag with her good hand and pulled out a prosthetic with a sharp blade at the end. She flicked a small switch on the side and the blade retracted, like an Xacto knife. It was a safety precaution, so she didn't accidentally hurt the others in her group.

"We better get moving if we want to make it outside the city," Jeremy said, still squinting out across what remained of a city that as little as six months ago was still vibrant and life went on as normal. People had thought, hoped, that maybe the werewolf virus would somehow spare them, that a cure would be found before it brought the world to the brink of extinction. Amelia turned away from the answer that the virus had chosen.

“Where are we going to go?” she asked, as she headed down the stairs leading from the roof to the rest of the building in a slightly stilted walk due to her prosthesis. She had lost her leg from just above the knee, so her new knee was basically a ball-bearing contraption and for some reason, this post-virus apocalypse world wasn’t kind to things like that. The knee-joint moved stiffly.

Jeremy shrugged causing the rifle to bounce. “Outside of the city. That’s where they said people should go.” Amelia sighed. They being the government, being the military, being the police. Being anyone in charge. And look what good they did? Amelia assumed that most of the important people were now victims of the virus. She hadn’t yet come across anyone who claimed to be anything important, anything really useful, like a doctor, or scientist or even politician. Though what a politician could do against the animal-people, Amelia didn’t know.

Amelia pushed a door open on the twelfth and top floor with the stub of her arm and entered an office with cubicles scattered around in pods of four. Five clusters of four had been dismantled and the desks removed from the inside so that it was a fairly large space surrounded by four walls that Amelia couldn’t look over unless she stood on her toes, and even then she couldn’t see all the way in. Their group had made them their living quarters. Sam was sitting on the floor in his ‘bedroom’ curled up on a mass of blankets that they had managed to grab from a Department store before they stumbled across this now empty office building.

It must’ve been on a weekend when the virus took hold of the city, Amelia thought. Thankfully. otherwise this building would have been filled with human-animals.

Sam glanced up briefly from his work, which was looking at maps spread out across his lap, that flowed onto the floor. He held up his cell phone. “I think the generator in this building is finally dying,” he said. As if to confirm his hypothesis, the banks of fluorescent lights above them blinked and flickered. “My phone is having trouble staying charged,” he went on. “I was trying to look at the GPS on here to find the quickest way out of here. He pointed to the map that was on his lap. “If we head east, that’ll take us away from the coast and further inland.”

Amelia shook her head, causing dirty blond hair she’d attempted to tie back to fall into her face. she brushed it way with her living hand. “But that way, we’d be trapped,” she said, matter of fact. “I know they,” she put emphasis on the word, “said it would be best to leave the cities where there’s higher concentrations of them, but…” she trailed off, not sure what she was actually trying to say. “But they could trap us. There would be nowhere to run if a bunch of them tracked us down.” Amelia had been trying to figure out exactly what sort of animal the Werewolf virus turned people into, but she hadn’t been able to pinpoint anything. Just that they turned from normal person to wild and savage, wanting to bite and scratch and attack anything that was living. They weren’t picky. Amelia had seen plenty of them eating one of the more plentiful sources of meat, the staple wild animal of every large city – pigeons. Good riddance, she thought.

Sam pointed to her handless-arm which held the hidden knife inside and gestured to Jeremy’s rifle. “But we have weapons,” he said simply, as if that justified everything.

“What if we could find a boat or something and sail somewhere. Find somewhere the virus hasn’t hit?”

Sam and Jeremy stared at her. “The virus has hit everywhere,” Sam said in a slightly irritated tone. “Remember the news said it’s even his Australia and New Zealand? If it’s made its way there, it’s most likely everywhere.”

“But-” Amelia began to protest and Jeremy held up a hand to stop her.

“I know what you’re going to say. If we’ve managed to survive and not get infected, there’s going to be others.”

The sound of gunfire rang out from lower down in the building, interrupting him. Jessica. She was their lookout. She was the only one that had experience with actually handling and shooting a gun. Before the virus took hold, she was a police officer. Still was, in some ways.

Amelia ran to the window, threw it open, and poked her head out. She spotted Jessica’s short dark hair easily against the light concrete of the building, about 8 floors down. “What’s happening?” she yelled.

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