It was like the flu at first.
At least, no one could tell the difference. The doctors all brushed it all as a new strain of the flu, perhaps something combined with allergies since sometimes the ill person would get a minor rash. Of course, what no one knew was that rash would always surround a mosquito bite — but one that never grew itchy, or rise up red and angry as a single bump. That’s what disguised it at first, I think.
No one knew who the first case was. But everyone knew who the first case turned.
Abigail Gonzalez, mother of two, about-to-be grandmother, and chemist for the local pharmaceutical company, had been home sick for several days with the ‘flu’ when her children decided to visit her with some comfort foods and bottles of wine. The newspaper headlines claimed ‘CANNIBAL GRANDMOTHER FOUND DEVOURING HER CHILDREN!’ and other grand titles to draw attention, but the truth wasn’t as bad as that.
Abigail went mad and attacked her children, yes, but they fended her off easily thanks to her sickly state and called the paramedics for her. They just hadn’t anticipated that she would scratch and bite at them as well, or if they did, they weren’t as concerned about that as they were about their mother.
Three days later a homeless man, Jacob Sax, an old and shaggy veteran suffering from PTSD and a mild case of schizophrenia (both facts published posthumously) living in a small park of a large downtown community, started screaming in the middle of the night and wouldn’t stop no matter what people tried to do. He would claw at his skin and writhe on the ground like a wild thing, and the police were called in when neighbours were all awoken thanks to the endless bloodcurdling screams. Being of the friendly neighbourhood cops, the officers on patrol had first attempted to speak to Jacob, to ask him what was wrong if if he was hurt somewhere. Afterwards, they tried to restrain him, although witnesses recall the police officers muttering about how they didn’t want to do that because Jacob Sax might have been on the street and begging in street corners, but he had always been the old man you see who didn’t deserve the shit that happened to him.
Things turned more violent when Sax turned and bit one of the officers on the neck, actually ripping out flesh.
‘MAD MAN LIKE ZOMBIE! STAY IN YOUR HOMES’ was what the newspapers said next, and while this made a few people paranoid, most just scoffed at the title. Two cases of crazy people within a few days weren’t actually that unusual, especially when the news stations loved playing up cases all the time. To them, it was just another case of bath salts and conspiracy theories.
The police officer who had been bitten survived, although he had been sent to the hospital for emergency care. What the news forgot to cover, however, was how the officer went wild the next day after his doctors had sewn up his wounds and given him a blood transfusion and a round of anti-virals and anti-bacterials. The man said he felt greatly ill, and had moments when he thought he was being attacked by monsters where he would bite and claw at his doctors before becoming lucid again.
Two states away, Abigail’s daughter, still grieving for the loss of her mother who finally breathed her last restrained to a hospital bed in leather wrist-cuffs and ankle-cuffs after two days of snarling dangerously at the doctors like a beast, finally gave birth. She was still getting comments about the monster the news painted her mother out to be, and prayed that the birth of her son would be the first joyous moment in a week of hazy misery.
It should have been a little boy.
Across the sea, a tired businessman named Ming Li-Wen spent a night miserable and struggling to open a pack of cold medication stuck in those plastic and foil tablet containers that were impossible to open without a pair of scissors, which he most decidedly didn’t have after having taken the red-eye flight thanks to his boss’s demands.
What we know is this: he struggled with the medicine for a little while before throwing it across the cheap hotel room he rented that night close to the airport, clearly frustrated. He called his mother and brother to tell them he had arrived safely, asking about his mother’s health as she recently injured her hip.
After that, Ming Li-Wen drank a glass of water and went to bed scratching at the back of his neck where a thick rash had broken out unseen.
What got out of that bed in the morning, however, wasn’t human anymore.
Occupants of the rooms next to his complained in the morning of constant thumping noises, and when hotel staff opened the door of his room to check on him, it was a beast of a man who came charging out, howling and biting at people.Soon there were cases like that all over the world. And all over the world, the infected person who pass on the illness to someone else… to two others. Three. Five. And those people who pass it on as well, until within three months of the first documented ‘unusual’ case, governments around the world finally stepped in.