Here is the story till now. -Ken
The Architecture Apocalypse
So for this semester I am leading a colloquium on Apocalypses. One of the requirements is to design your own apocalypse. Seems easy enough right? Well let’s see how it goes over the course of the semester shall we? Here is this week’s start and addition to the story.
I can’t really remember how I got here.
I don’t often talk about the past anymore, you know, the time before all the shit hit the fan. But I can talk about what happened around the beginning of our end of time, and …… see if my survival strikes your fancy.
I was a student at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Tech, VT, home. Call it what you will, but for a while it was the best place to be. I was in my last year of a five year degree, on the top of the social food chain, a model crotchety old senior. I was completing my thesis, going to be a real grown-up, and try to make a splash in the world. Had a plan for graduate school, filling out applications, and … things. Ah, but that’s the boring part. Fast-Forward to around Christmas break and real fun would begin.
We had just finished the semester for winter and it had started to snow lightly, which means nothing in Blacksburg because all of the plows were already plowing before the snow hit the ground. The plows ran back and forth not missing a beat. People were playing in the snow, making snow angels, participating in snowball fights, having a good time. I just trudged though it, making my way back to the dorm. I had my hands in my pockets, looking like a homeless man with all my layers. I was staying at the dorm for the break since I needed to continue working on my thesis for the time being. Really though, who would have thought that this now would be the end of my current standard of living?
I had gotten back inside the dorm and damn it was hot. You spend the whole time shivering on the way to the damn thing and then you get sweaty as soon as you get inside. I made some Easy Mac, because it’s well, easy. I didn’t forget the water this time. You’d think you wouldn’t forget something like that. I ate my highly nutritious meal and then went to sleep.
My phone woke me up with a text message. “All students are to remain in the dorms. A campus wide lockdown is in effect.” Uh, ok. What would trigger a lockdown of campus… not again. I shut that out of my mind and sat in my room and read web comics, staying away from the windows. It was a few hours later that a loud series of bangs on the door broke my concentration.
“Kenneth Black? Open up. VTPD.” Oh goodie!
I opened the door and was immediately swarmed with police officers and knocked to the ground. “Scan him!” one said. “he’s clear…” another replied. They took me out for a brisk morning drag through the door to a police car and threw me in and closed the door. I still had no idea what was going on.
What made me more uncomfortable was that they were all spooked. Eyes darting everywhere, looking for something. An officer got into the drivers seat and the others dispersed back into the dorm.
“Anything bit you recently?” he asked.
“No.” I said.
“Good, cuz we’re getting out of here. You’re the only one on the list in the dorm, but they are looking for any stragglers.”
“What’s going on? Normally you all are pretty chill?”
“I really don’t understand either, but I’m taking you to Burruss Hall and sticking all of you in the auditorium for now.”
We got as far as the bottom edge of the Drillfield when a pair of girls ran out in front of the car. The officer slammed on the breaks, sliding on the ice. He slammed into both of them sending to both of them through the air. I assume they are dead. I say that because the car rolled for a bit and then came to rest upside down in the creek that fed into the Duckpond.
When I woke up it was already dark. No one had come for the car. I was out on the grass, and the hulk of the burning car was nearby. I got up, couldn’t find the officer who was driving. I called out for anyone a few times, but then thought better of it after a while. Something was fucked up. I started to run towards Burruss as that had been where we were going before the crash. I got to the building ran inside and up the curved grand staircase to the back of the auditorium. I opened to door slowly and couldn’t comprehend what I saw.
There were bits of body parts everywhere. Blood smear lines were on the floor, walls, seats, stage, even the ceiling. It was as if a giant with a red sharpie drew around the room. The stench was appalling. I heaved closed the door and started to cry. That mess could have included me. I pulled me shirt around nose and inched the door back open. The salt in my tears stung as I looked around.
I had not gotten a jacket or socks or even shoes when I was ushered out of the dorm. I could tell the heat had been turned off in the building and I was getting cold. It was disgusting, but I was going to need clothes to make it through the night. I began poking around the cavern of blood, looking for anything without blood on it. I found a women’s North Face jacket and a pair of boots that someone had taken off. Neither had a lot of blood on then but they were not totally clean either. I continued to look around for anything else that might be useful, but nothing turned up. The students here were just like me, rushed from their rooms, taken here, and slaughtered by something with a huge blood thirst. I didn’t stay in the auditorium for too long. I left the room, and ran into a bathroom. That’s when I saw that I had a huge gash from about the middle of my forehead to my left jaw crossing over me left eye. I must have been lucky because my left eye still worked. I knew I would need to get this fixed before too long.
I waited until my watch said it was 0800. I knew the sun would be up and it might be safer to move about during the day. I left the building and walked over the health center in McComas Hall which was back across campus. When I left Burruss, it was another shocker. It had already been dark when I had run over last night, but with the sun out, you could see everything. Cars were overturned, crashed into each other, bodies on the ground, most were shredded like the students in the auditorium. My phone still had charge but no service. Lucky me! You know. Cuz being alive was lucky at this point.
I made my way to the first overturned car right at the end of the steps to Burruss. It was a police car and all the doors were open, but the inside looked like a tomato had exploded in the microwave. The blood had dried but it still stunk. I moved around to the back of the car to the trunk. Maybe the weapons were still there. Nope. Already picked clean, or used. I looked around the ground and realized there were spent casings everywhere. Then looking closer I found a Swiss army knife in the snow. Better than nothing. I began to jog to the Health Center with my very imposing inch long knife and womens jacket, with basketball shorts and boots. It was so damn cold.
I made it to McComas and entered the Health Center side. I looked around inside and made my way to the emergency station in the back. I took another look at me face and realized this was going to be really painful to fix. I found a needle and stitching line and got started. It took me almost an hour to stitch my skin back together while looking in the mirror. On the plus side I was gonna have a great scar. Still do.
I had used some hydrogen peroxide to clean the laceration to my face, which incidentally feels absolutely wonderful…. But at least it might not get infected. I had the feeling that this was going to be bad for a long time. I left McComas, and entered Cassel Lot. Most of the cars were trashed, but I made it up to where I had parked my car and saw that it too was smashed. I looked and saw that the car was a light blue though. It was a navy blue though. I got closer and then realized a cyan colored liquid was over my car and the three next to it.
What the hell happened?
The story doesn’t end there though.
Who could have known that the ooze would be so smelly? I sidestepped the car, and looked around for anyone. Once again cars were tipped over, some on fire, smoldering in the distance. It was interesting that while most of the car were destroyed, a lot of the surrounding buildings were fine. It wouldn’t stay that way for long though. I kept moving. Always moving to somewhere. I still had not found anyone in the vicinity. Where could they have all gone?
I stopped briefly inside a seven-eleven just outside of downtown and took stock of what I had: boots, socks, shorts, jacket, shirt, and knife. It was going to be a rough night without food or warmth. I ate my fill at the store and then moved down the street to main street. It was in absolute ruins. The buildings were cut away, the road split open and trash and debris everywhere. On the plus side I had found pants from who knows where. They were blue jeans, those per-faded ones that cost more and are already falling apart.
I continued down main street to the Kroger near First and Main. The lights were on in Kroger. Maybe someone was inside the building, but at the same time it could be a trap. Time to go find out!
I edged towards the store, my eyes drifting left and right, looking for an indication of anything that might give away a possible trap. I got within ten feet of the door before I realized that the door was rigged with a small pipe bomb. The trip wire was already pulled and the little foot long piece of death slowly fell toward the ground. You know that classic slow-motion scene when something critical happened? Yeah this was it.
I dove back from the door and placed the exterior wall between me and the vestibule of the double doors. The shockwave and the flames still were hot and my ears were ringing for a little, but no serious injuries. Damn that was close. Just when I decided that Kroger was worth less than getting killed, a second explosion rocked the ground and the world went dark.
I woke up in a recovery room. The room was pretty sparse, more like a prison cell with a comfy bed. A man walked into the room about ten minutes later.
“…you almost didn’t make it kiddo,” he said. He paused, seemed to mull something over and then said, “its been almost a month since we have seen another living person outside of our research team. How did you survive this long?”
“how long was I here? I only was outside for a day or two” I replied.
“you’ve been here for two days. What about the other three weeks? Tell me the truth, what are you doing here?”
I looked around a little. This could get ugly, but what was I going to do? There was not much to really defend myself with and the man was already pretty imposing from where I was laying. I did not say anything in the end.
“smart-ass are you?” he continued. “you gonna answer or do we have to ask your ugly alien-looking friends?
“alien friends?” I asked.
“you dense, son?”
I am not dense, but this guy was crazy, and by saying “we” it made me wonder if there were others or if he was talking to himself.
“Back to sleep cutie,” A man said. I seem to take it in the face a lot.
I came back to reality with a backpack over my head, being dragged along a linoleum floor. I had no idea where I was, but the smell of formaldehyde suggested that I was in some sort of medical facility, but that does not really narrow it down. I kept limp and continued to be dragged down the hall. I figured that I was better off quiet, rather than a hero. I could feel that my knife was gone, but it would not have done me much good and probably would have gotten me killed.
They stopped dragging me after we went through some doors. I only knew it because the people dragging me said something about a keycard and to hold the door. I tell ya, I have some killer deduction skills. They hefted me up onto a table and as they pulled the backpack off my face.
“man, this kid is a lot of dead weight. What you think the boss wants him for?” a man said.
“I dunno, maybe as a lab rat or sumthin’” another replied.
“whatever, he ain’t going anywhere. Just leave him here,”
The two of them left the room and the closed door. The room was remarkably dark. Not pitch black, but the kind of dark that makes most people uncomfortable in an unknown place. My mind started to wander, thinking about why I was here, what had happened outside, where everyone was, if anyone else survived, and so on.
“how is our resident undead doing?” a woman asked through the darkness.
“come again?” I said. What the hell was spouting? I am not a walking dead.
“According to the temperature and conditions outside you’re supposed to be dead, like everyone else who was unsheltered during the attack…” she continued.
“Wait, what attack?” I asked.
“You don’t know?” she said, incredulous.
She went on to explain a variety of things which I will paraphrase here.
On the day I was taken by the police officer to Burruss, which incidentally was the day of the global catastrophe, a series of solar flares hit the planet, stripping and changing the magnetic field and eradicating most exposed wireless and electronic devices. Computers stopped, lights dimmed, most of everything modern society relied on was eliminated in an instant, and it showed in the death toll.
Millions died from the immediate effects of the gamma radiation, mostly from accidents related to electronics. Then, without a way to distribute goods, water, electricity, and medicine, the world began to fall apart. She said that since I was in a coma from when the car crashed, I did not really experience the confusion and mayhem. Also since Blacksburg was a relatively rural area the devastation was on a much smaller scale.
Apparently in the larger cities, small riots accumulated into larger and larger mobs, and arson lit entire cities ablaze. Random acts of violence and looting followed soon afterwards, and without computers and communications, most authorities were paralyze, if even still existing.
Then after two weeks a lot of people started to get sick from radiatation and lack of food. The death toll only increased. At higher latitudes, the gamma burst had stripped most of the ozone, and the normal solar radiation was giving people burns, and other sickness. What was odd though was that instead of turning the world into a firery hell, it began to sink quickly into a frozen wasteland. Nothing extreme, but enough to make it really uncomfortable.
When I woke up a month later modern society had essentially collapsed already, and governments were non-existent. It was not the stone age, but it was pretty damn close if you weren’t in specialized or protected structures. She also said that if any government officials were still alive, or functioning at any level they were not in any position to help survivors.
“You lived because every cell in your body is essentially cancerous, regenerating at a ridiculous rate, mutating and creating new properties every time. What is truly fascinating though is that your body seems to adapt positively to the changes rather than reject them. I’ve never seen it before, and you seem to be stronger than most, being able to survive the intense cold outside,” she continued explaining, “the temperature were around negative 30 degrees and you were walking around in a thin jacket and shorts. Absolutely nuts. I cannot even begin to understand how you are not a Popsicle,”
“In a way, that makes you a living-undead I guess… I might be a geneticist, but this is all new to me.”