This is the first of a series of postings which will feature extracts from my book For Those In Peril On The Sea that will be available from Pictish Beast Publications in the UK from the 3rd of January 2013. It’s a tale of survival in a post-apocalyptic world where the land is no longer safe, leaving the few remaining people struggling to survive at sea. If you like what you read here, you can find out more about it by clicking here. If you wish to read this extract offline, you can download a PDF version of it from here.
For Those In Peril On The Sea
Colin M. Drysdale
‘And finally, it’s been alleged that a US biotech company has been testing a new rabies vaccine illegally in Haiti. The available information suggests that the vaccine is based on a new technology called “small interfering RNA”, or siRNA for short. It is thought that the vaccine is designed to interact with the virus to make it less deadly, increasing the likelihood that anyone given it after they’ve started showing symptoms will survive. If successful, such a vaccine could save more than 50,000 lives a year. While siRNA technology has been tested on animals, it is not yet licensed for use in humans. Evidence of the illegal trial only came to light when one of the participants fell ill and was taken to a local hospital.
And now, here on KWAD eighty-three point six, the weather for Miami and the tri-county area …’
‘Next on the KWAD news channel, a new strain of rabies has emerged in Haiti. Ten people are thought to have died so far, with a further twenty-five suspected cases being monitored in local hospitals. It seems to be unusually virulent and the source of the outbreak has yet to be identified.’
‘Coming up, rioting has broken out in the Haitian capital, Port au Prince. It was sparked by rumours that the emergence of a new strain of rabies is connected to an illegal vaccine trial, currently being investigated by the FDA. The company alleged to be involved strenuously denies any possible link. Next, on the KWAD nine o’clock news …’
‘Fucking Americans,’ Carlos spat the words out. ‘Think they can do whatever they want.’ Before he could finish something distracted him and he turned to the man standing on his right. ‘Hey, turn that down. I thought I heard something.’
Jorges switched the radio off and they both listened. The sound came again, something midway between a scream and a growl. There was a sudden crash, then silence.
‘Sounds like our passengers are getting restless.’ Carlos thought for a moment, ‘You’d better go and make sure they haven’t been messing with the cargo. If they have, just blow their brains out. That’ll teach ’em.’
Jorges grabbed his Uzi and climbed down from the flying bridge. He hated dealing with the people on these trips, especially when there were problems. They’d picked up their cargo in Haiti two days before, and while Jorges supervised the loading of a couple of tons of cocaine onto the sixty-foot motor cruiser, Carlos had gone into the city. He’d come back a few hours later with half a dozen locals in tow, each willing to pay $5,000 to be smuggled into the US. This was more than twice the usual rate because of the whole disease thing. People were starting to worry, not so much because of the disease itself, but because of the rioting that was now flaring up all over the place. Those who could afford to were doing their best to get out, one way or another.
People-smuggling had been Carlos’ idea. He’d figured they could make good money on the side. It mightn’t pay as much, but it was a whole lot safer than trying to skim off some of the cargo. Jorges had had a friend who’d tried that. They’d found him on the dock one night, sitting in his car with his head in his lap and his eyes gouged out. As long as they unloaded the people before they reached the rendezvous with the boss man, no one would ever know. Jorges wasn’t so keen on the idea at first, but hey, money was money, and the more they made on each trip the sooner he could get out of this business and go back to being just another fisherman.
Jorges had looked at the people Carlos had found this time: five men and a woman, all in their twenties, maybe early thirties at the most. The woman was sweating heavily, more heavily than you’d expect even given the warmth of the night. She leant on one of the men as he helped her on board and down into the cabin. Once they were in there, Carlos had locked the door, leaving them to make themselves comfortable amongst the bales of cocaine, while Jorges took the boat out of the harbour. They hadn’t heard a sound from the cabin in almost two days, but neither Carlos or Jorges worried about that. Each of the passengers had paid their money upfront and this was no Caribbean cruise. If anything happened along the way, it was up to them to sort it out between themselves.
Then, with Miami only a few hours away, they started hearing strange sounds, audible even above the roar of the twin engines and Jorges went to investigate. He removed the padlock from the cabin door, flung it back and took a couple of steps down the ladder.
‘What the fuck …?’ Jorge stared disbelievingly into the small room. ‘Carlos, we got a problem down here.’
In the dim light cast through the door by the moon, Jorges could see blood everywhere, smeared across the walls and the floor, even soaking into the bales of cocaine. He could see the body of one of the men, torn to shreds, lying at the foot of the ladder. The outlines of two more bodies were just visible in the darkness further into the cabin.
‘Carlos, get your ass down here now!’ Jorges was beginning to panic. He knew some people could react violently to taking too much cocaine, but this seemed altogether different. Then he heard a noise in the darkness, a low guttural groan, like a sick or injured dog. He took another step downwards and flicked a switch, flooding the cabin with light. Blood gleamed damply on every surface, while in the corner two figures crouched over the remains of a third, ripping at the lifeless body. One of the figures turned, startled by the sudden brightness. It was the woman, her face contorted with anger and smeared with blood. With a scream of rage, she launched herself at Jorges.
Almost too late Jorges reacted, pulling the trigger of his Uzi. The woman’s blood sprayed across the cabin as she crumpled to the floor. Jorges wasted no time firing on the man even though he posed no threat. He didn’t lower the gun until the man finally stopped moving, and that seemed to take longer than he’d have expected. It was then Jorges felt something running down the side of his face. He wiped it away and inspected the back of his hand. He was surprised to see there was blood on it. At first he wondered where it had come; then he realised it must be the woman’s.
‘Jesus!’ Carlos had finally arrived. He looked at Jorges accusingly. ‘What did you do to them?’
‘It wasn’t me. I only shot two of them. They did most of it to each other.’
‘Christ!’ Carlos looked round. ‘This place looks like a fucking slaughterhouse.’ He scratched the back of his head. ‘I hope the cargo’s okay.’
The very thought of what might happen to them if it wasn’t made Jorges go cold. ‘Carlos,’ his voice trembled with fear, ‘I don’t think we should do this anymore.’
‘Yeah, let’s just stick to the drugs next time.’ Carlos struggled to think of what they should do next. ‘We’ve not got much time before the rendezvous. You’d better get this cleaned up. If the boss man sees any of this, we’ll be in big trouble.’
Jorges picked his way through the cabin and spent the next hour throwing oozing body parts into the sea. This was definitely worth more than the $15,000 that was his share of the Haitians’ money. As he worked, he started to sweat, blaming it on the warmness of the night. But a something niggled at the back of his mind … could he have pick up something from all this blood?
‘Our top story tonight, on KWAD eighty-three point six; the first case of what is being called the Haitian rabies virus, or HRV, has been recorded here in Miami. A man suffering an intense fever was found dumped outside a hospital in Miami Beach in the early hours of this morning. Tonight, he is being held in isolation as doctors fight to save his life.’
‘The rioting that broke out in downtown Miami yesterday shows no signs of abating. Instead, it seems to be spreading to other urban areas. The police are baffled as to its cause but, off the record, a senior police source told the KWAD news team that it could be linked to a consignment of contaminated cocaine. What sort of contamination could cause such violence remains unclear …’
‘Welcome to the KWAD eighty-three point six early morning news. It’s now been confirmed that the rioting that’s sweeping rapidly through many inner-city areas across the country is connected to outbreaks of the Haitian rabies virus. Here in the US, HRV seems to be even more virulent than in Haiti, and it’s causing those infected to attack anyone they encounter. Residents in all affected cities are being asked to stay calm and stay inside until the situation is under control. How the virus got into the US remains unknown, but there is growing evidence that a large shipment of cocaine, smuggled into the US from Haiti, has been contaminated with the virus. Once in the US, the drugs would have been distributed quickly to many urban areas, explaining the almost simultaneous outbreaks in cities as far apart as Las Vegas and New York.
‘In related news, the USS Intrepid has been dispatched to patrol Haitian waters, to prevent any further shipments making it into the US. It is hoped that if the source of the virus can eliminated, the disease will burn itself out over the next few days.
‘Meanwhile, the situation in Haiti itself is becoming desperate, with little medical care and a complete breakdown of social order. Rioting has been recorded throughout the country, and it is starting to spill over into the neighbouring Dominican Republic. There, marauding gangs have been reported to be roaming the streets and attacking anyone they meet.
‘And now the weather …’
‘Some breaking news, the USS Intrepid has been overrun by an outbreak of HRV. The crew detained a dozen people they discovered in a small boat forty miles from Port au Prince early yesterday morning, and it is thought that one of them brought the disease on board. In the close confines of the ship, the virus spread rapidly through the crew and by this evening all contact with it was lost.
‘Now back to the unrest here in the US, which is worsening steadily and spreading further afield. Some experts believe it can no longer be blamed on a single batch of contaminated cocaine, and that the virus is now spreading from person to person …’
‘This is the KWAD news studio in Miami. If anyone out there is still listening, please send us help. They’re outside! They’re trying to get in!’
There was a loud crash in the background and the voice paused for a second. When the woman started speaking again, she sounded distant, as if she was no longer next to the microphone,
‘Oh god, they’ve got in. Shit, shit, shit! Shoot them! Someone, shoot them. Just shoot them! Shi …!’
Click here to read chapter one.
From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in the UK. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more.